Thursday, December 08, 2016

Runners' OCD

I've always been an OCD kind of person, always following certains pattern and always a bit slow to adapt to changed surroundings. That has advantages and disadvantages; if you needed a creative person on your team I was unlikely to fill that role but if you needed someone who just got on with things I was bound to shine.

Running suited me down to the ground as a sport. I might not have the fast twitch fibres to make it as a sprinter, or even to be able to outsprint a rival on the line, but the training day in day out just came to me naturally. Get up in the morning, every morning, no matter the weather, no problem. Come up with a plan on how to handle distance running and still be able to get to work every time, no problem.

Stick to it - absolutely no problem. I've read, several times, that the average person can hold their interest in a particular subject for 6 months. That's fine if you want to tick running a marathon off your bucket list but if you want to get good at running, really good, you better be prepared to spend the next 10 years of your life making this a priority.

I was made for that kind of stuff.

In the same vein as I have followed my path to international standard I am now following the same pattern when recovering from overtraining, Run 3/4/5 miles or 35/45 minutes a day, okay, no problem. I just get on with it.

From today on I can push it a bit further, to 6 miles. I immediately got a bit carried away and ran a bit too fast, but as long as I can recover from day to day I'm good. Since I'm feeling pretty good these days I think I got away with it. If I'm a good boy, Santa will bring me an extra mile for Christmas. Woohoo!
6 Dec
4 miles, 34:44, 8:39 pace, HR 149
7 Dec
4.1 miles, 35:50, 8:43 pace, HR 146
8 Dec
6.1 miles, 50:00, 8:15 pace, HR 150

Monday, December 05, 2016

Peanut Bliss Balls

100g flaked almonds
50g Brazil nuts
50g cashew nuts
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
50g dried berries
4 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp honey
4 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1. Blend all dry ingredients in a food processor
2. Melt coconut oil, honey, peanut butter and vanilla and mix in the dry ingredients
3. Put in fridge for 1-2 hours
4. roll into shape, about a dozen balls
5. back in fridge for 1 hour

They're dead easy to make and only require a couple of minutes' work. I have used those as nutrition in Belfast and Albi, and will most likely use them again. They taste very nice and go down well even late in a race. Since there are no perishable ingredients they can be kept outside the fridge for the duration of even a very long race, though they soften when not cooled. Recipe by Aoife Tanner via Cian Bubendorfer.

"Training" is going reasonably well. Running 4 or 5 miles is short enough for my still compromised system to handle and I am finishing each and every run in the knowledge that I could turn around and do the same run again immediately if someone told me to. And I'm prepared to be patient.

3 Dec
4 miles, 33:25, 8:20 pace, HR 149
4 Dec
4 miles, 34:48, 8:39 pace, HR 145
5 Dec
5+ miles, 43:47, 8:39 pace, HR 147

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Level Up

I started creating a post about how I had gotten myself into an overtrained state but now I'm not sure if I even want to finish writing it; I'd much rather concentrate on the present rather than dwell too much in the past. I pretty much know where I have gone wrong (hint: it wasn't just one thing in isolation, it was a range of factors working together and an inadequate response from my side), I think I have an idea on how to correct it and I'll keep monitoring the situation, this time with a much more fine-tuned sensor on stress and recovery.

I've now been back running for two weeks. Very limited running that is, my weekly total was just 23 miles in the first 7 days (including one off day), so I do hope that this is easy enough not to overwork my compromised system.

Honestly, I think the signs are good. The numbers are going up, and on Wednesday they jumped up an entire level. They're still worlds below what I like to think of as "normal" but nevertheless that's definite progress. More importantly, I do enjoy every single step. That's definitely a plus. However, there is also a potential problem: I've always been told that not wanting to train would be big red flag with regards to overtraining and since that flag never showed up I ended up underestimating how serious this problem had become.


Anyway, I'm running with a bit more effort the last couple of days, upgrading from "recovery" to "easy" runs, which really is my natural state - this is the effort I would be running almost every day if I didn't follow a training program and would just do whatever I felt like. I like that effort level - not so slow as to get frustrating and not so fast as to get exhausting.

