Sunday, December 1, 2013

Disaster. Or, disaster?

I have a bad case of anemia right now.  Running at normal training speed feels like trying to run at 15,000 feet.  The heart rate that for me would normally result in 8 minute miles on flat ground now gives 12 minute miles.  Counting the preplanned easy week I had in Spain, it's been three and a half weeks that I haven't done any real running. 

In general, I'd say this is pretty much a disaster for Arrowhead.  If I have another 2 or 3 weeks to go before my iron and hemoglobin counts improve, that will leave me a grand total of 3 or 4 training weeks before the race.  That's also sort of a best case scenario; it could be longer (although with the amount of beef, kale, and vitamin C I've been stuffing myself with, I should hope not).

Hence, "disaster."  Or is it?  What I *can* do right now is walk.  And there is certainly plenty of walking to be done at Arrowhead, even if I do want to run more of it than last time.  So I've been going out for lots and lots of gentle walks, sometimes with my tire and sometimes not.  I've also been making the walks as boring as possible, so by the time January 27 rolls around, I'll either be extremely mentally ready or just insane.

Today I added more training value into the mix by driving to Hilton Head (South Carolina, on the Atlantic Ocean), to do some walking on the beach.  Hilton Head is 10 hours roundtrip from where we live, so it was a long day.  I had also forgotten when I left the house this morning that it was the end of Thanksgiving weekend, and when I got on the interstate heading south I was unexpectedly joined by 500,000 Floridians heading home.  It was not the easiest drive (Floridians don't have a good reputation for driving skills!) and I was relieved to finally make it to the beach around 1:30.

The experience of training for Arrowhead here was a little surreal.  At least when I used to train on the beach in Duluth, the water was frozen and there were little icebergs by the shore.  Here, there were palm trees, families having picnics, and reggae music playing from a hotel bar overlooking the area of the beach where I started.  I nearly burst out laughing at the bizarreness of it all.

I pulled a bag of sand and tried to stay on the softer parts of the beach to avoid "cheating" by walking on the nice hard-packed sand nearer the water.  I'm not sure how my $14 duffel bag from Target survived the razor sharp crab shells and other beach debris, but somehow it did, and I was able to get about 10 miles done (with a coffee and cake break in the middle!).  Right at the end I was joined by a friendly walker, which was a welcome change from all the boring trudging.

Arrowhead training--with palm trees.  So bizarre.

I might not be able to run but at least I got to spend sunset on the beach.

I'm still going back and forth on exactly how bad this situation is.  If the anemia hangs on until mid January, there's an outside chance I'd have to reconsider whether I can do the race.  If I am able to do the race, I guess I'll find out then whether my modified training program is a disaster or okay in its own right...


  1. It sucks that you're sick. I hope it is short-lived and you can start feeling like yourself soon.

    I'm not starting training for the Little Su until after next week, but I trained on soft sand dunes last time. It does feel a little weird training on sand for a snowy race, but it works!

    1. Thanks. I was excited to find that my legs are sore today--at least that means I did something!

  2. Sorry to hear about your health issues. My hunch about this kind of thing is, as long as you're 100 percent healthy by the race date, low training volume might not be as much of a hinderance as you fear.

    Slog training is something that fascinates me. For me, the speed variance between walking and running while dragging a 30lb sled on mixed-condition snow is effectively <1mph. So I question whether it does any good to do any running in training, or whether it's better to get more efficient and conditioned to the repetitive motion of nonstop walking at 3.5 mph. Of course, living in non-snowy climates, it's nearly impossible to get regular specific training, so there's no way to test this theory for myself.

    I realize some people actually run these races. A friend in Alaska, Dave Johnston, can pretty much run 12-minute-miles indefinitely in such races. But he's the best I know. No one's doing 8 minute-miles with sleds in a 100+ mile race. And "speed" seems to have a lot more to do with brute strength and willingness to not stop moving, than actual leg speed.

    Good luck, and hope you feel better soon.

    1. Thanks Jill. I'm hoping you're right about the not too big a problem thing!

      Apart from the fact that I like running better, I prefer to run because I find it less tiring. I find super slow jogging SO much easier than super fast walking. But it does get my heart rate a little higher, so I'd have to avoid it if I still had iron problems.

      Tracy H's husband (a hematologist) pointed out that my hematocrit recovery could theoretically overshoot and actually leave me extra fit. I like that scenario!

      Good luck with your own slog training. I'm looking forward to your Alaska photos.

    2. Came back to say congrats on Arrowhead. Something must have worked right for you! :) Hope to hear more about it.