Archive for October, 2011

October 29, 2011

Paleo Pumpkin Cookies

 

I love all things pumpkin, and today I decided to try making paleo pumpkin cookies.  I’m delighted with the results–they are light, delicate, and delicious, and my apartment smells like pumpkin pie.  What more could a girl ask for?  Here’s the recipe:

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup stevia

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

4 tbsp. coconut oil

3/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine dry coconut flour, spices, stevia, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl.  Combine eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla in medium bowl.  Add wet ingredients to dry and fold in nuts, if using.  Spoon onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes.  Enjoy!

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen cookies.

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October 25, 2011

Lessons Learned

Rather than focusing on the race I’m not running, I’ve decided to put my attention on all of the training I have done, and try to learn from it for next time.  In the past three months I have run over 450 miles, which is a much higher volume than I’ve ever sustained before.  I’m proud of all the work that I did, but there are definitely changes I will make next time.  A lot of my problems started because I ramped up both my mileage and the intensity too quickly.  I would have preferred to spend a few more weeks in the 30-40 mile range early on, and the last weeks before the taper above 50, rather than hanging out around 45 miles for two months solid.  I also will probably look for plans that cycle 3:1 hard and easy weeks, rather than the 4:1 that I attempted.  Another thing I will probably keep in mind next time is that recovery days (and weeks) are actually part of the schedule, not just opportunities to sneak in a few more miles.  I will get massaged early and often. 

Probably the biggest thing I would change next time is to not let the marathon become bigger and more important than it is.  I will try to focus on the training for its own sake more than the race as an end goal.  I actually enjoy training more than racing anyway, so it seems like that shouldn’t be an issue for me, but somehow it’s still easy to get carried away with the excitement and importance of one day.  I think a lot of that stress comes from the fact that training at that level really does start to creep into every aspect of your life.  You’re literally eating, sleeping, and breathing the marathon for months on end.  For myself at least, I think I need approach it within the larger context of the season, and not as a huge build-up to four hours of running.

The idea of approaching a season as a whole is also new to me.  Living in Southern California doesn’t do much to reinforce any sort of cyclical time, for one thing.  I tend to keep my running volume pretty constant all year long, with peaks when a race strikes my fancy.  I think I would benefit from taking a longer-term view of things, both in terms of goals and strategies.  More to come on this….

October 23, 2011

Rebuilding

I am working hard to stay positive, and in that spirit, the best thing I can say about this week is that it’s almost over.  I officially deferred my marathon entry until 2012 yesterday, which was the right decision, but was depressing nonetheless.  For the last few weeks I’ve been struggling through the IT band pain, telling myself that if I could just get through X number of miles, the marathon might still be possible. I’ve been stressing myself out in every workout and feeling more and more upset when things didn’t go well.  Even though I had ostensibly decided not to do the marathon last week, I knew deep down that as long as I still had my race number waiting I was just going to keep torturing myself with the possibility.  I was hoping that once the pressure was off I’d be able to start enjoying my runs again, but I think I’ve stressed myself into a case of the running yips.  I know I’m probably in the best shape of my life right now, and yet I have to fight through even short runs. To top all that off, my office had layoffs on Friday and a few of my close friends lost their jobs.

I guess the flip side is that I’ve realized how much I have to be grateful for this week.  I’m still gainfully employed, which is feeling like no small accomplishment at this point.  The IT band injury isn’t anything serious and will just take time to heal.  I’m thankful that I’m still able to work out, even in a much more limited capacity than a few weeks ago.  The hard part of this has been that I generally work out my stress and anxiety with running, and that outlet is less available to me right now. Running until I’m completely exhausted and too tired to worry about whatever is bothering me isn’t a prudent option at the moment. I felt like I really need a good hard workout today–the kind that would leave me sore, aching, and tired.  I ran a slow 3-miler on the treadmill and then committed myself to doing some good, hard strength training.  I know that I neglect strengthening and I’ve paid for it with the IT band problem, so it seems like a good opportunity to work on building strength and power. I worked until my quads were shaking and my hamstrings were on fire, and it felt good. I know that getting through this setback will make me a better runner, and I just need to stay focused on that.

