Really, I’m sure I could have handled a swim on Monday. But after a weekend that was jam-packed with activities, I needed to just sleep in and then spend the evening relaxing. Besides, the evening ended up being pretty eventful anyway. (Be aware… this is a kind of gross story about losing a toenail. If you are squeamish, skip to Tuesday’s workout). I went over to Rob’s place in the evening and took a look at my toenail. I knew it would fall off soon, and it seemed to be almost there. The whole day as I was walking around, it felt like a loose tooth on my foot. There was a somewhat normal-looking toenail flap that was covering up an ugly, gross, lumpy, sort-of-deformed toenail thing. So I started tugging on the flap, hoping it would come off without any pain. Like I said, it was almost there. And then, the whole thing came off. Not just the toenail flap that was completely visible and was covering the funny-looking toenail thing. No. The whole thing… the part of my toenail that had not yet emerged from under my skin and the funny-looking, lumpy toenail base came off too. This meant that I just had a giant, raw crater in my toe. This was entirely horrifying. So I did the only thing I could do. I put some Neosporin in it and wrapped it up so I wouldn’t have to look at it.
Tuesday: Swim—30 minutes
I went to the pool in the morning to do a quick and easy swim. If you read the toenail story above, have no fear. My toe was very well wrapped up so no weird toenail germs got into the water. Although I guess I was exposed to pool germs. Anyway, there’s not much to say about an easy, unmeasured swim. One thing I noticed is that my new goggles were tight enough that they started giving me a headache. However, it felt like if they were much looser, they’d start leaking. Obviously, neither scenario is ideal. I’ll try them a little looser next time, and I may replace the nosepiece with a shorter one. I have a pretty narrow nose bridge, so sometimes the “standard” goggle nosepiece is a little wide for me and leads to leaks.
Wednesday: Bike—30 minutes
I went to the gym after work and did and easy 30 minute spin. It felt pretty good. My legs were still a bit sore, but they loosed up nicely on the bike. On a more exciting note, all my bike stuff came in! So Rob and I will be putting it all together throughout the week. Building a bike typically takes a while for him, but in the worst case scenario, I should be riding it within a couple of weeks!
I was going to get up early and do some glute strengthening exercises, but I decided not to for a few reasons. First of all, I hadn’t reviewed the exercises I decided to do. I was going to do a bit more research, but I didn’t have time chose to spend my time doing other things. I also thought it might be a good idea to give my legs another day or so of rest, considering I tried to do a single leg squat on Wednesday and almost fell over. The final reason is because I was up late on Wednesday night finishing up a book. I decided I should take advantage of the guilt-free week I have and get some mental rest.
Friday: Masters swim—1800 yds
Rather fortunately for me, the workout on Friday was pretty easy. I did not have the speed or endurance that I typically have which indicates that I’m (not surprisingly!) still recovering from that marathon. 200 reverse IM 200 IM kick 200 inverse IM 6 x 50 6-kick roll 50 drill 100 fast 150 technique 200 negative split 150 technique 100 fast 50 drill 100 easy Kick-o-war
For the IM portions, I did front crawl instead of butterfly since the dolphin kick irritates my knee. I was able to keep up my speed and form through the first 150. Then, I started to fall back from the swimmers who are typically the same speed as I am. I was able to mostly/almost keep up, but I was falling back far more than I normally would. After, we did a kick-o-war which is like tug-o-war, but instead of pulling a rope, two swimmers grab a kickboard and kick against each other to push the other person over a line. I didn’t do all that well, which wasn’t a surprise to me. I think my pull is far stronger than my kick. There is one swimmer who is pretty much the same speed as I am. During pull drills, I always end up at her heels or pulling away. During kick drills, it’s the opposite. I can’t keep up. I’ve made some improvements throughout the last few months, but it’s still something I need to work on.
Saturday: Bike—60 minutes
I went to the gym and did an hour on the stationary bike. It’s never fun to ride the stationary bike, but I listened to a very interesting RadioLab episode about the origins of football, so at least I had something to distract me. There’s never much to say about time spent on the stationary bike. It was a beautiful day, so I was bummed to be inside instead of enjoying the weather. However, I won’t be indoors for long.
I took Sunday as a rest day—my final one before getting back into more serious training next week. Taking a break this week has been a much-needed physical and mental respite. I’m feeling far less tired and overworked. More importantly, the thought of running, cycling, and swimming doesn’t make me want to curl up in a ball and die. Win! And… my new bike is put together and ready to ride! I still need shoes and a helmet (those were also in my car…), but I ordered those today and should get them within the next couple of days. So I’ll be riding outside before I know it! I’m also going to start my strength routine for my knee next week. I wanted to wait until the soreness/fatigue from the marathon wouldn’t hold me back. I’m hoping that and cutting back my running will get my IT band back to normal soon.
Disclaimer: My dad and I decided to run a marathon as a training exercise, so this wasn’t an official race. We used the course of the local Lake Lowell marathon, hence the name of this “race”: the Fake Lowell marathon.
As the weekend of the marathon approached, I lost literally all confidence. My IT band had been giving me pain as I approached taper, and I was worried that I would be running (or trying to run) 23 miles of the marathon in pain. And I was worried that even if my knee felt wonderful during the run, I still wouldn’t be able to perform well. After all, my legs were aching pretty badly at the end of my 20 mile runs. How could I possibly run a full 10k farther? My marathon was probably going to be over 45 minutes longer than my longest training run. How was I going to keep running for 45 more minutes?! These seemed like fairly typical first marathon fears, so I tried (with limited success) to use the logical part of my brain to shut down those fears. Still, I was a pile of negatively all week. I wanted to go into this race feeling positive and excited—the way I had honestly felt through most of my training. Instead, I found myself struggling to keep from drowning in negative thoughts.
Rob and I drove up to Nampa early on Friday morning. I wanted to get there with some time to relax, so we were on the road by 6:30am. We did our traditional road trip breakfast at McDonald’s and then stopped for supplies and gas at Burley.
We made it to Nampa right around noon, and after sitting around a bit, my Dad and I drove over to Lake Lowell to check out the course. Earlier that week, he had gone out and painted (small!) mile markers on the side of the course so that we’d have a general idea where we were. We also planned to borrow my brother-in-law’s Garmin in case our mile markers were a little off. It turns out, he did a scary good job. The markers were almost completely spot on. I don’t think any of them were more than a few hundredths of a mile off. The weather was a bit spotty during this. It was rainy, overcast, and pretty chilly. However, it was supposed to clear up the next day.
