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!


The overzealous runner

I, like most of you, like running (to say the least). When injury sidelines us, whether for a week or a year, our whole life is thrown out of balance. We get anxious, depressed, irritable – generally unpleasant to be around. So when we’re finally ready to run again, we run the risk of letting our excitement cloud our judgment. Maybe it’s a lack of self-control, or maybe it’s just an overabundance of enthusiasm, but personally, once I can run pain-free again, I go at it 110% and repress the memory of my seemingly distant months of injury.

In my mind, I’ve been back to running for what feels like months and months, but really, it’s only been since the beginning of September. Had I been keeping track of my weekly mileages like a responsible runner, I would have seen that my averages of 20 to 30 miles were far from the lofty 60-, 70-, 80-mile weeks dancing in my mind. Had I been keeping track of things, I would not have run 22 miles two Sundays ago and attempted 26 this past Sunday. Had I kept track of things, I wouldn’t have had to bail on my long run a mere six miles in because of shin pain, hip weakness, foot cramps, and a fun new outer-ankle pain that appeared a few days ago.

To wit: I was so excited to be able to run kind of far (18 miles) with relative ease that I let my mind get ahead of what my body is currently capable of doing safely, which is especially dangerous coming off of a long period of injury. I had this idea of myself as still being in the shape I was in 2012; I couldn’t accept that I’m not exactly in great distance shape right now. Mentally and cardiovascularly, maybe, but my shins aren’t ready to jump into the 45 miles I did last week (a huge jump from 28 the week before).

I spent a while yesterday reading sections on running addiction, overtraining, and shin stresses and fractures (as well as the female athlete triad) in The Lore of Running. While reading each of those sections, I found myself thinking, “Yep, that’s me. Exactly.” Increasing volume too rapidly – check. Vague shin pain – check. Reliance on running for mental stability/happiness – check. (Delusions of grandeur – check.) What I got out of it was a simple message: be realistic and be smart about running. Recovery and mileage buildup takes a long time. I can’t expect to be back in good, safe 50k shape after two or three months of running, no matter how many times I’ve read Eat & Run or To Be A Runner in that time.

So I’m going to bite the bullet of being realistic and aim for about 30-35 mile weeks for the time being. I cringe typing it when I think of my heydays of 70-80 mile weeks, but I’m at a different point in my running life right now, and that’s okay. I’d rather take as many months as I need to safely build back up to higher mileages than push too hard now and end up out of commission for another year.

Because if I’m grumpy for an entire year again, I will have no running buddies left.

peace love and grudgingly being smart about running,

PS. My long run on Sunday turned into a 6 mile run out, then a 4ish mile walk through the woods, which allowed me to take some (iPhone, but still) pictures. The park is beautiful this time of year; pictures don’t do the colors justice.


One of my good friends is a photographer, and she wanted to get some shots of me running (and do an interview for a project, which makes me feel special). So we went to the Arb, a hotspot for hill repeats and – let’s be honest, it’s a college town – ingesting various illegal substances. Needless to say, we were there for the former reason.

The morning had been overcast and a little chilly, but because we both slept in, we weren’t out until after one. By then, the clouds had cleared and the sun was beaming warmly down on us. Which was good, because there was a strongly-gusting October wind for several hours. There were plenty of people out and about, which was nice to see but was also a little inconvenient since we were trying to get nature-filled shots of me and the leaves, not a gaggle of sorority girls venturing off the sidewalk for the first time. (Forgive me, I shouldn’t judge.)

Anyway. We were just out a few hours ago so I don’t have any media to share yet, but it really got me thinking about what a huge undertaking it would be to try to get good enough to get sponsored. That’s the dream, isn’t it? Have someone give you race money and shoes and food, allowing you to just train and run, and to hopefully run well… sigh. I’ve been focusing on just building up mileage, but recently, I’ve also been thinking about the quality of my training as well. Seems like a no-brainer, but upon reflection, I’m pretty sure – no, I know – I could be running better, harder. It’s just so easy to plan 10 miles after class, then have an easy 10 instead of a good, moderate effort. I get stuck in the long slow distance mindset; I think I mentioned that in a previous post. So I need to make a real effort to work harder on my middle-distance runs, and that should help with my long runs. I just need to go out with a specific goal in mind on each run – a pace to hit, faster middle miles, something like that.

