Monday, December 19, 2011

Long Run # 5 – or – never run in dirty shorts

Twelve miles was on the menu and I was hungry. I was mentally ready to run at halftime of the Giants game as I was sick of watching grown men play like weak children but, per normal, my stomach had a different plan. I left at 3 o’clock in my transitions and my Merrell Trail Gloves as I couldn’t find my proper sunglasses and had yet to figure out the metatarsal pads in my Vivobarefoot Neos.
I almost bought new running shorts on Saturday but found a better deal online so I waited. I expected to buy new shorts so I didn’t wash the one pair of actual running shorts I own – with the built in chonies. I didn’t want to put on dirty underwear and run in basketball shorts or dirty another pair just for a run so I figured I’d go ahead and dig through the hamper. Didn’t take long as my hamper is full of clean clothes and all my dirty ones are in a pile.
I didn’t think anything of the grossness. Even when I had to stop at mile 6.5 to hit the restroom, my dirty shorts were barely on my mind at all. Then, as I was restarting my runkeeper I saw an old friend from high school running. I waved, she stopped. I intended to maybe pace her for a mile before splitting off and melting back into my reggae playlist (I listen to reggae to keep my running relaxed, and the tempo makes it easy to keep my cadence up), but she was running with another friend of ours from high school so we waited.
I haven’t seen either of these women in at least a couple years, so it took a while to catch up. Standing in the shade in Santa Monica. All I could think of was how terrible I smelled. The only break I got from my own stink was when the breeze kicked up, and surely hit their nostrils. My best hope for reprieve was our proximity to a bathroom and the astoundingly large and pungent homeless population that likes to camp on the Ocean Front park where we were.
I’m sure I seemed a bit rude but I was only trying to minimize the exposure, and it’s not something you can explain politely. “Nice to see you. I’m sorry I cannot talk long as I haven’t showered in two days or washed these shorts in four weeks and fifty miles, but let’s meet up after a shower,” wouldn’t cut it. And then their roommate got there. And then their friend got there. I was surrounded by noses. I had to cut it short. I apologized for interrupting their workout and assured them we’d run into each other again, and let them take off first, as we were going the same direction and a sequel to the stand around stink nightmare would be the stench trail I’d leave to those unfortunate souls following me.
The rest of the run was interesting. I’m getting better at nutrition. I am allowing myself bread/fruit for energy during long runs, so I could have a clif bar on a non-cheat day and feel okay about it. I tried the blueberry almond clif bar this week and discovered that taste played a huge part in nutrition. Half of being full and fueled is thinking you’re full and fueled and have energy, and if you’re suffering through your nutrition, you won’t accept it as nutrition; just as another chore. Granted that is an insanely arbitrary psychological judgment but it’s how I feel, which has to count for something, even if it’s completely wrong.
On the flip side, I had my first stinger waffle at mile 8 and it gave me freaky energy. Even though I felt sore and spent, my legs just kept going. I was almost possessed and had to actively slow down, which only lasted a half mile or so before my testosterone wondered how fast I could get home. My last mile was two minutes and thirty seconds faster than my slowest mile. I averaged a full minute per mile faster on the way home than on the way out. I doubt it’s all the waffle, but it definitely played a huge part, so I’ll be bringing them along for a lot of my future runs, which makes me quite excited for slightly no other reason than food nerdiness.
Speaking of food and nerdiness, it’s data time. I weighed in on Saturday morning and was quite happy with the results.
Weight: 209.2 lbs.
Body Fat: 22.7% (47.49 lbs.)
Total weight lost: 8.6lbs (5.22 lbs.)
                I feel like this is not bad progress considering I have only put in one honest full out week on the slow-carb diet (cheated both Tuesdays for holiday parties). This week will be the last slow carb week of the year as I’m going to Michigan and all diets are off in the snow. It’s a rule. Starting now. Because I just made that rule up.
                Speaking of Michigan, I’ll be visiting from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. I bought tights and cold weather super-insulated socks so I can manage to fulfill the 25 miles my training schedule calls for. In the snow. I’m terrified and I can’t wait. Obviously going to write about it as soon as I get back.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Long Run # 4 or double digits

