Sunday, August 28, 2011

Week in Review

50 miles
1 day off
1 day in MN
2 days in TX
5 AFDs

I was quite surprised to add up the week's totals and see I'd reached 50 miles. Then again, when you consider that half those miles came this weekend--11 yesterday and 15 today--it makes sense that a handful of 4's and 6's could bring me up to 50. More importantly, I'm thrilled to write that as of today my leg/shin feels 97% normal, hands down the best it's been in the past month. No more morning soreness, no more limping, no more awkward stride, no more wincing every time I have to go up or down the stairs. What I'm saying, ladies and gentlemen, is that I'm back!

Ironically, this return to form comes almost a year to the day after I royally maimed myself at the Greek Fest 5k. Instead, this Saturday morning found me embarking on an early morning run with Caitlin and Megan--unintentionally each dressed all in black, which looked pretty sweet--before swinging by this year's Greek Fest race to cheer on some friends and CRC members. Last year I swore I'd be back to avenge my injury and narrowly-missed sub-17, but on this day I was just content and relieved to be bipedal and pain free. I may feel horribly out of shape and I may be laboring to run what I typically consider recovery paces, but at least I'm not in a boot. I couldn't say the same on this day last year, and the milestone does not go unnoticed.

After emerging unscathed from Saturday's passing of Hurricane Irene aside from wicked humidity and high winds, Sunday dawned sunny and beautiful with a decidedly autumnal dew point of 58. Megan and I had decided to eschew the planned McAlpine run in favor of some single-track fun at Beatty, and a few email chains later we'd recruited almost 10 others to join us. The run was, in a word, wonderful. Beautiful weather, fun and challenging trails, rewarding conversations with some friends I see often and others not often enough. What I absolutely love about trail running is the complete lack of awareness of pace, distance or mileage. The first time it even occurred to me to check my watch today was over 50 minutes into the run, which is rarely something I can say for standard outings on the local roads or bike paths. It went against every instinct in my body to turn around with Alice a mile into our third loop, cutting the run to 15 instead of stretching it to almost 20 with some of the others. As much as I would've loved to inadvertently notch my longest run since before my marathon in February, the rational side of me acknowledged that it probably wasn't a prudent choice the day before I start my training.

So that brings me to the week ahead. Practically speaking, August was a complete and total wash as far as running was concerned. In fact, I would go so far as to say I've been more sedentary this month than any other month in the past five years. Maybe it will be good for me in the long run, maybe not, but regardless there wasn't much I could do about it. What I can do now, however, is start fresh. Tomorrow marks the start of a new week and Thursday brings a new month, so it is fitting to view this as the beginning to my fall training. I'll start slow, focusing on mileage and strides before jumping into any workouts or races that are bound to leave me frustrated and discouraged, and I won't plan to toe the line again until 13.1 Atlanta on October 2nd. Between now and then I will approach every run with a sense of purpose, as well as a renewed freshness and appreciation for my health and my abilities. Though fitness feels so far away right now, I have to trust that it is merely lying dormant beneath the surface for the time being. Patience isn't my strong suit, but now is as good a time as any to practice some. Most of all, I'm just excited to get back out there again in good health.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Week in Review, Don'tcha Know

27 miles
3 days running
4ish hours elliptical (I lost track)
3.5 days in Boston
4.5 days in Minneapolis
6 AFDs

It's currently Monday evening and I'm typing this on the plane home from Minneapolis. Actually, to be completely factual, on the plane to Atlanta from Minneapolis. I still have a layover and another hour in the air before touching down just past midnight. From there I'll enjoy a restful 36 hours at home before embarking on my next adventure, a quick sojourn to San Antonio and Houston. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's take a look back at another glamorous week in the life.

From a fitness perspective, I'm getting slower and fatter by the day. Running was nonexistent save for an awesome trail adventure with a few friends on Monday morning and two lackadaisical jaunts around picturesque Marblehead, Massachusetts (fun fact: hometown of Shalane Flanagan) with the Karhu CEO on Wednesday and Thursday. I'd planned to cross-train every day once I departed Charlotte, but when your CEO is a 6-foot tall Dutchman named Huub Valkenburg and he fixes his steely blue eyes on you like the Russian from Rocky IV and firmly requests that you accompany him on a jog, you don't say no. (Actually, once you get past the initial terror of meeting Huub he's actually quite congenial and charming. The real force to be reckoned with is his 14-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Dutch, who deviously snuck into the guest bedroom while his master and I were out on our morning run and proceeded to extract and devour my Honey Stinger chews and several packets of dry oatmeal from the depths of my backpack. This landed him squarely on my shit list, but I respect the effort and the healthy food choices.) Once I arrived in Minneapolis, I played it smart and slogged away on the elliptical in the hotel fitness center while my coworker Jeff and later Caitlin enjoyed the beautiful weather on their outdoor runs. Several months ago I'd planned to actually run the race with Caitlin, but for both injury and logistical reasons another finish line hand-holding scenario would not materialize. Instead Caitlin powered ahead on her own and earned a sweet medal and PR despite running solo for almost the entire race. Having her around for a weekend that would otherwise have consisted of 24/7 work was a real treat even if we didn't enjoy any Minnesota miles together.

