Running with a Cold? A Cautionary Tale

Do you know the conventional wisdom about running with a cold? It’s pretty simple.

If you have a fever, body aches, or symptoms below your neck then DON’T RUN.
Or
If  you only have symptoms above the neck, like a stuffy nose you’re good to go.

This is what you will discover with a simple google search. Here is my screen grab from just such a search from this morning:

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What is not emphasized in much of the online advice is that running when you have a cold takes precious recovery resources away from your body and diverts them to run recovery. When you do this, you are not able to adequately recover from your cold. This should be common sense, but I failed to follow it. I will chalk it up to a lesson that will make me a better coach. Here’s my story.

Lot’s of people are suffering from head colds this time of year. It’s common…almost inevitable. I started to feel the symptoms the Friday before Christmas with a bit of a scratchy throat. My reaction was, “oh no! I don’t have time for this!” For the coming days I had a long run, family event, church, and church again for Christmas Eve. I didn’t have time to be sick and so I effectively willed it away for a few days.

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Race pace portion of my long run on December 22.

The long run on the 22nd was 15 miles with 8 at goal marathon race pace (9:08) for me. I went 4 easy, 8 at goal and 3 easy. It was a wonderful run and I hit my goal pace while feeling good.

 

After the run, I still felt good and our family Christmas party was fun. I felt fine and made it through worship on Christmas Eve thus ending a very busy time in my role as pastor. At 2am on Christmas Day I woke with post-nasal drip hurting my throat. Dang! I only was able to hold it off until I mentally relaxed.

I did take it a bit easy the next couple of days. Instead of joining my run club for a Christmas morning run, I went out with them and walked. I took a couple days off and ran again on Friday. The bad news, I still had chest congestion. The good news, running helped to open up my sinuses…but it was ugly. This run was only 6 miles and felt fine.

I usually run long on Saturday, but had a funeral, so I moved it to Sunday. This meant that my week would have 2 long runs – Sunday and the following Saturday. It also included a New Year’s Day trail run which was (except for blowing my nose so much) one of my best trail runs ever.

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I put in some race pace effort towards the end of the run, mostly because I was desperate to get to a restroom.

Interestingly every run this still felt ok. I had to blow my nose over and over again while I ran, but strangely this was ok, because I was “clearing out my sinuses.” My cold stubbornly persisted throughout the week. The run at the end of the week was 16 miles easy. My son ran with me on a cold (for SoCal) day. I was a bit worried about how I’d feel because I hadn’t shaken the cold, but it ended up being a very pleasurable run. I even felt as if I could keep going when we finished. I successfully ran 49.6 miles that week.

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My son and I before our cold Saturday morning run

 

In retrospect, what this week of running while trying to shake a cold did was prolong the cold, while tiring my body. Enough so that Monday’s run was not bad, but not good either. Then Tuesday’s run made me so tired that I skipped strength training. For Wednesday track I was tired, so I skipped it. I ran on Thursday, which I don’t usually do, and felt ok for the first half, but then cratered for the 2nd half and had to skip strength training again.

Here’s the lesson for me: if anyone that I coach had asked me about running their regular schedule while sick, I would have advised against it. But I did it myself because “those runs felt ok…and all the symptoms were above my neck.” Yesterday, I contacted my own coach (who hasn’t been doing my schedule though) and told him that while I want to coach others I still need a coach! He told me to take three days rest.

And here we are…resting. Hopefully I haven’t set myself back too far. And I have learned a valuable coaching lesson…

Here is some better advice from Coach Jay Johnson: “Should you run with a cold?”

Consistency – You Can Do It

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This tattoo, with the words run, live, breathe and gratitude celebrates the rewards of consistent training. Check out the link below if you want the story behind the tattoo

As I’m approaching the San Francisco Marathon (the 9th!) I’m thinking about an important element in marathon (or any distance) training. Consistency!

