As you know, it’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve found I haven’t had motivation to post, mainly because I haven’t had motivation to run or even exercise all that much. I never realized how easy it is to get out of the exercise routine.  It’s just as easy as getting obsessive about working out, planning out interval work, and making sure I get at least one chicken biscuit a week.  I am three months post surgery and unfortunately, not making much progress with my range of motion.  It is looking like I’ll need another surgery to remove a bunch of scar tissue.  Supposedly, the recovery isn’t supposed to be as bad.  This isn’t surprising to me, given that I don’t think any recovery from a relatively “minor” surgery could be worse.  I know I didn’t have a hip replacement like my dad, or get hit by a bus and have to learn how to walk again like that firefighter in New York, Matt Long, that ended up doing a freaking Iron Man a few years after he almost died and was told he’d never walk again.  But still, I’m not used to being laid up.  I didn’t even take off that much time off (5 full weeks) when I was with child or after I had Superbaby.  It’s not easy, but I think I’ve finally found my motivation again.

My motivation is twofold:  cute exercise clothes, and doing an Ironman one day.  So, the only thing bad about these workout clothes is that they are likely going to lead to my filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy.   However, I find that I can make room in my bank account by eliminating other things, like food and work clothes.  I’ll just wear the same black shift dress to work every day and drink tap water. I never drink enough water. Maybe I can throw in a few free Splenda packets from the coffee machine at work. Just kidding, I like Sugar in the Raw.  So what are these wonderful clothes that caused me to break free of my DVR and Kindle-reading cocoon?  None other than lululemon.  I’d heard about this gift from the textile gods before, but didn’t really shop there until last summer when I won a tank top in a pushup competition (seriously) and then bought another online.  But when lululemon opened a store in the nearby mall last month, I figured I would pop in because I had a $25 gift card.  Mind you, you can only buy two headbands or a water bottle for $25 there.  I knew this going in.  I walked away with a couple pairs of their split shorts and scoop neck tanks.  Let me tell you people, these things are LIFE CHANGING.  Not just because you may not be able to make your car payment if you buy four articles of clothing there, but because of the comfort.  I felt like I was naked when I ran in these things.  In the good way, not in the “oh crap I got on the school bus naked” in your dream kind of way.  No hint of chafing in sight.  Granted, I didn’t run 16 miles but I usually get some chafing in the summer due to my biscuit thighs.  As for the tops, they somehow managed to minimize my super large upper body and make me feel like I looked good (even if I didn’t).  And the built-in bra provided good support to someone of my (maybe) above average chest stature.  So needless to say, I was hooked.

I decided I needed to take every opportunity possible to model my new ensembles.  And purchase more ensembles.  I began reducing the number of meals I ate out, and generally have tried to reduce my overall caloric intake.  This has produced three miraculous results: 1) I lost a couple of those pesky post-surgery pounds, 2) I look better in those glorious scoop neck tanks, and 3) I haven’t bounced any checks despite buying $54 scoopneck tanks.   I also feel healthier overall, and better fueled to tackle my workouts.  I have since purchased a few other goodies, all of which I love.  I just can’t get enough.

I also have a legitimate, non-vain source of motivation for getting back into running.  I eventually would like to do an Ironman (well, probably just a half Ironman).  Or maybe what’s happened is my friend Sherman (the Shermanator- he just did his first Ironman at the age of… we’ll just say, he’s not 25) is just strong-arming me into thinking I can do one.  I’ll never have the bone strength to do an ultramarathon, but I think with my swimming background I could kill some triathlons.  The only problem is that I don’t have a bike and I’m deathly afraid of falling off the bike.  Oh, and I can’t really swim right now because of my jacked up shoulder.  Well, I’m not going to let that stop me.  At some point in the future, I should be able to move my shoulder more than 15 degrees in any direction.  And Superbaby will probably get better at gift giving, meaning I can probably score a tri bike from her. Triathlon bikes are expensive!  I guess I could try riding a Huffy from my childhood days, but I have a feeling my legs would fall off or I’d miss the cut-off time for the Ironman bike leg.  So in the mean time, I just need to get myself back into fighting shape with spin classes, running a lot, and Power Hour.  If I need to have another surgery, I am not sitting on my butt for five weeks eating chicken biscuits.  I’ll run and eat my biscuits.


Will speedwalk/yog (with a soft “j”) for biscuits

I’m baaaaack. Did you miss me? It has been almost 2 months since my last post. It has been about 7 weeks since my last 5+ mile run. And only about 4 days since my last Bojangles chicken biscuit. The reason is that I had arthroscopic surgery on my right shoulder on March 18. After surgery, it has been a long, uphill battle. SuperDad has effectively become a single parent. I could not change a diaper for over 4 weeks because I was in a sling 24/7. Not going to complain about that one. I planned on working out on the bike or elliptical within a week or two or surgery, but my deep-rooted desire to be a couch potato bubbled to the surface, leaving me with plenty of excuses to forego the gym. I have to work hard to fight those couch potato urges, and it took me a full five weeks to conquer my lazy evil twin. During which time I forbade myself from consuming any chicken biscuits. Seriously.

