Category Archives: Workout Recaps

Up the (fake) creek

So the rowing machine at my gym is a piece of shit.

That’s not a commentary on the facility’s condition generally. I go to an L.A. Fitness that is pristine by big-box gym standards: it’s bright and clean with new equipment that is always in working order. The clientele consists of midtown professionals and polished residents of the surrounding gayborhood. The drinking fountains dispense ice-cold water. Really, who needs more than that from their gym?

I rarely find reason to complain, but today…well, there’s only one rowing machine in the building. And today, when I strapped my toes in and gave a tentative tug on the wooden handlebar, the screen spit out a mess of random pixels. Cue me trying to explain this to a front-desk gym person who was probably hungover from last night too, and didn’t really care about my cardio issues.

Anyway. In general, I’ve been digging the rowing machine as a quick-and-dirty cross-training device during this training cycle. Honestly, I’ve never been big on XT. Usually, it either:

(a) Takes too long. As in: cycling. I’m sure there are varying opinions on how cycling miles translate to running miles for comparative purposes, but going with what my college coach used (4 cycling = 1 running), I’d need to pedal for at least an hour in order to have a meaningful workout. Plus, I might hit a patch of gravel and fall over or get a flat tire or get hit by a car and die. Too much risk for not enough reward. I’d rather just run.

(b) Requires a whole mess of logistical effort. As in: swimming.  I don’t hate the act of swimming itself, but good lord, I have to practically pack an overnight bag in order to make it happen: goggles, cap, shampoo, conditioner, hefty moisturizing lotion to placate my dry skin, makeup bag with under eye concealer to patch up the mess left by the goggles. Ugh. I prefer a workout where I can take a 30-second rinse and blow-dry the sweat out of my roots, thanks. I’d rather just run.

(c) Is similar enough to running that I feel like I’m not really giving my legs a break from running. I’m looking at you, Elliptical. You’re just contrived, lower-impact running. Unless I am injured and looking for a gentler running substitute, I see no point. Assuming I’m healthy and just looking to give my legs a break, I’d rather do something that gets my heart rate up in a totally different way. If not…I’d rather just run.

So that’s how my butt landed on the padded saddle of my gym’s (busted, as of today) rower. Oh okay, I’ll admit: I was nudged by the devotion of Crossfit and similar style workouts to this machine. Obviously I’m not a Crossfitter (although I remain simultaneously humbled and skeptical, a la this post) but I’ll admit that CF workouts seem to be, if nothing else, highly efficient. And that is what I value in my cross-training.

Anyway. When I use the rower, I typically crank the resistance almost all the way up, and pull hard on that thing for like 20-25 minutes, which is usually about 3K. At that, I feel like I’ve gotten a great little burst of cardio and am all-over warmed up for my strength workout.

Of course, I could have just dealt with a wonky screen today. I could have set my phone’s timer for 20 minutes and pulled hard for that time, in spite of the lack of feedback on my strokes per minute (heh) and average stroke length (double heh) and all of that garbage that is just computer generated anyway because it’s not like this machine is on an actual river, right? It would be like running on a treadmill without knowing MPH. Or pushing up on a random loaded bar without knowing how much you were benching.

Um yeah, not appealing. One thing I like about gym workouts is having that feedback and information. If I wanted to exercise without parameters, I’d go for an easy run sans watch. Which I do fairly often. Because it’s fun.

So I headed to the treadmill (which I hated doing, because if I’d planned on running, I could have run outside) and knocked out two fast miles: the first at 7:45 and the second at 7:10. Efficiency on the brain, I guess.

Then I did an upper body weight circuit:

  • Bench press: 3 X 12 @ 75 lbs
  • Low row: 3 X 12 @ 75 lbs
  • Bicep curls: 2 X 15 @ 15 lbs, 1 X 10 @ 20 lb.
  • Shoulder press: 3 X 15 @ 15 lbs
  • Head bangers: 3 X 15 @ 30 lbs
  • Lat raises: 3 X 32 (4-position circuit) @ 5 lbs
  • Lat pull down: 3 X 12 @ 75 lbs
  • Push-up ladder, 10 down to 1, all on toes (yay!)

It was a good session overall, but I was most excited about the last one. This push-up ladder has been an on-and-off part of my routine for years, and being able to easily complete the whole thing without dropping to my knees at the end of a workout has always been something of a personal benchmark…for me, it’s like running a 6:00 mile. It means that I might not be in the best shape ever, but I’ve got something going.

(And believe me: I am not in the best shape ever at the moment. I’ve definitely put on a layer of fat since my boot-camp shape-up this summer. It comes and it goes, I guess. I’m okay with it.)

