Training and trying vs. giving up and getting fat

And. I’m back. Maybe I’ll post more than once per season in 2013.

When I wrote that last post I was depressed and stressed out. Could you tell? I was also injured. I pretty much stopped running in any consistent way for the next couple of months. I averaged 8-10 miles during the weeks in which I ran. Many weeks featured no running whatsoever. I stopped going to the gym altogether. I’ve gained 6 lbs, and it would be a lot more had I not been a total calorie intake Nazi.

I’m now free of all Achilles issues and I have extremely mild plantar fasciitis in my right foot (yeah, I know; it’s been there for a year now). But it goes away after two miles on the treadmill usually; some days it’s not there at all. I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to run with no pain, it’s been so long. I started running fairly consistently about two weeks ago, usually 4-5x a week. I’m mostly on the treadmill due to ice/snow on the running path. I’m around 20-30 mpw average now with no major issues. About once every 10 days I do a slightly faster run. I am in remarkably good basic aerobic shape, considering all the neglect. I started doing weights again, once a week, two weeks ago too. Next week I’ll start going twice per week.

It’s probably nuts to talk about goals at this point. But I have them. I always do, in the back of my mind. The goal over the next month is to be able to run 30-40 mpw free of injury. I will probably do most of the runs on the treadmill since I think the reduced impact has helped me to heal. I will continue to do at least one faster workout per week. I will also do some trail running in Van Cortlandt.

Come April I’ll start doing 5K training again. Then I want to race a 5K in late May or early June. No time goal. I just want to get back to racing. Then if that goes well, and I remain injury-free, I’ll focus on the Fifth Avenue Mile again in late september. It’s the only NYRR race I still give a flying fuck about doing well in. I’ve also been invited to do the Green Mountain Relay again in late June. If I can get short legs (no giggling) — and my teammates are cool with my not racing them all out — then I will probably do that again, because it’s fun!

I still want to crack 20:00 in the 5K. I’ll be 48 in a few weeks. I’m probably an idiot for wanting this, because that way lies more injury, failure and frustration. But I’m realizing that if I don’t have some sort of racing goal it’s nearly impossible for me to care about running anymore. So it’s either train and try or give up and get fat.

In which running moves up a few slots

I sat down this morning with plans to compose a detailed, entertaining and photo-strewn record of my time in London and Edinburgh touring with ENDURE: A Run Woman Show. But I won’t. Or, rather, I can’t. Sorry. Think of one of the most intense experiences you’ve had in your life. Then imagine it going on for roughly three weeks. How can you then do any justice to it with a blog post? Especially when you’re still trying to process everything you saw, felt, learned, gained, lost, did, appreciated, regretted, succeeded at, failed at, and otherwise experienced.

So I’ll write about what else is going on.

I am on a creative tear lately. I have ideas for half a dozen stories. I just published one this week. I have a novella-length story that I’m trying to finish but can’t publish for various reasons of privacy, so that’s a big problem to solve this year. I am looking at getting back into live storytelling regularly again. I am taking two performance-oriented classes starting next month: one is a vocal training class and the other is in standup comedy. I have been writing standup material for about six months and wondering what to do with it, missing the obvious answer to that question (just get up and perform it, dummy) until quite recently. I am trying to figure out how to get myself back to Edinburgh for an extended stay because I loved that place so much. I would like to at the very least be there for next year’s Edinburgh Fringe Fest in August, in some capacity but of what sort I don’t know yet. If it’s possible to spend the entire summer there, then, yes, that’s an affirmative and a no brainer.

Finally, there’s running. I wasn’t running much in the UK but I was hardly idle. I estimate that I did around 5-9 miles of walking a day (and a little running as part of the show I was crewing for). I did a few harder runs while there and was surprised that I hadn’t lost that much basic fitness. The best discovery upon returning home was that my hamstring and Achilles issues cleared up during my time away. My plantar fasciitis, while not gone, is extremely mild and responds to babying enough that I can train on it.

I’ve got no racing plans to speak of. Missed Percy Sutton, I’m skipping the Tuckahoe and Fifth Avenue Miles. What’s the point? I’m out of racing shape and not trained for any distance. I probably won’t run any races through the rest of 2012. But 2013? That’s another story. Here we go again.

The plan: a return to Fair Lawn, NJ for the First Day 5K on New Year’s Day with a goal to get as close to 19:59 as possible. This means 8 weeks base building + 10 weeks 5K-specific training. I’ve joined a gym again — one that isn’t a half hour away — so I can get back into regular strength training. I’m getting sports massages for as long as I can afford to. Barring horrendous weather, injury or other personal disasters, I think I have a shot. Hey, Weather? Guess what? If it’s cold, icy or windy, I have indoor options. Injury? Bring it on. I’m used to you and I am totally willing to work on your schedule, use the stupid elliptical and drop race plans. And, Fate? Fuck you. My dad can’t die twice.

Spring Training: Week Six

This was a good week. although also a tiring one.

My legs were somewhat tired after the previous Sunday’s race, but they didn’t overrule my brain when it told them to run an extra mile on Monday. I spaced out and ran nearly 10, only realizing the error of my ways at just short of the five mile mark.

