Triggers and fine lines

Marathon training is hard! No joke! After my 17 miler and stomach issues on Sunday I desperately needed a rest day by Monday.

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 5.3 miles at 9.20 min/mile pace

Wednesday: 8.3 miles at 7.53 min/mile pace. Stomach issues completely gone!

Thursday: 4.2 trail miles at 9.50 min/mile pace + express yoga class. My legs felt really tired on this run. And my half-moon is still not happening. Getting closer but so awkward.

Friday: 1 hour strength training. Right leg slowly catching up.

Most of my gym hours are done in zombie mode – 6 AM is not conducive to human interaction. But this morning I noticed one of the summer regulars. I see this girl every time I’m at the gym, which is usually once, occasionally twice a week, and she is hitting the elliptical/treadmill like it’s going out of fashion. And every time I see her, I get flashbacks to college and watching one of my close friends being taken over by anorexia. Now, I don’t know personally know this girl and she could be perfectly healthy or have some health issues not obvious to a perfect stranger (and I know some people have a difficult time putting on weight and are shamed for being too thin) but seeing her is a trigger for me.

This trigger is seeing someone who is clearly exercising just to burn calories. Someone with no body fat but also no muscle definition. With that cover of downy hair, sunken eyes, wearing baggy clothes. It brings me back to the time when m friend turned into someone else – with no interest in ANYTHING. Literally fading away in front of my eyes. It was terrifying looking in from the outside so I can only imagine what it is like to live INSIDE. She did eventually “recover” (and I use this term lightly – this is a forever illness), but this period has made me hyper aware of the dangers of crossing that fine line into disordered behaviors. I periodically will check in with myself to make sure that the exercise/eating that I’m doing is healthy and not obsessive. That I shouldn’t feel guilty for missing a workout, or taking a little extra dessert. If you’re doing good 90% of the time then that is plenty good enough.

This brings me to something else that has been on my mind lately: trigger blogs. These are blogs that I read that are supposedly focused on healthy living but are clearly written by someone with disordered thoughts about exercise/food. I’ll often wonder if I’m doing enough by running only 35 miles a week. Crazy, huh? Then I’ll quickly wake up and realize that I’m following a well-tested marathon training plan with specific aims and one that includes designated rest days/workout days/crosstraining. No junk miles here.

And I know that I’m lucky that I can have these thoughts and almost immediately dismiss them, but a lot of people aren’t so lucky. These fitspo blogs can encourage compulsive/obsessive behaviors – and that is completely irresponsible. Sure, professional runners routinely log 100+ miles per week, but they also take naps during the day, sleep 9+ hours a night and replace ALL of those calories to fuel their training. All of those miles serve a purpose – and that just isn’t to burn calories – but to get faster, stronger or go longer.

This can also translate into “healthy” eating. To me, healthy eating mean eating a variety of fruit, veggies, grains, dairy – with nothing being off limits (unless you have an allergy, obviously). Personally, I think egg yolks are great to eat, you don’t need to make a cauliflower crust pizza, nutritional yeast has no place on human food and real pancakes are just fine. Balance is the key. By putting restrictions on food, creating “good” and “bad” foods it is easy to develop an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating – orthorexia. This is a lot easier to disguise as plain ol’ healthy lifestyle. But symptoms may include:

  • Planning their daily menu more than 24 hours in advance
  • Getting more pleasure from the perceived virtue of food than from actually eating it
  • Decreased quality of life as the focus on “better” quality food increases
  • Being increasingly rigid and self-critical about their eating
  • Defining self-esteem and self worth by the quality of food they eat
  • Having a lower opinion of people who do not eat what they deem healthy
  • Describing healthy food as “pure,” “proper,” or “correct”
  • Eating only at home where they have total control of the food, therefore withdrawing socially
  • Feeling guilt or self-loathing when they eat “incorrect” food

And I can see how that can happen. You cut out junk food and feel a million times better. Then you decide to cut out something else and maybe feel even better but at some point it becomes a fine line between eliminating certain foods from your diet and becoming constricted by a rigid set of rules about how to eat “right”.

