“Motivation remains key to the marathon: the motivation to begin; the motivation to continue; the motivation never to quit.”
Hill repeats suck, in a good kind of way. The last time I did any sort of decent hill repeat workout was back in 2014, before the Twin Cities Marathon. Sure, I did a few last year, but not enough to say they made any kind of difference in my running. Either that, or I hadn’t noticed.
I could only muster 4 repeats on a particular morning last month, noting that I previously did 7 rounds on the same hill when I did previous sessions in previous years. But that wasn’t weighing on my mind. I knew I could get back to 7 rounds in just a few weeks. What I did notice this summer was that the day following my first set of hill repeats, I experienced a less physically stressful run the following day. It was as though my breathlessness was gone. I had full, unimpeded lungs of air. Sure, my legs were fatigued, but cardio wise, the run was a piece of cake,
By week 2 of the hill repeat workout, I was back up to the 7 rounds. And after weeks 3 and 4, I decided I needed to find a bigger hill. I actually had one in mind. I just needed to get up early enough to get to it (remember, I mentioned the sleeping in part of my summer and the importance to get to those two yoga classes a week). My hill repeat workout happens on a Tuesday, and the only Yoga class I can make that day is at 9:30 am. See, I’d have to drive to the new hill, so I would need to actually get out of bed at the time my alarm is set for…5:30 am. Right now, I’m lucky to crawl out of bed by 6 am. I’m usually so good about getting up with my alarm. But lately? I’m thinking my body must need the sleep. I wake up exhausted. I’m not completely sure where I’m finding the energy to run everyday.
But it would seem these days, once I get out there, the longer I run, the better I feel. It takes at least 4-5 miles before I find a groove. If I had the time (note the previous blog post mentioning the dwindling hours), I’d run a 20 miler, because that is how darn good I feel at that point in my run.
So, this summer has been a lesson in futility, a lesson in patience, and a lesson in running, of which I haven’t faced before. But, I’m always up for a challenge.
Beginning in August, I added some speedwork to the mix. I had been listening to the Runner Girls Podcast, and had been inspired by Meagan, who has a running coach to help her through her very first marathon (GO Meagan!). Every week, she is doing different types of speedwork. I’ll admit, most of it doesn’t sound too appealing to me, but some of it does, and I have been attempting to do some of it on my own. Probably my favorite is just doing some quarter mile sprints, where I run fast for a quarter mile, then catch up with a slower half mile jog. I do find, that once my heart rate recovers, I’m running pretty fast at the end of the half mile, so I’ve had to learn to control my speed at the end of the slow interval before having to speed up again for the quarter mile. This has a major effect on the paces I can reach, and in the negative splits that I can hit on the speed repeat run.
I’ve been noticing also, the same effect after a speed work day that I see on a hill repeat day. I’m cardiovascularly rocking the run. Obviously, there is something to these added workouts.
I did end up trying that steeper hill. But it was way steeper. Steep enough that I may not go back to it. My instincts tell me that if I have to stop and walk up it at the end, it isn’t fulfilling the purpose of running hill repeats. Perhaps someone can chime in on this. Of course, this hill was a 155 ft climb in elevation over a half mile as compared to a 90 ft climb over a half mile. That is quite the difference. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself.
Thursday’s speedwork was accomplished in my Vibrams. That was a first. I usually reserve my Newton Fates for my longer runs. I tacked on a few extra miles so it made it my longest ever run in the five finger shoes. 10 miles was the limit for them, at least so far as today. I could really feel it on the bottom of my right foot. It was like I had a rock stuck in the sole of my shoe, but I knew that wasn’t possible. Needless to say, when Garmin said 10, I stopped short. Enough for today.
But, the different running workouts are helping, there is no doubt. I’m still amazed that after each one, I can get out of bed the next day…and run.
It seems to be coming together nicely.
Will Kansas City be a rip roaring success? It is too early to tell. My two long runs are fast approaching and I have a feeling they will be the tell all.
Are you in the middle of training for an event? Which one, and when is it?
I never intended to start a running streak. It just turned out to end up that way. And now that I’m waist deep in it, I’m not so sure I’m ready to quit just yet. After all, running every day for 107 days has kept me limber and sharp. How? Well, I have to keep up with all my exercises, especially those that my PT’s and chiropractor have prescribed, in order to get out there every day and run. I’ve also been able to incorporate some other experiments into the mix, seeing that I’m running every damn day. The biggest experiment of which has been my running shoes, of all things.
