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.

Oh, well

I’m injured again. This seems to be a perpetual cycle. My right Achilles got tweaked on a run a little over a month ago, a new problem on top of plantar fasciitis on the same side. Since then I’ve nearly stopped running altogether. I’ve gone running once in the last three weeks. It was four miles on a treadmill at the gym. It hurt, so I stopped.

So now in addition to not being able to run without pain I’m also rapidly falling out of shape. That’s a vicious circle — the more out of shape I get, the more unpleasant it is to run, and the less I want to run, so the more out of shape I get. The days are shorter now. It’s dark. We also had a hurricane and Nor-easter that totally fucked up our lives for two weeks. I guess I shouldn’t minimize the impact of that event. I was trying to deal with life with no heat, power or connectivity. Running and tending to my Achilles was the last thing on my mind.

I need to start running again, if only because I’m gaining weight. I do belong to a gym and sometimes I think that if I can’t run that I should at least go and do the elliptical just to get back to some semblance of basic aerobic fitness. But I can’t bring myself to do that. I hate the elliptical.

I would like to run the Cherry Tree Relay (a 3-person relay in Brooklyn in March) again in 2013. I am sort of assuming that I’ll be able to train again and at least not be embarrassingly slow. But I don’t know why I’d assume that.

A year ago I was on an upswing after the Fifth Avenue Mile, a payoff for patience and faith after a couple of years of disastrous running. Now I’m injured, out of shape and the owner of a rapidly expanding ass. I’ve also got competing pressures and priorities that are pulling me in other directions, like writing/performing and the need to make a living, among other things.

I feel my age, my body’s lack of resiliency. I wonder if I’ll ever run well again. Where’s the faith?

God, this sucks.

I’m closing comments. Just venting. We’ve all been here before.

Other running stuff (not deep thoughts)

It’s Twofer Tuesday on RLaG. You get TWO posts!

Here’s other stuff that’s going on.

I was tempted to do the Randall’s Island Zombie Run, but at $60 it’s expensive. Plus, as I wanted to go as a zombie, I’ll be all overachieving and need to get plastic gashes and such. It’s coming at the end of a huge month in terms of personal and professional commitments. So I’m going to skip it.

Our household NYRR membership lapses in November. I truly don’t give a shit. I’ve barely run any NYRR races and have been soured on them as an organization for various reasons lately. Their races have just gotten too crowded. When I get back into racing I’ll probably return to CT, NJ and Rockland/Orange counties where there are wide open spaces, fast ladies and cheap trophies aplenty.

Yesterday I took JS on a tour of Van Cortlandt Park. We ran a bit along the South County Trail, which is actually a paved path, and then parted ways so I could go back and hit the XC course for some tempo miles. JS continued going north and eventually his Tuckahoe Road. The path continues north and becomes the North County Trail around Elsmford. I wish I’d known about this path when I was training for CIM, as it has a mile+ gradual hill. In any case, we’ll return, I think often. I’m sick of the running path I’ve been using for close to 14 (eep) years.

The dirt cheap gym I joined is in Yonkers at the Cross County Mall. Blink Fitness is a wildly expanding NY-area gym. It’s $15 a month. You get treadmills, ellipticals, sort of shitty stationary bikes (not spin bikes), FormFitness strength machines and a smattering of free weights. That’s about it. You have to bring your own towels. But it’s $15, people. That’s, like, three beers at one happy hour.

Tammy Lifka, whom I interviewed for my Houston Hopefuls project, just ran a 2:49:02 in Chicago. She has been struggling with her running for quite awhile, but she changed her regimen (and her coach) and now seems to be on a tremendous upswing. I am incredibly happy for her.

Lize Brittin, whom I also interviewed for a Runners Round Table podcast close to two years ago (again, eep), has just self-published her memoir of anorexia, Training on Empty. I read a very early draft of this book and gave some feedback. It’s compelling stuff. The foreword is written by the author of my all-time favorite running memoir, Lorraine Moller. Here’s a review from Kevin Beck.

And finally. Shoe companies are clearing out their 2012 models to make way for new editions. So if you want to stock up on the shoes that are working for you, now’s a good time to pick up “last year’s models” at closeout prices.

Running with sanity

Although I’m rarely a running blogger lately, I nevertheless remain a running runner. I have been running on a steady basis, and doing one hard workout a week since late August. Low mileage, around 25 most weeks. No trackwork. It’s mostly been fartleks (treadmill) and throwing in a few miles at tempo effort over the course of a longer run on hills. We found a dirt cheap gym that’s three miles away, so I’ve gotten back to weekly strength work, now up to 1 hour, twice weekly. I’ve maintained a weight of 124 with some effort. I’d like to get back down to 120, because I feel better running at that weight. I’d also like to get my mileage up to around 40 mpw.