Sunday was my first double digit run since the SF marathon. I was nervous as hell for more than a few reasons. It was my first distance increase on the new diet and I was nervous how my body would handle the stress on the new fuel. It was the first double digit run since I started running in a barefoot shoe and if I didn’t make it, my ability to run the LA Marathon in March would be called into question – for fear of going too far too soon on the new tires. Along the same lines, I’ve been nursing a nagging toe injury for a couple weeks that also threatened the bulk of my training schedule. This was also my first run on a time constraint since the SF marathon.
I started later than I wanted to. I had a big breakfast because it was my cheat day (I get one day a week where I can eat anything I want) and it was taking a bit of time to settle. Normally in light of a delay pushing me into running in the afternoon sun I’d push the run to the evening to avoid running in the midday sun, but that was out of the question as that evening was my mom’s birthday and I couldn’t run after because I planned on drinking quite a bit and running after getting half-drunk is never a good idea. For me at least. I have a friend who’s quite talented and prolific at drunken distance running.
I usually hate running on a schedule because my stomach and my brain are rarely on the same or similar schedules. So while my plans say run at 11, my stomach says wait until 3 and will hold me hostage. This time was no different and had I nowhere to be I wouldn’t have forced the workout, but it had to be done. I suppose this is good race experience but that’s a terrible thing to say. Unless I’m a pioneer of Bum Gut acclimatization training, in which case, I’m the king.
As luck would have it, by the time I got down to the start/finish (for this run it would be the San Clemente pier), clouds had at least lightly shrouded the sun so my shadow weakened, not all the way, but enough to make me less concerned about the heat. I took off south – heading for Calafia State Park where I’d turn around and head all the way north to Doheny State Beach and then back to the pier. I call this type of run and out and back with a tail because that’s the way it looks in my head. This is roughly the route I ran
The first couple miles went well. No foot pain, no tummy trouble, a little general weakness that comes early in runs, but nothing major and I figured the bagel I had for breakfast and the Gatorade primer drink I had before the run would kick in soon enough so I muscled through it. It was a bit warm, though, so I did consume a lot of water. I figured it would be better to top off early since I knew there wouldn’t be any drinking fountains for the last ¾ of the run. As it turned out, I passed the last drinking fountain thinking there would be one more, and was wrong so I had to make ¼ my hand held work for the next six miles.
I didn’t bring headphones so I had to run without music. This is the longest run I’ve ever done sans music and the boredom would creep in waves but just as it began to get me the scenery would change, or there would be a group of cyclists for me to avoid (yes avoid as they took the liberty of riding three cycles wide on the two-lane pedestrian path, taking up half of my lane forcing me uncomfortably close to the trench plate boundary separating us from vehicle traffic) or a person walking the lonely stretch of road that connects Dana Point and San Clemente for whom I’d get to invent a back story and engage them in what I call Boytosian Dialogues which are essentially imagined trivia contests where I win handily over the always accented stranger ( I understand this may be a symptom of some type of psychosis, and I am ok with that).
The route was exceptionally flat. Packed dirt beach and bike paths for the first four miles and last one mile and asphalt for the rest. The packed dirt was nice on my bum foot, and I was worried about  pounding the pavement for so long as my injury seems to be from impact, but I held up just fine as recent corrections I’ve made to my stride are starting to pay off. I kept my strides light and quick and short and tried my damnedest not to push off and leaned forward and went and 7 miles later I got kicked in the side with a golf spike.
I knew the feeling well. It’s a warning pain. It’s essentially a notification that somewhere in my colon there is a timer. I never know how long the timer has on it, but I knew that I was 5 miles from home and the likelihood of there being that much time was 0, so I went into survival mode. My disease is no secret to me, so I plan most of my long runs to have more than one opportunity to use facilities and this was no exception. The bathroom was 20 yards away. Unfortunately in those 20 yards there were also 3 chain link fences, a railroad track and a moat / drainage area, so I had to keep running to find a way to cross them all.
It was only a matter of time. I had to go up a bunch of stairs and then solve the problem of no seat covers, but aside from that, the bathrooms were not terrible. In fact, for a beach bathroom I was impressed at how non-hepatitis-y it looked – though I do have blood tests scheduled, so we’ll all get a shot to see how well my eyes work as disease identifiers.
When I left the bathroom, it was time for my 2nd nutrition bit and this was the best part of my run, because I’ve found my training partner… Nature Valley almond bars. They’re basically candy bars but as soon as I finished it and drank the last slug of water, I caught a second wind and took off. I ran the next two miles 90 seconds per mile faster than I had been averaging throughout the run and was barely winded. I was insanely sore, though so I dialed it back in order to finish strong.
Then I took off my shoes and socks and knee braces and waded into the pacific for a little ice bath while I texted my girlfriend I was ok (I had run a lot slower than I usually do because of the bathroom break and general slow-itude / weakness so I was 20 minutes behind, right at her worry threshold). It was the best ice bath I’ve ever had and totally worth the surfers giving me the hairy eyeball, which was understandable since I was carrying a lot of stuff and a normal person would have left it on the beach but I didn’t feel normal so I brought it with me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

