Tobacco Road Marathon Week 3 Training Recap

I think a lot of my struggles lately have been mental. This week went much better than the last. I think I might actually end up enjoying this training cycle.

Monday, December 28, 2015
Despite it being short, I slept well and woke fairly refreshed. The run went well. My knee/leg felt a little creaky at the start but after a few minutes to warm up, it didn’t bother me for the rest of the run. I made sure to focus on pulling my stomach in for good posture and form. Afterwards I felt pretty good and the only time that my leg/knee got a bit stiff was after sitting in my work chair for extended periods of time. I’m pretty sure now that my leg/knee does not like the chair/position that my workstation set up forces me to use.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015
I had a headache (behind my left eye to be specific) Monday night that lasted through the morning. I did not feel much like pushing it on either the strength training or stationary bike. Apart from the headache I felt pretty good.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015
This run went really well. I woke up feeling great. The tempo intervals were tough but doable (barely) and my stride felt strong and even. Afterwards everything still felt great, no stiffness or tightness.

Thursday, December 31, 2015
Today was all about the strength training. We did the same routine as we did a couple weeks ago. This time Mom and I didn’t need as much instruction so we were able to alternate machines and get several more reps and a couple more exercises in than the previous session. I have a feeling that unlike a couple weeks ago, I will be a bit sore this time. I look forward to increasing the weight on all of the machines because I had to keep them ridiculously light.

Friday, January 1, 2015
This run went remarkably well. We didn’t get started until a little later than I imagined but that didn’t matter. I felt strong throughout the run even around the halfway point when my muscles started reminding me that I did a bunch of strength training Thursday. My stride was strong and even through the entire run. It was five minutes shorter than I planned because I couldn’t figure out a way to finagle my route to get it in. Afterwards I felt really good. I wore the thigh compression sleeve as a precaution but I think it might be making the knee a little stiff and tight afterwards so I’ll focus on other stretches instead.

Saturday, January 2, 2016
My muscles were still a bit sore from the run Friday and strength training Thursday but the run went alright, nothing too remarkable either way. My knee felt a bit tight/stiff but nothing bad. Afterwards I wore the compression sleeve but I might stop because my knee felt tighter with it on than off. I also wore the calf sleeves which I think did help. I think I need to focus more on stretching my calves. Overall I felt pretty good and think this has been a good week of training.

Sunday, January 3, 2016
I definitely enjoyed my rest day and felt great throughout the entire day.

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The Year Behind and the Year Ahead

The year of running in 2015 ended up looking a lot different than I thought it would at the start of the year. I made a bold declaration that the only goal I had for the year was to BQ. I was so close and got even closer with Rome, only 4 minutes from that goal.

However, as has been clearly evident by the last quarter of the year, injury forced my hand and prompted a DNS at Chicago and a slower than anticipated build up back to regular running.

While I’m not a fan of the injury, it did force me to step back and fix some fundamental structural issues that could have caused serious long term problems. If I had kept on like I was, a BQ probably would never have happened because I would have injured myself further and a BQ is not worth that.

Even though the injury has been the focus of the past few months of running, 2015 did have some highlights with major PRs in both the half marathon and marathon as well as taking down a really old one in the 20k just a month ago. I am still so thrilled with those times and amazed that I was able to run them.

That being said, as I glanced over my running journal recently, I noticed that I mentioned right knee tightness in passing, even back then. That confirmed for me that taking this major step back to make sure that I have the fundamentals taken care of is the right step to take.

So where does that leave my goals for 2016?

In the past I’ve listed some rather specific and numerous goals. This year, I’m not going to do that.

This is the year of getting stronger, healthier and fitter. I want to be able to run and run well for many decades to come. I have plenty of time to snag that BQ and making it to Boston.

Here’s what that’s going to look like next year.

1. I put a (possibly) temporary hold on coaching. Matt’s coaching has helped me tremendously over the past year and a half. If I go back to being coached, it will definitely be with him. However, at this point, with my new focus, it seemed better to save some money and create my own training plans using what I have learned thus far. (It’s a lot!)

