Saturday, January 29, 2011

Milestone: I Missed My Pre-Pregnancy Jeans

Having a baby is hard on a body.  I was blessed that 10 days postpartum most of the weight gain (30 lb) had come off. Enough so that I was back to my weight from the month before I got pregnant (note: when I got pregnant, I dropped 10 pounds right then, to a weight I hadn't been in years).  However, weight gain and loss never tells the whole story. The weight may be gone but so is the original shape the body was pre-pregnancy. The loss of ab muscles makes the midsection look like a sack of apples. :-(

So now 8 weeks after having the baby, and 2 weeks after starting to run again (C-section required 6 weeks of recovery), the running and ab work are paying off. I couldn't help but celebrate when today I was able to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans!

There's still a lot of work to go. And for the sake of speed for my running, I'd love to see myself another 10-20 pounds lighter. But I love my junk food and I love that I don't live my life thinking too much about food, so if that would have to change, I'm not sure that's something I'm willing to do.

For now though, I'm happy, boppin' around in my DKNYs. :-)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Too Many Races This Weekend - Houston Marathon, 3M Half, Texas Half

Crazy weekend for runners in Texas! Saturday, there's the Texas Half in Dallas, then Sunday we have the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half Marathon in Houston and the 3M Half Marathon in Austin. 

Last year, all three were different weekends and easier to get into! This year, Houston Marathon was a lottery, and 3M Half did a great job selling out early!

So with them being different weekends last year, in 2010 I managed to run the Aramco Half in Houston mid-January, then 3M Half Marathon the next weekend, and then Texas Half the last weekend of January.  That's halfs in Houston, Austin, and Dallas all in one month.

My race reports are out here on the blog in case anyone finds it helpful...

Houston Aramco Half Marathon race report
3M Half Marathon race report
Texas Half Marathon race report

The Houston Half Marathon one is particularly detailed with race compliments and criticisms from my views as a runner and as a Dallas area race director, along with a bit of a blow by blow of the course in sections.

Anyway, just wanted to put that out there for anyone looking for reviews of any of those races this weekend.  I'm jealous as I can't run any of them at this point in my postpartum recovery but wish all runners fast feet and fun times this weekend!

Happy Running!

The REAL Point of a Recovery Run

A discussion today had me thinking about the recovery run. It's always a controversial thing - is it beneficial or are they just junk miles?  I definitely have my opinions on the subject, just like anyone else.  I'm not a sports medicine doctor, medical professional of any kind, nutritionist, or scientist...just a runner with some thoughts on the subject.

What's the Term "Recovery Run"?
To start, everyone has their own terminology, so let me be clear that in my head, a "recovery run" or "active recovery run" is a slow easy run, which may even include periods of walking, of 2-4 miles for many half and full marathoners following a training plan.  Often used after a hard run or race where another moderate to hard running day is unadvisable.

What Many Think is the Purpose of the Recovery Run
Many people have followed plans with recovery runs or trained others to do them just because it's what been done. The belief has been that recovery runs increase blood flow to the legs which was additionally flush out lactic acid to decrease soreness and increase recovery.  Runner's World had an article here that indicated using active recovery runs after a big race as a sort of "reverse taper" to keep total mileage base on track. I'm not sure I agree with that without an explanation that using the muscles for X amount of time is beneficial.

What I Believe the Recovery Run is for
Some sources now though emphasis that lactic acid is flushed out by oxidation which is a natural process and happens quickly after a hard run. Here's an interesting article about lactic acid and lactate threshold.  I believe the recovery run is more for learning to run efficiently with legs in a pre-fatigued state. had a great article this year called "A Fresh Perspective on Recovery Runs" that explains this well, better than I ever could. I highly recommend reading it!

For me, running comes down to four areas: heart, lungs, brain (mental), and muscles (legs, core, etc.). Running easy on fatigued legs is good for that fourth area - leg muscles.  A good training plan needs to balance the needs of these four things so that you are strong uniformly when you toe the start line. Active recovery runs to me are a way to get those muscles working smarter.

