Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rest weeks, Poison Oak and "Weighty" Issues

Rest Week Musings

Last week was nice. I didn't run much, I like 60 miles all in all. I didn't set or follow a schedule. I just ran when I felt it, but didn't stress. Just gave my body the opportunity to catch up after all the beating I have been putting on it. That makes two weeks with lower mileage in a row and I am definitely sure it was a good call. Last weeks runs were short, but I could feel my body unwinding and giving in to some of its fatigue, so they were not necessarily easy runs. My run on Sunday was crap, I nearly passed out and just felt like I couldn't muster up any energy at all. I tend to forget that this is my first year of ultrarunning and the toll I am taking on my body is infinitely more than the other year and a half of my previous marathon running, so that sometimes feeling that way is expected and that taking these kind of weeks is such a good move. Plus, I didn't feel guilty about it at all. I enjoyed it. Takes the pressure off, reminds me that having expectations of myself is a good and quick way to derail myself. I must be smart. So I was. And this week thus far, I feel good and am running well! I have renewed vigor and a renewed focus on the details. It is not just about getting out there and doing the workouts, its also about the supplementary workouts (CrossFit and Yoga and cycling), its about the nutrition, its about the rest, its about the level of stress in life. All of these things, everything in life affects my running and so I am trying to put my focus towards my passions. I have been struggling lately with feeling stressed, pulled in many directions, feeling unsettled and having too much on my plate. It has denied me a great deal of the pleasure I get from my passions because I am so crunched that I am literally running through life. I realized last week and this week, that I must "slow down" and be back in the moment so that my passions can bring to my life what they have and what they can. They are my sanctuary, they are my joy. I am so glad to be reconnected with that. Instead of focusing on the things that I have to do or stressing about them, I am drawing the line and putting the joy back in my passions. I have been anxious about alot in life lately and it has made me feel like running for the hills, but instead of running for the hills proverbially, I am literally running in the hills to let it all go. I am finally finding a bit of reprieve...

Poison Oak

Two weeks ago today, I went running with my friend Dr. Mike and he decided in order to "slow me down" he would insist we take a path that doesn't actually exist. Well that had us running through some low brush and brambles and my legs got severely scratched. We then ran down a hill through some grass and bushes, etc. Earlier in the run we had been commented on how its a good thing that neither of us are allergic to poison oak. And its true. I am not. Unless of course I have a bunch of open wounds aka massive scratches from running off any descernable trail. At first there was no reaction, for about 3 days they were fine. Actually, Thursday you could barely see the scratches. Then about Wed last week, bam. I have a bad, bad case of poison oak. It took a while to process I guess, but it is gnarly. And itchy and annoying. By Saturday, it was looking very dicey and starting to worry me. I finally got a steroid cream from the dr on Monday and it looks like they are beginning to heal, but geez oh man, it is rough. I had to cut the tounge out of my running shoe so it wouldn't rub on one of the spots.

"Weighty" Issues

People always have opinions about runners weight. Runners and nonrunners alike are very judgmental about what they think a runner "looks like". When I started marathoning and well through last summer, I was told often that I "didn't look like a runner". While that all could be argued as true, since I still retained my basketball player stature and weight which I had worked for 5 years to attain and maintain, I definitely for a 6 foot tall person was not heavy. It always bothered me immensely when people would say that. I have lost alot of weight since last summer (about 20 lbs) and feel great. I didn't lose weight through fancy dieting or anything else. It happened because I increased my mileage and training and maintain an incredibly healthy diet (which has only gotten healthier since I started my Natural Chef program). Even a few months ago I was getting, "those aren't runners legs those are cycling legs" and "if you were so and so, you would be thinking that you would want to lose five pounds". But now I am getting comments (by the same people mind you) that I am "so skinny" and that they are "worried about me".

The reality of the situation is that I am a healthy weight and that I am working hard on not only maintaining a healthy weight, but also I have accepted that if my body now wants to be a lower weight it will be. My body has adapted to my sport, just as my sports nutritionist told me it would a year ago. I am not underweight. Most of the time I don't even weight myself at all. I am doing weight workout (Cross Fit) to buy muscle strength. I eat excellent wholesome, tasty foods. I don't deny myself food, I eat to support my running.