After checking out the course, I headed to my sister’s house to babysit her kids so she and her husband could go for a run together. Her four little monsters were on their best behavior, and we were just watching a movie. However, even with that, I could not believe how much work four kids was. Even when they were behaving perfectly, I was always getting up to do something—refill the chocolate milk, free the one-year-old’s leg when it got stuck in the baby bouncer, jiggle the infant when she started to get antsy, etc. I’m pretty sure that by the time my sister got back, the three-year-old was in the baby’s rocking swing, I was holding the baby and snuggling my oldest niece, and my little monster nephew was climbing in and out of the baby bouncer over and over again. Still, though, it was great to see the kids again. They are all total sweethearts, and I don’t get to see them often enough.
Because my mom was sick this weekend with a nasty case of pneumonia and pleurisy (she was quick to inform us that Ben Franklin died of pleurisy!), Rob was in charge of dinner. He made some spaghetti and salad, and we carbo-loaded for the big day. My appetite had been weak right after my car was stolen, but fortunately, the week or so before the race, it picked up again, and I feel like I ate enough to fuel myself. I got to bed quite early—probably around 9:30pm—and actually slept pretty well, considering I was sleeping on the same bed I slept on from ages 3 to 18.
Really, by this time, I was getting over the negative thoughts I had struggled with the previous week. My knee had been feeling fairly strong, and I had bought a new pair of compression tights that were designed to support hips and knees. I was doing a good job taking to heart all the comments that taking a week off would not hurt my fitness. I was eating better and sleeping better, even if the stress of the past month was still wearing on me. So when I woke up the next morning, I was certainly nervous, but I wasn’t the ball of negativity I’d been recently.
I tried to hydrate with a full bottle of water early on so I would be hydrated but not need to stop at the bathroom partway through the race… considering this was not an official race, “stopping at the bathroom” was likely to mean “squatting on the side of the road.” And I ate quite a bit, too. I was careful to eat very similarly (both in what I ate and how much) to what I’d eaten before my long runs during training. After all, as my high school coach used to tell us, “no new is good new.” After sitting around a bit, we packed up the car with all our supplies and headed towards the course with Rob.
At the course, we met up with my little sister Laura. The plan was for Rob and Laura to drive the course along with us and stop every two miles or so to give us nutrition, hydration, medicine, or whatever else we needed. They were both wonderful volunteers, and I’m incredibly lucky that I have a weird, wonderful support system that is willing (and happy!) to do this kind of thing for me. We got to the lake, and the weather was perfect. Absolutely stunning. The sky was bluer than I’ve seen it in months, and the wind had calmed down considerably since the day before. There was a breeze, but that’s to be expected whenever you are around water. After posing for a million pictures that my sister insisted we take, we started around 9:45am.
Miles 1-4 (8:10, 8:21, 8:26, 8:18)
My dad and I actually planned to start out slower than usual (about an 8:30/mile pace) to avoid crashing and feeling terrible. It was, after all, not a real race and not worth killing ourselves over. SPOILER ALERT: This tactic failed miserably. The start of the race was a gradual downhill. My dad and I held back, but we still finished the mile a bit faster than planned. We pulled it back, though, and ended up hitting much more conservative paces throughout the first few miles. It was a beautiful day, and we were just a few miles in when I took off my extra t-shirt and headband and was running in just my capri compression tights and a long-sleeve dry fit. Looking back, it was sunny enough that I could have (and maybe should have) run the race in a t-shirt instead of a long sleeve shirt. I felt the presence of my IT band almost immediately—just barely, and I was very sensitive to noticing it because I was worried about it. However, after a few miles, it started to hurt a bit… actually, both of them started to hurt a bit. I knew that during training, I had started some runs with knee pain which had disappeared during the later miles of the run. This pain felt more like that than the very painful runs I had later on, so I still felt pretty positive about my body holding up.
Miles 5-8 (10:03, 7:58, 8:36, 8:29)
My dad was hit with a sudden urge to use the bathroom. Serendipitously, just as we crested a hill, we noticed a port-a-potty at a construction site. My dad asked if he could use it and popped in for a moment. That’s why mile 5 is slower than usual. In a combination between a slight downhill and an over-zealous attempt to make up some of the time, we ran the next mile more quickly than planned before pulling back and hitting a more reasonable pace for the next few. Throughout miles 5 and 6, I noticed that my hip flexor was feeling some pain. I had hip flexor pain during one of my long runs, but not through most of my training cycle. However, as we continued on, both the hip flexor pain and the IT band pain mostly disappeared. We both felt good during these miles. We fueled and hydrated relatively well through the aid stations, and my dad started carrying a water bottle with him that we would drink from. This section took us over the dam, and I remember being struck by how smooth the water was and how beautiful the view was. Lake Lowell is kind of a joke around Nampa. It’s routinely described in all sorts of unsavory ways that highlight its uncleanliness. I haven’t gone swimming in it since I was a kid, but when you are running around it, it’s absolutely beautiful.
Miles 9-12 (8:21, 8:29, 8:12, 8:23)
We entered the flattest portion of the race here. Not only that, but we had a slight tailwind as well. This section doesn’t stand out as much as the others, probably because it was going generically well. We were pretty much right on pace. I believe I forgot to take my gel blocks during one mile where I planned on it, but I was carrying them with me, so I took them once I remembered. My dad was fueling better than I was through this section. I was doing a fine job, but I probably should have stuffed a little more down my throat. Having a running partner was great during this stretch of lonely road. The Lake Lowell Marathon is a pretty small race, and I imagine this portion of the course is very lonely for a lot of marathoners during the real event.
Miles 13-16 (8:11, 8:25, 8:57, 8:50)
When we turned around, I still felt strong. However, miles 11.5-14.5 was also the longest period without a traveling aid station, and by the time we reached Rob and Laura again, I think we were both feeling it a bit. When we turned around, we were running into a slight headwind. While the cooling effect was nice, it did make running a bit more difficult. I was surprised how fast I went from feeling just fine to struggling. We were right around Mile 14 when I started to think I might be a little more tired that I should be. I didn’t say anything yet, though, and I tried to keep thinking positively and hoped for a second wind. By the time we hit mile 16, I voiced my pain. “Dad, I’m flagging.” As usual, he was very encouraging and suggested that I’d feel better after we got back over the dam and were on the way home.
Miles 17-20 (8:29, 8:43, 10:25, 11:53)
Unfortunately, that turned out to not be the case. I held on for a couple more hard miles before I had to start walking. This was incredibly frustrating because both of my 20 mile runs were done at a much faster pace than we had taken the first 16ish miles of the marathon, but I felt just as bad 16 miles in as I did after my 20 mile long runs. That wasn’t how this was supposed to work. I was supposed to be able to trust in my training and trust in my taper to produce a decent race. My dad kept giving me points that we would run to, and he helped keep our pace a run/walk instead of a walk/run. The last couple of miles were pretty dreary because I was going so slowly and was still so far from being done. I also felt a bit guilty—like I had roped my dad into this whole marathon thing only to end up holding him back.