So on Saturday, less than 24 hours after consumingy first post-surgical biscuit, I went out for just over a 3 mile jog/walk with the dogs and SuperDad. It was brutal, almost as if I had had surgery on both legs and my spine as opposed to an extremity I previously thought played a very small role in running. But I made it through, and in the process got schooled by SuperDad and produced enough endorphins to make me foolishly think I would be ready for another half marathon in 12 weeks!

Since Saturday, I have gone to Power Hour twice, which has proven interesting considering I cannot lift ANYTHING more than a biscuit with my right arm. Needless to say, I did a lot of squats and lunges in lieu of pushups or other upper body activities. I will probably have great difficulty getting any decent running in, but I don’t really mind. It feels good to sweat hard, almost go into cardia arrest, and face the new challenge of completely starting over again. What doesn’t feel good is the 156% humidity and 80 degree temperatures. When did spring finally decide to show up? Sheesh.

Friday morning I set out to conquer my second non-human nemesis: the hill near Myers Park High School that appears at mile 8 of the Corporate Cup half marathon.  I surprised both myself and SuperDad by actually waking up at 6am, bundling up in my cold weather gear, and running over to the hill, approximately 2.5 miles from our house.  I ran that darn hill 6 times, and by the 6th time, it was no easier than the first. I was moving at about an 8:20 pace up that hill, which is not great.  I figure if I can keep a 7:25 pace for the first 6 flat miles of the course, I can afford to run the hills in 7:40 or so.  Not 8:20.  Nevertheless, I was pleased that a) I woke up at 6 am, b) I actually did repeats on that hill, as opposed to doing it once and crying the whole way home, and c) I didn’t get hit by a teenager turning his brand new 2011 Yukon into the parking lot.  It’s sad that one day, SuperBaby will be the “poor kid” at that high school.

Sunday I planned to do a 10 mile run at 7am.  Instead, I slept 12 hours, waking at 9.  Yep, I went to bed during the Duke-Carolina game because Duke was losing and I knew they were not going to pull through.  I think I was depressed in my sleep about the game, and that’s why I slept so long.  When I got up, I had no motivation to run.  It was pouring ran and there was no end in sight.  So naturally, I took two naps with SuperBaby and worked a few hours.  Around 5 it cleared up.  I decided to sack up and take Riley on the run.  Big mistake.  Huge mistake. Riley has OCD.  And she thinks she has IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).  She literally stopped 15 times during 10 miles.  For you non-math majors out there, that is 1.5 times per mile.  There was approximately 1.7 poops and 1 pee (total) generated in those 15 stops.  Riley thinks she has to go but there’s nothing there.  But people walking or driving by think she is going #2, and give me the stink eye when I don’t clean up.  Sorry, can’t clean up a phantom poop.

Also, because I didn’t want to carry my water bottle, along with the doggie poop bags, remote control for her collar, and my Iphone, I did an out-and-back course twice.  Meaning, I mapped out 2.5 miles from the house and ran to that point and back twice.  I put the water around mile 1.5 so I could have water at least every 3 miles.  This way, I was always under street lights as well. The problem with that course is that it goes along a busy road with many stop lights.  Naturally, as it goes when I drive, I hit almost every red light.  I think I had to stop about 23 or 24 times, even if only briefly.  This made me quite angry.  SuperDad thought this was funny, because he thinks it is absurd that I choose to run on such busy roads.  Whatever.  The run was 4 x 2.5 miles at HMP + 20% (about 8:45), HMP + 10% (8:15), HMP (actually, ended up being about 7:40), then HMP + 20%.  All of the stopping and starting messed up my splits, but then again, I guess it gave me time to rest as well.  I was not at all happy with Riley afterward, and the worst part is that I cannot shame her with this blog because she doesn’t read and lacks the opposable thumbs to pull up the site!

I am hoping my shoulder makes it through this last week of taper and the race on Saturday.  If you don’t hear from me before Saturday, it is because I am spending my free time visualizing the race and the pain I will endure on the multiple hills. I am afraid that all my weeks of avoiding hills on my long runs is really going to come back and bite me.  I am going to do one last hill workout tonight in the hopes of drumming up some semblance of fitness before Saturday.

Uphill battle

Naturally, because I proclaimed in my last post that I am completely against wasting all my training on a hilly race, the fates would force me into a situation where my only choices would be to either not run any races this season, or run a hilly race.  Unfortunately, as a result of my blue weight episode a while back, I tore the posterior labrum in my right shoulder.  It has gotten progressively worse, to the point where my 15 mile run (ok, 14 miles in 2:04, 1 mile jog/walk) on Sunday was excruciatingly painful.  It didn’t help that I was exhausted and running on unfamiliar terrain.  But my shoulder is what really made the run brutal.  After that, I knew my MRI had to show something terrible was a brewing in my shoulder.  Sure enough, my doctor confirmed this yesterday.  He basically destroyed my hopes of qualifying for Boston or New York this season.  But, I think I have enough training under my belt to eek out a semi-decent run at the Corporate Cup half marathon in Charlotte on March 12.  The Corporate Cup being yet another in the willrunforbiscuit’s dubbed Charlotte Hill Series.

