Monday, September 23, 2013

First good weekend in a while!

This weekend was busy and injuries did not slow me down.  Hurrah!

Saturday - 21 miles on the bike with a crazy hill in the middle that I nearly didn't get up and over:

Followed by 4 miles on the rail trail.

Sunday - 4 miles of trail with 600 feet of vertical elevation.  What that means is an AWESOME view at the top!

The bad thing is because I was busy trashing my legs both days, I had to drag myself to the gym today to do my physical therapy.  My legs are s o r e.  But a good sore!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hitting the trails!

I love trail running.  Love, love, love.  Unfortunately, I'm also quite clumsy and usually end up eating dirt and also can't find my way out of a paperbag without getting lost.

Today was a great day - perfect weather, no tripping and falling, no getting off trail, and the trails were in great condition.

I do a 4- mile loop, but there are several off-shoots that allow you to add on. I've done the 6-mile loop but it gets really technical and then I don't much enjoy that as much, because I'm constantly worried about killing myself on one of the rock gardens.   The 4-miler is perfect.   Technical in parts, a good number of short, steep climbs, a bunch of trees to jump and just enough of a challenge.

Here's the view at about mile 1.5 - the route crosses over a road here, so I'm actually on the overpass looking back over the trails.

Once you duck back into the woods, from miles 2-4 you are pretty much running along the water, or close to it.   At mile 2.5, this is the view:
It's interesting - there's an old, unkept road that is visible in pieces along this part.  Many times, it's completely under water if the water table is high enough.  I don't know what it used to be though - I wonder if this road was there before they dammed the river to make the reservoir?

This isn't the greatest picture, but this is about mile 3-ish - it's a swooping downhill right into another climb.  The mountain bikers who passed me were clearly not in the right gear and I heard some mashing of gears as they tried to quickly downshift in order to make it up the steep incline.  At least when running you don't have to worry about shifting, just about making it up the climb!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Your favorite distance?

Speed? Endurance?  Both?

Here is a list of distances that I've competed in so far, with my sad little PRs (if you haven't found yourself on Athlinks, it's a great way to keep track of races and PRs!):

1 mile - Short, sweet, sucking wind the whole time.  Love it and wish there were more around!   7:25

2.4 mile XC - Because it's XC, this isn't a fair comparison to the other (road) races, but this is very similar to a 5K. You can't push all out but you also aren't very comfortable.  26:25

5K - If I pick my 5Ks well, I can place in my AG. But I have to pick a really small race.    26:55

8K - Another trail race.  And I fell flat on my face.  Not my favorite.  54:18

10K - This is probably my favorite distance.  It's a good combination of distance and speed, without being too painful in either direction (or maybe better stated, it's equally painful in both LOL)  1:00:40

Half marathon - I like the challenge of the HM, but to be honest, the training kills me (ok, not literally, but close).  I would like to be healthy enough for the San Francisco half in 2014... we'll see!  2:11

I would love to tackle a 15K and 20K and add them to my list!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

New Year's Resolutions... in September

No reason to wait until the ball drops to set a new path for yourself, right?

In August, I did a Whole30.  I can't say it was wickedly successful, only because I spent most of the month craving everything I couldn't have, but it did reinforce that some of the things I choose to shove in my piehole are probably not the best choices - so in that way, it wasn't a total waste of an experiment.  Now I'm working on keep those really bad things out of my diet, but if I want to have some white potatoes, I'm not going to worry about it.  I did get used to drinking my coffee black and I don't think I'll go back to creamer.

For September, I've decided that my goal will be to do some sort of activity every day, even if it's just getting out for a walk or doing all my physical therapy exercises (which take some time!).    So far so good, except that one morning I went out for a walk in the pouring rain and got soaked.  I think my sneakers are still wet.

Since I started on the 3rd, here's my list:
Sept 3rd - Run
4th - Run
5th - Walk
6th - Run
7th - Bike ride
Tomorrow - Gym + walk

Let's see where I'm at on the 30th!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Volunteering at Big George Tri

Volunteering is a great way to help out while you can't race, or even if you can and want to give back.  I had a great time this weekend at the Big George Tri in NY.

