April 2007 Archives

Decision Point

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Look what someone posted to the triathlon mailing group today:

"The most important rule of marathon training is to arrive on the starting line strong and healthy".
Amby Burfoot, Runner's World editor and 1968 Boston Marathon champ..

Right.

Saturday's run was aborted a mile in due to pain. The hamstring and the shin were so tight that I just couldn't move. I made a second call to my AT.

Sunday morning involved a lot of stretching before I finally made it out the door. The left knee was better, and improved quickly. By about 5km, I was able to run with a normal gait.

At around 10km, my right calf/achilles flared. Argh. It would bother me for the rest of the 16km run.

Needless to say, my mood was less than fantastic. It's 4 weeks to go until the marathon. I'm not in bad shape, but I need to make sure that I arrive healthy and strong. My paper plan was for very high mileage this coming week, then a 3 week taper. I took a look at my distance over the last few weeks, though, and I seem to have plateaued already. My distance was supposed to be increasing, but having skipped two Saturdays ago and aborted last Saturday has put a dent in that.

Apparently, my body can't handle any more distance than it's already doing. Actually, it can't even really handle that.

I'm a little less despondent today, but I'm still not pleased. I'm almost certainly going to have to change up my plan for this week, with an eye to getting healthy. The one run that I'd like to not change if at all possible is the 32km on Sunday. If I skip a run or swim this week (especially Tuesday) to try to give myself more time to recover, that would probably be acceptable.

My knee was well behaved yesterday, and might be going away on its own. The new calf/heel pain, though, is something that I don't want to revisit. Maybe my mileage has been too high for me, or maybe I needed an easier rest week somewhere in the middle of my recent spell. Whatever the cause, I'm in the mood for caution. The planned taper might be enough to see my to the start line in good health, but I'm not up for gambling this close to the real deal. Better safe than sorry.

The Knee

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I called up my personal athletic therapist on Monday, and talked about the knee. Yes, I have a personal athletic therapist, on call. It's blackmail - she happens to have the same parents as I do.

She came up with an excellent theory on why my knee was bothering me, based on her knowledge of my history.

On Tuesday, I swam, and didn't notice the knee much, except maybe on backstroke kick. I ran Tuesday night, and noticed the knee. I ran within my comfort zone, and was slow. (Great, I wait all winter for spring and the chance to work on speed, and I'm already losing it!)

I ran Wednesday morning, expecting the worst. Maybe because of my low expectations, I started out very slowly. I don't think I've run quite that slow, even on my long runs, in a long time. At the halfway mark (10k), I stopped to stretch my hamstring, and decided to test my sister's theory by stretching my left ITB. I almost injured myself - the ITB had far less flexibility than I was expecting, and it tweaked almost as soon as I started the stretch. Yikes!

Score one for the Athletic Therapist.

When I started up again, the knee felt better, to the point where I was able to run a negative split. I wasn't hugely fast, but it was a positive sign.

Thursday's swim focused on breaststroke (yay!), which was a huge improvement over Tuesday's butterfly session. By the end of the day Thursday, the knee was almost "ok".

Cue Friday.

Cue rain and wind and cold. Yuck. I started out a bit faster than Wednesday, and was rewarded with icky feelings in my knee. I soldiered on, and things gradually improved. I finished the first 10k in just over 58 minutes, which was much faster than Wednesday, but a far cry from Fridays past. On the upside, after the stretch at 9k, the knee felt pretty good, even when I picked up the pace. In fact, it felt no different at a faster pace than it did at a slower pace, to there was no real reason not to push.

Did I mention the wind was pushing the cold rain into my face? That was an excellent reason to speed up.

So I ran with my head down, my cap pulled low, and my mind empty. It felt like I hadn't run this hard in forever, and it wasn't exactly a sunny day at the beach. It wasn't hideous or unmaintainable, either, so I just kept going, and saved my thoughts for warm showers and dry clothes.

My second 10km was done in almost 52 minutes flat. Yay me!

So, for the 18 millionth week in a row, my confidence yo-yos over the course of the week. *sigh* On the upside, I'm 9 days away from the start of my taper. Yes, that's a sad thing to count down to, because I'll still be running once my taper starts. Still, it'll be a moral victory to get there, and undoubtably good for morale.

