Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Toe Concerns

I've noticed a trend lately of foot photos on some of the running blogs I frequent. So, with apologies to Chris in San Diego (and anyone else who may be offended), I'm going to follow suit. I promise this will cure you of any foot fetishes you may have had.

Below are two photos of the toes on my left foot (click to enlarge at your own risk). Two of the nails are blackening. The middle toe is a real mess. It's painful to the touch, and the tip (in front of the nail, as seen in the second photo) is very hard and calloused. It's also very sore under the hard area. The pain and discomfort seem to kick in late in my long runs, then become very uncomfortable (swollen, throbbing and very painful) for the next day or so, before settling down. This has me a bit worried going into the marathon. I'm planning on wearing my Brooks Launch shoes, which are the pair I wore during my 21-mile pacing job a few weeks ago. That was when I first started having the toe problems. Hopefully my taper period will help things settle down a bit. Otherwise, I could be in for a long day when I toe the line on May 15th (Get it? "Toe" the line? Wow, comedy gold. I'm giving you that one for free.)



Monday, April 26, 2010

Week Review / Back in the Saddle / Taper Time!

Boy, last week was a roller coaster for me. I started the week with a horrible 22-mile run (documented in a previous post), followed by two days off to recover, two easy runs (one with a fast mile thrown in), then a strong 8-mile run on Saturday morning at a 7:16 clip.
Here are last week's numbers:

Runs: 4
Miles: 40.3
Time: 6:08:00
Long: 22 mi

Today, I ran my final long-ish run of my marathon training plan - 16 miles. After last Monday's fiasco, I wanted this run to end on a high note. It was warm (70), humid and windy! This was a tale of two runs. Basically, it consisted of an 8-mile warmup leading into an 8-mile tempo run. For the first 8 miles, I decided to keep my heart rate below 130 bpm. That necessitated a painfully slow 9:21 pace. However, that set me up for a fast second half...assuming I had anything in the tank. My legs felt a little flat, but I thought I'd transition into a faster pace with an 8:14 mile 9. The remaining 7 miles were as follows: 7:55, 7:46, 7:35, 7:36, 7:37, 7:27. So, out in 1:14:52, back in 1:01:36 (7:42 avg). While it wasn't easy, it didn't wipe me out, and it restored some confidence. I followed the run with the traditional 15-minute ice bath.

Something I really should have been doing all along is weighing myself before and after long runs. I did that today, and was shocked to see I was 4.6 lbs lighter after my run! To be fair, I ate pizza last night and was probably retaining a good amount of water, but that really opened my eyes to how much fluid I'm losing out there.

Now...bring on the taper!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Today's Run, and my Fragile Psyche

After two days of "post-disaster" rest, I was ready to get back out there today.

6.2 miles, 52:10 (8:25 avg/mile) 131 avg HR, 160 peak HR

Before I get into the run, I'll share something that made my jaw drop this morning. I only weigh myself once a week (it'll soon be more often). Today the scale showed me nearly three pounds lighter than last week! I don't know how much of that was due to dehydration from Monday, but I'm quite a bit lighter than I'd like to be now (nearing Ryan Hall territory…sans the speed). I still feel a little weak today but, again, that could be due to the Monday debacle, or the recent high mileage.

Because of my plummeting weight, I ate a large breakfast this morning (why not overcompensate immediately, right?). This delayed today's run, as I felt a little queasy and weak. Still, I made my way out and ran the first four miles at exactly 9:00 pace. This is my easy "recovery" pace, but it didn't feel good. I felt pretty sluggish and was breathing too hard. I then decided that, when I hit the start of mile 5, I was going to bump it up a notch, just to blow out the pipes a little. I kicked it into a gear that felt like about a 7:00-7:10 pace. When I looked at my Garmin at the end of the mile, it read 6:43! Okay, good. I can't say it felt easy, but I was very much in control and could have pushed even more. I backed off the last mile (7:46) and felt pretty good when I finished.

