A Rough Recovery

You know the advice to keep walking after finishing a race? Try to stay on your feet for at least 20 minutes? Well, it’s good advice.

Unfortunately, after my half-marathon two weekends ago, I failed to take it and got comfortable on a curb with a plate of food within ten minutes of my run. I hadn’t even finished my first bottle of water yet.

Sitting felt good. Getting up, not so good.

My thighs were incredibly sore and anything more than a shuffle hurt. Well, I also wasn’t able to complete a cool down run, and settled for a slow, painful walk to the car. This is a far stretch from my last half marathon where I lost my car key in the walk from my car to the starting line and used the moment I crossed the finish line onward to find security personnel along the race and ask if they had found my key. A quick run from one person to the next meant I had a good cool-down (and got my key in the process). Should have lost my key again, I guess.  The rest of the day after this race I moved very little, happy to be sitting down. I haven’t done an intense long race in a while, so I don’t know if I felt that way after my marathons, but I certainly never felt that way after a half before.

Monday wasn’t much better and it not only hurt going down steps, it hurt going up and horizontal as well. I was in very bad shape. It was my own fault though, and while I didn’t do much immediate post race recovery, I put more effort into the recovery for the rest of the week. I gave myself daily massages, took Epsom salt baths, got enough sleep, ate a lot of foods with important vitamins and minerals, stretched and did yoga, basically, everything one is supposed to do. By Thursday I was feeling much better, but after a short 2 mile run, quite sore again. It was mostly my thighs that were complaining, but the blister on my foot was still making trouble. Friday morning I went out for another run that felt much better (seems like the run the day before cleared out some of the pain), but I started feeling a slight pain in the top, right side of my right foot, and my paranoid self (as well as the knowledge that four days of rest after my effort had not been enough) made me fear the worst: stress fracture.

It’s not just paranoia. I am a likely candidate. I have been increasing my mileage and running on a foot plagued by plantar fasciitis since July. I lost about seven pounds since my arrival in Hamburg, as well as my regular period. While losing my weight was not intentional, I also wasn’t vigilant about making sure I had enough to eat for the amount of running I was doing. I also chalked up the amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycle) to hormonal shifts based on the stress of being in a foreign country and having some homesickness and culture shock. It wasn’t until I got home, right before my race where I realized that I had lost weight and may have been unhealthy. To top this list, I had fractured a bone in my foot before by playing soccer barefoot (brilliant, I know). The slight tingling I feel on my foot in various stages of movement make me think that if I had a stress fracture, the location would be in about the same place.  Because of the combination of these factors, I kind of think I may be in pretty bad shape to begin marathon training.

But, after that almost 6 mile run on that last Friday (the 20th), I consequently avoided running and long periods of walking. I have continued stretching and massaging, and I am trying to stay active by biking and swimming. I also did a workout of pool running, but I still feel silly when I do that.

Anyway, I don’t plan to run again for another week at least. Also, if I don’t feel better on Jan. 2nd, I may just take one more week off (to give myself three weeks of potential recovery).

I know I should not self-diagnose, but if I basically know I have to take time off and rest, what more can a doctor tell me? At least time off may ensure that I recover from the fasciitis.

Welp. So much for injury free. It’s hard to sit on the sideline, since I wasn’t actually experiencing real pain (just some pangs of discomfort) when I stopped running and probably could have continued running. On the other hand, with this marathon I registered for, and a soccer team I want to continue playing for, I also know I’d rather take time off now, while I can, than run and have to stop and not have enough time after recovery to train properly. Oh well.

I can’t believe I’ve only taken one week off and already feel antsy. How will I make it to two or three more??

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Race Ready- How do you know if you’re ready to race?

 How do you know when you’re ready to race? Generally, you don’t. However, there are usually a few indicators in your ability to follow a training plan and the runs in the days leading up to your race that will let you know if you’re ready or not. 

For example, let’s say it’s the week leading up to your 5K on the weekend and you do two one-mile runs at 5K race pace. Then, after a short rest, you do two 400 meters at 1-mile pace. If you complete these, you’re in pretty good shape to target that race pace for the 5K on the weekend.

