Thursday, October 28, 2010

Slow progress

I am happy to say I've been able to start running again since my hip injury. My hip still gets a little sore from time to time, especially after running, but the pain while running is negligible.

The real challenge now is to figure out how best to train for my race on 11/26 given the time I have left and the need to avoid further injury.

I've run three times over the past couple of weeks, my first workouts since I went on running hiatus. I don't feel like my fitness level has dropped drastically, but I've been trying to take it a little easy.

The first two workouts, I took numerous breaks to walk. Today, I ran 3 miles without stopping, and my hip felt fine. It's a bit sore now. I've been careful to stretch thoroughly after warming up and when cooling down.

I am fairly pleased with my splits from today's workout. My total time for the 3 miles was 33 minutes and 50 seconds, well under my 12 minute pace. My average pace was 11:16. Not bad, considering I took it pretty slow for the first mile. I ran the first half of the workout (1.5 miles) in 17:48, which averages out to a pace of 11:40. I was quite a bit faster on the second half (and it felt great!). I ran the 2nd 1,5 miles in 16:02, an average pace of 10:39-- which is pretty close to my target training pace for easy distance.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Vroom! Vroom!

I feel the need, the need for speed!

(Didn't really like this movie... but LOVED Tom Cruise!)

With fear and trembling, I took the plunge and signed up for my "first" race. I will run the 8K Ridgewood Turkey Trot, which will be held on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 25, 2010).

The Turkey above is the official race logo. I sure wish that turkey didn't look so exhausted! I definitely feel some trepidation (terror?) about this race. I really kind of wanted to do a 5K as my first race this time around-- only 3.1 miles. Now I'll be racing my longest distance ever, 5 miles. Yikes! That's a looong way to try to maintain a faster than comfortable pace.

I must be crazy. I signed up in the competitive division, rather than the recreational one. But as far as I can tell, the main difference is that only the runners in the competitive division will be officially timed. I'd rather have someone else do the timing-- I'll have my hands full just running. Oh, yeah, also, competitive division runners will get a long-sleeved technical fabric race shirt, rather than a cotton one. I'm kind of excited about that-- I need more tech shirts for training!

I've got about 8 weeks to train between now and then. I keep telling myself that's plenty of time. (Self, are you listening?) I'm going to use a 5K/10K training plan, and am hoping to move up from the "bronze" training plan I've been using to "silver." I can't let this distance intimidate me. By the time race day comes, I'll have at least one 14-mile training run under my belt (if all goes as planned, knock wood!) That ought to boost my confidence, just knowing I CAN go almost triple the distance.

The big reason I chose this particular race is that I am familiar with much of the course. It starts in the Ridgewood Shopping Center at Wade Ave. and Ridge Rd. in Raleigh, proceeds down Ridge Rd. past Glen Eden, makes a few turns, and loops back onto Ridge Rd., finishing at the start.

I should have ample opportunity between now and the race to train on the course several times. I can even take the car and use the odometer to see where each mile point is. (I have no idea if there will be markers during the race.) The other day, DS and I drove part of the course, as far as Glen Eden. I noted that heading in that direction, the course is pretty much a gentle decline. Which means that heading back towards the finish, the last 2 miles or so will be uphill! This is a USATF certified course, and the race promo indicated that for the competitive division runners, the course would include "some challenging hills." Oh good. I was really hoping for EVEN MORE challenges!

One thing I like about this race is that it benefits the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. My beloved aunt, Ellie, has MS. She's been doing really well since her diagnosis, so we've been lucky. This one's for you, Ellie!

I've had to shift my thinking considerably, because up to now, I've really been focused on a distance of 3.1 miles and my dream of finishing in the mid-20's. I have no idea what a respectable finish time is for an 8K! So I checked last year's results to see the finishes for females in my age group. 27 0f the 54 women ran at 10 minutes per mile or faster. Here are the results for the top 3 finishers in my age group:

Finish ................Pace per mile
00:37:56 ........ .7.63
00:39:35.......... 7.96
00:40:11........... 8.09

Yikes! Looks like a decent finish is 40 minutes or under. To be competitive, I'd need to run a SUB 8-minute mile. Not sure I'll be ready to do that, especially considering I have to do it for 5 whole miles. But we'll see. All I can do is run my best on that day.

I'll be in good company. The woman who came in last in my age group finished in 1 hour and 19 minutes, at a pace of just under 16 minutes per mile. My hat is off to her!! She didn't let herself be intimidated by younger and faster runners. She's my inspiration-- if she can do it, then so can I!

