Sunday, November 25, 2012

Week in Review

22 Miles
2 Off Days
2 Lift sessions
1 Flywheel ride
6 mile "long run"

I can get used to this whole "running-for-fun" thing.  I'm running pain free (shin and glute), but yet I still have no desire to add any miles onto my runs.  I'm milking my down time to the extreme, and running exactly what I feel like doing on any given day.  Saturday's run at McAlpine marked my first run back with a large CRC group, and it reminded me of why I love Charlotte so much--because the people here are just so great.  We traversed the Boyce section of the trail, the only part accessible due to the Footlocker South races going on simultaneously.  By 10am, we sprinted from point to point to catch a fleeting glimpse of Alana as she raced by, before moving on to the next vantage points.  Alana may not have accomplished her goal for this race, but she showed some true grit and heart out there.  It was enjoyable to watch the prestigious race with a familiar face competing.

While I feel confident about my comeback plan--running less than 50 miles and lifting twice a week--an integral piece of this puzzle is chiropractic treatment from Dr. Greenapple and a trip to Alan Tyson from Architect Sports.  I'm sure that both of these things will help me pinpoint the heart of the issue to ensure that I don't get this sort of hamstring tightness (ever) again.  The key is to have fun during this unstructured training segment, get healthy and repair my wounded body and mind.  As for the fun part, I've got that covered:  watch out Raleigh, the CRC ladies are coming to town!  Michelle Hazelton is hosting what will be a fabulous bachelorette party next weekend.  I don't know what's better than a night out with friends and then a hungover run together the next morning.  Hey--at least the feeling is mutual, right?

Next week I hope to run 30-35 miles and gradually increasing my mileage to 50 by the end of the year.  I need to be in shape when all my Wake Forest teammates reunite at the wedding, where undoubtedly several miles will be run together.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Flywheel Charlotte

45 Minutes of Flywheel
3rd Place

Since I'm running lower mileage, I thought it would be a good time to try something new.  Largely encouraged by the three free Flywheel "rides" that Smarty Pants promoted, I swiftly created an account for myself and Garrett and signed us up for a class taught by Steve Justice, a former All American Wake Forest football player.  This is slightly embarrassing that it took me almost six months to finally check out Flywheel.  Steve's wife, a former Wake Forest soccer player, had approached me about Flywheel back in the summer and, while I had heard so many great reviews about the place, I never found the time to check it out for myself.

Anyways, on Tuesday at 6AM, I finally got a chance to see what this frenzy for Flywheel was all about. Flywheel is a studio dedicated solely to stadium spinning classes in a high-energy, super-cardio kind of way.  I've done several spinning classes before, at the YMCA, at the SIU Rec Center, but this is different.  First of all, you get to reserve your bike online, so I was able to reserve a seat right next to Garrett.  Once you get to the studio, all the steps you're supposed to take to check in are easy to figure out, even for a newbie like me.  I logged onto a computer to check myself in, grabbed my pair of (clean) shoes from a cubbie with my bike number on it, and made my way over to some lockers located just outside of the "spin room."  Garrett and I shared a locker (how cute), because they were that big, and headed into the stadium.

Garrett and I adjusted our seats and started a light warmup as we waited for Steve to bring on the pain.  Right on time, Steve walked in, gave us some instructions, and the lights went out, with a spotlight just on him.  The music started bouncing, our bodies started bouncing, and our heads bobbing, all in rhythm with the beat.  And I was sweating in less than a minute, but then again I sweat when it's 0 degrees outside.

Like any spinning class, you can make it as easy or as difficult as you'd like it.  However, at Flywheel, I think it's more difficult to cheat because the instructor provides torq and rpm ranges to ride to, which provides a great way to maintain the effort level.  So, if you do want to cheat, you'll inevitably feel a lot more guilty and feel less inclined to lower that tension on the bike.  Oh, and to add onto that, they have some convenient screens above head that allow you to see where you place in the rankings against everyone else in the class.  Don't worry, if you don't want to sign up to be on the "torq board," you don't have to.  But, you can use a secret screen name so no one knows who you are.  Mine is conveniently "meowmeow."  Of course, I wanted to win, but I only came in third place, just missing first by about 10 points.  Despite getting third, I was still breathing like a banshee the entire class.  Did I mention that I'm a marathon runner?