Hamstrung?

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After the run on Wednesday, my left hamstring bothered me a bit for the rest of the day. It was twinging again on Thursday, though I didn't really notice it during my swim.

I'm having doubts, lately. I'm wondering if I'm starting to overtrain a bit. Would I be wise to skip Friday's run, and rest and recuperate?

The alarm at 5am didn't help. The temptation to stay in bed and forget about the whole thing was strong. But I dragged myself out of bed, got some breakfast, and took it easy. (After Wednesday, I was in no hurry!)

Breakfast wasn't sitting all that well in my stomach, so it wasn't until after 7am that I left the house. My very first step resulted in a twinge in my left hamstring. Bleh. Idly, I hoped that the muscle would relax as it warmed up, but inwardly I entertained thoughts of having to turn back, and cut my run short (again!)

On the bright side, I was running with Gatorade this morning. When I stopped for my first swig at a red light, I also spent some time stretching my left leg. Not only was my hamstring tight, but the corresponding shin was, too. I stretched both out a bit, and kept going. Around 4km, I stopped and stretched again.

By 5km, I was noticing a definite improvement in my left leg. I think I picked it up a bit, though I still wasn't going all that fast. Fortunately, I had long since decided that I didn't care about my pace this run. All I wanted was to have a strong run and not injure myself (any more?). I hit the 9km turnaround in a slow 54 minutes, and stretched again.

By now, though, I was feeling a lot better. After the stretch, I tried picking up the pace, and my body seemed to respond just fine. Actually, it felt really good to push a little harder, and my leg didn't seem to be complaining. Fantastic.

I managed the whole second half of the run without any more hamstring pain, finishing up in just under 1:42. Note that my second half was run in 48 minutes, for a 6 minute negative split. Not surprising, but encouraging.

Hopefully, this is the end of the hamstring pain, and this weekend will be pain free.

(Ugh...) Wednesday

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I'm still struggling to solve this Wednesday mystery. Last week, I vowed to eat before my run. Ergo, today I ate an apple before I started.

As soon as I left, I found that my stomach was slightly cramped. I hoped that it would get better, but it got much, much worse. I essentially ran for an hour and a half in pain. Except that the pain started making me take walk breaks towards the end. I ended up cutting the run from 18km down to 16, due to the pace and the fact that I got out the door late.

I'd say the apple was a mistake.

After the run, I was thinking about Lisa Bentley, and her emphasis on positive thinking. Despite the pain and discomfort, there were positives to be taken from this morning's run. I ran close to an even split despite the walk breaks I was forced to take, so clearly I was able to pick up the pace when I wanted to. Just like Sunday, my legs and general strength were good - it was just my stomach that was slowing me down. I once again managed to fit in the most difficult, logistically and mentally, run of the week. I didn't wimp out.

I'm one day, and one run, closer to the marathon that I want to run.

If only I could channel all of that into feeling something other than disappointment and discouragement.

I went back earlier this week and re-read my race report for my very successful half marathon in January of last year. Two points really jumped out. One was that I really felt that the sub-5:00/km tempo runs on the treadmill had payed off. Well, there's been none of that this year. I really haven't gone much below 5:00/km at all. The other, interestingly, was that I felt that the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning double runs had paid off.

I can only hope.

I guess it's something. Even if I can't manufacture optimism myself, I can look back and see that once upon a time I felt like they payed off. Maybe that's enough.

I've been thinking hard about my pacing plan for the marathon. Nothing's decided yet, but I really need to know what kind of pace I can handle, especially as I tire. Wednesdays represent a good test of this, but I'm not sure that I'm terribly happy with the answer.

What the Fast People Do

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Tuesday night, I was able to make it on time to the master swim club's triathlon group run workout. There were 5 of us, braving the cold, damp weather.

We warmed up by running to the track. Once we were there, we did some stretching, and some basic drills, such as strides, a variant of ABCs, etc. The main set was two pyramids - 200m, 300, 400, 400, 300, 200, with roughly equal rest between each run.