Last night I did a set of mile repeats.  Even though the weather was glorious (i.e., in the 50’s), I had to run at the Y so SuperDad could work late.  I was in fairly good spirits, despite the news about my shoulder, as I embarked up the stairs towards the track.  Then, I laid eyes on the 70 year old man wearing jorts (that’s jean shorts) and a fanny pack, which held his CASSETTE Walkman.  That’s cool, he can walk in the outside lane.  Oh wait, what’s that?  Someone removed ALL of the signs lining the walls that say “Runners use inside lane, walkers use outside lane.”  Seriously, someone who works at the Y must read my blog and hate me.  But who could it be?  Perhaps one of the older ladies I bumped shoulders with was actually a daytime employee?  Oh dear, this would not bode well for me.  Luckily, Mr. Jorts only did a couple laps in the inside lane, then headed off for supper.  Ok, that was fine.  Until Zumba started.  I forgot what day and time it was.  The gym, and accordingly, the track, was filled with the blaring tunes of Lil Jon and Lady Gaga.  I had to rupture my eardrums blasting my beloved Adam Carolla podcast through my iPhone earbuds.  I don’t care how loud it is- I am not going to cave in and listen to something I wouldn’t allow on my car radio.  With my iPhone volume adequately amplified, I did a 1/2 mile warmup, 6 x 1 mile at half marathon pace with 1:00 recoveries, and a 1 mile cooldown.  My splits were: 7:33, 7:17, 7:15, 7:12, 7:12, and 7:11.  On the last mile, this guy got on the track and  started going exactly one second faster or slower than me.  We ran side-by-side for about 6 laps.  I would pull ahead, then he would pull ahead.  It was so annoying.  How could he not find this annoying?  As the gentleman, you would have thought he’s either pick up the pace considerably, drop off the pace, or stop and let me get ahead quite a bit, then continue on at his chosen pace.  I of course could not back down- I had a workout to stick to.  Luckily, after about 2/3 of a mile, he stopped.  Completely stopped.  So he raced me for less than 5 minutes, then just packed it up and finished his workout.  I finished shortly thereafter, and was happy with the effort.  My perceived level of exertion was low, which presumably means I am getting fitter.  Who knows? Anyway, I was looking for some good blog fodder after last week, and I surely got it.  I might have to make my own “runners use the inside lane” signs over the weekend.

The half marathon I am doing next weekend is deceptively brutal.  The first six miles are pretty much all flat or downhill.  Not bad.  I will probably look at my watch at the 10k split and think I am going to run a 1:35.  Between mile 6 and 7 there is a long, fairly steep hill.  Miles 7-8 are fine, I run those roads frequently.  Mile 8-8.5 is basically straight uphill.  It is awful.  I hate that hill with the burning hot passion of a thousand suns because it is ALWAYS around mile 8 of every half marathon in Charlotte. Miles 9-11.5 are okay, with several small rolling hills.  Then we have the nail in the coffin- miles 11.5 through 12.5 are pretty much completely uphill.  Just a slow, gradual climb.  Exactly like the end of the Dowd YMCA half marathon, which ate me alive in November, as it has eaten me alive every time I have run it.  Your tank is pretty much spent, you are getting excited because you only have about 2 miles to go, then you get this demoralizing subtle hill.  Fortunately, the last 1/2 mile or so is flat.  Joy.

Today I did an easy 4.5 mile jog/walk with SuperBaby, SuperDad, and the dogs.  This was to prepare me for tomorrow’s hill repeats at my second non-human nemesis: the Mile 8-8.5 hill.  The only way I am going to conquer my hatred/fear of those hills is to face them a couple of times before the race.  I will not be happy with myself if I don’t finish under 1:40, but I know that it is going to be an uphill battle.  Hahaha.

Good things

So initially this blog started out as my half marathon training plan for a half marathon on March 20.  Unfortunately, and par for the course, I forgot to register for this race and I found out this week that the race is already sold out. This is not surprising, as the same thing has happened to me with the Marine Corps Marathon and the Chicago Marathon in years past.  I am too cheap to part with the registration fee six months in advance, so I wait until one or two months out and by then, it’s too late.  The thing is, if the race isn’t sold out, I end up paying more for the registration fee, and the hotels are usually sold out.  Go figure.  I spent hours trying to find another flat half marathon in March or April. I looked at various race reviews and people were going on and on about how awesome these super hilly courses were.  They ask “who wants to run an easy marathon?” or half marathon, but my answer is “ME!” I want to run fast.  I know it’s going to hurt, but if it’s going to hurt, I want to run fast.  I don’t want to hurt only to flop over the finish line in a 1:45.  I can do that here in Charlotte at any of a number of the races our fair city hosts.  By the way, all of the races follow pretty much the same course. So annoying.  I don’t run marathons for the experience, the crowds, the bands, the scenery, etc.  I run to beat my prior times.  If I don’t, but I can blame it on things like the weather, the unexpected hills, the annoying man in the skin tight purple shorts that kept tailgating me, then that’s okay.  But otherwise, if I set my sights on running a certain time and running it on a flat course, that’s what I need to do.  The only flat one I could find was in Kansas.   I don’t have the funds or desire to run any race in Kansas, unless it is a race for biscuits and Bojangles is sponsoring me.  So once I stopped beating myself up over my failure, once again, to plan ahead, I decided to refocus and settle on running a marathon in May.  If I’m going to train that much longer, I might as well do a full marathon and try to qualify for Boston, right?

