Slowpoke

I’m supposed to run the Austin Half Marathon with K on February 19, so now that my leg/hamstring/knee/whatever is mostly back to normal, I’m working on re-building my endurance.

From scratch, apparently.

In total over the last eight weeks or so, I’ve only taken about a week off, but I’ve had to reduce my mileage and cut back the number of days I run.

In November I PR’d a 5K running a 10:34 pace. Today I can barely hold on to a 12-minute mile. My “speedwork” pace the other night was around 11:30. My quads have been getting fatigued two miles in and I end up taking walk breaks. It’s like I’m a newbie again. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not where I want to be three weeks before a half marathon.

This morning I managed eight miles, although I walked some sections. My leg doesn’t like uphills, and one section was a little rocky so I played it safe there too. But my legs felt like lead the whole time, my shoes felt too tight, and everything just felt …off. I slogged through it, but it took forever.

My only entertainment was enlightening S on the virtues of Pinky and the Brain.

It’s amazing how quickly I lost endurance. And it’s frustrating trying to get it back. Narf.

 

The skinniest park in Virginia

My hamstring is slowly recovering–enough that I can run a couple of slow miles without much discomfort. So when I made my annual trek to Washington D.C. with my honor society kids last week, even though we were staying way out of the city this time (due to Inauguration crowds) I was so excited that J was willing to drive out to run with me one morning. It was the Asscrack of Dawn 5K: BFE Edition.

My hotel was a mile or so away from an access point to the Washington and Old Dominion Regional Park–basically an old railroad line turned into a 45-mile long asphalt bike and running trail. And it was flat and smooth, with a parking lot 100 feet away. It was dark though–no trail lighting–so at one point when we heard rustling in the grass to our right we got kind of nervous. And the Eau de Skunk was fun too. But it was quiet, mostly just the two of us. Perfect.

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We encountered a couple of cyclists who were using nuclear-bright headlights, so we had plenty of advance warning. It felt really safe, and I loved it. We ran an easy 1.55 miles out, then turned around to make it an even 5K.

I’m WAY out of condition–seven weeks of limited running has killed my endurance. So I ran a minute or so per mile slower than I would normally have run with her, but otherwise it felt good. Very little discomfort in my leg, and I ran with a mostly normal stride.

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It was the one time on the five-day trip, about an hour total, I had for myself. The kids (and adults!) were all still asleep, so it was just me and J. It was a different route from the last couple of years, but it allowed me to discover something new–the skinniest park in Virginia!

 

Rain in my hair, don’t care

As I walked into the kitchen at 6:15 this morning, I heard the cat yowling for his breakfast rain pounding on the roof and came thisclose to going back to bed. Especially since last Saturday’s six-mile run and Tuesday night’s four miles were … unpleasant. Aside from the pain, I’ve been favoring my left leg, so I’m running more on my forefoot than usual and everything is just a little off.

But Thursday, I got a new pair of shoes–the next version of the ones I’ve been wearing–and maybe kinda sorta felt a little improvement on a two-mile test run. So, perhaps I was overly optimistic to think anything would be different today, but I went anyway.

It was 46* (and still raining, but lighter now) as we headed out. In my head, I was hoping for six miles, but continuing on this overly-optimistic theme, I really wanted to make it seven. I mean, the Austin half is coming up fast–pretty soon I’ve got to decide if I can put in enough training to finish that race. But I promised myself I’d go further only if my knee was feeling good. I figured I’d know by the second mile–that’s when the last couple of runs have fallen apart.

Clearly my endurance has taken a huge hit since running a ten-miler, then two 5K PR races back-to-back-to-back in November. So I plodded along a minute per mile slower than usual for a Saturday run. But aside from that, I felt closer to normal than I have in a while. My strides were more even, my foot striking less gimpy. One mile, then two. Still good.

At the mile three water stop (which would also be my turnaround for six miles) I could see the roof of my house. Part of me was tempted to duck through the gap in the fence and go make a coffee or something. But even though I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop (so to speak) and the gimpiness to return, I actually enjoyed being out there–in the rain and cold and wind–because I could.

So I kept going another half-mile, for seven.

One of my friends turned back at three, and the other two got ahead, planning to turn around at four. I stopped and stretched my hamstring at 3.5, watched the steam rise off the pond (it had been nearly 80* most of the week), then headed back. Slowly, but still mostly normal, with just a little hamstring achiness every so often. In those middle miles, I walked a bit now and then (beacuse endurance) but generally maintained a steady, albeit glacial, pace.

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The wind picked up on the return trip. My headphones died the last half-mile. I couldn’t keep up with my friends. My new shoes felt too tight and I kept having to loosen the laces to get them just right. But you know what? I DID NOT CARE.

