Friday, July 29, 2011

Blistering feet and the blistering heat

Well, the time has come: mileage has come back and bit me in the ass, just as I predicted (my prophetic skills are quite impressive, I know). I suppose it makes sense that this week has felt the worst, since I'm at the end of a 100+ four-week stint: 100/115/112/115ish (TBD). I am pleased with the numbers and with the fact that I was able to get in some quality workouts in the midst of what's felt like a lot of long, slow miles and some intense heat.

Getting back to my initial point - mileage has bit me in other places than my ass, most prominently my feet. Oh, my poor feet. They look like those of someone who's been living barefoot on the street their whole lives. They are a pretty disgusting sight. Since you obviously want details, I will start with the basics: black toe nails. This is nothing new. Neither are a complete lack of toenails. In fact, having been a ballerina for 13 years, walking around with inflamed, black toenails or missing nails I would consider quite normal. But no, not only are my nails a mess now, but I have plantar warts on the bottom of my feet. I wouldn't normally care *that* much about this, but you see plantar warts can become quite painful, and now they are bothering me a lot (only if something affects my running do I consider it a real problem. That's healthy, right?).

I know you are dying to know more. Well, I am finally getting treatment for my warts, meaning bi-weekly silver nitrate applications by my trusty podiatrist (I'm pretty sure he dislikes me and my feet as much as I like him. We have a great relationship). This has the awesome effect of staining my feet black. So to start to build you a picture of my beautiful feet, it would begin with a few black toenails and one missing toenail. Add in some black sexy spots underneath my toes and heel. My third issue would be the massive blisters I am getting all over my left foot. MAN are they painful. I have one on my pinky toe, one on the outside of my big toe, one between my toes and one on the outside of my heel. Of course they are all big and juicy and relentlessly fill up with gross fluid despite my repeated attempts to squash them. I am pretty sure they must also be infected, since they throb constantly. Especially in the morning. There is no worse feeling in my day than waking up with inflamed, throbbing feet and painstakingly forcing on my running shoes for a 13-mile morning run. The first steps out the door are the worst - I pretty much limp up and down for a few blocks, before I become partially desensitized to the throbbing pain and can push it out of my mind. Coming home and dousing them in hydrogen peroxide may compete for most uncomfortable part of my day, but I still think I enjoy that more than squeezing blistered feet into my running shoes. My fourth issue is some inflammation on the top of my right foot, which has come and gone for the past few months but only gets bad when I do speed workouts. Of course this week, it has decided to plague me after all of my runs so that I walk around like an old lady, trying to avoid stepping the wrong way on one blistered foot and dragging my tight right foot behind. It takes me about 2 full minutes to walk down the hallway to the washroom at work (looking like a total gimp at that) - so the other night I actually used the men's room instead. So much more convenient - though I'm not sure how well this would go over during regular work hours. I don't think the humidity is helping any, as my blisters have been this bad for over a week and I see no sign of them healing. Anyone out there have any useful blister tips? They would be mucho appreciated!

Now that I've sufficiently complained about my lovely pieds, I suppose I should talk about some actual training. I did an easy 38k (3hrs) last Saturday that felt great - I love how the long runs are starting to feel easy now. It was another hot day in which I didn't bring anything to drink with me (classic camel coolis) so of course I ended the run at Starbucks in a complete delirium. I stumbled to the cash, red-faced, hot and wet (twss!) and gasped for TWO venti green tea lemonades and a venti pike place. The cashier looked terrified and I can't really blame her. I must have looked like a wild, starving animal ready to suck the life out of on anything with a hint of moisture. She turned to shout out the order but before she got two words in she turned back and asked: 'TWO green tea lemonades? Venti?!' 'Do I look like I only need ONE?!' I thought to myself impatiently. I nodded and before I was out the door I had chugged one of the drinks entirely and was desperately stabbing at the ice in an effort to extract all the liquid possible. That didn't quite work.