The biggest surprise of the class was when we grabbed two bars from the bottom of the bike and started lifting them over our head.  Honestly, this was the hardest part of the workout for me since my arms apparently have the strength of a 10 year old girl. I thought we would be done after doing some arm lifts, but I was so wrong--the workout continued for the entire duration of 45 minutes, and then we did an additional five minutes of cool down.  I definitely got what I (didn't) pay for (since this was a free class).

Needless to say, Flywheel gets two thumbs up from me.  They do a good job of differentiating themselves from a standard spin class offered at any other gym.  They are staffed with friendly instructors and keep things clean (the shoes are washed!).  To top it all off, you leave feeling like you just completed 20x400m all out on the track.  This is great cross training method for us runners and also a great way to burn some calories.

If you haven't already, go ahead and sign up for Flywheel.  The first ride is free, and then they have packages or individual rides you can buy.  Like I said, through December, you can get two free classes on top of the other free class (that equals three for my mathematically challenged readers) by clicking on this link and following the instructions.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Charlotte Marathon Weekend

While I did run for 30 minutes today completely pain free, this is one small feat compared to the slew of other accomplishments all of my speedy running friends achieved yesterday and today at various races. So many of my friends ran their little hearts out this weekend to achieve some pretty amazing times.  Some shout-outs go to:

Thunder Road

  • Billy Shue for finishing Thunder Road Marathon in just over 2:40 on a windy day, all alone on a tough course, even after he felt rough after 12 miles.
  • Caleb Boyd for shattering his marathon PR by over 8 minutes in a near (female) Olympic Trials qualifying time of 2:46:58.
  • Jamey Yon for breaking the NC State marathon masters record at Thunder Road when he apparently didn't even prepare or plan for a marathon.
  • Stephen Spada for achieving for what he set out to do at Thunder Road (like he always does!)
  • Jay Holder for surprising Lauren in the middle of her FIRST marathon and probably spending an ungodly amount of money on a plane ticket to be here for less than 24 hours.  Love is priceless!  Oh and also for hanging out with me and Garrett for almost 2 hours on Saturday.  Besties!
  • Lauren Holder for running her first marathon at Thunder Road and destroying it in 3:52:04, even after the emotional letdown of NYC Marathon being cancelled.  
  • Not Thunder Road, but...Megan Hovis and Val Matena for running the JFK 50 Miler and finishing 7th and 12th respectively! They are happily crazy doing those long distances
  • My bestie, Meagan Nedlo, for achieving a 2 minute PR at Philly, even though she was in no man's land after 14 miles.  She has PRed in every single marathon she's done, and I'm hopeful that she can continue this trend!
  • Dalena Custer for absolutely CRUSHING her PR (by over 9 minutes) to run an almost Olympic Trials Qualifying time in a blistering 2:46:02.  Watch out, world, she will qualify for the Trials in 2016.  I just know it!
  • Brad Belfiore, who got hit by a car while cycling and broke his elbow back in June, and still managed to achieve a 4 minute PR at Philly by running just over 2:40.  He ran for two months with one arm hanging limp at his side.
  • Eric Bilbrey, who took almost 6 weeks off due to a virus, for achieving huge half marathon PR in 1:18:x with a nice negative split
  • Pezz for getting yet another half marathon PR just 6 weeks after her debut marathon and placing third for some prize money
  • Chad and Danielle Crockford for going to Philly and still competing!  Chad ran a marathon a couple weeks ago and was still able to run 4 minutes faster.  
  • Of course, Matt Jaskot for running 3:03 in an American Flag robe, shorts, and socks.  Amazing!
Of course, many more congrats and kudos go out to so many other runners, both near and far, but these are the ones that I share a personal connection with on a daily basis.  Someone asked me if tracking the Philly runners made me sad since I backed out of a fall marathon, and I only had to reflect on the question for about 2 seconds before answering with a resounding "No." Instead of feeling pity on myself, I was so happy that all my friends who had worked so hard over the past year had achieved their dreams.  In a small way, I was involved in their preparation somehow or another and it was fun to see everything come together.  This weekend should just encourage everyone to get out there and run!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Recovery Week(s) in Review

Week of 11/5
0 miles
7 Days off
0 Doubles
0 Workouts
2 Days in California

Week of 11/12
8 Miles
5 Days off
0 Doubles
0 Workouts
3 hours rollerblading or dancing