Usually, if you’re able to nail a certain interval workout at race pace or better, you can feel fairly confident that you’ll be able to tackle similar distances during the race. Keep in mind that interval training runs are controlled environments in which you’re expected to feel pain, but also able to recover and do another good run the next day. Races are clearly more intense, painful, and allow for a much harder effort since few people actually need to conserve energy and speed for the next day or following days (unless you’re, you know, doing a hat-trick or something). Those shows of speed that you pull off in a training run are good indicators of the speed you can draw on during the race, especially if you follow a pretty easy regimen for the week with a rest day before or two-days before the race. 

Some other ways to know if you’re race ready is if you’re motivated to break a PR or a certain time, if you’ve been training for at least 4 weeks before a 5K or 6-weeks before a 10K, have good base, have been watching the diet and not gaining weight over the course of training… there’s many factors that come into race preparation. 

However, it’s also possible to be physiologically ready and not feel ready at all. This happens to many runners, especially the day before the race when one would rather just have the next 24-hours be done with and the race have already happened. It’s similar to the experience of putting alcohol on a wound. You know it’s going to hurt, but you know the wound needs to be disinfected and that you’ll be relieved afterwards. At that point before a race, the best thing to do is distract yourself. If you’ve done the training and you’ve done your best to prepare, even in last minute preparation, you’re going to be fine.

So, after that how-to, let’s see if I can follow my own advice. 

Monday’s run: 2 x 1 mile at 6:50 mpm with 5 minute rest; 2 x 400 meters at 6:18 mpm with 3 minute rest; 2 mile warm-up, 3-mile cool down. I should feel good that I nailed the pace for both miles, but I can’t help but be nervous. Goal for Saturday is to break 21:30. 

Intervals, doubles, and rest days

I haven’t been very good at keeping up my blog, but I’ve been having good running weeks–enough to think that going to the race next Saturday is a good idea after all! My mileage is staying consistently at or below 35 miles per week, which doesn’t sound like a lot (and it’s not, if we’re talking marathon training), but it’s good for 5K race-prep, and the workouts I’ve been doing are definitely more intense than I would be doing during marathon training. 

I stupidly ran around 1300 last Sunday, which as anyone can tell you is the hottest part of the day. Combine Florida heat with Florida humidity and an 11 mile run, and you can start imagining the state I was in at the end. I basically had to peel my running shirt off over my head. 

funny-wet-cats-1

Now, imagine something even less attractive and more sun-dazzled, and that was me.

As if that experience wasn’t enough to convince me, this week I did my two heavy tempo/intervals runs around noon as well, and ended up hanging my clothes outside before I got into the house. I had to brace for the cold air-conditioning each time too, and it doesn’t sound as pleasant as it sounds. 

Daily Weather History & Observations- What I’ve had to run through (looking at the range between the avg and the high, since I usually ran around noon or 1300): 

2014

Temp. (°F)

Humidity (%)

Aug

high

avg

low

high

avg

low

24

93

86

80

85

67

52

25

93

87

81

88

74

59

26

91

88

84

67

62

52

27

91

85

79

74

62

53

28

90

86

82

76

69

63

29

93

86

82

79

67

55

30

93

86

81

77

66

55

So, on Sunday, I rounded out the week with an 11.3 mile run. Monday was a rest day on which I really just walked a bit around my home-university’s campus. Tuesday was tempo interval day, but I skipped it and did a light run instead (sometimes this happens before TOM). I just wasn’t feeling up to it by the time I got around to it at 1700. I also didn’t want to do a hard workout so late in the afternoon and have trouble sleeping. But Wednesday, I had all day and after a carb-heavy breakfast decided to do that tempo workout. According to the plan I pilfered from my college running coach, I was set for 3 x 10 minutes at tempo pace with 2 min. jog recovery that I turned into 4 min.s. Woops. No wonder I was able to keep the pace at or above 7.8 mph consistently. Part of that also had to do with the fact that I was on the treadmill at the gym and had air-conditioning, albeit a struggling, weak fanning system. I reverted to some old habits that I picked up last year during training, and that was to make my run to the gym my warm-up and the run home the cool-down. This meant that I could use the interval setting on the treadmill to complete the actual workout with water and sweat-absorbing towels nearby. I picked up this habit because I didn’t have a GPS watch then, but now that I have my TomTomRunner, I can do intervals anywhere. Problem is, in the early afternoon in south Florida one wants to be nowhere outside… Being inside for part of the run, even though I ended up soaked through by the end anyway, at least enabled me to get in 4 miles for warm-up and cool-down and complete 5.4 miles for the tempo intervals. 

