Sunday, November 27, 2011

Insult from Injury

The dreaded post-race recovery run- we all know it's something that just has to be done. So on Saturday I went kicking and screaming limping and croaking down to the flat rail trail near my in-laws' house to do an easy few miles with my husband. My husband came and it took about .3 miles for me to piss him off.

My legs were warming up and we were on just the slightest hint of a downhill so my legs were like, "OK, we're running now," and I inadvertently started to speed up. My husband grabs my arm and gives me a gentle pull back to him. I say, "Oops, sorry," and something like "that's why it's good I'm not running alone today- because I'd go too far, too fast and hurt myself." Boom. Insulted. The rest of the run was completed in silence.

I waited 8 hours and a nap (for him, not me) to hash out what had upset him so. I mean, I know guys' egos are fragile, but come. on.

Well I guess it was humbling enough that even with a cough and raging plantar fasciitis that I was still holding myself back while running with him, so to speak, but that's not to say that if I was running normally he couldn't keep up. But then I had to say something about it, which is what really pissed him off. He felt like I was telling him, in so many words, that he slows me down.

So I tried to explain things to him in terms he could understand.

For starters, I think we ALL have a tendency to get sucked into comparing ourselves to others. The gym and the track can be the hardest places to keep from falling into that black hole of competition, worry, or self-doubt. My husband's the competitor. He sees a guy bench 265, and he thinks, "I should be able to do that, too." In fact, I'm pretty sure I am too. "Paula Radcliff can run a 7:38 pace when 7 months pregnant. I should at least be able to do that for 13.1 without a human growing inside of me."

The trouble with being competitive is that if you take it beyond just trying to outdo yourself, you'll never be satisfied with your performance, even if you're doing the most you can at a given moment. This is why for certain drills, I tell my class not to glance at the person riding next to them to see how fast they're pedaling or how high their resistance is. I tell them that each ride is their own ride, and if they're sweating, aching, and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones, then they are doing exactly what they need to be doing.

Moving on to self-doubt; if you constantly compare yourself to others and allow yourself to think things like, "I'll never move that fast," or "I'll never lift that much," you will run the risk of limiting yourself because you're afraid you won't succeed. You don't want to drive yourself based on the performance of others to the point that you'll break, but you won't accomplish anything if you hold back, either.

I asked my husband, "If you are lifting with buddies and you know one of them benches less weight than you do, do you put less weight on the bar for yourself spare his ego?"

"No..." he replies.

I continued on to say that he can lift a certain amount because he's trained himself to that point. And just like he shouldn't hold himself back to avoid hurting someone elses' feelings, he shouldn't expect me to pretend I'm not a naturally faster runner than he is. And if I run with him for an easy run, he needs to just swallow his pride and deal with it because 1) I don't train to run a certain pace to insult him- I do it to push myself, and 2) He knows exactly what he needs to do if he wants to go on a tempo run with me.

We all out there doing our own things- climbing our own mountains, finding our individual finish lines, or simply looking to check things off of our bucket lists. If you want to compare yourself to the person working out next to you, then just realize that you don't know how hard he or she has worked to get to where they are. With time and training, you might be able to do the same thing, or you might reach your physical limit before then. And that's OK too. Just do you.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey Day Half- Race Report

While hardly a racing veteran, I've done enough marathons, half-marathons, 5- and 10K's that I know what it takes for me to really love a race, and it doesn't always come down to my chip time. Several factors need to come together for me to not only appreciate that an event is more than just another run, but to know before I even toe the line that it's a race I will definitely want to do again.

As soon as we arrived at Turner Field and saw the droves of runners - some in turkey get-up, others in Pilgrim or Indian-inspired attire - I knew it was going to be a fun day. Everyone was smiling, albeit shivering, and excited. Journey blared from the speakers. The port-a-potties were plenty and the lines were small. All in all everything made for an easy, unfrazzled start.

I positioned myself toward the front of start wave B with the 1:45 pace group, figuring I could stick with them for a couple miles to prevent from going out too fast. The gun went off for start wave A at 7:30 and we were at the line and off by 7:35. My goal was to make miles 1-5 feel easy. I wanted to settle into a natural pace and avoid the urge to get impatient and pass people. That lasted 2 miles.