On that note, since this post lacks pictures, I’ll leave you with a glimpse of our first day of 2013.

cat_pajamas

 

This is appropriate attire for making a stay-the-hell-in-your-car beeline to the McDonald’s Drive-Thru. (Chicken McNuggets. With Sweet Chili Sauce. McAwesome. McAlways.)

Is the fast-food drive-thru attendant judging you? Yes, of course. Have they seen worse in the last twelve hours? Absolutely.

As for 2013 goals, I don’t really have any that I’m ready to share, but I’ll say this: I am absolutely looking forward to the first new year in several years where moving to a different state isn’t on the table. Staying put is a huge relief.

This started today. (Well, technically yesterday.)

Holy hell. How is it already time to start thinking about a spring race? Um, it’s 18 weeks until April 15? Are we sure about that?

[I should probably preface this post by saying that I have never followed a formal training plan for a marathon (or for any other distance, actually). At least, not since college when my coach wrote our workouts for the week on an 8″X11″ with a sharpie and photocopied them for us to hang in our dorm rooms. Oy…I am old and probably lack discipline!]

Anyway. Over the course of my dozen or so marathons, at my most organized, I’ve had ideas about how many 20+ milers I should fit in and rough weekly mileage goals. At my least organized, I’ve just been like, “oh I ran for two-something hours once, I should be fine.” (Which is a painful marathon training strategy on race day. Don’t do this.)

But I’ve never followed an actual plan penned by an actual person-who-presumably-knows-what-they’re-talking-about.

Enter Pfitzinger.

Honestly, I’ve heard nothing but tales of success from this dude and his plans. And also, tales of pain and suffering: he’s big on mingling pace work with endurance work, so you’ll get, like, a workout where not only do you have to complete a 22 mile run, but you must do 16 miles at race pace.

Good god. Awful. But the marathon is kind of an awful distance so I see where Pfitz is going with that. He’s going for awful. Which is how you’ll feel on race day. Can’t argue.

When I ran CIM last December and finally broke my decade-old PR, I did it on higher (for me – most weeks in the 50s and 60s, peaking in the low 70s) mileage. It was a personal breakthrough that I needed to run a lot in order to succeed at running a lot. (Hey, I never claimed to be smart.) But my training was very disorganized and I remember thinking, especially a few months later, on the heels of this spring’s highly mediocre Gansett Marathon, that I could probably do amazing things if I combined higher mileage with disciplined workouts.

So when I ordered Advanced Marathoning last summer, it was totally with the Pfitz 70 (peaking at 70 MPW) plan in mind for this spring’s Boston.

And then I spectacularly failed in my mission to build up enough base to safely do that. I’ve been running on a 25 MPW level (which is low for me) for the last few months. I can’t really explain it; it has just felt like enough. (I knew it wasn’t, objectively, but for some unknown reason I was disinclined to increase my mileage.)

The first week of Pftiz 70 calls for 54 miles. It wasn’t going to happen.

So I downgraded. Pfitz 55 it is, then.

The plan started yesterday with a rest/XT day. Oh hey, I like this plan. Since it was pouring anyway, I had no qualms about going to the gym and doing an easy 3K row followed by some weights. (I really do want to keep up the weights during this training cycle, and one of the nice things about the 55 MPW plan is that most of the weeks have two – sometimes even three – rest/XC days. I can keep up my strength routine and not turn in to a marathoning pool of Jell-O like I did last spring. Sweet.)

Today was the plan’s first real workout: an 8-mile “Lactate Threshold” run. Those are fancy words for “grinding tempo.” That’s a concept I am very familiar with but have had little direct exposure to in recent months.

The tempo portion was prescribed as four miles to be run at 15K/half marathon pace. At first, I rolled my eyes: what the hell is that supposed to mean? But this is apparently a benchmark workout that repeats itself several times throughout the plan so I figured it would be worthwhile to take my best guess and set a baseline.

Although…half-marathon pace? Oof, I don’t even know right now. The last half marathon I ran was on Thanksgiving Day and I did a hangover-shuffle-jog for 13.1 miles and finished (respectably, actually, considering the circumstances) in 1:48. Real HMP would probably be closer to 7:30. 15K? Haven’t run once in years, but maybe 7:15?

I set those as my bounds and went after it.

Workout One in the bag as prescribed. In the interest of avoiding traffic lights, I headed to Piedmont Park and looped its various roads and paths for the tempo portion. And I’m happy to say that it was fun. After several months’ break, I’ll say (prematurely) that it feels great to run with a purpose again.

The rest of the week calls for base mileage and a 12-mile long run, with a weekly total of 32 miles. I can absolutely handle this. (Am excited about it, even. Yes, I’m excited about running! This is fantastic!)

Obviously, two days in, I have no regrets about downgrading plans. As much as I think running higher mileage helped me last fall/winter as and much as I would love to magically be in a place to do that right now, I know that I am not. 55 MPW healthy and happy is better than 75 MPW stressed out and hurting from taking on too much too fast.

