Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Mario

I currently buy Mario's hay in 25 lb box increments.  When I lived in NYC, I used to buy 50 lb boxes since I had two rabbits and it was more cost effective.  Every now and then the bunnies would find a way inside the hay box.  Even though they had their own hay in the litter box, stolen hay is always more delicious.  Once I also had a bag of treats that I'd throw in the hay box to store.  Mario snuck in one day and this is what I found:

p.s.  ChicRunner is having a contest on her site for a Zensah giveaway here.  Check it out!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Week 8, Running Happy

Sunday: 10 miles @ 10:21 pace; I decided to try to run the Golden Gate Park miles of the SF Marathon course today. I generally do 90% of my runs in the park but don't usually do the exact route/direction that the marathon utilizes. I tried to be more aware of the hills and what they might feel like at that point in the race. I am a little numb to the rolling hills of the park since I run them all the time, but I have to say this part of the course is definitely hilly. I believe the only extended flat section is the bit around Stow Lake. Nothing incredibly steep, but a lot of gradual ups and downs. The 10 miles flew by so quickly and I actually ran out of miles to complete the total part of the course within the park. But I was able to do the bits I don't normally run. I felt really strong during this run. Great start to a high mileage week!

Tuesday: 10 miles including 8 miles @ 9:27 pace (goal 10:00); What a freakin' wonderful run! A far cry from the way I felt during my tempo run last week. I will admit at this point that the paces I am striving for now are in preparation for the R'n'R San Jose Half in October. I feel like the pure mileage will get me through SFM at this point and that mystical X-factor of racing will determine if I have a good day or a bad day. I don't think I am down to holding a 9:00 pace for extended distances (my goal for San Jose), but this run gets me feeling I am heading in the right direction.

Wednesday: 8 miles @ 10:28 pace; I was a little afraid I would really be dragging after Tuesday's hard effort. I'm happy to report that 10:28 felt like a recovery pace this morning. And only eight miles?! When eight miles feels short I know I'm in the marathon training zone.

Friday: 20 miles @ 10:50 pace; I was tired at the end, I hurt at the end, but I have to say that 20 miles didn't feel so long. I guess there is something to be said for these multiple 20-miler training plans. That's two down, one more to go! This run was done faster than my current goal marathon pace. In other words, way too fast. I am tinkering with the idea of rethinking my goal pace for the race.

The photo is from my Sunday run this week. I decided to give my Nathan belt another go, this time wearing it backwards. MUCH better. I don't have to twist and contort to get the bottles to drink or the fuel out of the pouch. Non-runners won't know the difference, but if you see someone out there running wearing their belt backwards, I know it is backwards. I am doing it on purpose. Also pictured is my new orange running skirt from Love me my running skirts.

I will admit that I am getting a little nervous at this point. There comes a point in training when the distances start to feel easy and my pace starts to quicken and feel strong. It is around this point that I usually get injured. Knock on wood. Super duper double knock on wood. My foot and shin are so far holding up. They complain a bit, but I give them ample ice, compression, advil, and THREE days off a week. They have never had THREE days off! I think these negotiations are keeping them from going on strike.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Week 7, Here Come The Miles

Sunday: 9 miles @ 10:30 pace

Tuesday: 9 miles, including 7 miles @ 9:46 pace (goal 9:54); Holding the pace during the tempo pick-up was not as easy as I had hoped it would feel, but I got it done.

Wednesday: 9 miles @ 10:35 pace; Was dragging a little early in the run but felt strong at the end. I once did 11 miles & 22 miles on consecutive days as part of Goofy training, so I keep reminding myself of that when doing these Tues/Wed mid-long run mileage combos.

Friday: 16 miles @ 10:44 pace; Way too fast for a long run. But it felt comfortable. I am optimistic about this plan because this long run was two weeks after my first 20 miler (with a cutback week similar to taper week in between). Hopefully this means with the reduced mileage during taper I will at least feel this fresh on race day and that the two week taper will work for me. If I can keep feeling good on long runs I may reevaluate my SF Marathon race day goals.

