Summer Basebuilding: Week 3

sum09-base-02Note: There was no week 2 in this basebuilding effort. I took the entire week off in an attempt to hasten recovery.

I’m somewhat reluctant to honor this week with the label of “basebuilding” lest I tempt fate. But, what the hey. I’ll be an optimist.

Basebuilding? No, not really. More like continued recovery from whatever ails me. But it was a good week from that perspective. I’ve not run “by time” (as opposed to “by miles”) since my first foray into jogging 10 years ago. And, like back then, I ran with no gadgetry to quantify the effort.

Monday through Saturday I ran with a plain vanilla watch and when I hit the halfway point of the prescribed time, turned around and headed home. I’ve noted approximate distances anyway because, well, I’m anal retentive and can’t stop myself from doing so. I’ve run my route a few thousand times, so those guesstimates are good within a few meters. But I didn’t pay attention to distance while actually running, which is what was important.

Running without constant feedback on HR, pace and distance was a challenge to get used to. But after the first run I found it liberating. I will probably go gadgetless for most of next week as well.

The two days of note were Friday and today (Sunday). Friday was notable because despite high humidity, I felt really good on my run. Good as in “I haven’t felt this good since April” good. It occured to me that this feeling is what I should have experienced during my taper, but didn’t. I’m trying not to read too much into it. I know I’m still crawling out of whatever mysterious performance hole I’ve fallen into. So I won’t get overly enthused. I am trying to remain patient, which is not my strong point.

Today’s run featured a bout of faster running, but only for the purposes of gathering some data to help give clues as to how my recovery is coming along (and to use as a comparison in the coming weeks). For a mile I ran varying paces, most of them in the 8:30 range, but I tacked on some fast running for the last .2 just to see what I could get myself down to. I managed to hit 5:46 for a few seconds. This is good news, as I struggled to get down to 6:30 during a race warmup a couple weeks back.

Whatever the issue is — overtraining, iron deficiency, vitamin deficiency, or simply the lack of a proper recovery — it’s abating slowly but surely. This makes me happy. It also helps me remain patient. Progress is exciting to see, but it’s also a reminder that I trashed myself before and it would be easy to do so again in short order, while I’m still groping my way along during this nascent state of training readiness.

On another encouraging note, the compulsive napping dropped off early in the week. Unfortunately, mild insomnia has moved into its place. But my gut tells me that it’s temporary.

So patient I will be. Next week looks a lot like this one: all running for time, 99% of it recovery pace, with a little faster running thrown in to have some data to look at. We’re building up the mileage again, probably by about 25% or so. But that’s discretionary; if I feel tired or otherwise overstretched, I’ll back off.

Google search oddities

Yesterday I got a hit from a search on:

“men like girl feet”

I’m really, really tempted to rename my blog to http://menlikegirlfeet.com now.

Recipe: Chicken Livers and Bacon

In my quest to become as iron saturated as quickly as possible, I’ve been reading up on foods for the iron depleted. Chicken liver is tops in my book. Not only is it easy to find, but it’s also suprisingly low in calories (around 150 for four ounces raw; not that you’d actually eat it raw) and high in protein. But wait — there’s more. It’s off the charts in Vitamin A and offers a good natural source of Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 (the latter is useful for building up red blood cell count). Chicken liver is also dirt cheap, at least where I live: $1.99 a pound.

Some caveats: It’s very high in cholesterol, so you probably shouldn’t eat it more than once or twice a week. It’s also not safe to feed children and infants large amounts of liver as it can overdose them with Vitamin A. For the same reason, pregnant women should avoid it. Finally, the phosphorus in liver can impede calcium absorbtion, so time those liver meals carefully, or take a calcium supplement.

If you think of liver as resembling the rubbery remains of a shredded Michelin tire, then you haven’t had liver that’s been prepared properly. With the exception of pork liver (which I’ve never actually seen for sale anywhere), you can cook liver to the level of doneness you’d prefer in any other meat. In my house, that means rare-to-medium-rare. The result is a tender meat, slightly pink inside. For an extra shot of iron, cook liver in a cast iron skillet.

