Author Archives: Steven Gomez

Checking In 7/28/2021

Last night I ground out a full 60 minutes on the elliptical without pain, though once I climbed off my lower body felt heavier than excess baggage. I ate a rather large meal and Garmin reports I got some good deep sleep last night.

I woke up this morning with two changes from yesterday.

First, my hamstring while a bit stiff is feeling better. I don’t feel pain except a little bit every so often, depending on how I step or stride. This improves on yesterday where I pretty much felt it most of the time I walked.

Secondly, though, I now have some occasional pain in my left groin, where it meets the leg. This however feels more like soreness than a possible issue or injury, suggesting this part of my body simply overcompensated for the hamstring issue rather than got strained or injured.

I attempted a brief test jog this morning and running did feel a bit better and easier. I will at least attempt a work break jog in the morning, and unless that feels terrific I’ll probably shut down on running again for the day just to be safe. I’ll walk through remaining breaks and continue tonight with cross training (plus I’m due to strength train this evening).

The hope is that the morning break feels reasonably pain free, and the brief stimulus of running on my lower body plus this evening’s training further spurs recovery overnight and beyond.

I’ve been leaning on my Hammer supplements during the last few days since the issue arose, taking closer to the normal dosage each day (I normally take just one pill a day, way below the recommended dosage). I’d like to think they’re working but it’s hard to tell. Am I healing more quickly than would be normal? Am I healing normally and it’s having negligible effect?

I’m holding out hope for Saturday’s trip into altitude, and Friday by 6pm is the V1 date to decide on cancellation. Obviously if my condition worsens in any way before then I should shut down for the weekend and cancel.

But there’s a large gray area where I may be pain free (well aware of a possible relapse at any point) or may have lingering pain, and could run with it. Saturday being a scheduled rest day before Sunday morning’s scheduled long run is also a factor. Could a full afternoon and evening of relaxation with a night’s sleep improve the situation further?

Tonight I’ll return to the elliptical and chase it with a hopefully brisk effort on the spin bike, before strength training.

Even if this heals up and is just a blip, it’s also a welcome rest for the rest of my body after a few weeks of solid training.

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Checking In 7/27/2021

I went for a lunch run yesterday and my left hamstring started hurting, more than random aches and pains or lingering soreness. The pain while not that bad did not subside and I shut down the run after 0.3 of a mile.

It was the same hamstring I hurt two years ago on the treadmill, though I’m not totally sure if it’s the same spot or related to the same injury.

It certainly isn’t anywhere near as bad as that injury, in which I felt a pop and the pain was immediate. I can also walk fine, and in fact I can even jump with no pain. It’s only when I attempt to run do I feel it at all. It’s a dull but slight ache and when I do feel it it’s high, near the buttock.

As I did when I got hurt two years ago, I tested multiple cross training machines at the gym to see what I could do without pain, and it turns out I could use everything I tried with no problem: The rowing machine, the elliptical, the spin bike. (I also strength trained, though that was all upper body and core work.)

I still feel hamstring pain this morning, though a bit less so than yesterday, and it’s my hope a few easy days will resolve the issue. In my experience, total days off don’t help as much as continuing to train however I can, as the bloodflow is important to spurring recovery, not to mention being able to maintain aerobic and whatever neuromuscular fitness I can.

I won’t run today, and if feeling better I will attempt light jogging tomorrow (a brief test at home this morning found I could do that pain free, but I’ll give running a rest instead of chancing it today).

Today, I’m going to give the elliptical 45-60 minutes, and that’s going to be a workout as I found my 20 minutes on it yesterday a bit of a challenge. But again, I felt no pain on the elliptical, so that’s going to be the trainer of choice for now. And maybe sustained training with the different whole-body motion will provide some sort of breakthrough once I’ve returned to normal.

If it lingers or doesn’t fully improve before Thursday, I may consider cancelling this weekend’s road trip since the goal of that trip was to run.

My hope is that this isn’t a cumulative stress reaction, that I just unduly tweaked something while out running at lunch, or perhaps aggravated something tweaked during Saturday’s long workout… an isolated incident.

