Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pounding the Pavement

Literally. This weekend I finally went out for my first outside run of the season (not counting London). I had, in my last post, discussed my nerves about forgetting something, but I decided that after the many rainy saturdays (and in general days) we have had, the gorgeous weather was not to be wasted. I am not really interested in running in the rain (I have done a half marathon and a triathlon in the rain- I do it when I have to, but for training, no way jose) and in the recent weeks, the track was a safer bet, in case my ankle started hurting and I needed to cut back my run time. But, I had utter confidence in my healing, and couldn't resist the gorgeous sunny almost 60 degree day!

I started from the Y so that I could have a quick transition to the pool run I had scheduled for after the run, and took off towards the lake. It was so absolutely beautiful and clear- I had a great view of downtown. Perhaps one day I will start taking pictures on my run. I ran up and down the lakefront path, through NU campus, and finally around the streets in town. I wanted to end as close to the Y as possible, so I did the last 15 min or so in just loops. By the end of my 10 mile run, my knees and ankles (both) were killing me. I think this was a result of pounding actual pavement, as opposed to the indoor track, for a long run, for the first time since November (!).  I got a bit worried about the half marathon, and even the rest of the weekend, after finishing up my achy run. Nevertheless, I rolled out my calves, and got ready for the pool, and hopped in. I did my requisite 35 min (with 10 mins of hard, 1 min rest) and hopped out, fully expecting to not be able to walk...but lo and behold, there is some truth to the pool run being a recovery- I felt like I had new (albeit tired) legs, and excitedly showered and got ready for the rest of the weekend. New plan- if I'm sore after the half marathon in 2 weeks, I'm hitting the pool for a short recovery run!

The rest of the week was fairly good as far as workouts go. I was deathly afraid of getting in the pool at tri clinic on Tuesday night, but my fear was for naught, because I was encouraged to work on breathing every fourth stroke, told that it made my stroke less awkward and more fluid, and that as time went on, I would slowly build up enough endurance to maintain that breathing cycle for longer and longer. Something to look forward to! In fact, I actually did my entire swim workout yesterday breathing every 4th stroke (I had 100 yd segments, which was about my limit of continuous 4th stroke breathing, but I am hoping to see that bump up!)

Biking also showed some improvements, though I got a flat tire on the computrainer on Wednesday. I had been pushing myself hard to maintain higher wattages (for me) and am really looking forward to getting out on the road towards the end of this week.

I skipped my pool run last week, because I was just too busy and just really did not want to do it. at all. I took a rest day which I needed mentally and physically and I think it was one of the best decisions I made all of last week. Normally I feel quite guilty skipping something on my schedule, but every once in a while, I think I know what I need better than the coach, and I think this was a wise decision. And, good news- no pool run in the plan for this week! Maybe I am finally leaving that stage of training behind (unless I need a good ache and pain reliever!).

This coming weekend is our spring training camp- heading out of town to warmer climates to get in some open water swimming, outdoor non-trainer biking, and running. I'm nervous about the hours and hours of workouts planned, but I think it'll be a great kickoff to the race season!

Easter post to follow, with pictures!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rainy Saturday Run and Pool Run

Yesterday was a rainy gross day, and it even snowed (apparently Chicago didn't get the memo that it's APRIL). I had a dentist appointment at 10, which forced me to get up at 5:30 to get my run and pool run in. So, I trekked to the Y, arriving before it actually opened, and circled the track for 80 minutes. Last year, I couldn't have ever imagined running so much around the track. In fact, I was even a little nervous yesterday. I was particularly sad that everyone was going to a wisconsin practice run that I wasn't allowed to go to due to my stupid ankle (which I later found out they didn't go to!). It's weird though- I can't wait to go run outside (and today, the weather just screams, come out and run!!) but I haven't been able to get over the initial hump of changing my routine. I have gotten settled into running around the track, grabbing a water break every 2 miles, and counting the 13 laps on my hands. For some reason, the thought of having to make sure I pack everything I could possibly need for a run outside is making me a little nervous. I had it all down to a science last summer, but now I'm sort of worried I'd forget something. Hopefully, I'll get over this silly fear soon. The other issue at the current moment is time. It takes me like 20 minutes or so to transition from real running to pool running, and they have to be done in a row. So, logistically, the track is easier. After this half marathon, I had better be only "real running" these long runs so I can go outside and enjoy the spring and summer! I got so jealous when my running friends called to say they were going for a run at the forest preserves, and did I want to come, a few hours too late, and I can't wait till I get back into that!

As far as my boring track run went- it wasn't SO bad. I ticked off 8.5 miles, and listened to some music on my iphone, which is something I haven't done while actual running in quite a while. So, that was pretty nice. I kept an easy enough pace that I felt like I could keep going- which is good because, for this half marathon, I'll not have done the distance before hand, which makes me a little nervous. I hope the pool running comes through for me...