Here’s how I like to prepare chicken liver:

Chicken Livers and Bacon

Serves 4 restrained eaters, 3 hungry ones.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. raw chicken livers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 5 slices of bacon
  • 8 oz. raw mushrooms, sliced or quartered
  • half cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. light cream
  • 1 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder
  • half tsp. ground ginger

To prepare:

  1. Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  2. Mix the two spices with raw chicken livers.
  3. Cut the bacon crosswise into half inch wide strips. Cook until chewy but not crispy. Drain on paper towels.
  4. Drain off all but 1 Tbsp. of bacon fat.
  5. Cook mushrooms for a couple of minutes, just before they start to “sweat.”
  6. Add chicken livers to pan and cook until they are mostly brown on outside, not pink.
  7. Add chicken broth and turn heat up to medium high. Add bacon pieces back to skillet.
  8. Check “doneness” by slicing into a piece of liver.
  9. When done, turn off heat and stir in cream.
  10. Serve immediately. It goes nicely over some brown rice, but it’s also fine by itself.

NYC Half + Fresh Air Fund = Doing Good

Sure, the insanely popular* NYC Half Marathon is sold out, but you can still run in the footsteps of Catherine the Great and other fast ladies (and gentlemen) by signing up to run with the Fresh Air Fund. FAF is just one of a boatload of charities you can run for. Just think how good it will feel to run through the streets of NYC…in order to help a kid get a little break from the streets of NYC.

*And I do mean insanely popular. A race of over 10,000 run in the high heat and humidity of NYC in August? That fills up in a couple of hours? Along the West Side Highway? Yeah. Um. Insane.

Random observations from four days of faux-parenting

I spent some time last week and today playing host to my nephew, who is 12 going on 13. Here are just some of the things I learned:

Kids like to know how long it will take to get somewhere. Setting low expectations doesn’t help.

A child can block out all other ear-splitting ambient noise and is able to hear the single Guitar Hero game they are playing in an arcade.

Children find it highly amusing when you scream.

Crazy, ranting bag ladies at bus stops bring out my protective instinct.

A 12-year-old who consumes a large Monster energy drink will spew a frenetic stream of consciousness ramble for a good half hour — just like someone who’s totally coked up.

Loud plaids over loud t-shirts is all the rage in teen fashion right now.

Children find televised track meets just as tedious and dull as the adult members of the general public do.

Kids need protein fairly often or they get woozy.

No matter what the time of day, cereal is the perfect snack.

The Coney Island Sideshow is the city’s best entertainment value. And it’s family friendly.

Preteens need sleep. A lot of it.

Preteens also think everyone else around them is aware of them and everything they are doing.

It’s fun to expand a kid’s vocabulary. Some new words covered: manifesto, satire, parkway, origin/meaning of the phrase beyond the pale, assume vs. presume.

Kids forget that not everyone has the same area code.

It’s official: I’m completely effed up

I dutifully forwarded the last two weeks’ worth of SportTracks logs to Coach Kevin and got a reply shortly thereafter (I’m paraphrashing): “You are really messed up! Stop training right now.”

I’ve known my running was rapidly going from bad to worse, with the abysmal 8 mile race on Sunday being the cardiac Klieg light. But it was helpful to have a third party confirm this, with exclamation points.

It’s probably this iron/vitamin deficiency business, but there’s also a chance of some kind of weird overtraining effect at work. So I was told to run very easy this week, 3-5 mile sessions at most. Since I’m a woman of extremes (which is what got me into this mess in the first place), I’m going to up the ante by not running at all this week.

In the meantime, I’m huffing 27mg of Ferrochel, 1,000 mg of Vitamin C and 4,000 mg of Vitamin D on a daily basis. And rediscovering the pleasures of chicken livers, leafy greens and roasted pumpkin seeds. The cast iron cookware is getting a good workout too.

Now we wait and watch. I’m awaiting whatever modified training plan I’m to start on next week. Then we’ll set up some sort of pace vs. HR workout to do as a baseline for evaluating how I’m doing over the coming weeks.

This is so frustrating. I feel as though now, rather than spending the summer in preparatory mode for marathon training in the fall, I’m instead going to be just trying to get back to where I was in April, before things when all pear-shaped and running a 7:30 mile became a huge challenge.