I didn't need to bust out a quick mile for training purposes. That 6:43 was quite a bit faster than my planned marathon race pace, but my psyche needed it badly. I needed reassurance that my wheels could still turn when I wanted them to. I hate to admit it, but Monday's blow-up really shook my confidence. I know it shouldn't have, but my fickle brain has me questioning a lot of things about my training. My wife reassures me that I'll be strong and ready come marathon morning, and I know she's right. But while I felt very confident about this marathon over a week ago, I'm now filled with a combination of confidence, respect and a dash of fear. Still, I'm very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lessons Learned

In case you didn't read the comments from yesterday's post about my "crash and burn" long run, Tony C. asked me what I learned from the run. I decided to post my reply here, along with a few others that came to mind.

I learned...

That I should have gone with my inclination to do this run NEXT Monday instead of today. I've gotten away with relatively high mileage (for me) for a couple of months now. I've know that I've been walking on the edge of overtraining for the last 2-3 weeks.

That I need to hydrate more than I did (I didn't top off when I first passed the water fountain at mile 4.8 since there was a cyclist filling his bottles, so I had to refill on the way back, at mile 17.5 - should have been patient & waited for the guy to finish).

That one long run does not a training cycle make. This is probably my last 20+ mile run until the Marathon, and I hate to end on this note, but I've got a few medium distance runs left that will have much better results.

Don't forget sun screen - especially on long runs. I got a nice sunburn on my shoulders and arms during my expedition yesterday.

Push my limits, but don't train above my current level - especially for long periods of time. Sometimes there's a very fine line between challenging mileage and too much mileage for my body to handle. During this marathon training program, I would feel great for a couple of 40-50 mile weeks, then I'd feel fatigued. My inclination was to throw in a back-off week (~30 miles) every third week, but I failed to do that often enough. I really think it would have helped me stay strong during the mileage buildup without pushing me over the edge.

And finally, I can't let running dominate my life. When running becomes more important and more of a focus than faith, family, friends and work, I know I need to re-prioritize. That may not necessarily mean a huge cutback in running time, but when it's all I think and talk about (and when I skip family walks because it's my one "rest day" of the week), I know things are a little out of whack. Plus, running needs to always be fun for me; not a job, not an obsession.

Today will be a welcome rest day, and likely tomorrow as well. My body feels pretty beat up this morning. Going to be eating and hydrating all day long!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Crash and Burn

Well, it's ironic that on the day of the 114th running of the Boston Marathon, I had my very first crash and burn during a 22 mile long run. And it was MONUMENTAL! To start with, the day ended up being sunny and far warmer (close to 80 deg. F) than expected. My allergies were hitting, too, and my lungs never opened up. My breathing was labored from the start. My heart rate crept up far too quickly, too. Add to that some dead legs and it was inevitable. I could tell by mile 5 that this wasn't going to be my day. If I was a smart, reasonable man, I would have turned around and returned with an easy 10-miler and lived to fight another day. But I'm "better than that" (or dumber and more stubborn that that - more on that comment later) and hey - it was in my plans for today to run 22 miles, dagnabbit! I ran out of liquid at mile 14, but was able to refill at around 17.5 mi. I was carrying a 22-oz bottle of weak Heed/water mix, a gel flask with just water, and a gel flask with watered down Hammer Gel. I also took a couple of Endurolytes, since I was sweating a lot in the heat. By mile 13, I had to start taking walk breaks. First a tenth of a mile walk followed by 9/10ths of a mile run, then a 2/8 ratio, then a 2.5/7.5 ratio. That lasted until about mile 18, when the walking and running was about 50/50. But even that was too much (my stomach wasn't having it, and I was getting dizzy), so I walked, painfully and completely shot, the last mile and a half. When done, I called my wife from my truck. She was concerned about me driving home. It was justified, since I barely made it. I went straight to the bathroom to take care of business and saw myself in the mirror. I was as white as a sheet, with sunken in eyes and cheeks, and pale lips. I ended up laying on the living room floor for several minutes (too bad there wasn't a medical tent) before eating some tomato soup and starting to join the living once again.

This run taught me some lessons. I've hinted in recent posts that I've been pretty fatigued lately. I had a 7-day stretch recently that totaled 62.5 miles, including a road race and 21 miles of pacing a friend in an ultra (just over a week ago). I've come to the realization that, for my level, I'm training over my head. I got caught up in the miles (as heard in the latest song parody I did for Chris Russell's Run, Run, Live podcast, ep. 117) and have been just pushing too hard, too much. Add to that the realization that running is starting to feel like a chore and the joy has diminished, and I know I'm ready to back off. I was starting to believe that, since I'm training with an "advanced" marathon plan (for my first marathon, for crying out loud) that I AM that kind of runner. The reality is…no, I'm not. I was humbled today, and I needed to be.

