Let the Taper Begin!

In the last 15 weeks, I have run 73 times and covered 540 miles. There have been 15 long runs, 9 runs at race pace, 11,710 feet of total elevation gain with comparable elevation loss, except for three of the last long, Sunday runs. These runs were 20 miles long starting at 3317 feet on the top of the mountain, followed the creek down to the heart of the little town next door at 2012 feet, with 691 feet of uphill and 1943 feet of down in between.

I have run in the heat and in the rainiest, soggiest summer of recent history. I ran through ten days of food poisoning and the more recent flu-like symptoms. I ran in Chicago and on the treadmill at the rec center and I have spent countless hours circling the track in town. Most of these runs, however, have been up and down the hills that surround the place I call home.

During the first few weeks, we were moving three years of firewood from the muddy creek down below home, up to the driveway and finally to the new woodshed up above that.

image

Mr. Boggs had hip surgery and then Dylan took him on an overnight camp-out in the woods. Dylan got snip, snipped.

image

In early July, I started taping both feet for fear of stress fractures. Then I started having trouble with my right foot – it seemed my sock was getting bunched up around my toes and the pain was excruciating. I thought it was my shoe….so there were two new pair of shoes.

image

The last pair fit differently around the tape and my toes and now I have a little black spot on my toe nail. My right ankle started hurting. Finally, I stopped taping my feet.

image

This week while loading the two poodles into the Jeep, Dudley, the one that refuses to jump in on his own, jumped in on his own just as I leaned over to lift him up. His hard noggin hit my cheekbone and now I look like I lost a fight.

I sliced my finger while cutting vegetables last week and I still have the blister on my heel from the Chicago vacation.

So there’s a bruised-up face, a sliced finger, black toe nail, sore ankle, and a blister. That’s ok, prize fighters don’t always look beautiful after a victorious win either.

image

Training is over. Let the taper begin!

A Week of Rest

image

Moving is considered to be one of the most stressful things a person can go through. It ranks right up there with death and divorce – and for good reason. When I went to bed Monday night I had a panic attack thinking of all the things left to do before the movers arrived on Wednesday morning.

This should have been a rest week after 10 weeks of base building, but this relocation did not take into account my running schedule . The only work I intended to do during my week of rest was an hour or so each morning of tai chi…… nothing strenuous.

Instead, I woke up at 5am and worked until 10pm loading boxes, putting bubble wrap on everything, cleaning the garage, sliding Christmas decorations down the little ladder from the attic, posting things on Craig’s List with a warning that it must be picked up by Wednesday afternoon – taking inventory of everything in the house so I can make a judgment on what to keep and what to separate myself from. There has been nothing leisurely about relocation week.

I can’t help but think back to the midway point of base building when I decided I would inventory the 10 week session at the end and make the same decisions. Would I continue to run slow? Will I keep doing the Core Strengthening exercises I’ve learned? How about those dreadful tiger presses?

Completing this base building session has been one of the most important things I’ve done for my training overall. Learning the discipline of running long slow miles has helped me develop different “gears”, which I have read we are supposed to possess.

Once in a while I have let myself fall into a steady, fast pace just to quench that need for speed. But when you know where the slow gear is you can readily find it again. Then its much easier and more fun to run the correct pace for the job at hand.

Now I’m ready to move back into marathon training having learned a few new things, eliminated some old, bad habits while retaining the good things from years of hard, focused training – much like my relocation.

The beautiful, familiar things in this house have traveled all over the country, to Ecuador and back, up and down the stairs of this house. We’ve gotten rid of a few things, picked up new things along the way, and we treasure things from our years of collecting.

And thus goes life and running.

Even though this has hardly been a week of rest, it has been a week of renewal nonetheless.

Should we really stretch?

stretch_psoas1.jpg
stretch_psoas1.jpg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you stretch before a run, after, or both? How do you know exactly which stretches are best for your body, for your sport? Most of us don’t stretch by choice….it hurts. And if you read much about the topic, its easy to see not everyone is in agreement.

