Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Glimmers of Hope

Signs of hope aren’t just showing up in the economy these days. They’re all over my legs.

Neil and I visited our nation’s capital last week (All I wanted was to see the president while we were in DC; 30 minutes into our trip, Obama rode by, waving, in his motorcade!), which provided ample distraction from my non-running.

Even if every 1/3 people on the DC streets was jogging. All the time.

Ben'sIt wasn’t all rest, however: we walked 10-15 miles each day, which averages more mileage than I run in average marathon training week! Neil (you can imagine) was thrilled! I’m one helluva vacation partner. At least we totally deserved those dogs at Ben's Chili Bowl.

We did the occasional street-crossing sprint. And by “occasional” I mean every 3-5 streets. It was rough at first—my achilles and calves were suffering big time—but stopped feeling dangerous after the first day and a half.

I was (this) close to taking a run, but I resisted.

Until today.

I’ve been resting since last, last Thursday. It made me a little anxious to not run for a week and a half. Sure, I’ve been cycling, stretching, yogaing and doing other aerobics. But would it be the same?

Well, it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t too bad either. I loaded my ipod with laid-back songs and struck out for a slow, short run. The pain wasn’t all gone and the stiffness stuck around at the start. But it was just feint pain and stiffness—as if I couldn’t quite forget what it was like to run in pain. I wasn’t optimistic.

Then around mile two, it started to rain and my legs warmed up. I picked up pace slightly (from 10’s to 9’s) and fought the urge to figure out what I could do.

After the first five miles, I felt great—in my achilles, calves, legs, lungs—so I took an extra mile lap around the neighborhood to run an even 6 miles. It was a good run back. Phew!

What’s next? I’ll start slowly building up to my workouts and see what I can get out of this last month. Sure, I’ll modify my time goals. In a few weeks.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Running Skirts and Marathon Dreams

The marathon must be getting close. Not only do I have my regularly scheduled nagging injury, but I had my first absurd dream about the race last night.

In the dream: I ran way off course, missed the turnaround by six miles, had to swim part of the way, ran a stretch wearing my winter coat and carrying my computer bag, was forced to stop and have lunch with some visiting friends, ran all uphills backward and realized I hadn’t bought my finish-line Boston crème pie before the race. As you can imagine, I didn’t meet my goal—I looked down at my dream watch to see it ticking past 7:42:00 and then I woke up.

Good thing is the tight calves/shin split/achy achilles/slight runner’s knee thing I’ve had going on this week didn’t make an appearance. I hope that’s the only part of that dream that makes an appearance (although running the uphills backward sounds interesting).

I’d like to blame these aches and pains on that Sunday after my tempo, but I think it has more to do with a tight glute from weeks ago. Around mile 15-16 I felt the glute tightness creeping back for a few minutes. Either that tightness trickled down or all the compensating is paying off in all the wrong ways.

My mid-distance and long runs last week started out creakedy and stiff. Stretches and a couple miles of warm-ups smoothed it all away. Not so for last Saturday’s outing. I took a she-runs/he-bikes ride with Neil and never warmed up. For over an hour!

Typically I keep up a pace with which Neil can casually pedal along side. But last Saturday’s pace was akin to my post-marathon recovery. These legs just weren’t moving.

So, I rested.

It was all yoga and pilates for Sunday and Monday. More on Tuesday and Wednesday with an hour of cycling each. Then Thursday was the day of reckoning. It was also the day that I learned the truth about running skirts.

If you’ve ever seen me run, you’ll know I’m not a pretty lil’ runner (in form or fashion). I put little thought into my ensembles—just whether they’ll keep me warm or cool enough. Mix that with my lifelong shorts-wearing hesitation, and you just have one big damn mess: me.

I gave in a couple years ago and bought a bulk of running shorts. They work just fine, even with all the inevitable riding up of any pair on the planet. Then I noticed running skirts—basically a fitted tennis skirt with longer “bloomers”—and thought I could get on board with that. It seemed Puritan enough for modest me.

My new skirt came in the mail on Thursday. I bounced home from work, threw on my running clothes and hit the streets for my first run in a while. Would my legs work?

They did, I think. I was so damn distracted by how severely the skort was riding up and began to expect all the nasty catcalls from the extraordinary number of piggish dudes out that day. Not at all what I had envisioned for new line of modest running clothes.

So, I ran to the library to drop off the West Wing and fix the skirt parts one of many “last times.” I ran well over 10:00/mile the first 1-2 and wondered if I was doing more damage than good. Nothing felt like it was getting worse in that first 20 minutes; nothing felt like it was getting better. I decided to give myself a 30-40-minute window for warming up. After that I’d just turn around and waltz home.

What do you know? At 35:00 I started feeling almost human again. I comfortably picked up pace into the 9:00’s and then the mid-8:00’s. I finished my scheduled 9+miler at the end of my driveway, walked slowly inside, cooled down a bit on my bike and yogaed away.

Soreness was inevitable on Friday. But it wasn’t worse than any other day. I walked a bunch before and after work, rode my bike, massaged and stretched. And this morning, I feel like I could run without agony. We’ll see.

On one hand, it’s a major bummer that this hitch in my plan is happening just when I started hitting my paces and times. I’ll take it easy this week and most of next, and make a game-week decision about the Hermes 10-Miler. Argh.

On the other hand, this type of thing happens. To me, it typically happens the week or two before the race. This year, I have time to recover. I’m 17 weeks into a 24-week plan… that’s 11 more weeks than I’ve ever stuck to any plan! So, I’ll chalk it up to part of the learning curve and get back to stretching.