Just a little rusty

Last week went really well. I was able to log 74 miles and a day of cross training. Not too shabby! It included a 24 mile long run (lots of fun, ran from Elm Creek where Nate was skiing to his parent's house in Shoreview. Had to ask for help interpreting my map once, and the woman was very confused... you're coming from where, and you're going WHERE?!? :)) and a string of 5 days of running in a row. Yes. You may also be thinking -- gees, 25% of your weekly mileage from a long run? Keep in mind that my recovery days are very low mileage (or cross training) in order that I can actually get in the long, hard runs I need.

Towards the end of that week and into this week I've had to deal with the "you're finally back to decent mileage for more than a few days" feeling in my quads. Pretty nice soreness all-around in them. It's good to have that, though -- means I'm now to the point where I'm rebuilding strength & stamina. Just have to be careful that the fatique doesn't last for too much longer.

I felt that fatigue big-time during this Tuesday's workout. 4x2 miles at tempo, where my goal was 5:50s. I went down to GAC to attempt this with Brenden, knowing that I needed to nail the workout (if nothing else, just to boost my confidence). It was one of the most perplexing workouts I've had:

1st rep: Into wind, 6:20s or so. My legs were very tired and couldn't respond. Shin muscle, whatever that's technically called, cramping up. Ahh, I hardly feel like I know what I'm doing!

2nd rep: First mile had a 3/4 mile steep uphill. 7:00 on that one. That's okay, I'm breathing pretty hard. Second mile wheels totally came undone. It was like the last 1/2 mile of a marathon (well, the last 1/2 mile you never hope to see) where you literally can't control your legs and are just praying to stay upright. I wasn't breathing at all, just could NOT go. Sort of like the 1000s last week, this week just had the "marathon legs" component. I was so mentally positive during this rep, though -- instead of looking at my pace and thinking "oh no!" I didn't really think about my pace and instead concentrated on making every 30 seconds/minute REALLY count. C'mon, Nichole, try to make this as HARD as you possibly can.

I considered stopping the workout at this point. I talked to myself outloud (Brenden listening), wondering if it was a good idea to stop. Are 6:50 miles really doing anything for me? I immediately stopped myself and said that I just needed to get through the workout no matter what the times were. Brenden nodded at me and we were off.

Rep 3: Better. Legs not nearly as tightly wound. 6:15 and 6:10. Legs didn't start seizing up until about 800m to go. Cool!

Rep 4: Even better. 6:10 and 6:05. Legs didn't seize up at all. What?!?

I looked at Brenden afterwards, completely perplexed. I have never had such a workout, where you have lost your legs completely & then come back. Granted, the 6:05 still didn't feel good & legs weren't there, but at least I could move somewhat fast enough to get the lungs to work. Weird.

Brenden said he thought this was totally normal. When I first came back I was able to hit my tempos and MPs because I was relatively rested. Now I'm fighting the fatigue of daily mileage & some intensity & it will just take a week or two to get back into it. "Gotta get the rust out of the legs" as he put it. I hadn't thought of it like that, but it makes total sense.

So, all in all, a very good workout. I'm really proud of it, even though times were sub-optimal. I'm proud of myself for finishing when I felt terrible, and I'm even more proud of how mentally positive and tough I was. [Dr. Asp's mental training is so amazing!]

Next day I followed up the hard workout with a 9 miler and then a 6 miler with a friend today with strides at the end. The achilles is very sore, though, which isn't good (had to stop to stretch a few times during today's 6 miler and felt a slight burning sensation at the end, hmm)... more sore than typical after a hard workout or longer miles. So, I emailed Jerry afterwards to see about moving a hard 22 miler back to Saturday this week to give me a day to cross train.

I just don't want to be dumb about this when we're so close. I know I have it in me, just need to stay healthy enough to get a few key workouts in and work on helping the legs to feel fast. One extra day of cross training won't hurt (although, as every runner knows, it is hard to have to constantly juggle workouts like this, to have had two shorter workout days to prep for the 22 on Friday, only to bump it out & cause your weekly mileage to go way down).

Tom had a great story for me on my run today: A coach in town was working with a woman who narrowly missed the qualifier in October so signed up for a last minute Sacramento attempt (there are about 9 weeks between TCM and Sac, and Sac and the Trials - not ideal in any way). She ran tired & was always missing her workout times (and stressing about that). Day of the race the coach gets a call: Guess what? I just ran a 2:41! The coach was dumb-founded. Lesson: workouts are just workouts, and target times are something to put stock into, but at the end of the day it comes down to what you have on any given race day. Oh, how true, and how perfect of a story for me to hear at this stage in the training cycle.

