And I will run(/walk/run) 100 miles

And I will run(/wallk/run) 100 more!

I crossed the 100 (cumulative) mile mark this week.   That seems like such a huge milestone in some ways, and in others it seems like nothing at all.  Over the last three months I feel like I’ve changed a bit.  I feel more like my “old self” aka my pre-anxiety self than I have in years.  That alone is amazing and makes me feel like this is really something I need to keep right on doing for the rest of my life.

One of the sillier changes I’ve noticed is a change in how I perceive distance.  Three miles used to be far, at least to walk.  Now it’s nothing to run/walk/run.  It’s just a warm-up.  Missoula seems smaller when I have my running shoes on.

This week I attended the Injury Prevention and the Missoula Marathon presentation put on by Run Wild Missoula and a local physical therapy clinic.  The presenters gave us some great information about exercises and stretches we can do to minimize our risk of injury, and demonstrated good form for us.

I felt pleased that I’ve already been doing much of their recommended core work, at least at the beginner level.  However, the running drills they showed us seem like something I need to start doing.  I can feel that I have a weakness in my right leg, but I can’t tell if it’s at the knee or the hip.

During the portion of the presentation dedicated to stretching, my pace group leader brought up Galloway’s anti-stretching stance.  The presenters weren’t exactly sure how to handle that, but they assured us that stretching is important.  As they were physical therapists, it’s difficult for me to discount their opinions on the subject, and my own body is telling me that some stretching would really be a good idea.

I’m going to try to take a middle path when it comes to the stretching.  Galloway’s objections to it seem to stem partly from the times when people stretch.  Everybody knows not to stretch cold muscles, but Galloway also cautions about stretching too soon after a run.  I’m probably mis-remembering this but I seem to remember that he said something about the muscles still being too activated & easy to tear or injure.  So I am going to try to do gentle stretches of warmed-up muscles, but not right after a run, and see how that treats me.  I’ll report back.

Another thing our class has been covering is nutrition during the run.  Now, during the time when our runs are still fairly short, is the time to play around with our food and water intake to see what works for us.  The Runners Edge carries some gluten free gummies and honey gels made by Honey Stinger.  I tried the gummies on our 7.5 mile run and they were way too tasty.  I think they’ll be great for a true long run, but they’re just too darned good to be using at this stage. It’s too hard not to gobble them all down.  I plan to try one of the gels, mixed into water, on my next long run (10 miles).  I don’t imagine it will be quite as irresistible.

Our 10 mile run is this coming Sunday and I’m really looking forward to it.  My body seems to be adapting almost as well as my mind, to this new activity.  Only 129 more days until the marathon, and I still feel like I can do it.


7.5 Easy Miles

Today was finally our 7.5 mile run. This is officially the first run that I’ve done during class that was a longer run than I’d done on my own before class.  Also, it was easy.  It really felt great.  Our whole pace group seemed to agree about that, too.

This time I did run with the minute slower pace group (the 15s) and it’s probably good that I did.  We ran a 30s run to 45 second walk, and at times that seemed like too little running/too much walking.  But if you pay attention to Galloway’s “Running Injury Free” method, I think that when you feel like you could run more and could run faster, you’re probably doing it right.  It’s when you feel like you should have run less or should have run slower than you were doing too much, too fast, too soon.  I’m really looking forward to our 10 miler in two weeks, now.

Also, as a little hat tip to my ego I will admit, I was at the back of my pace group last week with the 14s, but this week I was right at the front so that was a nice feeling, in a weird way.

Some interesting things happened today. First, our class started with a local Ultra-runner and physical therapist presenting to our class. He made some suggestions about exercises for different areas of weakness we might encounter, and helped us get some idea of how to tell when the knee pain was actually a hip problem and such.

Secondly, about 6 miles into our run, I started to have a twinge in my right knee. This is the same knee that’s given me a bit of trouble in the past.  I think there might be a bit of an IT Band issue going on there, but it’s not all that bad yet.  I don’t have a foam roller yet, but I will probably get one in the nearish future.  In the mean time, a friend suggested that a rolling pin might help me out in the short term and darn it if he wasn’t right.  I came home & ran over the appropriate area with a rolling pin and it helped immediately.  I still think a foam roller is the way to go, because I will be able to get a lot deeper with that than with a rolling pin, but still, it was a great solution for today.  I’m also icing my knee, just to be safe.

