Thursday, August 22, 2013

Things I've learned about running over the years

I have a few unfinished posts waiting for me, but I keep getting bogged down in finishing them. So I thought I'd do a little free writing instead. I was sitting here reading a blog where the writer said she wasn't worried any more about trying to run PRs and get faster all the time.

Of course it made me think about how I don't foresee any PRs in my near (or perhaps distant) future, either. I think it's one of the myths people like to believe about running...that if you train regularly and try pretty hard you can keep improving and getting PRs. That's not necessarily true. You can run regularly, and do speed work, and not get laid up with an injury, and really try to run fast in races, and still just keep getting slower. Or get a little faster but not as fast as you once were. It's a roller coaster, really.

Some of the other things I've learned (that were a little surprising to me at the time)....

  • You really have to run more than two or three miles before a run becomes enjoyable. Maybe it's just me, but the first two miles of a run are usually slow, awkward, and not fun. That's why I almost always do warm-up runs before a race. My warm-up distances are one (or two) miles for a half marathon, two miles for a 10K or similar distance, and three miles for a 5K. I don't do warm-ups for a marathon, generally, although I suspect it wouldn't hurt. When I was in high school I ran regularly (for off and on stretches of time), but I never did more than two, occasionally three miles at a time. I never liked running back then. But when I started running five or six miles, the endorphins kicked in, and I found out I really did like to run!

  • Never say never. Any time I have said never again it has come back to bite me. For example...I'll never run over a two hour half marathon again. Um, yeah....I've been under and over more times than I can count. (I definitely do not intend to say I'll never run under a two hour half again!)

  • You can run for about three hours before your body starts to break down. Again, at least for me. This is why 18 miles is my favorite long run distance. (Granted it usually takes more than three hours, but it's in the neighborhood.) I'm not saying that 18 miles or three hours doesn't hurt, but it's fairly easy to recover from.

  • You run a lot slower on trails than on roads. That's normal. But if you run on trails a lot, your legs will adapt to that slower trail pace, and it might be hard to recover your road running pace. I'm sure trails build a lot of fitness in many ways, but they do nothing for speed.

  • It's okay to walk. I'm not a run-walk person, generally speaking. If I'm running, I prefer not to walk (although I will stop as needed) and if I am walking, breaking into a run seems like the most impossible, awkward thing. But I have discovered that a judicious use of walking in some races (and especially in trail runs with a lot of difficult, hilly terrain) is not a bad thing. It's best, in my opinion, to put some structure around it (e.g., walk for a minute every mile), so that you don't end up walking and dread starting to run again (e.g., Honolulu Marathon).

  • You can run faster in a race than in a training run, no matter how hard you try in the training run. I know, everyone already knows that. But it shocked me, in my early days of running 10Ks and half marathons, how I could take off and go faster than I thought I could. Even though that's abated a little bit--after running so many races, the race-day adrenaline is a little weaker--I can still usually find my git-up-and-go and pull out a decent finish time. (I said decent. Not great.)

  • However, when you get to the marathon, most likely your marathon pace is not going to be all that much faster than your long run pace. I know that contradicts most every training recommendation to run your long runs 1-2 minutes slower than goal race pace. And maybe if you are a super fast talented runner that works. But almost invariably I have found that my marathon pace turns out to be only a little faster than my typical long run pace for that training cycle. (And if the marathon gets ugly, it might even be slower.)
And finally, the most important, and shocking thing I've learned in my seven or so years of adult running....
  • You can run 26.2 miles and live to tell the tale. I know, it shocked me too!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The good and the (really) bad

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water....

That's actually a non sequitur. There's no swimming here. Or sharks.

How about, just when you thought it was safe to go back out on the roads? That's not quite right either.

But I did feel like my small running-related woes and worries were decreasing. My dodgy Achilles discomfort had subsided to almost unnoticeable. My non-working Garmin sprang back to life on Friday morning, and was still working for my long run on Saturday. Everything was a go.

I headed out for my 20-miler around 8:30 on Saturday morning. I had really intended to go at 8:00, but Book Club on Friday night kept me out until midnight, and what is a Saturday morning for if not being able to stay in bed a little longer than a workday?

The weather Saturday morning was cloudy and comfortable, not too warm, not too cold. I started with a loop through North Everett. August 3 happened to be "The Mother of All Garage Sales," so I had to dodge various crowds of garage salers along the way. Aside from the obstacles, I felt slow and steady for the first six miles.