Rest and recovery has not been an issue. As mentioned yesterday, I’m sleeping much better lately, and recent nutrition has been more consistent and supportive. I slept well last night.

As usual, I am not taking any NSAIDs or drugs to deal with any pain as it won’t help with recovery, and feeling any pain is important feedback.

I also have over 14 weeks until Indy, so it’s not like if I must take a break for a week that it would derail anything. But, if I can cross train through this to stay aerobically fit and progress, then I will do that however much I reasonably can.

Hopefully, in a few days of work and rest, this is all a moot point.

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Checking In 7/26/2021

I feel like a paradox: My legs feel sore, and yet I feel noticeably stronger through my lower body. This was the first weekend in 3 weeks where I stayed home, plus my long workout was indoors, allowing me to rest and nap quite a bit over the weekend. This plus aggressive protein-rich eating probably plays a role in why I’m feeling stronger than usual after a hard long run.

I’ve also been sleeping better the last several nights, consistent and at least 7 hours after too many fitful sub-7 nights. This has probably helped as well, and as mentioned before the cooler weather may be a factor in why my sleep has improved.

My plan this week is to run-train all week (no scheduled weekdays off), and then do a remote long run out of town Sunday.

Because I’m still a bit sore I probably need to take it easy today (though I’m still going to run a bit and strength train after work). Rain may still fall this morning so it may take away a work break run opportunity, which will help rein me in.

About that rain: Vegas got pelted with serious thunderstorms last night, a stark contrast to the completely dry summer we had in 2020. The current weather now is much cooler and overcast.

But like last week, while temperatures are and will be markedly lower than the recent heat waves (around 95-100°F tops), the humidity will also remain higher than normal, over 20-30% for at least the rest of this week.

In other parts of the country, 30% feels much better than the usual 50-80%… but temperatures typically are in the 70’s-80’s°F. In Vegas, you notice any humidity over 15%, especially with temperatures well over 90°F.

I’ve gotten into a good relaxing morning routine that’s set the tone, and once again I’m reluctant to resume early morning runs, even though the current weather may better allow it. But I could be tempted to run a couple times in the morning this week in lieu of a night run. We’ll see. I still like how my evening gym sessions are feeling and those runs are a part of that.

The Olympics started this week, and someone on Twitter made an asisine comment I won’t give traffic to, that these Olympics are meaningless.

I’ve talked before about how the Olympic experience may be a letdown for the participants. While I think it may be disappointing, it certainly is not a meaningless experience.

If anything, the reason it could be so disappointing and a letdown for the participants is because this Olympics are so meaningful to them. They all worked extremely hard for years to get here. This should be for many one of the biggest extended moments of their lives. To be shuttled from isolated locale to isolated locale and quarantined in an Olympic Village before performing in mostly empty venues isn’t what a lot of them were hoping for.

Meaningless? Hardly. The Olympics are still a huge deal and this edition is no exception… even if the experience in the flesh isn’t what they dreamed of.

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Checking In 7/25/2021 (+ a long-treadmill-run recap)

I ran 12 miles on the treadmill yesterday, easily the farthest I’ve gone on the human hamster wheel in one session, let alone without a real rest break.

I knew inevitably I’d have to do a long run on the turbo. Vegas was simply too hot in the mornings for a quality long run outdoors even before the sunrise. And as much as I’d love to, I can’t afford to drive out of town every weekend and run in a cooler, practical high-altitude locale. Even though my current gym has good air conditioning, you can still get hot and humid running on a treadmill for any extended period of time.

This weekend was a good window to try, with a 12 miler scheduled and between planned trips. (Plus, it turns out weather wasn’t great in any potential weekend destinations anyway)

One issue: Gym treadmills are designed to let you run for 60 minutes maximum plus a 5 minute cooldown.

Thankfully, my gym isn’t anywhere close to crowded enough where I need to get out at 60 minutes, so I can restart the machine and keep going. But, to minimize the break (because I want this to be a continuous run, not two 60 minute easy running repeats with a 1+ minute rest), I have to make sure to restart the machine and get it back up to speed as soon as possible once stopped.

