Sunday, May 26, 2013

(Semi-Injured) Week in Review

45 miles
3 days off
75 mins. hot yoga
6x10 mins. core 
30 min. massage
2 days in Vermont

This week was pretty much a bust no matter how you slice it. I mentioned in recent entries that I've been dealing with a nagging shin/soleus issue ever since returning from Italy, and this week I'm disappointed to inform you that it's getting worse instead of better. Whereas last week I was able to run hard several days in a row, this time I spent most of Thursday limping around after a hard workout Wednesday evening. This is particularly frustrating because the workout itself--5x3 mins. hard on a hilly road loop around the Beverly High School campus, plus 2x uphill strides--went great, and I actually ran a comparable pace to when I did something similar right after the BAA 5k a month ago. So, the fitness isn't completely gone, but it's hard to build any momentum when each step forward necessitates two gimpy steps back. The obvious solution is to take some substantial time completely off, but with the US Half Champs a mere month away I simply can't afford to do so. I'm aware that I'm riding a very fine line right now, but I'm trying to be as smart as I can about doing all the little things to keep this situation in check.

But enough about me for the time being. This weekend was meant to be about Jordan and my boss, Eric, both of whom were racing the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington. When I'd originally agreed to tag along for the holiday weekend, I'd envisioned myself sunbathing beside the water--Burlington sits on Lake Champlain--or poolside at the Hilton. This seasonally appropriate dream was squashed midweek when the weather forecast turned downright wintry. Sure enough, as I sat crammed in the way way back of Eric's family's SUV driving northbound on Saturday morning--Jordan having already been in Burlington for over 24 hours to work the expo--I could only shake my head and chuckle as seemingly angry snowflakes mixed with an incessant and insistent rain pelted our windshield. What a beautiful winter we're having this summer!

Unfortunately, conditions were not much improved come race morning. If anything, they were slightly worse. Light rain isn't necessarily inclement, but a steady downpour accompanied by 40-degree temperatures and a 20 mph wind is unpleasant to say the least. For Eric, who was embarking on his first attempt at 26.2, and Jordan, who was hoping for a respectable sub-2:30 finish in his first marathon since winning Thunder Road in 2010, the weather did little to assuage their nerves. Ultimately, the result would be a mixed bag. Jordan never settled into a groove and ended up reluctantly pulling the plug just past 15 miles, while Eric persevered through some dark late-game miles to finish just under his 3:30 stretch goal in a remarkable 3:29:45. If he starts running more than three days a week, I predict a Boston qualifier in his future!

The two leaders, Chris Zablocki and Matt Pelletier, grinding up the monster hill at mile 15. They would go on to finish in astounding times considering the conditions, 2:18:24 and 2:19:02 respectively. Not coincidentally, I'm standing in the exact spot where Jordan would decide to call it a day a few minutes later. 

As for my own future, I have no choice but to stay the course and hope things improve next week. I've got enough time to put some decent training together before the half, but only just. Fingers and toes crossed that the proverbial tides (and this weather!) turn by the end of May!   

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Week in Review

75 miles
0 days off
12-mile long-ish run
3x5k workouts
7x10 mins. core

Despite an inauspicious start to the week--still trying to definitively banish my cold, still sporting my nerd specs thanks to lingering pinkeye, oh and did I mention my license plates getting stolen?!--life really picked up steam as the days progressed. My three successful workouts were collectively encouraging, and I finished out the weekend spending some quality time with my good buddy Sarah. She dominated the 10k at the NBB Twilight Meet in a near-PR of 34:07 before coming back to Salem with me for a good old-fashioned slumber party Saturday night. This morning we slept in and then set out in sports bra-worthy weather for a medium long run through the Marblehead rail trail, around the Neck and back. I love showing visitors the beautiful ocean views and picture perfect backdrop of this run, and today's warm temps and bright sunshine did not disappoint. I was sad to see her go, but excited to reunite soon with both Sarah and Caitlin at the US Half Champs. A whole weekend with my two favorite gingers in a little over a month...I can't wait!

Obligatory post-warmup pre-race photo

Sarah pulling away to take command of the women's 10k. What a stud!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

3x5k With 24-Hour Recovery

Wednesday, May 15
AM: 8k easy + strides
PM: 5k of 1 min. on/1 min. off
Target: 3 miles in ~20 minutes
Actual: 19 mins. on/off, 5k in 18:30
Daily total: 12 miles

Thursday, May 16
AM: 11k easy
PM: No Rest For the Wicked "5k" in 17:45 (=17:55-18:00 for true 5k)
Daily total: 21k/13 miles

Saturday, May 18
AM: Journey For Sight 5k
Target: Win
Actual: 17:45, 1st place female (3rd overall), $100
PM: ~4mile w/u and c/d with Sarah at the NBB Twilight Meet (more on this later)
Daily total: 12-13 miles

Okay, so technically the rest between 5k #2 and 5k #3 was more like 36 hours, but that doesn't make for as catchy of a blog title. The point is, after doing nothing but shuffling/hobbling around for nearly three weeks, I decided it was time to put on my big girl pants and attempt a few workouts. I considered several options but ultimately settled on minuters, which essentially is as challenging as you make it, and set the ambitious goal of covering three miles in 20 minutes. After warming up with Jordan and our coworker Scott, I embarked on the same loop as the NRFTW Thursday night 5k (which, at the time, I didn't necessarily plan on running the following evening) and settled into a nice rhythm. Much to my pleasant surprise, I'd discovered on the morning strides that my lower leg/shin actually feels much better and looser when running hard than when running easy, a reality that was reinforced tonight. By the second half of this loop I was really rolling, and I was excited to pass through the "finish line" of the Thursday night run right around 18:20. I continued that hard minute and finished gasping for air but quite pleased with the end result.

