Down with ITBS – Back to the Weights

In mid-February my right IT band finally stopped me in my tracks.  On a 30-mile run, only 7 miles in, I was limping pathetically back to my car.  I took a week off from running only to find myself in pain at 3 miles on a 5-mile run.   I knew I was done for and finally gave in to accepting that I wasn’t going to be able to run through this injury.  I don’t care how tough you are, it’s just not possible to run with an angry IT band.  I iced it for a couple days initially, upped my intake of anti-inflammatory foods, and increased my dose of MSM/glucosamine.  I have very little faith in foam rolling or massage as far as injuries are concerned so I didn’t even go that route.  Instead I decided to focus solely on leg strength, particularly of the quads and glutes.  I haven’t done any strength exercises for my legs whatsoever since I started running again after surgery last year.  It makes sense that could be the culprit.  So I pulled out my Insanity discs and have been doing those in place of running.  If you’ve ever done Insanity before, I’m sure you’re well aware of how intense it is on your legs and butt!  I also added weighted side leg raises to my lifting routine.  I did try an IT band strap.  It didn’t seem to do anything at all for me.  Maybe I still had too much inflammation at the time.  Anyway, I’m not even going to attempt to run again until mid to late March which will give me a full month’s rest.  I’m hoping (biting-my-nails type of hoping) with some amount of crazy luck that I will be able to make the first training run for my ultra in early April.  It’s probably a 50/50 shot.  Damn I’m mad at myself now for not taking off in January to address this as soon as I noticed it!  I will never learn!

During all this downtime, I’ve been trying to stay positive and shift focus to my weight training.  I’d love to build a little more mass than I had last year, and now seems like a great time to do it before I start training for my ultra again, so I’ve been eating slightly over maintenance.  The hardest part for me when it comes to adding on some muscle is accepting the fact that there is going to likely be some fat gain.  I just hope it’s smallish!  Then again, any gained fat should shred off pretty quickly when I start building mileage up again.

After only 2 months of returning to lifting, I am lifting at and slightly above what I was before surgery.  Muscle memory is sweet!  I was told I can’t do situps anymore, so I bought 20 lb adjustable ankle weights and do modified leg raises which are quite effective!

I’m still doing a full-body routine, because I really enjoy long workouts.  There are pros and cons to splitting it and not splitting it, but I figure the biggest pro is whichever one you enjoy doing the most!  I think if you are going to stick with full-body workouts, it’s a good idea to change up your routine from time-to-time.  If you always start with pull-ups and pushups, and give those 110%, then chances are you’re not going to be able to give 110% to bicep curls and French press afterwards.  So, I think it’s important to reverse, switch up, or do alternate exercises every 2-4 weeks or so once you’re well-adapted to your routine.  Of course, other good options are to lift in circuits, supersets, or drop-sets.  It’s all something you have to play around with and experiment to find what works best for you.  Nobody has the answers… that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned when it comes to lifting or even running.  Takes a lot of figuring shit out on your own.

Right now, I’m lifting 4x week and stacking it with Insanity.  Some people warn against doing this, but I have yet to see why and plan to find out for myself.  In the past, I did a milder version of stacking the two and can’t say I noticed any negatives in doing it as long as you have the energy.  I lift every other day, and off days are always Insanity days (usually a month-2 workout).  Twice a week, I lift and then follow it with a month-1 Insanity video (preferably something like the Pure Cardio workout).

Enough of that!  Get out there and go long!

Marathon Training Plans – Yah Whatever!

So, my 60 miles for last week didn’t work out so well.  Yeah, I am more than a little disappointed and ill about my compartment syndrome showing up in full force again.  In all honesty, I absolutely know that I should cut back my miles to whatever amount produces no symptoms and slowly work my mileage up, but I just about can’t hold myself back from running as far as I can once I am  running and in the zone.  I don’t really have a strategy yet this week for pulling my miles up injury free and probably will do one of two things:  A) run as much as I can again until my shins stop me, B) replace some runs this week with Insanity workouts.  Both are appealing options to me at least, though not necessarily the smartest choices.

