Just a little rusty

Last week went really well. I was able to log 74 miles and a day of cross training. Not too shabby! It included a 24 mile long run (lots of fun, ran from Elm Creek where Nate was skiing to his parent's house in Shoreview. Had to ask for help interpreting my map once, and the woman was very confused... you're coming from where, and you're going WHERE?!? :)) and a string of 5 days of running in a row. Yes. You may also be thinking -- gees, 25% of your weekly mileage from a long run? Keep in mind that my recovery days are very low mileage (or cross training) in order that I can actually get in the long, hard runs I need.

Towards the end of that week and into this week I've had to deal with the "you're finally back to decent mileage for more than a few days" feeling in my quads. Pretty nice soreness all-around in them. It's good to have that, though -- means I'm now to the point where I'm rebuilding strength & stamina. Just have to be careful that the fatique doesn't last for too much longer.

I felt that fatigue big-time during this Tuesday's workout. 4x2 miles at tempo, where my goal was 5:50s. I went down to GAC to attempt this with Brenden, knowing that I needed to nail the workout (if nothing else, just to boost my confidence). It was one of the most perplexing workouts I've had:

1st rep: Into wind, 6:20s or so. My legs were very tired and couldn't respond. Shin muscle, whatever that's technically called, cramping up. Ahh, I hardly feel like I know what I'm doing!

2nd rep: First mile had a 3/4 mile steep uphill. 7:00 on that one. That's okay, I'm breathing pretty hard. Second mile wheels totally came undone. It was like the last 1/2 mile of a marathon (well, the last 1/2 mile you never hope to see) where you literally can't control your legs and are just praying to stay upright. I wasn't breathing at all, just could NOT go. Sort of like the 1000s last week, this week just had the "marathon legs" component. I was so mentally positive during this rep, though -- instead of looking at my pace and thinking "oh no!" I didn't really think about my pace and instead concentrated on making every 30 seconds/minute REALLY count. C'mon, Nichole, try to make this as HARD as you possibly can.

I considered stopping the workout at this point. I talked to myself outloud (Brenden listening), wondering if it was a good idea to stop. Are 6:50 miles really doing anything for me? I immediately stopped myself and said that I just needed to get through the workout no matter what the times were. Brenden nodded at me and we were off.

Rep 3: Better. Legs not nearly as tightly wound. 6:15 and 6:10. Legs didn't start seizing up until about 800m to go. Cool!

Rep 4: Even better. 6:10 and 6:05. Legs didn't seize up at all. What?!?

I looked at Brenden afterwards, completely perplexed. I have never had such a workout, where you have lost your legs completely & then come back. Granted, the 6:05 still didn't feel good & legs weren't there, but at least I could move somewhat fast enough to get the lungs to work. Weird.

Brenden said he thought this was totally normal. When I first came back I was able to hit my tempos and MPs because I was relatively rested. Now I'm fighting the fatigue of daily mileage & some intensity & it will just take a week or two to get back into it. "Gotta get the rust out of the legs" as he put it. I hadn't thought of it like that, but it makes total sense.

So, all in all, a very good workout. I'm really proud of it, even though times were sub-optimal. I'm proud of myself for finishing when I felt terrible, and I'm even more proud of how mentally positive and tough I was. [Dr. Asp's mental training is so amazing!]

Next day I followed up the hard workout with a 9 miler and then a 6 miler with a friend today with strides at the end. The achilles is very sore, though, which isn't good (had to stop to stretch a few times during today's 6 miler and felt a slight burning sensation at the end, hmm)... more sore than typical after a hard workout or longer miles. So, I emailed Jerry afterwards to see about moving a hard 22 miler back to Saturday this week to give me a day to cross train.

I just don't want to be dumb about this when we're so close. I know I have it in me, just need to stay healthy enough to get a few key workouts in and work on helping the legs to feel fast. One extra day of cross training won't hurt (although, as every runner knows, it is hard to have to constantly juggle workouts like this, to have had two shorter workout days to prep for the 22 on Friday, only to bump it out & cause your weekly mileage to go way down).

Tom had a great story for me on my run today: A coach in town was working with a woman who narrowly missed the qualifier in October so signed up for a last minute Sacramento attempt (there are about 9 weeks between TCM and Sac, and Sac and the Trials - not ideal in any way). She ran tired & was always missing her workout times (and stressing about that). Day of the race the coach gets a call: Guess what? I just ran a 2:41! The coach was dumb-founded. Lesson: workouts are just workouts, and target times are something to put stock into, but at the end of the day it comes down to what you have on any given race day. Oh, how true, and how perfect of a story for me to hear at this stage in the training cycle.

Last aside: Nutrition: The last 2 weeks I have decided to eat as much from the Co-op as is possible. There's just something about the way you feel after eating their healthy, hearty foods. Sticking true to my "something new" resolution, I picked up some Quinoa today. I remembered seeing a few recipes with it & thought it was a good-for-you grain that also had protein.

I strongly considered buying a beet, from a suggestion from Tom. Not sure why I didn't. Part of it might have been that I wasn't 100% sure that it was a beet (there's a few signs above the veggies in that area, and I didn't know what most of them were, leading me to wonder which ones were the beets :) ) and after thinking I did have the right one, was very intimidated by how it looks. I'll have to look up a few recipes online to see how to cook something like that... so maybe next trip!

Our fridge is pretty bare, now, on purpose (if you don't buy it, you can't eat it) -- the vegetable and fruit drawers are completely full, a shelf of yogurt and greek yogurt (paired with museli is what I use for "dessert"! It's great!), some fresh lean meat, whole wheat tortillas, eggs, and a few condiments (hummus, which is amazingly good!). Our counter has a few containers filled with a hot grain cereal, flours for homemade bread, museli, a couple sweet potatoes (THANK you to whoever suggested fries, what a great bad-for-you tasting treat!), a squash, etc. Seriously, WHAT a change! :) I'm pretty sure last year at this time I had a pan of brownies out, two plates full of cookies from the in-laws, and a fridge almost devoid of vegetables. There were probably a few apples in there, but that was probably it.

I also have the ingredients for the squash pasta recipe someone suggested here. Should be fun!

Okay, back to something a little more productive. Happy new year, everyone!

Nichole Porath

Nichole is a blogger, elite level runner, and coach. She ran professionally for Brooks for two years after qualifying for the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials. During that time she founded TNC endurance, where she coaches and motivationally speaks to organizations large and small. This blog details her rise to national-level racing, and continues to follow her as she gets back into racing after starting a family. Read on, friends!

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