Monday, December 26, 2011

Okay Hip, Let's See What You Can Do

Thanks to my hip flexor issue, I chose not to run for about two weeks since XC Clubs. And even with a short weekend run, I'm still not going to run again until New Year's Day, just to be sure I'm giving my body ample time to recover. But Saturday's run was a big step in the right direction.

I met with Klim by the Barnes & Noble in Bethesda for a 45min Capital Crescent run. I quickly skimmed through a book on the WWII Pacific Theater, studying mostly some pictures I hadn't seen before of CV-2 USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier that was attacked and sunk during Battle of Coral Sea (the prequel to Midway), a somewhat under-reported sea battle that has always intrigued me. Anyway, I was hoping I wouldn't suffer a similar (or a simile?) fate as Lady Lex while testing out my legs. It felt a little odd to be running again as 13 days off will give the legs some pop back but the running just felt weird. The good thing is that I felt really no hip ache during the run! It was indeed a little weak and tight but that should be expected. I did my stretches afterward and then the Red Fox and I scurried into the Dunkin' Donuts for some gross but essential breakfast sandwiches.

So that was good. I passed the first test. The hip did tighten up more as Klim warned later in the day, but still none of the persistent dull ache I had before. Nor did it feel like it was going to pop whenever I coughed.

Sunday AM I clambered onto the new TT bike for a 90min trainer spin, decked out in my brand new SIDI T2 triathlon shoes. Those silver-scaley ones I linked to in the last post... my main Christmas present. They fit perfect and feel wonderful on my feet. The ride was fun, I tucked into aero position for most of the ride, which is good because that means I'm getting used to my fit. No power meter, just going by time and cadence, which I kept between 92 and 100 rpm. It was also fun because I cycled to one of my now-favorite stages in the Tour de France, 2009's stage 18, the last individual time trial, which Contador won triumphantly (and sealing his 2nd overall Tour win!). I like the guy. I'm glad he punished the Schlecks and Cancellara. But more than Contador, I enjoyed watching Bradley Wiggins crank, his form is so flawless and smooth. Lance was also in this one, but wasn't very impressive in the ITT... guess he was getting old or something.

Here's a very short version of what I watched:

Friday, December 23, 2011

(Slow) & Steady As She Goes

I returned to "regular" training this week. Nothing intense, it's still too early for hard rides or swims... I'm really going to try to stick to the easy start, stronger finish strategy. These were pretty easy workouts, and I still haven't run for almost 2 weeks, but will go for 30min on Xmas morning and then another 5 days off before the next run. Then the training begins to pick up after next week and I get to run more.

Swam 1500y on Monday with a mix of 200s and 400s and some drills. Very simple, just to get back in the water and get some sort of feel back. I was actually surprised how good I felt. Clearly I have some... ok, a lot of muscular endurance to get back. At least I remembered how to flipturn.

Started my new strength regimen Tuesday AM, which consists of all body-weight exercises... no dumbbells. Will gradually work medicine balls and extra weight to my exercises but for now I need to get the muscles ready for the work ahead. In the afternoon I got back on the bike (wow, it's been 7 weeks!) and just spun easy for 55min while watching the final ITT of 2009 TdF, which was a really good one. Nothing really to report on the ride, it was just a small chain-ring, high-RPM ride.

Wednesday I swam again, only 1600y but again a mix of drill and swim. I felt a little better than I did Monday.

Thursday was another AM strength routine. I was a little sore from Tuesday since that was the first strength work I had attempted since the Spring. I'm going to have to keep it consistent in 2012. In the PM I had another spin, this time on the TT bike. I'll need to get used to TT position again, as this ride felt just wee-bit harder than Tuesday's. But I'm not worrying about power or anything now... just getting the legs turning in circles.

I swam this AM and went around 1900y, so I'm slowly bringing the distance back up. I did more pull/swim this time and some extra kicking. My legs actually responded a lot better to kicking now than they ever did earlier in the year, and I think that's due to all the stretching I've been doing. Really have been focusing on getting my hamstrings, calves and hips loose.

