Thursday, June 27, 2013

Done with the Trenches Part I

I did my last run in the trenches yesterday. I threw in some unmeasured, uncoordinated sprints based on feel and had 2:20 (approx 26Kms/Hr) as my best pace. Just checking on my fast-twitch muscles.
My weight is at 75Kgs now and I want to keep it there for about four weeks after which time I should go back to the trenches once more for Ndakaini and Stanchart - And possibly go down to 72Kgs. In the next four-five weeks I want to do Sotokoto Half, run the first group run route and do a 26K on the Eastlands route to see where I am at. I will also run a 26K on the field and on Mombasa road.

So now I will be doing one long run on Sunday, another long one on Tuesday and speed runs on Thursdays.
I am still devising the best diet for this reduced mileage. My iliopsoas injury seems to have migrated to my hip but I hope resting today and tomorrow should take care of it.
I will complete my 30day ab challenge tomorrow. I am definitely more ripped, especially with the weight loss.
I have settled on the following program for strength:
The squats and planks are fine. The benefits of pushups for runners and the rest are here. And here.

Keep running fellas!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Climbing out of the Trenches...Plans and Strategies...No Stopping

I improved my 18K time by 26 seconds yesterday. I didn't meet my goal but it was an improvement (18K in 1:21:18 compared to 18K in 1:21:44) - starting with 4:20, 4:19, 4:18, 4:25, 4:21... I probably started too fast but I was also testing my ability to run when in trouble (lactic acid accumulating rapidly) - my average pace ended up as 4:31 over the 18K. Its also good to test now and then how long I can last at near 14Km/hr speed going forward. Mix it up!

I was just reviewing our splits in May/April and we have improved A LOT! Its amazing.
I am almost through with the 30 day ab challenge. Tomorrow I will do day 26 (115 situps, 62 leg raises etc). I am now looking for another challenge - priority is flexibility and my core strength.

This is last week in the trenches. I can't wait to start piling intensity on the runs as I cut back the mileage and sharpen my speed and strength. I will also have to devise a diet for my lower mileage runs. I still have a lot of work to do there especially dinnertime. This time, I lost a lot of weight around my thighs. Trousers that I thought were poorly tailored just needed leaner thighs and they are now fine.
I am thinking of mixing core strength with lower body exercises and I am looking for a program I can follow alongside my running. So maybe:

Or Maybe: twohundredsquats?
Or Maybe:
Or, better yet, and most likely, (100) Burpees which is a combination of squat, push-up, and vertical jump and will target hip extensors, quads, arms and abs:
Or maybe I will combine them. Either way, I will find some strength and flexibility schedule to supplement my running. Al let you know. My iliopsoas is painful but it gets runnable when my body is warmed up. This has really compromised my early morning runs because its very painful when my body is not warmed up. Evening is cool because I walk 1.5Km to the field. Running uphill makes it kill me. I am just managing it, somehow. I am just striving to make sure I incur no other injury elsewhere and since my injuries this year have been around my core (hips, groin, psoas), I am really working on being strong and flexible even as I seek speed and endurance.
Plus, the same way running enriches my life and gives me something to look forward to, these strength exercises mix up my running and make me more all-rounded.
I am targeting:
  • Lower body fat
  • Tighter abs
  • Leaner and stronger legs
  • Improved explosiveness
  • Increased strength
  • Improved flexibility
  • Improved stability 
The best strategy is to be very strong. In all areas.
Keep running!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Week four in the Trenches: Burying the weight demons and Learning

