Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Uh oh, I am in trouble! I think I *like* this running business!

Don't worry everyone, I am back and no, dear readers, I didn't quit running!  In fact, after today, I can officially say that I'm well entrenched in liking running.  Who would have guessed?

After Friday's run, I was definitely looking forward to having two days off.  My body was sore and I was feeling very beat up, so I needed the recovery time.  And I fully planned to run on Monday  morning, except, well...the weather had other plans.  Even though I live in a fairly mild climate, the big nor'easter that hit the East Coast on Sunday dropped a full foot (officially 12.5 inches) of snow on my little coastal town.  Coach J had encouraged me to run in the snow, for the experience more than the workout, but I didn't think he meant *that* much snow.  So instead, I bundled up and put in three hours of shoveling in one hour increments.  Far more brutal than my coach potato workout!  In fact, I'm still sore.

I figured I could run a Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday schedule instead, but then I heard the temperatures on Tuesday were supposed to be very low and after checking out the job they did clearing the roads and sidewalks, I thought it prudent to put off running for one more day.  Coach J thought that a Wednesday/Friday/Saturday schedule would be fine, so I was set on running today.  

Of course, when I woke up for some reason at six am and checked the temperature, it said -2.  As you may know, I don't run when it's under 20 degrees.  So once again, I planned on a lunchtime run.  Today, I was ramping up from the 90 second/3 minute intervals to 3 minute/5 minute intervals with half the walking recovery time.  Yikes! 

I started out with the five minute warm-up walk, which gave me a clear idea of how bad the ice was outside.  With a number of seasonal people living around here, not all of the sidewalks had gotten cleared, so I decided to stick to the road so that I could avoid falling or having to break my stride for any reason.  The bike/running paths are fairly wide around here, so I stuck to those and headed against traffic so the cars could always see me, and I could always see them.  

My first three minute interval was great!  I actually increased my pace a bit and didn't feel too worn out.  I was a little bit worried after a four day break, but it was manageable.  That's when I thought to myself, uh oh - I'm in trouble, because I'm really starting to like this running stuff!  The first five minute interval was a little tough, but I paid attention to slowing my pace so that I could finish it.  I ended up a little further along on my path than my last few runs, so I got to see Old Barney surrounded by snow (at a distance!).  Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures though because I was running at the time.  

The sun was out, the sky was blue, and I was feeling good.  Then, it came time to turn around and head back, which was when I realized I was running into the wind.  Although it warmed up today, it was still only a balmy 28 degrees when I headed out, so I was definitely feeling the cold bite through my layers when the wind blew.  I got through the next three minute interval, and knew that the last five minutes would be the worst.  I tried to psych myself up for it (as it's 50% mental, at least, right?), but it was still pretty tough.  However, I did it!  I met my goal for the day, and that's all I can ask for!

But as I've said before, running isn't just about grabbing your sneakers and getting out there.  And for me, this week has been all about learning and tweaking.  I know I normally do the "what have I learned" on Fridays, but I'm absorbing so much, I'd like to pass that along today.  This week's tips come almost entirely from Coach J, who has really been a super source of help (and reads this blog, so I wanted to give him a shoutout!).  

- Last week, I started to have trouble with shin splints.  It's been so long since I've had them, that I couldn't remember what the best remedy was.  My sister suggested strengthening my calves with calf raises.  After talking to Coach J and checking my shoes to see if I have uneven wear patterns (which might mean my normal stride is off), he suggested that something else is going on, either with my foot, my calf muscles or my achilles - the solution?  Stretching and massage.  I've already been doing more stretching through yoga, but it showed me how important that is and has helped me to focus more on lower body yoga, especially the downward dog pose.  I've also been stretching my achilles by lowering my heels off of the bottom step of my staircase (while holding on!).  Along with calf raises, and stretching, massaging my feet and calves has made all the difference.  

- My other issue is nutrition.  For those of you who know me personally, I might have the world's worst diet (though it's improving).  My favorite foods all have sugar in them (brownies, key lime pie, cookies, Pepsi).  I'm allergic to a number of fresh fruits.  I hate vegetables, especially the green ones.  I never eat seafood (though I will sometimes try calamari).  But apparently, diet has a big impact on running (which intellectually, I knew, but somehow I hoped that would never come up).  Coach J asked me what I'd eaten for breakfast and I was fairly content with my reply of "cinnamon multi-grain waffle and applesauce followed by a piece of pumpkin bread later."  Pretty healthy, right?  Fruits, even a vegetable (I make the pumpkin bread from scratch) and whole grains.  Good for me!  But not so fast - no protein!  Now for some people, that's an easy fix - just eat eggs.  Did I mention that I also hate eggs, unless they are in a brownie?  But Coach J says protein is important because carbs burn off fast, which is great during competition and training, but proteins are a long term source of energy.  

Ugh.  Not what I want to hear.

But it does make sense - and could be the reason I still feel tired a lot after lots of sleep.  Too many carbs.  So he sent me a quick list of some high protein foods and suggested that when I think about food, I start with proteins, move on to fruits and veggies, and then whole grains.  I don't have to cut out sugar, which is key to any diet of mine, but it does make sense that I should get more serious about what I eat, if I want to be able to run.  And it might even help kick my migraines!  

So when I got back from my run, I had a fat free chocolate pudding (baby steps), and a big glass of milk.  Those who know me well also know that I'm not a big fan of milk.  Those who don't know me well are probably entirely sure by now that I'm crazy.  Or suffering from scurvy.  But I assure you, I manage to eat a lot of good food too.  I rounded out my lunch with hummus and wheat thins and tonight, will be making a beef/bean chili - now that's a protein I like!  

- A couple of the other things that will be coming up to get me ready for race day #1 (that's the Giants Draft Day 5K): weaning me off of listening to my iPhone while running, so that I don't struggle to find motivation when I get into a race and can't wear headphones; learning to love hills (why?  I hope that's a long way off...); what to eat on race day (apparently, I should just stick to my regular eating plan - the new one, I mean - so that my body treats that day like any other run); and eventually turning me into a morning person, i.e. like on days when it's going to be 90 degrees by 10am and I have to get a run in EARLY.  I'm also going to be running in the dark next week when the clocks spring forward, so that will be another learning experience - no sunglasses needed for a change! And Coach J has assured me that I will force myself to run outside when I'm in San Francisco in early June - it's a beautiful city, and he tells me that it's great for running (umm, hills?) so I should really enjoy it by foot instead of sequestering myself in a gym on a treadmill.  I would hate to prove him right, but I might have to.

As overwhelming as this might all sound, I'm actually enjoying the whole experience of becoming a runner/athlete.  I'm glad that I didn't know I would have to make these tweaks when I first started, or I would have thought of it as too much work.  But I'm seeing the benefits and enjoying the results, so I understand why it's worth it.  I'm actually very proud of myself and looking forward to that first 5K!  

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