Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Monthly Recap

With the help of my Garmin watch and dailymile, I can better keep track of my running (and other cardio) stats! With that in mind, here's my data for January:

Running: 108.91 mi
Cycling: 27.3 mi
Elliptical: 4.36 mi

Okay, no wonder why my piriformis and IT band have been hurting! I don't know if I've EVER run over 100 miles in one month. Part of me wants to say no, but given that I've trained for marathons before, I wouldn't be surprised if I actually have run 100+ miles in one month before.

But back to dailymile. It also reports other funny stats about my cardio workouts. According to them, I've traveled 1% of the way around the world, and have burned the amount of calories that are in 75.33 donuts.

I'm assuming we're talking old-fashioned, and not these decadent delicacies they serve at Voodoo Doughnuts. I've also apparently burned enough energy to power 268.73 TVs. Are we talking about those ones that they have built into the treadmills? Because how fun would it be if running were the only way to  power those? (Alright, that may be sadistic. But I'm still humored by the thought.)

I stand by my statement from last time -- dailymile is awesome. Now go join. And add me as a friend. K?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Active Recovery Works!

Good news! I can finally sit for more than an hour without my piriformis becoming irritated.

Per the Smart Coach training plan, I went for an easy 5M run on Friday. (What makes this easy is the fact that my pace was about 90 sec slower than my race pace for 5M.) Saturday called for rest/cross-training, so I opted for 30 minutes on the elliptical as a means of active recovery. Between both of them, I'm feeling much better now!

Funny story. Right after posting my last entry about wanting a training plan that allowed for more cross-training, I saw a post on No Meat Athlete talking about (almost) the exact same thing! It's specific to cycling, but the first four points are all things that I've read before.

I was using MapMyRun to track my mileage, but I recently created a profile on dailymile. I think both websites are great, but I like the layout of dailymile so much more. To me, it's cleaner and more streamlined.

And now for a running photo and anecdote...

This is National Airport (or DCA, if you're a flying nerd and/or have traveled to DC). I don't normally bring my phone or camera with me when I go running, simply because I hate carrying things. However, I brought it with me because I was running from Alexandria to DC for the first time, barely had any idea where I was going, and didn't want to get lost. While running down Haynes Point, I passed this, and the photo op was too good to pass up! I'd also like this to serve as a reminder that sunnier running days will soon be upon us.

Off to gear up for the week!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Confessional Booth

I have a confession to make.

No, this isn't where I jump into a room, and like on The Real World, start dramatically ranting about how I can't stand my roommates. (Fortunately, I don't have roommates.)

My confession? I need to change my training plan.

You see, when I was designing my training plan, I came across the Intermediate Marathon Program on Cool Running. Description: "For runners who currently run 25 to 50 miles per week and expect to run the marathon in under 3:30 for men, or 3:50 for women." I thought to myself, "This sounds like me. That's how much I run now, and that's my goal time. Okay, let's try that." As I penciled in all of the runs on my calendar, I didn't think twice about how the plan involves 6 days of running and 1 day off a week. I've been on that plan for about two weeks now, and what have I noticed (besides the 60+ runs that are on my calendar alongside my classes, research advising meetings, trips/visits, and other appointments)? A pain in my right leg that resembles sciatica (and shows up if I've been sitting for more than an hour), tightness in my IT bands, and a fear that if I run this much, and do (practically) nothing but that for the next three months, I'll come to hate and dread running (assuming that I'm not sidelined by IT Band Syndrome, Piriformis Syndrome, or any other injury that's possible). 

I love running. But I don't want to become obsessive about it to the point that I no longer enjoy it. Or become injured from overtraining and can't even run/finish Eugene.

I read at one time that cross-training (in addition to running) can actually help in marathon training. (Among others, Jeff Galloway, former Olympian and creator of the run-walk-run plan, endorses it in his marathon training plan.) How? Cross-training (e.g., cycling, swimming, elliptical, rowing machine) is a low-impact way to add extra fitness. Plus, you're using different muscles than you use for running!
(Other good articles on marathon training and cross training: here and there.)

Because of this, I figured that I should add some cross-training to my regimen. However, I had no idea which runs in my training calendar would be best replaced by cross-training. While considering all of this, I read about the Smart Coach app from Runner's World. You tell it a recent race time, what distance you're training for, how hard you want to train, and your race date. You can also tell it what day of the week you want to do your long runs. And the best part? It's free! (They have a paid version that comes with spiffy features such as daily email reminders of workouts and the ability to adjust your plan, but I think the free version is suitable for my purposes.) So I tried it out (what did I have to lose aside from the few minutes it took me to enter everything into the form), and was quite surprised. It came up with a plan that has 4 days of running a week, 3 days of rest/cross-training, pace times for all of my training runs, and a projected race time consistent with my goal. After Googling "smart coach reviews" and seeing good feedback, I've also found Hal Higdon's plans. His Intermediate 2 program seems great (5 days of running, 1 day of cross-training, 1 day of complete rest), though it's more generalized as far as what pace you should do each run. (Higdon's paid version supposedly offers more guidance, but since I've never used it, I can't confirm this.)

After reading all of this information, I think I'm going to adjust my plan. Any good plan (not just a training plan) must leave room for adjustment. You test the plan, and if it (or part of it) doesn't work, you figure out why it didn't work and how you can change it so you can achieve your goals.

Have you used a training program before (specifically, one of these)? If so, what was your experience like with it?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Making the Most of a Rest Day

One of the best parts about long runs during training? The day of rest that comes after. You could take the day off completely (I won't judge you now; I've done that before), or go easy on the mileage. Really, it's about listening to your body and doing what it needs.

