Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

Recovering Sanity

It’s recovery week here at the Modernist Cavegirl, and not a moment too soon.  The knee and hip tightness that emerged at the end of the twenty miler seems to be IT band trouble. I’ve actually managed to survive 3 ½ years of running 5 days a week without so much as a twinge from my IT band before, so I was somewhat disheartened by the development. I fully expected some overuse injuries to spring up with the increased training volume, but after two very fortunate years of running nearly pain-free, it’s frustrating. I started googling around for trigger point massage and IT band stretches on Sunday night, and I came across an article that traced the start of most IT band problems to tight calf muscles. It seems entirely possible that the problems of the past few weeks may have a common cause and, hopefully, solution. In any case, it’s good to know that I’m not completely falling apart at the seams. After reading up on the injury a bit I also learned that the longer a runner has IT band problems, the harder they are to treat, so I’m trying to nip this in the bud.  I’ve committed myself to a lot of gentle stretching and foam-rolling for the next few days, along with some trigger point massage with a lacrosse ball.

Everything was feeling better by  Monday evening, so I decided to go ahead with my 7-mile easy run on Tuesday.  Everything was fine for the first four miles or so, but then I felt the tightness creeping back in. By the time I finished, the tugging in my hip was back, along with the twisting pull in my knee. After a lot of quality time with the foam roller last night and this morning, things are improving again.  Still, I’m planning to trade my run tonight for a session on the bike, provided that doesn’t aggravate it too. (And I really hope that it doesn’t, as I don’t have a Plan C.) It’s funny how resting can become such hard work. There’s a little voice that keeps saying, “go ahead – you could get in 3 miles before it starts hurting.” I ran through a tough bout of runner’s knee for almost a year, so I could probably put up with the pain here too. I still have a month and a half of high-volume training to get through, though, and I know that risking that for a week of easy miles boarders on the irrational. Still, the easy week is turning out to be a lot tougher than I thought.

August 27, 2011

I was told there would be a marine layer.

So after all my hand-wringing and angst this weekend about the weather and when to run, I decided to suck it up, get up early, and bang out the twenty on Saturday under some cloud cover.  The alarm went off at 4:45 this morning, and after the usual preparations, I had hit the bike path by 6:30, where I found a complete absence of the marine layer I was promised. There was, in fact, not even a visible cloud.  Lucky me.  I’m sure I was the only person in LA who was not thrilled to finally get a perfect beach day on a weekend, but I was distinctly not thrilled.  I tried to curb the internal whining the first few miles, and not to entertain any thoughts of postponing the run. Twenty miles was a big deal to me, and I wanted to get out and do it- no excuses. I had also arranged to meet up with a friend for miles 8-12, so there was no real option of bailing at that point. (This actually might be a useful tactic for future long runs…)

I managed to find some shade after the first few miles, and actually found my speed creeping up 30-40 seconds faster than my previous long runs. That seemed like a good sign overall, but I knew if I didn’t back off the pace early I’d be hurting later when it really warmed up. I tried to keep ahead of the hydration this time, which really helped.  My calf, which had been feeling great after the massage yesterday, started tightening up again around mile 7.  I met my friend at 8, though, and it was great to have some company for a few miles.  I did all my long runs with the Caveboy until he moved to New York this summer, and I really miss having a running partner.  Even a few miles of conversation really broke up the run, and it was a relief to get out of my own head for a while.  At mile 12 I took a quick pit stop to refill the water bottle and pour some ice down my bra to stay cool.  There’s a two-mile stretch through Venice where I can run a side street and stay in the shade, but other than that it was full sun all the way back.  Around mile 17 my left knee started to hurt, and by the time I’d finished, the ache had extended up to my hip.  This one definitely hut more than any of my previous runs, but I was still happy to have managed it pretty well in less than ideal conditions. I’m happy to say that I never hit the wall today, despite not being terribly carb-loaded.  That might be a different story when I’m pushing the pace, of course, but I’m definitely encouraged.

I stopped at the beverage mart on the way home and picked up a 7-lb. bag of ice. (It’s a mark of how tired I was at that point that walking the extra thirty feet to check out their small-batch ryes seemed inconceivable.) After an ice bath, a shower, and some lunch, I’m actually feeling pretty good, though I admit there has been significant consumption of bad TV this afternoon. (Dance Moms? Who green-lighted this?)  I still have a 6-mile easy run tomorrow, which I’m going to play by ear.  If I do it, it will be at the gym where I don’t have to worry about stranding myself if I decide to cut it short. I’m looking forward to sleeping in for the first time in weeks, too!

