Sunday, September 30, 2012

Shoe Alternation: Vive la Difference?

After my last post, in which I talked about how I sprung for yet another pair of running shoes (Saucony Kinvaras) and plan to alternate days wearing them with days wearing Brooks Pure Flows, the Chronic Runner asked me a good question:

...why (Brooks) Flows and (Saucony) Kinvaras? That's like alternating green apples and red apples ;)

The argument for alternating shoes is that, because every shoe is different (even two pairs of the same make and model), alternating days wearing two or more pairs makes the shoes themselves and, more importantly, the runner's body more durable because you're shifting impact around and not pounding the same places in the feet or on up the rest of the body every time. Sort of like running on trails instead of the road uses different muscle groups and therefore makes you stronger and more durable all over.

The Pure Flows and the Kinvaras are considered "minimalist" shoes. They are very similar to each other. CR's argument: Wouldn't it be better to alternate between these minimalist models and a more traditional shoe that's really different from the two pairs I mentioned (like the Brooks Adrenalines I wore in the Houston Marathon)?

She makes a good point. But my reason for not doing this is twofold:

1) Green and red apples do taste different! Just kidding......Making the transition to the Pure Flows was easier for me than "going minimalist" has been for some people. For one thing, I'm not a heel striker. For another, because I started wearing them running on the Alter-G and doing VERY low mileage post-injury, my legs had some time to get used to them without much trauma. Nonetheless, I still experienced some of the calf pain that others talk about. It didn't last long, and now I run in them quite naturally. But I have no desire to undo the changes I made by going back to shoes with a greater heel-to-toe drop than these have--especially now that I'm doing decent miles again and have two races looming.

2) Merely making each pair of shoes last longer is enough on its own to get me to try this. The coach who suggested this to me argues that you get more than double the time with your shoes alternating two pairs than you get using the same pair every day until it wears out. If that's true, it's money in my pocket. Even though I love getting new running shoes, I don't love paying for them. I'm hoping someday to retire and maybe send my kids to college.

There is a third shoe that's occasionally in my mix. When I trail run, I'm using the Mizuno Ascends that I got through the Mezamashii Project. These are not minimalist shoes. Eventually I plan to get some minimalist shoes of some kind for trails (I'm eying the Merrell "Barefoot" line and also New Balance's version), but right now I do a lot more road running and so my dollars are following my feet.

I haven't actually started the alternating because I had to buy metatarsal pads for both pairs of shoes (I have a neuroma in my right foot and am at risk for one in my left; pregnancy left me with bunions as well as a bad back). I have the pads now, though, so as of tomorrow, the fun begins.

So all you alternators out there: are your shoes different from each other, like Chronic Runner's, or same-y like mine?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cold, Iron, and Shoes

The Cold/Laryngitis: I am better! Not a big surprise, I guess, but a relief to be able to breathe and talk…and run. I went for my first run in four days, an easy 40-minutes, on my break at work today. It was so nice to run without chest tightness or coughing. It’s also really beautiful here right now.

Thanks to the City of Boulder Facebook page for the picture!

I’m regarding this cold as two things: Glass Half Full Me is calling it a booster for my immune system-- I’m hoping it will be the last one I get for a while now because surely my white blood cells are all on full alert; but Realist Me is thinking of it as a warning; my kids are in a new school, I work with the public and I’m going to be training hard; I need to be smart with sleep, nutrition and hand-washing.

Constant Vigilance!

A Visit to the Doctor: Last week before the illness hit I had my annual preventative appointment with my awesome doctor (he of the 2:50-on-a-bad-day-marathon). We did the usual check-up things (listening to the heart, discussing the past year's issues--everything but the female stuff), but he also did some sports doc things like testing my hamstring and hip flexor flexibility and discussing cheaper options for getting a shot in my back later if I decide I need one. It's always fun to talk to him, and I've never before had a doctor who "gets it" like he does.