Since my husband was doing the HIM, I signed up to volunteer.  First shift was kayak volunteer for the swim, then I directed traffic at a three way intersection on the run - the first loop, second loop and finishers all came through and so we had to keep everyone on track (lest we have a Jay-incident and someone get lost!)

We drove up Saturday and hit the race check-in right when it opened, got DH's bike racked up and then drove the bike course.  For being in the Adirondack region, this is pretty damn flat.  There's one slow slog up for the first three miles, then it's flat until you hit Brenton Lake, then a few short rollers.    The run course is mostly a rail trail, so we couldn't drive that - but our recon said it would be hilly (and it was).

Sunday AM started off at volunteer check in at 6am.  Got the kayak unloaded, said good luck to DH and then got my instructions and got on the water.   I was actually more nervous for this than I think I was for any of my own races!

My view of the shore (it was ridiculously muggy, can you tell?  Dew point was about 72 for this race, ugh)
And the first swim wave passing my kayak:

After the last wave went out, someone yelled from the shore for a few of us kayakers to come swing back.  We were told that there were people showing up well after the last wave went out who thought the race started at 8.  (it started at 7!!)   So we had to make sure they got out ok.  I don't know how you don't double and triple check start times, but at least a few of them didn't.    The swim is a straight out and back, pretty typical.

One of the final waves was a pink capped women's wave.   I was monitoring the folks coming in (making sure they were aiming to hit the correct location to get out) and all of a sudden - there was a pink cap.  She had to have lapped at least three waves ahead of her!   Amazing.  Then I found DH in the mass of swimmers and snapped a few photos as he passed.

Once the swim was done, I was assigned to transition assistance.  The nice thing about this race is that the transition for swim-bike and bike-run and finish are in the same place and right by the water.   This meant that I could see pretty much the whole race, including DH, which obviously important for me.  

My view of the lake and transition:

At this spot, we had to guide people coming out of transition onto the first loop of the run, people starting the second loop and then people heading back into the finish.    The first man came through to start the run at about the ~3:10 mark followed by 3-4 other men.... and then the first woman about 5 minutes behind.   At this point, I texted a friend to say that I thought the woman could win the whole thing because she was FLYING by the men.

At about the 3:45 hour mark DH came by and was so busy fiddling with his damn Garmin that he missed my high five.   Like, ran right by me.  LOL  All the other volunteers and spectators got a good laugh.    I knew he was having a great race at this point, and was hoping the humidity wouldn't kill his run, which is his strongest leg by far.

The run is tough at the end of a HIM.  It's an out and back that you have to do twice.  Yuck.  First two miles up, then a little flat, then two miles down, repeat.  

The first man came though the first loop.... and guess who was in second? Yep, the woman!  She passed all the other men, and was now on the first man's heels, only about two minutes behind him.    The crowd who had gathered at our intersection knew she was kicking butt - the roar was pretty awesome for her as she started the second loop.

A lot of the runners starting the second loop looked gassed.  It was a rough day for a run, let alone one taking place at the end of a swim and a bike ride.   The crowd support was great and all the volunteers were really into the day, and making sure everyone had whatever they needed and knew where they were going.   It was a lot of fun to help out.

DH heading for the second loop - me making sure he sees me for a high five!

The woman did end up winning the whole damn thing.  By a minute.  She didn't catch the first man on the course though, that would have been even awesomer.    DH ended up with a great sub-6 hour first half Iron. 

I went to spectate the Providence "Official Iron Man" HIM last year and I have to say that Lake George was a much better experience.  It was low key (200 racers, as opposed to the 5000 of the official IM) and with a great set up - not needing to take shuttles or have to worry about parking or getting to a different transition area etc.  If you're looking for a good half IM, this would should be on your list!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book review: "Anatomy for Runners: Unlocking Your Athletic Potential for Health, Speed, and Injury Prevention"

Last week I read this book:

It's one of those books that probably every runner should read.  It explains how and why people get injured and gives you self-assessment tests to highlight some potentially weak areas and how to fix them.

