Training/hamstring update

So, round 2 of ‘come back from the hamstring injury’ did not go as planned, in spite of my sincere promises to my hamstring to take things slow and *not* be an idiot. Behind these promises lurked the reality of a race a few weeks away and a desire to salvage my training by squeezing in a few short, but up-tempo workouts. I still really wanted to do BolderBoulder, so, foolishly, I attempted a tempo workout  the week before last to ‘test things out’. As you can probably guess, this pushed me back over the hamstring-aggravation threshold, and I had to take another four days completely off.

After that second break I finally realized that the only way I was going to be able to manage my training expectations in a way that is compatible with healing the hamstring was to pretend that my couple months of strong late-winter/Spring training were their own separate season, and that this return post-break represented a start-of-season base-building mode after what was effectively a post-season break. In light of this more realistic new view of my recent training I’ve dropped my plans for BolderBoulder, postponing them to next year, and am focusing purely on getting my hamstring healed in time for Sawtooth relay in early June. I’m going to be cautious and patient with that June 10th date in mind – I’d rather be out of shape than in shape but running two 6-mile segments on a cramping leg!

For my ‘back to base’ plan I’m sticking to a maximum of 5 days a week of running, and am focusing on controlled, gentle pacing for all runs (no faster than 9:00 pace average unless I go a whole week of running with zero pain, and absolutely no workouts). I’ve also adjusted my hamstring rehab routine to include some lighter exercises to warm up before doing any higher load hamstring rehab, and I’ve been getting out on the bike more to exercise the hamstring in a low-impact, small range-of-motion manner. So far things are improving – my hamstring pain during normal daily activities has been eliminated, and I’ve had several solid, pain-free runs in a row!

My runs are rough even at the controlled pace and I can tell I’ve lost fitness, but I’m hoping the solid training from the start of this year will still give me a boost when I finally get back to workouts and racing. I’ve had a few frustrated moments when I think of all the tough, miserable winter miles that I ran in the dark, thinking the suffering would pay off in Spring/Summer races. However, I know that even with time off I’m still in better shape than I would have been if I hadn’t put in those miles, and the several speedy Spring workouts I got in pre-injury were rewarding even if I never got to ‘use’ the fitness gained. They reminded me of what I can do as a runner, and will hopefully let me get back to those exciting paces a little quicker once I’m healthy!

Race report and patience (again)

On Saturday morning I woke up to a stomach full of nerves and a sky full of rolling storm clouds. I had signed on to do the 3 mile run leg of a sprint triathlon relay with my cycling club and we were scheduled to take off in a couple hours if the weather allowed. Several weather-worry-related group texts later we met up on the soggy grass field beside the calm, misty swim route under skies that had mercifully decided to release only a heavy mist. Our swimmer donned her wetsuit and the rest of us ran around sorting out bike and run gear and prepping for our respective transitions. Our swim-leg teammate’s daughter was doing the kids’ duathlon after our race so joined in the nervous adrenaline rush and warmed up for her event by running around with all of us. I’m pretty certain she had more energy than all three of us combined!

Our swimmer took off into the chilly lake and came out of the water strong to hand off to our bike leg. I knew the times wouldn’t be crazy fast on the wet, slick roads, but was still a bit nervous about somehow missing my team’s rider as I warmed up. However, I was able to get a couple good miles in, use the bathroom and switch into my trusty Tangent flats, and even do some drills and strides before she came into sight in the distance. I scurried into the corral for some final legs swings as she came around the lake. She rolled in and ripped off her timing chip, passing it to me to strap around my ankle. I tightened the velcro strap, hit my watch, and took off!

I was lucky to have a nice string of full triathlon athletes to chase as I went, as the relay had started a bit behind the full event. The first mile seemed a bit longer than expected, but I distracted myself by gradually reeling in athletes ahead of me and cheering for those passing back on the out-and-back course. The short race on asphalt was a bit of a change from the long trail races that I’ve been doing, so I had to remind myself a few times to push the pace rather than conserve energy. My legs were still a bit sore from a tough workout on Wednesday but I was able to run smoothly with what felt like decent turnover.

Coming out of the turnaround I started to feel the strain, and apparently let it get to me – when I looked at my splits afterwards my 2nd mile was slowest in spite of having less uphill than the other two miles. That dang 2nd mile is always my downfall in 5k’s…it’s so easy to let doubts about the ability to maintain pace and the discomfort of the beginnings of exhaustion combine into a lapse in effort.

Luckily I snapped out of it in the third mile and dropped the pace, ending up with my fastest mile of the three and a finish verging on hyperventilation. I could hear my teammates yells of encouragement as I neared the finish and managed a little bit of a kick though I didn’t have anyone nearby to race to the finish. We ended up a solid third and first female team, and had a ton of fun cheering for other friends as they came into the finish and taking goofy photos while dodging the light rain. A good morning (despite the chill and sprinkling rain) with a fun team of women.