As promised, I took an entire 11 days off from running.  I haven't taken off more than 5 days of running in a row since 2008.  Mainly instigated by the fact that I had sore muscles above my shin and a pain in my ass, days off were much needed.  Not only did my body need to heal, but so did my mind.  For the first week off, I didn't even miss running.  I quickly became accustomed to a lazy lifestyle of sitting at a computer all day to only continue that pattern once I got home.  What little movement I had consisted of ten short steps to the kitchen or bathroom, whether in my house or at work.  With my excess free time, I didn't even allot much time to wedding planning.  In fact, I did a whole lot of nothing, and it was pure bliss.  That's a true indicator that a break was much needed.  The only downside of the first week off was that the muscles over my shin were so sore and painful that I could barely walk up and down stairs, let along attend my dance classes as I had hoped.  By the end of the week, the tendons had calmed down and I was able to walk without a slight limp.

After a whole week off, I started to get the itch again.  No, not that kind of itch.  The itch to run!  I fought every urge to lace up my Nike Pegasus and head out the door for a breath of fresh  air with the excellent company of my friends.  I missed the salacious Charlotte gossip that inevitably is discussed on runs.  I missed the guiltless ability to eat as much as I want just because I ran.  I missed shaking off the stresses from the day during my run.  So, finally, on Friday, I acquiesced to Running, who lured me back without much persuasion.  Fueled by the rare opportunity to run with my high school coach Holda--who I've known since I was 5--I headed out for my first run with my fingers crossed--that my shin tendons would be healed, that my breathing wouldn’t be too labored, that my form wouldn’t be too crippled.  Quite frankly, it sucked.  My left leg was dragging in such a way that I thought I was going to be out on the disable list for another couple of weeks.  The strangest thing was that my hamstring nor my glute hurt.  Everything was out of whack, especially with my leg lift, which also caused my left foot to strike the ground a couple of inches in front of my hip line, instead of right below.  Because of all of this, I cut the run short at 21 minutes and followed it up with some glute strengthening exercises and foot drills.  

Tomorrow I plan on cycling along the Thunder Road course to cheer for several of my running partners and one of the athletes I coach.  I may try to run a stride or two to test out the leg, but we'll see.  Assuming I'm healthy, I plan to take all runs easy until after the wedding.  I want to build a solid base of miles and strength work before throwing in any workouts.  While I am excited by 5k workout ideas, I don't want to jeopardize any of my performances next year by jumping back too quickly. I need to ensure I have the strength in my lower body before hiking my mileage up.  I don't want to risk an injury, so my new weight program will be an integral piece to my training regimen starting in December.  Until then, I've got the opportunity to live vicariously through my friends over the next couple of days as I'm confident they'll achieve some great new PRs at Thunder Road and Philly.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Long and Winding Road to (Not) Run a Marathon

Back in April of this year, Aaron, Jay, Meagan and I all decided to run the Philadelphia Marathon together in hopes of breaking 2:40 together as a pack.  I used my persuasion skills to prompt several other Charlotte runners to sign up as well--Dalena, Brad, Phillip, Matt, Eric, Jess, Chad, Danielle…and the list gets even longer.

Why did we choose Philly?  Well, Jay had just finished a gutsy 26.2 miles at the hottest Boston Marathon ever in 2:41:12.  Despite all of his workouts that indicated he could run a 2:34, the heat prevented him from achieving one of his biggest goals of the year and he was ready to give the distance another go.   Meagan and I had just come off the Olympic Trials marathon, and we were both hungry to reach our next goal of 2:3x.  Aaron, well, he's just getting old.  He will officially be a masters next year, so he wanted to take advantage of the group atmosphere and run with his friends before he loses his young gusto.  Over the course of the next four months, Meagan, Aaron and I all embarked on our respective training plans, running between 85-100 miles a week for almost 4 months straight. 

Then, things started to fall apart for the original Philly fan club.  Jay got hurt for basically the entire summer.  Aaron backed out of Philly in favor of Marine Corps Marathon, one that is easy for him since his parents live in the DC metro area.   Then I had low ferritin levels.  Then my hamstring started to hurt.   Then my mental outlook spiraled downward, out of control.  Fortunately the list of people affected was only limited to Aaron, Jay and I. Everyone else can boast about a very solid training block over the last couple of months.  For their positivity going into Philly, I am so grateful! It's been great to follow their accomplishments leading up to the big day. 

