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Walking as valuable exercise

December 30, 2013 Leave a comment

There are a lot of articles that speak to the value of walking as exercise. I never disbelieved them, but I never would have spoken to a friend about walking as an important part of my exercise routine. I think my experience this summer has changed my mind.

Prior to July 2012, I walked or biked round trip 3 miles every work day. I recorded this in my exercise journals, but didn’t think much about it from a race training perspective except that I was happy that I was doing “more” than might be required. From July 2012 to June 2013, my walking miles per week declined but did not disappear entirely. June 2013 to now? I am embarrassed to say almost no walking.

In early August, I was fed up with how out of shape I still felt. I decided to ramp up for a week to combat the out-of-shape feeling. Over the course of 6 days I did two lifting sessions, played Ultimate, ran for multiple hours, and biked a few hours. On both day 7 and day 8 I had Ultimate games. On day 7, I felt tired but happy that I  had been putting in the effort. I was hopeful that I would overcome my out-of-shape hump and emerge triumphant and back-in-shape. I took extra time to warm up and stretch, but in the final 10 mins of the game I pulled my hamstring area. Oy! I was out of the Ultimate business for the last (and most important) games of the season.

I now see that I was over-training. In the middle of that week, I kind-of knew I was over-training, but I let my frustration at taking only small incremental steps in my fitness get in the way of reality.

Looking back at my year, I think the drop in walking miles was intimately connected with being so out of shape. And when I wanted to get fit fast, I should’ve added a lot of walking back in to get the fitness benefit without all the impacts.

So if you find yourself in my position, frustrated at lack of fitness and having only incremental steps of positive change, please take my advice and use walking to supplement the harder workouts. Fitness is not gained only in the high impact sessions; it can be maintained by walking an easy 3 miles a day (and yes, 3 miles of walking is easy in exercise terms, but it’s much harder in terms of having time).

Philadelphia Marathon 2012

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Philadelphia Marathon number 4 yesterday. It was great! Fastest time yet in Philadelphia (although the PR is still the Toronto Marathon). The weather was perfect, I got a negative split, and the people running and cheering were awesome, as always.

Thank you Team Philly for being my training team! Without Team Philly there is no way I would have gotten up for a run at 8am or 7:30am on Saturdays. I would not have run nearly as many miles. I would not have met such awesome people!

I ran the first half in 2:10, and the second half in just under 2:08. My 10k pace was 1:01 and the 30k pace 3:03. Nice and consistent. The last 4 miles definitely got tough, but I kept running at about 10 min/mile (no walking this time!).

Today so far I feel great. Haven’t attempted stairs yet, though. But I think this is the best post-long-race feeling yet. I wonder how I will do in the Turkey Trot this Thursday?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

DNF and me

I DNF’d* the Niagara Ultra on June 23rd =(

The day started off cool, but quickly got hotter than I realized (because there was little humidity). I was worried about over-hydrating which caused me to drink too little.

One sign of my deteriorated state was feeling severe emotions. I don’t know how else to describe it; during my run and subsequent walk my thoughts about stopping made me want to cry. In a regular emotional state I would probably be upset but the physical feeling of being about to cry wouldn’t happen. It was starting to feel how I felt on my last loop of the 20 in 24 in 2011–I crashed during that loop and had a fever when I stopped running.

The decision to stop was the right one.

I ran 30k (18.6 miles) in 4 hours and 10 minutes. The last 4k I was mostly walking. While sitting at the aid station waiting in the shade for a ride back to the start a few people came through. One lady asked if I was taking a break; I said yes; I didn’t want to even put the thought of stopping in her head. But as they went through moving slowly, I questioned my decision. Then I estimated that I would be out there for three more hours and reconfirmed my desire to stop.

I guess it’s a mixed blessing to have a DNF occur to me. I feel like I learned a lot. I’ve read about other people’s experiences with a DNF and believed them, but couldn’t quite relate their experience to myself. Part of me thought I would always just keep walking. But a wise ultrarunner described his DNF experience saying that it was a race he wasn’t racing so he stopped. I understand that better now. When I contemplated continuing on for at least three more hours, my immediate reaction was NO EFFING WAY! Why would I want to keep going for three hours when I already feel like I lost the race?

Plus I thought that I would do more damage to my body than finishing would be worth. Not training enough was definitely a big problem, so while I was running I kept thinking  of training runs to do in the next few days. My logic was: I need to start training better immediately. If I continue running, I will be too sore to train for a week. Being too beat up to train is counter to my desire to start training more. If I stop, I will be able to train this week.

