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The Next Day Of The Rest Of Your Life

Since withdrawing from Indy, I’m now focused on more frequent strength training, which I plan to do almost daily (though today is a rest day).

I’ve spread out all my strength exercises over a repeatable 5 day sequence, to do more sets of each exercise while only focusing on 2-3 per 20 minute workout.

I’m back to doing Rapid Fire Sets for key machine exercises, spending about 6-10 minutes on key machine exercises while doing a basic 4 set progression for any dumbbell and bodyweight exercises. If this progresses well, I’ll do a future writeup on how it all works together.

Even though my hamstrings ache a bit when I do it, I’m riding the recumbent spin bike easy as well, focusing more on circulation and general aerobic fitness than trying to build or maintain anything. I’m doing this no more than every other day, just in case it’s possibly aggravating anything rather than just an idle ache.

I don’t feel any hamstring pain most of the time. The only time I feel any sort of ache, aside from when I use the spin bike, is when I’m sitting for long periods. That might be why it aches on the recumbent spin? I’d like to think so, but still I’ll be cautious.

If I feel better in the next week, I’ll test out a short run this weekend. If that goes fine, I’ll gradually ramp back up to regular running, probably focusing on easy intervals with longer runs or races on weekends as the opportunity arises. But I’ll probably restrict myself to running every other day for a good while afterward, just in case running back to back workouts was causing the issue.

Obviously I’m not work break running anymore for now. I’m sticking to walking on these breaks for the next while, which feels comfortable for now.

Mentally, I’m good. What happened was slowly unfolding over weeks, so it wasn’t exactly a huge surprise it came to that. Admittedly, I wasn’t even particularly excited about or looking forward to Indy like I had with past marathons. I could see I wasn’t ready, that training wasn’t progressing the way I wanted, and I didn’t feel confident. So moving on felt better than it would have otherwise.

The goal with everything right now is to get stronger overall while healing up. Hopefully in a couple months I’m feeling great. I’ll continue working on this until then.

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10/17/2021- Game Over

I went out this morning for a long run, and 90 minutes later the verdict is clear: I decided to pull out of the marathon at Indy. I will not run.

I already had substantial doubts during a slow run near home that while comfortable did not feel great or provide much confidence. I felt good this morning, the fueling I was practicing was working fine, I was hydrated and it was obviously cool outside. But even after 3-4 miles I felt myself slowing, struggling, and was wondering how I was going to run 11-17 more.

Then right at the 10K mark, as the sun was beginning to rise, I felt a twinge in my right hamstring, and though it came and went I immediately shut it down. I ended the workout right there, turned for home and walked the entire way back. During the run I already was strongly considering this, but I knew at that moment I was plugging the plug on Indy. And I was completely fine with it by then.

After a couple of months of doing everything I could to try and keep marathon training going however I could with a left hamstring problem, I realize now that the closest I can get to ready is nowhere close to suitably ready to run a marathon. And, while I stopped in time and whatever’s up with my right leg is still minor and not all that painful, there’s no sense in this point in risking further damage. It had already been randomly aching for the last week, and clearly I need to give it a break because it’s not getting better.

Now I can take it easy for a few days and move along. I want to shut it down again for a bit and just let the hamstrings (including the left one that’s felt fine for a bit) heal up completely, while strength training, walking, and whatever cross training feels right.

I can’t even say I’m disappointed to not do Indy. This training cycle’s easily been the worst I’ve had to date. A marathon is typically a celebration of the training you’ve done, and to call this training cycle derailed would be generous. If it wasn’t the heat, it was an injury problem, preventing the kind of training I wanted to do to get ready.

Though I did a lot of cross training and several long runs, I don’t feel like I trained for the marathon at all beyond that. The last few couple months were a constant scramble to salvage any kind of training, rather than serious training for the marathon. I was invested in going up to this point knowing all this, and did all I could to get ready until it was clear that the answer was no. I’m basically writing off months of setbacks, and I’ll consider them all lessons. I did enjoy the road trips I took during the summer to try and get ready, even if ultimately I wasn’t ready.

Losing the fee for the marathon is no big deal. I can transfer the airfare for use on another trip (I have at least one in mind), and I am confident I can refund or defer the hotel. Explaining the cancellation of the trip to my work is as simple as the truth: I got injured and decided not to run. Most of all, I’m now saved the trouble of making a cross country trip in November, one I increasingly didn’t feel like I would enjoy (and after all, isn’t that point of doing this?).