One good thing about doing a race on May 1 is that my mom will be able to train for the half that the race weekend has to offer.  She has not run a race since November and has had a lot of back problems, plus she is a CPA so she is going to be working 16 hour days from here until April 15.  If she finds time to train, then I will never ever have an excuse for not squeezing a run in on a day when I only work 8 or 9 hours.  The bad thing about running a race on May 1 is that I am playing Russian roulette with my heat sensitivity.  The race we are doing, the Providence Marathon (and half), is a super flat course in Rhode Island.  I’ve never been to Rhode Island, but I know a few things about it from my days in elementary school.  One: it’s very small, so maybe we’ll actually run into another state during the race.  No? Oh well.  Two: No one really wants to go there, so the hotels are super cheap and airfare is actually cheap too.  Guess that’s how the Rhode Island travel bureau gets people to visit.  Three:  It’s in New England,  so I would assume the weather there will be cooler than it is here, south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Well, one out of three isn’t bad.  Two years ago, it was cool (40’s) and rainy on race day.  My kind of weather.  Last year, it was in the 90’s! What?  Preposterous. I know, why would I sign up for this race if there’s a chance Mother Nature will smite me and cause me to overheat to the point where I add an hour to my PR and traumatize the residents of Rhode Island with all of the expletives I am going to hurl at them while they are just trying to cheer me on?  Well, it’s not likely the temps will be in the 90’s and if they are, I will have a good story to tell, after I am bailed out of jail for causing a public disturbance.

Another good thing about switching my focus to training for a marathon is that my marathon pace feels really slow now.  I was training based off of my half marathon pace, which is a good 45-50 seconds slower per mile than my marathon pace.  Tonight I did a workout of 1/2 mile warmup jog, 3 x 2 miles at marathon pace (with 1/2 mile recovery jogs between), then 1 mile cooldown – total of 8.5 miles.  My 2 mile splits were 16:10, 16:04, and 15:56.  It was not an easy effort but those splits were well below my goal marathon pace of 8:14, which would put me at a 3:35.  So as you can see, the speed work definitely pays off because it lowers your perceived level of exertion when you are training at your goal race pace.

I am going to continue doing speed work, hill work, and specific endurance runs, they will just be a bit longer now. I will be getting up to just over 50 miles a week.  This week, because I took two off days, I am only going to hit 42.  My long run tomorrow is 15 miles at about marathon pace + 30-40 seconds.  Sunday will be my recovery run.

The final good thing about marathon training is that I can take in more calories, i.e., more biscuits.  But not too many.  I have fallen into the “I’m training for a marathon so I can eat whatever I want” trap before and it resulted in Super Dad saying “Isn’t it weird how people don’t lose weight when they are training for a marathon?”  He said he wasn’t referring to me.  Um, how many people does he hang with that are training for a marathon?  Yeah, I thought so.  He’s never gonna live that one down.

Beautiful weather?

Here in Charlotte, the weather has been warm, and the sun has been shining.  Some may call this weather “beautiful.”  Those people are not me.  I know, I must sound crazy.  But I overheat very easily.  When I am running and the temperature rises above 54 degrees, I shut down.  That’s why I don’t run races between May and October.  I complain about the ice and the cold keeping me from running outdoors, but in actuality, if there is no rain or ice out there, I am fine to run outdoors in 20 degree temps.  I have plenty of gear for cold weather running.  Maybe not for January in Boston running, but good enough for North Carolina winters.  What I can’t do is run naked when it’s 70 or 75 degrees.  There’s no way to get cooler when you overheat and are wearing next to nothing.  You can put on more stuff when it’s cold, but it’s never the other way around.

On Saturday, I did 13.1 miles at 7am.  It was perfect, but I did my cooldown a little faster than necessary because my human thermometer skills were telling me that the temperature was creeping precariously close to 54 degrees, so I needed to finish the run and get indoors.  The rest of the day was ideal for sitting outdoors having a beer with family and friends, but for running- too hot.  I saw tons of people running all over our neighborhood all weekend, basking in the  70 degree temperatures.  I actually saw some lady wearing long sleeves.  Now that is crazy.  Maybe she has the exact opposite problem I do.

This evening I did my ladder run indoors.  Yep, all that complaining I have been doing about the indoor track, and I choose to run there when everyone else is running outside.  That was the upside to me.  Fewer people on the track + the air conditioner blasting = happy me.  One lady came really close to ruining my good mood by walking the OPPOSITE way on the track in the INNER lane.  I gave her the stink eye and luckily, she only did that one lap.  I did a 2.5 mile warmup, the ladder run (1-2-3-2-1-2-3-2-1 minutes at 5k pace with 60 second jogs in between- total of about 3.5 miles) then picked up Super Baby from the child care center and went outside to do another mile or so with the Power Hour crew.  I have basically had to forego Power Hour because of my shoulder, which will have a diagnosis in 8 days woohoo! By the time we went outside, the temperature had dipped back into the low 50’s so it was all good.   Super Baby hung out in the middle of the track with crazy Becky, the retired cheerleader/slave driver/over achieving runner/cyclist.  She screamed out drills and forced everyone to sprint until they hurled, while Super Baby watched on in awe/fear.

