Archive for April, 2015

April 21, 2015

Musings on More

As evidenced by my posts the last few weeks, I went into the More/SHAPE/Fitness/Idontknowwhatelse Half Marathon on Sunday with mixed feelings.  It’s only been a little over a month since my huge PR at the NYC Half, and I raced a solid 4-miler in Central Park last weekend.  I’ve been ramping up the tri training over the last several weeks, though, and I’ve been cycling (no pun intended) between feeling like I’m on the verge of overtraining, backing off, panicking because I’m not training enough, ramping up, and repeating.  My big toe stopped squeaking this week, but now it hurts in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of the early stages of my stress fracture in the fall.  (I actually had an anxiety dream two nights before the half that all of my joints were squeaking like the Tin Man.)  Needless to say that when I toed the line on Sunday morning, it was with mixed emotions.

I scored a Wave 1 start for the race, and for the first time ever I actually lined up right at the tape.  That was mainly to get a view of Deena Kastor (squeeee!) RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.  When the gun went off I attempted to hang with her for about 25 feet, and all I can say is that seeing an elite runner up close was both incredibly humbling and slightly terrifying.  In the thrill of chasing Deena I laid down a sub-7 first mile, which was probably not wise.  I tried to back it off a bit on the next couple, but running with the front pack was throwing me off and I kept finding myself speeding up.  It wasn’t long before the initial excitement wore off though, and I started feeling a bit flat.  My left quad was worryingly tight, and even though my toe wasn’t hurting much I was also fretting about worsening that injury.  To add to the fun, I could feel the early twinges of a side stitch forming, probably thanks to the breakneck speed at the start.

The course was just over two loops of Central Park, and I knew the key would be to keep my effort consistent between the uphills and downhills. I kept the pace in check for the first trip up the Harlem Hills and made up some time on the back side, but knew that pacing on round two would be tougher.  I had my first gel when I passed the starting line again, six miles in.  Almost immediately I felt the side stitch twinges solidify into a Side Stitch From Hell, a la the Baltimore Marathon.  This time I at least had more core strength on my side, though, and I found that if I kept my upper abs totally engaged and breathed very low in my belly that the pain was manageable.  I continued this way for about a mile and a half, breathing in for three steps and out for two, and eventually the cramp seemed to ease a bit.  For most of that time I fantasized about dropping out, calling my mom and the Caveboy and telling them I DNF’d.  Usually that kind of thinking would motivate and refocus me, but this time I just didn’t seem care that much.  I kept running, pretty much on pace, so I guess I did care, but I just could not find my mojo.  At some point the 1:45 pace group leader caught up with me, and I hung with her group until the next aid station, which they walked through.  They caught me again just before the second trip up the Harlem Hills, and and I was happy to tuck in and let them take care of pacing for a while.  About a mile later I heard the leader say something about the pace being off, and they sped up a bit.  They pulled away over the next mile, and while I kept them in sight, I never made a serious effort to catch them.

By that point my main concern was my left quad, which was still cranky.  I was hoping it wouldn’t cramp up with the downhill stretch through the bottom of the park, and knew I should be drinking more and taking in another gel.  I was still wary about the side stitch returning, but I finally decided it was worth the risk and took a gel around the 11 mile mark.  We still had a couple of rolling sections left, and the course was becoming increasingly crowded with the walkers that we were lapping.  I’m all for athletes of all abilities taking part in these events, and I’m a firm believer that the last person across the finish line has every bit as much right to the course as the first.  Participating in a road race demands a certain level of awareness, however.  Whether you’re running fast, slow, or walking, you’re part of an athletic competition.  Walking four-abreast and blocking the entire lane and forcing other runners into the grass or the bike lane IS NOT GOOD RACING ETIQUETTE.  I definitely paid for the clear sailing at the start with a lot of bobbing and weaving on the second lap when I was physically and mentally drained.  By the time we turned off at the 72nd Street cutoff to the finish line, I was pretty fried.  I managed to ramp up the pace to the low 7’s for the last 800m or so, picked off two runners in the chute, and ended up finishing in 1:45:33.  It was certainly a solid time, and one I would have been thrilled with last season.  I should be thrilled with it now.  It was just over 2 minutes slower than my PR last month, but the course was much more difficult and the day was at least 15 degrees warmer.  Given how generally flat I felt, it was a really solid performance.  I finished 44th in my age group and 280th/7,500ish overall, which is certainly respectable.  Still, I’m disappointed. I can’t tell if it’s just that I gave up a little bit mentally and stopped fighting for this one, or if it’s part of a bigger issue.  Last year I actually scheduled quality time with myself after key races to reflect how things were going and make any adjustments to my training going forward.  I haven’t done that this year, and I think it might be time.

