Sunday, June 26, 2011

Training through the off season

I can always tell when I'm having a bit of an "off" week, because I don't blog much. Busyness and heavy involvement in activities don't curtail my blogging habit; in fact, I tend to blog even more frequently when lots of good things are going on. But this week has been a tough one. Good, but tough. I am trying to delve into a new writing project that has been slow to launch. Meanwhile, I've decided to let any marketing efforts for my latest book simmer for a while, so during the days this week, I've found myself staring bewildered at a blank document on my computer screen with no justifiable distractions for my writer's block. And then there's the running. I put in a big (for me) week of trail running, with 17.5 miles on Monday, eight on Tuesday, 32-mile road bicycle ride on Wednesday, eight more on Thursday, rest day Friday, eight on Saturday and 23 miles today. That's a 64-mile run week, with about 15,000 feet of climbing (including the ride). It only included one day of cycling in seven. Honestly, that's a lot of running for me.

But that's not what made it tough. What made this week tough was its direct correlation with a big high pressure system that brought overwhelming sunshine and temperatures in the 80s and 90s all week long. Just a typical summer week, but I took it hard. After my literal heat meltdown on Monday, it took me three solid days to recover. I felt similarly run-down, weak and pukey on Tuesday and even during my road ride on Wednesday, and it took a 10-degree drop in temperatures for me to feel closer to normal on Thursday. The rest day on Friday was a good idea and by Saturday I was back to feeling mostly like my old self, even in the same heat the crushed me earlier in the week. But it's a bit frightening to me just how awful I felt on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. This is a whole new battle for me. Dealing with extreme cold is easy; you just put on more clothing. But heat can only be fully combated with proper acclimation, which, as far as I'm concerned, means too many outdoor outings that are no fun at all. Give me extreme cold over that any day. Good thing this is my "off season" and I only have a measly 100-mile foot race that I'm training for right now.

But the weekend ended on bright notes. Beat and I finally broke down and bought the Subaru Outback that we've been fantasizing about since we drove my 1996 Geo Prism from Missoula to Kalispell in November through a blizzard, a white-knuckle experience that neither of us ever want to have to repeat. Most of my friends, my parents, and even my former employers have been razzing me to get rid of my car for years now. It's tough because I'm extremely attached to that old car, possibly as much as I am to any of my bikes, even Pugsley. Geo and I have just been through so much together. I was barely 21 years old when I bought that car, and it followed me through all the major adventures and changes in my life since then. But I accept that it's an inanimate object and a mechanically challenged one at that. And of course, a brand new Subaru can help an adventurous person get over her old-and-weak sedan real fast. I mostly bike commute around town, but we needed a good "adventure" vehicle for road trips — the kind that can handle mountains and snow once winter comes around and we're back to the "on" season.

Today I set out with Beat and our friends Harry and Martina for the week's longest run. It was actually a rather pleasant day, still sunny and warm but at least never close to the 90s. We started at the bottom of Windy Hill and climbed to Skyline. Beat recently caught a cold and Harry and Martina were suffering from various injuries, so they decided to turn back at mile 5.5. I actually felt better than I had all week long, even at the end of a heavy-loaded running week, which leads me to believe that heat really is my kryptonite and without it I can run as much as want. Ha. A woman can dream.

Of course I took today's run fairly slow and drank a whole lot of water. I filled up my water bladder twice over the 23 miles and was nearly out by the time I got home, meaning I drank nearly 200 ounces of water in five hours. I felt good the whole time, though, except for one severe side-stitch that caused me to basically walk downhill for three miles while I tried to work it out. I still have to figure out why I so often manage to get these side-stitches, regardless of temperature or distance or hydration levels or trail surface conditions, but only during steep descents.

What I really loved about today's run was traveling from Windy Hill to within a mile of my house and, with the exception of a half mile on Skyline Drive, running on trail that entire time. The San Francisco Bay area really does have an amazing open space plan. I ran along open ridgelines, wended down tight singletrack into deep canyons, jogged through intensely green redwood forests and across golden grass meadows. I felt like I was out for a quiet, rolling, 23-mile run in the mountains despite the fact that this huge metro area was merely a few miles away. It's certainly not wilderness but it's beautiful and enjoyable all the same. Now, if only the temperature would drop a few dozen degrees ...

GPS track of Sunday's run here. It's a fantastic route that I highly recommend.


  1. "Now, if only the temperature would drop a few dozen degrees ..."

    Don't even joke like that :-)
    I feel like it's been raining since November and am finally able to enjoy our summer...

  2. Summer is perfect of course, but i still do it on rainy days.

  3. Consumer therapy! Works every time. Congrats on the purchase, it will serve you well. Let us know what her name turns out to be. (Yes, I am a traditionalist, but of course, feel free to give HIM a name.)

    As for acclimation, after 17 years in Alaska, I moved to Montana. Heat acclimation comes reasonably fast if you take it like other training aspects. That is, don't push it, but work on it consistently. Furthermore, I recently read about a study or two that implies if you are acclimated to the heat, your body can perform better even when it's cold.

    Good luck.

  4. Hi Jill--I LOVE your blog! Here's a link to an article that I read recently. At the bottom it states that controlled deep breathing...may help with side stitches. I have tried it a few times and found it to be a more accurate measure to prevent side stiches than say, water, incline, decline, etc--that you mentioned!

    Best wishes in your training! I understand heat completely--Oklahoma sun and humiditiy has no mercy.

  5. Great weather, sunshine....blah,blah,blah. I used to look forward to reading this blog for the "epic" cold weather adventures that most of us will never experience.
    Now it is same old same old.

  6. Anon 12:57 ... thanks for the well wishes. I definitely need to read that article.

    Anon 7:41 ... so don't read it. There are tons of awesome Alaska blogs out there. This might be hard to believe, but I don't live my life for the amusement of random strangers.

  7. Hi, Jill! I found your blog and books via Big Ring Circus blog. Any friend of Juancho is a friend of mine! :) I'm sitting in Merida, Yucatan, MX enjoying rain and clouds (after months of 100º plus temps) and reading Ghost Trails on my Kindle. Thank God I can live your adventures vicariously since the heat has seeped into these old bones 'til a walk across the room is work. Congrats on the gorgeous Subaru! May you have many adventures in it, but fair warning: Comfort can be addictive, too. ;)

  8. 58 and overcast in Anchorage... just sayin'.

  9. It just feels good when life is good doesn't it? ;-)

    I find that the Subaru commericals make more sense after we purchased our Outback.

  10. You probably know this already, but be careful not to drink too much water too quickly over the course of a long run.

    I had a friend collapse unconscious and almost die due to hyponatremia near the end of a marathon run.

    Kidneys can typically process about 32 oz of water an hour, although stress from high exertion can lower that considerably.

    Here is one article:

    On your stitches, how about having someone record you running down steep hills then analyzing it--and maybe ask some experts. Just from the stills you've posted and from what you've written, it sounds like you might be very stiff--maybe that extends to the stomach muscles.



Feedback is always appreciated!