Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pain in the Foot

I figured this needed to be a separate post, because I finally saw the foot doctor and got some bad news. First off, though, my ankle has been feeling a LOT better these last 2 weeks- I got new sneakers, have been wearing them regularly even just walking around, and in the last 3 runs, my ankle only hurt after 35-40 minutes, which is a great improvement over the majority of January.

Now- the bad news. Apparently I have Achilles tendinitis, but its not SO bad, because apparently if it were, I'd have a large ball of ripped tendons sticking out of my ankle. So, the doctor said its good that I'm checking it out, its obviously already begun to heal, and prescribed some remedies: continuous anti-inflammatory patch, ice 2-3x a day, light stretching in the AM, and ... no running for a week...and...building back up from 30 min on, making sure to stop BEFORE it hurts (and I guess at the very latest, as soon as it hurts). So, huge bummer, considering the half marathon is looming (in May, but still). I really don't want to get behind, but I also really don't want to let this injury get worse. My only consolation here is that its on the upswing without having done any resting for the last few weeks, so hopefully with resting it more, it'll only keep improving. The other bad thing is that I emailed my coach and she said no run clinic for February because she doesn't want me running on the sharp-turns track (and the stairs, which the doctor informed me were the WORST thing I could have done with this sort of injury!) . I will also apparently have to incorporate pool running, which sounds absolutely awful, to keep up with the longer runs. Sigh sigh sigh. I'm pretty down about this at the moment. I was already feeling sluggish in my running, and this is only going to set me back further. :(  Not to mention that I absolutely love going to run clinic and seeing everyone. February is going to be a long and hard month...

Week in Daytona Beach

I just got back from a week in Florida! Last week I was at Daytona Beach for a conference. Prior to leaving, I had had a rough week (see previous post) which resulted in a lot of work stress combined with almost crying on the bike. Running Saturday proved to also be difficult- after 2 miles on the track (just under 20 min of the assigned 70) the track was closed for some Gala at the we got booted and had to finish up on the treadmill (running outside was just not an option- too cold and too much ice). Running on the treadmill proved to be quite difficult-at a 1 degree incline, I couldn't handle much more than 5.8 mph, which I felt was abysmally slow and attributed to the lack of sleep and excess of stress of the previous week. I was looking forward to relaxing (ha) in Florida... too bad that didn't happen!

The trip to Florida started out relaxing enough. After arriving in the early evening, Elena and I walked around Daytona Beach, and came across a Walgreens, which was the highlight of our trek. She asked the sales clerk if it was worth walking any further, and he said no, just check out Orlando. So much for anything more exciting. It was super nice to walk on the beach, and to walk around outside with only a light coat though!

During the week, Elena and I hit up the gym 4 of the 5 days! Good for us! Waking up at 6 AM was pretty rough though, because unlike when I am at home and try to be in bed by 10 or 11, there was a lot more going on and I was wired almost every night. Day 1 I biked, which was pretty uneventful. The conference was fine, I saw a lot of interesting talks, and had a Faber group reunion dinner, which was a blast! It was so nice to see everyone. I miss them!

Tuesday morning I hit up the treadmill for a 1 min hard 1 min easy workout. I didn't know how hard to make the hard portions, but I ranged from 8-8.5 mph with a 6 mph easy jog in between, at 1 deg incline. I found this to be very difficult, but it felt really good to be running really fast. Tuesday night I was tired of working on my talk, so Elena and I got dessert at the hotel bar. Yum! Though that caused us to be up even later, so no Weds morning workout. My talk went well Wednesday, which was good, because I now learned I don't have to obsess over a talk for it to go ok! One would figure as a post doc I would be OK with giving talks by now, but I still find it to be scary and nervewracking...but at least its getting a big better! After the conference the boss took us all out for drinks, then in the evening Elena, another argonne post doc, Nick, and one of my friends from grad school, Bryan, hung out more at the hotel bar (we were beginning to feel like regulars, and we had the same pregnant and mean waitress almost every time...she started to hate us, I'm pretty sure. Though maybe she just hated everyone). Hanging out with them was really fun- it was great to catch up with Bryan, and it was really fun getting to spend more time with Elena and Nick.

Getting up at 6 AM for the gym was rough after a late-ish night at the bar, but it was totally worth it. I saw the sun come up over the ocean from the exercise bike. Thursday night we went to a Japanese restaurant, then again to the hotel bar for drinks with the other boss. Seriously at this point in time, all I wanted to do was knit and relax, but I had to play the conference role one last night. It turned out to be a fun time at the bar, so I am glad we went, but I was still getting more and more exhausted at this point...

