The Little Things - A Continued Journey

A big part of my journey has been learning about all of the little things you need to do in order to train well, perform to your potential, and in general, see where your limits are.  With every cycle, I've worked on a few things.  This cycle is no different.

I came across Camille's blog the other day, and it hit me pretty hard -- am I REALLY working as hard as she/the other women at her level?  Am I really being diligent about all of the little things?

The answer is always "no" -- I can, and should, be doing more, and doing better.  I WANT to be doing more, all that I can.

For this cycle, I'm focusing on a few things.  Some of them are brand new, some of them are things that I've started before but can improve upon.  

The first new thing is regular massage.  I was floored when I talked to the women I raced against at the Trials.  We swapped training and racing stories, running histories, how we arrived here, etc... and 100% of the women I talked to were able to maintain much higher mileage than me.  It could be because I'm relatively new at this, and just don't have the years of base building that many of the women there have.  But really -- they consistently said they max out at 120-140 mpw. Seriously?  I have broken down EVERY cycle once I get around 95 mpw.  Every single time.  My situation might be a little unique because I work full time (more than) and have a longer commute, but still, does the stress of that mean that I need to be more cautious with my max mileage?  Is there some way I can get my body to handle training at higher volume?  Obviously, up until now, higher volume has been VERY good for me, making me stronger, fitter, and faster.  Perhaps my peak is at 95... but I have a feeling that if I could break that 95/week barrier, good things might happen.

Enter into my life Jenny Gamer.  She has most GRACIOUSLY offered to try to help, listening to my aches and pains, fatigue stories, and tight legs stories.  I just completed my second massage session with her, and although I don't want to jump to conclusions, I feel like this could really help to get me to where I need to be.  The first session she found extreme tightness in my left calf (the side that I had my freak foot tendon strain) and a few other tight spots I didn't even know existed.  The very next run I went on, my foot didn't hurt at all.  Coincidence?  I saw her today for my second session and I'm excited to see what her work can do.  I've been feeling tired & slow this week (which I've been hoping will disappear because I'm hoping for a fast 5k this Saturday!  GAC home meet, a chance at their stadium record!).  This seems to happen to me every 2-3 weeks; my quads feel "bound", and I can feel the fatigue bathing each muscle fiber.  I wonder if this is normal?  I've always thought it was and that it was just something to train through, to take an easier few days or a week until it disappeared, and then to ramp it up again.  But now I'm wondering... does regular massage help prevent frequent patches like this?  Or help you to recover quicker?  I'm really excited to find out.  For anyone looking for a therapist in Northfield, please look her up - - I have been more than impressed with her patient & calming personality, ability to pick out knots & quickly work them out, and her overall caring demeanor.

The other thing I’m focusing on is nutrition.  Before the Trials, I reached out to Mary Upham and Just Food.  Their help changed my life, truly.  I used to eat mostly packaged foods: pizzas, brownies, handfuls of chocolate chips and/or packaged cookies/Oreos for breakfast, pop-tarts for snacks.  As long as the scale didn’t say I was gaining weight, I thought I was fine.  With Mary and Just Food’s help, I started eating vegetables (what IS this thing?  And how do you eat it?), whole grains, organics.  My body rebelled at first, but soon I saw the benefits: I recovered from runs faster, I wasn’t as tired during my high mileage weeks.  I became leaner & faster.  But, I have SUCH a long way to go and so much to learn.  I’m just learning how to cook using whole grains & the wonderful tasty dishes you can make with vegetables.  I still struggle with coming up with quick meals – especially during week nights where I’m struggling to get in my 2nd run of the day in, strength work, and stretching – but know that I just need to keep experimenting.  Runner’s World had an awesome article about Scott Jurek this month that really appealed to me:

I’m so inspired by this story.  It makes me want to clean out our fridge & cupboards & refill it with things from Just Food.  Except… I still don’t know what exactly I’d buy even if I did that… wish I knew more about what I should be eating/making/buying… I know that by continuing to focus on my nutrition, I can continue to improve.  I was honestly one of the least-lean runners at the Trials (and that was after months of working on my weight, watching what I ate, etc!) 

I’m excited to try the veggie-mushroom recipe they had pictured, but don’t see it on the RW site.  If you find it, paste the link below, please!  I’m also excited to try his “brownie” recipe.  This is a place I fall down often – I limit myself to just a few foods that I know are good for me, but find myself unsatisfied regularly… I miss desserts!  I miss hearty snacks! 

These are my main two focuses for this Grandma’s marathon cycle… I’ll be sure to blog to report what I learn, how it’s helped/not helped/etc.  Obviously, these two are in addition to all of the other things that I’ve already found I need to be mindful of: strength, stretching, purposeful training (i.e. each workout has a specific purpose – stick to the plan!), sleep, hydration… there are so many things… wish there was more time in the day!


A week of learning

Oh, boy -- where do I start?!?

Monday started off great. I literally stared my noon run thinking, "Wow, I'm strong - I'm so excited to start those 100+ mile weeks!". At about 2.5 miles, I stepped on my foot weird. Not sure why, since I was on pavement and there wasn't anything I hit that would cause me to land weird, but my I felt my foot splay out for that particular foot strike. Later in the run I'd stop to stretch the muscles in my foot, feeling a lingering tightness, hoping that this would pass as soon as it had happened.