When I felt myself having to shorten my stride and really hold back, I decided I was warmed up enough and made my way around the pace group to go find the next one. A few other 1:45-ers went with me. The weather conditions were absolutely perfect: brisk, clear, no wind. I'd barely started to break a sweat in the first couple miles so I knew I could start to push a little and find my goal pace. Having forgotten my watch like the genius I am though, I had to rely on my legs' natural stride and the music on my ipod. Prodigy is a good pace-setter.

I had anticipated some decent hills and did most of my longer runs around my own neighborhood, which include some killers. I figured whatever the course had in store, I'd be more than ready for. What I didn't expect was for the first half to be mostly flat or downhill. Someone who doesn't know Atlanta better would have been lulled into a false sense of security. I knew better, so I had to get into "cruise" mode for miles 6-8. I focused on maintaining effort on hills (keeping the same breathing rate, even if it meant slowing a little) and opening up my stride while resisting speeding up too much and pounding too hard on the downhills.

It was around mile 7 that I wished I could actually capture the moment I experienced on film. We were coming up over a hill on a bridge that crosses the highway, just as the sun was rising up above the buildings and the boys choir in the Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want" fades to the simple 2-chord progression on an acoustic guitar. Talk about a picture perfect moment- the still morning air, feet moving seemingly in unison, poufs of vapor rising up over the sea of runners like a morning fog. Usually, I just run. And I definitely don't really soak up my surroundings when trying to PR, but this particular scene was just too perfect to ignore.

Those few minutes of calm soon gave way to a rising chorus and the mile marker that indicated it was time to dial it up a notch. I knew that miles 8-13 were mostly uphill (how kind, they gave us a .1-mile downhill just before the finish line), so it was time to put my hill work to the test. Each hill felt progressively harder but I had a song to match each climb that gave me the adrenaline I needed to push through and not care if I felt like I might puke. I can't believe that my eyes only watered and my stomach only threatened to revolt just once during the whole thing. I was in the glorious negative split territory despite the elevation changes and I was NOT going to let that slip.

By mile 12 the course clock read 1:37 or so, which I knew was 5 minutes ahead of my actual time, so I pushed hard and I would guess that I probably clocked a 7-minute mile for the last one. Again, no watch on me, so I was just running by feel. And I have to say, I highly recommend it. Say what you want about treadmills, but they have helped me hone my stride and be able to tell how fast I'm going at any clip.

Coming up over the last bump, the Olympic rings are overhead and I thought about the amazing gift that is this body, and all we are able to do with it. Sure, yesterdays' run was no herculean feat by elite standards, but that's not to say that people crossing the finish line weren't pushing themselves just as hard as the athletes that have competed in Olympic stadiums around the world. About half the field consisted of first-time half-marathoners. On Thanksgiving, a day that has become purely about indulgence and excess; ridiculous amounts of food followed by insane squandering of money on Black Friday. These first-timers, instead, chose to wake up at 5:00 AM, stand in the cold for an hour or more waiting for the start, and run their butts off for 13.1 miles. We are amazing, weird, and dedicated creatures, us runners. And I'm always proud to be a part of such a huge team.

As I approached the finish line, the course clock was closing in on 1:45 which I knew meant I had to run it hard to make my goal. Officially, I PR'd by about 4 minutes, crossing the line in a time of 1:39:51.

It was such an amazing day and a fantastic race. I wish I could retrieve the visual memory I have of the event and put it on video for you. The people cheering, the dogs barking at us (and each other) in Piedmont Park, the guy who I ended up pacing with who ran the whole way carrying an American flag in honor of a fallen soldier. Never have I experienced such an inspiring race and I can not wait until next Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

13.1-Eve (and Thanksgiving and stuff)

Nothing like a mild flirtation with an upper-respiratory ailment to put me on my ass and force me to taper. I had kind of forgotten to ease up the past few weeks and I think a cold/laryngitis was just the reminder I needed to stay off my feet for a minute to get ready for the half tomorrow morning.

