Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A New Approach

Since I have been unable to get into a very good training rhythm since well before my last marathon, I've decided to try something different. I have taken Pfitzinger's 12-week, 55-mile plan and have created a schedule that includes an entry for the workout prescribed by the plan and an entry where I enter what I plan to do. I'm going to look at each upcoming week on Sunday night, assess how I feel, what I did the week before, what races are on the horizon, etc. and adjust accordingly. For instance, I changed up this week's schedule because I got a terrible night's sleep on Monday and just couldn't get up early enough on Tuesday to do 8-10 miles. I did 5 miles on the trails yesterday, then just under 10 this morning (not that I slept any better last night). I'll do 5 with some strides tomorrow and then hope for the best on Saturday's 10K.

Since I'm writing off a BQ again, I feel like this new approach will enable me to stop being a slave to a schedule, while still keeping the indisputably valuable training elements which makes the Pfitzinger plan so popular, which has led so many marathoners to find great success after following it.

Since I've been feeling better and better during and after each of my recent runs, I hope to continue this momentum through my upcoming training, shorter races and into the final push for a healthy start at Chicago.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Some Semblance of Normality

The road back from injury is rarely pretty, but I seem to be making slow, steady progress. Last week looked like this:
  • Mon - 20 min elliptical; circuit training; core; stretching
  • Tues - 7.5 miles, with 6X100-meter strides
  • Wed - Physical Therapy and about 30+ mins of cycling (to and from work and PT)
  • Thur - 8.5 miles
  • Fri - 30 mins elliptical; light weights; core; stretching
  • Sat - 4+ miles, with 15 mins at tempo pace (about 7:20/mile)
  • Sun - 14 miles
Total mileage just a hair under 35 for the week, but more important is that while I'm a little tired and a bit sore, I feel pretty good. The tempo miles on Saturday were less a training session and more of a test to see how it would feel to run fast on Saturday, at the Beach to Beacon 10K in Maine. It seems unlikely that I'll break 43:00 like last year, but I'm looking forward to using the race as a stepping stone to getting back in the training and racing groove.

While I am essentially following the Pfitzinger 12-week/55-mile peak schedule, I am modifying to account for how I feel, the races I want to run and anything else that reasonably dictates a change from Pete's prescribed program. Therefore, this week will look this (first figure is my mileage; second is Pete's recommended workout):
  • Mon - same as last week / Rest/XT
  • Tues - 8-10M, with 5+ strides / 8M, with 4M at LT pace
  • Wed - 4-5M (trails) / Rest/XT
  • Thurs - 8M / 11M
  • Fri - Rest / Rest/XT
  • Sat - 10K Race (8-10M total) / 5M Recovery
  • Sun - 14-15M (easy) / 15M

Last time around, I would have tried to race AND keep the rest of the schedule the same. As some of my RW forum-mates observed, the 10K race will be like a tempo/LT run, so there's no point beating myself up unnecessarily, especially with a goal 5K race on August 14th.

"Humility" and "serenity" are my current buzzwords. These concepts stem from the realization (finally!) that I am not talented enough to expect to get to Boston so soon, and must continue to try to improve methodically, avoiding injury and making incremental progress. If I can shave 10 minutes off my Burlington time, then I'll be getting closer and closer. I may even skip a Spring marathon, focus on half-marathons and 10Ks and then build up again for a Fall 2009 marathon as a Boston qualifying attempt.

For now, I hope that the humidity abates some, and that each time I hit the road, trail or track, I feel a little bit better, smoother and faster than I did the last time.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Back to the Grind

I am now officially back from vacation, and after more than two weeks of being in a house full of 10-plus people, I arrived home all by myself last night. Other than a whining cat, no one bothered me about anything, and I just zoned out watching a dumb movie and taking a few passes over my foam roller. It was heavenly.

Because we were away this past weekend, I missed my running club's home race, which was bittersweet, since I wish I could have participated, though given my current pathetic state I don't think I could have matched last year's time 34:00+ for 5 miles. I struggled through a slow 4-miler in Maine on Saturday, in unbelievable humidity at 8:00 a.m. Then I managed 11 miles yesterday, again in intensely humid conditions. Though I tend to find running shirtless to be a bit inelegant, I did ditch my shirt at the midway point of each run this weekend. The Asics tech fabric simply wasn't up to the task (at mile 5.5 yesterday, I rang the shirt out and it was still full of moisture). I do wish I'd been able to weigh myself before and after yesterday's run, since I'm not sure I've sweat that much since I used to play summer league soccer on the occasional 100-degree day.

Running-wise, I'm in a tough spot right now. I'm feeling "off", with a tight back, weak/tight/sore hip flexors and numbness in my left leg. Yesterday was the 12-weeks-until-the-Chicago-Marathon mark, and I'm resolved to train simply to finish it and - hopefully - improve incrementally on my Vermont time, perhaps dipping under 3:40. Assuming that I do not qualify for Boston (a safe assumption), I think I will skip a spring marathon and try to re-group for another stab next fall. I feel like I need a running miracle, where my body settles into training without the various limiting factors which have dogged me since mid-April, when I stupidly did too much speedwork in less than two weeks and have not really run well since, suffering gluteal soreness, multiple other hip issues, throwing out my back and now experiencing lingering sciatica.

