Sub 4:00 – Maybe?

The feel of winter is slowly moving in.  It was a cool 34 degrees when I woke up this morning.  I love winter.  All the leaves are starting to change and have made for some really amazing trail runs which I feel so blessed to be able to enjoy.  On last Saturday’s 26-mile training run, the trails were absolutely breathtaking.  The trail was completely blanketed with leaves that were almost ankle-deep in areas.

It’s 3 months post surgery.  It almost feels like a whole lifetime ago.  While my legs still lack some of their previous speed, there’s noticeable improvement with every run.  I’m running an average of 55-60 miles per week and plan to max out around 65-75 before the marathon.  This is so fantastic!  Whenever I have previously tried to cross the 55-60 mpw threshold, I always had to back off due to minor injuries.  I never have been able to sustain a weekly mileage over 50 for very long.

I’ve been doing extensive hillwork and lactate runs.  I think these workouts have made a considerable difference and quickly pushed me back towards my previous strength.  I have mixed in some speedwork here and there, but with my core still feeling somewhat weak, I haven’t tried to push myself too hard yet.  I know I’ll be able to speed things up again when the time is right.IMG_1301

The marathon is a little over a month away now, and I’m feeling really good about it.  I think I’m probably looking at a 4-hour finish.  If I’m really lucky, maybe a sub 4:00.  I think a lot of it is going to have to do with how well I handle the humidity in the South.  I think I do pretty well in hot and humid conditions, but the weather has been anything but hot and humid since I came off my 5-week running break.  All my recent runs in the last 2 months have been in extremely pleasant weather.

Saturday’s 26 miler felt so good.  Everything went incredibly perfect.  I took it nice and easy.  The only mistake I made was a logistical one.  I planned out and backs on 3 different trails, and it just so happens that I apparently wasn’t sane when I arranged the most difficult trail for the last 8.3 miles.  I ended up climbing and descending for the final 8 miles.  It definitely slowed down my finish time and made for very sore quads the next day.  Needless to say, I was pretty pleased with my finish time of 4:02 especially considering the terrain at the end.  I think running a sub-4:00 in Pensacola is definitely not out of reach.

This week I’m not doing any long runs over 15 miles and will do a 23-mile run next week followed by a final long run of 24 miles before tapering off for the marathon.
I’m so ready!

Unleash the Beast!

Last Tuesday, 5 weeks out from surgery (exploratory laparotomy), my surgeon cleared me to run again.  My husband and I never expected those words to come out of his mouth.  I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor and I drooled all over myself.  I think my husband was really worried.  He told me, “I don’t think he quite understands what running means to you!  We’re not talking about a jog through the park!”  I just responded with the only thing that came to mind, “He unleashed the beast!”

Originally, my doctor had told me that it wouldn’t be until November when I could run.  Needless to say, the day he cleared me I came home and bounced into my running clothes and jumped on my treadmill for a test drive.  I didn’t get any stomach pain, but my ankles and knees were really tight and verging on becoming sore.  I felt heavy and slow.  I stopped at a half mile.  (Granted I had put on some extra pounds since surgery which I can definitely feel now when running.)  The next day, I got on my treadmill and ran 3 miles with minor soreness in my joints.  It felt like pure joy to run again.  Over the 5 weeks I was out of commission, I had developed a new relationship with running.  I felt so out of touch with life in general while I couldn’t run.  I obsessed over running constantly (I kinda do that even when I am running, LOL).  Suddenly, now, running is like this incredible gift I’d been taking for granted.

My endurance is fairly zapped, but there are lingering remnants of it.  My leg strength is definitely subpar.  After managing to run almost 12 miles last week, I have slightly sore muscles and tendons.  It’s going to obviously take a little time to get acclimated again.  Dropping my weight back down will help a lot.  I told my 15-year-old daughter to take advantage of me being back to base training and run with me.  So far, it’s been working, somewhat.  She’s even considering training for the Pensacola Half Marathon in November.  We shall see how that goes.

