Long run thinking

April 13, 2015

I woke up this morning expecting the worst.  I ran 11 on Saturday harder than I should have.  Because Sunday I wanted to run 18 on the trail.  The Saturday run had hills and was on roads.  The Sunday run was on single track trails with mud, rocks, creek crossings and uneven trails… you know.  the good stuff.  :)

Since I was only supposed to run 10 SLOW on Saturday…  That made the 17 (of 18… due to poor addition…) on Sunday MUCH slower than I wanted to run and added more walking than I had planned.  When I was done.  I hurt.  Especially my quads and ankles.  So I fully expected to wake up and need help getting out of bed.

But… that didn’t happen.  I feel fine.  Granted, my ankles are a bit tender, but otherwise I feel like I could go out and run 10-15 today (but I will NOT.  Say it with me: “REST DAY”).

I have to admit I’m pleased with the way things are going so far.  Granted, I haven’t even approached marathon distance yet (20 is my longest run so far) but I’m more looking at my ability to recover as well as things like my average pace and nutrition.

Two things used to happen when I tried to run long.  First, my average pace would just fade over time.  That is not happening this time around.  In fact, I’m able to pick the pace up at the end of long runs.  Second, I used to cramp horribly for hours or days after a long run.  I never could get the nutrition right and suffered for it.  This time I have found Tailwind Nutrition and it really has made all the difference.  It is remarkable.  It’s not that I notice a huge boost, I just don’t fade or cramp.  I also don’t need food on the run.  I feel like I can go bigger distances with Tailwind and as long as I hydrate in the days leading up to the race I will be fine.

The other thing I was thinking about on the long run yesterday was my continuing frustration with shoes.  I used to be a New Balance fan, but I am growing more and more frustrated with the degrading quality of their shoes.  I just bought a pair of 1210 Leadvilles and after less than 100 miles I am already seeing signs of failure.  The problem is, with my freakishly wide feet, New Balance is really my only choice.  I also run Altra Lone Peaks, but they, and, to a lesser degree, the New Balance shoes are not wide enough in the MID FOOT (arch) which is where my feet seem to be wider than normal humans.  I’m also not a fan of minimalist running shoes.  I like more support (weak ankles) and am getting tired of stone bruises on the bottoms of my feet due to the lack of padding or rock plate.

Oddly enough, the only shoe I am somewhat satisfied with is the Asics Kahana, which I bought out of desperation because NOBODY had wide shoes (4E) at the end of the season last year.  It seems durable, stable and comfortable.  My only complaints with it are that it is heavy and does not have very good traction in mud.  I may look at the Gel Sonoma next.  Looks like it might have better traction.  I’ve just about had it with New Balance.  The last 4 pairs of shoes I’ve bought from them have fallen apart.  I expect more quality out of a $130 shoe.

As for the Altras… I don’t know.  The jury is out.  I might try the Superiors to see if they have more protection.  I will probably find just the right shoe about 3 days before I stop running forever.

Another odd thought crossed my mind.  And this is purely philosophical.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m not just chasing fads with running.  Instead of just focusing on local races and simple events like 10K/Half marathons, it seems like all I do is move from latest thing (triathlons) to latest thing (trail) running.  I tell myself it’s the greatest thing ever and I will do it for life, then I drop it like a two year old discards a toy when something new comes in vogue.  I mean, I really have no desire to do another triathlon.  It’s too much expense, the training is a burden and there are WAY too many “type A’s” who make the whole experience too uptight and just not fun.  Not MY triathlon friends, of course.  I’m still in the coolest triathlon club on the planet.  But I’ve had it with getting swam over or run off the road in a little local race by somebody who takes it all way to serious.

This makes me worry about trail running as well.  Will it just be a fad?  I really hope not.  I love being in the woods and running trails.  I want to say I have found my niche, but I don’t seem to be settling in to the routine or the community as easily as I would like.  Hell, I can’t even find the right shoes.  And then I wonder if I’m just looking to hard for my tribe and maybe I should focus on the fitness and let everything else just play out.

I’m also wondering if maybe I should start running with music… so I stay out of my own head so much.  It’s dark in there.


OK… NOW can I not be sick? How ’bout… now. Now? *sigh*

April 6, 2015

Yes, it’s been a while.  Yes, I’m alive.  For what it’s worth.

I consider myself a healthy person, in that I don’t get sick or have health “problems”.  In fact, I batted 1000% last year and didn’t get sick once.  So I guess I had it coming in January when I ran into a little tummy bug.  Then I had a bout with dizziness and headaches.  Then I got the tummy bug… AGAIN.  And now, I’m just finishing up a two week long hack fest of a head/chest cold.

