In the Company of Boston’s Strongest

Visiting Boston for Marathon Monday will go down as one of the best trips I ever took.

That’s a pretty astounding statement for someone whose “first Boston” did not include a passport to the 26.2 starting line. But after the entirely pathetic winter I had, the experience leaves a lump in my throat because it was something I really needed. Perhaps it sounds selfish to declare that I needed to live vicariously through thousands of qualified runners – who dedicated months of deeply personal training to pursue their own Boston – but I did. I needed to feel the energy – the nerves, the excitement, the quiet reverence – palpating from a running community that has journeyed to the single-most coveted marathon in the world. I needed to get a sense of the work it takes to get there and how much it means when you do. I needed to be surrounded by people who don’t take running for granted – to whom it might not come easily. I needed to share a space with people who love running, breathe running, want to run.

And most of all, I wanted to support Anna in the marathon!

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Post-5k, pre-bagel and lox

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Out of thousands of runners at the 5k I managed to bump into my BF’s cousin’s BF, whom I had only met two days prior for the first time ever. Weird.

I ran the BAA5k bright and early on Saturday morning. My only goal was to start and finish a run that had once held so much importance and to just enjoy it along the way. I had my Garmin but vowed not to look at it during the race. I just wanted to feel what it’s like to participate in something bigger than myself. Shortly into the first mile I could start to feel my lack of preparedness catching up with me, but I made sure to smile and take in my surroundings and slow down if I wanted.

In the last mile, we turned on Hereford and Boylston exactly as the marathon does. I got chills racing down Boylston, my eyes glued to the marathon finish banner. I imagined we were all finishing the marathon and it was a powerfully emotional experience to run down that corridor lined with cheering spectators. But after stepping across the finish line, the moment disappeared and I refocused my energy on finishing the 5k.

When I pressed my watch at the finish, it said 21:05. I felt that was a fairly decent accomplishment given my lack of running these last 2 months, but I was shocked to see that two of my miles were 6:35! Now… in the scope of my competitive 5k history since I first broke 20:00 at Old Bill’s in 2013, this is certainly my worst 5k. But fast wasn’t the point this time.

The point was bumping elbows with enjoyment again. Flirting with fun. Reigniting the spark. Taking my time and breathing in the Boston crowds. I told Anna it had been so long since I had run free of self-imposed pressure that I was glad for the opportunity to finally just… run, not race. Competitive distance runners rarely allow ourselves those kinds of races. But I am not ashamed to declare that I raced a 21-minute 5k, and in fact I am truly happy with everything about it.

^ *iNsTaFaMe*

On Sunday morning, Anna and I met the Oiselle contingent in Copley Square for a shake out run and more Insta-fame.

^ Yep, that’s us on the bottom frame (popular weekend!)

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Oiselle shakeout on the Charles

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Learning to runselfie

We also watched the BAA Mile races from the bleachers and took several trips to the expo (the second was solely to sit in the NormaTec sleeves).

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Strangely satisfying and terrifying all at once

Not to mention we saw Shalane Flanagan not once but three times before Marathon Monday. I wished her good luck IN PERSON. No photographic evidence, but she didn’t need another fan bothering her pre-race meal at sweetgreen. (Right?!?!)

Marathon Monday dawned chilly and grey and changed to wind and rain later on. Anna left early for the shuttles, and I headed to the train station before 9 to meet up with Oiselle ladies at the half. I had taken an old point-and-shoot camera, thinking it would take better video than my phone and also help reserve phone battery for the tracker app, but I was wrong and botched my videos of the elite fields running by. I also neglected to snap a shot of Anna, but I knew it would be hard enough to find her anyway, let alone take a good photo, and I wanted to be in the fleeting moment that was only seconds of her entire race. So I have no media from the marathon. Which blows. But I had an awesome time cowbelling with Mac and Oiselle birds and leaving technological distractions behind.

I dashed to catch the next train back to the finish and, incredibly, made it to the Commons right as Anna came out of the finishers’ chute. It was pouring. I assisted her to gear check and we slowly made it back to the hotel.

