Monday, January 16, 2012

What marathon training teaches you...

Maybe it is the long hours that I spend alone during my long runs or the long minutes that I lay in my warm bed going through every excuse in my head of why I don't need to go out in 30 degree weather to run, but there is something about training for a marathon or I imagine any endurance event that really teaches you a lot about yourself and just life in general.

I went into this training knowing that that it would be hard and that I would be tested, so it comes at no surprise that in week 4 of my training, I have already hit a hurdle. 

In my last post I mentioned some knee issues, which unfortunately didn't go away after some ice and rest rather the knee pain would continue to come back during all my long runs. Like clock work, after mile 3 I would start to feel my knee tighten up and a slow ache start to run down my leg and by mile 5, I was struggling to even keep moving.  Needless to say, this hurdle has caused me great frustration and has set me back a few miles in my training plan. When you start something like marathon training and you have so much motivation and energy to log in the miles, an injury really dampens your spirit and causes you to pause and ask yourself "Is this really all worth it?"

Well, yes, of course it is worth it! Not because I want to cross a finish line and collect a finishers medal, but because I made a promise to myself that I would start this and end this by finishing a marathon.  If you can't keep a promise to yourself, who can you keep a promise to?

So away I went, icing the knee and doing my research about running and knee pain. There is a TON of information out there about "runners knee", which seems to describe my situation pretty accurately. Basically, along with the other typical running injuries for beginner runners, runners knee can happens when: 

  •  there is overuse and repeated bending of the knee that can irritate the nerves of the knee cap
  • direct trauma to the knee
  • misalignment of any bones (like your kneecap slightly out of position)
  • flat feet causing the arches of your foot to collapse
  • Weak thigh muscles

So while I am not 100% confident which of the causes above is causing my knee pain, I am encouraged that many of the causes can be remedied by professional attention, strength training and rest!

After all my reading and studying of information about runner's knee, I emailed my Crossfit coach at CrossFit South Arlington for his expert opinion and got the following response: 

"The main issue that most marathon runners face is one of strength and not cardio-respiratory endurance or stamina.  At the end of your 10 mile run, are you gasping for air or clutching your legs in pain?  I’m betting #2."

Yes, he was right, after mile 10 I am not gasping for air, but clutching my leg in pain! 

And so begins my introduction to Crossfit Endurance.  Simply put,  in Crossfit Endurance there is a strong focus on power and speed gained from a strength and conditioning plan that does not depend on the traditional high volume of miles. Rather the focus is on increasing intensity through strength training and explosive, anaerobic movements aimed at improving endurance capability. So rather than running for hours every Sunday morning, I will be focusing on a 8 week training plan that includes strength training and intensive interval training. While I admit that it has taken me some time and trust in the good people at Crossfit, to accept this way of thinking, I couldn't think of a better approach for someone like me! Never before has someone taken the time to teach me how to run, had me focus on making my leg muscles stronger to carry me through all the miles and build my aerobic capacity to put some speed in my feet! Crossfit Endurance will give this all to me and will provide me with the knowledge and support to smartly train for an endurance event and train my body to appropriately handle 26.2 miles and not injure myself along the way. 

So today was day 1 of Crossfit Endurance Training. I will be completing two workouts today--1) Crossfit Work Out of the Day (WOD) and 2) Interval Training. 

For today, January 16, my workout looked like this:

  • Start time: 11:10 am
  • 8 rounds of the following: 
      • 10 burpee plate burpees
      • 15 pullups
      • 20 wall balls (10 lb ball)
      • 25 sit ups
      • 90 single under jump ropes
  • End time: 12:15 pm (WODs are not typically this long, but being MLK day, we like to celebrate with a bit more sweat!)
  • Start time: ~9:30 pm
  • Run 1 mile at 90% max effort
  • rest=amount of time it took to run 1 mile
  • Run 1 mile at 90% max effort
  • End time: (not sure, writing this post before I workout!)

I am excited to dig into this training plan and improve not only my running, but overall speed and endurance. Keep checking back for updates on how I progress through my first week of Crossfit Endurance. 

In a book I recently finished, I came across this quote that I think is so applicable to not only marathon training but so many other things in life: 

"When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur....Don't look for the quick, big improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That is the only way it happens-and when it happens, it lasts."-- UCLA Coach John Wooden

In training for this marathon, I just wanted miles and I wanted them fast! I wanted to jump through that chart of weekly long runs and add up the  mileage, but my body was screaming at me to slow down. So I am not giving up on my goal, rather I am listening to my body and doing a better job of preparing it to perform at its best. 

If I can improve a little each day and get a little bit stronger with every workout, I have no doubt that I will sail through 26.2 miles and cross the finish line with a smile on my face and enough energy to jump up and down to celebrate the accomplishment. 

Donor Update: 
Donations are starting to come in!! WooHoo!! Thank you so very much for your generosity! It is motivating to me that not only are you helping a great cause but that you believe in me enough to support me through this journey. 

Thank you to: 
  • Sally Luna
  • Evelyn Gallego
  • Beth Wolf
  • Shaula Flores
  • Letizia Mendoza
  • Louella Hardin
  • Emily Katz
  • Kerry Branick 

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