Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Heel Thyself

I started using doctor prescribed orthotics in my shoes back in 2008 when I suffered the stress fracture in my right shin. I have no idea how long orthotics are supposed to last but I'd put about 3000 miles on these (I only wear them in my running shoes). I took them in to the physical therapist and they refurbished them.

I've been having heel pain for at least the last year. They don't hurt while I run but afterward walking could be painful. The first few steps after getting up from a chair I walked like an old man. While the orthotics were out being refurbished I ran a few runs without them. It seemed that my heels didn't hurt nearly as much. Although I got the orthotics back from the PT I continued to run at least some of my runs without them to see if I could tell a difference. I ran 14.5 miles the weekend before last and felt pretty good.

This week I ran both my midweek runs without them. The long run this week was penciled in as an 18 miler. I was afraid to try that distance without the orthotics. By the time I'd run only about 5 miles I realized that I'd made an error. My heels were beginning to hurt while running. By the time I was finished they hurt worse than they'd ever hurt. I was definitely hobbling around like an older, much older, version of myself.

I was able to get a foot massage on Saturday afternoon from a reflexology and therapeutic massage therapist. My heels felt much better afterward. I didn't run Sunday or Monday and by this morning they were feeling pretty good.

I went out at lunch today and did my speed workout of the week. I didn't use the orthotics. My feet felt fine during the workout and afterward were sore but not as debilitating as on Saturday. I'm going to continue this experiment without the orthotics to see how my heels hold up. With 20 miles on tap this weekend the heels are bound to hurt, no matter what.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different

well, sort of....

I've been frustrated with my marathon times for quite awhile now. I haven't made any improvement on my PR in over 4 years. I've not been able to even get below that nice round number of 4:00 except for once, in Des Moines under ideal temperature conditions. At the risk of sounding whiny, many of my long runs have been sub par if not outright disastrous. Granted I spent part of 2007 and 2008 on the disabled roster. I'm not getting any younger (but am far from old!). I've continued to run 5 days a week for most of the time and have added 3 to 4 gyms sessions to the equation as well for the last couple of years. So much of run I read in the running literature would suggest that possibly I'm over training; not giving my body the time it needs to repair and rebuild. I'm too stubborn to believe this line of reasoning, but I've recently begun to come to grips with it.

At the end of 2009 I ran a 10K personal best of 49:52 which would predict the ability to run a marathon in under 4 hours (3:54). At the beginning of this year I pulled off a surprising half marathon personal best of 1:45:11. This would predict a marathon time of 3:41. My PR at the marathon is 3:40:52 set way back in 2006. I haven't come anywhere close to that this year, in fact in Albuquerque I added a full 60 minutes to that time. Frustrating to say the least.

That old adage that goes - if you always do what you've always done, you are going to get what you've always gotten - comes to mind. Ever since I've began running I used the same basic approach - 5 days a week with little variety in pacing, very little speed work, etc, etc. So for my next marathon I've decided to take a different approach. I'm trying the FIRST program.

There are two key runs during the week that are run with some significant speed and one long run on the weekend. There seem to be more "long" miles than I normally use in a marathon buildup but they are mostly run at a slower pace. The plan also calls for cross training hard on 2 other days.

Setting the paces has been somewhat of an problem for me. Many of the pace suggestions are based on the 10K pace less some time. I'm not used to running that fast mid-week (or ever, really) but it definitely keeps things interesting.

Yesterday's workout called for 2 mile warm up, 3 x 1 mile, and 1 mile cool down. The pace for the mile repeats was 10K - 35 to 40 seconds, so somewhere between 7:20 to 7:40. I took the warm up easy at 10:00 pace. My first mile seemed interminably long. I snuck a peak at each quarter mile marker, but my math skills while moving aren't the sharpest. I smacked out that first mile in 7:16 - too fast. The plan called for only 1 minute rest between repeats. At the end of the minute my heart rate was still elevated but I took off non the less, returning the way I'd just come.

This repeat was very slightly uphill (yes, that means the first was slightly downhill). I had to take a couple of short walk breaks along the way and barely managed an 8:09 mile. Not good. After this one I gave myself longer to get the heart rate back down a bit before heading back again.

The third repeat was again aided by the slight downhill which gave me a 7:32, beautifully paced mile. The cool down felt good, for sure.

Just over 12 weeks to Austin with lots more speed and variety to go. Let's see how it all works out. I'm happy to be at least trying something different.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Missed A Step

Remember back in grade school when you had those compound math problems, usually they were the word problems, and you just couldn't get the right answer. Usually it was because you missed a step. Well tonight I missed a step.

