Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 135 - Who the h@ll is Hal Higdon?

It's a terrible feeling to train for 19 weeks, then realize I'm not ready for the race. I've been good about following the program, but I realized several months in that I didn't pick a very good program, not to mention missing a 10-miler due to the flu and downgrading a 16 to a 10 because of the weather didn't do me any favors. Yes I'll still get across the finish line, but merely finishing isn't enough this time.

Several people have asked me if I'm following Hal Higdon's program. I'm not, at least I wasn't. This week, with 7 weeks to go, I decided to change my training program. The only noticeable difference is Wednesdays. The old program had me doing speed work or cross training. Hal prescribes long-ish runs.

Will it work or will it be too little too late? I'll find out in April. My problem on Sunday was that I realized I just haven't logged enough miles on my legs, so hopefully the change will help fix that. I'll have to do another 18 miler, but I feel totally ok with that. So long as it's sunny and warm-ish, I can find 3 hours to run. My Sunday pace would have me finish in 5:12, so I hope Hal can cut off those 12 minutes!

The irony, of course, is that I decided to change programs, but I'm taking a day off today. My legs feel 98% pain free, but with switching the long run to Sunday, I didn't have Monday as a completely-no-exercise-of-any-kind day. Besides I have to vote and work tonight and there aren't enough hours for everything. It's mostly about the rest and recovery moreso than the time and stuff to do. There's always stuff to do so running has to be a conscious priority every single day.

To paraphrase from Star Wars, "Help me Hal. You're my only hope."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 133 - 18 miles is all in my head

I know a few women who have done marathons in the past, then decided to switch to halfs. I totally understand now! Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Nor does it mean it's necessarily good for you.

I postponed my Saturday run for Sunday and it was a good choice. Today was sunny and 35, with a calm wind. I finally figured out the trick to dressing for 35 degrees - coldgear tights, fleece lined undershirt, hoodie. I felt great until my undershirt was soaked with sweat and I got chilled. Gloves were a problem too because my hands were cold, but the gloves made my hands sweat. Ah well.

I had a super hard time getting going today. The absolute enormity of it kept me procrastinating for hours. I finally went, after slathering on heavy amounts of sunblock to my face and Vaseline to the chafe-prone areas. I was set and had run out of excuses, so I set off.

There are different approaches to running such an enormous distance. Some people would recommend running 9 miles then turning around and coming back. Others would suggest having someone drop me off 18 miles from home then I have no choice but to run home. Fine options, but I don't really like to think about how far 18 miles really is. For the same distance I could go to the Fermi power plant, or Schoolcraft College. Soooooooo far! I prefer to not think about the distance and do laps of various distances. Today was 3 x 5-miles and 1 x 3-miles.

The first ten miles felt great! I don't run my 5 mile loop very often so I don't know where exactly are the mile splits. I didn't even use a stopwatch, just set my music and went. Any time I thought about walking, I told myself to keep going and my legs listened. They could go forever - it's my mind that makes me stop. The first lap I walked 3 times, each about a minute. Not too bad! The second lap was just as good. The best part was how great it felt! Even 9 miles in I felt great and just kept going without any problem.

After 10 miles I stopped home for a much needed bathroom break and to refill my water bottles. The second half was dismal.
Towards the end my quads hurt, my thighs hurt, my butt muscles hurt, my knees were stiff, my hips as well. Within the last mile or so walking was as painful as running and one miserable step after another I finished. It didn't even feel like a big accomplishment, I felt completely numb.

I'm house sitting for my grandparents and their house has a handicap accessible shower. Every single day I moan and complain that I want a bathtub, but today I actually sat on the bench and used the handheld shower head.

Cooking food is too much effort, so I had some cereal, but mostly laid on the couch with a heating pad and I'm going to bed early. I can see why people forego full marathons. Sure I can drag myself through it, but a half would feel a whole lot better. At this rate, a half wouldn't even be difficult. It's something to think about for 2013.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 132 - Getting my priorities in order

I have priorities and on Friday morning I made them crystal clear when I emailed my work colleague who had asked me to sub for the night class. I told her the truth - the class is great and the students are wonderful, but it's interfering with the training and I can't get derailed this close to the race. 7 weeks from right now I should be approaching the finish line!!!