I stretched extensively yesterday after my long run. However, my right piriformis still felt tight (or so I think that's what it is -- the longer I sit, the more pain I feel, which is indicative of piriformis syndrome), so I opted for yoga. My last chiropractor had recommended it as a means to develop flexibility and core strength. When I realized that my gym membership included yoga classes, I was toward the end of my training for the NYC Marathon, and needed all of the stretching/flexibility help that I could get. So I tried it, and I've been going fairly regularly since then. I've even convinced a few classmates to go. (It's possible that the improved flexibility from yoga helped me PR in NY, but I can't confirm that one.)

My gym has a great Vinyasa yoga on Monday evenings, so I went there. (If you don't have a gym membership, or belong to one that doesn't offer yoga classes, scour sites such as Groupon or Living Social. They always seem to have deals for yoga classes!) It was quite beneficial, especially the pigeon pose! (Note: I went for a massage recently, and the massage therapist told me that my iliotibial band was really tight, so it's possible that this is my issue. It's also possible that both areas are tight.)

Unless you're an athlete, are well-versed on human anatomy (no lewd jokes, people!), and/or have had these issues before, you're probably wondering what I'm talking about. Well, today's your lucky day, because I (with the help of my undergrad Anatomy textbook -- I KNEW there was a reason I saved it!) have a brief lesson! Are you ready for this??

The piriformis is the muscle that originates from the sacrum and inserts on the greater trochanter (head) of the femur, and is responsible for laterally rotating your thigh. (You know all those times you twist your thigh outward? Go thank your piriformis.)

The iliotibial tract (band) is a thickening of the fascia lata (sheaths of fibrous tissue) that extends from the iliac crest (part of the pelvic girdle) and attaches to the lateral condyle (upper portion) of the tibia. The gluteus maximus (responsible for laterally rotating the thigh) and tensor fasciae latae (responsible for medially rotating the thigh, or rotating it inward) both attach to it. It helps stabilize the knee during extension and flexion, meaning that it's used constantly during running and walking. It can also get irritated from overuse. (There's a reason why IT Band Syndrome is commonly referred to as "Runner's Knee!")

But I digress. For further information on either part or syndrome, consult a trained professional, book, or Google.

Source: McKinley, M. & O'Louglin, V.D. (2006).  Human Anatomy. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Go Big Blue!

I ran the Portland Marathon in 2010, and if I had to choose a word to best describe the conditions, it would be wet. Whenever I tell people (runners or spectators) that I ran that race, the first reaction I usually get is, "Oh, is that the one where it rained the whole time?" Yes, that would be it. I finished, and I was happy with the results, but that doesn't change the fact that I was soaked and had to stuff newspaper inside my running shoes to help them dry.

Memories of that day came flooding back (no pun intended) as soon as I stepped outside to go on my long run and was greeted by the rain. I won't lie; I did consider going inside. But then I told myself, "I'm dressed, I'm outside, I might as well just go for it."And so I did. I went down to the waterfront, because I know how far my place is from the river, and I have a 5-mile loop around the waterfront that I've run before. I figured that if I ran the loop twice and ran to and from the river, it would add up to about 14 miles.

Once I got moving, I felt fine. Well, as fine as could be, given that it was raining and about 40ºF. I was happy to see other runners (and cyclists) on the pathway, just for the sake of knowing that I wasn't the only crazy person out there. Between seeing other runners and different scenery, the miles go by much more quickly outside than they do on the treadmill. However, by mile 10, my thoughts changed from the scenery to how much longer I had and how cold it was. By mile 12.5, my hands were frozen (with gloves on, mind you), so I had to find a different way to hold my water bottle. From that point on, I basically had to tell myself, "Almost there. Almost there!"And so I ran home, and in doing so, ran farther than I intended.

The final stats (as told to me by my fantastic Garmin watch):
Distance: 14.62 mi.
Time: 2:06:29
Pace: 8:38/mi

As soon as I got home (and managed to get my keys out of my pocket with my frozen hands), I ripped my gloves off, walked to the kitchen sink, and turned on the hot water so I could thaw my hands. As the blood vessels in my fingers reopened, the pain was enough to make me wonder why I do this. But as I learned from my days of crew, "Pain is temporary. Pride is forever."

I've spent the rest of the day trying to be productive, but due to this headache that won't subside, that isn't going so well. Oh, and the Giants-49ers game. Good long run AND a Giants victory in OT (that's taking them to the Super Bowl)? Awesome day!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why Am I Here?

So I'm sure you're wondering at least one of the following:

  1. Who is this person writing?
  2. Why is he writing?
  3. Why should I be reading this?
  4. How is he so good at reading my mind? 
Okay, maybe I threw in that last question for kicks, but the rest are legitimate.

I'm a 25-year-old male who lives in Portland and loves running. I've been told that I'm obsessed, but that's another story (that I'll let the wall tell).

I'm sure I made many crazy decisions in 2011, but I'd like to say that the last crazy decision I made was registering for the 2012 Eugene Marathon. (I registered on New Year's Eve so I could get in before the fee increased.) The marathon so happens to fall around the same time as my 26th birthday. What better more memorable way to celebrate 26 years than by running 26.2 miles? 

I'm here to describe my training for this race. Or rather, how I balance the training with a full-time grad school course load, a research assistantship, and all of the other tasks I pick up to try to be Superman.

Eugene won't be my first marathon, but it will be my first spring marathon. Racing in the spring means training in the winter, and in Oregon, winters are cold, dreary, and wet.

I hate the cold, and with good reason -- my fingers turn white if I'm in the cold for too long ("too long" can actually be as little as 30 minutes). But I love the sport, and want to run a spring marathon at some point in my life. For the sake of my goals, I suppose I'll have to deal with it. I'm sure this will create some anecdotes.

I gained some wisdom from my previous marathons, and I hope that someone can benefit from my experience. If you have any specific questions and/or comments, let me know!