Training: Oct 10-23

The grind continues. Today marks 11 weeks since someone or something gave my running the stinkeye.

I continue to train hard using alternate methods. To break up the monotony, and make sure I’m working hard enough, I’ve started getting creative with cross-training:

Spinning: I naturally tend to work harder in a spin class than when I’m on my own. Unfortunately, my schedule does not always mesh with the gym’s, so I’m doing a lot of spinning on my own these days. I focus on getting my heart rate up, evidenced by a) a high heart rate and b) getting myself to sweat like a pig. I achieve this with lots of standing up while pedaling alternated with 2 minutes of pedaling like I’m being chased by a mob of zombies — the fast kind, not the slow kind.

Elliptical: You can do speedwork on the elliptical. You can also do hillwork, but I’ve been told to stay away from doing that because it could aggravate whatever my injury is — plus the focus for us distance runners is high turnover, strength and endurance, not being able to do the equivalent of running up stairs carrying a dishwasher. So I do surges here too, getting my reps up to 210 (and making sure I’m pouring off sweat) for 2-3 mins with 1 min recoveries. In the case of both spinning and elliptical, I note the days I’m doing intervals with a plus sign.

Weights: I have yet to have found a way to make this work creative. Although I do enjoy the fact that I’m usually the only woman in the weights area. I feel so special. Let’s move on.

Pool: I’m beginning to not mind the pool so much. For one, I’ve developed some mind games to play. But when I’ve got an entire lane to myself for upwards of an hour and a half, there are no distractions and the act of running in circles becomes meditative. Pool running is the priority among all these gym activities, so it’s where I work the hardest. I tend to “save my strength” for the pool — meaning I am conscious of not trashing my legs in whatever I’m doing before I hit the pool for a hard session, meaning anything harder than an hour’s steady effort of 72-75%. What are hard sessions? Right now it means three things: long run (80-90 mins at 75%+), fartlek session (around 18-25 minutes of short and long intervals with very short recoveries), progression run (I start at 65% and work up to 85% in 10 minute increments). Once I’m back to regular running training, I’ll still be hitting the pool 3x a week as well as doing 3 sessions of spinning and frequent weight work.

I met up with Sandra a couple days this week at the gym. She was doing a little training, but as she’s dealing with a knee problem, couldn’t do everything with me. Still, she hadn’t seen me at work in a few weeks and she seemed surprised at the effort I was putting into it. I also sent her my training log and her reaction was that I’m probably training a lot harder than I was when I was “just running.” She swears I’ll be faster when I hit the roads again as a result of this conditioning work. I hope she’s right. At least I’m getting a nice pair of legs out of the deal.

So, where do things stand right now? An MRI should provide some clues this week. If it’s a stress fracture then I guess I’m sidelined according to how serious it is. I would be very surprised if it needs surgery, but what do I know? The other possibility to be ruled out is a hamstring tear. I have not looked into what that involves because I’ve already wasted so much time Googling injury-related information. I can’t do it anymore. I’m sincerely hoping it’s merely inflammation in the joint that can be treated fairly quickly so I’m back on the road next month.

As for training and racing plans, there will probably be adjustments. In the training realm, one piece of news is that Sandra and Khalid are moving to Colorado Springs next month to pursue some opportunities she has out there, live at altitude and leave the high cost of living in New York State (and horrible weather) behind. It’s also a quicker trip to Mexico, where they spend a fair amount of time every year.

I knew when I started working with Sandra in July that this was their plan, but now it’s really happening, which has not been easy to accept. I got a mere month of road/track training in before I got injured. So that’s been a source of disappointment. But I have to acknowledge that I learned a lot about training in that month — and in the “injury months” since then in terms of how to apply cross-training (both while injured and as a supplement to regular training). Sandra and I communicate well, so I’m feeling confident that we can keep up the good work using the various modern tools at our disposal — Skype, Google docs and email. I was also encouraged to discover that the majority of the Houston Hopefuls are successfully working remotely with their coaches.