It’s no secret that I’ve suffered with sore inner calves for as long as I can remember. At first, it all began with that stress fracture that almost took away my first Boston Marathon run in 2014. As it turns out, it likely wasn’t a stress fracture at all, but instead, a form of shin splint that affects my interior lower leg and the tendon that runs from the heel, to the inside of the tibia and around the knee, or Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome or MTSS. This injury rears its ugly head in so many ways. Just when I think I have it licked, it reappears in another form, like a shapeshifting spirit who can’t decide what form it wants to take next. Once I got the shin splints licked in late May, the injury decided to re morph to my achilles. It’s kind of a bizarre injury because it really doesn’t hurt while I’m running. Rather, I awaken with very stiff calves, and have milliseconds of sharp pain a few times a day when I might be doing absolutely nothing but standing around and chilling. Mind boggling, to say the least.
At one of my pre-Grandma’s marathon graston sessions, I finally asked my chiropractor his thoughts of the Vibram Five Finger sneakers that he wears on a regular basis. “I love them,” he says. “In fact, you should try them. I’m thinking all that lower leg stuff you have going on would go away…just like that…if you could incorporate them into your runs.” I got a little nauseous and instantaneously felt sharp ghost pain sink down my calf muscles and into the heels of my feet. But I’m SUCH a heel striker. And I run on pavement. And I must wear socks…and…and…
Oh, quit being such a wimp, Theresa. Buck up. What would it hurt you to try the shoes?
As it turned out, back at home, I have this pair of barefoot sneaker already. They aren’t Vibrams, nor are they “toe” shoes, but a brand called Be Real. These were sent to me a few years back as part of a product review agreement I promised to the developer of the shoe. Unfortunately, they arrived in the dead of winter. Not good for Minnesota running. When I finally decided to give them a try, the dreaded “stress fracture incident’ arose. The shoes took up residence on a forgotten shelf in my office…until…this summer.
Be Reals are made to be durable, yet allow flexibility and traction, while still being able to wiggle your toes.
And as fate would have it, I also had become recently inspired by a book I had been listening to on my runs through late June. It was called Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth by Adharanand Finn.
In it, he talked about his personal experiences with the Kenyans and how he trained along side them to run a marathon in South Africa. He discussed in great detail how they run now versus how they ran as children, and how they run with the efficiency and the pace that they do, and if there are any secrets to running like a Kenyon. The part about their footwear had me hanging on a shoestring, quite literally. Sure, there was some barefoot running involved. But it wasn’t always that way. The barefoot part of their running happened entirely in their youth. It is how they learned their perfect running form, the staccato, light footedness that they carry with them for the rest of their lives. But as runners and racers, they do don footwear (in its most simplistic form). The barefoot running they did as children will always stick with them, and therefore, they in turn, run like the Kenyons that they are.
After hearing all of this, I was ready to try my barefoot shoes. What did I have to lose?
I put them on, a few times, just to test them out around the house. I decided that this particular brand of bare foot running shoe needed a sock, which was a good thing in my eyes. Socks, especially Toe Sox, which are the socks I prefer to run in, mean less of a chance for blisters. I HATE blisters. I haven’t had a blister in a years. And I have to think it is because of the socks, as well as not straying too far from my two favorite brands of sneakers…Brooks and Newtons.
But once I paired the Toe Sox with the Be Reals, I felt like I stumbled onto something big. I was ready to give this a try.
One mile. It would start with one mile. And it would be on the packed gravel road right off my driveway. No pavement, at least not yet. Let’s give this a go.
The run was surprisingly easy and unforced. It was far from speedy, but yet so natural. I couldn’t help but wonder why I waited so damn long to try these out.
I had a longer run planned for this day, so I carried my Brooks to the top of the driveway and changed them after the mile so I could continue on. I was amazed at how light and free my footing felt after I changed out of the barefoot shoes. This was epic.
For my next run in these shoes, I’d more than double my distance. And, the run after that, I doubled it again. After two weeks, I’d been running in them every other day. It had gotten to the point where I didn’t have to bring my Brooks Launch along to make the change for longer runs. I could just wear the Be Reals alone. It was then that I began to consider trying a pair of Vibrams.
But could I run without the socks?