I was reading recently that when training to race, you should run pace workouts 6 seconds per mile faster than your target racing pace. So, if I wanted to finish in, say, 38 minutes, I'd need to race at 7.6 minutes per mile, which is 7 minutes and 36 seconds. That means my target for pace workouts would be 7 minutes and 30 seconds per mile!

I also read another article that said a good way to train is to break the race distance down into 3-5 segments, and run each of those segments at race pace, with recovery between each. Well, 5 miles would seem to break down nicely into 5 1 mile segments, running each at 7 minutes and 36 seconds. FIVE mile repeats at race pace? ERG!! I'm still waiting to see if I'll be able to run 800 meters at race pace, LOL!

(My idol, JJK)

The Ridgewood Turkey trot is a very popular race. Last year there were over 2000 runners in the competitive division. I'm really nervous about racing in such a large pack. I've never run a race this big or this long. I really hesitated about choosing this event. But the fact that I could train on the actual course seemed to me to be a significant advantage, because I'll be familiar with the course and will know what to expect. And I believe runners will be lined up at the start according to pace per mile. That is somewhat reassuring-- at least I won't have to worry about getting trampled from behind by some 6-minute miler!

Several of last year's participants complained that their official times were much slower than their actual times. I hope this has been corrected for this year. I'm quite envious of the complainers, as they used their fancy GPS sports watches to track their finishes. Oh, how I would love to have one of those. Not only can you download your race course to it, so you know the route and where you are on it, but it also serves as a heart rate monitor (with the additional chest band, of course). Best of all, it tracks your pace per mile while you're running. It would be wonderful to see my splits and KNOW I'm hitting my pace on race day!

I've read so much conflicting information about proper racing strategy. This one says, run negative splits, so the second half of your race is faster than the first. That one says, negative splits are passe; go out FASTER than your target pace and try to hold it. Another says, to improve your time, take walk breaks... or was that only for marathon racing? ACK!!! I'M SO CONFUSED!

I guess I'll figure it out. The point of doing the race is really not the finish time. The point is to have a goal, so there's a reason for all this running-- and to challenge myself to do my best on race day.

Tomorrow starts a new training week, with a new training plan. My hip feels back to normal, for which I am deeply grateful. OK, I'm ready to unleash my inner JJK. BRING IT ON!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The I word

My week in running has not been quite so good as I had hoped. After my disastrous splat against The Wall two Sundays ago, I've been taking it a bit easy. This past Sat. I did my long run. I felt really good-- made it up The Hill twice with no problems. My time goal was 84 minutes, which I surpassed. My distance goal was 7.5 miles, which I made, finishing in 1 hr. 25 min. and 35 sec. My pace averaged out to 11.4 minutes per mile, about 1 minute per mile slower than my goal pace of 10.25 minutes for my "easy" long runs. I'm pleased because I stayed aerobic the entire time. Making progress!

BUT. Somewhere around 4 miles, I became aware of A New Pain. Something I haven't noticed before. My right hip was hurting. I probably should have stopped, right then, but I wanted to get to the water fountain at mile 5. I took a short break of a minute or two at the water fountain, which was, thank heaven, working for once. I sucked down as much water as I could. Then I went back to finish my run. When I got to the finish, I realized my hip had stopped hurting-- I hadn't even thought about if for that last 2.5 miles.

When I got home, I noticed my hip was sore. I've had some chronic soreness in that hip for ages, but it was a lot more painful than it has been. Oh, no. Don't even say it-- not the dreaded I word! Not now! I(njuries) are not allowed!

I took Motrin through the day. I checked my running book. It could be an ITB injury, which commonly causes pain in the knee but can cause pain in the hip. ITB stands for Iliotibial band syndrome, which is more common in women runners than in men. It is caused by inflammation of the Iliotibial band, a muscle that runs down the outside of the thigh to the outside of the knee.

The inflammation can be the result of overpronation, possibly caused by worn shoes; excessive downhill running; running on a cambered surface (where the middle of the road is higher than the sides), or overtraining. Climbing stairs is supposed to make it worse. (Unavoidable in my apartment, which is on 3 levels.) Recommended treatment is RICE-- rest, ice, compression, and elevation, along with a non-steroidal anti-inflammitory and stretching of the ITB, hamstrings, and quads.

I did this. I stretched throughout the day. I applied ice and compression by using an ace bandage to hold a bag of frozen peas on the sore spot. This reminded me of the scene from The Cutting Edge, where DB Sweeney is so sore from repeatedly falling on the ice that he's sitting at the dinner table with a large ice pack strapped to each hip!