So for Christmas, I'm getting these from my family:

Pretty sweet.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

USATF XC Club Nationals: Well, at least I wasn't last place

The title sort of gives this one away. XC Clubs didn't go so well. The past 2 weeks leading up to the race raised several red flags -- sickness and several little injuries -- that I felt I would be able to totally fight through. But by race day, I still had a pretty heavy cough and my hip flexor rang with ache every time I coughed or took a long stride. But I would do what I could to get through the race and somehow finish around PMurph or Shredder.

Didn't quite work out that way though. By 2.5mi into the race, my hip started hurting quite a bit and more importantly started feeling weak, like I was running on one good leg. I came through the first 5k in 16:50, but knew that I wouldn't sustain. At that point it was a matter of just finishing somewhat respectably, but it became quickly apparent that I would have to be content with simply finishing. 6k in people started passing left and right and I found it very difficult to keep a high cadence and pull my right leg from the goopy sections of the course. I finally got myself through the finish in around 35:30, placing 234th out of around 300 (damn, that's a fast race). OUCH (referring to the hip and the time). That's a good 90sec slower than I thought I would finish and an 18:40 second 5k. Slowest 10k I've run in over 2 years. That was a pretty miserable experience. I limped to the team area and stretched it out. Fortunately the pain went down a bit in the last 2km so I was able to slowly jog a cooldown but it was very tight still. I indulged in a good evening of beer drinking and that took my mind off the misery.

Photo courtesy of Michael Scott

The next morning a group of us went for a 5mi run through some of Seattle, finishing with donuts. Hip was stiff but not too painful. It was not until the plane ride home that it really hit me... not the pain, but how upset I was about the race. It was something I had trained hard for but unfortunately fell apart just before the big day. I got pretty frustrated and angry about the whole thing and continued feeling that way for a few more days. It was a pretty depressing time for me!

Then I thought about what led up to the race that caused my body to collapse in on itself so. At the time I didn't think I had overtrained or anything of the sort, and I may not have, but after talking to Dirk about the race and training, I realized that I just simply had not been training like I should have. What I refer to is the fact that I had a very successful Spring this year, with all 3 races being big PRs. And what led to that spring was indeed triathlon training, but also very little track work, as opposed to what I did for 2 months leading to XC, when I hit the track every week (for 8+ weeks!). I only started track work 2 weeks before my first race in March and even after that I ran the workouts controlled and not as hard as I could. I didn't really think much of it in the Spring or after, but it was the tempos and hills and strength/endurance building I did during my training that made me strong and ready to run well and healthy. I did none of that leading to XC (I did a couple tempo-y workouts, but they were short and too fast). Also, bringing up my mileage from 20 to 35 to 45 to 50 to 60 was probably way to quick of a jump. Doing that with no recent tempo/strength meant it was only a matter of time before my legs gave up.

Lesson? I should train the way I know helped me succeed in the past. Rattling off 2:20 800s at track workouts are bullets I should be keeping in the chamber for race day... and anyway, that's not the kind of speed I'll be using in a 10k! That's not to say the training was incorrect... it was just not the right training paces for me. Too fast for 10k training for me. Do more tempos and longer tempos at that... that's what increases the endurance and strength at the same time, which are essential together at distances longer than 5k.

I'll also keep the mileage much higher during triathlon season... whereas I ran 30 at most during the tri season, I will regularly hold 40-50 this year... I'll be much better prepared therefore when I eventually just focus on running later in the year, and it will help keep my endurance high for Eagleman in June.

In addition, I have a new respect for the training I did earlier this year. I aim to really nail my workouts this coming Spring, now knowing how effective they are when done correctly. Once I realized this, the passion and excitement that I usually felt when racing (that I did NOT feel the past few races) came back quickly... I am really motivated and psyched to get back into my training. And I hope to apply the same methods for when I train for XC Clubs next year as well (this will include ending triathlon season a few weeks earlier), as I want to make the race more of a priority in 2012.

I took this past week completely off from exercise to allow my body to heal. I have been starting a new stretching regimen to help ward off future joint injuries. This coming week I only have 3 swims, 3 rides and 3 strength sessions, and an optional Xmas day run. Will keep the focus on recovery but also getting my feel again for the water and the bike. At this point last year I was crushing my body in the water and on the saddle after very little/no recovery period from the previous season... I aim to be more conservative at the start of my training so I can hit the important workouts effectively and also have a lot more energy left to burn by the end of the year. Hope it works!