Monday, March 29, 2010

Over the Hump

There are just 4 more weeks to go (today) before Big Sur (click here for a great video tour) and it's all downhill from now on. My build has been good but not up to my standards as in previous years due to various issues. There were the usual 'life is too busy' excuses, some unexpected travel, cursed dental visits but the main one was my lack of energy and resulting poor performances in regular training runs. And just to prove that I'm not making this up or 'talking though my hat' (where the heck did that come from?) here is some solid evidence with my average pace per week over the past 15 months.
You can see my 2009 Boston training and race where the paces were in the mid 8:30's, followed by some downtime and run-walking as I came back from surgery. Then things were stable with a slight improvement as I did the PEI marathon in mid-Oct but since then it's been a steady climb in the wrong direction, despite (or maybe because of) the increased training and mileage. While I understand that you have to run easy some times and can't expect training paces and race paces to come together, it has been very frustrating to not see much in the way of training effects over the past few months.

It turns out that part of my 'problem' was an iron deficiency resulting in anemia which my doctor is so far attributing to a diet lacking in red meat and enough of the leafy greens like spinach. He's been checking out the other possibilities which are not so good which might be causing anemia as a result of internal blood losses but put me on iron supplements in the meantime.

{from US Gov Office of Dietary Supplements (would you believe?)}
Iron and intense exercise:

Many men and women who engage in regular, intense exercise such as jogging, competitive swimming, and cycling have marginal or inadequate iron status [1,81-85]. Possible explanations include increased gastrointestinal blood loss after running and a greater turnover of red blood cells. Also, red blood cells within the foot can rupture while running. For these reasons, the need for iron may be 30% greater in those who engage in regular intense exercise [1].

Three groups of athletes may be at greatest risk of iron depletion and deficiency: female athletes, distance runners, and vegetarian athletes. It is particularly important for members of these groups to consume recommended amounts of iron and to pay attention to dietary factors that enhance iron absorption.

I guess I'm in the category of distance runner on a not so perfect diet (too many carbs and not enough protein) but getting back to the hump thing... it seems that those little red pills are finally starting to kick in with an excellent long run last weekend and a decent mile repeat workout this weekend. The repeats went well considering and my running log goes like this:

"Bitch of a workout with 10x1 mile at MP+30sec or so. Weather didn't help with the cold and wind but I had waited all day for it to improve. Started out -11C and very windy in AM. After short warmup got into the drill of 1 mile with .25mi jog rests or ~2:00. Tough going and was starting to feel like cutting it short but ran into A. Cooper who did mile 5-8 with me. Last 2 miles alone were not easy but still reasonable around 8:00 pace then very easy crawl home. Glad this workout is in the books but it was worth doing! Avg pace of 7:57 was an improvement from previous workout."

There are only 3 hard workouts (long run, MP run, repeat of above w/o) and one 5k race left before flying the coup for our nice holiday break. The closer it gets the more excited I'm getting which is a strange because there are no plans to race hard at Big Sur. The plan is to run 'well', have fun, take lots of pictures while enjoying the scenery and the course. The racing part will have to wait until later in the year.

Have a great week and keep on keeping on!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Signs of Spring

We've had a beautiful stretch of weather the past week or two with temps on the positive side every day and barely below freezing at night. Today was the 1st day of spring for us northerners and I guess the 1st day of fall for those who live way down under! The crocuses are up despite fears that our family of chipmunks might have destroyed all the bulbs last summer. The little beggars had dug up 1/2 the flower beds in their search for every last morsel of food for the cold winter. It seems that a few managed to survive or get misplaced/replanted.
Another sign of spring today was getting my motorcycle out of winter storage much earlier than usual. Typically we can still expect some cold weather and even snow into the month of April but when the sun shines you might as well make hay! I took it for a short spin around town and the old 1980 Gold Wing is still purring like a kitten. The wind even felt warm with the 17C/63F temps!
And on the running side, it seems like I'm finally starting to come around with a bit more 'spring' in my step! This past week of training included a 10 mile pace run where I was able to get the average pace down to 8:19 which was a nice improvement over recent weeks and also from the start of the program. It was a hard run on the roads with a lot of traffic and plenty of hills but I hear that Big Sur has a few hills, so no problem there.

