Oh yeah, because you're not running.
I think I must feel about cycling the way non-runners feel about running: 1) I do it because I have to and 2) it's boring as hell.
At one time I thought riding a bike wasn't so bad. That was for a thirty minute ride. I got to where I didn't mind it, or dread it. Then my training plan upped the ask. First it was 60 minutes; I managed 58. Yesterday it was 65 minutes. I managed 63. I set myself up on the third (largest) chainring to slow myself down and really use my muscles.
I'm definitely set out to be the world's worst cyclist. I can't steer and I have no depth perception. I also can't balance and have to have two hands on the handle bars at (almost) all times.
I pass runners on my rides and hope they can tell I'm one of them because of how completely out of place I look on my bike. I think about what would happen if I got a flat tire. I wear my running shoes and take my bike lock just for that reason - so I could lock up my bike, run home, and then come pick it up with the car later. I have absolutely no idea how to mend a flat tire and even worse than trying to figure it out on my own would be people passing by and thinking 'oh, this poor girl.'
I finally figured out how to wear a bike helmet (hint: you don't just strap in as tightly as possible), so that was good. I can actually do some serious riding for more than half an hour. The "bike path" is multi-purpose as it runs through some park areas so there's always runners (not usually in the way), kids playing at the park (always in the way), people walking their dogs, and then other cyclists ranging in skill from 0 to 10 where 0 is a three year old on a tricycle and 10 is Lance Armstrong. I wonder how the Lance's feel about riding in this area. I mean, I get annoyed and I neither go fast nor care. But to have the option to change up my route is helpful except I live in stoplight-plagued suburbia.
I also live near a velodrome which would only be the coolest thing ever. But I mean, I'm pretty sure the skill level in there is 5-10. I'm still a 1. Plus, my hybrid would be uncomfortably out of place.
Can you tell I have serious self-consciousness issues regarding this?
The question, though, is why the hell is it so boring? Is it because I can't look at ANYTHING other than the road in front of me? I really need a iPhone mount for the handle bars so I can at least glance occasionally at my speed as I go. Pulling my phone out is a bit beyond my coordination thus far.
How the hell do I entertain myself on a bike? Interestingly, I think it would be more exciting to sit in a gym on a stationary bike and listen to podcasts, but maybe I'm reaching. Cycling outdoors requires alertness which is draining but also not very interesting.
I know that a lot of people find running for an hour boring, but I have literally NEVER gotten bored on a run. EVER. The most boring run ever for me was the LA marathon. Sounds weird, but miles 20-25 were literally the same thing for an hour, and all I could think about was that it was hot, I was thirsty, and there was nothing I could do about it.
That's how I feel on the bike. I am cold because I clearly have not gotten the hang of how to dress for a bike ride. I am thirsty because I have to stop and dismount to grab my water bottle. But I have to keep going. I can't change up my course (like I easily could running) I can't change up my music (since I can't listen to any). I can't drift in my thoughts since I'm trying not to pummel small children and chihuahuas.
Even the cute new bike shorts I got only boosted my morale briefly until the cold wind destroyed it again. Ok, nah, I was still pretty excited about how cute they were by the time I was done. They totally leveled the playing field... I may look like I have no idea what I'm doing but don't you see how great I look in these shorts?!
Hey, whatever works.
When I first started running, I didn't really stretch. I would stretch out my quads and hamstrings briefly after a run but that was about it. As I added mileage and started taking running a little more seriously I started adding in stretches for my glutes and calves and holding static stretches longer after each run. I've never been much into dynamic stretching before runs, but if I feel particularly tight, I'll do a little.
When I was in physical therapy I did lots of stretches, particularly for my hip flexors. If you google any running injury the cause will probably be something about hip flexors.
Tightness in my muscles has always plagued me and I always thought I needed to stretch more. I tried more than one yoga studio but always felt like I was going to get hurt somehow.