I’m just not sure I deserved ALL of that.

Brutal.

I did NOT manage to stay on track, either.  My eating habits, exercise regimen, waistline and mental health all suffered.  I also have had to face a disappointing truth.  My knees HATE spin bikes.  I tried to switch to spinning for a while to give myself a break and after 1 week of classes, I couldn’t walk up stairs.

In fact, at a time when I should be averaging 50+ miles a week running, plus a little biking and swimming, I am struggling to just get decent run miles in.

So as I dig deep for positives, I can find just one right now.  The long run feels… good.  I am up to 19 miles and actually really enjoying it.  Not just during… but after.  Which is really weird for me.  When I did this craziness last time and did my long runs, I just wanted to nap the rest of the day.  But this time, after 19 on Saturday, I was out in the garden all afternoon.

So, not to doubt myself… but I’m wondering why…?  I think I have most of it figured out.

  1. I’m in better shape.
  2. I’m now USED to longer distances.  I can’t stress how important this is.  I notice it mostly in the fact that I’m not getting horrible muscle cramps like I used to after long runs.  And I can actually sleep at night after a long run WITHOUT liquid painkillers… :)
  3. I have the right shoes.  Trail shoes (like the New Balance 1210 Leadville) are just more stable and wear longer.
  4. My pace work is better.  I start out between 9:30 and 10:00/mi and slowly speed up over about 6-8 miles.  For me, this REALLY works.  I have gas in the tank at the end of the run.
  5. I found my nutrition.  Tailwind is the right product for me, no question.  It just works.  And right about mid run I have a fruit… bag… thingy (puree of fruit in a gel like container).  Seems to balance out my need for calories and gives me an extra shot of good sugar.

I see this not only in my run and immediately after, but also the next day.  I am able to go out and run another 6-10 miles (albeit slow) the next day.  No way I could have done this before.

Berryman is my spring goal race.  It is in May.  I’m very much looking forward to it.  Since it is my first marathon distance trail race, I have no expectations for time.  I just want to finish upright, breathing and stay out of the med tent.  My biggest fear now is the heat.  I will need to start acclimatizing myself to hotter runs as I go along, but I think it will be OK.

The rest of my season is pretty easygoing and I’m going to run long as long as it feels good.  I want to run Heart of America (very tough road marathon) in September and then do my first 50K at Rock Bridge Revenge.  If I live past that I may even shoot for a 50 miler before the end of the year.  Probably not going to do much else, multisport or otherwise.  Running feels very good and relaxing right now.  I’m gonna ride that pony for a while.  Low stress/high fun factor.  Dirtbaggin’ it, even.


Upgrade!

February 16, 2015

OK… I admit it.  I have become slightly addicted to stats.

There.  I said it… I feel better.

I used to be the guy that badmouthed (lovingly) all his runner buddies as he ran by them (with his trusty Timex Ironman watch) as they shuffled around and held their shiny, new Garmins to the up to the GPS gods so that they could be blessed with signal.  Without which, some of them seemed completely incapable of completing a workout.

But I, too, eventually drank the GPS Kool-aid.  I found the GPS world to be klunky, unreliable and more of an irritation than anything.  Dropped signal, poor battery life, hard to read and set up interfaces and mysteriously illusive satellites that could easily be spotted and locked on to in my basement but disappeared when I came out into the open skies.

I stuck with it though.  Part of my problem was a poor choice in GPS watches (the Timex GPS).  I also had to learn the lingo and get myself in the habit of planning ahead so that my device was 1.) Locked in and 2.) CHARGED.

I started to slowly learn how to milk useful information out of the data.  I could track times over the same course.  I could see improvement (or not…) over time.  I began to get my mind around things like cadence and power.  …and I liked it.

But over the last 6 months my watch has slowly started to fail.  The battery just won’t stay charged for more than an hour or so.  And since I am only going longer, this is the worst thing that could fail.  It also can no longer be submerged without fogging up completely and becoming unreadable.  So swim training is out.  Which means I can’t wear it for triathlons.

So with equal parts sadness and joy, I said good bye to my first GPS watch this weekend and… I upgraded.

