Sunday, September 10, 2017

Slowing Down is Hard to Do

"Don't take my speed away from me,
Don't you leave my legs in misery,
'Cause if you leave me, then I'll be blue
Slowing down is hard to do...." 
adapted from Neil Sedaka's Breaking Up is Hard to Do

"Come a come a down dooby do down down..." After last week's disastrous 10k where I had to take a DNF, I've done some sole searching. My mantra since being diagnosed with RA last year has been "finishing is winning". I've felt pretty good about my other races so far this year, but I'm not completely satisfied with how I've run them. Even using the run/walk intervals, I've struggled with pace towards the end of my races which tells me that either I'm running my intervals too fast and/or I need to work on conditioning.

I could just slow down, too. I could. One problem, though, is that I can't get my head around those slower finish times. I know I should just get over it. My head knows it. My heart feels it. But legs just want to go.

If I want to regain some of my speed and finish my races with a time that I can be proud of, I need to train with focus and discipline. The "winging it" method of race preparation that I've done my whole life clearly is not effective for me anymore. While I don't mind using a formal training plan for a full marathon, I've never done anything like that for shorter distances.

How I long for the good old days when the miles came easy! I'll just keep singing corny lyrics in my head and give it my all. I don't know how to do it any other way.


I've had 2 major health events over the past year: my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and menopause. Double whammy! Coincidence? Not at all. As it turns out, that drop in estrogen was like flipping a switch, turning on the RA machine. This all makes sense to me since I really experienced a decline in endurance towards the end of last year. What does that mean for me, as far as running is concerned?

Menopause causes declines in estrogen and testosterone which make it tougher to build and maintain muscle. Fast-twitch fibers decrease too. The lower levels of estrogen make it tougher to process carbs leading to abdominal weight gain (the "menopot"). RA causes fatigue and achy, inflamed joints. While the benefits of exercise for post-menopausal women as well as people with RA are undisputed, modifications need to be made in training regimens. Strength training takes on even more importance. When it comes to endurance training, the rule is to train smarter, not harder.

I have a 15k and 2 half marathons planned for the remainder of the year. I don't plan on DNFing any of them. So what are my plans for fall race training? None of this will be a surprise to any of you since I've been doing most of it already. The big change for me will be discipline and attention to pace, similar to what I did to prepare for my 4 marathons. No more winging it.

How did I do this week?

1. Strength training twice weekly: I'm working out at CrossFit on Tuesdays and Thursdays with Steph. Coach Kate programs our plan and we see her on Tuesdays. Those days are more typical "CrossFit" with intervals. On Thursdays, we work with Coach Sammy Jo and it's all strength. It's actually really nice to have the two different coaches working with us!

Deadlift max 135# today
2. Speed work once weekly: This week on Thursday, I turned those run/walk intervals into speedwork. I pushed my paces to 8m/m for 4 minutes and walked for one minute x 4 intervals. I wanted to do 8 intervals total. I guess it was a little ambitious, but it's a goal. I could slow down my speedwork intervals but I think I'll try to stick to that pace and increase the number of intervals. I'm trying not to think about marathon training 2 years ago when I was running mile repeats at 7:30 m/m. Things have changed in a big way for me.


3. One long slow run per week: Because of my race last Sunday, I moved my long run to Monday and did 8 miles using run/walk intervals. I repeated that same run today. Last Monday's run felt great. Today was a little more challenging for me because I'm having a mini-RA flare with inflammation in my hands and feet. It took a good 3-4 miles before I actually felt ok. While I was upset about my increased effort during those initial miles, as things eased up a bit, I started to feel my mood shift in a more positive direction.

Last Monday
4. 2 shorter distance runs of 4-6 miles per week: Ideally, Tuesday would be a tempo run and Saturday would be a shake-out run. I had a great 4 miler on Tuesday but Saturday's 4.5 miler was really tough in spite of the perfect running conditions. My joints ached and my feet were flapping on the ground, again due to the mini-flare I'm having.

Saturday was cool but beautiful
5. Yoga 1-2 classes per week: I made it to the yoga studio on Wednesday and felt good.


6. Continue morning anti-inflammatory smoothies with added protein: I continue to "drink the rainbow". No red smoothies this week though. Time to bring back the beets!