The distance I ran (18.6 miles) is certainly not a distance to sneeze at. It sucks to have DNF’d but I have learned multiple things from this experience. Hopefully the main takeaway is how much I love arriving at a race knowing I trained properly.

(I did manage to going running a few times in the week after the race)

*DNF means Did Not Finish

An argument for rest

When you work your muscles hard, you are literally weaker the next day.

About a month ago I took an aerobics class to combat the winter doldrums. It was fun, challenging and I was  sore for at least 3 days. The next day, with my walk stiff from the sore muscles, I rolled my left ankle on an uneven section of pavement (fortunately nothing serious). I am sure that you also have pushed yourself in a race or workout session to the point of muscles soreness the next day. Are you familiar with what could be called the “down-the-stair-wince”? You step down and your leg locks a bit and your knee feels slightly over-extended? You walk carefully and aim to hold a railing, but the knee lock still happens. It doesn’t hurt exactly, but it feels wrong. You brace yourself against it, but… *wince* there goes the knee!

In the beginning of my career as an exerciser, I was surprised that going down the stairs was worse than going up when I was sore. Now I know that walking down slope or down stairs is harder. There was an article that of course I can’t find that talked about Boston marathon times not being eligible for a world record because of the downhill drop (alternate article) but how ironically running downhills is hard and one year the leading woman could not go one after running the downhills hard because her hamstrings froze up (alternate article). Aha, that’s why going down the stairs causes me more dread than going up the stairs when I am sore!

Don’t get me wrong, I like when my muscles feel sore. But people need to be aware that you really shouldn’t do two extreme workouts in a row. And as my experience proves, you even need to be careful when you walk on the sidewalk! Weak muscles can not support your joints as well as when they are rested and recovered. You are more likely to overextend your legs or roll an ankle after a hard workout or race. Do not ignore rest days in an exercise schedule.

Categories: recovery, training

A fight with concrete and allergies

October 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Two weeks ago, I started off the week with high expectations. My attack plan for running a marathon on November 20th was to run at least a small distance every day. I was brought up short on Tuesday. While running on the wonderful wide sidewalks of the Parkway I stepped wrong on an edge where one square was slightly higher than the other. ROLL went my ankle and I crashed to the ground. After curling in a ball until the momentary pain went away, I took stock. Rolled left ankle; swelling expected. Scraped right knee; bleeding–needed cleaning. Slightly scraped right hand; not a concern. Fortunately I was running with my boyfriend and he supported me while I hobbled back to the gym. Used hydrogen peroxide on the knee, iced the ankle when I got back to my desk. I’ve rolled this ankle before, so it’s not a completely new injury. But definitely not the best way to start the attack plan!

A week later when the swelling was mostly gone and the knee scabbed over, I expected to start again on the attack plan. Unfortunately the temperature dropped quickly for about 4 days and I was besieged by allergies. A sharp change in the weather always sets off my allergies. I was too sick to run until this past Sunday. My attack plan was yet again foiled by life.

I finally went running last night, and survived 40 minutes without coughing too much and without pain in my ankle. I wore an ankle brace to be safe. I have officially began the attack plan. Only two-ish weeks lost, I think I can still run enough to survive a marathon in November…

Philly Marathon, number 2

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

I finished in 4:24:08 (chip time); the fastest city employee to do the whole marathon! It was a fun race, I wore my grandma’s beer hat and a cape, but I was basically done mentally with the race after 17 miles. Not the state you want to be in if you are trying to run a PR! I still finished 2 minutes faster than last year, which is a success. Hell, I can’t forget that finishing in and of itself is a success!

I wanted to talk about distraction and mental states. I started the race with the plan to NOT weave around on Columbus Blvd like I did last year. I wasted some energy at the beginning of the race doing that, and I didn’t want to repeat that mistake. So for the first portion I ran in a pretty straight line, slowing slightly to follow the flow of people. Then I got to Chestnut street. Oh goodness, such a mess. I had stopped at the porta-potty and I must have fallen behind a massive wave of people, and them combined with people slowing down in general was a nightmare. Any weaving that I avoided on Columbus Blvd was picked up on Chestnut Street. After that mess (I did manage to get a head of the crowd), I basically stopped thinking about my race strategy except to think “Huh, I am not thinking about my pace very much”. I had some faster miles and some slower ones. I finished the half marathon around 2:08, which was part of my goal–to finish the half marathon faster than in previous races as a strategy for attempting a PR.

