Back in the Saddle… I think

Hi Friends –

Until just now, I had not realized that I haven’t written here in over 7 months. I’m shocked and a little disappointed about that. I AM still running – nothing will stop me from that – and I AM still chasing that brass ring of a BQ and I AM still knocking out states on my 50 states quest… (I now have 19) – however, I had to make some changes in my training.

I was tired. So, so, so very tired.

I was having a hard time keeping with training and although I got faster for a while, I was starting to slow down in races (though not in training) and it was something I complained about right after the Tobacco Road marathon last year. I’ve not done a full marathon since – only half marathons (which, by the way, are no small feat, so I’m not at all diminishing them – I just thought that at this point in the year, I’d have a nice shiny BQ, or at least a PR at the 26.2 distance…).

While attempting to train for a spring marathon, I finally broke down and got a FitBit (all my runner friends were getting really fancy runner watches, but none of them had *all* the things I wanted, so I got a FitBit Charge HR to hold me over until the Garmin 235 has been out for a while) and I noticed a trend: my resting heart rate was higher than I expected… Also, my heart rate jumped really fast when I started a run and took foreeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvveeeeeeerrrr to recover. I had lost fitness ūüė¶ How could I have let that happen? I was a Runnah! Running is supposed to make you fitter, thinner, healthier! I ate well (what all the running blogs told me to eat), I followed training plans (which I blabbed about on this very blog for a couple of years), I did speed intervals, hill workouts, and I ran 30, 40, 50 miles a week… and, yet… I was getting unfit… and fat… and slow… and frustrated!!

Apparently, that was too much. I’m over trained (admitting it is half the battle, friends) and probably have been for at least a year, and (like any other injury), I need to take the time to recover. An active recovery (of course), but a recovery all the same.

While attempting the training for that same spring marathon, and complaining about my lack of energy to a friend, she recommended that I read The Big Book of Endurance Training¬†to help me learn a little more about heart rate training. I’ve found, though, it is teaching me a lot more in the process about just being honest with myself about how I feel and how to be healthy and still reach my goals (they can be complimentary).

Although was¬†not completely finished with the book, I immediately started to implement some of the tactics he discussed. My first shock: my resting heart rate was still really high and getting higher. Okay, I thought, maybe it is the FitBit – it can’t be all that accurate¬†–¬†so I bought a chest strap. To my surprise, the FitBit was really all that accurate – they are usually within a couple beats of each other, for what it is worth. It became clear that I needed to change my strategy and try things a different way to see if I can make my goals a reality.

I’ve been following heart rate training¬†for about 3 weeks now and I am starting to feel a little better. I’m starting to have some energy again and I no longer dread run days. For the most part, I’m sleeping better and I have craved sugar a lot less lately. I follow a schedule when I run¬†2 days, take day off, and then run 2 days. I keep my runs to under 45 minutes for now (except for the long that is once a week) and keep my pace so that it is within a range as outlined in the book. My heart rate is still keeping me pretty slow and I can’t say I’m not frustrated about it (especially when I see friends cruising along at 8:00 paces), but I’ve got my eyes on the prize and I really want to get there the right way. I’ve been walking more and actually warming up and cooling down as appropriate, steps I skipped in the past and shouldn’t have. I am getting faster, but I have a long way to go and I need to be patient (to me, friends, that is the toughest part of training…).

I ran my first half marathon last weekend (the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon) with this strategy and came in at 2:00 on the nose – one of my slower half marathons, but the faster end of my target completion time. My heart rate was¬†just a tad over the target rate set by my heart rate monitor (I train at a lower rate) and I didn’t have to refuel or stop once throughout the entire race. I actually felt good throughout and just after – not even sore muscles. I hope to get that post up soon – and of course there are port-a-potty stories involved – haha.

I am running my second Half Marathon since I started heart rate training¬†in NYC next week. My goal is to finish a tad faster than Myrtle Beach (with fewer Potty moments…) Wish me luck ūüôā

Until next time…

Like the Deserts Miss The Rain

Good evening, my friends.

A few weeks ago, I promised another post if it took me to type it on my phone… Well, it took a few weeks, but thanks to the technology I love and have grown to depend on, I am now able to finally share another post with you from the comfort of my bed. Partially out of what I think of as laziness, partially because I don’t want to forget prescient points in the time it takes my now four year old computer to finally boot up.