And yes, crosstraining could strengthen up and provide fatigue practice for leg muscles as well, but I think the practice should come with the sport you'll be using them in a fatigued condition at: running. It's like using an ellipical versus running. Yeah, they can both be helpful, but there's no substitute for the action of running. You wouldn't advise someone to do all their training on an elliptical and then run a marathon (generally), just as you wouldn't spend all your fatigued days cross-training just to go run or race in a situation where you need to run well on fatigued legs.

Every run has a purpose, but just because they are slow, doesn't make them junk miles.  And personally, I don't believe any runs are "junk miles" or "wasted". As a tweep, @alamarcavada said, "Im not a coach but was a collegiate athlete.....There is no such thing as "junk miles." a mile is a mile."

Personal Use of the Recovery Run
Last year, I did an outdoor running streak of 63 days. And many of these days included recovery runs of 1-4 miles. During this approximately 60 days, I took 6 minutes off my half marathon time. And didn't even do much speedwork over this time. I believe the recovery run was a big reason for my success at that time. The purpose of the streak for me was very much the same purpose as that active recovery run.  I felt like my cardio & pulmonary function was stronger than my mental toughness a bit and definitely stronger than my leg muscles.  My legs just felt tired at the end of half marathons - it was preventing the "get up and go" to push hard that last handful of miles.

As a mom, doing lots of 13 mile training runs and generally a big increase to training mileage wasn't very possible, especially since I'm a slower athlete than many - that's a lot of hours of training for a lot less miles covered. The recovery run strengthened my legs and helped significantly in late miles of the race.

Another example is a good friend Paula who did a year long running streak and in the middle of it, on no longer than a 13 mile training run, she completed her first 50-miler.  She credits a lot to the streak of just her body knowing how to continue to perform under fatigue.  Plus she's just one mentally tough cookie.

Not Advised for All or at All Times
Since every run has a purpose, and this is for efficient use of muscles during fatigue, this run only works in combo with runs that strengthen all four important body parts (heart/lungs/brain/muscles).  Relying on any one type of run is just a bad thing.  So in your training plan, and in your personal experience of which parts are strongest and weakest, recovery runs may or may not be useful.  Or what is useful at one time is not useful at another time in our running experiences.  Like right now, cardio/lung function is very important as I recover postpartum.

Recovery runs aren't for everyone.  One instance would be if you have bad knees or other medical issue where the impact could hurt more than help.  And then, let's face it: runners are generally an intense Type A bunch - it's a stereotype for a reason.  With that, some runners just can't run "easy" or even include walk breaks as needed to keep it truly easy.  These runners will end up injured or on the verge of injury a lot of the time. Adding a recovery run for these people will just make it worse.  Give them a rest day, hope they are religious to sticking to the exact training schedule, even though the day off may make them itch.

Where to Leave It
What do you think? Do you disagree? That's okay, but please explain why as well. I hope to learn something from other runners. Like I said when I started, it's just one opinion peppered a lot with personal experience!

Happy Running!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Working in a Little Speed

Tonight's run goal was to try to do at least 3.1 miles worth of 1/2 mile intervals at around 5K PR pace (10:20 pace), which was of course set pre-pregnancy.  This ended up being a hard task and while I fell off at the end, I did a decent job at the goal.

3.5 miles total including the warm-up walk and cool-down walk.  Walk breaks between intervals were a little under a tenth of a mile.

1/2 mile splits: 10:00, 10:10, 10:37, 11:13, 11:26.
Yeah, I got tired - too hard of a pace to maintain this early in my recovery I guess. :-(

But I notice in the graph of pace and heart rate below that my pace the first 300 feet is consistent across all the splits (eventual natural pace someday?) and my heart rate remained th same even as my overall 1/2 mile pace was getting slower.

I can't wait to see it get a little easier to hold something closer to 10 min/mi pace in hopefully the next several weeks.

