I love science and try to look for good solid proof to support my ideas. I had many ideas of things that could be impacting my performance but what could I do, or should I do, to turn things around?
In a nutshell, I researched a multitude of my thoughts starting with alcohol. You can read more about alcohol and running HERE and yes, alcohol consumption can impact your running performance but the thing is, I didn't drink that much. And when I stopped, my running pace remained the same although I do sleep better and have less stuffiness without alcohol. Those are two good things. I won't go deep into the effects in alcohol on your body as I recently blogged about alcohol and running.
Sleep quality also impacts running performance as sleep is when your body heals and refreshes itself especially during the deep sleep and REM phases. And yes, with early wake-up times I was getting less hours of sleep but with no alcohol, etc. my sleep quality is improving. Less hours but better quality sleep. My FitBit helps me monitor this and even though some days I wonder if sleep is a factor, over the grand scheme of months of decreased performance, I can't blame sleep.
Heat also impacts running performance. The higher the temperature, the more you can expect your pace to decrease. I blamed this while I was in Texas this summer running but once back on Maui, to the temps I am used to, and still experiencing the same sluggish pace, heat obviously was not my issue.
Weight impacts running performance. Sorry it does but even though I have gained a few pounds over the past months, I am pretty much at the same weight I have been for years. I tend to fluctuate between 118-125 pounds so I don't think I can say, lose a few and get your pace back. Plus, I feel this is my healthy weight as I always gravitate back to it even when a few times it has dipped down to 110-115 and I am happy with my range as way back when I was in college, I was much heavier. I am in a good place and thankful but for those who want more weight details here is a chart on how weight loss can impact your pace.
Please note, as the race distance increases, your BMI (body mass index) comes into greater play but yet, this still did not seem to be the reason for my decline.
What about nutrition? I eat well but am dairy free. Is there something there that could be coming into play? My routine physicals are coming back good and in range but one thing that was not checked in my past physical was my Vitamin D levels and this is something I have been low in during the past and something I do not supplement well on a regular basis. And believe it or not, Vitamin D at adequate levels can improve your running performance. It can be found naturally in tuna, eggs, and soy milk - three things I consume on a regular basis so I feel I may be okay but I did start trying to take my Vitamin D on a more regular basis.
After crossing thing after thing off my list I had to face the fact I was trying not to face.
Perimenopause is something I have blogged about and pondered over four years ago. You can read that post HERE but with that in mind, it is something worth taking seriously so let's talk about it a bit more today.
Perimenopause can last up to 10 years and the average age of menopause for women in the US is 51. Ladies, that means you can be venturing into perimenopause at age 41! Ironically, that is about how old I was when I first blogged about it. The good news is running is good for you during this time of transition and it can help mitigate hot flashes. Yay! And I got to say, hot flashes are not an issue for me. But the decrease in estrogen does not only trigger hot flashes but also insomnia, weight gain, headaches, anxiety, and depression. You already know from sentence one of this post that some of those fit me perfectly...and FYI, I am battling a headache as I type this post.
You are also more sensitive to heat, need to protect your bones with essential Calcium, watch your Vitamin D levels, and be aware that muscle mass can decrease. I am hoping my over one year commitment to added cross training and weight training is helping with keeping my muscle mass intake and just recently bit the bullet and bought a daily multi-vitamin formulated for women that has calcium, Vitamin D, iron, and other important nutrients in it to ensure I am getting what I need on a dairy free diet. I am also trying to ascertain if there are some dairy items my body can tolerate as I like natural best.
I would like to say after all this research I found the golden ticket to get my pace back to what I loved but my golden ticket may not be what I or you want to hear. It may just be, ready or not, that I am getting older. Yes, my age. YIKES! My research ended on Runner's World Age Grade Calculator and yes, I input my race/running times and guess what --- according to the results, I am running the same adjusted pace compared to me in the past and in all reality, I am running a few seconds faster.
This was a sobering revelation. I do believe in continual growth but also realize we all have our max performance limits and this may change over time. Trying to go beyond your max performance may just beat you up and rob you of your running joy. I want my running joy. I love my cross training joy. I have so many ways to grow and so much to give and I will remind myself over and over and over again, I am not defined by a number whether that number be my age, the number on a scale, or the number related to my pace, or the number of miles I have run. I am more than a number and so are you.
Daily Gratitude: No matter the pace, I am thankful for running today on day 2115 of my running streak. Now that is a number I can be proud of!
Daily Bible Verse: Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. ~ Proverbs 3:3-8