The next three weeks of the training plan are pretty scary mileage-wise. I am trying to take everything one run at a time. BIG DEEP BREATH...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Mario

Mario is a creature of habit.  When he's out playing and decides to do his binkies and sprints he always runs the same lines through the apartment.  I've been trying to set up the camera to catch some of his jumps and dashes and this is the best I've come up with so far.  I love the part when he sticks his nose through the blinds to look out the window.  He likes to kick the blinds to make loud noises.  Unfortunately, we were watching a movie while this was going on and the movie dialogue was a little distracting so I had to dub over the original sound.

Side-note:  The song in the video is "Run Runaway" by Great Big Sea. I love running to a few of their songs.  Check them out.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gait Analysis

I have suffered for years from chronic shin splints.  More specifically, chronic right shin splints.  My right shin first went bad when I was training for the Safaricom Marathon in 2006.  I could not walk without pain (even while medicated) for a month leading up to the marathon.  Mysteriously (& miraculously) my shin stopped hurting 2 days before the race and I was able to complete it with no shin pain and very reduced training.

Ever since then if my mileage increases -- shin pain.  Speed work -- shin pain.  Too many consecutive days running -- shin pain.  When training for Rome 2007 (my first marathon post-Safaricom) the shin pain came back when the mileage started to pile up.  I made an appointment to see a podiatrist.  He fit me with custom orthotics which I have been using ever since.  With the orthotics I usually get a very tender right shin.  Sometimes it will hurt for a few moments when running.  However, since the orthotics things have never escalated to the point they did back in 2006.  I am always searching out new ways to control this shin thing.  Icing, stretches, compression...

Recently I stumbled upon a gait analysis review at Hella Sound.  I have had my gait analyzed in the past for the sake of shoe fitting, but never by physical therapists who could offer solutions other than a change in footwear.  I made an appointment at the Running Clinic and hoped they would offer some new insight about Mr. Right Shin Splint.

When I arrived I ran briefly on two different treadmills.  One had a force plate to measure foot strike.  The other was used to video me running from three different angles.

Here's the front view of my running.  You can also see my signature arm/torso swinging.

Here is some of the information generated by the force plate treadmill:

I then met with a physical therapist who reviewed the videos/information.  She mentioned that I seem to be pushing off from my 2nd toe (vs. the favorable big toe).  We later decided this was due to my very rigid orthotics.  Big toe push-off is more desired but she said the 2nd toe was not too terrible.  She mentioned that the above chart showed relative symmetry between right and left, though I very slightly favored more time on my right foot.  The physical therapist also felt that my left knee dropped in slightly more than my right when I was running (Uh, but I have so many more problems with the RIGHT leg).

She checked the flexibility of my feet and said they were neither too flexible or too stiff.  I then got a little bit of conflicting advice.  First I was told to not subtract any support from my current footwear situation (orthotics + stability shoes).  I questioned the idea that if my orthotics were doing what they were supposed to be doing, shouldn't I now be in a neutral shoe?  She then said that was a good point and that maybe I could try a neutral shoe with the orthotics.  Perhaps that would even get me pushing off with my big toe.  Umm...  I lost a little faith at that point.

I was then asked to hop around on one foot, do some side to side lunge jumps, resist her pushing down on my leg, etc.  The final verdict:  Most likely my issues aren't coming from my feet.  She wanted me to try some hip strengthening/stretching exercises to see if that was causing problems lower down my legs.  She ran me through all the exercises and made a follow-up appointment with me shortly before the marathon.

I have already documented the deleterious after effects these exercises had on me.  The next day I was literally sorer than after running the Big Sur Marathon.  Seriously.  THAT sore.  Who needs to run for 5+ hours for that great post-marathon feeling?  Just do a couple of leg raises and lunges!  She was obviously right about my weak areas to cripple me that easily.  It took about a week before I felt up to trying the exercises again.  But ever since I've faithfully been following all of her instructions.