Happy Running!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Best Workout Postpartum Thus Far

Why couldn't I have a postpartum running recovery in April with pretty weather? LOL. I've been tired of the cold and dark of my late night runs, so I've hit the elliptical the last two nights.  While fighting a cold, Saturday I ran 1.75 miles and logged 5.5 elliptical miles (45 min), and yesterday I logged 6 elliptical miles (50 min).  Add to that 15 minutes each of the last two nights of ab work.  So going into tonight's run, my legs, glutes, abs...everything was tired and a teensy bit sore.

So tonight's 4 mile run, with a bad head cold still mind you, began as "slow and steady let's try to run more continuously than I have yet postpartum" (which was 1.5 miles before I had to walk).  And somewhere it turned into a hard, hard workout. And one that I'm tremendously proud of and tells me a lot about my recovery so far and where my recovery is headed.  You can call it a ladder workout, intervals, tempo run, negative splits, I'm not a huge terminology buff about classifying workouts, so the point is it was an INTENSE workout and let's leave it at that.

I dragged my tired muscles along for 2.55 miles and then I turned it up a notch.  Splits...
2.55 miles - 12:51 pace ... turn it up
0.50 miles - 11:27 pace ... a little louder
0.25 miles - 10:53 pace ... what? you can't hear it?
0.10 miles - 10:03 pace ... can you hear me now?!?
No walk breaks between any of these intervals!  Note that my abs and C-section incision scar area were hurting once I sped up the pace, so I look forward to that going away over time as recovery continues.

I not only ran continuously for 3.4 miles, I got faster and faster and faster!  Which makes me wonder, what pace could I have run consistently for 3.1 miles? Could PRing the 5K not be TOO far down the road? (current PR is 10:20 pace)  Yes, my average pace was much slower than my 5K PR, but the summary here is that I obviously had gas in the tank at the end of this run.

Sorry to brag tonight on all this, and I know all of this seems trivial to someone running all the time and even more so possibly to someone who does that FAST, but I'm just insanely happy about my recovery so far and the hopes and dreams for 2011 running and racing!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Longest Run - Saying That Phrase Won't Get Old

Wednesday night was my longest run postpartum - 5.5 miles.  I expect to be using the phrase "longest run postpartum" a lot in the coming months as I continue to build mileage.  I was also very happy with how much and how long I ran continuously.  5.5 miles went like this: warm-up walk, 1.5 mile run, walk break, 1 mile run, walk break, 1 mile run, walk break, 0.5 mile run, long walk cool-down.

Right now, time on my legs is important as I build back the muscles.  Looking forward to speed coming later.

Happy Running!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Schizophrenic Romp

Don't ask me what my goal was for this run.  Or in general anymore.  I'm getting a little worried that I won't be ready to run 15-20 miles March 4-6 at the Texas Independence Relay, and I'm feeling on my recent fast intervals like my leg muscles are just SO weak right now.  And I miss my ab muscles. :-( (note that I lost my pregnancy weight extremely fast, but the shape of any mom postpartum is NOT the same; with stretched out ab muscles, it's like the original Libby repackaged in a sack, instead of a box.)  Double :-(

So maybe I do need to sprinkle in some slower miles just to get back some strength and some stamina at the same time.  I just can't get comfortable at that slower pace.  I'm determined to come back faster postpartum.

So today was a schizophrenic romp of 4.5 miles.  A combo of the following:
  • 0.05 mile walking warmup
  • 1 mile run continuously! Yea, that's my first continuously run mile postpartum! Pace was 11:21
  • 0.25 mi walk break - my upper back was so tight! I am not used to swinging my arms back and forth for any length of time at all.  Stretched and it got a little better.
  • 4 intervals totalling 0.53 miles at ~9 min pace with walk breaks between. 0.16 @ 8:49 pace, 0.14 @ 8:45 pace, 0.11 @ 9:10 pace, 0.12 @ 8:54 pace.
  • Combo of little bit of running and a lot of walking the rest of the way as I wanted to not just do a couple miles total and had done 2.25 miles out so that I HAD to do 2.25 miles back.  Try to get in a decent total mileage to work some endurance on the legs.  Glutes, inner thighs, calves, and balls of feet were hurting so didn't want to do more than the 4.5 miles. These muscles have not been used in months.
So part of me thinks total mileage is important, part thinks continuous running regardless of pace is important, and part of me thinks fast pace intervals are important. Sigh. I'll keep exploring and will figure out what I need.  I'm impatient, have deadlines, and just want to get back to it quickly but with improvement of a faster pace too! Grr.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Running Patterns Can't Be Found in So Little Data