This post is somewhat important to me…

Training has hit another bump in the road… Well, at least the running part has. It isn’t the usual rut I experience around this time of year, though. In fact, I’ve wanted my runs. I’ve craved them. I’ve missed not getting the ones I’ve wanted and needed. I’m finally getting faster. I can go farther than ever before… And I finally have the feeling that I might be close to finally breaking my Half Marathon PR. I attribute that desire for my runs to the increased mileage this year. I have worked for – and am finally beginning to achieve – the level of fitness where 13.1 miles in less than two hours no longer hurts and is finally enjoyable.

I really like it here and I really want to keep this level of fitness, so the time spent on the training is worth it.

Truth is, I have been dehydrated, and that is something that, as an athlete, you have to take seriously. It can happen quickly, but takes a very long time to reverse, and if not corrected, could damage your body and vital organs.

This all started with a 10-miler I did on the last Saturday in August. I did it outside and, ironically for the date, it was actually rather chilly. It was as humid as it could get, but chilly humid. So, I can’t blame heat… I can only blame myself here.

The run itself went great, but I felt exceptionally thirsty afterward. That has happened a few times, and, while I did bring fluid with me, I didn’t deplete it (16 oz) so I wasn’t surprised that I felt thirsty. I finished the rest of the Gatorade and some coffee, some more water, and went about my uber busy day (it was my son’s birthday party day). Considering all the activity if the day, I can honestly say I don’t remember drinking much – if anything – that day.

The next day, I wanted to do a short recovery run, but felt awful so I skipped it… I have not signed up for my next half yet, so I was ok with the extra time off. The following Monday, I did an evening run – but had a blister and really felt off the whole day and ended up with under 3. That hasn’t happened to me in over a year. I tried to shake it off… Tuesday, however, it got worse. I tried for a run and almost threw up in the street and stopped a few times. Because I’m stubborn, I still ended up with over 4 miles.

Since then, all of my runs have, on some level, felt like that Tuesday run. I even had heat sickness on a treadmill, which just plain hurt my feelings. I reached out to a runner friend who suggested that I might have an accumulated dehydration. Of course! That made sense and it was something to which, admittedly, I had not payed close enough attention.

So, now I’m in the position of having to reverse it and, my friends, this is not an easy or quick thing to reverse. It is like reversing a severe drought in the south east: only a hurricane passing through will help and then it just makes it a little less of a drought… Technically, you’re still in a drought. It takes time and lots and lots and lots of tropical systems to reverse it completely.

If you follow my twitter account you may have noticed that I’m swimming more… A lot in fact. I’ve been swapping runs for swims and I have been doubling a run of 30-40 minutes with an equally long swim in lieu of a long run. In a very weird way, this is helping me recover… Not to mention, having so much pool time has meant way better swimming stats – I can finally do 100m intervals without stopping, which is a huge deal to me.

Lemonade, people…

I am recovering, but I am frustrated about the fact that I can’t go as far and as fast. I’m frustrated that I can’t get 20+ miles in a week. I’m frustrated that one bad day of under hydration (like today), and it unravels again… And you get sore muscles. And you’re exhausted. And you can’t concentrate. And your mouth is cotton even after drinking 16 oz of water… As I sip on the next bottle of water this evening.

I will get there and I am trying to be wise about it, but it is quite frustrating.

I used to think those hydration timers were silly.

I don’t any more.

Keep drinking, friends.

2012 Training Summary By Month – July

Remember me, my friends?

I have been running, but it has felt like it has been slow going because I’ve reintroduced gluten back into my diet. I am finally getting the test on July 2. I have a feeling it will be negative, but it is good to know. And, I am looking forward to removing it again. I have felt very run down and I’m looking forward to getting my energy back.

On another note, I have had a hard time keeping up with either of my blogs because of work. I have literally been triaging responsibilities with the kids coming first, then the job writing, then running, then cleaning/laundry… with all of that, there was no time for this. I have missed it. I have missed you. Other than feeling wiped out and bloated – which I attribute to the gluten – I have been struggling to get my runs in. I have missed my 90-mile goals the last two months and have been frustrated by it. I am going to add the stats for April, May and June in this one post. I hope to get back into the regular routine in July as the biggest project will be over next week (yay!)

To combat the heat, I have been running on a treadmill more frequently. I miss having my own treadmill in my house – it works better with the kids. I’m currently shopping for one and am heavily considering a SOLE F85 and I welcome comments and reviews for it if you have thoughts. Now that it is officially the end of the month, time to check in my 2012 goals.

Cumulative 2012 through 6/30/2012:

I am farther behind on swimming and weight training, but have added Yoga, so I am still getting a little cross training in. I liked the comparison of this year to last year, so I’m comparing my 1/1/2012 through 6/30/2012 cumulative with my 1/1/2011 through 6/30/2011 cumulative:

Stats by Month

June 2012:

Continuation of the gluten intake for the gluten test, scheduled for early July.