It just goes back to the bigger issue about looking like a runner. I think it is a load of crap and it has influenced sport so negatively. I can't deny that when people tell me I don't look like a runner that it stings or say things like the above. But honestly, that standard is built on cadre of anorexic athletes (if you know your long distance running history, you know there was a huge rash of anorexia during the formative days of women's distance running). If I don't look like a runner, how come I am beating all those who do? Do I have to look like I haven't eaten in a month to look like a runner? I would rather have a fully fueled body and be able to power up a mountain with grace and ease than simply look like a runner. To me, I wish that people would just remember that runners should be lauded for what they are able to do with their bodies, rather than being judged about whether or not they look like they could. It brings a really unwelcome aspect and sentiment to a sport which is such a positive reflection of what the human body can do....

enough of that, time to run...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Recovery Week

I realized this weekend that I really need a down, recovery week. I have been pushing myself to the max this year and have taken less than adequate rest. I am tired. I have had some awesome 90 mile weeks, but had to follow them with 50 mile weeks. I didn't run this weekend. At first, I felt bad about it. But then I realized that I needed it. I really needed to listen to what my body is telling me. I was not motivated, my legs were tired after 4 days/50 miles. Its hard to not feel a little bit like a slacker when I take days off, but that is dumb. We all need days off. And really, this year has been a huge increase in mileage for me, race volume, speed, etc. I am pushing myself and I do not want to burn out.

So I decided to rein it in. I have raced 4 major races this year (I raced 3 races all of last year: 2 marathons and a 50k), and rested minimally after them. While I have felt good for the most part, in the long term I wonder what effects that will have. I want to race well through the fall and for the long term so I must be smart, patient and good to myself. I have been racing marathons & beyond for 2 years (I just had my two year anniversary) and have accelerated at a rapid pace to my current volume of training and racing. I am ambitious and enthusiastic but I must balance that ambition and enthusiasm with intelligence and patience.

I have a lot going on in my life right now that are stressors: work, school, life....and I want to make sure that running continues to be my sanctuary, my respite, my peace and so when I feel like I have to drag myself out, I know that I am not doing the right thing. I feel that way so rarely that when I do, I should listen! I have gotten really in tune with my body and so now that I can hear, I can't ignore it. While I am thankful not to have pushed myself to overtraining, injury or sickness, I think that this recovery week will bring me back from the brink if I am near, and only a much needed mid-season rest before a late summer/fall season of racing. I have a hopefully long career ahead of me and I have to be smart, ambitious, patient and true to why I do what I do to ensure that....

and its my birthday week, so I will do what I want to.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Threshold and sunscreen

Threshold:
I capped off a serious week of training (92 miles!!) yesterday with a nice little 29 miler. I had set my sights on 38 miles or 4 out and backs on a flat, fast section of road between Sausalito and Mill Valley, but opted out after 3 loops. Why? Because after spending 5 hours catering an event for my sister, I decided to take a different approach to this run. Instead of playing it safe, practicing my nutrition and pacing plans I decided instead to see where my threshold was. That threshold would be the DNF threshold. I wanted to find what someone I use to know called "the pain". I haven't ever had to slog through miles and miles while suffering, so I decided to see what errors I would have to make to DNF. It was a good day to do so since I started out late in the day, after working, in the blazing hot afternoon sun.

I was not however dumb or haphazard. I tried to make sure my hydration was on point, because of the heat, but still managed to get severely dehydrated because I was not taking in any food. I wanted to see when the tipping point was for calorie intake via solid or liquid food. I also wanted to see what kind of pace I could push while doing so. I think if you don't know where that tipping point is, it is likely you could err in a race and DNF. The first out and back felt good, clipping along just under 7:15 min/miles. I was using this as a training run for my 100k which means I probably should have been at 8+min/miles, but I was in this to push. I could tell that hydration would be an issue for the day even after just one out and back. I grabbed a refill at the house and headed out for lap #2 sans food. I made it to mile 16 before my body signaled that I should have eaten sooner. I knew it would be a push to get home (mile 19) without completely cracking. Thus, I found that I must begin my intake of foods between miles 12-14, and continue at about 200 kcal/hour. I pulled back on my pace to 7:30min/miles on #2. I arrived back at the house feeling dehydrated (probably was more so since I was losing electrolytes and not getting them back from food) and felt like stopping. However, I wanted to experience running "in the pain" for a long interval, so I bullied my sister into running an out and back with me despite the fact that she was exhausted from hosting the baby shower all day. I definitely needed her to help push me along. I ate a larabar and drank a Vega shake and we headed out. The nutrition helped me get my head straight a bit, but I was still dehydrated. I am not use to running in the heat and so its to be expected. I could tell that I had lost about 5% body weight and was confirmed in this when my sister (who doesn't really ever comment on my weight) looked at me while standing in the kitchen that I looked "really thin". Its not like she hadn't see me for several hours that day....