Anna ran a 2:51 to become the 46th woman to cross the finish. At the Boston Marathon. Fucking incredible. Her local newspaper in Anchorage printed an article about how she and her training partners fared, and it is worth the read!

^let that statement sink in…..

Anna attributes much of her success to the support system she has in her hometown through her training group, running store, and community fans. She came with a posse of stringy Alaskan runners whom I got to know and cheer for. And they were so welcoming to me and seemed to take a genuine interest in me despite having their own huge goals to focus on for the weekend.

That’s the universality of running. I have no business acting like I have any idea what it’s like to run a marathon, but these seasoned vets could find common ground with me because it’s running all the same. I know what pre-race prep is like, I know what crossing a finish line feels like, I know what nailing a workout feels like, I know what having a team feels like. Now, more than ever, I know what not having a team feels like, and it has really hurt me these past months in the isolation of Laramie. I am so humbled and grateful that these fast, friendly Alaskans came into my life for one weekend even when that weekend had nothing to do with me and everything to do with them. As the saying goes, you should run a marathon because you never know who on the sidelines you will inspire to try it next. One of them asked me if I had been bitten by the bug this weekend, and I know I was bitten long ago, but they all made me believe I could go for it.

run #likeagirl

A post shared by Anna Dalton (@annaedalt) on

^Here’s a nice stealie from Anna’s IG, since no one took finishing or post-race pics (just her busting out a half marathon win, BTW)

I don’t think Anna fully understands how much I admire her as an athlete, friend, and woman. She is one of the few people I kept in close touch with after college, and one of even fewer who still runs with such ferocity. I don’t think I would have accomplished half as much as I have without looking to her for inspiration. It was the least I could do this weekend to make the trip to cheer her on in what would become her fastest marathon yet. I caught only seconds of her hours-long race but it was totally worth it to finally watch her race again.

I have a feeling this girl will race an Olympic Marathon Trials one day. Full bragging rights there. So to watch her take on a single stepping stone of what will be a long marathon career was simply amazing. Congrats on a fast, ballsy, controlled race! Such a pleasure to share the weekend with you! xoxo

Meanwhile, back in Laramie….

Yes, it truly is time to move forward.

Dear Sally

This just isn’t my winter. I’m not really sure how it got away from me – how it managed to slip through the tiny cracks leftover between work, school, illness, snow days, fatigue, and giant naps – but somehow it fled the scene.

I haven’t run since I bombed a 4-mile race several weeks ago. I stopped mid-race before ultimately deciding to finish, but otherwise the details of the race aren’t important. It marked the departure from a plan that I haven’t been able to reignite.

Letting out some expletives after barely beating that stringy old guy

Letting out some expletives after barely beating that stringy old guy

I started with a perfect plan. Of course I did. It included perfect execution of a perfect, injury-free training season, and the Boston 5k in April would be the perfect icing on the cake. But perfect plans only exist to be royally effed up by more realistic circumstances.

Turns out my schedule is tough, and I let it serve as an excuse for everything. I typically work in the evenings, so rather than feeling off-the-walls pumped for mid-day workouts, I am crashing hard after my morning class due to sleep deprivation. I’m in a cycle of work late, get home late, go to bed late, sleep past alarm, get up late, rush to class, nap late, rush to work… and then I’m fighting to get out of bed for a 10am class the next day. I stumble to class with a piece of toast in one hand and coffee in the other, braless in a sweatshirt, to endure 50 minutes of feverish note-taking before my central nervous system has even realized it’s awake.

Do you think my next move is: A) bust out a VO2max workout or B) make a beeline back to my apartment to nap?

Hint: it’s not A.

Throw in a couple bouts of sickness and borderline ferritin levels, and well… after that 4-mile “race” I tossed in my towel.