The weather was also a little weird. It felt warmer at the start than the Philly Marathon last year and the Toronto Marathon, but the temperature never warmed up much past that point. I think wearing a hat also changed the temperature regulation in my body. I pulled off my long sleeve shirt after 3 miles and passed it off to my parents at mile 7.

I missed a few mile marks. I missed the 5 mile mark, and referred to the race shirt I was holding to verify I wasn’t seriously behind pace. I missed mile 15, and missed a water stop because it was kinda short. These are things you don’t want to happen in a race.

What I want to get across is that there were things about that race that didn’t lend themselves to me getting in the same mental frame of mind that happened in Toronto. I wonder if part of the distraction was the fact that I know Philadelphia. The whole race is surround by other experiences, and there were new things to add to my thought arsenal this year. I moved to South Philly in September, and so the run down Columbus Blvd and the turn onto Washington St and 2 St have a slightly different meaning now because I live close to that turn! Alas! Next year I will try again.

I want reiterate for anyone who has a bad run or race day that there are things outside of your control that make days hard and unsuccessful.

It certainly didn’t help that I did mostly cross training between the Toronto Marathon and this one. My muscle pain on Monday was freaking TERRIBLE. I had to use the banister of my house like a rope to slowly climb up the stairs, and as a crutch on the way down as I cringed sideways down the stairs. Tuesday I made it in to work, and had to go out with the GPS unit. It was good to be on my feet, and I did warm up after like 2 hours, but my coworker commented today that I was seriously wounded yesterday. Every time I stepped my left knee had the chance of hyper-extending slightly because the muscles were tired and sore. Today was much better, and tomorrow I am attempting the Turkey Trot! We will see how that goes…

My goals going forward are to talk to my doctor about my left knee, because it has been giving me trouble and getting slightly worse over the course of a year; to make morning running a part of my schedule; and to plan my races for next year. I signed up for the 20 in 24 already, and I want to try to run 100 miles in it. That is a serious endeavor that I need to plan now. Also, I am hoping to make it back up to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the 50k. That falls turnaround was amazing, and the camping I did on the way up and back was really enjoyable. Finally, I  would like to try to break 4 hours in the next marathon, and do well in the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon. I will conquer that hill!!

Oh, and some especially enjoyable moments: One lady admiring my beer hat and then saying to her running buddy “Why didn’t I think of that?”; My boyfriend running with me for about 8 miles; Seeing Back on my Feet members on the course; Drinking beer in Manayunk ’cause how can you refuse when you are wearing a beer hat?!; Getting to run over the Falls Bridge (even though I thought that turn around was slightly ridiculous and I was feeling shitty at the time); Opening my cape up and “flying” into the finish chute.

Categories: marathon, recovery

20in24

And the race report you’ve been waiting for!! The Back on my Feet 20 in 24 Lone Ranger occurred on July 17-18th, 10am to 10am. I will try to make it less stream-of-consciousness than the Niagara race report.

It took me until the Thursday after the race to compose a summary email to send out to everyone who wanted to know how I did. I went on vacation, and the words wouldn’t come. This post is obviously far more delayed than that. I’m very proud to have completed 67.648 miles in the race, and I raised over 1,300 dollars for Back on my Feet (my goal was $1000). But my mom summed up some of my feelings about the race with this (paraphrased) statement “You sounded more excited when you finished the Philadelphia Marathon than you do right now talking about running 67.648 miles”. Yes, yes I did. Why? I don’t know… I ran slower? More on that later (another post). Here are the details.

I ran 50 miles in 13 hours, took a break for 6 hours (slept for 5), than ran 17 more miles between 5:30 am and 9:45 am. At the start of the race, I was considering going for 100 miles. Then I got off track by an hour (would’ve had to finish 50 miles before 12 hours for the 100 mile goal), so I had to re-evaluate. Part of me wanted to try to run through the night, but then I finished a lap at around 11pm, and my feet and knees hurt, and I decided to rest for at least 2 hours and then re-evaluate again. After watching the Midnight Madness loop start off and shoving some food in my gullet, I decided to sleep for three hours. I figured I couldn’t run well at the moment, and that sleep would enable me to run faster when I woke up. And if I could run faster in the morning, I could get in as many miles as if I had to walk from that moment until the end of the race. I took Ibuprofen and went to sleep. My knees were killing me! They hurt at whatever angle I tried to rest them. I blame my knees for me deciding to sleep until 5am. I woke up halfway at a few points in the night, and my knees definitely hurt less when I actually got up at 5am than when my alarm went off at 3am.