Mondays are my toughest day, since my morning 13-miler is followed by an afternoon workout with the Angels. It doesn't help that most Monday afternoons have hovered around 40 degrees with the humidex. Last Monday it decided to thunderstorm during our morning run, leading to a legitimate flooding of the trails. Initially we poked fun at Chafe (a.k.a. 'softy'), who no-showed due to the thundershowers (but who will run in -20 through icy streets - makes perfect sense). The thunder gods must have been on his side, however, for partway through the run it began to snap, crackle, pop and POUR. I felt like I was running upstream running up the beltline - my feet were wading through ankle-deep water rushing furiously in the opposite direction. It was quite the sight. Of course I cringed at the thought of my blisters chafing even more than they already were, so I decided to avoid this by keeping my feet completely soaked the entire rest of the run. After we got through the trails, I hit every puddle I could coming back downtown. The more my feet started to dry, the more I felt the rub and burn of the blisters. So once again I made a lasting impression on the Starbucks employees when I sloshed through the door, mud-ridden and soaking wet. They must simply love me there!

My legs have never felt more heavy and dead than that afternoon. I barely made it up to Churchill for intervals, and convinced myself that there was no way I could do the workout that night. 'I'll just do strides and come back downtown,' I told myself soothingly. I showed up 5min late because I was running so friggin slowly, and immediately began to complain like a baby to the girls about how tired I was. I think I should stop doing this, since I am sure it must be pretty annoying to have someone self-inflict pain on themselves then incessantly complain about it (and then, as it happens, run a fine workout). Being the beautious, kind group they are, however, they were supportive through my moans and groans and encouraged me to start the workout. Somehow I was able to bust out a solid workout consisting of 6x800m, 4 hill repeats and a hilly 1400m tempo, with times hovering around 2:40 for the 800s. By the 2nd 800m I felt like I had a new set of legs. I am still miffed by how this happens considering how tough my warm-ups have felt! Top that off with circuits at 6:15am Tuesday mornings, and I am generally a completely useless human being for the next 24 hours.

In past weeks things usually turn around by Thursday. Not this week. First off, I slept through my two alarms and woke up 30min before the workout (that is a 30min jog away). I briefly considered skipping it, but quickly slapped myself in the face (self-abuse seems to work well with me), cringed while I crammed my poor feet into my runners and flailed out the door in a fury. I showed up huffing and puffing just as the Angels were about to start the workout, but at least didn't complain about it this time. We started with 2x1k, in which I initally felt like I was in an all-out SPRINT, until I went through in 3:49. I knew it would be a tough day. My 2nd repeat was 3:39, but I was working much harder for that than I should have been. The key interval of the day was 2k hard, at which point I was sufficiently warmed up to tie my PB on the loop of 7:04. I was satisfied considering how heavy my legsI felt, but really wanted to go sub-7:00. We finished the workout off with 1k/3k/2x1k in 3:40/10:52/3:37/3:37. I then got down on my knees and thanked Jesus I didn't have to run again until Saturday.

Speaking of which, tomorrow should be an excellent marathon prep workout - about 20km starting at slower than race pace (4:10/km) and progressing to marathon pace (3:50-3:55) for 14km or so. Hopefully with a rest day in the bag I will be ready to tackle it, perhaps even without a complaint!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