The tempo workout Wednesday was good, followed by a solid easy run on Thursday. Friday was interval day and because I was lazy and it really was TOM, I ended up not motivating myself to go out until half past noon again. But I did the same thing I did Wednesday, where I ran to the gym and did my drills and intervals there. The workout this time called for 20 x 45 secs FAST with 1:15 minute jog recovery. I initially set my run pace for 9.0 mph and my jog pace for 6.1 mph, but found myself upping the pace each intervals because it felt too easy. After a quick water break halfway through, I set the pace for 9.5 mph. It was definitely harder, but bumping it up every so often to 10 mph made me feel like a bad-ass. 

picture wtfcontent BADASS

Any run where I have witnesses to how hard I push myself makes me feel like a badass. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy running on a treadmill at the gym.

Of course, I am aware of the critique of running on treadmills for regular training runs and high-intensity runs, and I also know that it’s not a habit I want to develop again. The constant changes in speed without the natural speed-up, slow-down can be damaging long-term to muscles and bones. I also know that the speeds I run on the treadmill, especially short-term for 45 seconds, are not actual representations of what I can run on the road (as in, I probably would not have run that fast, heat and humidity aside). The treadmill’s belt works in a constant forward-pulling motion on my feet, meaning I use less energy to propel myself forward when I propel myself off the ground. I’m aware of that. Still, I enjoy my treadmill intervals sometimes because it helps break up what is otherwise a very long run. Friday’s run ended up at just under 10 miles, and then I did doubles after a break for lunch. Total for Friday was 12.1 miles… and so as you can see, this is how 5K training differs significantly from longer distance training. Basically, the interval and tempo runs days are longer days, since the training is designed to make you prepared for more intense speed rather than enduring speed. I see it as something that MYABR. 

So after Friday, which I wasn’t horribly beat-up after (a positive development in my training), I had a cross-training day by working in the garden all day (trimming trees and hedges, pulling weeds, raking, and carrying bags to the curb). I don’t know if gardening quite counts as cross-training, but I was using more core and arm muscles than in running, and it was less anaerobic. Plus, it got my heart going a few times and I got to get all sweaty and dirty. :-) 

Today, Sunday, I may go out for a run 6 miles or less. It really depends on how into my work I get. Hope everyone had a good week! 

To race or not to race… Hey!

I can’t decide if I want to race next weekend (not this weekend, but the first of the month). But before I get into whether or not I should do it, let’s back-track a bit to the days where I raced every week and sometimes twice a week: high school cross country.

you know you’re a 90s kid when someone yells at you “run, Forrest, run” and you know what they’re referring to. We don’t have to backtrack that far now…

During high school, all the self-discipline I needed was to change into my running clothes (consisting of a cotton t-shirt and soccer shorts… I didn’t get fancy [or smart/cotton in Florida?] until college) and make it over to the cross country coach’s classroom. There were coolers with water and Gatorade, a group of running buddies, and a coach with a plan waiting for me. Now, I have to organize the times I run, the workouts I run, and I am almost always solo unless my brother deigns to join me. During high school, I also got to run races for free. I didn’t have to worry about the funds to pay registration fees or figure out ways to get to the races and pay for said gas. I had it made, as a runner. Now, on my TA funds (most of which go towards fueling myself for running), I find it hard to regularly sign up for a race.

Imagine how much money I would save if I quit running… all that food, laundry, running shoe material

Also, I have other things to worry about, like priorities. I had priorities in high school too, like getting good grades, hanging out with friends, having a boyfriend, but I also had a set amount of time to train every day and I needed surprisingly little sleep (though, based on my later results, that’s probably not true).

Now, my academic and social responsibilities require more work and more time. My responsibilities to my family are especially increased, and I am less likely to pop-off on a weekend morning to disappear for hours at a time. So, I am less likely to sign-up for a race because I feel that I am less likely to train for one or make it to the race. Take the last race for example, the Berlin City-Nacht 10K; I had to miss it… two months training out the window.