2. I will be adding more strength training back into my training plan. I hope to execute at least two dedicated ab workouts per week, or at the very least a 10-15 minute focus on abs in my strength training workout. I also plan to continue with the PT exercises and incorporate them at least 2 or 3 times a week. (These are exercises like single leg bridges, side planks, and walking lunges.) I will also be looking into good short exercises that I can do every day to strengthen my calves, hamstrings, abs and quads, especially things that I could do while at work.

3. I will continue to make stretching, foam rolling, warm up and cool down a priority. I want to make that package (warm up, run, cool down, stretching, foam rolling) to be the norm for me when I run. This will likely mean adding in a couple good stretches for the calves and quads.

4. I want to clean up my diet which means a focus on more whole foods like fruits and vegetables and less sugar. This has been something that I have been meaning to get to for a while and just never get around to it. I’m not putting restrictions here, especially since I want to stick with eating when I’m hungry and not becoming obsessed with calories. However, I also want to make an effort to make sure that those calories are at least 75% healthy/good-for-you foods. This also means that I’m going to be putting a little more time into meal planning aka beyond planning just lunches. Too often I ended up grabbing something quick and easy (not necessarily healthy) in the evening because the only “meal” items we have in the fridge are things I’ve already dedicated towards work lunches.

5. I still plan to train and race but without the added pressure of a PR or other challenging time goal. I may end up with a few PRs next year. I may not. That’s okay. I did not race as much in the pre-injury portion of 2015 mainly because the majority of the races I did race were goal races. For example, I raced only 1 half marathon this year and that was all the way back in February. Granted, I would have raced 2 if not for the injury, however, that’s still my lowest number since the first full year after I started running. In 2016 I’ll have two half marathons under my belt by the time the end of February comes since I’m running one in both months. As for the marathon distance, I have ideas but nothing concrete. I will be running the Tobacco Road Marathon in March. I’ve heard that this is a great course so there may be an outside chance at a PR and/or BQ but that will be a decision made much closer to race day when I see how training ends up. I also, if we can get all the travel arrangements made, will be running the Dublin (Ireland) Marathon at the end of October. The really ambitious part of me wants to also take another shot at Chicago and then just run Dublin for fun. If travel works out, I may run both either as described in the previous sentence or both for fun. Who knows.

Here’s to 2016 and regaining a love of running.

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Tobacco Road Marathon Week 2 Training Recap

Once again, this was not quite the week I had expected. Things are leaning towards leaving a BQ attempt for another time. I might just be ready for a year of “easy” running.

Monday, December 21, 2015
This run went fairly well. I was a little nervous before the run because I got a little into my head Sunday. I felt strong and concentrated on keeping my stride even and normal. I could “feel” my knee on occasion throughout the run but nothing that interfered or affected my stride. Afterwards I felt good. I wore the thigh compression sleeve for a few hours in the morning. I think it helped. The leg/knee felt normal throughout the day and not as tight as I expected it might be. I don’t know what caused this “step back” but I think I’m still okay. My glutes felt a little sore too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015
I woke up feeling more tired than when I went to bed. It was a struggle to get to the gym. My glutes (both sides) were still sore. I was going to try to get 45 minutes on the bike (no ab work today) but partway through I knew that it would be counterproductive to keep going so I rode just the normal 30 minutes and felt okay, really tired. I came home and took a mini nap for 10 minutes and felt way better. My leg felt fairly normal through the day, off and on a bit stiff but nothing out of the ordinary.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015
I was pleasantly surprised by this run for the most part. I had another “off” night of sleep but other than that woke feeling pretty good. As has become a new norm, I was a little nervous before starting the run. For the first few minutes I felt occasional “odd” sensations in the right leg but after a warm up period I did not feel anything off. In fact, my stride felt strong, even and normal. My fitness level on the other hand, is not where I would like it to be. This was supposed to be a tempo run of 40 minutes at an 8 minute pace. About 6 minutes in I knew that it would be extremely difficult to keep it up so I modified it and did intervals of 9 minutes at 8 minute pace. (The first one was 10 minutes.) This was definitely the right decision. The intervals were rather tough but ultimately doable. Afterwards I feel pretty good. I wore the thigh compression sleeve for an hour or so as a precaution. The leg felt great throughout the day except for occasions where it felt odd. I think that might just be all in my head but who knows.