While we're on the topic and in case you're not aware, Minneapolis is quite lovely. They call Minnesota "the land of 10,000 lakes," and I had the pleasure of seeing at least a few dozen of them during my time in the Twin Cities. Add to that the beautiful blue skies and mild summer weather (temperatures ranged from the low 60s to low 80s all weekend), and I could almost picture living here. Of course, then I remind myself that nine months out of the year this part of the country is straight out of a scene from the movie "Fargo"--hopefully minus dismembered body parts in the neighborhood wood chipper--and I'm jolted back to reality. The other noteworthy aspect of the Twin Cities is the abundance of bicycle lanes and other pedestrian-friendly infrastructures. Never in my life have I seen more people riding their bikes from place to place at all hours of the day and night. Bicycling magazine recently named Minneapolis the #1 bike city in the nation, and it's not difficult to see why. There's something about watching people young and old traversing a city by the power of their own two legs that's sure to warm the heart of any runner, cyclist or all-around fitness enthusiast, and I am no exception. It also serves as a glaring reminder of how far Charlotte has to go before it can truly be considered hospitable to pedestrians, but that is another topic for another rambling post.

Also, a few words about Minnesotans: they are genuinely, unfailingly nice. Everywhere you turn you're met with a blinding smile and a sincere inquiry into how you're doing or how your current condition can be improved upon.
It's quite disconcerting, to be honest. Just this afternoon when I was driving to the airport I spotted an orange road construction sign that said the following: "Left lane closed ahead. Please take turns merging." And, I swear to you, everyone did. When I inadvertently rebelled against the system by becoming "that guy" who waited until the last possible second to change lanes, neatly cutting off the person directly behind me, I winced and braced myself for the blaring horn or shouted expletive to follow. When neither did, I looked into my rearview mirror and, I kid you not, the other driving was waving at me. With all his fingers. This, friends, is Minnesota. To be frank I find myself utterly at a loss for how to respond to it. I'm not entirely sure if I could handle this unwavering friendliness year-round, but for one weekend I found it quite refreshing. Heck, I might even pay it forward and actually talk to the person sitting next to me on my connecting flight instead of averting my eyes and/or feigning sleep as soon as they sidle in beside me.

Okay, probably not, but it's the thought that counts. Don'tcha know?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Injury Update/Week in Review

50 miles
3 hours elliptical
2 days off
4 days in ATL
40 hours at home before my next trip

Well, as you can probably surmise from the above stats, my injury did not fade away into oblivion this week as I so fervently hoped. I was deliriously optimistic after an almost pain-free run with Jordan on Monday, but then on Tuesday morning my leg had reverted back almost completely to where it was before I'd taken last weekend off. This resulted in me cross-training on Wednesday and Thursday, which led to a great trail run in Atlanta on Friday, which produced a so-so run on Saturday...and you get the idea. Suffice it to say that significant progress is not being made.

All of this leads naturally and logically to the bright idea of taking some definitive extended time off. By that I mean a week or maybe even two. Earth-shattering, I know. Truth be told, as much as I abhor the idea, this is probably the best two-week period of the entire year to do so. I've got a crazy busy work schedule coming up, the Trials are a full five months away and all I'll be missing in the meantime (other than next weekend's planned 13.1 Minneapolis with Caitlin) is more hot and humid weather. Such a simple decision, right?

Except, of course, it isn't so simple for a stubborn, high-achieving runner like myself. As I was telling my massage therapist Byran while he firmly kneaded somewhere between two and 20 fingers into my calf muscle earlier this afternoon, it's so difficult to discern when a small, seemingly insignificant pain or tightness is going to recede within a few days and when it will slowly and almost imperceptibly metastasize into a full-blown injury. If I took days off every time some part of my body felt sore or tight I'd have most likely picked up a different sport by now. Clearly, however, I managed to let this little niggle turn into the latter scenario, and it's obvious that until I'm able to completely shake this ailment there's no point in half-assing my training just to have numbers on the board.

With that in mind, it's fortunate that I'll be far too busy within the coming days to dwell on my current situation. As I mentioned above, my work and travel schedule for the next few weeks is going to be intense--and this coming from the girl who considers waking up with little idea of what day it is or what city she's in to be a fairly normal occurrence. After returning home from Atlanta on Saturday night I've got just over a day and a half at home before embarking on an eight-day trip to Boston (for meetings at our corporate office) and Minneapolis (for 13.1). I'll then be home for one full day before taking the world's quickest trip to Texas on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. From an injury perspective, this is actually good news because the frequency of hotel stays means I'll likely have access to an elliptical machine should I make the (smart) decision to take some time off from running. Many years of training have convinced me that there's little fitness gain achieved by cross-training during injury, but for me the benefits are just as much mental and emotional as they are physical.

