Beer is not on the runner’s diet

I’m pretty disciplined about my running schedule. Particularly about the long runs on Saturday – I usually do everything so as not to jeopardize running performance. I eat  a light but high energy meal the night before, I abstain from consuming any alcohol and I’m usually in bed by 10pm, much against the consternation of my husband. (He’s even gotten used to making his own plans on Friday nights). That way I know that if there are performance issues, it isn’t extraneous factors but perhaps others – such as Achilles – that are causing it. But Thanksgiving weekend comes and messes everything up.

I was very disciplined about the Turkey Trot. We ate a light dinner of khichdi and omelette (for energy :)). We slept early and woke up fresh for the race – even though it was a fun affair, it was still 5 miles and it would get its due credit. With the 5 miles under my belt, I thought I’d give the long run this weekend with Rogue a skip. We had late night plans on Friday and Saturday nights with friends, among whom is Jairam a fellow SoH runner. (In fact he’s the coordinator). On Saturday night plans included visiting a biergarten in North Austin, followed by a heavy, cheesy meal at European Bistro with more beer. I must say the beers were fantastic and I stuck with good Oktoberfests at both restaurants. By the end of the night on Saturday, Jairam’s guilt had gotten infectious and I asked him to pick me up on Sunday morning as well. I thought, if he doesn’t make it, I’ll sleep in as well. Unfortunately he texted me at 6.19 am. When he met me outside my door, he said he had the same idea if I didn’t make it. Too bad we both did.

We were two of roughly 10 who showed up at Rogue this morning. Very unlike the huge crowd of runners that gather on typical Saturday mornings, but this was a long weekend. The run was supposed to be an easy recovery run to help us reserve strength for the Dec 3rd 10-miler. Jairam’s post thanksgiving guilt was indeed infectious and I thought I’d do the 7 as well. However, the coach asked us to take it easy and no one argues with the coach :). On a sidenote, I’ve never ever seen the Rogue coaches push anyone too far.

This run was a good lesson in what doesn’t help with performance. And here they are in order of importance

1) Getting less than 7 hours of sleep: I got only 6 hours of sleep before and that usually is too little for me. I was tired before the run began.

2) Drinking on the night before the run: even though I had my second and last beer before 9pm and drank lots of water until I went to bed, it’s a dehydration risk. At mile 2.5 (which I puffed and panted to), I was having cramps in my calves.

3) Eating a heavy meal (or a spicy one) – although dinner hadn’t been spicy, it was deepfried and cheesy and made me heavy and queasy with the combination of less sleep and fatigue.

At mile 2.5, we had to take a slight detour for a half mile to get in at the 3 mile mark before we turned around. I thought I’d wait for Jairam to come back after the 1/2 mile but then I changed my mind and decided to run it. To hell with the cramps, I thought. The half mile was a tough hilly one and I ran backwards uphill at the expense of looking like a fool, but its better on the calves and Achilles. Meanwhile 4 girls just sprinted past us as we intermittently walked/ran back.

It was terrible – hardly a hilly run, only 6 miles (and an impending 10 miles this coming weekend) with aches, pains and cramps. I felt like I was back at the drawing board. But it was good to learn that on an easy, not-so-important run. I mean I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But just how hard, I didn’t realize until I made the mistake. We made it back to Rogue (Jairam did a lot better than me probably a ‘guy’ thing, as he would say :)) in about 80-84 minutes, which is somewhere between 12-14 minutes a mile. The pace wasn’t that bad given my condition however it felt a lot longer. Despite performance issues, I’m highly grateful to Jairam for pushing me on this run today.

