Archive for September, 2011

September 26, 2011


Injuries are always incredibly frustrating.  You put in the hours and the miles and gain strength, endurance, and speed.  All the elements of training are coming together, your body is becoming a well-honed tool, and suddenly one muscle or tendon can bring it all to a halt.  It feels like the ultimate betrayal. 

 I think I might actually be able to deal with it with a modicum of grace if it weren’t for the other reason injuries are incredibly frustrating: all the conflicting advice.  I spent yesterday afternoon reading as much as I could about ITB syndrome from as many sources as I could find.  I read medical literature, watched chiropractic videos on YouTube, surveyed Runner’s World and Running Times, and read running blogs.  Most of the advice was common across the board: massage, rest, ice, Advil, and lots of foam-rolling.  Then there were the assessments of how effective those treatments were, which was all over the map.  Some people insisted that rest was absolutely necessary, while others (a few doctors included), admitted that it didn’t seem to help much.  Some sources blamed ITBS on running on uneven surfaces, while others blamed treadmills and suggested trail running as an alternative.  Several articles attributed ITBS to too much speed work, and others suggested that running at slower paces aggravates the band.  Some insisted that overpronation was the problem, and stability shoes and/or orthotics were in order, while another runner claimed that he finally got over ITBS by running exclusively in his Vibrims.  It leaves a girl a little confused. 

 I ran into similar conflicting advice when I was dealing with runner’s knee a few years ago, and in the end, I found the only thing that really helped was strength training.  To that end, I have invested in a resistance band, and plan to do everything I can to build up my hips in the next few weeks.  Last night I ran through a set of the rehab exercises here:, and I definitely felt the burn in all the right (read: painful) places.  I have 6 weeks left until race day, and I hope that will be enough time to build everything up. 

 The question I’m still struggling with in the mean time is what my immediate running and mileage strategy should be.  I’ve been getting through my weeknight runs without incident, so I’m trying to decide if it really makes sense to reduce the mileage on those, when they’re currently my best hope for quality workouts.  I know that the long runs are critical, but I’m not at all sure that cutting back during the week will really have a major effect on them.  Since I’ll be travelling this week, I’m thinking that I’ll cut my weekday runs back to shorter duration, and probably eliminate one altogether to give myself an extra rest day.  Even with those concessions, I’m still a little worried, though.  The runs in Maryland will necessarily be a lot more hilly than I’m used to, and downhill running definitely seems to aggravate the problem.  Cross training isn’t really a possibility since I won’t have gym access, but as I fall-back plan, I can always do a long walk instead of a run.  I’m still hoping to get the 20 in next weekend.  In addition to the general race-preparedness issue, it will be my first chance to do a long run with the Caveboy in ages. I’d been looking forward to smoking him thanks to my fourfold advantage on mileage lately, but it looks like I might be in for an ass-kicking.

September 25, 2011

In Which I Finally Admit that I’m Injured

Even without the squid shape, still kind of bad-ass.

This was not my day.  I got up at 5:15, made my breakfast, and was on schedule when I got in the car at 6:45.  I was planning to start running at 7 and meet a friend along the way at mile 6.  I got to the end of my street and found it closed off, presumably for a race.  Traffic in LA being what it is, I feel like some sort of advanced warning might have been warranted. There were no athletes in sight yet, so I reversed course and made my way to the next major cross street, which was also closed.  From there I was directed several blocks further  west, where I was told I’d be able to cross the course.  No dice.  At that street, I was again told to keep heading west to the next open crossing a few miles up.  This went on until I had driven all the way to Venice Beach, where I was told that all of the crossings would be closed until 11:00.  I was then directed to drive north to Santa Monica and take the 10 back.  All along, I had only been trying to get 2 blocks south, and I had already driven 4 miles out of the way.  At that point, I decided that the better option was to just ditch the car and start running at the beach, doing out-and-backs as necessary to still meet my friend at the appointed time and location.  That was when I realized that the Garmin was at home on the couch.

I ended up calling my friend and cancelling our rendezvous, driving up to the 10 and back to Culver City, with the idea of retrieving the Garmin and running the race course back to the beach.  When the lead cyclist finally went by at 7:45 I determined that it was the LA Tri going on.  After a few miles of repeatedly getting shooed off the course by the police, I finally gave in and managed to cut south to my usual route on foot.

