Marathon Training Update, Day 14 of 102!

I've got through over 15% of my marathon training, and how do I feel? Honestly, I wish I felt how she looks ... but I don't and here's why:

I am following a program that is for "Beginners" - that means I don't (yet) run 30-40 k a week, but I can easily run 5-7 k. I've run three half-marathons so far (that's 21 k) so I'm definitely good to go. The program asks for four sessions a week, mostly running with an occasional bout of cross training. Check it out here. I like it so far. I like the way it is building up slowly and it also gives me three rest days a week, which makes things easier to handle in terms of bigger-picture time management.

Time management is a huge deal if you're thinking of running a marathon. Right now, in the early days, I only take a half an hour to complete my runs, but as the training gets more intense it will ask more from me. I have to be disciplined and still keep on top of everything else in my life: my cafe, my family, taking care of myself, writing, teaching doula classes. The list goes on.

On Day 7, I did my second "long run". It was a three mile run (I did 5 k) and I was really happy with my speed! It was cold and icy out so I thought I was going slowly. I wasn't checking my pace during the run, and I was pleasantly surprised when I got home. I figured the training plan was really working! The gradual increase in distance and time spent on the runs; my faster pace even with extra caution because of the icy patches ... my only problem was a very cold butt (by the way, ladies, did you know that this is a common problem for us, because of our nicely shaped bums?) See here for some tips.

Women's merino boxers

What to do? Warm merino underwear, then your winter running pants? These ones here are 85% merino.

Running pants with warmer shorts on top? Warm leggings with a winter running skirt or shorts? When I wear leggings under my pants my knees get cold, so I cut a pair of leggings at the knee. But then everything felt too tight around my waist. Ideally? I would love to find a legging/skirt combo made for women runners. Anyone?

Cold bum aside, by Day 9 I was feeling a little grumpy. My fartlek on Day 10 I did with my faithful four-legged running buddy but even she didn't cheer me up. My pace was mediocre.

Best running buddy ever!
Day 11 was hard. I was supposed to do an easy 5 k and my day went sideways before I knew it and I, well, long story short, I didn’t run. I ended up on the couch, late, reading and drinking tea while my family slept. I told myself I would run Saturday night. Saturday is my rest day, and I take full advantage of it. I sleep late, eat well, drink lots of water, and do whatever I want – which is usually to catch up on my reading. (Friend me on Goodreads!)

I went out Saturday night and did my 5 k. I’m not a huge fan of running after dark. Safety issues bug me. Visibility is super important after dark. I’ve been wearing a jacket with some reflective stripes, and carrying a little flashing bicycle lamp, but I’m buying a reflective vest. If it’s icy, the slippery patches are less visible when it’s dark, so make sure you wear proper gear or know where the ice is. I always imagine the crazy stalkers come out after dark, so I get scared and run like I’m being followed, which isn’t great for my form. And super paranoid, since it’s only six pm. If you’re paranoid like me, stay on busier streets and make sure you only wear one earphone if you’re listening to music.

Sunday is my Long Run day. There’s a little bit of controversy over the long run, some say it’s only beneficial mentally and not physically. I believe it is the most important run of my week, and Strength Running concurs. In any race training plan, you will do usually one long run per week up to a few weeks before the race, then you will start to taper down the distance in order to be at optimum fitness for your race. Since I just started my plan, it calls for a starter long run of three miles at the end of the second week, and increase up to a maximum of 20 miles at week 22. Day 12 was supposed to be my 4 miler (6.4 k).

Sunday, my plan was to arrive at my café at 8am, cook and serve brunch, and get home by 4:30 so I could get out the door and do my 7k by the time it got dark. Ha! By 2pm I felt SICK. Burning pains up and down my spine, a crazy itching spot on my shoulder, crying spells that luckily didn’t show up while I was serving customers, and an extreme fatigue. I felt like I was gonna die. I tweeted @JasonFitz1 – he is super available for any running questions (even though he is running a business, is a runner himself, and has a newborn!) about running when you are feeling sick and he basically told me what I already knew. If it’s above the neck, you’re usually good to go: headache, mild sore throat without a fever, head cold, hangover, broken heart. If it’s below your neck – gastro, bladder, chest and cough – then you should probably stay home.

Well I felt like I should run, and probably could run but I was so tired I wanted to cry! My husband came to get me and took me to my favourite spot: the library!

Bibliotheque Nationale du Quebec
I love this place! I spent some time here and got some books out, and then I went home and collapsed onto the couch. My family prepared steaks and I ate, then I crashed back onto the couch with a book…

Man did I feel guilty! You can’t miss your long run, just because you’re feeling sick! How are you going to run a marathon if you can’t even do a simple 7 k? You’re a loser! Insults aside, exercise guilt is a thing. Read about it here. Guilt is not good for you, in any way. It provides your body with enough stress hormones to cancel out all the good stuff you have achieved with your running. Guilt can affect your cardiovascular, endocrinological, digestive and inflammatory processes in your lovely bod. So don’t go there! Healthy Chicks agree.

What you can do, however, if you’re skipping a run, instead of feeling guilty and sorry for yourself, is visualize that you are actually on a nice easy long run. This technique affects your muscles and can stimulate them – not as much as a real run would do, of course, but to a small extent, and anyway daydreaming about running is way more pleasurable than beating yourself up about not running.

Did I do that? No, I felt guilty, I went to work, and I cried when I got home, because I was so tired and such a loser. So? What happened? Why did I crash so bad only there weeks in to my 26 week training plan?

