Slow progress

Tuesday I was able to run 8 miles. Tuesday night the achilles was a little sore, so Wednesday over lunch I hit up the elliptical machine (for 90 minutes, yikes). Tonight I'll get in an easy bike as well, just trying to keep the training hours up. Walking around today it feels better, but I'd rather error on the side of allowing it to heal more vs. stressing it.

Also, 3rd steroid patch put on today.

Tomorrow I'll get to try running again, crossing my fingers that it goes well!!

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I JUST RAN 6 MILES!!!!!

Without any pain or burning sensation. I have the biggest internal grin on (trying to hide my giddiness from my coworkers :))!!

Went to the PT afterwards for the 2nd steroid patch. Plan is to have a third sometime later this week. (Apparently 8-10 is the equivalent to a cortisone injection... yikes... glad my body has healed fast & reacted very well to the first one). We talked about a plan to get back up to running full mileage/intensity, and, as everyone knows, it’s just a guessing game (hopefully an educated guessing game!). How quickly can you ramp up? Is it better to just run once a day? How “long” of a long run will I be able to do this week? When can I add in intensity?

Obviously, we’re trying to be cautious here so we don’t land back where I was 10 days ago. Decision was to try 6 today and slowly ramp that up throughout the week, with the potential of a first double day on Friday or Saturday (if everything is going REALLY well). When we get closer to the end of the week we can also decide on speed… hard to know when to try to do a hard workout (and how much to abbreviate that workout).

I have to say that I am SO thankful that I have been very smart and patient with this injury. I sought medical advice right away, immediately rested the area, and did all of the little things I needed to work on: flexibility, strengthening the muscle groups that are weak, icing/ibuprofen for inflammation, etc. Most importantly, I didn’t allow myself to have any test runs – I honestly think that was key. I was so tempted, but knew that it was better to error on the side of complete rest and running a setting myself up to have a longer test run once things were more healed. I also watched what I ate even more, knowing that I wasn’t working out as much & knowing how easily I gain weight when I’m not running a lot. I’m really proud of myself, especially considering it was a holiday week!!

I also poured myself into cross training. There were two really great workouts I was able to muscle through on the elliptical: First was 1.5 hours, where I had 30 minutes where I increased my HR 5 bpm every 5 minutes (175, 180, 185, 190, 195, 200). I ended up holding my HR around 202 for the last 5 minutes. Then another 20 minutes with a similar progression (180, 185, 190, 195). Second elliptical workout on Saturday was very similar, 1.75 hours total, just a few bpms lower (could only get my HR up to 197 at the peak, no matter how much I tried to beat up the elliptical!). I tried SO hard to get it higher, but wasn’t able – perhaps because it was a different machine? Or are there days where you just can’t get it as high, no matter how hard you try? Guess I’ve never paid attention (or done similar workouts so close to each other so I could prepare).

Let’s hope that tomorrow’s run also brings no pain!!

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Making myself better today... even through injury

I honestly think I needed this break.

Don’t get me wrong. I was loving what I was doing – reaching higher weekly mileage totals than I ever had before, working harder than I thought possible, etc. My greatest joy now is beating my body into oblivion. On the other hand, though, I was struggling a bit mentally (being able to wrap my head around attacking such long/hard workouts) and I’m realizing now that I wasn’t giving myself enough physical rest either. The day after the pain started I came down with the flu. At the time, I thought it was God’s way of making sure I took an extra rest day. [Still probably was] But, after sleeping a ton Friday to shake the bug and throughout the weekend, I realized how sleep deprived I must have been. So – lesson for next time – perhaps look into using my vacation days strategically so I can better recover during these big weeks. Also, make sure that I’m allowing some down time after each of the runs. All too often I do a quick noon-time or evening run and then rush back to work or on to something at home without stretching or relaxing. Not acceptable.

But, as much as I “needed” a little break, God could have made it a little shorter of a break.

To recap what I’ve done/learned in the last week (and a timeline just for my sake):