Then I headed towards Mukilteo. The road to Mukilteo is hilly. Long rolling hills. That's why I love it. Okay, love it might be an exaggeration, but  I did intentionally select the route for hill training. Between the ups and downs, I was still keeping a pretty steady pace between 10:30 and 10:45. I had hoped that I would get to the Mukilteo Ferry at 13 miles, but it wasn't quite far enough so I took a side trip through Mukilteo to add a little extra distance.

I took a bathroom stop at the ferry, and sat on a bench for a few minutes. Then I had to stand and wait for an entire ferry to load up before crossing the street and heading on my way. I was a little sluggish after the long break, and it's all uphill from the ferry out of town, so I was a lot slower starting my trip back than I had been earlier. Actually it took me about five miles before I got back to my original pacing...which would coincide with finishing the final hill by Forest Park before heading back into downtown Everett.

I stopped for my now traditional rainbow pop at around mile 16.5. There is something so refreshing about frozen fruit-flavored sugar water! I had originally thought of doing 21 miles, but due to lack of time I cut it to 20.20. I had also been using MapMyRun without pausing, and it said 20.65 which included some stuff that wasn't on my Garmin. My Garmin pace for the run was 10:50, and my MapMyRun pace (without ever stopping the timer at all) was 13:19. (I seriously thought it would be slower, especially considering the long stop at the ferry!)

Once I got home I had to hustle because Rod and I were meeting my sister, her kids and my parents at the Stanwood Fair. By now the sun had come out and it was a lovely afternoon. The Stanwood Fair is a small town fair with animals, crafts and food displays, carnival rides, and a pretty good selection of food.

I accompanied Hans on the pony ride. His twin Erik didn't want to go, but changed his mind after watching Hans and then Eva. The pony ride is pretty long and it's more work than you would think trotting around in a circle making sure the toddler doesn't slide off!
 Rod and I with Eva and Hans on the carousel.
 Me, Eva, and Rod on the Tilt-a-Whirl, which is a lot scarier than I expected!
I also accompanied Eva through the House of was a narcissist's dream.

Then Eva went on some more of the kiddy rides unaccompanied. She had the wristband for unlimited rides...the rest of us had to buy tickets. Carnival rides aren't cheap.

By 7:00 I was ready to eat, and we dragged Eva away from the giant slide to get some food. Since it was late in the day, things were running out...specifically the turkey legs (which is what I had wanted). I got a brat instead, and corn on the cob. Then we were all tired enough to head home.

I think the walking and activity was good for my legs, because they never got really achy. Sunday I rode 22 miles on my bike (not fast).

Sunday night was when the bad started to happen. Actually it had started a few days ago with a slight sore throat that didn't go away. It never turned into a cold either. But on Sunday the sore throat got much worse, and Sunday night I had to sleep sitting up in a chair because when I was lying down I was having too much pain. Swallowing hurt so badly that I would start choking on my saliva because I didn't want to swallow. I was a mess. (Still, no cold.)

Despite the sore throat, I managed to go out for a moderate 6.25 mile run on Monday morning. I was back on MapMyRun because, guess what, my Garmin had died again. That was minor compared to the misery of my sore throat. I decided I would go to the Group Health Urgent Care after work.

Then, rushing into work, I pulled the building door into my foot and ripped off my big toenail. Well, it didn't detach completely but it was excrutiatingly painful and once the pain subsided (which happened quite quickly) I was gushing blood. I limped into the building and one of the guards helped me to a bathroom and called the detention nurse who bandaged me up. After my court calendar I drove down to Group Health and begged to be seen (for the toe and, while they were at it, the sore throat).

All they did for the toe was re-bandage it. As for the throat, they accepted my self-diagnosis of night-time reflux making my throat sore, and gave me a prescription for an acid-blocking med.

I don't know if that is the real cause, but happily, my throat seemed less painful that afternoon and, while it's still somewhat sore, I can swallow and eat without wanting to die. Obviously I was not cured by the medication (yet) as I just got it, but I'll go through the prescription for three weeks and see what happens. I pray that the sore throat will be all gone by the end of this week.

Because that's when I'm going to be in Colorado. My dad and I are leaving on Thursday for Denver, then Idaho Springs, for the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon this weekend. Yes, I know it is possible that I will not be running. I have no idea if my toe will be healed enough to run. Well, I know it won't be healed, but the question is whether I can run without much pain and without injuring myself further. If it doesn't seem like a good idea, then Colorado will be just a trip, not a race. I'm considering doing a test run tomorrow. If I can get my shoe on. Today was a rest day. I have also eaten cookies, cake and candy today, even though it is my least moving day ever!