The somewhere I read that being too flexible is actually bad for runners. I had heard bad things about yoga and runners, too (with the exception for whatever reason of Bikram which I have only heard amazing things about from ultrarunners). I already have a hyperflexible spine, meaning I just have an increased range of motion than normal. My newest physical therapist diagnosed this, though I have always been able to easily bend over and put my palms flat on the floor in line with my feet, even with my feet together.
Stiff muscles combined with hypermobile joints creates a problem. Basically it creates an imbalance that hurts the joints. This is said to be seen more in female runners than male runners. Having a pelvic tilt definitely doesn't help.
In other words, what I really need is a massage!
But that's why foam rolling helps. And it's why the right stretches help. Stetches for stiff muscles. While they make you feel more flexible, it's just the release of tension in your muscle, not an actual increase in the flexibility of the joint.
After I read "flexibility is bad" I misinterpretted this and stopped stretching. In retrospect, I felt awful. I sit all day at work (though I do get up often, I have a slightly compressed work day, and when I work at home I stand) so I'm already tense and the lack of release on my muscles was building up.
I also stopped foam rolling- not for any reason other than because (a) it wasn't hurting anymore making me think I didn't need it as much and (b) I was lazy.
Fast-forward to this past Sunday when I was in what can only be described as pure agony using that thing on my IT band, quads and even my calves where I hadn't felt a THING a month ago.
I spent Tuesday night before I went to sleep in the bed (on the heating pad because I had some debilitating back pain) stretching everything. I held glute stretches (these) for thirty seconds. I realized how much harder that was on the left side than the right. In fact, it was nearly impossible at first, but I think I have a joint issue on the left side. After I slowly tried it a few times I was almost able to hold it longer than the right. I held hamstring stretches for 30 seconds at a time. I stretched my hip flexors (ok, I had to get out of bed for that one) for 30 seconds at a time. But what I realized was when I got up to do the hip stretches was that my back pain was GONE. The heating pad hadn't helped much the night before, so I was attributing it to the stretching. I did my nerve glides (complicated to explain but basically a way to release tension on the nerve in my ankle) which doubles as a front-of-your-calf strengthening exercise. I also did some loooong static crunches which actually made my abs sore the next day (woot). Anyway, the next day I felt amazing. My back didn't hurt and my foot didn't hurt.
I wore low heels to work that day (as I always do) and at the end of the day my foot was a little sore again. I kid you not, i stretched out my glutes and it COMPLETELY went away. I went out for a run and NOTHING. It was so amazing.
I can't wait to get back into stretching. It's going to change so much more than just my running.
This is probably the most boring post in history, but I will be thanking myself later when it comes time to diagnose something else.
Plan: Hal Higdon Marathon 3
Weeks til marathon: 21
Nice, easy week, this week. Only 11.5 miles plus two bike rides. I'm glad I have the plan to tell me that's not only sufficient, but what I'm supposed to do, else I would be second guessing having an 11.5-mile week.
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: 3.16 miles
Friday: Bike - 30 minutes
Saturday: 5.74 miles (+ 2.5-mile hike)
Sunday: Bike - 58.5 minutes
In true I'm-motivated-because-I-just-started fashion, my week-day workouts were all accomplished before 8am. They were short this week, so it didn't take getting up all that early, but it's a good start. I have to stick with early workouts three days per week until Daylight Savings starts because the park where I run is shady after dark and I'd prefer to not get raped. I have progressively longer weekday morning runs (which currently are scheduled for Mondays- we'll see how long that lasts). The longest one before March 13 (calendar that now) is 10 miles. That's about two hours if I'm taking it slow - meaning out the door by 5:45 AM. If I can progressively get up earlier and earlier, in 7ish weeks it shouldn't be so bad, right? I'm hopeful.
I do love getting in workouts before work, but the downside is... winter. And I'm not being too much of a wuss... it was 42 degrees Friday morning for my bike ride. I wore tall socks and shorts over my pants because thermal anything seems extreme. I also wore a scarf, and running gloves. Expert tip: running gloves aren't for cycling. My hands were numb after 2.5 minutes. Also, ears. Riding a bike in the cold is like being in the cold and additionally having a really cold wind blowing on you consistently and relentlessly for your entire workout. Note to self: wear something... anything... over your ears.