Some of the outcomes were surprising. I got my blood test results back yesterday. My cholesterol numbers and glucose are good, and so is my thyroid, but the doc wants me to supplement. It seems that my iron is low, and while my Vitamin D isn't a problem right now, he's concerned that it's low enough that it could become a problem during the long days of winter and marathon training. Who knew?

So tonight will feature a trip to the drug store to get some special non-constipating iron, which I'll be taking for six weeks, and some Vitamin D, which I'll be on all winter.

New Shoes: If you've been reading this blog for while, you know I have no brand loyalty when it comes to shoes (or much of anything else). I've worn every brand of running shoe out there except some of the newer ones, and I will probably be this way forever. Since I started running again earlier this summer, I've been wearing Brooks Pure Flows. I like them just fine.

But last week, while I was having lunch with Kathy, Erin, Erin's mom and her coach (who were all in town for the Denver Rock n' Roll Marathon), her coach (a very interesting guy, and very knowledgeable) suggested I get another pair of shoes and alternate days wearing them.

Kathy, me and Erin after a fun and informative lunch (I stole this photo from Erin's blog; thanks Erin!)

My husband thinks I'm the Imelda Marcos of running shoes ("how many pairs do you have?" he asks me sometimes when he looks in the closet). But I've wanting to try the Saucony Kinvaras for a while. With two races I care about coming up, I decided Coach Rick's advice was all I needed to justify taking plunge and buying 'em. So my plan going forward will be to wear the Pure Flows one day and the Kinvaras the next, all the way through the California International Marathon in December.

Any other non-brand-loyalists out there? Do you take iron? Do you alternate shoes?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Still Resting.....

Between Dan (husband) and Darren (coach), I may never be allowed to run again!

Just kidding.

If I'd listened to Dan last week, I might be well and running today.

As it is, I'm missing not only runs but work. My voice is back, but still more like that of a teenage boy than my real voice, and I woke at 3:30 a.m. today with the kind of dry cough that won't let you sleep. Around 5, thanks to lots of water and two cough drops, I was able to doze off on the couch.

You can bet I'm going to listen to Dan now. And to Darren. Who drastically cut my running for the past weekend and the week ahead: none allowed Saturday, Sunday or today, and tomorrow is an iffy easy 30 minutes. I'm betting he'll nix that one, too, once he hears about last night and the coughing. If all is well, I'll be allowed to do a 70-minute progression run this weekend, but he's already said no to upping that back to the 90-minute version I would have done this past weekend (yeah, I asked).

I'm not really as grumpy about all this as I'm sounding. I know that this is what being smart looks like, and that this is the kind of rest that most of us don't allow ourselves when we get sick or start to feel an injury coming on. Like oxen hitched to a plow, we keep.....plowing. And that's NOT how you get better. It's another great thing about hiring a coach. There's someone objective out there telling you in ALL CAPS to slow-the-eff-down.

The way I see it, my job right now is to take a nap, drink lots of water and tea and read until I fall asleep. There is a blue sky ahead. In his note denying my request to go 90 minutes this weekend, Darren wrote:
...want to make sure you are completely healthy before going hard for two weeks prior to Detroit Half.

Going hard....yes, I'm going super easy today so I can go hard when the time is right.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Coping With Illness

I'm trying to be chill about this training cycle....while also of course nailing every workout and reaching my race goals in one triumphant December climax.

Ha! I know the second half of that sentence isn't possible for any of us imperfect beings. Still, when I noticed last week that I'd developed that tell-tale tickle in my throat, I tried to pretend it (it being "coming down with a cold") wasn't happening. Then, thanks to two nights of bad sleep due to a stuffy head, after which I had to admit that it was happening, I tried to be smart about it. My husband Dan (who is not ruled by emotion or race goals) told me to sleep in and maybe take a day off from running. I took part of his advice. I slept in on Monday, but ran later, on my break at work. For a few days after that, the thing seemed to be in remission. It was still there, but it didn't get any worse. I felt tired, but I was still getting my runs done, and mostly at the usual level.

