I like to run. I've learned that it really isn't about where you're going, it's about the getting there - the how, the why, the who with. This blog is just a little repository for my thoughts along the way; the setbacks, the lessons learned, and the occasional triumph.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rough Patch

I had a slightly disastrous run on Saturday. Ok; I wanted to call it a complete disaster, but there are plenty of actual problems in the world and, right now, we’re just talking about my Saturday long run.

Nevertheless, I went out for an easy paced 18-miler on a very warm but not sweltering afternoon, and I was only able to complete 2 and a half miles before I had to throw in the towel. My legs were tight, my body was tired and it all seemed to be getting worse instead of better as i ran. It hurt my ego a whole lot to have to punch a “fail” on the run, but I’m trying to stick to my new idea this year, that it’s better to not fight through a day like Saturday when it just isn’t working.

What really troubles me is that the whole week I had the same problem. 16 miles the previous Sunday, 8 miles on Tuesday and 10 miles on Thursday each featured lots of rest breaks and plenty of extra-slow splits. Three weeks ago I took a shot at a 16-miler, but had to bail out on it after just 4 miles.

The heat has been a problem. Heat is never good to me. And it was especially hot and humid in Chicago last week. The heat index climbed into the high 90s for most of the week. So that surely has been a factor.

But I think the real problem maybe Softball.

It saddens me to say this, but I think softball may be abusing the heck out of my legs. I play 16” softball (yes, 16) every summer for 3.5 months starting in May, on Mondays and Wednesdays. It’s not an overly-serious league and I am definitely little better than average out there on the field, but I have a well-earned reputation as a speedy runner.

However, I increased my training mileage significantly the last few years, and I noticed the downside on the diamond. I was more sluggish and my legs felt heavier on the bases and in the field. Well, this year I think it’s working around in the other direction.

It’s funny, because, you know, I’m a runner. Running around a softball field should be no big deal, right? But, the fact is, the kind of running it requires is so completely different. I’ve trained my body into the habit of long, slow, steady distance running. 50 miles in 12 hours or less? No big deal. But the stuttering stops and starts, sudden changes of direction, blistering 90 degree left turns, and – maybe worst of all – the complex motions of swinging a bat right-handed and then trying to run out of the batter’s box, have all taken quite a toll on my body this summer. My hamstrings are tight, my glutes are sore, the fascia up and down the outsides of both legs are creaky.

I think the true solution to all this might be a better stretching routine, both on running days and on softball days. I guess starting a yoga habit would truly be ideal. Stretching has long been a weakness in my fitness, and I find I am paying for it dearly this summer.

I just turned 35 last week. 10 years ago, I might have been able to weather all the self-inflicted abuse. Now? Well, I just need a little more TLC.

The biggest casualty in all this may be my attempt at the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance run on the first weekend in August. I was already doubtful of my preparedness, but this problem is like a double-whammy, because I’m dealing with all the aches AND it’s keeping me from getting my training miles in.

Ah, the perils of age and an active lifestyle.


Paige said...

I played soccer and softball the last two summers, and this summer I decided to pass on both...mostly because I've moved and it's inconvenient, but also because I know how they affect my running and this is a big season for me this year! Soccer was good for "speedwork" since I played midfield, but it took a day or two to get my legs back to normal and feel like I could run long.

Most likely, for you, it is the heat...it has a weird effect on runner legs! Try drinking more water than usual, and make sure that you're getting enough electrolytes throughout the day. Seriously, take a salt cap in the hour before a scheduled long/longish run in the heat, and make sure to have them once per hour (or more if you're a heavy sweater or salty sweater) during your run. Some people have an electrolyte drink on the ready throughout their day when they know they'll be running later. Works wonders and it's so easy to overlook these things, especially when the heat is sudden and intense. Hopefully you find your legs soon!!

GTI said...

Thanks, Paige. I hope you're right and it's just salt and water depletion. I feel like I'm aware of those issues every summer, but sometimes I take it for granted that I know what I'm doing, and then forget to know what I'm doing!

David Ray said...

Stretching is a good idea. Plus core strength workouts, if you're not already doing that.

Wait till you get really old. :)

GTI said...

Thanks, David. You have to know: anytime I call myself "old", it's my wry sense of humor at work. ;)
The real truth, I suppose, is that I'm just old *enough*.

704 Studio said...

Greg, hope the cooling weather has helped your sluggishness, and that you will be able to run that 100 miler (for selfish reasons, I want to read the massive race report that you will be sure to write :)