 

And now for the patience –

While I was pleased with knocking 15 seconds per mile off my pace since I last ran this course I’m also still a bit frustrated with my inability to move at anything resembling what I think of as a normal 5k pace. I’m still about 30 seconds slower than my out-of-shape 5k times in GradSchoolCity, even with the altitude conversion. I worry that this means I’ve somehow become incapable of getting into 5k shape and will be horribly embarrassed in a few weeks when I line up to race against young, speedy college women in a few of the local xc meets. I even bought buns to race in and now have the added bit of pressure knowing I don’t want to make a fool out of myself while essentially running in my underwear (*emits nervous high-pitched noises internally*).

So I’m reminding myself to have patience instead of say, freaking out and trying to make huge mileage and pace leaps and ending up a little pile of broken runner.

I haven’t done speed since who know when and have only been running what amount to long tempos in the few races I’ve done this summer. I’ve made progress in the amount of running that I can do and am really enjoying the training and ability to explore new routes. I still have time to get up to speed, and will gain better turnover and 5k pacing over the next few weeks if I focus on solid 5k training at my current level of fitness. I can’t magically jump ahead and just need to put in the work and make baby steps towards holding my own over cross-country later this Fall.

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Waiting to send our swimmer off!

Anyone else here done a triathlon relay? Any tips for having ‘good old days when I was speedy’ amnesia when it comes to finding satisfaction in race results at a lower fitness level?

Patience

There’s nothing quite like pulling out your race planning calendar and penciling in the highlights of the abundance of summer races to make one short on patience. I’m dreaming of gnarly trail climbs and fast road races, and all I really want to do is bust through some gut-wrenching workouts and increasingly lengthy long runs in the newly-arrived Spring weather.

Instead, I’m wrestling with my starry-eyed enthusiasm, pinning it down while I spend a week on lower mileage in an effort to get my recently uncooperative right foot to loosen up and stop nagging me every few strides. I went a bit too hard last week with a tough workout and a (horribly dehydrating) single-track long run, and my right foot got cranky enough to warrant an attempt at appeasement through reduced mileage. I’m already noticing results – less morning foot stiffness and only a little ache after my last (short) run, but waiting is hard. *sigh*

Based on others’ tales of woe, runners are almost universally lacking in patience. We want to get PR’s, speed through workout progressions and into full fitness, blast the early miles in a race and then carry on in some heroic breakthrough effort, and push through the pain of injury rather than taking the time to fully heal. But if we want to succeed long term, we have to learn to deal with the early season sluggishness, the many races that fall far short of our goal times, the illusionary slow early pace in a long race, and the pains that interrupt our training.

So even though I can still technically run on my nagging foot, I’m giving it a break. I’ll hop on the bike today, with an eye on races 2, 8, 20 weeks down the road rather than the disappointing number at the end of this week’s training log. In two weeks, the number of miles that I hit this week really won’t mean anything…unless it’s a foolishly high number that has me nursing an even sorer foot. My running enthusiasm is going to have to just sit down and chill for a bit until logic and my a-few-weeks-down-the-road planning decide it’s free to launch back into action.

 

Any other patience-enforcing strategies out there?

A long week

Oof, well that was quite the week! I’m finally sitting down with MountainMan reading and drinking some Sunday afternoon coffee. It’s been a week crammed with good and bad, stressful and fun, and I’m glad to finally have some slow, quiet time to process everything before I start again tomorrow.

The bad/stressful: 

  • 4:20am wake ups on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday + 12 hour days Monday and Tuesday due to work events/meetings.
  • MM being gone all week for a funeral 😦
  • Taking care of furbaby – fun but stressful since he seems to act up when anxious about MM being gone
  • Some disconcerting work stuff 
  • Thought MM had crashed because the 100 mile drive from the airport today took him 4 hours. Nope, he just stopped to nap and didn’t tell me
  • A crazy commute Thursday that involved bad bus schedules, lost car keys, cycling in 27 degree weather, and misplaced office keys. And then, thankfully, free bacon

The good:

  • Science club students rocked it at their final presentations! So proud 🙂 
  • Tempo run on weds started wayyyyy too fast but then I held on and managed to drop almost 20 seconds in the last mile, totally shocking myself
  • Finished another conference abstract and made good progress on the study design and budget (new skill, yay!) for a new study – actually felt focused and productive even after 2×12 hour days to start the week
  • May have found a new road bike! 
  • Found a sweeeet new dirt-road running route and got to explore it with furbaby

  • Joined the #oisellevolee team! So excited to be on a team with new and former teammates 🙂 More on this coming soon…

  • Related: Started planning my summer race season and got wayyyy too excited. All the trail races!
  • Finished up a 30-mile week (woohoo!) with a sunny, celebratory shake-out run 


After all that I’m grateful to have a few hours to relax and recharge before jumping back in to work, another week of training, and the general stress of adult life. Thank goodness for my favorite fleecy blankets, comfy old track-team sweatshirt, and decaf evening coffee 🙂

Still doing this training thing!

I just realized I finally hit 6 uninterrupted weeks of running 20+ miles/week! Hurrah!

I nearly fell off the streak this week with a cranky foot, but fortunately the rapid application of 2 days of cross-training got my foot settled down and I was able to enjoy a nice pair of weekend runs pain-free.