Let’s sidestep into the speedwork debate. It seems like the distance community will never come to an agreement on whether or not doing 800 repeats will help in a 50-miler. Personally, speedwork feels good, but I don’t really do it much, and I tend to think that more moderately-paced but longer runs, like 10-13 miles, are more beneficial for someone whose goal is more ultra-based, especially trail versus road. Hill repeats seem like a much more practical workout, since you rarely encounter a 400-meter oval in the middle of a trail ultra (other than the Western States finish, of course). Hills, though, you do run into. (That being said, there’s just something so fun and satisfying about ripping off a few sets of fast repeats. Like… bam. Still got it.)

I wish I could afford a coach. That would be so great. I’ve read so many ultrarunning books and blogs and listened to podcasts and watched videos, but there’s such a mass of knowledge out there (and so many conflicting viewpoints) that it would be nice to have someone to help me sort through it all and to develop a training plan for my goals. Which, other than getting back into better ultra shape than I was in 2012 and, more eventually, UTMB, are essentially nonexistent.

In short, I need a plan – but a plan for what?

I’m pretty pumped right now because tomorrow morning, I’m going back out to Pinckney Rec to run 26 or, if I’m feeling it, another 5 for a practice 50k. So depending on how tomorrow goes, I may or may not race a 50k in November. I’m torn – do I enter a race (pay for it, get there, etc.) if I’m in suboptimal shape? That result will be out there, good or bad. We’ll see after tomorrow, but I’m guessing it won’t be stellar. But on the other hand, races are fun no matter what, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t totally suck since I’m feeling good about where I am with my running right now. I feel solid, but still improving. And there’s always the need to be aware of how my shins are doing – can’t overdo it.

Ah well. These are just thoughts. The real decision-making will have to happen tomorrow. (And don’t even ask about my post-graduation plans. Right now, it’s “Move back in with my parents until I can bear to face reality. I’ll be hiding in my room if you need me.” Plus I have field camp in July-August, which complicates internship hunting.)

So if anyone is reading this and wants to give me free shoes or a sweet tricked-out van for traveling the country and training out of, email me. Until then… *desperately thinks of things to do other than study* I’ll be doing dishes.

peace love and grand aspirations,

My plan!

So I’ve gotten two runs in this week so far and am doing a “long” run (5-6 miles)(oh how the mighty have fallen…) this weekend. I’ve continued biking on my non-running days, and now that my knee is about 95% better, I can climb again. So this is my general plan for recovery running:

Monday: OFF (far too busy)
Tuesday: short fast run (3-4 miles at about race pace)
Wednesday: bike about 1h/1h15
Thursday: short fast run (3-4 mi race pace), plus climbing
Friday: longer bike ride
Saturday: “long” run (5-6 miles)
Sunday: long bike ride

My thinking is that as I get back into it, I’ll increase the mileage for my existing runs – the short runs turning into 6-8 mile tempo runs and my long run returning to actually being a long run – and once I think my shin is used to running again, I’ll add in running on the other days. (Right now, max weekly mileage will be about 14.) My mindset in all of this is that I have the opportunity to reset my running, in a way. I’m going to try to get a really strong base not just of miles, which I had before, but with a little more speed – pushing myself more on my normal weekday runs to be a stronger runner overall rather than just having the ability to slog through 35 miles.

Of course, if I feel any twinges or pain, I’ll ease off – I’ve (finally) learned my lesson: taking it easy for a while is definitely worth being able to run in a few weeks rather than eight months later.

I’m also going to try to swim once a week, mostly for increased lung capacity (and hulk shoulders, of course). And I’ll probably incorporate some short speed workouts, either on the track or road; nothing too short, since ultras don’t usually demand the ability to run a super quick 400m, but I’d like to get my mile time back down.

Had a good 5k run in 22:56 yesterday with a mile cooldown.

peace love and smart running!

PS. A picture from my bike ride home on Wednesday. I had perfect weather.

he Huron River, from Huron River Drive.

When unscheduled rest days happen…

Yesterday was a light day, just ran about six and a half (slow snowy trail) miles and did 20 hill repeats… first workout in as long as I can remember, really. It was kind of nice in a weird, mindless, repetitive way. A good little workout that didn’t leave me crazy sore or anything.