Thursday, December 24, 2015
I didn’t wake up quite as tired as Tuesday but I got there halfway through the ride. At least now I know what is making me so tired and it’s just temporary. I want to figure out how to counter this if this is going to become a new monthly thing. I pushed harder during the first part of the ride but after I started to get really sleepy, it was all I could do to keep going. The leg, thankfully, felt fine. Afterwards, I’ve felt pretty good all day.

Friday, December 25, 2015
It ended up working out better to do the shorter run Friday and “saving” the long run for ridiculously early Saturday. I actually felt really good and strong throughout the run. My stride felt normal and strong. I probably could have run a little harder on the 6 minute-long hard intervals but they still felt difficult. Afterwards I feel great. I wore the thigh compression sleeve for a little bit. I did have some odd tightness but nothing significant. I think a good portion of it is in my head.

Saturday, December 26, 2015
I had to cut off 10 minutes from the run and ended up having just enough time to get it done. The run itself felt really good. Granted, I did feel like I was running a bit faster than my average pace netted out to. My stride felt great. The right leg felt completely normal. The weirdness/mental battle comes after. Immediately afterwards I still feel completely normal. I did wear both the thigh sleeve and the pair of calf compression sleeves. (I’ve noticed that my calves have been a little tight lately.) For the most part everything felt normal. I did feel a bit stiff after sitting for a couple hours. In the afternoon, the knee didn’t hurt exactly but I did notice sensitivity in the distal part of the hamstring, the same part that the PT said was strained. I still can’t tell if this is all in my head or if I’m starting back down the road to injury again. It’s a bit frustrating but I’m trying to take it one day at a time.

Sunday, December 27, 2015
I woke up feeling good and ready to milk the rest day for all it’s worth. It ended up being a good day with everything feeling perfectly normal, great way to end the week.

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Tobacco Road Marathon Week 1

It may be a little while before I really decide what my goal for this marathon is. Obviously, I still want to qualify for Boston but the end of the last cycle and this rebuilding from injury has not looked exactly like I thought it would. I’ll see how things go.

Monday, December 14, 2015
Towards the end of the day Sunday I noticed a little stiffness/tightness in the right knee and made sure to stretch some. I think that lingered into Monday’s run. I could “feel” the right knee through the first five minutes or so of the run, only 30 minutes since I ran last week’s long run on Sunday. That sensation made me concentrate on making sure that my stride was strong and even which I think it was. Afterwards my knee did get a bit tight after sitting for a couple hours at work. It took a little while to stretch it out (while trying to keep myself from imagining the worst) but throughout the afternoon it felt perfectly normal.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
I felt good upon waking, a relief after Monday’s tightness. During the ride I felt fairly good but could feel something out the upper outside of my knee. (Imagine the kneecap like a square. I could feel a point that corresponded to the outside upper corner.) It didn’t interfere but does concern me a bit. I pushed hard on the ride. When we moved over to the ladies’ side to work on the strength training I combined the NTC ab burner workout with the PT homework (and a bathroom break for Mom) to include the PT homework. This cut down the total time and helped me keep going without interruption. I felt good through all of those exercises. My quads did feel a bit tight during the single leg bridges so I’ll be stretching and foam rolling them. I felt really strong and steady on side planks with leg lifts. Afterwards I felt pretty good throughout the rest of the day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015
My gut was a little tight Tuesday night and Wednesday morning but thankfully, a good run helped that go away. Apart from that, I felt good upon waking. The run went well. I slowed down the interval speed just a little because I haven’t done a lot with short speed lately. It showed in these 200m intervals. They were tough but doable. I walked half of the 200m recovery intervals but that was probably a little too much. I finished feeling strong and upped the speed just a little on the last 6 intervals. Afterwards it felt pretty good. In the middle of the day it got a little bit tight but nothing significant. At the end of the day it became a little achey so I foam rolled a little.