And, of course, lucky you, readers! (If I have any left after being so sporadic the last few weeks!) I’ll be back in the habit of posting lots of meaningless splits and detailed workout recaps and other such nonsense. I promise. You’re…um…welcome?

How about a beer review to seal the deal? Although this is kind of a weird one.

It was a year ago, when I was still living in Raleigh, that I purchased this bottle. I bought it from the impulse-buy rack on the way to the cash register at a wine store. Without really looking at it.

As it turned out, I’d bought a piece of Stone’s Vertical Epic Series, an annual release timed to the nifty-fun dates of our generation (10.10.10, 11.11.11, etc). Instructions on the label (which I read when I got home that night) are overt that the beer is meant to be consumed, at the earliest, on the date of the next vertical (i.e. a year and a month later). It was less clear whether collectors were supposed to have saved bottles from every year (awesome foresight, I guess) and host an ultimate vertical tasting with the release of the last beer in the series, this year on 12.12.12 (hey, that’t today!)

So I saved this Rogue Epic 11.11.11 bottle for a year. I wrapped it in bubble wrap and moved it from Raleigh to Atlanta. I gave it a precious cubby on our wine rack. And this last weekend, I drank it.

And it was just weird.

Sorry, but it was. Maybe I’ve gotten a little out of the beer game (which hasn’t stopped me from loving on my favorite Sierra Nevada Celebration one bit) but I thought this beer was…strange. Cayenne peppers. Weird semi-chocolate taste. Decent flavor, but disappointing body; there was little to no carbonation left in my bottle. Like drinking diluted Hershey’s syrup. Bleh.

Bottom line: doesn’t really matter because this beer is no longer for sale.  But if you happen to have a bottle that you’re breaking open, I’d love to hear your thoughts…part of me wonders if I just got a bad bottle?

Anyone else gearing up for spring training even though it barely seems like winter (at least here in Atlanta)? Like I said, I am not accustomed to following formal training plans so this definitely feels weird to me.   We’ll see how long I make it before I’m pushing Pfitz’s workouts all around the week to accommodate my OMGSOBUSY (or not) life.

On adjusting expectations

Um. One week from tomorrow, I am running a half marathon.

If it hasn’t been obvious from my (sporadic) posts – which have been either vaguely mopey or awkwardly lacking on the topic – the “plan” has not transpired. I have not been running 40-50 MPW (more like 20-30). I have not been consistent with my Tuesday track sessions and I certainly have not added a weekly tempo run. With respect to strength training and yoga, I have done okay, but progress on my hack squat and warrior three only go so far when it comes to racing 13.1 miles.

Honestly? I’ve considered giving away my bib. Waking up at the crack of dawn on Thanksgiving Day (a day which happens to involve hosting my husband’s entire family, all of whom are flying in from out of state) to half-ass a half marathon seems stupid.

But I think there is still something I can get out of this race, even if I’m not anywhere close to PR shape.

Namely: that I can use it as a tough-it-out marathon-pace run, giving me a baseline to determine what sort of shape I’m in as I go in to Boston training. I mean…Atlanta is hilly. Boston is hilly. If I can manage an 8:00 (or, if I’m having a good day, 7:45) pace for 13.1 on questionable training, that at least gives me something to go on when planning my Boston workouts.

So, that’s the goal: 1:45.

But truthfully, I won’t even be upset with 1:50. I really haven’t been putting the miles in these last few months, so why would I expect to be in shape? I am not in shape. I may be able to pull a decent 400/800 track workout out of my ass, but that doesn’t mean much when you’re talking about racing for over an hour.

And speaking of track workouts….I have decided to chill out a little bit lately. If I take on Boston training the way that I would like to (a la Pfitzinger), I’ll be doing lots of tough runs over the next few months. Right now should be base building and fun running. There is no reason to kill myself at the track.

So this week, I aimed for 80% performance.

We did 2 X [2X800, 2X400]

Instead of going balls out, I decided to try these at true 5K pace, which would mean 3:20 for the 800s and 1:35 for the 400s. That was tough; I’m used to chasing the 3:00 barrier on 800s and I haven’t run a 400 over 90 in a track workout in months.

800: 3:11, 3:14
400: 1:34, 1:33
800: 3:13, 315
400: 1:34, 1:32
 

That still exhausted me, even if I backed off of my usual pace targets. Also: it was dark and cold (by Atlanta standards) and there was a psycho bird that kept darting across the backstretch of the track as we ran by. (Seriously…I thought it was a rat until it took a brief flight during one lap-crossing.)

I have plenty of time to figuratively kill myself in the future with training and racing. This fall just hasn’t been my time for that. I haven’t put in the miles, and I have no one to blame for that but myself. I can’t expect race results that don’t reflect my training effort.