It’s amazing how little tolerance for heat I have. Maybe it has something to do with my allergy to extreme changes in body temperature.  No really, I am dead serious.  When I was 10, I got mono.  After that, perhaps coincidentally, I developed an allergy wherein I would develop hives when I got really hot or really cold.  This made swimming in Florida in the winter somewhat difficult.  Within a couple minutes of starting a workout, I would be hot and would break out in hives.  After practice, we would hop out of the pool and into the frigid (for Florida- 50 degrees) night air.  So I would break out in hives again.  It took a few months but a specialist a couple hours away figured out my problem.  I guess that 12 or 13 people in the country have it.  I never grew out of it, but I take some magic pill that keeps me from getting hives, and in turn, allows me to exercise for more than 6 minutes at a time.  Nonetheless, I think I have some lingering inability to withstand heat when I am physically exerting myself.  It’s a good thing one of my dreams has never been to marathon in Missouri in July.

Tomorrow’s workout is 6 miles then some hill sprints.  I will probably do a 5-6 mile recovery jog on Wednesday, take Thursday off, do a 6-8 mile tempo run (uncomfortable pace) on Friday, a 5 mile jog with a couple sprints on Saturday, and a 12 mile run on Sunday.  We are just under four weeks out from the Quintilles half marathon and I am starting to get nervous.  Only two more weeks of really hard training left. Let’s hope the weather stops being so “beautiful,” or I will be running inside a lot.

Those darn blue weights

About a month back, I lifted a weight that was way too heavy for me during Power Hour.  There were so many people in class, and I was late, as usual, so the yellow or green weights I typically use were all gone. Instead of taking a wimpy orange weight, I took a blue weight. Guys use blue weights.  Some guys, like Kevin, use green weights – just kidding! Really strong girls, like my friend Mary who was teaching the class, or me in my swimming prime (read: LARGE back/shoulders) use the blue weights.  However, I  put a lot of effort into shrinking my upper body, so I cannot use the blue weights anymore.  I haven’t been all that successful at shrinking my arms or shoulders, but if you could have seen my upper body 10 years ago- yikes. So I figured, “eh, I could have lifted two blue weights with one hand back in the day,” and swung it over my head with way too much momentum and zero control.  Exactly the opposite of what you are supposed to do.  I felt an immediate pain in my clavicle (bone between your neck and shoulder, right?) and I can’t recall if it popped, I just know it hurt.  Like, drop my weight on the floor hurt.  So I did what anyone else in my situation would do- I continued using the blue weight once the pain dulled from a 10 to a 9.  After that day, I don’t think I’ve really done any upper body work, as I have mainly only had time to run and again, want my upper body to shrink.  Thus, it didn’t bother me too much until a couple weeks ago.  That’s when the trapezius gristle/rock ball started popping up.  I assumed it was my neck, or just general tightness from running with bad form.  But then I realized that I run with perfect form, relaxed shoulders, arms down, textbook style.  Could it be my job?  Not really, I use the mouse with my other hand and have spent a great deal of time making my work station ergonomically correct.  Plus, I use my dictaphone a lot and don’t type nearly as much as I used to, except when blogging or writing nasty emails to opposing counsel.  Well, the weekly massages have not been helping – my shoulder/neck/gristle ball OR my wallet. The chiropractor hasn’t helped.  And my shoulder has started aching and feeling weak, popping out of joint, generally making my life less enjoyable.  So much so that running has become more difficult.  This confused me, because I assume that you really just need healthy legs to run, right? Wrong.

Yesterday, I did some push-ups and ran about 3.5 miles during Power Hour and afterwards.  Oops.  I just thought I had tight or weak muscles and needed to strengthen them. Anyway, I broke down and went to the doctor today because if weekly massages and chiropractic visits don’t do the job, then something must legitimately be wrong.  Our new insurance plan almost convinced me to  just deal with the pain or cut off my arm, but I look better in long-sleeved shirts than sleeveless tops, and besides, part of my back near my scapula hurts too, so that wouldn’t solve the problem.  I figured I should just be a responsible adult and pay the piper.  The doctor said that it could very well be my neck, but because I am having a hard time running, and because of a host of other tests and what not, it’s most likely a tear in my labrum, part of the shoulder.  I was puzzled, until I remembered the blue weight episode.  Ah, light bulb! All the pieces suddenly fit together.  After the doctor has a chance to look at my MRI on March 1 (yes, I have to wait that long for a return visit.  Man, this guy must be good), I will know what’s wrong with my arm, shoulder, neck, whatever.  He did not specifically restrict me from doing anything, probably because I’m not on workers’ comp, so I assumed that meant I could keep running.

