Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On Schedules and Pool Running Easy Runs

So, within about 24 hours of my foot going "pop", I decided to retain a running coach for the first time in my life.  I had always been reluctant to do so -- part of it was pride (wanting to do it all myself), part of it was that I genuinely enjoy learning about physiology and experimenting with how different types of training work for me.  And part of my reluctance was that I have previously competed at a decently high level in another sport, and I had learned there that I do NOT do well with aggressive coaching.   I tend to push myself pretty hard, and when a coach pushes me on top of that, I end up in a bad mental place.  I implode, I psych myself out, the sport becomes a miserable place, and the fun is gone.  My thinking was that I'd rather run slightly slower but have fun, and so I was self-coached. 

And then my foot went pop -- a nice punctuation to a year+ of injury despite doing all the anciliary prevention stuff -- massages, drills, continuing PT.  Clearly, I needed help.  And so I selected a coach who met three key criteria -- a) he was local, b) he had a solid reputation for repeated success (especially with women in my age range), and c) he was known for being conservative with injury (and d) he was NOT a screamer).   Points b) and c) supported each other -- I needed someone whom, when he put the brakes on me, I could not possibly disagree with, as he clearly knew so much more than me.

And so I retained him, and asked what I should be doing.  I was advised to keep up my normal running schedule in the pool, with one interval workout, one tempo, and one long run.  The balance of my runs were to be easy, and I was to maintain the same volume (i.e. "mileage") in the pool as I had on land.   So, my schedule is something like:

M - Interval/"track workout"
T - Easy mileage
W - Easy mileage
Th - "Tempo"
F - Easy mileage
Sa - Long "run"
Su - Easy mileage

Interestingly, exactly mimicking one's dry land running schedule when in the water diverges from a lot that I've read about pool-running while injured -- the online consensus (and we know how accurate the internet is) is that near daily intervals are necessary and appropriate to maintain fitness while pool-running, due to a) the difficulty of elevating heart rate in the pool, and b) the increased rate of recovery associated with pool running.  I read stuff like this and this and this, and spoke to numerous friends and fellow poolrunners who have all done/are doing near daily intervals.  An added benefit of doing intervals is that the time goes by much, much quicker.

So, I thought, and read some more, and decided that maybe I'd try inserting a shorter interval segment into some of my easy runs -- not a full out session like my Monday "track workout", but just some fun stuff to raise the heart rate and make time pass.  In terms of equating to dry land, it would be like including some fartlek pickups into an easy run, or doing an easy run on hilly terrain.

Makes total sense, right?

Emailed the coach this, and was promptly, and EMPHATICALLY shot down.   All "easy runs" in the pool are to be EASY -- no exceptions.

He gave me examples of runners he had trained who had run fantastic performances shortly after returning from injury, when following this plan.  It was very nice to read, but he didn't need to.  This is why I reached out to him, right?  To stop me BEFORE I shoot myself in the metatarsal once more.

Duly noted -- no quality in the easy runs.  :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Training - week ending 11/28/2010

End of week 3, post fracture. This week was 93 “miles” pool running (per my conversion below) -- training log is here. I got the OK to add in some swimming this week, which meant that I could attempt to pool run without the belt. Tried, and it was comical. Obviously I need some practice.

I’m not sold on the accuracy of my pool running mileage conversion – I definitely don’t have the fatigue I would have if I was actually running 90+ miles. I do feel like I’m preserving fitness to some extent, and I guess that’s the best I can do.

On December 15, I get to walk without the aircast, and start adding in some elliptical. Yay for approaching goals!


Monday: “13 miles” total. In the morning, “11 miles” - 95 minutes pool running, including an “800s” workout of 10x3:00 at very hard effort, with 1:00 recovery, followed by full recovery and then 15 minutes at aerobic effort.. Strength training at night, plus 30 minutes easy pool running for 3 more “miles”.

Tuesday: In the morning, “12 miles” – 2 hours easy pool-running plus lower body strengthwork.

