Friday, June 1, 2012

Rules are Meant to Be Broken!

Disclaimer: Please do not attempt anything of the things you have read without consulting a sane individual!

It has been awhile since I have posted and my reasoning is that I wanted to get through May and take a look at a question I get quite often. How do I do it? If you read much at all about running and how to build up your mileage, very quickly you will see the 10% rule. The rule states that you shouldn't increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% or the chance of injury will dramatically increase. First of all, this is probably more of a guideline than a rule. Secondly, no rule or guideline can apply to everyone. Finally, I am not big on rules or guidelines!

Just to illustrate my point;

As you can see, I actually did a pretty good job following the "10% rule" up until March. What happened in March? I ran my second half marathon and while I dropped my PR by almost 5 minutes, it was not a pleasurable experience due to my lack of training.  In reading various books, magazines, blogs, and websites, after hitting 166 miles in November I convinced myself that I needed more cross training and less running.  Never mind the fact that I had not experienced any training related injuries up to this point, it was the fact that I was approaching the 40 mpw barrier. What is so mystical about 40 mpw? Nothing! but it seemed like a huge number to me. Ok, so I wandered from the point I was trying to make.

After my half on March 4, I decided to run a full! Again one of my strange thoughts about running is that I should be able to handle a 70 mile week before beginning marathon training. Looking back, I see that most plan don't even peak at 70 mpw but like I said I am not into rules or guidelines unless they are my own. So starting the day after my half, I just started running with the intent to hit 70 mpw. I didn't care how slow I ran as long I ran. Most of the days that followed, I woke up with varying degrees of soreness. None of it was unbearable but definitely made its presence felt. But I stuck with it and during this time I discovered that my legs would loosen up eventually, some days it took 1 mile, other days 5 miles. Week after week, the miles kept creeping up.

So how did I go from 118 miles in  February to 362 in May without injury? Blind luck followed by listening to my body. While I did not take many days off, I think I counted 5 days off in the last 92 days. I would slow the pace considerably or choose a softer terrain, which helped me to keep running. I also used compression socks/sleeves on almost every run as well as cold/ice baths after most runs starting around week 3. 

I know some of you are thinking that there is no need to run that much and you are probably right. But some of the positive things that have come out of it are increased endurance(DUH), increased confidence, weight loss(15 lbs), and surprisingly improved speed. Plus I am confident that I can comfortably handle my training plan for the Rock and Roll Savannah Marathon in November. 

Don't be afraid to break the rules but more importantly listen to the person that knows you best, yourself!

Happy Running!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dreadmill, Hamster Wheel, insert nasty word here

So many runners have this nasty aversion to the treadmill, believing that it was a creation on the Devil to torture runners. A Dailymile friend actually said it was analogous to one of Dante's Circles.  As someone who began their running life on the mill, I actually don't mind it and prefer it for some types of workouts and under certain conditions.

I HATE running in the rain!!!! Even though it might be refreshing and cool, the feeling of wet sock and shoes causing my feet to shrivel is not one I look forward to. This is an awesome reason for me to not despise the treadmill because today there was a short window of opportunity to run between storm fronts and unfortunately I was stuck at the bank! So, I headed to the gym and ran on the treadmill.

I will say that today's run is not the type of workout that I like doing on the TM but I needed some miles and it was the best option for me. A steady state run is just about the worst way to utilize the treadmill but that is what I needed today after yesterday's long run. Fortunately, my legs and lungs felt fine and the music and tv helped the time go by after the first 6 miles. The first 6 miles were pure torture!

So you are probably thinking, thanks for confirming why I hate the treadmill! But there are some compelling reasons to use it. First, it absorbs some of the impact, so it is easier on the joints. This is very helpful if you are trying to recover from a hard workout, or are trying to increase your running volume without injury! My legs felt just fine after 11 miles, which I am not so sure they would have on the roads. I know the trails are softer too, but again the whole running in the rain thing.

The other reason I like the treadmill is that it can make incremental changes in pace that are hard to do outside. I love doing progression runs on the TM to help the body learn how to run faster on tired legs. Typically, I will start around 6mph and increase .1mph every minute until I reach whatever my goal pace is for that day or after warming up, pick a pace then increase the pace every mile.

Tempo runs also lend themselves to the treadmill because you just set the pace and keep running or risk falling off the back. No worrying about the Garmin beeping at you to speed up or slow down. Just run till the time is up.

Give the treadmill another chance, you might actually see how it could benefit your training!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Base Training and the LSR

As a relatively new runner, I have read everything I could get my hands on and tried various training plans but neglected a vital component, base training.  I would read about long, slow runs and wonder what they had to do with running faster.  I didn't care that EVERY expert, runner, pseudo-runner talked about the importance of aerobic base training, I didn't believe it until now.  I was excited that I ran 1:40:51 for my first half marathon with no run longer than 10 miles focusing mostly on tempo runs and speed work on 30 miles per week.

 When I decided to run my second, I knew I needed to increase my volume and my long run.  Yet, I while I increased my average mileage to a peak of 40, I still hadn't embraced the LSR.  I did get my long run up to 12 miles before my 2nd half which was almost a year after my first, and dropped my PR by almost 5 minutes to 1:35:57. The second half of this race was rough and immediately after finishing I knew that I needed to increase my mileage for two reasons: I wanted to run faster at every distance and I wanted to tackle my first marathon. 

Somewhere during my formative running years, I had this idea in my head that I would/could not start marathon training until I could handle a 70 mile week. So I began my first base building cycle the day after my half, planning to spend 4-6 weeks increasing my mileage. Just to give you a baseline, the month prior to my half, I averaged 27 miles per week on 4 runs with 2 or 3 cross training days. Normally the advice is to increase volume by no more than 10% a week to reduce the chance of injury. So what did I do, I ran 72 miles the first week, followed by weeks of 72, 84, 84, 88 and 74 miles. The first 5 weeks did not include a rest day, then week 6 was done on 5 days of running as I was getting ready for a 5K. Most of these miles were a minute or more slower per mile than I was used to. No structured speed work, and an infrequent tempo run was thrown in so I wasn't sure what to expect. 

Well, after some shorter faster runs and "tapering" down to 38 miles, I dropped my 5K PR by over 2 minutes to 19:25 with very little race specific training.  I was completely sold on the power of a larger aerobic base. I am currently on week 3 of my second base cycle.  Week 1 was 86 and week 2 was 90 and it is getting easier to run these distances even with faster paces. I will do 2 more weeks and then start focusing on the Peachtree Road Race 10K before turning my attention to training for the Rock and Roll Savannah Marathon in November. While I might not recommend making as big a jump as I did, I do highly recommend running more long, slow miles!

The Beginning

Growing up I played all kinds of sports, many of which required running. Like most people that play sports, I hated running because I always viewed it as a punishment. This hatred of running lasted throughout adulthood even as I struggled with my weight. I had gotten up to 260 lbs., so I began doing some cardio on the elliptical and bike as well as playing tennis at every opportunity.  I got down to 210 lbs over the course of a couple of years.  While playing tennis, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to do a boot camp with her. I said sure, not quite knowing what I was getting myself into.  Well, each week we had homework and it started out with 30 minutes of running/walking 3 times a week.  This was a challenge but I hopped on the treadmill and gave it a go. This was August of 2010! Little did I know that less than 8 months from then I would run my first half marathon. A running junkie was born.