While in the middle of training, or building mileage and fitness we might not notice how much or how hard we are working. But in looking back it’s easy to recognize the rewards of consistent training. It’s not the occasional good workout that will lead to a good race effort. Rather, a good race effort is found in consistently putting in the miles, week after week. It is through this consistent training that our bodies adapt to running.

All runners will have the occasional run they don’t want to do. It may be due to a busy schedule. It may be due to fatigue. It may be due to general soreness. It may even be that you just don’t feel like running. So what should you do? In most cases the answer is to run. How do you know if you should back off?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Feeling too Busy -RUN
    Even if you have to make the run shorter, it will help you to get out there. It may even help you get through your tasks in a better frame of mind. That’s a big benefit of running!
  • On Vacation – RUN
    A wonderful way to explore a vacation spot is to go for a run.
  • Experiencing General Soreness – RUN
    General soreness and injury are not the same thing. If you have achy and sore legs, a very easy recovery run may make them feel better. Make sure you run easy (as in slow).
    If you have very sharp, localized pain, this may be injury. It also may be stiffness. If, after a few steps the pain worsens then stop. If it feels better, then you are good to go. Sometimes we have little aches and pains that come and go and we have to make educated guesses about whether to run or not.  
  • Injured – DON’T RUN
    We need to learn to distinguish between good sore (your muscles are working and improving) and bad sore (injury). A good rule of thumb: if you have soreness that affects your gait (limp for instance) then take time to recover.
  • Feeling Crummy – RUN
    Although it might not feel comfortable, you can run with a head cold or allergies. The general rule is if the congestion is above your neck then you are good to go.
  • Have a Fever or Chest Congestions – DON’T RUN
    If your chest is congested, and/or if you have a fever, don’t run. You body needs to use its energy to fight the infection so allow it time to recover.

Sometimes, we’re just not sure. It’s ok to give it a try (unless you have a fever!) and then stop early if you’re not feeling well. You can always check with your coach if you’re not sure.

Happy Consistent Running!

About that tattoo: We Made a Pact!

 

Run in this heat? Yes!

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 9.40.21 AMConsistency. Showing up. Getting it done.

These words have been my mantra the past couple days. Officially I’m tapering for the San Francisco Marathon (July 29), but that doesn’t mean all running stops. It just gets easier, or at least it should.

So far this week I’m not feeling it. Instead I’m feeling hot, sweaty, tired, and cranky. I don’t like the heat! Well actually the high temperatures are not that bad as compared to others places…but their higher (86 yesterday) than is normal for us! Making it worse is the humidity. Right now it’s 77%…we’re not supposed to have 77% humidity!

I think the real problem is that the heat is trapped and we’re not getting our nightly cool down. As you can see in my photo, our low should be a nice cool mid-50 degrees this time of year. Instead we’re hanging out in the high to mid 70s. This makes good sleep in our non air-conditioned home elusive.

So that’s my whining!

Yesterday I woke up and thought, “it’s too hot to run.” Then I drank my coffee, changed my clothes, and did my 7 miles. My method for keeping my easy runs easy is to use my heart rate as a guide. My goal is to stay between 130-140 bpm. Yesterday my average HR was 133. My average pace was 9:51. Not bad for a hot morning!

At lunch time, I needed to do a strength workout. I do these in the gym at the back of my local running store, and there is no air conditioning at the back of the store! I thought all morning, “maybe I’ll just do it tomorrow.” But tomorrow (today now) I have a massage scheduled, so better get it done! Other than sweating so much that I could see wet spots all over the floor, the workout went well. Yeah!

Last night I went to bed hot. Woke in the middle of the night hot. Woke up this morning hot. I sat with my morning coffee (too bad I don’t like iced coffee!) and thought, “gonna have to skip today’s run.” I even had a second cup, which I never do before running.

fullsizeoutput_10aa.jpegAnd as I drank that second cup I remembered Des Linden’s advice, “keep showing up.” I thought about the inspirational Western States Endurance Race where athletes ran 100 miles in temperatures that topped 100 degrees. With these thoughts, I put the coffee down, changed clothes, and set off on my easy 5 miles. It went well!