Wednesday: “13.5 miles” total – In the morning, 90 minutes easy pool running for “9 miles”; in the evening, 45 minutes easy pool running for “4.5” more miles.

Thursday: “14.5 miles” - 2 hours pool running, including a cruise intervals workout of 2x20 minutes at tempo effort, with 1 minute recovery – after the second tempo, I took 1 minute recovery, and then 3 minutes at hard interval effort.

Then full recovery, followed by another set of intervals – 5x:3:00 very hard, 1:00 recovery.

Friday: “11 miles” – 1:50 hours easy pool running, plus strength training

Saturday: “18 mile long run” – 3 hours pool running, most at easy effort, but I included a half-hour of 90 seconds very hard, 60 seconds easy, to break the monotony.

Sunday: “10 miles” - strength training plus 1:40 hours easy pool running.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tricks of pool running

So, I'm now entering my fourth week of a pool running only existence, and third week of 80-90 "miles" in the pool -- roughly 13-14 hours per week.  That's a lot of time doing something that's pretty tedious, and I've learned some tricks to make it a bit easier.
  • Waterproof Ipod Case.  This is essential.   I use my iPod Nano, and this case.   With this as my trusty pool-running partner, my "runs" become an opportunity to catch up on podcasts.  I'm particularly fond of This American Life, as well as running-related podcasts like Endurance Planet and some of the podcasts that Julie T has done (I've listened to the Houston Hopefuls podcast a few times).  I also crank up the music for my intervals, or catch up on the local radio news via the Nano's radio.
  • Logs.   I've concocted a formula for converting pool running to land running, and I log my workouts as both time and mileage.  Yes, it's a white lie -- pool running ain't running.  But anything that keeps me motivated and feeling like I am progressing is a good thing.
  • Multiple pools.  I'm fortunate that I have four different indoor pools within easy driving distance (heck, one is within air-cast hobbling distance).  I try not to run at the same pool more than 3 times in a row -- I find that a different set of walls to stare at can be amazingly refreshing.
  • Friends.  Pool-running buddies are the best.  A 90 minute "run" with a friend goes by twice as fast as a 90 minute solo venture, iPod Nano or no.   Friends are so helpful that I will go a fair bit out of my way if it means I have company (and I'm normally a pretty solitary person, who has happily done 20 mile runs solo without music).
  • Intervals.  Doing a workout that shifts between hard and easy segments is much easily, mentally, than a constant slog.  For this reason, I'll toss in occasional segments of high intensity into my longer "easy runs" -- it gives me something to simultaneously dread and look forward to.
  • Form drills.  During my "easy runs", I add in segments of 5-10 minutes where I hold my arms in a loop in front of my body with hands clasped, or tuck my thumbs into the running belt (so I look like an underwater chicken).  It looks even stupider than normal pool running, but it forces me to engage my abs and push off with both legs equally, lest I start circling.  And mixing in these segments makes the times go faster.
  • Other activity in the pool.  One pool has a synchronized swimming program for kids -- it's a real treat when this is going on, as I can watch how they train (it's a pretty demanding sport, from what I can see).  The one downside is that I'm getting really sick of the music they use for their routine, though probably not as sick of it as they are. 
  • Vaseline.  Coated on one's face prior to pool entry.  Makes a huge difference in avoiding the sandpaper feel of one's face after a pool long run.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lessons learned