I do plan to still try to run the marathon.  Obviously, I’m not expecting any PRs.   If I don’t feel ready for it by then, I’ll just run the half.  My sister, who lives in hot and humid Mississippi, stepped back to the half marathon.  She was originally going to run the marathon, but she’s had her share of difficulties training for it.  There’s even some indication that my mother also might be attempting to run the Pensacola half!  It would be like a family racing reunion!

This week I think there’s a good chance I can get up to 15-20 miles.  I’m planning to run 5-6 miles today since my longest run last week was 4 miles.  If that goes well and I have minimal soreness the next day, I’m hoping to increase my long run dramatically over the next 3 weeks and begin running 2 long runs a week until I can run a 20 miler.  My muscles and tendons will dictate everything at this point.  Hopefully they will be quite agreeable.  I’ve got my heart set on hitting the trail this coming weekend.  I can’t even begin to express how excited I am to get back out there.  It’s going to feel amazing.  I don’t know if there’s been a night where I haven’t dreamed about running the trails since I got sick.  Anyway, I am planning to do a 10-mile jog/run and just take my time and enjoy myself.  Maybe I can get lucky and coax my daughter to tag along if I promise to buy us lunch!

Recipe for Disaster – Bring it On!

After last Saturday’s 20-mile run, I crashed really hard.  I was exhausted for days following that run.  I felt pretty apathetic towards diet and exercise in general and just wanted to sleep all week.  I was even fairly depressed.  I got on my treadmill Tuesday for a 5-mile jog, but my shins got extremely tight and began throbbing less than half a mile into it.  I jogged and walked for a while, determined to get some type of mileage accomplished, but I finally gave up and hit the couch.  The same thing happened again Wednesday.  I was completely bummed out.  It felt like my mind and my body were just powering down.

After doing some research and talking to my sister, I stumbled upon this article titled “Endocrine System Depletion,” by Succeed! Sports Nutrition.  That article really put things into perspective for me as far as what I was going through.  I realized I recently had been experiencing other symptoms that could be attributed to endocrine depletion as well.  This is a nasty bag of worms right here.  I can be pretty tough when it comes to physical grit, but when we’re talking about hormones and chemical imbalances, that’s a hard battle to fight.

So now I have a new strategy in need of development.  So, where do I even start?  I was already forced to drop my weekly mileage way back this week.  Maybe I should try to decrease my weekly mileage down to 30-40 miles for 2-3 weeks while maintaining a weekly 20 miler and slowly work back up from there.  It might even be helpful to incorporate a recovery day before and after my longest run.  Another thing I realized is that I’m often running my long runs really hard.  I can really tell the difference in fatigue and mental status whether I’ve run it hard and fast or not.  It takes me a couple days to really recover if I’ve given it 110%.  If I take it easy, regardless of how far I ran, I can feel ready to get on my feet the next day.  I probably just need to slow down, enjoy the run, and focus on the real purpose of the long run – adaptation.  We will see how I feel after my long run today.

I still have this plaguing compartment syndrome, possibly more aggravating than ever, to work with.  Obviously, cutting miles and resting a whole lot is going to be the protocol for treatment, but that’s just an avenue I’m not willing to take just yet.  It’s going to have to get me completely down and out before I’m willing to cut back as much as would be necessary to resolve it, I think.  I do realize this injury could be a major issue for the November Pensacola Marathon, and I’m going to have to do something about my legs before it gets close to that time, but I just prefer to keep putting it off as long as possible.

All of these issues almost seem like a red flag, honestly, in which I’m setting myself up for an inevitably huge crash and burn any day now.  I feel like I’m tiptoeing around the edge of physical limits!  Bring it on!  What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger… I hope!