San Francisco Marathon 2011 - or - shin splints and shin spits

It was my first marathon.  Eight months before I planned on running a half marathon. I told my best friend who promptly called me a pussy and said he was running the San Francisco Marathon at the end of july. I looked at a calendar, it fit. I had enough time to train. It seemed like a good fit. Me and my best friend of 24 years a week after my birthday in THE city running shoulder to shoulder across the golden gate, our loving girlfriends waiting for us at the finish line with sourdough bread and anchor steam and ghiradeli chocolate.
I took the bus to the start finish line with Patrick. Patrick was from San Diego. It was odd to have met another Southern California resident all the way up in the Bay, even though Patrick was quite stereotypically from Ireland, we bonded. It was 5:45 in the morning. I hadn’t slept a wink or had time to make it to the 24 hour subway because I was trying to squeeze out 30 minutes of sleep, so my stomach was empty. Exceptionally empty as the oily spaghetti with meatballs raced through me.
It was not what I would consider a good morning to be awake, and the fact that I had a marathon to run wasn’t making it any less stressful. The one highlight of the morning was the $7 cash I found between the bus stop and the porta-potty line. My wave was due to start in five minutes and the line was 20 people long and I hadn’t even checked my gear and about a month before my best friend dropped out of the race so I was alone in a huge crowd of strangers.
I ate my first of two clif bars I was planning on eating along the way as part of my practiced, tried and true solid nutrition race plan: ¼ of a Clif every thirty minutes. Of course I needed them both for breakfast or I’d risk bonking almost immediately but I held off on the second one until after starting twenty five minutes late.
When I signed up, I wasn’t really sure how to train or anything so I figured my marathon time would be my 10k time (min/mile) but extended to 26.2 miles. This sounds obviously flawed in logic but I ran a 10k so early in my training that I figured there was no way I could run slower, especially after 12 additional weeks of training. Then I ran a half marathon in 2:02 after straining my Achilles tendon in mile 3, so I figured that it’d be the case and signed up with an estimated time of 3:56 which put me in a wave of 4:00 and under, but as I said: with the bathroom lines and the snooze button and the gear check confusion (which I realize I haven’t written about but it’s fairly self explanatory when you realize this was my first large scale race and I hadn’t a clue how it worked), I started two and a half waves late with the 5:00 and under group.
At this point I still hadn’t been humbled so I was just annoyed that I was running with all these slow people. The way I was dashing to and fro in and out of the crowd, you’d think I was running on a really rocky / rooted out technical trail and not the smooth embarcadero of San Francisco. My goal was to catch the 4:30 group by mile 22 which would put me on track to finish in well under 4:00 with their head start. Those plans went out the window at the first hill. I hit it hard and in three steps realized that I had gone out to fast and slammed on the brakes.
It was my first marathon and halfway up the hill my new goal was not finishing in under 4:00, it was finishing and enjoying the experience. I started to look around and enjoy the city views and the mad throng of idiots punishing their bodies for bragging rights and personal accomplishment. I began alternating between “my grandfather would be so proud if he were still alive. He would never believe this” while fighting tears and “that’s stupid. Your grandfather did not flee Europe so you could run around in San Francisco. If he were here he’d be miffed at your strange goals and marvel at your seeming abundance of free time” while laughing.
This bizarre emotional reaction went from mile 4 until mile 26.21 when I was in the bottle neck waiting for a banana and a medal. I fought it the entire race but I hadn’t the energy to fight it anymore at the end so I let go and as it turns out, I didn’t end up crying. Maybe my body was conserving fluids, I do not know why no tears came out but I dry-sobbed for three or four counts and then when I realized I was crying without crying I started laughing again. At myself. This was bizarre.