To add injury to insult, my knee started hurting about half a mile in today.  I’m at a loss here.  I ran 8 miles yesterday without any problem.  I ran back-to-back 7’s and 8’s on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday without a problem.  I’m left with the conclusion that it’s either the difference between the road surface and the treadmill, or the cumulative mileage by Sunday that’s doing it.  I suppose there’s also a the third factor of running early in the morning, when my muscles are probably tighter.  I tried running in the dirt along the bike path, running on the opposite side so that my right leg would be taking the stretch from the crown, and shortening my stride.  Nothing helped.  I made it 13 miles before I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I admit it.  I’m injured.  I’m just not sure what to do about it.

September 24, 2011

This Week’s Goals:

1. 16-miler tomorrow

2. Not succumbing to the head cold that seems to be threatening

3. Organize for next week’s long run, which will be an away game

For item one, this week’s IT band experiment will be kinesio tape. At $20 a roll, it’s a rather expensive experiment, but I’m optimistic about this one. I had visions of getting to make one of those cool squid patterns I’ve seen on other runners, but from what I can tell the IT band version is just a wide strip down the leg. So much for looking bad-ass.

My approach to item number two is pretty much a three-pronged offensive of neti-potting, high doses of vitamin C, and non-alcoholic beer. I’m not crazy on that last one – it’s actual science. Getting enough rest this week would be good, too, but with a 6 AM flight on Wednesday that seems unlikely.

Number three will require some actual planning. I’m headed to Baltimore for a long weekend to see the Caveboy, and I’ll need to squeeze in at least couple of easy runs and a 20-miler while I’m there. In addition to making sure I have all the requisite gear, I’ll also have to pack as much of my pre- and post-run nutrition as I can.  This is leading to all sorts of questions, like ‘Do I really want to try to get protein powder in a tupperware through security at LAX?’ And, ‘How many gels can I fit in a quart-sized ziploc?’ The project for tomorrow after the long run will be attempting to fit everything in my carry-on, about which I am not terribly optimistic. I always find long runs while travelling a little more stressful since they generally afford less control of pre-run preparations and food, not to mention an unfamiliar course, but it will be a good dry run for the race.

I made a run to Roadrunner Sports today to pick up the Rocktape and stock up on more gels – Hammer Apple Cinnamon and Gu Chocolate Mint, which I’ve been anxious to try ever since Frayed Laces raved about it. I also snagged some Recovery Brew, which I haven’t tried before, but it seems like a good post-run option next for next weekend that won’t require comandeering the kitchen.

In the mean time, my clothes are laid out, the coffee pot timer is set, the shuffle is loaded, and I am ready for some long-running.

September 21, 2011

Burning Questions

Somewhere around 45 miles a week, I seem to turn into a different runner. It happened last year when I was training for the Santa Barbara half marathon, and it seems to be happening again now. Six mile tempo runs felt difficult a few weeks ago, and now seven seems easy. Five miles feels like three.  Instead of worrying about whether I’ll be able to hold my pace in my speed workout, I’m wondering how far I’ll be able to push it. After two months of training I expect to be much stronger, but I’m always surprised at how it seems to come in fits and spurts.  After my fabulous long run (ignoring the knee problem) this weekend, I had a great 8-miler last night. It was scheduled as an easy run, but I bumped it up to a pace run and was actually a little disappointed when the treadmill clicked to 8.0 and it was over.  Tonight I breezed through a 7-mile tempo and even finished slightly faster than the proscribed pace.

The curious thing is that I’ve been ravenously hungry this week, pretty much  in lockstep with the improved running. I’ve been upping my protein, but nothing seems to be putting a dent in it. I can’t think of any terribly convincing arguments as to why a decrease in perceived effort in my runs should correlate to a higher burn rate, but I’m starting to seriously consider adding a fourth meal.

September 18, 2011

Sweet and Sour

Well, the deadline is over, the long run is over, and I finally have time to do the laundry. Friday was a comparatively calm day at work and I managed to make it to the Lounge Spa at lunch for a quick massage. Kiril went to town on my IT bands for a solid 20 minutes and managed to find quite a few knots that I didn’t even know I had.  I can’t say for sure, as I was face down for most of it, but I’m pretty sure there was liberal use of elbows. He also showed me to areas I can work with a golf ball during the week to keep things loose.  I left feeling a little tender and wonderfully loose, which was the ultimate goal.  My new mantra these days is “sore is better than tight.”

I was feeling so good on Saturday that I decided to go ahead with my 7-mile easy run, with the addition of the IT band strap I picked up.  The workout went fine, with the exception of the giant chaffed spot I developed behind my knee from the strap. (Honestly, I can’t win.) Still, I had no knee pain, so I went into today’s long run feeling pretty confident that I had finally gotten the problem under control.

