The Return of the Tempo Run

You might remember from my last post that a bird shit on my arm on my ride Saturday...

Today after work I was getting ready for a nice, easy recovery ride when I noticed this....

Seriously?  Right on top of my head?  


Still better than another flat tire.

So I cleaned up my helmet and headed out for an easy recovery ride, my shortest ride of the year actually.  Just 90 minutes, and what a great day for an easy ride.  I couldn't wait to go out and just enjoy being on a bicycle without goals and intervals and all that jazz...

This picture was an accident, but I kind of like it.

Someone thinks roadies need to be more friendly.

What a beautiful evening for a ride.

Heading out toward Paoli, Madison's #1 cycling destination.

The reason I did such a short easy ride on a Tuesday, a night I typically do about 60 miles, is because I did my first tempo run in many months at lunch today and I didn't want to do too much today and risk injuring myself.  I was a little nervous about my tempo run.  It had a lot of potential for disaster, but I figured at some point you need to get out there and find out if your body can hold up to faster running.  

I started out with a 5 minute warm up, then finished up with 40 minutes of tempo.  I do my tempo runs by heart rate, so my goal was to keep my heart rate in the upper 150s - about 85% of max heart rate.  I had a tailwind on the way out, which meant a headwind coming back.  That made things tough because I was getting tired.  But I managed a 6:59 pace, which I'm happy with.  The last time I ran tempo was February 15 and I ran a 6:38 pace so I'm quite a bit slower but that's to be expected coming off injury.  

The best news is that my knee and hip held up.  I had a few small twinges of pain in my hip flexor throughout the day, just enough to let me know I'm not out of the woods yet.  But tons better than a month ago so I'm making progress and finally gaining confidence that I might be able to put together a good month of run training in July.  My run fitness will be low going into the month, but I should finish out June with about 85 running miles so things are picking up.

I've also been working hard trying to eat well.  It's not always easy, especially when things get busy in the summertime.  I tend to gravitate toward quick, easy foods when I'm busy and I eat way too many sandwiches and bagels.  So I'm working on cutting that out and finding time to cook.  Courtney and I enjoy cooking, but it's tough to find time to make quality meals sometimes.  One thing that helps a lot is taking the time to pack healthy food for work.  Since all I have to eat there is what I take for the day, if I pack nothing but healthy food I'm forced to eat healthy all day.  It works out.

Spinach, cauliflower, carrots, celery, pumpkin seeds and blueberries.

I've been working more and more veggies into my workday meals, which really helps me clean up my diet overall.  I start my lunch with cucumbers everyday, which I'm learning to love.  I started eating them only because they have a mineral called silica which is good for your connective tissues.  I didn't really like them at first, and now I look forward to them.  It's amazing how your tastes can change.  I'm also hooked on celery, another food I didn't really like at first.  And the past week or so I've been taking the time to make a salad every morning to eat as a snack in the afternoon.  I figure, this way, if I get lazy in the evening and don't eat well at least I ate some fruits and veggies earlier in the day.  


Superheros and lawnmowers through a fish-eye lens.

My alarm clock...


...went off early Saturday morning, so I got up and out the door nice and early for my long ride. 6 am.


I love riding when the sun is rising.

My parents are out of town, and they wanted me to check on the pool so my plan was to ride down to Janesville the long way so I could get in 100 miles.  Then Courtney was going to drive down and we would hang out in the pool for a little while and drive home.

Riding down to Janesville.

I stopped at Liberty Pole Park to use the bathroom.  They have some boulders there and I decided to lean my bike against one of those rather than lay it in the grass like I usually do.  I don't know what happened exactly, but I didn't do a good job placing my bike and it fell almost instantly and before I could catch it my seat post hit the rocks.

The mark of Zorro?

I'm really irritated with myself for leaning my bike against rocks and scratching it up. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I tried to forget about it and enjoy the beautiful weather.  Nice days have been few and far between this year.
The Ice Age Trail in Janesville.

A friend of mine hooked me up with a set of Bontrager Race X Lite Hardcase tires thinking it would help out with my flats.  I put them on my training wheels and loved them.  They're not race tires, that's for sure, but they rode smooth enough for training rides and I made it through 100 miles without a flat.  

So instead of getting a flat tire, a bird shit on me.  If you've been following my blog for a while you probably know I hate birds, mainly because I'm afraid of them but also because they're evil, but despite my hatred of birds I still preferred being crapped on to changing a flat.  I had plenty of water with so I washed off my arm, but I had propel rather than plain water so my arm was sticky the rest of the ride.  Still better than a flat (which would be #10 for the year).   

Janesville birds hate me.  They always have. Long story.