(I loved this movie. I had the hugest crush on DB Sweeney. I'm definitely giving up my age now!)

On Sunday, the pain was pretty much gone. I took the next two days off from running just to be sure. Tuesday came, and I thought I should rest another day before doing my pace workout. I had planned to do it yesterday, but ended up running out of time. I did take Zelda for a short walk (2 miles). My hip has been more painful since then.

So, not sure if I will run anymore this week. I am not convinced it really IS an ITB injury. I've been thinking it could be a bit of arthritis, but the pain really does seem to be more muscular than in the joint. I'm really hoping to start my new training plan on Sat., but will have to see how I'm feeling. If it is still painful then, I will need to see a sports medicine doc ASAP.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Crash and Burn: The Wall

My running week did not get off to a very good start. I was just about to head out Saturday morning for my long run when DS's dad called. This was to convey the information, at 9:20 a.m., that he was unable to take DS to his 10 a.m. SAT prep class. On the other side of town. Oh yes, and he would not be able to pick DS up either.

I have to admit, I was annoyed. I knew by the time I had dropped DS off at his class and driven to the greenway, it would be getting TOO HOT to run. I had planned to leave the house by 9, but with one thing and another, didn't. I suppose that was really a good thing, because otherwise DS would have missed his class, since I usually don't carry my phone while running. (Too heavy.)

I'd planned to run 7 miles and just couldn't face the thought of doing so on the treadmill. So, I knew I would have to postpone my run until Sunday. As it turned out, I spent all day doing errands, not even pausing to eat until after I arrived home with DS around 4. Nor pausing to drink anything, either. This turned out to have been a bad mistake.

On Sunday, I started out my long run feeling really good. I ran the first 2 miles in about 21 minutes, and at the three-mile mark, my time was 32:50. Wow, was I stoked! That is a good 5 minutes faster than my best 5K time, and it was just an "easy" training run! However, I got slower and slower as time went on and the route got hillier.

At about 4.75 miles I encountered The Hill. This is a shortish, but extremely steep hill. I managed to maintain my pace up the hill, but you know, that stuff catches up to you when you're done. Once I hit the flat on the other side, I was so completely out of breath I had to stop and walk for a while. This only slowed me down a little, because at 5 miles, my time was 55:11.

After this followed one of the most unpleasant running experiences I have ever had. I just could not seem to get my breath back, even by running reeaallly slowly. By the time I reached mile 6, I think I hit the dreaded "Wall." I have NEVER had this happen to me before. I felt dizzy and completely out of gas. I stopped and walked the next quarter mile very slowly.

Since I knew I only had a mile to go, I started running again-- slowly. But within a couple of minutes I encountered a small hill and was out of breath again. I was really determined to run that last mile. My body did not cooperate, however. At .75 miles, I just could not go any further. My time goal for the day was to reach 78 minutes, and at that point I had about a minute to go (not counting my walking time). I managed to keep going for that one last minute, and believe me, I was checking my watch about every 3 seconds! So, I didn't quite hit my distance goal of 7 miles, but got close: 6.75 miles.

I was so addled when I stopped that I kept on walking AWAY from the car instead of heading back towards the car, and my gatorade. It was a bit more than a mile to walk to get to the car, and it seemed like an eternity. By this time, it had started to get hot, so I grabbed my gatorade and went and sat in the shade to drink it. I felt a bit better after downing a pint of gatorade mixed with protein powder, but not much. I still felt so depleted I stopped on the way home and bought more gatorade-- and drank the entire quart in the car.

Well, I really learned my lesson. I am sure I was dehydrated before I even started my run, and it only got worse. I will be sure to hydrate well and take in adequate carbs the day before a hard workout. I also need to be more conscientious about carrying fluids with me on runs longer than an hour. I was so tired after my run that I had to lie down and take a nap, even though I immediately had a protein shake when I got home.

I did not run on Monday at all since I planned to do a pace workout on Tuesday, but when Tuesday came, I was feeling tired, so I skipped it. I didn't do it today either, mostly because I am out of protein powder and didn't have time to get more. (Food is kind of nauseating after a tough workout but I do fine with the protein shakes.)

Tomorrow I'm just going to do an easy run of 3 miles, and call it a week. I'm sure the extra rest this week will benefit me, and on Saturday, I'll be ready to hit the trail for my long run again.