So the good news about my 20-miler today is that the first 18 felt super easy.  It was actually the easiest long run I have done in recent memory, including that darling little 7-miler a few weeks ago.  The bad news is that there were no miles 19 and 20. I was cruising along happily for seven miles when I started to feel that dreaded ache in my knee again. It ramped up pretty quickly and I decided to play it safe and turn around at mile nine. I was pretty gimpy at the end of 16 last week, and I really didn’t want to end up trying to limp home from four miles out. I did, at least, learn the lesson of last week, and I never slowed down to more than a very brisk walk for water from mile 8 on. Cardio-wise, I was feeling great.  I actually kept experiencing speed creep the whole way back and had to keep reminding myself to rein it in a bit.  Other than the stabbing knee pain, my legs even felt fresh.  At mile 18 I was back at the car and had to make the call whether to keep going or not. I felt like I had run 10 or 12 miles at that point, not 18, and I knew I had the endurance for 20 without much problem. It was also clear that I was going to be limping soon. When a run is going well, I tend to settle into the sound of my feet on the pavement. In the last mile, though, my internal metronome had gone from pad-pad to pad-Gah!-pad-Gah! I remembered reading somewhere that plus or minus 10% on long runs doesn’t make that big of a difference, and I made the decision to just call it.

I feel bad about it, but I also feel like it was the right call. I’m not sure how to handle the next few weeks.  I should probably suspend Saturday runs, but I haven’t decided yet whether to move them to Friday or try to work the mileage by doubling up a few days a week.  I’m really happy with where my endurance is right now, and I hate to cut back the mileage during the week when I can do those runs without pain. I have the taper before the race, and I’m hoping that will be enough to alleviate things before the big day. After some hard-core foam-rolling and golf ball massage this afternoon, I was able to release my knee pretty completely, so next week is looking doable.  My plan right now is just to keep the current plan flexible. That, and Advil.

September 14, 2011

Make Mine a Double.

Ever since I watched the first season of Mad Men, one question has been looming in my mind: Would I be willing to put up with 1960’s-era sexism if it came with the ability to drink at work? Days like today, I think yes. We’ve scrambling been for a deadline this Friday for weeks now, and I’ve been struggling to get in the extra hours at work and still get all my mileage in. I’ve ended up sacrificing sleep, which I’m aware is not the greatest strategy for an endurance athlete. Anyway, I got my drawings posted to the printer today at 4:30, leaving just some file clean-up to do tomorrow. I was just thinking how nice it would be to leave work on time, when another crisis arose. I finally got that wrapped up at 7:40 and told myself that even though I was running really late for my run, I would at least be able to sleep later in the morning since I wouldn’t have to go in early.  That was then the email came in scheduling a team meeting before work.  So now, after 7 miles of speedwork, a quick chat with the Caveboy, a shower, and cooking, I’m now eating dinner at 10:45. Actually, seeing it all listed out like that, I’m impressed I got all of that done by 10:45.  Ah, the glamorous world of starchitecture.

September 13, 2011

…And We’re Back

A lost page of fractals on the bike path

Success! The new laptop is networked and operational. I still have a lot of file migration ahead of me, but I do have a working screen and keyboard, and I’ll take what I can get. 

Sunday’s long run was something of a mixed bag.  It was a 16-miler and the first run of the next four-week build-up series. Cardio-wise, it felt great. The first 8 miles felt easy and I was able to push the pace a bit on the way back. This one felt much easier than the first 16, and I was pleased at how much my endurance has improved since then. The disappointment of the run was that I felt my hip start to tighten up at the half-way point, and by the last few miles, the pain in my knee really amped up.  It was manageable while I was running, but when I took a quick walk break for Gatorade at mile 14 it nearly undid me.  Starting up again was terrible, and the only thing that kept me running was that walking seemed to hurt just as much. This worries me for a number of reasons.  Just for starters, this is week 1 of the build-up, and I have alternating 20’s and 16’s for the next three weeks.  Everything seemed to have settled down during the recovery week, so I was surprised when things started going south only 8 miles in this week. I’ve scheduled a massage for Friday and I’m going to keep on the foam-rolling regimen until then. 

