Restarting the Engine

Two weeks ago I was in pretty incredible despair. Unmotivated, fatigued, sick, and hadn’t run in 1 week (with another to go). I even went so far as to take a sick day from work just to live out my day as a lifeless blob hidden under a gazillion blankets and snotty tissues. Then I got called in to work on my day off (otherwise known as sick-day payback) for the most bat-shit crazy day in restaurant history, and to blow off steam between shifts, I went to the gym and ran. Four miles. And I LIKED IT.

She’s back.

The very next day, I pulled off an easy 7-miler with hill strides and felt electrified (albeit also sore).

Here’s where my motivation came from:

The boss lady

Lauren Fleshman started this awesome thing* with Strava called the WoW: Workout of the Week. 12 weeks, 12 workouts, zero reasons not to.

*yes my mind is so jello right now that “thing” is the only word I can come up with.

The #PowerStation called for hill reps mid-run, so … given the warm sunshine outside and my relative friskiness at having finally run again the previous day, I set out to tackle LF’s challenge.

And with that, I felt ready to jump back in the game.

While I was on hiatus, I did some soul-searching (a tad dramatic), mostly by way of reading the Oiselle blog and stumbling upon some words of inspiration from runners who have accomplished much more than I – after all, higher highs equal lower lows.

Stephanie Bruce wrote a fantastic blog about “rolling with the punches” and it. just. spoke. to me.

As runners we are guilty of crumbling in the face of adversity. We are so addicted to plans that when they go awry we collapse, and go hide in that dark place where no one can get through to us.  It’s not just the training stimulus we miss it’s the ability to dream and make plans for the future. When we’re healthy we give ourselves permission to make goals, visualize ourselves crushing it, and dream big. Yet in the dark days of an injury or setback we shut off the dreaming and hoping mechanism. – Steph Bruce

YES A MILLION  TIMES YES.

I was feeling so increasingly miserable about missing the first two measly weeks of a months-long-life-long plan and ultimately I had to get myself to believe that IT DOESN’T MATTER. Are my plans to go to Boston and run a huge PR blown to bits now? NO! But I thought so, on several occasions.

What I took away from Steph’s post is that injuries and setbacks will happen. It doesn’t mean plan for them or dread their not-necessarily-inevitable appearance. It just means that when they happen, ride them out and then keep moving. Don’t dwell. Be patient. And return stronger.

Here are the three (!!) workouts I completed this week:

Tuesday: 2×200, 2×400, 2×200 @ Rep pace w/ double recovery

It was unseasonably warm (I’m talking like 60) and sunshine-y, so I whipped through these. I was aiming for about 41/200m and 84/400m, and I actually hit the second 400m in 80. And no, I did not pat myself on the back for that; I scolded myself. Running any faster than you have to is more deleterious than beneficial. I know better. But when I take my eyes off my watch and just go with it… that is usually what happens.

Wednesday: LF’s #SwitchBlade

She called for a modified 6-mile tempo run. Now… I don’t tempo for 6 miles (or at all??) nor was anything like that in my training plan after 2-weeks-off-still-coughing-phlegm. Plus this was a down week, say, if hypothetically I were adhering to the Plan.

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And typical Laramie rears her ugly windy head again

 

So I modified even further, and instead of the lactate threshold 1000m reps I had penciled in, I went for 2x2k with her directions. The first 1k = slower than LT and the second 1k = faster than LT. Repeat.

My tempo/LT pace comes out to about 4:00-4:04/1k right now (maybe even a little slower), so I opted for 4:08-4:11 for my “slow” 1000 and 3:51-3:53 for my “fast” 1000.

Nailed the first set (4:10 and 3:50). Took generous rest (more than LF called for, but like I said I’ve been sick and I’m not pushing that fatigue button up here at 7000+ ft).

Overshot the second set (4:01 and 3:52). Just too fast on that 3rd 1000. I was overcompensating for the wind pretty hard. And that last 1000… HOLY FUCK that is what VO2max workouts are made of. That fucker burned from the get-go and I had to force myself to complete it.

Now that’s a solid workout. Here it is on Strava, lots of circles n’ all.

Saturday: 4×400, 2×600 @ VO2max pace, shorter recoveries

And today.

