Monday, April 24, 2017

Plan Going Forward

After nearly 5 months of training this year (or, "training to train," I'll call it), I've evaluated my progress and what the next few months may look like.

Instead of worrying about a goal race at this point, I've decided to focus on just rebuilding a base and staying injury-free. I've proved to myself that I can run once again, but I don't know to what extent just yet. The 16 miles I ran last week has been my high volume week so far this year. That's a far cry from where I was a few years ago. While I have zero expectations about getting back the previous levels (both in volume and speed), I'm going to very slowly and gradually build weekly volume, while continuing to cross-train on the bike, and—if I can force myself—in the pool. I also started strength training again last week, including some leg and hip work that will hopefully strengthen my surgically-repaired right hip.

Speaking of which, that hip has been aching quite a bit toward the end of my longer runs (8 miles, run twice the last 2 weeks). And today, 3 days after the latest long run, the back of my OTHER hip is hurting horribly. I'm planning on running with my club tonight, and I'm hoping I'll be able to make it. I don't know why it's hurting so much, but I do notice a little pain there during my last couple of long runs, too, although it's mostly pain in my lower left back, as opposed to the hip.

My left knee still isn't right, but running in Hokas seems to have alleviated the pain while running enough to not notice it that much now, thankfully. Still, every once in a while, I can feel it if I step a certain way (or while running uphill). Comes with the territory, I guess. I'd like to sell that territory. Any buyers?

My body has become like an old MG. Very high maintenance. Always something wrong with it.

Want to go for a ride? Hope you pick the right day!
And with that, I'm off to do a little stretching and rolling to see if that gets my "good" hip feeling run-worthy in a few hours...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spokane Valley Running Club

A few days ago, my curiosity led me to do a search for Spokane Valley running clubs on Facebook. Lo and behold, there IS a Spokane Valley Running Club. They meet by the Buffalo Wild Wings by the Valley mall every Monday night at 6pm to run 3-4 miles. After the run, they go to Hop Jack's for a beer or two.

Not knowing anyone, I showed up last night and ran with the group. There were 11 of us, and everyone ran their own pace. I ended up mostly running with a lady who runs close to my current pace. We finished 3.8 miles, averaging 8:50 per mile. Then we all (minus one) went to Hop Jack's for a beverage.

Due to some fairly recent physical concerns, I don't drink much beer anymore, but since I didn't know these folks, I thought it would be rude if I just ran with them, then left. So, I partook. A couple of Mack & Jacks and two hours+ later, I made my way home for a late dinner of Easter leftovers.

It was a fun group. Most were my age or a little older. I joked with a friend that they were a drinking club that also enjoyed running. I found out that some of them do several group runs per week, meeting with other clubs to run and...drink beer, of course. I don't think my kidneys NOR my wallet can handle that, so for now, I think one night a week will suffice.

I've never minded running solo, but sometimes it's fun to run & socialize with other runners. I miss my old Mill Creek Running & Multisport club. This club has quite a different vibe than my old club, but I'm looking forward to making a few new friends.

Spokane Valley Running Club. Yours truly on the left.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hokas For The Win?

If you've been following along at home for the past several years...I'm sorry. You're a glutton for punishment. But you also know that my running "career" has been a roller coaster, riding on rusting rails with no safety harness. I've had relatively uninterrupted periods of training, followed by debilitating injuries and down time. Sometimes I'm out of the game for a year or more at a time. I've officially given up on running more than once during the past few years. In 2015, I became a cyclist. I actually started enjoying it. However, one bad crash left me with a broken radius in my left arm, which required surgery to fix. Last year, I did very little endurance training. A bit of weight training, lots of walking, but only a couple of bike rides toward the end of the year, and barely any running.

This year, I decided to take a shot at triathlons, if and only if my body would allow the running.

As I mentioned in my previous post, this confirmed land mammal has mixed feelings about doing a triathlon (again, I most likely will do one, or more!), but the running is coming along much better than expected.

I'm convinced that one reason I'm able to run without as much knee pain is because of my change in footwear. Over a year ago, my friend Kenny turned me on to Hokas. I had heard about them, but never really considered giving them a shot. My first pair (which I still use) were the Hoka One One Bondi 3. The high level of cushioning was much more agreeable to my angry left knee than all the previous shoe models I had been rotating. After several runs in the Hokas, I did one run in a different brand I used to wear religiously, and the knee pain returned. That was enough to completely convert me.

I've recently added a pair of Hoka One One Clifton 2's to my rotation. I've only run in them once, but so far, so good.

There is still some slight knee pain (and my surgically repaired right hip still gets sore, but that's another story), but it's not enough pain to keep me from running through it. And, according to my orthopedist, an MRI I had on that knee over a year ago showed no cartilage or structural damage. So, as long as the pain isn't too great, I'll continue running on the mystery knee.