I started the morning relaxing with coffee and a croissant, and ate a sandwich at Starbucks right before heading into the gym armed with only my 17 oz water bottle. I made sure to treat the morning more like a pre-race routine because I knew this task was going to demand a lot from me. The longest I’d recently run without a break on the treadmill was 50 minutes, and 12 continuous miles was going to demand a lot more than 50 minutes of running. I’ve gone over how challenging I find running on the turbo for extended time.

I’ve played around with pacing on recent treadmill runs, but made sure to keep a consistent moderate but sustainable pace for this extended run. I’ve also experimented with running without my glasses to minimize distractions, and ran most of this run without mine on this time. I also made sure to sip water on schedule every 10 minutes. How much is a sip? The bottle only ran out after 2 hours of running, that’s how much. I did pick up the pacing at 60 minutes to more of a marathon-pace effort for about 3 minutes, before the shutdown and restart.

I hit stop on the machine, and powered past the slightly dragged out shutdown sequence by jamming the button until the display went completely off, then jammed the go button until the display came up again and showed the starting countdown. Once the machine started I immediately restored my original running pace.

As complex as this sounds, it took about 45-50 seconds. During this time, the belt kept moving as it decelerated to zero, so I still was able to log a tiny bit of distance before it stopped. I did take more than a sip of water as the machine worked to restart. But if this was any sort of rest break, it wasn’t more than a few seconds, akin to stopping to tie your shoes or fidget with fluid at an aid station. I certainly didn’t feel like I was recovering.

Into the 2nd hour, I finally started to truly battle fatigue at around the 80 minute mark. Again, I had the pace set to a more moderate effort and certainly faster than I usually run long outside, so this didn’t surprise me.

At around 100 minutes the lactic feeling was rich in my legs and maintaining my pace was starting to feel too arduous to continue for another 20 minutes. So I went to an old trick I’ve seen coaches recommend: I threw in some pickups, kicking the pace up to threshold/10K pace for 60 seconds. Then I’d pull way back to an easier pace than I was originally doing for about a minute, to get my legs back, before resuming my moderate pace.

I did this surge bit at 1:41-1:43 (38:00-40:00 on the previously restarted display) and it worked like such a charm I wished I had thought to do it sooner. I did it again at 1:51-1:53 (48:00-50:00) with an even faster surge and again it worked great for making the moderate pace feel more do-able. Once I got to 2:03 and the machine once again demanded a cooldown I kicked the pace up to marathon-effort again and made sure I got to 12 miles before shutting everything down at about 2:07.

This was the first long run in a long while where I felt sore after the run, and it’s also the hardest I’ve pushed on a sustained run since… probably since the 2018 Chicago Marathon (even Vancouver 2019 was more of a sustained easy run out of circumstance).

Something I never really did in prior marathon training cycles was steady-pace long runs. All were usually run as easy as necessary to cover the distance and that was it. And while that’s still valuable and I obviously still intend to run long runs like that, I also want to do long runs of 2 hours, possibly more, at a faster moderate pace. This one went remarkably well, and the soreness plus the completion of the entire planned workout as intended tells me this was a significant breakthrough.

Then, after slamming a bottle of Gatorade, I went and did some lower body strength training, which certainly didn’t help with the soreness but felt good to limber up with after the extended running. I left and got a steak burrito before heading home and taking a nap.

Sitting here the following morning with coffee, I’m still sore but it’s more a lingering soreness than an intense soreness. It’s certainly not delayed onset muscle soreness because there was no delay in feeling it following the workout.

I’ll probably ride the spin bike today (we got back together recently) to circulate things a bit, but otherwise take it easy before a big training week next week. The plan’s to train all five weekdays next week before another travel weekend and remote long run. How easy Monday’s training will be depends on how sore I’m feeling tomorrow morning.

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Checking In 7/22/2021

Rest day today!

I’ve actually slept well the last four consecutive nights. I feel like I regained some consistency in eating fulfilling evening meals, and now I’m sleeping through the night.