Sidebar: Bharath had registered last minute for the Turkey race – which was a really sweet gesture. He doesn’t care too much about running but because I enjoy it and because it was Thanksgiving Day, he ran it with me. Though we didn’t run together, we still enjoyed the same experience and I was happy that he knew now how exhilirating it feels on the other side of a good run. He of course nailed the run in less than 50 minutes or so. He’s now considering the Half Marathon which is both good and bad news. It’s good because it will be fun to do it together. Bad because he refuses to train and intends to just run it. I personally don’t think that’s a good idea because of the risk of injury. He’s used to high energy sports like racquetball and squash not so much endurance sports. So if he takes the initiative and does register, he’s going to have to do long runs whether he likes it or not(aa). (private joke)

 So all in all, it was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve had – I ate like a pig (and the rest of the country) through the weekend, cooked a well-appreciated meal, enjoyed 3 wonderful evenings with friends, ran my first race, with the pleasure of my husband’s company and got in 11 miles despite all odds. That’s a lot to be thankful for!


Fun Run on Turkey Day

You gotta love Austin or at least admire the city’s love for the outdoors. And I travel enough times to other parts of Texas to understand that it is pretty unique to this city. This Thanksgiving day, more than 15,000 people showed up to run the fun 5-mile loop around downtown Austin. There were all kinds of people who came out – with kids in strollers, canine running partners, old, young, school kids to grandparents. Not everyone may have been a habitual runner, some walked it and some raced it. But it was a fantastic feeling being part of the crowd.

By the time we crossed the start line, it was past 9.45 (the race was supposed to start at 9.30) and we began jogging on 1st street. Bharath wasn’t having fun running as slow as I do, so he shot ahead and I wanted to have a good, usual run like I do on weekends. It was terribly humid and the race tee was long-sleeved and tight in the wrong places. I think I kept good, even pace. Had a lot of fun people-watching, listening in on conversations. Took a while to warm up of course. I met up with Jairam, the other SoH runner on mile 4 and asked him also to race ahead. I sprinted to the finish line as the clock said 1.06 but given that we began late, I’d actually run 5 miles at around or less than an hour! That’s a pace gain of more than a minute (not sure exactly how much) or 1 mile extra on the hour. Quite excited about that!

I went to my first PT session yesterday. They made me walk to check my gait and did various strain tests on my legs. Said the left foot was at 8 level of flexibility while the right foot is at 13. The therapist said they’d like to see both legs at 15. I’ve got 4 exercises to repeat. One involves standing on the ball of a foot at a time for 10 seconds with knee straight and bent, calf-stretches, toe-strengthening exercises by pulling a towel with the toe on the floor till it crunches up etc. There was no massage unlike the chiro, just these exercises. No wonder chiros are more popular! Here you gotta do all the work! Well, it still gives me control over the process which I like. Doesn’t mean I won’t go to the chiro once in a while :).

Doc visit & Fartleks

Bharath complains that I’ve become a unidimensional personality lately, since I began training. That’s probably true. I’ve become a bit monochromatic in the sense that no matter what the topic of conversation is, I seem to veer back to running or something related to running. I wonder how I must be boring some people to death. Certainly my husband. The other day I was talking to my mom on the phone, and she is usually pretty loquacious and hard-to-hang-up-on (gotta say Bye Mom several times before she actually hears it). She asked me a general question about when I run and I responded with my long winded explanation of the weekly schedule. She listened and then said goodbye quickly and hung up. One must be pretty boring to bore one’s mom.

I hope the blog’s not as boring. I know it’s a lot of lazy writing – I often don’t correct for grammar errors and such, but that’s because that’s how I think – yes, I think in poor english. So today I’m going to attempt to write a better-written post. Too many interesting but poorly written blog posts out there.

Before I get to training news, I must talk about my visit to Dr. Spears’ office. Dr. Spears is an Austin orthopedic surgeon who works at Sports Performance International and came highly recommended on the web by runners. He’s a runner himself so he was less likely to recommend stopping training. The reason I was visiting Dr. Spears is on account of the husband’s inherent distrust of alternate medicine, which includes chiropractors, homeopaths etc. Now I usually trust Bharath implicitly when it comes to most big decisions such as health, though he may disagree to that. Plus I didn’t think the Advance Rehab chiropractor at Rogue was providing me with any long-term solutions to my Achilles heel problem. I made the appointment with Dr. Spears 2 weeks ago because its pretty hard to get hold of him.