I looked at a lot of different watches.  Garmin, Suunto, Timex… The whole lot.  I got overwhelmed and a bit nauseous and stepped back to look at what I wanted.  Then I made a list:

  • AT LEAST 15 hours of continuous battery life (gotta get me through that Ironman or hundo I’m never doing)
  • Easy to read (stupid 48 y/o eyes… nothing lasts anymore)
  • Easy to set up
  • Good software that DOES NOT cost extra (that was a stupid choice on the part of Timex) at least for the basics
  • Waterproof.  I need something I can swim with.  This eliminated some good watches.
  • Swim tracking.  Something that counts strokes and measures distance in the pool AND open water.
  • EASY to do multisports with.  Tracks different segments correctly (the Timex never did this right)
  • Altimeter accurate enough to figure out things like steep hills or stairs.  My old GPS tracked altitude but on a course that had steep hills, my distance was always different than everyone else.

rf-lgSo when I looked at what I wanted, the choice was easy.  The only watches that really do this are the Garmin 910 and 920.  Garmin LOVES the 920 ($500 for a watch?  Really? Does it come with a free entry to an IM?).  The 910 is last years model and except for a couple of new features I don’t really care about it does everything.  They are getting harder to find but a local shop had a couple of them left and they were on sale (bonus!).  As an extra bonus, all they had left were the models with the heart rate monitors.  I’ve never used a HRM before but have really wanted to try it.  And did I mention the “sale” made it about HALF the price of the 920?

All of this, plus the fact that I got a little extra jingle in my paycheck made for a pretty easy decision.  I went with the Garmin 910XT with HRM.  Granted… not the cool new toy all the big kids have, but I’m good with it.

My impressions so far…

Setup was easy.  Plug in the Ant+ USB stick, let it get set up, set the watch next to the computer and magic happens.  The watch was updated and added to Garmin Connect automatically.  The website is easy to understand and navigate (I had never seen  it before and was hopping around almost instantly).  I got all my info set up and customized the interface for my interests very quickly.  I put in some shoes, my bike and watched a few videos provided by the site to help with swim setup.  The basic things I want to see (total time, segment time, distance) on the watch are actually the defaults so there was no digging through confusingly named options.  The display is easy to read.  The vibrate alarm will take some getting used to.  Scared the crap out of me the first time it went off.  I knew it did it… I just wasn’t expecting it!

And… of course… it snowed about 6 inches last night and the temperature is a balmy 18 degrees, so the first run will have to wait.  Who knows… If I can get out of my driveway, maybe I’ll actually get back in the pool (for the first time in MONTHS) this afternoon.  Could be ugly…


My own nutrition

February 2, 2015

How is it that things get more complicated the more I try to simplify?

Last year I was all in by February.  I had bought and paid for the Triple Challenge in Chicago, a race that wasn’t for 7 months.  I had also signed up for a half dozen other races and was hard core into a weight loss challenge.

So this year rolls around, I’m in much better shape and really doing well.  I decide to simplify back down to running only, with a sprinkling of duathlons and triathlons for flavor and just focus on feeling good and the love of the run.  I sign up for a trail marathon and optimistically look at also running a road marathon and even a 50K.

Then January hits.  All but one of my long run days are C.R.A.P. weather.  I get sick (for the first time in over a year).  I get sick again (for the first time in… a week).  I fight off (successfully… so far) a THIRD round of the plague.  I roll an ankle (first time in a year).

So at a point in my training where I should be base building and running 30-40 miles per week EASILY… I got 108 miles in, FOR THE MONTH!  I actually got in more SPIN class miles than I got running miles in.  Thank the GAWDZ my trail marathon isn’t until May.

Confession:

I actually looked at the pool at my gym yesterday and WANTED to get in.

That’s just sick.

And today, as I gaze longingly out the doors, knowing I’m already 8 miles behind because yesterday was another C.R.A.P. weather day and all I could do was spin… I see beautiful sunshine, roads and trails glistening in new snow, temperatures at a balmy 17 degrees and our roads… ice covered and impassable.  C’mon county road crew!!!

I don’t mind snow, and cold, and rain, and wind… and injuries, and flu, and tummy bugs.  I would just politely request that they not all converge on me AT THE SAME DAMN TIME!!

Is that too much?  I mean… really?

OK.  Whiney pants off.  Moving on.

I did get in 11 on Saturday and felt pretty good.  I’m occasionally having a problem with dizziness and headaches AFTER my longer runs.  I’m pretty sure this is hydration/nutrition related.  It’s still no fun to stand up and get the spins, regardless of the reason.

I-regret-nothing-550x359I’ve been very impressed with Tailwind.  I didn’t take any with me on Saturday because I was only running 11.  This may have been a mistake.  Just like in real life, my biggest downfall with exercise is nutrition.  Hydration and fueling are a mystery to me.  If it ain’t pizza or bacon… I don’t get it.  However, Tailwind is the only stuff I’ve ever tried that actually feels like it works.  I carry a handheld Nathan bottle and that usually gets me through 14 or so.  The next big mystery to solve, especially if I want to go marathon or longer, is where to go from here.  I have a CamelBak hydration pack that is 70 ounces.  I don’t mind the bounce/slosh and it fits well (no chafing) but I’m not sure it’s enough.  I’ve looked at Orange Mud, Ultimate Direction and other hydration solutions, but I feel like they are almost overkill.  I don’t want to run with two handhelds either.