Tonight I ran a little over 6 miles with Riley.  We went at a comfortable 7:50 pace and sprinkled in some hill sprints here and there.  It was comfortable from an aerobic standpoint, but not so much in the shoulder department.  Am I really that mental?  Has being told that I might have a torn labrum (and that those typically hurt when you run) made me instantly become some wimp whose shoulder hurts during a 47 minute run?  Or have I been so focused on my IT band, shins, and the rock/gristle ball in my trap that I didn’t notice the weakness and aching in my shoulder?  Either way, I realized that it’s not easy to run without the full use of your upper body.  That’s probably why you don’t see to many double-arm amputees out there doing marathons.  Well, that’s probably not the only reason they don’t do marathons.  So people, go do some pushups and military presses and whatever else Runner’s World tells runners to do to strengthen their upper bodies.  I used to laugh when I saw those little articles with the pictorial demonstrations of “dips,” side rows, flys, etc, because they were child’s play compared to the legitimate lifting that we swimmers did, but now it’s not so funny is it?  If I had heeded the advice of the editors at Runner’s World, I would have had no problem with the blue weights.  Now the joke’s on me I guess.  Is this my payback for making fun of the guy in the Vibrams?  No, I was hurting before that post.

Fear not, I will continue to run.  If there is something wrong with my labrum and they need to operate on it, I might as well go down in a blaze of glory and make them work for their money.  Like someone eating a 10,000 calorie meal right before going in for gastric bypass.  Speaking of which, I have actually reduced my Bojangles intake to once a week!  I will let you know how that plan is working out after my 13-miler on Saturday.  I may need to do some serious cajun filet biscuit refueling.

Stride Right

A couple weeks ago I took SuperBaby to get fit for her first pair of legitimate walking shoes.  Granted, she isn’t walking yet, but it’s inevitable right?  I guess she takes after me in that she likes to sit around and one day, will probably just get up and start running.  I am not much of a walker myself, so this would make sense.  Anyway, she got a pair of Stride Rite soft-soled shoes to add to her collection of useless, sparkly, hard-soled shoes that are completely inappropriate for new walkers.  I too have a large collection of useless, hard-soled shoes, most of which come with 4-inch heels and make my feet hurt.  My running shoes, on the other hand, have soft soles and are flexible, like SuperBaby’s new shoes.  This makes sense, because it’s important to have cushioning but also to feel the ground.  Recently, I started running in a different type of shoe, and I think it has made all the difference in the world.

I used to wear the Mizuno Wave Precision running shoes.  They are light weight, and are made for someone with a neutral stride. This means my running form is basically perfect.  Not really, but it does mean that I don’t overpronate or underpronate (roll my foot out or in after I strike the ground).  As such, I don’t require a lot of support or motion control.  I was happy with my Wave Precisions for many years, but noticed that as I increased mileage, even in a very conservative manner, my knees and hips would really suffer.  When I was pregnant, it was so bad that I had to switch to a (wide) New Balance shoe with extra cushioning.  But after I had SuperBaby and started running seriously again, I had that light-bulb moment: maybe there actually is something wrong with my stride!  I had my stride analyzed at Run for Your Life and learned that I was a very heavy heel striker.  I would land very hard on the heel of my foot then roll forward onto the ball of my foot.  This is bad for the joints.  It puts a ton of pressure on the knees and hips.  A number of different shoes were recommended, all of which were way more expensive than I wanted to pay, so I bought a pair of socks and left thinking about how I would remedy the situation.  I came upon a number of articles about barefoot running and how the way you run barefoot is the way nature intended, so when you put on a pair of shoes you run differently, which is not good for your body.  Or something like that. I am not a scientist, and I really didn’t read any of the books about barefoot running/minimalist running or much research.  I just decided that I liked the concept of trying to get back to a more natural/minimalist style of running- that is, striking with the forefoot or midfoot first.  Since I have been such a heavy heel striker, I decided to try out a pair of shoes that basically forces you to strike with your forefoot.

The first pair of shoes that really revolutionized my running was the Newton Distance U.  It’s pricey, but it was worth it.  The people at Newton are either really smart, really good at marketing, or both.  The videos they did demonstrating the difference in running the “Newton way” and running the way most people do – heel first – truly sold me on the product. It just made common sense.  I was running against gravity pretty much, and my knees and hips felt the effects.  I started out running in my Newtons as recommended, just a few miles at a time.  Running naturally, the “Newton way,” forefoot striking, etc., places a lot of stress on your feet and calves. We are not used to running in the barefoot style, which requires quite a lot of foot and calf strength.  I figured this out quickly, but I also quickly noticed my hips and knees did not hurt at all.  I only wore that one pair of Newton’s, which lasts about 500 miles, or 200 miles more than most running shoes, then transitioned to a very very light shoe that enables me to continue my attempt at minimalist running. The Saucony ProGrid Kinvara is about 7 oz.  It comes in a zillion colors. It’s fairly wide in the forefoot but snug everywhere else, which is perfect for my foot.  And the best part is that it is specifically designed to enable you to run in a minimalist style while providing protection from the elements and some cushioning.  The best part is that I can get the shoes for about $60 (although they do tend to wear down a bit faster than heavier shoes).

