Thursday, April 24, 2008

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

I am not new to strength training. For a year before I started running, I worked out with a trainer doing a combination of weight lifting and plyometric moves that regularly brought my legs, shoulders and arms, chest and back, and abdominal muscles to failure. I can recall vividly the times I experienced delayed onset muscle soreness, and it was always after I tweaked my routine with a new exercise--the first day of plyometrics, changing machines for calf raises and waking the next few mornings with fiery calves, and my first "boy" push-ups and subsequent difficulty shampooing my hair.

When I began running about a year ago, I gradually cut back on my strength training. First, I cut out leg days. I reasoned that the running would be enough for the major muscle groups in my legs. Then, I combined my separate shoulders/arms and chest/back days into one big upper body day. A long vacation and a new job conspired to make it increasingly difficult to get to the gym just to move around some heavy things. If I was going to find the time to exercise, it would be "real exercise" that burned lots of calories and made me sweat. Running was better than strength training because I could relax and release stress, and I didn't need to think about how much weight, how many sets, or counting repetitions. At some point, I exchanged weights for yoga--it provided extra relaxation and forced me to stretch. But the yoga class moved to an earlier time, and I could no longer make the class after work. I stopped strength training entirely. For months. I forgot all about muscle soreness.

Enter Tom Holland and The Marathon Method. He gently reminded me that strength training exists, and that I should do a full body session twice a week with an extra session of core work after my long run on Saturday. Easy enough, I thought. I even allowed myself to start with the beginner program, which only requires dumbbells for bent over rows and otherwise uses your body weight for resistance. Push-ups, bent over rows, squats, front lunges, crunches, planks, and supermans. I just ran a half marathon. This should be a piece of cake.

And on Tuesday morning, when I did these basic exercises, it did seem easy. Perhaps I could not do quite so many push-ups as I remembered. And maybe I was a little wobbly in my plank position and with my lunges. But I knew I would be back in the strength training saddle again in no time. That is, until Wednesday, when I woke up with screaming quads, tight glutes, and I found it surprisingly difficult to brush my teeth. I stretched. I drank water. I tried not to hobble. I went for a slow run and stretched again. Drank more water. Again tried not to hobble.

I eased into bed last night, a bit ashamed that my itty bitty strength training session had caused me more pain than training for and running my first half marathon. I thought that surely I would feel better when I woke up this morning. This foreign feeling, this muscle soreness--it must be some kind of fluke. I bet myself that I would feel just fine and complete my second scheduled strength training session this morning. Nope. My quads are still screaming and my glutes are still tight. (It was, thankfully, a bit easier to brush my teeth.) So, I reduced my strength training session to mere core work this morning.

I know, with time, this soreness will pass. For now, I'm still stretching, still drinking water, still trying not to hobble.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Reversible Cable Scarf

As a birthday gift to myself, I made a soft reversible cable scarf out of Plymouth Baby Alpaca Grande yarn. I bought this luxurious yarn from Charlotte Yarn, and it took me several months to find an appropriate pattern.

The cables would stand out more with a different yarn--maybe a basic worsted weight wool or a chunky yarn that has tighter strands. But this subtle lattice-like look is just what I wanted for the soft alpaca. It has enough texture to be interesting, but not enough to take away from the yarn itself.

I used size 10.5 bamboo needles, approximately two and a half skeins or 250 yards (I'm tall--two skeins or 200 yards would do for someone shorter), and followed this pattern: Ruthie Nussbaum's Reversible Cable Scarf. I usually only knit while watching American Idol or on weekends, and this project took me approximately three weeks to finish.

Several other knitting projects are in the works (hint to family and friends: you may receive a scarf for Christmas!), but I am waiting to post pictures and patterns until they reach their intended recipients.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Shoe Review: Nike Air Zoom Vomero+ 3

Last Sunday, the day after my half marathon, when the balls of my feet were still sore, I bought a new pair of shoes--Nike Air Zoom Vomero+ 3. Today, I took them out for their first run.

Pros: lots of cushioning throughout the entire foot bed, exterior plastic netting on the heel that provides an immediately supportive and comfortable fit, lightweight, great responsiveness on pavement.