The noticeable key factor however has been that each of my four preceding days was mostly busy. Sunday I was traveling much of the day and had to run errands once returning home, and Monday through Wednesday I worked all day followed by gym training. I had relatively little evening downtime before it was time to turn in, and while not outright exhausted I was definitely ready to turn in once 8pm rolled around.

In hindsight, this was closer to what my lifestyle was in Chicago, than previous months in Vegas where I might have more spare downtime following work or on the weekends. Perhaps that is what I need? I don’t feel terribly burned out on this schedule, even if yesterday I was more worn out.

However, weariness was more likely the product of consecutive days of serious training plus the higher humidity in Vegas. Both should recede in the coming days (I mentioned yesterday reducing my training days for more, fewer intense ones), and I definitely feel better today even though I ran a couple of cruise intervals and chased it with some cross training last night.

I plan to lightly cross train today, do a brief shakeout and some evening cross and strength training tomorrow, and then attempt a long treadmill workout Saturday. If my new 3 weekly workout schedule works out then this Saturday long run should feel better than similar prior attempts.

This is some interesting data on ground contact time for elite runners. I found this a day ago so I don’t remember what else I looked up that verified the following… but apparently the optimum ground contact to air time is something around 50/50… which requires a very short ground contact time.

Most of us are in the 250-300 ms range for each step we take, smaller the faster generally. Elites are generally at or under 200ms. Presuming 180 steps per minute, 3 per second, then to get a 50/50 ratio you need a ground contact time under 167 ms. That’s rather hard to do unless your “leg spring stiffness” is strong enough to quickly recoil you off the ground akin to a sprinter (though obviously endurance athletes will not be sprinting).

I know for sure based on Stryd metrics that my leg spring stiffness is rather low, and that makes sense given I’m naturally flexible and agile. The tradeoff of that agility is that a lot of the energy I put into the ground with each step diffuses instead of propeling me back up with each step.

Here and there I’ve worked on it, and now I’m making a point (with some difficulty) to practice quickly and as lightly as possible bringing each step off the ground. It doesn’t help that I’m not light: A typical elite runner is 110-130 lbs, and I’m closer to 180. I have no interest in being 130 lbs, nor could I safely get there, but I can and am working on shedding extra weight. We’ll see how far I can get with an improved GCT/air-time ratio.

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Checking In 7/21/2021

Every day I play my work break plans by ear depending on my energy levels, and decide whether I’m going to walk or run on work breaks. At my Master’s/fortysomething stage of life, that’s how you need to be.

Today it’s somewhat humid for Vegas (already 90°F, 45% humidity). Today, despite decent sleep, I’m feeling somewhat worn out. A work break run today would feel like a tired chore, and that’s my body telling me to just walk today, especially with plans for a workout tonight after work.

I already have a scheduled day off tomorrow, but that just means I can get some extra rest ahead of Friday’s and Saturday’s planned workouts. Plus, after a lot of activity the last couple weeks, including back to back weekend trips (I do plan to stay in town this weekend), this is a good time for a stepback week.

My schedule morphs like an amoeba, maintain a generally consistent form but often shapeshifting depending on how my needs evolve during training. I recognize the need to prioritize the long workouts, to make sure I strength train and get in one or two sessions of challenging running outside of the long runs.

I recognize the importance of general consistency, not necessarily following a training plan close to the letter, but making sure that every week I execute several workouts, that I run most days, stay meaningfully active every day and maintain a productive diet that facilitates my training and health.

I don’t need to get it exactly right all the time, so long as my body of work over time is a consistent collection of regular runs, workouts, training, and a consistent mix of volume plus recovery periods.

At this point, it’s clear to me that slow running in workouts isn’t helping me unless I’m warming up or cooling down, unless the workout is long and aerobic endurance is the objective, or the slow jogging is done in brief spurts during a walk or similar to help flush the bloodstream and kickstart recovery.

I want to adhere to the general 80/20 Endurance rule, but I always forget that my easy walks in a way are part of that easy 80%, even if they are rather easy, too easy to be an actual workout. This is in part because of the Vegas heat outside. I also like to keep in mind that my strength training is part of that hard 20%, even if these brief, hard bursts of effort aren’t an aerobic activity.

