Wanting to Quit: Week 2

It was an awful week on the mental health front. My anxiety has been in over drive and depression was as thick as the muggy air. It took nearly everything I had to get out the door and run each day, and then I had to figure out how to summon up the will to keep going. Every step came with an internal argument to cut it short, quit. I spent the week going back and forth about giving up marathons. I felt like an imposter – not a real runner – and I couldn’t find the joy or reason behind it. I longed to just curl up in a dark room and not do anything, think anything, be anything.

But that’s not how marathoning works. Giving up will never get you to the finish. And, like a wave, I knew that the depression, while intrusive and destructive, would slip back into the vastness and let me be. I just had to wait. I just had to keep my head above water. Keep running.

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On Monday I attempted a threshold run. The first serious workout. I should have been hitting 6:45 paces, but I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t. I felt like I was all out sprinting, but not even hitting marathon pace. Frustration wasn’t helping. 7:15, 7:39, 6:54. I was all over the place. I wasn’t fast enough. I tried to shake it off, but the rest of the day I was gloomy about it. I took Tuesday off, but remained in the dumps. I had a similar struggle on Wednesday when I went to the track. I needed to push out ten 400 meter repeats. The workout called for threshold pace (6:45/mile or 1:40 400s) with 30 second recoveries, but I knew right away that that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I decided to just jog 100 meters after each rep and then go straight into the next one. This gave me more recovery time, and a chance to run faster splits, which I did. It shouldn’t have been hard – I’ve done this workout plenty of times. While I did hit the splits nearly perfect, I felt like I had to reach for each and every one. And every recovery jog became a chance for my brain to debate why I should call it a day.

It seemed that no matter what I ran and no matter how I ran it, I just wasn’t happy about it. None of it was good enough. None of it was fun. I didn’t want to do it. I just didn’t care. I felt self conscious about running – all those cars passing me on the street had to be snickering at me. All those people walking their dogs had to be laughing at me. People were surely standing behind curtains in all the houses I ran by, shaking their heads at my inadequate efforts. Of course I knew none of this was true, but depression and anxiety is rarely logical. And that’s why it hurts so much. Your brain knows it’s not real, yet your brain insists that it all is.

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I finally had a break through on Saturday. That was my Long Run day, but the training plan only called for a 90 minute easy run. I was torn. This didn’t feel like enough. I felt that I should try to put out more distance, but at the same time really wanted to trust my plan. I met up with a friend who ran with me for the first part and we ran fast. We were damn near race pace, but it was easy and I was still able to hold a conversation. I wasn’t struggling. I wasn’t angry or frustrated. It was a miracle. She had family engagements and turned back, and I decided to keep going with the pace and make it a workout. I turned my 90 min easy run into a 2×3 mile progression. It was fucking fantastic. 7:47, 7:45, 7:21 followed by an easy one mile break, then 7:00, 7:00, 6:52. I felt strong. I felt powerful. I felt like a marathoning beast. Best of all, I felt like I could keep going forever. And I didn’t hate it.

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Monday: A tempo that didn’t quite happen. 1.5 easy, 3 threshold, 1.5 easy. 6 miles
Tuesday: Rest in the solitude of a dark bedroom.
Wednesday: 10x400m 2 mile warm up, 3.6 of struggling intervals, 3 mile cool down.
Thursday: 3.2 super slow miles. Picture a toddler stomping her feet – that was me.
Friday: Structured fartlek – 10 mins easy, hard effort for one minute followed by three mins easy for 30 mins, 10 mins easy cool down. 6 miles.
Saturday: Long run turned workout – 1.3 warm up, 3 miles race pace, 1 mile easy, 3 miles race pace, 2 mile cool down. Redemption!
Sunday: 5 mile recovery run.

Week Two: 39.1 miles, 5 hours 30 minutes of running, overall 8:26 pace.

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A slow start

The first week of marathon training started off with another incredible heat wave as well as a last minute 5 mile road race. Two things that I don’t do are heat and spontaneity, and this week I did both. Yikes! It was a slow and awkward start to marathon training. Usually I dive into the first week with gusto, but I had to make some tweeks this time around for soreness as well as the record heat that even cancelled school. It may not have been the most ideal first week of marathon training, but I got through it.

We were up in Charlton, MA on Labor Day for my husband’s Highland Games competition when we came upon mile marker signs for a road race. As we made our way through the center of town, we realized there was a whole fair going on! It was “Old Home Day” in Charlton – a big town wide festival. The throwing games were new, but the road race itself was in it’s 52nd year. I had planned on running  roughly 6-8 miles around the fields and town center while the games got started, so I was already in workout gear and brought my running shoes. I wasn’t race ready, but figured why not! I was a nervous mess as I warmed up and made my way to the starting line. I had no idea what to expect out the endeavor. I was afraid of my knee acting. I was afraid of my body giving out. I was just flat out afraid of racing! I hadn’t done any racing since Boston, and I hadn’t done anything short and fast since March.