August 25, 2011

Risk Management

Maybe it’s the influence of the Caveboy’s new finance job, but I’ve been contemplating the role of risk management in running a lot this week. There are the obvious examples: Should I pick up the pace early in a race if I’m feeling good, or save it for later? Do I really need to strap on an extra water bottle for the long run, or  can I find a water fountain? Then there is the one dreaded question that comes to haunt everyone sooner or later: Something hurts. Should I run on it anyway?   

This week I find myself with just such a dilemma.  The collateral damage from last weekend’s escapades, the Very Sore Left Calf, has continued to nag.  On Monday just walking on it was somewhat painful. Thankfully, it was a rest day, and I slept with a heat wrap under the compression socks that night. By Tuesday morning it was feeling much better. I decided to swap out the scheduled interval run for Thursday’s pace run just to be safe, as I’ve found that intervals seem to aggravate my calves more than anything else.  The pace run went well, although I did feel the soreness returning as I ran.  Wednesday it was still hurting a bit, but I just had 5 easy miles to do, so I wasn’t worried.  I got through the easy run without incident, although I was a little concerned that the soreness didn’t seem to ease once I was warmed up. I iced my calf last night, but woke up this morning with it still twinging a bit when I walk on it.  It’s much duller than it was on Monday, which is encouraging, I guess.  I’m keeping a heat wrap on it all day at work, but I am now trying to gameplan the rest of the week. 

I should be doing the interval run tonight, but I’m pretty certain that will leave my calf in even worse shape tomorrow.  Normally I wouldn’t be too concerned about that, since Friday is a rest day and Saturday is an easy run. I just checked the weather for the weekend, though, and Sunday is supposed to be clear and hot all day.  Saturday looks better, so I’m considering moving the 20-miler up a day to take advantage of the cooler temps.  That leaves me with a gamble.  If I run tonight, I’ll have to sub a tempo for the interval and will still probably prolong the calf issue. I can rest tomorrow, hope it feels better, and run the 20 on Saturday.  I could take today off and end up 6 miles down on the week, which I don’t feel great about. Option 3 is to take tonight off and run tomorrow evening instead.  That seems like a good idea at first glance, but the problem there is that if the calf isn’t better tomorrow, I’m still looking at 32 miles over 3 consecutive days. 

Right now, I’m leaning toward Option 1.  I’ll do the tempo, take some advil, RICE it, and hope that by Saturday it’s either feeling better, or a cold front is moving in.  I booked a massage for tomorrow at lunch, so that may be of some help, too. The pain really isn’t bad and I’ve definitely run on worse.  My concern is that I don’t have enough experience with really long runs to know what to expect after a 20-miler.  What seems totally manageable now may not be after 3+ hours of running. In the mean time, I think I’m going to pray for an unexpected Arctic blast on Sunday.

August 23, 2011

A Note of Thanks

Body, we’ve had our issues at times.  I’ve said that you of looked fat in a few outfits. In moments of frustration on runs I’ve accused you of being weak and lazy. I’ve never had a major problem with your power quads and meaty calves, but I admit that my eyes have strayed to the whippy little legs that so often pass us. Still, you continue to show up every day, ready to take whatever I can dish out. I screw up our training schedule and deprive you of rest days. I push the pace on easy days so I can get home in time for Glee.  Sure, you complain occasionally, but mostly it’s just a cry for the attention you deserve.  And today, I salute you.  I have demanded a lot from you in the last few weeks, and you have brought it, without fail.  Thank you.  Next week, we’ll rest. I promise.

August 22, 2011

24 Miles in 24 Hours

Okay, I admit it.  I was a little worried about the long-run-with-10K-chaser plan. I knew that getting through the 18-miler was the most important thing, and where I should focus my energy. I figured that I could get through the 10K one way or another, but I was really hoping that I wouldn’t end up so sore that I set back my training the following week. That concern was compounded when I realized that the next week was not an easy week, as I’d thought, but the final ramp-up to the first 20-miler.