I'm still very cautious about celebrating my full return to running, and I'm taking it very slowly. No sudden mileage or frequency increases. But if I can very gradually rebuild frequency, mileage and intensity, who knows? (I'm NOT saying the "m" word!) I think cross-training will always be a necessity for me, even if the running progresses well.

So, maybe Hokas have helped me resurrect my running!

Fingers, toes & laces crossed...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

It's Already April???

How can the first quarter of this year already be behind us? Wow!

Here are some March numbers, for any fellow stat geeks:

Runs: 10                                             (YTD: 22)
Miles: 45.6                                         (YTD: 90.6)
Rides (trainer): 4                              (YTD: 22)
Miles: 79.4                                         (YTD: 353)
Rides (outdoors): 2                          (YTD: 2)
Miles: 53.5                                         (YTD: 53.5)
Swims: 2 (Wow. More below)           (YTD: 12)
Yards: 2,000                                      (YTD: 22,600)

I'm still plugging along with my training, although my desires have shifted just a bit. Maybe I should say, my preferences are affecting my training.

First and foremost, I'm a pure runner at heart. It's what I've always loved to do. My body has stopped me in my tracks several times, but it's in my blood. My current "triathlon training" is built on the idea that I am no longer able to "just" run. One could also say that I'm training for a triathlon because I feel like I should. I'm not saying I do NOT want to do a triathlon, but it's certainly not a burning desire.

And that lack of burning desire centers, mostly, on swimming. I LOVE running, I ENJOY cycling, and I TOLERATE swimming. And that's being generous. I'm not sure I'd go as far as LOATHE, but it depends on the day.

I had a couple of really rough swims lately. The last one, I lasted 5 1/2 minutes and 300 yards before bailing on the workout. I was having trouble breathing, was dizzy and just didn't feel right. But even the swim before that was below par. I imagine some of this is mental, but I think I've been fighting some sort of respiratory infection lately, which seems to affect my swimming more than running or cycling.

I did manage to finally get the new bike outdoors twice toward the end of March. I rode 18.3 miles, finishing up a pretty tough hill, into a headwind, and 35.2 miles, ending with quad cramps in both legs on a gradual climb (had to call my wife for a rescue 2 miles from home, as the legs were done).

The running has been up and down, but surprisingly a bit more up than down lately. I spent a week in Maui in mid March, and managed 3 early morning runs that week, all close to 5 miles, and all close to 8:30/mi pace. Granted, they were flat as a pancake, but that pace was still a challenge. I've gradually increased my "long" run to 6 miles, running that either twice or 3 times so far. Today, I decided to push the pace and see where my fitness is. I ran 5k (3.1 miles) at exactly an 8:00/mi pace. It wasn't easy! My left knee and right hip are always an issue, but lately, they've both held up during runs, then ached between runs. I'm trying to get better about stretching and using the foam roller. I did both today right after my fast run.

So, I guess the question I need to ask myself is, do I move ahead with triathlon-specific training, doing the swim training I need, even though I'm not digging it, or do I focus more on mixing running and cycling and see where that leads? I had my sights set on the Troika Triathlon, on May 20th, but even if I get back to the pool in a serious way, I still don't think I'll feel ready to spend $85 (or more, plus a wetsuit) on an event I'm not prepared for. They do have a duathlon option, but I don't even feel ready for that!

There are more local triathlons later in the year, so I may wait to see what happens. If I can continue running (and increase the frequency and mileage) without too much pain, that will likely guide my ambitions.

But these days, I have to take each run/ride/swim one at a time, since I don't know what my body will do at any given moment.

Makes for some interesting training, that's for sure!

Be fit and have fun, my friends!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

February Wrap-Up, The Big 5-0, and Health News

Before I get into the deep stuff, here are my, as always, "edge-of-your-seat" numbers from February:

Runs: 8                                              (YTD: 12)
Miles: 31.4                                         (YTD: 45)
Rides (trainer): 8                              (YTD: 18)
Miles: 143.9                                       (YTD: 273)
Swims: 4 (hangs head in shame)     (YTD: 10)
Yards: 7,350                                      (YTD: 20,600)

Well, I officially made it to the half century mark yesterday (2/28). It feels odd to think of myself as a 50-year old. I remember how old that seemed to me when I was a teenager. Yet, here I am. It's better than the alternative.

Fifty means a new age group. I can't say I'm terribly excited about that, for two reasons. First, I'm nowhere near what I would consider racing shape. And, secondly, m50-54 is a VERY competitive age group! We're a bunch of guys trying to fight Father Time, proving to others (mostly ourselves, honestly) that we can still compete with the younger guys. Combine that with possibly more free time and disposable income, and you have some tough dudes to hang with.