Consistency. Showing up. Getting it done.

That’s what it’s all about. In running. In life.

Happy Tuesday.

Training with a Group

In 2014 I ran my first marathon. It was hard. I trained alone. Mostly because I didn’t know any better. I did use an online training plan. It is one that adjusts itself to your current fitness and current goals. So as you improve it will automatically adjust workouts, distances, etc. They even have coaches available to answer questions. But it is not an actual, real, live, person as a coach. In retrospect I’d say this was a better than nothing approach to training.

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I have no idea why my mileage peaked in June and not August. The race was at the beginning of September. My August mileage was 85.93 which was so incredibly insufficient!

But when I look back at my training volume for the months leading to that first marathon I’m amazed that I even completed the race. I was not running nearly enough volume! Unfortunately I no longer have access to the training log from this online plan, so I don’t know if I followed their plan as I should have. I do know however, that I am a stickler for following the plan that someone gives to me!

That first marathon (Ventura 2014) took me almost 6 hours! The exact time was 5:51:02:36. After the marathon I was so hot and tired that I almost fainted while taking a shower…and this was at least a couple hours later!

I also knew that I could do better. I initially set my sites on the Los Angeles Marathon…but didn’t train well enough and backed out a week before the race. I was neither physically nor mentally ready.

While on a vacation that included site seeing in Boston two weeks before their 2015 marathon, I signed up for a group training program for the 2015 Ventura Marathon.

I was nervous. I was excited. I was nervous.

The hardest part, for me, was joining the group. I’m an introvert mostly…or more descriptively I’m very shy and quiet when I join new groups. Eventually, as I get to know people, I overcome this. But I’ve always been painfully quiet when new in a group.

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June 144, July 162 and August 177. Much better!

I did it and it was wonderful! I learned that the previous program had me attempting to run way too fast for my current fitness. I discovered that, with the right coaching, I could actually run much more volume. And most importantly, I joined a great running community and have so many new friends as a result.

That second marathon (Ventura 2015) was almost 45 minutes faster! The exact time was 5:04:36. That’s amazing results!

Now, three years and a Boston Marathon later, I get to help coach the very same program. It starts June 16th and I’m pretty excited!

If you’re in the Ventura area why don’t you join us! If you are farther away and want some online coaching let me know.

About that Rehearsal – Preparing for the Boston Marathon

A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of rehearsal as part of race training. You can read that post here: Rehearsal – Boston Marathon Training, Week 11

This shirt and shorts are so comfortable…maybe my next race.

I adamantly advised against wearing anything new on race day. I still believe this…but then sometimes life throws us a few curves. I had everything ready for race day: shorts, tank, shoes, socks. I was only waffling on “should I or should I not carry my phone.” The only argument for it was for entertainment and photos in the time before the race.

But now the weather forecast is forcing me to re-evaluate. Unless things change dramatically (which is always a remote possibility) it will be raining for all of race day. Thankfully my buildup included a few rainy runs (not always guaranteed here in dry SoCal). Still, as race day gets closer, I’m reminded that I don’t really have a great deal of running in the rain experience. I’ve never run a race, much less a marathon in the rain.

My new shirt. I may wear my tank under this…just in case I get hot.

So I do what I always do…start reading and start asking for advice. I read that tight clothing is a must. Then my coach told me the same thing! So out with the shorts which might ride up when wet. I’ll be wearing leggings. Unfortunately I don’t actually own a tight long sleeved shirt. Today I set out to buy something. First stop our club running store…I didn’t think the suggested compression shirt was there but I did run into my coach who told me that I could also try a rash guard.

My next stop was Dick’s Sporting Goods. Unfortunately nothing there. Then I hit the local REI. No compression shirts but they did have some paddling shirts. I bought one (less expensive than “running” shirts).