Unfortunately for my tens of adoring fans, a break from running will most likely also mean a break from gracing you with my trademark wit and charm. I know, I know, the idea is almost unthinkable. If you don't hear from me for a few days, please do try to soldier on. And if you do hear from me, it will be to share the joyous news that my leg has taken a turn for the better. Let's hope that comes sooner than later. Until then, run a few miles on my behalf!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week in Review

42 miles
4 days off (2 days no exercise)
3 doubles
2 hours elliptical
5 AFDs

As you can see, in light of Tuesday morning's debacle and my admittedly increasing shin pain, I went against everything ingrained in my body (and mind) and made the smart decision to take most of the rest of the week off. Aside from a few mandatory run clubs with Pacers in DC and one self-imposed mandatory fun run with my good friend and District hostess Jilane, I was pretty much a slug for the remainder of the week. I called off a morning run with Jilane on Wednesday after less than a minute of uncomfortable steps, and in the evening we were easily persuaded to scrap a half-hearted cross-training plan in favor of enjoying a relaxed dinner and a bottle of wine. (Antioxidants, anyone?) Friday, Saturday and Sunday I invoked all sorts of self-restraint and didn't allow myself to run a single step, instead slogging through a few elliptical sessions more for sanity's sake than anything else. I even passed on a long run at Davidson and group breakfast at Toast--where the special was peanut butter banana french toast--because I was adamant about being "good" on my final day off. Ugh.

As much as I hate to admit it, there's probably a reason that my mental and physical unraveling coincided in this particularly insidious manner. In order to find the last time when I only ran three days in one week, you'd have to go all the way back to the end of August last year when I hurt my foot
at the Greek Fest 5k. On the one hand (foot?), I think it's a tremendous accomplishment that I've been able to train (relatively) happy and (relatively) healthy for almost an entire year. At the same time, perhaps this was my body's not-so-subtle way of demanding me to take a break and recharge the 'ol batteries before the real training begins this autumn. Because let's face it, we runners are stubborn. I definitely wasn't going to take the initiative to do so myself.

Looking ahead, I'll play next week by ear depending on how my leg feels. I plan to head out for a "tester" run tomorrow and, if all goes well, I'll probably ease back into fairly normal mileage and low to moderate intensity. I also hope to seek some treatment from Dr. Greenapple this week and maybe even a massage on Sunday. Taking one week off may prove to be quite beneficial, but if a week turns into a month then we have a problem. I plan on being extra vigilant next week to ensure that doesn't happen.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

8 x 1000M Fail

4 mile w/u
Target: 8x1k w/Caitlin et al
Actual: 3:24, drop out
5 mile c/d
Total: 10.5 miles

This was a fail of epic proportions. I awoke at the ungodly hour of 5:10am so I could depart my house at 5:45 and rendezvous with Caitlin, Spada, Billy and Eric at the Dilworth Speed Loop. I even dragged a bleary-eyed Jordan, who finally returned from his week-long trip to California, along with me.

As for the workout itself, there's really not much to say. From the first step of the first interval I could tell it wasn't going to be my day. When I fell off the back of the group a mere 400 meters into the second repeat, I stopped in my tracks and decided to call it a day. Instead of lingering around with the group and further augmenting my embarrassment, I turned on my heels and ran back home with Jordan. We took the long way, remaining mostly silent after I spent a solid 10 minutes venting my frustrations, and for the final mile and a half I was so dejected that I slowed to a crawl and allowed Jordan to pull ahead by himself. I was not in my happy place.

Though I'm obviously frustrated about how today's attempted workout panned out, I'm even more discouraged about how I've been feeling over the past few months as a whole. To be sure, the relentless summer weather and my constant travel schedule aren't doing me any favors, but I'm not buying either of those as legitimate reasons for not being able to recall the last time I felt truly fresh and inspired on a run. My mileage is slightly higher this summer than it has been in previous years (80-90 on average as opposed to 70-75 the past two years), but good grief I'm not trying to do 130 miles a week here. Plenty of runners at my level are running just as high if not higher mileage without their bodies putting up a fuss about it. As for me, I can't seem to string together more than a few months of high quality, pain free running without something going wrong.

Jordan thinks it's mental. He thinks I'm burned out and in need of a bigger break than my recent "down" weeks have provided. I can understand why he says that, but to be honest I don't really agree. Very rarely do I wake up dreading a run or wishing I didn't have to put in the miles, and I always head out the door with the sincere objective of leveraging my training on that day--including all the core, strengthening exercises, stretching and drills I do on a daily basis but try not to bore you with on this blog--into tangible long-term fitness gains. I want to work hard and I want to be a better runner, and in return I don't think it's too much to ask for a little bit of cooperation from my body.

Did this post turn into a disgruntled rant? Why yes, yes it did. Sorry about that. I promise the next time I write it will all be sunshine and midgets and peanut butter. As Caitlin and I have discussed before, after each workout you should be allowed five emotional minutes to experience whatever emotion you're feeling at the time, but then you have to move on with your day. This took a little bit longer than five minutes to write but hopefully you'll let it slide.