May 2012:

The key thing to note about this month is that I started eating gluten again for my gluten test, which I scheduled for July.

April 2012:

  • Total Running Mileage: 90.0
  • Total Running Duration: 13:40:46
  • Total Running Average Pace: 9:07
  • Number of Running Activities: 16
  • Duration per Running Activity: 48.47
  • Average Miles per Running Activity: 5.625
  • Races: Tarheel 10-Miler (4/21/2012)

March 2012:

  • Total Running Mileage: 85.1
  • Total Running Duration: 13:02:14
  • Total Running Average Pace: 9:11
  • Number of Running Activities: 22
  • Duration per Running Activity: 35.33
  • Average Miles per Running Activity: 3.86
  • Swimming Totals: 0 activities
  • Cycling/Spinning Totals: 3 activities / 62.7 miles total (avg 20.9 per activity) / duration 2:40:56 (avg 53:38 per activity)
  • Other: Weight/isometric training: 2, 30 minutes per session
  • Races: none

February 2012:

  • Total Running Mileage: 90.5
  • Total Running Duration: 13:31:57
  • Total Running Average Pace: 8:58
  • Number of Running Activities: 16
  • Duration per Running Activity: 50:44
  • Swimming Totals: 1 activity / 1 mile (1600m) / duration and average pace – 58:32
  • Cycling/Spinning Totals: 2 activities / 46.5 miles total (avg 23.25 per activity) / duration 2:04:33 (avg 1:02:16 per activity)
  • Races: Hilton Head Half Marathon (2/11/2012)

January 2012:

  • Total Running Mileage: 93.6 *monthly mileage PR for me
  • Total Running Duration: 14:33:45
  • Total Running Average Pace: 9:20
  • Number of Running Activities: 17
  • Duration per Running Activity: 51:23
  • Swimming Totals: (none)
  • Cycling/Spinning Totals: 1 activity / 19.0 miles total¬† / duration 41:44 (total and average)
  • Races: (none)

2012 Training Summary By Month – March

Hello! Happy April to you all! I hope your March was a good one. Mine started off with a bit of discomfort, but I seem to have recovered from that just in time for the heat (and humidity) to begin to put kinks in my training as I try – again – to acclimate to the hot weather running. Now that it is officially the end of the month, time to check in my 2012 goals. You’ll find my February and January stats below March.

Cumulative 2012 through 3/31/2012:

So far this year, I’m behind only really on swimming and the weight training, although, I did have 2 weight training activities this month and plan for at least once a week (thanks to my training partner) so I hope to keep up with this throughout the remainder of the year. As far as my running is concerned, however, I’m pretty happy with what I see here! I was curious about how I was doing – running-wise – since last year, so I put the same calculations from this period last year in parentheses after the number from this year for the running stats. It is no wonder to me why I did not do well in some of those races and half marathons. February of 2011, I only had 3 runs. THREE!?!?! This helps me keep perspective and stay motivated. I may do this next month if I think about it.

  • Total Running Mileage: 269.2 (2011: 130.3)
  • Total Running Duration: 41:07:57 (2011: 20:03:50)
  • Total Running Average Pace: 9:29.08 (2011: 9:14)
  • Number of Running Activities: 55 (2011: 23)
  • Duration per Running Activity: 44:52 (2011: 52:20)
  • Distance per Running Activity: 4.89 mi (2011: 5.66)
  • Swimming Totals: 1 activity / 1 mile (1600m) / duration and average pace – 58:32
  • Cycling/Spinning Totals: 6 activities / 128.2 miles total (avg 21.36 per activity) / duration 5:27:15 (avg 54:32 per activity)
  • Other/Weight Training: *finally* getting around to adding this statistic ūüôā 2 activities/ duration: 60:00 (avg 30:00 per activity) – including quad/hamstring weight training, back/abs isometrics (plank, crunches), stretching and some yoga poses.
  • Races: Hilton Head Half Marathon (2/11/2012)

March 2012:

Given how I felt at the start of the month, I’m impressed with my numbers this month. I also spent some time running with my 5 and 7 year olds who are enthusiastic, but not patient with the pacing. We’re working on that ūüėČ I might track those runs separately going forward so I can see what I actually did for training, but for this month, those are included below. Considering the start of my month, I only hit one long run – a 10 mile – late in the month, so I have some make up to do for endurance/stamina beyond 10 miles in the first half of April. To work around my inability to get the longs, I ran shorter distances more frequently to cover the difference I lost missing those longs and I’m ultimately pretty happy with my mileage this month. I’m looking to April to help me get back into the swing of the longer distances – hopefully a 14-miler – to help me prepare for my next half in May. My April mileage goal is between 85 and 90. I have the Tarheel 10-mile race on 4/21, and I am hoping to beat my time from that race last year.¬†That is the only race I have scheduled for April because of the proximity of it to the OneAmerica Indy Days half marathon I have May 5 (two weeks). So, to reach my mileage goal, the mileage will have to be front-loaded in the month… which means I need to make sure I get to the gym today! Here is what I did in March:

  • Total Running Mileage: 85.1
  • Total Running Duration: 13:02:14
  • Total Running Average Pace: 9:11
  • Number of Running Activities: 22
  • Duration per Running Activity: 35.33
  • Average Miles per Running Activity: 3.86
  • Swimming Totals: 0 activities
  • Cycling/Spinning Totals: 3 activities / 62.7 miles total (avg 20.9 per activity) / duration 2:40:56 (avg 53:38 per activity)
  • Other: Weight/isometric training: 2, 30 minutes per session
  • Races: none

February 2012:

I’m very, very happy with February… I didn’t think I would get 75 miles and pretty much wrote off February until this past weekend when I realized how close I was to 90 – I took advantage of the extra day and pushed it to 90. Happy that I got in 2 spin activities – wished I was able to get at least one more swim, but I got a really good one in and that’s better than nothing so I’ll take it.

  • Total Running Mileage: 90.5
  • Total Running Duration: 13:31:57
  • Total Running Average Pace: 8:58
  • Number of Running Activities: 16
  • Duration per Running Activity: 50:44
  • Swimming Totals: 1 activity / 1 mile (1600m) / duration and average pace – 58:32
  • Cycling/Spinning Totals: 2 activities / 46.5 miles total (avg 23.25 per activity) / duration 2:04:33 (avg 1:02:16 per activity)
  • Races: Hilton Head Half Marathon (2/11/2012)

January 2012:

  • Total Running Mileage: 93.6 *monthly mileage PR for me
  • Total Running Duration: 14:33:45
  • Total Running Average Pace: 9:20
  • Number of Running Activities: 17
  • Duration per Running Activity: 51:23
  • Swimming Totals: (none)
  • Cycling/Spinning Totals: 1 activity / 19.0 miles total¬† / duration 41:44 (total and average)
  • Races: (none)

Tools of the Trade: RunKeeper

I love this app.

It is not perfect, but there are so many things I do like about it, I’m willing to wait for the stuff I want.

What it is missing

First, let me discuss what is missing, which isn’t much in my opinion, to make it a fully integrated running/fitness app:

  1. A Shoe Tracker integrated. This is my number one request of Runkeeper and I plan to log it. They can track the climb. they can track the distance. the pace. the speed. the splits… but I can’t associate my shoes with a run (sigh). Important stuff, considering the shoes are – in my opinion – the single most important piece of equipment I own and can cause me injuries if I don’t replace them in time.
  2. A training schedule integrated. My number two request – I’d like to be able to set up a training plan and then log against it in a singular application so I can fully measure where I am in the training plan. I know, I know – there are tons of other apps out there that do it – Training Peaks is probably the best – but I don’t have a Garmin and I can’t afford one now. This is the best I can do with an iPhone that I’ve tried so far.

The Best Parts

Those two being the shortfalls, here is what I love about this app:

  1. GPS mapping – soooo… yes, it is a battery hog, but it is very nice to have it logged for me so I don’t have to come home, remember which turns I took and add it myself. I also know as soon as my run is finished (and, when I have it set up right, during the run) how far I’ve gone without having to guess. I know a Garmin is probably better, but without one, I think this is a good option.
  2. The User Interface is easy to read on a run – The numbers are huge and well placed so it is easy to see while on a run if you have the iPhone positioned correctly.
  3. Elevation Climb Stats – so many times I thought I was dragging on hills. Turns out, going up hills are actually my strong area and running flat I slow down. Who knew? I do now! And, my pace has evened out a little more since I made that discovery.
  4. Split times – Also something that has been helpful to me. So many times I thought I was even paced only to find out I started off way too fast and was dragging it in at the end. The split times have helped me focus more on feeling my pace.
  5. It is free – that means a lot to a cash strapped runner like me. I don’t have a lot of money to throw around on gear and since I already had an iPhone, this made more sense to me.

I plan to add more updates to this as they add more features and once I can afford the subscription service.

Gotta run…