Can I just add that waiting tables without a voice is... um, interesting? All I can say is hooray for competent trainees and sympathy tips. A few people were nice- they told me my raspy, croaking voice sounded sexy. I guess some people have a thing for women who sound like 60-yr-old smokers with emphysema.

Fortunately, I'm better now. I don't have my singing voice back and I still sound a little off, but I feel good. I've got enough echinacea, Umcka, and vitamin C flowing through my veins I might actually turn into a new hybrid immunity-boosting herb/plant/fruit tree.

Onto race day prep: I have a few traditions. Nothing crazy, just little things to get me pumped and in the mood to run for, say, an hour and 40 minutes or so (or at least, that's the goal).

The PlaylistA good bit of thought goes into my ears. I'll admit, even when people were trying to be strict about not allowing race participants to use their music players, I still broke the rules. It's not that I don't thrive off the crowd and air of excitement on race day, but I really love my music. It's not even that I put my most favorite songs E.V.E.R. on my list, but I enjoy trying to choreograph my race, so to speak, in the same way I choreograph a spin class. I need to start with even-paced, relatively calm music to avoid going out too fast. I need longer songs that build in intensity to really settle into my race pace. I need something mellow to "cruise" to in the middle 7-10 miles. Then I need bass-thumpin, guitar-wailing, drum-exploding, bad-ass music to push me through the last few miles and kick it in strong.

you know I gotta have me some Foo
The Primping 
I don't do much. It's more about picking out an outfit that says, "I'm a real runner, I swear!" and doing my nails. I almost went with my coworker to get my nails done yesterday, but then I remembered I wanted arm warmers to complete my outfit so opted for the home manicure instead.
Pretty in Purple

The Expo
Duh! We all know it's the best part of any major running event. Of course, it's a money pit, so you have to know going in what, if anything, you will buy from any of the numerous vendors and how much you're willing to spend. My personal tips for the expo: 1) Try on new shoes, but don't be tempted to buy them to wear the next morning for the race. They need time to break in and no matter how cool and shiny they seem, you'll miss your old kicks before you are even done warming up for the race. Save the sneaker purchase as a post-race treat. 2) Try to leave the kids at home. Trust me! I got to go without Alexis and as horrible a mom as this makes me sound, it was SO nice to peruse the racks and try on shoes without having to stop her from rearranging items on display, or accidentally making me steal stuff by hiding it in my tote bag. Also, I'm not a fan of tripping over others' kids and strollers. 3) Don't buy food unless you know what goos/gels/blocks you want and just haven't gotten a chance to buy them yet. Otherwise, you'll be tempted to buy and eat something you're not used to, just begging for your GI tract to interfere with your race plans!

Try to get out of the expo with only the things you need! (The 5-hour energies are for my hubby/chauffeur).

The Prerace Dinner
Nothing crazy for me. I indulge a bit more the few days leading up to a race, but having done a few marathons before, a half marathon is not something I go nuts with the carb-loading for. Since a lot of my fluids have been tea this weekend thanks to my throat issues, I've been adding lots of honey. Otherwise, I'm just focusing on drinking lots, eating when I'd normally eat despite the appetite going down with the cutback in miles, and keeping things relatively lean: No heavy sauces or greasy meals here. My favorite prerace dinner was the steak, arrugula and brie on croissant (trés français). I don't think I want to cook tonight, but I will aim for a hearty, light sandwich and maybe a small glass of wine.

The Race Day
My race morning fuel is a little odd, and I probably wouldn't recommend to everyone. But I can't eat a lot and I, the coffee lover, the person who's personal life motto would me "With an extra shot, please", the woman who might take coffee intravenously, if given the opportunity... you get the point... just can't stomach coffee the morning of a race. So I take 2 Excedrin with a glass of almond milk and eat a granola bar. I know, I'm weird.

OK, so what are YOUR Race Eve and Race Day traditions?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Running to rest and resting to run.

