The Little Things – A Continued Journey

A big part of my journey has been learning about all of the little things you need to do in order to train well, perform to your potential, and in general, see where your limits are.  With every cycle, I’ve worked on a few things.  This cycle is no different.

I came across Camille’s blog the other day, and it hit me pretty hard — am I REALLY working as hard as she/the other women at her level?  Am I really being diligent about all of the little things?
The answer is always “no” — I can, and should, be doing more, and doing better.  I WANT to be doing more, all that I can.
For this cycle, I’m focusing on a few things.  Some of them are brand new, some of them are things that I’ve started before but can improve upon.  
The first new thing is regular massage.  I was floored when I talked to the women I raced against at the Trials.  We swapped training and racing stories, running histories, how we arrived here, etc… and 100% of the women I talked to were able to maintain much higher mileage than me.  It could be because I’m relatively new at this, and just don’t have the years of base building that many of the women there have.  But really — they consistently said they max out at 120-140 mpw. Seriously?  I have broken down EVERY cycle once I get around 95 mpw.  Every single time.  My situation might be a little unique because I work full time (more than) and have a longer commute, but still, does the stress of that mean that I need to be more cautious with my max mileage?  Is there some way I can get my body to handle training at higher volume?  Obviously, up until now, higher volume has been VERY good for me, making me stronger, fitter, and faster.  Perhaps my peak is at 95… but I have a feeling that if I could break that 95/week barrier, good things might happen.
Enter into my life Jenny Gamer.  She has most GRACIOUSLY offered to try to help, listening to my aches and pains, fatigue stories, and tight legs stories.  I just completed my second massage session with her, and although I don’t want to jump to conclusions, I feel like this could really help to get me to where I need to be.  The first session she found extreme tightness in my left calf (the side that I had my freak foot tendon strain) and a few other tight spots I didn’t even know existed.  The very next run I went on, my foot didn’t hurt at all.  Coincidence?  I saw her today for my second session and I’m excited to see what her work can do.  I’ve been feeling tired & slow this week (which I’ve been hoping will disappear because I’m hoping for a fast 5k this Saturday!  GAC home meet, a chance at their stadium record!).  This seems to happen to me every 2-3 weeks; my quads feel “bound”, and I can feel the fatigue bathing each muscle fiber.  I wonder if this is normal?  I’ve always thought it was and that it was just something to train through, to take an easier few days or a week until it disappeared, and then to ramp it up again.  But now I’m wondering… does regular massage help prevent frequent patches like this?  Or help you to recover quicker?  I’m really excited to find out.  For anyone looking for a therapist in Northfield, please look her up – – I have been more than impressed with her patient & calming personality, ability to pick out knots & quickly work them out, and her overall caring demeanor.
The other thing I’m focusing on is nutrition.  Before the Trials, I reached out to Mary Upham and Just Food.  Their help changed my life, truly.  I used to eat mostly packaged foods: pizzas, brownies, handfuls of chocolate chips and/or packaged cookies/Oreos for breakfast, pop-tarts for snacks.  As long as the scale didn’t say I was gaining weight, I thought I was fine.  With Mary and Just Food’s help, I started eating vegetables (what IS this thing?  And how do you eat it?), whole grains, organics.  My body rebelled at first, but soon I saw the benefits: I recovered from runs faster, I wasn’t as tired during my high mileage weeks.  I became leaner & faster.  But, I have SUCH a long way to go and so much to learn.  I’m just learning how to cook using whole grains & the wonderful tasty dishes you can make with vegetables.  I still struggle with coming up with quick meals – especially during week nights where I’m struggling to get in my 2nd run of the day in, strength work, and stretching – but know that I just need to keep experimenting.  Runner’s World had an awesome article about Scott Jurek this month that really appealed to me:
I’m so inspired by this story.  It makes me want to clean out our fridge & cupboards & refill it with things from Just Food.  Except… I still don’t know what exactly I’d buy even if I did that… wish I knew more about what I should be eating/making/buying… I know that by continuing to focus on my nutrition, I can continue to improve.  I was honestly one of the least-lean runners at the Trials (and that was after months of working on my weight, watching what I ate, etc!) 
I’m excited to try the veggie-mushroom recipe they had pictured, but don’t see it on the RW site.  If you find it, paste the link below, please!  I’m also excited to try his “brownie” recipe.  This is a place I fall down often – I limit myself to just a few foods that I know are good for me, but find myself unsatisfied regularly… I miss desserts!  I miss hearty snacks! 
These are my main two focuses for this Grandma’s marathon cycle… I’ll be sure to blog to report what I learn, how it’s helped/not helped/etc.  Obviously, these two are in addition to all of the other things that I’ve already found I need to be mindful of: strength, stretching, purposeful training (i.e. each workout has a specific purpose – stick to the plan!), sleep, hydration… there are so many things… wish there was more time in the day!

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  1. Thanks for this post and for the links, Nichole! The internet has been amazing for the dissemination of training knowledge and insight.
    I did find it interesting that you happened to link to the profiles of two incredibly successful endurance athletes who could not be further apart on the vegan/carnivore spectrum – Camille Herron being an ardent meat-eater with a high fat diet (enjoying pizza, ice cream, and *gasp* real butter!) and Scott Jurek falling more on the militant vegan end. Importantly, they've both put a lot of thought and research into their food choices.
    To me (and I'm sure plenty of people would argue with me on this), it's a bit more evidence that a diet that works for one person may not work for someone else, and it is possible to be successful and healthy wherever you find yourself on that spectrum.
    It does seem noteworthy that they both embrace whole foods and avoid the processed stuff, though it did my heart good to read that Camille loves Sonic corndogs! 🙂

  2. nichole, i don't even remotely know how to cook, but one thing i can make (and do probably 3x week) is scrambled eggs for dinner! the great thing about eggs is they're tasty and filling and you can mix in just about anything you have on hand and totally change up the flavor of the meal depending on what you use that night. i like to use (not all at the same time necessarily): spinach, cheese, mushrooms, pesto, avocado, turkey sausage, turkey bacon, rice and beans, salsa, etc. in fact i'm already planning to eat some tonight!

  3. Hey Nichole,

    I agree with clfh's post. there is not one tried and true diet that proves the successful runner. Look back at the days of Prefontaine where after the track meet they sat around eating pizza and drank beer. Heck sometimes that was the night before. I doubt it hindered their performance. If it did make them feel sluggish, their mental attitude just blasted right through it.

    I am advocate for a nutritious diet, but not to the point where it causes undue stress if you ran out of fresh veggies or don't have time to cook the long grain rice.

    It's all about balance. You know what works for you, like your carb free days before adding them in the week before your marathon.

    and mrn also has a great point. Keep it simple. You work long hours, run more hours and you also want time to enjoy with your husband.

    I think an integral factor to running success is doing what you need to be HAPPY. If I just ran a race or workout better than expected and my daughter want to go to DQ for a chicken basket and blizzard, count me in! And guess what, the next day my long run went just fine.

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