Miles 21-24 (10:05, 10:34, 10:54, 9:55)
I did manage to keep a good attitude during the race, even while I was struggling so badly. I tried to look deep into myself and see if I was wimping out, if I could keep running but just didn’t want to. But I truly think I was running at capacity. I did not feel well. When we stopped to walk I would stumble. I felt a little dizzy. I could feel my lips beginning to numb. These aren’t completely abnormal occurrences for me. I was, perhaps, a little dehydrated, but I wasn’t about to die. But it was enough that I knew I was working hard and giving it all. I just couldn’t understand how I had so little to give. Again, my dad and our traveling aid stations were great encouragements during these miles. All three of them encouraged me to keep drinking and fueling. I still think Rob and Laura thought I was more dehydrated than I was, but encouragement to drink more water is never a bad thing.
Miles 25-26.2 (10:22, 12:15, 2:13)
Almost done now. At this point, I was discouraged. I knew that I wouldn’t even break four hours. The frustration didn’t hit me while I was still running, though. I just kept moving (incredibly slowly). Finally… finally.,. we climbed the final hill and finished. 4:02:12. Worse than any of my training runs would have predicted by far. And absolutely nothing to blame it on.
So… what happened?
I really don’t know. I’ve thought about it, whined about, and talked about it to anyone who would listen (and who already knew about it because there’s no way I was telling anyone else about my failure!). I’ve got a few ideas, but nothing seems to fully explain how I can go from a 20 mile run at an 8:11/mile pace to a marathon of over four hours. These are all just random ideas—things I never would have even considered had I not been trying to figure how I had run so, so poorly.
Hydration—Rob and Laura were pretty convinced that I was dehydrated. And I probably didn’t drink quite as much as I should have. However, I was drinking and eating the same way I did during all my long runs. In fact, I made a conscious effort to eat and drink a little more than I had previously. Additionally (TMI alert), empirical evidence post-marathon suggested that I was not more dehydrated than I typically am after long runs.
Not running for a week—Because of my IT band pain, I didn’t run the final week before the marathon. I also cut my 15 mile run short. All I heard from people before the race was that I wouldn’t lose fitness in a week. But maybe I did?
Heat—There wasn’t heat to speak of. The weather was perfect—sunny and slightly cool. However, I wore a long sleeve dry fit shirt. I felt just a tad warm during certain points in the run. Maybe if I had been wearing a t-shirt I would have been a little cooler which would have helped me.
Compression tights—Typically, I operate on the “no good is new good” mantra I mentioned above. But because of my knee, I broke that cardinal rule to wear compression tights that are supposed to be good for IT bands. Maybe these tights did their job and stimulated different muscles—muscles that weren’t quite in the shape that they should be because I’ve been relying too much on my IT bands.
Training—Obviously, my training wasn’t perfect. One of the major criticisms of the Run Less, Run Faster program I was using is the claim that it doesn’t do enough to build aerobic endurance with long, slow runs. This could certainly be part of the problem, but it doesn’t seem to offer a complete explanation. Even if my training plan was a huge problem, I should have still been able to manage the same type of performance I had during training, even if I bonked hard at mile 21 or 22.
Stress—I don’t deal with stress all that well. I’ve gotten much better as I’ve grown older, but it’s not my forte. Specifically, I’ve learned coping mechanisms that help keep me from catastrophe-mode, but I’m still pretty lost if I do happen to make it there. I have a hard time functioning and a hard time pulling myself out. My car and bike getting stolen this month threw me right into panic mode, and I was struggling to deal with that. I wonder if the stress wore me down enough that I just didn’t have it in me to run a good race.
I spent the next day or so extremely discouraged. (Don’t worry—I’ve now graduated to just regular discouraged.) My family was very encouraging, as was Rob, which helped. Coming from an athletic family means my family understands that athletic disappointment can cut pretty deep. I’m not sure if Rob was coming from the same point of view (he did play sports in high school) or if he was just being the steadfast support that he always is.
I did a lot of questioning in the 24 hours after the race. I think I even asked Rob and my dad out loud why I should train at all if it’s all just a toss of the dice anyway. It seemed like another example of doing everything right only to have it somehow go incredibly wrong. I realize this sounds a little silly and is likely making you question my priorities at best and sanity at worst. And I understand it is silly. It is dramatic. However, I’ve learned that if you are upset about something that seems silly, telling yourself it’s stupid to be upset doesn’t do any good. It’s better to figure out why something that seems so insignificant is bothering you so much.
In this case, I think it comes back to my complicated relationship with running. After failing so epically in college track, I kind of shut the door on running competitively. In fact, that’s literally why I got into triathlon. I wanted to do something active that I could train for, but I didn’t want to run. I was too slow. My times would be embarrassing. I wouldn’t be any good at it. As I worked through this marathon training cycle, that idea of myself as “slow” started to rework itself. I was running well. I was improving. I had some stellar (for me) long runs that were faster than I ever thought I could run. I started to think maybe I wasn’t slow after all. Maybe high school hadn’t been a fluke and I did have some talent at this whole running thing after all. It actually felt like I was getting a little part of myself back, like a little gift from the universe. Performing so far below my expectations in the marathon itself seemed to dash those rising hopes back to the ground and confirm my previous understanding of myself. I am slow. I don’t have talent for this running thing. It was stupid for me to sign up for an Ironman.
I wish I could end this post with some story about how a couple days later, I was hit with some beam of inspiration and, well, sanity and realized all these positive things about myself. But I can’t. I’m still disappointed. I’m still struggling not to let that disappointment affect my self-image too negatively. As I mentioned above, when I get into catastrophe-mode, I have a hard time pulling myself back out of it. I haven’t quite accomplished that yet this time around. I will—I always do eventually. And now that I’m 28 and not 20, it usually takes me a couple of stress-free weeks instead of a couple of years.
It’s onwards and upwards to Ironman Coeur d’Alene now. The unfortunate result of running a marathon so far off from my training paces is that I feel the need for redemption. I may run a fall/winter marathon, but that’s a possibility that I am not going to seriously consider until after my Ironman. That’s my goal race. That’s why I trained for a marathon in the first place. And that’s where my focus will be from this point on.
Fake Lowell Marathon
Anyone else ever have an inexplicably crappy race? Any tips for putting it behind me so I can start to look forward?
I sat down to begin writing this post with my marathon looming and with a hypersensitivity to any twinge in my right knee. As I sat down to the empty Word document, I thought to myself, “Okay, how many months until my Ironman again?” And then the answer hit me. Six. Six. A half a year until my Ironman. And then, magnified by the non-training-related stress I’ve had in my life lately, every single bit of fear about my Ironman hit me like a load of bricks. Six months? I can’t do that. I can barely run. I don’t even have a bike. And even if I did, I haven’t been on a bike ride for longer than an hour in months. This was a terrible mistake. Why did I buy the insurance policy for the race?! So that’s where I am right now. I suppose I should consider myself lucky that my first major freak out before the race didn’t happen until now. But I’m using all my brain power just to stop the incessant refrain of “youcan’tdothis youcan’tdothis youcan’tdothis” from playing on repeat in my head.
