Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Today is Tuesday, a work at home day. After getting an odd sore muscle in my hip Saturday, it was a day to be careful on the run.
My light jogging up and down the hallway showed that I could feel the hip, but it wasn't very bad. I decided I could run on it today. However, doing Turkish getup/windmill combos with a 45 lb. kettlebell turned out to be too much for the current state of the hip. I did one on each side, paying attention to where the sore hip complained. Hmm. Windmills would be a good stretching move for this muscle. When it gets better, I need to be doing the TGU/windmill combos more frequently than I have recently.
Because I wasn't so sure about the hip, the plan was to run a twisty 4.3 mile route around the neighborhood, with several opportunities to bail out for a shorter distance. This is possible because the warm weather last week, culminating in a high of 69° F on Sunday, got rid of all the snow that was closing off the side roads and sidewalks to running. I still have a small patch near my mailbox, and we could get more later this week; but road conditions are good today.
The spring weather is gone, but it was still pretty nice winter running weather at 34° F (1° C) with SW wind at 7 mph. Since this is a short run, I figured I'd go a bit faster than a 7 minute mile. Sure enough, mile 1 announced itself at 6:42. My pace slowed a little when I got to the three small hills, but it was comfortable running for the first 18 minutes.
Then I began to feel that sore hip. I thought about it a while, and decided to keep running till 20 minutes. The hip felt a bit better, but it seemed wise to take one of the opportunities to turn toward home sooner than planned. Not long after that turn, I decided I'd just run to the 5K mark and stop. So that's what I did. Pulled out the iPhone, and watched the app. When it got to 3.1 miles, I hit stop and slowed to a walk.
That timed out to be 3.11 miles in 21:06, for an average pace of 6:47 per mile. The hip was not as bad as Saturday, but it was worse than when I started running. I walked home and thought about things.
With that short a run, it hardly felt like I needed to stretch. I stretched anyway. For the hip, I did three slow windmills on each side, using an 8 lb. dumbbell to be a reminder weight so I'd hold good form. I may do more of those tomorrow, assuming the hip isn't good enough to support using a real weight.
I freaked out just a little when I went to shower, and saw in the mirror that my hips didn't match each other. I had visions of a displaced joint, but it turned out to only be a swollen muscle. I should have known that from the fact that I could put weight on the hip. And the swelling wasn't all that obvious with clothes on, even with just underwear; it was that nude view in the mirror that was startling.
Worked the afternoon with an ice bag kinda sorta on the hip, off and on. It's a difficult location to ice when I need to be sitting and working at a computer, and I didn't have the ice bag in the optimal position most of the time; but it was better than doing nothing.
Now is the puzzling part. This is kind of like deja vu all over again. A year ago, it was a thigh, I kept running, and I ended up with a foot injury that was probably the result of an altered gait and pushing myself too hard. I'm not pushing as hard this year, but I wonder how much is too hard? I may need to take Thursday off from running, sigh. I'll see how the hip is by then. I only have two days to rest, instead of the three from Saturday to today; but I don't think the hip is as bad now as it was after I ran on Saturday.
Longer term, I wonder if a half marathon is just too ambitious for me right now. I definitely look at running differently with a goal date of running a half than I did when the goal was just to keep running 3 days a week.
I don't know yet what I'll do for running the rest of the week. Possibilities include keeping the Tuesday - Thursday - Saturday schedule, if the hip reacts well; taking Thursday off entirely to give the hip a couple extra days to recover; taking Thursday off, running on Friday, and moving the long run to Sunday; or just cutting back on distance.
Oh, well. First I need to see how the hip reacts tomorrow and Thursday. Then on Thursday, I'll have a decision to make.
Reminder to self: Running three days a week in May is more important than running a half marathon on April 28. Act accordingly, Kevin!
Saturday, January 12, 2013
The past few weeks, I've had a Saturday routine. Get up early, go through the breakfast and minor exercise routine, interspersed with laundry. Go for my long slow run in the morning, and get my laundry out of the way before my daughter shows up to do her laundry. Lunch with daughter, nice chat catching up on what's going on with her life.
Today, the schedule was made more challenging by tax training from 8:30 to 4:30. If I got up at 5, I could fit the long run in before training; but then I wouldn't get the laundry done. That decision was easy because I slept in till 5:30. Got the last mandatory load of laundry into the dryer before leaving for tax training, and lunch with daughter stayed on schedule. This forced the long run into the afternoon, starting at 2:45 to be sure I had daylight.
The good thing about this was that I got near-perfect running weather. 56° F, SSW winds 9-11 mph, and it felt so good that I told RunKeeper it was sunny. I later realized it was only hazy sunshine and being in a really good mood.