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Hubby throwing the hammer. While it was tipping over 100 degrees, he PR’d in every event!

I was conflicted. I knew I wouldn’t be able to race it. I knew I couldn’t be able to do anything terribly impressive. But the competitive side of me couldn’t help but demand that I take it. There is an ugly little gremlin that lives somewhere inside that always pushes me to win, no matter what. The realistic side of me fought back: I wasn’t in race shape and pushing it could set me back even further. I didn’t want to risk injury, not on my first day of marathon training! My competitive side and my realistic side compromised with running as strong as possible for as long as possible. My goal was to try to keep my pace under 7:00 miles as much as I could (but not faster than 6:30 miles!), and just take the hills as they came at me. Dig in, hang on, and go! My first mile was a bit hectic and fast (6:05 pace). I then settled in to 6:45-6:50 pace for the majority of the race, but the hills and the heat began to take their tole. I just didn’t have enough steam. I was slowing down as much as two minutes, plodding along at 8:30 miles or slower. It was discouraging. I felt so incredibly out of shape! My lungs burned. My quads burned. I was sure that my shoulders were sunburned. I scraped together what little umph I had left and put everything out on the course. I just wanted to finish. Turns out my last mile split was 7:23. Slow, but not as bad as I felt. And I had secured a second place finish. Well okay then!

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Not pretty, but getting it done. This is about half way & I’m still ok. In another half mile or so I’d begin to lose composure.

It was not a pretty race. It was several minutes off my PR. But it was my first step back into racing since my injury and it certainly wasn’t my worst attempt. Thankfully my knee put up with the effort quite well and didn’t give me any problems. In fact, it didn’t give me any issues for the whole rest of the week and my chiropractor has agreed with space out my sessions to every two weeks now. Progress! I did have seriously tight quads and glutes though, and decided to readjust my training plan for the rest of the week. Attempting to pull off any type of serious training with sore legs and record heat & humidity was enough to put me off running for a long time, so I decided to take another week of recovery & mileage and tackle the hard stuff later. Instead of intervals and hills, I ran mostly easy with one tempo-ish run mid-week. I don’t feel too guilty about deviating from my training plan because I got a shiny trophy and some pretty awesome swag, not to mention a huge dose of confidence. Besides, I’m pretty sure this marathon cycle is going to be the one that tests my flexibility, willingness to go with the flow, and handle spontaneous changes.

  • Monday: Charlton Old Home 5 Mile Road Race! Plus a mile warm up and a mile cool down. 2nd place female, 34:17
  •  Tuesday: 3 mile recovery – 2 on the elliptical, the last mile around the neighborhood with the dog.
  • Wednesday: 5 incredibly slow miles in the woods. Crazy hot, more hills, lots of fun.
  • Thursday: 8 miles working it. 2 miles easy warm up, 5 tempo (but not faster than marathon race pace), 1 more easy home.
  • Friday: Rest Day
  • Saturday: 15 mile Long Run. Actually kept it nice & steady around 8:15 pace.
  • Sunday: 4.5 mile recovery jog. Legs are surprisingly great!

Week 1: A total of 42.5 miles, 6 hours and 16 minutes of running, overall 8:47 pace.

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Running through one of the hottest days ever!

Back in the Groove

I’ve really been slacking with my writing and blog up keep this summer. But sitting at the computer for any length of time has been really hurting my knee and this is the only computer in the house, so every time I turned around there was a kid already on it working on coding, touch typing, or printing out stories. I have been utilizing Instagram a lot this Summer (@mazyruns), and I’ve certainly not been slacking with my running. I’ve been fighting tooth & nail just to be able to run again.

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Walking through June because that’s all I could do.