That title is something I have to remember right now.  I have a mathematics degree, which means I love analyzing data and trying to find patterns and then draw conclusions from them.  Four runs postpartum and I'm already trying to do this!

1st run : 0.10 mile intervals at 8:00-9:00 min pace for 0.60 miles total.
2nd run : 0.10-0.20 mile intervals at 8:00-9:00 min pace for 0.80 miles total.
3rd run : 0.10-0.25 mile intervals at roughly 9:00 min pace for 1.01 miles total.
TODAY'S RUN: 0.10-0.20 mile intervals at 9:00 min pace for 1.12 miles total.

Total run length with walk breaks, warm-up, and cool down was 2.5 miles today (long cool down today).

So far, so good - extending the total time at the desired pace.  But I'm also looking at the lengths of walk breaks and my max heart rate during the run segments.  I walk until I feel recovered, which also corresponds most times to trying to wait until my heart rate is below 140 before I run again.  Between the last run and this run, walk breaks got a little shorter. 

Max heart rate in the 1st run: 188.  In the 2nd run: 184.  In the 3rd run: 180. In today's run: 178.

But again, none of this really means anything! It's four data points. This is no basis for looking for trends.  Yes, I'd like to see the walk breaks shortening, and I'd like to see my max heart rate start to drop.  But I should give it another couple weeks before I start drawing conclusions.  It's the mathematician in me - I know it's not smart, but I really want some data to analyze! Looking forward to seeing the next couple weeks unfold.

Note that my legs felt like lead today. Ugh. Debating rethinking some things and adding in some slow longer runs. But I'm afraid if I let my body know what that 11-13 min per mile pace is, it won't want to go fast again.  This is how I got in this mental breakdown before of not being able to get much faster because in some ways I'll now admit that it was just... comfortable.  Maybe not the smartest game I'm playing with my body right now, but there's a big mental component I am playing to right now. Hmmm....

Happy Running!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Third Postpartum Run

Today is 6 weeks since Baby Sophie was born, which is also therefore 6 weeks since my C-section and so the date I was allowed to start running again.  In my continued effort to reset my running pace to something faster than pre-pregnancy, my third postpartum run was tonight... in 27 degree weather.  And boy was it cold.  My legs felt like lead, and let me say that I don't run well in the cold anyway - give me a good 60 degree day for a run.

  • The first run managed 0.10 mile intervals at 8:00-9:00 min pace for 0.60 miles total.
  • The second run managed 0.10-0.20 mile intervals at 8:00-9:00 min pace for 0.80 miles total.
  • Today's third run managed 0.10-0.25 mile intervals at roughly 9:00 min pace for 1.01 miles total.
Yes, that's a quarter-mile at 9:04 pace.  Considering I'm just coming back from nothing for the past few months and restricted heart rate training for months before that, and that before that I had a 9:04 PR for the one-mile, I'll take it!

Interval distances and paces:

0.25 mi : 9:04 pace
0.10 mi : 9:13 pace (just couldn't hold onto sub-9!)
0.12 mi : 9:22 pace
0.12 mi : 8:50 pace
0.10 mi : 9:05 pace
0.10 mi : 8:45 pace
0.11 mi : 8:29 pace
0.11 mi : 8:53 pace
That's 1.01 miles total at a few seconds over a 9 minute per mile pace.

So I ran for longer at the desired pace and maintaining the same or slightly shorter walk breaks between intervals.  I'm keeping an eye on heart rate on these intervals and look forward in the next couple weeks to hopefully watching max heart rate on these run paces drop over time.