My plan, while not earth-shattering, feels right. Fingers crossed that I see improved pacing and endurance. Any armchair quarterbacks out there? Feel free to make suggestions. I'm all ears. Even when the conditions are perfect, as they have been this week, running with RA and post-menopause is a challenge. Due to the unpredictable nature of this disease, I realize now that as much as I prepare, my run could be a crapshoot. All I can do is the best I can do that day.

Training for anything? What challenges have you encountered as you attempt to meet your goals? Any suggestions or things that I might have missed?

I'm linking up with Holly, Tricia, and guest host Sara for the Weekly Wrap. To everyone in the path of Irma, stay safe!



84 comments :

  1. I'm right there with ya. I'm not especially fast, but this upcoming 5K is gonna probably mess with my mind. Even though I know I have to take things slow and easy, and I have nothing to prove to anyone, it's gonna be tough. It'll be a major victory, but the finish time is gonna be humbling...but, I'm excited to finally have another start line and finish line to cross ;-) YOU have everything going for you...even though your RA doesn't always play nice, you have a strong foundation and LOTS of cross-training in your arsenal. Stay tough! YOU got this ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My ego is really struggling with these slower splits. I know it doesn't matter to anyone but me. It's hard to accept all the changes that have come my way. Give me time and give me grace.

      Delete
  2. I think your plan sounds great and each week you may just have to slightly adjust based on how you're feeling. It's tough that you may not have total control over how you are feeling on race day. I think the best you can do is train smart and listen to your body.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is all a learning process for me--learning to accept the things that I have no control over. I agree with you--I need to train smart and listen to my body. And if it's not my day, well, at least I know I did my best, right?

      Delete
  3. I also think a lot of my problems this summer are due to the estrogen issue. I started taking the pill last month and I credit that w a lot of my recent better feelings. I cannot even imagine having that at the same time as the RA. I can only imagine how hard it is for you to wrestle with all of this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I asked my rheum about taking estrogen replacement and she said no. There's an increased risk of clotting with both HR and RA. Dammit. I thought I found my magic pill!

      Delete
  4. Well, as you know, I've been extra whiny over the Big M. I blame it for everything. LOL. I'm not sure I could have handled your double whammy with such class and with the perseverance you have. It's inspiring, my friend. Let's hope in 10-15 years we'll be saying "you remember when we were running back in our 50s?".

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've adapted your mantra because running has never come easy for me. Even if I struggle, I still call it a good race because I crossed that finish line in spite of whatever struggle was going on. I wish I could be as motivated as you. Sounds like you have a great plan Wendy. I continue to be impressed that you do all this. You are one tough cookie!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been losing my motivation lately too--that's a little odd for me! Staying in bed is so much more tempting!

      Delete
  6. I'm with you...before this training cycle, I've never actually trained for a 5k. I just run them (and mostly only pace them these days). Your plan sounds on point. It has all the boxes checked. You're really strong so I'm sure that you will see results with your attention to detail. It's just about the fine tuning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree--fine tuning and paying attention to detail!

      Delete
  7. Getting old is not for sissies, that's for sure. Neither is RA, so it's a good thing you're nowhere close to being a sissy. The thing is, we slow down as we get older. That's why we have age groups and not trying to compete against 20 year olds.

    I say this flippantly, but I totally understand how you feel. My last marathon was two hours slower than my PR! And only about 15 years past. I can say I was undertrained, but still! I think we have to make peace with it to a certain extent. I certainly don't mean give up, but understand what's going on, get out there and train our best, and be proud of what we do accomplish. And remember that we're accomplishing what 99.9 percent of 50-60 year olds can only dream about.

    Sorry for the ramble. ❤️

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't want to slow down! I try to remind myself of everything you said. I do it a lot. It doesn't mean I like it. I'm glad I found a tribe who gets it.

      Delete
  8. 5k's are the only distance I am considered "fast." Distance I am more Middle of the pack. You have been running much longer than I have so I can imagine your frustration with slower paces. I think you have a great plan in place! I know you will do great at your upcoming races!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so, Katie! I sure don't want another DNF. But I also want to feel good about my finish time. So much pressure!

      Delete
  9. Slow is better than not at all. And compared to most runners your age, you are NOT slow. You are just slower than you want to be. And aren't we all.

    To me, you are still young LOL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, I get it. But it doesn't mean I have to like it.

      Delete
    2. I agree. You don't have to like just accept it (which I very hard to do as you've said.)

