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Category Archives: No Easy Days

Am I Too Old to Run Cross-Country?

On Saturday I joined the Eastside Runners Club to compete in the Sundodger XC Invitational at Lincoln Park.  The men’s open race was an 8K (about 5 miles) with a lot of local community college runners.  The whole field went out fast and I threw some elbows to maintain my space and position.  Going through the first mile in 5:30 felt good… better than it should have.

Somewhere around 2.5 miles I stepped on something, or took a misstep, and sprained my ankle.  When it happened, I screamed and stopped, and quickly made the executive decision to drop out of the race.  Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while now might know that this is a recurring theme for me.  I hate it.

The answer to my titular question is, of course, no.  I know many strong XC runners who are decades older than me.  But I think I have to  come to terms with some subtle lessons about what I can sustain as a runner at this point in my life.  Important lessons from this sprain include, but are not limited to:

  • Listen to my body – For over two weeks, I’ve been complaining about foot pain.  It didn’t hurt while running, just while flexing it in particular ways (imagine doing calf raises), so I procrastinated every time I thought to call a PT about it. I’m sure that this was a portent about my more catastrophic injury in the race. I should have taken time off and fixed what was wrong before doing a hard race, particularly one that involved running 5 miles on trails with a crowd of (real) athletes a decade my junior.
  • Eat and sleep right – I’m embarrassed to admit the number of nights I ate a peanut butter sandwhich for dinner last week, and I’ve been staying up late to satisfy an eerie obsession with work. The days leading up to the race I felt sluggish, sickish, and generally broken.  Garbage in, garbage out.
  • If I’m not running, don’t race – I’ve been looking forward to XC for so long, and running this race was pretty important to me.  So when I ran out of time for regular running in the last two-weeks, having trouble fitting in runs of even a couple miles, I did not reconsider my race schedule, and I should have.  That 2.5 mile run the night before the race was not enough to get me back in the game for a hard 5-miler.
  • Take a holistic approach to fitness – I’ve always valued a well-rounded approach to exercise…  in principle.  But when I get busy, I prioritize my activities and make cuts.  Maintenance activities like ankle-strengthening drills are the first things to go (haven’t done them for at least a year).  Stretching, weight lifting, form drills, strides – they’re all gone the moment I get busy.  Usually, the actual running is the part I hold onto the longest.  And when the busy time is over, I don’t add the other activities back in.  So I’m left with a 100% running regimen, which is fun, but not sustainable.  I need to hold myself to not running if I don’t have time for proper warm-up and stretching at the minimum.  Even if it means I run less.
These lessons apply to athletes of any age…  I think I’m just too old, or too busy, to get away with skirting around what’s good for me anymore.

 

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Garbage In, Garbage Out, No Easy Days

 

Pot Of Gold

I somehow dragged myself out of bed at 6AM on Daylight Savings Day (today) to run the St. Patrick’s Day Dash in Seattle. It’s an odd distance (3.75 mi) but attracts a huge crowd (over 7K people) partially because of the party/beer garden at the finish line.

The weather was chilly – low 40s – with light Seattle rain. As far as long distance racing weather goes it was pretty great. Chilly temps are actually desirable for some races because you can warm up pretty quickly when you’re pushing the pace. I started near the front because I didn’t want to get caught up in the crowd too much, but I committed to going out conservatively. Adrenalin and the crowd make it easy to go out too fast in races like this. I often think “oh man this feels great I’m going to go for it!” and then sorely regret my enthusiasm in about 6 minutes. My conservative start really paid off. After the first mile I felt like I was racing rather than just trying to hang on for dear life. I spent the rest of the course just trying to pick off people one-by-one. My finish wasn’t that strong, but my overall pace seems to have been quicker than the last race I ran, even though this one was 3/4 of a mile longer.

At the finish line I saw a friend from high school who was meeting up with her husband and their running club to do a 6 mile cool down. They invited me to come along. 6 miles! It’s been a decade since I ran a cooldown that was actually longer than my race, let alone hit 11 miles in a single day. I had to try though. We ran around Lake Union, and by the end my whole body was seizing up with the overuse and cold weather. I’m feeling it now, everywhere, but so glad that I went for it. I needed a win this week, and I think I got one.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2011 in No Easy Days

 

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Sugar Boost Before Running

A couple weeks ago, something strange happened on one of my runs.

I stopped running.

Choice in the matter was seemingly stripped from my grasp. One moment I was running, and the next I was limping along feeling devoid of all energy and motivation to go on.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. I got tired and stopped, so what? The strange part, to me, is that this has never happened before, to my memory. I’ve stopped on runs for various reasons — digestive problems, seeing someone I know on the route, or even for a quick snack at a bread shop. But I cannot remember a time where I had to stop because I was utterly sapped of remaining energy.