On Thursday, I was able to grab a nap, but I woke up from it still tired. And yesterday--a fun day full of running friends in town for the Denver Rock n' Roll Marathon and Half (Kathy! Erin! and Erin's coach!), spectating at Jill's son's high-school cross-country meet where I also got to meet Marcia and then dining with our wonderfully nice next-door neighbors--left me literally....speechless.

My voice died last night at about 7 p.m. It hasn't come back 20 hours later. The kids and husband are all whispering back at my whispered comments to them. My throat is so sore I'm speculating about strep. On top of that, my chest is tight, I have a painful little cough, and I've spent most of today (during which I was supposed to go cheer for everyone in the Denver races) in bed asleep or sipping Annie Chun's Noodle bowls, reading about my friends' races and missing two other parties my family was invited to. I had a run on the books (90 minutes with progressively higher heart rates) that I was really looking forward to but now am missing and (depending on what Darren tells me and/or how I feel tomorrow) may have to skip altogether.

My questions are these:

1) Could I have avoided this had I taken a day off as soon as I knew I was getting a cold? And by taking a day off I mean not only not running but also calling in sick to work and sleeping all day. Dan thinks so, but to me it's so hard to say. The rule of thumb we've all heard is that it's OK to run through colds as long as you hydrate and as long as the cold is above the neck, which this one seemed to be for most of the week. I didn't really break that rule.....did I?

2) Does this really have the awful and dire implications for the Detroit half-marathon and the California International Marathon that I'm fearing in my current dark mood? It's one thing to miss a run. It's another thing to miss a LONG run. And when your long runs aren't all that long yet, you need 'em more than ever, right?

3) How do those of you out there who are smart deal with training illnesses? Because while I hope this is the only one I have to deal with until December, the reality is that I have small children who just started at a new school. There will likely be more sickness in my house this fall (and perhaps this whole academic year).

Like it or not, this isn't going to be perfect. Doesn't it stink to not be perfect?

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Month and a Day

The Detroit International Half-Marathon (called "international" because the course loops into Canada) is in one month and one day. I can hardly believe it. I'm going to race again, and soon.

Usually when I train for a half-marathon I like to have at least one 15-miler under my belt. I'm not sure that's going to happen this time. As of right now, I haven't run more than 8 miles at once.

This makes me nervous enough that I asked Darren if he thought it was really a good idea for me to do this race. After all, the California International Marathon six weeks later is my real goal race. I don't want to do anything to distract from that fact, and if staying home and just going for a longer run the weekend of the half would serve me better, I wanted him to know I was willing to forgo the race. Darren, however, thinks doing the half is a good idea. He said it will be a good gauge of my fitness for CIM.

This is exciting to me because not only does he think I'll be ready for it (at least on some level), his answer implies he will want me to actually race it, and not just treat it like a training run. As we get closer, I know he'll share details of what he thinks my pace and race strategy should be. Until then, I just have to keep my faith in him (the man knows whereof he speaks!)...and of course execute the workouts he gives me.

These workouts are getting harder!

Two weeks ago I had my first "all-running, no-recumbent bike" week, and there's been no looking back. My training now features six days in a row of running, with a day totally off on Sunday. Tomorrow I have a real gut-buster of a combo hill-and-fartlek workout. Wednesday I have a mid-week semi-long run. And on Saturday I have a 90-minute progression run that I'm hoping will be my first 9-miler in a long time. All the workouts have precise instructions on heart rate ranges. So far I'm finding this heart-based training much easier to stick with than pace-based training has been for me in the past. And I try not to despair seeing how S-L-O-W I must go to keep my heart rate down for the easy runs.

I may not be doing any 15-milers, but I'm truly enjoying this training and feeling good. I just hope it's "half-marathon-in-a-month" good!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

10 Running Questions

Sarah and Dimity of Another Mother Runner posted a fun set of questions for running bloggers/moms to answer, so I thought I'd take break from training posts and answer them. Those of you moms (and dads) who are so inclined should consider yourselves tagged! If you blog your answers, please leave a link to the post in the comments here, or email me a link, so I can read what you have to say.

