Monday, November 26, 2012

Training Curve

Apparently, it actually takes muscles to run! My complete lack thereof appears to have finally caught up to me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


On November 1st, I was seriously considering whether I should drop out of the half-marathon on the 10th. My calves had been touch and go, and it didn't seem reasonable that they would give me 13 miles. That evening I went for a run at a local track.

During my run (jog), I kept my pace to a slow 11:20. My calves started tightening up after a couple of laps. I stopped, stretched, and kept going. As I trotted along I focused on my mid-foot strike. After two miles, things felt pretty good. After five miles, my calves started complaining again. I shook my legs as I ran and they loosened back up. After 9 miles, my feet got a bit crabby...but nothing serious.

Once I reached 11 miles I knew that I could finish the half-maration and I stopped. The only lasting pain from the run was in my left knee. The next day, I still felt ready for the race. By the second day after my run I once again wondered if I would have to drop out of the race.

In the meantime, I purchased a copy of "Advanced Marathoning". While reading through the first chapter I realized how arrogant I had been to advance from almost no running to a half-marathon in just over two months.


After pulling the muscle in my right calf, I made a half-hearted attempt to take it easy on myself. I slowed my training for a couple of weeks, but two weeks after my 4.9 mile race I decided to do a distance cross-country session that would mimic the conditions for the approaching half-marathon. I had discovered that wrapping my calf kept it mostly in check, so I wrapped my calf carefully before running.

About 5 miles into the run, intense pain in my left calf alerted me that I had once again pushed my luck too far. Since I was in the middle of nowhere, I finished the run anyway, for a total of 8.1 miles. My average pace was 9:47 per mile. I have not managed a pace better than 10:45 per mile in the five weeks since that run.

The pain from my calves would plague me for several critical weeks leading up to the half-marathon that I wanted to finish in November. I did some reading to try learning about why my calves were being so uncooperative. It seems that part of the blame lay with my foot strike. When running shorter distances (5 miles or less), a forefoot strike is perfectly acceptable. I had intentionally used this strike to cushion my joints at the expense of my calves and achilles tendons. During the longer runs, my calves began taking more abuse than they could absorb. Reluctantly, I shifted my foot strike backwards to a mid-foot strike. In this position the ball of my foot would strike just before my heel. This alleviated some of the calf pain.

The other mistake I made was to increase distance and speed at the same time. I was able to get away with an 8:30 pace over a relatively short distance like 5 miles, but only barely. As I waited for my calves to recover, I locked my pace in at 11:00 per mile in order to facilitate longer distances.

As the half-marathon approached, I wondered if I would be able to complete the run.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Baby Steps?

The cycling portion of the Ironman concerns me the least, as I've already done some distance cycling. Swimming will take a very long time to work up to so my intermediate goal is to work on the marathon. I started running in late August and quickly progressed towards my first "waypoint" race at the end of September. That race was the Playmaker's Autumn Classic, and 8K (4.9) mile run around Lake Lansing.
The week before the race I was at the Michigan Association of School Administrator's conference. Running at the conference was challenging due to the hilly terrain. I learned quickly that running downhill is especially challenging. During my two runs during the week I strained both of my calves.
Despite the strains, I ran the race on Sunday. Although I had only been running regularly for about 5 weeks I managed to turn in a time that paced me at 8:30 per mile. The next day, emboldened by my success, I attempted to do a four mile training run with a sub-8:30 pace. In the middle of the run, something happened.
A sudden pain in one of my calves brought me to an abrupt halt halfway through my run. The ensuing pain and training interruption would cause me to question my ability to run a half-marathon in mid-November.

The next challenge

Earlier this year I finished my MBA degree. Suddenly I had a void where a clear goal had once been. For several months I adjusted to life without school, and while I was able to fill the time void easily I was not able to fill the "goal void" very easily. I am going to make a habit of writing about my journey to fulfill a new goal every bit as challenging as the last one. Although earning an advanced degree is mentally challenging, my next goal is both mentally and physically grueling. As I learn from my self-imposed challenge, I will write about what I learn along the way.

My new challenge came about after a reasonably hard mountain bike ride at Burchfield Park in Holt. Despite breaking my bike seat during the ride, it was a good one. My riding partner and I were resting after the ride while he smoked a cigarette. Between puffs, he casually suggested to me that we should complete an Ironman before we turn 40. This was exactly the kind of absurd challenge that I needed to fill the void left by my school program, and I was hardly about to let a dare such as this one go unanswered, especially when the fellow making the dare was smoking when he made it.

In case you are unfamiliar with an Ironman, it is a triathlon. Triathlons typically combine swimming, biking, and running. An Ironman is 2.5 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and is capped off with 26.2 miles of running. There is a 17 hour time limit to complete all three legs. There is a very real possibility that I will not meet this goal, which, of course is what makes a goal great!