He was fantastic. He looked at my left foot, which has the tell-tale signs of a nasty injury I’d sustained when I was 15. (I was out gallavanting with a guy on a bike when the bike toppled over with my left foot under it – needless to say I was grounded, with cast et al for a long time). He asked if I’d injured the tendon and I said I didn’t know. He then asked if I’d been in a cast for more than 3 weeks and I said yes, it was probably close to 6 weeks. He then asked his assistant to note that I’d probably had lacerations to the Achilles tendon and also said he wasn’t surprised that it was weak – particularly because the attending orthopedic hadn’t recommended physiotherapy 15 years ago. He recommended that I come in for PT for 4 weeks and he’d then re-assess the leg strength. He also asked me to modify the training – running fast, with long strides on the hill would NOT be good. He said instead, if you must do hill training, run backwards up the hill. And to my relief he said, because the pain comes after activity, it implies that the injury isn’t that serious yet. He was glad I came in at the right time.

But last night’s training was hill training. I wrote ahead to Coach about Dr. S’s diagnosis and recommendation. She said no worries. The Quality Workout was fartleks. They sound like some sort of gastrointestinal (GI) distress but they’re actually a Swedish name for hi-low intensity interval workout. I was late to Rogue and the group had already begun the 1.75 mile warm-up to Travis Hts. But one of the coaches was kind enough to give me a ride to where the runners reached and he dropped me off with Maryanne and Carlene. When I reached the starting point, everyone else was going to do 1-1 hi-low interval running i.e. running fast and then easy pace for a minute each for about a mile. She asked me not to do that (so I got to skip the fartlek!). Instead, she asked me to run the mile -which was a rolling up-down loop around the neighborhood) at HMGP or slightly easier. I ran with Jairam, another SoH runner, and in conversation, the run was pretty easy. I have to say my lung capacity has increased 3-fold and despite the weak tendon/calf, both legs have strengthened immensely – I can tell by the amount of effort that I now exert to do the same exercise that I’d be struggling through weeks ago.

After I finished my mile loop, I didn’t continue on the fartlek anymore. Instead, Coach had me run down this pretty steep hill and run up back-wards with longish strides. That would help using, flexing and strengthening the calves but oddly, I felt it everywhere including the hamstrings. It was hard running uphill backwards! Somehow I think the fartlek might have been better :). Back at Rogue I did the stretches but my foot was hurting and I was glad for the PT session I’m scheduled for today. I’ll write about the session on a different post as this one’s gotten too long!

I’ve also signed up for the Turkey Trot in downtown this weekend! Running with a couple more SoH runners on an easy 5 mile loop in downtown. Sounds like fun!

Taking the Run Back

After a couple of weeks of worrying, stretching, chiropractoring, resting, icing the left calf and heel, I finally decided to get back in the game this week. The hill training this week left me feeling way more confident. Of course I still huffed & puffed and walked at times on Tuesday’s Marshes workout (see earlier post) but I completed it the best I could.

I ran while I was in Houston around Chumki didi’s neighborhood. I had mapped out a nice route of 2.5 miles out and back (or so I thought). I was proud of my planning and the fact that I got into bed early enough (usually I yap with Chumki didi until at least midnight). But I still woke up late – plan was to get out and run at 6.15 but somehow the alarm didn’t ring and I started only at 7.05. I began running faster because now I had less time but I still wanted to the 5. That of course didn’t feel good and I have such a hard time the first 2 miles anyway. And then, I realized that I was running on newly (relative to Austin) laid concrete – it was hard, unrelenting, unyielding. I felt like something was banging against my feet and legs. And running fast wasn’t helping. The leg pain wasn’t wearing off, the concrete was terrible to run on. So I did a walk-jog and I was so slow I had to turn around at a something around 1.3-1.5 miles. So though I got in 3 miles it was a huge waste of effort I think. I hated the run, my legs hurt, made me curse Houston and its darn concrete roads. Yuck! Next time I’m there, I will take Chumki didi’s advice and drive to the park. My legs ached the whole day and I was glad for the off day on Friday. Almost thought I’d jeopardized my Saturday run.

