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Monday, September 12, 2011

Week 6: Head for the Hills

So my last run was bad, really bad. Which was a big downer since I had been trending upward to that point. The good thing was that I had gotten a few runs in during the previous week when I was at a low point physically, and a lot of my problems were equipment based. So there were a lot of things that could be easily corrected. The first solution of which was don't party all weekend, which I didn't.

Monday started off with the regular short easy run in the morning since I was attending hockey practice in the evening. Now I had skipped out on the hill training the previous Tuesday due to the fact that I still needed to catch up on sleep, but I had decided this week I was definitely going to attend. There were two time slots scheduled for hill training, 5:30am and 6:30pm. Now it had been consistently over 100 degrees for several weeks now in Houston so the plan was to stick with the morning run to try and avoid the heat. This required me to get up a little before 5am. I usually don't get back from hockey on Monday nights until around 10. By the time all my gear is hung up to dry, I get cleaned up, and actually go to bed it is after 11. So getting up before 5 was going to be a challenge.

So challenging in fact that when my alarm went off the next morning I said "Hell no" rolled over and went back to sleep. So the 6:30pm run it was. It was somewhere between 103 and 106 without the heat index which actually had me really worried the entire day leading up to the run. I drank a lot of water.

The run actually turned out to be really fun. I met with the Houston Fit group at a park and we did a warm up run of just under a mile over to the nearby bayou. Over at the bayou we did some warm up drills of high knees, butt kicks, and long strides to stretch out a little better. Then followed the actual hill part of the training. The bayou was sunken down below the streets and the coaches had basically set up a course marked by flags that went up and down the side of the bayou. We were to run the course for four minutes, with a two minute rest window and repeat the activity seven times. During the rest we would mainly continue walking the course or go get a drink of water.

The hill work was difficult since the rest of Houston is so flat and I barely ran on hills anymore. As I said though it was fun because it reminded me of my track workouts from high school. Nothing like a little bit of nostalgia to get you through a difficult workout. Also, while it was hot out, there ended up being a nice breeze and most of the run was fairly well shaded. So it wasn't nearly as bad as I had worried about, at least this time. After we finished our intervals we did a recovery run back to the meeting location and finished with a core workout. All in all a good day.

This hill run really got me back in the right mindset. Running was feeling good again instead of painful. The Thursday morning run was good, another 35 minute tempo run, no problem. So I was feeling good again. Now to fix the equipment problems I had been having. Texas was having their back to school tax free weekend, which one of the Houston Fit sponsor's Luke's Locker was participating in. Additionally being a member of Houston Fit provided me with a discount card there for 20% off for one use. So this was the weekend to go buy new stuff.

The first task was new shoes. I had noted earlier I really liked the pair of Asics I owned and had been using that particular type for a long time. However, on top of the fact that my current pair was too small, my knees were starting to be affected negatively it was time to look and see what else was out there. I tried on four different brands at the store Asics, Brooks, Saucony, and Nike. I ran around the store and my big test for them was how they felt on my feet, but mainly how they made my knees feel. It ended up coming down between the Saucony and the Nike. To me the Nike's felt a little lighter which ended up being the deciding factor since they were pretty evenly matched otherwise. So now I am the proud owner of a pair of Nike Pegasus 28's.

So problem one taken care of. Problem two was my hand going numb from carrying a Gatorade bottle with me the whole run and not swapping hands at all. So I purchased a water bottle designed to be held during runs. It is a Nathan product. I will say I like the strap and the pocket size on bottle. It's good for carrying gels and other items, but I am not a fan of the bottle itself. I was hoping for a more automatic nozzle like one's I have seen on Camelbak products (jet valve), but this one I have to open and close every time I take a sip. Beyond that the threads don't seal the bottle very well. There have been several times I squeeze the bottle and water pours out the sides instead of only through the nozzle. So the bottle is alright, but not as good as I'd hoped for what I paid. 

The third problem then was lack of energy in longer runs. I had been reading about energy gels but I had to this point not used any. I had been warned that different products can mess with people's stomachs so try them out and find the right one for you. The store had a good selection of products, which I looked over. I noticed a lot of them contained caffeine which I wanted to avoid. This is mainly because I am a recovering caffeine junkie. I love caffeine, mainly in the form of coffee. The problem is that I am extremely sensitive to caffeine withdrawal and it dehydrates the ever living hell out of me. So I end up with massive headaches if I don't have any. It is no fun being dependent on a chemical in order to feel OK. So before I started all of this training I stopped drinking coffee. Actually, while I had the stomach bug I couldn't drink it and just went from there. I was already miserable enough the caffeine headache just fit right in. So no caffeinated products. The only one I found that did not have any was Accel gels. A little research (finding that link) revealed some of their flavors do have caffeine, but I went with Key lime which does not. 

So my three main problems were assessed and hopefully fixed. While I was there I also grabbed a couple new shirts, shorts, and another pair of ridiculously expensive socks. A good but costly trip.

So newly equipped I set out the next day on an eight mile run, and a good run it was. My new shoes needed some breaking in. I wandered around the house all of the previous evening wearing them but that only does so much. So the shoes ate at my toes a little, but my knees felt 100 times better. The water bottle was good to run with and the gel gave me no issues with my stomach. They may not be the best tasting thing ever but I really did feel like I had a ton of energy not too long after I ate it. Probably some placebo effect in there as well, but it seems like a good product that I will use going forward.

It was a good cap off to a good week.

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