A year ago I was training like mad to run a fast 5K road race over Olympic Trials weekend in Houston. I did not run that race. I did a little racing in the late winter, but then I got injured in March with PF in my right foot (still there, but mild). It’s been a wild ride, the last nine months, with lots of highs and lows. None of them having to do with running, at least not directly. This has been good for me, not only because I’ve recognized the value of focusing on other areas of endeavor, but also because it’s given me a chance to think about my running, where it fits into my life. Perspective and distance are helpful things.

One realization is that I do miss some aspects of marathon training, but I don’t miss the time and energy commitment. Nor do I actually miss racing marathons. I’m still fairly certain that I won’t run another. I’ve also realized that I’ll probably always be a competitive runner. And by that I mean I’ll care about seeing improvement in myself (although as the years pass, that’s all relative) and doing well relative to my peers. I still want to have tangible goals.

I do have a goal right now, which is to break 20:00 in a road 5K. What’s different this time around is that I’m not attaching that goal to any particular deadline or race. I will train during the fall to run a fast 5K this winter. Will it be under 20:00? I have no clue. I have a training plan, but it’s loose. I got so sick of trying to follow a strict schedule, not hitting target paces, going into each “tuneup” or “time trial” race with pressure to see a certain time on the clock. The truth is, some days I don’t feel like running. So when that happens, I usually don’t run. On other days, I’ll go out with a plan to do a hard run, but my legs don’t feel great. So I’ll give them a few miles. Sometimes they come around. But usually they don’t, and when that happens I abandon the workout and try again a few days later.

I’m seeing steady improvements in fitness. But mostly I’m seeing an improvement in how I feel about running. I like it again. Sometimes I love it. I never dread it, and that’s new. I have my first track workout in about five months next week. It’s not even really a workout. It’s mostly going to be me running around a track wearing an HRM to see what speeds I can maintain at various efforts. I just want some sort of baseline at this point.

I have this crazy suspicion that my radical change in attitude and looser approach to training and racing might yield greater success eventually.

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.

“Skinny” Olympians at the Mini 10K: An Open Letter to NYRR

The following was written by my New York Harriers teammate Brigid Duffy and emailed to New York Road Runners (and subsequently posted to the team’s message boards). With her permission I’m sharing it here.

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Dear NYRR:

I was one of the 6,122 finishers who was fortunate enough to be part of the Mini 10k this past Saturday. Over the past several years I have run over 30 races with NYRR, including four NYC Marathons. While all of NYRR’s races are special and honor a multitude of wonderful causes, for me, the Mini always stands out as the most meaningful NYRR event. I’ve always thought of the Mini as less of a competition and more of a communal victory lap, where women of all ages can reflect, together, on how far we’ve come, not only within the running community, but within sports, the military, the workplace, and host of other social arenas. The Mini is the one race in the year when women are the athletes, and the men are on the sidelines cheering us on. It is with this in mind that I feel the need to voice a complaint concerning some of the pre-race announcements on Saturday.

While I was picking up my number and hanging around the baggage area on Saturday, the MC on the podium introduced some of the elite women athletes who would be competing in this year’s Mini. After introducing Edna Kiplagat, Hilda Kibet and a handful of other elite runners, the MC concluded: “They’re skinny, they’re fast, they’re Olympians!” Frankly, I was shocked that the first adjective used to describe the remarkable athletes in attendance was, “skinny.” In one sentence, the MC undermined exactly what makes this event empowering to women.

Women like Edna Kiplagat are remarkable and should be admired not because they are “skinny,” but because they are incredibly determined athletes who hopefully show other women that our bodies are capable of amazing feats. The MC’s comment implies that the chief accomplishment of our elite female runners is their slender frames and small waists. (Who cares about a sub 2:20 marathon if you’re a size zero?!) Moreover, the comment glosses over the fact that there is an extraordinary difference between “skinny” and “fit.” Glorifying our female athletes for their “skinniness” only reinforces the idea that a woman’s purpose, first and foremost, is to be objectified.