I said I can finish the month she had originally asked me to do, which means one more week. It's good timing because my Tuesday and Thursday runs are getting longer. They were 3s for the longest time, then 4s. Next week they're both 5s and remain so until the last week.

Do I need the money from the extra class? Absolutely, yet this is week 19 in the training. I don't want to give it all up now for a few hundred dollars.

In other priorities, today's temperature is in the low 30s and windy with a cold index of 19. Tomorrow's forecast (blind guess) is low 40s. I don't like having a long run hanging over my head for Sunday, but it might be a good switch. Let me make some steel cut oatmeal, crumble in a little bacon, dice in an apple, and mix heavily with cinnamon, then see how the weather looks in a few hours.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 130 - Baby kittens and fierce dinosaurs

Any time I'm sick, I envision my muscles like those of a little baby kitten - weak, not used very much, not good for much other than saying "mew" in a tiny, pathetic little voice. Last Saturday I spent the entire day on the couch, so all my muscles had to do was breathe and keep my heart ticking and blood moving. I wasn't eating, so there was no need for digestion. I wasn't even sitting up, much less standing.

It was a day of complete and absolute apathy, both mentally and physically. I like the kittens, but the last thing I want 7 ish weeks from the race are baby kitten muscles!

I'd much rather be a fierce animal like a dinosaur or a dragon. Strong muscles able to do anything my mind says, muscles that will run as long as I tell them to, muscles that will tear down and destroy anything that interferes with the race. RAWR!

I've been working hard this week to forget the baby kitten ever visited and re-establish the inner fierceness that says "Challenge? Bring it!!! I've been waiting for you!" The workouts have all been good - bike 6.96, run 4, bike 11.63, run 4.

Now stay healthy for 7 weeks and 2 days!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Day 126 - My body is breaking down

The past two weeks have been rough. Working 5 days and 4 nights is bullsh!t and leaves no time for my body or my mind to relax. Getting a cold made everything worse and it seems like every cold moves my running back about 3 weeks. At this rate, I'm running as well as I did in January. Well, except I'm not running at all.

Last Sunday I did a 30-minute bike for a recovery, Tuesday was a 4-mile run, Wednesday was 45 minutes of cross training (biking). Everything was going great until Thursday. I was at work until 9:25 on Wednesday night, then had to be up at 6:10 on Thursday to spend the day in Lansing. I had every intention of running my 5 miles when I got home. Instead I sat down on the couch for a few minutes and was asleep by 6:15 pm.

Friday I was too tired for yoga, ready for bed at 7:15. My brother called and talked my ear off, but I was still asleep in bed by 10:15.

Saturday I woke up feeling awful. Aside from any violent puking, I had the flu. I was weak beyond belief, nauseous, especially at the thought or smell of food, headachy, light headed, weak weak weak and I couldn't stay awake. I was up around 9, spent a few minutes with my niece and nephew, but was back asleep by noon. Up at 3pm, then the Michigan game started at 9pm and I was asleep within minutes. What a waste of a day!

Today was marginally better. At least I can eat food again, although the thought of fried food still turns my stomach. I managed a short bike ride, figuring it was better than nothing. Not much better though! After 28 minutes, my stomach started feeling crampy so I rode it out to an even half hour and stopped.

The next two days are mid-winter break at school. The plan had been to finish my graduate thesis, which I haven't touched since this stupid work schedule change. The plan now, however, is to stay awake. What a horrible time for my body to start breaking down! THE RACE IS IN EIGHT WEEKS!!!!! Note to self: GET HEALTHY! NOW!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 121 - The funny thing about 35 degrees

Tuesday's temperature was 35, which is a really difficult temperature for me. My clothing runs the gamut from warm weather gear to cold cold weather stuff and every combination in between. When it's sunny and 35, I wear shorts. Today was gray and 35, so I got out all the cold weather stuff - tights and pants, fleece lined undershirt, sweatshirt, warm gloves, warm hat, warm socks, everything but the gaiter and I only skipped that because I couldn't immediately find it. Within a mile I realized I was way overdressed for the temperature, but aside from taking off my hood and gloves and pushing up the sleeves of my hoodie, there wasn't much I could do.