I did Tuesday’s tempo run as a ping-ponged series of four miles back and forth along a long stretch of lonely road we have up here (Pipeline Road — or, on the maps, Aqueduct Road). Unfortunately, it’s the one extended section of concrete my runs take me on, but considering that it’s straight, fairly flat and devoid of cars after the morning rush hour, that’s a compromise I was willing to make.

Sometimes I think that running a race can have the effect of speeding me up in subsequent days. I ran my miles at 7:15 (a little faster than planned), despite a swirling wind.

On Wednesday I did the only dumb thing of the week — a run in a foot of fresh snow, on tired legs. That two mile slog did me in for the remainer of the week. But it was enjoyable to be outside, as I would spend the remaining days (and will continue to) inside on the treadmill. And I didn’t bash my head this time.

On Thursday I dialed down the pace on the speed intervals, although in hindsight I probably didn’t need to. But I was really tired on Saturday and then delayed doing the long run on Sunday for as long as possible, finally climbing onto the treadmill at around 4:00, when I could procrastinate no longer.

That run was okay. Given the past week’s workload (more intensity than I wanted plus more miles than I’ve run in quite awhile), I didnt’ want to push myself too hard. So I did three miles at around 70% effort and then did the remaining ones at 75% avg.

DOMS last night at 3 a.m. rounded out the week. I didn’t hit the 80 mile mark as originally planned, but it was close enough and another 1.8 may very well have killed me.

Snow bunny

I just did my first run in my new Redwing snow shoes, down around the Bronxville pond. What we’re experiencing is not technically a blizzard, apparently. But the wind was around 20 mph. Not that I noticed the wind today.

Good God, running in snow is hard! Notice I said in rather than on. In the untrodden sections, I sank down a good 4-6 inches with every step. I ran just under two miles, much of it in a foot of fresh, powdery snow. Running in that stuff was laughingly slow. Once I got onto some packed snow, the going was much better and I could achieve something resembling a natural running form. Average pace: 12:55. Average HR%: 74.

I was supposed to do a four mile recovery run this evening, but the only way to stay below 70% was to walk. So I figure two miles at 74% is roughly equal to four at 65% (Uh…). But why do my calves, quads and ass hurt so much? Oh, I’m gonna pay for this folly, I know it.

For fun (and, as it turns out, demoralization) I tried two all-out sprints of .05 miles, one on the packed stuff and one on powder. The first one yielded a blazing pace of 8:32. The second one was paced a minute slower. My attempt to dash up a hill was equally unimpressive.

How do you people race in this stuff?

Spring Training: Week Five

(In which, to mix things up a little, I compose my weekly review in iambic pentameter quatrains.)

Last year I felt a failure, so, this year
I have high hopes. Redemption comes out of
The blue, to my delight. A race can be
Like poetry. It flows, it whips, it reels.

The week went well for me at last. I ran
Ten times last week, with three hard days. My speeds
Increased again as well, and down my heart
Rate went. It seems I’ve got some decent wheels.

A run I skipped begat fast legs, I think.
Or was the wine the trick? Whichever way,
The drink or rest, it worked for me, oh yes.
In short, I rocked that race in sev’ral ways.

Blue bib? Not yet. Fell short this time. Next month
I’ll try again. But confidence is what
I sought and got me some in spades. So now
I sport a spritely step and cheerful gaze.

This week the miles go up again, but not
Absurdly so. I’ll run nine times with three
Hard days, to top out at eight-o. The tread-
Mill’s oiled and working well. That’s swell. That’s swell!

The snow will hit us overnight, but I’m
Prepared for that. My snowshoes beckon me
Take flight. And I’ve a toasty hat. Enjoy
Your runs, my runner friends. Run hard! Run well!

Spring Training: Week 4

The further along I get into training, or whatever it is I’m presently doing, the more relieved I am that I decided to skip doing a spring marathon. This past week shaped up to be a disappointing one, with low mileage, horrible weather and a severe bang to the head. All adding up to less than 45 miles, though not for lack of trying and regret for coming up short again.

If I was looking out to a race in 12 weeks, I’d be feeling pretty distressed. Maybe meandering slackerdom is the source of liberation I’ve been looking for all my life. No goal = no pressure + no disappointment. It also = no achievement, I realize. But everything in life’s a tradeoff…

Monday and Tuesday actually went pretty well. My recovery run pace continued to hold steady around 10:00 and my tempo pace picked up a smidgen. I felt horrible on Tuesday, the fallout of four days of celebratory eating and drinking. Which, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed immensely. But I was certainly hauling the celebration along with me on Tuesday and forcing myself to run fast, and not particularly enjoying it. It’s times like this when I look back to the years during which I subsisted on vodka, Doritos and generic frozen pizza and realize I must have felt horrible pretty much all of the time.

My legs were dead on Wednesday, no huge surprise there.

Snow, ice and plunging temperatures resumed on Thursday, which featured a morning run I won’t soon forget. Or maybe I will, if I suffered any permanent brain damage. Still, determined to get those miles in, I went out again on Thursday afternoon and struggled through another few, although I had to stop and walk often due to residual ice.

