Sunday, March 09, 2014
It's cutback week in half marathon training. Yesterday's long run was only 7 miles.
The sore ankle isn't sore any more. It's still a little weak, which is most noticeable when I do quad stretches. It's easier to balance on my right foot than on my left foot. I'm doing the Bosu exercise for balance I got from my PT, and I'm doing one legged calf raises with weights, barefoot; these seem to help the ankle and the foot, respectively. Improvement is slow, but I'm encouraged that there is improvement while running 5 days a week.
I did get 5 days in this week. Scheduling the 5 days has been a challenge.
The training program typically wants Monday and Friday to be rest days. My schedule demands that Wednesday be a rest day. Monday and Friday are frequently also time crunched, but Monday has been a bit worse. So the coach's preferred option of making up for Wednesday on Monday hasn't worked most weeks. Some weeks, I've just taken the extra rest day for the hurt foot. This week, I ran Wednesday's assigned 7 miles on Tuesday, then ran Tuesday's assigned 5 miles on Friday before Saturday's "long" run of 7 miles. I spoke with a coach on Thursday about rearranging the assignments; she didn't like putting the second longest run of the week on Friday before Saturday's long run, and thought that if I had to go down to 4 days I should eliminate the short run from Sunday.
So, the coming week's adjustment is that I ran Tuesday's 5 miles today. Tuesday I will run Wednesday's 7 miles. Friday I'll run today's 4 mile assignment, before Saturday's long run of 11 miles. I'll see how this works out, then make a decision for the following week.
Along with being able to run, time for blogging gets squeezed. I wanted to put this update out so that anyone who reads my blogs will know that things are going well; but time for a detailed write up is lacking.
Now, off to another major priority, getting to bed on time. It looks good for getting through Spring Forward weekend without being dead tired on Monday morning, but I do need to move the biological clock so that 7 AM next Saturday doesn't feel like 6 AM for that 11 mile run.
Saturday, March 01, 2014
I ended up taking 4 days off from running with the sore ankle. Went to the time trials on Thursday, which turned out to be held in about the third worst weather I've run in this winter. Talked to a coach there about the ankle; she told me not to do speed work as I try to get back into training. The long runs are more important.
I ended up running the time trial at tempo pace, which didn't produce a nice fast number but may still have been faster than I should have run that evening. I might have to skip going to the group tempo workouts until the ankle is good enough for me to do speed work.
Saturday was the long run. My assignment was 13 miles. The coaches reassigned me from the 8:00 pace group to the 8:30 pace group. They seemed a bit concerned that I might have some wounded pride over that, but I'd been thinking on my own that I needed to drop back at least that much and maybe to the 9:00 pace group. As far as cardio goes, I can maintain the 8:00 pace for a long time; but the weak left foot and the left ankle issue are more important than the cardio right now.
The nice thing about the 8:30 pace group is that it's a group. There are more runners than just me and a pace leader. We had two pace leaders and a half dozen other participants. That made for more conversation, and some observation about how others are dealing with long runs.
I definitely need a pace leader to keep the pace slower. Keeping the pace slower is important for letting that foot and ankle heal. Have to work on doing my solo runs slower than I've been doing them, though getting as slow as 8:30 is unlikely on a solo run.
The 13 miles were structured as a 10 mile loop, plus a 3 mile loop. (There was another 3 mile loop for folks running 16, plus a 4 mile loop for the Boston program guy who was running 20.) At about 7 miles, we found a water stop with GU packets. Stopped and refueled, and my foot got stiff while waiting around. Started running again, and it bothered me; then it warmed up and didn't. Spoke with the pace leader about whether I should bail at 10. He said I wasn't compensating for the foot then, and I'd have to judge for myself.
At the end of the 10 mile loop, several runners needed to go in for a pit stop. My foot was just beginning to be noticeable at that point, and I decided to bail. The run turned out to be 10.5 miles for me. Yes, the foot got stiff after I stopped, and I could feel it walking around the store. But I did my stretches, and did some gentle walking at home and during my afternoon volunteer job. I'm optimistic about being able to run my assigned 3 easy miles on Sunday.