A little panic hit me today about how long this recovery is going to take, but I'm not going to worry about it.  I think this reset is more important than hitting a 100-mile month right away, or doing a half marathon 3 weeks from now.  I just have to be able to comfortably do 15-20 miles over two days for Texas Independence Relay 7 1/2 weeks from now.  That's totally doable.

Happy Running!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

San Francisco Marathon Training Starts January 29th

I hadn't really gotten around to talking about this until now, but now that I'm running again, the following topic's insanely back into my focus.

I was selected late 2010 as one of only about a dozen folks to be an Ambassador for the San Francisco Marathon.  Basically, we're folks across the United States who are friendly runners ourselves and are your local resource as you prepare for the San Francisco half or full marathon. Here are the bios of all the ambassadors here... It's a pretty diverse group!

So I'm here as your Dallas-Fort Worth ambassador for the 2011 race on July 31, 2011! I'm very excited to be running this race for the first time.  I had heard such great things and was actually already registered for it when they posted about the chance to apply to be an ambassador.  I was supposed to run it in 2010 but decided not to with the pregnancy several months along at that point so I deferred my entry to this year!

Now since I'm not just an ambassador but am running it with you all, that means I need to get training too! The SF Marathon is celebrating the start of their training program in San Francisco on January 29, 2011.  It's a 26-week training program to prepare people for either half or full marathon distance. 

Come Join Me January 29th!

Even though you can't be in San Francisco and take full advantage of the program doesn't mean we can't all kick off training together.  So I'm working right now to put together a local DFW training run for the training kickoff Saturday, January 29th! There will be giveaways and a door prize, and we'll have the 26-week training schedule for you to take home and get started!  As soon as I have details, I'll post it here, tweet it, and post a link on Facebook.  Look for details soon!

Happy Running!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Yes, I Still Fit in My Running Tights

My second run back postpartum. In the first run back, I explained my new method to start with running small distances at a "reset" much faster pace than my pre-pregnancy average running pace.  In that run, I did a tenth of a mile at sub-9:00 pace six times over 2.1 miles. 

Tonight, I set out in 29 degree weather for my run. With no runs since the end of September, I've had NO even slightly cold weather running acclimation.  A little harder on the lungs, but at least I have the experience in my back pocket to know how to dress.  Getting dressed took about as long as the run, LOL!  Beanie cap + Brooks ear warmer, long-sleeved Heels and Hills hot pink technical shirt + black DRC Cocona technical jacket + red windshirt, running tights + Nike shorts, thick Thorlo socks, Nike Lunarglide shoes.  Yes, thankfully, I have lost my pregnancy weight and can fit in my running tights, because otherwise I wouldn't have known what to do.  And looking at those tights when it was time to get dressed, I wasn't so sure it was going to work!  So at least I was warm enough.

This time, I managed more than a tenth of a mile for several of the splits at sub-9 min/mi pace!  I just gotta keep building a little each time and one day I'll find a new 5K PR, then a new 10K PR, and so on.

Splits at sub-9 min/mi pace (walk breaks between were about a tenth a mile to 0.15 miles, whatever it took to get heart rate below 140 and feel ready to go again):

0.20 mi : 8:47 pace
0.20 mi : 8:55 pace
0.15 mi : 8:47 pace
0.15 mi : 9:00 pace (uphill section!)
0.10 mi : 8:48 pace

In total, I did 1.75 miles. Now I planned to do more, but after that last hard run segment, I thought I saw trash in the street, but when I went by I realized it was one of those kids' electronic game devices! At first, I moved it to the sidewalk where it wouldn't get run over, thinking the owner would retrace their steps.  Then, I worried someone less honest than me would find it and just take it.  So I picked it up and headed home, thinking I could email the neighborhood's email list and maybe track down the owner.  Therefore, my run was cut short.  Luckily, the owner's last name was on the back, and I found that name in the neighborhood directory, so hoping I can reunite it with the sad kid who lost it!

It goes to show, there's something memorable about every run - this one definitely fits that description!