So: 1:45 (or 1:50) or bust. And a decadent Thanksgiving dinner afterward.

And thank jeebus that all discord has been solved in our house.

My husband recently switched computer/office bags and made the mistake of leaving his old one on the floor. This immediately became the Best Place To Sleep Ever and resulted in a knock-down drag-out fight between our two cats over who would roost there. I took the bag away and they’re fine now. Apparently, as they’re back to their yin-and-yang formation.

And if we are talking about political discord? I realize that my last post may have ruffled some feathers. I’d intended, in that brief post, to communicate my conviction that candidates (especially major party candidates) rarely represent the actual wishes of the voter, but that this isn’t a reason to abstain from the voting process.

Obviously you all know which angle I chose to approach that from when it came to the most recent election’s candidates.

I said this in the comments to that post and will say it again: if there is any political cohort about which it’s fallacious to assume stances or opinions, it’s the libertarians. I didn’t state any specific political/policy opinions in that post and I don’t plan to make that a focus of this blog, but I am happy to answer any questions or discuss via email [eatdrinkrun @ gmail].  Honestly, I expect that we are not as far apart as you think we are, assuming that you are coming at this from the “modern liberal”/Democrat point of view, which I assume most of you are…but I’m happy to chat with anyone of any political stripe.

[Insert analogy about third party candidates giving their all even though they know they will not win, and compare to my earlier statements about being able to gain something out of this half marathon even though I won’t come close to PRing, much less winning. Yes, I’m sure there is a parallel here.]

And with that, it’s bedtime for me.  I promise more beer reviews soon. We’re just about into my favorite beer season, with lots of Winter Warmers. I’m toasted just thinking about it.

So hot right now

From my twentysomething years in Los Angeles, I can recall on one hand the number of times I spotted a celebrity:

– Michael Richards (aka Kramer) at a pizza place in Santa Monica (the hair…hard to miss the hair….)

– Kiefer Sutherland getting out of a car in Brentwood. (Actually I think a friend pointed this one out to me; I was never a 24 watcher.)

– Ben McKenzie (aka Ryan Atwood from The OC) at a bar in Venice (he was short!)

Maybe there were a couple of others, but regardless, it was pretty b-list stuff. I suck at recognizing famous people. There were many things I loved about living in LA, but rubbing elbows with A-listers definitely was not one of them.

So as we spooned sorbet after dinner last weekend and my husband spotted a certain shaggy head of blonde hair strolling across the patio of our neighborhood Midtown Atlanta restaurant and claimed a star sighting, I instinctively applied my celebrity non-recognition skepticism.

“That was not,” I said, eyes narrowed.

“Yes, it was,” he replied, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. “A hundred percent sure.”

“I have to pee, ” I announced abruptly and stalked off toward the entrance of the restaurant, through which the mussed golden mop had passed moments before.

And? And it was. 

Owen Wilson. Charmingly crooked nose and all. A thousand percent sure. I mean, Zoolander is my all time favorite movie of all time. And that was definitely Hansel standing there at the hostess stand.

There’s no way I’d ever do this, but part of me had a fleeting fantasy about making friends and inviting him over to our house (just a few blocks away!) so we could drink “tea” with Finnish dwarves and Maori tribesman. But obviously that would be like a vanity of self absorption that he’d try to steer clear of. So I pretended to visit the restroom and then scurried back to our table.

I mentioned this to our waitress and she confirmed that he was a regular. In town, apparently. Filming this movie, or so it seems likely. And “super sweet.”

There is no real point to this anecdote. Other than that I lived in L.A. for three years and didn’t see shit for celebrities, but I’ve lived in Atlanta for five months and have already practically had dinner and an orgy with one of the lead actors of my favorite movie.

I know. Cool story, bro.

Anyway.

I had a good track workout tonight. My legs felt heavy during the first couple of repeats, but I had no problem working through a solid set of 12X400, clearing the 90-second barrier easily on each one: 87, 88, 88, 87, 87, 86, 86, 86, 85, 85, 84, 82.

12X400 is one of my favorite classic track sets. Looking back on my workout log, I’ve done it two other times this year (on May 29 and June 26) and have gained speed along the way:

Speed work. It works. (Although…having slightly cooler and duskier conditions helps too. But it was still in the low 80s when I was driving home from the track tonight…relatively balmy!) And while I left tonight’s session feeling tired, I wasn’t nearly as on-the-turf drained as I’ve been previously after track. I ran a calculated workout and there was gas left in the tank. Hurrah.