Friday I focused on fueling up for the long run and composed a new 3-hour playlist for the shuffle. I’ve learned from experience to do as much of the more cognitively-demanding pre-run preparation as I can the night before, so other than an unfortunate pre-dawn oatmeal overflow in the microwave, everything went reasonably smoothly in the morning. I was out at 7:30, and energized by having some new background music for the run. (I’m always amazed at what a few dollars’ investment on iTunes can do.) I felt good, and the first 8 or 9 miles were pretty unremarkable. Somewhere after the turn-around at 9 an interesting thing happened, which I’d experienced briefly around mile 14 last week. My stride seemed to completely lock into a measured, synchronized motion of which I didn’t even seem to be entirely in control. I had the distinct feeling that if I thought about it too much, or even at all, it would only disrupt the flow my legs had found. It wasn’t that the running felt effortless, or even that much easier than normal; it just felt efficient and natural. I enjoyed just rolling along until mile 15 or so, when the sun finally broke through the marine layer. I started to wilt almost immediately, having skimped a bit on the hydration on the second half of the run. By the time I finished up and got back to the car the temperature had jumped to 77 degrees, and I was just relieved it was over. The rest of the day was devoted to re-hydrating and digging out of a thousand-calorie deficit. (This actually turned out to be less fun than I might have originally thought.)

Saturday night was pretty much a repeat of Friday, with pre-race preparations.  I needed to leave by 7:00 to get to Santa Barbara by 8:30, so I was up at 5:45 again.  I got out of bed rather gingerly, but was happy to discover that I didn’t feel particularly sore and none of my blisters seemed to be inflamed.  The drive up gave me plenty of time to drink my smoothie and digest, so the morning’s preparations were a little more leisurely than before the long run.  I made it to Goleta Beach just before the start of the 5K, which a few of my friends were running.  A woman took second place overall this year, and a 12-year-old boy grabbed 8th.  I watched a 7-year-old girl edge out a 69-year-old man with a 26:36 finish.  The kids–and there seemed to be a lot this year–all seemed to finish the race, stand still long enough to have their number recorded, and then immediately resume running around in anticipation of the ice cream delivery.

The 10K got off to a shuffley start at 9:30.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as I jogged off, and I planned to hold a very conservative pace for the first half.  The race is on a narrow bike path I did my best to settle in while weaving around other runners and dodging the occasional cyclist. My legs were felt great, though, and somewhere around mile 2 I dropped into the easy, efficient stride of the day before.  Having only previously experienced it deep into long runs, I had come to think of it as the result of getting lulled into a stride after many miles.  Finding my legs spinning under me two miles in was not something I had expected. I picked up the pace a bit on the way back, but was still a little wary of pushing too hard.  I finished squarely in the middle of my age group, which seemed like a solid performance given that I never pushed beyond an easy effort and had thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The ice cream, as always, was divine.  I think the last time I had ice cream was at the race last year, though, so that may have been influencing some of my Brazilian Coffee-infused bliss.  When I checked the race results online I realized that for the second year running, I failed to notice that I was racing against Drew Carey, who beat me solidly.  The only damage from the weekend’s events seems to be my left calf, which felt fine during the race, but tightened up immediately after.  I’ll be romancing the foam roller tonight, and I’m hoping the rest day today will get it on the mend.  I’m still kind of in denial that I have to start this all over again tomorrow.

August 22, 2011

Paleo Peach-Blueberry Crisp

I had a couple of peaches this weekend that were getting a little past their prime, so I decided to attempt a paleo peach crisp.  The whole endeavor took about an hour, start-to-finish, and the results are delicious.


½ c almond flour

½ c coconut flour

2 tbsp butter (softened) or coconut oil

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp honey

2 ripe peaches

1 c blueberries


Preheat oven to 375.

Slice peaches thinly (I did sixteenths).  Spread over bottom of 8×8 pan.  Sprinkle blueberries evenly over peaches.

Mix almond flour and coconut flour in a medium bowl.  Work butter or coconut oil into dry ingredients.  It should look like a coarse meal.  Drizzle honey over mixture and work to incorporate.  Sprinkle over fruit and shake pan a little to distribute evenly.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until crumble begins to brown.  Serve warm or cold.

August 20, 2011

Socks of the Apocalypse

Two words: compression socks.  

It occurred to me a few weeks ago that if I couldn’t reasonably push my workouts any harder, given general job and life constraints, that there was perhaps another facet of training I could still exploit–recovery.  It stands to reason that the better my body is recovered going into a workout, the more I could get out of it, so I started doing some research on post-run nutrition and muscle-rebuilding.