It would have been nice to run the assigned 13 miles. That would have proven I'm capable of running a half marathon distance. But allowing the foot to heal as I get back into training is more important. As the pace leader said, there are no medals for running 13 miles today. The medal is for running 13.1 miles on April 27.
This is about the point where the past two years I trained myself into injury. Things are a little different this year. I've been through PT, and have a foot issue; but the rest of my lower body isn't banged up like it was the past two years. I've been running the long runs more slowly than in past years, though probably not as slowly as I should. And most importantly, I have some very experienced distance runners to talk to, who reinforce my better (read: more conservative) ideas about what to do and help me past the testosterone-driven foolish pride that leads to injury.
This year, I'm being smarter about recovery than I was the past two years. It remains to be seen whether I'm being smart enough.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Today I linked my Fitbit Flex to my SparkPeople account. This wasn't a planned thing. What happened was, as I was driving to work I realized I had left my SparkPeople Activity Tracker ("SPAT") on my bed instead of clipping it to my shoe. That meant I wouldn't get a 2500 fitness minutes trophy (a.k.a., Stupid Motivational Trick) because I wouldn't have the SPAT tracking my walks today, and February 28 is the last day of a short month.
What to do? I unlinked the SPAT from my SparkPeople account, and linked the Fitbit. The various screens change. One Spark Team was auto-deleted, and another was added. I found there's a link to click to sync the Fitbit. The Fitibit sends "very active minutes" and "fairly active minutes" as exercise minutes.
That's a lot more minutes than the SPAT, which counts "workout minutes." I think the SPAT workout minutes are comparable to the Fibit's, except it only counts 10 or more consecutive minutes.
So, what's the point of exercise minutes? To get me to exercise, obviously. As a motivational tool, they pretty much stopped working when I got the automatic tracking. The automatic tracking picks up whatever it is I'm doing, measures the minutes generously, and is a bit of a black box as to what counts. So I'm not doing stuff just to get that next Spark Point.
I do still watch steps. I've come to the conclusion that 12,000 steps on the Fitbit flex, worn on my non-dominant wrist, but telling the software I'm wearing it on my dominant wrist, is on average equivaltent to 10,000 steps on the Omron pedometer or SPAT. Fine. I set the goal on the Fitbit Flex at 12,000 steps, and I have my minimum. As a motivational tool, that works.
I gave up on measuring calories out a long time ago. The measurements are just too inaccurate, and they don't capture my baseline very well. Instead of comparing calories in to a calculation of calories out, I watch calories in and weigh daily. Then I tell the fitness tracker a number of calories burned per week that will make the nutrition tracker spit out the daily calories I need to eat in order to maintain my weight. That calories burned number has always been well over what I've tracked in the fitness tracker, either manually or with the SPAT. We're talking, triple or quadruple the tracked calories burned.
Until now. On the first day of having the Fitbit linked, it has sent a calories burned number that came over from the Fitbit is pretty high, particularly for a day I'm not running. If I multiply today's number by 7, I get about 85% of the calories I most recently told the fitness tracker I'd be burning. That's not great accuracy, but it's a lot closer than what I had been seeing. I'll want to keep an eye on that.
Another thing I'm pleased with is that the hours slept came over automatically. That was a pleasant surprise.
I think I'll live with a linked Fitbit for a while, and see how I like it. I already know I like the sleep tracking. I've come to terms with the step tracking, and have my Fitbit minimum daily step goal of 12K as being comparable to my pre-Fitbit daily step goal of 10K. And there is that calories out number to watch. The calorie burn numbers will probably turn out to be to inaccurate to be useful, but they're close enough that I need to watch for a while to be sure.
Things I won't miss about the SPAT: moving it from waist when barefoot to shoes, moving it from one pair of shoes to another, the annoying way I can't force it to sync and there's no other readout than the SP computer screen, and the fact that it can't sync when I'm away from home. (The Fitbit will sync to my iPhone with the Fitbit app.)