Short-term life-boost solution and some wise words

Short-term life-boost solution and some wise words

I bring all this up because I have dreamed about Boston being something special. First and foremost, I am going to support a friend in the marathon. I have a feeling she will OTQ one day, and I haven’t watched her run since college. But I want a piece of Boston cream pie too, so I set the goal that I would run my fastest 5k ever. After a year of living at altitude, a sub-18:00 should be a cakewalk with the proper training, right? Thanks to sneak peeks via LF’s WoW workouts, I know that is near the pace of your 5k goal as well, so I suppose part of me feels like I let you down these past few weeks as a virtual competitor and training partner. I gave up on the work that was going to get me to fast times.

I gave up on runners, too. Instead of finding motivation and inspiration from all the talented runners I admire and believe in, I’ve felt depressed by my inadequacy lately. My inability to pack a training session into my – let’s be honest – less-than-full day when everyone else did it at 5am feels shameful. When everyone else is out getting better, I am in the person in that one meme who sleeps in. Everyone else went running and I have serious FOMO but I’ll just stay in I guess because I’m getting used to being left out?

It’s been a hell of a rough patch and has shaken my faith in running to its core. And for that – for all the negativity, and doubt, and envy, and abandonment – for all these things, I apologize: to you, to the incredible people behind Oiselle, to every runner I admire, to the friend I will be cow-belling in Beantown, to my boyfriend. And, with humility, I apologize to myself, because it’s all been so unfair. Negativity does not drive success or healing.

Finally, I pulled it together for light cross-training. Even in unpleasant times, there is something about sweating and getting the blood pumping that makes me feel invincible, even if for only a few minutes. After several days straight on the elliptical, with the irony of a Greek tragedy, I succumbed to another bout of illness. But I got up again.

Sally, here is the silver lining. I will still run in Boston. I will carry my heart and soul to the start of that 5k. It might not end up being the PR I once set my heart on. Maybe my story isn’t ready for that yet. I may not be nipping at Lesko’s and your heels. But I will be breathing deeply and flying with the strength of a million runners before me who overcame fear, injury, or adversity to toe the line.

We could all quit every day, but we don’t. We need breaks to keep us humble – to keep us yearning for more. We need to learn to roll with the punches. We need to let go of perfection. We need to get back up when we are beaten down. We need to keep dreaming. We need to keep running.

I once lost a year of my track career after a stress fracture. It took months of mental training to get back to the start line. Healing takes many false starts before you're really ready to fly.

I once lost a year of my track career to a stress fracture. It took months of mental training to get back to the start line. Healing takes many false starts before you’re really ready to fly, but it does happen.

If Boston symbolizes anything, it is strength. On April 18, I will bring all the tools I have to execute whatever my mind and body are strong enough to do. It’s the best I can do, and that certainly beats the worst.

Thank you for believing in all women runners even when we are low on gas and not feeling like ourselves. You inspire us to become our best, eventually, one day, even if the journey seems far away. I will answer to the birdcalls echoing across Boston. The anticipation of sharing this weekend with Oiselle heroes from nest to flock to the highest flying is enough to keep me from giving up.

With gratitude,

Claire

P.S. Just because I had a hard time relating to the running community’s successes does not mean I went without any forms of comfort from a strong group of women. I know we are heeded not to compare ourselves to elites, but their stories of tough times are just like anyone’s, and I am grateful for the empathy and the sharing and the support that exists across the running world. Pros and non-elite racers are able to relate on so many levels, it turns out. This is a truly remarkable community. Here are several accounts among many that helped me cope with adversity:

Stephanie Bruce and her graceful encouragement to take things as they come, without judgement. Lauren Fleshman admitting that she also “feels like doo-doo” on occasion and has to work on her iron levels. I’m grateful for enduroTwerd’s blog, and her Valentine’s race recap read like something out of my head. I love the Twitter exchanges between her and Devon Yanko too.