Other than cycling-specific fitness, my fitness is in great shape. I’m fully trained for a marathon. I’m a faster runner than I’ve been since college. I’m a better swimmer than I’ve ever been. I honestly feel strong. I don’t feel overtired. I think my legs (well, my leg muscles, at least) are in excellent running shape and ready to transition into some hardcore cycling to build up that area of my fitness. I’m leaps and bounds ahead of where I was this time last year in terms of general fitness.
Of course, the issue on my mind is my IT band. At this particular moment, I’m convinced it’s a life-long injury that will render me incapable of running for the rest of my life. I realize that’s more than a little silly, but I do think I’m justified in being worried (although my worry is almost certainly overblown). IT band issues can take a long time to heal up, and the last thing I want to do is to deal with an overuse injury through the five months of Ironman training.
If you’ve read this far, you can probably tell that my anxiety and I are not co-existing peacefully right now. Getting my car and bike stolen kind of overloaded my coping mechanisms, so other problems that are relatively unimportant in the long run (like, say, knee pain) seem much more serious and are difficult for me to handle. My appetite plummeted for a few days, and I was worried I was in for another streak of forcing myself to eat, but it seems to have picked up again. I’ve had some trouble sleeping too, which is par for the course when my anxiety gets bad. Fortunately, my family offered to help me buy a new bike, so a large part of my financial burden was lifted. And, while I’m still on edge and snippy (Rob has been a saint!), I think I’m finally starting to feel better.
Longest swim: 4400 yards
Longest ride: 13.79 miles
Longest run: 26.2 miles
Most encouraging workout: My ePostal One Hour Swim where I hit 3600 yards. I really thought I was setting a goal outside of my reach, and I reached the goal anyway. It was a great indication to me that my stroke and fitness have both improved over the course of the winter. It’s the one discipline I’m feeling really good about right now.
Most discouraging workout: My marathon. This was supposed to be good for my confidence, but all it did was convince me that performance is completely out of my control and that it doesn’t matter how hard I train or how much I prepare—a race is just a roll of the dice anyway. It also convinced me that I am incapable of doing an Ironman and was stupid to ever think I was athletic.
Average time per sport per week
Since I’ve been doing ab work and non-impact cardio lately and plan on implementing some injury-prevention strength training after my marathon, I’m adding in a category for “Other” exercise.
Swim: 75 minutes
Bike: 34 minutes
Run: 184 minutes
Other: 45 minutes
Looking to the future
Well, the marathon is behind me, and it’s time to switch focus to recovery and my Ironman. Before my knee started acting up, I hadn’t planned to cut back on running as much as I plan to now. I had hoped to run (and PR!) another 5k and have a really good race in the Salt Lake City Half Marathon on April 16. Instead, any 5k race is postponed indefinitely, and I’ll settle for a solid and hopefully pain-free race in April. I’m going to spend the next few days putting together a routine that will help me build hip and glute strength to prevent any recurrence of my IT band pain. And after a week of easy workouts to recover from this marathon, I’ll start cycling. A lot. Or, well, a lot more than I have been! Because my new bike isn’t built up yet, I’ll have to spend a lot of time on a stationary bike at first, but I’ll deal with it. I’m hoping to start riding three days a week for a total of 2-3 hours a week at first. And then, the plan is to build up the length of my rides so that my weekend ride is at least 90 minutes and my total time on the bike each week is around 3-4 hours.
Monday: Swim—Masters swim team (2600yds)
We did a Valentine’s Day workout today—a heart-rate based set. I slept terribly on Sunday night (woke up at 1:30, didn’t go back to sleep until 4:30), so I was not looking forward to swimming. Almost no one was there because it was President’s Day, though, so I could pretty much swim at my own speed. I didn’t make it through the whole workout, and I crossed out the sets I didn’t swim: 300 swim 200 kick 100 very easy *Take standing heart rate* 4 x 50 closed fist 4 x 50 fast kick, easy swim 4 x 200 @ SHR+50 100 easy @ SHR 4 x 100 @ SHR+50 100 easy @ SHR 4 x 50 @ SHR+50 100 easy @ SHR 3 x 100 sprint @ SHR 100 easy
Basically, we took our standing heart rates after the first easy 100. (Mine was 90.) Then, instead of doing intervals based on times, we did them based on heart rate. It’s always fun to do something a little different, so I enjoyed this workout. The longer periods of rest were nice, especially since I wasn’t worried about being late to work (also because of President’s day). Under normal circumstances, I would have timed my three 100 sprints, but because I was feeling so tired, I didn’t. I knew I’d probably be slow, and since my “dealing with life” emotional muscles are currently strained and tired, I figured I’d give them a rest where I could. This was my last hard workout of any kind before my marathon on Saturday.
Tuesday: Elliptical—30 minutes
I did the elliptical for half an hour today, and I didn’t feel my knee at all. At least one article I read online said that the motion on the elliptical may be too similar to running and thus may still cause pain. So the fact that it didn’t was a positive sign. I made the mistake of going to the Google about IT band pain again. And I stumbled across horror stories which sent me into a near panic. #neveragain The elliptical actually made my calves sore that evening. I guess the machine must have activated them in a slightly different way than my running did. I decided to be a little more careful on Thursday to not engage them quite as much. I don’t want sore calves during a marathon!
Wednesday: Bike—30 minutes; 8-minutes abs
I finally got my first core session in this week. I meant to do one on Monday and then on Tuesday, but I kept forgetting until I was lying in bed. Today, I did my core work during lunch at work to avoid forgetting yet again. When I was changing back into work clothes afterwards, I swear I counted six little abs. I mean, they were only noticeable because the light was very dim and I had just finished with my routine, but it was still pretty exciting. After work, I headed to the gym and did thirty minutes on the stationary bike. I’m slowly gaining a tolerance to the boredom of stationary cycling, which means I should be able to bust out some longer rides on the stationary bike once I’m done with my marathon.
Thursday: Elliptical—20 minutes; 8-minute abs
This was my final workout before my marathon! I used a different elliptical machine than I did on Tuesday because I realized my work gym had one. Funny how I’ve been using that gym periodically for months and didn’t remember they had ellipticals. Too focused on the treadmill, I guess. Anyway, I did twenty very easy minutes on the elliptical before doing some core work.
I took the day off on Friday and drove up to Nampa. I watched my nieces and nephews in the evening. Even though they were all very well-behaved and we were watching a movie, it was pretty exhausting. One would fall over on the chair and spill popcorn, and just as I was cleaning that up, the baby would start whining. Then another one would want more milk. It was very fun, but I think I gained a new appreciation for what my old sister does every day! My dad and I also went out and checked out the course so I could have an idea of where we were running.