As bloggers (and people!) I think that we have an obligation to check in with ourselves and make sure that what we are sharing with the world is positive. I love to exercise and to eat (and I am conscious of the food that I buy/prepare/eat) but I need to step back and make sure that I’m being responsible – for my own health and for anyone who might stumble across this blog.

Apologies in advance if I’ve offended anyone with this post but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while.

 

15k

The TMI post

Or how I became a real trail runner this weekend.

I feel like I need to include a disclaimer for this post. If you are uncomfortable with lots of poop talk then you should probably stop right here. Also, there are some trail rash photos if that’s not your bag either. But we’re all runner friends here so read on……

Saturday was the final race (for me) in the Park City Trail Series. They have a half marathon in September but I’ll be out of town. I ran this race last year and it was not pretty. I ran out of gas on a horrible set of switchbacks and was hanging on for the last 4ish miles. It was tough and I was a little nervous to go back, especially as I’m in the middle of marathon training (->tired legs) and had a 17 miler on the cards for Sunday (yes – great planning by me).

J had signed up to volunteer for the race and I tagged along, which meant a 5 AM wake up call so we could arrive by 6 AM to get our assigned duties. J and a couple of other volunteers headed out to set up an aid station. Because I was racing, my job was to acts as a parking attendant. (FYI – people really listen to you when you’re wearing a hi-vis yellow vest).

By 7.50 I was done and had just enough time to put on my bib and head to the start. This meant I had to miss my pre-race bathroom visit and disobey my first rule of running: No poop, no run. The elite/pro athletes who usually run this race seemed to be missing so I found myself very close to the start line. I had decided to run this at a moderate effort – with those darn switchbacks in the back of my mind.

The first couple of miles felt ok – the start was a bit mellower than the 5K/10K course and I was feeling pretty good. And catching up on some of the people who went out too fast. We then merged with the 10K course and headed towards the switchbacks, which felt GOOD! How did that happen? I felt about a million times better running up these switchbacks compared to the 10K. What a great confidence boost.

Then the downhill began. I’m definitely better at keeping a steady uphill pace than flying downhill. The trail was really dry a with a lot of lose stones, steep turns and switchbacks. I had a few close calls but at mile 6ish I was letting a guy pass me on single track when I went down. The guys I was running with immediately stopped to see if I was OK – and of course I said I was. I knew my elbow was bleeding and I could taste dirt in my mouth but nothing sprained or twisted so I kept going but took it a little more conservatively on the downhill. Eventually it mellowed out and the last couple of miles were pretty easy. I finished in 1.19.41 which was 5 whole seconds faster than last year.

At first I was a little bummed that I wasn’t faster, but I definitely held back in this race and was never going at max effort. I felt comfortable throughout and was conscious of needing to conserve energy. And I finished strong. I also managed to finish 2nd in my age group, and 8th woman overall – I even won a couple of prizes in the raffle.

IMG_0971

Race haul!

Splits.

IMG_0970 IMG_0969

Scratches and scrapes!

I made my way to the first aid station to clean up along with a bunch of other fallers.

Now the poop talk. The last couple of miles I really needed to go. REALLY needed. My pace at this point was a hybrid between wanting to finish ASAP but not go to fast to freak out my bowels. Why am I telling you this? Well so this never happens to you, and also my stomach has been a wreck since Saturday morning, including my epic 17 mile trail run. Ughh!

On Sunday, J suggested we head up to Park City to do our long runs (17 for me, 18 for him) on Mid Mountain trail. This trail connects the three ski resorts in PC and is about 20 miles long. We parked at Deer Valley and decided to do an out and back. This trail is described as pretty flat. Now, here’s some life lessons for you – if someone describes a trail that connects three SKI resorts as flat they are lying to you!