During my Saturday "long run" I worked on hitting 180 steps per minute. I had actually put together a playlist of songs I already owned that the internet told me were 180 bpm - but they weren't. I got thrown off when I was trying to count three steps per second. It would be on for a bit and I would get into a rhythm, and the next thing I knew I wasn't with the music anymore. Btw, it's not me... when I turned off the music I kept the pace just fine. I occasionally pulled up 180 bpm on you tube on my phone and I was right with it every time.
The advice (which is debatable and could be entirely wrong altogether) is that 180 steps per minute means less time in the air, leading to less impact when you hit the ground. I wanted to give it a try because it seemed like something that could apply to me. Other running form advice is to cycle your legs, with which a quicker cadence goes well. I think I ran a bit more efficiently, but I'm still getting the hang of it. I'm not dead-set on learning to run this way. I want to try it out and see if it helps with soreness in my ankle, and if it doesn't then I'll happily abandon it.
Saturday afternoon I went for a hike because it was nice out.
Sunday's ride was planned to be 60 minutes, but I don't wear a watch for my rides, I just track it on my phone which I can't possibly look at more than once during a ride because I would fall off my bike for real, so I kind of guessed. I'm getting a little better and the bike, but it still seems to take a bit more coordination than I possess.
Sunday night I foam-rolled for the first time in a while for more than 15 seconds. It hurt. A lot. At least that means it's working.
Other new things I tried in week 3:
Calf compression sleeve thingies. I've been sore a lot getting back into this and these feel sooo amazing to just wear around after a run.
More plants. Each week I'm trying to consume less and less animal products in favor of plants. I doubt I would/could go 100%, 100% of the time, but I am interested to see if eating more plant foods (nutrient-dense foods) can help me recover more quickly after workouts and gain less (or preferably no) weight through May 1.
Audiobooks. Not my first run with audiobooks (accidental pun I noticed while editing the post), but I've been off it for a while until I got a $.99/month for three months email deal from Audible aka Amazon. I'm listening to The Martian (I've seen the film) and it's actually really good. The story is told better than the movie tells it - but having seen the movie makes it a LOT easier to follow the audiobook. Think: can't reread easily. But Matt Damon was super in the movie and portrays the intended character incredibly well.
Other things I'm doing...
A review of The Help from halfway through:
I'm about halfway through The Help. I was thinking I was loving it <SPOILERS> until they go to write the interviews into a book. I just can't see where the motivation on the help's side would come from to do this, it seems far-fetched. I was liking where the book was going just fine without this plot. In fact, I wouldn't have seen anything wrong with just telling some of the maids' stories in the book itself. You have Aibleen, Minny, Pascagoula, whoever else. You already have all these characters, and you're already writing from different perspectives throughout the novel, so why not just tell those stories as they are? I think the book is trying to be integrative (is that a word?) having the white gal and the black help "work together" but honestly I think that's cheesy and historically irrelevant. The idea of this "book" they are writing is to stir things up and "make people think" - so it MUST be heavy material to them, but the way it's written (to me at least) doesn't make it sound heavy at all. It makes it sound like something this white girl wants and is trying to get and I have not been convinced she cares anything about the way the help is treated or the civil rights movement. We will see where it goes, but a collection of shorter stories broken into chapters and then mixed up (still chronologically) where they become increasingly intertwined would have been a home run. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised as I keep reading.
Working. Work is extremely busy. I don't plan on making another post this week, hence it's length. Will have to report back on Sunday.
As I briefly mentioned before, I chose the Hal Higdon Marathon 3 plan to train for the Lincoln Marathon on May 1. It's a 24 week plan, meaning it technically would have started the Monday before I ran the Griffith Park Trail Half.