Obviously I’m in no hurry to book the next marathon. Let’s see how I feel at the end of the year. Improving my training base once I’ve taken some time off will be my main goal, and I’d rather train until a lot closer to marathon-ready than I was should I decide to do it again. I also want to dabble in trying other stuff, and once rested I’ll have the time and energy to do it. I’ve fallen back quite a bit from what I’m used to do, and I want to focus (after a rest) on getting back to what I know I can do, at least over shorter distances.

So in sum, after tweaking and aggravating my right hamstring this morning, I decided to pull out of Indy and not run the marathon. I feel better about having done so, and look forward to resting up and doing different things the rest of the year.

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Forty Three.

This (technically) old horse has finished a 43rd trip around the sun. We think of it as turning 43, and some erroneously refer to it as beginning your 43rd year. But technically I have actually lived 43 years and begin a 44th year. (Take me to court if you disagree!)

Over the last year, I got a new job and it made a lot of things in general life a lot easier. Along with financially stabilizing my life after 18 months of uncertain work situations, the surrounding neighborhood combined with actual space to take breaks allowed me to walk and run outdoors on those breaks, which allowed me to do more running a lot more often. Even though these runs were short, typically 1-2 miles, they helped rapidly get me back in decent running shape. The financial improvement also allowed me to spend more to eat better food, which also helped.

Life in general isn’t anywhere near as stressful as last year. The previous year was rough across the board, and this year decidedly less so. Coronavirus was not one of the reasons, though. While we’ve all been half-in half-out regarding restrictions, the most they’ve done to my life is slow it down some and make it quieter than it was before. But 41-42 was full of admittedly bad work situations, which made doing anything else with my life difficult. Coronavirus forcing lockdowns was actually a relief. This past year, 42-43, was decidedly better both at work and beyond.

Last year I speculated on what races to run, and this year… not so much. I have a marathon coming up very soon, and go figure Indy wasn’t even on my radar this time last year. As my decisions often are, doing it was a spur of the moment headlong decision to decide on THIS one. It seemed right for where I was at and what I was looking for. Is it now? I imagine when the time comes to run it, it will lay clear what I am and what I want to do.

I’m now 8 pounds heavier than last year, at which point I was a less than ideal (but still better than now) 169.6 pounds (in my peak Chicago training days I ran at 160-165 lbs). I was at this time last year actively training for a half marathon that ultimately didn’t happen, so I was in better running condition than now, even though now I probably have better aerobic endurance than I did there. I hurt my hamstring during this summer, and if not for that I possibly would be in better overall shape than last year.

Most of the weight increase came during the holiday season, reaching 184 pounds in January 2021 before I took my current job and the above factors helped me gradually get my weight back down. After disciplined work, my weight’s currently cruising around 177-178 pounds, and I’m still working to get it to cruise lower without compromising my current training.

My role is a sedentary job, and I still have limited control in how I can store and prepare food, which requires some creative (and to some degree expensive) meal planning. But training for Indy did compel me to improve quite a few food habits, and now my diet is in large part as disciplined and clean as it’s ever been. If I had my own full, unencumbered kitchen, I’d likely slim down to my old weight rapidly. Still once Indy is a done, I can reduce my calorie intake, and that could help bring things down rapidly as well.

Training in general has become far, far more consistent for me than it’s ever been. Running has been difficult this summer for a variety of reasons, but I’ve made it to the gym almost every day in 2021 to do some sort of training, whether cross training, strength training, or what running I can do on the treadmill. Whether or not I’m in suitable condition to run a marathon, I’m in very good general fitness.

I did a lot of traveling during this summer, basically to try and run long in suitable conditions, but it got me to take a lot of road trips after a couple years of very little traveling. Expedia says I now have Gold status (which turns out has minimal relevant perks), which is how much traveling I’ve done.

After never spending much of any time in Flagstaff or Big Bear Lake, I stayed and ran in both places quite a bit this summer. While not opposed, the idea of living in either is to me more of a “if I get rich” or “if all sorts of circumstances fell into place” scenario. I don’t foresee leaving Vegas before my debts are cleared, and that’s going to take at least a couple years (though I’ve made substantial progress since taking this new job).

If this year showed me anything for the next year, it’s to not worry so much about expectations for the future. I have things I want to do, sure, but I’m not particularly concerned about them right now, nor do I have much to say about them before they become real plans and real action.

The present matters a lot more than it has in the last few years, and I’m certainly a lot more patient with a lot more things. I focus on making the most of the current moment, know what I’m working towards, and work towards it when the moment makes sense to do so. Sometimes, that means relaxing and not worrying about things for a bit. Sometimes, that means bringing the hammer down on some difficult work, and/or taking care of responsibilities.

43-44 is here and that’s all I have to say about that. Today is going to be a rest day. Tomorrow I plan to run long. And we’ll take that and the rest as it comes.