You know, this marathon training business is so demanding and so difficult that you have to be crazy to be doing it in the first place. Hence the first requirement to be a distance runner is you must be crazy first. The following cartoon says it all:
And so I completed week four in the trenches yesterday, or tomorrow. My shins have moved from screaming, sulking, wincing and keeping quiet. But they are alright. I have targeted them with strength exercises and they are alright. I tore my iliopsoas muscle at some point and its the only thing bothering me now. If you don't know what the iliopsoas muscle is, you are very lucky. At any rate, I am working on stretching it. I have tried massaging in through the side of my tummy without success. But I intend to run through it and I hope it gets better with time.
So its cold as hell and on Saturday and today, for the first time, I wore my body armor and needed to wear it. I should also have worn gloves because my hands are bitten by the cold mightily. But it is what it is so I have stuck to my training plan. As I went down the trenches, boots tied tight, cigarette butt dangling precariously at the corner of my mouth, torn overalls wrapping my body and a torn hat perched on my head, I targeted my weight and mileage and aerobic fitness but I also knew that I had to find a way of doing hills and speed.
And I found a way. So I do hills on Saturday and Speed on Thursday and I think its all settling in.
It gets very tough at times like On wednesday this week I was attempting an 18K in sub 4:30 after doing an 18K in 4:32 pace on Monday and the Wednesday workout went well until 9K then I started struggling. By the time I reached 18K I was a shell. When you feel like a shell, every step you take, you think your leg will collapse and your body will crash on the ground and your hands are so tired they cant keep your head from slamming on the pavement, you feel like the next wind that blows can blow you away. You feel you have nothing left. You are not even 100% sure that you exist. In fact, you are at a loss as to how to find yourself again and how to be a somebody again. And you are so hungry but you are not sure your hands can manage to take a morsel through the long journey from the plate to your mouth, whose location you are not 100% sure of.
Have you ever felt like a shell?
Well, if you haven't, you are very lucky. Stick to whatever it is you are doing and thank God for the mercy he has on you.

But it was ok. I was down to 74Kgs though too hungry. I have since eaten and misbehaved and now am 75Kgs but that is also fine. I have decided I will go to about 71-73Kgs.

I have lost 5Kgs this month alone.

I am a bit surprised that it has been easier than I expected but what I needed was knowledge, assertiveness, discipline and zero-tolerance to the demons that surrounded me.

One major demon that I killed this week was groundnuts/peanuts. They are a no no for me. In fact, they are a major contributor to my failure to lose weight in the past. Imagine 35grams of peanuts=200 calories and yet 1,333grams of tomatoes or cabbages will give you 200 calories.
I have started taking one spoonful of sugar in my tea but before I eat anything, I mentally note how many calories it contains and also commit myself to losing it at some point. Running for 15minutes burns about 200calories for me, so I do the math every-time I eat.
One thing that has encouraged me, especially in days like yesterday, when I was feeling tired, torn and spent, is the following:
 So I go to the field and just take one step and another, and another. And each of them is victory and I get encouraged. Also, when very tired and not able to run fast with all the pain in my legs and body, I remind myself that the body does not know how far you run: the body only knows how long you have run. So like yesterday, I just went and did an easy 8k and then started speedruns after that. It was a blast! I walked away feeling strong. I remind myself:
Another thing that I have learnt is that on the days you feel wasted, you can be surprised that those turn out to be the days when you have your greatest workouts. That is what happened on Monday for me. I had done a 27k (easy) the previous day and yet I ended up doing a fast 18k the next day at 4:32 average.
If you have a weakness, work on it. I am now getting to my race weight. Then I will tackle my next weakness.
I have also learnt that you dont need to wait for perfect situations, or wait to have what someone else has, before you can reach for your goals. Everyone's circumstance is different: use what you have. What you have is often enough. Just do it already.

Four of my colleagues (all females) approached me this week. One came alone, three came together: One is very thin, youngish and spends time on her laptop with headphones. She dons an Eric Omondi-like hairstyle though she is a bit better informed than your garden variety idiot-generation young adult.