I started off the first lap trying to go slow. Lone rangers were encouraged to line up after the relay racers (since we were probably all starting off slower). The starting line was kinda exciting, but long race starts don’t got nothing on the feeling of getting ready to race a 5k. I barely warmed up! Just unloaded my stuff into Lloyd Hall and made sure I had everything ready for the coming hours. I had to change watches at the last minute because my Garmin had low batteries, so I plugged it in and switched to my watch that just has a timer. The loop started off going up the biggest hill of the loop (which really isn’t a bad hill at all). It was pretty hot already. After reaching the first mile marker and water stop, I slowed down to walk a bit. I got a few comments asking if I was OK. Maybe I was ambulating slower than the average ultrarunner at the start of the race? I was just employing a strategy designed to last for 24hours. I finished the first lap in about 1:30. F aster than I intended, but not too fast. I took a brief break in Lloyd Hall, to get out of the sun and to check my watch (not charging properly?!) My mom was volunteering at the timing table, so I got to see her at the end of each of the first three laps. Coincidentally, as I passed one of the boathouses my friend Lauren exited! She had just finished rowing in the Schuylkill. Perfect timing. We chatted for a bit while I was taking my break.

Lap 2 was relatively uneventful. Still got some comments when I was walking. I finished this lap just under 2 hours. With the fast time of lap 1, I felt like I was keeping ahead of pace and took a longer break. I was wearing my oldest and most comfortable pair of shoes, but after two laps their cushioning was shot. Time to switch shoes! Pair #2 were Asics, recently purchased for the purpose of this race.

Lap 3 was getting really hot! Fortunately, there were small towels at every aid station to dip in ice water and to drape over yourself. I wore mine around my neck, some people draped it over their heads tucked into visors. I tried that approach, but felt the neck drape kept me cooler. I wore my iPod shuffle for this lap. I have a sweet headset that locks the shuffle sitting above my neck, so there are no chords to get in the way. Unfortunately, this spot was where some of the ice water got concentrated, so the shuffle started not working after about 6 miles. I finished this lap in about 2 hours even. On the Kelly drive portion of the lap, someone in a car going the opposite direction called out my name, and slowed down to wave out the window. I found out later it was one of my co-workers. At the end of the lap, another co-worker happened to be driving on Kelly drive on the race side, she was stopped at the light when I finished the lap and was very impressed I had already finished 3 laps and was getting ready for number 4.

Lap 4 started off normal. I saw my friend Gabi eating lunch by the Art Museum steps. She made a sign for me! I felt like I was reasonably on pace. Half way through the lap at the aid station, a runner from the Reading area started talking to me. I wasn’t sure if he was just chatting at the aid station, but then he kept pace with me for a mile, and then made me promise to finish the lap with him. He had a bunch of races under his belt, and he was aiming for the 100-mile mark. He helped me drop my pace this lap back down to about 1:45. He encouraged me not to walk as much as I wanted to, and had some entertaining stories about running in Reading. At this point, my ultimate goal was to get to 80 miles. The breaks I was taking between the laps were taking up the time and put me off the times I needed to hit in order to get to 100 miles.

Lap 5 I had a pacer! My friend Kate started working at the timing booth after my mom, and was able to leave her duties earlier than planned in order to run with me. I grabbed some food, got pictures with Kate and Gabi, and headed out. Kate and I talked about lots of stuff, it was awesome. Lap 5 took about 2 hours.

My friend Billy was willing to pace me later at night around 10pm, but after lap 5 it was getting dark, and I was behind my original schedule, so I called to see if he wanted to run with me for lap 6. He was down, so I rested for about 30 minutes waiting for him to arrive. Runners were supposed to wear reflective  vests at night, so I was sporting a super hot yellow reflective vest. It was weird running in the dark. Philadelphia doesn’t really get dark because of all the street lights. I had a headlamp with me just in case, and I did turn it on at some bridge underpasses, but it was in no way necessary. I had changed out of the wet clothes into dry ones for the night (figuring it would be colder and I wouldn’t need the ice towels). Unfortunately, the humidity didn’t go away! Though it was technically cooler, I felt hotter because of the dry clothes. Billy runs faster than I do, so he was able to get me to push the pace for this lap, we finished in about 1:50. This was the big 50 mile mark!! I finished at about 10:53.