I’m not sure if this will work on my shoes but it will work on everyone else rain jackets.

I plan to use lots of SportsShield. I also bought some spray on water repellant. Will it work? Who knows!

At Target I bought a cheap ($1.99) emergency rain poncho. I will also bring a trash bag.

I read additional advice to not put on my shoes until I go to the starting line. I’m not sure if that’s possible but I’m considering it.

Last, my family members just might be carrying a dry shirt, a dry hat, and a small towel for a quick freshen up in the later miles. This is also still under consideration.

While I think about all this, I am also grateful that the weather forecast is not for HOT temperatures. I’d much rather deal with rain than heat. Five days until Boston!

What advice do you have for a rainy race?

Taper Time – Boston Marathon Training Week 16

Here is an example of multi-year progress. I joined a training program for my 2nd marathon. Although it was my 2nd, I can say that I was still very much a beginner. I remember reading the training plan and wondering how I was possibly going to run those 38-42 mile weeks. It seemed insurmountable, until I actually did it.

I thought about this because my taper week mileage was just under 36 running miles (it was supposed to be just under 38 but I had to cut Monday short). Amazingly, this felt like almost nothing. Of course that’s the taper…but I’m always amazed at the progress.

We fly to Boston on Thursday. Hit the race expo on Friday. Go to a Red Sox game on Saturday (Scott, Matt, & Megan will run a 5k too). Do some car site seeing on Sunday (not a lot of walking for me!). And then the race on Monday. Between today and Saturday I’ll run 25 miles for Taper Week 2. It’s hard to believe that race week is here!

Here’s last week’s training:

A Hard Week & Running Buddies – Boston Marathon Training Week 15

The planned route for last Saturday’s long run. It didn’t go so well.

A mixed week… with awesome training partners!!!! And not so awesome running.  In retrospect I should have known better. Peak week of training set to happen Holy Week. Yeah, that was a pretty bad idea. I can’t blame my coach for this, since he doesn’t know the life of a pastor during Holy Week. I naively thought that I’d be fine combining a busy work week with lots of miles (for me at least). So what happened? It started out well enough.

Actually it started great. Monday I treated myself to a massage. I felt great! Monday and Tuesday were easy run days. Great!

Wednesday
Unexpectedly (but important), I started Wednesday morning with an early morning drive to Los Angeles…the Federal Building, and office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I was there in support of our Oxnard pastors who are being deported (We Shall…). This wasn’t planned but it was certainly important! Hopefully we’ll receive some good news on this one soon!

Workout buddy #1. And then we had Wednesday night track. My assignment was 8×800 (two 800s short of a true Yasso 800 workout). Everyone else was doing a different workout this night. I asked my coach, “still the 800s?” He said, “yes.” So I immediately recruited my friend Maria who runs a bit faster than me to help with pacing. She pulled me through a great workout…the first split was a head pounding 3:47 (probably my fastest 800). Then we slowed down a bit and averaged 3:54 for the remaining 7. This was a great workout and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her pacing…and the encouragement of others telling me to keep up!

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The back side of a communion altar I made for our fellowship hall.

Thursday
This is a rest day as far as running is concerned. The day was filled with preparations for our Last Supper Meal…or what I’d like to do in the future – Dinner Church.

Friday – workout buddy #2
Only five miles today and I ran it at 5am with my friend Brenda. Great conversation in a fog filled morning. I did scare her when I checked my watch…created a shadow with my arm and headlamp…made her scream…then I screamed…she thought the shadow was a big dog.

The day ended with Good Friday worship. I had a headache and went to bed early so I’d be rested for the next day.

Smiling…but I know my eyes enough to see that I looked very tired. I don’t take too many photos while running. This day I told Issa that we might as well do a selfie with the beautiful scenery since we were already going so slow.