I suspect I'm going to like the Fitbit as a primary automatic tracking tool better than the SPAT; but time will tell.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
I last blogged on SP a bit over a month ago. While I knew I would be spending less time blogging, a full month without a blog was not anticipated. I knew I was scheduling myself heavily, with a full time job plus a part time volunteer job plus half marathon training. I knew that if it came to a choice between blogging and getting to bed on time, getting to bed on time needed to win. The reality of the situation was in some ways not as bad as I expected, and in other ways worse than I expected.
It's been a tough winter, and it's not over yet. I moved to the Rochester, NY area in October 1991. In January 2014 I saw more temperatures below zero (Fahrenheit) than I've seen from 1991 through 2013. In February, I saw almost as many below zero temperatures as in January.
I knew I was scheduling myself tight with full time paid work, part time volunteer work, and half marathon training. I knew I would need to be disciplined about getting to bed in order to get enough sleep. I didn't count on as much snow as we got. I suppose we didn't get any more snow than a normal winter; but unlike a normal winter, it didn't get warm enough to melt any of the snow between the beginning of the year and late February. That resulted in an awful lot of shoveling, and a couple weeks of what my mother called "shoveling uphill" where I had to throw the snow over the piles of old snow. Dealing with the snow has been a big time suck this winter. The snow is probably the factor that moved me from "not blogging much" to "not blogging at all."
Today I have time to blog. Let's skip over the work insanity and the volunteer tax prep busyness, and concentrate on the half marathon training. It's a novelty. I've learned some things, Some of the learning has been slower than I might have liked.
The training program wants me to run 5 days a week. Most weeks, it wants Monday and Friday to be my rest days. Problem: I do taxes Wednesday evenings after work, and will not have time to run on a Wednesday until after April 15. Upon posing the question, a coach responded that it would be better to make up the Wednesday on Monday, and leave Friday as a rest day before the long run on Saturday. Fair enough, but the #@&* winter weather has sucked away the time slot I might use to run on Monday more often than not.
Then there's the injury situation. Long time readers of my blogs will recall that I had a foot injury last year that prompted me to seek physical therapy. The PT addressed week hip abductors, and got me back to running. I got back to running four days a week on my own, and was working on running more slowly on the long runs. Enter half marathon training. There is good news, and there is not so good news.
The good news is, the long runs have pace leaders. My long run pace is 8:00, which is the fastest pace group offered; but I have the pace leader to keep me from creeping up to a 7:30 pace. After several weeks, I'm better at starting out around 8:00; but I still creep faster on solo runs that are supposed to be easy.
The bad news is, it took me too long to figure out the coaching rhetoric addressed to the group as a whole. When the coaches said to run hard, I ran hard. It turns out that there are shades of hard, in addition to shades of easy. When I ran too hard for tempo or intervals, that old foot injury would bother me the next day. In one case, I would have been unable to run the next day if I wanted to. Fortunately, that was a rest day.
The coaches and my pace leader were very helpful in individual conversations. They counseled me to take an extra rest day, to quit early if the foot hurt, and not to aggravate it. I paid attention, and developed a list of things that irritate the foot if it is below par: Running hard. Running (and sometimes walking) on uneven surfaces, such as the bumpy packed snow we have a lot of this year. Extreme cold weather. Surprisingly enough, long easy runs didn't bother it.
So I learned to manage the iffy foot. It got slowly better. I skipped doing tempo work once, and went easy on it another time. I took an extra rest day the weeks that Monday didn't work out for running. The foot made progress, and it looked like it would be in decent shape by race day.
Then a week ago, I did something dumb. I crossed the street with the light where I was supposed to, because the light was with me when I got there. That had me running on the sidewalk with bumpier snow than the other side where I should have run. I turned my foot on the route to the hill workout, but the damage wasn't apparent until after the workout. It was like a very mild sore lower ankle/side of foot on the same foot with the legacy injury. That was annoying, but I listened to how it felt.
The next day was Wednesday, a rest day. Thursday was tempo runs, and I resolved to run easy instead. Last Thursday's version of tempo was simple; after the warmup run at tempo pace for 2 or three loops of the top of the reservoir. The coaches supplies suggested paces. Mine was 7:15 to 7:30, which sounded easy enough; so I ran it. Ended up being a bit faster than 7:15 on part of it.