I was told it takes about 6 weeks for any strengthening effects to be noticed.  So far the shin has not improved and my left foot has been holding steady (she gave me an arch exercise to try for that).  So basically nothing has changed for the better.  At this point I am only cautiously optimistic that this whole endeavor will do away with Mr. Right Shin Splint for good.  I was really hoping she would find some sort of fatal asymmetry between right and left that would explain everything, but she couldn't come up with a reason as to why I have chronic problems with just the right side.

I will withhold final judgment until my follow-up appointment, but as of now cannot give it as glowing a review that Hella Sound passed.  

As a side note, I asked her about my swinging arms and rotating torso.  I've read before about how that type of superfluous movement can cause leg problems from the unnecessary torque.  Plus side-to-side movement is all wasted energy when you're trying to move forward.  She didn't recommend I consciously try to alter my natural running form (no idea if I could actually 100% alter it anyhow).  Any thoughts on that?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Mario

I went through my photo album today to dig up the original "Carrot Mouth" photo (coming soon!) and came across the above.  It is Mario's Petfinder ad.  I saw those twitchy whiskers and the blazingly painted mustache and promptly fell in love.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Week 6, Stepping (Gently) On The Gas Pedal

Sunday: 7 miles @ 10:48 pace

Tuesday: 8 miles @ 10:12 pace; Technically this week didn't have a tempo or interval run since I guess I'm supposed be enjoying the lower mileage/lower effort after last week's 20 miler. But I decided I didn't want to trot around in the 11:00's this run. I was going for something more like 10:30 but ended up keeping a slightly faster pace. I am generally pretty happy when a conversational pace for me is somewhere in the high 9:00's-low 10:00's so am trying to start making myself run a little faster to get back to that level.

Wednesday: 8 miles @ 10:36 pace; This was supposed to be a recovery type run. I was pretty happy about my pace on Tuesday's run and was shooting for something in the 10:40's. I was doing pretty well the first half of the run while I listened to an episode of the podcast RunRunLive (just found this one and love it!). However the second half of my run I listened to a song from Hella Sound. I'm planning to write more about this later but let me just say that I found it impossible to not pick up the pace while listening to the music.

Friday: 8 miles @ 10:11 pace; Since this is a cut back week I had a brief reprieve from double-digit long runs this week. I again listened to my Hella Sound music at the end of my run and the last three miles were all sub 10:00 pace. Huzzah!

I have to say this has been an awesome week of running. One thing I've learned over the years is that not all runs can be good runs. But that also means that not all runs can be bad ones. I have been blessed with a week full of runs where I felt free, happy, and strong. I think this week served its purpose -- I'm ready to hit another high mileage week.

So I am officially 50% through my SFM training plan. Man, the time went so fast!! I will admit that the mileage looks a little scary from here on out. You'll notice there were a lot of 8 milers this week. Next week there are a lot of 9 milers. The week or so after that, a lot of 10 milers. In fact, I will not run less than 8 miles at a time until taper week. For the first time I'm intentionally doing a two week taper. So far I'm enjoying this 4 day a week, higher average mileage each day plan. The next few weeks we'll see if I enjoy the three 20 milers, two week taper part of the plan.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Week 5, Oww!

Sunday: 7 miles @ 10:51 pace

Monday: Gait Analysis (Will do a whole separate post on this later. But the short version is that I ran on some fancy treadmills, had myself videotaped, and a physical therapist made some recommendations. By "recommendations" I mean she ran me through some exercises that effectively crippled me for a week.)

