In which I run on a treadmill and do not want to eject my body out the window in front of it

Last time I posted, I had decided to just focus on consistency and getting a good base again. I am happy to report than over the last two-three weeks, I’ve been running pretty much every other day, though I’ve only done about 8 for my longest. But that is a-okay because things are feeling fine.

My feelings towards treadmills are, I think, pretty universal among trail runners: AW HELL NO. I seem to remember the longest I could run on one before being consumed by misery and drudgery and all those things is about two miles. But sometimes, in the dead cold dark of February in Michigan, although the windchill may be hovering around zero instead of well below it, you just can’t bring yourself to run outside.

I wanted to run seven miles today, and to and from the gym is two, so I just needed to do five. I told myself that if I needed to, I could even split it up – though I knew that wouldn’t really be a quality run and didn’t want to do that. Weirdly enough, I felt guilty for running inside, like I was cheating on running outside even though it was cold, and even though that is totally irrational. I felt weak, like I should be running outside because it wasn’t really that cold… but I just ran and it was fine. I started out with barely any incline and slow, 9:10s or so, for the first mile. Sped up to 8:50s for the second mile and increased the incline. The third mile I went down to 8:35s and played with the incline a lot. Mile 4 was more steady, still on a slight incline and kept about the same pace, I think. Then for the last mile I upped the incline and ended up at 6:30 pace, walked a little afterwards, then did some light upper body lifting (what little my costochrondritis allows – I’ll take some over none!).

What I learned (subtitle: What I’ve read before but not paid attention to): Treadmills, though they may come nowhere close to comparing to running outside, do serve their purposes. They let us run comfortably when the weather would have us do otherwise. And, perhaps more importantly, they let us run uncomfortably in the same case. Running on snowy and icy trails is, as one would imagine, quite a bit slower than your normal pace. You’re still working hard, mainly trying to keep your feet under you, but it’s not the same as being able to push through a tempo run. Treadmills let you really control your pace – negative splits, hello! – and you can make things interesting (and better for trail training) by playing with the incline and pace. All in all, the run actually went by a lot faster than I thought it would and was much less boring than I thought. (I didn’t use music.) I could even see myself doing a longer run there, as long as I kept changing things up.

And now… SPRING BREAK 2015! In which I can do lots of physical activities in one day AND read AND make food without stressing about things too much. Good times.

peace love and making it through winter running,

PS. On the other hand… People are always saying, “How do you run in this cold? That’s CRAZY!” Well, it’s pretty simple. Layer up and cover your face and you’re pretty much good to go. Maybe some yak traks too.


It’s all about the base… mileage

Good morning! Happy monday!

So according to the 50k training plan for June I was following, I was supposed to run 16 miles on Saturday for a total mileage of 40 miles. My mileages the last two weeks of January were 21 and 31, respectively. And before that, basically nothing. Like one run a week. So I wasn’t sure about running 16, although 14 last weekend went pretty well. My concerns were:

– My right arch has been bothering me for a while. I’m pretty sure it’s just the way I strike with that foot puts more pressure on the big toe and I’ve strained that tendon a bit, but whatever it is, it’s annoying and painful to try to run with. I didn’t want to get 8 miles out and have that happen and have to walk back.
– My ribs are inflamed! Hooray! (Based on self-diagnosis and webMD) Since about the beginning of last semester, in September, my sternum/upper ribs have been getting progressively more sore. I stopped lifting for upper body and climbing, but it’s still getting worse. It doesn’t hurt when I run, but then for the rest of the day it hurts when I breathe. So there’s that.
– My right shin has been sore too. Red flags all over the place.
– The main concern was bumping up my mileage too quickly – as always. I have a problem. The book plan assumes you already have several months of solid base mileage training in, which I super duper don’t. Hence the arch and shin pain.

All this is bascially my run-up (ha) to saying that I don’t think I’ll be doing the 50k in June. Or if I do, I won’t be following that plan. Which is a bummer, but a quote from I think Rob Krar in this month’s trail runner really resonated with me: “It’s better to toe the line a little unprepared than not at all.” After a year and a half of not being able to run, really, I’m still just grateful to be able to get out at all. Waiting a few more months – August or September – is worth not getting injured and not being able to run at all. I’d rather only be doing shorter runs up to about 13 than trying to run 24 and failing.

I’m still going to train with a 50k in mind as soon as possible, but I’m going to focus on just building up a good distance base like I had in the past. I’m just not going to fixate on any one race for now. It’s been three years(!) since my Golden Year of Ultras and I like to think that I didn’t peak in 2012 at the ripe old age of 19. Which of course I know isn’t the case. I got really, really bummed when I decided not to do my run on Saturday – I was already two miles out, but something was just off. Nothing hurt, really, but I just felt heavy and tired and burned out. I think I probably just psyched myself out, which didn’t help as I trudged back home, arms folded and head bent, trying not to cry on the trail. I felt like a failure and a quitter and like I was losing who I was – a runner – and that the one thing I knew I wanted out of life, running ultras, just kept slipping away and I didn’t know why. I beat myself up way too much about really what amounted to just one bad day. Hell, not even a bad day – I was just having an off running hour. So I moped for a while at home, but a few hours later, after hanging out with my family I was fine. Running is really, really great, but it’s not everything.