Fortunately, the fast guys were both recovering from races, so I didn't look too horribly out of place. Still, I was not built for speed, and I struggled. It wasn't fun, per se, but I made sure that I finished strongly on the second pyramid. A lot of gasping for breath took place, but overall it was a very good workout, and probably exactly what I needed.

I should try to make this part of my weekly routine.

Dear Boston Marathon Participants

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I have 5 of you up on my monitor now. Even though I know it's early, I still find myself hitting REFRESH, hoping for some results.

As I continue to struggle to bring my body up to the point where I think I might be able to manage a 4 hour marathon, my admiration and respect for everyone I know who is running Boston, or even just qualified for it, grows. You are amazing people. Having experienced Boston from the sidelines, I know that you're in for an amazing day today. I wish you all best of luck. If you find yourselves down for even a moment today, remember - so many of us out there wish we were you.

Highs and Lows

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I'm not fond of summary posts, but time has been so tight lately....

Tuesday morning's swim: Tough. Coach asked at one point if our legs were burning yet. Yup, they were. I predicted then and there that the evening run would be bad.
Tuesday evening run: I felt slow. It felt like a bad run. Actually, though, I was pretty fast.
Wednesday morning run: Payback. Felt awful. Was awful. Had severe doubts that I would be able to break 4 hours in the marathon.
Thursday morning swim: Decent.
Friday morning run: After Wednesday, I knew I had to be awesome. I was. By the time I got home, I was in the best mood all year.
Saturday morning run: Woke up at 2am Saturday, and couldn't get back to sleep. I was at the track very early. At the start of the 5th of 6 repeat, I thought "Hey, this is easier than last week". 600m later, I retracted.
Sunday morning run: Ok, I REALLY need to work on nutrition. I was amazingly strong at 18km. At 22-23km, my stomach started to cramp up. I think jelly beans were a bad idea. My legs were good and I felt strong, but I battled stomach cramps all the way home.

I've drafted my plan for the next 6 weeks - 3 more of high mileage, then a gradual taper. My confidence is still yo-yo-ing. Hopefully, I can stay healthy and strong, and all this hard work will pay off.

Burning up the Track

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I managed to beat the girls soccer team to the track, though the coaches were already there when I arrived, setting up. I opted for 200-250m walking, instead of a full lap. That, and doing an additional repeat, promised to make a challenging workout.

The track was covered in a layer of light, fluffy snow that had fallen overnight. Yuck. On the bright side, the parts of the track that had been muddy last week were solid.

I made my mark in the snow, and did my first repeat. 3:05. Oh boy. With less rest, there wasn't much chance of going below 3:00 today.

I marked off my turnaround point for my walk break, and turned around. I was in decent shape for my second loop, which was done in 3:12. I had trouble picking out my turnaround point, though. Odd.

The next 400 took around 1:40. Yuck! With the wheels falling off, I made a concerted effort to pick it up. 3:17 shows that I did, a bit, but not much.

Fortunately, I was over the hump. On the fourth lap, I found myself running on gravel, and occasionally in puddles. Where had these come from? It didn't feel like it was above freezing, but the snow was getting thinner all over. What was going on? All I could think was that I was burning up the track. At 3:05 for repeat number 4, clearly something was warming up.

By the fifth lap, even my start/finish line was fading. The girl's soccer team had arrived, so of course I had to run a little bit faster. Well, maybe it was just that it was the last repeat. I managed a 2:56. Fantastic, but why couldn't I do that when I was fresh, on the first repeat??

Pressure

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I knew all along that April would be a difficult month. The mileage is getting high, with personal records happening almost weekly. I'm trying to retrofit myself with a turbo button, now that there isn't always ice underfoot. Plus, through all that, I still have family, a house, a job....

My monthly routine has been established, basically, since October. Monday is my day of rest - no run, no swim. This past Monday, I really needed it. Tuesday morning featured a very hard swim, one of the hardest in memory. It was a shame that I had to leave early due to work. Right after work, I was back out, trying to do a fast tempo run. It wasn't blazingly fast, but I was quite happy with it.

Tuesday nights are bridge nights. Sure, I could probably use the sleep, but staying in contact with old friends is worthwhile. For the record, I lost. I blame my wife (after all, she beat me).