The Palo Diet for Athletes does a pretty thorough job with post-run nutrition.  The book goes into a lot of subtleties, but boils down to two main points: Eat high-quality carbs within 30 minutes of finishing a workout to replace those burned from the muscle stores.  Muscles are most receptive to carb-loading directly following a strenuous workout, and in fact, the muscles most heavily used will receive the most benefit.  That means that for a short window of time, you can actually target carbs to your legs, which strikes me as really awesome science.  (This was also addressed in Bejamin Rappaport’s paper last year.)  The second stage of refueling should occur within an hour of finishing the workout, and should include a healthy serving of protein to promote muscle repair.

This is all pretty straightforward advice, but as anyone who’s tried it can attest, preparing a meal within an hour of a long run can be a challenge in itself.  I also find that I often don’t feel like eating much right after running, which can be another hurdle.  My approach has been to freeze a bottle of coconut water the night before the run, and throw that in the car when I head out in the morning.  By the time I get back, it’s thawed but still icy cold.  I’ve been drinking Zico, which has 60 calories and 13g of carbs in a small bottle.  It’s enough to get the rehydration started, and since it’s so cold and not too sweet it usually goes down easily.  I also take a Lara Bar and eat that if I feel like something solid.

For the protein, I make sure I have a few turkey or bison burger patties stashed in the freezer.  If I remember to defrost one the night before, great, but if not, it only takes a few minutes in the microwave.  I preheat the grill and the oven while I shower, and then throw on the burger and some sweet potato fries.  (Bonus if I have some leftover in the freezer.)  A grilled peach for dessert is a nice treat, too.

With the food taken care of, that brings me to the second front of my recovery offensive–the compression socks.  I’d been curious about them ever since I first saw socks going for $80 at a race expo, so I decided to find out if they were really worth the price.  Just like their less-glamorous brethren, diabetic socks, compression socks are designed to enhance blood flow through the lower legs.  The more oxygenated blood flowing through the muscles, the quicker lactate can be removed and cells repaired.  The jury still seems to be out on whether compression garments can actually enhance performance while running, but the evidence for recovery enhancement seems pretty solid.

Runner’s World reviewed a number of brands a few months ago, and I settled on the Sugoi R+R’s, which I got for $40 from Steep Planet.  I’ve worn them once for running, but have been putting them on post-run for a few hours all week.  Today I put them on immediately after my 18-miler, and I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how good my legs feel right now. My calf-guns, as I like to think of them, have been giving me some trouble all year.  It hasn’t been anything too bad, but I’ve had nagging tightness and soreness that usually requires a lot of trigger point massage after my long runs.  Today they actually feel warm and loose and I haven’t hit the foam roller at all yet.  I realized that I even walked up the two flights of stairs to my apartment after lunch today without uttering any of my usual post-long-run moan/whimpers.

I think my only regret on the socks was ordering them in white rather than black, which I could conceivably have disguised under my work clothes. Somehow I don’t think white cheerleader-style knee socks are office appropriate.

August 17, 2011


It’s only Wednesday, and I hope I don’t jinx myself here, but I think my body has finally figured out that we’re training for a marathon. My Yasso’s last night were intense, but good. I was bracing for sore legs today on my easy run, but they actually felt great. This was actually the first easy run in a long time where I really felt like I was just on cruise control.

Given my concern about muscle fatigue after the speedwork, I only switched to my NB Minima for the last 3 of my 6 miles tonight. I’ve only been wearing them for portions of my easy days, so I’ve only logged a few runs a week in them so far. Even given that limited time, I really feel like they’ve really helped smooth out the rough edges of my stride. My footfalls are definitely more even and consistent, and I feel like my running posture has improved as well. The interesting thing is that since I’ve started wearing them I’ve noticed changes in which muscles get fatigued first, regardless of whether I’m wearing the Minima that day or not. I’m optimistic that that means the adjustments are sticking. I find that for the first quarter mile or so after I put them on I tend to overthink my stride and it feels a little forced, but as soon as I relax into it everything seems to smooth out. I’m not sure how much I’ll fully integrate them into my training–whether they’ll become an everyday shoe, or more of a specialized tool–but I’m definitely hooked.

August 16, 2011

What could go wrong?

