Tag Archives: Half Marathon

How being a multisport athlete means you never have to say you can’t work out

You know how I came to be a triathlete? I was a runner who had to start cycling and swimming because of injuries; it was a natural progression. These days, yet again, I am very glad I’m a multi-sport athlete.

A week and a half ago I was hiking Mount Finlayson with a friend. It was a foggy, wet day (although not raining). The trail was slippery in places, but otherwise OK. I had vibram-soled day hikers on; the same ones that have taken me up this hike, and others, many times.

We stopped at the top for some water and a photo, and started to make our way down. Not far from the summit, I stepped down. My foot twisted in, my leg twisted out, and in a heartbeat I was down on the ground writhing in pain.

My friend helped me hobble slowly down the mountain; but I fell two or three more times; my knee just gave way. At one point it made an audible, sickening crack sound, which was not (thank goodness) accompanied by pain. My doctor says it was probably my knee cap sub-luxating (or something like that). My physiotherapist says I kept falling because after that initial trauma my muscles were tensed up and not working properly.

The next day I hobbled to a walk-in clinic with my now-swollen knee and got an order for X-rays, tensor bandage, crutches, and ibuprofen.

It became apparent to me that my training plans are now put on hold. I spent last week trying to hold off a funky black cloud of misery, weight gain, longing for my bike, and longing to be out running trails, and being unable to even do household chores properly (pro tip gleaned from Twitter: hook a bag onto a crutch to carry things in. Pack food up like a picnic for taking it to the dining room to eat).

My friends were fantastic. Crystal came over to clean my place. Another friend took me out for dinner. I had offers of meals and help that I was so grateful for .. And my friend Yukari sent me a sweet note. All very welcomed and which brightened my spirits immeasurably. I drove up to the Cobble Hill 10k race to help out and cheer from my crutches on the sidelines. It was a gorgeous day and I was inspired to not lose hope.

First good news came a few days later when I saw my own doc. “Have I lost my triathlon season?” I asked her.

“No, no, not yet. I think you should heal. No broken bones, no ACL tear, possible meniscus tear, but we’ll know more after a month of physiotherapy.” So, I made an appointment with my sometime torturer – er – physiotherapist – Matt.

More good news after that first physio visit. Matt thinks it’s not torn, that it was a painful sprain/stretched ligament, and it’s on its way to recovery as long as I do a few things right. I can start spinning on the bike indoors for 10-15 minutes at NO tension. I can swim with light kicking (no paddle board, kick drills or frog kick). I have gentle stretching and strengthening exercises to do for the next 4 weeks.

The other interesting thing Matt said was to hold on to my crutches: either walk correctly (meaning slowly) or use them – but AVOID LIMPING at all costs. If I walk with a limp I’ll be teaching my body bad habits that I’ll just have to un-teach once things progress.

So – there it is. Hope reigns. Things are looking up. I might not get the times I hoped for, but it looks like I will be able to do all the events I signed up for on 2014:

  • April 27: TC 10K
  • May 25: Subaru Shawnigan Lake Triathlon (Sprint)
  • June 15: Subaru Victoria Triathlon (As the swim leg of TriStars Scrambled Legs Relay team-Olympic)
  • June 29: Tri of Compassion (Sprint)
  • July 13: Cowichan Challenge Triathlon (“Challenge” distance)
  • August 4: Self Transcendence Triathlon (Olympic)
  • Later in August: Maybe Tour de Victoria 140K, but entry fee $$$ is spendy!
  • October (if all goes well) – Victoria Half Marathon

UPDATE May 25: I have edited this post to take out the name and photograph of the person with whom I was hiking, because reasons.


Running slower to run faster

I’m in hard training for my sixth half marathon, and I’m running slower than I ever have before. Much slower. As in, almost 2 minutes per kilometre slower. I’m also running without a pace group – as much as I love the comeradierie, they all go too fast for me.

That’s right, I’m running slower, it’s hard work, and I’m doing it alone and I’m doing it so I can get faster.

Say what?

It’s all about heart rate zones, and lactate thresholds. I’m wearing a heart rate monitor and paying attention to my body – it’s the most personalized training I’ve ever had.

Also the first heart rate monitor chafing I’ve ever had, but I can deal.

Warning: I’m about to blind you with science.