A few highlights from the book and take-home lessons:

  • I was surprised that he was generally positive on "barefoot/minimalist" shoes.  I had stopped wearing my Vibrams, afraid that it was going to cause injury, and the opposite is likely true.   I've started wearing them again and really working on my foot strength.
  • The author suggested that sometimes 100% rest does more harm than good when injured.   This is in line with my experiences but there is actually scientific evidence that reduced workouts when injured is better than full rest.  
  • Attempting to race 3 times in 4 days on low mileage is probably what caused my original groin injury, which set off the cascade of other issues.   I taxed my body way more than I was ready to do, and I broke down.   Yep.
  • I have what the author calls "Toilet Bowl of Doom" running posture - way tight hip flexors, quad dominant, and excess flex in the lower back.   Note:  Do not google "Toilet Bowl of Doom" and certainly don't watch any videos with that name.   
  • The amount of time it takes to affect change with stretching is really, really long.  You have to keep at it before real changes are seen.
  • Single-leg balance is as important as strength.

Things I've started to do:

  • Stretch my hip flexors for 3 minutes every evening.
  • Work on my foot strength, including my big toe strength.
  • I balance on one foot at various points during the day, and in the evening, I get on a balance disc.
  • Continue the hip and core work.
  • More barefoot running and walking.  Ditch the orthotics and shoes with heels.

The self-assessment and exercise chapters are short and sweet - if you really have been injured, especially with a recurring injury, there is no replacement for a professional opinion.  But the rest of the book helps put physical therapy in context and explain why it's so important to have a well-rounded physical ability before racing and taxing the body with running.  Worth the read!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Getting to the core of the matter

Tonight's workout:
2.5 miles run/walk
2x 30sec planks
2x 20sec side planks
2x 1min hip bridge
2x 20 rep clamshells

The most common strength deficiency (and the one that tends to result in injuries) is in the posterior chain and hips... my guess because we all do a lot of sitting.   Plopping down on your ass all day isn't really good for anyone... and even if you are active for 2 hours a day but then sit for the remainder, you're still sitting way too much.  Sitting also disengages your stomach muscles, slumping and slouching over our computers, which means our abs are the other weak point for most.

Runners and cyclists have the added issue of constantly moving in the forward direction (as opposed to a soccer player, whose movements include lateral and such), making the sagittal plane the strongest, and frontal and rotational ones weaker.

My suggestion typically for anyone looking to stay injury free - focus your crosstraining efforts on buiding glute and hip strength, including side-to-side movements, and working your core muscles as a unit.

There are any number of good hip workouts available on line, some specific for runners like this video.

I have become a big proponent of non-isolation moves for core work (sit ups, I'm looking at you).  The core (and specifically I mean back, abs, hips, glutes) works most effectively when all parts are humming along together.   And so you should train your core so that it's engaging and firing on all cylinders.  Asking one part to work while the rest are asleep, to me, seems like a recipe for muscle and strength imbalances.  

In simple terms, if you think about what the core does, the best exercises are then those that challenge the core to work hard/harder at that job.   The set of core muscles support the spine through normal movements - a plank works effectively because you're basically using gravity to add a force, making it more difficult for the core to keep the spine in a neutral, supported position.    If planks are too easy for you, add in difficulty by either reducing the number of contacts with the floor (raise a leg) or movement (like this).

Other good core exercises, with links to instructions/videos:
Pallof press  (engages the core to withstand a force wanting it to rotate)
Stir the Pot (a plank - with an unstable surface AND movement, incredibly difficult)
Bird Dog

Next up, why you should use a standing desk.  :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

First workout back

Yesterday I got beat up had a massage.  I felt much, much better this morning, enough that I went out after work for 2.5 miles of run/walk.  Over the last 6 weeks, I have not done any runs over 3 miles....  I have physical therapy tomorrow and I'd really like to be able to add in some mileage again (maybe next week?).  My goal 10K is this weekend, needless to say I will not be racing!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What to do when you're on the DL

I've had a lot of experience at this.  :)  I know everyone is different, but this what keeps me mostly sane.