What a GREAT weekend. A couple of the Angels and I went to visit coach Nic in Montreal. We flew Porter for the presumed 'ease' and convenience of it - so of course we were met with a ridiculously rushed and stressful experience. It probably didn't help that we showed up to the airport 25min before our flight, fully intending on checking our bags. When the kind check-in lady informed us that there was NO WAY our bags would make it on the plane, we opted to carry them on instead. Of course then the kind woman (really no better way to describe her) asked us whether we had any liquids in our bags. "And yes," she continued, "if you can believe it, we ARE a legitimate airport. You can't carry liquids with you, or check your bags 20 minutes before the plane takes off!" We shamefully realized that if we wanted to make it to Montreal with our bags, we'd have to ditch several bottles of lotion and facewash, which Mama K wasn't too happy about. This didn't really phase me, until I remembered that I had just filled my flask with 8 ounces of Grey Goose. Shat-DAMN! What was I supposed to do now?! I was really in distress now. Mama K tried to convince me to chug the entire thing on the ferry ride over (I think she was in need of some light entertainment at this point), but I figured it probably wasn't a good idea to show up to see Nic for the first time in weeks completely wasted. So I tearfully poured out my flask in the garbage can and we rushed over to security with ten minutes to spare.

Although security duly noted the presence of a flask in my bag, they didn't even check to see if it was full. This kinda made me mad. Then, of course, they made the germophobic Mama K take off her sandals and walk through the metal detector in bare feet. I think this is where the tears started to well up in her eyes. This was followed by a 5 minute search through her purse, at the end of which Mama K uttered a 'OOOOOH CRAP!!!" and pulled out a swiss army knife from some hidden pocket. They looked at her skeptically as she claimed to have forgotten about it being there. Seriously Mama K? Who brings a KNIFE through security?! All jokes aside, they unfortunately confiscated her beloved knife and we got on the plane in a pretty demoralized state. Who would be happy with no vodka or knives?

If you can believe it, the rest of the weekend just kept getting more entertaining. On Saturday we went for a 35k run along the Lachine Canal, which was awesome. It was a beautiful morning and we almost managed to escape the humidity by getting out the door relatively early. The second half got pretty hot, however, so naturally we ran through a children's water park on the way home and soaked ourselves under the sprinklers. This was accompanied with a chorus of euphoric 'oooohs' and 'aaaahs'. I don't think we scared off any children, but we definitely got some peculiar stares from their parents. We attempted a circuit session in the afternoon, meaning I took a 45min nap on Nic's couch while Mama K, Stewie and Nic did Nic's infamous '5lb weights are all you need' routine. I was doubly impressed by Nic, who managed to polish off an ENTIRE bag of Oreos WHILE completing the circuit! I have never witnessed such a feat, it truly was incredibly impressive. Not only did she eat handfuls during the rest breaks, but she even chomped down during the ab exercises! I think I have finally uncovered the secret to her six-pack abs!

Serious circuits

G.I. Jane circuits

On Sunday we met up with my Montreal sista Miss Ali-Khan and we ran up Mount Royal. Frick I had forgotten how hilly Montreal was! But the spectacular view at the top was worth every step!

Mama K the master stretcher

Mount Royal run!

Perhaps only appropriately, our trip ended just as tumultuously as it started off. First, by the fact that we had to wash ourselves in pots after our steamy run since the water on Nic's block was shut off for four hours. When we finally got somewhat clean and packed up our bags, we were ravenous and looked forward to a nice brunch at Eggspectations before heading to the airport. This is when Nic had the brilliant idea to try and find a location that was closer to her place - or the airport - so that we didn't have to go downtown. And as if one brilliant idea wasn't enough, she took it one step further by enlisting the help of her beloved GPS system, 'Karen,' to help us out. 'Des-ti-na-tion is 3.9km a-way.' Karen stated robotically. The problem with machines that talk to you is that they always sound sure of themselves. How were we to know that Karen was a lying and deceitful woman? After following her methodical yet completely false directions for 25 minutes and 'arriv-ing-at-dest-i-na-tion' that turned out to be Billy Bob's Beer House or something of the like, we gave up and stopped at a gas station. According to the gas attendant we were only a couple km away from our Great Eggspectations. So again we set off, our eyes hungrily searching for anything with the words 'EGG' written on it, but to no avail. 15 minutes later we pulled into a strip mall and saw two restaurants: Chinese Big Buffet and Tutti Frutti Dejeuner. We settled on the latter, though I'm still not sure that was the right decision...