Tuesday: 7 miles with 3x 1600m @ 9:01 pace (pulled these off at 8:52, 9:01, 8:55).
I woke up sore this morning from the exercises the physical therapist had me do the day before. Let me restate that. I fell asleep sore the night before. I think we can all agree it is pretty bad news when your body hurts the night OF an activity. These were really hard, not very enjoyable 1 mile intervals. I am actually amazed I was able to get them done. I had to walk a little after the third because I thought I was going to lose my breakfast. I was feeling a little down on myself during this run because I started thinking there is no way I'll ever run a whole half marathon at a 9:00 pace. I really struggled to continue running for the 1.5 miles of cool down at the end. My legs felt like dead weights. I felt like I was trying to run with my parking brake on. I felt like my body was shutting down. But after the run I felt much better about the whole thing. I realized that my body hurt as much as it hurts after running a marathon. I realized I couldn't walk down stairs. I had a hard time lowering myself into and raising myself out of the seating position. Well, duh! Of course I had a hard run! Good on you legs for doing the intervals when you were dealing with that fatigue! Physical Therapist, I shake my fist at you (shakes fist)!

Wednesday: Was supposed to run 6 miles. After the "recommendations" and the way I felt during yesterday's run? Not happening. Sorry, National Running Day. I'm saving myself for Friday's 20 miler.

Friday: 20 miles @ 10:55 pace. A little too fast, probably (my goal marathon pace as of now is 10:52). Overall I felt much better than I did during last week's 18 miler. It helped mentally that I did a route that required little back-tracking or re-running of the same areas (last week I basically did three loops of Golden Gate Park). The weather forecast Friday morning called for a 40% chance of thunderstorms. I know 40% is less than a coin toss but when I looked outside there was a dark cloud of doom above the park. So I wore a long sleeve shirt thinking I may get rained on a little. It did rain briefly the first few miles (more like a thick mist) but after that the SUN came out. The SUN. In San Francisco. God bless public water fountains. Without them I would probably right now be baked onto the sidewalk of Lake Merced. I carry a 20 oz bottle when I run but had to refill it twice and drank heartily from water fountains, too. Just so you know what a warm weather weenie I am, it was probably only in the mid to high 60's (but sunny!).

So the first of three 20 milers in my SFM training cycle is now complete! The best thing about finishing up this 20 miler was knowing that next week (now "this week" since I took so long to post this) I only had an 8 miler on my long run day. Cut back weeks are awesome. I've been steadily increasing my long run the first 5 weeks so this will be a nice mentally relaxing week.

Foot update: First, I'd like to say I am so amazed at how much tennis ball love there is out there! And all for things other than tennis! Mario pretty much ignores the tennis balls lying around the apartment. My foot is holding up. I can run my 7-8 milers with no pain. It did flare up during the 20 miler and hurt a little too much for comfort Friday night. But by Saturday it was feeling okay. Overall it is definitely doing better than when I started SFM training (back then it would hurt 2-3 miles into a run).

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Mario

One of Mario's favorite "toys" is a magazine.  I started giving them to him to try to persuade him to leave the newspaper at the bottom of his litter box intact.  He loves to shove it around, rip, and shred!  Recently I've given him US News and a Pottery Barn catalog.  Whenever I clean his cage I sweep up the ripped bits and pull off pages that have been ravaged.  The other day I felt the current magazine was looking a little worse for wear so I gave him a brand new one.

I threw in a Victoria's Secret catalog.

I noticed something peculiar the next two days.  There was no ripping.  There was no shredding!  In fact, he seemed to love to spend time WITH the magazine.  He usually takes his mid-day naps at the end of his pen farthest from his litter box.  But for two days he napped away right in front of the box were he usually keeps his magazine.

Upon closer inspection I saw this:

I could draw only one conclusion.  After flipping the magazine open, Mario promptly fell in love with the Lady in Yellow.  In the above photo, I am convinced he is spooning with her.

I tried to get more photos of them, but he got defensive and tried to shield her from my photography attempts!

For much of the day he kept vigilant watch taking his cat naps right next to her.  When I got too investigative he nibbled a bit at the edges of the page as if to throw me off the trail!  Oh, but I know what REAL Mario shredding and ripping looks like and I was not fooled in the least!