Thursday evening: sharp pain during evening run at 4 miles, started and stopped next ½ mile. Stabbing pain intermittent. Decided to stop at 4.5 miles, walked home.
Friday: flu, unable to run even if I wanted to
Saturday: ran 2 miles, walked rest of way home after feeling the “stabbing” sensation start to creep into the Achilles. NOO! Walked home.
Sunday: off, trying to decide a game plan. Reading Jaymee’s blog and what she went through and learned has been SUPER helpful. Nice to know others have been through it & come out of it just as strong. Decided to try cross-training tomorrow to see if it would bother the area.
Monday AM: Decided to turn myself into a cross-training machine. 38 minute pool “run” at the YMCA. YUCK. Every time I made a turn in the pool (which took about 1:15, in case you’re wondering), I told myself to try to make the next minute count. There are only so many minutes in a day, you have to use each of them to make yourself better. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my heart rate up for the life of me. I wondered if I was doing it wrong. I tried a fast tempo, a slow tempo, and everything else I could think of. At 38 minutes, I willed myself to try another lap or two. (The workout plan called for 6 miles in the AM, 6 in the PM, so I was trying to do something equivalent) But I just couldn’t. Noted that pool running just isn't my thing (I've tried it a few other times in my life, with the same results).
Getting up out of the pool, Dr. Bahl was entering. YEAH! Medical sage to the rescue! He gave me a little advice & told me to see a PT he works with. He suggested some sort of steroid patch.
Dried off, then did 40 minutes on the elliptical. GREAT workout! Time went by relatively quickly & I got my heart rate to around 170, which is good. (generally max is 210, hard workouts 190, easy workouts 155-160, easy-moderate 170. No achilles pain. Sweated a ton as well – so thought to myself that I should incorporate a session of indoor training at least once a week between now & the trials just to keep my body used to the heat/humidity.

Monday PM: 60 minutes on the bike, nice and easy.

Tuesday AM: 60 minutes elliptical, medium effort.
Saw physical therapist. Said there’s still some visible swelling around the tendon, so no running until Monday :(. Said we’re going to wait until we can do a 5-7 mile run with confidence (rather than heading out and just doing 2, re-inflaming the area, etc.). Waiting until Monday with an aggressive anti-inflamatory plan should allow the area to heal.
Things he noted that I need to work on:
1. Inside calf weakness. Need to do at least a little calf work (I do very little now), focusing on both the inside and outside.
2. I’m extremely inflexible. REALLY need to work on this. Again, I think it’s just dedicating 10-15 minutes after a run to properly stretching & winding down. Another thought is to dedicate 10-15 minutes at the end of my strength sessions to flexibility.



3. 10 degree difference in my ability to flex my foot forward on the injured side. Result of the injury? Or previous imbalance? I'll never know, but something to be aware of & work towards getting each side equal.
He did some deep tissue massage to get out knots in my low calf muscle that might be tugging at the achilles (where he commented that most people cringe with pain – yeah, it was uncomfortable, but I definitely wouldn't call it a “cringe” type of pain. But, perhaps my threshold for pain is different than most). He showed me some strengthening exercises and stretches and then put a steroid patch on the area (called Iontophoresis). Basically it moves the cortisone from the patch under the skin to take away the inflammation. Doing a bit of reading online, it sounds like it’s a pretty effective way to relieve the inflammation in the area.

Which leads us to now! I’m planning to hop on the bike again tonight, hopefully for another hour or so. Should be a jolly good time.

General plan forward: no running until there’s no inflammation and no pain to get up on my toes (right now there still is). Cross train my butt off. Try to continue on my weekly “get to race weight” plan, even thought that’s a lot harder when you’re not running & it’s Thanksgiving week (can I please replace the 10,000 calorie meals I know will be at both families' homes this weekend with wholesome Just Food Co-op food?). Strength work as usual. Extra time devoted to flexibility.

*Sigh* Not the most fun plan, but it’s all I have & I can choose to be down on myself or make the most of this. I’m choosing to be positive & think of this as an opportunity to make myself stronger/more fit/etc. My new motto is to "make myself better today" - every minute that I'm cross training, I think about how it's making me faster/stronger/more fit. Makes each minute go by a little faster :)

PS - I love living, running, and working in small communities. While hammering away on the elliptical today (I look a little phycho, not going to lie), someone came up to me and said, "I saw you running at the park last week! Man, you were flying! I was the man with the big white dog. You aren't injured, are you?" "Oh, no! Well, hope it's just something quick! Man, you looked so good out there!" :)

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Achilles Tendonitis

Anyone know how to treat this QUICKLY? It came on Thursday after a hard/long Wednesday evening run. I've never had Achilles trouble before, so I'm a little perplexed that it came on so quickly and has been so bad.

Generally it feels bruised/tight when walking around. Running on it Thursday it had a burning sensation. A couple steps later in the run produced some sharp stabbing pain. I took Friday off, and tried running again Saturday with the same progression (burning to stabbing). Called it quits at 2 miles. Hmmm... guess I'm a little worried about this one :(

Thought I'd throw this out there to see if anyone reading had great ideas :)

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Dr. Asp

I have talked before about how working with a sports psychologist made a huge difference in my race at Grandma's. Dr. Asp in Red Wing is that psychologist, and the Red Wing newspaper recently did an article about him working with runners. It is mostly about his work with the high school team, but I thought it was noteworthy. Here's a copy of the article. Pretty cool that the local high school has such a resource on their coaching staff!