My plan called for running 5 x 1K repeats at 10K pace +42 to 47 secs. So I figured out my pace to be 8:45 or so. I don't usually run 1K repeats but I'd mapped out a stretch of Raging Waters Drive in Bonelli with some easily recognizable landmarks. After work at this time of the year that road is very sparsely traveled so i figured it would be a great place for the repeats.

I started off with a 20 minute warm up run and then hit my first land mark and started off on my first 1K repeat. I settled into a comfortably fast pace. When I got to the next land mark I hit the clock. The clock said 5:06. When I looked down I realized that I'd "missed a step." I had no idea what my 1K pace really was. I'd done the math to figure out my 1 mile pace but "missed the step" of converting that to a 1K pace.

I'm not much for calculating math on the fly but I quickly did 5:00 x 5K = 25:00. 25:00 divided by 3 miles = 8:20 or so per mile (if I'd done the math right in my head). This was faster than planned but since I hadn't done it right in the first place I went with it.

My 5 repeats came in at 5:06, 4:39, 4:52, 4:48, and 5:03. Once I got home I figured out my "per mile" pace to be: 8:12, 7:29, 7:50, 7:43, and 8:07 - quite a bit faster than the proposed 8:45. Next time I'm calculating my pace I'll be sure not to miss the step of converting to kilometers if necessary. In the end I'm pretty happy with my effort with this workout.

I feel the slug melting away already.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nearing Slugness

I said I was going to take some time to rest up after my less than stellar performance at Duke City and I guess I took myself seriously. The day after the marathon I found myself in Kansas City, Kansas for three days. I took the time to rest even though I normally would have taken advantage of the opportunity to run in a new unknown locale. I was home for one day, Thursday, of that week and then I was off to Las Vegas for a couple of days; again for work.

I was home the entire next week but had much to do at work to prepare for another trip to Europe (I know poor me - having to go to Germany and Paris for the second time in less than a year). By the time I left work each day that week I was exhausted and overwhelmed and although going for a run would have probably been good for me I collapsed instead at the end of each day. I managed only one run of 5 miles on the San Gabriel River Trail at a pretty decent clip of 8:20 pace.

On Friday of that week (10/30) I was off to Germany, then Switzerland and finally France before returning to the good old USA on Monday, November 8th. Our schedule was pretty jammed packed on this trip. I realistically had time to run in Germany but jet lag hit me hard so I just could not get up the energy to run in the mornings. I did manage a meager 2.5 miles in Interlaken, Switzerland one morning. One interesting note of that run was seeing cows grazing in the central park of the city. Switzerland was beautiful and I would love to return to get a chance to see more.

This past week back home I was exhausted yet again from jet lag. Couple that with my general hesitancy to get out in the dark when the temperature dips below 60. Ideal conditions really, except for the darkness, but I wimped out none the less. Finally on Friday I had an opportunity to run in the afternoon while the sun was still up and the temps were in the 70's. It was only 4 miles but being in Bonelli reminded me why I loved running in the first place.

So until this morning, nearly 4 weeks since the Duke City Marathon, I'd run a whopping 11.5 miles. This is about as "slug-like" as I've been since I began running without a really good reason, i.e. injury. I've booked my plans to run the Austin Marathon in February and took a look at my schedule and realized that I was already behind the plan.

My CA Cruisers were planning on running 10 miles this morning and my friend Terry was planning on running up to 12. I was afraid that going for 10 after only running that much in the last month might not be the smartest idea.

Because today was my wife's birthday I took the opportunity to skip both the Cruisers and Terry and stay home in the morning to make breakfast for Lisa. Before I was a runner, breakfast on the weekend was a ritual at our house. Living with Runner Darrell, breakfast on the weekend has gone by the wayside.

I finally opted on running at the San Gabriel River Trail after breakfast. I decided to just go until I was pooped and I made it 8 miles before I realized that I was nearing the end of my energy stores. I was 2 miles from the car at that point so I finished the last 2 miles and got in 10 miles in 1:43. I had purposely kept the pace nice and easy. Those last two miles today felt like mile 25 and 26 of a marathon. Boy have I got some work to do. Now, 8 hours later, my legs are telling me that I definitely went farther today than they are used to.

I need to keep this momentum going next week. Austin is only 3 months away and I've got those 20 milers looming out there in the future. Slugness be damned!