Signs of Improvement

After last week’s race, I decided it was high time I start doing something to improve my speed. I emailed a local runner I know (who is bonkers fast) and asked him for his recommendation on some new workouts I could incorporate into my training plan. He got back to me before lunch on Monday, so I decided to ditch my recovery run to try one of his workouts (I was too excited to wait…which I something I can’t imagine thinking even 2 months ago…this running stuff really does get addictive.)

I headed to the gym to try it out on a treadmill because I’m downright wretched at maintaining a steady pace. The workout called for 2 miles of warmup, 3 miles at tempo (8:34 pace, based on my half marathon PR), and 2 miles of cooldown (which I did at 10:10). I did it at 1% grade, to hopefully compensate for not being outside, and with the exception of the stitch I got in the last mile, I felt awesome.

The new plan called for easy days Tuesday and Wednesday (also at 10:10 pace) and during these two I tried not to look at my Garmin too often but just focus on breathing easy and feeling good. I ended up a little fast both days, but not too much.

Thursday was tempo workout #2, a little tougher than the first: 2 miles of warmup, 2 at tempo, 1 easy, 2 at tempo, 2 cooldown. I ended up cutting out the last mile of cooldown to save it for my long run. I’m not exactly following Higdon’s plan to the letter anymore, but I don’t want to get too far over his weekly mileage targets (because I KNOW it’s common to do too much too soon and end up injured over it). The workout felt awesome, and switching speeds made spending over an hour on a treadmill completely tolerable.

I took Friday off and did my long run Saturday with Kristine, a runner I met through the local running club. She’s definitely faster than I am, but not so much that we couldn’t run well together. We started out a little fast (normal for me) but it felt good so we stayed right around 9:20-9:25s. I got the stitch from HELL in mile 2, and did some different breathing things/lifting my right arm over my head/learning to suck it up to get through it. This is so weird, but somewhere around when I was seriously ready to throw in the damn towel because OW IT FREAKING HURT, I thought about how Heather Armstrong gave birth to a baby without any drugs, and how that would hurt so much more. Strangely enough, it kind of worked. Luckily I had conversation to help keep my mind off of it, but it really never did completely go away. Towards the end Kristine started to fade a little (the woman has a 9-month old and had slept 2-3 hours the night before, so the fact that she showed up baffled me) and told me to go for a strong finish. I ended up doing the last three miles at 9:18, 9:06, and 8:40–and I wasn’t killing myself–it just felt good. So, I don’t know–progress maybe? With the exception of that stitch, I felt awesome, and definitely could have kept going. I ended at 1:42:21, for a 9:18 average (fastest long run pace to date!)

I’m off again today but might do some core work–I did some reading on the stitch business and it could be at least partly a core problem. The thing I can’t figure out though is that there’s no rhyme or reason to when I get the really bad ones (except that they’re in the same spot–right side–just inside my ribs). One was at around mile 11 of a 16-miler (very easy pace), one during the cooldown of a tempo run, and one at the beginning of a long run. And the weirdest thing is that this just started happening a couple weeks ago. I know stitches are common for beginners (and not that I think I’m NOT still a beginner) but wouldn’t this have been happening to me already if it was some chronic muscle weakness? I’ve read it can be a food/drink issue, but I don’t eat much of anything before I run–I usually have a couple Luna chews or Clif shot bloks for anything that will take over an hour–and I’ve become borderline obsessive about making sure I drink enough water lately. Am I doing something horribly wrong? If you’ve got ideas on how to prevent me from ever feeling like I’ve been stabbed in the stomach again, I’ll be eternally grateful.

I’m taking on a tough week of training starting tomorrow, which will put me over 40 miles for the first time. I’m doing a 15-mile race on Saturday (but seriously NOT racing) with a couple friends because I had to do 15 anyway, so why do it alone? Other than that, I’m just trying not to fret about the LIVE tv appearance I have to do for work tomorrow morning. (Which, come to think of it, I’m less worried about looking like a total moron and more annoyed that I have to do my run later in the day.) Oh well. I can run for almost three hours–surely I can make it in front of a camera for three minutes, right? Here’s hoping.

Happy running.

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