I was in such a good mood that I started out just running. When the app told me my pace was 7:22 per mile after the first minute, I made a conscious effort to slow down, but didn't really slow down as close to an 8 minute mile as I have in past runs. I need to work on that.
The plan was to run for 9.4 miles. This was mostly the same route as last week's 8.3 miles, with an extra detour near the end. Aside from failing to control my pace very well, it was a good run through the first 6 miles. Along about that point, I stopped caring about the pace. After all, it was only another 3 miles or so and I still felt good!
Two days of highs in the 40s and a half day of warm rain yesterday had left the shoulders all clear of snow, and the sidewalks mostly clear enough to run on, given that I could trust the wet spots to be water and not ice. There were only a handful of spots where I was running on sidewalks and had to alter my stride to avoid patches of snow and ice from either total failure to clear sidewalks or a business plowing the sidewalk shut at the intersection with its driveway.
I was composing in my mind a blog about how nice it was, and that this would be the longest continual run I've done in my life; but that turned out not to be the case. A bit after the last opportunity to turn and bail for less distance, I got an ache in my right hip. It's an odd spot, kind of like I just moved hard sideways into a brick wall. I had this same ache two weeks or two ago, and it altered my gait on Sunday. I didn't blog about it because it got better by Tuesday, but I remembered it.
Mr. Testosterone told me it was only another two miles, just keep running. I told him to shut up, stopped, and fumbled with my iPhone to stop the RunKeeper app. Then I turned around and retraced part of my route, walking the shortest way home as my walking cooldown. I listened to Mr. Testosterone too much a year ago. This year, I want to keep running even if I don't stretch the distance as much as I (or Mr. Testosterone) would like. So I did the adult thing, and quit when it hurt.
Back home, I stretched, found dinner, and got distracted by the Denver-Baltimore game. Through the evening, I kept getting up to walk around the house doing more laundry, and various other household tasks. I recalled that last time, the hip got better with gentle use more than with total rest.
So, the total run turned out to be 7.88 miles in 58:07 for an average pace of 7:23 per mile:
RunKeeper shows a total variation of 113 feet in elevation. Running the hills felt good. I got to where the gentle inclines were pretty much like running on level ground. It was all good, except the part about having to stop before I was done. And even then, the bad foot didn't complain any more than anticipated. It was a different ache that stopped me.
But that's the way it is. First priority is, stay healthy enough to keep running. If it turns out that I can't stretch to 13 miles by the end of April, that's the way it turns out. That's my mantra, anyway. I need to keep reminding myself of this, because having paid the entry fee to that half marathon makes Mr. Testosterone's voice a bit louder.
Right now, I'm glad I didn't realize I was only a mile and a half short of done instead of the two miles I was thinking. If I'd been thinking it was that short, I might have listened to Mr. Testosterone. And that would have been a really stupid thing to do.
I think I'll be able to run a shorter distance on Tuesday, and that's Plan A. There is a chance that I'll need a Plan B, but I'll address that if it happens. I think if I had kept running that last mile and a half, there would be a major chance I'd need a Plan B for Tuesday, and some chance I'd need one for the following Thursday as well. Been there, done that. I'd rather not go there again.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
It's the first quarter of the year, and life gets a little busy for me. This year, there's an early timeline for the annual pointy-haired performance review process. It's my least favorite part of the job, but it has to be done. As is typical, the pointy-haired nonsense lands right when I'd like to use my time and energy for work that will actually make a difference to my employer. But I deal with that.
At the same time, my volunteer job doing tax returns for low income people is starting up. I've spent some time getting up to speed for this year's training, and will spend some more time on that Saturday. Then I'll put 8 hours a week into the volunteer job from January 21 through April 15.
On top of all this, I committed to running a half marathon on April 28. A rational observer might ask, "What on earth is he thinking???"
Good question. I know that my paid job is going to be busy, and I know that I have a time commitment to the volunteer job. But Saturday, when I mentioned the Flower City Challenge to my daughter, she asked if they had a 5K. Yes, they do. Then she said she wouldn't do that one because she won't get her tax refund (i.e., won't have money) until after the price goes up beyond what she's willing to pay. So I opened my mouth and said I'd pay her entry fee if my foot got enough better for me to sign up.
The bad foot didn't complain at all on Sunday, and was good enough to let me run on Monday. I didn't run on Monday for other reasons, but I could have. So the decision was made. Yesterday evening it turned out to be convenient to go pay the entry fee, and now I'm committed. I'm not just committed to myself, I'm committed to giving my daughter a ride to the race venue with me.