My biggest concern right now is my toe and whether I’m headed for another stress fracture.  If so, it most likely points to female athlete triad syndrome and the possible need to rethink both my training schedule and nutrition.  There’s so much there to unpack that I am going to leave it for a separate post, but suffice it to say that the threat is weighing heavily on me.  It’s way too early in the season to be worrying about major injuries and overtraining.  My big-picture goal is getting to Boston in the next year or two.  That means prioritizing my overall fitness  and staying healthy so that I’m able to train consistently.  To that end, I’ve decided that for at least the next week or two, my fitness goals are as follows:

 

  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
  • Eat more calories than I think I’m burning each day.
  • Institute a biking boot camp and substitute biking for all run workouts until the toe shows signs of improvement.
  • Stretch every day.
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April 14, 2015

Still Squeaky

On Sunday I had the Run For the Parks 4-miler, another NYRR race in my quest for the 9+1 and guaranteed entry for the 2016 NYC Marathon.  After a 20-mile bike ride on Saturday I was in no mood to get myself up and in Central Park by 7:45 AM for a race that—if all went well—was going to take me less an half an hour. Off I went, though, hoping that my tired legs and squeaky toe were up for it.  The subways can be kind of a crapshoot on Sunday mornings, so I allowed a lot of extra time for travel and ended up (for once) arriving a good bit early for the race.  It was still fairly cool out so I used the time to warm up and probably put in close to a mile before I started working my way to the start.  I hadn’t run since Tuesday due to the toe squeak, so I was anxious to get some strides in and feel out a good race pace before we started.  I was hoping for a pace in the low 7’s, but every time I thought I was probably approaching that and checked the Garmin, my pace was actually low 7’s/high 8’s.  It didn’t seem like the best sign, but I finally hit it and held it long enough for it to sink into my brain and then headed off to the start.

The race had a strong turnout, which is great since 100% of the proceeds go to park programs, but 8,000+ people in Central Park does get a bit crowded.  I was in the third corral thanks to my Prospect 4-miler time, and I figured having fast people around me would help a lot with the pacing.  We got off to a quick start and I focused on breathing and finding a good rhythm.  I pushed pretty hard and I really don’t remember much of the race other than trying and succeeding in overtaking some chic in a Boston Athletic Association jacket, and dropping one of my gloves half a mile from the finish.  That was upsetting because 1) they’re my favorite lucky running gloves, and 2) I knew it was stupid to try to take them off when I was that close to the end.  I clocked in at 28:55, which was 7:14 splits—30 seconds/mile better than my Prospect 4-miler in February.  As soon as I cleared the chute I worked my way back to where I dropped the glove, waited for a break in the runners, and did something resembling one of those football player drills to dart out, grab the glove off the ground, and then run back to the curb without disrupting the flow of the race.  Thus reunited with my gloves, I headed back to the finish to wait for LRB, who was running with a newbie friend.  When the results were posted it turned out that I had finished 13th in my age group and 103rd overall woman, which, given the field size, is probably my best finish ever.  It was totally the gloves.

After the race and some brunch with LRB and his friend, I hit the pool to work on the two-beat kick we had learned in class last week.  (And by “learned” I mean attempted with much awkward flailing.)  Since I had already put in a hard cardio effort I decided just to really focus on technique on the swim.  I spent 30 minutes kicking down the pool one length on my back, then working on the two-beat kick swimming back.  Since I could catch my breath on the kicking lengths, it took some of the pressure off timing the breathing with the two-beat, and by the end I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it.  I suspect that my kick form could still use some work, though.  It feels more like flinging something icky off my foot than a singular flutter kick, but I think it’s progress nonetheless.

This weekend I also officially joined the Brooklyn Tri Club, and we had our first bike workout of the season bright and early this morning.  I was able to hang with the other newbies, but I am getting my first bout of seriously cold feet for the upcoming races.  When I started this whole tri endeavor, it was the swim that scared me.  Now it’s the bike that I find myself dreading.  Despite all the time I spent on the trainer this winter, being on the road is a whole different world.  I find riding in traffic really nerve-wracking, and I still find  the feeling of being clipped in terrifying challenging.  After my ride on Saturday I decided to wear running shoes when I’m riding on the streets for the time being, and only clip in when I’m in the park or otherwise out of traffic.  That has at least eased some of the anxiety I have when cabs are whizzing by me inches from my elbow.