Now, on to the "bleak at first glance" health news.

If you've read this blog in the last year and a half, you probably know that I've had three surgeries during that time: both arms and my right hip. Not one to visit the doc very often (let alone the hospital), I learned, during my surgery-related visits, that I had dangerously high blood pressure (174/106, at one point). Whether or not that was caused or enhanced by the surgeries is up for debate. It could be stress-related, given the up-and-down/deadline oriented nature of my self-employment the last 23 years. Oh, and having two teenage daughters, of course ;-)

I finally started taking blood pressure meds last October, which seems to be working well. Fast-forward to January of this year, when I found a new doctor (my previous doc left his practice), who decided to run me through every test known to man, since I was turning 50. That turned out to be a good thing, since it was discovered (after several blood, urine and ultrasound tests) that I have Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease. This came as quite a shock to me. I've been healthy my entire life. I'm active, eat well (usually), don't smoke, hardly drink, and have never been overweight. Kidney issues don't run in my family, either.

Long story short, Stage 3 CKD is manageable, and with diligence, can be stopped from progressing to Stage 4, or Stage 5 (total failure, requiring dialysis and/or transplant). Management for me requires me to ALWAYS stay hydrated. My doc said my kidneys start shutting down when I become dehydrated (which, apparently, was pretty frequently in my case). So, 60oz of water, minimum, every day. Also, no ibuprofen or NSAIDs, EVER! And, no contrast dyes if/when I have any scans in the future. That, and keep my BP under control.

So, really, it's not THAT big of a deal, as long as I stay on top of it.

During this "New, Hydrated Me" period, I discovered something interesting. A couple of weeks ago, I had to drink 100oz of water per day for a week. During that week, I had one of my best workouts in recent history. I did a "brick" (bike/run) at the gym. Thirty minutes on the spin bike, immediately followed by a 3 mile run on the treadmill. During the run, I actually got angry at the treadmill because I couldn't crank up the speed fast enough. I felt almost unstoppable, especially compared to recent previous workouts. I wasn't quite sure why I felt so strong that day. After that week of ultra-hydration (needed before additional blood work), I slacked off the water a bit (this was before my doctor's new edict). I then had a couple of mediocre and a couple of lousy workouts (runs & swims, mostly). I'm currently 3 days into my new 60oz+ of water per day routine. I did a 4 mile treadmill run earlier today, and had that unstoppable feeling again. I ran mile 3 in 7:52 (fast for me, lately) without much discomfort or strain at all. Therefore, my theory is that hydration makes a HUGE difference for me. That said, I certainly don't expect every run, ride and swim to feel great, now that I'm guzzling water every day. But, I would expect lousy workouts if I slip into dehydration again. It will be interesting (and possibly scary) to see if I can remain hydrated when on long rides or runs in the heat this coming summer. It'll take some planning, but I think I can manage.

Before I go, a very quick knee and hip update: both hurt just a bit when I run, but since I switched to running in Hokas, both are tolerable.

I'll end this with my own Public Service Announcement: Please get checked out by your doctor regularly! Especially middle aged men, who don't enjoy visiting the doctor. We're not invincible, no matter how healthy we appear to be.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Triathlon Training? Really?

Even while my body fights me all the way, I've decided to finally take a shot at a triathlon. It'll be a sprint tri, so I can limit my run training out of necessity.

My current training plan has me swimming, running and cycling twice per week each. I haven't stuck to that plan very well so far this year, but I'm not far off. Thanks to a particularly hard winter so far, all training has been done indoors...which has been quite boring.

I re-joined the local YMCA, which is where I've been swimming and running (on the treadmill). I have my old road bike set up on my trainer at home, so that's where I "ride."

I'm not a fast swimmer, but my endurance is improving. My always troublesome left knee is a little quirky still, but the combination of my Hokas and the treadmill seem to be acceptable, so far. We'll see how it feels once I hit the roads (and/or run in other shoes).

The triathlon is on May 20th, so I have plenty of time to prepare (and to see if I can continue running). I already purchased my tri kit, and it's just a tad small. Bought it on sale (70% off!) and can't exchange it, so I have more motivation to lose a couple of inches around my waist.

The open water swim portion of the race seems intimidating to me, having never really done an open water swim. I hope to get a wetsuit long enough before the race so I can test-drive it in a local lake.

And, having only taken it out three times before the snow hit, I'm eager to put some outdoor miles on my new Cervelo R3!

Through the first 5 weeks of 2017, here are my modest training totals:

Swims: 6 @ 13,250 yds
Trainer rides: 12 @ 158 mi
Runs: 5 @ 17 mi

Not much, but I hope to ramp up as I improve.

Happy training, y'all!