The first couple of miles felt so hard. My calves were burning. All I could think was: there is no way in hell I can run 17 miles today. But I bargained with myself: Make it to four miles (1/4 way through) and then reassess. By the third mile the trail had leveled out and become more rolling. I decided I wasn’t going to quit. After four miles we made it to Park City Mountain Resort and stopped for our first Gu.

The trail alternated between shady Aspen forests and clear ski run meadows. It was heavenly. I didn’t care about pace, just decided to run a pace that I thought I could sustain for the whole run. At mile 8.5 I turned around and told J to catch up to me as he added on another mile. This was fun at first – just myself and my thoughts until I started worrying about running into a moose. J caught me with about 4 miles to go – and reminded me that it was OK to walk on a trail run. We finally made it back to the car for some chocolate milk and snacks.

17 miler

This was the longest run – 17 miles – I’ve ever done and, by far the longest I’ve spent out running by at least 40 minutes, and the most elevation gain – 2000 ft. Holy crap it was hard – but my legs felt pretty good afterwards.

What didn’t feel so good was my stomach. At first I was hoping it was nerves – I tend to get a little nervous when running a new distance. No such luck. And at mile 13 I needed to go. So yes, I got to lose my trail running poop-ginity. May you never have to experience this yourself. By the time my run was over, it felt as if my stomach had gone a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. The rest of the day was a write-off. Along with any workout today.

This is my first experience like this – I like to pride myself in my iron stomach. I have no idea how anyone with chronic digestive issues can cope. Let’s hope another early night will help.

I’m cured!*

*Well almost. But, importantly yesterday I visited my physiotherapist and she told me that I didn’t need to schedule any future appointments. Woohoo!

giphy

As some of you might know, I’ve been dealing with injuries since the start of the year. Nothing too serious and I’ve had medical approval to do all of my running.

It started back in January with some mild hip pain, which was pretty easily cured with some hip strengthening exercises. Unfortunately, this was quickly followed by pain in my right knee which has been bugging my from February til now. The initial diagnosis was, you guessed it, weak hips and a much weaker right leg. And as any runner knows, a muscle imbalance usually manifests itself in many different ways – for me this meant foot pain in my opposite leg. Meaning two complete weeks away from running – nicely timed to coincide with peak week for my half marathon number 2.

Although, I was able to train for and complete two half marathons in the first half of the year, this injury made me incredibly paranoid about amping up my mileage for my marathon in October. During the initial injury I had managed to bruise my fat pad on my knee. I would recommend never doing this – it has taken forever for this pain to go away.

For a while, it was painful to walk down any stairs. I’d have to psyche myself up at the top and do an old lady shuffle to get down. Not fun. And during this time (pity party central) I was struggling to imagine ever running (or taking stairs) pain-free.

What worked for me was time + leg strengthening. Time: I wanted to be fixed straight away. But fixing muscle imbalances that have been there for 30+years takes longer than two weeks -we’re talking 6 months here. I focused on improving my running form (which I got complimented on – by my PT “Your running mechanics are really good” – and a friend who told me “You look like a fast runner”).

I also thought about making running more fun – if I was going to hurt a little then I wanted to make my runs even funner (that’s not a word but whatever – you know what I mean). For me, this meant more trail running and running with people, and a lot of times combining both of these things.

Leg strengthening: I cannot tell you how much this has improved my running. My legs (and butt) and so much stronger and I think this has definitely carried over into my running times. I have a pretty regular routinne (5x a week on top of running, gym work and yoga) of:

Clamshells

Single leg bridges

Lateral leg raises, leg circles

Single leg leg press

Squats with resistance bands

Leg swings with resistance bands

The physiotherapist that I’ve been seeing is a running specialist and has a fancy treadmill that records every aspect of your run – cadence, force and a whole bunch of crazy graphs and charts. Yesterday, for the first time, there was no significant difference between my left and right feet.

