Today's Mighty Oak

I basically repeated what I tried before, but with a small change. I had half a Bobo’s Bar the first two loops, and while I liked it, I was not drinking quite enough, so it was a bit tougher to swallow.

But generally, I still love the Bobo’s Bars, I’m glad they’re a normal part of my fuel now.

This was paired with Nuun sport, which I’m actually liking more and more. I think it’s a bit expensive, and I’m still unsure why the marathon switched from Gatorade, but it’s a good alternative, and I’m enjoying the mango flavor.

My last loop, I had another complete cookie (I found that they do a small version, so each cookie is 200 calories), this time, the birthday cake flavor. I liked the mint a lot better: for whatever reason, the birthday cake one was more solid and I liked the chocolate mint one being soft and basically melting in my mouth.

What a crazy week! This week and next are shaping up to be almost as busy, so no rest for the wicked I suppose.

  • Monday: 7 miles. Tiny loops in my neighborhood, which made for a good start to heat and pollen acclimation.
  • Tuesday: 10 miles. Spent the day north of Pittsburgh at an off-site meeting, which always throws a monkey wrench into things.
  • Wednesday: 6 miles. Day two off off-site meetings.
  • Thursday: Rest day.
  • Friday: 14 miles. Tiny loops (with the occasional stop at my basement). Lots of rain and mist and wind, but overall, feeling pretty good.
  • Saturday: 5 miles. Ran with a friend on City Island in Harrisburg! Met Steve from my Ultra Team, PRorER and we got in some miles between the two 5K races that were going on that day. The wind was brutal and we both had to fight against it, but it was so wonderful to run with him!
  • Sunday: 18 miles. I wanted to get in some of the miles I missed, plus this gave me an impromptu Stupid Week!
  • Core/strength: None this week, back at it next week.

Reading last week’s post, I enjoyed that I just threw out the advice to not run big the week before the marathon. No one is better at moving goalposts than ultra runners I suppose.

This week ended up being my biggest week of running ever, at 60 miles for the week! Previously, I had gotten to 48 (I think, I’ll have to double check this). While it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do so close to the marathon, I have to remember that the race on Sunday, at least for me, is just a supported long run, my goal race is Eagle Up.

The knee still felt a bit twingey at times, but honestly, doing 60 miles in a week will do that. And the fact that I hit this new mileage distance without having to stop is a great sign. I still think I’m at about 90%, so I’m hoping another week of stretching helps even more.

Race week is always a fun and exciting time, although I have trips to Ohio for work both this week and the day after the marathon, so that’s putting a damper on things. I’ve been trying to balance my miles and speedwork with both hills and flats, to help with both the marathon and Eagle Up, and both have been very beneficial. I feel like so much of both days is going to come down to the weather, keeping my fingers crossed for cloud cover!

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

  • Monday: 5 miles. Ran to the original cast recording of “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” of course.
  • Tuesday: 7 miles. Tiny loops in my neighborhood. Also did the first training mission of the Zombies, Run! Spring Virtual Race, the Train to Oban!
  • Wednesday: 10 miles.
  • Thursday: Rest day.
  • Friday: Rest day.
  • Saturday: Rest day.
  • Sunday: 6 miles. Easter Sunday, so I got some running in before hosting the family for dinner. Notes below.
  • Core/strength: None this week, back at it next week.

Slowly ramping back up during the week was good, but my knee was still shot. But let’s take this story all the way back to middle school, when I was in physical therapy for chondromalacia patella. Basically, the knee cap in my left leg used to go sideways instead of up and down. Well, it seems that my right knee decided to get in the action as well, after all these years!

So while I probably did have (and continue) to have some IT band issues, I also needed to include specific stretches for my kneecap. So I dusted those off after my run on Sunday on a whim, and felt about 80% better within half an hour.

As I write this today, I’m walking without pain in my knee, and honestly, for the first time, feel really confident about the marathon again. I have two 20-milers and one 22 miler under my belt already, and while yes, I did miss my 24, I’m not going to do that the week before the marathon to make it up.

My goal right now is to nail both the marathon and my 50K training run, then I can glide into Eagle Up confident and ready to go. It’s been a huge roller coaster of emotion, and I’m sure it’s not done, my knees may still act up, who knows, but for now, I’m excited again and raring to go.

I think, so much of me is just ready to get back to long hours alone with my thoughts, running and processing. I look forward to that time, and I’m excited to get back to it. Part of me, even while knowing it was wrong, was stuck in a loop thinking these weeks of training had been for nothing. I’ve made big gains this cycle, and while I hope they pay off in a new marathon PR, even if they don’t, I can still look back and see how far I’ve come.

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

I called my long run after 12 miles, but still had a chance to try some new fuel. After my first loop, had half a Bobo’s Bar, and after my second loop (when I thought I’d be able to go for more), I had half of a ‘Complete Cookie.’