Two weeks later, in mid July, I ordered from Road Runner Sports, three pairs of Vibrams, in three different styles. I chose Road Runner Sports because I have a VIP membership with them, and this allows me to test drive sneakers for 90 days before ultimately deciding if they are right for me. This is such a great perk! When my Vibrams arrived, I considered calling my chiropractor to find out which style he wore, but then I realized these were my feet. I’d better experiment myself to see which would work best for me.
It didn’t take more than a few moments to determine that only one pair had a perfect fit. They were light and flexible, and had no obvious areas where I felt any rubbing, or places where chafing might occur. There was no question. I didn’t even have to take the other two pairs for a road test. It was decided from the get go. It would be the Vibram V-Run.
I was looking forward to my next barefoot run. Or so I thought.
It still took me a few weeks to work up the nerve to try the Vibrams. My thought? “Well, if the Be Reals are working so well, why should I risk it?”
Gawd, I’m a creature of habit. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Let’s do this. So, three full weeks after receiving the Vibrams, I finally slipped them on…or toed in…or whatever one does with five finger shoes.
It took literally a half hour to get them on. Fitting each one of my ten toes into these shoes was a challenge. I was beginning to wonder if this would even happen.
My littlest piggie took the longest. I determined at the end that I had to start with that little piggie first and then work my way back up to my big toe to get the Vibrams to fit correctly.
Finally! Time to run.
I brought my sneakers with me to the end of the driveway, just to be safe. And on this particular day, there were construction crews on my packed gravel road. This would not do. But I was determined. I was forced to christen my Vibrams on the pavement.
Honestly, though. It went way smoother than I ever anticipated. I managed to complete a 4-mile loop near my home. I took my time, of course. But, the run felt very good. It wasn’t until I removed the sneakers a few hours after my run that I discovered I did infact incur a blister on the upper knuckle of my left big toe, on the top of my foot. It didn’t hurt, but it was obtrusive. And I held back the urge to pop it.
When I ran the next day, I was able to get my Newtons on without any issue. In fact, between the socks, and the sneakers, and the run, the blister took care of itself. But, the following day, I couldn’t get the Vibrams back on. The top of my foot was irritated just enough to not allow it to happen. I was back in the Be Reals, so I could continue my barefoot training and wear my Toe Sox.
It took me a full week to get back into the Vibrams. And I belly ached the entire week, debating whether I should just sent the kit and kaboodle back to Road Runner Sports and call the entire experiment a failure. But, once I got those Vibrams back on, I realized I had already become quite accustomed to them. These sneakers would be staying in my rotation.
Yep, the summer began at my roots, running in my original Brooks Launch. I even tried a few rounds in my original Brooks Cadence, hoping for miracle upon miracle that something would help alleviate the sore Achilles. Deciding to return to the Newton Fates, coupled with the barefoot training, has done wonders and seems to have changed the situation. There is improvement. And that is good. But, I’m far from 100%. It is rather clear that I’ll need to stay the course, continuing with all of the exercises I have been doing, keeping up with the shoe rotation, and treating my feet and lower legs with the utmost of respect. After all, they are what will keep me running well into my 50s. So, I don’t want to piss them off.
Have you ever experimented with barefoot running? How did it go?
Yeah, it’s been a while. I’m not so sure why I’ve allowed myself to get so behind on my blogging. It isn’t so much that I don’t want to blog, but more like it is harder and harder to find the time to blog. I always believe, year after year, that the summer will open up so much more time for me to get things done, yet it seems like just the opposite. Summer somehow does nothing but swallow hours. There is no doubt that there needs to be more of them in a day, especially when it comes to summertime.
I have a theory about this. Since there is really no set schedule, especially where my daughters and school is concerned, and our schedule set by transporting them to and fro, that I tend to take up more time preparing and recovering from my morning workouts and runs in the summertime. Instead of rushing from one routine to the other, I find myself mindlessly taking longer breaks, or sleeping in a few minutes longer, or stretching out my morning, thinking to myself that the day won’t really begin until after noon. That, by the way, is when I partake in my first meal of the day (after my workouts), and when soon after (or not) I get down to business. What kind of business? Charmed Running, filling orders, doing social networking, and seeking out the next event where I can sell my shoe charms and paracord charm bracelets. Before I know it, the afternoon is gone, and it is time to prep for dinner. Since everyone is now home for dinner seven days a week, it becomes more than a challenge. And since I don’t leave myself time to do a weekly grocery store run, I’m instead taking a daily or bi-daily run to pick up fresh ingredients for whatever it is I’m going to prepare that eventing.