1. Best run ever: This was really hard to decide on, but I think I've nailed it: the XC Xtreme, a small cross-country race in my hometown that I did with my then-fiance now-husband. It was a cold March day in 2005, a four-mile course involving fence-scaling, hill climbing, ditch leaping, water slogging and ropes. I felt really strong and fit in the chilly air. Dan and I ended up finishing side-by-side after I trailed him for a long time, and I finished as third woman (that tells you it was a VERY small race!).

My favorite ever running photo of Dan.
I was behind him at the creek, but I caught up!
Getting my trophy! It was a piece of wood harvested from the course. It smelled like motor oil. The overall men's and women's winners got a set of antlers.
2. Three words that describe my running: therapeutic, rejuvenating, freeing

3. My go-to running outfit is: pretty boring--Nike tempo shorts in black or dark green and a race tech tee of some sort; now that it's chilly in the morning, I'm wearing light gloves, too, and when it gets cold for real I'll trade the shorts for capris and add a jacket.

In a half-marathon last year....pretty typical boring attire!
4. Quirky habit while running: Hmmm...I don't really have one (that I know of!).

5. Morning, midday, evening:  Morning! I'm a morning person all the way. And I always know that no matter how the rest of the day goes, it's OK because I got my run done.

6. I won’t run outside when it’s: both icy AND dark. I can handle either alone, but the combo sends me to the treadmill every time.

7. Worst injury—and how I got over it: my back earlier this year (though it stems from my pregnancy; I've had pain in my low back since late in my pregnancy in 2006); I'm still getting over it thanks to a combo of physical therapy, rest, Pilates and other core work and cross-training.

8. I felt most like a badass mother runner when: I set my 10K PR at the local turkey trot last year in front of my husband and kids. They almost never get to see me race, so it was really fun to know I'd see them at the finish line.

Run faster! Your children are watching!

9. Next race is: the Detroit International Half-Marathon on Oct. 21. I'm loving my training, but this still seems dauntingly close. We'll see how it goes. Right now my expectations for it are low. It's that Dec. 2 California International Marathon that I really want to rock.

10. Potential running goal for 2013: This is up in the air. If by some miracle of magical training by Darren combined with ideal weather and a little pixie dust I do qualify for the Boston Marathon on Dec. 2, my running in 2013 will about having fun and staying fit. I'd like to do a lot of shorter races, run on trails, maybe bust my 5K PR (but not worry a lot about that or anything else). If, however, I don't qualify for Boston, I'll work to stay healthy and continue to gun for that elusive BQ.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Scolding from the Coach

I'm enjoying my training right now, feeling like I'm in a groove, feeling like a real runner again.

Where do real runners go to do intervals? The track, of course! So when Darren assigned me some speed work last Tuesday, I headed over to the nearby high school track to get them done. They weren't anything that sounded hard on paper: six 2.5-minute intervals at a heart rate between 168 and 172. But mid-way through I had that dead-legged feeling, that sluggish "ugh" feeling, and only the idea that Darren felt I could handle them got me through them without quitting.

I went home to get ready for the day feeling triumphant, and happily reported back to Darren with the details.

That evening, I got the following email:

Hi Terzah

Just looked at your workout summary from today and this is your first SCOLDING...if I put track on your schedule then go on the track...but if it's a fartlek or something measured but not the track...please stay off the track. I am a firm believer that tracks injure athletes and I certainly don't want that happening to you.

Looked like you were running strong though...nice.


I was so excited to be SCOLDED (and then told that I appeared to have been running strong) that I went and got Dan so he could read it too. I knew Dan would get it.

"Wow," he said. "That's awesome! He cares!"