I chatted a lot with my pace group leader today, since I was right at the front of the pack.  It was really interesting to hear how different things were last year, when our Galloway method runners were just starting out on their own, as opposed to how things are going this year with a more organized and directed class.  I think we’re really lucky to have these folks volunteer to lead and educate us this year, and I told him so.

When I got home after my run & logged my distance (7.51 miles) on Fitocracy, I was again reminded that these 5k and 10k races aren’t as long as they sound, when I got the 10k achievement.  I think there’s a good chance I’ll start racing once in a while after the marathon.  I don’t need to win. I don’t even need to finish first in my age group.  It just sounds like a fun thing to do.

For now, though, my focus is on the 139 days between now and the Missoula Marathon. I want to keep running, keep adding miles, keep getting more fit and keep having fun.  Fun, finishing and fitness, right?

Change is Good

I had a crazy week.  I had a report to generate that gives me fits every year.  I did my best to compile all the right data and handed it off to my boss, at which point we realized there was a problem and I had to re-do the second half. I got it done but my brain is fried.

When I got home this evening I just did not feel like doing my workout.  I argued with myself for a while and realized that part of my issue was that I just wasn’t in the mood to do push-ups.  So I decided to try dumbbell flyes instead.  As soon as I made that decision, I realized that my biggest problem was that I was bored with my workout, so I changed it up.  I did the dumbbell flyes, side planks, reverse crunches and hammer curls.  So clearly, change is good.

I’m really looking forward to getting out to run on Sunday.  It turns out that I was sorted into a faster training pace group than I should have been, because they didn’t know if I was doing the half or full marathon.  I am going to drop back into the 15 minute pace group on Sunday for our 7.5, but I’m considering staying with the 14 minute group on the shorter run weeks.  Regardless, I’m still focusing on fun, finishing and fitness rather than speed.

It’s 141 days until the marathon and I still feel like I can do this.  I wonder how I’ll feel on Sunday after my longest run yet.

Fitocracy: A love story

Today is my rest day.  I know rest days are important, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.  I find that even though today is a rest day, I can’t stay away from Fitocracy.  I’ve joined a new group for Heinlein fans called Time Enough for Fitness, and I’ve wandered around the site giving out props.  I really am a Fitocracy Addict.

I’ve touched on Fitocracy before, but I’ve never really gone into detail about why I love it so much.  So here you are.

Fitocracy is modeled after RPGs (Role Playing Games), so as a former player of WoW (World of Warcraft) it made perfect sense to me.  Typically toward the end of a day, I log my workout activity for that day, whether it’s my running and walking or my core training.  Based on a whole host of variables including what activity I did, how much I weigh, how heavy any weights were that I used and so forth, Fitocracy awards me points for each activity I enter.  As I accumulate points, I level up.  Right now I’m level 11.

There are also quests that can be completed to gain extra points.  I haven’t been focusing on the quests so much, because my focus is training for the marathon, but I have completed 5 quests so far, including the Consistency is Key (log any activity 10 times in a week) and Oh Hai Abs! (do a set of 20 crunches).  There are a lot of quests that have to do with strength training exercises I’m not doing, but perhaps after the marathon I will get around to completing some of those.

And of course, there are achievements that can be earned as you go along. Often, when I get an achievement, it’s a total surprise.  I have 8 achievements so far.  Most of mine are related to the social aspects of the game, such as receiving props and making comments, but there are also plenty of achievements related to workouts.  I also have the I Seem To Be Lost achievement, which just requires that you log 20 miles of running over time.

Fitocracy works for me as a motivational tool for several reasons.  Obviously gaining points & levels is a nice little motivator.  It can get quite addictive, as many current and former RPG players will tell you.  Also, when you log a workout other Fitocracy users can give you “props”.  I’ve said before that having someone acknowledge my workouts, even if it’s some distant stranger, is helpful to me.  It just gives me that little boost of validation.

Recently I’ve noticed that I’m developing a little bit of an obsession with the little gold stars I get for achieving a personal record in a certain activity.  It doesn’t take a lot to get a personal record.  All you have to do is add one more crunch onto a set than you’ve done in a single set before, hold your plank a tiny bit longer, or run just a little farther than you ran last time, and so on.  I’m finding, though, that I want those little gold stars, so I push myself just a little bit during each workout.  That is very obviously beneficial to me.