I really liked the Complete Cookie, I’m a sucker for chocolate and mint, and it was super soft and easy to eat. The downsides are one, they’re expensive, and two, each cookie (which is huge by the way), is 400 calories. So maybe that’s something I’ll keep in my back pocket for the later hours of a race, a quick and delicious way to get more fuel than I otherwise would, plus a fun treat!

  • Monday: Rest day.
  • Tuesday: 7 miles plus speedwork: hill repeats. Went down to the Frontrunners early to grab some extra miles and get my speedwork before seeing them all at the end. Ended up seeing two harps as well as a race friend from the 20 miler!
  • Wednesday: 10 miles.
  • Thursday: 5 miles. Had a meeting right after work, skipped the meeting after the meeting to get in my miles.
  • Friday: Rest day.
  • Saturday: 5 miles. Saturday morning was the Harvey Milk Day of Service, so Gay4Good was out with Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership, this time, cleaning up the Mon Wharf. Hit the gym after before seeing a show that night.
  • Sunday: 12 miles. Oh god, all hail broke loose. It was supposed to drizzle a bit, then clear up, then pour all afternoon. I hit the trail just as it was drizzling a bit. Then it hailed. The temperature fell and it stayed nasty for the entire jail trail loop. The rain got worse on the second loop, and I ended up not being able to move my fingers. I stopped for the traffic crossing, and my knee screamed out when I started up again. I stretched and got back to the car, going slow for a while, but still running. Stopped again to assess, and my knee yelled at me as I took off down the trail. The rain got worse, and I decided to call it. Had 24 planned, but that didn’t happen.
  • Core/strength: None this week, back at it next week.

It was a great week of training until my long run. I’m really, really trying to not let that get me too down. I was prepared for what the weather was supposed to be, but the combination of cold and my knee made the decision the smart one, it took me longer than I care to admit to actually warm up, even after I got home.

I did spent more time with the TENS unit, and am planning to continue that, as well as to keep on stretching my legs and rolling my muscles. I’ll keep moving forward I suppose and see what happens. If I feel up to it, I’d like to take this long run and do it next weekend, that would still give me a two week taper to my marathon and help me get the mileage in for Eagle Up.

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

My long run was only 14 miles this week, but on the jail trail loop, gave me a chance to go past my car twice. Tried out nutter butters, which a friend uses as fuel for marathons, as well as ultras.

I grabbed two each time, and they were okay. But nothing spectacular I suppose, and maybe a little dry. However, I love peanut butter, so for a good mental boost, they’ll be something I’ll remember in the future!

  • Monday: 3 miles. Just going slow and feeling things out. IT Band is feeling better, still have a weird knot/dead spot in my calf, but had a session with a TENS unit, which seemed to help.
  • Tuesday: 6 miles, ‘increaser.’ For my speedwork this week, I did what Higdon refers to as a tempo run (but no other coach does), and my team lovingly calls an increaser: increasing the speed consistently throughout the run. Felt good to open up a bit, and my leg held up.
  • Wednesday: 4 miles. Just getting some more miles in at the gym.
  • Thursday: Rest day.
  • Friday: Rest day.
  • Saturday: 14 miles. My first big test of my leg after these two weeks. A few aches and pains, but nothing out of the ordinary (especially when I realize I did five miles in two weeks, and then came back into a 40+ mile week). No real IT band pain, so I just need to keep up on everything.
  • Sunday: 10 miles. Got some treadmill miles in, partially so I could catch up on some TV, but also, I’ve found I have to slowly acclimate myself to heat, and as it seems we might be skipping spring again this year, I didn’t want to push my luck with the weather and allergens.
  • Core/strength: BWF Recommended Routine once, would like to keep it up at at least twice a week, so I’ll keep working on that.

I’m so glad I’m back at it, and as much as I know I didn’t lose that much fitness in two weeks, combined with the quickly warming weather, it certainly feels like I have.

I’ll be confident in my return after this upcoming week’s long run (24 miles), but I’m really happy with how far I’ve come. The marathon is less than a month away, and yes, I’m treating it as a supported long run, but in the back of my mind I did also have a goal time in mind. I’m not confident I’ll make it, but I just need to work on making myself okay with that.

The Pittsburgh Marathon is tough, both in terms of weather and course. It’s also a great experience with amazing crowd support, so maybe with just a little bit of believing in myself, I’ll be able to make it happen, but I won’t be too bent out of shape if I don’t; the real goal is completing some ultra distance at EU the month after.

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

  • Monday: Rest day.
  • Tuesday: Rest day.
  • Wednesday: Rest day.
  • Thursday: Rest day.
  • Friday: Rest day.
  • Saturday: Rest day.
  • Sunday: 5K – Around the Pond virtual 5K. Legs sore from not running, and still some slight knee pain, but nothing like before. Took it easy and when I wasn’t thinking about things, seemed to run fine. Calf is still tight, so working on that.
  • Core/strength: BWF Recommended Routine twice, so glad to be getting back to that. Left my upper body sore, but in a good way!

