Saturday, January 7, 2012

Slow to Start

My running life: slow.
My working life: fast.

I started a new job this week, which is why I haven't had time to read and comment on as many blog posts as I would have liked. I think this is going to be the norm for me (at least initially) because there aren't enough hours in the day to run, work, sleep, spend time with my husband, and also read the 30+ blogs I am subscribed to.

The new job is wonderfully busy. They've taken the phrase "throw you right in" to a new level and I spent my entire first week in back-to-back meetings. Of course I also have a ton of projects I'm working on, which require extra hours because the work day is spent in meetings. I love interacting with other people and sharing ideas, so I'm excited about this high level of collaboration-- it's just an adjustment from what I am accustomed to. The job will also require a fair amount of travel (maybe once per month) because of various events and visiting other office locations for meetings.

My running has not been going well, and I'm far behind where I would like to be in my training for the Shamrock Marathon in March.

First half of December: Recovering from Overtraining
I've identified the cause of my poor performance at the Memphis Half Marathon as over training. I took five days off after the race, but I still felt like I had zero energy for every run I attempted two weeks post race. I wasn't "sick" in the traditional sense, but my energy level was extremely low, my heart rate was elevated, and for the first time in years, I simply didn't care about what my training log said. I had originally dismissed the overtraining idea because my mileage had been relatively low in November. However, I did 3 races within the course of one month, plus some long runs and intense speed workouts. According to what I read, overtraining can occur if you don't give yourself enough rest in between hard efforts, and I think that was the culprit for me.

Apparently, overtraining takes about 2-3 weeks to recover from, and even longer in more severe cases. I remember trying to run in the second week of December and actually having to stop a few times because I just felt like it was so hard to move. I tried to run seven miles one day and I stopped when the Garmin said 6.9 (something I never do) because my house was in sight and I just wanted to not be running anymore.

Second half of December: Calf Strain
When I finally got some energy back, I did a short tempo run in a hilly area and messed up my calf (which had been feeling "off" but not injured). I spent the next two weeks in the pool and and the elliptical, running 1-2 miles here and there because my sports chiro told me I needed to put some stress on the muscle.

New Year's Eve: 5K Attempt
This race wasn't even worthy of a report in my blog, but I'll do a brief recap here. As you may be able to guess from the previous two paragraphs, I was out of shape for this race. Not for lack of trying, but these were the circumstances I was dealing with.

I primarily wanted to do this race because I've done New Years Eve races for the past three years and I think it's a good tradition. I convinced my husband to sign up for the accompanying 10K so I figured I would run the 5, and then cheer him in.

The calf issue was about 90% fixed (I could still "feel it" even though it didn't hurt), so I was fully prepared to DNF if something felt off during the run. I was perfectly fine with pulling off the course or walking if I felt any bit of pain. I just really wanted to give this race a shot. Half of me thought it was extremely stupid to be racing given the risk of re-injuring my calf, but the other half me thought the calf was okay and stubbornly wanted to race.

5K Finish
The good news is I finished the race with no calf pain. The bad news is, I was slow. I wasn't really trying to put out race effort due to my lack of training. I think I landed somewhere slightly harder that tempo effort but regardless, the dang thing felt hard. 23:18 for my slowest 5K in over two years. Nearly two minutes slower than what I ran just one month prior.

I didn't look at my Garmin at all during this race so I shot out too fast on the first mile, which was almost entirely uphill (7:09 pace). This pace would have been reasonable if I had been in better shape and racing it all-out, but I wasn't in good shape at all. If I had let myself look at the Garmin, I would have slowed down to a tempo effort of 7:30 on an uphill. After that first mile, the rest of the race was a struggle. I simply wanted to hang onto that effort level and get a good workout in, fully knowing that I was slowing down.

My husband felt similarly beat up by the race and opted to turn off at the 5K point instead of doing the full 10. Not a great performance from either of us, but we were happy to have participated and put out a good effort.

I did win 3rd in my Age Group, but someone else went home with my award because my D-Tag didn't register. My husband's didn't either, so I think it's because we registered on-site and our paperwork didn't get entered into the system. Regardless, my time was recorded in the "backup data" so I am listed as third place in the official online results, I just didn't get the recognition at the race. I don't care all that much because this was such a bad race for me, but the thought of an age group award did help pull me through during that last mile.

First week of January: Common Cold
On my first day of work, I noticed that quite a few people were coughing. Sure enough, I had a full-on cold by Wednesday night. Sore throat, stuffy nose, sinus pressure. It's not good to do speedwork when you're sick because it's a strain on the immune system, so I have been keeping the runs slow and easy.

I'm also out of shape, which is another reason for the slowness.

Being sick with the common cold confirms my self-diagnosis of over training. I ran 7 miles yesterday, which felt way more energized than the 7 I ran in mid-December. Overtraining: you feel like you can't run and you want to stop. You may actually find yourself stopping and walking. Common Cold: you have less energy, but the run feels decent with no urge to stop.

Looking Ahead
I feel mentally ready to get back into marathon training (It's only 10 weeks away and I haven't even done a long run yet!!!!!) But my body has had other ideas. I still think I have enough time to train and run a good race, but more obstacles are yet to come. I have a 6-day vacation at the end of January, some work travel in February, and there will probably be snow/ice which will force me onto a treadmill or into the pool.

I'm hoping to do my first official long run tomorrow with my team. Wish me luck!


  1. Good luck,Elizabeth! :) Sorry you're going through this, I'm sure the stress of a new job compounds the running problems. You'll be back to your old tricks in no time though, I'm sure.

  2. Look forward to seeing you in the morning! Even though the job is keeping you too busy, at least you are really enjoying it!! Congrats!

  3. You seemed to have a great run this morning! It's super hard to will figure it out though!

  4. 3rd in your age group for being "out of shape" ? Hi, you win. :)
    Hope the cold doesn't stick around for too long, hope the new job isn't stressing you out, and glad your calf is doing better!

  5. Great to see you this morning!

    Don't worry too much about getting back to where you are -- I've found that once you reach a new rung of fitness, it's easier to return there than it was to get there to begin with.

  6. I'm sad to read this! I agree with Cristina though, don't worry about where you are and just start running. I think you'll surprise yourself about your fitness. And if it still doesn't feel great, there's no harm in not racing a marathon this spring. Breaks are a good thing!

  7. I think the fact that you are being mindful with your running is going to count for a lot more than meaningless runs the past month. how was your long run?

  8. I'm glad that you are enjoying the new job. I wouldn't worry too much about where you are in marathon training, I think you'll get back into things quickly (especially now that you seem to be fully recovered from being overtrained).