running through the pandemic plateau

One of the many events that was canceled because of the pandemic last spring was the Oakland Running Festival, including the half marathon event for which I'd been training since late fall/early winter 2019. 

12 miles in Alameda, along Crown Memorial Beach, to Bay Farm Island, and back.

I'd just started my taper, that delightful period between your longest training run (which for me was 12 miles on February 28, 2020) and the event itself (13.1 miles through Oakland, scheduled for March 22nd) when you decrease your mileage and focus on maintaining your overall health, getting good rest, and eating lots of carbs! As the Bay Area went into lockdown, I kept running, first without a mask, then with a mask, something I eventually got used to. 

A pre-COVID, pre-dawn run.

Even masked, I only run at 6 am on weekdays, partly because that's really all that will work with my schedule, partly because at any other time of day or day of the week, the lake where I run is simply too crowded. Now that I'm fully vaccinated, I no longer wear a mask (though I do make an effort to keep plenty of space between myself and other walkers and runners) and it's wonderful. I kept running (and walking and hiking and all the Jillian Michaels workout DVDs) because it helped keep me physically and mentally healthy over the past 15 months. It's also one of the rare times I'm ever alone.

8 miles on the Bay Bridge Trail on January 10, 2020

That said, I've plateaued. Big time. I run just two days a week, once around the lake (about a 5K), the other day in the opposite direction, finishing a slightly shorter distance, about 3 miles, with one or two trips up and down the stairs that make up the Cleveland Cascade to finish. I only do the stairs in the spring to early fall since it's too dark and creepy in the winter, when it's still dark out even when I finish around 6:45 am. Since January, I've swapped out the Jillian Michaels DVDs for the Freeletics app three times a week, which I really enjoy. It's helped immensely with core strength in particular, which has helped alleviate some chronic low back pain I've been experiencing since summer 2017. I can do legitimate burpees now. I hate them, but I can do them. I try to add a rowing machine workout on to any shorter Freeletics day, ideally once a week.

An "easy 10-miler" along the Hayward Regional Shoreline on February 21, 2020

I've been hesitant to try any of the Freeletics running "journeys" yet, or add a longer weekend run back in, or do any kind of run training, really, but I know I won't progress as a runner if I don't push myself in one way or another. In the past I've used (and recommend) the plans in the book Train Like A Mother. So I may go that route again when it comes time to resume training for the 2022 running festival (rather than tackle a virtual event I deferred to next spring, when I feel pretty confident at this point that the event will be in-person). To help kickstart that eventual training, I also signed up for the Alameda 10-Miler in late August, an "easy 10-miler!" as Steve Prefontaine would say. I did have a moment post-registration when I realized I'd signed up for a 10-miler, not a 10K. Either way, I'm looking forward to using that race as a milestone to work toward; continuing on to a half-marathon training plan should be a piece of cake after that.

8 miles from the Emeryville Marina along the McLaughlin Eastshore and back, Valentine's Day 2020 

PS - If you want to read more about past running shenanigans, check out this post, written after I completed the full Oakland marathon back in 2012 (I ran Big Sur in 2001, pre-blog, but I wrote about it here). Curious about what to eat (and what to watch) while training for a marathon? Check out this series.

PPS - All of this running stuff is really just one piece of a broader topic I've been wanting to write about for awhile, which is a much broader personal project to reset my relationship with food and yes, lose weight, which kicked off a bit before I started training for the half-marathon (why yes, I had just recently turned 40). I've lost somewhere in the 10-15 pound range since late summer/early fall 2019, but that too has plateaued since the pandemic began. My BMI, which was approaching the obese range, is now very nearly in the healthy range. All of my other numbers have always been excellent (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.), and I take no medications (yet), but as I mentioned above I was experiencing back and joint pain and that has definitely improved. Going mostly vegan (one year ago today!) is also part of all this, especially the resetting my relationship to food bit. I feel overall better and I think a lot less about food, which saves a lot of time, oddly. Anyway, it's a strange time to write or say much publicly about metrics such as weight loss and BMI, and for good reason (I'm no stranger to those reasons, having lost someone very close to me as a result of a longterm eating disorder). But weight and BMI are data, if you will, that I use in part to measure my success on this, for lack of a better word, journey. Perhaps I'll write more about it one day. Still much to unpack here (see parenthetical above).

PPPS - All that said, training for an endurance event rarely leads to weight loss. Just have to put that out there should anyone come here searching for weight loss and running! I always tend to shed pounds after a big event, rarely during training. More on that topic here.

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