1.  Get organized.   Use the downtime to go through old race tees and toss ones that you no longer wear - donate the rest or send them off to become a t-shirt quilt.   Take inventory of your exercise gear and organize it so when you're back, you won't have to go hunting for stuff.

2. Read.   Training plans, forums, books, anything that will keep your mind on getting back out there.  Even better if you connect with people who went through a similar injury, so you can commiserate/get advice.

3. Create a plan.  When you get the OK from the doctor to resume normal activity, what are you going to do?   What's your ramp up schedule?  How and when will you fit in your PT, if that's to be included?  Sometimes I go as far as to make up my first month back plan, day by day.

4. Volunteer.   Races are always looking for people to help out on race-day, and it's a great way to give back to the events you normally participate in.

5.  Stay positive.  This one is self-explanatory!

Defining frustration

Athletic endeavors are framed by goals.  Goal races or events, goal times, goal distances, even goal weight loss and so on.  Your mind sets these targets and then you ask your body to go with the flow when you execute the plan to accomplish those goals.   When you accomplish something you set out to do, there is no greater feeling.

This process gets interrupted when the body can't or won't do what you're wanting it to do.   And because your body doesn't have any real way of communicating outside of a pain response, you're sort of left with this internal guessing game.  You know what's hurting but not why.   The usual way athletes approach a pain response is to rest or ice or start taking an anti-inflammatory, or some combination of that, until you can no longer tolerate the break in training and then you go see a doctor.

Regardless of the treatment or the prognosis, dealing with a body in pain is frustrating.  Let's get with the program, body!    The frustration mounts because you know with every missed workout, you are not doing what you need to do to hit your goals.  You want to do it, you have the drive to do it, but you can't.  And when you aren't hitting your goals, you start doubting the desire to hit your goals.  What's the point?  It's hard to see the target when you keep running into a forest of obstacles.

I'm at that stage now.  Debating what I want to do since I will likely have to forego all my goals I set for this year.  What's the point?  Where am I going?   Having been down this road many times, I know there will be a point where I can get back on a training plan.  For my sake, let it be sooner rather than later!  (And yes, I had to miss my triathlon this weekend.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I really like my couch

I really like my couch, which is a good thing seeing as how I have spent the last 5 hours lying on it.

Admittedly, I do have bouts of serious laziness, but my couch is getting a visit today mostly because I managed to tweak my back kayaking.    Introduce me to a sport and I can likely do it well enough to not totally suck.  I will also manage to injure something in the process.  I am the victim of being both athletically gifted and orthopedically challenged.

Most of my time oscillates between feeling satisfied and accomplished after a great workout and cursing the world for my seemingly bad luck.   Well, maybe not bad luck, but bad genes.   Somehow I'm sure it's all my parents' fault, anyway.

Today's rehab plan was ibuprofen, tramadol, rest and ice.     The thing with low back pain is to try to cut it off before it gets worse.  Sometimes this means going for a walk and then stretching and icing.  Sometimes it means rest.  Sometimes it means a day or two on muscle relaxers.  Sometimes a combination of everything possible to try to relieve the pain. 

It is counter-intuitive to some, but staying active is the best thing you can do for your back.  (The very close second best thing is to stop with the bad posture!  Your mother was right.)  I had to take a few weeks off because of a hip/groin injury and it doesn't surprise me now that I'm having back issues.  Anytime I have longish periods of rest (and/or laziness), my back will act up.    There are other things that trigger back pain, like a lot of bending over, awkwardly lifting heavy things, etc, but sometimes doing nothing is the worst of all.

Tomorrow's plan is to at least get out for a walk and if I'm really feeling better (fingers crossed!) a short run. I have a 3.5 mile run- 12 mile bike- 1.3 mile kayak triathlon that I would really like to do this weekend.   I'm staying hopeful.