Friday morning was a super hard treadmill run. 40 min increasing continuously...I started at 6 mph and increased .1-.2 every 5 min to a max speed of 7 mph. The last 10 min were so hard, but I felt really good when I finished! I accidentally knocked the treadmill emergency cord at one point, and the machine stopped and wouldn't let me restart. grr. Even though I felt like I was giving it my all, at the 1 deg incline and 7 mph, I still felt discouraged. A year ago I was running 8:30 miles with little effort...though I guess I was using a 0 deg incline... oh well. The last session of the conference was Friday morning, and it was so great to leave. As much as I enjoyed the warm weather, I was seriously conference-d out at this point, and was really looking forward to coming back home. Saturday morning I had a nice run with Mo, and had a busy weekend of celebrating a birthday and knitting with friends. I am NOT looking forward to going back to the grind tomorrow... but such is life!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trying Harder

This week had its ups and downs, both in the training and in general. The week started out great- had a fun time knitting (finished a pair of socks!) and watching the bears game (more knitting, really), and had a decent swim on Monday, followed by a much better 20 min stairs experience than the previous time we did that at RC. Even the computrainer seemed to be getting better. And the best plus of all for the week: My ankle pain has been significantly lower, and actually almost non existent aside from tuesday night's running workout. I am crossing fingers that tomorrow's 70 min run doesn't set the progress back...

One thing I have been meaning to discuss here is the most recent chapter I read in the running book: "Trying Harder." It talked about how in a workout, even a key workout, we seldom push ourselves as hard as we would in a race. It encouraged us to push a little harder during each hard interval in a workout. I thought about this pretty carefully while I was reading. I am kind of a workout-pain-wuss. I hardly ever push myself to the point of nausea or extreme exhaustion or pain. In fact, I would fairly confidently say the only times I push myself as hard as I can is at RC, when I am being held accountable for a specific time in a speed workout, or I am too proud to let anyone pass me on the stairs. In other swimming or biking workouts, I do what I'm supposed to do, but I don't usually feel like I couldn't have worked any harder. Maybe part of that is also that biking and swimming are newer to me, so I am not as aware of my limitations. Often in a spin class, I get nervous that I won't be able to finish the 60 minutes, so I don't give it my all right off the bat. In a longer swimming interval, say 500 yd, I am wary of my ability to complete it at all, let alone at a brisk pace, and end up working as hard as I can to swim at a slow and steady pace, instead of finding out how fast I could really handle that distance...

Now, I don't think all of this is a bad thing- I think it is important to be aware that limitations exist- I wouldn't want to get to the end of the first lap out of 10 and have to stand at the side catching my breath for several minutes. However, I think it wouldn't be so bad for me to get a little bit out of the comfort zone, and more often push myself harder than I am used to. It will help me increase my pain and stress threshold. And, its only an interval, generally followed by a rest period. I can generally push myself towards my limits in RC. The last entry I mentioned the 10 x 400s we did where I consistently hit the same pace. Part of what kept me going was knowing I was almost done with the set: "2 more, now one more, I can do it." However, at the end, I know if she changed her mind and told us to do 12, I could have still done it, even having pushed myself super hard to finish numbers 9 and 10. When I am by myself I let myself slack off a little more- saving up energy to ensure I can finish. After reading this chapter and thinking hard about this, though, I want to try to put the effort in to really 'try harder' in each and every workout to make them count that much more.

I tried to channel this in my bike workout this morning, even though it wasn't intervals. There were only three of us at the computrainer class, and I was in last place on our 20.4 mile journey, "Escape from Alcatraz." This course involved a set of steep hills near the beginning and near the end, with a long flat region in the middle (swimming across the water?). I guess I am still getting the hang of when to be in which gear, and how fast to be pedaling at each stage. No matter how I altered the gears and adjusted my cadence, however, I couldn't get my wattage as high as the others, and I was getting extremely frustrated. Finally, I got to the last mile, and our coach was pulling out the coaching with encouragement: "come on, all out, you can do it!" I still couldn't get my wattage up, but I did push through as hard as I felt like I could have. I thought about this chapter, during that last mile especially, with the mantra of trying harder, when all I really wanted to do was stop.