October 21, 2011

Bad News

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this week about the race, and I’ve been putting off posting until I came to a decision.  My IT band is not getting better.  I tried to run my 20-miler again last weekend, and my knee started to lock up 9 miles in.  The fact that I haven’t been getting all my mileage in for the last several weeks has been stressing me out and making me even more nervous about the marathon.  I seemed to be lost in a vicious cycle of “needing” to get through a run to prove to myself that I can do the race, and then that added pressure making the run even more stressful and miserable when it doesn’t work out.  I haven’t enjoyed a workout in weeks, but I am also heartbroken at the thought of not being able to run New York.  Like most first-time marathoners, I’ve subjected everyone I know to constant discussions of training, and I feel like I’d be letting everyone down by pulling out.  On the other hand, I don’t want my first marathon to be a painful, miserable event. 

 Right now, I’m working on a Plan B, which involves backing off my training a bit and running a half marathon in a month or two.  I feel like the breathing room will help with the injury and take the pressure off having to “hold up” through 26 miles.  I don’t want to abandon the marathon without another goal in sight—I feel like that would just be depressing and leave a major void where all my energy has been for months now.  I’m still going to attempt to get through the taper and if things have miraculously improved, I may still run, though with no expectations.  For now, as much as it saddens me, I think it’s wise to take the pressure off getting there and focus on just enjoying my runs and getting better.

October 14, 2011

Progress on Multiple Fronts

Things are looking up.  I ran 3 miles on Wednesday night, which felt arduous, but much, much better than my run on Sunday.  It didn’t help that the air conditioning at the gym had once again failed during our heat wave, and I was stuck on the treadmill in the corner with no air movement.  (I’m beginning to suspect that the entire HVAC system in the cardio room is just decorative.)  Last night was just as warm, but the run went much better. I was hoping to get 5 miles in, and planned to do more if I felt up to it.  I managed 6 before my knee started to hurt, and could have done more, at least from a cardio-standpoint.  I usually take Fridays off, but I’m debating doing my Saturday mileage tonight for a couple of reasons.  First, I may end up working tomorrow, and I don’t want to be stressed about missing more time on the treadmill if things run late.  Also, I’m thinking that giving myself (and my knee) a break before the 20 on Sunday might be wise. 

Earlier this week I placed an order for NuBound, the supplement that Dick Beardsley swore by.  I’m generally not much of a supplement person, but I read a Runner’s World review of recovery supplements and decided that it was worth a try.  According to the product literature it takes about a week to kick in, and I’m anxious to see if I notice a difference. 

I mentioned a few days ago that I planned to use the taper time to focus on my mental game for the race.  I’ve been plagued by pre-race jitters in the past that I know have severely compromised my performance.  I’ve laid awake the entire night before several races and arrived at the starting line feeling sluggish and miserable.  My nerves have also tended to manifest as stomach cramps and general digestive unhappiness during the race.  Fighting through the fatigue and discomfort drain my mental energy, and before I know it, I’m flooded with all sorts of negative thoughts.  With all that, you would wonder why I still race at all.  For one thing, not all my races are that difficult.  When I go in feeling confident, I’m fine and can perform well.  The problems only really seem to arise when I’m afraid of the race.  In the past, I’ve dealt with that fear by over-preparing, running further than the race distance, and running a few long runs at race pace.  For the marathon, those methods aren’t really an option, though.

I’ve been reading a few books on sports psychology, focusing primarily 10-Minute Toughness by Jason Selk.  He promotes visualization as a critical tool for success, and it’s something I was able to use very effectively back in my figure skating days as a kid.  When it comes to visualizing running, though, I find it a much more difficult task.  A skating routine is completely choreographed and has a well-defined standard of execution, so it’s easy to imagine performing each element as perfectly as possible.  There are a wide range of muscle memories to tap into, too, which always helped me feel physically engaged in the visualization.  Races, on the other hand, are long, the motion is repetitive, and they’re somewhat difficult to picture if you don’t know the course well.  The other problem I have in visualizing races is that when I get into an immersive storytelling mode I don’t really have any specifics to focus on and my imagination starts to run away with all the things that could go wrong.  The visualizations become and endless stream of possible disasters, with me struggling to get things back on track by trying to imagine myself handling each calamity positively.  Somehow, I don’t think that’s a very effective tool to quell my anxiety.