Fitocracy is also functioning as an educational tool for me.  When I’m looking at the workouts other people are doing, and giving out props, if I don’t know what a particular exercise is, I can look up the description in Fitocracy’s tracking tool, and naturally I can also look it up on the internet.

Finally, the social aspects of Fitocracy can be helpful, fun or both.  People can follow each other, like friending them on other social network sites and users can join groups.  When you open the main Fitocracy page you’ll see workouts & posts from the people you follow and posts in the groups you belong to.

Users give each other props for workouts and can also comment on those workouts.  We can post comments or questions in the groups that we belong to and other users can reply.  On the helpful side, I see a lot of folks asking for help and ideas when they are struggling to reach a goal, and they’ll get so many replies from other users sharing their own tips and tricks for getting past whatever hurdle it is, or even just offering encouragement when someone is feeling discouraged.  Groups can also post various challenges for members to compete in.  Some are based on points, others are based on specific activities.  Some of the helpful and encouraging groups are Weight Loss, Future Me, Healthy Eating, Long Distance Running and so on.

On the fun side, there are tons of groups for people who share interests, many of which are nerdy and geeky in the extreme.  There’s a group for fans of just about anything you can think of, such as The Oatmeal, Hall and Oates, Doctor Who, WoW, Monty Python and so on.  Sometimes we share information about our shared interest, like Doctor Who news, and sometimes we just post silly things like quotes from Firefly that can be taken in a motivational way. Many members of the One Does Simply Walk into Mordor group post updates on where they are on their walk to Mordor, which I think is pretty fantastic.

The admins and devs on Fitocracy also encourage a supportive environment.  The whole idea is for us to support, help and motivate each other.  Nasty comments or groups are very much discouraged and the devs aren’t shy about dealing with those sorts of issues.

So if you’re thinking about starting a fitness routine, maybe Fitocracy could help keep you motivated.  I’m quite sure I’ll be using it over the next 147 days as I train for the marathon, and beyond.

In case you’re curious, here is a screen shot of a workout I did a few days ago.  I had to go back a few days to find one that would fit on my screen and showed a few gold stars and props.  Click to embiggen.

Core Training: My Enemy, My Friend

My weekly schedule looks like this:  Saturday: Rest day. Sunday: Long run. Tuesday and Thursday, 30-45 minute maintenance runs. Monday, Wednesday and Friday: Core/Cross training.

On those core/cross training days I do 5 sets each of  planks, kneeling push-ups, hammer curls (new!), weighted running arms, and a modified-for-beginners superman.  Until this week I was also doing 5 sets of crunches.  Now I’m doing 3 sets of crunches and 3 sets of reverse crunches.  Every couple of weeks I’ve been adding a new exercise.  I’m working my way up to side planks and more arm & back strength exercises.  As with everything I do, I’m going slowly and pushing myself only so far as I think I can manage without causing myself too much soreness.  I am still following the One Hundred Push-up plan, and it’s a good fit for me and my attitude I think.  To be fair, I am repeating a week since I flaked out last Friday.

I’m gaining strength over time, though more slowly in some areas than others.  The biggest problem I’m having at this point is with motivating myself to do these workouts, particularly on Fridays.  It’s not as easy or instantly rewarding as the running has been thus far.  I know that in the long run it will be quite rewarding, but some days it’s harder to really believe deep down.  Still, I’ve only flaked out on one Friday since I started doing this, so that’s probably a good sign.

I’ve hit a bit of a plateau in my weight-loss, but I trust that this is because of a combination of a temporary slowing in adding distance to my Sunday runs combined with building a bit of muscle.  I’ve been able to notice a difference in how my clothes fit, so I’m quite certain that positive changes are continuing.  Some people maintain that measurements are a more reasonable metric to use under these circumstances, and I’m sure they’re correct.  However, I haven’t been measuring myself so far so it seems somewhat silly to start now unless I notice really significant changes in my overall shape that do not correspond to reasonably similar changes in weight.

All other goals aside, it’s only 148 days until the Missoula Marathon.  I still think I’ll be ready.

That Old Black Magic Mile

Our class today had two goals.  We increased our mileage to 5.5 and we ran our first Magic Mile.  We were divided into groups based on previous races or Magic Mile times, and sent off in smaller groups.  Since I didn’t have a previous race time or MM time to use, I was one of the last full marathoners out the door.