I started out the Summer in a great deal of pain and struggled to figure out what was wrong with my knee. Most of that month was off with a total of 30 miles for the whole month (I typically run more than that a week!). In July I finally found a doctor who would work with me without wanting to jump straight into surgery. I also became less afraid of the pain. Running fast vs slow didn’t have an impact on the level of pain, so I learned how to work with it. I started adding a few more miles each week, finishing up the month with just shy of 70 miles. I tackled August with renewed focus. I wanted to get myself back in shape with the hopes of salvaging a Fall Marathon. I struggled with a lot of self doubts: I was very out of shape and even “easy” paces were difficult. My breathing was all over the place, my pace was uncontrollable, and forget about anything with hills. All I wanted to do was start training for The Next Big Thing, but I was deeply afraid of failing. I played with the idea of only attempting a half marathon and shorter races. I contemplated taking the whole Fall off and starting again after Christmas. I became hysterical at one point & vowed off running altogether. But my doctor told me that she’d be comfortable with me getting back into training and speed sessions if I could get through a ten mile run pain free. So I zeroed in on that and made it happen. I finished those ten pain free miles on 8/5 and for the first time all Summer, ran something quicker than a warm up pace! In fact, in the month of August I have completed four 10+ mile long runs. With three days left to the month I’m at 140 miles – I’d call that some solid base training!

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Base miles on dirt roads.

I’ve decided to run the NCR Marathon in Baltimore this Fall. It’s a later race, taking place the weekend after Thanksgiving, so I get a little extra time to prepare. Also, I’m planning on following a shorter 12 week training plan since I’m already behind on a training cycle. I know this will end up being very challenging, but my main focus is to stay healthy, which means I will be running by feel more than pace. This will be a weird change for me since I am very much watch obsessed, but I think it is necessary to keep my knee working. I will also try to use flatter and softer courses, since I don’t think all those hills did my knee a lot of good last Spring. I’m also going to try to be more realistic with my time goals…but of course, we will see.

Today was the first day of school for my children. They were out the door and on the bus at 8:15 this morning, which means we are officially back into a routine. This makes my next goal much easier. I find it so hard to stay focused over the Summer. I have to get up crazy early to get my runs in before Hubs goes to work. I have to figure out when to run the dog and feed children. My nutrition tends to go out the window. Throw an injury into the mix and it’s three months of very little productivity. So, with today being the start of school and the start of our regular routine, I’m officially declaring it Marathon Season! I wrap up my base work phase this week and move on to the new training plan next week. This is going to be hard, but it’s going to be worth it.

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Back in the Groove!

Knee Update

It has been an incredibly frustrating summer. I did something to my knee in early June and haven’t been right since. At first I was told at the emergency clinic that it was patellar tendonitis. Then at the follow up visit I was told by the orthopedic surgeon that I had synovial plica syndrome & was told to “shut it down” and not run and do 6 weeks of physical therapy instead. The physical therapist said that I had a short leg and a  tight IT band that needed to be stretched & foam rolled. When I had my four week follow up with the orthopedic, I asked about the tight hamstrings & hip and how I felt that might be a contributing factor. He laughed it off, said it was “anatomically impossible” for anything to be causing knee pain other than a structural problem with the knee itself and that I may have surgery in my future.

I fired everyone and went to a chiropractor.

My visit with the chiropractor today seemed to have been the most beneficial so far. She adjusted my left hip (and voila, no more leg length discrepancy!), used an evil tool to massage an area of my knee, and hit a few trigger points in my back. I was able to drive my car pain free for the first time in seven weeks. It. Was. Amazing. And, unlike everyone else, I’ve been given the ok to run again immediately! Her tentative diagnosis is patellar femoral syndrome with an issue (tightness?) with my psoas. I go back Friday to check that the adjustments have done their job and to get a new strengthening regimen.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to pull off a Fall marathon yet (fingers crossed!), but the immediate relief in my knee is certainly wonderful – and promising! I’m hoping to be able to make a decision come Monday.

A pain in the knee

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I came back to running from Boston a bit too fast, too hard. I thought I was fine, but I wasn’t, so I took a step back. I took it easy. I rested. I got new shoes. When I felt better, I tried again. If I hurt, I stopped or took another day off. I cancelled my racing plans. I thought I was doing it right. But sometimes even if we are careful, we still have accidents.

Yesterday was my first day back on the track in a month. I had been longing to get back to 800 meter repeats, but kept bailing on the workout over some niggle. I didn’t want to attempt any speed work until I was back to 100%. Well, yesterday was the day. I’d been running pain free for a week. I was rested, fueled, and ready to go. A Fall marathon was now on the calendar and a training plan was in place. It was time to rock & roll!

The goal: 2 mile warm up on the road, drills on the track. 6 by 800 meters at 3:05-3:08 with 400m walk/jog recovery. 2 more miles or so cool down on the road.

I headed to the track in the morning after the kids got on the bus, but wasn’t really feeling it in my warm up. I was distracted. Something didn’t seem right. I did my drills & stretches, and even though I felt fine, I was apprehensive. I banged through the first three sets in 2:53, 2:54, 2:57. I was ten seconds under my goal. I struggled to find the pace. It felt like frantic running. As I walked the curve after my 3rd set I contemplated attempting to run slower for the next three. I was half way through the workout. But I just wasn’t feeling it. Even though I was hitting these paces pain free, I was afraid of injuring myself. I knew I wasn’t in shape to be running sub-3s. At least not safely.