And I empathize completely with this high flyer:

^I hope it is OK for me to showcase you all. You ladies and so many others are on a pedestal in the Oiselle community, and I thank you for your openness about struggling and questioning. Powerful and humanizing. Without people like you, I wouldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, or the opportunity to bounce back when I am ready. Finally, perhaps most significantly, I thank my Boston-bound friend Anna for the kind of honesty and support that only comes from an IRL friend. She has come back from a rocky college career plagued by anemia, food allergies, and, I’m sure, a lot of doubt to outrun us all. I can’t wait to watch your 26.2!

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.

Hill sprints up this fucker. #7300ft #WoW #powerstation @fleshmanflyer #stravaproveit

A post shared by Claire Larson (@clairelar14) on

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.

 

 

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.

.

.

.

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.

Life, post-Elimination Diet

It’s Christmas morning and I am cross-eyed and drooling in the Denver airport with two hours to go until my flight. I got up at 2:30 a.m. in order to catch the shuttle from Laramie. $90 less in my pocket for that.

Now that the gluttony of Christmas eating is upon us, I feel freshly compelled to sum up my #foodjourney experience, which came to its rightful (if not somewhat hasty) conclusion about a week ago.

I could have stretched the damn thing out and kept studying everything from tomatoes to walnuts, but after identifying what I felt were the more common allergens and suspects, I focused on those and gave more thought to my eating habits as a whole.

IMG_20141206_193527

Wheat dinner : Cauliflower alfredo, salmon, and avocado spread

So, to be entirely anti-climactic, I pinpointed NOTHING as the enemy food. Which is all fine and honestly what I was expecting. BUT I still learned plenty about what my stomach doesn’t tolerate, and that is valuable information.

I took semi-regular notes as I went through each reintroduction and monitoring period (some of them were downright uneventful), but the details aren’t interesting or important to anyone.

Here is how I proceeded:

  1. Soy
  2. Peanuts
  3. Dairy
  4. Wheat/gluten
  5. Corn
  6. Alcohol
  7. Beans
  8. Coffee

Confession: by the time I got to the last item, I basically declared the whole thing over with and went through no monitoring period. Reason: we decided to go to Fort Collins for a day and I was not going to miss out on beer and bar food. SORRY NOT SORRY.

BINGO

BINGO

I figure I’ll just steer clear of coffee, then? (Edit: already failing)

So after all that work, what the heck did I conclude?

For one: a clear preference for plant-based, whole foods eating. Which is how I eat for the most part (Colorado beer festivals and holidays aside) when I have regular cash flow* and ample time on my hands.

*as opposed to opting for thrifty purchases like canned vegetarian chili and marinara sauce

Check out this book for plant-based recipes and a crash course on plant-based health!

Check out this book for plant-based recipes and a crash course on plant-based health!

I can attest that in the one week since completing my challenge and promptly “letting myself go” in the *spirit* of the holiday season {peer pressure}, I feel awful. I spent a 36-hour period chowing down on bar food, beer, and cookies & ice cream and STILL went out to eat Mexican food three days later and lemme tell ya that was not enough time to recover from the first poor eating incidence(s) before doing it again and I shamefully admit I almost threw up TWICE in those THREE days from overeating while out on the town….

…. elimination diet….what’s that?

Thus,

RULE #1: Eat mostly plant-based, whole foods for optimum feel-good-not-sick-ness.

RULE #2: Minimize overeating (and by extension, eating out – although I can really gorge myself on kale salad and that causes intestinal fireworks of its own.)

Portion control

Example 1: portion control

So these “rules” really aren’t so much about what I learned in the elimination diet as they are things I generally know to be true about good eating habits and health, and which certainly everyone else knows to be true as well (whether wanting to admit it or not). Because yeah no shit – who doesn’t feel like garbage after binging on mustard pretzel bites and giant pizzas?? Mind not blown.

But eating like shit really pisses on your motivation, energy levels, and work ethic. Running has felt like an awkward, uncoordinated slug-fest, whereas a month ago I felt weightless and nimble. It’s hard to run comfortably after a weekend of drinking and eating my weight in beer and fried food. Fuck it’s hard to sit on the fucking couch and watch Family Guy comfortably.