      Delete
  10. Girl, I'm feeling that same pain over here. Different paces, same places. :) I've said if before and I'll say it until the day I die.... menopause SUCKS!!! Add another diagnosis on top of that and you have a double whammy. Adjust and overcome. That's becoming my new mantra. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We are all in this together. Pushing forward...

      Delete
  11. You are coping with so much and doing so much to push through. Your plan looks like a good one. Which workouts do you double up? Strength and running? Yoga and running?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Strength and running. I do Tuesdays and Thursdays double workouts. It actually makes sense--I use those shorter runs as warmups for the strength training.

      Delete
  12. Ah yeah the big M - the effects are seriously not for the faint of heart! I can only imagine how frustrating it is to throw RA in on top of that! Your plan sounds like a good one. Hope your upcoming races are better for you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just need to stick to it! Motivation is lagging too--I didn't even share that. I just try to make myself go.

      Delete
  13. The way I was able to make peace (mostly) with being slower is to run by heart rate. Some days I can be pretty peppy and feel great. Other times my heart rate is through the roof before I finish my warmup. I try to honor where my body is on any given day. If I run a quick pace, great. If not? I run what feels decent that day and to hell with the pace. Pace, like weight, is just a number. We can agonize over it or we can move on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought about you when I wrote this post. You've done a great job of accepting the changes. I'm agonizing over it, for sure. I've had a lot to accept and I thought I was doing ok--until that DNF. I'll get there again. I just need to pace myself! :p

      Delete
  14. I found with battling ITBS, I need to strength train much more than what I was doing. I think I was doing it twice a week, and it's now more like 5 times week. It's not easy to fit it all in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a lot of strength training! With ITBS, I found that yoga helped me the most.

      Delete
  15. Ugh.... my runs have been unusually slow the last 6 months for no reason that I can explain.... so frustrating... I'm trying to not let it get me down and take away my joy of running

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right? It's so much fun to just fly. When I have those runs, it makes me so happy!

      Delete
  16. Sounds like you've got it planned out. The double whammy is a big challenge but you are so strong. Hope your pacing and endurance improves. I follow the taking it easy on easy days and go hard on hard days, which is 2 days/week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's loosely what I do too. But some hard days are too hard and I have to dial it back. I'm learning.

      Delete
  17. I am impressed you do all of those runs, strengths, yoga, etc. in a week! :-) I remember you mentioned the Hot Chocolate but what half marathons are you doing?

    I am loving this fall weather!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. RnR LV and hopefully Panama City Beach.

      Delete
  18. I think your last two sentences summed it all up - you can be prepared but, ultimately you can't control what happens on race day. I feel for you with the head games and pacing...it's so, so hard to reconcile but you're still out there fighting and doing YOU the best way you know how. I hope you're giving yourself a lot of credit for that. Most women would have take a permeant DNS but there you go...and go and go and go! #motivating

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For the first time, I get the permanent DNS. I'm finding less motivation to get out there and having to push myself a little harder than I'm used to.

      Delete
  19. I hear you on the mental difficulties of slowing down. It's so tough. Especially when you'd been getting faster. When I start running again post-injury (which I hope will be sooner rather than later), I'm going to have to deal with the same thing and it's not going to be pretty.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Best of luck! We know that I've been a little (a lot) passive (not so passive) aggressive about the fact that I've been slowing down. But I'm accepting it because, frankly, I'm not in the mood to put in the work to get my speed back. I'm putting in too much work in the other areas of my life. I'm in the stage of life where I just want to feel the accomplishment and the occasional bliss.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think trying to get faster while pregnant is recommended anyways!

      Delete
  21. I like the plan that you have designed for yourself. It's good to have a plan but also allow for changes here and there, especially based on how you are feeling!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's still pretty open--but it's that attention to pace that needs some discipline!

      Delete
  22. Sounds like you have a great plan laid out. I have a double race this weekend (5k & half marathon) and I can't wait!!! Though I'm feeling the aches and pains from my trial run and last night's soccer game right now - hoping those go away by the weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am anxious to hear how the double race goes for you! good luck!

      Delete
  23. Oh man. Double whammy, indeed! It sounds like you have a great plan in place, though!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Ugh! Double whammy for sure!
    This sounds like a great plan,but don't be too hard on yourself!! You really are doing great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who me? Hard on myself? It's as if you know me... :p

      Delete
  25. Wow, definitely a double whammy. Continue making adjustments as needed, take a break if you feel that its necessary, and remember that running will always be there for you, no matter what stage in life you are in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a new reality and yes, I have to adjust!