So I started it on week 2 with some adjustments, giving myself four complete rest days after my race before putting my running shoes on. I had some awesome blisters and I was pretty sore, so it was needed. Here's what weeks 1 and 2 looked like:
Tuesday: 3.75 miles (fartleks)
Wednesday: 3.4 miles easy
Saturday: 12.9 (race)
Monday - Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 6.57 miles very easy
Friday: 4.01 miles tempo (8:19 pace)
Saturday: 2.73 miles very easy
Sunday: 7.07 miles (LR)
"Very easy" is somewhere between 11:00-12:00 min/mile. I rarely ran that slowly before I got injured - I did long runs around 10:30 and always felt fine, until I didn't. I don't believe that had anything to do with my injury, though, that's just where I felt comfortable for 12-20 miles.
For this training cycle I hope to be more deliberate when it comes to my training paces because...
Most of us have limited time to complete our training, yet we all wish to get absolutely the most return from our investment. Time and again, injury is the biggest impediment to achieving our desired performance and improving to ever higher levels. ... The key to highly successful training, then, is to avoid injury above all else.
If a run is on the calendar and it's not a tempo or race-pace run, it's going to be slow. There aren't that many speed workouts on the plan (14 in 24 weeks + 4 races before the marathon) so I need to be able to hit them all. I won't risk missing a speed workout due to not recovering.
So for pacing, I used Jack D's VDOT calculator here (or here- but I kinda like the old school yellowness of the first one; wow, or here, but be prepared for information overload) to see what my training paces should actually be instead of making up something and crossing my fingers (like last time). I used my fastest mile since my injury (7:24), which happens to be my fastest mile since 5th grade. Which I happened to run in a relay AFTER having ran a 5k a half-hour before. The point of saying all that is because it's at least a tiny bit conservative.
The VDOT calculator is kind of like a crystal ball. Obviously it can't tell the future, but neither can a damn crystal ball, it just is shiny and gives you something to hold on to.
What it told me:
Basically I can run a marathon RIGHT NOW at 9:08. I call BS. I ran my last marathon at 9:10 and I didn't have a bum foot and I had been actually, like, training. It's accuracy can in fact be denied. But if we trust it for now, apparently my easy pace should be 10:35. Good thing I have no chance of doing those too fast. When I am feeling good I will aim for 10:35, but if I need recovery I will make like molasses. I'm ignoring the calculator's mileage prescriptions since I already have a plan. My training plan prescribes "race pace" runs. These will be at 9:08. But looking at all these threshold paces make me want to slam my laptop and go eat some Cookie Crisp.
Also, am I the only person who sees that TIMER would have been a way better acronym for these training zones than EMTIR?
The other type of workout I have in my plan is tempo. That's it, just "tempo." I will probably play around and do some fartleks during some of those runs, but will also sticj to Hal's intentions which is to build speed before running a couple of cool-down miles. If I do as the yellow chart suggests, I will warm up around 10:35 and peak at 8:33. Yeah, I've already been doing that too fast... oops.
These will be my training paces until I race a 5k in January. If my performance is good and I feel strong and my foot doesn't fall off my leg and I don't fall and skin my knee which for some reason I have been afraid of recently then I can adjust my paces by entering the new time in the VDOT calculator. Quite nifty I do believe.
1) Pick a race
2) E-mail the race director
3) Actually go
4) Don't leave early
Just kidding. I mean, yeah that works, but there's so much more to it!
What does it take to be a good race day volunteer?
I've volunteered at three races this year. It has been a positive experience each and every time. There are things you can do to make it a good experience for yourself, the runners, and everyone involved.
1) Volunteer early
I have done this each and every time. Plan ahead and pick a race in advance. This is especially easy if you were planning to run a race and then got injured - there's nothing else on your calendar that day. E-mail the race director (RD) and let him/her know you are available to volunteer at said race if he/she needs anymore volunteers.
He/she will say "yes!" because it's still four weeks 'til race day and there's no way they have enough people already. You may be asked what tasks you would prefer and you should be honest. If you physically cannot get up at 4:30 AM to begin checking in runners at 5:30 AM at the start line then you shouldn't volunteer for check-in. Let the RD know you can't be there til 7.
