2017 Training Week Two – March 27-April 2: The Reckless Runner

Runners can be reckless at times. We run up in the mountains where all sorts of animals and reptiles are hanging out. Some of us run solo in the dark on lonely streets before most of the population wakes up. And some of us really crazy folk will actually try out new socks on marathon day. What?!?

But is there anything more reckless than the runner who trains for a race WITHOUT A PLAN?!?

This is me. It’s true. When I decided on my May (5K) and June (10K) race schedule, I immediately went to my handy book that I had loosely based my 2016 half marathon and marathon training plans on: Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald. I chose his plans because the tenets he discusses in this book closely mirror the type of training I’ve been doing with Trainer. I figured that if the schedules worked for the longer races, then I’d go ahead and use them for these shorter distances…Then I laughed because I can no longer follow a traditional schedule.

Runners have training plans. That’s like law, right? I myself love Plans – and not just for running. I have a retirement plan, a second career plan, a reading plan, a podcast listening plan, a skin care regimen plan, etc., et al. and ad infinitum. On a micro level, if you saw my calendar, you’d see that almost every time period is blocked for something and are weekly repeats: Date Night, working out, working, “admin”, chores, church, etc., et al. and ad infinitum again. I’m like the German train system, OK?

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And this, ahem, discipline (rigidity?) definitely transferred into my running life. This is what my typical weekly running schedule for the past 7 years pre-2016 has looked like:

Run 5 days – long run day, speed day, tempo run.
Rest 2 days.

But last year I became a different runner in a variety of ways, one of them being that my training plan could best be described as “In Pencil.” Meaning, any training scheduled for that day/week/race cycle could be erased and changed last second. Schedules transformed from in‑ stone to fluid. Now, sometimes I run four days, sometimes six days….depending. Sometimes I do track, other days hills, and of late it’s been a combo session. Also, what is a tempo run? While it’s a staple of almost every training schedule I’ve seen, I’ve done a whole two them in the last year. In addition to track and/or hills, I do some type of speed work at least twice a week, but it’s all indoors on turf, involves cones, and is the same type of work football players – not marathoners — do. Does that even count as running? And how do you count that in miles? *Throws hands up in the air* Add to that, Trainer never tells me ahead of time what we’re doing, except for whether we’re indoor or outdoor, so I have been unable to predict, and thus plan, a schedule. Nuts, right? Listen, I would never prescribe this for anyone, least of all myself, except for that it worked for me. I PRd all three half marathons I ran and BQd my marathon, so I am not messing with this un-formula formula!

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So this is what my “Schedule” looks like for my upcoming 5K and 10K races:

Run 5 days a week. Always one long run (somewhere between 8-10 miles), and usually one outdoor day (track or hills). The other fill-in runs are all over the place. Sometimes they’re all the same distance; other times, I’ll try to mix it up and have mid-distance, short distance, and alternate. A couple times a week, I’ll have a quick-paced short run before my training session that then continues afterwards; done either at a brisk pace or, depending on what happens during the training session, a slow recovery pace. Plus one 30-60 min. aqua jog because my body can’t really deal with running six days a week on cement. And of course one rest day. Complete anarchy. Why not just make Wednesday the start of the week while I’m at it.

So there’s a general plan, but the totals and paces are continuously subject to change.

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And as usual, the lessons I’ve learned in training definitely carry over into my life, as well as vice versa. Today I removed a few time blocks from my calendar. Do I really need to micromanage and fill up every minute of my time, even if it’s to type “FREE TIME” in color-coded blue? Nay, friends, I do not. I cavalierly hit “Delete Event” over and over! Further, I’ve learned that I do not need to know and schedule every detail ahead of time. Also, did you know that the universe does not fall apart if plans are changed last second? Revolutionary, I know. Learning to be more flexible rather than imposing my will based on a rule from who knows where has been an unexpected benefit of my new training regimen that I didn’t even know I needed.

So while I still don’t run alone in the dark, and am wary of running the trails during the summer for fear of seeing a snake, running without an official Training Schedule is something I’m willing to take a chance on. Which really isn’t a risk at all because I’ve seen that for someone as rigid and uptight as me, it works! In fact, a training plan and life framework with a structure that is adaptive is not only sustainable, but ultimately freeing. Just another case of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and reaping the rewards of pushing myself.

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Hope everyone has a great running week!