On Friday I woke up and the right side of my neck was swollen and in a fair amount of pain. My back wasn’t happy either. It was a long, stressful workday as well, a 9 on the Stress-o-Meter. So I said fuck it and skipped the workout. If ever there was a day to take off, this was it.

Or maybe Saturday was. I took that off too. A mild headache (probably from that huge martini on Friday), continued neck pain, a persistent malaise and slight fever sent me to bed for the most the day.

And everything had been going so well.

Even though I’ve curbed my hypochondriacal impulses, I Googled “concussion symptoms” anyway. Headache, malaise, upset stomach: check, check, check. But no memory loss or single pupil dilations. Increased irritability? With me, who can tell? Did I really want to go in for an x-ray of my head or whatever they do? Bah. The treatment for a mild concussion is the same as what I was doing anyway: rest.

Even though the latter part of the week fell apart, I did manage to finally sleep well last night and wake up this morning feeling halfway decent. The headache was finally gone, my neck was in reasonable shape and I had some energy (or maybe it was just cabin fever gnawing at me). Sure, it was 5F outside with the windchill, but ain’t no way I was going to go into that stupid treadmill room. I would run outside if it killed me.

As so often happens, the runs I have the lowest expectations of often turn out to be surprisingly good ones. I’d originally planned to run a meandering hilly route through local streets, but at the last minute decided I’d check out the running path to see if it was still covered in murderous ice. It looked okay, so I decided to do a loop down to Bronxville and then see how far north I could get before the path became unrunable again. The Bronx River was partly frozen and I was half expecting to see hapless ducks and geese trapped in the ice like miniature versions of Shackleton’s Endurance.*

My legs felt great after two days of rest, so I decided to just run as fast as I wanted to for whatever distance seemed good. Sounds like a solid plan! I ended up doing a progression run, starting out at 9:10 or so and ending up around 7:25. Not great, but better than I expected for the effort I was expending. The path is still a giant jigsaw puzzle of black ice in spots, but it’s not too bad. We’re supposed to get temps above freezing this week, so I’m hoping those will go away.

I’m scheduled to do 70 this coming week, with 3-4 days of doubles. Yep, well, we’ll see. Between work and the weather, I’ve no clue what I’ll be able to do. But this week I demonstrated to myself that even now, after a year of disappointment, currently feeling slow and fat, and much of the time wondering why I’m bothering to pursue running seriously at all, I still care enough to go out and try.

My first race of the year is next Sunday and I have no idea how I feel about it. Or, rather, I do. I feel worried. And bad in advance. I’m certain I’ll race like shit, all things considered. So should I just race and accept where I am right now? Or skip racing until I feel “ready,” whatever that means? I’ll decide on Sunday morning.

*There. This is the cleverest witticism I could come up with today. I thought that one up while running. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Spring Training: Week 2

This was the week I realized how much work I have to do. The workouts were hard, which wasn’t a big surprise. What was surprising was how long it took me to recover from them. Coach Kevin had originally scheduled 75 miles for this week and 85 the next. I knew by Tuesday, when I still felt beaten up from Sunday’s hilly run, that this wasn’t going to happen. Or if I did try for that mileage then I’d probably end up paying for it in the form of crappy workouts, exhaustion, injury — or perhaps all of the above. So Kevin dialed down the mileage for this week and next. I’ve got no real race goal, remember? So why rush when I’m on the comeback trail?

I was stuck back on the treadmill for the early part of the week for either weather or work scheduling reasons. I also had to push my tempo run (normally happening on Tuesday) to Wednesday since my legs still felt like they’d been run over by a tank on Tuesday. While that run was okay, its rescheduling definitely had a cascading effect.

On Friday I finally got to run outside for my mile repeats. Good thing, because the cabin fever was turning me into a real bitch. I’d hoped the local track would be clear of snow and ice but, surprisingly, there were still some messy sections and much of it was slippery. It was also crowded with people (damned kids, using their school track!) and, to make the workout extra special, it was very windy. So I spent the session dodging snow, ice and people while watching my heart rate soar on the backstretch every time I hit that 15mph headwind.

I ran some of these too hard, and I ended up bailing .8 miles into the third one when my legs turned to lead. But I’m happy with the workout considering the conditions and the fact that I only had a day’s recovery from Wednesday’s effort. I wasn’t that far off the goal paces either.

Saturday my legs were predictably fatigued. Actually, all of me was fatigued. I haven’t felt that tired since the day after the Sacramento race in December. I still felt tired on Sunday but decided to give the assigned run a go anyway. I felt like crap for the first few miles but got some energy back about four miles in. The last three were hard to do, but not impossible, and I ran them at the proper effort. Good sign.

I didn’t even hit 60 miles, but that’s okay. I care more about quality than quantity right now. I want to get my basic speed at all efforts back. Then I’ll start worrying about mileage again, once I’m confident that I’m getting adequate recovery and not flirting with injury. This week I’ll try for 70. That’s probably the highest mileage I’ll run from now until early February.

My first race, a four miler, is in about three weeks. I have no illusions of a PR. I’d just like to run fast enough so as not to embarrass myself.

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