Today's run was 21 miles on the long road out of town with a headwind and more hills to go along with the cool weather (only +2C/35F) but again, I hear Big Sur has headwinds too! It was the best long run of my build thus far and for once I didn't feel exhausted before even starting out. Perhaps those iron supplements are finally having a positive effect. Mind you, I was plenty tired at the end of 3hr 13 min but that is to be expected when you do that to yourself. The pace was nice and steady hovering just around 9:00 until the last 2 painful miles as the legs finally gave out. Only 2 more weeks of heavy training and then the taper which will now include a 5k race in Trevor's backyard. I think he's getting geared up for it, so it will be nice to run with him again.

That's it for now. Happy Spring or Fall as the case may be!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Down but not out

The final big birch tree is down and here is the view from the garden gate. Luckily I have a good neighbor with a bigger chainsaw than mine and he was willing to bring it down in exchange for the wood. It saved me a lot of work because he had a truck and carted it all away in no time at all. We also did a ring count for the trees, which were all ready to fall over with rot, and they turned out to be about the same age as me. Hopefully, this doesn't mean that I'm also ready to fall over in a heap but the way my running is going lately you never know...

Meanwhile, the running program, as far as you can call it that, is going along slowly. I took Monday off this week because my body was begging for recovery after last weeks 20 miler. The rest of the runs this week were simple easy runs of 4 to 8 miles. Friday was an especially nice day with sunshine, NO WIND, and what felt like warm temperatures of +6C and so I did a few extra miles despite still feeling lethargic. I then took Sat off because of my low energy level, but also to help with the aforesaid tree and other yard work (the fish survived another winter in their outdoor pond, even our favorite, Stubby!) but also to save it for Sunday's tough run.
Speaking of Sunday's run, today was a 12 miler with 8x1 mile repeats at a pace specified as 30-60 seconds faster than marathon pace, whatever that is. Here is the history of these runs since the program started in December and it doesn't look that good with little improvement, in fact more of a decline than anything else since then.

Today's run saw a slight pace improvement over 2 weeks ago but the legs continue to lack any spring or energy. This was despite a rest day on Saturday and a brand new Mizuno Precision trainers, specially purchased for the upcoming marathon. Not sure of what more I can say or do as I've been putting the miles in and trying but just not seeing any results so far.

This tired feeling has been with me all winter and my energy levels are low despite an easier than normal training program. My doctor is on it with me and we think it might just be a diet issue and so I'm now on iron supplements to see if that helps things. He said it may take a couple of weeks to have an effect, so here's hoping! There is only 6 weeks to go until Big Sur and so time is running out if I hope to do any more than just survive the 26.2 miles. Also a small issue of a very busy work with some looming deadlines, meetings and reports due in a few weeks. It'll just all have to come together as it always does.

Have a great week everybody and keep on getting out there!

Sunday, March 07, 2010


Funny, but it just came to me but I needed a good picture and title for my post and stumped it is! It's my newest reason for a running problem or lack of performance this weekend because believe it or not I got 'stumped'.

You see, it's been a hectic last month or so with my work pressure keeping me very busy but I've still been able to get the runs in. The mileage has been good in the mid-40's with this week the highest in awhile at 56 with a tough 20 miler today.
Tough barely begins to describe the survival run that I endured today. Endurance now has a new meaning in my vocabulary as it started out with sore tired legs despite the day off (notice the nice blank space in the graph) yesterday...

But did I take it easy yesterday, rest up, hydrate, stay off my feet for the 1st 20 miler in this training cycle? Oh no, not me! No it was time to get some major yardwork (i.e. Honey Do) chores cleaned up with a couple of very large dying birch trees needing some special attention. Four hours later, they were down, wood was stacked and 2 large 'stumps' were all that was left. The scary part, is there is still another tree waiting but my chainsaw is too small and will have to wait for another day and a bigger power tool.

I didn't feel too bad last night but this morning before my run even started I was massaging my sore hammies from all the heavy lifting they did on their 'day off'. The run went downhill from there, despite lovely sunshine and temps approaching 9C (45F) but the legs just weren't co-operating as 9:30/mi pace was the fastest I could manage. Halfway through the run I made a stop at home for more gatorade and was very tempted to stop and cut the run short. However, thinking of my Twitter friend Mrs. V running a 20 miler at the same virtual time on the west coast kept me going. Eventually, after 3+ hrs of pounding my agony was finally over and the rest of the day has been spent in the safety of my trusty couch. I may even take a day off tomorrow as well.

Anyway, have a good week and keep on running!