So, how am I going to manage this, with a busy work schedule plus a volunteer job? I actually have a plan. The plan is to run 3 days a week, with a long run on the weekend, and gradually stretch the long run till I can cover the distance. I have 15 weeks to get there, and the last week is traditionally a taper.
I might do a little speed work, or I might not. Speed is not the focus. Running the entire course is the focus. The course for this half has a stretch of continual incline starting about at mile 6, and lasting 2 or 2 and a half miles. It starts out gentle and just gets steeper and steeper till it gets into the hilly part of the city and goes up and down quite a bit. So . . . I'll be doing a lot of hill work in training. I have some hills that I can get to from home that I can practice on.
The weekday runs will be time limited because of the work schedule. I can afford 30 to 35 minutes running on a day I work from home, like today. In the winter, I will likely run the route I ran today quite a bit. It has a 65 foot variation in elevation between the highest and lowest point, with two little hills that are fairly steep where I'm going up.
This morning I got up early, though not as early as a week ago. I debated about whether I had enough time before work, and decided to run anyway. It was cloudy, 36° F (2° C), SW wind 7 mph, mostly dry asphalt on the shoulders. Traffic was heavier than a week ago, because I was later into the commuter hour. I covered 4.66 miles in 32:07, for an average pace of 6:54 per mile. Splits were as follows:
I can do this two days a week, weather permitting. After a week of no new snow and some partial melting, I'm feeling better about making it through the winter running this year. It's amazing how even 2 or 3 days of not having to shovel snow improved my outlook on the weather.
The real action will be the long slow run on the weekend. The plan is to run 9 miles or so on Saturday. That means Saturday afternoon this week, because I have more tax training Saturday morning. When I get into the actual tax prep season, it will be running in the morning before volunteer work in the afternoon. I expect to vary the route for the long run, as it gets longer and longer.
The wild card is how well the bad foot tolerates stretching the distance. It's feeling pretty good about things after 4 weeks of the long run being roughly 8 miles; I'll have to see how well it likes 9 miles. But that's something I'll deal with.
If it turns out the bad foot doesn't get enough better to let me run 13 miles by the end of April, I can always back down to the 5K. I'd rather not have to do that; but I think I want to run 3 days a week in May more than I want to complete a half marathon at the end of April.
Oh, well. I can worry about the mileage not stretching out far enough if things play out that way. Right now, I'm happy that the mileage stretched to 4.6 miles being comfortable by the time I needed that distance to be able to run on the plowed shoulders.
And the snow under foot? If it happens, it happens. My new shoes came in, so I can make a pair of screw shoes out of an older pair whenever I need to. I'm leaning toward not making them until they're absolutely necessary. I got through one major snowstorm without them. If it doesn't get any worse than it's been, I might not need them at all.
Tuesday, January 08, 2013
My sister talks about having lines in the sand to defend her physical activity when work gets busy or life otherwise tries to interfere with her efforts to maintain fitness. It's a good concept, but for quite a while I did not have such lines defined.
In the past few days, I've determined where my lines in the sand are.
During tax season, I volunteer with a local VITA organization to prepare tax returns for low income people. This requires training each January, and the training is sedentary. Also, the training that fits with my work schedule runs 5:30 to 9:30 PM. The first of 3 such sessions was last Thursday.
Part of supporting my healthy lifestyle has been getting enough sleep, which means getting to bed early enough to get enough sleep before I need to get up. This has turned me into a synthetic morning person. Translation: I start to fade about 8:30 PM, and learning new things after 8:30 PM is difficult. I managed to get through Thursday, though I didn't get to bed on time.
Line in the sand #1: In bed by 10:30 at least 6 days a week. Getting to bed by 9:30 is better, and 7 days a week is better.
Sessions 2 and 3 of the training are today and tomorrow, with the test tomorrow. But there is an online option to train (just the federal return, but we covered the changes for New York on Thursday). I resolved to try to get the test out of the way with the online Link and Learn program, so I could go to bed on time today and tomorrow.
Saturday was a bust for online work. I did my long run in the morning, and had a nice afternoon with my daughter. Got a little bit of work on taxes done in the evening, but I faded and went to bed.
Sunday I made more progress, but got distracted by the NFL playoffs. That, and I had to break to take a walk. Otherwise, I wouldn't have got my 10K steps in.
Line in the sand #2: 10K steps per day. I might settle for less than 11K, but 10K is mandatory.
Monday was a day off work so I could donate blood. I walked early to ensure the 10K steps. But most of the day was in the computer room, doing either household financial chores or studying taxes and taking tests. I got to bed on time Monday, barely; but I also finished those tests and printed my volunteer agreement with the scores.