But come Sat, I felt fine again and swore to myself never to run on hard concrete again. Asphalt in Austin is not so bad – the roads are old and worn in so they have variation in slope and are much softer. Today we ran Guadeloupe again. I can’t believe it’s my 5th run already! I love this course because I had my first great run on it, 3 Saturdays agao. But then I ran 5 miles so today feeling a lot more confident I was going to all 8.

Though the course was the same as before, this wasn’t an ‘easy’ pace run. We ran 2 miles at easy pace and remember 2 miles is what it takes for me to warm up. I ran all the 2 miles. Then, next 4 miles was at half marathon goal pace (HMGP) and then last 2 miles at easy pace. I wrote about that when I described the Warhurst. Since I hadn’t done the time trial, all I knew was this was a faster pace than the first 2 miles (according to Coach Lorrie, you can have conversation but not too much :)). So off I sprinted a bit faster than usual starting off at San Jac and MLK, right in the middle of campus. It felt alright. My legs were beginning to tire but after the first 2-2.5 miles, I can usually get my breathing down to an even, easy pace (the trick here is to breathe in at 2 seconds, breathe out for 3). Then I focus on my legs and making the run easy for them :). After all they’re doing all the work.

After we got onto Duval, I spied the inclines. However having run  on the concrete, I mentally felt like the hills were a welcome hardship. With training, I can run the hills. I just never want to set foot on concrete again except when I walk. The first incline was a bit hard so I ran it up at the same pace – got tired and walked a bit. I walked for about a minute or two in between but was able to run most of it. I don’t think I managed to do the faster pace on the second set of 2 miles. But the 3rd set was much easier even though there was a gradual incline on the way back and I gained some speed. I ran the 3rd set of 2 miles at an average pace of 12.24 or so a mile and I was damn proud of myself. Thanks to the pace there were stitches and once I stopped and bent over, much to the concern of another runner. Then I said to hell with the stitches, they’re such an annoyance. I kept running. The last 2 miles were again easy pace – I was having a hard time slowing down this time because I’d gotten into momentum and didn’t really feel like going easy even though I was quite tired. It was an effort to slow down and that, I am finding very hard to believe myself.

Got back into Rogue at 9.24 am. I’d begun at 7.37 am so that’s roughly 117 minutes or 13.45 pace. I’ve definitely gained 1 minute overall but since we varied the pace that’s an average, which means I did good on the 4 HMGP miles. So that was a fantastic run and I am so back in the program. Took me 5 runs or so to feel like I’ve caught up with the rest on my terms.

I’m not so hot on my running form though. I sometimes look into passing glass windows and I just never look like those cool runners. I dont slouch or lean back (so that’s good) but my strides are short. Bharath says its cos of my butt that sticks out and today in those mirrors I realized he is right! All these days I thought his impersonation was well, just an insult. Today I realized it was pretty darn accurate. Well not much I can do about that eh?

Kill the Hills

I can still feel the hills inside my legs as I write this. I just got back from the Marshes and I did not sink :). Here’s the map  of the route we took. We ran from Rogue to Bouldin (1.5 miles each way) which is a hilly street and then ran zig-zag through each cross-street between Bouldin and Dawson. There are 11 such cross-streets and each of them has a varying degree of incline. We were supposed to run faster (more effort) on the East-West/criss-cross streets and while running North-South up Bouldin and Dawson we were supposed to run easy pace (recovery run).

So imagine a ladder with Bouldin and Dawson as the stands and each cross street as a rung but the cross-streets are up and down. Got the picture?

