Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Fine Line

What to do, what to do . .

I remember when I was in junior college, our track team wore neon yellow t-shirts with a bright pink Nike slogan: Eat right, get lots of sleep, drink plenty of fluids, . . and go like hell!

We were conference champions that year, and I competed in 4 different events.
You just showed up for practice and did what the coach said.
I wish it were still so easy.

Now I design my own training plans, workouts, races, and nutrition. There are so many variables to factor in to know if I should be doing something different. I read a lot of training plans and updates on theories. Way back when, I received a college degree in Exercise Science, so I know a little about how my body adapts to training. I follow the 'no more than 10 percent' increase in training rule. I run the right amount of long runs before a marathon. I know I'm supposed to strength train in the off-season and stretch all the time.

My latest dilemma is pace. I typically run comfortably at around 8:30 pace - an average. It goes up and down. I know my long runs are slower and my speed and pace workouts are faster. What happens, though, when you have a week and you all of a sudden feel comfortable running faster? I know when I start out a marathon and it feels good to run faster and go with the crowd, that I'll end up paying for it later. So, in training, is it a mistake to be running faster if it feels good? How do you know if your conditioning level has simply improved, and that's why you're running faster. What if it feels really slow to run at the pace you were scheduled to run at? I'm talking - that comfortable 8:30 pace went down to under 8:00 this week - all week - culminating in my 10 miler at 7:52 pace. I head out, telling myself, "okay, slow . . . . " thinking that an easy 9:00 minute pace would be good for me, and slow and comfortable ends up at 8:00 minute pace, and then I pick it up.

That's all great and wonderful - I should be thrilled running so fast - in the back of my head I imagine how fast my next race could be. But my smart side says it's too fast too soon. So I took yesterday off. It's gonna screw up my mileage for the week, but I had to listen to my gut. And my legs don't feel so fresh. I know right there that it's obvious I should slow down - if I don't feel fresh - but then again, there are parts of any training plan when you are building or doing speedwork, and you don't always feel fresh. And going slower felt - well - slow. I even tried to do it on the track and pace it out really slow, and I went too fast. If I look at it logistically, it'd be like saying I did tempo runs all week. Bad news for injuries. But my question still remains - how do you know when your fitness level improves and you can train faster and not worry about the ramifications?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Abstracts of Daily Life

It seems like my posts are so sporadic lately - I have a hard time keeping up with the blur of life, and no time to sort my thoughts into decent writing. I haven't a clue what I've been spending my time doing. I've been running. I'm around 40 mpw right now - it's pretty low mileage for marathon running, but that's what works for me. I still have most of my long runs ahead of me leading up to Boston. My last couple have been hilarious. The flu has been rampant here lately - in many forms and varieties. I probably shouldn't have gone for that long run a couple of weeks ago when I was sick, but I'm a runner, what can I say? When you run in the city, you usually rely on park restrooms - and I found out during that run that many of them were closed for the season. (They turn off the drinking fountains in the winter too, so the pipes don't freeze.) Nice. I ended up walking my last 2 miles that day - didn't feel so good. I got smarter last Sunday. I planned my route to go past bigger parks, where I knew the restrooms wouldn't be closed. Lo & behold, I approached one and the sign said it was closed due to vandalism. Great. But, alas, there was a port-a-potty available for use. My new words of wisdom: Don't take a hydration pack into a port-a-potty. I took such good care to hold on to the pack, but when the hose with the mouthpiece drooped and hit the floor . . . yeah, I didn't hydrate too well after that.

I ate goat meat on Wednesday. Perhaps that statement makes it obvious that I'm not a vegetarian. I'm a believer that you eat what's available. On Wednesday, it was goat meat. We went to an Indian cafe/restaurant for lunch and they had Himalayan cuisine as a portion of the menu. So I had goat. With spicy pickle. I'm still not quite sure what that was - it got lost in the translation with the person that brought it to me, but it was tasty. It was doubly cool sitting there eating with a picture of Mt. Everest on the wall nearby. Then we went to an amazing art preview for a Chinese exhibit that was to open the following day. It was interesting to go from India to the Himalayas to China all in one afternoon. It made me realize how big the world is, and how badly I'd love to wander through it and explore.