Training Week
Monday – Rest Day
Tuesday – Run 1.5 base pace miles; training session; run 4.5 recovery miles
Wednesday – Aqua jog 60 minutes
Thursday – Run track and hills
Friday – Run 2 base pace miles; training session; run 4 base pace miles
Saturday – Run 6 recovery miles
Sunday – Long run 8 miles

^^^ What is that even? Ha.

2017 Training Week One – March 20-26: The Miami Vice Solution

For the last five-plus years my race calendar and training schedules have been in place several months (lie: years) in advance. Everything pointed towards The Goal, which was qualifying for Boston (BQ), and my races pretty much followed this schedule:

February – Surf City Half Marathon
April – Hollywood Half Marathon
May – Mountains2Beach Marathon
September – Ventura Marathon
November – Santa Clarita Half Marathon (if I wasn’t too beat up by then)

Basically, two half marathons as a ramp-up to back-to-back marathons, and then a cool-down/end-of-the-year half before I’d go on vacation. Well, this past November, I unexpectedly qualified for Boston. Yes, it was not on the plan. The plan was to run it as an assessment marathon to see where I was, run my two tune-up halfs, and then go for Boston in May at M2B. Qualifying for Boston was AMAZING (yes, all caps!)…and it also through off my entire racing schedule for the first half of 2017. Quality problems, I know.

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After talking to Trainer, I decided to run track for the first half of the year. The plan was to enter some meets and “race” (read: survive) the 800m and 1500m events. Cool. Sounds like a Plan. Well, my BQ marathon happened on November 12th, and while I planned on taking a solid 2-3 week break, I hardly anticipated the 2-3 month break that inevitably occurred. Between an almost three-week European vacation, suffering a freak injury on my way to starting track season, rehabbing from that injury, and then finding out I had missed the open track meets and only the invite-only meets were left, I found myself in the last week of February still without a plan other than to “stay healthy” for Boston. In 2018.

This ambiguous, semi-Letsky Gosky attitude did not sit well with me. I am someone who has a five-year plan ALWAYS. I have goals upon goals and in several different areas, so this was unchartered territory for me…which, it turns out, is exactly where I was supposed to be.

Podcasts are your friend when you do as much aqua jogging as I do (because old). One of the more standout ones was a coach for high performers, who discussed the basic tenets of a workshop he offers on The Champions Blueprint. One of the steps in the blueprint occurs after one achieves a goal, and that is a period of adaptation and pause. Adapting to my new status meant realizing the identity I’d had for five years – “Someone trying to BQ” was different now. I wasn’t prepared for this new self! So that took some getting used to as I realized that my 2017 race calendar would need adjustment. Then came the pause. A time to rest and recover and then choose my next goal. Perhaps this is where I rushed things, as sitting still can be so jarring for me. At any rate, my freak injury somewhat forced The Pause, which apparently was going to happen with my consent or without. Ha.

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As my rehab progressed, and I finally got strong enough to run again, the next goal slowly came into sight…And it wore pastel t-shirts and suits. Yes, I’m talking about that landmark ‘80s television show Miami Vice! In addition to bringing back Don Johnson’s career, it also gave us the bravado of Philip Michael Thomas, who played his partner, Ricardo Tubbs. Thomas coined the acronym “EGOT”: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony, in reference to his plans for winning all four.* And that’s when my goal hit me: I would EGOT the All-American standards for all four road distances! I have already hit the USATF All-American standards for both the half marathon and full marathon distances, and this May and June I will try to do the same for the 5K and 10K distances. You guys, I haven’t run a 10K in over five years. The pain of going that fast is making me weep inside as I type.

But I’m totally excited by this goal! I will have to train hard for it, but it should keep me healthy. Yay. So here we go…USATF Masters EGOT plan is under way. If only I could figure out an acronym for these acronyms.

Total Mileage for Week: 25
Long Run: 8 miles
Outdoor Workout: Hill sprints and 200s

*It should be noted that Thomas has not, as of yet, been nominated for any of these awards.

But Where Do You Get Your Protein? A Vegan Runner Answers

I don’t work at a juice bar.

I am rarely in down-dog pose.

My name doesn’t include an astral object.

And I most definitely don’t look pale and scrawny.

These are just a few of the traditional images people have about vegans. Nope. This vegan looks like this.

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The fact that I’m also a first degree black belt in taekwondo, have run several half marathons and marathons, and just recently qualified for the Boston Marathon further breaks these stereotypes.