As for racing, I have no idea whether I’m going to Houston in January. If I can start marathon training in, say, two weeks, it’s probably enough time — around 12 weeks — to get me in shape to run a good marathon, if not a great one. If it’s a longer wait, another option is to train for and race the Houston half instead. I love the half and working toward a PR there would be a good stepping stone to returning to the marathon, so that’s a compromise I could live with. And if I’m completely screwed for a January race, one idea I’ve proposed is switching my plane ticket and targeting the Napa marathon in early March.

Nearer term, I would love to race something, anything, as soon as possible. Watching the Fifth Avenue Mile last month — not just watching, but limping around as a volunteer — was enormously depressing for me, as will be watching the New York Marathon next month. I don’t want to get greedy and demand a race when I should feel lucky to be able to run anywhere for any distance, which I still can’t. But I’ve appreciated in the past couple of months that, while I enjoy training, the racing is what the training’s all for. I have it my head to try to run the Joe Kleinerman 10K in Central Park in early December. It’s a carrot to chase after mentally. But, ultimately, my body’s going to be the one calling the shots.

At least I’m not living alone in Injury Land. And I have a reliable cross-training partner most days, although he recently had to drop out for a bit while battling an infection. Anyway, here’s yesterday’s quote of the day, triggered by the arrival in our mailbox of an entry form for the Marisa Fund 5 Mile Turkey Trot.

“It’s amazing to think that just five months ago, I won their 10K on that course. And now I couldn’t even win a snail street-crossing contest.”
– Jonathan Sumpter

6 Responses

  1. Good luck in your forthcoming MRI! It’ll be great for you to finally know what’s been hurting you.

    Regarding pool running in my own post stress-fracture stir-crazy time I’d posted my technique (http://www.runinamerica.com/2009/08/pool-running-perfected.html) and am convinced that it maintained my fitness quite well – as I’m sure is yours. My coach (Sean Wade) swears by pool running, and after his stress fracture recovery with tons of very high speed pool running he easily set a new masters P.R.

    • That’s encouraging stuff, Mark. Thank you!

      Good post, too. I’ve found that it takes conscious effort and practice to “find” the right form in the water. It’s too easy to hunch over and stress your lower back.

  2. Julie, I am actually going to postpone my Houston marathon for next year (I will be guaranteed entry, although I have to pay for it again) — that way I can see the Olympic Trials … just a thought. Napa marathon sounds awesome, it is one I have always wanted to do (the winners win their weight in wine, what is not to love about that?).

    I plan to continue pool running even after I start running a lot of mileage again (I was happy to run 17 miles last week!). There are some shoes that I am going to buy that supposedly help increase the resistance ….

    Can’t wait to hear how the MRI goes.

    Bonnie

    • Bonnie, I’m sorry to hear that. I know that was probably a tough decision to make. I plan to be in Houston in 2012 too, regardless of the race I run while I’m there. I’m not yet ready to write it off for this year.

      I know what “shoes” you’re talking about. My advice: get used to running in the pool without them for a few weeks before you use them. They supposedly make it a lot harder and you don’t need to stress your body when you’re trying something new. Not only that, but it’s very important to establish proper pool running form so you don’t stress your lower back, and I think wearing extra resistance on your feet will make it more difficult to find and lock in the right form.

      I have a pair but I’m not using them yet. I may not use them since I have a suspicion that they may make “running” too awkward. They might be good for some of the other exercises, like the frogleg-kicking or leg-lifting motions, though.

  3. I would think a stress fracture would actually be good news. Those have a set time for healing, and you’ve already taken so much time that I think you’d be close to the “start running again” period.

  4. I’m a snail. Can I race Jonathan? Or some slow zombies.

    Sandra’s prediction is encouraging. The lengthy cross-training reminds me of something I read in Running Times — about Japanese Olympic marathon hopefuls doing 12 months of hiking in the mountains with back-packs before starting running training. It shouldn’t take too long for your running training to be going well. I like the idea of the December 10k, Houston Half, Napa progression.

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