The above is a pathetic attempt to make me think he was treating this like his typical Pottery Barn catalog!

The next day he arranged his bowl and toys to prop her up so that he could get a better look at her while he napped.

I cleaned his pen again since these pictures were taken.  The catalog was of course in pristine condition (less those little nibbles).  I closed it up (like I always do) and put it back in the pen.  I guess Mario was unable to locate the Lady in Yellow because he has since been giving the catalog the usual Mario rip and shred routine.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Week 4, Finding My Groove

Sunday: 7 miles @ 10:57

Tuesday: 8 miles including 6 miles @ 9:41 pace (goal 9:55); I love me my Tuesday runs! Afterwards went with Boyfriend for a fairly hilly 3.5 mile hike in Muir Woods.

Wednesday: 5 miles @ 10:49; Was thinking of running 6 but with the hiking the day before decided to cut back a tad. Was definitely feeling more tired than normal towards the end.

Friday: 18 miles @ 11:09 (17th mile @ 10:40 & 18th mile @ 10:15 -- more because I was ready for it to be done with than because I was feeling especially good). Did not feel as good as I had the week before. I used my Nathan belt for the first time. It worked pretty well, but I think I prefer the handheld bottle I usually use. There were a few times I wanted to take a quick sip but was too lazy to reach around to my back to get the bottle out. Before my Nathan belt I had a 4 bottle Fuel Belt (my model is much older than this one). Usually I would rotate the bottles so the one I was using was in the front right position. Very easy to get out. Since I got a 2 bottle Nathan I don't have that option. My Fuel Belt is c. 2004 and lacks any good pouches, so I am pleased the Nathan belt can also hold my bloks and even camera.

Overall, I feel like this is the week my body has gotten used to this running schedule. I am sort of digging this 4 days a week running thing. Lately I've been doing marathon plans that had you running 5 days a week. I have a feeling that the extra day off is what my shin needs to stay in the game. The mileage in this plan is still pretty high, just spread over less days. Will see how it goes and may have to modify my training in the future.

I would like to introduce the Most Valuable Player of this past week, Mr. Tennis Ball. This whole foot thing has me trying all sorts of remedies. I remembered reading how people with plantar fasciitis roll their feet on tennis balls. Wouldn't you know I have two canisters of tennis balls in my hall closet from a short tennis stint in college (when I say "short tennis stint" I mean "me and my friends went down to the campus courts twice to hit and chase the balls around")!

I rolled my left foot and it was actually a little painful. Rolled my right and it felt like a nice massage. There was definitely an asymmetry between Good Foot and Bad Foot. So I rolled Bad Foot whenever I could. By day 3 rolling was less painful. I'm not going to say that my foot has magically healed, but this week I had pain free runs Sun, Tue, & Wed. That is a streak! The foot was a little sore after the 18 miler but honestly my right foot hurt, too. What do you expect after 18 miles? So still no bill of health on the foot, but it is thankfully hanging in like a champ.

I have tennis balls all over the apartment by places I frequently sit.
Even left one at work!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday Mario

I'm just a cute little bunny, nothing to look at here.

Carrot Mouth!!

This is actually the second time this has happened to Mario. Once when he was still living with Chloe (who was pretty much everything Mario isn't) I gave them a 2" x 1" butt of a carrot. It was huge and they had fun chomping down. I noticed later that Mario's entire chin (if bunnies have chins) was orange. It was only hilarious because Chloe, who also had a white mouth, had not a lick of orange color on her. She was quite the little lady and Mario, well, he obviously slobbers a bit when eating.

The orange mouth from the first incident was a little more dramatic (but it occurred pre-digital era and I'm too lazy to scan something now). Will try to get an image of it up later. The first time it happened I thought for sure Mario would be stained for weeks. But he apparently cares about his personal hygiene because both times he had cleaned himself off by the next morning.