Colleague 1: I hear you have a running club.
Me: No. (I begin to walk away. She is looking around desperately for support and some colleagues start laughing so I look back and she is looking at one fellow who is looking at his keyboard and trying his best to avoid my eye contact)
Fellow: Don't look at me. Dont ask me anything.
Colleague 1: But he told me you have a running club...
I walk back like I have just been insulted.
Me: There is no running club.
I look pointedly at her. The fellow is now staring at us and I am eyeballing her looking for signs of a runner in her. I dont see any. She has this awkward walking style that makes me doubt whether she has a core that can be called strong, or whether she can even run three kilometers.
Fellow one decides to be helpful and help her out of the awkward situation.
Fellow one: Its a men only running club.
Colleague 1: Is it a mens only running club?
Me: Yeah, but I wouldn't call it a club.
Colleague 1: (Excited) Can I join you?
Me: We dont exist, so you cant join us.
Colleague 1: But am told you meet and run...
Me: Yes, we meet for races. We dont meet to train.
Colleague 1: That's ok. When is your next meeting?
Me: 7th July
Colleague 1: Where?
Me: Umoja
Colleague 1: How far are you running?
Me: 26k
Colleague 1: Thats ok. I can hack it.
Me: How far have you run?
Colleague 1: Uh...I...
Me: What is the farthest you have ever run?
Colleague 1: 26k
Me: How long did it take you?
Colleague 1: three hours
Me:  Where?
Colleague 1: Karura forest
Me: When?
Colleague 1:  Why am I being interrogated?
Me: (eyeballs)
Colleague 1: Three months ago
Me:  I don't believe you.
Anyway, let me not bore you with the details. She later said she runs on Mbagathi way but would like to join a runners club because it would make her more disciplined. We will see. Our conversation was inconclusive.

Another was a bunch of three ladies. Two overweight, one average. They were desperate to lose weight. They wanted to join our running club and they were told I am the chairman. I told them there is no running club and gave them diet tips. I also told them running is so hard and that they are better off focusing on diet because diet is way easier and more effective than running. I told them I am tired of hearing people who want to start running and I will wait to be told by people, not by themselves, that they are running. They even showed me new unpackaged running shoes they had just bought from Nairobi Sports house. I told them that if they are not just talking, we will see.

They took notes as I spoke. Hang onto every word.

So maybe I should start a running club. They all said they are willing to pay to join. They thought that because nobody pays, nobody is committed. Hmmmm......
Aaanyways, speed is catching up. I think I will do one last week in the trenches next week, then I do Sotokoto on 7th July (this is doubtful though because I have an official function in Egerton University then) and 26K race on 21st July (targeting sub 2hours). Then on 23rd July, I go back to the trenches for another six or seven weeks then focus on Ndakaini and Stanchart. In between, we will repeat the 24.6K race on 18th August.
 This is my 18K progression since I came down the trenches:
The highlighted one (1:21:44) was done in 4:32 pace. I am aiming at sub 4:30 pace next week and alongside it, an 18K in sub 1:20. If we can do 18K in 1:18, we will be able to do 21K in sub 1:30 so that is what I am aiming for maybe by early July. That Wednesday run I lost the sub 4:30 pace after 9k so I have it on my crosshairs next. Yesterday, I reminded myself that its ok to run slowly, so long as you know what you are doing.

 For now, stay motivated because:

 And I have to remind myself to:

 And also, when I become too ambitious and unrealistic with my goals, I remind myself to:

 And when it hurts, like my shins and iliopsoas are hurting now, I tell myself:

At the end of the day, I love what running has done for me. I dont know what I would be if it wasnt for running. One day I will write about it. Now its 9:55 and I should take a glass of water then get a healthy snack. Eating clean is so much fun.
Keep running fellows!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Week Two In the Trenches: Weight Loss Demons Skewered

I like to call my new high(er) mileage training as working in the trenches because it (initially) forced me to stop posh things like analyzing every run and reporting my times because my legs were tired as ef from the consecutive 18kays and could not move fast. So, completing the run itself was enough achievement regardless of the speed/time. In other words, I was humbled. I had to pay my dues. I had to roll up my sleeves and trousers and sweat it the ef out. I knew I had to do it because I had exhausted the low-mileage running to its limits. I had to lay a foundation or remain on standstill. So I had to muster patience, respect the fact that achievement takes effort and time and be humble enough to do slower workouts with the aim of getting stronger aerobically. Hence this photo becomes very apropos:
So I put my head down and went down to the trenches and resigned myself to toiling in them like they are my home. Whatever it takes. Nobody can do this for you and you need it as a base for faster runs and better performance.

But interestingly, after nine days, the legs seem to be able to handle the workload just fine. I have always thought at the back of my mind that the 32Kay runs that the torture my legs got from those long sessions would enable them to handle higher mileage weeks - on demand. And I am so glad I have managed two weeks without an injury. In fact, my injuries are healing. Surprisingly. On Tuesday, my shins felt like they were about to blow up but they seem to have settled down.