It’s tempting to try to assign race goals based on workouts like this one (“I should be able to run a 5K at 5:44 pace!” <–umm…no, not likely) but honestly, the most helpful thing for me is just seeing an improvement. I have worked hard, gained a little strength, lost a little fat…and I’m little faster now. And I know that, no matter how hilly the course or inhospitable the conditions, that will only help me when I race.

That said…in my umpteen years of running, churning out quarters consistently and easily under 90 has always been my benchmark for being in good racing shape. I can count on one hand the number of times that this has happened post-college.

I guess, in a (completely non-Hollywood) way, I too am so hot right now.

I think I need to find a flattish 5K in the next few weeks.

Time to start running again…like, for real

Someone else is going to have to deal with getting the turkey in the oven this year. On Thanksgiving morning, I’ll be running the Atlanta Half Marathon.

Lots of hills, lots of turns, lots of Jelly Bellys (?). This definitely not a PR course, but it runs through my neighborhood and it looks like fun. I’m going to train hard and give it my best shot.

Last week was pretty light, running-wise: I bailed on both my track workout and my long run and ended up only running 20 miles. So let’s call that my last week of mellow summer training. Atlanta Half training starts this week.

I don’t do detailed training plans, but over the next three months I’m planning to:

  • Bring mileage up to the 40-50 MPW range
  • Continue cranking hard at the track on Tuesdays
  • Add a second hard workout each week in the form of hill repeats or a longer tempo run
  • Increase weekly long run from 9-10 miles to 14-15 miles
  • Continue to strength train or boot camp 2-3 times a week
  • Yoga once a week (or at least every other week)

Pretty standard stuff. I’m determined to keep the weekly mileage relatively moderate so that I’m not tempted to skip out on the strength training. I’m still making progress in that department and I’m not ready to back off yet!

Anyway. I am about to delve in to how fantastic last night’s track workout was, but first I’ll be honest and talk a little about how not fantastic last week’s track attempt was.

In fact, it was so awful that I quit.

We were assigned this weird 400-400-200-200 thing, four sets in total. I made it though the first set and was struggling to hit 90 on the quarters. My 200s were around 42-43 (when just a couple of weeks ago, I was doing 37s). I did the first 400 of the second set and came in at 95 and felt like I was doing to die. So I called it a day and jogged around the outer lane for the rest of the session.

I feel like there are always two sides to a DNF:

On one hand, if I’m miserable and struggling and not hitting anything close to my normal pace, what’s the point of continuing? I come to the track to do quality work, so if can’t do that, I’m better off saving my energy for another day.

But on the other hand, running is hard and sometimes workouts suck. Sometimes, for whatever reason, your pace is slower than it was last week. Sometimes you feel like shit. Is that really an excuse to just throw in the towel?

Eh. Still not sure I made the right call on that one last week, but oh well. It was just one workout.

And I made up for it with a good set last night: 3X800, 6X400. The weather was lovely and breezy and relatively cool. There was only one stroller on the track and it stayed in the outer lanes – thank you, people who understand track etiquette! (The guy walking his dog in lane one was another story, but I think he got the hint after our pack barreled by him a couple of times.)

Anyway. On my warm-up, I was definitely feeling the hundreds (literally) of double lunges we did at yesterday’s boot camp. With a sore butt and quads, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get a decent turnover going, but I finished the 800s in 3:05, 3:02, 3:02 and the 400s in 86, 88, 87, 87, 86, 85.

Compared to the last time we did this workout, back in June:

And apparently I was running really hard when we did this one the first time. I was super stoked about that 3:03! Getting faster, even by just a few seconds, is so satisfying.

I feel like running a workout like this at entirely sub-6 pace would not be out of the question. And it’s been a long time since I was in good enough shape to bust out sub-3 800s in a workout.

It is still kind of amazing to me that I’ve been able to increase my speed this summer while running such low mileage.

I hope it’s a trend that can continue while I build the miles back up!

Triple crown

This is really stupid, but I spent most of the last two weeks freaking out about my dentist appointment.

It had been…a while. Two years maybe? Not nearly as bad as the time I let it go 5+ years, but bad enough.

I hate going to the dentist. It’s irrational, because obviously they are trained professionals, but having people all up in my grill with their bright lights and pointy sticks makes my palms sweat. A couple of years ago when I had to have a root canal, they had to Xanax me because I was shaking and sweating and squirming so much. I just can’t help it.

What is actually happening at the dentist is this:

But what I see is this:

It’s beyond dumb, but try as I may, I cannot view those dental tools  – the sharp poky things and whizzy spinning things – as anything other than devices that could potentially maim me.

And then the sweating starts.

But I knew I had something wonky going on with one of my old fillings, so I finally sucked it up and made the appointment.