The pool run wasn't terrible either (is it weird that I sort of enjoy it a little bit now, except for the initial shock of the cold water?). The guy next to me towards the end was extremely irritating though. He was basically making a tidal wave every time he did a kick- which was a shamu-style kick! Water, EVERYWHERE! Now, clearly, with my head above the water, I am used to getting splashed, but this was like nothing I had ever experienced during my pool run. I exchanged a glance with the lifeguard, who appeared to be on the same page as me: "what on earth was this guy doing!?" I turned my head to avoid the tsunami every time I was in line with him, and just hoped he'd calm down before too long! Counting down the weeks til the half marathon...and getting away from these crazy pool loonies!
Yesterday afternoon I talked to a good friend that I hadn't talked to in quite a long time. She just started running, doing a program involving something like run 1 min walk 2, etc, and has built up to a 30 min run! At the point in which she signed up for a marathon for next January, she had only run 3 minutes continuously. I am so excited to hear about how much she is enjoying running now and working towards this new goal! It also reminded me that this is supposed to be fun, and of course, hard work. And, it reminded me that little by little we can make and achieve our goals. I just need to keep this in mind when I am struggling along on a bike ride, wondering how I'll ever reach my goal.

My run/pool run was a long lonely workout, but I was pleased with how I got everything done and felt great afterwards. It boosted my self-esteem a little bit, which was very needed after my miserable Friday. Between the hard work yesterday, and the sun today, I feel a little rejuvenated to face the coming week's workouts.

Friday blues and doubts

Friday was a pretty terrible day in general, where basically everything that could go wrong did, including much frustration at work. But it started in the morning, with a miserable bike workout. I am still extremely frustrated that I am so much slower than everyone else, and the hilly ride didn't help. I was struggling to get up hills that my fellow bikers had long since passed. While I am maintaining my ftp for the majority of the ride, my wattage is still so much lower than everyone else's. I feel like I am pushing hard, but my legs won't cooperate to go any harder, and I'm not sure how to improve them. I started to wonder if my leg muscles are super weak because I haven't done any lunges or squats or other leg strengthening exercises while I have been nursing my ankle. Hopefully once I get back to that, I'll see some changes in cycling. But it also doesn't seem fun anymore. I feel bad about myself at each bike workout, no matter how hard I work, because I feel like I am a disappointment. I complain to my friends about how bad I am at biking, and I am pretty sure they are sick of hearing about it. This is making me have a lot of doubts- is half ironman really a good idea? I was on a high from my olympic triathlon and fastest half marathon last fall, and felt like I could do anything. But, now, 6 months later, I am in a rut, and extremely worried about managing 56 miles followed by a half marathon. I hope when we start biking outside, I'll be rejuvenated and remember how much fun I had last summer, biking long distances and just being excited about how far I could go and how much fun it was to be cruising along the different roads and paths in the area.

I know that last summer, I was working on building up my endurance, but that times and efficiency weren't a top priority. I just had to get up to the distances to make sure I could finish the olympic tri. This year, as the coach put it while we were working on swimming drills on Tuesday night, after the 1.2 mile swim, you still have to do 56 miles of bike and a half marathon- you need to be efficient at swimming. This year it's about efficiency and form, as well as about working up to the distances. I just really hope I can do something to improve my biking ability so that I can enjoy the run, my favorite part, in the big race.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happiness = half mile repeats!

After my poor swim sessions from last week, I tried altering some stuff during my workout Monday morning. I'm fairly sure I did things even more wrong, and the entire workout was a struggle. And, it was a workout I had done before, and it felt easier the first time! Frustrated, I spent some time when I was babysitting an experiment at work researching swimming techniques, and found something that has entirely changed my attitude: http://www.swimsmooth.com/ . The front page has an animation of the proper way to swim, and I read about tons of problems and fixes for swimming stroke! I was anxious to put these into action, but I was also nervous about swimming in front of the coach again. In fact, I had dreaded Tuesday night's swim for basically the entire day.

Eventually Tuesday night came, and I was relieved. Due to a "maintenance issue" (which I will spare the gory details that I know, but someone did something gross in the pool and it needed over 24 hours of chlorine shock and closure) the pool was closed. So, instead, my fears of swimming in front of the coach were postponed, and I was granted the opportunity to do... a speed workout!!

After a long arduous couple months of pool running and only slow easy running, being allowed to do a speed workout was like a dream. Oh, how I have missed the exhiliration of speeding around the track! We had 4 half mile repeats, and she told me to aim for 4-4:15, because we weren't sure how my speed has suffered over the course of the last few months. My comrades were doing 3:40s, I think, so I just figured I'd stay some distance behind them and see how I felt. Well, I didn't actually stay that far behind them, and finished my four half mile repeats in 3:48, 3:50, 3:46 and 3:45! So exciting! I was less than 5 sec on average behind them (and very consistent!), after not having done any speed work in the past 3 months! Not only did it feel great to be running fast, but perhaps the pool intervals helped me maintain some of the speed I had worked so hard to develop over the summer and fall. So happy!