So, it's been about 3 weeks that I've been on crutches, and then an aircast.  Lessons learned:
  • Jaywalking with an aircast can be thrilling and adventurous, but is ultimately a bad idea.
  • If you get angry and throw a crutch at someone, then you only have one crutch.
  • If you ever break your foot or leg, break your left to ensure broader transportation options (driving).
  • People are incredibly nice and deferential when you're on crutches, it's almost like being in the mid-west.  This is why you need to get off the crutches as soon as possible, before your sense of entitlement becomes permanent.
  • The first thing you should do when on crutches is buy a backpack  If you have a backpack, buy a bigger one.  And pockets.  Lotsa pockets.
  • In advance of your injury and stint on crutches, you should be sure to a) strength-train your upper-body; b) change all your ceiling lightbulbs, and c) vacuum.
  • When faced with stairs, it's totally fine to sit on your butt and go down them one step at a time.
  • If you bag your trash and put it by the door, your boyfriend will take it out for you without you asking.
  • When you get your aircast, it will come with a separate little airpump, which is essential for inflating and deflating the cast when you take it off or put it on.  Ask your doctor for a spare -- you will lose this.
  • Surprisingly, a google search for "aircast porn" yields no NSFW hits; "crutches porn" is more productive.  In conducting this study, I opted to play it safe, and did NOT google "aircast goatse".
  • You get dressed, and then put the aircast on; to do things in the reverse order leads one to madness.

Training log - week ending 11/21/10

This week was 88 “miles” pool running (per my conversion below) -- training log is here.  Still pool running, though it’s feeling like the norm.  I’m mixing up my long runs each week, shifting between 3 hours at easy effort, and 2.5 hours with cruise intervals thrown in.


Monday:  “13 miles” total.  In the morning, “10 miles” - 90 minutes pool running, including an “800s” workout of 10x3:00 at very hard effort, with 1:00 recovery.  Strength training at night, plus 30 minutes easy pool running at night for 3 more “miles”..

Tuesday:  In the morning, “10.5 miles” – 1:45 minutes easy pool-running; in the evening, a pilates session plus lower body strengthwork

Wednesday:  “15 miles” total – In the morning, 85 minutes easy pool running for “8.5 miles”; in the evening, 65 minutes easy pool running for “6.5” more miles.

Thursday:  “10.5 miles” -  In the morning, 90 minutes pool running, including a “tempo run” of 40 minutes at tempo efforr.  In the evening, strength training.

Friday:  “12 miles” – 2 hours easy pool running.

Saturday:  “18 mile long run” – 2.5 hours pool running, most at easy effort, but with a 5 minute “cruise interval” every 15 minutes.

Sunday:  “9 miles” - strength training plus 90 minutes easy pool running.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Training - week ending 11/14/2010

This week was 82 “miles” pool running (per my conversion below) -- training log is here.  First full week of no running;  11 to go.  I managed to ditch the crutches this week, and it’s weird how good the foot feels – no pain to the touch, and no pain in the aircast.  I’m hoping these are good signs.

Per discussions with my coach, I am doing 80 “miles” per week pool running, including an “interval workout”, a “tempo”, and a “long run” each week, plus easy “mileage” on the other days.  Fortunately, my coach encourages all of his runners to incorporate a lot of pool running, injured or not, so I have no shortage of pool running buddies, which is huge.  Saturday’s “long run” was made much easier by a friend appearing for the final hour to pace me through.

General notes

I’m doing exclusively pool running right now, and converting into “mileage” with this formula:
1)      10 minutes “easy” in the pool equals one mile
2)      workouts translate by time into mileage, with the recoveries not counting for mileage.  For example, I would normally cover half a mile in 3:00 during an interval workout, and 1.5 miles in 10:00 during a tempo.  So 8x3:00 at interval effort is 4 miles, and 30 minutes at tempo effort is 4.5 miles.


Monday:  In the morning, “7 miles” - 60 minutes pool running, including an “800s” workout of 8x3:00 at very hard effort, with 1:00 recovery.  (I normally run 800m in about 3 minutes during my track workouts, so this workout was mimicking that).  Pilates class at night.

Tuesday:  “13.5 miles” - In the morning, 75 minutes easy pool-running; in the evening, 60 minutes easy pool-running

Wednesday:  “9 miles” - 90 minutes easy pool running, followed by leg strength work at the gym.