According to one website, stretching will increase circulation, boost energy and metabolism, increase coördination, balance, flexibility and range of motion, reduce pain and muscle tension, improve mental health and posture, improve athletic performance and relieve stress. Whew!

A few years ago I read all 921 pages of the Lore of Running, by Dr. Noakes. He said, “There are three main arguments in favor of stretching: it reduces the risk of injury, promotes less muscle soreness after exercise and improves athletic performance. However, the cold light of scientific investigation has not been kind to these traditional dogmas.”

A 2000 study by Shrier and Gossal was referenced by Dr. Noakes, which I found on a Canadian-based website for runners. The two concluded there was no published evidence to suggest that regular stretching improves running performance. Nor does it seem to reduce the risk of injury or post exercise muscle soreness.

When muscles are stretched, they creep and eventually relax under the stress. Unlike an elastic band that stretches immediately to a final length, the length of muscles stretch gradually. If muscles are stretched for 30 seconds every day, acute changes are retained and enhanced so that range of motion allowed by the stretched muscles are increased.

Stretching improves the range of motion. Period. Range of motion is very important for professional athletes but maybe not so much for the recreational athlete. Warm-up prevents injury….stretching has no effect on injury.

If injury prevention is the primary objective (eg, recreational athletes who consider performance a secondary issue) and the range of motion necessary for an activity is not extreme, evidence suggests that athletes should drop the stretching before exercise and increase warm-up. But not all warm-ups work for all muscle groups.

Running appears to decrease the stiffness of the calf muscles but not the hamstring muscles. Stretching added after warm-up decreases hamstring muscle stiffness; however, the effect lasts less than 30 minutes, even if exercise continues after stretching.

So what are we to do?

My husband exercises 4 or 5 times a week – more often depending on his work schedule. I can’t say I ever remember him stretching. Ever. On the other hand, I stretch before I run and sometimes a little all day. I lie in bed, sit in a chair or at the dining table and give my Achilles’ tendons a gentle stretch for several minutes at a time. We stretch before Tai Chi and an hour later before Kung Fu.

Massage therapists are particularly helpful in advising how to stretch problem areas. I have been given invaluable tips from massage therapists to resolve issues – advice I use to this day.

The right answer seems to be to create your own strategy. Do what works for you.

The Mayo Clinic website says this:

Stretching can be a key part of your exercise regimen. Stretching may increase flexibility and improve the range of motion of your joints. Before stretching, warm up with five to 10 minutes of light activity. Better yet, reserve stretching for after a workout. Keep stretching gentle. Don’t bounce. If you feel pain, you’ve stretched too far. Hold a stretch for about 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat. If you have a problem area or the stretch is particularly helpful for pain or discomfort, you may benefit from repeating the stretch. If you have any health conditions or injuries, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about which stretches are right for you.

Living with a Runner

There’s nothing like having company over to expose your extremes.

As we went through an absolutely perfect weekend with my sister-in-law, I couldn’t help but realize just how different a runner’s life can be from that of most everyone else. My husband has long ago accepted these changes, but in the beginning even he was reluctant to relent.

One morning he wanted to get an early start to somewhere and I said, “But I have to run. I can’t skip my run.” I think his comeback was something like, “Everything doesn’t have to revolve around your run.”

It’s not just the run.

I eat every few hours. We discussed our schedule one morning this weekend over coffee. My husband said, “We’ll pick Marcia up along the way and go into town for a late breakfast.” My sister-in-law said, “Oh, so we’ll wait to have breakfast then.” Well, no. In fact, we explained, I would have breakfast, a snack in the car on the way to breakfast, and then have breakfast again.

Then there’s the nap.

My day revolves around the nap. In my defense, I’ve read that “Runners are a napping bunch.” My husband is not a runner but he’s adapted to this routine and now we both enjoy stopping the day for a little siesta. Stopping the day is not something everyone even considers. And when you have company at your house, that stop means less time for sightseeing, shopping or both!