Thursday, December 17, 2015
My right knee felt a little tight upon waking so I stretched a little and it felt much better. We mixed it up with the workout and did several different exercises in the main strength training machine area. I think this new routine will be really good once both Mom and I learn it better. This workout was punctuated with more gaps (to watch instruction and/or wait for Mom to finish her turn) than I would like but I still think that I’ll be a little sore in the hours/days to come. Afterwards I felt pretty good, no extra soreness or tightness.

Friday, December 18, 2015
This run went fairly well. My right leg felt a bit “off” for the first few minutes but after that it felt pretty normal for the rest of the run. (I could feel occasional “odd” sensations in the rest of the run but not often and not significant.) I felt fairly strong even though I think I made the “easy run” not so easy by pushing a little too hard on the six one minute harder intervals. Other than that this was a pretty good run. Afterwards I feel pretty good and the right knee only a teensy bit tight. Afterwards the knee got a bit tight during the morning but I stretched a little and it felt better. In the afternoon the whole right side of my leg felt oddly achey but in the evening everything felt fine. I wish I knew what this weirdness was.

Saturday, December 19, 2015
I slept well and felt pretty good upon waking. Throughout the day I felt pretty good. I did add in the PT exercises since I forgot to to do them Thursday. My quads felt a bit tight, especially the right one. I’ll definitely focus on stretching that one a bit more. Off and on through the rest of the day I felt some acheyness but it might have been imagined.

Sunday, December 20, 2015
I was a little nervous before starting the run because I was sure that my leg felt achey already even before I got out of bed. It was all in my head. The long run went well. I concentrated on maintaining good form throughout. My stride was even and strong. I had no odd aches or twinges whatsoever. I did develop a lovely blister on the tip of my right big toe. That’s fun. Other than that this was a good run. Throughout the day (especially mid-morning) it felt a little tight but some good stretching helped a ton. Honestly though, it’s been months and I’m a little frustrated to still be dealing with this and taking it slowly. I hope to be able to put this completely behind me soon.

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Recovery/Rebuilding Week 5

Thankfully the back issue did not continue past getting the new mattress. While sleeping on the old mattress I had some lingering issues as noted below but nothing significant.

Day 62, Monday, December 7, 2015
I woke feeling good but a bit stiff. My left calf was definitely tight. The run went fairly well. The tight calf was noticeable but did not affect my stride. I made sure to stretch, foam roll and wear the compression sleeve. My back felt fine up until I was walking around Costco. It felt a bit odd and stiff, especially on the right side. I’m keeping an eye on it but not obsessively.

Day 63, Tuesday, December 8, 2015
I woke feeling pretty normal, after a few minutes a little stiff. The stationary bike ride went well even though I wasn’t pushing as hard as I have in the past, at least at the start of the ride. I could feel some tightness in my left calf. Since this seems to be a frequent occurrence after tough races I’m going to add calf stretches into my daily routine and look for ways to strengthen my calf. For the ab work, I did not increase the weight of the medicine ball just in case. My back felt fine. I pushed as hard as I could. For the PT homework, I kept to regular bridges instead of single leg just in case. They definitely felt easier. On the side planks I definitely felt a little more unsteady on the right than the left. Afterwards I felt pretty good, some slight tightness in the back but nothing significant.

Day 64, Wednesday, December 9, 2015
I woke up feeling normal, although after a few minutes some stiffness returned. My back felt fine during the run. (The leg issues are nonexistent now.) I could maybe feel a little bit of stiffness/odd sensation during the run but nothing significant. My stride felt strong and even. The run went by quickly. Afterwards I still felt okay but throughout the morning I’ve had odd achey and uncomfortable sensations in my back/upper legs. It’s hard to describe because it’s definitely not the same as the pain or ache last week and depending on the situation, I don’t feel anything. I’m hoping that maybe these lingering sensations are due to the inadequate mattress that I’ll be sleeping on for just two more nights. It did get better and felt almost normal through most of the afternoon and evening.

Day 65, Thursday, December 10, 2015
This morning I woke up slightly creaky but mostly normal. The ride on the stationary bike went really well. I felt like pushing hard and got really far. (Well, as far as you can get on a machine with the word “stationary” in its title.) My back felt a little tight but nothing significant. Neither of us felt like doing the ab workout so I stuck with just the PT exercises. I felt really steady on the arm/leg extensions. For the bridges, I did all but 2 sets of 10 reps with both feet on the floor. I did try to step it up again on the last two sets. (1 with the left on the floor and 1 with the right) On the side planks I felt steadier than last time when I added the leg raise. For the walking lunges I stuck with two sets because I added a 5lb weight. Afterwards my back feels a little achey but nothing too bad.