I spent this week stretching and strengthening, and it helped a lot. I’m still not back to 100%, but I’ve at least made some good progress. This is a down week for me, so I’m easing back into some mileage as I continue all the work on my legs to rehab them.

This has been really frustrating because I was making such good progress and was really hoping to not only go into my first ultra with a solid training block, but to also knock 20 minutes off my marathon time. A bit ambitious, but depending on the day, based on how my running was going, totally doable.

I’ve let that goal go a little bit, and I’m focused more on Eagle Up, but I’m still really hoping that I can get healthy and back to a better spot.

It’s also been tough for both my weight loss and mental health. I’ve found a good balance of running and eating to let me slowly lose, and without the running, having to reconfigure has been tough, I’m still used to eating like I’m training. And of course, I’m going a bit bonkers without the extra time for my mind to work on things, but at least I’m more cognizant of that lately, which has helped I think.

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

  • Monday: Rest day.
  • Tuesday: Rest day.
  • Wednesday: Rest day.
  • Thursday: Rest day.
  • Friday: Rest day.
  • Saturday: 5 miles. First two miles felt great, and I went out deliberately slow. After that, wheels fell off and I did some walk/run. Got to five miles, but still a lot of pain.
  • Sunday: Rest day.
  • Core/strength: Nothing beyond lots of rolling and stretching

So guess who got injured? This guy.

There’s a lot of self-pity going on right now, and I realize that. I’m also trying to give myself some time to wallow in it, acknowledge it, and then move on, but damn does it suck.

I seem to have ITBS problems every other training cycle or so, so I should be used to it by now, but holy hell is this bad. I took just about all of this week off to rest and to roll and stretch, usually twice a day. My run on Saturday was good, but I need more time off, so I’ll be back at it this week, and taking the entire week off, no running until Tuesday, April 2.

I’ll be adding in some additional strength exercises and stretches, augmenting what I’ve done in the past, and really, really hoping I don’t need to go to a doctor.

I know that part of it is that I wasn’t doing enough stretching and strengthening, and I know another part of it is just luck of the draw. I’m prone to ITBS and sometimes, even when training is going so great, it just pops up in runners (or some other malady will).

I can look back and realize my first 12 weeks (literally the first half of my plan) were awesome. I got faster, I did two 20’s and one 22 mile run, all feeling stronger than anything I ran last year. Two weeks off isn’t going to erase all my improvement, and I’m lucky that if I had to miss two weeks, these are the two to do, they basically repeat themselves, so I can jump back into a down week and then ramp back up.

I’ll miss out on hitting my 200-mile month, which was something I really wanted to hit, but I have to keep my eyes on my goal race (and the Pittsburgh Marathon, I’d love to, and I was on track to, knock significant time off of that).

I think part of why this is so hard is that running is therapy for me. I need that time to let my brain let go and process. That, combined with not being able to see my therapist for a longer interval than normal, has been messing with my head, even if I’m actually okay right now.

So I’ll wallow today for a bit longer, but realize that this is also part of mental training. Shit goes wrong, and we accept it and then deal with it. Writing has always been another refuge, so writing all this out has helped. It’s still tough, but at least acknowledging it all, seeing it down on paper (well, screen), helped me realize that yes, my plan is halfway over, but that is still halfway to my race. I’m a strong runner and people have run further with much less training, so maybe I got this!

Race reports owed: Jackpot.

PRANK this weekend gave me a great chance to try out some food!

I had jelly beans, which worked really well, much better than I expected, actually. So I’ll be keeping them in the standard rotation.

Before our last loop (we were running until about 1 or 1:30 a.m., after a day of work), I had about half of a dark chocolate bar with espresso beans. As long as it’s higher quality dark chocolate (so no Hershey’s), I can eat it, and I usually go for the mint ones. However, having the espresso beans, and whether it was enough caffeine to make a difference or a placebo, was amazing! Will be keeping this in rotation as well!

Remember last week when I wrote this:

After my first and before my last loop, I had half a Bobo’s bar. This was really good! Easier to chew with a Clif bar, filling, but also sat really well. Each half was about 85 calories, so I’ll need to supplement with something else, but it was a really good find. Easy to eat while walking, didn’t make my jaw sore from chewing, tasted good and sat in my stomach well!

Well, turns out I read the label wrong, and half the bar is 170 calories.

Still great to eat, and if the ‘goal’ for most people (at least before you start to fiddle and figure out what your actual goal is), is to eat 200 calories/hour in an ultra, maybe that’s why this works so well for me!

Either way, good to know for my own calorie counting (both for weight loss and ultra fueling)!

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