I had hoped for a half-assed six-miler and I got a solid seven miles. Rain nor cold nor gloom of night could keep me from my appointed rounds. And afterward, foam-rolling felt a little easier. Hell, walking felt a little easier. In fact, the rest of the day I felt no residual soreness at all–for the first time since Thanksgiving I ran pretty well, then moved around completely pain-free afterward.

That’s not to say after our post-run coffee celebration I didn’t sit on the couch watching Netflix, warming my toes by the fireplace. But I did it comfortably.

 

 

Seventeen going on eighteen

I don’t remember the last time it got this cold in Central Texas.

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Maybe it was 2011, when rolling blackouts hit Austin because the electricity demand was so high. They said they’d be 30-minute blackouts, but my school went without power for at least two hours. Parents waited in an hour-long line (the overflow from the office spilled into an outdoor courtyard) to take their kids home… where they also had no power. It was a crazy day. But even then, I’m not sure it got down into the teens. The only other time I remember such cold temperatures was 1989 when it dropped to FOUR DEGREES. At the time I worked in a mall with an ice skating rink, and (rumor had it–which sounds ridiculous in retrospect) the stores did not have heat because of the ice, and it was really damn cold in there.

So 17* is … unusual. But I promised the others if I really could run, I would not complain about the weather. If I could run relatively normally, I would be thrilled to run in 17*.

The first mile went pretty well. I mean, it was cold. I wore a fleece-lined base layer, then a quarter-zip pullover and a windbreaker on top of that. I had fleece-lined tights, plus gloves, ear warmers, and a scarf around my face to help me breathe warmer air. My torso was comfortable, but my face hurt and my quads went numb pretty early on. But still, I was running pain-free and did not complain. In fact I was super-happy, daring to think maybe my leg was getting better.

We knocked some ice off the cooler at the first water stop, and when I unzipped my jacket to get my chapstick, the condensation from breathing into my scarf (or possibly my sweat) … froze. It looked like I’d been running in the snow.

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As I restarted, though, so did the twinge in my knee. I ran-walked pretty much the next five miles. It felt a little better the last mile, so I was able to pick up my pace and salvage something from the attempt. But I feel like my stride is still … off.

For six miles I concentrated on my form, I tried to figure out why and where it didn’t feel right, I tried to stop thinking about it and let muscle memory take over. But nothing worked, and I really don’t know what to do about it.

I’ve done everything I’m supposed to–foam rolling, strength exercises, stretches, resting, not resting, cross-training, ART (and whatever other medieval torture my sports doc puts me through), massage therapy, ice, heat, anti-inflammatory meds. The only other option is patience, and, well, that’s not one of my virtues.

Especially with only six weeks until the Austin Half-Marathon.

 

Ch- ch- ch- changes

The general consensus (around the internet, anyway) is that happiness is 2016 in the rear view mirror.

2016

While my running year was pretty successful overall, I’m certainly ready to have this knee injury behind me. So from a still-recovering perspective, I guess it’s a positive thing that 2017 will start off very differently from previous years. Most notably, with zero races in January.

The Rogue Distance Festival–usually the first week in January–is no more. The last couple of years, I liked that the Rogue 10K served as a good practice run for the 3M Half Marathon two weeks later. Last year it seet the tone for the rest of 2016 when I turned in the first of six PR-setting race times. And my other usual January race? I registered for the 2017 3M half the weekend of the 2016 3M race, but then over the summer realized that it conflicts with a work trip to Washington, D.C. with my honor society students. Fortunately I was able to switch my registration to the Austin half, but that’s not until February 19. On the plus side, it gives me more recovery and re-training time before the race, but it means for the first time in four years, I won’t race at all the first month of the new year.

But I’m really looking forward to the Austin half because K is coming from Ohio! I have only run this one once (plus the last two miles with S last year) but the course is not PR-friendly–and I’m no shape to attempt one anyway. I don’t care about my time, just having fun. So it’s motivating me to get this knee thing sorted out so I can keep up with her. And even if (gah) I can’t run it, I’ll be a part of her race as support crew and spectator.

S and I are planning to run the Austin 10/20 again this year. It’s in early April, so who knows what the weather will do. But it’s my only 10-mile race of the year, since the I have a conflict for the fall Army Ten-Miler, and it will also serve as a good training run for….

The Cleveland Challenge Series.

The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon introduces the Challenge Series which offers new options for runners and walkers who wish to challenge themselves! The challenge series is divided into three levels of varying difficulty and requires a 2-day commitment from participants:

8K and full marathon (Total Distance 31.2 miles)
8K and half marathon (Total Distance 18.1 miles)
5K and 10K (Total Distance 9.3 miles)

The Challenge Series spans over two days (Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21). Participants who take on the challenge will be required to finish one event per day.

First event on: Saturday, May 20 – Events include the 5K or 8K starting at 8am at a new location TBD.

Second event on: Sunday, May 21 – Events include the full marathon, half marathon or 10K starting at 7:00 a.m. at Quicken Loans Arena and finishing at a NEW LOCATION to be determined!

