Sunday, May 31, 2015

Weekly & May Wrap-Up

Hello friends! Another week of training has passed, and with it, May draws to a close. Like I did last month, I'm going to wrap the two into a combined recap. And oh my, what a week and month it has been.

This Week

If you've been watching this training cycle, you already know that it's been full of ups and downs--injury and exhaustion and rebounding with great runs. This past week was no exception.

Monday: I kicked the week off with a 5 mile easy run, to shake out the 16 mile long run I'd done the day before. Nothing super memorable about this run. Average pace, 9:20.

Tuesday: Yoga! Hooray!! We had a substitute for our regular teacher, and she was great! I really enjoyed the class and left feeling awesome about the world.

Wednesday: The day I'd been dreading/yearning for--my shot at redemption at speed work. As I went out the door to run I told my husband that my training schedule had noted that "today's workout should feel well within reach" and I wanted to flip it off. I was not feeling confident.

The workout: 10x400 (1:45 each) with 200m recoveries (plus warm-up and cool-down). How'd it go? It went freaking awesomely. Splits (400s only):
1:44, 1:40, 1:44, 1:52*, 1:42, 1:43, 1:41, 1:47, 1:44, 1:40
* into the higher corner of the park, but that only explains 2-3 seconds of this. It just got away from me.

Needless to say, I was PUMPED about this. Also, I did most of this in the rain. Like, honest-to-goodness rain, which made me feel even more like a bad ass, naturally. Plus, no pain when I rolled my left IT when I got home. WINNING.

Thursday: Should have taken a rest day. Did not. Ran 6 easy miles instead. Stopped to stretch my calves in the middle, as my left calf was cramping up.

Friday: Super slow 5 miles. Average pace 9:31.

Saturday: Ready for this? For the high point of the week that was speed work, this long run had to rank among the 10 worst runs ever. It was supposed to be a tempo long run, with a warm up, 6 miles at tempo (7:49) and cool down. My "tempo" miles came out at 8:16, 8:28, 8:38, and 8:42. Yep--all 4 of them. And that was all I had. My next 3 miles were a 10:01, 10:24, and 14 minutes. Fourteen minutes. I actually stopped and sat on a park bench for a minute--something I've only ever done one other time mid-run, and I was 37 weeks pregnant at the time. So what went wrong? I'm not sure, but I think my body was still recovering from the speed work. And, since I'd done last week's long run on Sunday, I'd had zero rest days between long runs. And, my left calf is now clearly bringing up the rear of this whole "every part of my left leg is going to undergo injury" shit show, with what feels like a small tear/strain. Otherwise, I got nothin'.

This is how I felt about this long run. 
 The silver lining of this run, if there was one, was that I tried a new Gu flavor and really enjoyed it. I would buy this again. Root beer. Hadn't seen it in a store before. Have you tried it yet? Will you?

May Wrap-Up

I am quite pleased to report that May, injury and all, has been my highest mileage month this year (actually, my highest since last August), ringing in at 138.8, and bringing my 2015 miles to 438. Stats from the month:

# Miles: 138.8

# Runs: 20

# Other workouts: 2. I did yoga in my hotel room in Detroit (if you didn't see my post about that, you should do it! I'm going to start doing yoga every time I travel. Amazing. Great antidote to the muscle strain that comes from traveling). And I did yoga this past Tuesday. I also did a metric sh*tload of foam rolling.

Most memorable run: It's hard to pick this month. The short run I did on the Detroit River Walk was memorable, for seeing all the fishermen there in the morning, and enjoying the change of scenery from my everyday routes. My 16-miler (last weekend) was memorable for being such a wildly successful long run. It's hard to run that far and feel that great at the end. And then this week's speed work, because it was such a triumph over a series of failed efforts.

Current want/needs: I do not need anything. In fact, my current need is to set aside some time to go through all my running gear and weed out the ill-fitting or worn-out items, because my dresser drawers are getting hard to close....

Training update: I'm two weeks out from race day!! I'm not sure what to expect of myself time-wise, but I'm excited for the day (and a good friend) to come.

