Sunday, February 22, 2009

I Love LSD

Going into this weekend I had a very specific plan in mind, one that required strict adherence. The plan was simple: 25 miles from Friday through Sunday (5 easy miles Friday, push through a 5K race Saturday, 18 easy miles Sunday) . Not too difficult, right? Pretty straight forward. But, there is always that game of degrees that we runners like to play where we are constantly redefining and altering our own perception of "easy" or "light" or "comfortable." It is a glorious game with very few rules, but a lot of penalties that can be accrued during its practice. Personally, I am a vicious offender when playing this game, but I am recovering. What are the steps to recovery, you may ask? Well, there aren't steps per se, but I have found a great way to curb this behavior without causing any irreparable damage, which, in the end, helped me actually stick to my game plan.

Friday night, after another glorious work day I was looking forward to getting out and relieving myself of some unwanted stress, but because of my experience during speed work earlier in the week - uh, I had no speed and couldn't push myself at all - I knew that I really needed to tone down all of my recovery and maintenance runs and bring the speed way down. I have been a little gung ho about my training this Winter and it has taken its toll on my body and the time has come to be much more shrewd about my approach. So, how did I manage that for this particular run? 1) I kept reminding myself that I would be racing a 5K in approximately 15 hours and that any sort of pace tonight would adversely affect my performance. 2) I set my Polar watch, which I have the foot pod for, to beep at me whenever I went faster than an 8:20 pace - Ah, the beauty of technology! 3) Selected a nice slow jam to get stuck in my head and just let my feet synch with the beat - this is something that is not as easy to find and apply as you may think. That's quite a bit, huh? It really is, but for whatever my mind works in mysterious ways and this appeared to work.

Saturday morning was perhaps as frustrating a race as I have run over this past year. For this one I had to trek to Brooklyn, which wasn't too terrible on the train this particular morning as I was thoroughly entertained by my book, "Fool" by Christopher Moore, and was wearing enough layers that I wasn't instantly frost bitten by the arctic gusts of wind that seemed to follow me wherever I went.The exciting part of this race was that I was reunited with my running partner from last year, Speedy Elf, which was excellent, because I haven't run with him in a long, long time. Anyway, the two of us were shooting for a sub-6 pace, but were unsuccessful by a mere 5 seconds! Honestly though, it was a race I hope to erase from memory rather quickly. What I came to understand during this race was that ALL of my fast twitch muscles are on strike, or have committed suicide, and that my legs are now honed in on longer distance runs and my finishing kick is now about as impressive as an Ewok running the 100-year dash ... Pathetic, yes! Cute, fuzzy and amusing, Yes, but Pathethic! It was a completely humbling experience, one that knocked me down a few pegs and reminded me that I need to start to have shorter more specific workouts to aid in the development of that speed and to take it easy on maintenance, recovery and longer runs that don't have a race specific purpose.

So, in continuing with the nice ebb and flow of things we've reached Sunday, where I planned on doing 18-miles (from my UWS apartment on 107th, down the West Side Highway via Riverside Park, over the Brooklyn Bridge to Prospect Park and then two loops of the park). Now, for those unfamiliar with Race With Purpose from last Fall, this run is also known as the "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn" run. What made this run in particular so effective was that I met up with two fellow RwPers along the way and they helped make this rather lengthy journey simply outstanding. When you run the majority of your training runs solo you forget how wonderful it is to run in a group and it has been one of the things that I have missed most this Winter, but when I do have the company it does make everything so much simpler and more enjoyable. I take my time, my pace is never an issue, I relax more, and when it comes time to turn on the jets I can and with greater confidence. All in all, the workout benefit is so much greater when with a group and I hope to either be racing or with a group for the rest of my long runs this season. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, I was unable to resist the temptation to go beyond my prescribed distance, only by 1.65 miles, thanks to another friend I bumped into in Prospect Park who convinced me to keep going, but I can't be too upset because I did prove to myself that I have the endurance for this while hitting a nice 6:40 pace for the last couple of miles. You can only imagine the big smile on my face after that!