Thursday:  “10.5 miles” -  In the morning, 90 minutes pool running, including cruise intervals of 4x10:00 at tempo effort with 2:00 recovery, throwing in a very hard 2:00 interval right after the last 10:00 cruise interval.  In the evening, strength training with a personal trainer (I’m working with one right now to structure a program that will keep my upper body fit while working around my injury limitations).

Friday:  “12 miles” – 2 hours easy pool running.

Saturday:  “18 mile long run” - 3 hours pool running at easy effort 

Sunday:  “9 miles” - Upperbody strength training plus 90 minutes easy pool running.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Training - week ending 11/7/2010

Ugh!!!!!!!!!!! 15.5 miles running, plus 6:00 pool running and 1:15 on the arc-trainer.

Monday: In the morning, 75 minutes on the arc-trainer plus upper body strength training. In the evening, 3.5 miles very easy outside (9:04 pace).

Tuesday: 12 miles on the treadmill, including an aerobic workout of 8 miles at marathon pace (first 6 miles at 8.6 mph (6:59 - 7:07 outside) and last 2 miles at 8.7 mph (6:54 - 7:01 outside -- the treadmill seems to be about 8 seconds per mile faster than outside). Workout felt relatively easy, and a confidence booster, but then my left foot went “pop” at the very end. No warning, just “pop”. Not much pain either at the time, but I hopped off anyway, iced, and rested for the rest of the day.

Wednesday: off. See podiatrist in am. X-rays confirm oblique fracture of second metatarsal on left foot.

Thursday: 90 minutes easy pool running. Best pool run ever – after 48 hours on the couch, felt wonderful just to move.

Friday: 40 minutes pool running, including a tempo workout of 3x10:00 at tempo effort with 2:00 recovery. Followed with leg strength training.

Saturday: 2:30 pool running (“long run”).

Sunday: Upperbody strength training plus 80 minutes easy pool running.

An intro

So, on November 2nd, 2010, I was running at moderate pace on a treadmill.  I was doing 8 miles at marathon pace, and at the very end of the workout, my left foot went "pop".  Not snap or crackle, but pop.  It wasn't particularly painful; it felt like any joint cracking.   But, the foot felt slightly uncoordinated, so I decided to skip the cool down, and hit "stop".  Went back to the locker room, showered and changed, and then requested some ice from the front desk.

At the time, I thought the injury was at worst a mild sprain.  I have a history of osteopenia, but a decade of working out hard plus good nutrition have managed to improve my femur and hip to the point where they are OUT of the osteopenic range (no small feat for a woman in her later 30s).   Plus I had gotten a free bone density scan of my right foot a few days before at the Marine Corps Marathon Expo, and had been told that the foot bone density was great.  And, though the top of the foot was growing increasingly sore, and the bottom was cramping a bit, there wasn't any excruciating pain to the touch,and I had not had any previous pain in this foot.  It had to be acute tendonitis (which I've had several times before), or possibly a sprain.

I  went to the podiatrist the next morning.  This podiatrist is a runner, and a fairly accomplished one -- I believe he ran 3:04 at Boston this year (others check out their doctors' medical degrees; I check out their PRs).

I've seen him several times before for my injuries, and I've always appreciated his honesty, and his focus on getting someone up and running as soon as practical, rather than the hyper-obsessive focus on rest that I associate with doctors who treat primarily sedentary patients.   He palpated, and then had some x-rays done.

The fracture was clear as day on the x-rays.  Oblique fracture of the shaft of the second metatarsal of the left foot.  The podiatrist gently instructed me that he expected 6 weeks in a boot, with no weight-bearing exercise, and 6 more weeks of cycling and elliptical, before I could run.  I got the boot, hailed a cab home, and sat in shock.  And that was when the foot started to really hurt.

(I didn't cry until I also got a call from the plumber that the replacement of my hot water heater would be delayed another 24 hours.  I could handle no hot water.  I could handle a broken foot.  Together, they were too much).

In the days since then, I've acquired a boot, crutches, various pool memberships, a running coach, fancy machines to accelerate healing, and now a blog.