Last aside: Nutrition: The last 2 weeks I have decided to eat as much from the Co-op as is possible. There's just something about the way you feel after eating their healthy, hearty foods. Sticking true to my "something new" resolution, I picked up some Quinoa today. I remembered seeing a few recipes with it & thought it was a good-for-you grain that also had protein.

I strongly considered buying a beet, from a suggestion from Tom. Not sure why I didn't. Part of it might have been that I wasn't 100% sure that it was a beet (there's a few signs above the veggies in that area, and I didn't know what most of them were, leading me to wonder which ones were the beets :) ) and after thinking I did have the right one, was very intimidated by how it looks. I'll have to look up a few recipes online to see how to cook something like that... so maybe next trip!

Our fridge is pretty bare, now, on purpose (if you don't buy it, you can't eat it) -- the vegetable and fruit drawers are completely full, a shelf of yogurt and greek yogurt (paired with museli is what I use for "dessert"! It's great!), some fresh lean meat, whole wheat tortillas, eggs, and a few condiments (hummus, which is amazingly good!). Our counter has a few containers filled with a hot grain cereal, flours for homemade bread, museli, a couple sweet potatoes (THANK you to whoever suggested fries, what a great bad-for-you tasting treat!), a squash, etc. Seriously, WHAT a change! :) I'm pretty sure last year at this time I had a pan of brownies out, two plates full of cookies from the in-laws, and a fridge almost devoid of vegetables. There were probably a few apples in there, but that was probably it.

I also have the ingredients for the squash pasta recipe someone suggested here. Should be fun!

Okay, back to something a little more productive. Happy new year, everyone!

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Reminders

Yesterday's speed workout (3x1 mile tempo, 3x1000, 3x400) reminded me that:

1. I am still very fit & fast. I was beginning to wonder! I honestly do not "feel" that way (vs. how I felt for Grandma's cycle at this time). Tempo miles were clicking off in sub 5:50s, which is great.
2. I NEED to be diligent about drinking water and making sure I'm taking my multi-vitamin/iron (or just fueling myself with the right things). I also need to be sleeping more. Why, you ask? After the tempo miles, I started to unwind & my 1000s were pretty slow. Weird thing was, I couldn't do anything about it. I willed myself to turn my legs over faster, but they couldn't respond. Sort of an out of body experience, actually... didn't help that I'm really exhausted mentally & so I couldn't quite process thoughts normally. I'm attributing this to not drinking much during the week, mostly. Maybe lack of sleep as well? At least I couldn't think of anything else that would cause such a weird slow-down?
3. Also need to work on my speed. Granted, by the time I got to the 400s, there wasn't anything left, so it wasn't the best workout to judge, but I know that I don't have the ability to change pace right now. Need to work on that. Striders, perhaps?
4. I need to stay away from all of this holiday junk food sitting around! Ug, I am so bad at saying no... (my boss caught me sneaking a chocolate piece today at work & yelled at me. Pretty sure I blushed big time, like a guilty child :))
5. Also need to start visualizing the race. The injury hasn't done wonders for my confidence; I need to work to regain that. I know the next few hard workouts should do that for me, helping me to realize how much stronger & more fit I am than even before Grandma's (because, honestly, Nichole, you didn't get fat & slow cross training 10-12 hours a week those 3 weeks!). also, I appreciated that for Grandma's I had a very defined goal & it was very much "do or die". I have to find something inside of me that motivates me like that did (goal before injury was proving to myself that I could compete at this level, placing as high as possible) - I'm just having a hard time wrapping my head around that now (or WANTING that really bad). Does that make sense?

Still 3 weeks to go -- good thing, I have some work to do :).

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Day of (Cross Training) Rest

Last night before my PM run (first double! Yes!) I just decided: I was going to cross train tomorrow instead of attempting the speed workout as had been written. No matter if the PM run went fine, it was pain free, etc.

Jerry's goal for me is to get back to running every day. So, we're purposefully trying to stretch the number of days I run in a row to try to get me to that point as fast as we can (without re-injuring the area). Easier said than done, mostly because you don't know how much is too much... so I've found myself thinking about my workouts waaay too much lately.