As far as the actual foods are concerned (intense details omitted for readers’ sakes) …

I had the most “adverse” effects (ranging from “backed up” to “shit storm”) from dairy and coffee. Beans behaved a lot like my kale salads (gurgle). And soy produced a lot of {harmless} flatulence. But after looking at the bigger picture and pulling from previous experiences, I can sum up a general prescription for eating these foods.

RULE(S) #3-7: Limit dairy. Limit intake of peanuts and beans before workouts. Severely reduce caffeine consumption, particularly before workouts. Routinely eat a variety of whole grains. Avoid excessive fat and oil intake, especially at night or before workouts.

Limiting dairy is dogmatic of me, I admit. Since reading The China Study in September, I severely cut back on my dairy intake, and I plan to keep it minimal.

I liked exploring gluten-free grains (buckwheat groats are unusual but tasty), and there are plenty of other grains to get acquainted with besides wheat. Whole grains are delicious – nutty and chewy – and very diverse. I plan to keep mixing things up and will try to avoid too many refined grains and pastas. I will confirm that gluten-free grains are easy to digest (even shortly before running), but I found no need or desire to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle.

The fat/oil part occurred to me after going a little overboard with the coconut oil and avocado (in one sitting). Fats take longer to digest, so it may be worth limiting oil consumption before running and at night (and eating a whole avocado is probably not considered moderate… just a guess).

Trying new things: cherimoya

Trying new things: cherimoya

That’s it, folks. Keep up (and improve upon) a plant-based, whole foods diet with plenty of variety in grains, moderate fat intake, and limited dairy and caffeine. For me, working out earlier on a relatively empty stomach might also be part of a winning combination.

What now? I have a gazillion recipes to add. I’m actually dreading it. I intend to continue blogging my recipes occasionally (as opposed to exhaustively), with more focus on developing my own creations (as opposed to rating things from Veg Times). Stay tuned…

 

 

[Edit: finally posted 4 days after Christmas, just hours before another cross-country airport drool-fest]

 

When life hands you sour lemons…

This is a reminder to myself. A personal sticky-note on the bathroom mirror. A dog-eared page in the runner’s bible.

Setbacks happen and they can be unexpectedly necessary.

I am half-way through my recovery month. A month that has intentionally prescribed lower mileage and required no workouts. A month scheduled for base mileage.

Two days ago, I hit the ground. Literally. My bike tires skidded over a patch of ice and both knees smacked the frosty surface. I recovered myself instantaneously, numbed as much by embarrassment and shock as by the icy contact. Within hours, my left knee was stiff and aching. In my attempt to catch my fall, I must have planted my foot so firmly on the ground that my knee hyper-extended and buckled before I ultimately collapsed anyway.

The next day I was cringing to bend the joint. I scratched my head about how to reach my mileage for the week and cursed myself for wasting my day off on the day I had the accident.

And then I let go. 

Who cares about 25 miles this week or 5 miles today or tomorrow? During a month where I imagined myself putting in more hours cross-training than running, how had I suddenly gotten so caught up in monotonous miles?

Instead, I went to the gym and pedaled the stationary bike and enjoyed a weekend morning yoga class.

Now I feel refreshed, my knee has loosened up, and in hindsight I am grateful for the excuse not to run. Yes. Grateful.

Sometimes we need breaks and don’t realize it. Sometimes we think we are giving ourselves a break but really aren’t. Sometimes we need horse accidents and bike accidents and colitis to stop us in our tracks.

Sometimes, a step back yields two steps forwards.

My shins were a little tender, my form a little sloppy, and my mind a little fatigued. I was marching, head down, towards a brick wall. Then today I ran a slow, short teaser. I was healed. I allowed myself an extra day off, and my body and mind had rebuilt themselves.

Do not curse unexpected setbacks. Embrace them for allowing you to pause and check your surroundings. Run away with the opportunity to try an alternative activity or simply rest an extra day. I guarantee you will bounce back stronger and smarter.

When life hands you sour lemons, add some sugar and make sweet, sweet lemonade.