I'll be taking a few days off this week to hopefully let my body, mind and ego recover a little. Sorry about the long post, but I had a lot to get off my chest.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Stretch Drive

My running weeks start on Monday and end on Sunday. But if I were to count from last Sunday to today (Saturday), I would total (thanks, in large part, to last Sunday) 62.5 miles. That's the most I've ever run in a 7-day stretch. Thankfully, I don't feel any injuries coming on, and aside from a little fatigue during the week, my legs seem to be holding up. I have noticed my appetite increasing a significant amount.

But back to my normal Monday through Sunday schedule, here's how this week ended up:

Runs: 6
Miles: 40.5
Time: 5:46:57
Avg. HR: 125
Long: 12 mi

Monday's run will be 22 miles. That'll be my last 20+ mile run in this training cycle, before I start my taper the following week. I've really enjoyed training for this marathon, but I'm honestly looking forward to the taper. I may not be saying that the week before the marathon, when I'm bouncing off the walls and feeling all sorts of phantom aches and pains, but right now I'm enduring a little overall fatigue that lets me know I'm right up to the edge of my current limits. With all that said, I can't wait to run this marathon! 4 weeks to go!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tulip Run Official Results

Here are my official results from Saturday's Tulip Run 5-mile race:

Time: 34:47 (6:57 pace)
Overall: 47/669 (7%)
Age Group: 7/36 (19%)
Men: 43/256 (17%)

Now...no more races until the marathon. Just under 5 weeks away!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Weekend of Fun

On Saturday, April 10th, I ran the Tulip Run 5-Mile race. I was planning on taking it easy during this race, since I was asked to pace a friend over the last 21 miles of a 50-mile ultra today. Well, I apparently don't have much discipline in short races. Went out at 7:00, backed off a bit during the middle, saw a young boy (as in, maybe 9 yrs old?) ahead of me at mile three and couldn't let him stay ahead of me (stupid ego). Then there was some guy I kept passing and getting passed by, so I finally had to pull ahead of him out of frustration. Then, with a quarter mile to go, I went by a guy who said "no, THAT'S not gonna happen!" Of course, I emptied my tank after hearing that and gave whatever I had left (6:45 last mile). After the finish, he thanked me for inspiring him to finish strong. Don't know the standings yet, but I finished in 34:55, for an average pace of 6:59.

Surprisingly, in checking my records, this is the first time I've paced sub-7 since 2002...and that was a 5k. It's actually the first race of 5 miles or longer that I've gone sub-7 since...1987! Given that I'm training for a marathon and doing very little speed work, I'm happy with the result.

Now, on to today. I paced my friend Arthur for the last 21 miles of his 50-mile ultra PR. He ran a 7:02 and change to destroy his old PR of 8:01. Even after a relatively fast race yesterday, my legs were a bit over-eager. I've never paced anyone before and I was "called back" a few times after leading out too much. I got caught up in trying to pull him along a bit too much, mostly because I was afraid of going too slow for him. I felt great until around 18, when a little fatigue settled into the legs. We still finished strong. Next year I'm going to run either the 50k or the 50 mile...especially if the weather is like it was today (mostly sunny, low 60's). Plus, the course was beautiful - gravel and dirt trails through the woods, passing a waterfall, streams and rivers.

In addition to being a "pacing job" for me, this was one of my scheduled long training runs leading up to my May 15th marathon. I'll run one more 22 miler before starting my taper in a couple of weeks. So, with 28 combined miles for Saturday and Sunday, thus ends a fun weekend of running!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Funk

I know I'm not alone in going through periods in which you fall into some kind of funk - whether it be a minor illness or just fatigue from overtraining or not yet being recovered from previous workouts. I find myself currently slogging through a week like that. So far this week, I ran a decent 10-miler on Monday (after which I could tell I wasn't quite "right"), took Tuesday off due to feeling really drained, and ran an easy 4 miles today...still feeling weak and tired, with no pep in my legs. This could be a cold coming on, since I've been sneezing and sniffling a little.