Of course, both the hygienist and dentist were nothing but warm, friendly, and professional. During the OMG WHAT IS THAT HORRIBLE SCRAPING NOISE HOLY CRAP IT’S COMING FROM MY MOUTH portion of the cleaning, I asked for a towel to rub against my clammy palms. I kneaded the towel like a cat, closed my eyes, and tried to imagine that I wasn’t in the middle of a limestone quarry. It sort of worked.

It’s funny how I have no problem inflicting discomfort upon myself (for instance, last night’s track set – more about that in a minute) but I cannot tolerate other people inflicting it upon me.

That’s going to suck when I have to go back next week for a(nother) crown. My third. I guess I am collecting them. Like some sort of imperial conquistadora.

At least I don’t have to have a root canal this time. The nerve of the tooth is fine; it’s just that the manky old filling is too big to repair or replace.

Ugh. Who wants to slip me some Xanax?

Anyway. Yesterday’s track workout was a fun one. (A million time more fun than a dental cleaning.) In a rare departure from 800s and 400s, we were assigned a medley-ladder of sorts: 800, 2X400, 3X200, 2X100, repeat.

100M! That’s like a game.

This workout flew by. Even though we were on the track for almost 90 minutes (between warm up and cool down, all the recovery time that comes with lots of intervals, and post-run stretch), it never felt like a grind.

That doesn’t mean it was easy, though.

By the time I got my butt halfway down that backstretch, Bolt would’ve been almost finished. Crazy!

The sprints were fun, but the 800s and 400s were the meat of the workout and I was happy with how I ran them. Of course, pacing was a little tricky on the second set. Fresh off an all-out sprint, I felt totally weird on that second 800. I was sure I was going way too fast or way too slow, but it turned out that I was right on. I guess my legs knew what to do, even though my lungs were still burning from the shorter stuff.

Between the last pair of 400s, one of my friends told me I looked like I was running strong. I thanked him and said that I felt like I was going to puke.

I love track work outs.

Recovery run this morning, then back to boot camp tomorrow. I’ve been in the habit of tacking an easy 2-3 mile run on to the end of boot camp classes, but now that it’s getting (slightly) cooler in the evenings, I want to start to increase the distance of those runs a little. I’ve been hanging out at 25 MPW for most of the summer; I’m ready to start building back up a bit!

Toe striking is dangerous

I am not talking about running form. Ha, fooled you!

No, I am talking about literally striking my toe. With a spiky shovel, while trying to uproot a weed like this one.

(That is a six-foot fence.)

I’m not sure exactly what happened. I was hacking desperately, I guess, when I somehow struck the edge of the spade directly on top of my foot. It didn’t really hurt, but as I showered off that evening, I made a grisly discovery: big toe, cracked across the bottom, half peeled off.

I will spare you a foot photo because that would be disgusting, but here is a picture of the shoe I was wearing at the time, which now has a permanent crease where the blow landed.

Proof that PureFlows are not made for toe striking. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Anyway, it’s certainly not the first time I’ve shed a toenail, but here is my dilemma. I have an appointment for a pedicure this afternoon (because it’s MAH BIRTHDAY!) and I’m not sure what I should have them do with it. It’s still hanging half on. Whenever I’ve lost a toenail from running, it has worked its way off slowly and there has always been a new baby nail grown in underneath by the time the old one fell off. I don’t think that’s the case here.

I’m not really worried about pain (it doesn’t hurt at all) or infection (I’ve been drenching it in sweat and dirt for the last two weeks) but more about the inevitable awkward interaction when I have to explain the situation to the nail tech. Such interactions are awkward for me anyway, even without a freaky cracked toenail to discuss.

So that’s my dilemma of the day. Suggestions?

Fortunately, the toenail situation hasn’t stopped me from running and working out.

Last Saturday morning, I did my first double-digit run since April. 10 miles at 8:30 pace, which is downright speedy for me at the moment. Full credit to my running group for that one…there is no way I would have run that pace on my own. Or awoken at 6 AM to do so.

Then, yesterday, I did my first track workout in a month. I didn’t really intend to take a break from the track, but random things kept conflicting with Tuesday night workouts. Last night, I finally made it back out there, and was rewarded with a mercifully cool (uh, sub-90-degree) and cloudy evening.

Faith and I celebrated with mile repeats.

As we rounded the first curve, we had a brief conference about goal pace. We both kind of simultaneously threw out 6:45, which sounded reasonable and challenging. The last time I did mile repeats was a solo effort back in February, when I did four of them in 6:51, 6:47, 6:42, and 6:39. Last night’s workout was only three, but with the summer heat and my lack of recent hard efforts, just getting under 7 seemed daunting.

That went out the window when we came through the first 400 in 91 seconds.

New goal: slow down a little and focus on running even splits.

Faith and I ran in lockstep, swapping the inside position every few laps, and finished the three repeats in 6:32, 6:33, and 6:34.

That’s faster than expected, obviously. And I was pretty happy about that. I’m sure it helped to have company.

