Sunday, March 25, 2012

Training update

Alright, I've hit the 6 mile long run! I'm only roughly halfway to the full 13.1 mileage for the race, and I feel pretty good. When I was at this point for the last half marathon (I am continually looking back at the training for that race for comparison), 6 miles nearly did me in. I limped the rest of the day. My muscles were tight, sore, and screaming for relief. I felt good just to finish the mileage, forget speed or anything else. Fast forward to yesterday's run...

And I feel great! It was a little tough getting down stairs, and my calves were really tired from earlier runs so I wore my compression leg sleeves, but overall I felt great. I also finished the run about 15 minutes faster than last time! That's a huge improvement. Keep in mind I'm not trying to break some sort of PR (maybe I am, but it's not #1 for me). I just want to finish the race and all my training in better shape than last year. And since I'm not feeling so physically drained, I think mentally I'm doing better. While it was a huge milestone to complete last year's race, I was mentally burned out and didn't really run for almost a year. Not the kind of outcome anyone really wants.

So what was different about yesterday's run? I keep harping on it, but it's improved form. I can run longer, faster, and take smaller walk breaks than before. Instead of needing a full quarter mile for a walk break, I take maybe a tenth of a mile. I run farther, aiming for at least a half mile before taking a break. So much of that depends on how I feel (earlier in the week I ran a mile and a half before considering a break), that I let my body tell me what it needs. Although I think I'm reaching a point where I really can run more but my mind is so conditioned to need a walk break that I need to break the mental barrier. We shall see.

Post-run I'm feeling amazing. Tired but not sore, tight but not stiff. I have a feeling once I begin really working on the drills I learned in class all of this will improve even more. Even though things have improved, I do keep in mind not all my runs will be fantastic. In fact, Thursday's run was sort of tough. I think the cumulative lack of sleep from the work week had been catching up to me. My mid-week evening runs also have a tendency to not be as good as my Saturday morning runs. Some of that is fatigue, some of it had been from wearing high heels to work, and some of it is hunger. I am running when I would normally be eating dinner.

We'll see how this momentum keeps up. We are now just under two months until the race. The flights are booked, the hotel rooms reserved, the rental car too. We are truly committed! The course looks fabulous, and it'll be a great time of year to be in Chicago. Whenever I think that most people see me as the crazy person paying to run these kinds of distances, I think "yeah I'm crazy and that's cool!". W00t!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Good Form Part 2

Well yesterday was the second and final good form running clinic. We learned a lot of drills that will help with our form, range of motion, and strength. We also got new videos of us to see what kind of progress we've made. It was an amazing clinic and there's a possibility that Big Peach will be doing a more intense clinic in the future. If it fits my schedule, I will definitely sign up!

Since I was busy with the clinic yesterday, I saved my long run for today. I was still a little tired and sore from the drills so the run wasn't fantastic. It was an improved time from last year, which is good. Even with fatigue I ran better due to the improved form. I did encounter something that haunted me a lot before: post-run headaches.

Seeing as how I have several more weeks of training to look forward to, I did a little googling to see if there was something I could do about these headaches. So far the common culprits seem to be dehydration, low blood sugar, electrolyte imbalance, and tense muscles. One comment mentioned that maybe we're all wearing our hats too tight, but I can't see that being the case.

For today's run, I drank water before and during the run. I admit I should have been better about it after the run, but even after I started drinking a lot more water the headache persisted. I also ate salty food last night and after the run. The banana I had before the run contained the potassium I needed. It should have had some magnesium too. My neck and shoulders actually feel okay, so I don't think they're tight. My blood sugars seemed okay, but I have no means of measuring it exactly. Suffice it to say I didn't feel any other typical low blood sugar symptoms like shakiness and irritability.

So do I have a solution? Maybe. I've been toying around with the idea of magnesium supplements since I sweat a ton on these runs. I need to check the supplement levels in salt tablets and in the snacks I will eat on the longer runs before deciding. Taking vitamins and supplements are iffy because it's known that eating foods rich in whatever you're lacking is best. It turns out that means eating a lot of beans. As a runner, we often try to avoid eating too much fiber in case it ends in gastrointestinal distress during a run. Maybe the solution is to eat more of the right foods at first? Yogurt is supposed to be high in magnesium, and I've been eating more of that lately.

Overall it seems that these kinds of headaches are actually fairly common. It's just hard to me to deal with because of my already chronic headache issues. I'll do a little more research and report back.

On a more positive note, I invested in a large foam roller to help massage larger groups of muscles. It's going to take a little time to get used to it, but let's just say it hurts so good :) My recovery today has been great aside from the headache, so the good form is still working. We will see how everything goes after I incorporate more of those drills. They fit perfectly with cross training days, so I will end up working out a lot now. It will all pay off in the end!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

And the mileage ramps up....