I missed lifting weights Sunday and Monday to the sedentary activities. Apparently, strength training is not a line in the sand.
Today is Tuesday, a work at home day. I would traditionally write a blog describing my lunch run. The short version: 37°F, sunny, SSW wind 10-12 mph. 4.65 miles in 37:17, for a 6:44 pace per mile. The shoulders were dry pavement, apart from a few patches of snow that I was able to avoid pretty easily. Being able to run after two days of being mostly sedentary was a good stress reducer.
Running, as much as I enjoy it, is not a line in the sand. I have had an extended period of not being able to run regularly, and I certainly am going to try to keep the regular running up. But it is not realistic to suppose that I will never be injured or sick, and in any event running cannot be an every day activity. I think I might be able to sustain 4 days a week, when the bad foot is 100%; right now I'm happy with 3 days a week and a natural pace over 4 miles that is a hair faster than my first competitive 5K.
To support the run on Thursday, and to support a walk this morning that guaranteed my 10K steps, I ate quick cooking oatmeal at breakfast instead of my preferred steel cut oats. It cooks faster, and the time was more important to me. But even with the quick cooking oatmeal, I found time for three sets of pullups du jour and three sets of pushups interspersed with preparing breakfast.
Line in the sand #3: Exercise during the morning breakfast routine. It's been pullups and pushups for a while. Before that, it was more extensive exercises while I was unable to run. Before that, it was kettlebell Turkish getup/windmill combos and kettlebell snatches. But it's always something, and I got that something in through two very sedentary (for me) days. On good days, I'll get the KB TGU/windmills and snatches in as well as the pullups and pushups; but getting one or the other is a line in the sand.
I don't think I have any other lines in the sand. You might ask, what about eating to plan? That's not a line in the sand, that's written in concrete. Thursday I had two pieces of pizza that were hard to work around, but I got it done. Today I didn't eat any of the free pizza when I went to training to turn in my volunteer agreement and free up the rest of this evening and tomorrow evening for other purposes. That was another thought in my mind while doing the training online; I'm better about declining free pizza than I was a year ago, but it's safer to just avoid it.
Lines in the sand for fitness is a great concept. These are things you will do, regardless of how much life gets in the way. Right now, my lines in the sand are:
1. Exercise in the breakfast routine, currently pullups and pushups.
2. 10K steps per day, even if I have to go out and walk at 8:30 PM to pump the pedometer number.
3. Get to bed on time at least 6 nights a week.
How about you? Do you know where your lines in the sand are?
Saturday, January 05, 2013
I got a break from the bad weather. There was no new snow overnight, and it was a balmy 31° F when I went out for my long slow run this morning. The shoulders looked pretty good on my street, so I decided to run a new route with more little hills, going further from home than I have so far this season. The fact that the bad foot felt as good as it has before a long run in several weeks played into this as well.
The shoulders were mostly clear, with patches of loose packed snow. The sidewalks were mostly uncleared. At the first minute, RunKeeper announced my pace as 8:05 per mile. I thought I'd figured out how to start the app right and got the pace down! This turned out to be an illusion; mile 1 clocked in at 7:47.
Over the course of the run, my average pace got faster. By the time I hit mile 6, I gave up on trying to slow to an 8 minute mile and just ran at whatever was easy and comfortable. Any noticeable slowdowns in the last 2 miles were from snow underfoot; there was more on the side road late in the route.
The RunKeeper chart and splits:
For reference, there is a 109 foot difference in elevation from the low to high points in the run. My big hill didn't feel so big because this route didn't go down as low before the big hill (run the easier direction). The ups and downs from mile 3 to about mile 6 were the new part of the route, and they weren't as challenging as I expected.
The final numbers were 8.29 miles in 1:03:02, for an average pace of 7:36 per mile. Yeah, that's faster than a long slow run should be. Maybe I'll be better at slowing down when I'm able to do longer runs. Or I might just always have trouble running slow on downhill stretches and slowing down enough after the downhill stretches.
The bad foot complained a bit at 59 minutes, but that was so close to home that I just kept going. It doesn't seem to be complaining very loudly now, but tomorrow will be a better indicator of how much progress I've made on that front. If tomorrow is as much improved over last Sunday as today seems to be over last Saturday, next week I'll stretch the long run to 9 miles.
I'm very close to putting money down to enter the Flower City Challenge Half Marathon on April 28. I have two weeks before the entry fee goes from $50 to $55; if the foot improves as much as I hope, I'll put down the cash at the cheaper rate.
Scheduling for training between now and April 28 will be challenging, but sometimes you just have to try to get things done. This might be one of those times.
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