Mind games paying off for Wingers
Even after running 13 marathons Dr. David Asp still needs to coax himself mentally through work-outs. Now, a volunteer assistant coach for the Red Wing cross-country team, Asp is helping the Wingers prepare for meets by training their minds. Asp, a psychologist in the Behavior Health Department at Fairview Red Wing Medical Center, focuses on using positive coping thoughts to push through difficult and stressful situations. With a specialization in sports psychology and as an avid endurance sports participant, Asp developed a mental training program that is helping Red Wing utilize positive thinking. Asp first became involved with the team in 2008 when Wingers head coach Jesse Nelson had Asp speak with the team about the impact mental training has on physical performance. A year later Asp became a volunteer assistant coach. With an extensive background in sports psychology, Asp was excited to equip younger athletes with the basic mental preparation needed to succeed. “It’s incredible the power of our imagination and how it can change things physiologically,” said Asp, who has completed 13 marathons and three Iron Man triathlons. Asp began practicing with the team two to three days a week and led the Wingers through visualization, relaxation, and breathing exercises a couple times per year. He also attended races as frequently as possible. Each year his involvement with the team as a sports psychologist increased, he said. Nelson and Asp decided to increase mental training as sports psychology became more prevalent in athletics. “There’s more of an awareness of the importance of it,” Asp said. “There’s more now we can do.” Asp tells the Winger runners to imagine their bodies as finely-tuned engines and their legs as powerful pistons running the engine. At the end of the race, runners want to kick into a “higher gear,” he said. All of the thoughts are positive coping mechanisms that redirect negativity and push the athletes past tough stretches in competition. “I tell them to trust their body to go to that pain threshold,” Asp said. The team bus is silent before meets. Most of the runners are listening to the podcast Nelson and Asp made which contains positive coping statements, Anderson said. The podcast equips the athletes with the focus it takes to overcome pain at the end of a race, Asp said. “It relaxes you and takes away some of the pre-race stress,” senior Christian Leitner said. The training has worked for the Wingers. After taking the team through relaxation techniques and breathing exercises before its meet at Rochester Mayo, the girls team won the meet and several individuals ran personal best times. “I had my best race,” said sophomore Lindsay Scribner, who finished 13th and ran one of the best races in her career, according to Nelson. “It helps.” The team also went through the program when it traveled to Alexandria for a meet. Before the meet, Asp tried to get the Wingers to focus on performing at their peak, not attempting to win the race or place. “You need to have some pressure,” Asp said. “But a lot of athletes have too much pressure. It acts as a mental emergency break.” Both teams finished 14th in a quality field that featured some of the best teams in the state. Sophomore Ryan Schnaith turned in a career best time of 18 minutes 5 seconds in the 5-kilometer race. Red Wing will compete in the section 1AA meet Thursday in Owatonna and Asp plans to lead the team through another session of visualization before the biggest race of the season. With the positive examples from Rochester and Alexandria, Asp said he hopes to keep growing the program. “This has been a special year,” Asp said. “The important thing is that they give it their all. Put everything out there. This is a beginning step. It’s coming together and I’ve got some ideas for next year already.” The program lends itself well to high school sports. Nelson said the emotional roller coaster of adolescence increases the impact visualization can have on an athlete. “Kids just lack confidence,” Nelson said. “They don’t believe in themselves as much as they should.” Low self-worth can be treated in athletics, Asp said. “That’s why mental training is so important,” Asp said of the roller coaster of emotions in adolescents. “You need to stay consistently mentally focused and believing in yourself. Focus on positives rather than negative or stressful situations.” Asp said he expected good results after taking the team through the program, but the overwhelming acceptance and immediate race results was a pleasant surprise. The more the kids tuned into the importance of training their minds and emotions, the better they competed and the more they believed his ideas, Asp said. “It helped tremendously,” Asp said of team’s success. “I saw their desire for more it, wanting to believe in themselves. I really sensed they wanted to have more of that. It was nice to see. Asp started as a psychologist in 1982 when Fairview was Interstate, a private medical group, and this year will be his 30th in Red Wing. The runners appreciate the amount of experience Asp brings to his volunteer coaching position. “It’s pretty cool knowing he’s gone through all that education,” junior Kelsee Anderson said. “We’re glad he can talk with us so we can run better. He’s definitely made a huge impact on me.” Asp’s impact is reaching beyond the course. Leitner, Scribner and Anderson said their schoolwork and overall lives have improved since starting the program. Leitner said his self-esteem has increased as a result of consistently using positive affirmation. “(The visualizations) helps with not only running but everything,” Anderson said. “If you can visualize yourself doing well in a race, then you will. If you can visualize yourself doing well on a big test, you’ll do well.” In Asp’s work for Fairview’s Behavioral Health Department, he helps patients work through test anxiety. In the same way Asp taught the runners to visualize success in racing, they are able to focus the calming thoughts toward any stressful situation. Scribner said it helps her relax before her tests and Leitner said his grades are the best he’s had. Asp also works with Nichole Porath, of Northfield, who will be competing at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Houston. Porath, a marathon runner who runs upwards of 95 miles a week, came to Asp seeking help to mentally prepare for Grandma’s Marathon in June. She spent time visualizing and Asp made a compact disc for her to practice with throughout training. Porath finished in a person-best 2 hours, 44 minutes and 46 seconds, more than a minute better than the Olympic qualifying time of 2:46 and more than five minutes ahead of her previous best time. “I don’t know if I would have qualified without his help,” Porath said. “I can’t say enough about how his work helped me.”