2) Do things you don't want to do
This goes against the first thing for those of you who are super dedicated. You don't WANT to get up at 4:30 AM but you can, so you do. I think waking up super early on occasion is good practice for other times you may have to do this (early flight, early race, etc.). There will be other tasks you will be asked to do outside of your comfort zone and I suggest you do them as if it was your job.
3) Show up on time
This goes along with "if it was your job." You committed to being somewhere. Do not think they should be grateful you showed up at all. Even if you get there and they don't need you yet, you should not think it was a waste. The point is you followed through on your commitment.
4) Show up in a good mood
This can be a hard one if it's early or if you ran over the neighbor's cat pulling out of your driveway this morning. But whatever is going on inside your head, it's time to drop it and start smiling at everyone. Smile at the other volunteers. Introduce yourself cheerfully. And for cryin' out loud, if you don't smile at the runners then there is no point in being there.
5) Pay attention
Especially true for trail races or other logistically challenging events, you need to be able to answer basic questions for runners. If there is a briefing on the course, you need to convert that shit to memory. How far to the next aid station? What mile are you at? Where are the bathrooms? What is the cut-off time? For ultras this is especially true. Things runners knew at the beginning, they have no idea now that they have been running all morning. Also pay attention to your surroundings and to the runners you see. If a runner looks ill or anything at all looks potentially dangerous, let someone know.
5) Be a problem-solver
Be proactive and assist in problem solving. If a tent is going to blow away, figure out a way to make it not. If the water is sitting out in the sun, figure out a way to get it into the shade. If the chocolate covered almonds are melting then put them back in the cooler. There's always a ton of problems on race morning and your job as a volunteer is to make them as not-obvious to the runners as possible. Are you running out of small shirts? Ask the RD if she has a way to order more and deliver later. Is it hotter than expected? Ask if you need to make an ice run. I could list thousands of possible race-day issues that you may be required to solve. Don't expect the RD or even veteran volunteers to be on top of everything. They have a HUGE job already taking care of the main logistics.
6) Stick around 'til the end
This is my least favorite because I am extremely impatient. I would rather get there early than stay late. So I try really hard to somehow get excused when the first volunteers are let loose. But before I go, I help with every single task that I can see needs to be done. I pick up trash, fold up chairs, pack boxes, etc. I walk around and see if there are other things I can do in areas I haven't yet checked out that day. The thing is, as long as you're still doing stuff and not just standing around it's not so bad. The worst thing is when you can't find any other reasonable chore and you're just waiting for someone to tell you it's ok to leave. In that case, you have two options. You can ask the volunteer in charge if there's anything else you can help with before you take off, or you can just tough it out and wait until someone notices there's not much left to do. Notice there's no option for "leave and hope no one notices."
7) Remember why you're there
And no, I don't mean to remember how you're getting a free race entry out of this. You're there for the runners! When you're running a race, all those volunteers are there so YOU can run the race! They would look awfully silly with all those canopy tents and water coolers and a timing mat if there weren't any runners. Think about how you would want volunteers to be when you are racing. You want them to be friendly and encouraging - to say things like "looking strong!" or "great finish!" You want them to be helpful and knowledgable - to be able to answer your questions about the race or the course. And you want them to do what can be reasonably expected of them - like, make sure the aid station is stocked or be able to find your name on the registration sheet.
I have heard before that runners "owe it" to running to volunteer at races, but I don't think that's true. You pay for the race and you run. The only thing you ever owed was the registration fee. But I do think there's a lot to learn from volunteering, especially at aid stations specifically at ultras. Observing runners' behavior at aid stations is interesting and you can learn a lot from watching the more experienced runners. It's also incredibly inspiring to be out on the course at a 50-mile event and see how people will their way to finishing. And for most people, the biggest reward is helping fellow runners and the LOADS of appreciation they show for that.
End note: if you're thinking about it, just do it. Even if you're shy (like me), it's not that bad. Other end note: small races need volunteers, too, BUT if you're even thinking about running an ultra one day, go volunteer at an ultra. It will light the fire!
Running in Australia
How to Volunteer at a Race
Running in NYC Part I
All my recaps
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