After the run workout, we hit the (open) warm pool (mostly for kids) and did a little drill work to work on form. I still am terrible at doing a one armed drill, but I got to practice more of my stroke, learn what I did completely wrong Monday, and now have even more stuff to improve on. I went home happy, and couldn't fall asleep because I was so energized from the fast run!!

Biking today brought up some more questions in my mind, however. Our main section of the workout today was 20 min hold at ftp, cadence of 85-100. I tried so hard to stay within the cadence range, and my power was slightly above the ftp for the entire time. I also stayed fairly close to the pack- I wasn't one of the last bikers as I often am. However, my wattage is still too low, which I guess makes sense because my ftp is so much lower than everyone else's. I still don't really understand why two cyclers can be going at the same rpm and the same gear, but have different speeds and power. I am still having trouble figuring out when an easier gear, at which I can maintain a high rpm, is desirable as opposed to trudging along in a high gear at a lower cadence. I have been reading up on some cycling information, which all says you find the 'optimal' cadence in an 'optimal' gear for you- which comes with practice... hopefully some of this becomes more clear when we actually go out to the road...

For now, the pool is thankfully cleaned and back open, though I am still a little nervous about heading in for an early morning pool run...then I will worry more about the bike on Friday.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Run Run Run Pool Run!

All week I have been breaking in my new shoes- so springy, so bouncy! I couldn't wait to get a run in today! I almost wanted to run up and down the stairs at work (but I refrained myself- still not allowed to do stairs, plus I'd look reallllly weird!)

Since Mo had to be at work at 8 (on a saturday - gross!) I met her at 6 AM to do our run...she only had 60 min, but I had 70+60 in the pool, so I figured doing at least half with her would make it more bearable. Plus, transitioning to pool running takes time, so it all adds up. It was nice to be back home by 9:30, though getting up at 5:30 on a Saturday was less than desirable...

We started out a little too fast for a slow long run, but finally settled into a good pace and I did 7.4 miles. Not bad! After the run, I rolled out my calves, hoping to avoid pool charley horses...my right calf was pretty tight so I focused on it more.

Pool run for 60 min today-- 'go with the music' was my instruction. So, I alternated fast pace, slow pace, and I have to say it actually went by pretty fast. I watched people swim, trying to see if I could use them to improve my own stroke. I kept some jelly beans on the pool deck because I was super hungry as well, so I rewarded myself with one every 25 min. When I first got in the water, my legs were aching from the run, but as the time went by they started feeling better and better... I got a few charley horses in my left leg, but not until at least 40 min had past. So, I made sure to roll both calves really well when I was done. I think the rolling in between has helped- I'll definitely make sure to budget time in to do that next weekend!

As replying to a comment I got on pool running on my last post, I did a google search looking for a specific article I had previously read (but didn't find) and found this other post that talks about pool running as a recovery after a marathon or hard races, which I didn't really think about before. After my experience today, that makes a lot of sense. My legs always FEEL good after the pool run (charley horses aside). I also read that speed workouts in the pool do not directly translate to speedy running, but at least help with endurance (and help the workouts to go faster!).

I have my first actual running "speed" workout since my tendinitis diagnosis on Tuesday. I am looking forward to running fast, but I am also nervous about how my speed has waned during this time...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Speedy Pool Running

Wow, 2 posts in 2 days. It's a new record. I realized today when I continually clicked on google reader, that I was all caught up, and could not wait for someone to post something. Then I thought about my own delinquent posting (though to be fair, I have a lot less readers than they do, and I think I see most of you regularly), and thought, maybe I should post more frequently. Let's see how that goes!

So, I had a mostly charley horse-free pool run today! I got a little one after an hour, but compared to what I had last weekend and the weekend before, I'll take it! It must have to do with real running first...

I'll admit, when I looked at my pool run for today, I got really nervous. The main section, after a 25 min warm up with HARD/EASYs, I had to do 40 min with rpm 90-100. Because I didn't write this down, I forgot until re-looking at it later, and thought it was maintain 90 rpm, but either way, hard. Kind of like a tempo pool run, I guess! Anyway, because pool running is fairly monotonous, I checked my cadence every other minute (that's 20x in the 40 min. whoa.) And, I was happy- except for the first two on the low end (89), I was at least 92-93 for the majority, with a few 95s! I had a sense of accomplishment that I was able to sustain that high cadence for that long. Gives me a little hope that I can give the last 5k of the half marathon a good swift speed! (Apparently I am forbidden to do faster than a 9:30 for the first 10 mi).