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Biggest back to back weeks...

Today is the start of a 105 mile week... uff!

To be followed up by a 95 mile week. This is the highest 2-week average I'll have in the build for the Trials.

I'm excited to work this hard, but also a little scared of the workouts scheduled. They're crazy hard, even without all of the mileage!

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Get off the couch & finish the workout!

I was excited to try a hard workout by myself. Jerry mentioned earlier in this cycle that I needed to make sure I could hit some of these key workouts solo to help build confidence and mental toughness.

So I started out & imagined hitting all of my goal times & being able to email him with the great news.

I was SO wrong.

Workout supposed to be: 19 mins T, 14:15 T, 9:30 T, 4:45 T inside of a 15 mile run.

I began the first tempo segment. First mile in something like 6:13. Ug. Granted, a little more uphill and 1/2 of it right into 13 MPH winds, but still. I looked at my watch again at around 7 minutes. 6:50 pace. WHAT?!? I know I was still running straight into the wind... but something in my mind said, "this is ridiculously slow..."

I stopped.

And then was immediately angry at myself.

Why do I do this? Sometimes I just need to throw away the watch, I know that. It doesn't matter how fast these are, as long as they're hard. But something inside me is expecting to hit very fast tempo times & is very disappointed I'm not. And there's another part of me remembers how these tempo workouts felt the last 4 weeks before Grandma's - and I know I'm not in that portion of my training yet - but I should be closer to those times than what I'm running.

I walked for a while & then started again. Attempting the 19 min rep for the second time.

Except at 11 minutes I HAD to run off to the bathroom.

UGGG.

Now I was just MAD at myself. I decided to jog back to the house to see if Nate was home yet. Nope.

So I decided to lay on the couch & shut my eyes until he came home (~10 mins).

He came home, I told him about my failed attempts, as I lay curled under a blanket on the couch. He got me off the couch, told me to change into dry clothes, and he strapped on rollerskis to help push me through the workout. Together I knew we could do this. Or at least make a valiant third attempt :).

And I did! 19 minutes: 6:00, 5:59, 6:13 (wind), 5:58 pace for last .12.

Then I did the math on what I had done & was supposed to do: 12 minutes left. I decided to make it two miles. I can, I will, I told myself.

2 miles: 6:07 (wind), 5:58.

Nate is so amazing. He knows what to yell for encouragement (you can do anything for 2 minutes!) & is the reason I got myself off the couch to finish this workout. I wish I would have been able to do it solo, but all that matters is that I did it (albeit broken up & slower than I hoped).

So, need to work on my mental game. Might be a visit to Dr. Asp in the near future! I know I struggled during this portion of my Grandma's training as well, so at least it's not completely unexpected. I CAN and DO want this & need to throw out expectations. I also need to remember that I AM faster than I was before Grandma's (just slightly, but that's something to celebrate considering the increase in volume this cycle) - and focus on that vs. focusing on the gap between where I am & where I'd like to be.

I want this more than I ever have before - just have to be positive & believe in myself!!

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Adventures in Nutrition

For one of my first "trying to only eat healthy/organic/from a farmers market" meals, I attempted to make a Gazpacho soup recipe (from the Co-op) and bake a squash. Sounds great, right?



The recipe was easy enough: fresh tomatoes, crushed, with a cucumber sliced small (supposed to be food-processed, but we don't own such an appliance, so I painfully cut it into what I thought were skinny enough pieces), shredded carrots (didn't really know how to do this either so I just used the carrot peeler... which makes for very thin shreds of carrots, but I guess that works), some white beans, and other miscellaneous healthy items.