On the schedule it was my day off, but I got written in for a few hours because of the basketball game (damn college sports towns). Instead of doing my workout in the morning (I was a veritable sloth this a.m…. it’s the weekend after all), I decided I would do it immediately after my shift ended.

Which worked out because by the late afternoon the sun was shining (but the wind GUSTING) and the shift was lighter than anticipated so I wasn’t burnt out.

Odds of that happening again: zero. Just do the damn workouts first and get them the hell over with!

My VO2max pace has been 90sec/400m since college. And up here at this altitude, it won’t improve much, if at all. I hit all my splits metronomically. High five!

With a “traditional” VO2max workout, optimal at distances that require 3-5 minutes to complete at that given pace, equal recovery is standard. But I learned from Jack Daniels that you can practice VO2max pace reps that are shorter – or take less than 3 minutes to complete – but in such a case it is best to shorten the recoveries as well to really sustain that lactic burn. I did a minute rest for the 400s and two minutes between the 600s. And yep, I felt the burn start creepin’ sometime during 400 #3.

On the schedule tomorrow is an easy 7.5 mile “long run” to round out my week at 24 miles. Then I intend to bump right back up to 30 mile weeks (fortunately next week is only 2 workouts).

Things I did differently this week:

Slept. In. Like a champ. But only as long as necessary. I don’t like rushing, ya know??

Was lazy. Only did 2 core sessions, and skipped yoga (errmmm I didn’t really mean to, but I think it will pay off). Didn’t do my weights (see previous parenthetical defense). Did do two 30-min aqua jogging sessions. And slowed my easy run down significantly. Less stress. Less pain. Running is supposed to be relaxing right?

This week: I want to reboot my schedule just a tad. I don’t mean 5x wake up early and 6x core-glute-yoga-pump-iron. Rather, I am imagining one early yoga session, two core sessions spread out across the week, and regular lifting during one of my cross-training gym visits. That’s not too demanding. Not compared to my schedule earlier this month.

Let’s do it! Registration for the Boston 5k opens this week, and I have already put in my time off request for a 4-miler down in Colorado next month.

Go fast, take chances. But have the discipline to recover, step back, and slow down when the pace gets out of control. It’s a hell of a balancing act.

 

 

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Here’s the truth, and it hurts to say…

I didn’t follow through with my resolution to blog weekly because I haven’t run in a week.

I’ll let that soak in for a bit.

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Still soaking? Yeah, me too. It’s almost hilarious at this point, but actually it’s getting kind of depressing.

I’m trying to pinpoint where everything went wrong. I was so excited and rejuvenated at the thought of jumping into training mode again – just for the sake of switching things up from easy runs. I nailed my first week, but well… no, I didn’t. I nailed it so hard that I skipped my long run to stay in bed and recover.

Okay, no big deal. One run matters very little over the course of a training cycle.

I attempted one workout early this week in frigid conditions and bombed it. I ran a single rep slower than goal pace, failed to recover, and scrapped the workout.

Okay, no big deal. I obviously still need rest, and one workout matters very little over the course of a training cycle, especially if I’m that fatigued.

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Workout 1: very promising, with all my essentials.

And that was it. Nothing since.

Let’s look at the month of January leading up to this week.

Dec 31 – OFF. Tail end of 24 hours of travel –> 3 hour nap –> work

“No sleep. Dehydration. Starvation.”

Jan 1 – OFF. Work day shift.

Jan 2 – 6 am yoga w/ weights, 7:30 am 5 mi in yaktrax. Work to close.

“Pooped… TIRED.”

Jan 3 – 8 am yoga, 10 am 4 mi in yaktrax, plyos + core. Work to close.

“exhausted”

Jan 4 – 7:30 am 8.5 mi long run in yaktrax, core + upper body. Work noon to close.

“def. fatigued”

Week 1 of training:

Jan 5 – 5:30 pm yoga. Off work.

Jan 6 – Indoor workout: 5x480m reps @ goal 94-96 sec. Woke up at 5:15 am to get to the gym for core warm up, drills, workout (5 mi total) + plyos. Off work.

Jan 7 – 6:30 am XT 30 min stationary bike + upper lift, p.m. brisk 24 min run. Work 7:45pm to close.

