Checking In 8/29/2021 from Flagstaff

One more post from Flagstaff before I once again head back to the Vegas oven.

I’d like to say I had a relaxing afternoon after yesterday’s lengthy forest run, but in reality I went on a fruitless drive in some unusually heavy Flagstaff traffic for lunch, then went to their Planet Fitness for the first time to do some strength training and a bit of spin bike (which both felt good), then rested just a bit before taking a long walk Downtown to eat at a pizza place and then walk some of it off with the sunset before heading back and turning in early.

Garmin informs me that yesterday was my first 30,000+ step day since getting my first Garmin two years ago. It’s a testament to how much less active I’ve been since leaving Chicago, as I had plenty of 30,000 step days with my Fitbit in Chicago.

I also quickly dropped 2 pounds this weekend, in large part due to the Saturday workout(s) but I also didn’t eat particularly much yesterday for the volume of what I did. I felt fine and aside from a breakfast burrito and that pizza I didn’t feel like eating, so I didn’t. I’ve drank a lot of water in the interim.

While I’m wary of DOMS kicking in Monday, I don’t feel too bad this morning except for the typical soreness in my hamstring that’s been hanging around for several days. I still woke up far too early this morning, as I’ve done several times this week, and likely due to hunger after last night’s dinner digested and absorbed too quickly. But if it’s any consolation, this may prepare me for waking up early next weekend two hours ahead in Central Daylight Time for the half marathon.

I’m planning not to run at all today and tomorrow, and don’t plan to train too hard either of these days. Today in particular I obviously have some driving to do so I won’t be walking much at all. I may head to the gym today once I’m back in town for a bit of elliptical work. I might strength train again if I’m up to it.

Tomorrow was always intended as a full day off from training. If Tuesday’s got to be another shutdown day, that’s fine. Saturday was meant to be the final stop for training until the half next weekend. Now it’s about healing up and loading up for that event. Any training from now to then is about staying sharp, generating hormone production, and keeping fat oxidation consistently activated.

Flagstaff as a weekend long training stop works well for me for training sessions in the 90 minute to 2 hour range. The surrounding trails, paths, and roadways appear to best accommodate 6-12 mile workouts. I can see why the elites go out of town for their long(er) workouts, though I’m not ready to go out to rural roads for 20 milers, nor is this area the best place for my longest workouts. The roads and trails can give you enough real estate for medium/long runs, and the outskirts are just a bit too rocky and mountainous unless the extra challenge of the terrain is needed for some sort of secondary development. In my case this time it ended up being helpful since I was not in a position to go much farther than I ended up running.

Though it’s a tougher place for lodging, Big Bear Lake works much better for my longer workouts. The 11 miler I last ran there fit real well in its hilly lakeside neighborhoods, and there was still a lot of other useful real estate I could have ran through if the run were longer. I can easily fit a 16 miler through Boulder Bay and the heart of Big Bear before I even venture into the Moonridge area, and if I did it could easily give me 20 miles if I wanted. It’s also a shorter trip and easier to get to, even if lodging’s a problem and I have to stay in nearby Barstow.

Until it cools off in Vegas, these situations will be my best options for long runs on this training cycle. I have suitable routes in Vegas but until mornings get back to 70 degrees and below that’s not going to work for now. Either way, any additional training on the roads in Vegas and beyond will have to wait until after Labor Day weekend, and depending on how the half goes I may need to take more time after that before I’m recovered and ready to stretch out further.

Back home, injury problems aside, the heat aside, my biggest hurdle to running in Vegas has been two things:

One: Both my injury issues in the last couple years have one correlative factor: I was running on the treadmill with some frequency. Even though this last issue emerged while outdoors, I had recently done my longest treadmill run to date the weekend before. I’m starting to think that I need to minimize or avoid treadmill workouts.

I have used it in the past without issues, but I had used it for shorter durations, in cycles here and there rather than throughout training, and for specific non-long-run reasons, like ingraining longer race tempo. I can consider this whole hamstring saga a lesson (re)learned, and stop using the treadmill.

My growth on the elliptical has shown me that I can get quality medium/long easy aerobic sessions through that without having to run, and that I should save outdoor running for quick recovery sessions, focused tempo/speedwork sessions, and of course long runs. Basically, if I operated on a modified FIRST sort of plan, doing all other aerobic training on the elliptical between quality and long run sessions, that would suit me best at this point.

As for my work break runs, provided they run and feel like quick-burst recovery sessions, they’re fine. Lately, they have been more of a challenge, and I’m better off walking when they feel like that. Instead of doing them compulsively, I’ve been doing more instances of one break run in the morning, maybe an afternoon run or a lunch break session if I’m feeling good, but otherwise just walking on breaks instead. The circulation flows, the calories get burned, and I don’t overstress myself.

In fact, because my stress and heart rate variability has stayed low when I walk in the mornings instead of run, when I eat light or not at all in the morning… perhaps I should just walk off all these work breaks for now, at least until it finally cools down for autumn/fall. I’m getting home with my body battery long since completely tapped everyday, and perhaps that’s a factor in my issues lately. Now that I’m using the elliptical effectively, mileage is no longer as big a deal as it was beforehand. I’m not one to label running as junk mileage, but if the work break runs are not serving me the way they need to, then they’re junk mileage and I need to walk instead.

Two: Aside from the Vegas heat, smoke from California wildfires combined with typical smog has made the Vegas air quality very bad. I should not be running in that for more than a few minutes, and it’s deterred me from any forays back into morning running (the heat is still too high to even consider post-work runs). Maybe given my hamstring issues that’s been a blessing in disguise, but the bad air has stuck around a while and could be some time before the air’s consistently suitable for any outdoor running.

Flagstaff and Big Bear have been nice, among other reasons, in that the air quality’s been much better overall (I’ve consistently dodged their wildfire smoke issues; Big Bear in particular had downwind fire smoke this weekend). Yes, the air’s thinner in high altitude, but for the most part that hasn’t been a problem for me (do I have handed down Denisovan genes? I don’t know, but altitude mostly hasn’t been a problem for me on runs unless I’m climbing a steep grade). It’s allowed me to run without the air quality problems in Vegas.

I’m no fool and realize this is going to remain a problem in future years. I should be able to do some long training in Vegas in the final few weeks before Indy, but going forward training for summer marathons in Vegas will remain a potentially unworkable problem.

That said, I have plans for 2022 that may render that moot. I don’t plan to leave Vegas, but I have other training goals and I may not run a marathon in 2022. The current Coronavirus situation certainly will continue making that hard in at least early 2022, but it won’t matter either way. I’ll have more on this as I finish up with Indy, recover, and move ahead from there.

In any case, I have errands to run and a lot of driving to do, so that’s enough for now. More on all of this to come.

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