I've got a 5-mile race this Saturday, and I'm pacing a friend for the last 21 miles of a 50-mile ultra on Sunday. I'll try to be disciplined enough to run relatively easy in the Saturday race (which I wish I hadn't signed up for, but what's done is done...and I'm not skipping it since it's paid for...so says my frugal wife...and you're correct, dear). I'll need to save strength for Sunday's long run. Even with a full tank of energy, this weekend would be a challenge. Since I'm feeling wiped out, I'm now mentally stressed out about it. Last week was big, for me. 52 miles, including my first 20-miler in a monsoon, a hard hilly 10-miler, and and yet another freezing rainy run on Friday...so it doesn't surprise me that I feel this way now. I guess my "point" to this rambling entry is that I don't really do well, mentally, with these periods of feeling wiped out, whether from a cold or otherwise - especially when training has been going so well. I know I need to listen to my body, back off a little and rest, and trust my fitness, knowing that I'll bounce back soon.

Sorry I don't have any cheese to offer you to go along with my whine.

Monday, April 5, 2010

One Year Blog-iversary

It was one year ago today that I started this blog, to document my return to running after being unable to for several years due to chronic injuries. Man, what a fast year!

I actually started running again in January of last year, but didn't decide to blog about it until April. I think I held off because I didn't expect the running would "stick", since I've had to bail on previous comeback attempts. As you can see, I'm still happily running; training for a marathon, putting in more mileage than I ever have, and somehow keeping the injuries at bay. I've learned a LOT from reading blogs of other fellow runners, as well as from other runners in person. Even though I wasn't a true running rookie when I started again last year, I approached running as if I was. I really became a student of it - proper base building, proper form, correct shoes, injury prevention, diet, heart rate training, etc. I'm convinced that this approach and mindset has kept me running consistently for a year and 4 months now.

I have no intention of ever quitting. In fact, I plan on setting PR's in just about every distance (okay, maybe not the mile), and giving ultras a shot eventually, too.

Thanks for following my journey. I can't tell you how much I've appreciated your comments, suggestions and encouragement this past year!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Weekly Review

This week marked two more milestones in this training cycle: the long run and total weekly mileage. It was a challenging week, and more than once I had feelings of a cold coming on (combated by extra vitamin C and early bedtimes), but I luckily fought it off (so far). Monday's 20-miler was my longest so far (and, as I wrote in an earlier blog post, it was SOGGY and COLD). I then ran a pretty strong 10-miler on rolling hills on Wednesday. The week was capped off by an 8-mile group run on Saturday morning, at a quicker-than-planned 7:27 pace. My legs felt a little flat during it, but it was still a good run. I'll take Easter Sunday off to hopefully let my body recover a bit. Since I'll likely be ending next week with a 5-mile race on Saturday, and 20+ miles of pacing a friend in a 50-mile ultra on Sunday, I haven't yet figured out next week's plan. It'll likely be in the neighborhood of 50 miles.

Here are this week's numbers:
Runs: 6
Miles: 52.3 (PR)
Time: 7:11:54
Avg pace: 8:16
Long: 20 mi (PR)

Only six weeks until the marathon! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

March Summary, and...Oops!

March ended up being a breakthrough month on a few levels. I ran the most miles I ever have in a month, put in my first 50+ mile week, ran back-to-back half marathons, and ran my first 18-miler and 20-miler. Knock on wood, things seem to be going well in preparation for the marathon in May.

Here are the stats:
Runs: 26
Miles: 206.4
Time: 28:57:47
Avg pace: 8:25/mi
Avg HR: 129.5
Long week: 51.3 mi
Long run: 20 mi

And, now, for the "oops". I try to keep my body weight within a 5-pound window. I typically weigh myself every Thursday morning. Last week, I fell just under that "window". This week, I fell even more. I've lost 3 pounds in the last 2 weeks and, for someone who is already very thin, that would be considered "free-fall". I've felt plenty strong during my runs and my recovery seems to be improving, but it's going to be a challenge, as the miles and long runs pile up, to make sure I stay on top of my caloric needs. My goal is to run strong and fast at an optimal racing weight - not "manorexia"!