So I was wearing my Kinvaras, as always, for my run tonight.  I was feeling pretty good after my day off yesterday, aside from the ongoing gristle/rock ball in my right trapezius (now working it’s way up my neck and down into my back).  My workout was a 1/2 mile warmup, 6 x 1 mile at half marathon pace with 2 minute jog recoveries between, and a 1/2 mile cool down. By the end, I was heel striking like crazy.  That’s how I know my legs are dead.  I start gradually landing with my heel instead of my forefoot or midfoot.  Nonetheless, my perceived level of exertion was extremely low, such that I felt really good at the end from an endurance perspective, just physically tired in my legs.  I finished all six of the mile repeats in under 7:25.  Not a bad effort to start the week.

While I was running, I noticed a hulking man struggling around the track wearing the Vibram Five Finger shoes, and a Speedo tank top, and weird long soccer shorts and one calf sleeve. Yikes. These Vibrams are no joke.  They are hardcore. This is as close to barefoot running as you can get without being Kenyan.  The thing is, all the people I have ever seen wear Vibrams or run barefoot were rail-thin and looked like they were born to run.  Now, I know that not everyone is built like a sterotypical skinny, willowy runner.  I certainly am not.  I look like a shotputter.  But I am pretty sure that barefoot or even minimalist running is much more effective (read: less painful on the calves and feet) if you  are not carrying a 6’4, 270 lbs frame.  The poor guy finished his run then hobbled off the track looking like he’d just completed an Ironman wearing sweatpants on the swim.  I really wanted to suggest to him that he try a minimalist shoe but not a Vibram.  He looked like he was in so much pain.  This further validated my decision not to wear the Vibrams.  I just think that we have gotten so conditioned to using shoes that we need to take baby steps towards adopting a completely different way of running.

All in all, I think minimalist running is not for everyone.  But what is for everyone is finding out if there is anything you are doing with your stride that could be changed to improve efficiency and lessen pain.  Do yourself a favor and have your gait analyzed at a local running store.  You could truly change your running for the better.  Just think, if I’d let Buddha continue wearing those useless glitter shoes, she wouldn’t be walking now.  Oh wait, she still isn’t walking.  But she seems a lot more comfortable now!

Continuing Education

Continuing education is something that many professionals are familiar with. Lawyers, accountants, doctors. It’s an inevitable part of our year, and not exactly my favorite way to spend a Saturday morning. I am currently learning about how technology can ruin your law practice. Great, guess I should find a type writer and start sending everything by courier. I don’t really feel like I have learned anything thus far.

In terms of running though, I am constantly learning new things. I thought I knew everything about my body and it’s limits. I learned the past few days that, surprisingly (because I am usually right about most things), I was wrong. My shin splints have all but disappeared thanks in large part to my BodyHelix universal calf sleeves. My IT band problems are also just an occasional nagging reminder that I need to stretch more. So I think “great, I can run more and run harder!” WRONG. My trapezius muscle on the right side of my neck has turned into a giant ball of rocks and gristle. I am wearing my Korean herbal patches 12 hours a day. I get massages, try to run as relaxed as possible, but the rock/gristle ball keeps getting bigger. So even though my legs are fine, I have learned that some part of my body has to give me fits. Otherwise, my life would just be too easy.

With my rock/gristle ball constantly reminding me that I’m not 15 anymore, I took on two runs that were not supposed to be overly challenging. I have learned that I am now incapable of just doing a true recovery run. Note to all of you runners out there: don’t be like me. Take your recovery runs like you are supposed to. I am just a glutton for punishment, and am often literally running against the clock- so the faster I run, the more I can do in my limited period of time designated for working out. Last night I did a 6 mile tempo run then 6 x 1 minute hill sprints. “Tempo” is a pace that’s not all that comfortable. It’s not fast, but it’s hard enough that you can’t talk much. I did not intend for it to be a tempo run, but, as per usual, I only had 55 minutes to do that run plus my sprints. In addition, there was just one person on the indoor track at my parents’ gym, and naturally, he was the fastest 59-year-old in High Point. He was repping out 7 minute miles and passing me every mile, so of course, I had to run faster. So I did six miles in 46 minutes. It actually felt pretty good. Then I did my hill sprints at a level 8 incline and 8.0 mph pace. Death ensued. I thought I would have one of those fall of the treadmill moments. There’s a lot of older, less intense exercisers at my parents’ gym on a Friday night, and surely they thought I was insane. Because I am. I knew my legs were dead after Thrursday night’s workout, but I ran too fast anyway.

