Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Getting Back Into Shape... What a Drag.

I don't mean to complain, really, I don't. I am well aware every single day how lucky I am to be alive and (relatively) healthy and even able to work out at all. It's just that I basically did nothing for almost a month, and now I am paying the price. I didn't really have a choice for that month, given how lousy I felt, but if I am ever again in a situation where I'm thinking to myself, "You know, maybe I deserve a month off just to relax and chill out," I will remind myself, "NO! Don't do it! Remember how it feels when you have to get back in shape afterwards!" (Besides, endurance sports will always present me with plenty of opportunities for rest by way of injuries; there's no reason to go gifting myself with rest breaks. I should just wait for them to come along naturally.)

I am 15 pounds heavier than I was when I qualified for Boston. I know I was too skinny then, but I also know I am too fat now. Oh, not fat by normal people standards. I know I'm not that. But by the standards of someone who wants to get a not-embarrassing time in the Boston Marathon? Trust me, I'm fat. When I first started running again, on New Year's Day, I did 3 miles at a 10:00 pace and it felt hard. It's gotten better since then. I have been trying not to push too hard because I desperately do not want to injure myself again. On the plus side, my presumed stress fracture hasn't given me one iota of trouble. On the minus side, besides being fat, I first forgot how to forefoot strike. What that means, in case anyone who doesn't run is reading this, is that I had trained myself to land on the front of my foot each time my foot hit the ground, rather than the middle of my foot or my heel. The forefoot strike gives you faster turnover (I think) and puts a bounce in your step and just feels better, once you learn it. The midfoot and heel strikes are clunky and uncomfortable. But, I swear, I just plain forgot how to forefoot strike. After a couple weeks of plugging along, I remembered how to do it. Then I realized that there are calf muscles involved in forefoot striking, and that mine had completely atrophied since the Mt. Lemmon Marathon. I was able to do short runs (4 miles or less) and forefoot strike almost the whole time, but my calves were then in so much pain that I could barely walk for the two days following the workout, forget about running.

That, too, is getting better, though. I just did a run with Tim -- and I can't believe I'm bragging about this but I am -- where we did 5 miles at 8:00 pace. It seems like nothing when I think about how I did a whole marathon at under 8:00 pace, but I have to remember that I did that once and I can do it again if I really want to. Anyway, it's definitely an improvement over a couple weeks of being sure I was going at my top possible speed and then looking at my Garmin and realizing that my "top possible speed" was 9:30 miles.

I am back in the pool, too. My last long swim prior to onset of the Mysterious Female Troubles was 3400 meters, and that was over a month ago. (I hadn't been in the pool since then.) So one day I rode to the pool and told myself I was just going to swim until I got tired. Then before I knew it I had done 1500 meters and decided I was just going to keep going till I got to 3400. Then I decided I can always do another 100 -- just like you can always ride another mile on the bike no matter how tired you are -- so I did the 3500 and felt fabulous. I didn't lose any ground at all! Then two days later I got back in the pool and swam 150 meters and had to get out because my shoulders were so sore I couldn't lift my arms out of the water. Apparently my arms did not like going from 0 meters to 3500 meters. Once 5 days had passed, I was able to do an easy swim, and then yesterday I was able to do intervals even though they hurt, and I am planning to do 3600 meters on Wednesday.

I don't seem to have lost much ground on the bike, either -- I did 55 miles with Tim a week or so ago, and felt pretty good. I am still not back to bike commuting, though, partly because I want to ease my legs back into the major strain I was putting them under when trying to Boston Qualify, partly because I sometimes have to come home at lunch to let Zsiga out, and partly, I admit, because of this beastly cold in the mornings. I will go back to bike commuting once I am able to manage workouts 6 days per week without discomfort, no sense adding more miles until then.

The Mysterious Female Troubles, by the way, are still troubling me. I had a sonogram and the word from the doctor was that I had a cyst on the left ovary that appeared to be self-resolving, and an endometrial polyp of the type that is usually benign. That is all well and good, doctor, but then why is the pain on my RIGHT side? And if it's resolving, why am I still so bloated and full-feeling regardless of what (or even whether) I eat? I am still spending way too much time walking around bent in half pressing a heating pad against my lower abdomen. Today all I drank the entire day was a mug of decaf coffee at 5 a.m. and 6 ounces of water throughout the day at work, but yet on my 5-mile run, my stomach was sloshing like I just slammed down a gallon of water before my run. I see the doctor again on Thursday and am not leaving until I get an answer.

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