Monday, August 27, 2012

Hey Little Kids! I can beat you in a race. Let's go!

To borrow a term from my good friend Mike Kahn, I am in what you might call “Fun-Run Shape” right now.   If I were to say, lie about being older than 10 and signing up for the children’s dash that comes after a local 5K, I could win if the conditions are right and Usain Bolt’s children (not sure if he has any) aren’t also in the race.  It’s a good place to be.  I’m not complaining.

To get out of fun run shape and back into local 5K shape, I am doing something I normally don’t recommend.  I’m coaching myself.  Let me preface this by saying I am a strong proponent of having a coach.  Any runner who wants to take training and racing seriously should find someone to fill that role; even really smart runners.  It’s more for a dissenting opinion than anything else. Someone to give you the OK to take a day off or someone to look at the big picture and adjust accordingly.  I find that runners tend to get caught up in the “right now” instead of the “two weeks from now”.  It often takes an objective voice to keep us from doing something stupid. 

I am only coaching myself until I graduate from the Fun Run Phase.  I have been injured more than my fair share in the past four years.  But, I have made sure to turn each of those injuries into a positive learning experience.  In doing such and through trial and error, I have become sort of an expert  on how my body recovers and how it adapts to running after an extended period of time off my feet.  I’ve taken the “jump right back into it approach” and pulled my calf and I’ve taken the “low volume/high speed” approach and pulled a very large and painful muscle in my back.  Now, I know the cues.

Patience.  This week, I finally topped 50 miles.  It’s my seventh week of running.  In my first week, I ran six miles.  To say I’m being conservative is like calling “Call Me Maybe” “Slightly Catchy.”  But it has worked.  No Garmin.  No expectations and working off a “training plan” that is day-to-day instead of month to month.  For someone who craves structure, this is a tough adjustment.  There are some basic rules.  I set a mileage goal,  the type of workout or workouts and one long run.  Then, I try to color in between the lines with whatever crayon looks best for the overall picture.

Some key runs have helped me arrive at Fun Run Shape.  A three-mile tempo last week at an average of 5:35 pace didn’t blow anyone’s doors off, but  was encouraging.  Two double-digit runs that both included significant pickups have been key to restoring endurance.  As the distance and the intensity increases, I hope to feel and see a transition, and then put it to the test in the fall. I’m going to toe the line at a couple of Cross Country races to get used to racing, then shoot for a 5K PR the day before the New York City Marathon.  I’ll need a coach for that though, because that’s about the time I get crazy and irrational with my training.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where am I?

I have location confusion.  I call it that because I don’t know what else to call it.  It’s when I travel to a former place of residence and have fleeting thoughts of people I might see or places I might go that are actually in another former place of residence.  Does that make sense?    An example:  As we headed to Charlotte this past weekend, I thought about how good it would be to see my family.  My family lives in upstate New York.  These are very quick thoughts.  I’m talking about fragments of a second; just enough to register. 

I have the same kind of moments with running.  As I dealt with my most recent injury, I would have fleeting thoughts about my next workout or race, only to very quickly come crashing back down to earth.  I’ve moved to three cities in the past nine years.  I have had two major injuries in the past three years.  It seems that when your reality becomes drastically different, remnants of the old reality remain in your subconscious.  Why am I writing about this?  No real reason other than I’ve been wanting to put down the odd feeling in words.

However, it is topical.  My running reality has been slowly changing over the past several weeks.  I am transitioning from injured to cautiously healed.  I also like to describe it as a transition between being oblivious to my lack of fitness to being acutely aware of my lack of fitness.  What started at 3 days and 10 miles of running a week has slowly and methodically built to 6 days and 50 miles a week of running.  Now, it’s time to add in workouts.

Last Thursday, I decided to test the wheels with the most basic workout in my repertoire.  I ran easy over to the Urban Athletics Headquarters on the Upper East Side and met up with my teammates for the first time since May. I then tacked on a couple of more easy miles with them before they split off to do a hill workout.  Then, I launched into what I call “minuters”.  It is one minute hard (3k-5k pace) followed by one minute easy (normal training pace) times 10.  During the first five intervals, I felt like I was on cloud 9.  I dropped the hammer and felt like I was gliding with ease.  Wherever my stride had been hiding, I had found it.  I even ran by one jogger who exclaimed, “whoa!”  The second half of the workout was not quite as fun.  Minute number 6 was hard.  Number 7 was laborious.  Number 8 caused a sharp pain in my side.  Numbers 9 and 10 were simply a sad display.