On to more delicious topics. I have a number of recipes I’ve been meaning to post for a few weeks now.  The first are these energy bars, courtesy of Dana Carpender at Hold the Toast.  I’ve been looking for a good pre-run snack for easy days, when I don’t need carbs to fuel the workout.  These are a rehash of a recipe posted on Mark’s Daily Apple, which I’ve also tried.  I liked the flavor of the MDA version, but found the texture to be too crumbly for any sort of transport. Dana Carpender is a strict low-carber, not paleo, so I made a few modifications to her recipe and came up with an energy bar that suits me perfectly. I eliminated the erythritol and splenda and sweetened with about a tablespoon of honey.  I also left out the currents and used dark chocolate chips.  

Primal Energy Bars Redux

1/2 cup shelled almonds
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup shredded coconut meat — divided
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons erythritol
2 tablespoons splenda
1/2 teaspoon salt — preferably sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/4 cup almond meal
1 egg
3 tablespoons currants
3 tablespoons carbsmart chocolate chips, chopped a bit smaller

Pre-heat oven to 325. Put your almonds and pecans in a shallow baking dish — a jelly roll pan is good — and slide ’em in. Set the timer for 5 minutes. When it goes off, shake the pan, add 1/4 cup of the coconut, and shake again. Let the whole thing toast for another five minutes.

Dump your toasted nuts in the food processor, with the S-blade in place. Pulse until they’re chopped medium-fine — some like breadcrumbs, some still in chunks a little smaller than a pea.

In a microwaveable mixing bowl, combine the almond butter and coconut oil, and zap ’em for about 30 seconds at 50% power — you just want to melt the oil and soften the almond butter a little. You can do this while your nuts are toasting. Stir the almond butter and coconut oil together.

Stir in the vanilla extract, the two sweeteners (you can use all erythritol, if you prefer), the salt, and the cinnamon into the almond butter/coconut oil mixture. Now stir in the nut mixture, the almond meal, and the vanilla whey protein.

Now add the egg, and stir it in thoroughly.

Finally, stir in the currants and chocolate chips. (If your currants are a bit dry — mine were — put them in a custard cup with a little water and nuke them for 30 seconds or so on high, then let them sit for a couple of minutes. They’ll turn soft again.)

Turn the mixture out into an 8×8 baking pan you’ve sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Press it firmly into an even layer.

Slide the pan into the oven, and set your timer for 7 minutes. When it goes off, sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of coconut over the top, and slide ’em back in for another 7-10 minutes. Then remove from oven, and let them cool in the pan a bit before cutting into 12 bars. Store in a snap-top container.


My other great food discovery this week was Health-Bent. I haven’t had a chance to try any of the recipes yet, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the food porn in the mean time. I have a deadline at work this week, which means that my early mornings, evenings, and weekends have not been my own lately. It also means that I’ve been on the hunt for quick recipes that are still made of real food. Last night I tried this one from Ruth Reichl, which was fantastic. This is the kind of recipe I love – a few simple ingredients, minimal prep-time, and a really flavorful result. Enjoy! 

Spiced Chicken

Serves 4

Active Time: 10 minutes Start to finish: 45 minutes.

Fragrant and deeply savory, this spice rub balances the heat of chili powder and black pepper with the more floral notes of coriander and cinnamon. It jazzes up bland chicken breasts nicely, and legs give even juicier results. The quick pan sauce adds an extra shot of flavor.

2 teaspoons chili powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 chicken breast halves (with skin and bones)

or 4 whole chicken legs, thighs and drumsticks separated if desired, rinsed and patted dry

½ cup water

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to


Stir together spices, salt, and 1 tablespoon oil. Rub

evenly all over chicken.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch ovenproof heavy skillet over moderately high heat until

hot but not smoking. Brown chicken, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes.

Turn chicken skin side up, transfer skillet to oven, and roast until just cooked through, 16 to 18 minutes for breasts, about 25 minutes for legs. Transfer to a platter.

Add water to pan and deglaze by boiling over high heat, scraping up brown bits, for 1 minute. Transfer sauce to a bowl and skim off fat.

Serve chicken with sauce on the side.

September 6, 2011

We might be a little light on posts this week at the Cavegirl.  I seem to have had a complete computing breakdown this weekend.  First, the screen on my current laptop died. It’s an old office cast-off of indeterminate age, so it was no great surprise, but I’m always pained by system failure.  After some finagling, I do have it displaying through the tv, thus sustaining my netflix habit, but typing on it is ergonomically questionable. My VGA cable is only long enough to reach directly in front of the TV, so in order to see the screen I have to sit on the floor and wrench my neck up at 90 degrees.