I got really moody about his upcoming Half Marathon because it wasn't the race I really wanted to do. Then, I settled down and realized I had to stop moping around about the fundraising thing and just get back to what I'm good at, which is just running. It's kind of like how I can't do a ball sport because it involves too much coordinated movement- same goes for running. I can run, but if you ask me to pair another task with running that involves any additional time or mental commitment and I suddenly become quite flustered.

And when I say uncoordinated, I mean like I fell off the risers at a Cross Country awards ceremony in high school in front of the rest of my team, uncoordinated.

So for the past few weeks my daily routine has pretty much been:

Monday- Morning routine (dress, eat, walk dogs), run, chores, lunch & nap routine (Alexis', not mine), shower, hustle to get to work, get home between 11 and midnight.

Tuesday- Morning routine, play, chores, lunch & nap, evening routine (dinner and another dog walk), hustle to get to the gym for spin class.

Wednesday- Morning routine, play, chores, lunch & nap, sit for thirty minutes and enjoy my day "off" from working out before going to work, get home between 11 and midnight.

Thursday- Morning routine, run, NO chores (I've declared Thursday to be a dish, laundry, and vacuum-free day), shower, lunch & nap, babysit 'til 6 or 7, then I actually get to have a normal, stress-free evening and bedtime routine with the daughter.

Friday- Morning routine, blog (Hi!), run, lunch & nap, hustle to work, get home between midnight and 2AM.

Saturday- Double. Work from 11AM til 11PM or later.

Sunday- OFF (hopefully a run, if the hubby doesn't guilt me out of running to stay home for "family time" which means I let him go play with his car.

Now, my motivation to run and get through my Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon (rather quickly) is to just be done and on my way up to Greenville, where no laundry, no work, and lots and lots of food await.

The only thing(s) between now and next week that threaten to get in the way are attached to my ankles. My feet have been none too pleased with 30 miles per week (try as I might, I will never run more than that) plus work. If I get moving, they're ok but for some reason it's when I'm off my feet that it feels like there are nails in my heels. It seems/feels like the tell-tail signs of plantar fasciitis but I'm one of those people that unless a doctor tells me I have something, I don't have it. A few years ago, when my sinuses were so swollen they threatened to burst out of my faces and I was blowing green snot for a week, my husband had to strong-arm me into the car to take me to a clinic, where I was told I had a severe sinus infection and was put on antibiotics for a week.

Just four more shifts and a few more runs before the 13.1, then I can see how my feet feel after I take all of Thanksgiving weekend to recover (NO shopping for me!). I'm reading about others' injury and PT struggles and just don't want to be forced into that club. Mostly, I don't like being told what to do, or what not to do. I am a therapists' nightmare, which is why I'm hoping some rest and good old-fashioned RICE-ing is all I need.

As far as self-prescribed treatment and prevention go...

Anyone out there try KT tape? I like it when it actually stays put for the whole run, which isn't often.

What are your favorite compression socks to run and/or recover in?

How do I get in the business of test-wearing new shoes, since I can't justify a new pair of shoes for every bio-mechanical obstacle I encounter?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin - the shuffle

Last night's class didn't introduce a lot in the way of new songs, but I did mix up the order that I played them for a change and, more importantly, a challenge.

Back in high school, my cross country coach used to yell at me for my kick at the end of the race. Fueled by the crowd and that final burst of adrenaline, I'd blast through the last 100 yards and across the finish line. I felt it made me look impressive and of course, if I could pick off a few more runners, all the better. But my coach was not a fan. She said, "A kick like that tells me you didn't run hard enough during your race."


Since then, I'd like to say I've matured as an athlete. I no longer require that final sprint to prove my strength or athleticism, but that's not to say that it doesn't feel good to throw in a fast, loud, butt-whooping song at the end of a spin class or run.