I took the GoPro camera with me on this ride and it has a fish-eye lens and no zoom (despite the lack of zoom, this is by far my favorite camera) so it's hard to tell what's going on in this pic but this is the only way to mow a lawn.  There's a post in the middle with rope wrapped around and the lawnmower is tied to the other end of the rope so it's going in circles unwrapping the rope as it mows.  Brilliant.

The self-mowing lawnmower.
Finally, some pool time.  The water was a little cold still, 74 degrees, but it felt great to get in the pool.  It's not summer without some lazy afternoons in my parents pool.

Go go Gadget arm.  I love the fish-eye lens.

After checking on the house, garden and pool, Courtney and I headed to Skelly's Farm Market to pick strawberries.

Mmmmmm.....fresh picked strawberries.
Courtney showing off a "perfect" strawberry.  

We came home with 22 pounds of strawberries.  That's a lot of strawberries, but it's worth it.  Courtney and I easily polish off a container from the grocery store in one sitting.  By picking these ourselves they were $1.30 per pound - $27 total.  I'm pretty sure Whole Foods would have charged a lot more than $27 for 22 pounds of strawberries.



While trying to get a picture of Calvin the Cat with the GoPro, he kept sniffing the lens and I ended up with this pic.  He looks like a hamster.


Camping Weekend

I took the day off work Friday to make it a three-day weekend.  Thursday night I had a great tempo ride, probably the best of my life.  It was tough, but I got through it and didn't get any flat tires for a change of pace.  

So Friday morning I got up and headed out for an easy, easy ride just to get in some more miles and enjoy the great weather.  It was a perfect morning for a ride - 70s, blue skies, green grass, light winds....Love it.

Since it was an easy ride, I took my camera:

Unfortunately this pic doesn't quite capture the contrast of the bright green trees and very blue skies.  

The new bike path heading out of town.

 Great roads, great weather.

Random horse ranch.

The ride wasn't hilly, but I still had some good views from time to time.

After my ride, Courtney and I packed up for our first camping trip.  We bought ourselves a tent this winter so we've been anxious to get out and give it a try.  We booked a weekend at our favorite state park - Devil's Lake - several months ago.  Unfortunately, the beautiful Friday morning weather didn't stick around, but it could have been worse.  Friday afternoon got a little cloudy, but no rain.  

It's been a long time since I've camped and it took us a lot longer to pack up and set up camp than I expected.  The problem was that most of our stuff was new and still in boxes.  We had to read the directions on the tent and I had to borrow a screwdriver from the campground store to put my new grill together to make dinner (why didn't I bring a screwdriver?....or a raincoat?)

Our campsite.  I haven't had a chance to use my EZ Up awning since my racing days so it was nice to put it use again.  

We brought the kayak for some swimming/kayaking.  I'm in the background trying to figure out my new grill.  It's about 7 pm and we were starving. 

After dinner, we made a campfire and cooked some s'mores.  We were exhausted so it was an early night for us.  The rain held off Friday night, but it was pretty humid and sticky so I didn't sleep well.  I don't sleep well after hard workouts either, so Thursday night was a short night of sleep as well.  That's two nights with very little sleep.

Saturday morning was sunny and warm and we were anxious to get out on the lake.  I made some eggs for breakfast and we loaded up the kayak for our first trip across Devil's Lake for the year.  

Swimming from North Beach to South Beach - about 1.25 miles.

Courtney enjoying a beautiful morning on the water.

Saturday's swim.

The clouds rolled in around noon and there was a threat of thunderstorms all day, but they held off so late afternoon Courtney and I went for a trail run.  I took the Upland Loop while she opted for a shorter, flatter (although far from flat) loop.  The run was great, and very challenging.  Lots of climbs, tree limbs, rocks, etc.  You really had to watch your footing, which is what I was watching the whole time.  Occasionally I would glance up to see where the trail headed, but mainly I was watching the ground right in front of my feet.

Then suddenly I saw a 3-4 foot snake blocking the path and I had no choice but to jump over it.  For people who live in areas with a lot of snakes and who aren't afraid of them, no big deal.  For me....big deal.  It took about 5 minutes for my heart rate to settle down.  
The snake looked a lot like this one, which is a Timber Rattlesnake.  Although I suspect it was a Northern Water Snake (I don't think the snake I saw had a black tail and I'm not sure if there was a rattle - I didn't stick around and didn't have my camera with me), which is similar in appearance and I think they're more common at Devil's Lake.  It could have been a Pine Snake too.  Either way, it was the biggest snake I've ever seen in the wild and I hope to never see another one like it.

After the trail run, we made dinner, a campfire, s'mores and then settled in for the night anticipating storms.  And storm it did.  Lots of rain, thunder, lightning.  Fortunately, our tent held up and we stayed dry.  But it's impossible to sleep in a tent when it's raining like that so that made for three nights with little sleep.  I was dragging Sunday morning, which was a dreary, foggy, wet morning.  But the rain was done, so we headed out for more swimming.