This is the first month in the entire year that my VDOT graph is clearly pointing upwards (May had been okay as well, all other months are either jumping up and down or just gradually sliding down). Admittedly, I was coming from such a low starting point after my break that up was the only real way to go.

Still, so far so good.

28 Nov
3.8 miles, 35:05, 9:13 pace, HR 143
29 Nov
4.5+ miles, 40:00, 8:48 pace, HR 148
30 Nov
4.1 miles, 35:01, 8:32 pace, HR 145
1 Dec
5.2 miles, 45:11, 8:41 pace, HR 147

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Limited Progress Is Still Progress

Well, he said it would take about 10 days to see some progress but maybe I'm still a fast responder because it didn't take quite as long. Good thing too, because I might have started panicking after a week otherwise. There is clearly still a long way to go, and in fact my numbers are still pretty awful, just not as awful as a week ago.

The last couple of runs have been a fair bit faster than last week, though partially at the expense of a higher HR. This isn't particularly alarming. I looked back in my training logs at what I did after my comeback from pneumonia and was really surprised how high the HR was for each run - all at least in the 150s, some even in the 160s. There is no way a coach would let me do this now, so at least I know that I am somewhat restrained.

The HR has crept higher the last few days, though not really deliberately. I did become aware a couple of times this morning that I was putting more effort in and pulled the brakes but the legs seemed intent to start turning quicker again as soon as my concentration waned.

I only did 23 miles last week, in 6 runs. I can crank that a little bit higher now, but not much. Blimey, I don't know how often I ran further than that in one day in training alone, never mind races, but it does show how badly I managed to dig myself into a hole.

24 Nov
4.9 miles, 44:51, 9:09 pace, HR 145
26 Nov
4.46 miles, 40:00, 8:58 pace, HR 145
27 Nov
4.59 miles, 40:01, 8:43 pace, HR 148

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Near Future

I didn’t come up with that plan myself, so I’m neither taking credit nor blame. But a plan was clearly needed after it had become perfectly clear that somehow I had managed to get myself into an overtrained state.

I had gotten plenty of advise after the abject race that had been Albi, ranging from "run Dublin, you'll be fine" to "take 3 months completely off", and, as much as it pained me, it was pretty clear that the latter advise was a lot more advisable than the former.

MC did chime in, and that helped a lot. In the end I ended taking 4 weeks off completely, which was painful, and now I'm at least back running. However, I am limited to 2-5 miles max for the rest of the year at least. The idea is to work on the lower set of muscle fibres and get them conditioned. What MC didn't say but merely implied was that this means the higher set of muscle fibres are still being unused (because the runs are so short that they never get used), meaning they get at least 10 weeks of rest, which comes pretty close to that most conservative advice mentioned earlier.

Just to point out how much of a painful adaptation this is, 4 weeks off is the longest break I've ever had since I started running. Even when I had pneumonia in 2008 I was only off for 3 weeks! And then I did not have to be so restrained for weeks and months either. The way I see it, this is the universe's punishment for being an idiot.

I've now done 5 runs, all about 35 minutes in length. I just run one way and when 17-18 minutes are up I turn around and run back. The effort is very easy. The HR is higher than I'd like but I have been told to expect changes after about 10 days.

21 Nov
3.7 miles, 35:01, 9:23 pace, HR 144
22 Nov
3.8 miles, 36:00, 9:26 pace, HR 147
23 Nov
3.75 miles, 35:25, 9:26 pace, HR 142

Sunday, November 20, 2016

I'm Back!

I'm Back Baby!

I'm slow as hell and until a few months ago I would not even have considered going for such a short run but it sure beats sitting at home looking wistfully out of the window. Niamh is also pleased that I'm out running, it saves her the job of kicking me out when I'm unbearable.