But I wanted to run fast! I had been doing nothing but slow easy miles and my legs felt fresh. I wanted to go and I was clearly overly excited about being on the track again. So I did something against my better judgement and I changed my workout half way through.

I backed off from the 800s and switched to 400s with a new goal of 1:20 giving me a solid workout of 3x800m, 3x400m.

I busted through those 400s like I was back in college. It felt great to fly. I could have done more, but I knew it wasn’t wise, so I went right into my cool down and called it a day. I was feeling great about my workout. While it wasn’t exactly what I had wanted to do, I still felt that I had gotten some quality track time in and considering my need for a slow comeback, I felt that a combo of shorter distances was just fine.

However, within an hour of my shower I was feeling less fine about it. I’ve had a stiff knee issue for the past couple of weeks that’s been bugging me later in the day. It’s never hurt while running, so I’ve been pretty much ignoring it and contributing it to just being fatigued from standing on slate tile floors all day. It usually only bothered me in the late afternoons or at night, long after runs, and always was fine again by morning, so I just didn’t worry. Yesterday was different. It was a sudden sharp, stabbing pain that pierced through my knee cap giving a dull ache that descended down my leg. A part of my knee was swollen. The pain came in waves & escalated quickly. Driving the car to pick up the kids was excruciating and I cried the whole way. The pain level quickly shot up to a 9 out of 10 and no amount of anti-inflammatories or pain killers were touching it. What had I done to myself?!

After my husband came home he found an orthopaedic with an emergency walk-in clinic and rushed me in. I just knew something was broken or torn or about to kill me. I wanted my leg amputated and the pulsing agony to stop!

I could barely walk to the x-ray room where they took pictures. There were no breaks, no fluid build up. My meniscus and ACL looked intact. But I had severe patellar tendonitis. I was given a prescription for a time release anti-inflammatory, a special band/brace for my knee, and a follow-up appointment. I was told it was a very common injury and would heal fast. I was told it would be ok. I could even run in the brace – after a week off.

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So, just like that I went from running one of my fastest and best track workouts to being injured and on medication. I’m really bummed. I wanted to race at the end of September, but will probably have to find a later marathon, if I can race at all. I was told I can run again in a week, but after yesterday’s pain level, I just don’t see that being possible. But then again, I am rather pessimistic at the moment.

I’ll get through this. I usually heal quickly, bounce back fast. I’ve been frustrated and antsy since Boston, and this is the result of trying to push it. This is definitely a wake up call; I need to chill out and take it a lot easier, slower, flatter. And rest is what I need to slow myself down so that I can build up to be even stronger.

Back to Base

I had all these plans for May and June – half marathon PRs, fast 10Ks – but instead I’ve been doing a lot of sitting (and icing). I didn’t even get to do any of the numerous races that took place over Memorial Day weekend. I was so looking forward to at least a 5K, but knew that I just shouldn’t risk it. I was really bummed seeing everyone’s Strava posts, but I knew sitting it out was for the best.

I think I probably came back to training too fast/too soon after Boston & really just didn’t give myself enough time to recover. I also think that approaching the 500 mile mark on both sets of trainers is taking a toll on my legs. The last week of April and the first week in May were both just over 31 miles, which was probably more than I should have done considering what the marathon did to my body. Then I took a huge jump to nearly 50 miles as I attempted to start training for a half marathon for early June. This was what did me in. I know better, but I was feeling great & thought I could pull it off. Instead I yanked my hamstring & have had to take the last two weeks almost completely off. I ran 7.5 miles one week, then 23 the next. I focused on physical therapy, strength training, and eating well. When I did run I kept it short & sweet, and typically at a very easy pace. No need for repeats or races yet!

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The time off my feet (that I should have taken earlier) has done me some good, and so I am back to a somewhat regular schedule. Summer is upon us & that means base training! I always think I can avoid it because I simply piggy-back off a previous marathon. But due to time off and the spacing of my races, that’s not going to work. So, I’m going to try doing it “the right way” for a change. I’ve never before followed the 10% rule (increasing weekly mileage by 10%), but that’s what I’m going to do this time around. Hamstring pulls are no joke, and trying to force fitness just doesn’t work. I have to take a different approach.

I’ve backed out of my June half and will be focusing on base training only. Maybe I’ll be able to do one later in the summer (or I won’t). Maybe I’ll find some 5Ks to scratch the racing itch. I’m definitely getting new shoes and going at an easy pace, and keeping the workouts (repeats and tempos) to a minimum (for now). I got nothing to prove until the fall.