Now the debate began. My feet were really sore during lap 6. I wasn’t sure I would be motivated to keep running if I headed back onto the course alone. I wanted to see the glow in the dark midnight madness runners, but didn’t feel like running. I decided I could at least take a two hour break and watch the start of the midnight madness loop. I soon decided sleep was in order, not more running. I mean, I made it to 50 miles! I wasn’t racing anyone, nor any previous times, so I figured the amount of recovery I would get from sleeping was very worthwhile. And I guess I wasn’t ready to have my first Ultra event involve sleep deprivation. I went to sleep around 12:30.  I aimed to get up at 3 or 3:30, but that didn’t happen. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t make the same decisions when I am in the process of waking up that I would make otherwise. More sleep always wins over anything else, unless the motivation is really high. So at 3:30am, my knees were still sore, and I was still sleepy. I set my alarm for later.

I had motivation to get up before 5:30am when the pajama loop started, because a friend was running it and we promised to see each other. I managed to get up at 5am, and pull myself together enough to get back on the course. I was wearing my third pair of sneakers, also bought exclusively for the purpose of changing shoes in the middle of this race. I heard the pajama loop start, and then I left walking in the other direction. I wasn’t sure I would be able to run again, but I was able to walk at a 17min/mile pace at first (thank you Garmin for that useful information). I was able to speed up the walk to about 15min/mile at some points. After about 2 miles, I saw my friend running. After that, somehow I managed to start running again, and running at a reasonable pace (10min/mile). Walking fast takes mental fortitude, and I was impatient to be moving, so I guess after warming up for 2 miles, running stiffly was better than trying to walk fast. I saw my aunt on the bicycle tour. I noticed she has exactly the same bike that I do. Did not remember that… my family and Aunt and uncle used to ride West River Drive on Sunday mornings when it was closed in the summer. I managed to finish lap 7 in 2:15! I was now confident I could get a second full lap in.

Lap 8 started after a brief break. Garmin watch ran out of charge, so took it off again. Got music again, it was playing well since it dried out overnight. I resolved to not let it get too wet so it would last through the entire lap. At each aid station, I had to pick up a bracelet in case I didn’t complete the full lap they would know how far I got and could credit me. One lady at the 4 mile aid station had been there the night before. I guess she stayed up all night. My parents happened to drive on Kelly drive on their way to pick me up, and they saw me =) I missed one of the last aid station bracelets, but I knew I was going to finish the lap within the time limit so it didn’t matter. At about 9:45 I roll into Boathouse row for the final quarter mile. WHOOOOOOO, oh man, how awesome. I got to the timing chute and they say I could go ONE MORE mile if I can get to the aid station in 13 minutes. I thought about it for a second, because I was running within that pace still, but decided against it. I wanted food and chair!

Here’s the official results (the splits include the breaks I took):

#241 Baumgarten Joni Philadelphia PA F 24

Splits: 1:35:55, 1:56:30, 2:26:35, 2:04:36, 2:14:07, 2:37:00, 8:48:42, 2:02:52

Overall place 71, Female place 19, 8 laps, 67.648 miles,  23:46:17

I would’ve jumped up to 58th place (15th for females) if I had run that last mile. Oh well, I will know better for next year =)

My parents hung out with me while we saw the awards. The winners were literally handed cash (no envelopes), which I thought was a bit risky. The top male and female winners both broke the course record, so they won an additional $1000 on top of their first place winnings. I had my crocs on, and was meandering slowly in the directions I needed to go. My parents were great. They carried most of my stuff to the car, had food ready for me, and drove me home. We stopped to pick up more fruit for me to snack on. My mom washed all my dishes while I sat and ate some more, and my dad prepared a couscous salad (some for him to eat) for me to eat off of the rest of the day. I showered, sent them off with the reassurance that I was OK, and crawled into bed. I slept for about 4 hours, woke up and watched TV, then slept for like 8 hours. I was really in a haze that evening. I was feeding myself, walking around relatively easy, and watching TV, but everything felt surreal.

For the rest of the week, I could walk pretty well, but I was definitely exhausted through Wednesday. I found myself staring off into space a lot. I’ve been tired in the past month after the race, but I got right back into the swing of Ultimate starting on July 25th (Wildwood, baby!), so that was a part of why I was still tired. Maybe next time I should schedule my Ultras not during the busiest Ultimate season.

So in conclusion, I had a great time, and I’m definitely preparing to do more Ultras, probably doing the 20in24 next year (though I have to remember that the race negatively affected my Ultimate summer, hmm, tough decisions). The next scheduled race is the Toronto, and I’m tentatively planning to break 4 hours (we will see how I run when I start focusing on this training again).

Categories: recovery, running, Ultras