Look at my progress:
Thu, Jun 6, 2013 5:12 PM____1:25:29    18.01
Tue, Jun 4, 2013 5:26 PM____1:29:29    18.01
Mon, Jun 3, 2013 5:30 PM___1:32:15    18.01
Thu, May 30, 2013 5:51 AM__1:38:55    18.01
Wed, May 29, 2013 5:58 AM_1:37:51    18.01
Tue, May 28, 2013 6:05 AM__1:35:18    18.01

My main fear was that I would be too tired to run fast or do speed runs but Mark has inspired me and I think its a state of mind. There is nothing like "tired because I did x yesterday". Just go out there and hammer each workout hard. The body will find its strength from these killing workouts.

And another thing, I think I have finally figured out this weight loss thingy.

First, my past/recent mistakes:
1. Thinking zero-sugar diet was 90% effective. It was not. I was still eating lots of rice, chapatis and potatoes...These were the demons that kept keeping my weight up.
Rice and potatoes have a glycemic index of 90-99. That is almost as high as the King of glycemic index: glucose - 100%.
2. Not being prepared: I could get hungry and only have some lousy nuts at my desk and could not resist chapos. Worse still, I was also not prepared at home. No fruits, no alternative food yet I was hungry and my house girl presents rice and beef. Both are high calorie crap. So I end up cancelling every good thing I did during the day.
3. Not taking enough water. Sometimes, when feeling hungry, I should have sipped water first and delayed taking those groundnuts for an hour. But I didn't: I went straight for the groundnuts/bread.
4. Sometimes taking bread in my breakfast. Big mistake. Bread, especially white bread, is a NO NO because of having high glycemic index (they contain sugar and use processed flour). Insulin spikes are bad for fat burning.
5. Thinking I have to eat a decent lunch in order to run well in my scheduled evening workout. Wrong. This is an aerobic workout nigger! You can eat something but not view it as fuel for that workout. Just for psychological comfort and to keep MR high.
6. Going to Mombasa and thinking because I have bumped up my mileage, I am justified to take sodas and have a good lump of ugali and nyama. Very big mistake.

So, what did I do?
I had to become my own nutritionist. I read a lot. I now know the calorie content of every staple food around plus their glycemic index. Now I mentally note glycemic index of every food and its calorie content before allowing it to enter my body.
Now, I have no room for rice, potatoes, bread, sugar, ripe bananas and I am allowing very minimal room for groundnuts, ugali and meat.

My Solution - a Sketch
1. Breakfast (6:20am). Carrots and peas or Githeri (avoiding the maize) and a cup of sugarless tea/milk.
2. 10am: about 20-30gm of nuts or 1 sausage (150 calories) and or some carrots and peas (30calories). A cup of sugarless tea or Milo.
3. Sips of Water. Throughout the day.
4. 12-2pm. Carrots and peas and a cup of sugarless tea/milo.
5. 4pm. An apple,20-30gm of nuts and a cup of sugarless tea/milo.
6. 8pm - dinner - ensure my plate is 1/2 vegetables and 1/4 protein and 1/8 carbs and water.

My main task is to pump my kitchen store with carrots and peas to death and to ensure 6 above is achieved  because that has consistently been my biggest point of failure: being unprepared during dinner and being a victim of whatever has been cooked. Peas are very expensive by the way. But I want to move away from groundnuts and focus on peas and beans.

This week, two Kgs gone. For the first time, I feel confident that by end of June, I will have achieved my weight-loss target. After that, I bolt out of the gate like a freakin demon.

The 18 Kms are going very well. It was tough when I started last week but my speed is creeping back. I aim to do a 1:23 mins 18K next week. Then I can figure out how to incorporate hills and speed runs.
Since my long-run route is kicking my ass every time without fail, I will keep it for now until I feel I have conquered it. As things stand now, I am still very weak and my aerobic capacity is poor. And my own route reminds me that I have lots of work to do every time I run on it.

But that 14Km/hr mark must be achieved soon. Latest, early July.Weight loss and better aerobic capacity is what I need. They are what I am working on and for and I am making progress.

We will win. Wait and see.