Friday I broke my streak of 10K steps, in order to let the foot rest. I really, really wanted that long run on Saturday, because the first 9 miles would be the route of the Spring Forward 15K that is scheduled for Saturday March 29 as part of the training.
Saturday the foot was still sore, but not too bad. I've run easy on the legacy injury feeling that bad, and had it improve. But out of caution, I backed off from the 8:00 pace group to the 8:30 pace group. It was a beautiful day, the 3rd day of a winter thaw (finally!) and the temperature got up to 40° F by the time we finished my 11 miles.
The legacy foot injury was fine. The turned ankle got a lot worse. I couldn't run Sunday, when I was assigned 4 easy miles, and I again took a break from 10K steps per day. Monday the ankle felt better, and I probably could have run on it if my life depended on running; but I've been there. Running on that same ankle would be stupid. I honored the scheduled day of rest on Monday.
Today the ankle felt still a bit off in the morning. By noon it was feeling pretty good, and I talked myself into going for my 5 miles in the heat of the day, at 20° F. (Yeah, the thaw didn't last. It's supposed to get colder over the next few days, too.)
But I wasn't totally certain about the ankle. So I jogged up and down my hallway for 2 or 3 minutes, barefoot to feel any weaknesses better. Everything felt fine. took a break for a call of nature and some computer work, then did another minute. The ankle was feeling a bit sore after a few minutes of rest. That was a red flag to me. Today would be Day 3 of no running. I did get out to walk 3 miles at lunch, and I got my 10K steps in. The ankle is feeling pretty good right now, and I'm not as down about it as I was yesterday and Friday.
Tomorrow is Wednesday. It will be a non-running day because of the schedule. That will make four non-running days in a row. Thursday, I'll see how the ankle is. Time trials are scheduled for Thursday evening. While I'd like to be healthy enough to run the time trial hard and see how much better I am now than I was in mid January, it's more important to get better for the long runs on Saturdays. Sitting on the sidelines isn't much fun.
Observations, in hindsight:
The training program is affordable because it's a group program. This also means that the communications to the group as a whole are directed to the common situations in the group. It turns out that most people in the group need to be pushed to work harder. The rhetoric that does this isn't helpful to me. It tends to encourage Mr. Testosterone too much.
I'm the fastest guy in the training group, but I'm not the most durable. The full marathon trainees were running 14 or 18 miles when I was running 11. I need to smack Mr. Testosterone down when he thinks I should be running the full marathon training distances.
Even though I paid for the training, I probably need to back off to running 4 days a week as a routine instead of the 5 days the program calls for. Age, time constraints, and injury history indicate that I would be more durable running 4 days a week than 5.
The long run is the most important. I already skip the Tuesday speed work in favor of easy to moderate hill work. I might also need to loaf through Tempo Thursday half the time to let that foot get better.
I need to ignore the emails that say things like "Get work done!" and "Feel the need for speed?" I don't need to be any faster than I am. I need to be able to run longer at a time. I've played the training straight for the most part so far. Going forward, I need to make geezer modifications to support injury recovery and injury avoidance.
The fresh ankle injury is different from the legacy metatarsal injury. The sensations mean different things, and I need to be more careful with it because I don't understand what my body is saying about it as well as I understand with the legacy injury.
Physical therapy last year was a very good decision. I have these foot issues; but they are only foot issues. The hip abductors have been fine. The calves, quads, and hamstrings have been fine. PT did what it was supposed to do, and I think I would even be managing the foot acceptably if I hadn't managed to turn it on the bumpy snow a week ago.
I might have benefitted from writing more blogs while all this was going on, but the time just wasn't there. Between the legacy injury needing healing, and the new ankle turn, and a nasty head cold I had for all of last week, my body has been soaking up more hours of sleep than it would if I didn't have any of those issues. One thing I have been reasonably smart about is getting to bed early enough to have the time to give my body that sleep. Things would be a lot worse if I were trying to do this on 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night.
So there it is, my first blog in over a month. If things were better, I would have spent the time after work driving to the local running store and doing the group hill workout tonight. But I'm being cautious about the ankle turn, and not running today. A side effect of that is that I have this time to write a blog.