Saturday: Run—26.2 miles (4:02:12)
So, the good news is, my IT band held up during my marathon. The bad news is that the rest of me completely fell apart. It really, really sucked, and I wish I had an explanation for how completely horribly I ran, but I just can’t figure it out. But trust me, I’ll give it a good shot in a self-indulgent blog post sometime this week. Honestly, I’m really disappointed about it. I’m struggling with it more than I probably should be. This run was supposed to be a confidence-builder, but it ended up being the opposite of that. Anyway, I’ll get into the whole weird thing later. I’m just glad this was also a fake, unverifiable run like all my training run have been or I’m sure everyone would think I had been lying about my training times.
I was thinking of doing core work on Sunday, but I decided not to and to instead wallow in my failure so that I can work through it and hopefully write a reasonable race report for the marathon.
I’ve had some not-all-that-worrisome knee pain during this marathon training cycle. I had a little bit of pain after a run here and there, but it always got better within a day or so. Most runs, I didn’t feel it at all. I was being careful and trying to give it the care it needed.
And then it was like something pushed it over the edge. It wasn’t either of my twenty mile runs. It wasn’t fast intervals or long tempos. I think it was doing the dolphin kick. I noticed after swimming one day that my knee hurt, which was surprising because, well, I was swimming. Then the next day (my first week of taper), it hurt so badly on my 15 mile run that I cut the run down to 8 miles. Suddenly, I went from mildly concerned to panicked.
A panicked Katie is a Googling Katie, so this weekend, I finally searched online for what the problem was. The two main knee issues that runners face are runner’s knee and IT band issues. I suspected it was the latter, and when I read that if you have IT band issues, fast intervals are typically less painful than longer slower runs, I was certain that it was my IT band. Chronic, soft-tissue pain is a new experience to me. I’ve had two running injuries. When I was a freshman in high school, I broke my hip running cross-country. It was a pelvic avulsion fracture, which basically means that the muscle pulled the bone apart. It was a hairline fracture, so my treatment was crutches and pain meds. Once it stopped hurting, it was better. When I was a freshman in college, I got a stress fracture in my fibula. Again, once it was properly diagnosed, the treatment was simple. No impact until it stopped hurting. After spending a few weeks pool running and getting to know the elliptical, I was better. And I never had an issue with it again.
Soft tissue problems are a scarier beast to me. Especially when I’m supposed to be running a marathon this weekend. I kept Googling. The words on the screen were basically, “Be careful while you run and add in some hip and glute strengthening activities, and you should be able to get past it.” The words that my brain read said, “You’ll never get better. You will be in pain until you die.” Here’s the thing. The more stress that piles up in my life, the harder time I have maintaining perspective. I tend to catastrophize (it’s an anxiety thing). I’ve become better at not doing that as I’ve become better at managing my anxiety. But when the stressors pile up, that’s right where I go. And, well, the stressors have been piling up lately.
All this to say that this IT band issue quickly became something terrifying to me. I had to come up with a plan for dealing with it. After doing some reading online, I discovered that most experts think the underlying issue behind IT band pain is weakness in the hips and glutes. That means to put the issue completely to rest, I’ll need to build up some hit and glute strength. But since I was doing all this research literally one week before a scheduled marathon, I knew that strengthening would have to be part of the post-marathon process. I was not going to gain hip and glute strength in a week. So my post-marathon plan was going to have to be different than my pre-marathon plan.
Skip the final long run (10 miles) and do a long pool-running session instead
Take the week before the marathon off running and focus on non-impact exercise instead
Continue icing and taking ibuprofen regularly
Buy some kinesiology tape for the marathon
Double up on ibuprofen and acetaminophen on “race” day
Continue with ice and ibuprofen regimen
Take at least one week completely off running (more, if my knee continues to hurt)
Immediately start a strength routine to build hip and glute strength
Continue using kinesiology tape while running for several weeks
Kick this problem in the butt before I start Ironman training on April 4
So, how does this stupid knee thing affect my marathon on Saturday? Well, I’m not setting any time goals because of it. I know where my fitness is. I know what pace I can run if I’m feeling 100%. Based on my training times, if I’m feeling good, I will probably run between a 3:35 and 3:40. And really, training, not racing, was the main point of this whole marathon training cycle. If I feel like my knee slowed me down, I’ll be disappointed… regardless of my time. I’ll be disappointed if I run a 3:50 because my knee was hurting. I’d be disappointed if I ran a 3:20 (YEAH RIGHT) but felt I could have run faster if my knee were feeling better. If I take care of my knee until Saturday, though, and take some over-the-counter pain medication before running, I think I’ll be able to make it through just fine. I’m typically pretty tough. I finished a cross-country race on a broken pelvis. I completed half a heptathlon on what was at that point a pretty serious (undiagnosed) stress fracture. I’ll make it through the 26.2 miles.
And then, I’ll rest up, start a strength routine, and hope for the best. I’ve got five weeks between my marathon and the start of my Ironman training plan, so that should give me enough time to get 100% healthy. This whole potential injury thing has reminded me both how lucky I am to be able to train and that training for an Ironman is a great opportunity, not an obligation. Lately (probably because I’ve been running more than anything else), each workout has felt like something I have to do. That’s normal, I think, and slumps like that are where dedication is important. But the past week, I’ve felt fortunate for the workouts I’ve been able to do and antsy (almost excited, in fact!) to run again.
So let’s hope I retain the motivation for Saturday but get rid of the pain!
Has anyone else struggled with IT band issues? What worked for you?
Monday: Swim—Masters swim team (2600yds); 8-minute abs
I didn’t get to bed until past midnight on Sunday, which is almost unheard of for me. I watched the Stupid Bowl… the Donkeys won, so I had to celebrate afterwards! (“Celebrating” mostly consisted of reading predictions for the game made earlier in the week and feeling superior to any sports commentators who predicted a Panthers win…) Needless to say, when my alarm went off at 4:50am, I was less than pleased. I actually decided to sleep in and skip swimming, but then realized five minutes later I wouldn’t really go back to sleep anyway, so I got up and went anyway. I realized that sleeping through a workout didn’t really mesh with the “back on track” theme for the week. Plus, I don’t drink, so I was just tired, not hungover and tired. I’m glad I went! We did a hard workout, but fortunately, it wasn’t a killer: 300 swim 200 kick 100 pull 4 x 50 kick 4 x 50 closed fist 200 (build) @ 3:30 4 x 25 (M/F, F/M, M, F) @ :30 50 easy 2 x 100 (sprint outside the flags) @ 1:45 4 x 25 (M/F, F/M, M, F) @ :30 50 easy 8 x 50 (build) @ :55 4 x 25 (M/F, F/M, M, F) @ :30 50 easy 12 x 25 (17-18 seconds each) @ :30 50 easy
A little explanation for that notation is required. M and F stand for “medium” and “fast.” So, the first 25 in those sets of four started out medium and finished fast. The rest is easy to extrapolate. “Sprinting outside the flags” meant we went as fast as we could approaching the wall and right off the wall. It was good practice for me because that’s general where I lose most of my time when swimming in a pool. The coach told me to aim for 17-18 seconds for each of my 25s at the end. I think I was pretty close to hitting that, but it was hard to tell because of my goggles. See, the ones I like were in my car when it got stolen. So I’ve been using my backup goggles which are tinted blue and which make it impossible to read the red LED clock we use to time ourselves. So I would reach the wall, then lift up my goggles to see the time, then try to start again at the right time. I need to get new goggles. That’s on the list this week. I also did some core work in the evening. I’m trying to get back to three times a week after my last couple of weeks.