So yesterday, as I was trying to decide if I was being too cautious (by considering pushing the hard workout out - I'm finding myself a little scared to push things now) or too aggressive by thinking that I could string 5 days of running in a row (which had already included my first 20 miler, my first double, and the first time that I had run more than 2 days consecutively) -- I just decided. Tomorrow would be a cross training day. Enough of this wishy-washy thinking, I had wasted too much thought already on the topic.

My deciding factor: if I re-injured myself and was reviewing my training log after the fact, would I have shook my head at the crazy idea that doing a hard workout on the 5th day back in a row was a good idea? Most definitely. And what did I have to lose by being "cautious" and pushing out the speed day? Not much, if anything. So I'll get in 1 or 2 fewer days of running in before the Trials - better that than re-injuring myself.

So there. I will thoroughly enjoy my time on the bike tonight, I'm sure :)

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How far is too far?

How hard can you push coming back? I hate the guessing game coming back from an injury. Big time.

The Achilles has healed impressively well this last week, which allowed for a great training week (considering just 2 weeks ago I was pretty much sidelined to the bike/elliptical). I was able to log 60 (!!) miles, with one run of 20 miles and one of 16. Not bad at all! And I still have 4 weeks to go to build fitness, get that "long run strength" back, and in general build my confidence up.

The question becomes, where is that line? How many days in a row can I run before I should take a cross training day? This week I went from being estatic about running 2 days in a row to now stringing 4 days back to back. It's a little tight every run (vs. when I take a day of cross training it isn't tight at all the next day), definitely looks puffier than the healthy side -- obviously that means it's not 100%. The plan for today and tomorrow was a double (my first!) and a tempo/1000m workout tomorrow. On my run over noon today, I contemplated that. The hard workout falls on the 5th day of running in a row, after my first double... is that too much? Should the Achilles not be sore before starting my first full-length hard workout?

Argh. So many questions. Glad to have Jerry to throw stuff like this at & have him create the path forward.

On another note, we're withing 4 weeks! Yikes!! My husband reminded me that I need to declare my fluids by Wednesday this week. Hope I'm on top of all of the other logistics/entry stuff/etc...

Cool Olympic Trials preview - thanks for the shout out, Chad! Hope I can continue that "remarkable improvement" with another big PR!!!
http://cnaustin.blogspot.com/2011/12/olympic-trials-marathon-preview.html

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I felt FAST today

Wow, what a day! I can tell my legs and body are remembering how to run – I felt FAST today! I was running tall, feet hitting the pavement & bouncing off quickly, I felt very fit & efficient – it was so FUN. It's the first time I've felt that since starting to run again.

Did 8 miles, around 7:20ish pace. To most, that may not seem fast, but I generally take my easy runs pretty darn slow (7:50-8, sometimes even slower). So to be clipping away at 7:20 without effort, and FEELING like I did, is pretty noteworthy for me.

And the best part? The Achilles isn’t sore walking around today (and it’s been two days running in a row!)!!!!! Yahoo, do a happy dance!!!!

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Never doubt Jerry's genious

Jerry wanted me to try some speed today. On the original plan was 6x1000m and a few 400s. He edited to 3x1000m and 2x400m.

I pleaded to do more. As long as I'm going to make the achilles sore, why not get in a good quality workout? 3 repeats doesn't exactly have that "hard-core workout" sound to it.

He said I could only do more than 3 if I could run faster than 3:15.

I protested again. Seriously? I've only ever done these in about 3:19. First VO2 max workout back and you want me aiming for 3:15s?!? You're crazy. [Aside: 3:15 was the goal written before injury]

But, as he always is, Jerry was right. 3 was a great number for a first time. Times weren't great, I can tell I've lost the most at this speed: 3:22, 3:20, 3:22 (oh man, the last 200m was ugly!). 400s in around 1:15-1:17 (yes, I have no leg speed). As I finished the third, I knew that I COULD do a 4th repeat but that it would be ugly. My guess is it would be in the 3:30ish range, my legs were jelly (sad!). And I'm sure allowing myself to break down to that level would probably put more demand on the achilles.

As it was, we stressed the achilles the perfect amount. A tiny sore, but feeling good again tonight!

Before the last 400, two of the YMCA runners passed me heading back from their run. We stopped to talk for a while, and I couldn't wipe the "I am SO happy to be out here, working hard, making the lungs/legs hurt" smile off my face. I was overcome by joy in that moment, realizing how lucky I was to be out there with them (helps that they're the 3 nicest, most supportive people), talking about repeat times, progress, healing, and goals for racing. (they probably think I'm crazy :), and they're probably right)

So - puny as it may have looked at first glance, the first VO2 max day today was a perfect 1st workout back. Legs and lungs were reminded how they need to work, and I have no doubt they'll reward me with some quicker times and more repeats next time :)

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Adventures with vegetables

With the Trials just 4 short weeks away, I know I need to be even more careful about what I'm eating and making sure I'm on pace to reach that race weight.