Carb Depletion and a Marathon – Yet Another Experiment

After a couple broken hours of sleep from getting up with my son throughout the night, the clock painfully insists that it’s 4 am and time to get up if I’m going to make that early morning run happen before the humidity kicks in.  We’ve had quite the mini heat wave for us north easterners.  As I indulge on a steamy bowl of chocolate oatmeal and a stout coffee, one thought occurs to me: six months.  Will I be able to do what it takes to train for a BQ at the Pensacola Marathon in November?  (Of course, actually going to Pensacola is contingent on my husband’s shift work schedule not changing by then.)  But do I really have what it takes?  What does it take?  Are dedication and passion for running enough in themselves?  It’s quite possible that it’s a long shot for me to expect to BQ in 6 months, but I still feel like I have to try.  I think it’s possible enough to try to make it happen.  If I don’t get it done in Pensacola, I’ll work towards the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2013.IMG_1184

It’s going to be hard, no doubt.  Especially with my schedule (or lack thereof) – a combination of extreme sleep deprivation, a husband who is a shift worker, and having the very demanding task of caring for a fully dependent child; I’ve got my hands pretty full when you throw marathon training into the mix!  I just have to make it happen.

This week I’m focusing on long runs and hoping to hit at least 60 miles by the end of the week.  I have been experimenting with doing long runs in a carb-depleted state in hopes that you can actually acclimate the body better for burning fat reserves as fuel.  When I first started doing this, I did notice a little sluggishness on my runs, and my muscles tended towards fatigue quicker, but I don’t seem to be experiencing any symptoms as of recently.  I’ve been doing these carb-depleted runs now for about a month.  Mind you, there’s absolutely no intention of restricting carbs on race day or even on some critical speedwork days, it’s just the idea that having the body adjusted to fueling up with fat will move the wall out that much further.  I have no idea how long or how much volume you have to achieve before any obvious benefits manifest themselves.  I just make sure I do one-two 5+ mile runs a week in a carb-depleted state.  I do not consume any carbs on these runs, only water.  For 3 days, I eat well under 100g of carbs while I pump out these runs.  I try to make sure I get a good long run in especially on the 3rd day when I know my glycogen stores are zapped from the previous 2 days of low-carb runs.  These runs are typically slower and focused more on running for a certain amount of time instead of mileage.

Time for a power nap before I hit the pavement!

26 miles – Hurts so Good

Yesterday’s long run carried me 26 miles.  For the first time, it finally occurred to me why it’s not so common for people to run that far for regular leisure.  While basking in my enlightened moment and pushing painfully through mile 24, I also realized I was truly in love with distance running even though I found myself questioning whether I had pushed myself too far too fast… again.

During the last 3 miles, the real aches and pains made themselves at home – my quads rhythmically aching, Achilles screaming with each step, and my knees wanting to buckle with each push-off.  All this “suffering” just to prove to myself that I could make the distance.  No medals or cheers at the end of this 26 miles, just my own knowledge that I was capable of not just doing it again, but doing it faster.  I finished with a time of 4:01:51, and now I am certain I can achieve 3:40 with just a little more work.

The soreness and tenderness of my quads and knees really began to set in 4-5 hours after the run.  I stayed hungry all evening and ate whatever I wanted.  I wasn’t really that tired, just sore and lazy later in the evening, so I did nap on and off and ice my knees.  Surprisingly, this morning I don’t really feel much sorer than I did last night.  I filled up this morning on a big bowl of chocolate-cinnamon proatmeal and have a day of shopping planned.  We shall see if the fatigue and DOMS finally hit me while I’m out and about today!

My plan now?  Take 2-3 days off from running and heal up good.  I think I’ll do a couple days of split-routine upper body weight training just to keep myself busy and throw in some yoga on the 2nd or 3rd day depending on how fast or slow I recover.  Then if all goes as planned, I’ll start some slow recovery runs and walks on the 3rd-4th day followed by recovery jogs of 3 miles the rest of the week.  Then I’ll reevaluate my strategy for the next week.  In the meantime, I’ll assemble a game plan to focus on cutting back my finish time.

Racing, Hills, and Lifting!