So this morning would be my easy 7-8 mile run in preparation for Sunday’s long run. Wrong again. I decided to run with the infamous Sherman Criner. He is mediator and father of three in Wilmington that was in town for Continuing Education. Oh, and he happens to be training for an Ironman. And I thought I was crazy? No, he runs more than me, then, during the time I spend eating, napping, and watching tv, he goes and swims or bikes. Yeah, that’s never happening unless I get a heart, lung, and lower body transplant. Sherman wanted to do a nine mile tempo run. We run at fairly similar paces so I knew this would be a problem. I wanted to run like an 8:30-8:45 pace, and really was thinking 8 miles would be a stretch. But I figured we could make it work. I mapped out the run at 11 pm last night. I was well aware of the topography having traversed the same roads with my automobile multiple times. It was a perfect 8 mile out-and-back course (4 miles down then turn around and head back those 4 miles). Except for the fact that there were about 7 hills that were a 9% grade and 1/3 mile long each. They were horrendous. Absolutely the worst course I have ever mapped. Even if I were running on fresh legs, I still would have been spewing out four letter words and wishing I could just get hit by a car to end it all. Running on dead legs only 12 hours after my last run made my pain, and resultantly, anger with myself, that much greater. Did I mention the run started before 7am when it was less than 30 degrees out? There were times during the run that I honestly felt we were running backward. I felt like the man who pushed his son in a wheelchair while doing the Ironman was running faster, and less painfully, than me. I really wanted to hang it up and go into Sheetz for one of those “flavored coffees” that is 1% coffee, 99% sugar, chocolate, and cream- but I didn’t have any money. Plus, I didn’t want Sherman to think I was a wuss. He is running 16 miles tomorrow and did some crazy 12×400 hill workout the other day. Our last mile was virtually uphill too, which is odd because I didn’t recall running downhill in the first mile. That’s how it always goes. We finished in 1:09 for an 8:42 pace. Sherman’s GPS must be messed up, because I could have sworn we were speed-walking up those hills at a 13:00/mile pace. All in all, it wasn’t a bad time. It was the most painful 8:42 pace run ever.

Just when I thought I couldn’t put my body in any more pain, I manage to top myself. I think I am really going to need a recovery week next week. And tomorrow’s run cannot be pretty. I will be doing it in Raleigh, which is just one giant hill. I may have to run laps around the Food Lion parking lot to avoid any hills. Don’t think I won’t do it. I think I already met my hill quota for the month.

Whether you are learning more about your profession, your relationships, or running, it’s amazing to realize what our bodies and minds are capable of. While I don’t think my brain has room for much more information about professionalism (which I am full of), I know my body can learn how to deal with pain, soreness, and being deprived of a chicken biscuit on a Saturday morning. Seriously, it is in shock. It’s like “um hey, it’s 10 am, where’s my reward for being filled with Gatorade and nasty power gel?” Unfortunately, there is no Bojangles at the Grandover Resort, so I have to go without… for now.

I need to be committed

The title of this post is a bit of a double entendre. I feel like I need to be committed to an institution after what a challenging day I had at work. Sometimes it’s hard to be a litigator. I usually really like arguing and talking, but I don’t like hearing people argue at me like I am the scum of the earth. I was in Raleigh all day and knew I would get home late, so I had the decision of either running as soon as I got back to Charlotte, waiting until Super Baby went to bed, or giving up and settling into bed with a book and glass of wine. But I had made a commitment to my family and my running, so I came home, fed Super Baby, played with her, then shuffled off to the Y. Since today was not an easy run day, I was even less thrilled about the prospect of running at 7:30.

The good thing about running that late is saving the $2.50 on childcare at the Y. Well, that’s just incidental. The best thing is that the indoor track is virtually empty! There were only a couple people, which gave me no excuse not to run hard, but for my own decrepit body still reeling from going into total spasms all day yesterday. I went to the chiropractor and massage therapist, both of which helped somewhat. This is just my body’s way of telling me I am not made for land. I am a sea-faring creature by nature. But I digress… my workout was another one I have never tried. So it was not all that pretty. Add one part exhaustion/frustration from the day’s events, one part soreness from yesterday’s massage, and one part ignorance at how difficult the run would be – and what do you get? Pure and utter agony.

SuperDad pointed out to me that I may be eliminating a potential group of readers by using too much running lingo like “recovery” or “ladder” or “specific endurance training.” I didn’t realize that a) I have many readers, b) I have that many non-runner readers, or c) these terms are not self-explanatory to anyone with access to Google. But he makes somewhat of a valid point, so I will make clear in this post exactly what everything means.

I started with one 3200 (that’s two miles) warmup (getting ready to run hard jog) at marathon pace (for me- about 8:20. For you, maybe 9:30, or “no such pace because I am not crazy enough to run a marathon) Then I stretched for about a minute and went on to 2×1600 (a 1600 is a mile) at HMP (half marathon pace – about 7:30). I took 30 seconds rest (not doing anything but chugging water) between those miles. Next I did 4 x 800 (half mile) at 10k pace (about 7:00), with one minute between each. I finished with 6 x 400 (quarter mile) at 5k pace (about 6:45).

My splits were:
3200 – 16:20

1st 1600 – 7:25
2nd 1600- 7:23

1st 800 – 3:28
2nd 800 – 3:32 (yikes)
3rd 800 – 3:25
4th 800 – 3:24

1st and 2nd 400 – 1:38
3rd 400- 1:39
4th 400- 1:37
5th 400- 1:38
6th 400- 1:36

Afterward, I don’t know how far I warmed down. It was enough that I was no longer hyperventilating or cursing myself for doing this awful workout. I would have rather been water boarded or forced to watch a marathon of That’s So Raven. If this workout doesn’t make me faster and stronger, I give up.

Looking back, a mere two hours later, two things stand out in my mind: 1) I didn’t quit, despite the sheer agony I was in by the third of those half milers, and 2) someone on that track smelled like the inside of Super Baby’s Diaper Genie. So today’s run was half good/half bad.

Thanks to this blog, I have stayed committed to running hard and running smart. I have also committed myself to eating just two Cajun Filet biscuits a week, and I have only had one so far, so Saturday, it’s Bo time!