Safe training and a balanced life!

In which it is very snowy

It’s been snowing. A lot. Which makes things kind of pretty and quiet for a while, but now we’re in that grey slush-filled stage where everything is just hard to walk in and the sight of more snow falling doesn’t bring about feelings of, “Yay, winter is here!” It arouses more of an internal groan that just escapes into your throat and everyone hears it and sadly nods.

In other words, February.

But yesterday evening, I had seven miles scheduled, so seven miles I would run, snow or no snow. I started out optimistic and headed for the trail I usually take, thinking that even a little snow on the trail would be better than road running. Boy, was I wrong. I must have clocked a twelve-minute mile or slower. Slogging through almost a foot of partially, unevenly-packed snow was tedious and hard work and not at all worth the effort and energy expenditure. In short, if I kept running – “running” – on trails, it would not be even close to a quality run. So as the sun set pink over the snow-covered river, I headed onto a road I hadn’t run on before. I knew it followed the river, so I figured I’d just turn around at about 3.5 miles’ worth of time.

It turned out to be a pretty run. That road is lined with huge houses, mansions in a variety of architectural styles overlooking the river with the city off to the southeast emitting the faint pinkish-yellow glow of light pollution. With the sun set, that glow was behind me, an anthropogenic sunrise, and the dark western horizon lay in front. As I ran along the mostly deserted, and impeccably plowed, road, I passed traditional houses of stone and brick and gleaming modern, minimalistic ones. There was one standalone little log cabin right by the river’s edge. I wondered how it got there – and how long it would last. I passed a few driveways, gated and lined with lights, that twisted up dark hills, into forests and beyond, leading to a fortress of a house somewhere. I imagined a dystopian future in which the dissatisfied plebeian citydwellers marched on this neighborhood, attempting to storm these glittering strongholds.

I hit my turnaround point and turned back, back towards the city. In my return, I went over and under bridges, ran along the tracks, through a tunnel. I never saw another soul – just one hushed black audi rolling along, shiny somehow even at night. I felt myself pushing the pace a little while I was on semi-dry pavement, and it felt good. The last mile was an uphill slog, though, through the barely-shoveled walks in town. After a nice hot shower, I calculated my splits and my average pace on the road was just under 8:30s, which for seven miles is good for me, if I haven’t been running a whole lot (which I haven’t, still, really). Man, I remember when eight miles would be a tempo run of sub-8s. Sigh. I’ll get back there.

After my run, I did yoga and stretches and foot exercises and abs. So productive. And this morning, I just did an easy five. I was a little stiff from my effort last night, but my pace was mainly impeded by the fresh three inches of snow that had fallen sometime between my run last night and 10:30 a.m. today. And they’re calling for more. It’s snowing right now, and has been since early this afternoon. Sigh.

I’m moving somewhere where this doesn’t happen.

happy yak trakking to you!

The storm at night…
IMG_9656 IMG_9657
The Diag
nn Arbor isn’t big on plowing residential streets that well…

14 followed by a snowstorm

There’s flour on my screen. Hold on.

Much better. That’s what I get for making cookies. (AND chilling the dough overnight. Can I get a round of applause for the self-restraint I’m showing for not eating all the dough right now?) Anyway, I decided to use the 50k training plan in Relentless Forward Progress (by Bryon Powell of iRunFar) with the assumption that I’ll be racing the Buckeye Buster 50k on June 6 in Ohio. I’ve run two 50ks on that course, and though it’s hilly, I like it as well as the race atmosphere. I was too tempted to try to load up on a ridiculous mileage increase and try for the 50k at the end of April, so this is a nice, solid plan for me.

I’m jumping in a few weeks in, so the long run yesterday was supposed to be 16. Seeing as I’d run 11.5 on Wednesday, I decided to just do about 14 – ended up clocking in just over 13.5. I’ll take it. It didn’t feel as smooth as Wednesday’s run, but my pace was okay until pretty much the last mile. I ended up stopping briefly to stretch my calves/feet twice because there’s been something funky going on with my right arch recently. At first I thought it was just cramping, but I think it’s either the posterior tibialis tendon or the dreaded plantar fascia. Either way, I made an effort to ease up the pace whenever it felt like it was starting to twinge, and I walked up a couple hills I would have run up otherwise because the pain sets in when the big toe pushes off, which is emphasized while running uphill. I also made an effort to be conscious of where I landed on my right foot the whole time, which was kind of distracting. But all that led to a pain-free run, which was nice. It was snowy but kind of warm, in the twenties, with some sun. I stretched a bit and rolled my feet afterwards, which felt great.

I’m supposed to run 5 today (though I was thinking of doing 6-7 to make up for yesterday), but it’s a veritable snowstorm outside. We’ve gotten several inches since this morning, and even walking a few blocks to and from the grocery store was tedious. But I don’t want to run on a treadmill and the indoor track is already a mile away… unless I run 6 miles on a 1/8-mile track… 48 loops… oy vey. Maybe if the treadmills were at a window instead of in a dingy 70s-era basement.

Or maybe I’ll make today my rest day and run tomorrow, do a long yoga session here instead… after this cookie dough digests.  😛

Stay warm and cozy, everyone! Or go out and freeze your beards/eyebrows. Whatever you fancy.