What have we learned? I'm slow over short distances, so muggers and pick pockets should be fine. Recovery and maintenance runs NEED to be just that and the pace needs to take a back seat for nothing more than the health of your body. Lastly, LSD is best done in good company!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are You Mental? (Part 2)

Last year, at about this time, I injured my left foot in the most bizarre way and was forced to hang up my shoes and defer out of the Boston Marathon. Then last week, I was jumping out of the shower after a decent training run, slipped and kicked the side of the tub. Within a half an hour after that most graceful of stumbles I felt the pain and discomfort that I felt a year ago – same spot, same persistent pain – and started to panic. At that point I wasn’t sure if it was just a stinger or if this was the exact injury that knocked me out of Boston last year. With a race to run on Sunday, a day or so later, I decided to ice and rest on Saturday and really just try and figure it out a bit.

Saturday afternoon and evening were unnerving, because whenever my foot wasn’t wrapped it was ungodly sore and made it really difficult to walk, let alone run. I became increasingly agitated, irritable and unpleasant as I was working myself up to a full-blown panic attack. Eventually I managed to mellow out enough to get some rest and still consider the 20k Boston Build-up in Southport, CT.

Race Day AM, I went through my usual routine, got on the train and wrapped my foot just like I usually do. Everything seemed to be pretty much in order and I started getting a little excited, because it was finally warm enough to wear shorts for a race. The course was challenging and fun and I really went out and tried to test myself, my foot and get a fair assessment of where the hell I was physically. As it turns out, I was doing pretty well. I finished in 1:22:42 (6:39 pace), which was good enough for 29th overall in the 170+ field.

After the race, I went home and finally took off the wrap and that is when I knew that I needed to take some time off to be safe. As soon as the wrap released and my foot was free from its bonds I was sore. I stretched, iced and rested for the remainder of the evening and while I was enjoying English Premier League Review Show that night I made the decision to keep the foot wrapped and shelf running for the majority of the week … something that is much easier said than done. For me, this was a “practice what you preach” moment, listening to my body and being patient with an injury that could potentially set me back quite a bit.

I really struggled reading the emails, tweets and messages from other runners and triathletes about their training, doing the things they love, and then not going out and joining in myself. Throughout the week I had to remind myself that I have a goal to achieve at the end of all of this and that going out before I have nipped this injury would jeopardize my ability to reach my goal. It was incredibly humbling, and at times more painful than the injury itself, to break from the tightly regimented routine that I had developed over the proceeding couple of months. In an effort to pacify my urges I started doing two-a-day core workouts so that, in my mind, I would still be building and working towards my goal even if I wasn’t running.

The days went by painfully slow, but then it was TGIF and it was time to lace’em up and get back out in the park and check on the status of my foot. As soon as the clock struck 6 p.m. I flew out of work and was jogging back to the park, all the while my mind hyper-focused on my left foot, honing in on any discomfort or pain with ridiculous sensitivity, but there was none. It felt just like I had before I had gone ahead and kicked the tub.

About half-way through the run I realized how good I felt, like I was gliding, strong and effortless, for about 5-miles. It was exactly what I needed and all the tension, irritability and unpleasantness that had festered throughout the week just sweated free from my body, it was perfect. I felt better than I have in a while, probably due to overtraining, but we live and learn.

I followed this run up with another on Sunday with Coach Adam, Javier, Javier's dog Simba and Bill Risch up in Rockefeller Park. It was a nice 14-miles or so and, as per usual, Adam threw a couple curves in there by having us do hill repeats at one point, then he decided we needed to do as many hills as we could find along the park’s trails. How sweet of him! It was a great trail run and I was incredibly relieved to complete it pain free!!

You may be asking why I have included this video clip of a not-so-pleasant injury to this entry and my reasoning is this: the Arsenal FC player featured, Eduardo da Silva, was told that he may never play the game again due to the severity of the injury and the amount of rehab that he would require. Well, this past Monday Eduardo returned to the pitch for the first time in nearly a year and not only scored, but inked the score sheet twice. He looked lively, comfortable and so unbelievably happy to be doing what he loved that I felt like I had to share. The amount of patience and mental toughness it must have taken to go through his recovery period and then to set foot on the field again, all the while worrying about getting hurt again, is remarkable.