The problem with always doing that at the end of a workout is that your body may come to anticipate that last push. Some people will work hard the entire hour regardless of which drills I do when, but I did notice a few people seeming to conserve their efforts for the last song. Suddenly, I found myself in my coach's shoes. She was.... right. *grumble*

Muscle memory is an amazing thing. It tells us that stairs need to be 10.5" high (I love the things I learn on "Holmes Inspection"), helps us navigate our living rooms in the dark, makes us able to memorize songs on instruments, and much more. But this also means that our bodies can become really used to a workout and when you always do the same drills in the same order, you run the risk of not pushing yourself harder. So on the bike, do the hardest drill halfway through your workout. On a run, try to throw in a faster mile somewhere in the middle. You can even mix up your routine by starting with cardio at the gym, stopping to go lift weights, then coming back to do the rest of your aerobic workout.

But of course, don't think that just because you challenge yourself more in the middle of your routine that you can just cruise until the end. A mid-class sprint doesn't mean I won't push my class to do something challenging at the end. I'm evil like that.

Happy sweating!

Friday, November 11, 2011

I was never one for taking things slow...

The clock and I have a complicated past.

I've written in the past of my struggles with working out and the scale. Working out was my license to eat and if I knew I wasn't going to be able to squeeze in a run or time at the gym, I struggled to allow myself to eat a meal. I drove those nearest and dearest to me insane with my constant obsessing over food and when I'd be able to work out next.

Like any solid relationship, my involvement with running has grown and matured into a healthy, beautiful thing. I clock miles not because I feel like I have to, but because I know that I can. The ability to train for a distance event is no longer a way for me disguise an obsession with food, rather it's something I do because I am strong and able. But it's not always peaches n' cream. Sometimes I worry about the previous run or the next, because now that I'm done worrying about calories burned, I fret about my pace.

Mainly, the issue is that if I clock several really strong runs in a row, it's really hard for me to reel it in for a longer run and not gas out after an hour and twenty minutes. It's hard for me to shift out of tempo mode and into SLD, mostly because when I'm limited to 3-4 runs a week I can't justify easy miles to myself. Long distance is not really an issue for me. If I have my tunes I can go all day... if only I could just slow it down!

Let me use another car equation (you can thank my husband, the motorhead, for that): Let's say you normally obey all traffic laws, but you car just happens to really enjoy doing 75 mph. Suddenly, you realize you're getting low on gas and since you're in the middle of nowhere, you've gotta make what you have last until the next gas station. In order for your car to operate at its most efficient, you really ought to drive 55 mph, and not one bit faster. This will feel painfully slow and annoying to the driver used to going 75.

Same for me. My legs tend to settle into a 7:30/7:45min per mile pace. I enjoy going that quickly. I can go that fast for about 8-10 miles but after that I start to gas out. And I struggle to find ways to extend that pace for a few more miles to make my 1:40 goal for the half marathon which means - at least for now - that I ought to consider slowing down to maintain an even, albeit slower, pace. I don't like that answer.

Or maybe I'm over thinking things and need to just let the excitement and atmosphere of race day carry me through the miles and across the finish line. There have been a number of races that I thought I wasn't ready to PR in that I wound up finding the strength and stamina just by being among other runners.

Are you a clock-watcher or you do you just run by feel?

What was the best race you thought you weren't prepared for, but wound up surprising yourself at the finish?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin

So this three-to-four days a week posting thing isn't for me, clearly. I definitely still want to keep up a weekly post relating to spin class whenever I have a new playlist or pointers to share. As far as other entries go, I'm better at writing on a whim, which is what I'll go back to rather than boring you with my life Sunday through Wednesday. Whether what I write is actually anything worth writing (or reading), well I don't really care. This is where I air my dirty laundry, go off on tangents, get on my soapbox, and type in run-on sentences.

But for now, onto spinning...

I'm up to six or seven playlists in my arsenal, so it's getting more challenging to put together new mixes without spending a lot of money on I also like to work on a four-class cycle, to make sure that people who show up two weeks in a row won't do the same workout twice and get the impression that I never change things up! For the most part I rotate between my standard mix which consists of every type of drill, an endurance mix that includes longer songs for sustained hills and runs, a mountain mix that gradually takes up you a big hill then back down the other side, and an interval mix that focuses on really driving up that heart rate followed by breaks of active recovery.