Saturday morning was the big day, 4 weeks after Albi. Since back then I still had been running on Sunday it was a day early, really, but a nice dry crisp weekend morning was too good to waste. The one thing I had done over my long break was to turn off the HR alarm on my watch, and, to nobody's surprise, my HR was way high. I'm not at all concerned, I have been there often enough by now. When I start running after a break the HR is always sky high but it comes down quickly enough. When I finally approach something resembling fitness it actually comes down into MAF territory, though I am approaching that from the upper side, so I'm definitely not claiming I'm doing MAF training (which I've tried twice, both to unsatisfactory outcomes).

Anyway, the first thing I noticed on Saturday was that it was freezing cold, which was fine, and the second thing was that my knee still felt funny, which was not. However, five minutes into my run neither was noticeable, so the rest of the run I just trotted along. The legs weren't used to that kind of exercise any longer and I felt uncoordinated and awkward but truth to be told it was better than expected.

I ran for close to 18 minutes into one direction and then turned around, for a total of 35 minutes, which turned out to be 3.65 miles, only just faster than 10-minute pace. That's the way it is right now.

Sunday was very similar, except that there was not even a beep from the knee. Instead the hamstrings in their entirety felt tired, obviously feeling the strain from yesterday. That, too, went away after a couple of minutes and the rest was more or less the same as yesterday, a tad faster but also with a higher HR. I'm not aiming at any kind of pace, just run whatever feels easy and natural, and I know this will come down significantly over the next few weeks.

Baby, I'm Back!

19 Nov
3.65 miles, 35:32, 9:43 pace, HR 142
20 Nov
3.7 miles, 34:57, 9:26 pace, HR 146

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Knee

I never told you the full story about my knee!

As you might know, if you read this blog regularly that is, my right knee felt very stiff and rather uncomfortable after the run in Tralee, 4 weeks before Albi. I didn't really hurt but knee issues are not to be ignored and it never got 100% better.

The day before the race in Albi I asked our team physio for help. She very quickly diagnosed it as a muscle problem, not an actual knee problem (much to my relief) (proving my yoga teacher right - how could I ever have doubted her!) and then proceeded to torture me mercilessly for the next half hour, somehow tearing apart whatever was wrong.

Once she stopped torturing me (f*ck, that REALLY hurt!) the knee felt like new again! While I was still a little bit worried, it was not a factor at all in Albi and I got through 117 miles seemingly unscathed. However, the next day it felt stiff again, probably after sitting for so long in cramped conditions on the journey back, and of course by then I no longer had access to my own dedicated physio. However, it did improve gradually over the next couple of weeks. If the full rest was beneficial or not or if it made any difference at all, I cannot tell. I did work on it a bit, some light yoga stuff, and if I work myself into position slowly enough I can get it to do whatever is required. By now it's 98% clear. I can bend it fully again, though at full flex it still feels a tiny bit stiff. Sometimes I make a clumsy move and a bit of pain shoots through my knee, so I still need to be careful, but in the grand scheme of things it is a minor issue now.

You know what's really weird about not running for 4 weeks? At times my legs hurt just as they do after a long run. I'm not sure how that works. Actually, scrap that, I have no idea what's going on here. I'm sure MC or anyone else with sufficient knowledge and experience can explain that but to me that's just baffling.

Since it's not been 4 weeks yet I still have not done any running, but I started doing half an hour of cycling (indoors, on the trainer). Me being me, I'm doing it every single morning. I make sure to keep the effort very easy but I am pleased nonetheless that there is no negative reaction at all.

I have been sleeping very well since I started going to bed much earlier, with the exception of last night. I have this weird thing that almost every Full Moon I have one night where I simply cannot fall asleep. It's ALWAYS within a day or two either side of a Full Moon. It has nothing to do with the bedroom being too bright because we have perfectly well working curtains and the room is completely dark, yet somehow I just lie there and sleep won't come. It happens so often I am used to it, and since it's only once a month it doesn't have any lasting effects, but it's still annoying as hell every time it happens. Maybe my great-grandmother was a werewolf or something.

I can't wait until the weekend. Then I'll be a runner again. The fact that I am so looking forward to it is definitely a good sign, but the real test is yet to come of course.