We did our usual warm up walk and then did a bit of a run/walk warm-up including a few “gliders” which are new to me.  Once we reached the designated starting point, we switched our timers or watches to stop watches and off we went.  Magic Miles are the only time during our training when we’re allowed to break the “No Huffing and Puffing” rule.  I chose not to go too much faster than usual, because I knew I’d have another 4 miles (roughly) to go for the day, and because I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I think I also slowed down toward the end.  The last quarter mile seemed longer than the previous quarter miles and I think that was partly because the finish was obscured.  I think I slowed down when I wouldn’t have otherwise, because I couldn’t see where the finish was.  Perhaps that is a good thing, though.

I finished my Magic Mile with a time of 10 minutes, 3 seconds.  That’s not all that fast, generally speaking, but it’s actually quite a bit faster than I expected.  I expected to be somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes.  According to the Galloway Race Prediction Formula, that puts me on track for a 5:42:18 marathon time, not allowing for slowdowns related to heat and such.  I’d like to get faster, and I probably will, but honestly I feel pretty good about my MM time and my projected Marathon time right now, given that I just started this journey a little over two months ago and was never any kind of a runner before that.

Our Magic Mile time is also going to be used to put us into pace groups for our training.  I sincerely hope that I’m not in the pace group that I finished my run with, today.  They were doing a 30s walk/60s run split and that was just too darned slow for me, especially given the cold.  Today was the first time that I’ve managed to under-dress for the weather, and boy was I cold.  I am normally very paranoid about over-dressing because I heat up so fast when I run, but today I really could have used another layer, particularly on my arms and hands.  Lesson learned!

I find that I’m actually really looking forward to our next Magic Mile as a way of seeing some improvement.  I’m still feeling really good about all of this and I’m really excited to see where the next 153 days will take me.

Sometimes I feel extra slow when I’m not

I have the day off of work today.  I decided to do my 40 minute training run and end at the grocery store to shop.  I plotted my course based on my time & distance from Tuesday (40 minutes/2.8 miles).  I set my turnaround alarm for 30 minutes, based on where I would be at that time & where I wanted to end up.

I felt as though I was going really slowly (for me) and feeling somewhat discouraged about that.  I was sure I’d be turning around after a much shorter distance than I planned, but my alarm didn’t go off and I kept on going.  Finally, as I approached my turnaround point I pulled my phone out of my pocket, thinking I must have screwed up my alarm and saw that I was actually two minutes ahead.

So there I was, approaching my planned turnaround spot early when my iPod decided to play Eye of the Tiger.  Great timing, iPod!   I decided at that point to continue until my alarm went off, rather than turning around at my planned spot.  In the end, I ran for 45 minutes instead of 40.  I think that’s probably okay, even though our training guide says we’re supposed to be doing 30 to 40 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday right now.

I’m still pleased with my 30s/30s interval.  I feel like I both run and walk faster than I did when I was trying out the 60s/60s or the 120s/60s.  This Sunday our class may try to get a Magic Mile done, so we can break out into proper pace groups, even though we don’t have one scheduled on our training plan until 2/26.  I think some people are getting antsy about getting themselves sorted in that way.  I, on the other hand, am concerned that I’ll end up in a group doing one of the splits I don’t want to do, like 30s run/45s walk.  And there’s every possibility that I’ll end up in a different pace group than my running buddy, even though we’re really comfortable together at the moment.

The other thing that I find interesting, mentally, is that when I look at our training plan, nothing really seems all that intimidating up to and including our first 10 miler on March 4th.  But our next long run after that, the 12.5 miler on March 18th worries me a little.  I don’t know why that would be, so I’m just trying to tell myself that by the time I get to it, it won’t be any big deal.  And if I can do that 12.5 then I’ll pretty much have the endurance to do the half marathon already in the bag.

I believe that I mentioned before that our training schedule is a slightly abbreviated version of this one listed on the Galloway site.  It’s really interesting to me that we don’t just continually add mileage every Sunday.  At first it’s every other Sunday, and then it becomes every third Sunday, except that our 26 miler is 4 weeks out from the Marathon itself.  But Jeff really seems to know how to turn average people into distance runners.  And not just people who can run far, but people who can run far and love it.

If you had told me at any time prior to November 30th, 2011 that I was going to even consider becoming a distance runner at the age of 38, I would have laughed in your face.  But here we are, 156 days out from the Missoula Marathon, and I’m still excited and committed.  Of course, I haven’t actually broken 6 miles yet, but I will on 2/19.