Yesterday I needed some rolling hills because I've recently become paranoid that I won't be prepared for my presumably hilly Turkey Day Half Marathon. While I've tackled many major hills in the area and no matter which way I go from my doorstep I have to run my first mile uphill, I get those nagging doubts that start creeping in as I lay in bed, contemplating where tomorrow's run will take me. It's those moments that I need a confidence-building workout.

I've never been a fan of back-to-back hard workouts, let alone doing anything after a long run. But a recent article in Runner's World suggests doing a shorter key workout the day after a long run before soreness from the miles sets in. The thinking behind it is that you're already gonna be hurting a little anyway, why not squeeze in another workout before it hurts to go up and down stairs? Also, you're training your body to push through the fatigue, which comes in handy in the last miles of a full or half marathon. For me, this translated to a 12(.3)-mile run on Monday and the hilly route I planned for Tuesday's spin. And you know what? It hurt so good.

One final note in this week's lesson, and a point I touched upon in class last night: now's the time to get a jump on the holiday craziness (and calories). Don't wait 'til the turkey leg is on your plate to decide whether or not you're going to maintain your routine through the holidays. So many people throw in the towel once the holiday parties start, figuring they'll pick up where they left off after New Year's. Then they roll up to the gym only to find they can't find a parking spot thanks to all the n00bs and promptly turn around and head home. Next thing they know, it's spring and bathing suits are back on the rack in the department stores and everyone flies to the gym in a panic. This kind of pattern is just as bad as yo-yo dieting. It's so much better to set your routine NOW and stick with it!

I made my class a promise last night, the kind that works two ways, as in: I'll hold up my end of this bargain if you hold up yours. I told them, "The holidays are fast approaching and along with them, their calories. Everyone's mom and grandmother will be trying to feed you. But I can promise you this: If you keep up your routine and show up here every Tuesday, you'll be able to eat what you want on Thanksgiving!"

What's your holiday approach to fitness? Do you do the same routine, try to work out more, or do you find yourself struggling to hit the road or gym?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday Night Spin - Trick or Treat!

Okay so it's a day late, but the remains of the pumpkins that survived the holiday are still out on the neighbor's porches so I'm gonna stay in the Halloween Spirit and finally do my themed playlist. Besides, we gotta work off those skittles and twizzlers!

Spooktacular Spin:

1. warm up, flat road: "Warning" Green Day
2. three position light climb/cont'd warmup - add a gear and start in pos. 1 for 1 minute, add a gear and transition to pos. 2 for 1 minute, then shift into pos. 3 to pic up the pace, repeat: "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" J.S.Bach / Tom Rossi remix
3. standing runs - light to medium res, pick it up and run in pos. 3 on the chorus up to 80% effort: "Time is Running Out" Muse
4. endurance run, light resistance - a gear or more than flat road, run it out at 75% (stay at top of aerobic zone): "Serial Thrilla" Prodigy
5. endurance climb, medium+ resistance - add a couple more gears, feel like you're pedaling in sand, try to pick it up and run in pos. 3 on the choruses (optional- don't take the added resistance off when you sit): "Space Lord" Monster Magnet
6. flat recover with runs - recovery pace for verse, run at 85% for the choruses: "Everlong" Foo Fighters
7. jumps, light resistance - 8,4, and 2-count, repeat: "Jump" Flo Rida featuring Nelly Fatado
8. three position moderate climb - start in pos. 1, transition to 2, then pick it up and add a gear when you take it out to 3 on the chorus - leave the resistance ON this time when you sit and repeat: "Thriller" (single version) Michael Jackson (you knew I had to put this one on there!)
9. heavy climb - as heavy as you can make the resistance and still pedal smoothly - make it steep and climb it out: "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" Cage the Elephant
10. downclimb - back it off to medium+ resistance start in position 3 and push an aggressive pace - every 30s. you can take off another gear until you're able to sit and run: "Halloween Americana" Everclear
11. flat recovery and sprints - you know what's coming - start at 60% /recovery pace for the first minute, as the music builds, move your feet, the music drops out and comes back in - that's you're cue to GO (90%): "Sandstorm" Darude
12. your much-deserved (and long) recovery: "Forgotten Worlds" Delerium