With that in mind, my evening meals are generally pretty small (trying to go to bed on the hungry side). Veggies and other healthy/lower calorie items are generally my go-tos.

For one evening meal, I steamed brussel sprouts (fresh/local from Just Food). I'd never had them before (part of my "try some new produce every time I go in the store" resolution), and wasn't expecting anything. They were great!! Loved them, honestly. And it turns out, they're really, really good for you as well. One sprout has 8 calories, 1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of protein. It also provides 22% of your recommended Vitamin C, a little bit of iron, calcuim and Vitamin A.

I liked them so much that the next time I was in a regular grocery store I bought two bags of frozen steamable sprouts. They were on sale, a good brand, so I figured why not? Might be an easy thing to microwave at lunch.

Except we made the first bag the other night, and they're TERRIBLE. If I didn't know any better, I wouldn't EVER eat them again, fresh, frozen, or any other way. Except I still have one bag left, and I just can't allow myself to waste food... sigh.

Lesson learned: vegetables are actually REALLY good tasting when they're fresh/grown locally (not shipped for a week)/and organic (not sure if that affects the taste at all, but I feel better knowing they don't have pesticides sprayed on them). I never thought there'd be such a big difference, having only really eaten frozen bags or canned veggies my entire life.

So this brings me to poll the readers here: Any thoughts on what veggies or light healthy side dishes I should try from the Co-op next? 4 weeks is a long time to be looking to light & healthy dishes. There are still plenty of root-looking and other odd looking plants I still need to get myself to try... just need the motivation to give them a try :)

P.S. On a training-related note, my achilles heals so well after a day of cross training. After Sunday's 16 miler it was REALLY sore Monday, so sore I had to walk down the stairs differently at noon. Typically it loosens up by mid-day or after a cross training session. I iced and stretched frequently throughout the day and had Nate try some deeper massage in the calf/soleous region. By Monday evening, it felt SO much better it didn't seem like the stairs incident had happened just a few hours earlier. Odd, but I'll take it, since today I'm supposed to attempt my first "speed" workout!

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Every Other Day

My achilles can handle the stress of running every other day. As I told Nate, "I can get somewhere on every other day". (said with a huge grin on my face) (vs. my previous weeks where there where sporadic test runs of less than 8 miles) SO EXCITED to be healing!

But, as Steve warns, I need to be carefull with how fast I ramp things up. I tried 2 consecutive days of running last week, which wasn't good. Walking in general hurt after that and I knew I had pushed too far. But, my achilles seems to handle every other day just fine, and that's something I can totally work with.

Recap of this week:
Monday: cross training

Tuesday: 12.75 miles, as blogged about earlier this week. My first hard workout "back", and was surprised at how I was able to hold paces. Yes!!

Wed: 8 miles easy. Very sore in the evening, and knew I had pushed it too far. I also noticed the tendon now "squeaks", which I was a little freaked out about. This can't be a good thing...

Thurs: Day off. I realized that it had been 3 weeks since the injury without a day off. Went in for a 4th sterioid patch, after meeting with Dr. Bahl and my PT. They said that the squeaking doesn't mean that it's any worse, just different. There's nothing more aggressive we can do (cortizone shot = not a good idea in this tendon because it has the tendency to weaken the tendon). Good to know, I guess... I do feel like it's more of the typical achilles symptoms, where it's noisy, stiff after waking up, just tight during runs (vs. pain in a specific spot).

Friday: 8.25 miles with Nate. Actually felt great! Started with the goal of running 4-7, but felt good so kept adding miles. A rest day for the achilles does wonders.

Saturday: cross trained, 1:50 on elliptical (I'm impressed with my abillity to deal with the boredom of cross-training! I "only" went 1:50 because the Carleton gym was closing at noon, boo) Started sleeping with a homemade achilles brace so the ankle is at a 90 degree angle.