Things were going well until I gave the tomatoes to my husband to break up to put in the soup. Our blender doesn't exactly work anymore, so he "pulsed" them... the only setting that works anymore. Problem? That makes for a very "frothy" outcome. See picture of end product below.


In addition, my squash turned out HORRIBLE. I'm not sure what kind it was (longer, muted yellow), but thought I had googled a fail-proof baking recipe for it. Wrong. It wasn't even edible.


I was devastated. I had such glorious hopes for the meal, and it turned out awful. Seriously. Look at the soup again. You'd feel defeated as well. My husband, who knows me too well, said something like "let me see what I can do", whisked it away -- and LOOK what he was able to create!




Our first "completely healthy/organic/from a farmers market" meal - YEAH!!


Other adventures: I've since cooked THREE squash. First one, here, rubbery and inedible. Second, better, but my body nearly threw up as I took the last two bites (I was TRYING to like it!). My mother-in-law heard about our dislike of squash and cooked an amazing buttercup squash at her place one evening - wow, it was actually delicious! So, my THIRD attempt, with her steam baking instructions on-hand, turned out absolutely fabulous. I'm so excited! Best yet, I really like the vegetable & it makes great tasting & easy leftovers.


Last side note: Don't think that I'm able to do the "completely healthy" thing all the time... I still definitely fall down some times, but with each day I'm getting better. Giving up all of the fabulous tasting sweets isn't easy...



And in case you're wondering, I've found the best way to cook a squash is to: cut in half, clean out the middle, lay it facing down in a pan filled with about a 1/2 inch of water, covering pan with tin foil, and baking it for about an hour :). Tiny bit of butter and/or salt and pepper afterwards. Yum!

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Improvements

As I’ve said in a previous post, Jerry is challenging me this cycle to step my times down quicker than I ever have before – to repeat and goal race times that I NEVER thought might be possible (or at least so quickly). Today’s workout was the first fast workout at the next step down in times.

Goal: 6x1000m in 3:15-3:17. WOW. Then 4x400, as fast as possible.
Actual: 3:24, 3:21, 3:19, 3:21, 3:19, 3:32 (completely fell apart!) = average of 3:22 for all 6, averaged 3:20 through first 5
The 400s were ugly. I don’t know if there was much of a pace change between the 400s and 1000s. Oops.

So, I wasn’t quite able to hit the new times. BUT, I’m proud of myself. With each repeat, I imagined 3:17. I drove forward with EVERYTHING I had, asking myself how badly I wanted this. I also reflected for a little while how lucky I was to be out, pounding my body – just a week ago, I was pretty concerned about a quad (that legitimately could have taken me out for a while if it weren’t for fast, smart treatment!).

I also noticed that I felt bigger (and with that inefficient, not able to move as fluidly). I let myself go a little bit while I was injured (waaay too easy to do…I should be better than that!). Funny how I notice a 2-3 lb weight gain now. But, now I’m back on track & know I need to work to get back to where I need to be! [Aside: I bought over $20 worth of veggies and fruit today :) Biggest cart of good-for-you-food yet!!]

After I finished I went back to my log to compare today to where I’ve been at in previous workouts. I was pretty impressed to find how much I’ve improved.

This cycle:
11/1 (today) 3:24, 3:21, 3:19, 3:21, 3:19, 3:32 = average of 3:22 for 6, averaged 3:20 through first 5
9/20 3:24, 3:21, 3:21, 3:22, 3:27. Average of 3:23 for the 5.
9/13 3:34, 3:23, 3:19 (downhill), 3:20, 3:15, 3:26 = average of average of 3:22 for 6, average of 3:20 without first repeat
9/2 averaged 3:23 average (5 reps) (~110 days before the Trials)
8/10 averaged 3:33 or so (6 reps)

Before Grandma’s:
3/5: 3:23.3 average. 5x1000 (3:27, 3:23 for next 4) (~110 days before Grandma's)

AND just 1 short year ago!
11/7/2010: 3:36.3 average. 6x1000s. 3:37, 3:37, 3:34, 3:38, 3:37, 3:35. Log entry: “Hard! Great workout!”

So, as you can see, the time drops this cycle have been much more subtle. I think I’ve hit a slight plateau with the VO2 max times lately, but I'm not worried about it. Usually that follows with a small break through in MP and tempo paces, and then a VO2 max break through shortly follows. Fun to have been doing this for over a year to be able to recognize patterns – and also to see the progress I’ve made!

3:17 next time, I KNOW it :) (Although... I have to wait until December 13th to try!!!)

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