Checking In 10/15/2021

Yesterday I took a spur of moment work break run in the afternoon that felt okay. Then at the gym I did a full Phillips warmup, before a brief session on the elliptical and then some strength training to finish.

I wasn’t tired like Wednesday, but I did have a shorter session at the gym than usual. I ate a decent meal and, while it took some time to get to sleep, I did sleep reasonably well and feel alright today.

The gym to some extent has been a training lifesaver. Even with no treadmill much of the time, the elliptical and other cross training has provided a ton of aerobic volume.

At some point I’ll debrief on how training this summer went. Safe to say, it’s by and large been a disappointment. Never minding injury issues, I’ve been very limited in what marathon-specific training I can do, and even if I hadn’t been hurt or otherwise set back I’m not sure I could have done much more than run long.

I’ve noticed accounts from many other Vegas runners training for marathons that they’ve had a very hard time doing much more than that, even when getting up early to beat the sunrise on weekends. A lot of us were struggling with marathon training in the heat this year, and if anyone’s going to go forward with it next summer we’d all need a new edict.

Honestly, though, the final answer may just be that training through the summer for a fall marathon isn’t practical in Vegas. It’s fairly hard in most places because even without extreme heat there’s a lot of humidity. But the extreme heat here made it prohibitively difficult too often.

Even if all else was ideal I’d have still had to leave town for several of my long runs. I probably couldn’t do that every summer and I know most in Vegas simply can’t.

The flip side is that the relatively mild Vegas winter is almost perfect for training through winter for a spring marathon, whereas in other places snow and ice make it rather difficult. If I want to do Vancouver next spring, training for that would be a lot easier, and a more complete set of workouts.

I’ll have a much better idea of how I feel about the latter by the end of this year. Meanwhile, I’m in the final stage before Indy, and I still have work to do on a long run this weekend. We’ll see if I do it Saturday or Sunday (the pull of relaxing on my birthday Saturday is rather strong, but I also don’t want to put the long run at risk by pushing it back).

I have a game plan for this long run, and will probably do it close to home, plus I realize it might be a better fit to do it Sunday even though it’s a bit risky to put it off. If it all works out, though, I’ll like where I’m at with Indy a lot better than I do right now.

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Checking In 10/14/2021… Ideas about future plans as well

Yesterday I went to Far Hills for some easy hill running, but my legs felt like lead pretty much out of the gate and never did improve beyond a difficult slow slog. Though the 2nd mile was a bit better, the uphill sections felt brutally tough and after a couple of circuits I looped back to the start at 2.6 miles and decided to call it there, heading to the gym and using the elliptical instead.

It looks like Tuesday’s 5.6 took more out of me than I had thought. I had eaten a big dinner Tuesday and I not only slept well but woke up yesterday feeling pretty good. But my legs simply were too tapped out to do much.

Tonight I’ll just stick to the gym, strength train, do a 10 minute warmup on the treadmill and then train on the elliptical. I’m still a bit sore and tired in the legs, and at this point I ought to focus on rest and recovery for this weekend’s long workout.

Regardless of how Indy goes next month, I’m sure that over the rest of my life I’ll want to do at least three more marathons:

  • I want to run Vancouver at least once more, whether it’s next year or some other year down the road.
  • I want to run Chicago at least once more. I’m fairly sure it won’t be next year but certainly some other year down the road. I probably will need to move on from Vegas before I can train through a summer for it.
  • I want to run the Luxembourg Night Marathon, which happens every May. A couple people I know have run it and it’s apparently quite fun running through the capital of a compact country at night. This wouldn’t happen before 2023, and I’d want to learn German and French on a high-functional level (I know a bit but not enough to be useful) before making the trip.

But in terms of stretch goals, bucket lists, however you put it, that’s honestly it. I don’t have any real interest in any others. I’m ambivalent about how much more energy I want to funnel into marathon training as a general practice. Maybe that will change in a while.

But a summer of training in Vegas has shown me that conventional marathon training in Vegas is probably too difficult for my circumstances. The injury thing might have been a blessing in disguise, as the seven derailed weeks prevented me from running all that much. The trips out of state to run in cooler climates helped for sure, as did the little work break runs in high heat. But even if I were 100% any other needed quality training (tempo runs, speedwork) was simply too much to ask in the Vegas heat, or through the pounding of using a treadmill.

Some of the issue was my weight having gotten to 175-180 lbs (the 80kg range), and that my prior training worked while I was at 160-170 lbs. The extra pounding probably created problems that wouldn’t have happened at 165 lb. Getting away from high volume endurance training for a bit can allow me to eat a lighter diet and slim down a bit more.