We pushed through the final out and back at about 7:45-8 min/mile pace. I was tired, dehydrated but still moving, which was awesome and validating. I managed to push 9.55 miles past where I logically could have pulled the plug. All in all, it was a great test. I had to remember as I was running and changing my perspective, that not every training run should feel good, should be an exercise in how to do things right. Sometimes it should be a test, it should be an excavation of pitfalls, it should be hard. And it was great! I finished tired but happy. I learned valuable lessons and am a stronger runner for it. After my run, I started refueling with a delicious Green Machine/Hemp Shake and a Greens & Whey bar and then after I had ice bathed, showered and changed, went to Whole Foods for a delicious brown rice, black bean and grilled veggie burrito (yes, food is that important to me.....)

Sunscreen:
I don't wear sunscreen. Nope, not anymore. I use to be highly prone to burning, I could think about the sun and turned bright red. I got so burnt when I lived in south africa that my dr. told me I might at some point develop skin cancer if I didn't always cover my shoulders. So why do I not wear sunscreen? Cuz I don't need it! Since I have refined my diet from healthy to uber healthy and really have reached a level of eating that is so positive for my body, one of the positive side effects is that my body now can properly utilize the Vitamin D from the sun. All food is essentially how we eat the sun and we need precious Vitamin D for many reasons. However, most people burn because their nutrition is so poor that they cannot utilize the Vitamin D from the sun. Yesterday, in the mid afternoon sun, I put it to the test. I ran for nearly 3:45 with a singlet on and no sunscreen and while I got a nice tan, I did not burn. That would have been formerly unheard of for me. It is nice, really really nice to feel like the benefits to my healthy diet unfold exponentially and in such interesting and unexpected ways. I am what I eat, and so my body is becoming something made of the best, healthiest stuff possible. Oh yes, oh yes....

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Dr.'s orders

I have been in culinary school for 2.5 months now (natural chef, super healthy, learning all about nutrition as well as how to integrate that into the practice) and my diet which was already healthy has been elevated to the next level of healthy and I have been very pleased with the way I have been feeling. I don't eat refined sugar, refined flour or anything with gluten, very minimal red meat and dairy. I have been making adjusts and feeling my way through all the information I have been learning. I finally just this week have felt like I am transitioning from knowing to doing and being able integrate it. What an awesome feeling.

I went for a follow up with my doctor about my iron deficiency (which is due in part to not eating enough red meat and due to expelling it through running) and she and I had an awesome conversation about nutrition and diet. Her only advice: Eat More!

She said that because I am eating healthy amazing food and not processed products and not eating much meat or dairy, I need to compensate for the calories elsewhere (since the majority of high calorie items are from said). Though I know that, I tend to forget that because I run as much as I do, that I need to have a significantly higher calorie intake then the rest of the population. And real whole foods have a lot less calories! And I tend to forget that too since I am making and eating these amazingly tasty meals which taste so good you would almost think they are bad for you. But they aren't.

Now that is the type of prescription I like!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A good day to run

Today was a good day of running. After falling short last week in my goal to do a second 90+ mile week in a row due to catching a cold, stress and generally having too much to do, I was kinda bummed. But I set out this week with renewed perspective (i.e. days off in the short term for the right reasons, bred stronger running in the long term & more importantly, I can cut myself some slack!) and thus far have been running well and getting in some good runs.

Monday: 10 miles (half trail/half road 8:20pace w/ speed intervals)
Tuesday: Recovery 6 miles
Wednesday: Run #1 9.5 miles (7:30/pace)
Run #2 Recovery 6.5 miles

So it looks like despite still having alot on my plate (I use the metaphor: my proverbial plate is as full as a fat person's plate at a Las Vegas Buffet), I am confident I will put in a strong week and enjoy the hell out of it!

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