So I've officially been training for this half marathon now for a couple weeks. I have to report that the focus on better form seems to really be helping. I have my final clinic this weekend, so we'll see how that goes. Rex seems to have benefited greatly from the first class, and for that alone I think the money spent on the class was well worth it.

Some things I think I'll ask about are my calves (I think the sudden increase in mileage is making them tight - not as tight as they were before but still), my posture (I think I'm slouching), and the possibility of barefoot running during the week. There is no way you'll see me using the barefoot running shoes for long runs, but I think I will try them during the week. We will have to see. The suggestion before was to try running barefoot on a soft surface like grass, but I am really allergic to the stuff. Hives on my feet do me no good, so if I try this it'll have to be with the barefoot shoes.

On another note, the dog has been running a lot with us. I have decided that he will not run more than 3 miles to prevent any overheating issues or injuries. I mean, he's just 17 pounds! How far could I really take him? With some practice he's become a really nice running partner. Perfect for recovery runs.

With the weather deciding to skip some transition steps and head straight from winter to summer, I think it's good to review warm weather tips:
  • Cotton is rotten. Please try to invest in some decent dry wick clothing. I've found Target has some decent work out gear for a good price. There's no need to go all crazy and cover yourself from head to toe in all Nike or Under Armor attire, although their clothing is really nice. If you don't mind the wait, check online for sales and discount retailers.
  • Hydrate! It's important to drink plenty of water before and after your run. Just make sure you're getting enough electrolytes as well. As a runner, you can actually have more salty foods if you're sweating a lot on your runs.
  • Run during the cooler parts of the day. The morning is good but keep in mind pollen counts are higher then. The evening is a little warmer and has bugs, but less pollen and for me easier to manage. I am not a morning person.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

300th Post!

I often wonder if I should make deep, introspective posts for these kinds of milestones. Then I realize that this is just a running blog intended to keep me motivated and hopefully help others like me, and so I decide to post about my training instead. Plus I don't really have anything terrible special to share.

I do have an observation, however. So far I've been at the Greenway, which is very flat, to work on my form. Tonight I ran in my neighborhood. Let's just say it's really, really hilly. I knew it would be a little harder for me to focus with the dog joining me, but I've found that going up and down hills is also making it difficult to focus on good form. I will have to bring this up in my class. For example, I find myself wanting to essentially stomp my way up a hill and then with the faster cadence I end up having to slam on the brakes coming down, causing other problems. In the meantime the dog is pulling my left arm, running in front of me, and having to carry his mess in my other hand is both gross and limiting the movement of my right arm. I ended up with a really stiff upper body, bent at the waist, and frustrated. To top it all off I finally measured the distance of my usual route around the neighborhood and noticed it's a measly 1.3 miles. I was supposed to go 2 miles tonight.

There are a couple obstacles I need to address right away based on tonight's results: chose a new route (or alter my current route) and either deal with the dog or leave him at home. Since this is exercise too, I hesitate to leave him home for the short runs. He absolutely stays home for the long run. Not only is he distracting, but like people dogs have to build up to longer distances and faster speeds. He's just not ready for that, and I'm not taking him to that level.

I've got to figure this out before Thursday. We'll see what I can come up with. In the mean time, check out youtube and search for good form running. There are a ton of videos out there, and for me seeing a good example was really helpful. There is a lot of great, free advice out there if you know how to filter out the junk.

Happy running!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Good Form Part 1

This morning was the first of two good running form classes at the awesome Big Peach Running Store in Alpharetta GA. It was two hours of evaluating the basics of good form and basically relearning how to run. I know a lot of people think this might be silly. Doesn't everyone know how to run? Sure, but to do it efficiently is another story. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Watching yourself run after being recorded can be awkward (dude do I really look like that?!) but it's also enlightening (no wonder my back and hips are so sore!). It is especially helpful after learning what to look for in good form.
  • Cadence is paramount. I'm going to focus on that until my next class. We'll see how it goes. For those that don't know, cadence is how fast you're stepping. It actually has little to do with how fast you're running. We're talking lots of small, agile steps.
  • Arm movement is more important than you realize. I had read (and posted) about how the speed of your arms correlates to the speed of your legs. Little did I know my arm movements were not helping at all :)
  • A little barefoot running has its place, but stick to the cushioned shoes for distance running. We did a little in the parking lot and it's shocking how much difference it makes in how you run and how you think about your feet. I might end up buying a pair of barefoot shoes just for short distance training.
So far it's been a worthwhile endeavor. I will post more about my progress as I train, and obviously I'll post after the final class. Happy running!