When I got home I was ravenously hungry, and ate matzoh with cream cheese, crackers and sweet swiss cheese, and a few random sweets I had lying around. I think I am finally satiated, and it may be time to get myself ready for tomorrow's computrainer ride...Can't believe it's almost Friday! (and no, I have not yet listened to that stupid Friday song all the way through, and I am avoiding it like the plague!).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gummy Food

Recently I discovered the Clif Shot Bloks, which are phenomenal. Not only do they taste great, but I like to give them some credit for making me have less of a headache after the weds/fri morning computrainer rides. Well, that and ensuring that I drink 2 full bottles of water during the workout. I have a serious problem with dehydration headaches, so I have my superstitions for each session. For the summer runs, I would start with a banana, and drink smart water en route, a jelly bean or two if I was hungry, and finish off with gatorade and breakfast. After I adopted this routine, I had much better running experiences, and didn't end up with midafternoon splitting headaches. For some reason, this had been an exclusively running problem- I never had a serious headache after a bike workout. But enter computrainer classes: warm stuffy room, working our butts off for an hour- harder than I ever pushed myself on my own, no wind to blow us any cool air save for some fans on the floor. After a few sessions of headaches and miserable days at work, I started forcing myself to drink 2 bottles of water, eat a jelly bean or two and drink gatorade immediately afterwards, and a protein bar on the way to work. Now, I can rely on a shot blok to get me through the beginning of my drive, so that if I forgot my protein bar, I can survive the almost an hour long car ride without fear of headaches. With this new routine, I have not yet had a deydration bike headache. I just now bought an 18 pack of shot bloks on amazon with a savings of 50 cents per package! woo! In the meantime, I also chew gummy vitamins, and sometimes you just can't get enough (but it is unwise to have too many gummy vitamins in one sitting!). So I also bought myself some Target gummy bears to satisfy my sweet gummy non workout cravings.

In other news, besides that of gummy foods, I have had another week or so of ups and downs on the workout front. Last weekend, I ran for 75 min straight!! No pain, but it was a struggle of a run. I have learned, I think, that based on this run, being stressed out doesn't always make for the best workout! We ran just over 7.5 miles around the track, and I followed that up by a half hour pool run, where I got bad charley horses in both calves. For some reason, this only occurs when I pool run after real r unning- I have not had this problem (at least not as painfully) in any of my other solo pool runs. I was also in a huge hurry to get on the train and meet people for the cubs game, so I think that, among other things, contributed to my stressball workout. This weekend coming up I have a 70 min run followed by an hour pool run. I hope my poor calves can handle it, and that if I don't make myself have anywhere to be, I can be a little more relaxed!

Monday morning's swim was not bad, I thought. At some point during the swim, I started pushing my hands harder through the water, feeling resistance and efficiency, and I had a feeling of understanding. I think I finally got what they mean by pulling yourself through the water! After this excitement, I was looking forward to Tuesday night's tri practice, where we would be doing some more swimming. However, my excitement quickly waned when I had a terrible time with the paddles, despite my newfound understanding of their purpose, and got a one-on-one tutorial on how I *should* be using them. I never got a chance to really try though, because my rigid, non-fluid form was also criticized. I was resigned to practice floating on my stomach, with slow breathing. Unfortunately, relaxing is not my strong point, particularly after pointed failures. I was unable to stay afloat- my legs kept on sinking. I got more and  more frustrated until I realized the masses had left and it was time to run. Discouraged, I headed up to the track, with the coach's words of wisdom "you just have to work on relaxing and slow breathing." I know that this is the truth, I just wish that swimming and relaxing came a little easier to me. I have been working so hard at swimming over the last year, and I am disappointed that my technical skills are still so low. But, after being upset, I have realized that I can only improve by focusing and trying, so I am going to suck it up and concentrate on floating and breathing and relaxing at next Monday's swim...

Running after swimming felt amazing. I don't know if I was energized by my inability to swim and wanted to make up for it in the run, or if I was just more awake/with it than I was the previous saturday. Mo and I were maintaining around 9:30 miles (instead of 9:40 from Saturday) and it felt easy, relaxed, and fun. The 60 minutes went by fairly quickly, and we almost hit 6.5 miles. It felt so good- best run I've had in a while. Nice and easy, and successful. No pain. Looking forward to running again on Saturday!

At the computrainer ride today, we had to maintain a lot of zone 4. I was struggling towards the end. My quads feel like they are permanently sore and achy from all of this hard work! I guess also that I swam and ran the night before. Thankfully I have my pool run slotted for tomorrow evening, so hopefully I can cut my legs a little break...

Here's hoping for a charley-horse free pool run tomorrow!