Monday night, though, I couldn't put much weight on the foot. OH NO. Seriously? Just as I thought I was reaching a stride with my training/mileage... this happens. Something freakish. WHY am I breakable like this? It frustrates me.

Turns out, it was something relatively minor that kept me from my regular training for about 2-3 days (back to normal by Thurs/Fri). I had just strained the tendon sheath in my foot as well as the tendons that control the toes flexing (I probably also tried to use my toes to control the foot-strike when I landed funny). I saw 3 professionals in the span of 2-3 days (Dr. Bahl, Dr. Patterson, and Troy at Gustavus (athletic trainer)). I am so blessed to have immediate help with the little things like this.

A lot of ice, with reduced mileage, got me back to training fairly quickly, but this minor injury reminded me of a lot of things: I NEED to be better about all of the little things: balance muscle strength, flexibility, making sure I'm equally strong on both sides (I noticed a definite weakness on my left side, which is where this was, also, perhaps not coincidentally, also my Achilles injury side), etc. With as high of goals as I have, I HAVE to be better at doing ALL of this. I met with the GAC trainer earlier this week and he suggested doing some "funny walk" drills, but I think I'll need to do further research into balance-muscle work. Anyone know of any good resources?

My foot is still a little sore, but getting better by the day - enough to allow me to stick to my racing schedule. My first attempt at the 17:18 stadium record at GAC was scheduled for this Saturday.

Oh... what a learning experience that was. I'm not sure what was the cause of such a terrible race, but my legs COMPLETELY came undone. I had no control over them after 2 miles -- only the thought to keep them going, one step in front of the other. It was a complete death march. I finished in 17:59, which although respectable, is no where near where I know I can be.

What can I learn? First, I started off too fast. My first 200 was in 39.6, which is too quick. My first mile was in 5:27 or 5:28. That's not too far in front of the 5:31 I was hoping to average, but it's not how I race -- I typically start off a couple of seconds slower & have a strong second half. This race... I had a strong 4-5 laps and faded REALLY quickly. My last mile ended up being just slower than 6:00 -- not kidding when I said it was a death march! I was not even moving the last couple of laps.

The heat may have had something to do with it: 75 degrees at the start (for those of you that run in hotter climates, that may not seem bad, but for me used to training in 50 degrees... not pretty (plus, I don't race well in heat, at ALL)).

So -- what to deduce from such an ugly performance? I really don't know. The heat was a definite factor... and I know now to start out just a little slower (ALL of my best races have been negative splits) (perhaps I need to start in 5:33 or so?)... but maybe I just wasn't ready for the hurt of an oxygen-debt 5k? Is there anything I can do in the next two weeks to get myself more ready for something like this??? I really want to reset that stadium record... and you'd think I'd be able to make a closer attempt than the 17:59 I mustered today...

Splits from today (no laughing!):



I love getting and writing a plan. Jerry sent me the upcoming month’s plan early this week. Ahh, nothing more fun :).

There are 4 short weeks where I’ll focus on my 5k with 2 or 3 races (two for sure, both at GAC). Luckily, I put in a few quality mileage weeks before April began so I’ll be able to keep mileage lower (70-80) during these weeks. That scares me a little bit, I guess, just because I want to make sure I can transition from this to Grandma’s marathon training – but I know it’ll be fine. I’m feeling strong & handling volume well, and noticed this last week that I’m feeling faster & more fit. I wonder if that’s coincidental that I feel that way after having increased my mileage. I’m either a true mileage runner & running more means running faster, or I’ve just conditioned myself to believe that.

I printed off splits for my goal 5k, and my eyes bugged out a little: 5:33 pace/mile, 82 (high) quarters. Wow. That’s REALLY fast. For some reason I had 5:35-5:38 in my head before I looked at it again today. Even though it’s just a few seconds/mile faster, my brain still goes: really? Really?!?

After my last 5k on the 28th of April, I’ll transition into marathon-mode (don’t worry, I’ve been doing a few long/hard tempo runs so won’t be coming into the marathon cycle cold – and they’ve gone really well, all 5-10 secs/mile faster than this time of year last year). There are 6 or 7 weeks before Grandma’s. I don’t have the day-to-day plan for that yet, but I do know there will be a couple 100+ mile weeks in that. Yikes. (But another part of me says, “Yes! I can’t wait! I love mileage & beating my body”)

As I was reminded, those kind of miles require stretching my rest days. I have to be careful, since I know that’s one of the reasons behind my Achilles injury before the Trials. I noticed my Achilles for the first time on Sunday’s run (no pain, it just felt “different”) so took Monday off. I’ve been taking more time to stretch & do strength work since, as I had allowed myself to be lax with both for two long.

Well – just one short week until the first 5k. Gotta get to it!

P.S. The Museli recipe from this weekend (from, edited a little). It's great with plain greek yogurt and a little sweetener/sugar! (It's my "substitute" for ice cream!)

Original Recipe Yield 8 cups
4 1/2 cups rolled oats (we used old fashioned slow-cook)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup oat bran
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I omitted)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds (I omitted)

Not in the original recipe but I added:
1/4 cup flax seed (we have a lot around the house for some reason, and thought it couldn't hurt)
1 cup instant oatmeal
And another big handful (or 3) of slow cook oats -- (I like museli with a lot more oatmeal)

Next time I might get ambitios and chop up some almonds for it (since I think whole almonds would be too large, but slivered might be a little weird?) - we'll see :)

I doubled this & made it in an ice cream pail. Works great!