Finishers in the Challenge Series will receive individual medals for each event, plus a challenge medal specific to their race. Challenge medals will be distributed on Sunday, May 21 in an area separate from the finish line near Mall C.

Finishers will also receive 2 T-shirts (one for each event) and additional swag. These items are to be picked up at the Health and Fitness Expo/Packet Pick-up on Friday, May 19.

I figure if I’m traveling halfway across the country, I should get the most bang for my buck, right?

The Three Musketeers will reunite, and there will be shenanigans. Just brainstorming what to put on our race bibs instead of our names led to hilarity. For the record, I’m going to be Fire Pony.

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You’d think I’d be hesitant to race in May, even in Ohio, based on my previous experiences. But this year I really want to take advantage of opportunities like this–if I can run a half-marathon, why not run it with amazing friends? And if I’m going to run a half-marathon, why not throw in an 8K the day before and triple my medal haul? Instead of focusing on the negative (“I’ve got how many miles still to go?”) I want to try to find the best in each mile.

And there will (hopefully) be a lot of miles. I’ve committed to Run the Year 2017 as part of a four-person team to log 2017 miles. Since one of my teammates is from Canada where it’s snowy and icy half the year, it’s up to the three Texans to compensate!

First things first. Knee recovery and gradual (yet with some sense of urgency) re-entry to training. So basically emulating the Fire Pony:

As a newborn, [Ponyta] can barely stand. However, through galloping, its legs are made tougher and faster.

Here’s to the year of the Fire Pony.

Run the Year 2017

This post also appeared on Texas Running Post here.


“I need something else to work towards or I won’t run. And this would certainly be motivating. But there is no way I can do it except on a team.”

And with that text from my friend Jacquie, I fell down the rabbit hole of Run the Year 2017.

See, Jacquie lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She runs mostly 5Ks, partly because four to six months with snow and ice on the ground makes training for longer distances much more difficult than training in Central Texas. I mean, yesterday she said, “This week the temp is dropping to -20 to -30 with wind.” I think that’s Celsius, but no matter how you measure it, it’s cold by Austin’s standards. And this time of year her part of Canada only gets seven or eight hours of daylight, too. So I can see why she doesn’t want to run outside in the winter.

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Anyway, Jacquie achieved her 5K time goal in 2016 and wanted a new challenge without jumping up to longer races. We have a mutual friend who gave her the Run the Year idea, but she needed, as they say, a little help from her friends.

I wasn’t easily convinced. When she first suggested this thing, the math was daunting. Thanks to my knee, I’d only managed to run about six miles that week. For a two-person team, running 2017 miles is about 21 miles per week, or 84 miles per month. I typically run around 100 miles a month—more in the early part of the year when we kind of have winter (also when Austin holds its major distance races) and fewer in the heat of the summer. It’s doable for me when I’m not injured, but still way out of reach for my Canadian friend. And for me at my current state as well. So she suggested adding a third person, which drops the total to 56 miles per month. No, I didn’t even run that far in December—I logged 35 miles—but a gradual increase in mileage as my knee recovers should get me there and beyond over the course of a whole year.

I still wasn’t ready to commit, but I floated the idea to my BRF Sara and we kicked it around for a week or so. In the meantime, an MRI of my knee showed no tendon or ligament damage, so I wasn’t facing something major that would knock me out before I got started. No, it’s not 100%, but the needle is starting to move. I managed three miles on Thursday and five on New Year’s Eve. I’m not pretending I can jump back into half-marathon training where I left off in November—I’m taking it easy a mile or two at a time, concentrating on good running form and listening to my body, ready to back off at the first sign of trouble.

So at Saturday’s post-run coffee date, Sara and I discussed the pros and cons. With three of us, we’d each have to run 13 miles per week—something she and I often knock out on in one run during half-marathon training season. Even on a slow week in the summer, we run more than 13 miles. Oh and there’s a medal. Cons include a year-long commitment and the state of my knee.

As we sat there sipping coffee and weighing everything, our friend John, who’d run with us that morning, joined us. After we filled him in, he piped up, “Well, do you need another team member?” And then we were four.

Now our mileage is about ten miles per week, which takes a whole lot of pressure off me and my recovery. Same with Jacquie and the Canadian winter running situation. So we took the plunge and registered.

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Next we needed a team name—first we suggested Rogue-related ones since three of us train with Rogue Running. Then we tried to connect bluebonnets and maple leaves. Our initials don’t make good acronyms—without vowels, anything we came up with sounded like a breakaway Russian republic, not a running team name. And finally, when Jacquie was trying to teach us about Alberta she described it as Canada’s Texas, and it stuck.

To celebrate, and to get this thing started on the right foot, I went out for a 2.5-mile recovery run. Only 2014.5 to go!

For more information or to join the challenge, visit https://runtheedge.com/runtheyear2017