A couple of Saturdays ago I gave myself a birthday present: a trip to the Peak Centre in Burnaby so they could put me on a treadmill and run me ragged while taking a drop or two of blood from my pricked finger every three minutes.

Yeah, I know, bling would have been nice, or a weekend getaway, but there was no one around to spoil me so I got myself something I could really use. Something that would give me back my running, get me back to training and return me to sanity.

SinkAlex at Peak Centre explained that my heart rate is an indication of the lactate in my blood produced by exercise. The harder you work, the more lactate is produced. A lower intensity – about 70% of maximum heart rate, your body is able to get rid of all the lactate it’s producing. Go faster, and lactate builds up, it fills up like a sink and eventually overwhelms the body’s ability to deal with it, producing lactic acid and the attendant cramping, fatigue, and inability to continue running (or biking, or whatever).

The goal of training is to “widen the drain” at the bottom of the sink – to train the body to handle increasing amounts of lactate. Translation: if you’re training based on your lactate threshold profile, you don’t get tired as easily and can perform better.

It also has to do with fast twitch and slow twitch muscles. the faster you go, the more you’re using fast twitch. The slower you go, the more you’re using slow twitch.

My training heart rate is now determined by five zones the Peak Centre guys figured out for me using data from my lactate threshold test.

BUT here’s where my eyes opened wide: there are “intermediary” fast twitch muscles that can act as slow twitch, and handle all that lactate for longer periods. It’s really important for endurance athletes to “recruit” those intermediary fast twitch to act more like slow twitch. By continually pushing my “easy” pace into Zone 2 all those years, I was encouraging my intermediary fast-twitchers to stay fast twitch, I wasn’t increasing my aerobic treshhold or my lactate threshold and I was hitting a wall in terms of performance. I got frustrated and started to lack motivation.

(Those extra ten pounds I gained since the last fall haven’t helped either, but that’s another matter.)

As it turns out, my 6:30/km (or faster) pace – the pace at which I did all my long and “recovery” runs for the last three years, was probably in Zone 2, “junk mile” territory. Also, I’m not doing enough training in zone 3 – lactate threshold pace, and therefore not training my body enough to handle faster running.

(Yes, I missed nearly every Wednesday night track workout while I was training last summer and fall).

Alex explained that 10-15% of my training should be at lactate threshold, Zone 3, between 6:23 and 5:56 per kilometre; but the other 85-90% should be under aerobic threshold, Zone 1, under 150 bpm – or about 8 minutes per kilometre. When I first started doing it I had to stop and walk frequently to keep my heart rate down. It’s getting ever so slightly better, but I really need to concentrate on running at these paces.

What’s the upshot of all this for me? By running slower according to my own body chemistry, I can train my body to run faster at the same heart rate.

So today my 70% HR is 8:00 per km, but in a few months it might be 7:00, and my race pace will be faster yet.

I won’t be hitting my goal of a 2-hour half marathon this May during the Vancouver Half Marathon. I’ll be lucky to break 2:17 – close to a personal worst. However, if I keep at it, consistently training in my correct zones, I can expect to push my Zone 1 to faster paces and set a personal record in the fall.



Runner’s block

“Go big or go home” is not really working for me right now. I’d rather go home.

I keep reading about people’s running: someone’s training for Boston, or an ultra, or an Ironman, and I think “I want to do all those things, but here I am signed up for a puny little Half Marathon again this spring.”

I can’t get excited training for it. I haven’t been interested in training since my SI joint injury just after the marathon last May. It still doesn’t feel quite right, and I can’t even get excited about running most of the time. I haven’t adjusted to running life in Vancouver very well.

fatigued runnerI miss running in Victoria. I miss having kilometres of beautiful coastline within minutes of my home.

I miss having trails an easy 20 minute drive (or less) away.

I miss having a challenging tree-lined hill workout in my own neighbourhood.

I miss having training buddies who run at my training pace.

I miss daylight. Maybe it will get better in spring. Maybe I should bring running gear to work and run the seawall at lunchtime.

I know I need to exercise every day, and I manage to get a few workouts in per week. Maybe that’s enough for now. After all, I just moved. Chris just moved in with me. I just want to sit in my cosy apartment with my fireplace going and have a glass of wine with my new neghbours and friends.

Maybe I should just give myself a break. Lean into it, and see what happens.

This too shall pass.

Photo by robswatski used under Creative Commons license