Thursday, October 30, 2014

New Adventures in Run Training: Late October Ed.

I took the free Soy Skinny Caramel Macchiato at Starbuck's this afternoon as a sign that it's time to do some writing. When opportunity strikes, I gotta take it:) Ok that has nothing to do with really anything, but I digress. Since I have basically taken the afternoon off, I thought it would be a good opportunity to put up a little training update. 

Things have been going pretty well over the past few weeks; so well that I got the green light to sport the Oiselle kit for the first time in a Thanksgiving race here in The Woodlands. Although it is still a month away, it's nice to have a bright spot to have a race to treat as a "scrimmage", so to speak. Besides, the decorations at that time of year in suburbia are outstanding to run through! Perhaps it's just experience, but my goal for this event is to just work on pacing. If I have the chance to crack the top 5 or so, I'll do it, but it's really all about enjoying the morning in and getting a solid run in with minimal frills or fuss. The mindset I am maintaining is one of staying in the present and focusing on maximizing what's right in front of me. 

On the training end of things, the miles are slowly increasing on land, intensity remains the same on the Alter-G and in the pool, and the training I do at Athletic Republic is already starting to be noticeable in terms of my overall strength and stability. Here's a snapshot of where the NB 890s and Adidas Boston Boost have taken me lately: 

Base Mileage: Maybe 24ish is done on the granite, grass, and astroturf. My easy runs are done mostly at the local park and soccer fields where HS cross-country meets are held. Oddly enough, I am not getting bored with it. I still look forward to just going and running a short 4-miler solo in the mornings. It's a good time to think, or not to think-whatever mood I am in that day. These set the tone for the rest of the day. Like I always like to say when people ask me how I can run so early in the morning: "Either I run the day or the day runs me". Boom. 

While my newly-strengthened body feels ready for more miles, I agree with Coach Doug's plan of "increasing each week by 10% until I say 'calf rope'!" (That's not a Texas saying at all!) 

Alter-G/Pace Work: The past two Tuesdays have brought a fair challenge : 8 x 2 min at 6:00/1:00 recovery + 4 min at 6:15 pace before cooling down. Both these workout take just shy of an hour to complete and are 8 miles in length. My first foray with the crazy turnover on the machine at 85% was pretty challenging; so much I had an effort headache that afternoon and almost liked it! My second go-around I brought extra fluids with me and finished it with relative ease, all things considered. I even took the body weight all the way up to 90% for part of the intervals. 

Pool Running: I am doing pool runs less frequently, but they still are of importance. After my Monday runs I have been getting in the water to supplement for the shorter land miles. Each time I'm in there it has a certain purpose and is focused on form and quality. And it's great for shaking the legs out. 

Strength Training: Besides my twice-weekly sessions in the gym, the training I have been doing at Athletic Rep. have already been paying dividends. While I was at my grandparent's ranch in the Texas Hill Country (aka Heaven on Earth) I had an awesome hilly run that caught me by surprise-the extensive hip and dynamic core exercises made uphill running feel much more efficient and controlled. In fact, I was having so much fun I spent all my daily allowance for running time and then some out there! 

As you can see, my overall assessment of the past couple weeks is largely positive. While I am still getting sore after certain workouts, it's a productive feeling and not a scary thing. I am just hoping to have some fun and run fast in the upcoming months. Emphasis on having fun-then the times will take care of themselves. 

Speaking of fun, below are a couple pics I've snapped from my running venues. The first one is the start of the trail at the ranch I ran at last weekend, and the second is from a comical moment after a recovery run at Bear Branch Park. If you look closely, you will see a herd of deer trying to graze the astroturf. Only in The Woodlands! 

Absolutely beautiful day in Medina, TX for a trail run!

Finding humor in your everyday run. Something's wrong with this picture! LOL

Stay the course, even if the surface is not natural! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Running Afraid?

What would you do if you weren't afraid?" -Anonymous

So I broke down and subscribed to FloTrack Pro not long ago, mostly for the 'Driven' series that I find interesting and motivating; and so happened upon one on Andrew Wheating. While he is fun to watch and seems like a good overall guy, there is little I can relate to him on: he is tall and lanky, a dude, and is an Olympian in the 800 meters. Of course, I find none of those really relateable. I did happen to watch his video posted sometime this spring (a pretty good one, for those interested) and some things he said actually resonated with my experiences.

While on location for interview and the cameras followed him to his swim workout for cross training, he spoke about his early success, subsequent setbacks, and how he spent a season "racing afraid". Obviously, if you're not 100% that you should be in a race-for whatever reason, it is hard to be courageous enough to truly engage in a race. After watching the interview, it struck me how much I have toed the line afraid. Afraid of being disappointed. Afraid of breaking down. Afraid of, well, just fear itself. And most of the time totally unaware of that fact. See, and y'all thought I was smart! 