Tomorrow I will have no time to run or to write a blog. Thursday, I'll see. I still hope to be healthy enough to do my 13 mile long run on Saturday. I hope I can adjust the training program to let the foot get better, and that this works well enough that I can run (or possibly race) the Spring Forward 15K on March 29.
And I really hope I manage to improve enough to run the Flower City Challenge half on April 27. It would be a real bummer to trade down to the 5K for a third year in a row.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
After last week's tight schedule, this is the easy scheduled week. Monday was a work holiday, tax training is done, and tax prep opening day isn't till Saturday. I did have to deal with snow on Monday, so it wasn't as restful as a day off might be; but at least I didn't have to deal with snow and commuting to work.
The half marathon training for Tuesday calls for meeting at the local running store at 6 AM. Running at 6 AM wouldn't be so bad; but being somewhere else to run at 6 AM and getting back home for a work at home day by 8 AM doesn't leave enough time for little things like adequate sleep and breakfast. So I won't be doing any of the 6AM Tuesday group sessions. Instead, I'll do the homework assignment.
Today's assignment was intervals. After some back and forth on the closed FB group for training, the plan looked like this: Warm up for one mile. Run as hard as you can for 4 minutes, then do a slow recovery jog for 3 minutes. Repeat the hard/slow for 2 to 3 reps for beginners, or 4 reps for advanced. I had slotted myself into the advance HM training, so I dutifully programmed a RunKeeper workout for 1 mile slow, then 4 reps of 4 minutes fast, 3 minutes slow.
Oh, one minor detail. Yesterday's snow was a prelude to today's polar vortex. It isn't as ferocious as the last polar vortex, but it was all of 6° F this morning. By the time I hit the road at noon, it was up to 11° on my porch, with NNW wind at 14 mph.
Okay, I have an idea how far one mile plus 28 minutes of alternating fast and slow ought to be. I'm thinking it will be close to my 4.63 mile standard winter route, so I set off that way. I start out too slow to be warm, into that north wind; but it's only a little more than a quarter mile. I can deal with that. After the mile, I run fast. RunKeeper reported a pace that started wtih "5". Huh? I can't run *that* fast.
By the time I'd run 4 fast minutes, the tone telling me to slow down was welcome. I run 3 minutes at a slow run pace, then the next fast interval starts at the bottom of the first of two hills. Okay, this might not be as fast as the first interval. Up, and I'm slow. Down, and I'm fast. Back up, and I'm very, very glad to hear the slow down tone near the top of the second hill.
During the third fast interval, I'm contemplating deciding that I'm really a beginner instead of advanced, but by the time I finish the third slow interval I just kick it up a notch. It becomes apparent that I'll get back to my driveway before the fourth fast interval is done, so I add a loop on a side road that is snow packed. Get the tone to slow down not far into that, and get the workout done message when I still have distance to go to get home. I use that distance for the first 3 minutes of my walking cooldown.
The stats, per RunKeeper: 5.12 miles in 36:11, for an average pace of 7:05. Interval splits were as follows:
I did not think I had a sub-6:00 pace in me, and apparently I don't have one for more than 4 minutes. The second 4 minute interval had the hills slowing me a little, and by the third 4 minute interval I was tired and couldn't run any faster even though the inclines weren't significant for the remainder of the route. I suspect I didn't slow down as much as I was supposed to for the 3 minute intervals, but after running fast I didn't have a feel for an 8 minute pace. I'll have to talk to the coaches about that.
The meaningless last 17 seconds was the amount of time it took me to get the phone out and stop the app. Maybe I could have pulled the phone out earlier and been ready, but having had the battery die in the cold at the end of a run once motivates me to wait till I'm done to start fumbling for the phone.
Anyway, the phone had enough battery life left to snap a selfie of the ice on my beard:
That picture was well received on the FB group for training, even if I was running at a warmer temperature than the people who went out at 6 AM. I really didn't like doing speed intervals when I was doing them, but a couple hours later I enjoyed having done them. And I enjoy the bragging rights from the ice on the beard.
Wednesday is a rest day on the schedule. Thursday evening is the next group coached tempo workout, which is no problem for my schedule.
Life is good.
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