I still can’t explain it. I am an extremely level person. I only cry at the end of Rudy and this one movie with Michael Keaton where he has cancer and there’s a circus (haven’t seen it for years). I also get emotional when watching the ironman coverage on NBC. Those stories are so good. Maybe it was a little bit of that grand accomplishment mixed with years of repressed emotion that I used to bury under French fries and soda and beer and cigarettes finally pushing through. I will never know. It also could have been a hormonal reaction as a response to the chemical buildup, excitement and slow release. I wont know until I run my next marathon tear free.
That was my entire race. Because I consumed my intended race foods, I had to take gels which I never had before. I probably over ate and over hydrated to overcompensate which probably had me running heavy and slowed me down but I was doing pretty well until golden gate park. After bobbing and weaving and shucking and jiving across the bridge and back we descended into the park for something like 90 miles of rolling hills.
It couldn’t have come soon enough. Whereas we were all sharing 1 lane in and out on the bridge, we got the whole road to ourselves for the rest of the race. This was pleasing as now I could spit to the side without nailing unsuspecting and undeserving compatriots (first, I am a spitter as I generate a lot of phlegm thanks to an all star set of mucus producing organs (thanks to the ulcerative colitis and permanent seasonal allergies) and second, I apologize to the Frenchman whose shin I spat on. I clearly didn’t see you, sir. It was an honest mistake and I should know better.).
My pace was fine, I suppose. It was consistent until about mile 19 when I started feeling soreness in my shin. I had never felt it before. It was on the lower outer shin in a little dense pack of muscles that hug the bone tightly. I stopped at an aid station to rub it for awhile, the pain went away and I kept going, until mile 21 when the same thing happened. I stopped and rubbed again but it didn’t go away. I tried to stretch it out but didn’t know any stretches for that muscle so I just said “fuck it,” and ran off in pain.
And sure enough in mile 22, climbing a hill in or near Haight Ashbury I felt a twinge like a guitar string snapped in the sore spot. I tried to run through it but couldn’t hang. I pulled off to the side of the road, right in front of the UCSB bull (I have no idea), and took inventory. I was 4.1 miles out. I hurt bad. I couldn’t run on it. I’m done.
Then those dumb emotions swept back in and I was overcome by a will to finish. I may or may not have chanted “Rudy” over and over in my mind. I had more than enough time to walk and still officially finish if it came to that. I limped to the top of the hill and tried a couple strides on the flats up top. No dice. It only hurt when I pushed off so I figured I could get away with landing on my heel and lifting with my hip and knee, neutralizing my ankle – which infuriated whatever was wrong – and allowing me to make respectable time until the adrenaline kicked in and let me run through the pain, which was right about mile 24.
On the way in I passed a group offering beer, which I thought was rude because it’s a diuretic so I ignored them, a group offering vodka which I thought was more rude because they were more off putting than the first group, and a guy in a full length fur lined trenchcoat and top hat standing near a tug that was attached to a giant spiked pinecone. He was just standing there, arms crossed, staring at the runners with his insane piece of art along the side of the road. We made eye contact. I peed a little.
All in all, I finished in 4:32:50 or something very near to that. I’d look but I’m quite lazy. Considering the lack of sleep and a proper breakfast, as well as the over consumption of water, sports drinks and gels, the injury and elevation changes, I have good hope that I’ll be shattering this PR in my next effort. Of course I shouldn’t post that, but if karma is real, then just typing it will be my undoing and deleting it now would be futile, so instead I’ll double down and say I’ll break 4 hours in my next marathon effort. It’s well within my reach and that’s what I’m talkin about.
I still look at my finisher’s medal every day with pride and a sense of profound accomplishment, and as soon as I run my next marathon I’ll even leave it out so it can be used as a coaster. That’s my real goal, anyway: to collect enough marathon medals to fully stock my home with coasters that are stupid expensive all things considered, but worth every penny. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