Tuesday: Run—800m, 3 x 1600, 800m
I got the office around 6:00am to do my speed workout, the last one of this marathon training cycle! After warming up, I set the treadmill to 8.8mph (6:48/mile) and a 1% incline. I ran a mile then jumped off the treadmill for a quarter mile to recover. The pace for these mile repeats felt pretty much perfect for a lighter week. It was hard, but I never felt like I was giving 100% to keep the pace up. The hardest part was dealing with the boredom. It takes everything in me not to just watch the treadmill dashboard as the little dot travels slowly around the track. There were people there, and I don’t like running with earbuds, so I couldn’t listen to music. Instead, I sang two songs in my head—long medleys that I sang in junior high choir. Seriously. The songs are long enough that if I can get a good portion of the way through one of them, I can look down at the dashboard and have gone a decent distance. During the last mile, I upped the speed a bit. I started by raising the speed to 8.9mph halfway through and continued to raise it slowly from there. My knee hurt some, but it actually seems to do better when I’m running a little faster. Maybe it’s partly a stride/footfall thing. I also stopped at the store to get goggles and a swim cap for swimming and athletic tape to try my dad’s miracle cure.
Wednesday: Bike—30 minutes
I just went to the gym and did thirty minutes on the stationary bike. Stationary bikes are the absolute worst, and I’m getting very antsy to ride a real one again! It takes me about 10-15 minutes to get bored, and then I’m really, really bored for the rest of the ride. I need to figure out a way to listen to podcasts or something while on the bike. That would likely make things more manageable.
Thursday: Run—5 miles (37:11); 8-minute abs
I got to work early so I could take a long lunch and run. But it ended up being significantly colder at noon than predicted by my weather app (28° versus the predicted 37°). Because I didn’t bring clothes for weather that cold and because it was much warmer back up in Salt Lake City, I decided to leave early and run after work instead. I decided to run a loop around Rob’s place several times so that I could run without being stopped by stoplights and have the opportunity to stop early if my knee started hurting. I didn’t have a pace checkpoint until I was done with the first loop, and I ended up starting out too fast. It ended up not being a bad thing in the end, though. My knee started hurting during mile four, and I decided to play it safe and call it quits after five miles. So I ended up running the five miles at a 7:27/mile pace, which is my typical pace for five mile tempo runs. I got back, iced my knee, and took some ibuprofen. At this point, I still think that, with ibuprofen and some TLC in the next week or so, I’ll be able to make it through my marathon without any major issues. But I’ll probably try to take at least one full week off running afterwards. I’m pretty sure it’s IT band issues. I also did some core work in the evening.
I took the day off. My knee was still giving me fits even the day after a short run, so I was a bit panicked about it and made the decision to be extra careful with it until next Saturday. Rob and I celebrated Valentine’s Day by going out to our favorite restaurant. I made the mistake of getting a dish he liked, so I didn’t have any leftovers. Next time, I’ll have to get one with meat it in. (I’m kidding… sort of…)
Saturday: Pool running—90 minutes; 8-minute abs
I haven’t done any pool running since I was in college, but I decided that it would be better for my knee to do 90 minutes of pool running instead of trying (and probably failing) to run 10 miles. The pool was open from 7-9am, then closed for a couple hours for swimming lessons. I wanted to get this workout over and done with, so I woke up early and got to the pool right when they opened. Ninety minutes sounds like a really long time, but it wasn’t too horrible for me. Honestly, as long as I’m moving somewhere, I tend to be find. Treadmill? No way. Stationary bike? Even worse. But for some reason, pool running is okay. I was bored, but it wasn’t unbearable. The good news is that my knee didn’t hurt, and I’m sure it’s much better off than it would have been if I had run. The bad news is that I’m sure it wasn’t as good a workout as a ten mile run would have been. However, when I got out of the water, my legs were noticeably tired, so I definitely got something out of the workout. Afterwards, I went to Rob’s place and spent almost literally the whole day playing video games saving the world. Oh, and I did some core work in the evening.
Sunday: Bike—30 minutes
I went to the gym after work and did an easy 30 minute spin on the stationary bike. Usually, each minute on the bike is like torture, but I managed to keep myself from looking at my watch obsessively. I kept reminding myself that if I looked at my watch and saw I had only been riding 10 minutes, I would be demoralized. When I finally did look at my watch, I was expecting it to say about 20 minutes. But I had already been riding 28! I’m glad I had some self-control because, since my gym is actually primarily an aquatic center, it was muggy and warm on the bike which sucks for indoor riding.
If you follow my blog much, you probably know that last week, my car was stolen. With my bike inside. It’s been a rough week as I’ve figured out my car situation, but I’ve finally purchased and registered a car. It’s unfortunate because car shopping (and bike shopping) should be a really fun and exciting experience. However, every time I look at my car, my heart drops a little as I remember my poor little Honda Accord. Turns out, rebound relationships are hard.
Now it’s time to switch my focus to replacing my bike. I find myself facing the same dilemma. When I start thinking about a new bike, I remember my wonderful Cannondale CAAD10, and any excitement I am feeling about finding a new bike is dampened considerably.
But on Tuesday, I had a moment. Rob found a great deal on a carbon aero road bike frame through a friend of his. I was excited on a practical level to find a nice frame for an excellent price, but I couldn’t muster up the feeling of love I get for my favorite toys. I had decided to go with that frame, but Rob surprised me by bringing it home from work on Tuesday evening. When I got over to his house, he took it out of the box, and I felt a familiar stirring of true excitement over this gorgeous frame. The excitement was muted, of course, by thoughts of my Cannondale, but it was nice to feel the stirrings of joy over a new bike. Once I have grieved my Cannondale* and built up this new bike, I think I’ll be ready to fall in love with it.