About a month ago I did what I had been regarding as a potentially foolish thing, and registered for a 10K which is being held the same weekend as my scheduled 18-miler.  I am now faced with the dilemma of how to juggle my runs this week such that I can: 1.) still fit in all my workouts, and  2.) not screw up my long run with the shifted schedule.  In keeping with last week’s Up with Fun, Down with Stress theme, I have decided that that the enjoyment factor trumps potential soreness in this case, and it will therefore all work out.  The 10K in question is my favorite race of the year, the McConnell’s Ice Cream Endurance Events in Santa Barbara.  This will be my fourth year running it, and it never fails to delight. 

 The first thing to understand here is that little local races in Santa Barbara are not like those in other places (except maybe Eugene, Oregon).  The field is fast and competitive at all ages, and it’s pretty rare to see anyone walking.    The races are cheap and low-key, and usually start with the race director shouting “Everyone know where you’re going?” at the crowd at the starting line.  There are no T-shirts, no swag bags, and minimal prizes.  It’s racing for runners, by runners.  The crown jewel of the SB racing series, at least as far as I’m concerned, is McConnell’s, which features a 5K, a 10K, a 1-mile ocean swim, and an ice cream buffet for all finishers.  The bargain basement price of $20 buys you entry to any combination of these.

 The first thing one notices when racing in SB is how hardcore everyone is.  I’ve gotten run down by 9-year-old boys and 75-year old men.  I’ve been passed by women who were both pregnant and pushing baby joggers.  The world record time for a 5K by a 12-year old girl was set at McConnell’s.  It’s pretty much an equal-opportunity ass-kicking.  It’s also a family affair.  Two years ago I watched a middle-aged woman and an adolescent boy glaring at each other as  they raced down the chute at the end of the 5K, each desperately trying to edge the other out.  As they sped by, the man in the crowd next to me cheered, “Go William, beat your mom!” 

During the same 5K, I also overheard this jewel:

IronMan Tattoo Guy: Aren’t you running today?  You did great at Night Moves last week.

Kid: I just turned 11… I only run 10K’s now.

And the ice cream… did I mention the ice cream?  Clearly it is a race not to be missed, which brings me back to my original question of how to cram everything in this week.    First of all, I’m not going to actually attempt to race the 10K the day after the long run, which will have to move to Saturday.  My schedule calls for 6 miles of Yasso’s tonight, 4 miles easy on Wednesday (Four?  Where did that come from?), and a 7-miler with 5 at tempo on Thursday.  I’m thinking I’ll punt the tempo on Thursday and make that an easy 5, which I’ll run in the morning.  That will give me almost two full recovery days before the 18, which I’m hoping will be enough to avoid the aforementioned Saturday doldrums.  That leaves the tempo, which I’m going to use as a goal pace for the 10K.  The saving grace is that next week is an easy week, so I feel like even if I end up really sore or tired after the race, I have a bit of cushion following.  Wish me luck.

August 14, 2011

Sweet Sixteen

I planned a two-pronged attack on the sixteen miler this morning.  The first was to get up with enough time to allow a full hour between eating breakfast and running.  I got up at 5:30 and had my coffee, and then made oatmeal with some cocoa powder, almond butter, and a little honey, and chased it with a banana and berry smoothie with some chia gel thrown in for good measure.  (A little Tarahumara mojo couldn’t hurt.)  Breakfast, check.

Prong two was a little more difficult, but basically boiled down to really trying to enjoy the run.  It occurred to me this morning that tackling four 4-milers didn’t really sound that bad, so I decided to approach it as such.  I really tried to relax into it, not worry about pace too much, and enjoy the scenery.  The miraculous thing is that it actually worked.  Somewhere around mile 12 I started feeling the fatigue in my legs, but the workout itself didn’t seem grueling at all.  I guess it should have been obvious all along, but I realized that stressing over every little thing for the duration of a long run was completely exhausting in itself.  I’m sure I’ll have to continue to work at relaxing on the run, but this was a good reminder to just sit back and let it flow.

On a more practical note, I tried Power Bar’s energy gels today.  I’ve been largely using Clif Gels for the past few years, but I decided to give the Power Gel’s a shot since they offer more options without caffeine.  The Power Gels are slightly larger than most of the other brands, so they require a bit more pouch or pocket space, but the upside is that they are far less viscous than the others.  The extra liquid helped them go down more easily, and I didn’t feel like I was left with raspberry paste coating my mouth for two miles.  I’ll definitely be stocking up on these this fall.

It was a good day, all around.  And now, in the spirit of Paula Radcliffe, I will be going to be at 9:30.