I did run 35 miles last week without completely crumbling, but I feel tired and tight on every run, and generally need to stop every couple of miles - even on shorter runs - to stretch and gather my wits about me. Heat and hills only make it worse. I will see my PT and chiropractor this week, so I hope they can help, and that getting back into yoga will also make a difference.

At this point, I also fear that I will perform very poorly in two upcoming races: the Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth, Maine and a large local 5K which means a lot to the guy who organizes our corporate team (and who runs a sub-18:00 5K at age 54 and happens to be my boss). I had hoped to be in a position to flirt with sub-19:00, but will be lucky to be able to break 21:00 if my hips, back and left leg do not feel better and I can't get in some speedwork (without hurting myself) before race day.

Tomorrow I will start on Pfitzinger's 12-week, 55 mile-max plan, and hope that it's enough (with the residual fitness that's trapped in my body) to get to Chicago in reasonable shape, even that means nowhere near Boston qualifying shape.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Slow Road Back

I'm unofficially back from vacation (at work for a couple of days, though still "off"), and though I had a glorious week away, I can't help but be bummed out and burdened by the current state of my running. I estimate that I've gained as much as 5 pounds since last training cycle, which is more a nuisance than a tragedy, but I find myself unwilling to curb my intake of indulgent food and snacks while running far less than I'd become accustomed to over the past six months or so.

The back pain subsided enough by July 4th, that I was able to run 4 laborious miles on Saturday the 5th. I added another 5 the next day, still slow, as the back pain was gone, but lingering sciatica made it feel like I was dragging my left leg along for the ride. I still have some numbness in that leg, and have some slight tightness in the back. I've managed two runs of over 8 miles in the past 3 weeks. Hardly an optimal marathon training plan.

I'm pretty much off of the Pfitzinger 18/55 plan, and am thinking of trying to jump into the 12/55 plan starting next week. This is a "rest week" under the 18/55, so if I can do that mileage and feel okay, I may be back in the saddle. It will certainly not be ideal in terms of getting to Chicago in prime shape, but if I can ease myself back into a good training groove, I'd be much happier than I have been since experiencing hip problems in mid-April.

I also KNOW that the reasonable thing to do is to take some time off, but I can't bear to let my Chicago registration and airfare vaporize. I also know that the chances of my running in Boston in 2009 (at least as a qualifier) become less and less as each sub-par training day passes.

A now-60-year-old colleague of mine ran a 2:49 to qualify for Boston when he was about my age, but he never ran it because he broke his leg skiing that winter and battled subsequent injuries and surgeries for the next 10 years, continuously pushing himself until he simply had to stop running. He told me to ask myself if I'd rather try to run Boston in 2009 at any cost, or if I'd like to be able to run it when I'm 45 or 50 or beyond. It's a perfectly valid question, but I seem unable to sacrifice the short term for the "big picture" right now. What I fear I am doing is entrenching myself in a downward spiral, where I'm slogging through unproductive miles with various physical and biomechanical problems, and, thus, at best I'm treading water (i.e., locking in a slow marathon pace) and at worst am causing more problems and risking greater injuries.

Who'd have thought that simply running could be so complicated?


Friday, July 4, 2008

Sad Sack with Bad Back

I have spent 6 of the most excruciating days of my life, ever since I came in from last Saturday's easy 5-miler, stretched, plotted out my July training on my big Dry-Erase board and went upstairs to shower. I noticed that a piece of clothing had fallen off the drying rack in the laundry room, bent to pick it up and -WHAM - I felt the twinge which has felled countless folks who - like me - find themselves staring head on at a new decade of life, the big 4-0.

So, not only have I not run since Saturday, I can barely walk without pain. While my back seems a little better, I appear to have sciatica, given the pain in my left hip and thigh, coupled with numbness and tingling around my left knee.. This is a colossal drag because I'm just about technically "on vacation" for 2 weeks, and I'm not sure I can help my wife pack the van to go away. My online research says that sciatica strikes people between ages 30-50 (dead center, I am) and that it usually resolves itself in 3 weeks to 3 months! I'm trying not to panic about my fitness and training, but qualifying for Boston does seem to be getting further and further away.

At this point, treatment has been 3 chiropractic sessions, along with 800 mg ibuprofen (prescription strength) and Flexeril (a useless muscle relaxer). I'm desperately hoping that I feel better by Sunday so that I can say I only missed 1 week and can try to get an 8+-miler in. If I'm better, I plan to ease back into Pfitzinger, but I'll have to hyper-cautious about even the slightest niggle in my back. The other risk, of course, is the development of new aches and pains as a result of compensation for the back.

Well, enough complaining. Happy Independence Day everyone, and I hope to be joining you on the roads again very soon.