Later I told Dr. Hansen about it, too. He laughed and said it won't be my last scolding. I wrote Darren back and promised no more tracks unless specifically told to go to the track. If I need a flat, soft surface, my ponds are a much prettier (and less creepy at 5:30 a.m.) place anyway.

It's been a crazy week since then. On Friday I had brunch in Denver with Kathy, and then went home, packed, got the kids from school and drove them up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a late summer camping weekend with their former classmates from preschool. It was wonderful: fresh air, chilly temperatures, shooting stars, grubby five-year-olds...But I'm glad the next few weeks will be strictly on the routine. We'll see if I can avoid another scolding!

What do you think about the idea that tracks injure runners? It must have been in the back of my mind even before Darren said something, because I ran the first three intervals in one direction and then turned around to do the other three in the opposite direction.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Labor Day Virtual 5 Mile

Laura at Mommy Run Fast is hosting a virtual 5- or 10-mile Labor Day Race this weekend. I signed up early for the five, knowing I'd be assigned at least that distance for the weekend's long run.

Turns out Darren gave me 70 minutes with 20 tempo-paced minutes in the middle, more than enough time for the virtual race and a "warm-up" and "cool-down" mile on either side of it. I wasn't able to truly race the full five, as Darren wanted me to keep my heart rate slow and easy for the first 30 minutes and the last 20....but I was able to speed up and have fun with that middle 20 minutes!

My body clock has really gotten used to getting up early. Even without setting an alarm, I was ready to go at 6:15 a.m. yesterday. The weather was beautiful, cool and slightly cloudy, but not so cloudy that I couldn't see the blue moon setting over the mountains to the west. I had decided to test my body out on a full concrete course for this one. After all, my two scheduled races in Detroit and Sacramento will be all asphalt/concrete affairs and I need to start getting used to that, as well as to having some hills to contend with.

Keeping my heart rate below 150 for the first 30 minutes proved easy enough. I concentrated on slowing on the uphills and speeding up on the downhills. It did touch 150 at the top of a long but gradual hill, but then quickly fell back to 126 as I went down the other side. All of this, and I was able to gradually increase the pace while still staying "easy." Score!

Mile One: 10:24 (the warm-up mile for the virtual race)
Mile Two: 10:08 (mile one of the virtual race)
Mile Three: 9:37 (mile two of the virtual race)

At 30 minutes on the dot, I picked up the pace to begin my 20 tempo minutes. For this part of the run, Darren had instructed me to keep my heart rate between 155 and 166. Since I was on a downhill at this point, I had trouble getting it above 155, so I took a detour that I knew would lead me up again. After that hill, I had no problem staying in the tempo heart-rate range. The last several minutes of it saw rates in the 160s but I never got above 166.

Mile Four: 8:28 (mile three of the virtual race)
Mile Five: 7:56 (mile four of the virtual race)

Then came the hard part: the cool-down. During this phase, I was once again supposed to keep my heart rate below 150. I had to slow my pace notably to achieve this, and even so it took me a good minute and a quarter to be able to stay down there. Mile Seven felt SO slow.

After a while, though, my pulse steadied, and I could run without checking in so much.

Mile Six: 9:38 (mile five of the virtual race, run partly during the tempo section, partly during the cool-down; slowing down this much is NOT how I would finish if I were allowed to race for real!)

Mile Seven: 11:08 (cool-down mile)
Last Quarter-Mile: back to a 10:25 pace, heat rate safely below 150

My total time for the five-mile virtual race: 47:48
My total distance for the 70 minutes: 7.25 miles

That's more than five minutes slower than my Snowman Stampede five-mile time, set during the last race I ran before taking my injury break. But I'm happy with it because only during less than half the duration was I really trying to run fast, and one of the miles during that time was significantly faster than any of the miles I ran during the February race. Perhaps more importantly, I was able to execute my heart-rate instructions for the day to the letter.

Big thanks to Laura for hosting a fun event (and a fun way to add variety to a Saturday morning long run). Fingers crossed that I win one of her great prizes!