Day 66, Friday, December 11, 2015
Today’s run was the best I have had in a very long time. I woke feeling good and that continued through the entire run. I felt strong and fit. my leg and back felt completely normal, strong even. The tempo portion was difficult, just the right speed. I had to walk for two minutes after to catch my breath and slow my heart rate before starting the cool down portion of the run. Afterwards I still feel really good, no stiffness whatsoever.

Day 67, Saturday, December 12, 2015
I slept really well on the new mattress. Friday night I decided that the last thing that I wanted to do Saturday morning was get up crazy early to try to cram the long run in before work. Thankfully, now that I am back to designing my own training plans again, (more on that to come in my year end/goals post) I could easily switch the long run to Sunday. There’s just something about getting to run while the sun’s up. Plus, the fog would have made visibility a bit on the dangerous side for that early in the morning.

Day 68, Sunday, December 13, 2015
Despite a morning of change in the start time this run went really well. I did not want to start running when it was time to get going. This probably helped motivate me to keep my pace up through the first 35ish minutes of the run which were run before the sun came up. In the past my pace has suffered during the “dark” portions but during this run I told myself that I was going to keep my pace up. I managed to keep my splits all within 10 seconds up until the last 30 minutes when I tried to increase the pace a little. Although the split for the first 10 minutes of that portion was actually a little slower than the mile before, it was on a hill and then the two mile splits after that got quite speedy. I felt strong throughout and had no odd issues.

This “long” run concludes the interim portion. Starting Monday (today) I will officially be training for the Tobacco Road Marathon. (Goals will be discussed in my year end/beginning post.)

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Recovery/Rebuilding Week 4

This week could also be titled “The One with the Unexplained Back Issues.” It was not fun. Hopefully it’s all over now.

Day 55, Monday, November 30, 2015
I woke up feeling great. Although I was not a fan of the rain that sent me inside, the run went well. My stride felt even and strong. I didn’t have any major issues with my right leg although the hot spot on my right big toe reared its head towards the end. I felt good, really good, through the whole thing and even afterwards. I had no tightness or stiffness.

Day 56, Tuesday, December 1, 2015
I almost talked myself into a schedule switch. I did not feel like running at all. Apart from that the run itself went pretty well. My stride felt strong and even. I had no knee or glute issues. The big toe, on the other hand, I could feel the “hot spot” (for lack of a better word) when my pace slowed for the cool down portion. I really want to figure out what it is/was. Afterwards I had some mild tightness but nothing significant.

Day 57, Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Out of the blue, lower back pain right near the pelvis has become an issue. The workouts went fine. I didn’t feel the back at all while on the bike. As soon as I stepped off though… . It also kept me from going up to 10 lbs in weight on the medicine ball for the ab workout. Afterwards the ache (in the back) kept growing. It’s like nothing I’ve ever dealt with. To say that I am/have been frustrated would be an understatement.

Day 58, Thursday, December 3, 2015
The back thing definitely got worse. I woke up a couple times in the night. When I got up in the morning it didn’t ache but was tight enough that I had to sit on the floor to get my socks on. I knocked 10 minutes off the run to be on the safe side. I was constantly aware of my back but my stride was unaffected. I did have a couple spasm moments when starting back from a stop, like at the couple stoplights we got stopped at. Afterwards I stretched and prayed but it seemed to be getting tighter with every passing minute. Throughout the day I tried to stay calm, get in plenty of stretching and tried a few things I could think of to help alleviate the pain/tightness. Towards the end of the day it did start to finally let up.

Day 59, Friday, December 4, 2015
I tried sleeping on my side with another pillow under me to keep my spine straighter than my sagging mattress would keep me. (I have purchased a new mattress.) I think it helped. I woke feeling a little creaky and waiting for the other shoe to drop. I did take the day off (it would have been crosstraining) and felt completely normal. With all the things I tried Thursday, plus not working out Friday, I have no idea which thing actually helped or if this was just a two day thing that went away on its own.