Overall, during and immediately following the workout, I was pretty depressed about my inability to keep up, despite the fact that I should be only focused on working out for me. There were extraneous factors too: I got very little sleep last night, and I was worried about the practice talk I had to give at work today for my upcoming conference. After reflecting on this workout later in the day, when the stress of my talk was over, and I had a more clear head, I realized it wasn't quite as bad as I had thought at the time. My frustration almost led me to stop and give up. I even really needed to leave for work, which would have been a great excuse to quit, but I was determined to finish to prove to myself that I could do it, despite how behind I felt. I am trying to look at that side of it- not at the frustration of not being as good as the others, but at the part where I 'tried harder' and gave it what I had this morning.

There are always going to be good days and bad days- there's a long and hard journey ahead to get to the 70.3 race. However, this is a goal I really want to reach. I think it may be worth pushing the pain threshold and 'trying harder.'

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Greatly Dislike Snow!

We got some snow was snowing all day and I guess we accumulated at least 2 inches. I know this because when I headed to my car this morning to head to the computrainer workout, my car was gone! Towed away! I freaked out and then realized, there must have been a snow emergency. And when I got home late from RC the night before, when the roads weren't well plowed, I took the first spot I could find, which was apparently on a more major road, where they tow your car after 11 PM. Bummer! Luckily, Mo rescued me and brought me to computrainer, to the Y to shower, to a few streets to look for my car (which the city's website informed me would be 'returned to the vicinity'), and ultimately back home. Once home (with car location still unknown) I called the parking office who informed me that despite what it said on the website, my car was in fact in the tow lot. darn! So, Mat, being the good nice boyfriend he is, drove me over there, and I got my car, and trekked onward to work. Ugh snow! The very same snowstorm caused me to slip and fall at work between buildings while toting experimental equipment! Luckily both me and the equipment survived.

Snow aside, workouts have progressed this week. Monday was my first swim in about a month, and needless to say, it was tough. For one chunk of the workout, I had to do 2 sets of 8 laps. Previously (ie when I was in good shape in the summer!) I was able to do something like this without thinking, but Monday it was so slow going, and I let myself take longer than normal rests at the walls between laps. I was frustrated at how hard this workout felt, when I know I had been able to do these same workouts only months ago without this much of a struggle, and of course started to worry about my lofty goal of 1.2 miles in the HIM... I kept reminding myself though that at this time last year, I was unable to even do 2 laps continuously without stopping and managed to work up to a max swim of 1.5 mi. So there is hope, but I know I have a lot to work up to in the swim...

Last night, RC was also a challenging workout. We had to do 10 quarter miles at a quick pace, which I did at around 1:50. These were quite difficult, but it felt so good to be running fast. The computrainer ride this morning was a lot better this time than last time, which was encouraging. I'm getting back into the workout swing, and looking forward to keeping it up. I'm trying hard to stay patient with my progress. The next big hindrance is my pesky ankle which has been bothering me since December. I am finally scheduled to see a doctor, and I am hoping that while trying to get back into my training, I am not further injuring it...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Shoes!

After the half marathon in October I decided I needed some new shoes- these ones gave me ankle problems after any run of >5 miles. So today I tried out a new (to me) store upon recommendations from friends- Running Away Multisport - and was very happy with the results. After trying out several shoes (including fluorescent yellow and hot pink- who thinks those are good sneaker colors!?), inserts, and practicing running, and bothering a very very patient shoe salesman, I ended up with a pair very similar to ones I ran with in the spring/summer. The only problem I had with those shoes was that I got blisters on my 2nd toe. And I started getting knee pain when they were about ready to be changed. So, after a clean slate fitting and many different brands, I ended up with something that had worked for me in the past. I also got a new pair of ankle height smart wool socks, in hoping to prevent blisters with this pair as the weather gets warmer. Pricey, but hopefully worth it. So, crossing fingers that these shoes will be good for me. And, on the plus side, they are purple! So pretty! Can't wait to give them a whirl on Tuesday night!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

First week back...

So far this first week back to working out after the 2 week hiatus has left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it feels great to be exercising again. Especially after a lazy Christmas/New Years where I spent a ton of time sitting, eating and knitting and very little time moving at all, getting my heart rate up and working my muscles is a welcome change. However, the drawback to this time off is how difficult these base building workouts have become. We did stairs at run clinic (RC) on Tuesday night. We had to do 20 minutes of hard up, moderate up, which is obviously not an easy workout for anyone. However, I was disappointed that for the last 3, I was barely able to walk up the last few levels. And to make it worse, even the 'cool down' 10 minute jog felt hard, which I have not experienced at RC ever.