Saturday – workout buddy #3
Long rung day. But I had to go the the church’s Easter Egg Hunt first. I greet everyone and read a story (The Tale of the Three Trees). This meant that our long run didn’t start until around 11:00am. I was ok with this because I don’t actually start running the Boston Marathon until 11:15am.

Everything started well enough…except that it was the warmest day in weeks. I started getting tired at mile 9 – way too early! The wheels came off pretty quickly after that. At mile 11ish we stopped at a restroom and doused ourselves with water. That helped for a bit, just a bit. I was able to run to a scheduled walk break at mile 12. But after that I had trouble running more that a couple minutes at a time.

I was exhausted! It wasn’t my legs, but rather just a sense of great fatigue. I’m surprised I was able to make it to almost 20 (19.24). I would say this was my worse run ever. But it wasn’t because I wasn’t running alone. My friend Issa was running with me…walking with me…offering to go and get her car for me…running some more…walking some more…and always encouraging.

I wish this long run had been successful. Then I remembered… getting to Boston wasn’t easy… training for endurance isn’t easy… but it’s all worth it. And regardless of how I feel about Saturday’s run…it was just a run and I GET TO GO AND RUN THE BOSTON MARATHON IN TWO WEEKS.

Today I am thankful for Maria, Brenda, and Issa. You all helped me get through a very hard week!

I checked and March was my highest volume month ever. My previous high was 177. I’d like to get over 200 some day.

Here’s my training log:

Nancy Switzler Workouts: 3/25/2018 – 3/31/2018

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Strength Training
4:04 PMWalk Completed: 4.38 mi ~ 1:40:33 (22:56 min/mi)
Monday, March 26, 2018
11:38 AM5 Miles Easy
Planned: 5 mi
Completed: 5.01 mi ~ 51:31 (10:17 min/mi)
Workout Comments: Heart rate reading was crazy at the beginning…once again not matching perceived effort. Then it suddenly went to what I’d consider normal.
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
7:03 AM5 Miles Easy
Planned: 5 mi
Completed: 5 mi ~ 48:54 (9:46 min/mi)
Workout Comments: Except for almost getting run over by an idiot who didn’t even look to her right when turning, this was a very nice run.
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
5:57 PMRun – Track Workout
With TRIBE: Yasso 800’s: 8 x 800
Planned: 7.3 mi
2 Miles Warm-up (Easy)
6 Strides
8 x 800 Meters @ Goal Marathon Time w / equivalent rest (ie if Goal Marathon time is 4:30 you would reach each 800 (1/2 mile) at 4:30 with 4:30 recovery.)
1 Mile Cooldown (Easy)
Completed: 2.06 mi ~ 21:11 (10:15 min/mi)
6:39 PMRun
Completed: 0.83 mi ~ 6:55 (8:22 min/mi)
6:49 PMGood

Run

Completed: 5.97 mi ~ 1:09:17 (11:36 min/mi)
Workout Comments:
3/29/2018 8:23 AM

Nancy Switzler
We ran the first 800 too fast…probably my fastest ever. Then settled in for nice hard effort for the rest.

Thursday, March 29, 2018
7:11 AMStrength Training
Completed: 42:04
Workout Comments:
3/29/2018 8:20 AM

Nancy Switzler
Dicharry single-leg focus

Friday, March 30, 2018
5:08 AM 5 Miles Easy
Planned: 5 mi
Completed: 5 mi ~ 54:59 (10:59 min/mi)
Saturday, March 31, 2018
10:59 AMTerrible

Run – Long Run

20 Mile Long Run
Planned: 20 mi
Nice and Easy.
Completed: 19.24 mi ~ 4:02:55 (12:37 min/mi)
Workout Comments:
3/31/2018 3:57 PM

Nancy Switzler
I have one unprintable word to describe today’s run!
So discouraging

Totals
Completed Strength Training: 42:04
Completed Walk: 4.38 mi ~ 1:40:33
Planned Run: 42.30 mi // Completed Run: 43.12 mi ~ 8:15:44