Even Yoga has gone by the wayside. I used to take 3-4 classes a week, but now I find myself only attending two, if I’m lucky. How has this happened?
We’ve had a few major setbacks here at the the Neon household. This has meant that more and more emphasis has been placed on Charmed Running. If I’m not running a race or event on any particular weekend, I’m selling charms at it instead. And if there is no race or event to sell at, we are at the local farmer’s market selling them. I spend the remainder of my week building up my selling inventory for the next event.
My husband has even given me an ultimatum. Charmed Running is too important right now. I’d better forgo the Saturday race events in lieu of setting up shop at the farmer’s market. This doesn’t make me happy. But I understand it.
So, what is a runner, wife, mother, entrepreneur, and fitness fanatic to do? Forgo her blogging? This doesn’t make me happy, because above all, the one thing in life that gives me tremendous amounts of pleasure, is writing.
Here I am, sitting in the car on our way for a weekend away….the first weekend away this summer…and I finally get a few hours of time to put some words on virtual paper.
Where to begin? I’m not so sure.
I suppose I can begin by letting you all know that, yes, I am in fact still running. It hasn’t been all good. But it hasn’t been all bad, either. I’ve actually started a bit of a running streak, thanks to a facebook group where we challenge each other each month to, well, run. Since I hate letting my virtual teammates down, I run. And I run a lot. And I run everyday. The good thing is it doesn’t matter how fast I run, just that I run. So I’ve taken the opportunity to do some experimentation with my runs for much of the summer. This includes some different running shoes, experimenting with fueling, getting runs in at odd times of the day, and slowing it down…a lot.
This hasn’t bode so well for the races that I have ran. In fact, they’ve been lackluster at best, at least as far as my running is concerned. I’ve gotten nothing close to any kind of PR and have achieved very little in the way of age group awards. And, my heart rate, despite how well my heart rate training has come this summer, soars during any kind of race or event as I attempt to kick up the notch, above and beyond where I’ve trained.
As we are now in the middle (almost end) of August, I have been forced to completely rethink my marathon training. By now, I was hoping to be deep in the thralls of training for the Kansas City Marathon on October 15th. But, my lackadaisical attitude has clearly taken a toll. I’ll admit, I attempted to add in some hill work in July, albeit just one day a week, and then allow August to be the month where I’d add in the speed work. I’ve actually been pretty good about it. The only fly in the ointment is I feel like I’m running on concrete legs. I just can’t get up to speed. It is either a sign of my age or the fact that this 10 pounds I’m holding onto just won’t let go…no matter what I do.
I’m seriously beginning to believe it is the latter. I need to dump this weight. I just don’t know where to start. No, scratch that. I’ve started so many times this summer, and with great results, just to end up a few weeks later just where I started…deflated, mortified, clueless, and weighing no less.
It appears that everyday has to be a fresh start for me, at least until the girls are back in school and we can get a schedule in place yet again. By then the weather should give a little. Cooler morning temperatures should allow me to get out there for longer runs, weekend events will wind down, and the farmer’s market will close for the season.
I’ll go back and fill you in on some of the most interesting running events of my summer, plus a few of the races, and we’ll move on from there. We’ve got two months to go before I run my third marathon for 2016. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, unless I want to PR it. I began the summer with that goal in mind, but it appears to be dwindling under a hot summer sun, and a clock that loses hours by the second.
So, in the words of the immortal Theodore Roosevelt, I’ll do what I can with what I have, where I am.
Let’s get back to blogging.
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Hey! What a novel idea! Let’s write a race recap on the actual day that the race was run! This is something I used to do as a novice blogger. But now, finding the time to do it after running the race is a struggle.
Or perhaps it is just because I’m lazy.
This post was written for publication last Sunday. I thought it better to post it as is rather than edit it to the present day.
Where do we go from here?
As of today, I’m quite impressed at how I’ve been able to recover from Grandma’s Marathon. It seems like this time around, it was a bit easier. Boston, by far, seemed like a more taxing race recovery wise. It could be because I just forced myself to get out there the day after Grandma’s and keep moving, albeit slow as molasses. I probably could have done the same after Boston….if I weren’t hungover, and if we didn’t have to spend the day traveling home.