Everyday women are confronted with products, advertisements and airbrushed images that contain the same message: You are not skinny enough. Even perfectly healthy and fit women, when bombarded with these messages day after day, can begin to lament that their bodies do not live up to what is truly an impossible and unhealthy ideal. I have always maintained that sporting events, like NYRR’s races, give women the opportunity to value what their bodies can do over how their bodies appear. It is during races when women might start to realize, “I might not be 5’11” and 100 pounds, but I can run a damn good 10k.” Or, “I might not be a size 2, but I’m tough.” But these realizations can only endure if NYRR provides an environment where women feel comfortable in their own skin. Glorifying “skinny” female athletes because they are “skinny” creates a hostile space for all participants involved.

While I still enjoyed the race and the post-race festivities on Saturday, the MC’s comment was a major letdown. What is supposed to be a celebratory and esteem-boosting event for women was tainted by an insensitive and borderline sexist comment. I urge NYRR to be more responsible when it comes to the issue of women and body image within the running community, especially during the pre-race announcements.

– Brigid Duffy

In which I engage in something resembling training

In the three or so weeks since my last post I’ve started to “train” somewhat more consistently. I’m not ready to get rid of those qualifying quotations just yet, but I’m ready to start saying I’m “training” because some things happened in the last week especially that make me feel more comfortable with the term.

For one thing, I’ve finally moved from doing one workout every week to two workouts every week. Well, heck, that’s something right there. I’ve also done two track sessions: sets of 800s and 600s at something around current 5K race pace. I also ran a 5K race last weekend, which would probably have you thinking that I would know what my 5K race pace is. But you’d be wrong! Because I’ve apparently forgotten how to race 5Ks. I ambled through that race and retardedly thought I’d missed my 5K PR by three seconds only to realize that I’d missed it by a minute and three seconds. Big difference, Jule. No wonder I felt so great and it didn’t seem painful. I wasn’t running hard enough.

Summer’s here and I’ve been struggling to acclimate. I did a very humid run in Van Cortlandt Park on Thursday morning (where I spotted a fast Kenyan — they’re all fast — running on Vault Hill). Today I headed to Bronxville HS track for my 600 repeats. I was scheduled to do 10 but bailed after 7 when I could feel that I was verging on the kind of Metabolic Fry Pan Workout that’s screwed me for weeks in the past. I need to (finally) get smart about these things this year.

My “training” “plan” — such as it is — is not complicated. For now I’m just doing two hard runs a week: one hilly run (for strength) either in Central or Van Cortlandt Park and one track workout (for speed), always at 5K effort (if I can eventually remember what that is). I’m running between 30-40 mpw. I will throw in some races for fun, as alternatives to the workouts and to see how things are going. Possibilities include Tuesday Icahn races on June 12 and 26, and July 10 and 24; the Van Cortlandt Park 2×2 Relay on July 5 (which I hope to run with Amy Cooper so that I am guaranteed baked goods, or at least to have someone to make fun of other people with), and the Women’s Distance Festival 5K at Rockland Lake (where I ran my “I forgot how to run a 5K race” race last weekend).

I will probably skip the Mini 10K because it doesn’t work with my schedule. I won’t have time to go interview the elites this year either, which is too bad.

Sometime around July 29 I’ll go from quasi-5K basebuilding into mile-specific training. This is, coincidentally, the day I leave for three weeks to do my Ian Faith impression in London and Edinburgh. Flexibility will be the order of the day over these weeks. I’m not expecting to get any real training done in London, such will be the jet lag and chaos. Edinburgh might be a little more stable, and I have three days “off” (more qualifier quotes). Nevertheless, I’ve located tracks within running distance in both locations, plus I was watching an Edinburgh episode of “House Hunters” recently and that somebitch looks hilly. So I can always put together a hill workout in a pinch.

I will pack my spikes. Because you never know where a little race might pop up.

Running? Oh, right.

Here it is — May already — and I’ve yet to have posted a single training log. That hasn’t been a deliberate omission. I just haven’t really been training lately. My next goal race, the Fifth Avenue Mile, isn’t until late September, and I’m not going to train for five months for the mile. So…

I’ve been running consistently, usually six days a week, although my mileage has been at an historically low average of 30-35 mpw. I’ve been racing occasionally and recently bested my previous 10K PR. But I have also been injured for the past two months, although for most of that time the injuries have been mild enough that I can at least run easy most days. I’ve had three issues: a left hamstring tweak (which finally went away about a week ago) and Achilles issues and plantar fasciitis on my right side. It’s only in the last couple of weeks that the latter two have let me do any hard workouts without paying for it for at least a week afterwards. The Achilles problem is nearly gone and the PF is so mild that it’s more an irritation than pain at this point.