Like any good MIT alum, though, I am a one-person, two-computer household, so I hauled out my old laptop and fired it up. I’ve had it since grad school, but it’s always been a solid workhorse. When the new version of Windows became too much for it a few years ago, I switched it over to Linux (yes, I am just that geeky), and it’s been chugging along fine ever since.  I hadn’t used it in a few months, though, and I quickly discovered that a few things had gone awry since then. The 5 and m keys only work intermittently, so I largely have to copy-paste them now. The left shift key has stopped functioning completely, which you wouldn’t think would be such a problem, since it’s redundant. Unfortunately, I lost interest in the typing tutor program in fourth grade sometime after the lesson on the left shift, but before I got to the right, so I actually never, ever use the right shift key.  Surprisingly, I’ve never found it to be a hindrance until now. Anyway, a new laptop is on the way from Dell, but in the mean time there may be some flawed capitalization. Maybe I’ll try an e e cummings-styled post next time.

In actual running-related news, I ran 7 miles of speedwork tonight with no IT band issues at all! Then again, the gym seemed to once again being having HVAC issues (77 in the cardio room), so maybe it was some kind of Bikram-induced flexibility. (That’s right, I’m talking to you, Culver-Palms Y. For a gym that shares much of it’s membership base with AARP, you’re playing it kind of fast and loose with the climate control.) Anyway, I’m planning to keep up the diligent foam-rolling, and to keep rocking the compression socks to keep my calf-guns happy. Here’s hoping.

September 4, 2011

Quality Time with the Foam Roller

It’s the last official day of Recovery Week, and I’m happy to report that my IT band does seem to be steadily improving.  Today was my first back-to-back run since the trouble started, so I was anxious to see how I would feel. I did quite a bit of foam-rolling and trigger point massage yesterday, both before and after my run. All the hotspots were extra sore this morning, which I’ve actually found to be a good indicator that the trigger points are loosening up. Still, it’s never any fun running when you’re sore, and today was no exception. I only had seven miles to do, so I did my best to relax into it and just let the motion work out the soreness.

I realized today that I’ve been reaching for my NB Minima after my runs for the last few weeks. It seems counterintuitive that shoes that provide less support would be good for recovery, but they really have become my preferred option, particularly after long runs. I think the fact that they require all the smaller stabilizing muscles to engage helps to relieve the larger, overworked ones a bit. The ultra-low heel also gives the calves a nice stretch, which I can always use. The other major benefit is that they don’t aggravate the blisters and chaffings of my regular running shoes.

And while we’re on the subject, let’s discuss the chaffing for a moment. How do ultrarunners do it? It seems that somewhere around 16 miles, a whole different set of criteria starts to apply to running bras, and seams of any form become the enemy. I’m pretty liberal with the Glide, but there seem to be new surprises every week. It’s not even so much that the long run chaffing is so unbearable, it’s just that as soon as it’s getting reasonably well healed, it’s time for another one and the process starts all over again. I feel like all this re-opening of wounds is going to leave me permanently scarred, and chaffing scars just don’t sound all that tough. “Well, you see, that one was where the seam of my shirt roughed me up pretty good. It was a wicking fabric, but they can get mighty ornery once they get a little salty.” Does anyone have any advice on this?

September 2, 2011

Moving Forward

My Wednesday night date with the bike started out optimistically enough.  I had the foresight to pack my Kindle in my gym bag, and, despite my general dislike of stationary biking, I was looking forward to having a solid hour to read. I just stared the very Paleo Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature, by Brian Switek. (I have to admit that I never grew out my dinosaur phase.) I had just settled into a nice easy pace on the bike and was reading a rather charming anecdote about Victorians mis-assembling skeletons when the Kindle popped up a low battery warning. Curses! I love my Kindle, but I would have paid handsomely for a good old-fashioned paperback just then. I fought through another 25 minutes of mind-numbing boredom before I gave in and decided to focus on some strength training for the remainder of the hour. The good news is that the day off running did seem to help the IT band. I’ve been foam-rolling religiously and trying to work out any deep down knots with a lacrosse ball. I was able to run my 7-miler last night without too much pain, though my knee did start to tighten up again around mile 5. It seemed to ease up as soon as I stopped running, though, which was a big improvement from a few days ago. This morning it still feels a little sore, but I’m hopeful that the rest day today will help things along. From what I’ve read, it usually takes 2 or 3 weeks of massage to really get everything loose again, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be on the mend before my next real long run next weekend.