As for training for the Pensacola Marathon in November…  I really wish I could be completely sure that I’m going to be able to make it down there to run.  Regardless, I am going to train for it.  I’m going to be running anyway, so why not?  Now, how do I want to train for it?  I’m almost leaning towards an unorthodox approach.  Not surprising, huh?  I really like going against the rules 😉

So hypothetically, what if I don’t follow some training plan with its tyrannical schedules and structured runs?  What if I just run and train however my body tells me.  I know what I need to work on, be it hills, speed, endurance…  Wouldn’t it really make more sense to work on the unique aspects of MY running and MY progress and gauge what needs to be done on a daily basis by my own performance?  This just sounds like a little common sense to me.  But what do I know?  I mean, training plans are proven methods of marathon prep.  What about self-awareness though?  Training plans can’t know what your weak areas are, and maybe you end up running less distance or hills or whatever than you personally needed to meet your maximum potential.  Why does so much of everything we do in life follow a dictated method in a one-size-fits-all fashion?  Are we so afraid to think for ourselves?  And what if I don’t make a BQ at Pensacola after doing my own style of “marathon training?”  At least if I trained my way, I would know that I really did everything I felt I could to prepare and did my best.  I like my way more every second that I consider that route!  (Besides, that is kinda my style of doing things!)  Just run, damnit!

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
Pushups wide
Bicep cable curl
French press
Bent-over side lateral
Rear delt rows

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.

11 Miles on a Treadmill

Today is the somewhat-dreaded long-run treadmill day!  Let’s get excited!  Yeah.  Anyway, I’ve got about 13 miles left this week to hit my 33-mile goal for this week.  Eleven of those miles are for today.  That will still leave me a couple miles to continue my running streak throughout the rest of the week without going over my 10% mileage increase.

I got up extra early, ate a huge bowl of chocolate proatmeal with coffee.  I’ll grab a rice cake and peanut butter 30 minutes prior to my run.  About 45-50 minutes into my run, I’ll down a GU gel.  I love training with these even on the treadmill, exclusively the Expresso Love GU Gel.  I only get off the treadmill to pee or refill my water bottle if necessary. 

So, strategy… how to survive 2 hours on a treadmill?  First, I like to hide the distance traveled from being seen at a glance.  It’s a lot easier to keep moving if you don’t realize how far you’ve got left to go.  I hook up my iPod and stream Pandora or some downtempo-type electronic tracks to keep my pace at an easy level.  For long runs, I try to not focus on speed at all on the treadmill.  I take it as nice and slow as I want.  It’s all about just getting all the miles done.  I find treadmill running, particularly long runs, to be quite taxing on my hip flexors.  I’m not sure why this is.  I also feel like it takes more physical effort on the treadmill for long runs.  I kind of experience this with short speedwork runs but not as bad.  Funny thing is, whenever I run outside after doing the majority of runs inside, I feel like a speed demon!  It’s like I’ve had tons of weight taken off my back and I’m moving effortlessly!  It’s quite bizarre as I thought treadmill running was considered by most to be easier, but oftentimes I find that it’s physically tougher aside from the mental aspects.  Before I do a long 1+ hour run on the TM, I get my mind mentally ready for it.  From the moment I step on it, I just relax and think about anything other than distance.  When I hit 30-35 minutes, I think about eating my yummy gel in a matter of minutes!  Once I’ve played enough mind games on myself for an hour, I’m already committed, and I know I have to finish.  I keep listening to my music, skipping through songs, sometimes texting on my iPod, imagining I’m dancing to the music, changing the incline and speed constantly, and just keeping myself busy looking out the window and daydreaming.  It’s all in my head, I have to remember.  When it’s all said and done, I’ve got 10 or more miles done, and I feel like a million bucks for sticking it out.  I could spend those 2 hours screwing around or training.  Not too hard to pick the second choice!

Long treadmill runs are 98% mental effort to me.  It’s that mental challenge I love taking on headfirst.  If it were easy, I wouldn’t be doing it.  Time to roll out and get set up!

Goals this Week?

Okay, so I’m going on a running streak with my sister!  Goals?  Don’t really have any other than to run at least a mile every day!  I guess more than anything it’s about building endurance up.

Yesterday, the weather was great (a cool but sunny 36 degrees)!  The course was every bit as challenging as I had anticipated and some!  I still managed to cover 7.47 miles in 1hr 10mins.  Not bad considering what I was up against!  I loved the Camelbak.  I don’t know how any runner could survive without one now!  I hit 30 miles for the week, surpassing my goal by 1 mile 😉

This week, the goal is to hit 33 miles.  I see some long treadmill hours ahead of me, but in some small way, I enjoy the mental challenge of long treadmill runs too.  Crazy, I know!  You can never beat the convenience of a treadmill run as long as you’ve got your mindset to it.  Today, I’ll hit the road again for a 4-6 mile run in town and along the river.  It’s going to be about 60 degrees, and I get to wear shorts! Woohoo!  Tomorrow I’ll do 3-mile speedwork on the treadmill, do some Insanity, and weighted situps.