I charted a base template of a typical week’s workout plan, factoring in my weekday walking as easy minutes and my two weekly strength workouts as hard minutes. I wrote in two hard workouts, one speed rep workout and an hour long tempo/M-pace run, plus a 2.5 hour long run. The speed and tempo workouts include an easy 20 minute aerobic warmup (whether running or cross training).

It all added up to about 81% easy training and 19% hard training. If the long run is shortened to 2 hours flat the split is 79.8% easy, 20.2% hard.

So at least for the following week I’ll experiment with this approach, a sort of hybrid FIRST scheduule with three quality workouts (long run, tempo run, speed repeats) and just walking during the workweek, with strength training twice a week.

Monday: Work break walking, PM speed repeats
Tuesday: Work break walking, PM swolework
Wednesday: Work break walking, PM hour long tempo run
Thursday: Work break walking, PM swolework
Friday: Work break walking, no PM workout
Saturday: 2.0-2.5 hour long run
Sunday: Recovery day

If it feels good and I feel like I’m getting good workouts from it, I’ll risk my overall training to continue. I’ll likely add quality tempo segments to the long run as I progress, which will either require I add other aerobic work to stay at 80/20, or to downshift the tempo and speed sessions. I’ll probably also add cross training or other 45+ minute aerobic runs to the schedule if I feel it’s way too easy. I will also move scheduled workouts around to accomodate scheduled midweek rest days.

Let’s see how this goes.

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Checking In 7/20/2021

I took weekend trips to Flagstaff and Big Bear for long runs. While these are locations known for high altitude, I’m not taking these trips with the intent to altitude-train. In fact, only being there for a day or two at a time, I don’t think I get much of the altitude benefit from these trips (you typically need to live in these places for several weeks or more), though I certainly feel the effects on long runs and dial back my intensity accordingly.

I’m mostly taking these trips because it’s hot in Las Vegas, training long in the heat or on a treadmill is rather difficult, and these places have cool weather that make my long runs more do-able.

If there is some altitude benefit for my body from these training runs and visits, then great. I’d find it more likely that the key effects aside from the long runs themselves (and the hills, because these places have some challenging hills) are a chance to relax, perhaps sleep a little better, and improve how I bounce back after a long week or two in-city.

My Monday morning break runs felt rather strong, after taking Sunday off from training (and to drive back from Big Bear). I did also get a decent amount of sleep Saturday night into Sunday morning.

I have to wonder if the Vegas heat is a factor in my sleep. With monsoon weather coming in the last couple days, it’s been cooler in Vegas, and my sleep last night was somewhat better. Obviously, it was cooler in Barstow and Big Bear.

Last night’s workout didn’t go to plan. I did strength train just fine, but before that I had to cut my planned treadmill run short.My morning break runs felt terrific, and I had felt good throughout most of the day.

I realize in hindsight I hadn’t fueled as much during the day as I had forgotten several of the items I usually bring or eat. I usually have eggs in the morning and I didn’t. I had yellowfin tuna to bring with me and I forgot. Protein matters, it turns out. I did eat a big dinner and ultimately was fine, but what I didn’t eat made a huge difference with my workout. Let that be a lesson, folks.

During my Big Bear trip I found a tiny used bookstore with a modest selection. But in it they happened to have a copy of Daniels Running Formula’s 2nd edition. I have the 3rd edition and have worn it out with how often I have read and cited it (and yes, I’m a Certified VDOTO2 run coach). The 3rd edition is clearly superior in the overall information offered, but it’s missing one valuable item from the 2nd edition: The fabled Plan A marathon training plan.

Plan A is a softer landing compared to the Daniels 2Q plan in the 3rd edition, the latter of which is rather challenging (and by some accounts possibly mis-transcribed, explaining why some of the workouts are rather brutal). Plan A is more of an intermediate bridge plan, and the workouts are more within reach for most serious runners.

I’ll have more to say about this later but I was fairly thrilled to find this edition and get a hold of the plan.

Meanwhile, I’m feeling good this morning, I definitely will remember all my food today, and am looking forward to a better workout this evening.

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