It takes me such a long time to warm up – past 2 miles almost so I wasn’t really all agog to go when I got to the bottom of Bouldin. But we started running anyway. I ran almost all the way with Carlene. There were a couple of “bitch hills” (not my words, Coach Lorrie’s) that really screwed me up in the beginning. Then somehow on rung # 6 I found my mojo. I decided to forget about varying the pace and just decided to run as it felt natural. My legs hurt on the incline but in a good way because they were doing so much work. The intensity went all the way up to the hamstrings.

The last few cross-streets weren’t as hilly as the first few ones but I was able to run the second half well enough that I enjoyed it. I stopped trying to have conversation and I realized I really like running alone. I like getting into that one steady pace and my mind is never as calm as it is then. If I can get into that zone for longer and longer, I can do the race. I need to forget about darn pace, miles and all these mumbo jumbo numbers in my head and just figure out how to get into that zone. And once I’m in there, and I get out it’s not that hard to get back in there. It’s not hard at all. So while the hills tried to kill me on the first half, I fought back the bitches :).

So a full Marsh is when you run up zig-zag and run down as well. Coach asked us to do half, where we ran up zig-zag and then ran straight down the hill on Bouldin. I spoke to her after the training and she asked me to run every other day if possible. So tomorrow I’m definitely not running. So tomorrow I’m swimming. Let the legs relax a bit :).

I like that there was some interest in the earlier post on the price tag of running. I guess I didn’t distinguish between fixed costs and variable costs – the shoes tend to be more fixed for a certain # of miles – if you run many miles you may need to replace them. I hope I get to that point and that’s why I keep a running log on my shoes to know how many miles I have on them. Not all of the stuff is necessary. You can’t avoid the race registrations of course. However, the one thing that is 300% worth it is the Rogue training. Rogue is not just a running company, its a community. I hope my legs want to be Rogue for a long time to come :).

Price Tag of Running

So in this post I want to talk a little bit about the price tag of starting a new athletic hobby (by popular demand, namely my friend Kanika). I’m sure its expensive all-round, irrespective of the sport. Tennis for instance might come at a steep price tag what with lessons, a good racket, tennis shoes, access to a court, other gear etc. The husband recently got into squash and ordered a swanky new racket, with a posh new gym bag to match. So beginning any new activity requires some monetary investment and running is no different.

I remember listening to a very interesting piece on NPR a few months ago on the cost of running. Here’s the text of it but listen to the piece if you can. The interesting point that the economist Wolfers from Wharton makes is on the opportunity cost of running. I should know that. I’m an economist and I know what my firm charges my time out to clients so there’s a real, pecuniary number to my opportunity cost of running. Here’s my favorite part from the article which really applies to me:

“A quicker runner would have a smaller opportunity cost. It’s only because I’m both slow and an economist that I fret that the world’s cheapest sport is actually incredibly expensive.”

Jeez, how expensive is my run? I can’t even begin to imagine!

But for now forget about the opportunity cost. There’s a very real direct cost as well. And here’s what I have until now.

Austin Half Registration $95
3M Registration $75
Rogue $159
Shoes $77
Watch $30
Other misc (reflective bands, ipod shuffle, water bottle holder) +shipping $83
Running gear $105
chiropractor visits $80

Till date, I’ve spent $704 on my running habit, which I might add, began on October 23. Less than 4 weeks ago I was $704 richer.

Here’s another thing I’ve lost – weight :). I haven’t weighed myself yet but my tight pants are not as tight anymore :). And I made some moolah for my favorite cause too.

In other news, tonight is a hilly workout but I’ll write about it tomorrow perhaps. I also found a new running partner! Another SoH veteran, I’ll probably do my leisure runs with her. She’s faster than me but for short distances it’s perfectly fine.

Also, I’ve made my fundraising goal! I made it in 2 weeks!! I started this blog on Nov 5 and if you go back to the post, I hadn’t raised a dollar! Today I’m upto $776! All I can say is thank you! The level of support keeps knocking me over :).