Wednesday morning, it's always a struggle to get up and out the door as early as I can. The goal is always to do a reasonably quick longer run. I was out the door less than 12 hours after the start of the previous night's run, and I was feeling it. I went as fast as I could, but I was definitely a little tired right from the start.

Wednesday night is always an oasis. After the pressure of Tuesday, it's a chance to relax. Of course, having run 18km in the morning and having to be up for 6am swimming the next morning, my relaxing free time is usually spent going to sleep early.

Thursday's swim was decent. I didn't feel fast, but I cranked out a couple of decent 400s before I had to leave early, again. It was nice to not be pounding the pavement on Thursday, but I did work pretty hard on my kick in the pool, so I wouldn't say that my legs exactly got the day off.

Friday mornings are again about distance with speed. The goal is the same as Wednesday, but the execution is always different. For one, it's harder to justify being up super early on Fridays. For another, my legs feel different. Tuesday is always harder to recover from than Thursday. Case in point, I ran the exact same route Wednesday and Friday this week. Wednesday's time: 1:44:12. Friday? 1:33:47.

Sure, that it was Good Friday helped. But really, that's how it is every week. Friday I feel fast, Wednesday, I feel like I'm surviving. If my marathon ends up being somewhere between a Wednesday and a Friday in how it feels, I won't be surprised.

I could resolve to work harder on my Wednesday runs, or I could pat myself on the back for my Friday performances, but the best answer is to do neither. I'll be back embarrassing myself at the track tomorrow, and Sunday will feature yet another punishing long run. And just like all the Sundays before, I'm sure at some point I'll do the mental arithmetic, and think to myself "man, if I was doing 42 today it/I would really suck."

Which is why April has to be so tough. Every run is about working with what I have on the day. Every run is about trying to do my best with a less than ideal starting point. As I take longer and longer to recover from my runs, and as I feel the pressure of my ambitious training schedule more as the month goes by, I know that all my suffering and discontent is just part and parcel of the preparation that I need if I'm going to run the marathon that I want next month.

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

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It was a hideous morning for a run. "Miserable", as a lady walking her dog described it.

Due to a tight schedule, I was up at 5am, and out the door by about 20 after. I always, ALWAYS eat before I run in the morning, but today I didn't have time. Did it affect me? I felt ok, but maybe it would have helped. I just don't know.

It was 6 degrees, windy, and raining. The rain was at my back on the way out, but that left me 8 or 9 kilometers on the way home with the wind lashing cold rain into my face. Ugh. At least there was some light on the way back, and I was able to avoid the soakers.

I added up the distance I've run since the start of October, just over 6 months ago. 1306km. That's just over 800 miles, by my calculation.

Days like today remind me that anything could happen on race day. I hate to think like this at this point, but if race day ends up being a total bust, I'll still have quite a bit to be proud of.

Sprinting

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This morning's swim was crazy. After an 800m warmup, we did some descends, then some more descents, then some easy, then a whole bunch of sprint, then more easy, then more sprint. I couldn't keep track of it all, it came by so fast. The set that really got our hearts pumping was:

25m fly | 25m free on
60s | 60s
50s | 50s
40s | 40s
30s | 30s
20s | 20s

I had an epiphany of sorts somewhere in this set. For the whole workout, I was trying to focus on improving my kick (inspired, no doubt, but all the footage on youtube of the 2007 FINA world championships - recordo del mundo Michael Phelps!). One one of the fly sets, as I'm struggling to hold everything together, I remember that I've been having some small success kicking twice per pull, but notice that I've fallen back on my old habit of once per pull. I correct it, and for a brief shining monent, I shot forward like I'd been shot out of a canon. Butterfly-style oxygen deprivation prevailed, and the moment passed, but someday I'll recapture that feeling.

I felt kind of blah at work today, so headed out for my run with some trepidation. I ended up putting in a killer run - 4th fastest on my home 8.3 km loop. Given the rest of the day, I'll gladly take the result.

Before blogging, I guiltily took a peek at my breakingthetape.com Parrot Predictor. I knew I'd gotten back on track last week, so was curious to see how it had impacted my parrot predictor.