Therefore, in light of all the obstacles, I don’t know whether I should register for the race in question that’s coming up. Some factors that come into the decision are the fact that I’ve had a nagging plantar fasciitis issue and that I am preparing for MA exams that make it more likely for me to blow off a training run (like the one I’m avoiding for today).

I need to go for a run today… eh

I also don’t know if I’m prepared for this run. I have about four weeks of 30+ mileage weeks and the starts of cross country training. But I also haven’t been running very fast, and I won’t be able to train this weekend properly.

But now comes the fun part. What do you all think? I have 25 dollars that may or may not go towards the peanut butter fund.

Sore Mornings and Workout Updates

You know you’re a runner (or someone who spends way too much time on his/her feet) when you wake up in the morning, step out of bed, and wonder why your feet/legs/knees don’t creak, mumble, or moan. That’s because as a runner, you’re probably used to putting serious stress on your lower appendages (funny how the activity that we sometimes do to relieve stress causes a heck of a lot of it… about 2-3 Gs for at least 100 ms every second of a run; read the physics of it here). This kind of stress repeated daily throughout weeks and months will likely result in a build-up of issues that can no longer be recovered in an evening of rest like they used to (or can be expected from Wolverine).

Imagine how much fun being an athlete would be, if you could heal within seconds.

Therefore, waking up with, for example, sore feet, sore knees, knees that creak going up and down the stairs…at least for the first ten minutes in the morning, becomes a fairly common recurrence.

What causes morning soreness?:

These symptoms are obviously caused by things like hard workouts, raising the number of pounds in the gym, shoes that no longer provide the same kind of support that you need due to extensive mileage, the onset of an injury that you should keep tabs on and perhaps research/look for advice in a more credible source, tripping over the coffee table in the middle of the night, that sort of thing. But there are some other causes as well that can be regulated and the regulation of can these other causes can help mitigate the amount of soreness felt the following morning.

How to prevent morning soreness:

Stop running. :-)

Shoes/surface- Make sure the shoes you run in and the surface you run on are appropriate for your training and the state of effort you are putting in. Sometimes when shoes have been exposed to too much heat or have too many miles on them, they lose the support they’re supposed to give.

Avoid running in heat and humidity/use ice baths- this one will be surprising to some of you who live further north and think 75 degrees F is warm to run in. As someone who knows 90 degrees is manageable, I also know that nature can serve as a natural ice pack. When running in cooler temperature, the healing effects of ice and cold water baths can occur while running and also help relieve pain. That’s why, while running when it’s cold can be miserable and comes with its own set of problems, at least terrible soreness won’t be one of them. If/when you run in warmer temps, try to take an ice bath and/or use ice packs shortly after your run… within an hour or so.

Epsom salts- I don’t use these myself, but I’ve heard they are pretty good to smoke (just kidding), I mean, soak in.

Foam rolling and massage- I’ve been slacking on this myself lately (probably why I woke up sore this morning and felt inspired to write this post), but taking the time to roll out the muscles in the evening before going to sleep can really help clear out lactic acid or whatever (not sure about the science behind this) and does effect how you’ll feel in the morning.

Sleep- make sure you get enough sleep before and after the day of a long run. The sleep beforehand helps ensure that you’re recovered from recent workouts and the sleep afterwards helps recover. Every person is different, so people need different amounts of sleep depending also on their activity level, age, and genes. However, everyone needs to sleep more than the four hours that some people get.

Eat- a little bit of carbs before a run don’t hurt, but it’s important to give your body the fuel for recovery too. I don’t eat sugar, so I can’t use the standard post-workout pre-made smoothies, but I do try to make sure I get in some fruit and some protein (maybe peanut butter, popcorn, sliced ham) within 45 minutes of the end of my run. I’ve found that I’m hungry after a run anyway, but even on the rare occasion I’m not, a forced bite to eat helps prevent the fatigue and soreness later on and the next day.

Drink- Of course, runners tend to make sure they drink enough throughout the day to have something to sweat out in their workout, but it’s very important to have those H2O molecules replaced after the run. I think (again, not sure about the science of this) that the water helps clear out the muscles and replace used water, but it definitely helps in the recovery process.

I’m sure there are other tips (and you can comment below, to share!) but these are mine for now.