I baby the hell out of both of them: icing, massaging, rolling and NSAIDs. That discipline has paid off, as has only doing a workout once a week and only then when I’m pretty sure it’s not going to make either of those two areas of my right foot blow up again. Racing the Scotland 10K probably delayed healing, but it was worth the PR. Now I can say that I am doing something resembling training again. I’m still just doing one workout a week, but I’ll be increasing the frequency of those efforts pretty soon, with three workouts every two weeks. Eventually, assuming my body holds up, I’ll move back to two workouts a week.

I’m doing rough 5K training now, with the idea that I’ll go into mile training later in July for Fifth Ave (on Sept 22), using the Percy Sutton 5K in August and the Tuckahoe Mile (which I won last year…but, hey, it’s in Tuckahoe!)  in early September as tune-ups. I may throw in a few track races at Icahn if my schedule permits (and perhaps the Van Cortlandt 2×2 relay), but I will not over-race, especially if I’m injured. Making that mistake in March is what got me into the injury hole I’m just now crawling out of.

I’m doing some fast running in Central Park every couple of weeks, interspersed with track work. I did my first track workout on Sunday after nearly nine weeks away from it. I’m only slightly slower than I was at the peak of my pre-Houston 5K buildup, which both surprised and delighted me. Plus my right foot feels better after track work — also a nice surprise. Walking to the track with no small degree of trepidation, I was prepared to both run badly and get re-injured in the process.

It’s good to be running fast again. I missed it a lot.

Speaking of missing things: I will miss the NYRR Club Championships in early August for reasons that I will detail in another blog post very soon. Let’s just say that I’m looking forward to a very interesting and adventurous summer, and that I’m glad my passport doesn’t expire until October.

Scotland Run 10K

It’s more than a little ironic that my inexplicable improvement in running speed coincides with my plummeting interest in writing about it.

I got injured about a month ago after racing Coogan’s and the McCarren Park Track Classic back to back (and was already slightly injured going into both). Three days after that track race I did a track workout (15 x 300m at 67-71 per) and then the two days after that say “Injured.” For a few weeks I puttered along at around 9:15-9:45 pace on a hurting Achilles and hamstring (opposite legs). Then, last weekend, I got up on Sunday morning and felt pretty good, so I headed into Central Park thinking I’d run a 6 mile loop at around 8:30. Instead, I ran 10 miles at 7:46. No real pain to speak of. Well, alrighty then.

This morning I raced Scotland for the third year in a row. My 10K PRs are all on the roads and since I haven’t focused on that distance those are soft PRs. Still, I was happy to break 45:00 by one second last year. This year I ran 44:44, a 15 second PR. I didn’t look at my watch, save for the fourth mile, which is the one that hits the two huge hills at the top of the park. That was an abysmal 7:40. Between that and the very crowded and slow first mile, I figured I’d come in somewhere around 45:30. Needless to say, I was surprised and happy when I looked at my watch at the finish.

I have no idea what’s going on. I ran easy for three weeks at 31 mpw average. Then I did a hard 10 miler in the park, followed by a couple of moderate progression runs this week: a 6 miler ending with 2 miles at 8:10 on Tuesday followed by a 4 miler with one mile at 8:00 yesterday. I took Friday off. So some faster miles coupled with a mini taper of sorts. That seemed to work.

I will get back into “training” (whatever that means) after a week of recovery. I learned my lesson a month ago. The next race is the Mini 10K, which I’m not even sure I’m running since doing so means I will have to go to a three hour class immediately afterwards and inflict my rank self on a roomful of other humans. Baby Wipes will only get you so far.

It was good while it lasted

I managed to run pain free for about eight months. But I’m afraid I’ve broken my streak.

It was probably not a great idea to go out and do a track workout four days after doubling in a track race, especially when I already had a slight issue after Coogan’s (right Achilles) going into that race. Yeah. So the track race was a dumb idea. That brought hamstring pain afterwards, probably because my stride was off because of the pain in my Achilles. So now I have a messed up left hamstring and right Achilles. When I get up in the morning I also have pain under my right heel bone.

I took Thursday and Friday off. Yesterday and today I jogged 7 miles each day at around 9:30-9:45 pace. (I’m typically running 8:05-8:30 on my easy days, so that is ssslllllooowwww.) The hamstring is merely stiff on the runs, except when I go up or down hill, at which point it yelps. If I try to extend my leg, as would be required for faster running, or, say, walking up stairs or lifting my leg in the shower to shave, it hurts like a mother. The Achilles hurts with every single step.

I’m icing 3-4 times a day, slathering on Voltaren and hoping for the best.

Fucking injuries.

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