I’m not complaining, this is just new to me.  I need to experiment.  I don’t want to drop $$$ on a system that doesn’t work and you can’t rent them, so I’m going to have to test what I’ve got.

The bigger mystery to me is eating solids while running.  I’m losing interest rapidly in bars of any kind.  Most are too processed, sweet or loaded with chocolate.  Now, before you bring out the pitchforks and torches… I love me some chocolate.  Just not 3 hours into a run.  Other bars made of mostly nuts and seeds don’t help a lot either.  I have had people suggest everything from bananas to Big Macs and everything in between.  The classic PBJ is always popular, but I still don’t feel like it’s actually getting processed well enough to do much good.

I seem to favor savory over sweet.  I like Epic bars but they tend to be dry and the Power Bar Performance Energy Blends actually work really well (yes, I know… baby food) and even though they are fruit, they are not too sweet.

My biggest problem is the frickin’ internet.  I need to stop READING everybody elses’ nutrition ideas and just find what works for me.  But in trying to get ideas for things to try, I get wrapped up in Sid Soandso’s power maple, brussels sprout, quinoa, chia and dirt bars and by the time I’m done I actually think “…huh.  That doesn’t sound half bad…”  Ugh.

…maybe I just need to make my own Big Bob’s bacon, pizza, Dorito and bean dip bars.  And make my own hydration drink… I like to call it “Barley Juice”.  Only 4 ingredients: Water, yeast, natural assorted grains and hops.

…And now you know why I look like I do.  :)


The Plan

January 28, 2015

norunningI realized today that I am, for the first time I can remember, looking at the “other side” of my training plan.

What the heck does that mean?

For the first time, when looking at a “training plan”, I feel like my base is above where the plan says I should be.  And I have NO FREAKIN’ IDEA what to do.

I find myself waking up every day, looking at my plan and (except for the long days) saying… “That’s IT?  That’s ALL?”

I don’t know… maybe I picked the wrong plan.  Maybe this is a good thing.  But SCHWEET BABY JEEZUS!  On a day in January in mid Missouri with highs in the 60s you are telling me I should only run 3 miles of hills or stairs?  GAH!

I know… I know…  Deep breath in…  and enjoy it now, before the crap weather comes back and you have to run 20+ miles in it.  Having experienced all 4 seasons on one run before, I get it.

But it does bring up a challenge… doesn’t it.  I’m not asking myself to stick with the training plan by desperately trying to actually MAKE the mileages.  I’m desperately trying to SLOW MY ROLL and not throw in tons of junk miles just because the weather is decent or I have an hour to kill because I actually CAN because I’m in decent shape for the first time… ever.

The bottom line is this proves NOTHING.  Other than I can’t follow directions.  It’s the same philosophy my dad tried to teach me back in the day… Just because you CAN… doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Over training is a killer.  Especially at my… um.. ADVANCED… level of experience. *cough*

But I really don’t think age matters.  I have seen old farts and young guns alike totally derailed by “one more run” or “a few extra miles”.  People who are smart enough to make these plans (for the most part) carefully calculate the balance between “enough” and “too much”.  If you are actually going to FOLLOW a plan… frickin’ FOLLOW it.

Sounds easy.  Doesn’t it…


January can be done now… But still…

January 26, 2015

fit-just-go-runRough!  I got WAY spoiled last year!  I pitched a no hitter all year and didn’t miss one workout due to injury or illness.  But this year has started off… well… crappy (pun intended).  I have already missed more workouts due to injury/illness in the last 3 weeks than I did ALL LAST YEAR.  Tummy bug (pretty sure it was Ebola… just sayin’), Dizzy, insomnia, head cold and now a rolled ankle.  I should be somewhere between 30-40 miles a week and be at about 16 miles for a long run, but, unfortunately… not so much.  I’ve missed 2 long runs and the Ebola week was a whopping 7 miles.

Am I worried about it?

No… Not really.  But it’s my blog so I can bitch about it.

My big event of the spring is in May, so I have plenty of time.  And, honestly, I just want to finish it.  I don’t care about time.  I’m already looking at getting back on my bike a bit and maybe just doing duathlons this year, since there is an option for a duathlon at Club Nationals.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even get back in the pool… meh.