This time, I'm absolutely confirming DS's transportation arrangements on Friday so I can get out and run early if I have to take him to class again. And making sure to eat and drink well on Friday, too!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Running Journal for week of 9/11

I made it through week 2 of my 5K training plan.

Week 2 Summary
Total mileage: 18.7 miles

9/11: Long run. 6.5 miles on the greenway. 72 minutes.
9/12: Easy recovery run. 2 miles on the treadmill. 24 minutes.
9/13: Rest day.
9/14: Pace workout, 3 miles. 1 mile easy; 4 X 400 at 8 min. pace, and finished with 1 mile easy.
9/15: Easy recovery run. 3.1 miles on the greenway. 36 min., 44 sec.
9/16: Hills. 4.1 miles on the greenway. I don't have the time, since Zelda came to an abrupt stop at about mile 3, which pulled on the leash in just the right way to press the "stop" button on my chronometer watch.
9/17: Rest day.

Today I ran 4.1 miles on the greenway with Zelda. I really haven't been running many hills and around here, any race courses are likely to be hilly. So, I need to start practicing on hills. I picked a route that would have a couple of long hills, getting on the Greenway at Maynard and running across Dynasty Drive to pick up the part of the trail I usually run on.

I started off easy, and the first mile was a breeze. I had not been on this part of the greenway in several months, and I noticed that the first mile was mostly downhill. Easy! However, knowing that what goes down must come up, I was kind of worried about how I would handle the climb at the end of the run, when I was fatigued.

After the first mile came the first long hill. Wow, it was REALLY hard! it seemed endless. Thankfully, there was a nice downhill on the other side that gave me a chance to get my breath back. After hitting my chosen turnaround spot, I noticed that I was on a kind of gradual climb, up to Dynasty Drive, where there is a short, steep hill.

At that point, I was facing that nice downhill, which was now an uphill, long hill #2. I was out of breath, so I decided to cheat a bit and recover for a while before tackling the long hill. I ran slowly in place until I had caught my breath. It's a good thing I did, because hill #2 was long AND steep. In fact, by the time I got to the top, I felt slightly nauseated from the hard climb. This disappeared immediately once I started the downhill on the other side.

Then, time to face my fears-- that one mile climb between Dynasty and Maynard. I was really not sure I'd be able to finish. But surprisingly, the gradual climb was very do-able. It didn't get steep until just before the end, and I was able to stay aerobic until then.

I was so pleased I was able to run my whole route! Zelda, not so pleased. She was pretty sluggish that last mile, and must have been tired. I haven't been as conscientious as I should be about taking her for a good walk on the days I run without her, so I think she has lost a little conditioning. Never fear-- perseverance will fix that, and the weather should start getting cooler soon. That will help.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pace Workouts

Pace workouts, or, as we used to call them, intervals. Fun, fun, right?? Well, maybe not so much. However, if you wish to improve speed and endurance, the pace workout is your most important, and highest-quality workout, of the week. Pace workouts challenge your body to work better at your anaerobic threshold, as well as training it to switch to burning fat for energy as glycogen stores in the muscles become depleted. So, while they may not be big fun, pace workouts are key to improving performance.

When I first started exercising years ago, breathlessness was the thing I feared the most and tried to avoid at all costs. Over the years, I've become a lot more comfortable working in oxygen debt. Certainly I can run anaerobically for at least a couple of miles. I've realized that beyond a certain point it really doesn't get any worse, even though you're scared it might.

My expanded capacity to tolerate being above my aerobic threshold is largely due to Cathe Friedrich's DVD workouts. Thanks, Cathe!! Cathe Friedrich's ( workouts will definitely put you over the top, aerobically speaking, and you'll get used to working while breathing pretty hard.

Not only is Cathe a fabulous instructor with fun and innovative workouts, she has a great sense of humor, too. On one of her step workouts there is a long section where you do seemingly endless 360-around-the-board repeats. Just as you are certain you are about to gasp your last, Cathe says, " I can hear you breathin' at home there!" Quite. It always makes me giggle.

Heh, heh. Pace workouts definitely fall into that "hurts so good" category. I always feel such a sense of achievement (not to mention relief!) when I finish a good, hard pace workout.

Just how do you run a pace workout? You can either do them on a track or a treadmill. Give me the treadmill any day! On the track, I am never sure of hitting my target pace. Also, being able to see how much farther I have to go is daunting. On the treadmill, if I want to run a 400 at 8 min. pace, all I have to do is convert that into miles per hour (60/8=7.5 mph) and then figure out how long I have to run to make 400 meters (8/4=2 min.). Set the treadmill to 7.5 mph, and you have no choice but to hit your target pace. That is, unless you'd prefer to go flying backward through the wall! Then, I just focus and try not to look at the timer until I absolutely cannot stand it. Hopefully there will not be much time left to go at that point.