1. I put way too much on my plate. If you’re training for a marathon, something’s gotta give. Don’t take on extra projects, or you will find yourself like the Cat in the Hat with too many spinning balls.

2. I took myself way too seriously. Hey! It’s okay to miss a run. You’re not an Olympic star, or an elite (if you are thank you for reading this, very kind of you).

3. Guilt, stress, and shame took a great big bite out of my discipline and self-confidence. Let me explain. Back on Day 9, I wasn’t feeling great and I went for a run in the cold. I was chilled, and I didn’t listen to my body. I kept going – went for a twenty-minute fartlek the day after with Stella, my trusty dog. Cold again. That set off an inflammatory process, which I added to by being stressed about my progress, and I ended up with a serious Sacral Herpes outbreak. Chafing from my thrown-together winter gear; cold all around the lower sacrum; stress; ignoring initial symptoms meant that I had a full-fledged outbreak, with flu-ish symptoms, emotional backlash, terrible pain all over my lower back and shoulders.

But did I stop going to work? Did I tell everyone I was sick? No, I told them I was fighting “the cold that’s going around”. Why? Because herpes is bad, man. It’s got a stigma. HIV, Hepatitis, and Herpes all have a history, and they all have a stigma that makes people ashamed and guilty. The rate of infection for HSV-2 in Canada and the US is around 15%, according to the CDC in the US. If 15 per cent of all us runners are dealing with this incurable disease that can be triggered by stress, sunshine and inflammatory process, then we runners had better start talking about it!

Running buddies

Here are some tips for dealing with a herpes outbreak if you are a runner:

1. First of all, how can you prevent outbreaks? Your doctor can prescribe valacyclovir (or acyclovir). This is a drug that suppresses symptoms, it does not kill the virus. Around 1% of the population feel side effects to this drug, or choose not to take it for other reasons. Some people choose to take it only when they feel the “pre-symptoms” or “prodromal” symptoms such as tingling or sensitivity. Another common remedy (and the jury is out as to which is more effective) is taking L-lysine daily. This is also a powerful treatment that works to suppress symptoms and reduces outbreaks. You have to take 1000 mg per day, and it can also cause side effects.

2. Stress is a huge component in Herpes outbreaks, and you have to learn how to reduce the effects of stress in your life, or you will be plagued with repeat outbreaks which will further stress you out! Don’t try to reduce stress in your life – life is stressful and you can’t live in bubble wrap. But learn how to control and manage your body’s reaction to stress. Meditate, breathe, rationalize, get exercise; do whatever it takes to keep stress from creeping into your body. Stress and worry also affects your body’s ability to bounce back, whether from illness, injury, or emotional hard times. Have a look at theis helpful article from Runner’s World.

3. There are other triggers that can make your body ripe for an outbreak, and these are different for everyone. The main ones are: sunshine, inflammation, some foods. Obviously as runners we are outside a lot. Wear your sunscreen! Get a brand that actually works to keep your face protected through sweating.
As far as inflammatory events, that’s a tough one to avoid as a runner. If you have any chafing anywhere, or you are nursing an injury, take extra good care of yourself as that injury may precipitate an outbreak. If you are taking L-Lysine, perhaps increase your intake a little during the days you are nursing your injury. The virus actually lives at the base of the spine, so any chafing at the tops of the thighs or around your underwear line will go directly to the little bastards and start them planning their revenge.
As a runner, you are already super conscious of your nutrition. More to think about: The herpes virus seems to be affected by the balance of L-Lysine and Arginine in your body. What does this mean? These are both amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. L-Lysine is an essential amino acid, which means that your body cannot create it, but your body can produce arginine. Both these amino acids are necessary for optimum functioning, but it is suggested that L-Lysine actually inhibits the reproductive capacity of the herpes virus, whereas arginine stimulates it. However, it is not a great idea to either reduce or increase either of these amino acids drastically; they are both necessary for a healthy metabolism. Personally, I avoid foods (or supplements – check your protein powder!)  with high arginine content, and I take 1000 g of L-Lysine every day.

4. Know what your pre-outbreak symptoms are and act on them immediately. Some common prodromal symptoms are: extreme fatigue – the kind where you feel like crying because you have to make dinner; a tingling or achy feeling where you usually have your outbreaks (oral, genital, or on your buttocks, lower back or, more rarely, elsewhere); a flu-ish feeling – generalized achiness, feverish, maybe a sore throat or a headache. What to do if you feel like you have an outbreak coming on? Skip your run! You can do some gentle yoga, or just lie down and watch The Barkley, or read a running book (my Goodreads list). Take your meds (whether its Valtrex or L-Lysine)! Try to rest, and eat well!

You are a runner for your own reasons. Many of us just love the feeling of moving our bodies through space, whether we are in a crowded urban area, a leafy suburb, a desert or a leafy trail, or a snowridden landscape.

#winterrunning #marathontraining Day 17

We runners love the isolation of running alone, and we love the camaraderie of running with a group. We are competitive, if not against others, then at the very least against ourselves. We are grateful for our health and do our very best to maintain it. But some of us (maybe one in seven) must be extra careful, and we have to work just that little bit harder to stay healthy, by knowing when to stop and when to play hard.

Half Marathon 2:3, so hot!

Happy running! Stay healthy!

ps. I am now on Day 17 and totally back on track. Except it suddenly got to be winter here and I need those merino boxers!!


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