The next morning I went to my first computrainer bike session. I had never done this before: you bring your very own bike (I bet it was very happy to be used after a 4 month hiatus where it was moved only from corner to corner in my apartment!) which gets hooked up to some computer systems that adjust resistance according to some program of hills and your body weight. It adds resistance as appropriate and is designed to simulate real life riding. Needless to say, after not having biked at all for a few weeks, let alone used my own bike with changing gears, it was quite difficult as well. I plugged through the 45 minutes, but barely survived. My legs felt like jello, and despite how hard I tried, I couldn't catch up to the other bikers (your relative position based on how fast you are completing the mileage appears on the computer screen projected at the front of the room). While it felt good to be pushing myself, I still can't help being disappointed with my performance and how my muscles and body felt afterwards. I have completed 45 minute bike workouts before without being sore two days later.

Today was a much needed day off, and I am attempting the computrainer workout again tomorrow morning. They all said it gets easier as you get more used to it, and also that after these computrainer rides, riding outside feels like a breeze. I hope that that is true. I'm reading a book talking about running and the mind. The last chapter I read talked about "running happy," and how if you are having fun and seeing improvements, you will work out more effectively. I can see that, because my frustrations are manifesting themselves in negative attitude towards working out and a feeling of inadequacy and inability. I know that it takes time to get back to where you were after a break, but it is so so so difficult to be patient. I hope I see improvements soon as I continue to workout regularly, and that I can start to "run happy." I'm hoping in October at the 70.3 race I can look back at this post and laugh about how silly I was to be so frustrated. Let's hope so anyway. :) Here's to my attempt at a positive attitude biking tomorrow...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011

With the beginning of the new year, I want to start keeping up with this blog more- to keep a better record of my training as well as as a quick reference guide for recipes.

2010 was a great year. At the beginning of the year, I was only a few months into my new job, had barely begun swimming, and was horribly worried about how my friends were moving on to new cities one by one and how I would get by. Throughout this past year I learned a lot about myself and my abilities to conquer new challenges. I started to get more involved in work, made some headway in my research, attended a few conferences, and made some friends. I learned how to swim, and took it to the level of competing in my first (and 2nd and third) triathlon(s). I revived my interest in longer distance running by bringing myself to the soldier field 10 mile race at one of my fastest paces ever, and through hard work and run clinic, dropping about 5 min off my half marathon time, while making some new great friends. I built up the endurance and confidence to bike (most of the way) to work, and plan to do this 1x a week when the weather gets better.  I knitted 3 (almost 4) pairs of socks 2-at-a-time and a baby blanket. I traveled to Japan (maybe one day I'll make a trip post but for now I'm satisfied that I am at least doing a 2010 summary and goals of 2011!). I balanced my job, a 2 hour + total commute, training, boyfriend and friends (new and old) and am confident that while I am sure it won't be easy, I can continue doing so for the remainder of my post doc. I even finally got around to putting up a Christmas tree in my apartment (which I have yet to take down...but it's so pretty!).

I will be turning 30 in 2011 so I feel like that means I should have some lofty of these is a half ironman. I signed up for the Austin 70.3. A few friends will be doing it so it isn't nearly as scary as it could be. Right now I feel like it will be impossible to get there. Since the half marathon, I have been working out with a lot less intensity, as part of the recovery before the big HIM training. In fact, the coach had us take a solid 2 weeks off...(seriously, at first that sounded awesome, but now that I am nearing the end of it, I realize how much I am missing it and can't wait till run clinic tomorrow night!). I know that she will get us there, but after this hiatus, I am extremely worried about how much my muscles have fatigued, and if my low self confidence at the moment can be reversed when I start out doing things with less ability than I had at my peak of the previous season. I am reading (upon coach's recommendation) a book about running by feel as a way to train better. I love reading all the anecdotes about the world record runners (similar to how I love reading Runners World) and it is certainly inspirational. I just hope that I can be patient enough with myself to know that it'll take a little time to get where I was before.

As far as the rest of 2011 goes, I haven't set too many goals in stone. (Maybe by my 30th birthday I'll have a list of 30 goals). I have a few trips planned (conference in Fl in Jan, London in maybe March, a wedding in PA in July and of course the HIM in Austin in Oct). I have some socks to knit and I want to spend some more time this year reading. Here's to a great 2011. Happy New Year!