After mulling over the predicament for a while, I think I may have hit upon a solution.  I wrote a page-long script describing the race exactly as I want to happen.  It was easier to construct this in writing, I found, than by trying to create it on the fly as a mental movie.  I wrote my script in the past tense, with the theory that I would be creating the illusion that I have already run the marathon, and it was awesome. I didn’t think that just re-reading the text would really tap into the same consciousness as visualization, though, so I decided that I needed to get it into audio format.  I briefly considered recording myself reading it, but ruled that out with the idea that the sound of my own voice would be way too distracting.  I though of having the Caveboy, or a friend to read it, but again, I didn’t really want to associate the visualization with a specific person.  In the end, I uploaded the script to a text-to-speech converter, and I now have my scenario in mp3 format, read in a slow, soothing British accent.  I used ABC2Mp3, which is free and has fairly realistic-sounding voices with speed control.  In a moment of inspiration, I added a track of Chariots of Fire under the spoken word.  Voila—a completely personalized guided visualization of my race. 

I started doing my new and improved visualization last night, and I do feel like this is a positive step towards running a strong and enjoyable race.  I was able to get into the emotion of the event without going off track and letting the worries take over.  It occurs to me that this would also be a useful method to insert positive encouragement, useful reminders, or mantras into a running playlist.  I haven’t decided yet if I would find that helpful or annoying, but having a built-in voice of reason when the blood sugar gets low is definitely worth considering.

October 12, 2011

Running in Circles

I haven’t run since Sunday and I’m feeling like a total mess.  Yesterday I woke up with my knee and hip aching, which seemed strange given the lack of running.  I am hopeful that the change indicates that some sort of healing process is happening, and not that it’s getting worse even with rest.  My cough is still lingering, but seems less persistent than it was this weekend.  I foam-rolled pretty thoroughly last night and was a little surprised how tight everything was despite the time off.  My plan was to resume running tonight, provided that I was feeling up to it, so I’ve been trying to assess what will constitute being “up to it.”  From what I’ve read, mood is the most obvious indicator of overtraining, and many articles suggested that it was safe to return to training once the irritability and anxiousness pass.  My problem is that not running makes me irritable and anxious.  For the first time in more than a week I couldn’t sleep last night, and I awoke feeling panicky and stressed.  I’m worried about going back to training and having it go badly.  I’m worried about taking too much time off.  I’m also pretty sure if I keep worrying about it, my run tonight will go badly.  One thing’s for sure – if I’m going to kick some ass at this race, I need to figure out how to calm down.

October 10, 2011

Bookshelf Monday

I keep meaning to post about my current Kindle obsession, Nina Planck’s wonderful Real Food: What to Eat and Why.  It’s a very thorough and well-written discussion of traditional versus industrial foods, with enough science to keep me happy without getting bogged down in too much O-chem.  I’m sure my family and friends are now tired of me calling them to share fun facts about cholesterol, but it really is quite interesting.  The Cavegirl recommends!

October 10, 2011

Rest Week 2.0

Let’s talk about overtraining.  My run on Sunday was so bad I’m not further depress myself by writing a description.  Suffice it to say that it was painful, frustrating, and short.  If I had any lingering doubts whether I was overtrained, they were all laid to rest yesterday.  I have no one to blame but myself—I saw this coming weeks ago and I chose to largely ignore it.  I’m now left with no choice but to take some time off this week and hope that I’ll be sufficiently recovered for my last 20-miler next weekend.  Coming to that realization was actually a bit of a relief.  As evidenced by my posts the last few weeks, I’ve been cranky, tired, and struggling with my workouts.  Last week I actually entertained skipping a night just because I didn’t really feel like running, which is pretty much unheard of for me.  I can’t remember the last time that I just didn’t want to run. 