The most fascinating thing in our house this week is xmradio. We have it in the car, and that'll be most excellent on road trips, of which we are currently planning for spring and summer. Online, xmradio is a whole different ballgame. The one-hit-wonder station is hilarious. Most of all, though, I've discovered, to my children's great dismay, that I can listen to 80's music all the time! Our 6-year-old switched stations on me right in between the Pretenders and Yes the other day. I'll just have to teach the munchkins about quality music. :)

Another big event in our home. New family members. It's been a long time coming, and no I'm not pregnant and we're not adopting or hosting foster or exchange children. The child was told it would only happen if the bedroom was kept clean for an entire month. She'd been told this for a couple of years, and it finally happened. So now we have "Yazhi" - Navajo for 'little one'. And along with Yazhi came the mealworms and the crickets. The mealworms are nasty. I have issues - really big issues with wormy things. I don't allow them inside or in my refrigerator, and I think we are going to get rid of them altogether. The crickets are a whole new world. They are a pet, a food source, music, a source of entertainment and curiosity all rolled into one. Truly, I think they are like a toy for my husband. They keep him up at night, no matter where in the house we try to hide them. They escape no matter how secure we keep the cage. But it's truly amazing to put them into the big glass tank and watch the gecko hunt them down and eat them in one bite - four of them in a row. I don't know where she puts them, she's so tiny and the long-legged hopping things are as big as her head.

Tomorrow ends basketball season for child #2. Next week is break with no school, and then we head toward spring. Am I ready for that? Kid # 1 has chess club and girls only indoor soccer, kid #2 has co-ed indoor soccer, and kid # 3 has jumprope club. We are currently holding a limit there at that amount of activities - when you add up school and homework, the scheduling takes a toll as we head into a weekend of training for my husband and I, and getnout and having fun with the kids.

While I sort through my thoughts and find an enlightening post for next time, I'll end this one with a token of hope for most bloggers in the United States. Spring is coming. I promise. Somehow, some way, it happens every year without fail. Believe in it.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Rules of Degrees

I remember having a conversation with my dad years ago, and I think about it often as the seasons start to change. We were discussing what to wear running during different types of weather and both seemed to adhere to an unwritten set of rules.

The Rules:
(in degrees fahrenheit, because the USA refuses to conform to the rest of the world)

80° and above - you really should've gotten up and run at sunrise when it was cooler
70° - 80° shorts and a tank top - great for track workouts, not long runs
60° - 70° perfect running weather - shorts and a t-shirt
50° - 60° shorts, but long-sleeves - you'll inevitably roll 'em up, but if it's windy or rainy . .
40° - 50° tights and long sleeves - deceivably chilly, even if it's sunny
30° - 40° tights, long-sleeves over or under short sleeves, gloves, hat optional, wool socks -
unless you want numb feet the first half of your run
20° - 30° tights, short sleeves, long sleeves, gloves, hat, smart-wool socks
below 20° (doesn't happen that often here) I'd add a sweatshirt to everything else and be amazed
at the lack of sweat when I was finished.

So, really - my point? I wore shorts when I went running today!!! It's a MIRACLE! My dearest apologies to the rest of the country, where winter still isn't over, but I finally have hope. I'm so burnt out on depressing winter weather, rain, snow, wind, ice, cold temps, floods, power outages . . . hmmm, was there more?

It was 12° in Cape Cod, Massachussetts today. Why do I know that? Because the guy at the B&B out there told my husband when he booked a night in April. Ahhh, yes - the dreary days of winter provoke one to plan vacations. Two nights in Boston, because there is some silly marathon I'm supposed to run. Some random hotel, because really, I'm there to run a race, buy a cool jacket at some expo, eat some food at Faneuil Hall, and drive up the New Hampshire and Maine Coastline. Then a night in a fancy place in Providence, RI - because after all that runnin' I'll need some quality Itlalian food in little Italy and a soak in the jetted tub at a lovely euro-nouveau hotel. And then a lovely suite at a B&B within walking distance of the ocean in Cape Cod - complete with a fireplace. And my tide table shows me low tide at sunrise on the east coast that day. Perfect for some time to stretch the legs . . . Life is good. I hope winter is over soon.