How do you know what pace to run? That depends on your current fitness level and goals. If you are training for a race, your pace workout speed should be the same as what you intend to race at. But of course, this speed is something you must to be able to maintain for all the intervals. I might want to race at 6 min/mile, but there is no way I could maintain that pace for very long at my current fitness level. Check out this handy pace chart at the Runner's World site.

How far should you run? A pace workout should not exceed 10% of your total weekly mileage. If you are running 15 miles per week, then your pace workout (the intervals) should be 1.5 miles. So, if you run 4 400's with a 200 recovery between each, that's perfect. 4 400's = 1 mile, plus 4 200's for recovery= 800 meters or .5 miles, totaling 1.5 miles.

Where can you find examples of pace workouts? I'm following the 5K training plans in Claire Kowalchik's book, The Complete Book of Running for Women. You can also find Pace Workouts and Charts at the Runner's World website, as well as 5K training plans.

I'm easing into pace workouts. Today I ran 4 400's at 8 min. pace. It was hard but do-able. A few weeks ago I could barely finish a 200 at 8 min. pace-- so I am really happy! You should always warm-up with some easy running and finish easy too. I did a mile at 12 min. pace to warm up. Then I ran my intervals. I was supposed to recover by running slowly for 200 meters between each, but I'm not quite ready for that yet. Instead, I walked until my heart rate dropped just below my aerobic zone before starting each 400. I finished up with another mile at 12 min. pace.

Uh oh. Next week I have to run at least 1 800 and maybe even a 1200. I'm not sure I can run those distances at my chosen pace. However, I remember that when I had to jump from running 3 minutes at a time to running 5 minutes at a time, I didn't think I could do that either, but I did. So I'll wait and see. I may surprise myself.

Recovery. That's always important, especially after a hard workout. You want to replace your depleted glycogen stores as quickly as possible, because the body will soak up those carbs best within the first 30 minutes following your workout. Sports nutritionists recommend consuming a "meal" that contains a ratio of 4 parts carbs to 1 part protein immediately after finishing your workout. Liquids are most easily assimilated by the body, so a shake, smoothie or drink is ideal. Silk Chocolate soy milk has the magic 4 carbs:1 protein ratio. Today, I had Gatorade (16 g of carbs) with 1 T of protein powder mixed in (4 g protein).

About an hour after that first recovery meal, you should consume a heavier meal with more protein. Protein intake enhances muscle recovery. Today, that was my usual "breakfast shake." I make it with 1 c. chocolate almond milk, a scoop of protein powder (20 g. protein), a banana, and some ice. If it's going to be a while before my next meal, I'll add a T of peanut butter too.

Dude!! I get to have a "milkshake" and call it sports nutrition? I'm totally in!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday, Monday!

Did you know that it is actually on your rest days that you get stronger and make fitness gains?

Last night, I was sleeping peacefully:

Until, at precisely 4:17 a.m., my eyes snapped open and I was awake. Wide awake.

Ugh, don't you hate that?? Of course, I never got back to sleep before my scheduled wakeup time of 6 a.m.

Not good, since I didn't get to sleep until midnight, and am fighting off a cold.
I have to do battle with my car today, too; twice in the last week it's been sluggish in starting. This means a trek to ye olde car repair shoppe where I will sit, bored, for a few hours. Is this Monday-ish or what?

I have a suspicion that one of my neighbors probably made a loud noise that woke me, since I heard subsequent loud thuds and crashes. No idea which apt. they were coming from, though.

I had planned to take Zelda out for a nice walk this morning since today is a rest day from running for me (thank goodness). However, my eyes are burning, my neck is aching, and I am wandering around in a haze of sleep deprivation. If I actually attempted to do anything requiring physical exertion, this would probably be the result:

I think it's sleepy time. Great way to waste half the day! I will have to call ye olde car repair shoppe later. Which probably means the whole thing will have to wait until tomorrow (meanwhile, I'll pray that the car will start if I need to use it again today). Thank the Lord (seriously), it started up without a problem when I had to take DS to school at 6:20 a.m.

Yesterday I did 2 miles on the treadmill at 12 min. pace. I felt pretty tired the first mile but then I perked up. Now, I think I'm going to take that nap. I am exhausted from head to toe. Got to rest up for my pace workout tomorrow. Nighty-night.