My downward spiral started after the Greek Fest 5k on August 18th.  In my athleticore log that day, I wrote that "my left hamstring felt awful tight."  Nothing crazy, because I was able to run 100 miles the next week and feel pretty good doing it.  There was some residual tightness to be expected from a 5k race, but nothing that I couldn't run through.  Then September came around and I was having difficulty running 6:20 pace.  I got my iron checked, and, sure enough, my iron was low.  Still, I trudged through my training, trying so hard to keep my spirits up as my training went down.  Staying on top of your mental game is really tough when you aren't running where you know you should be.  Even my own mother could sense something different in my tone.  She urged me to reconsider my marathon plans and was convinced that I had spread myself too thin.   I wanted to prove both her and myself wrong, and kept at it.

Typically, I pride myself in my mental tenacity.   I was anything but tenacious this cycle.  Believing in my fitness was draining in itself. I didn't believe it.   I wanted to give up on most workouts.  My only shining light was my long run, which somehow managed to be absolutely awesome every single time.  I  had some of the best long runs I've ever had in a marathon training cycle.  This was a clear indicator that, despite everything else, that my fitness was still indeed there! 

October came.  My hamstring flared up again after a workout, and this time it wasn't something that I could ignore.  Dr. Greenapple got me in to some ART, dry needling, and cupping.  I went to DC for the Army Ten Miler, performed some hip swings prior to the race, and felt my hamstring pull as I tried to bring my leg to hip level.  I finished Army Ten Miler, in a respectable time, but nowhere near where I wanted to run.  I believe that my hamstring, combined with my lack of confidence, prevented me from maintaining a faster speed.  In hindsight, I probably should have just shut down after that race, but those long runs had me holding on to the one last sliver of hope and belief that maybe, just maybe, I could still run a marathon in PR time.

Then I found out that I would most likely have a work trip to Beverly Hills the week of Philly.  Perhaps this was the world's way of telling me that it was not in my cards to do a fall marathon anymore.   I already had my flights booked out of Charlotte, and the travel back from the left coast was going to impede on those US Airways tickets, which of course could not be rescheduled, unless I wanted to pay $150 dollars.  So, I switched to Santa Barbara, scheduled for November 10th.  My sister lives in the area, so I figured it'd be perfect.  I got a plane ticket for 20,000 miles and $5 and was set.  

The long and winding road was about to come to an end…right at the start line of Santa Barbara, and I was going to race it.  However, right before I approached the final taper, a fork appeared in the road.  One path took me down the road to recovery, without any running for the next week or so to heal my hamstring.  The other took me to Santa Barbara, but left me with an injured hamstring that I would have to nurse back even longer than I need to now.  I talked with Alice Rogers, who struggled with a tight hamstring after the 2011 LA Marathon.  She hasn't been able to run consistently or pain free for over a year and a half.  She told me that I need to be smart now, and take the road to recovery to ensure that I can continue doing the sport that I love most, at the level that I see fit.  The marathon is a fickle beast, and in order to defeat it, you have to be mentally and physically prepared, and I don't feel confident that I am prepared in either of those categories.  I don't want to run a marathon just to survive, I want to run a marathon to own and destroy it.  And with that long story, you now know why I decided to withdraw my plans to run a fall marathon.  I've put in a tremendous amount of work that I am sad to see go to waste, but I trust that this is what's best for me, both mentally and physically.  I am sad to miss an opportunity to race with Meagan Nedlo, but I'm sure we have plenty more to come.

Despite the negativity that flowed out of the paragraphs above, I am happy that I learned so many things this year.  One thing that I do love about training for a marathon is that you always learn something new, both about your training and about yourself.  I learned that it's pretty difficult for me to run 100 miles a week and to work full time.  I also learned that I can be a huge positive influence for my running friends, even when my own running is faltering.   I'm apparently really good at guessing people's marathon times when I believe their goals are not realistic (ex: Jason Martin was unsure he could break 3:00 at Chicago, and I told him he could run 2:58.  He did.  I told Charlie that his goal to break 3:00 was soft and that he could run 2:52.  He did.)  I've also enjoyed these past months being engaged to Garrett and planning our wedding together.  My relationship with Garrett takes precedence over my running, and I hope that I can find the balance next year to be a good wife and still run as I wish!   Finally, since I'm not doing any marathon, I now have the opportunity to cheer for Billy, Caleb, and David at the Thunder Road Marathon and see their hard work and training come to fruition with (hopefully) huge PRs!