We sat down and immediately realized that our waitress was not exactly a happy person. She seemed irritated that we were making an effort to speak French (how could we be so inconsiderate!) and impatiently waited for each of us to complete our orders. When our water finally came, she practically threw the glasses on the table, causing them to splash all over the place. She filled our coffees like she was hosing flower pots, pouring half the pot on the table and not bothering to clean up the resulting brown, watery mess (ouf sorry bad visual). I don't think she was happy that three of the four of us changed something about our order either. Katie wanted egg whites and no cheese. I zapped the gluten out of my meal. No one wanted buttered bread. Oh but we wanted extra peanut butter. Finally, when Katie's omelette came all yolked-up and we pointed this out to her, she exploded into a loud 'OOOOOH FUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!'. I could barely contain myself. Did she really just swear at us in English?! Did she not understand the concept of tipping? My amusement was short-lived, however, as I gently opened a container of ketchup that shot out like projectile vomit all over my new white shirt and shorts. I barely had time to react before Nic was keeled over, laughing hysterically. Oh wow. Of course we immediately concluded that the waitress had orchestrated this too and was out to get us in any way possible. Instead of going and washing myself like any normal person would do, however, I ignored the mess and continued on with breakfast, too hungry to care that I looked like a stab victim. It made for some interesting looks at the airport, too - to which I responded with a cold blank stare back.

Ketchup victim

So that pretty much wrapped up our superb weekend in Montreal - wasted vodka, a lost swiss army knife, $50 in lost cosmetics, at least $120 in parking fees and a ketchup-stained new outfit. But in all seriousness, it was an amazing weekend (primarily because we ran 55k and got some excellent coaching advice, including insight into a new way to carbo-load). It also concluded my highest mileage week yet - 115 miles on 6 days. I feel great now, just waiting for it to come back and kick me in the ass.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bananas for mileage

My first two weeks of increased mileage have felt good. I've been getting in consistent 12-13 mile morning runs, some on my own and some with the tmp group, who do the same route at 6:15 every morning. They keep the pace easy - the only challenge is hopping the fence in the cemetery without injuring yourself. So far, so good, though I may ask Kap 'N K to incorporate wall jumping into our circuit regime so that I am more apt at them, as I can be pretty uncoordinated early in the morning (or maybe that's just all the time..).

Last week I hit 90 miles on 7 days, this week will be 100 miles on 6. I am experimenting with taking a day off every two weeks instead of every week, as it makes getting in the mileage much easier. That being said, I actually didn't find it very difficult reaching 100 this week. With the big morning runs and two substantial double days, I didn't even have to do much of a long run to round it out. The most painful part of the week was running through my shin injury. And by injury I mean a massive bruise from running straight into a fire hydrant. Yep. Pretty awesome move right there. This was compounded by several other bruises, the source of which (if you can even imagine) is more embarassing than running into a still object. I will therefore not elaborate any further.

I did my first 'tempo-effort' workout on Thursday, 8x1k w/90s rest. We work out at 7AM on Thursdays, so the body is always a little sluggish, as was evidenced from my first km in 3:49. Ouf. I figured my legs were just tired from a heavy three days before, but the rest of the workout progressed pretty well in 3:36/3:40/3:30/3:38/3:29/3:30/3:29. I felt stronger as the workout went on and was happy with the effort considering it was my first workout in a few weeks.

I did a long run this morning - two hours with 30min slightly up-tempo (4:16/km). I didn't want to do anything too exerting, so I just let my legs dictate the pace at which they felt comfortable. It was one of those runs where I felt good and relaxed and never wanted to stop running. The weather was beautiful, the trails were peaceful and my body felt strong. I always try to appreciate these moments and remember how awesome it is to be able to get out and run. There can be so many injuries and setbacks in this sport and runs like these always remind me of the fundamental reason I do it: for the pure love of it. (...and because I can eat as much peanut butter as I want...)