Many days right around 1 mile I start dry heaving. My stomach contracts a few times, I spit, and keep going. Today, though, I pulled to a stop on Arlington and lost my lunch right on someone's front yard. Not only that, I got splashes on my pants. Gross!

The real question isn't what caused it, but what did I do next?

Did I....
(a) Limp home, call off work and drink apple juice?
(b) Knock on their door, apologize profusely and ask for a glass of water?
(c) hitchhike home?
(d) blow my nose and keep going?

Of course I kept going! I was a little dehydrated, but overall ok. Besides, what's a good marathon story without a little vomit? Ewwwwww!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 120 - Rethinking recovery

My recovery Sundays - when I actually do them - generally involve a gentle stroll somewhere in the 20-minute mile vicinity. It's nice and slow and easy.

On Saturday, however, I had a horrible realization. I don't feel ready for the race. It's still 9 weeks away, which in reality is so much time. 9 weeks before the 2010 Freep I couldn't walk from here to there and I managed to drag myself through that. Yet my schedule only has 2 more long runs (Long run being extremely subjective. 10s are no longer regarded as long). I feel pretty confident I could finish the distance this weekend, but once I introduced the time constraint, it got a lot more difficult and I just don't feel ready! Then getting sick set everything back another degree.

So Sunday I knew I had to work on lung capacity and cardio ability, without working my legs too much. Enter - the stationary bike! It's low impact, yet I can still get a cardio workout, and if I got woozy from my cold, I was already sitting down anyway! My normal bike goal is 8 miles in 30 minutes. I aimed for 6 on Sunday, but had a hard time going that slow (another thing I never thought I'd say!). I finished 7.10 in a half hour, then did some core work, figuring a strong core can only help my running.

A few hours later, both my knees hurt. What the heck?! I bike regularly. I do core work and weights sometimes and my knees have never ever hurt. They're better today, but still a little sore. Not even sore, but I notice them when standing up or sitting down and internal organs feel best when not felt at all.

Perhaps my body is telling me I'm doing too much. Working 5 days and 4 nights is insane. I did it before, but that was all I did. Right now the running is more important than the extra work. I still want the bigger paychecks though :) I took off work on Friday and spent all weekend laying on the couch, except the few hours I exercised. It's too much!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 118 - The Breaking Point

My plan all along has been to run outside as long as I can. I made it through cold, through snow, but I hit my breaking point today. It was 15 degrees and windy, with 3-4 inches of matted down snow. I learned last time how few businesses clean their sidewalks and the only streets that had been cleaned were the major roads. What was I going to do? Run in the middle of Northline???

I've been sick all week, but I still went to the Y. Wearing shorts was great, having water readily available was great. Otherwise it wasn't my best run. Every time I get sick it's like my lungs have instantly lost all capability and capacity. SO FRUSTRATING!!!!!

My legs felt ok, my muscles were good, my bones were good, joints felt fine, but around mile 9 I started dragging, really really dragging. I try to eat a big breakfast on long run days, but today's breakfast was only about 500 calories (Hah! That's a sentence I never thought I'd say!). Calories are a source of fuel and I desperately needed more! I was about to call my mom and ask her to bring me a granola bar or some crackers, something with calories but easy on the stomach.

After 10 miles and 100 laps I called it quits. My legs were sluggish and didn't want to go one step further. Definitely not a wrinkle I want 8 weeks before the race, yet at the same time I managed 10 miles when sick. It's not entirely terrible considering I woke up gagging on yellow snot...

I could get upset and blame myself. I should have been able to finish all 16. I should have gone faster. Instead, I'll learn from today and pack granola bars and jelly beans for long runs. I didn't use Vaseline today and chafed a little, which hasn't happened since the marathon. Live and learn. Besides my friend wryly pointed out that finishing 10 isn't exactly quitting.