Home renovation update: Some changes big and small have transpired. Big: we had a huge part of our side yard dug up and mulched over. Even though it's still kinda patchy and weird looking, it looks about a million times better than it had. We're working now with a landscaper to get it integrated with the rest of the yard, and looking like a place you'd actually want  to spend time. I can't wait! Small: at long last, we found just the right tray (for drinks and things) for the ottoman in the man cave (I realize how inconsequential this may seem, but we'd been keeping an eye out for months). And I think we finally found just the right chair for that room, too, although we haven't purchased it (yet). And finally, my parents are here, which means I can finally get to work making the drapes for the living room--the last major undertaking for that space. Hooray!!

Other lovely things in life: My older son turned 7 this month, and hosted some friends for a game party here at the house. It was so much fun, even just to watch! To hear their excited voices, and everyone having a nice time. It was really sweet.

On the research front, I am loving that it's summertime and I get to focus on research, research, research, and very little on other aspects of my job that are more prevalent during the academic year. I'm making great progress on a handful of projects. A colleague and I have very nearly completed the revisions on one manuscript, and we received a Revise & Resubmit letter for another article we had under review, which is great news. I am nearing the completion of the first full draft of a new paper (which I'm co-authoring with a student), and research is going well on another project that isn't as far along yet. An unexpected luxury has come in the form of a sprinkler installation in my office building, which means that I'm working from home a lot, and really appreciating that change. I feel like I'm having the opportunity to just breath in my home really for the first time.

Happy June, runners!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Training from the Road: Detroit Edition

When I left you about a week ago I was foam rolling like crazy to try to head off an angry foot tendon, and IT band issue that probably developed while I was compensating for my foot hurting. I am very happy to report that this past week has been, while less than perfect, a significant improvement. Much of it was also spent on the road. 

First, the Injury Report. I am continuing to roll my foot on a tennis ball, and roll my IT band on a foam roller. The swelling in my knee is still there, but is not significant. I can crouch down if I have to, and I only grimace a little. This morning in yoga, however, I could not stay in a pose that required me to put the majority of my body weight on my left knee. It was a weird place in the practice to retreat to child's pose, I'll grant you. It seems to me that the judgiest thing about yoga is the clothing, so I think we're good to go! 

Second, my Report from the Road. Last week I was in Detroit for work. It was a fantastic trip, and a much needed step away from the everyday routine to get energized about my work. Plus, I got to do some pretty great sight seeing. 

We went to Cliff Bell's. If you're ever in town, go!

We visited the Detroit Public Library for research purposes. It did not disappoint!
And most importantly for my life as a runner, we stayed at the Ren Cen, downtown. The Ren Cen is infamous in my field for being a disappointing urban project. It was built to create a place for face-to-face communications for the business world, but is in practice confusing to navigate and difficult to access on foot. It contains a stop on the Detroit People Mover, which has among the lowest ridership of any public transportation system in America (it's essentially a tram, going in one direction in a circle around downtown Detroit. For all those people whose origins and destinations are in downtown Detroit.....all 3 of them...).

But for running, the Ren Cen works well for the out-of-town guest, as it connects to the river walk. I remembered the river walk from my turn in the 2009 Detroit Free Press Marathon, but wasn't sure how well kept it was outside of race day. I messaged a friend who happens to be a runner and lives in Detroit, and she suggested trying it. It was great! All along the way there were people out fishing. The river walk was really nicely kept, with game areas, Adirondack chairs, and some small attractions. I ran from the hotel to a small lighthouse, then to the Cobo Center and back, putting in a nice 5 miles.
The view from the room at the Ren Cen
In addition to running, I downloaded a yoga app (Yoga 201, which I would recommend) onto my iPad before I went, and my conference roomie and I did yoga in our hotel room. Seriously one of the best decisions ever. I felt about a hundred times better afterward. I might make this a conference travel requirement.

I got home very late Thursday night, just in time to celebrate my older son's birthday on Friday, and host his part on Saturday. I think I had as much fun as he did, watching him play games with his friends, and listening to them all laugh and have fun. It did mean though, that like the previous 3 weeks, my long run got moved to Sunday.