“tweaked my lower back”

Jan 8 – Off. Walked to work, day shift.

Jan 9 – 6 am yoga w/ weights; indoor workout: 6x800m @ LT (goal 3:12-3:15), ran every rep faster than goal pace, 7 mi total. Work to close.

Jan 10 – 4 mi easy (noon). Work to close.

“Awful, too much too soon”

Jan 11 – Skipped long run. Work to close.

Week 2

Jan 12 – 6 am XT 45 min elliptical + upper lift. Work day shift.

Jan 13 – Slept past early alarm. Attempted planned workout at noon. Goal: 3x2k @ LT (8:00-8:08), ran first in 8:11 and felt spent. Failed to recover. Work to close.

Jan 14 – 6 am XT 30 min stationary bike, 11 am 30 min aqua jog. Off work.

Jan 15 – 6 am yoga. Work day shift.

“half asleep, went back to bed”

That was three days ago, and I haven’t made an effort to run since. I was supposed to follow yoga with a track workout, but I couldn’t even fathom the idea.

Also, that’s a whole lotta negativity in those Italics (things I wrote in my journal).

So… what went wrong exactly? What this exposes is a period of accumulating fatigue and little time for recovery. When I look back at this mess, I think “no fucking shit I exhausted myself.”

It both is and isn’t that in my first week of training {and before} I overdid it. It also both is and isn’t that I never truly recovered from my night in the Denver airport. It all snowballed.

I have a suspicion that I was on the verge of getting sick ever since the Denver incident. (I learned long ago that the reason college kids get sick the week after finals when they go home for break is because the stress of finals week keeps their immune system on edge. As soon as relaxation kicks in, so does the virus.)

… I woke up yesterday with a phlegm-y sore throat and instead of going to Fort Collins with the boyf, I slept until 11:30. No fucking shit.

Here are some glaring mistakes I made:

1. Hypertraining. This is a Jack Daniels term for overtraining. It means training as if to “make up for” … what? Time off? Lost fitness? Before I had even truly slept-off Denver, I was up at 6 am doing hardcore yoga and blasting my legs again later in the day on yaktrax runs and plyometrics circuits. Making up for the lack of strength training I did the entire month of December. Guess what? That ship had sailed. I hadn’t put in the strength work like I meant to during my month off, and the last weekend was no time to squeeze in a crash course.

Then it was like every other day I was either at yoga, doing core and glute work, or running hard. Let me tell you something: YOGA IS HARD. Yoga is a fucking strength and leg routine of its own. I did yoga THREE F$#&@^! TIMES IN FOUR DAYS and expected to recover via napping when I was doing plyometrics and strength training on top of it!!

2. Running too fast. That first LT workout felt like a breeze, “easy speed” as I say. I felt so good I was blasting my goal times to smithereens. I know better than that. If I had run all of them at 3:15 pace, I would have gotten the same benefit with slightly less stress and probably could’ve nailed that pace again the following week. But what happened? The following LT workout felt like a VO2max effort running slower than goal pace.

3. Too many early mornings with inadequate sleep. I know I put it in my resolutions to become a morning person. But that doesn’t happen overnight (is that a pun?). And I’ve never been a morning person. I have had jobs that required me to be up between 5-6:30 am every day of the week, yes, but all I had to do was go to work that day (and entertain guests while running horses through the woods, no less, but still… and yes, it was exhausting). For my ordinary lifestyle, 5:15 am alarms are too early 4-6x a week, and I have never been good at running hard early in the morning. Lesson learned: don’t expect that to change with the flip of a switch, if ever.

4. Failing to recover. The mistake is not that my body failed to recover. It’s that I didn’t make time for it to recover. I was go-go-go since getting home from the Denver airport, even if it seems like I became a champion napper (which I did). But I would rise 6 hours after going to bed to bust out a yoga workout or cross-train, then push my body in a workout, then sort of nap, then rush to work for a 6+ hour shift that lasted until 10pm – or later. Then do it all again.