Cut to 24 hours later, and Jordan and Scott and I were jogging over to the Common to join the Thursday night running group. It was the warmest day of the year thus far, easily in the upper 70s, but with a dry, 20+ mph wind that would push us through the first half of the run and smack us in the face during the second half. I actually planned on just jogging, and through the first minute or two was content to tuck into the group, but then for one reason or another I changed my mind and my gears and took off after the two guys in the lead. Jordan had also planned to run easy and was behind me at this point, but naturally he couldn't stand for me to be ahead and finally overtook me about a mile in. Understandably, this effort felt harder than last night given my tired legs and the ferocious headwind, but I still expected to finish around 17:30 or so. I ended up only 15 seconds off that target but still a bit frustrated. Just as I was excited about last night's effort, I was perplexed in equal measure tonight. How was it possible for me to run hard for more or less the entire loop, as opposed to taking a break every other minute, and yet somehow only finish 30 seconds faster?!

The third 5k in this series took place Saturday morning in the nearby town of Reading. I found this race online Friday evening as I was tucked into my second glass of vino and saw that they offered $100 for the winner--not normally enough to entice me considering the $30 entry fee offset, but Reading is only 15-20 minutes away and I thought it would be a good motivator to continue my streak of hard running. With Jordan otherwise engaged, I drove over to the Reading ice hockey arena by myself and warmed up solo before stepping up to the front of the starting line with the relatively small crowd. For a few glorious seconds I harbored the idea of winning the race outright, but after spotting a speedy-looking younger guy in a team singlet I acknowledged that dream would probably not come true. (I'm pretty sure this is how Allen Strickland feels at the start of every race--except, ironically, today!) From the gun (more like a barely audible "onyourmarkgetsetgo" from one of the race organizers), I could tell almost immediately that my legs were flat and tired. And why wouldn't they be? Nothing hard for almost three weeks and then this three-pronged assault?! A short, steep hill less than 600 meters into the race effectively zapped my energy, and with only two guys ahead of me and no women close behind I had little incentive to pick up the pace beyond tempo effort. My finish time was lackluster but I was pleased to find my leg holding up after three hard workouts in almost as many days. As I tweeted afterwards, even if you're out of shape, even if it's a small local's still really, really fun to beat (almost) all the boys! Even better, less than an hour later I was back in the car and on my way with a crisp hundo in hand. Not a bad start to the weekend!

So, taking this 5k trifecta as a whole, I'm actually somewhat encouraged. I've got five weeks to run these 5k times consecutively without the 24-hour break, and if I can just keep my body in one piece I know it's possible. I'm encouraged by the apparently minimal fitness loss I've sustained since Italy, so now it's time to keep the momentum going!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

(Down) Week(s) in Review

4/29 - 5/5:
68 miles
14-15 mile long run
1 day off
3 days sick

5/6 - 5/12
45 miles
14-mile long run
3 days off
5 days sick 
5 days with pinkeye

As the above stats indicate, the past few weeks have been pretty disastrous as pertains to my health, fitness and overall state of well-being. I caught the cold and/or virus from hell shortly after returning from my amazing trip and felt so terrible on Friday that I actually took my first day off from running since Nemo in early February. I salvaged a few decent runs on the weekend, including a hard solo 20k around the Neck on a picture perfect Saturday afternoon and a fun 1:45 with Carly in Cambridge on Sunday, but by Monday morning I'd coughed myself hoarse and was reduced to pantomiming or acting out most of my sentences. It didn't help that this was the busiest week at work in quite some time, with 10+ hour planning sessions each day, so when I woke up with my left eye swollen shut on Wednesday I just assumed my illness was invading more innocent body parts. That notion was dispelled 36 hours later when my bosses all but pushed me out the door to the minute clinic, where I discovered that I had somehow managed to contract conjunctivitis (i.e., pinkeye) in both of my eyes. Was this related to being sick? No, the nurse practitioner told me as she failed to mask her revulsion at my monstrous visage, just a delightful bacterial coincidence. 

Oh, and did I mention that something is going on with my shin? Apparently I've got some burgeoning soleus issue that has reduced me to limping down the stairs and uncomfortably shuffling (even more than usual) through morning runs. I was certain that three days off earlier this week would nip this in the bud--the irony that I'm on the verge of celebrating one year of injury-free running is not lost on me--but unfortunately it still remains an increasingly major inconvenience. If I didn't have the US Half-Marathon Championships looming on the relatively near horizon I would shut things down for a full week, but that's a luxury I simply don't have right now. Instead I'm strengthening and sticking and epsom salting and compression socking and doing just about everything I can think of to manage the issue. As it stands, I've done nothing faster than a jog since my race in Italy, so I need to get this under control enough to attempt a workout or two next week. Fingers (and toes) crossed for a return to good health sooner than later!

To my left, Marblehead harbor view from the causeway leading to the Neck. No filter!

To my right, ocean view. If you look closely you can see the Boston skyline in the background.

If there's one silver lining to this shitstorm of a week, it was the opportunity to cheer on the three fastest ladies I know at the New Balance Boston Twilight Meet on Saturday evening. Abbey D'Agostino, my NCAA champ training buddy from earlier this winter, crushed the women's 800, while Kim Smith and Molly Huddle mixed it up with the boys (and beat a good number of them) in the 5k and 3k respectively. It was great to catch up with each of them on their cooldown jogs and then to enjoy a highly meat-intensive dinner with Kim and Molly after the meet. Hoping some of their speed will rub off on me (as opposed to, you know, my pinkeye infecting them). If nothing else, their performances have definitively motivated me to put my life back together and get in shape!

Kim on her way to a 15:02 world-leading 5k

Molly tucked in with the boys en route to an 8:57 3k