On Sunday I turned in one of my best executed 16 milers ever. I nailed nutrition before, during, and after the run, and finally (!) remembered to stock my car with extra water and electrolyte tablets to refill my water bottle mid-run (there are fountains on the trail, but only in the second half of the run, and not for a while). My average pace was 9:20 without feeling like I was pushing it at all.

The sweaty glory of a post-run selfie
 Does this happen to anyone else on a long run? This is the crease of my right arm.

Afterward, I foam rolled my IT band and to my great delight found that it rolled out easily. The tennis ball under my left foot found some resistance though, but I'm on it like white on rice.

This week is off to a good start. I've got speed work on the agenda for tomorrow. This has been a rough month or so for speed work, so wish me luck! It's hard to believe that we're just a few weeks out from race day already.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nerd Parades and Tennis Balls

It's been two weeks since I checked in. It's been a bumpy couple of weeks, and for a while I just wasn't sure what to say. The ups and downs (alert: this post might be kind of a downer!), mostly downs, have been confusing and frustrating, and I'm still figuring out where they end, and what they mean.

Let's start with week before last.

Classes had finally ended, and I'd (metaphorically) locked myself in Grading Jail but was making very slow progress getting out due to the fact that I spent my entire week in meetings, interminably it seemed. I was also at the bitter end of what had been a long and extremely stressful series of events at work. I was finally over whatever stomach thing had lingered with me for a large part of the previous week. I was exhausted. When I was in bed enough hours, I couldn't sleep, and a lot of nights I was just too busy to be in bed for long enough.

So I did my workouts, but I dragged. And it really showed in speed work. The goal was 2x400, 1x800, 1x1200, 1x800, and 2x400, at a 7:02 pace, with recoveries. I hit that goal pace exactly one time, on the first 400, and not again. Toward the end, try as I might, I could not move the needle below a 7:30 pace. Of course I was happy to finish the workout, since I'd been sick the week before and had bailed on it, but man, was this frustrating. I love to go fast! I can sometimes go fast! But not lately, and not ever again, it felt.

My weekend long run ended up happening on Sunday rather than Saturday because it poured all day Saturday. I didn't mind. I spent almost all day Saturday either with my family or under a blanket on the couch, grading. Still not finishing grading.

I couldn't help taking a picture of this, the academic equivalent of the morning after Mardis Gras. This is the left over debris from our annual nerd parade known as graduation.
The long run itself was 14 miles with an average pace of 9:30. There wasn't anything particularly memorable about it, except that I kicked it off with a pretty stellar elevation gain, and enjoyed that that felt easier than it used to.

For quite a while--6 weeks maybe?--I've had a pain and small amount of swelling on the inside of my left knee. For several weeks I thought it was something about the knee, then learned that in fact I had injured a tendon in the bottom of my left foot, and that tendon runs the length of the calf and connects to the knee. I can't say for sure, but this probably happened while I was busy not noticing that my running shoes needed to be replaced, then continuing to run in the old ones when my first effort at replacements didn't work. And the 14 mile run, well, that was the last straw for my foot/knee issue. The pain increased to a level that I couldn't continue to ignore.

I did not run on Monday. I foam rolled, and I rolled my foot on a tennis ball, which for those of you who have never done this to an angry muscle/tendon, hurts like a son of a bitch.

On Tuesday, after about 48 hours of rest (which to the brain of an injured runner feels like a year), I decided to give it a try. I made it 0.3 miles.

I rested another 2 days. And kept rolling on the tennis ball (insert every expletive you know, then make some up). I tried again, hesitantly (it's Thursday at this point). Five miles. And it went...ok! And average pace of 9:05, which mostly tells me I was anxious to get going. I kept a careful eye on my foot and on my knee for swelling, and hopped back on the tennis ball repeatedly (sensing a theme yet?). Friday I added on one more mile, turning in a solid 6-miler. Whew!

And again, Saturday (yesterday) it rained all day. We (me and my boys) tackled a laundry list of household chores that had piled up. I don't know about you, but getting through even some of the backlog lifts a weight off of me.