After a 7 mi running day, I worked a Friday night shift and discovered via my Garmin vivofit that I had accumulated over 16 miles of activity that day. That’s like speed walking a half marathon. And the trend was true the entire weekend. Forget the debate over how accurate those trackers are. Because give-or-take, that is a lot of mileage. Let me put it another way: in one week, I could have paid my next month’s rent. Those were some busy shifts.

In all honesty, not enough to get me through an a.m. workout

In all honesty, not enough to get me through an a.m. workout

5. Something about food. I don’t know if I wasn’t eating enough, or just wasn’t eating at the right times. But by the day I skipped that long run, I was craving and stayed at the bar after work for artichoke dip, pizza, and beer. I’m sure I wasn’t eating enough the rest of the time. My “abs” started to come back freakishly fast after disappearing over the holidays. Admittedly, I gain muscle tone fairly quickly (and certainly enviably) when I restart a training cycle, but even that seemed a little too fast.

Where does this leave me now? With a lot of doubts. Whether I should give up and quit, whether I will ever be a fast and healthy runner, whether I am even designed to endure training. But didn’t I run college track?? Yes, but at what cost? I was often injured and overtrained, and was so severely depressed on multiple occasions that I suffered from insomnia and saw a sports psychologist. I also experienced the worst injury of my life.

The more runs I skip, the worse my outlook gets. But the truth is I haven’t had the desire to run this week. If that isn’t an early symptom of overtraining I don’t know what is. Lack of motivation, unexplained fatigue, workouts feeling harder than they should. That’s textbook.

Well, maybe a week off is what I needed (so early on, though?) Hey, better early on than three weeks out from a big race. I can essentially start over, smarter. I haven’t lost anything. I’m in a funk, but I can turn that around.

So my goals for this week are to go easier. Be patient. I want to put in the work, but I don’t want to overdo it – paces, mileage, whatever. I don’t have to be at the gym at 6am. I do like 6am yoga, but that is just one morning a week. I don’t need to pack my mornings full. I can catch that extra hour or two (or more) of sleep and still get everything done. Wait to run hard until my body, mind, and soul have been fed, stimulated, and warmed-up properly.

I hope this week is a success. But I can’t just cross my fingers and close my eyes and expect it to take care of itself. Recovery takes planning. Eating takes planning. Success takes planning.

I am stronger than I think, but I am not invincible.

I owe it to myself to breathe in… breathe out… and make this week a success. I have slept plenty this weekend. I have taken plenty of days off. I have hidden under my blankets for quite long enough. Time to shake it off, go outside, breathe deeply, and try again.

A Runner’s Resolutions

1 week later: cross-eyed and drooling in the Denver airport plus a side of headache.*

My holiday at home came and went too quickly and here I am enduring the darker side of travel. Traveling is tough; I don’t have to tell anyone that. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse already having to catch a shuttle at midnight to make it home to Laramie at 3am … things got worse.

Long story short: plane was delayed, missed the shuttle, gutted it out overnight in the airport (HIIIIIIII first person in line at Einstein bagels at 5aaaammmmmm that’s meeeeeeee!!!!!)

new year's resolution after 17 hours (and counting) of travel = grow a mustache :-{)

New Year’s resolution after 17 hours (and counting) of travel = grow a mustache :{D

I’m not sure what I was complaining about when I arrived at DIA last week perfectly according to plan.

But for reals, all this time to think (with my slowly deteriorating brain function) has left me jotting down some new year’s resolutions. Which is something I never do. Mostly because as a lifelong “athlete” I don’t need to change my habits of health and buy a gym membership… right? Er… isn’t that what most people’s resolutions are?????

But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t make athletic and health goals. There is always room for improvement at every level [of running, or insert whatever you like], so why deprive myself of the chance to brainstorm my goals and processes? Goal-setting is an art, a skill. There is much I want to accomplish in 2015, and it starts with mapping out a plan. In fact, I damn near owe it to myself to write resolutions.

Some kind of visual metaphor about an uphill battle and harsh conditions... that will make me stronger?

Some kind of visual metaphor about an uphill battle and harsh conditions… that will make me stronger?

Here are my goals, dreams, and intentions for the 2015 racing year.