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More and more vegans are coming in all shapes and sizes, including a burgeoning group of vegan athletes. Super ultra-athlete Rich Roll, whose book “Finding Ultra” was a huge inspiration, made a loud statement for moving to a plant-based diet after being named one of the 25 fittest guys in the world in 2009 by Men’s Fitness magazine. But veganism isn’t just for endurance athletes. Uber muscular vegans, like former NFL defensive lineman David Carter and bodybuilder Torre Washington are further smashing the weak vegan stereotype. While the number of vegan athletes is growing, due to the misconceptions mentioned above, I found myself wary about committing to a plant-based diet, and my journey to veganism has for sure been a circuitous one.

Since the early ‘90s, I have had meatless tendencies, and as the years progressed, I became more knowledgeable about vegetarianism (abstaining from animal flesh) and veganism (abstaining from all animal products, including eggs and dairy).  In addition to the health advantages of a vegan diet, I learned about the environmental benefits and, of course, the tragedy of factory farming. Since 2007, I have primarily been on a vegan diet, meaning I cheated with non-vegan options for dessert and pizza, as well when traveling. Because Paris, OK? However, while 80% vegan or “veganish” was a strong statement for veganism, it wasn’t until last March that I made the full commitment, and I haven’t looked back.

In my nine-year journey to transitioning from an 80% vegan athlete to finally a 100% vegan athlete last March, I had a meandering route. The reasons for my stop-start dance with veganism were based on concerns that perhaps some athletes contemplating a switch to a plant-based diet might be struggling with. Hopefully my experience can help. Here were some discomforts I had to work my way through:

  1. But where will I get my protein? At first, my diet relied on fake meats because I was fearful that I would die from lack of protein. Now I rarely eat faux chicken or the like. Turns out beans, peas, kale, spinach, etc. and ad infinitum all contain protein. Also, you don’t need as much protein as you’ve been told you need.
  2. Not feeling full. This was weird. Being raised a meat-and-potatoes girl, it was uncomfortable not feeling stuffed after a meal. You know what? You learn to love this lightness. In fact, that is primarily why I found myself gravitating towards a vegan diet as a marathoner; I hated feeling weighed down by meat in my body.
  3. Not getting enough iron. My previous bloodwork has intermittently indicated that I’m borderline anemic, meaning that I have to be diligent with getting enough iron. People traditionally associate iron with meat, but I use one iron supplement and eat a lot of beets. This seems to take care of that.

In exchange for giving up animal protein, I have increased energy and decreased recovery time. Decreased recovery time means I can train more, which means more athletic gains and faster race times. In fact, after becoming 100% vegan in March 2016, I PRd both of my half marathons, taking a full 6:30 plus off my former PR from 2012. I then smashed my marathon time by 33 minutes and qualified for the Boston Marathon after four years of trying. Now, in full disclosure, I also added a trainer and speedwork to my training last year which was instrumental; however, all of the workouts were fueled by plants. At the very least, being vegan was not a detriment to the demands my trainer put on my body. However, more accurately, being plant-based allowed me to take on and thrive under the increased pressure and elevated workouts he put me through.

 

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I like specifics, so this is what a typical eating day looks like for me:

Breakfast: Beet, banana, blueberry, coconut water, and almond milk smoothie.

Lunch: Salad with kale, red chard, arugula, spinach, mixed greens, beets, edamame, carrots, avocado, tofu, and dressing with omega 3s.

Dinner: Brown rice, tofu or mushrooms, two types of veggies, and some fat to fill me up.

Snack: Peanut butter balls made with oatmeal and protein powder.

I never worry about my protein intake. And, when someone inevitably poses the question that is the title of this post, here is an answer that I heard another vegan athlete say. Actually, it’s a question in response to their question: “Well, where do you get your protein?” See, cows and chickens don’t eat animal protein either. So if plants and seeds are a good enough protein source for the protein that you’re eating, then…

A new breed of vegan is emerging that is strong and performs at a high level athletically. If veganism is something that’s been rolling around in your mind as something you’d like to try, then I strongly encourage you to do so. Have fun with it, be curious, and experiment. The nourishing plant-based food I eat not only gives me energy and strength, it makes my body and soul light, and those cumulative effects shine through. This is what a 49-year old non-protein deficient vegan athlete looks like.

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