The fact that something like this has happened probably shouldn’t surprise me so much. When I look back over my training, I realize that I’ve been working very hard and running at high mileage now — at least for a newcomer to competitive running — for two years, pretty much without a break. If I ever wondered what my limits were, at least in training, now I know.

It’s better than being injured, I suppose. But it still sucks.

Summer Basebuilding: Week 1

sum09-base-01Here we go again.

Now that the dark days of May (and somewhat drunken days of June) are behind me, it’s time to put nose to grindstone once again in preparation for the California International Marathon, taking place on December 7th. On that morning, at 7AM, I will run from Folsom to Sacramento. And I plan to run it a lot faster than an anemic 7:45 pace this time around.

Was my pace in Newport literally anemic? I’m beginning to think it may have been at least flirting with anemic the more I read about blood test results and after a couple of dismal performances in local races. In any case, I’m taking action to try to correct the problem via handfuls of iron and vitamins B, C and D.

I’m also working on dropping some fat during the coming weeks of basebuilding. I’ve found it impossible to lose any significant extra fat while actually in the throes of marathon training, but I’ve had luck doing so in the past during basebuilding. Throw in a pledge of complete sobriety until after Labor Day (since weekend drinking tends to derail the weight loss effort) and you’ve got either a recipe for success or misery.

I winged it last week since Coach Kevin was still off in the wilds of Colorado, basically taking an early week from our last go-round of basebuilding and modifying (okay, bastardizing) it. I also threw in a race yesterday, which didn’t go nearly as well as I’d hoped.

Highlights of the week: Lost of slow recovery running as I continued to try to become acclimated to the summer heat and humidity. On Wednesday I went to the track and attempted some faster running. It was quite hot and humid, though, so it was hard to run fast or particularly hard. I got my HR up to 92% but found that my lungs gave out before my heart did on those efforts.

Yesterday I did an 8 mile race, the Putnam County Classic, which I’d thought would be flat, as the majority of the course was running around a large lake. But it was actually quite hilly, with lots of sharp ups and downs and very little flat bits. The weather was very nearly ideal, at least for a race in July: 65-70F and dew point around 58 or so. Since I’ve been racing so badly lately I decided to just run the whole thing by effort and not even look at pace during the actual race, since I’ve found it so depressing to do so. It’s hard to keep running the remaining miles when you know how slow you’re going.

I ran at as high an effort as possible, which averaged 93% MRH, although I did finish up the last half mile at 95%. Still, I was slloooowww. I was not happy to see a time well over an hour upon reaching the finish line. All I could muster was an average 7:40 pace. Barely faster than I could run for 18 miles five weeks ago in Oregon. Sheesh, it’s so depressing to see how far I’ve fallen, and continue to fall.

I should note that I’ve become a chronic napper lately. I needed a 3 hour nap on Friday (thank goodness it was holiday for the company I contract for and I’d already put in my work hours for the day). Then another yesterday post-race (not quite as surprising). It’s probably a reaction to the increased mileage + heat/humidity running + two races in eight days. Still…uh…what the fuck is wrong with me?

Today I felt okay and the weather was fantastic: mid-60s and an unheard of July dew point of 48. I had to take advantage of it since it will be hotter than Hades soon enough. So I did a hair short of 16 miles up past White Plains at a halfway decent pace.

My experience over the past few weeks has shown me how performance issues can sneak up on you. Everything can seem fine during regular “bread and butter” runs like recovery and long, steady distance efforts. The problems only make themselves known — and in quite dramatic fashion — when trying to run fast, or at least they do for me.

I may do a few more races over the summer if the weather isn’t horrible, just to try to gauge if taking supplements is helping at all. There’s a nine miler later this month that I might try, as well as the Van Cortlandt Track Club’s summer series of 5K races on Thursday evening. And I’ll definitely do the 10 miler I do every September in South Nyack, the weekend after Labor Day. I really hope I’m in better shape by then. I ran that one in 1:14:20 last year (with 80 miles on my legs already going in). I’d love to break 1:09 this time around.

Don’t get me wrong — I know so many people right now who are struggling with injuries and who can barely run at all. I’m grateful that I can run. I just wish I could run fast again.

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