After the nap is another snack and preparations for dinner. Every event in the day is sandwiched between a meal. We have friends that don’t eat a large dinner. It makes socializing a bit of a challenge when your evening is the meal.

Then just as everyone is getting warmed up to a movie or a night out, I’m getting ready for bed. Getting up early is part of the routine.

So, I would like to send out a great, big thank you to my husband, my sister-in-law and all the other guests from days past that have adapted to this runner’s schedule.image

Learning to live with a runner must be kind of like learning to live with the ivy in my yard. You just have to appreciate the ground it covers.

Rolling and Falling through Life

It wasn’t even a week ago that I woke up sore all over. There had been a full week of core strengthening that left me sore to the core. It was the kind of sore you get when you lift weights after a long hiatus. Today I woke up sore again but this sore was different, achy. As I tossed and turned all night I couldn’t for the life of me think which day was a rest day this week but decided no matter what the calendar said, it was going to be today.

My neck hurt. I mean it really hurt. And my shoulder hurt so bad I couldn’t use my arm. Before my coffee was gone, I had booked an appointment for a massage. But life goes on even for the wounded.

imageAfter breakfast I cut the grass. My lawn mower doesn’t work on gas or electricity, which is ok by me. Sticks and small rocks get caught in the blade but it doesn’t bother me…usually. Today it was torture to bend over and throw them up the hill. And every time I threw one, Mr. Boggs would climb up and bring it back down.

My sister-in-law is coming to stay with us for a few days so my next stop was the little guest house. We haven’t had company for a couple of months so I decided to put on fresh linens. Mr. Boggs followed me to the door but he had wet feet so I told him to wait outside.

The old screen door doesn’t latch properly and being the smart little booger that he is, he wiggled it until he got in and swaggered right into the bedroom. He set his chin down on the edge of the bed just as I was smoothing out the clean top sheet.

We’re beginning to think his mom had a little fling with a Saint Bernard and he left the typical muddy drool on my clean sheet. I started over with the bed.

By the time I got to the massage table, I could have stayed there forever. There is nothing like a good massage to identify the evil that lurks just beneath the surface. I had so many knots, it took half the hour to get past my shoulder-blade.

I’m not sure of the culprit of my agony this week, but I have an idea.

We practiced our falls and rolls again in Kung Fu on Tuesday night. Sifu suggested we move right into the diving roll and he demonstrated by having three of us kneel in front of the mat. He dove over us landing in a perfect roll that brought him to his feet in a perfect fighting stance. Ugh.

I did ok on my right side but got a bit of a mental block when we switched to the left. The most trouble we had, however, was with the fall. We all wanted to land on our hip and then our shoulders. The proper way to fall is with the weight evenly distributed between the two so your entire side takes the weight of the fall.

We joked that we would go home and practice our falls into bed but by the time I got to bed there was no way I was flinging my body onto anything else.

I’m sure like everything else, I’ll get the hang of rolling and falling. But for the rest of this week, I’m going to just run.

Go ahead and cry….but don’t quit.

There are only a few things that will cause me to cry. If you hurt my feelings, I cry. If I am over trained, I might burst into a spontaneous, uncontrollable sob.

This happened once after a long run. I threw myself on the floor face down and cried miserably. My husband kept saying, “Just quit! You don’t have to do this.” There was no way I was going to quit but I needed a good cry that day.

Crying serves an emotional purpose, a release. There is a buildup of energy with feelings. It’s usually a signal you need to address something….you’re frustrated or overwhelmed.

I worked for a company that made computerized telephone systems. At that time long, long ago, it was the newest technology. As a Technical Instructor, I taught a class of all men for 5 weeks at a time. Not all bad actually until one of them didn’t pass the class.

One student I remember in particular was devastated that he hadn’t passed. He was embarrassed and angry with himself….and he cried.