Conclusion to sore mornings

Oh, unless you experience this yourself, you may think that people who experience morning soreness must be injured, and while these people are likely to develop an injury soon, most of us don’t plan on developing an injury anytime soon. Consider people who weight lift, or how you feel after an intense interval session… the body is pushed beyond limits, and these ruptures in the limits need to be healed. When the healing takes longer than the 8 hours of sleep (quick plug: make sure you get at least 8-9 hours of sleep!!), obviously the pain is going to be there. Those of us in a bit of pain every morning are just stuck in a training cycle and can look forward to pain free mornings only when that cycle is over.

What else would come to mind when I have happy feet?

Workout updates

So, lately I’ve been in a training cycle that made me wince this morning when I got out of bed. I think I mentioned before that I saved my training plans from college cross country, and it basically prepared me to almost break my PR last fall. I still think I have it in me to break 21 minutes AND 20 minutes (and 19… but let’s just dream about that for now), and so I am training as well as I can, when I can. Right now, the plan calls for five and half hours of training a week, so it’s not too demanding on top of my studying for MA exams, but the intensity of the workouts is definitely more than I’ve needed for marathon training. I get most of my runs done in the morning, have a day of tempo intervals with doubles in the afternoon, an easy run, a day of short/fast intervals with a double in the afternoon, two easy days, and then a long-ish run of 70-80 minutes. It’s harder than marathon training, and yet somehow I prefer two weekly sessions of intervals and temps (for example 5 x 5 min. @ 7 mpm) over a long three hour run.

This week, my rest day was on Monday. I didn’t go for a bike ride after all; as the day went on, I decided to just take it easy. Why workout on the one day when the calendar gods don’t ask anything of you, right?

Tuesday, I had four intervals of 6 minutes at tempo/race pace. I did these in the morning and fasted, which was rough, but while I was a bit slower on the last two intervals, I was running outside in 90 degrees at 87% humidity, so I know that, by having put in effort, I was fulfilling the purpose of the run. No doubles this week because it’s a recovery week (wee!!)

Wednesday: an easy run of 45 minutes. It was in the afternoon though, after a day of vigorous house cleaning, so something went wonky in my sleep cycle and I didn’t fall asleep until 4 in the morning :/ Completing my intervals Thursday on such little sleep would explain why I was sore on Friday.

Thursday: after a tired warm-up of 20 minutes during which I was trying to convince myself to run for an hour, much less complete the scheduled interval workout, I managed some drills and strides and felt ready to go. I did ten times 2 min.s at 8.3 mph and faster. My ninth interval was for 9.3 mph, and the final one maxed at 10 mph. The recoveries were 1 minute at 6.1 mph… and I noticed that I was actually able to do the recovery runs (without jogging) because I was consistent about starting off slow at the start of each interval spurt. I’m getting stronger! So ya.

Friday (today): An easy run of 30 minutes preceded by a rigorous bike ride. A post on the benefits of cross training later!

Hope you all have a good weekend!

Pain

While thinking all day about the run I needed to complete, I also thought a bit about what it was that I wanted to say in my last post about Once a Runner. Basically, what separates people like Quenton Cassidy from people like me is that they are willing to give their all in a race. The last time I sacrificed everything and was willing to die in a race was my cross country regionals. It seemed worth it at the time. I wanted to go to states and was sure I could make it. Since then, I haven’t been sure of my success in anything. I don’t put myself against real challenge anymore, and if I did, I wouldn’t take it seriously. Parker Jr.’s distinction is accurate, I’d be what one calls a runner, maybe, but not an athlete or a hero. I haven’t been willing to sacrifice everything for my game. I used to do that in running, I still do it in soccer, but I’ve been injured a few times too many to not be wary of pushing myself. So now, for a while now, I’ve been “playing” at running, as Cassidy would say. The stakes haven’t been high enough.

If I ever want to break 20 minutes in a 5K or 3 hours in a marathon, this needs to change. I need the hunger.

On that note, I plan to race again soon and I have intervals tomorrow. It’s okay to get some pain time then.

My run today contained no pain, sorry to say. It was an easy 45 minutes at the gym (5.32 miles), especially boring. I could have run outside, but I went with my brother and he likes rain less than I do.