long run # 3 - or the step down test run

I weighed in on Saturday this week, as the new diet dictates an idiotic amount of calories on Saturday and i was certain it would alter the results. 
212.8 is my new weight (down 3.4 lbs. w2w)
23% is new body fat percentage (down 1% w2w)
That’s 2.9 lbs. of fat lost and 0.5 lbs muscle. 

This is not bad considering i skipped two runs because of my foot problem. I did a leg circuit workout in place of one and was too sore to do anything on Thursday. The long run Sunday - 6 miles was a step back prescribed in hal higdon's novice 2 marathon training schedule and it went incredibly well.

I got new socks, too, at this incredibly cheap adidas warehouse sale at the Santa Monica airport and they held up fine, I just wish i would have washed them first. they're super thin which I like and they slid around a ton because they're new and my feet were dirty and they got hooked onto the tape I put on my insole to affix a metatarsal pad to soften the trauma from my foot while I learned how not to point my toes and shorten my stride further.

The 6 miles went great. I waited all day because my stomach was hurt by all the beer i poured down so i ran at night when it was cold and aside from the dry air burning my sinuses it was optimal. I ran five easy and one hard and everything clicked. When I finished I actually pumped my fist which I know is stupid, but I was moved to do it because I felt that good about the run. Looking back there was nothing remarkable about the run. Maybe i finally got the rumored runner's high (which I’ve never felt before possibly due to the fact that my endorphin receptors are blunted from years of over use?). 

Either way, the diet stays. Slow Carbs have me cutting weight and still let me have my energy and oddly enough are having an intensely and instantly noticeable effect on my ulcerative colitis. This could (and probably is) be a coincidence so don't quote me, but i may be a lifelong convert thanks to this experiment. Or at least a 5 day a week convert. Still want to see how my body reacts to building distance while on the diet - which happily is next Sunday. I can't wait.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Overcompensation - Or - my new diet. for now. probably

Last post I mentioned a new nutrition plan. It’s a simple one but hopefully very effective. A friend of mine bought and read The Four Hour Body and started the slow carb diet that is described in a couple of the chapters. I saw him on day one and then again eight weeks later and noticed a huge difference. He was yoked. He had dropped weight and added muscle in a very noticeable manner, or he was wearing a tiny shirt. I asked him how and he said it was the diet and exercise.  I wanted to try it but I was concerned about two things: my ulcerative colitis and how the restricted food options would affect my running. He couldn’t tell me because he is normal (gastro-intestinally speaking) and a non-runner (thanks to a particularly gnarly motorcycle wreck) though he did admit that the diet would likely strain my training as it eliminates most sources of carbohydrates.
But as I may have mentioned another time, I’m fueled on rage. And a likely unhealthy body dismorphia and a fear of being what I consider fat. And I’m also lazy and in a hurry. The more weight I lose quicker, the faster I’ll be. I have heard that losing 1 pound of fat translates to 3-5 seconds per mile improvement with the same effort. So if I lose 10 pounds of fat I gain at least 30 seconds per mile. That is a huge advantage. The problem is the more I run, the hungrier I get and the more I eat so the calorie burn is neutralized by my enhanced appetite and as I get more fuel efficient I may even gain weight during training!
I read the book and originally was going to modify the diet to accommodate my training and nutritional needs. In the book Tim Ferris even mentions the fact that just making a change at breakfast you can see benefits. This was my plan. Until the thanksgiving gut bombing. Even though I only gained a pound that week, I felt terrible. I was making disgusting choices. I was in “I’m training so diet doesn’t matter” mode which for a recovering compulsive eater is not appropriate. On Sunday night I made the decision: whole hog until Christmas and hit the store to gather my protein and frozen / canned resolve.
It’s the slow carb diet. I won’t explain it because I’m still learning it and it would be a disservice if someone used this blog as a resource. But it is described in detail in the book mentioned above. So far it’s been quite alright stomach-wise. I don’t know why but my stomach handles reduced calorie diets very effectively. Surprisingly effectively considering the damage a diet coke does.
The other question is how it would translate to running energy. I don’t feel low energy throughout the day like when I was on the cookie diet, but as soon as I get on the road my legs felt heavy and taxed almost instantly on the one short run I’ve been on.  I was wearing heavy shoes for this run as well, so I’m not totally certain the diet is to blame but time will tell. I will be able to make all the midweek runs for the next few weeks, as they’re all quite short and I can make do with the energy I get from mostly meat and veggies and beans. The long run on Sundays worries me a lot because they’re extremely difficult run on full nutrition, imagining them on restricted diet is quite unpleasant and may be the diet’s undoing.
I believe it can work because of Saturday. Saturday I have to eat anything I can get my hands on. Literally. It’s a cheat day and the more I cheat the better the rest of the diet works (or so I’m told), so it’s going to be bread and beer and pizza and pasta – or a 24 hour carbo load that should fill my stores enough to happily complete the long one on the next day.
I started this week because it’s a step down week with a relatively light Sunday run that I can use to test the Saturday fuels Sunday principle with little negative effect if it doesn’t pan out. If it doesn’t, I’ll have to modify the diet. If it does, then I’ll get four good weeks in before modifying it and maybe a couple more early in the New Year. It’s exciting to compliment my fitness with a weight loss program and even if this doesn’t end up working out exactly as planned I still am taking away valuable lessons as far as what I can and should be putting in my body and when which is part of my ongoing journey.