IMG_1145Last Saturday I went ahead and completed one of my goals for the month: to run a 5K race or longer.  I entered a 15K somewhat last minute and went into it with no expectations.  I ran it much faster than I even really thought I was capable of and finished 2nd overall female with a time of 1:07:15.  Every time I glanced down at my watch, I was weaving between a 6:30-7:20 pace.  Instead of doing as usual and trying to hold back, I just went with it.  I figured I’d keep it up as long as my legs would tolerate.  Needless to say, it was nothing short of painful.  The hills were just a little brutal!

Running anywhere in West Virginia except along rivers is quite a feat.  The mountainous terrain is completely unforgiving.  I used to think anyone who attempted running in this state was out of their mind.  Of course, it’s all relative to what you’re used to.  I grew up in the South on very flat land, so West Virginia was kinda like terrain shock!  There are definitely great advantages to living and running somewhere challenging.  You don’t really have the option of avoiding hills all too often.  You’re pretty much forced to do it if you want to get out and run.  We all know how important hillwork is for developing those running legs.  So I guess it could be safe to assume that a person who lives where they run grades on just about every run would most likely have the upper hand versus an average “flatlander.”   This is also one of the speculations or observances made about the elite African runners in relation to their training terrain.

I’m continuing to work on increasing my distance runs.  I’m planning 22-24 miles for this weekend.  The plan is to keep increasing up to 30 miles since by that time I’ll need to focus on marathon training and work on my speed.  I saw this quote in a forum recently that just made me smile.  It said, “Never f@ck with someone who runs 26.2 miles for fun!”  There’s definitely something to be said about that kind of runner!  During the rest of the week I’ve been mixing in a decent amount of hill and speed interval training which I had neglected for some time.  I’m really enjoying those workouts.

IMG_1139I added some spice to my weight training days also in hopes of maximizing gains.  I’m doing upper body/abs 3-4 times a week and legs 1-2 times a week.  I’m really worried about working my legs too much and exhausting them prior to a run, so I’m keeping weight training at a minimum on them.  I upped my sets from 3 to 5 and kept my reps at 8-12 except abs which are 5 sets at 12-15 reps.  I really like the longer workout and increased sets.  I’ll keep this up for a month and see how it goes.

My upper body routine looks like this:

Cable crunches
Pullups
Chinups
Pushups wide
Bicep cable curl
French press
Bent-over side lateral
Rear delt rows

Battling Compartment Syndrome

This lower leg pain is really getting in my way.  It seems this month is the month of injury!  My sister is down and out with a good bout of runner’s knee.  I’m fighting against all common sense and still running with a fairly nasty case of compartment syndrome especially in my left leg.  It’s becoming incredibly frustrating and has been the theme of the day for the last week.

Last Saturday, I ran my new distance record of 18 miles.  While the run overall went incredibly well, I could have finished much, much faster had it not been for incredible tightness, pain, and numbness predominantly in my left lower leg.  I actually ended up walking a large part of the first 3 miles, stopping and trying to stretch, attempting to get movement and feeling back into my left foot and lower leg.  It was so bad that I was just about to go home when it eased up a little (and that’s bad).  I decided to risk it and run through it, hoping it would continue to resolve as it has so many times before.  Luckily, it did resolve on its own, and I was able to continuously pick up pace throughout the run.  I still made great time, I felt.  For the most part, it was a very good run and I didn’t even feel like I ran 18 miles.  That evening I was only a tiny bit stiff in the first few hours after the run, and the next day I felt like I hadn’t even completed a long run the day before.  Everything was almost perfect… except the start of the run.

I’m hoping that if I do some warm up walking prior to a run, it will make a difference.  I’m also going to start doing some extra calf stretches on a daily basis.  Something’s gotta give here.  I almost wish it were as simple as just going down to a physician and getting a quick fascia release and getting it over with!  I have negative patience for this.  It worries me to try to enter any races as I never know if or how bad it’s going to flare up.  It usually doesn’t make me completely stop running until I’m 1-2 miles into a run.  Other times, my legs will get tight and heavy but it will dissipate before I have to stop.

Maybe I just need a break and take a couple days off running and just do some speed walking.  That doesn’t sound like very much fun. L I’m hoping to do a 20-mile run in a week or two.  I’d sure like to be able to give it everything I’ve got.