Since then I’ve made it through each run successfully, but not without a good deal of wanting to stop.

A few friends suggested the same hypothetical explanations… Diet, sleep, and age. I haven’t had any recent major dietary or sleep changes, and I’m remiss to think that it’s age related (although it’s possible).

I asked a trainer at the gym for some suggestions and she suggested trying to have a ~100 calorie snack before my runs, something like a few pieces of dried fruit. I followed her advice this morning, wolfing down a few pieces of dried apricot before I hit the road, and the difference was immediately noticeable. The run was still hard but I didn’t feel as drained. I finished after 5+ miles with the feeling that I could keep going!

I don’t know if this was the fruit talking, a placebo effect, or something else unrelated, but whatever it is I’ll take it!

Yours In Running,

–Me

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2011 in No Easy Days

 

Seeking Advice on Exercise Logs

For about 8 years, I’ve kept track of my running mileage in an Excel workbook.  Before that, I was logging things in a Claris Works Spreadsheet for a couple years, and before that I had a couple years of paper logs.

The Excel workbook has worked well because it’s functionality has evolved as far as I have been willing to push it.  But for a while I’ve felt that its development has stagnated and it has grown unwieldy.

running log winter spring 09

running log graphical summary

Now that I’ve been benched from running for 4 months (more on that later), I’d like to explore other exercise tracking options that are more amenable to cross training.

Features I’d like:

  • Accessible anywhere (i.e. on the web).
  • Can accommodate different sorts of workouts (running, biking, weight lifting, pickup frisbee, etc.).
  • Exportable to spreadsheets or database files.
  • Nice graphical data and meta-data summaries with easily adjustable parameters.
  • Easy to track peripheral data such as gear (e.g. shoe mileage) and routes (possibly with maps).
  • It would be awesome if there were some kind of API or other method that allowed me to import my running logs from the last 8 years into the system, but I think that may be asking too much.
  • Social networking would be nice, but not necessary.

A couple friends (thanks Z and G) suggested Daily Mile.  I’m happy with that but it would be nice if it could track strength training as well.  Does anyone have other suggestions?

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2009 in No Easy Days

 

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I Would Run 1000 Miles

Early in 2008, I made a New Year’s Resolution to run 1000 miles over the course of the year.  I liked this resolution from the start – it was quantitative, attainable, challenging, and spanned the entire year.  There were ups and downs, but with a few days to spare in December I hit 1000 miles (total mileage: 1013 miles).  I’m left with a really happy trend in my mileage over the last 8 years:

Milage_Per_Year_2008

I’m ecstatic I’ve been able to incorporate running into my life more substatially every year since I started grad school.  I’m not expecting another 30% increase in mileage for 2009, but I do think I can make good things happen by continuing consistent running.

An unexpected feature of the seasonal mileage pattern for the year was that I actually ran more in the winter-spring season than in the summer or fall:

Mileage_per_season_2008

In this chart, “WS” is the Winter-Spring season (January-April), “S” is the Summer season (May-August), and “F” is the Fall season (September-December).   Compare the winter of 2008 to any other winter and the difference is striking.  My mileage drop off in the warmer months is due to a number of factors — injury, illness, meeting my current girlfriend, but I’m really glad I put those hard miles in early.  Those up front miles made the 1000 mile goal possible.

I’ll close now with a collection of all my running posts from the year, but I promise another post with my 2009 resolution soon.

Running posts from 2008:

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2009 in Alchemy, No Easy Days

 

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I Run Natural Twenties

I’ve seen less than consistent running in the first two months of the fall-season, and that’s on top of a random self-inflicted groin injury, and my recent ankle re-injury.  As a consequence, my mileage surplus has morphed into a deficit, and my resolution to run 1000 miles is suddenly in danger of failing.  To hit my goal by December 31st, I have to run 150 more miles, or about 2.5 miles per day.  Assuming I don’t get injured again, 2.5 mile runs are well within my reach, but I rarely run 7 days a week anymore, so (conservatively speaking) my actual goal is more like 20 miles per week, spread out over the days however I choose.

I know I can do this, and I have 60 days to prove myself right.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2008 in No Easy Days

 

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Ankle Again

Ten days ago, I drove 320 miles to a race in Connecticut.  I had hoped that traveling with the college running club to complete in a NIRCA regional race would help me recapture some of what I had missed by not running competitively in college.

Sadly, I sprained my ankle during the warm-up, thirty minutes before the race started, and all I was able to capture was 640 wasted miles on my car.

Compared to last year’s sprain, this one was minor, and while I haven’t been running I have managed to enjoy the time off via weight lifting, ankle excercises, and excruciating ice-bucket-ankle-soaking.  I’m hoping to come back sometime this week.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2008 in No Easy Days

 

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