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(Pain-free, but not quite rain-free)

The weather this week behaved for the most part, allowing me get out for a a few outdoor rides in addition to the runs. Cycling through the wind and over the hills made me realize just how wimpy my bike trainer rides are compared to outdoor rides – I actually skipped leg weights/circuits this week because my legs were so heavy from the shift to outdoor riding.

On an encouraging note, I went out for a 20-mile ride today and it felt much easier than the first few 20 mile rides last Spring, so I think the trainer did help me hold on to some bike-specific endurance over the winter. I guess all that mindless spinning while watching Netflix was worthwhile!

 

Next week I’m aiming for another 20-mile week on the running side, with a bit less biking since I’ll be spending some time in the Big City over the weekend around running a 5k cross-country race with Fish. Can’t wait to throw on our super-official ‘team’ uniforms (matching pink shorts and yellow tops, wootwoot) and racing flats for some xc fun!

Training adjustment – because try as I might, I’m just not a cross-training fiend

After my last couple (somewhat whiney) posts, I decided that maybe I just needed to adjust my training to create a better atmosphere for motivation and success instead of sitting around feeling guilty and unmotivated.

The first thing I addressed was the lack of structure. I’ve been planning my training weeks every Monday and sketching the schedule out day by day, but for some reason planning each week makes me feel like it’s not a ‘real’ plan. I come up with excuses based on ‘just not feeling it’, rather than just adjusting based on more critical factors such as pain or sickness. By changing this approach to a multi-week schedule, where several weeks are written down firmly in advance, I can achieve a stronger sense of commitment to the plan. Fish shared her college summer XC training plan with me a few years ago when we were training together, and I really enjoyed the gradual progression and ability to adjust to even relatively low starting mileage. I’ve based my multi-week planning on this schedule, and hope to gently progress along the mileage and pace progressions as my legs allow.

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Example of the training level groups and progression over the first couple weeks

The second thing I adjusted was my cross-training commitment. I really, really wish I was a true multi-sport athlete, but I just don’t get quite as excited about my other athletic activities as I do about running. I like them, but committing 3-4 days a week to skiing or trainer rides is difficult. I have realized that trying to be competitive about skate skiing has made me much less enthusiastic about it than I was when it was just a fun way to get my heart rate up in the snow. In order to rekindle that joyful, low-stress attitude I’ve decided not to do the last race and to skip the speed work attempts, and will instead just focus on easy skiing and technique work. I’ve committed myself to at least 2 days of cross-training (ski, bike, or circuits for 20 – 30+ minutes) per week, nothing more. I may increase this as my summer riding gets underway, but for now I’m going to stay more relaxed, and hopefully find more joy in these alternate activities as a result.

Here’s my plan for the next few weeks, with potential (training-style) races penciled in:

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We’ll see how it goes!

Friday training/fitness struggles

Soooo I was supposed to do a skate ski workout today and I bailed for no good reason.

Conditions were fine – I got off work on time (though a bit tired from some tricky Matlab work), it was relatively warm, and we got some snow last night to cover the ice. But I just have no desire to clip into my skis and bust my way up and down a hill, pushing through the fatigue and discomfort of a hard workout. I’m annoyed that I wimped out, but so unmotivated that I haven’t even done any make-up working out indoors this evening. Instead, I’m sitting in my comfy chair drinking tea and writing this. I just want an evening where I can be a bum and focus on other things, but now that evening is also filled with a bit of missed-workout guilt.

I haven’t actually hit my 6-hours/week exercise goal for the last 4 weeks and feel lame for being such a (compared to my expectations) bum. I have been trying to get motivated for that last ski race in March, but honestly it’s tough to be motivated when I know that even with a big improvement I’ll still be off the back of the fast high school pack. With so few beginners/non high-school athletes the races aren’t really super beginner friendly, and I don’t really feel like ending up alone all over again now that I know what to expect. I’m considering skipping the race because it sounds so utterly unappealing to push myself through training for another 4 weeks just to spend a few laps suffering over what are bound to be pretty cruddy late-Spring snow conditions.

My bike trainer is also being a bit neglected, mainly because I’ve been heading to work at 7am so haven’t been staying up late riding the trainer lately. Riding when MountainMan is still up feels rude, as I generally can’t chat on the (freakin’ obnoxiously loud) trainer. Actual bike season is about a month away so hopefully that will motivate me to start getting back on the trainer at least a couple times a week.

Over all I’ve just felt really unmotivated for training other than running, and even running is so unstructured that I’m not really sure what I’m aiming for. It may be time to ‘hire’ Coach MM again to write some workout weeks that actually specify cross-training just so I have someone to be accountable to!

I’m probably being a bit overdramatic about one missed workout, but I really don’t like feeling this combination of laziness and irritation. At least it’ll be time to go to sleep soon and I’ll be able to let go of the guilty/whiney/lazy feelings and start over. Here’s to beginning tomorrow with a good run and ski and much less sitting around inside! Maybe one day I’ll actually be a good, motivated cross-trainer 😛