Jan 01
Jan 08 3:45:36
Jan 15 3:50:48
Jan 22 3:43:30
Jan 29 4:1:12
Feb 05 3:50:47
Feb 12 3:51:51
Feb 19
Feb 26
Mar 05 3:58:7
Mar 12 3:47:40
Mar 19 3:48:42
Mar 26 3:13:23

In my dreams!!!

Thirty-two

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Saturday I did some intervals, on the track. 1km warmup, 4x800m with 400m walk in between, 1km cooldown. The walk seemed so long after the first run, and kinda short at the end. My goal at this point is to add an 800 every weekend.

Sunday I had 32km (20 miles) on my plate. 32km is always, always tough. Lately I've been feeling generally good about my runs, but my long runs have all been humbling. Whether I start to fade at 18km, 22km or 24km, I always think the same thing - I'm a long way from 42. It's keeping me humble, and giving me a profound respect for the distance.

My plan was to run a double loop - 18km, stop at home for water, then 14km. The temperature was mild, but the wind was surprisingly brisk, and out of the southeast. This meant that I would be facing the wind heading home, both times. Ugh.

As soon as I got myself headed west, I tied my jacket around my waist, and was wearing only a short sleeve tee above the waist. I ran along, trying to stay as comfortable as I could, and was surprised to clock 47 minutes for the first 8km. I guess the wind at my back was helping, but I would have been happy to see 50 minutes on the clock. I felt relaxed and slow, which boded well for what lay ahead.

I put my jacket back on when I turned around at 9km, and headed back home. The wind pushed hard against my chest, making me feel slow and upright. On the way back, it occurred to me that I could alter my plan slightly, and split my run 21/11 rather than 18/14. This would have the advantage of not having to run past my house at the 29 km mark. The only drawback was that I would have to wait longer for water. The prospect of a shorter second half won out, though.

Around the 18km mark, my mind started to fade a bit. I started feeling a bit thirsty, and vowed that this would be my last long run without a water belt. I wasn't in any trouble, but I could recognize that my mind was getting fatigued.

I was home in 2:03 for a water break. I also got some vaseline and two licorice sticks. I took on nearly half a litre of water. The water break ended up being just under 7 minutes.

Heading back out, I started slowly, worrying about the sloshies. It felt cooler than it had the first loop, and started to drizzle about a mile out. My stomach, despite my concerns, was fine, and eventually I refound my rhythm. My mind was still tired, wandering between complaint, empty numbness, and occasional weak attempts at calculation. My legs, however, seemed very solid. My pace picked back up, and I didn't seem to be flagging, despite my mental state.

I started to wobble a bit the last kilometer or two, but gutted it out to the line. I finished up in just over 3:18, including my break, which puts my pace at just under 6:00/km over the 32 km. I don't know how that compares with years past, but I think it was crazy fast.

After stretching, I went in out of the light rain, grabbed some more water, and sat down. Almost right away, I felt awful. My stomach seemed to want to cramp, and I felt weak and shaky. I ate a few potato chips, finished my water, then fetched a gatorade from the basement. I then stretched a bit more, and my distress seemed to go away. Still, it was a humbling reminder of just how far I had gone. And yes, the marathon still seems long, at over 10km more running!

This week was another high water mark, as I put in over 75km this week. The good news is that I still feel very good. The weeks are starting to become few, and I think I'll be drawing up a more formal plan for the runs between now and the end of May. Hopefully, there will be time for two more 32km runs, and a first class taper.

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  • Cheryl: Right on Wendy! read more
  • Wendy: That swimming fitness will be back before you know it! read more
  • deene: you have to listen to your body, you probably needed read more
  • Cheryl: The heat, mixed with the humidity were extreme and it read more
  • Wendy: Sorry to hear you were so ill, Warren, but good read more
  • Cheryl: Sounds like a tough go! It's a shame that everyone read more
  • deene: anything timed in seconds and with repeats sound tough to read more
  • jank: Ease comes soon while riding in a group. As long read more
  • warren: Sadly, no. Nor did I delve into the Leguminosae family read more
  • jeff: WOOHOO! did you ever come up with a name for read more

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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