 I’m recommitting myself this week to getting lots of sleep.  I haven’t been sleeping that well lately, but it seems no matter how much sleep I get, I’m still tired.  I’ve also been insanely hungry lately, and I’ve decided that this week will be high-protein, high-fat, and as much of both as I want.  I’m nervous about taking time off in what should have been the peak of my training, but I can’t come up with any alternatives.  I was able to do the 20 last week without much trouble, so I know that the fitness is there.  Assuming I feel up to it, I plan to hit the speedwork hard during the taper.  I’ve also been reminding myself that this is my first full marathon and there’s no point in stressing about a time goal, particularly if it’s putting my training in jeopardy.  In the mean time, I’m going to focus on visualization this week and trying to get back into things mentally.  With a few days off from running, I might even have time to clean my apartment.

October 7, 2011

Missing in Action: My Mojo

It’s been over four years now since I started running seriously, in which time I’ve logged hundreds of hours and thousands of miles.  One of the major attractions for me is that every run is an opportunity to surprise yourself, which seems to happen far too rarely in adulthood.  After half a dozen half marathons, I felt ready to explore new territory with a marathon.  I knew that doubling the distance would pose plenty of new challenges beyond simple endurance.  I was not expecting it to be different territory altogether.  I love the half marathon distance, and I’m sure I’ll go back to it again and again, but I have to say that marathon training has felt like a deeper level of running somehow.  There is an intensity to it that is, of course, more physically taxing, but it also demands much more mental focus and stamina than I ever imagined.  There’s the obvious stuff, like keeping oneself entertained and positive through a 20-miler, but more than that, there’s the discipline required to stay engaged in four months of training.  It’s been a constant learning experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

That said, I feel like I hit the mental wall this week.  Before my trip last week I was banging out 8-mile tempo runs like they were nothing.  This week I’ve been battling through overwhelming disinterest to get through even my easy runs.  I’m drowning in boredom and fatigue and fighting a persistent cough and a sore throat that seems to come and go with a slight breeze.  I remember reading about “August Injuries” in Hal Higdon’s marathon training book, which was his catch-all term for the injuries, fatigue, and overtraining that always surfaced in his runners 10 weeks or so before the Chicago Marathon.  My IT band hit right on schedule at the beginning of September, and a bit of overtraining seems to be catching up with me now.  I’m surprised that it’s happened after my easy week back East, though in truth, that probably doesn’t really qualify as a recovery week.  I still ran 39 miles, a lot of them hilly, and finished with my fastest 20-miler yet.  That, combined with the lack of sleep that week, probably did not boost my reserves.  I know I’m on the verge of being overtrained.  I’ve been trying to think of ways to shake up my routine without adding stress all week.  At the moment I’m flirting with the idea of driving up to Santa Barbara for my long run for a change of terrain and scenery.  It’s a long drive for a run, but the lure of a dirt path, slightly cooler temperatures, and a fish burrito after may outweigh it.    Especially the burrito.

October 6, 2011

Running in the Midweek Doldrums

I’m just going to put this out there: Advil, if you’re looking to sponsor an endurance athlete, I’m your girl.  I will proudly don ‘Vitamin I’ singlets, sports bras (provided they don’t chafe), and hats.  I should mention that I do have a strict rule about not plastering words across my ass, but that’s really my only caveat.  I already tout the virtues of your product to anyone who will listen.  I’ve got great ideas, too.  How about Recovery Mix—a trail mix with chocolate-covered Advil?  Ibuprofen-infused energy gel?  Gold.  Also, I could use some free samples. 

Thanks, I think, to my Advil, ice, and rehab routine, my hip and knee seem to be improving this week.  My general endurance, however, has been sub-par.  I ran an easy 8 on Tuesday, which didn’t actually feel difficult, but was laborious nonetheless.  Yesterday I was still feeling tired and decided to swap my tempo run for Thursday’s easy 7, which I ended up turning into an easy 6.  I know I’m still behind on sleep and getting back on track after all the holiday meals last week, but I just don’t feel like myself on the running front.  This was actually supposed to be an easy week after the 20, but I was planning to go full-steam to make up for my missed miles over the last few weeks. 

I’ve continued my appetite-in-overdrive streak this week, which has convinced me that I may not actually be eating enough to support my mileage.  After being away last week I don’t have a stash of protein prepared ahead, so I’m planning to do a lot of cooking this weekend.  If all goes well, there will also be a lot of lounging around and watching football, too.