I’m actually surprised at how vulnerable I feel when I’m just riding fast in the park, though.  I love going fast on skis or skates, but on the bike I just keep thinking about broken bones and road rash.  This morning we were working on keeping a fast cadence and spinning on the small chain ring, and I was having a really hard time convincing myself to pedal downhill.  I hope know that a lot of this will work itself out as I get more comfortable on the bike and log some more road time.  My first sprint tri is a month away, though, and I feel woefully underprepared at the moment.  I’ve been focused on running these past few months and I still haven’t done a real brick workout, let alone an open water swim.  I need to just sit down and layout my training calendar for the next four weeks, get the key workouts scheduled, and I know I’ll feel a lot better. But between work, training, and minimal sleep requirements I can’t seem to find the time.  Also, I’m getting worried about the squeaky toe.  Before the stress fracture, I would have just run on it and not worried unless I could hear it over my ipod, but now I’m afraid of another boot-bound month and lost training hours.  I keep reminding myself that part of the reason I wanted to do the tri was for the challenge—to learn to swim properly, to get better at biking, and to do something that a few years ago I thought I could never, ever do.  Then there’s the part of me that keeps screaming, “screw this!  I just want to run!”  One of these days, she’ll come around, right?

April 9, 2015

Passover Running and a Squeaky Toe

The past few weeks have been a blur of deadlines, lots of training, and totally inadequate sleep.  By last Wednesday the cracks were starting to appear and I was starting to feel the warning signs of overtraining.  We were headed to Balitmore on Thursday to spend Passover with the Caveboy’s family, so I was looking forward to catching up on some sleep and having a good excuse to back off the 2-a-days.  We had a lovely holiday, but between the cooking and Seders I’m pretty sure I ended up more sleep-deprived that before.  I did manage to get some good runs, though possibly a little too good.

I’ve nearly eliminated easy runs from my schedule to make room for the biking and swimming, and the result has been that I’m now finding pacing much more difficult when I do have an easy day.  I went out for a 6-miler on Friday and a 7 on Saturday with the intention of keeping my heart rate down and running 9:30-10 minute pace.  The neighborhood around the Caveboy’s home is relentlessly rolling, though, and I found myself continually charging up hills, realizing it, and then trying to bring the pace down on the downhills, which never works.  On Sunday I had semi-tired legs and 12 miles at 8:13 pace on the schedule.  It was one of those days where I really wanted to have done my run, but not to actually do it.  For starters, nutrition was a challenge since most of my usual pre-run foods were not kosher for Passover.  While avoiding leavened bread and corn syrup has never been a major issue for me, we also further distinguish Passover meals from the rest of the year by preparing food with separate dishes and utensils.  That means no blender for smoothies, no GU’s, and no Accelerade.  I was hoping to scrounge up some honey packets, but had no success, so I ended up slicing up an orange, putting it in a zip-loc, and smooshing it into my running belt.  To quote Eric Cartman, “Now that’s what I call a sticky situation.”   I didn’t want to stray too far from the Caveboy’s, so I mapped out an annoying multi-loop neighborhood route which would at least avoid any major traffic.  It was overcast and windy and the loop turned out to be even hillier than I’d imagined.  According to the Garmin data, I had two climbs at 5%, and 1,100 feet of gain.  I had to do one section of it three times, which was demoralizing since I knew after the first one exactly how much it sucked.  Since the route was continuously up and down I tried not to look at the Garmin pace too much and just go by feel.  I spent most of the last loop telling myself to pull up my big girl tights and just get it done, which I eventually did.  The verdict was an average 8:14 split, with which I was pretty damn pleased.

I had noticed a weird sensation in the tendon in my big toe the day before, and after the long run I tried to figure out what was going on.  It didn’t hurt, but it felt like the tendon was sliding against something.  When I moved it I could feel friction and it was actually making a squeaking sound.  A visit to Dr. Google determined that this is actually a thing—it’s likely a form of tendonitis in which the sheath rather than the tendon itself is inflamed.  Dr. Google further recommended RICE, which was fine since I wasn’t planning to run on Monday anyway.  By Tuesday morning it was no longer squeaky, so I went ahead with my 5x1K intervals as planned.  Sure enough, post-run the squeak was back.  My initial instinct was to push through the rest of the week’s runs as scheduled since next week will be a taper before the More Women’s Half, but I may actually be getting smarter, because I reconsidered.  The half next week is not an A race, or really even a B race.  It’s too close to the NYC half to be much of a data point, and I’m doing it solely to get my 9 NYRR races in this year.  Risking injury to get a few more training runs in for a race that doesn’t matter is stupid.  I scrapped my Thursday tempo run in favor of a bike tempo, and may skip the 8-mile “long” run this weekend too.  I have a 4-mile race (again for my NYRR 9) on Sunday, but I will probably avoid additional running unless all systems are go.

 

On the Passover fueling front, when we got back from Baltimore this weekend I made a batch of my Passover-approved Caffeinated Quinoa, which has been my pre-workout breakfast all week.

 

Caffeinated Quinoa

1 cup water

1 cup strong black coffee

1 cup quinoa

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cocoa

½ tsp salt

 

  1. Combine water, coffee, salt, and quinoa in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed. (The quinoa is ready when the curlicues are visible.)
  3. Stir in cinnamon and cocoa.

 

Serve, or refrigerate for later.  Stir in milk, almond butter, nuts, dried fruit, etc if desired.