Monday: Swim—Masters swim team (2075yds); 8-minute abs
It was a short day yard-wise, but the workout was still tough. We actually did a few full sprints in practice which was new and exciting: 300 swim 200 kick 100 pull 4 x 50 10-beat kick 4 x 50 ¾ catchup 3 x 200 (streamline, pull, kick, fast) 75 easy 3 x 100 (sprint) 100 easy
We swam hard the entire time when doing the 200s, but we were focused on one part of our stroke during each 50 of the 200. And then we did three 100 yard sprints. We got to start from the blocks which is always a ton of fun. Last time I used the blocks, I had a lot of trouble keeping my goggles on. This time, I didn’t lose my goggles once. I did kind of belly flop once, though. I was pleased with my times, especially since I swam the first 200s hard. My times were 1:14, 1:18, and 1:18. The coach brought up my terrible form when coming off the walls. Apparently, I look like a limp fish but less streamlined. So that and flip-turns is going to be something I work on over the next few months. I have wanted to improve my flip-turns for a while, but I haven’t had much impetus until now. And, despite my understandable lapse last week, I was able to get right back into my core routine on Monday evening.
Tuesday: Run—800m, 7 x 800, 800m
I didn’t have much of a choice except to do this run on the treadmill. Being carless when you work 25 miles away and are also training for something is a pain. I got up bright and early (well, dark and early…) and hopped on the train down to my office. I got on the treadmill at the office gym around 7:00am and got to work. I noticed some residual pain in my knee after my long run on Saturday, and my left calf was still a little sore. Both felt fine as I warmed up, though. For these repeats, I ran for .5 miles, then hopped to the side of the treadmill for .2 miles which meant I had about 1:20 rest between reps. I ran my 800s at 9.1mph (6:3x/mile). This was a tough workout, but not nearly as hard as my speed workout last week. I’m starting to cut back for taper, so I would have been worried if this workout had felt as hard as last week’s. I noticed I recovered very well between reps which is nice because I’ve had some trouble with my recovery during 800 workouts in the past. During the final 400, I ratcheted up the speed gradually. For just the final 10 or 15 seconds, I hit 10.1 miles an hour, or a sub-6:00 pace. It was fun to hit a fast pace even though it didn’t really mean anything fitness-wise.
I took a rest day. I was going to go to the gym and ride the stationary bike after work, but I didn’t feel like it and was looking at a car later that evening. So I decided to take the day as my rest day instead. I’m glad I did. It was nice to just relax. Sometimes, when I’m going through something particularly stressful (like, say, a stolen car and bike and the subsequent financial trouble), I go-go-go until I just break down. It wasn’t until I gave myself permission to say “no” and have some unplanned respite that I realized just how much I needed it.
Thursday: Run—4 miles (28:40); 8-minute abs
This is the one four mile tempo run my marathon training plan calls for, and they just threw it in there right at the very end. I almost decided to do this run in the morning, but in line with my decision on Wednesday, I decided to give myself a break, sleep in, and do the run after work instead. That turned out to be a good decision. It was a cold day, and running during the coldest part would have been miserable. As it was, I ran in weather that was below 30° for the first time in a while. The run went well, and it was just what I needed. I did three loops in the park. I actually enjoyed the run despite the repetition because I knew exactly where I was and how far I had left. I finished with a 7:10/mile pace, which was a much-needed encouragement. In September, I ran a 5k at a 7:19/mile pace and was exhausted afterwards. On Thursday, I ran four miles at a 7:10/mile pace and felt pretty much fully recovered 30 minutes later. It’s always nice to have a run that highlights your improvements over a training cycle. I also did some core work later in the evening.
Friday: Swim—Masters swim team (2250 yards)
We did a hypoxic set today at practice which means working on swimming without much oxygen. Apparently, this is actually pretty dangerous and shouldn’t be done unless you are being properly supervised (as in, by a coach and not just by a 16 year old lifeguard). So, with that in mind, don’t try this at home: 300 swim 200 kick 100 pull 8 x 50 kick, drill 5 x 25 @ :30 (5, 7, 9, 7, 5 strokes per breath) 5 x 50 @ 1:00 (5, 7, 9, 7, 5 strokes per breath) 5 x 75 @ 1:35 (5, 7, 9, 7, 5 strokes per breath) 4 x 25 @ :45 (one breath) 100 easy 12 x 25 @ :35 (one breath, butterfly after you take first breath)
This was hard, but I did much better than I did the last time I did a hypoxic set. I managed to make it through until the final 25s without breathing more than the prescribed amount of times. I had pretty much reached my limit by the final 25s, though, and ended up having to do (a very poor version of) butterfly for the second half of most of them. I noticed that the dolphin kick actually hurt my achy knee, so I iced it some at work. Eh, it’s a good excuse to not do butterfly ever again for a while.
Saturday: Run—8 miles (1:05:41)
I was supposed to go out for 15 miles today, but my knee started hurting within the first couple miles and just didn’t stop. It hit the point where I could feel the pain radiating throughout the rest of my leg. I probably could have run the 15 miles on it, but at eight, I decided that just wasn’t a good idea. I don’t carry my phone with my on my long runs, so I had to borrow a phone and try to call my parents (one of the only phone numbers I know) so they could call Rob and have him come pick me up. They weren’t home, so I sat on the curb and cried until some nice family saw me in distress and asked if I needed a ride. After this week of stress, worrisome knee pain was pretty much the last thing I needed. I did buy a car, though. I think it’s a pretty cool car, but handing over that many $100 bills did not help my stress level.
After my crappy day week, I just took Sunday off. I didn’t worry about getting to the gym. I didn’t worry about doing core work. I just spent the morning helping Rob clean his place for the Superbowl and playing some ChronoTrigger.
Reflections: Again, I normally don’t reflect on a week as a whole, but this week calls for some reflections. This week, to put it bluntly, sucked. Getting my car stolen and buying a new car were both incredibly stressful, and I don’t deal all that well with stress. Trying to get in my workouts while borrowing cars and taking public transportation (which I’m not all that good at) was rough. The stress started to get to me, and my sleep and appetite both suffered this week because of it. And to top it all off, my knee really hurts. To be honest, I’m really frustrated right now, about life and training. I kind of want to just hide from it all (hence, spending my free time this weekend playing a video game). Some of the below-par performances were for good reasons. I cut my run short because my knee hurt, not because I felt like crap emotionally. But I gave myself the day off on Sunday for physical (knee) and emotional (just couldn’t even) reasons. So this week was the week for giving myself a break, but I need to get 100% back on the horse next week.
There’s a conversation I have periodically when I mention a workout I’m not particularly keen on completing. I had it again at work on Friday.
“Ugh, I have to run 20 miles this weekend.”
“Well, you don’t have to…”
“Yes. I do. It’s written on a piece of paper for Saturday, so I have to do it.”