Cons: not a stability shoe so there's little support to keep your foot from rolling in if you overpronate, only medium arch support, perhaps too cushioned for a trail run because they absorb the rocks and roots in the path and made me feel a little disconnected from the ground. The combination of a cushioned ride and little stability support could be a problem for running on uneven surfaces--I would hate to trip or twist an ankle because I didn't feel the ground beneath me and the shoe did not prevent my foot from rolling.

I think I might call them my Cadillac shoes because of the soft, smooth ride. They'll be great for long runs on pavement and mid-week runs on the treadmill. I'm considering getting a shoe with more stability and responsiveness for weekend trail runs, even though I have a normal arch and don't overpronate.

Even Annabelle likes the new shoes!

And, while we're talking about my first outside run since the half marathon--it felt fantastic! I'm considering a jump in my training schedule from running three times a week to running four times a week. I used the run/walk program in Marathoning for Mortals, by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield, for the Charlotte RaceFest--I'm considering a switch to the beginner program in The Marathon Method, by Tom Holland, for the Chicago Distance Classic in August.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Race Report: Charlotte RaceFest at SouthPark Half Marathon

My first half marathon! Despite a week of fretting about the weather and a restless night before the race (Ben's flight was cancelled and I woke up at 1am to thunder, bright lightning, and--finally--his arrival), my first half marathon was great! I ran/walked (4 minutes/1 minute) in 2:36:24.

The morning of the race is smooth for me. The alarm goes off at 6am, and I take a quick shower, have a banana, peanut butter toast, and Gatorade for breakfast, and head to the start line around 7:15. Parking is easy and the line to the portojohns is not too bad. Plenty of people get in line after me and there is always a line for the ones on the course--a note to the organizers: more bathrooms next year!

My parents and Ben come with me to the start. They joke around, snap pictures, and generally help to keep me calm before the gun goes off. I adjust my Camelbak lumbar pack and then readjust it. The weather--drizzle, mid-60s, some wind--keeps many spectators away, so it is nice to have my own cheering squad. There are several pacing groups holding big signs--this race feels friendly.

Mile 1: Mostly downhill. Add that to the excitement of the race, and I start out too quick with a 10:30-ish first mile. I start my favorite mantra for pacing: slow, slow, and easy, easy...

Miles 2-5: Mostly flat. Providence Road is straight and boring, with a mix of residential and commercial use. I'd like to give a shout out to two upbeat spectators cheering in front of St. Gabriel's at the corner of Providence and Sharon Lane--you helped me to keep running after the 10K-ers veered off to head home. Two women running a similar pace to my own do a funny dance and cheer every time they pass a mile marker--it's silly and uplifting! I hit mile 5 in less than an hour, and call Mom to let her know I'm feeling good.

Mile 6: Hooray for the cheerleader jumping up at down for us at the corner of Providence and Old Providence! Last water station before the dreaded uphill on Sharon View, and I'm still feeling good.

Mile 7: Mostly uphill. Mom and Ben take photos after I conquer the biggest hill. They get a quick wave as I run by. Feeling great--especially after the enthusiastic police officers at the intersection with Carmel Road!

Miles 8-11: Mostly hilly. There's a particularly short, steep hill after crossing Fairview and entering the Foxcroft neighborhood. There are quite a few spectators in lawn chairs cheering from their yards. Beautiful houses and gardens along this stretch. I hit 2 hours, but am starting to wear out--no phone call to Mom this hour.

Miles 12-13: More rolling hills. I'm starting to notice that my Mizunos with 350 miles on them lack the cushioning I need for the balls of my feet. (It was a toss-up between buying new shoes and risking blisters or running on old ones.) My feet feel like I've been running in high heels! I see Mom from afar on Richardson and walk with Ben for a few yards on Ferncliff. I complain about aches in my right hip, calves, and feet, and he tells me to keep going. Tough love just when I need it!

The finish line: Uphill--I kid you not. The last 0.2 mile is uphill. Not as steep as Mile 7, but dreadful nonetheless. I promise myself to push through, and I jog the last 10 minutes--I even manage to smile. I finished my first half marathon!

Mom, Dad, Ben, Lisa, Russ, and Lindsay all meet me at the finish. I've sweat so much that salt has formed on my forearms and legs--the granules are small, gritty, and bright white. I drink lots of Gatorade, change into dry clothes, and stick around long enough at the soggy awards show to hear that the winners finished this race when I had more than an hour left to run.

Did I enjoy my first long race? Yes! On Monday, I signed up for the Chicago Distance Classic on August 10, 2008.