Injuries suck.

Last Long One for the Week

It’s been a little bit of a rocky week in terms of running.  My calves and shins were quite aggravated and sore on and off all week.  I’ve been barely warding off impending shin splints and compartment syndrome.  Though I know I probably should take off running completely for 2-3 days, I feel like I have to get this last long run in before I establish a recovery plan.

My performance has really left little to be desired.  Even though I cut my mileage way back, I had a lot of difficulty.  I even had to resort to walking a mile this week just to keep my streak going.  Maybe another week of scaled-back runs will hopefully do the trick so I can get back to upping my weekly mileage again.  This time, I think I’ll take it a little slower.

Today I’m going to finish up the week with a long run I’ve been planning to do since I started running.  It is, unfortunately, an out-and-back that runs along the river on the rail trail.  It’s a little over 5 miles each way, so it should end up being 10-11 miles.  I’m really looking forward to this one as it’s sort of a big milestone to me since I’ve been planning it for so long.  I hope my legs hang in there for this one last long run of the week!

 

Feeling Those 60 Miles

Yesterday’s run, the beginning of a brand new week full of promise, was the most physically difficult run yet.  About mile 6, I felt like my legs were 20-lb weights.  I had all sorts of random aches and pains in my legs, and the soles of my feet were sore.  After struggling through 4 more miles, I stepped off my treadmill and could barely walk.  Everything hip down felt like crunchy peanut butter.  I walked around bowlegged for a while and stretched.  It then occurred to me that I was on the threshold of my current physical potential.  The next thing I thought… disappointment.   But how could I possibly feel that way after doing close to 60 miles over the past 7 days? Last week’s mileage was actually about 20 miles more than I’ve ever done in a week.

It was a long week with long hours.  I was feeling it mentally and physically this morning.  My body and my mind wanted to do nothing more than sleep today.  Granted that’s not what I did.  I did do upper body weight training and did 2.5 miles of incline and speed intervals on my treadmill.  My run felt pretty good, and I was totally into it by the time I was half a mile in.

I’m considering the fact that I’m going to have to back off on my mileage this week or at least for a few days and let my body recover after really beating the hell out of my legs the past 2-1/2 weeks.  I want to build up some serious endurance, but it won’t happen if  I can’t even do the miles, and right now, my body is saying it can’t.  My sister had suggested a week of long runs possibly followed by a week of short runs.  I think that’s going to be the right flavor.  I think it will rejuvenate me.

So, goals for this week?  I’m thinking 25-30 miles will be good.  Focusing more on hillwork and speedwork this week.  I really enjoy doing both of those.  I’ll still probably incorporate a long run or two, but I think I’ll keep it under 10 miles.  I might find myself a race to work towards; I haven’t done a race in a couple months.

Reflecting – 50 miles?

I’m pretty sure I’ve broken almost every rule in the running rule books at least twice this week.  Fifty miles this week, well a little over 50, and today is the last day of the week…  I’m certain to try to run again today.  I’m quite sure pushing things to the limit in terms of running has been the theme of the week.  No rest days, lots of quite long runs.

I’m somewhat mentally and physically drained this morning; however, that could have a little to do with a severe lack of sleep all week.  Yesterday I was up at 1am, ran 2 mi at 9am, cooked all my meals for next week, made dinner for the family,  made a pathetic attempt at a 30-min nap around 2pm, and had finished up a 10-mi run at 8:30pm.  I still managed to get all my housework done and take care of the kiddos.  Hubby is on night shift, so that always adds spice to the mix.  Yikes.  Makes me shudder to think about what a crazy schedule I’m trying to hold on to.  I’ve been up today since 4am to feed my special little boy. That equates to about 4 hours of sleep for last night at least.  Not bad.

Sun will come up soon, and it’s supposed to rain today.  Hopefully it won’t storm at least.  I wouldn’t mind getting in some outdoor miles this afternoon even if it’s only 1-3 miles.

I’ll post my streaking report later today for the week!