Too elaborate on that point - I may have gotten through 100 miles in 6 days, but in this time I have also ploughed through half a kilogram of peanut butter and 14 bananas (um and possibly a container of vanilla icing, but I probably shouldn't be advocating this as a healthy way of getting in calories...). Some have started to refer to me as the fat monkey. But in all seriousness, I do have a bit of an obsession with bananas. So much so, in fact, that I recently saw this article, entitled 'Bananas could split for good,' (ha!) in which scientists discuss the likely extinction of bananas within a short few years. Apparently, since the bananas we eat lack genetic diversity, they are more susceptible to being wiped out by diseases and pests. This is so terrifying to me that I have started to donate to INIBAP (who knew such an amazing organization existed! Oh wow) in a frantic effort to help them save the beloved edible banana. I, for one, would not be opposed to a GM banana - only if it tasted like the real thing!

I'm looking forward to another solid week of training that will be capped off with a visit to Montreal to visit coach Nic with fellow Angels Mama K and Stewie. Looking forward to getting my *ss whooped on a long run with these speedsters!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Slurpee-ng down the miles

It's the first week of July and I've officially begun marathon training. I am very excited about this! Of course this means the re-birth of 12 mile morning runs, doubles and long runs: gone are the days of split ends, wet hair, scaly skin and chlorine-induced sneezing attacks! Although that phase of supplemental cross-training was fun, I much prefer gallavanting through the trails in the warm sunshine at daybreak than staring at the bottom of a pool.

Bottom of a pool

Or the Beltline trail?!

I am starting out with about two weeks of easy running, building up the mileage. I was quite comfortable at 70 miles/week for the past month, so will be bringing it up to ~90 miles per week and upping it to 100 miles in late July. I won't be peaking much higher than I did in the winter, but instead would like to be more consistently at 100 miles. I think I managed 3 100 mile weeks in the winter, with most hovering around 90.

The approach will be slightly different this time around. First, I will start with easy running only then progress into a 'tempo' phase for the rest of July. Nothing too intense. Instead of doing straight easy long runs, however, we will be alternating easy with tempo long runs every week. This will give us more chances to familiarize ourselves with marathon pace and make it comfortable come race day. I felt that in the winter I did little running at my actual goal pace - all was either slower or much faster. I will aim for somewhere in the 3:50/km region for these workouts.
Second, we will be doing meatier workouts once a week that will evolve to awesome sets like 3-4x3k, 10x1k and 5x2k. I think we had a few of these workouts planned in the winter but because of snow, we had trouble completing them as planned. Now all we have to deal with is very humid days which are sure to come. Bring on the powerade slurpees!
Third, I won't be doing as much racing. This isn't really because I think it's a bad thing to race leading up to a marathon, but because there just aren't a lot of races I'm keen on doing. I will likely do the Acura 10-miler in August, and perhaps A Midsummer Night's 30k as a long run, then the 10k Champs in September. Voila!
Fourth, Kap 'N K (our beloved circuit leader) is back and this means that I'll have my ass whipped into shape on the circuit scene. Can't say my push-ups have improved much in the 6 months she's been gone and I know I'll have to pay for my laziness. I am looking forward to getting on a better circuit regime, however, both to get stronger and to prevent injuries with all the mileage ahead.
Lastly, I have promised myself that I will practice my nutrition better both before and during long runs, especially tempos. I have had too many 'GI Jane' issues in the past to let this one slide. I will likely subsist on powerade during the run, but have to make sure the timing and quality of my pre-race fueling is something my stomach is used to.

I'm psyched to get into heavy training mode, partly because I've never trained for a marathon in the summer and LOVE summer running. Last summer the track was fun, but I hated doing wimpy 50min runs every day. Not to mention trying to bust out some fast stuff in the 40 degree afternoon heat. And obviously, because there is nothing quite like an ice cold slurpee after a summer long run!