      Delete
  26. As someone who is on the other side of menopause, I can tell you that it does get better, so hang in there, sister!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It hasn't been bad except for the addition of RA. Hoping everything calms down.

      Delete
  27. You are a woman with a plan! and Nobody will stand on your way. Stay driven!! YOu got this!

    ReplyDelete
  28. This sounds like an effective approach to staying healthy and ensuring you are running to your full potential during races. Slowing down the easy runs is helpful in having the leg power for the speed work and racing. It just gets boring!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's my problem--it does get boring! I'm hoping that between my tempo run and my speedwork I'll get my fix for fast miles.

      Delete
  29. You are so amazing and I am rooting for you, lady! The best thing to have is awareness, which you do. Now gotta get the legs and body to listen... ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They behaved this morning, even in spite of waking up in pain. That was really encouraging to me!

      Delete
  30. This is such an awesome post, Wendy! You're so motivational.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Sounds like you are making progress and being smart about your goals and plan.

    ReplyDelete
  32. It is hard to accept the fact that our bodies change with age. I am finally giving in a bit and it has been a few years for me! Good luck with the mental and physical aspects. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The decline in my performance was so rapid and sudden--it really took me by surprise. I'm fighting back a bit, but I may have to just accept it and move on. Sigh.

      Delete
  33. Having a plan is the most important step but you already know this. You will continue to listen to your body and make the adjustments you need too. No ma'am you are not giving in just yet! That's not the Wendy I know! I'm rooting for you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know me well! I'm not going down without a fight.

      Delete
  34. Sorry things have been so tough but it sounds like you've got a great plan! I've been struggling with the speed issue this year too. I've been so much slower than last year and I don't know why. I keep telling myself it's good to just be consistent and get out there but it's hard to forget about being so slow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you thought about doing some speedwork? Or cross training? I find that my body just dials into the same pace all the time. I'm really going to focus on finding my gears, as Marcia tells me I should do!

      Delete
    2. I started working with a coach for marathon training and it looks like she's got one speedwork session per week lined up for me :) And I'm trying to do 2 sessions of strength training per week.

      Delete
  35. You've handled all this shit like a champ. How do you blend your beets into the smoothies? Do you blend actual cooked beets or just the beet juice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I scrub the beets and chop them up, putting them into the smoothies raw. A word of warning: Your pee turns red when you eat them. It's a little unnerving.

      Delete
  36. I think this is a GREAT plan. You're going to do really well with this new routine, I can feel it!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so! Fingers crossed! And RA be damned!

      Delete
  37. I have no personal experience with RA or menopause but I have had plenty of patients with both. I think your plan is solid. Most importantly, how does it make you feel? Good? Then it's the way to go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. It feels good. It's getting harder to motivate myself to go but I will keep on moving as long as my body will let me.

      Delete
  38. You are doing an amazing job with your training--add to it being back to work, college visits, etc. etc. etc. You'll find your new 'normal' - hopefully sooner than later.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think settling into my new clinic will help. Fall brings some routine back to my life too.

      Delete
  39. Sounds like you have a good plan. Sorry about the double whammy but you are tough. I'm hoping you see improvements in your pacing and endurance!

    ReplyDelete
  40. We have very similar weekly workouts with our types of runs, plus yoga and weight training sessions. I'm pretty sure your coach pushes your harder than I push myself in the weight room, though (I'm always so careful not to tweak my back). I'm really noticing my slower recovery time after my runs these days...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't run the day after weight training--I do yoga on one day after weight training and the other day is a rest day. So I don't notice much of a difference with my runs. In fact, I feel a little stronger!

      Delete
  41. Hang in there, I think with anything where we will feel a loss we have just have to go through the process and let ourselves grieve a bit...and it is okay to do that. I totally get it! A DNF is going to mess with your head a bit.
    The strangest thing about menopause for me is, I expected since I "finished" so long ago and the Doc said " You got what you got now" I would feel more level. Honestly I have bouts of hot flashes that come and go still and my weight has been even harder to manage the last few months.
    You are a strong beautiful woman Wendy, if anyone can keep going it is you :)
    P.S. it is hard to make peace with the slower times, I have done a few times over the past two years lol xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My decline happened pretty quickly for me and then I have those days where I fly. So I struggle a lot when I can't hit my paces. I'm still quick, but I just don't have the endurance I used to. Maybe it will never come back. But I'm sure not going down without a fight.

      Delete