Base training also brings back the joy of running. After the marathon I wasn’t looking forward to runs. I just did them because I was on auto-pilot. Mazy is a runner, so Mazy runs. It’s hard to enjoy something if it hurts. I shouldn’t be running because I feel compelled to; I should be running because I want to. I also just didn’t feel well. Even though Boston was over a month ago, I’ve been exhausted, burnt out, scatter brained & really unmotivated.  Body, mind & soul needed a break from training. My last couple of runs have been strictly mileage runs – entirely watch free. They were glorious. Running for running’s sake and not because it’s a workout listed on a schedule is an incredibly freeing experience. Running by feel & comfort is amazing & I highly recommend it.

I have goals. I have lofty running goals, and I am confident I will hit them. I am strong & I am fast, but all that is meaningless if I’m not well and injury-free. I do look forward to the workouts & training plans, but I’m also really happy with where I am right now. So, I’m bringing myself back to the core of running – happiness – and starting over by establishing a solid base.

 

Weight, What?

I am conscious about my weight, like most people are. I know how much I weigh and have a fairly good idea about what I should weigh to be healthy. But what should I weigh to be a successful runner?

While I’ve never “cared” about the numbers on the scale, I’ve often monitored them – I just never did anything about it. I’ve never been on a diet. I’ve never made any attempts to lose or gain weight. I always figured that if my jeans fit and I felt good then I was fine. Numbers are meaningless.

But are they?

I’ve been thinking about how to make myself a faster runner, how to shave off a few more minutes from my PRs. My training has been fantastic the last few cycles. I’m (relatively) injury free. But I also know that the faster I get, the less time I can take off of each race. I took large chunks of time off in my past three races (3:41 to 3:22 to 3:18), but a mere 47 seconds faster in Boston. I was 110 pounds for those first three races, but 117 when I raced Boston. So where is there room for improvement? Well, my weight obviously.

I found it a little difficult at first to find information or to even start the discussion about weight because it is a touchy subject, especially among women, and it seems almost taboo these days to even question body weight. But I was recommended a fantastic book that was clear, concise, and an easy program to get started.

RWFitzgerald

I purchased Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance by Matt Fitzgerald through Amazon. I get no perks for this review and these thoughts are my own.

This book is great and I highly recommend it to every endurance athlete. The thing about Racing Weight is is that it isn’t about how much you weigh, but rather your body composition. It is about reducing body fat for a leaner (lighter) body, making your body weight relative. It does not tell you how much you should weigh as there is no exact target. And Matt Fitzgerald does not subscribe to the notion of “lighter is faster”, but rather leaner is faster.

This of course makes a lot of sense. I have always noticed that I do not have a lot of muscle definition in my racing photos. While I see some fantastic action shots with quads bulging, I always tend to look a bit more rounded. I’m very light weight, but I’m not as lean. I don’t necessarily need to lose weight, but rather work on my body composition.

So, what am I doing about it?
1. I read the book. It’s insightful and encouraging. I feel less pressure about how much I weigh and confident about moving forward.
2. I purchased a new scale! I bought this lovely digital scale from Greater Goods through Amazon. It measures weight, body fat percentage, BMI, and more. It comes in eco friendly packaging as well as donating a portion of their proceeds to end child trafficking & counseling services for survivors.
3. I started a food log. I am keeping track of my food alongside my running journal and recording my Diet Quality Scores with it. There is an app that goes along with Racing Weight but I have no tried it yet. I’ll stick with pen & paper for a few weeks first. You can also use the web version of the scoring system here.
4. I started a weight log. This part I am less comfortable with, but I know it is necessary, at least for a few months or through the next training cycle until I actually know what I am doing. While I may weigh myself a few times a week, I only plan on recording all the info once a week, and then once a month once marathon training starts again.

So, here I am, Day One on this new journey towards my own racing weight. My numbers are not good or bad – they just are what they are, that is going to be my attitude through this whole process. These are my numbers for Week One, Day One:

Body Weight: 118.4 pounds – this is a normal weight, but certainly not a racing weight
Body Fat: 17.3% – below average, but can be improved for racing performance
BMI: 20.2 – again, within normal range
Bone Density: 5% – slightly higher than average for women
Water: 59.5% – on the low end of normal
Muscle: 35.9% – slightly higher than average

It may take me a few training cycles to know what my optimum racing weight will be, but my guess is in the 110-112 pound range. I’ll update as I progress through this journey and include my findings with my next few races. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on racing weight and body composition. Have you found your racing weight? Would you be willing to try? Leave some comments below!