Besides some ambitious time goals I have in the upcoming seasons, one of the biggest things is to not be afraid. I will never be 100% ready physically, or at least rarely. But I can be 100% mentally ready most if not all of the time. It does not mean that I will always race my best, that I will be positive the whole time, or that things will always just flow. But being prepared, willing to put myself out there, unashamed of where I am, and ready to give it my best that day I can do. Of that I am confident of. And with that mindset, racing confidence and letting my natural ability and my training take over. Unafraid. 

The best place to start practicing this is in training. Each run lately I have been simply going through my warm up drills (which takes the edge off of the 'what if's' quite a bit), I start the watch and simply focus on a predetermined aspect: hip placement, cadence, intensity level or lack thereof. Often I make mental notes of "what's clicking" that particular day. On hard/Alter-G days, I simply look at the prescribed pace and go no further than that. That is my assignment, and I am completely safe hammering away. Who cares if I get tired? Nothing's going to happen! 

I have talked about a lot of changes physiologically going into the next season, but the sport psych needs to work on her mental game as well. I see myself as strong, capable, and well-trained, that will subsequently follow.  Fear is a thief of confidence, uncertainty a robber of joy. 

Stay the course. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Crazy Train(ing)

This past training week has been fun. That's right, fun. Even though I'm still on the low end of the upswing of things, the unorthodox approach coach and I have been using has been enjoyable and still pretty challenging (I know, I know....wait til I actually get in shape!;)). Since a few of you have asked for some more specifics of things, I though now would be a good time to share. I am prepared to even give...wait for it....some numbers!!

So what has training looked like in the past couple weeks. First, a slow and gradual return to running on land; astro turf to be more specific and I moved to the cinder pathway at a local park the other day. I have been really careful listening to everything happening in the bottom right hand corner and slowly am playing with different surfaces, except concrete because I'm allergic to it. Ok not really but it's a fun excuse. 

Besides circling a soccer complex on padded and very fake grass, I've been on a steady rotation of Alter-G treadmill running at Sterling Ridge Sports Medicine in The Woodlands, pool running, weight training and recently started doing stability and plyometric work at Athletic Republic, which is right down the road from my office. All of those, plus throw in some spin bike every now and then and a yoga class. It's busy, but my running form feels like it used to and am becoming less afraid as I chip away at the mental task of both trusting the training and learning to trust my body. This of course is a constant work in progress, but that's what makes it interesting. 

Since I have covered the soft surface stuff many times and also the pool running (NOT to be confused with aqua jogging!), I will share my experience on the Alter-G treadmill today. For those not familiar, picture a regular treadmill with a plastic tent-like thing around the base and belt. The tent-like thing houses a zipped-in athlete at the waist (using triathlon-like shorts that attach) and suspends by creating more or less air pressure to lift or lower while you run. You can use 20 percent to basically all of your body weight. I have mostly been running at 75-85% currently. I basically show up to the facility, get the shorts on, zip in, and wait a minute or so for calibration of the machine. The rest I am in control of (or more like Doug has control of! LOL). 
The best thing about this sweet machine to me is that I can run at paces dictated by my VO2 Max versus my compromised parts. My first session consisted of an 8-mile run with one minute intervals at a 6:10-6:15 pace. Been a while since I've seen numbers like those! Of course it's not using all of my mass, however, my cardiovascular system and running-specific muscles (i.e. fast-twitch especially) get a particular training stimulus at much lower risk. Gotta say that it is awesome to go hammer out some solid paces without worrying about spontaneous combustion. Well, I don't really worry about that per se, but you get the idea. 

After the maiden session on the Alt-G, I have put in a 20 minute tempo run at 6:45-7 min pace and today was a nice pseudo hammer-fest with a fartlek of 2 min, 1 min, and 30 seconds at slightly lower than 10k pace (like 5:35-5:50- eek!). Minus the impact of the road, and using just north of 80% body weight, this was both challenging and fun. Disclaimer: paces may or may not translate currently to on land, however, through all the high-intensity, low-impact training, I have reconnected with my odd enjoyment and satisfaction of putting a little hurt on every now and again. With a focused and quiet mind, its encouraging to see that I still have some speed-even though I have a ways to go.

The best part of this past week is that I have been able to see the "engine" inside is still well-intact. With the copious stability and supplementary work, this is turning into a fun science project. Or perhaps this is how I should have been approaching things all along..... 

So here we go on a fall of just training and strengthening, with a 5k race in January. I love to set a goal and put together all the pieces and right now am enjoying not having to rush into a race. I've always enjoyed the process of getting back into form. 

Below is a pic of a mounted camera on the Alter G that shows a multi-angle picture of footstrike patterns along with the short video of me warming up for my first workout (cheesy, I know, and I think the PT there meant to take a still photo). Thanks goes out to Sterling Ridge SM and Athletic Republic for helping make this "old" lady fast again! So there you have it-some of the crazy facets of a new training system! 

Mid-stride  on Tuesday.
Also, research from the Alter-G company can be found here giving the rationale for progressive loading in training. I find it fascinating. 

Stay the course.