So the real test came today, Sunday, on my 10-miler. The run went really well! My average pace was 8:55, and I did successfully put 3 faster miles in the middle (8:00, 7:58, and 7:25). In the hours after, my knee is a little touchy. I've foam rolled my left IT band and quad (the IT was, unsurprisingly, a little angry), and my foot, and will hit the foot again before bed. So far, it's a big improvement over last week, though it's a bit too early to definitely call it a success.

So this is where I'm at. I spent part of 1 week sick. Then the following week exhausted. And part of this week injured. This coming week I'm traveling, and while I can hit the treadmill for easy runs, am not yet sure how I'll do speed work. This has not been the training cycle I'd hoped it would be. Will it prevent me from reaching my goal on race day? That remains to be seen. I know all of this is perfectly normal. Runners go through training periods of nirvana, and periods that are less fulfilling. I know this. We all know this. But it still sucks when it's you on the low point of that sine wave.

Any tricks or words of encouragement?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Combined Weekly & April Wrap-Up

April In Review

Total Miles Ran: 79.6

# Runs: 12

# Other Workouts: 3 yoga classes. Wanna know how you can spot the runners in a yoga class? When the instructor tells everyone to hold a pose for 5 deep breaths, everyone else finishes and the runners are barely to the end of breath #3.

Most Memorable Run: Easily the Salt Lake Half. See the race report here.
I love that they gave all runners 1 free photo download! A little red in the face, but feeling great at the finish line.

Current Needs/Wants: I honestly do not need anything. However, man oh man do I have my eye on this. I did pick up a pair of end-of-season clearance tights from Athleta earlier today. I'm anxious to see how they fit. It will be nice to have a second pair of mid-weight tights for next winter.

Training Update/Weekly Update: The week started out well. On Monday I enjoyed a 7 mile easy run, and I started Tuesday--my birthday--with a sunrise yoga power hour at my neighborhood yoga studio. I felt strong and energized--a perfect way to start a new year of life!

And all fell apart. I try to keep things upbeat around here, but honestly, this past week was one of the worst running weeks I can ever remember. On Tuesday night, I think I had an allergic reaction to something I ate. That derailed my Wednesday morning speed work. Wednesday was touchy, but by Thursday morning I thought I was ready to try it again. Nope. I got through almost half of the workout and had to walk home. Friday I did an easy run and it wasn't stellar, but passable. On Saturday I was scheduled for a long run that should not have been difficult: 8 miles, with 3 miles at tempo in the middle. I ran 2 miles in the middle a little slower than tempo (about 8 min/mile), could not do the third, and ended up walking part of the last mile. I just couldn't do the workout.

It's early May. This is the end of the semester, and the end of the academic year. Many years, I just go ahead and get really sick this week. I think a combination of an allergy, stress, fatigue, and the accompanying weakened immune system, meant that I simply did not have the strength and health to train according to schedule. I had a great day relaxing and catching up on stuff around the house today, and am sincerely hoping my stronger, faster self is back tomorrow morning.

Six weeks and counting until my A-game race of the year!!

Home Renovation Updates: It's been pretty quiet on the home front this month. We're trying to get our yard into shape a bit, and I have made some progress selling, giving away, and organizing things, which always makes a home feel more comfortable.

Other Lovely Things in Life: The semester is almost over! Hooray!! While I've really enjoyed my classes this spring, and have had some great students, I'm also beyond ready for more focused research time, and a break from constant course prep, grading, and student emails. We also have some great things planned for summer, including a 10th anniversary getaway for my husband and me, an evening seeing A Prairie Home Companion with my parents, my older son's 7th birthday party, and other wonderful events. We also have many home projects designed and planned and ready to go, just awaiting either budget priority or our attention. I always enjoy seeing those projects move forward. SUMMER!

On the research front, a close colleague and I got what I think is a light R&R (revise & resubmit) on a paper we submitted to a special issue of a journal only a little over a month ago. The paper itself was one of the most exciting I've worked on recently, and I'm really excited to see it making progress. The other projects I'm involved in are marching along at various stages and paces. I'm finally wrapping up some econometric work on a project I'm leading, and I think I should be able to turn that into a publishable paper relatively quickly. Publish or perish--they're not joking ;)