A dreary Sunday morning.

Getting ready to swim.

All total for the weekend, I got in about 10,000 yards of swimming (about 5.6 miles).  I also got in a hilly, trail run and had a lot of fun camping.  

We packed up Sunday afternoon and made it home by dinner time.  Sunday night I was in bed a little after 9 and slept like the dead.  Camping really makes you appreciate your own bed.

The trip was a success, and we're already planning our next trip. I'm not sure where we'll end up or how long we'll stay, but I'm already looking forward to it.


Sitting Out

This past weekend was the Liberty half ironman, which was supposed to be my first “A” race of the year.  Then the plan was to recover a bit and then start my Kona build while training through the Door County half ironman like I did last year.  However, I was not on the starting line Saturday. 

After the Beloit Duathlon, my knee stiffened up quite a bit and I got a lot of pain in my right hip flexor (my right knee is the one with the torn tendons).  Despite my doctor saying I was healed, it was painfully obvious I was not.  I really wanted to continue my training and hope things would come around, but I opted to play it safe.  It was a smart decision, but not an easy one.

So I dropped out of the Liberty half and took some more time off running – 16 days.  It wasn’t easy taking so much more time off, but I felt it was the right thing to do.  I was still able to bike and swim, so I focused on that.  I also continued to do everything possible to rehab my knee and put in a lot of time working on core strength and doing a hip strengthening routine (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GLrKr54yA0).  I decided to resume running on the 6th of June, which would give me 18 weeks to prepare for Kona.  Not my ideal plan, but not bad considering the circumstances.  About a week before the 6th my knee and hip flexor began to feel pretty good, and I started believing I might be on the rebound.

Then a breakthrough.

I knew last year that I had some muscle imbalances, but chose to ignore the weight room all winter despite my plans to do a little lifting to balance things out.  The elliptical doesn’t bother my knee or hip flexor, so I’ve been using that on my lunch break at work to try to preserve some running fitness.  Friday the 3rd of June, after “running” on the elliptical I decided to try some weight lifting.  I was worried about my knee, but figured I had to take the risk and see where I was at and see what it could handle.  So I grabbed a 10-pound dumbbell and did some front and side lunges.  Those went well, as I expected them to.  Then I did 10 single-leg leg extensions on each leg.  Again, no problems.  Then I did some leg curls.  Single leg, like the extensions, 10 on each leg.  Wow.  My right hamstring was incredibly weak.  There was a huge difference between the right and left, and the back of my knee hurt when I did these.  I felt like I should quit, but opted to finish out the 10 reps hoping I wouldn’t pay the price later with a sore, stiff knee (which I expected).

What I got was zero pain.  After lifting, my knee felt great.  

My theory is that my right hamstring was so weak (either from the injury, or it caused the injury – I don’t know) that I wasn’t really using it when I tried to start up running a couple of weeks ago.  So other muscles had to compensate, such as my hip flexor.  So it got over-used and strained.  So my hip flexor problem was really a hamstring problem.  Everything is connected. 

Light bulbs went off and things suddenly made sense.  First off, I think I’ve been misunderstanding the term “over-use injury.”  That’s what the doc said my hip flexor problem was.  But I kept thinking that it meant I ran too much.  That didn’t make sense because my miles were down from my peak of 70+ miles per week last fall, and if I ran too much why didn’t my left hip flexor hurt?  That got as much use as the right.  Yet it felt fine.  But what it really means is that muscle got over-used. 

It’s too early to be positive, and maybe my hip flexor problems will return.  But right now I think it was my hamstring.  It wasn’t firing and picking up my right leg, so my hip flexor had to do all the work.  That’s more of a workload than it should have, so it got over-used and strained.

I’ve been doing some easy running and continuing the weight lifting, and I’m seeing progress.  My right hamstring is getting a lot stronger and things are balancing out.  My knee feels good, and my hip flexor is a lot better.  It’s not 100% yet, but it continues to improve despite my increase in running volume over the past couple of days.  The pain I feel in my hip flexor is mild and very manageable.  At this rate, I anticipate zero pain within two weeks.

It’s really early in my return to fitness, but so far so good.  I finally feel like I’m building toward Ironman fitness, whereas when I started running a couple of weeks ago I felt like I was just dodging bullets.  If I ran and didn’t feel pain, I felt lucky.  Now I expect to feel good.  I feel like I’m 95% healed and that I’m good to go as long as I don’t get stupid and push too hard too soon. This can be a challenge for me so I really need to put some effort into listening to my body and being smart as I build my run fitness over the next few months.  But I think that as long as I progress my running slowly and continue with the weight lifting, core work and hip strengthening I should be able to run injury free for the rest of the year, and hopefully for years to come.