One silver lining is that for as lousy and slow as I felt today, it's right on pace to finish in the 5-hour vicinity. Also good was that my mile splits were consistent. I didn't have any 8-minute miles, but I also didn't have any 15s. The disparity between fastest and slowest was less than a minute. It wasn't terrible. Could have been much worse. At least I tried and kept going until my legs refused another step.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 114 - When logging miles is the only thing that matters

Tuesday's weather was gross. Cold, 100% overcast, sleeting at lunchtime. The last thing it inspired was a 4-mile run. It would have been so easy to skip the workout!

A huge monkey wrench in the running program happened on Friday afternoon when my night job called and asked me to long-term sub for an ESL teacher who had to leave. I taught the class for several years in the past, but my complaint was always the hours! I already work two nights for the same job, so with the new ESL, I'm there 4 nights a week. If I was just starting out on the training program, if I wasn't in week 17, it would be so easy to give up the dream.

If I stop now, though, the Christmas Eve run was for nothing, learning to adapt to cold was wasted, the 14 mile killer was a total waste of 3 hours. I'm too far now to quit, even though my schedule now is work, run, work, bed. I have less than an hour awake at home. Frustration!!!!

I had to run today. I had no choice. If I skipped today's shorter run, it would be so easy to slide downhill fast and ruin any chance of a 5-hour finish. It's only 10 more weeks (including this one) and I won't necessarily be at the new class the whole time.

After day work I dug out my cold weather gear and set out. I wasn't excited or anything, more resigned to finish it. Logging the 4 miles was the only thing that mattered. Time didn't matter, how I felt wasn't a big priority, just log the miles and be done with it.

It was a nice surprise, then, to finish in 37:37. It wasn't my fastest average time ever, but it was my fastest 4-miler and I managed sub 10-minutes for every single mile. I've noticed I run far better and much easier when the weather is nice, so I'm pretty darn happy with a 37:37. It was 32 degrees! Just finishing was accomplishment enough!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Day 112 - Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Prior to 2011-2012, my idea of winter exercise was sporadic and social, at best. I went to the gym when I could, did some sort of exercise, generally just enough to keep my lungs pumping and enable me to continue eating whatever I wanted (within reason). I had never seriously considered a spring marathon because I disdain snow, cold, slush, dark days and everything that goes along with winter in Michigan. When I decided to tackle the Martian, I knew I was looking at months of being outside in all the conditions and factors I hate hate hate.

Or so I thought. This winter has been amazing! Yes, there have been cold days, snowy days, absolutely miserable days, but overall it's been the absolute best winter ever! Who needs a white Christmas? Who wants snow??? I was outside yesterday in shorts, a long-sleeve tech wick t-shirt and a hoodie and I felt great! The actual temperature was only 35, but with the complete absence of wind and a bright sun that actually emanated warmth, it was a balmy 35.

It was also a shorter long run. The plan I'm using builds long run mileage for 2 weeks, then recovers for 1, and yesterday was "only" 6 miles. It felt amazing!!!! For the first time I averaged less than 10:00 for my long run. When it was all said and done, I could have very easily kept going many more miles.

It was warm and sunny, tons of people were outside, the sidewalks and streets were dry and clear. What more could I possible ask for? It was GREAT!!!! I was a super happy camper yesterday!

When I came home, I wasn't ravenous like I am after most long runs so I didn't eat everything in the house. Instead I ate like a normal person. Before bed I had French toast - made with whole wheat all-natural bread, then topped with cinnamon, diced strawberries and the slightest drizzle of syrup. Yum! Happy food, happy body, happy mind!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 109 - Shorts in January (part 2)

On Tuesday I was all set to run 3 miles. I double checked my calendar just before I set out and realized it was only a 2-mile day. Hurray! That's always a great start to a run. Also great was wearing shorts in January. Yes, again! :) I paired them with my new knee socks and let me tell you - I was styling!

New SmartWool socks, mile 1 - 8:07 baby! mile 2 - 8:46. What more needs to be said? It was great!!!

My only possible complaint was that the right sock slipped down a little during the first mile. It was fine during the second, but I can't wear these for the Martian if they won't stay in place! and if my socks are my biggest complaint, it was the best run of my life!