Final tally for the month of July:

This time last summer, I was thinking about cracking 2000 miles for the year. Obviously that’s not going to happen this year. And I am totally okay with that. I know I sound like a broken record on this, but I am SO MUCH HAPPIER doing lower mileage in the summertime down here. I spent way too much of last summer hating life because I was trying to grind out 40+ mile weeks in the heat and humidity. Stupid. This is much better. And while my endurance has suffered, overall I’m in better shape than I’ve been in for a while.

Although I’m definitely looking forward to picking it up again this fall. Endurance can and will be rebuilt!

Assuming I can keep myself free of DIY-induced injuries.

Fire hydrant fury

I missed yesterday’s track workout.  About an hour before I was supposed to leave, I started feeling migraine-y and if there is one thing I don’t mess with, it’s migraines.

Instead of running, I snuggled on my bed and watched crazy storm clouds dance with the skyline. Maybe it was a good day to take a pass anyway.

This morning, I woke up with every intention of doing a nice little treadmill tempo to make up for the missed speed session. But when I got out of bed, it came to my attention that my ass was, in fact, on fire.

Okay, not really, but holy hell delayed-onset muscle soreness! At Tuesday’s boot camp, we did these slightly embarrassing fire hydrant things. You know what I’m talking about.

It’s awesome that we do these in the middle of a crowded public park. I’m sure the after-work picnicking-and-frisbee-tossing set appreciates it.

I’ve been doing this boot camp for six weeks now, and I have to say that (public humiliation factor aside) I’m rather enjoying it. I’ll write a complete review at some point (right now I’m at six weeks, and I think I’ll continue through twelve weeks) but I have no doubt that I’ve become stonger.

(Photo credit: Ramped Revolution Fitness.)

Those damn ropes are heavy and I know that the first time I tried this, I barely got them past my boobs. But now, I own the ropes around the tree. For whatever that matters. Which is probably doesn’t.

I’m a few days late, but here were last week’s workouts:

That average pace was a little surprising to me – at first. Generally speaking, as I’ve cut my mileage way down this summer, my pace has improved a bit. But this last week I didn’t do a track session (because of Peachtree), and aside from that race (which was pretty slow, for me) all I did was super easy mileage. Not hard to get to an 9+ minute average.

Looking at body comp, I continued to make small moves in the right direction:

It may not seem like much, but I’m pretty happy with my progress. I no longer have a flabby gut. And I think most of it is due to a higher protein diet and minimizing shitty carbs (which I’m officially terming “carbage”) but I’ll write more about that later.

And for the record? My ass is still on fire.

Simple solutions to trivial issues

I wanted to have a serious discussion about strength training efficiency, and you guys just mostly wanted to talk about fruit flies.

But that’s okay, because thanks to your advice, my kitchen is fly free! Apparently the cider vinegar + dish soap combo was irresistible. Ugh, good riddance. I can appreciate the important role that fruit flies play in high school biology labs, but I don’t want to share my home with them.

So here is a related question: how do you store your onions? Because I’m 90% sure it was a big Costco bag of onions tucked away in my pantry-slash-closet that initially attracted the fruit flies. I’ve always been under the impression that onions were supposed to be stored like potatoes (cool, dark place) but obviously I won’t be doing that again.

Ah, first world problems.

Speaking of which, I also discovered a great solution to my iced coffee problem yesterday.

The problem being that I really like consuming it, but I don’t like having to haul my ass to a coffee shop and to pay five bucks for a cup of it. And yeah, I know there’s that whole cold-brew-at-home thing, but that takes way too much forethought and planning for me.

So I’ve been using those Starbucks VIA packets. But it bugs me that the iced coffee version has a ton of sugar already mixed in.

Yesterday, I ran out of packets, and found myself at the Starbucks counter, forking over a wad of cash in exchange for a cold Venti cup. I asked the barista why the iced VIA thingies didn’t come in an unsweetened version.

“Oh, you should just use the regular hot ones. That’s what I do at home,” she confided. “They’re the same thing without the sugar and half the price.”

HA. I feel as if I’ve beaten the system somehow.

Anyway. A quick rundown of last night’s track session, which was one of my favorite benchmark workouts:

Let me count the reasons why I love the classic 12 x 400M:

1) It’s easy to break it up in to thirds and visualize it as a 5K. (Now if only I could run a 5K at sub-6 pace…)

2) You get SO much feedback. Twelve pieces of feedback in a single workout. Awesome for drilling that feeling of “that’s what X pace feels like” in to your head.

3) For me, it’s mentally easy to tackle. I take it one rep at a time and tell myself it’s only going to hurt for 90 seconds. I can do anything for 90 seconds.