Day 60, Saturday, December 5, 2015
I woke up feeling normal. The race went well too. I did have some mild soreness in my low back around mile 4, just after the summit, but it went away quickly. Afterwards I had some mild temporary tightness in my right leg but it resolved itself quickly. My back felt normal.

Day 61, Sunday, December 6, 2015
I woke up feeling a bit stiff and sore but in a “hard race the previous day” sort of way. If I stay in one position for too long I feel sort of creaky but that’s to be expected with Saturday’s race. The leg and back felt fine throughout the day.

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Paris Mountain Road Race 2015 – Race Recap

Race #99
20k #2
Paris Mountain Road Race #4

During the middle of this week I was not sure that I would even be able to run, much less run as well as I was able to run. The causes of and solution to my sudden back issue in the middle of this week elude me.

Thankfully, I felt completely fine Friday and went ahead with the run.

Before getting in my car I took a selfie so that Dad would know what to look for at the finish so he could hopefully get a few pictures.

Paris Mountain Road Race 20k 2015

Don’t let that smile fool you. I don’t know why but I was not in the mood to run.

I managed to time my arrival on campus with just enough time to pick up my bib and shirt, use the restroom, pin on the bib, put the shirt back in my car and get to the start line which was a little farther than I remembered. (I believe that it’s the same start line as last year but I volunteered last year and didn’t run.)

When we started I had no desire to run 12.4 miles. In fact, just after we crossed 291 I actually seriously considered turning around and heading back to the start thus earning my first DNS. Obviously I didn’t turn around but it took quite a while for me to get out of this negative mental state.

Mile 1: 8:42

I was in no mood to conquer the hill so when we turned onto Altamont I gave myself permission to take as many walk breaks as I needed and to just get up the mountain. For some reason I deluded myself into thinking that the mountain portion was just a mile. (It’s more like two.)

Despite my “mental issues,” I felt physically good. The mountain, at that point, did not feel as difficult as I remembered. I did not delude myself out of remembering the more difficult portions to come.

Somewhere in the middle of mile 2, I struck a bargain with myself and told myself to get to 1.25 miles run on the mountain without walking.

Mile 2: 10:10

The mountain started to get harder in the second mile. I took a couple walk breaks, including right at the summit. I didn’t care though. That portion is ridiculous.

Mile 3: 11:13

Once I crossed the summit I shifted into “long run” mode. I had just 9ish miles to go. My only goal was to finish. This shift, and the easier terrain, helped me get out of my head a bit. I actually started to enjoy the rest of the run.

I don’t have much to say about the individual middle miles. My pace held fairly steady. I confirmed that I should have worn short sleeves and gloves. I kept getting passed. (I did pass a few of those guys back.) All the turns were well marked, both on the ground and with monitors making sure we turned the right way.

Mile 4: 10:12
Mile 5: 9:46
Mile 6: 9:13
Mile 7: 9:00
Mile 8: 9:15
Mile 9: 9:13
Mile 10: 8:48

The latter portion is not without hills, both small rollers and short, steep-ish inclines. I still felt pretty strong through.

Around mile 10 we passed the water stop where I volunteered last week and I knew that the race was almost done. I also knew that I was almost guaranteed a PR. (That’s really easy to do when the last time you ran a stand-alone 20k was 4 years before, just a year or so after you started running.) The ground leveled out and I picked up the pace a bit. (There was one last hill in mile 11 that made me consider walking for just a bit but it was over quickly.)

Mile 11: 8:54

My least favorite part of the race is the section on 291/25 (I don’t know which one it is) before we turn into the entrance of Furman University. It’s a busy road and we are relegated to the shoulder. This shoulder has a horrible camber to it which forces you to run as close to the actual road as possible. Not cool. Thankfully it doesn’t last long.

Mile 12: 8:11

A short .3 miles later and I was done, looking good too.
Paris Mountain Road Race 20k 2015
Paris Mountain Road Race 20k 2015

Final time: 1:54:49

Not to bad for a race where I wasn’t even racing.

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