Even now, my natural eating patterns are more conducive to 2000-2500 calories per day, great for fat loss and intermittent fasting, but bad for meeting the calorie needs of marathon training. I’ve had to do a bunch of extra eating to cover the calorie and recovery needs of endurance training.

As of now, I want to focus on other training following Indy, and am not in a hurry to get back to long slower endurance workouts for marathons.

After recovering from Indy I plan to restrict my marathon training to a long run every couple weeks or so, just to maintain the endurance fitness built for Indy. Then, if/when I plan to run a marathon, it’s not a huge, long project to get trained for it.

Any other training would be sport-specific training. Any other running would be easy intervals for overall fitness, tailored when applicable to any other distances I’m planning to race. And I wouldn’t need to do them or endurance train every day. I could wake up, feel sore, and just decide to rest that day, almost any day.

23 days to Indy. This weekend remains a key workout, so the next couple days will be easier to ensure I’m loaded up for that long run.

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Checking In 10/13/2021

Yesterday I ran a bit over 9K near my gym. The weather had improved after Monday’s high winds and heavy pollution in Vegas.

Along with wanting to finish near the gym and be able to stretch etc, the roads and trails allow for mostly clear running over a few miles, giving me what I could find from some other locales but with the added benefit of my gym being right there when I’m done. I went inside and strength trained 20 minutes before stretching and heading home.

This was a fairly strong steady run and I didn’t have much trouble maintaining pace for close to an hour. It obviously helps that Vegas has cooled significantly down, and that along with sunset shadows it was only 63°F during the run. We have reached fall and it looks like the cooler weather is here to stay, meaning I can now comfortably run outside once again. The timing couldn’t be much better as I’m now in peak training.

On Monday I had done some work break running, and after work the wind and dust forced me inside to use the treadmill for a bit. The settings gave me some uncanny problems during 3.5 fitful miles of (what should have been) easy intervals. Once my right hamstring started to struggle a bit, I quickly shut it down before any pain could rear its head and switched to the elliptical for about 20 minutes.

Even now I feel just a bit tired and a bit sore. It probably helped that I decided not to run on work breaks yesterday, opting instead to just walk and focus any running on the one evening workout. I even spent one work break grabbing something to eat, which I need now that I’m burning 3000+ calories per day. Yesterday needed about 3400 after Monday needed 3800, that a product of having run on work breaks.

Today is more of the same: An extended run after work, and possibly some extra work in the gym after that. I may take today’s run to a park and neighborhood, though, which would eliminate the gym component, though I’ll still want to stretch afterward. Either way, I won’t run during work breaks, and will just walk and eat instead.

Not running on the treadmill definitely felt a lot better on my legs. I now firmly believe the treadmill running was a key source of my injury problems this summer, and that running outside allows the downward force into my legs to propel forward instead of just going back through the legs as they do on the mill. So I’ll keep things outside as much as I can going forward.

If during this workweek my legs get too sore or tired I’ll just move back to the elliptical for aerobic training and give them a chance to bounce back. It’ll be key to be able to run long Saturday or Sunday, so Friday will likely be an easy day, even though I intend to train that day no matter what. If I have to take Saturday off, that’s fine, but then I run long Sunday morning.

Either way, mentally and energy-wise I’m feeling pretty good, which is a good sign in the middle of what needs to be a very tough training week. Indy is in 24 days. Right now, as trained to-date, finishing is possible. But if the next 10 days goes well, my estimates should improve dramatically.

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An Elite Runner’s Job Isn’t Just Their Running

Sometimes people discuss the number of hours per week an elite sponsored runner trains, which is often in the 10-15 hours per week range. Inevitably someone brings up the argument that the sponsored elite runner’s job must be a nice job, only having to work 10-15 hours per week.

Let’s never mind the clearly exhausting effort that 10-15 hours can require, and how it’s obviously not the same as someone sitting at a desk 10-15 hours a week let alone 40.

Let’s also never mind any promotional or media work the athlete has to do as part of their written commitment, or any required travel.

Don’t forget that part of your training includes your diet, your recovery, and how you manage the rest of your life. If any of this falls short, it adversely affects the quality and results from your training.

So in effect, an elite sponsored athlete, facing high expectations with their race results, also is working when they are recovering. That is effectively part of their job: Eating right to fuel recovery as well as future workouts, getting the needed rest to recover from the last workout and prepare for the next, etc. All of these tasks are in effect part of their responsibility to their running because they are necessary to get the needed results when they do run.

So no, an elite runner’s job isn’t just the 10-15 hours a week they run. It’s also the hours of meal prep and consumption, the hours where a point is made to stay off their feet and rest even if they want to go out and do something, eating food they’d rather not eat because it’s healthy and essential to their recovery, etc.

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