4) Because it’s so simple, it’s easy to compare against previous efforts. For example, I did this same workout on May 29 (and apparently never blogged about it, but here’s the recap from my training log) and averaged 90.1 seconds per quarter. My average from yesterday was 88.3. That’s moving in the right direction.

Here are some other number-y things. Last week’s workouts:

And feedback from my good buddy, the bathroom scale:

Eight weeks and it may not seem like a significant weight loss, but hey – if those body fat % numbers are accurate, that’s almost a percentage (and over a pound) of body fat gone! And that’s really the goal here, so I’ll happily take it.

Well, it’s a cool and crisp 80* here today, so I’m off to get some outdoor projects done before the heat and humidity settle back. Happy Wednesday!

What the hell I do in the weight room for an hour

Last week when posted my workout log, commenter Jess asked about my strength training routine.

Let’s all go ahead and thank her for providing some blog fodder. Otherwise I probably would have subjected you guys to a post about the fruit fly problem* in my kitchen.

And for what it’s worth, I didn’t take her question as judgey. I did take it as implying that my workouts might not be as efficient as they could be, which is a totally fair point. So let’s talk about that.

As I’ve mentioned, strength training is not my favorite activity. But during my “summer vacation” from running, I’m trying to get stronger, and lifting weights is a good way to do that.

Typically, when I head to to weight room, I first decide whether I’m doing upper body or lower body. Then, I make myself do ten exercises, which I select as I go.

For example, that week’s upper body workout was: (1) Bench press, 75#, 3X10; (2) Lat pull down, 70#, 3X10; (3) Low row, 65#, 3X10; (4) Assisted dip, 80# assist, 3X8; (5) Assisted pull-up, 80# assist, 3X10; (6) Back extension w/ 25# plate, 2X15; (7) Bicep curls, 15# dumbbells, 3X12; (8) Overhead shoulder press, 15# dumbbells, 3X10; (9) Overhead tricep press, 20# dumbbell, 3X10; (10) Push up ladder, 10 down to 1.

Sometimes I’ll add core work in, too.

A few things to note:

– In spite of the fact that I dislike lifting, I know my way around a weight room pretty well. A few years ago, I worked with a trainer pretty extensively and learned a lot about proper form and such. I go for free weights instead of machines whenever I can.

– As I mentioned in my response to the comment on the other post, an hour of lifting doesn’t seem like that much to me. Ten exercises, five minutes on each, plus a few minutes of transition time or whatever.

– I try to lift relatively heavy. Generally, I shoot for barely being able to complete the tenth rep. If I can do 12+ reps, I go up in weight. If I can’t get through 6-8, I lighten it up. (Sometimes, there are exceptions: for instance, I’d like to go up in weight for back extensions, but the the weight of the plates jumps from 25# to 45#. So I just increase the reps and call it good.)

– My trainer used to say that if I didn’t doubt that I could finish the set, I wasn’t lifting heavy enough. I think that’s a pretty good guiding principle.

– I try to focus on more on the big muscles, less on the “beach muscles.”

– Because I’m lifting pretty hard (to failure/exhaustion), I take quite a bit of recovery between sets. (Maybe too much, and maybe that’s why I can’t get in and out of the gym in under an hour.)

– I dawdle quite a bit. My gym happens to have excellent people watching. But that’s a post for another day.

– This approach to strength training is definitely different from what I’d do if I were in training for a marathon. Lifting heavy makes me sore and exhausted.

– Although, interestingly, it doesn’t seem to have affected my running pace as much as I thought it would. Last time I went through a lifting-heavy phase, I eventually stopped because I was annoyed at how slow it made me. This time around, I’m still able to run decent workouts. At least so far.

– But it does make my body tweaky and cranky. I blame squats for my achy hip. And I blame my achy hip for my DNF at Saturday’s 5K.**

– Then, because I didn’t want to aggravate it by running, I went to the gym on Sunday. And lifted weights. Maybe I don’t hate strength training as much as I thought I did.

SO. That’s what I’m doing in the weight room for an hour.

I’m not sure that this was any more interesting than a diatribe on kitchen pests. But that’s what y’all get for asking questions.

And seriously: I’m sure a lot of you are better weight-lifters than I am, with your NROLFLOLs and WODDDDs and such. If there’s something I’m doing stupidly wrong here (i.e. taking a six-minute “water fountain” break***), I’d be happy to discuss it.

*Annoying little shits. THERE IS NO FOOD HERE. AND I JUST DOUSED YOU IN BLEACH. WHY WON’T YOU DIE?

**Yep, I DNF’d a freaking 5K. I suck. But my hip was hurting and I wasn’t exactly on PR pace. I don’t want to talk about it.

***Which is really just an excuse to eavesdrop on the two guys who are having a very serious conversation about whether they are more Charlotte or Samantha or Carrie or Miranda.