My borderline-obsessive need to stick to a plan is mostly a blessing, but sometimes it becomes a bit of a curse. On Friday, I checked the weather and realized it was supposed to snow all weekend instead of rain, as was predicted earlier. I kept checking the weather throughout the day. As my niece would say while shaking her head and inspecting her stuffed animals with her doctor toys, “Not good, not good.” The forecast predicted rain/snow all night on Friday and all day on Saturday. I didn’t know how bad the weather would be, but I knew I wanted a back-up plan.
I knew that the treadmill would be my last resort. I can’t imagine much worse than running in place for three hours.
I also knew that I was fortunate enough to live in an area with a very nice 442-meter indoor track. I decided that, in a pinch, the track would work fine.
When I woke up on Saturday, it was snowing. And it continued to snow throughout the day. I went to Rob’s house in a desire to delay the inevitable decision. He cautioned against running outside, but he’s a very cautious person, so I still fruitlessly hoped running outside would be an option. But I knew. It just wasn’t worth risking an injury or overworking my stabilizing muscles in the slush. Another complicating factor arose, though. The indoor track was closed for most of the day for a high school track meet. It wouldn’t open until 6:30pm. That meant I would be running until almost 9:30pm. I am not an evening exerciser. I hate having a hard run or bike ride hanging over my head all day long. I can manage to squeeze in workouts after work, but barely. And generally, even those “evening” workouts are done by 6:30pm. But it seemed like the best option, so I dutifully fueled for the run, drank water all day, and drove to the track after dinner.
When I got to the track, the high school kids and coaches were just leaving. I should have driven over a little early so I could watch them finish up! It was a flashback to high school and college. I was also pleased to note that the ice was full of kids learning to skate and high schoolers on dates. I should have expected that they’d have people skating, but since I’ve only been to the Olympic Oval in the morning, it took me by surprise. Those skaters may have been my saving grace because they were virtually the only aspect of the physical environment that distracted me from the fact that I was running around in circles for almost three hours.
As I mentioned above, this track is 442 meters long which means I would need to run 73 laps to complete 20 (well, 20.05!) miles. Instead of keeping track of laps (which was never going to happen), I decided to keep track of “miles.” Four laps around the track was about 1.1 miles, so I figured out the pace I should probably be hitting for these miles. An 8:47 “mile” equated to a 7:59 mile and a 9:10 “mile” equated to an 8:20 mile. I planned to take my split for each “mile” and track my distance that way. Seventy-three laps converted into 18.25 “miles.” Since I ran my last 20 miler at an 8:11/mile pace, I was hoping to run around an 8:15/mile pace (9:03 “mile” pace) this time around.
Before I get started on the run itself, here are my times for each four-lap segment around the track:
It’s clear that I was a little slow. I started out without much of an idea about how fast I was going. Somehow, being inside messed with my perception of my own pace. (And when I crossed the first lap, I did some bad math and thought I was going faster than I was. Whoops.) I sped up for the second “mile” (I’m done with the scare quotes now. You know what I mean by “mile” at this point!) before settling into a steadier pace. The run was going reasonably well. I was ticking the miles off without too much mental anguish. And then tragedy hit. Well, it felt like a tragedy, anyway. I had my water bottle, a bottle of Powerade, and my gummies on the padded mats separating the track from the ice. Some kid rammed into the mat and knocked my Powerade bottle off. I collect crappy water bottles, so it burst open and spilled Powerade all over the track. Crap. I had to run over to the bathroom and grab some paper towels so I could kind of clean it up. Okay, not a tragedy. The tragedy came two laps later when I approached the finish line and saw that my water bottles and gummies were gone. Missing. I was certain they had been thrown away and my run was over. I went to the front desk and asked. I started checking trash cans. I asked some guys driving an official-looking little vehicle around. And, after about ten minutes, I ran by the finish line again, headed to the front desk. And all my stuff was still there—just on the other side of the track where it wouldn’t be knocked over by errant pre-teen. Of course.
I was a bit worked up by this time. I don’t deal well when I face unexpected changes, especially if I’m already out of my routine. I felt anxious and a bit claustrophobic. All this happened at the busiest time on the track, and I didn’t like be surrounded by all those people. This all occurred during mile 6, which was my fastest mile by far because of this anxiety. I could tell I was worked up because I almost stopped to lecture a junior high boy when I heard him call his friend a (Mom and Dad, close your ears!) pussy. “Excuse me, son! Do you know that when you words associated with women as insults and as synonyms for ‘weak’ that you are unintentionally propagating the idea that women are weak and that to be a woman is inherently a negative thing?”
I calmed down, and nothing exciting happened for the rest of my run. It’s been a few days, and the whole thing is kind of blending together in my brain. It was mentally painful, and it made me appreciate running outside. I slowed down a lot during miles 16 and 17. When I’m running outside and get within three or four miles of my finishing location, there’s a homing instinct that kicks in. I naturally pick up the pace a little (or at least, naturally avoid slowing down despite my exhaustion). I get a mini version of what often happens towards the end of the race when adrenaline helps power you through the last few miles. That didn’t happen at all inside. All I could think was, “How bad would it be to stop a little early?” and “I have how many laps left?” You can see from my times towards the end that I was really struggling. I did manage a “kick” during the last five laps, but I could not get my brain and my body to work together to pick it up before then.
I also learned something new about myself. I like hills. Not insane climbing, but the periodic hills on my long run route add some variety. I’m not taking the exact same stride a million times. The changes in the terrain give certain muscles a break periodically and challenge certain other muscles from time to time. I was hurting at the end of my flat run far more than I was hurting at the end of my last 20 miler. I think my calf was on the verge of cramping up, and I was feeling some pain in other parts of my body, I’m sure related to the repetitive, pounding motion.
I finished and immediately sat down on the track. I felt like a bit of an idiot, sitting there in the middle of the track (out of the other runners’ ways!) at 9:30pm, but it took a good couple of minutes before I could force myself to the bleachers where I recovered for a good five minutes before dragging myself back out to my car, lamenting at how far away I had been forced to park due to the track meet.
I struggled through this run. I averaged an 8:17/mile pace which was good, but still a little frustrating considering my 8:11/mile pace last time. For whatever reason, I wasn’t on point. I felt a little slow, and I was surprised at how early in the run I started to feel strained. But despite that, I put a lot into the run. I worked hard, and I never gave up mentally. Really. Those slow miles at the end? I was seriously trying. When it comes down to it, effort is the only factor completely under your control in runs, so while I would have liked to have run a few seconds per mile faster, I’m still proud of myself for working hard, even though the running conditions were so different (and not really in a good way!). If you are looking for a relaxing run, I would not recommend running inside. However, if you’re looking for a workout that will challenge you mentally and build that mental toughness so important for distance runners, an indoor long run might be just what you need.
What have your experiences with running (or cycling!) indoors been? What are your tricks for making it through?