But no one said rehabbing would be easy and I didn’t expect to come back in prime 5K shape.  This is the hard part.  But it is also the fun part.  As I mentioned, Lauren and I spent the second half of last week in Charlotte where I was more than happy to be able to at least run.  It allowed me the chance to join in on some easy runs with some of my favorite training partners.  The best way to catch up with someone you haven’t seen in a while is to keep up with them on a run. 

I’ve signed up for a 5K in the fall and I’d like to run a respectable time.  A race on the calendar is the incentive I need to do the work required to get back in shape.  Maintaining fitness is very hard and takes dedication.  Regaining it is harder and takes patience and persistence.  Just like training for a marathon, building fitness is a science.  My plan is to continue the base building phase through mid September with a slow climb to 70 miles a week.  Right now, I think the focus needs to be on the mileage and not the intensity, so I will limit quality workouts to one per week and they won’t be ball busters.  Of course, of all the runners I coach, I am the lowest priority.  My wife’s marathon plan and the 5K plan I’m working on for some of my co-workers take precedent. 

On a side note, my visit to Charlotte was eye-opening for many reasons.  First and foremost (a cliché, but I didn’t have a better introductory phrase), the growth of the running community is palpable.  I am not talking about numbers, but in terms of diversity and increase in talent.  I have been gone one year and on the group runs I attended, I met as many new faces as familiar faces. Caitlin, Aaron and the board have done an incredible job finding people in Charlotte who have a passion for running and want to share it with other runners in the community.  A woman named Sue Falco is one of those new faces who is using running to fight cancer; her cancer and the cancer that impacts so many people in a non-discriminatory fashion. She not only has a passion for running, but a passion for life.  Lauren and I talked to her for an hour.  We could have talked to her all day.  Her drive and the success of her relatively new race in town are proof that Charlotte’s running scene will continue to thrive and grow for many years.

I also noticed how on board Charlotte is with the nationwide Yogurt and Yoga craze.  Yogurt and yoga shops are on every corner and in most cases next door to each other.  On East Boulevard there is a new yogurt shop across the street from another new yogurt shop.  You can have too much of a good thing.  And my God, the snow…oh wait, that’s Syracuse. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Birthday Letter to IT Band Syndrome

August 4, 2012

Dear IT Band Syndrome,  

  Happy three month birthday!  I guess it's true what they say: "Time doesn't fly when you're not having fun."  I still remember the day you came into my life.  I wasn't expecting you, but you came out of nowhere and stopped me in my tracks on the West Side Highway. Thanks for showing up two miles from my house so I had to hobble home in excruciating pain.  It took like an hour.  You know how sometimes you say, "one day, I'll look back on that moment and laugh."  This is not one of those moments. Oh, how you love surprises.  Remember that time when you went away for two weeks and let me run and get all optimistic?   I thought you had left, but turns out you were just hiding.  Such a practical joker, ITBS.

But, now that you're three months old it's time to have a serious talk.  I won't belabor the point (unlike you).  It's time to move out.  This isn't working.  I've been trying for weeks to drop not-so-subtle hints.  I've poked you with needles, attacked you with creams and pills, rolled over you repeatedly with a giant styrofoam cylinder.  I've counter-attacked you with stronger glutes and hips. I've strangled you with my own fingers and the fingers of at least three other people.  You're the house guest that stays after the hosts have put on their pajamas.  And you're not even the life of the party.  When you are around, I'm a different person.  You do things that hurt me.  You have ruined an entire road racing season for me and you've cost me thousands of dollars.  You're not a syndrome.  You're a parasite.

Maybe you noticed, but I have been leaving you behind on runs lately.  Today, I ran nearly 45 minutes before you caught up to me and even then, all it took was a couple of strides to lose you again.  Pretty soon, I'm going to be stronger than you.  I'm no fool though.  I know I have to watch my back now that we know each other.  You're a sly bastard and you won't let me out of your sights.  I also know you have friends who are waiting to pounce on how out of shape you've made me.  I'm watching for them too.

Here's the deal.  You have until the end of the Olympics to pack your stuff and get out.  What will I do without you?  I plan on going back to the old me and working my butt off to race again.

Good Riddance,