In addition to everything else, yesterday I booked tickets for Tucson in December, for the Tucson Marathon. And...I got trip insurance. Just in case.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1 - One month to the Kaua'i Marathon!

Shall I join in the chorus of, "I can't believe it's already August"? And commiserate that summer is almost over? It has seemed a little fall-like for the last couple days, as it's been cloudy all day and never burned off in the afternoon. In fact, yesterday afternoon we had freak thundershowers. But despite the cloudiness, I haven't felt the bite in the air that says fall to me. It's been warmish and a little humid instead.

Actually, you know we're not even halfway through the summer. Summer ends around September 20. But most of us feel like summer ends informally around Labor Day, probably because the whole "school" thing.

For me, this year Labor Day weekend brings the Kaua'i Marathon! It's on Sunday, September 1, exactly one month from today.

Am I ready? I think so. I've run one 20-miler and have one planned for Saturday. Then I'll do an 18-miler in two weeks (which is two weeks prior to the marathon). I decided not to squeeze in a full 20-miler on that last long run, since two weeks is just a little close to race date. I feel comfortable with 18 miles, as that is the long distance that I seem most able to easily recover from.

I have had a few little glitches--not quite setbacks--that have affected my training and state of mind in the last couple weeks. I have had a persistent discomfort in my left Achilles that is not quite painful, but just enough to concern me. Actually on Saturday, after the Anacortes Art Dash Half Marathon, my Achilles was really sore and painful to the touch. I ended up putting on a compression ankle brace/sock that I had bought for my other leg, and it really helped a lot. I have been pretty proactive with both legs, wearing compression socks and sleeves for the last few days, icing (with cold packs, not actual ice), and applying anti-inflammatory cream pretty regularly. Both legs are a lot better now, and of course, I am starting to slack on the icing and ointment.

On the technical side of things, my brand new (two months old) Garmin Forerunner 610 has gone CRAZY. Crazy in the sense that it won't charge, and has done some other bizarre things that make it unusable. I have called Garmin once and they gave me some things to do to try to resolve it. Up until this morning nothing has worked. I've had it plugged in to charge for two days and the screen remains blank. But this morning, when I was planning to call Garmin again, it suddenly showed 93% charged! WTF??? I left it plugged in to "finish" charging, and we'll see if I have a working watch when I get home today.

Obviously I can't run without my Garmin. Kidding! But just's hard to feel like I'm really running without constantly monitoring the pace and distance. I have been using the MapMyRun app, which does measure distance and pace based on the total time. But you can't easily pause MapMyRun like a Garmin, so I just keep it running except for major lights where's there's time to stop and start. So my timed pace has been in the 11-minute plus range for the last two days, and I have no idea what it would be if I could pause at all stops. (Or if I could just run steadily without stopping...what a concept!)

Between my sensitive legs and my insensitive pacing, I have not even tried to do any speedwork or tempo runs this week. I've also continued to ditch the weekday long runs that I wanted to do. It just doesn't seem wise (either speedwork or too much distance) when I'm trying to coddle my Achilles tendons. On Monday I ran about 6.25 miles at a 10:30 pace (Garmin worked up to 5.6 miles, then died--I assume my pace was about the same for the remaining distance.) On Wednesday I did 7 miles with MapMyRun, and today 6.75. My next run is a long run on Saturday, and who knows whether I'll be using Garmin or MapMyRun? Actually, I am planning to run MapMyRun even if I have a Garmin, just in case the watch dies mid-run. Also, I would like to compare the distance measured my MapMyRun with the Garmin distance.

Even though I said I'm pretty much ready for Kaua'i (although I wouldn't want to run it this weekend), the leg issues and watch issues have made me a little leery about running. It's hard enough to get myself out of bed in the morning, without wondering if I am going to hurt myself running! I've sort of gotten past the edginess that comes from running without my Garmin, but I don't like being unable to monitor my pace. I don't know if it's good or bad that it might be working again. It would be nice to have it on Saturday (and for a half marathon coming the following Saturday), but there's always the fear that it will die again, leaving me watchless at a crucial time! I guess with MapMyRun I have some backup. It would be fine in a race, as I wouldn't pause for stops anyway. I have also been thinking of buying a cheap Timex GPS watch as an additional backup. (The model is called Marathon, so why wouldn't I want it? Haha.)