RUNNING RESOLUTIONS

1. Stay healthy.

Process: Emphasize glute strength/core stability; maximize recovery; smart cross-training; do a proper warm-up before all runs 

2. Reach my mileage goals (35 miles per week by June 1) and stick to a safe training plan

Process: follow Jack Daniels’s plan according to my needs; increase mileage by 10% every 2-3 months; take down weeks and embrace small setbacks 

3. Watch Anna run Boston and race the BAA 5k!

Curious how we have no pictures of us running together in college but plenty of us getting sloshed together.

Curious how we have no pictures of us running together in college but plenty of us getting sloshed together.

Key race: my goal is to race a sub-18:00 5k. Process: stick to a reliable training plan; race a 5k once a month (minimum) before Boston

4. Columbus Marathon half marathon

Goal race for 2015: I want to run 1:25. Process: complete up to 4 training half marathons; build upon 5k work

5. Run in a track meet!

Goal: race 1500m and 3k several weeks before Boston

6. Buy a yoga pass

Goal: attend one class per week 

7. Start lifting again and emphasize running-specific training

Goal: 2 upper body sessions per week; 1 plyometrics session per week; 3 glute/core/physical therapy sessions per week

8. Become an early bird.

Process: attend 6 am yoga classes or meet friend at the gym at 6 am; make a consistent morning schedule even though evenings won’t be

9. Utilize tools to record my progress (Strava, Believe journal, food diary) to manage sleep, eating, training, and recovery 

10. Reintroduce consistent cross-training, especially aqua jogging

Goal: 2 cross-training sessions per week, alternating elliptical, bike, and pool

NUTRITION RESOLUTIONS

It may seem odd for an aspiring sports nutritionist and shameless plant-pusher to have a set of goals for improving her eating habits. Think again. I believe that no matter how perfect our eating habits may appear, there is always room for improvement. I am certainly not perfect, and I don’t wish for my elimination diet and food journey to be done in vain.

As I wrote in my last post, my nutrition went downhill as soon as the project ended – mostly thanks to the holidays. So I empathize 100% with everyone else who feels miserable after the onslaught of holiday binge-eating. A few weeks ago I pinpointed Jan 1 as the day I would set my “new” eating habits in motion.

1. See previous post for my #foodjourney take-aways

2. Bi-weekly meal planning (to ensure caloric/nutrient needs are met, to provide variety and stable nutrient timing, and to guarantee stress-free grocery trips)

3. Stock pantry with staple foods and prepare snacks for emergencies

4. Prioritize my food log: add notes on time of day for waking/sleeping, all exercise, work/class, and reactions to foods for a more holistic daily record

5. Score my DQS** 2-3 times/week (1 long run, 1 workout, 1 easy) to ensure nutrition is consistent, especially on key days

6. Practice mindful eating habits, like slowing down, to avoid overeating that causes GI problems.

7. Aim for variety! Try new grains, fruits, and vegetables as often as possible and keep my meals diverse.

8. Hydrate! Aim for 32 oz. of water per day at the minimum.

9. Go entirely plant-based, with care (in other words, 19 times out of 20 – because cravings happen, restriction is bad, and peace of mind must be maintained!)

10. Don’t forget to indulge.

My kind of indulgence

My kind of indulgence

Next week (Jan 5) is the official start date for my 5k training program. I can’t wait! Easy runs get old super fast, and I am craving speed work.

But this brings me to my final resolution. Now that I’ve blogged about my food crisis and blogged about my goals, it’s time to chart the progress I take away from all that planning and experimenting. It’s time to launch my running blog as it was meant to be.

My resolution is to check in weekly with updates on my training, eating, yoga, gym work – you name it. I want to build a resource. This year will be big. I’ve laid the groundwork for this blog and for my training in general. It’s time to graduate from base mileage to the “real” deal. A real year of smart training and following a plan. Not an injury-fest and a random string of underprepared races. I’m miles ahead of Jan 1, 2014.

Please join me on this journey through 2015. All paces welcome.

BOOYAH to a healthy & fast 2015

BOOYAH to a healthy & fast 2015

* Currently: 2 days later, tooting up a storm in the Albany Co. Public Library, headache mildly better.

** DQS = Diet Quality Score, as outlined in Racing Weight (a worthwhile read), which emphasizes number of servings, or variety, to rate nutrition quality, rather than counting calories or grams.