Sunday: A little over 16 miles. 3 miles at T, 2 miles at T, then 1 (modified down by Jerry). 3 miles in 18:03 (6:01 pace), 2 miles in 11:55 (5:57ish), 1 mile in 5:46. Lungs/legs don't remember tempo pace as well. Need to do some extra work at this pace. BUT, I am pumped that my body seemed to remember the pace as the workout went along (helped that I only had to hold the pace for fewer miles each repeat!). The last mile I actually felt strong, efficient, and didn't feel like I was working too out of the "tempo" comfort zone. Yeah!! Rounded it out with a longer cool-down, where I could feel that my hamstrings and glutes aren't used to mileage like that. Hmm... hopefully they strengthen up soon!!

Total week: ~10 hours, 45 miles. The lowest number of training hours since I was injured: partly because I took a day off, but partly due to me losing motivation this week (skipped a couple of PM workouts :( )

So -- in sum, this week was a great confidence booster. I'm pumped to actually be able to log mileage, even though it's sporadic (a fellow Olympic Trials blogger who dealt with this struggled to run more than 8 miles during a run 7 weeks out from injury... I'm at 3.5 weeks and logged ~40 miles/week). As I told Nate, I can get somewhere on this frequency/mileage. The dream of racing as fast as possible at the Trials isn't lost!! Let's go!! (but let's also be careful :) )

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12.75 MILE WORKOUT

The capitalization of the subject represents my absolute JOY behind today's workout.

But, before we get to that, let's back up a few days. I did a 7.5 mile run late last week where tightness crept into the Achilles at 4.5 miles. The pain didn’t worsen, so I kept running, gauging the tightness/pain level the entire way. Is this a good thing? Can I keep going? My mind was completely wrapped up in the injury – not a fun way to run.

Walking back into work, I tested the Achilles on a step. It did okay for about 80% of the heel lift, but close to my tip-toes, it couldn’t hold my weight. A sharper pain came on, but quickly disappeared. Sigh.

But, I told myself that this was progress. Previously, I couldn’t lift myself more than an inch without pain (and definitely not after running 7.5 miles). I promptly emailed Jerry and told him, planning to “test” the area again tomorrow.

Before I got a response, my good friend John Miller (the reason I sought coaching & found Jerry) came to visit in my oh-so-awesome cubicle. He patiently listened to my injury reports, and crossed his arms. “I think you need to take another week or two off”. WHAT?!? I exclaimed back? The trials are just 5 weeks away. That would leave 3 weeks left to train. We talked though how it would still be possible with just 3 weeks, but both recognized that that was just about the time it would take my body to remember HOW to run, let alone run fast. His argument was that I wasn’t fully healed yet – any pain is not a good sign.

I realized, albeit grudgingly, that he was absolutely right. I promptly emailed Jerry again, saying that I thought I needed a few days of cross training. I know that if I just cross train, the Achilles feels great – so hopefully some more time doing that would lead to me being able to run for consecutive days or more miles per day.

He emailed back (on his way to Mexico!) with a plan – cross train until next week, and then let’s try to string a few (if not an entire week’s worth) days of training together, adding in some speed. So that’s exactly what I planned to do. I did another hard workout on the elliptical on Saturday (2 hours on the elliptical which included 50 minutes of threshold work, 30 of which I had my HR above 190). As hard as that was, it’s just not the same. You don’t get that “my legs are exhausted” feeling :(. I miss that.

Fast forward to today (Tuesday). Jerry had my first “hard” workout scheduled. He scaled back the original plan to accommodate for the fact that I haven’t run more than 8 miles at a time for the last 2.5 weeks. I prayed about the workout the night before. Please, God, allow me to get through this. I think I’ve prayed more in the last week during my running miles (carry me through this!) and just in general than I have in a while… I was so worried about testing it with a longer/up tempo workout & knew I needed to be carried through it.

And He did. Seriously. NO PAIN, no real soreness afterwards. Just a little tight during the CD, which I needed to quit early anyway (darn work getting in the way). And the best part (other than the fact that I was RUNNING, didn’t have to entirely concentrate on the injury, enjoying the sunshine, etc!!)?? I wasn’t as slow as I expected!!! My lungs are strong as an ox, seriously. My legs have some work to do, but hopefully they remember how to run efficiently & strong soon.

Workout stats:
2.5 WU
4 miles at MP (averaged 6:12)
.3 miles rest (~3:30)
1 mile Tempo (5:53)
.12 rest (~2:30)
2 miles MP (averaged 6:14)
.3 miles rest (~3:30)
1 mile Tempo (6:00)
1 mile MP (6:07)
.5 mile CD, had to get back to work :(.

Very proud of myself, and this gives me hope that there might be a chance I could still race fast at the Trials. Guess we’ll have to see when I’m back up to full speed, though – I know I’m not completely out of this yet.

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