But when I finally went to bed, I could feel the fatigue in my legs. This week has really been my first one Back-back, and I kind of jumped into it pretty quickly in combination with focusing on my forefoot strike… leaving my calves pretty beat up and my feet more than a little stiff and sore. So when I woke up this morning for my planned 18 miles, it was with a sigh and a groan. And thus I was caught in another timeless runner’s dilemma: run what you’ve scheduled and maybe have a really terrible run, cut it short, or take the day off?

After about an hour and a half, I finally dragged myself out of bed and into my running gear and gingerly stepped out the door. The first half mile was fine: sunny and relatively warm (windchill of almost 20!), but not long after that, I just stopped on the paved trail and looked around. I was barely moving and my calves had absolutely zero spring in them. And I was just tired. Coming off of not running with too much intensity (or, to be honest, much at all) and almost accidentally heading for an 80-mile week isn’t something done easily. I stood there for a few minutes, half-anger-pouting, half-arguing with myself about whether this was just me being a wimp or if I was actually ignoring my body, and finally decided on the latter (with some grumbling). I headed back home in a slightly roundabout way to see if I’d change my mind, but I didn’t. So what was supposed to be an 18-miler turned into a 2+ mile flush run, basically.

But still. Unscheduled rest days are so mentally tough for runners. The nagging question remains: could I have run? would it have been fine? It’s always difficult for me to get over this and just go on with my day. I have such a hard time differentiating between actually listening to my body and wondering if I’m making up excuses – especially when I’ve set totally arbitrary (and possibly unwise) goals, like an 80-mile-week for my first real week back. Once I set those goals, however, they’re nearly impossible to unstick from my mind. Even if I do a 70-mile week, which is great, I’ll still most likely feel like I’ve failed to achieve something that is entirely a mental construction and has no real bearing on anything… this early in training, anyway.

Running is so dependent on mental things like this. How do you guys deal with them?

peace love and running!

The inevitable dilemma of a runner in flu season

We’ve all been there: the sniffles have slowly been escalating, we’ve had a cough here and there, and now we’re starting to feel fatigued and, well, bleh. And so arises the question: go out and try to run it off, or tuck ourselves into bed with hot tea and a couple issues of Trail Runner?

It’s always a ridiculously tough question for me. I start asking myself how bad I really feel, if I feel the way I do solely because of a possible sickness, if I’m just looking for a way to legitimize a day off, etc. My brain goes into overdrive and I end up… well, I end up writing a post about it rather than just lacing up and seeing how I feel. (At the moment, the pressure in my head makes me cringe just thinking of the jarring my poor sinuses would take with every step.)

But it boils down to this: when you’re getting sick (or think you might be), do you suck it up and try to run it off, or do you stick with “traditional” mentalities and rest up? (Either way, stay hydrated and get plenty of good old vitamin C!)

I’ll let you know what happens with me. I’m at least climbing later, that’s for sure. peace love and running!

I’m back!

I haven’t posted in… ages. I don’t even know how long it’s been. Probably the Bigfoot 50k in December. But that’s because (a) I’ve been busy and (b) I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been running much. I see now that I never really got back into stride after the 50M in September. I was still running, but it was fairly sporadic and not focused on anything. Even over break, I climbed a lot more than I ran – which is fine, since climbing is so awesome. But I ran about 13.5 yesterday for the first time in ages and BAM. All ultra motivation has returned. (That and talking to Jonathan at Running Gear in Brighton. He gave me free Balegas! Woo! Everyone go to Running Gear!) My current/hopeful plan is to run 1.5-2+ hours Tuesday thru Saturday, do a long run Sunday, and take Monday as a rest/climbing day. With that, I can easily get 80+ miles/wk. I still need to actually register for my 100… not sure if I should go ahead and try to tackle Bryce Canyon in May, or if I should do Burning River (point-to-point in Ohio… in July), which has a good rep for a first 100. But… I’ll also be trekking out to Colorado for the summer in May, so maybe I can just go out for Bryce and stay out west… no complaints there! Plus some 50ks before and hopefully a 50M in March.

I’ll start posting again, now that I have immediate training plans and whatnot. Hopefully this semester won’t be too crazy. (I’m so ready to be done with college.) In the meantime, have a sandwich!

Delicious sandwich for lunch. Whole wheat toast, hummus, plain and poupon mustards, tofurkey, tomato, mushrooms, onions, cucumbers, two layers of mashed/spread avocado, salt, pepper, Italian seasonings, garlic, and a dash of Tony’s creole seasoning. So good.

peace love and running!