In the past, this kind of a start to the year would have completely derailed me and sent me into a panic.  I would have already canceled the marathon, given up completely and crawled back into a beer bottle to wait out the spring thaw.  But time and experience has really mellowed me.  Yes, I’m serious about my training, but shit happens (that’s 2… how many more can I get in…?).  Life, work, injuries… If you play the game, you are going to have to learn to deal with it.  I certainly don’t get paid for this.  I’m doing it for fun.  If what you do for stress relief just stresses you out…?  You got issues.

I think that’s kind of why I backed off of triathlons.  Too much crap (3) to deal with.  My car smelled like part bike shop and part fermented gym bag for 9 months.  I’m not organized enough for that.  I finally just made a schedule that just said where I was supposed to be at that time.  I kept all my stuff in the car and just pulled out what I needed when I got there.  I “looked” prepared for anything. I was “actually” just too tired, confused and lazy to clean out the car…

I think I’m more concerned with over training now.  That was actually my first thought when all the sickies and injuries started.  I had just come off of a couple of CRAZY weeks where I ran 80+ miles a week.  I thought maybe I just weakened my system a bit.  But listening to everybody talk about the bugs and flus going around, I think it was just my turn.  The rolled ankle… I was due for.  Haven’t had one in a while so I probably deserved it.  When I did it I didn’t even miss a step.  It only started hurting when I stopped.  That was 2 days ago and it’s fine now.  No swelling, a little stiff when I get up but fine after I walk on it a bit.  Injuries will come.  I know this.  And I know the harder I push and the more I’m “out there” participating in life, the more susceptible I am to them.  Challenge accepted.  I just have to make sure that it’s not because I’m doing too much, too fast.  Slowly build, enjoy the miles, embrace the suck that is Missouri in winter and celebrate the fact that old guys like me can still run 26 miles (or farther) without stopping… unless we want to.  All depends on what they are serving at the aid station…

Footnote: Ran the ROC Challenge this weekend.  A 7K trail race (the scene of the ankle turning crime).  In looking at the finish stats I found some things interesting.  First, they switched up the divisions and went to a 10 year age group.  I finished 4th in my age group at 48.  The top 3 were 40, 41, and 43.  Had there been a 45-49 age group I would have won it.  Had I been competing in the 50-59 age group I would have taken 3rd!

This is the cool part…  I finished 10th overall.  Yes, that’s cool, but not that cool.  The REALLY cool part was that SIX of the top 10 places went to guys over 40 (40, 41, 43, 48, 51, 55!).  It just gives me hope that I can continue to do this at a pretty high level for a long time to come… :)


Stomach bug? …Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!

January 15, 2015

aint-nobody-got-time-for-that_w_raw-bcc-navyI don’t get sick very often.  In fact, I don’t remember getting anything more than a slight case of the sniffles last year.  In my 9 years at my current job I have had to cancel ONE class due to illness… and that, unfortunately, was last week.  OH, I’ve been sick and stayed home, but since I teach and the schools I go to have scheduled us MONTHS in advance sometimes, you pretty much have to drag me out of the classroom.

But, alas, I’m not invincible.  I caught a stomach bug last week that both laid me low and scared the hell out of me at the same time.  Sparing the gory details, let’s just say I was on the throne every hour on the hour for 4 straight days and suffered some internal bleeding.  Fortunately, this cleared up just MINUTES before my self imposed window closed.  If I had gone about another hour with this problem I would have gone to the ER.  Something I haven’t done in a VERY long time.

Even 4 days later I am still weak and shaky, and fighting occasional tummy trouble, but I’m fairly certain I will at least live.  Something that was briefly in doubt for a while.

However, my 8 mile run this morning was surprisingly faster than anticipated, even if it felt slow.  I’m sore, like I just started back running again after a 6 month hiatus.  I would have thought that 5 days off, given my current state of fitness (pretty darn good) would not have made much difference, but it seems tenuous at best sometimes.  The last mile this morning did have me scanning in front and behind trying to judge if I had enough time to jump off into the woods and take care of business or if I should just squeeze it.  I made it to the bathroom… er… finish line.  Barely.  I’m jealous of everyone who claims to have had this bug and state that it only lasted a couple of days and was pretty mild.   ….bastards.

Regardless, I’m back at it.  Not much the worse for wear, but feeling a bit mentally older.  I hate it when my own mortality makes an appearance and “harshes my mellow”… dude.

I am supposed to run 16 on Saturday.  And then 10-12 on Sunday.  The weather is up for it.  Here is hoping I can be as well.  Time to put my behind in the past… as it were.  I’ve got some serious miles to pack on.


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