Happy Running!

Friday, January 7, 2011

First Run Postpartum!

38 days postpartum (just 4 days shy of the 6 weeks, or 42 days, I was supposed to wait to start running after the C-section), and I just NEEDED a run.  No going into details here, but mentally and emotionally, I needed to know I could still run and needed to just clear my mind and focus on nothing but the pavement and me for just a little bit of time.

Before the baby was born, while running pregnant, I had spent a lot of time thinking about my 2011 running.  Planning, strategizing, dreaming.  I decided I wanted to try to reset my pace, that I had a mental block keeping me from getting faster.  For paces... My PR 1 mile is 9:04 min/mi, my PR 5K is 10:20 min/mi, my half marathon PR is 11:09 min/mi.  Since most of my training runs from right before I got pregnant was 10:00-11:30 min/mi, I was ready to make a radical change.

So on tonight's run, after the first 0.05 mi trial to see how my feet felt running, I set my goal.  A tenth of a mile at a time at faster than 9 min/mi pace, with however much walking recovery I wanted inbetween.

I did 2.1 miles, with 0.60 miles of it being sub-9 min mile pace! 
The paces for each tenth mile were: 8:22, 8:15, 8:23, 8:02, 8:05, 8:19.

So how do I feel? I feel pretty okay, I tend to evaluate four things in deciding this:
LUNGS: fine during, no gasping for air, but a little hacking once I got into the warm air at home again. 
HEART: felt good, never beated out of my chest, wore my heart monitor and nothing looked awry.
LEGS: awkward, need to keep an eye on posture and maintaining midfoot strike and not overly tensing upper body, it will get easier as I get used to it.
BRAIN: felt good, each tenth of a mile felt so fast compared to my usual pace.

Next steps? Rest, stretch, make sure I recover well.  Then do it again, and focus on extending that tenth of a mile into 0.15 miles then two-tenths and so on. Let's give this a go and see where it can take me. Wouldn't it be fun if I could come back and bring with it a sub-9 min pace 5K PR in a couple months?!?

Happy Running to All!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

At the Bottom of the Pyramid

The New Year's Day Half Marathon went really well, and I think a lot of people enjoyed kicking off the new year doing it as much as I enjoyed kicking off the new year producing it.  But making that race happen was a lot of work and once it was over, I felt reduced down to trying to just "get by". I realized I was pretty crazy/stupid to produce a new race with a 4 week old - there's a reason many moms don't go back to work for at least 6-8 weeks.  It took a lot physically out of me, my 3 year old was feeling the effects of several days of missing her mommy, laundry was piling up, etc.  I couldn't shake this feeling that I was pushed back to the bottom level of a pyramid of needs I remembered learning about in some required class in high school or college.  This isn't helped my the fact that my husband had most of December off of work, we had the holidays, Marissa had a two week winter break from school, and I produced an inaugural half marathon - no chance to establish a real daily routine.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs was the pyramid I was remembering.  My family's at the bottom right now, where we're focused on basics like food, water, sleep, and excretion (baby's make a lot of dirty diapers).  Sophie's still been trying to get back to her birth weight, and I'm having to constantly be on this 3 hour cycle of eat and drink in order to then turn around and pump, so that we're not completely feeding her formula and trying to give Sophie some immune system boost while I've struggled to produce enough milk.

So while all this is going on, those higher pyramid levels of love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization remain unattainable.  My friend Michelle had the perfect comment to sum up the diagram above:
My college wind ensemble director used to reference it when we weren't playing well--as in "how can I expect these college kids to care about producing beautiful music--at the top of the pyramid--when they are worried about eating ramen noodles for dinner."
So I want to start putting in some miles (because I can start walking miles now but can't start running again until mid-January) and want to start making running and race plans for the year, but can't as long as I'm at the bottom of the pyramid.  I look forward to it, but need to just hunker down and "get by" until I get used to the routines needed to manage two children and still maintain my sanity.  Hopefully, the next blog post will be about my return to starting to accumulate some miles again!

Happy Running!