Saturday, February 20, 2016

2015-16 Winter Training

ok, it's been awhile...time to get back on the horse, as it were.

My last race was the 2015 Eugene Marathon. I targeted that event with high hopes of finally getting my Boston Qualifying time, and my training was going well.


About a month out, I did a road trip to Seattle that forced me to sit in the car for awhile. On the ride back, my back stiffened up pretty well. 'Well' as in harsh. Lots of squirming...remnants from two back surgeries. An emergency massage helped a bit.

What didn't help was a workout of 16 x 400 a few days later. During warmups, I gave myself permission to bail out after a couple of reps if needed. But i loosened up nicely, took the first reps slow, and felt better quickly.

A couple of days later? Something deep in the top of my right quad was angry and strained. It got to the point where i couldn't put any running stress on it without pain. Some frantic physical therapy and lots of time in the Alter-G Anti-Gravity treadmill didn't do much except separate me from $500 in co-pays.

Lesson learned: when any kind of trauma appears, DO NOT schedule any hard core workouts until the problem has been gone for 3-4 days. It's obvious that my tight back caused the connective tissue strain, and I didn't give enough time to recuperate from 'A' before 'B' happened.

I went to the race hopeful that things would hold together. The leg felt ok by that point. The problem was that at about 3 miles, i already knew i was working way too hard to maintain pace. By 7 miles, I knew it wasn't going to happen. So i had a choice: struggle through another 19 miles and risk substantial damage, or take the bypass, finish the half marathon, and chalk it up to experience.

Fairly easy decision.

Afterward, i put away my running shoes for the summer. Got back into cycling, a little swimming, and tried to clear my head. I'd been targeting a BQ for what? 3-4 years now? I'm tired of falling short. So it's time to get away and reboot.

Come September, I'm feeling good again. So i start with 2-3 runs per week, a couple miles. Everything checks out.

Gradually increasing the distance, things are still good. But after a long run, i have some pain in my left shoulder. As in left ventricle. And my cholesterol is high. And a basic EKG shows a funny blip.

uh oh.

This is potentially bad. The left ventricle is basically the section of the heart that pumps the blood out. Discomfort on the left side could mean a pumping problem or a bad artery. The Left Anterior Descending artery is commonly known as 'the Widow Maker,' and it seems to be one of the most critical blood vessels.

The doctor schedules a treadmill EKG with an echocardiogram. Again, a blip on the EKG....sidebar: you get the echo pictures at rest, then you run on the treadmill, then IMMEDIATELY jump (literally) back on the table within 30 seconds to get another set of echo shots.

The toughest part is trying to hold your breath for 10-15 seconds to get a clear picture right after maxing your heart rate. Ugh.

The techs call for the on-call cardiologist, citing the EKG blip. Breathe, Campbell.

The doc comes in, a slight little guy who looks about as bored as my daughter when i tell her to clean her room. Pretty sure the doc was still chewing his lunch, and he clearly didn't want to be there. He looks at the echo shots for about 5-10 seconds, and says...


Huh? What about the EKG?

He says that the echo takes precedence over the EKG. No issues.

uh, thanks, Doc.

BIG load off my mind. Back to training, and I sign up for the May 1st Eugene Marathon in hopes of finally getting it right.

With that, I schedule my first-ever VO2 Max/threshold test at the college. This test will give me the exertion zones i should target for my training. The idea is that there are several physiological effort ranges, all of which need to be utilized in order to maximize fitness.

The only downside about training for a spring marathon in Oregon is that the winter weather doesn't really permit solid workouts outside. I don't mind the cold, but i won't risk running on black ice and potentially injuring myself. So i buy a membership to a small gym where i can run on high-end treadmills for as long as i need.

If i have to run inside, it's kinda nice running next to:
Max King, Olympic Trials Finalist and World Ultra Road/Trail Champion
Stephanie Howe, Western States 100 Champion
Jesse Thomas, Ironman Wales and 5x Wildflower Triathlon Champion
Lauren Fleshman, gazillion-time NCAA Champion and multiple Olympic Trials finalist
Renee Baillie, 2:27 marathoner in her first attempt

Even so...ever run 2 hours inside? it gets OLD. Thank goodness for The Nerdist podcasts; interviews with actors spanning all generations. Chris Hardwick, you're a genius...

My workouts tend to be in the range of 'mildly to moderately annoying.' Not hard enough to destroy me, not easy enough to be completely pleasant. It's not really fun, but it's what i need. My effort level stays steady while my paces continue to get faster. Good trends.

Now i'm at the point where i have the pace locked in: i simply need to extend the duration. A faster cadence helps a TON...while my engineering mind says there's nothing magical about 180 steps per minute (other than it's a nice round 3 steps per second), the faster cadence allows me to shorten my stride and expend less energy per step. It helps a lot; my form improves and becomes more economical, while my foot contact time decreases dramatically.

Today was very solid: 18 miles, 65 seconds per mile slower than race pace, and all in Zone 1 (my easiest zone). 15 seconds per mile faster than the 16 miler from two weeks ago, and roughly the same heart rate. Nice to know that i had more in the tank today. And it was at the end of my biggest mileage week of this training cycle. Things are coming around.

Other important factors:

I decided to use swimming as cross-training, with one big change from years past. Instead of swimming the entire 75 minute workout with the masters swim team, i would simply do 30 minutes of easy lap swimming before getting out. In previous years, I'd be so tired that I'd start to miss running workouts, and that told me that my 'off' days just needed to be easier. Now, an easy 30 minutes feels refreshing...I also added 1-2 days per week of yoga; the stretching and strengthening seems perfect for what i need.

While this training plan is definitely intense, it's working. The only downside is that my legs typically don't feel as fresh as I'd like, but that's to be expected during a build phase. About 7-8 more hard weeks until i taper...

Good to know that I'm training smarter.

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