This was how I felt a couple of weeks ago after Kung Fu. It seemed I was getting nowhere with my lessons. For all the effort in the world, I didn’t feel like a warrior – which I wanted so desperately to become.

I cried all the way home and decided maybe it was time for me to quit.

A few days later I found myself telling a friend about my dilemma. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of my husband’s face. I knew immediately. He didn’t think I was trying hard enough.

For a few days I vacillated between being mad at him and mad with myself. For another few days I felt sorry for myself. Then, finally, I decided he might be right.

I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

I wasn’t going to write about this – but then decided there might be others struggling to stick with something. Maybe it helps to know we all go through it from time to time.

Running comes easy for me but not everything in life does. This makes the reward even sweeter when you finally get to where you want to be.

Allow yourself a good cry, but don’t quit.

7 Days of Effort

This has been the first full week of 10-minute strength and mobility exercises after each run. Three days of Core H and three days of A Better Myrtl. A Better Myrtl goes pretty well but I struggle through the last 3 steps of Core H. I read about physical therapist’s Gary Gray’s lunge matrix as a warm-up to running so, of course, I had to try this out every day this week as well..

On Monday, the 10 minutes of Core H waited until I stopped at the garden center to pick up  plants for all the planters around the yard. While Mr. Boggs wrestled the empty plastic pots to the ground, I worked my way around the yard with my garden bucket full of 80 pounds of good, black dirt and beautiful flowers.image

By now my husband has usually called Abel to stop by with his weed whacker and whack off everything between the house and the creek down below. Being fully preoccupied with his work this year, the call to Abel was left to me….which I procrastinated a bit.

The extra time gave me a good look at what Mother Nature grows here naturally, including Nodding Trilliums. Tuesday was the day I decided to spare as many as I could from the whack of Abel’s blade and I climbed up and down the mountain in search of these tall, beautiful wonders.

Wednesday I added a few stones to the walkway I’ve been working on since last fall. This area is always muddy after it rains and I wanted a walkway that looked like it has always been there. The only reason this has been a success is because I have no clue what I’m doing.

For days I’ve searched the yard for just the right size rocks, lugged them up to the path in my garden bucket, dug the hole, placed the stone, moved the stone, dug the hole deeper, put the stone in, jump on it to see if it wiggles, start the process all over.

image

Thursday was clean-up day around the yard. I gave Abel permission to cut ivy from anywhere he found it but threatened his life if he touched the ferns or my newly found trilliums. He’s a good man and now I have a clean slate all the way to the creek with colonies of trilliums standing tall.image

My Sifu got a new floor mat for the classroom so Thursday night at Kung Fu we all practiced our rolls. First we walk up to the mat, fall over head first with our weight on one shoulder and simply roll – working our way up to diving on the mat and into a proper roll that lands us in a fighting stance. i can’t say I’ve mastered the diving roll but it was great fun trying. We dived, jumped and rolled for an hour.

Friday morning I rolled out of bed….oh boy. I was sore.

My thighs hurt and my gluts…my arms, quads, sides and abs. Everything hurts. This was a bad day for my run to be on one of the more difficult routes. The track was right there and so tempting but I avoided the easy way out and worked my way through the hills.

Our neighborhood in Atlanta was having a garage sale so my husband suggested I drive down with the dogs Friday afternoon. Mr. Boggs agreed to take a bath for the occasion and then we all piled in the Jeep for the drive.

Up and down the stairs I carried this and that to the garage. I think all of us neighbors were our own best customers and by Saturday afternoon I was in the car again heading north with a few dollars in my pocket and a few new treasures in the back seat.

One last Sunday morning run, 10-minutes of work and I’ve finally completed another week.

My husband and I had a debate this morning as to whether the week ends on Sunday or begins on Sunday. I told him anybody that works this hard all week deserves for the week to be over on Sunday night.

His calendar can begin and end any day he wants. My week is officially over.