And because I’m increasing my mileage (25->40 miles per week) and feeling LESS pain she was happy to let me loose – with the caveat that I need to continue doing these exercises during marathon training, and with the understanding that this is how my body naturally is and that I will always have to incorporate leg strengthening work in the future.

There still is some pain there – especially after a long run but it is nowhere near as bad as it used to be and my recovery time is significantly shorter. I’ve also had a couple of completely pain-free runs in the last couple of weeks. So I’m hopeful that I am in the finishing strait of this injury.

So this is a lot of writing about my knee……….But I wanted to share this with anyone who is suffering through a chronic injury that is improving way too slowly. There is light at the end of the tunnel. It will take time and it will suck right now, but you will get back to pain-free running. And when you do – it is AMAZING!

IMG_0965

Half way there…….

It is exactly two months until my very first marathon……..Agh!

So far, I’ve completed 9 full weeks using a modified version of Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 plan. It’s gone pretty well. July was my highest mileage month ever – 133 miles exactly. And this past week was my highest mileage week ever – 39 miles. My knee is feeling better (check-in with the physiotherapist this week) and other than feeling a little more tired/hungry than normal I’m pretty pleased.

Monday: Strength workout

Tuesday: 5.35 miles at 9.13 min/mile pace

Wednesday: 7 miles at 7.53 min/mile pace + yoga

Thursday: 4.55 mile trail run at 10.17 min/mile pace

Friday: Rest

Saturday: 15.05 miles at 8.53 min/mile pace

Sunday: 7 mile trail run at 9.11 min/mile pace

Now let’s talk about long runs. I’ve managed a 14, 15 and a 16 miler. And they have been hard. They really seem to be the workouts that I’m struggling with most. And I don’t think it’s a physical struggle. Sure, my legs are a little tired at the end but more than anything I just want it to be over – and this feeling usually kicks in about 2 miles before I’m scheduled to be done. My legs are still moving and I’m not breathing heavily but my mind is exhausted.

This is a little surprising to me. I’m at heart a pretty solitary person and having hours with just my thoughts for company has never bothered me before. But these runs…………I’m struggling – but I’ve done them. I’ve kept going when I wanted to stop and that has to count for something. Plus I know race day will be completely different. I’m running Twin Cities, which has amazing crowd support for the whole course + the other 20000 other runners.

In other (TMI) news – it looks as if I’ve had my first toenail casualty. Right foot – toe next to big toe. It’s dead. Am I a real runner now?

On Sunday I met up with a bunch of my Hood to Coast team mates for a trail run and brunch. We are flying out to Portland in a little over two weeks! I wasn’t quite sure how my legs would feel after my long run, but at mile 3.5 they felt surprisingly good so I picked up the pace for the second half. This was a great run.

This week is scheduled to be my first ever 40+ mile week. Gulp. This includes a 15K trail race (and my first race volunteering experience) on Saturday and a planned 17 miler on Sunday. I also have to fit in some birthday celebrations – this may take the form of afternoon napping.

In food news – we got a delivery of these Clif bars. I tasted them at the Utah Valley expo and they are definitely the best flavor out there. I had one as my post long run snack on Saturday.

IMG_0964

We also got a bumper CSA package – including a giant bag of apricots. And a bag of heirloom tomatoes.

IMG_0965

Some of these ingredients got salsa-fied on Sunday.

IMG_0966

14762247714_14c120c865_o

Ruby-Horsethief and Westwater Canyon River Trip

Last week we celebrated our state holiday with a four day river trip on the Colorado. I had only been rafting once before – right after a conference in Snowmass, CO when I was amazingly hungover and new to the world of camping and groovers.

1584-1

Pooping on the river is interesting……

We had been storing our friends raft in our garage for a couple of years and we were hoping they would let us tag along on one of their trips. Our friend worked as a river guide and has made the trip down the whitewater Westwater section over 20 times – so we were in safe hands.

On Thursday we left early for a four hour drive to Loma, CO, where are trip was due to start. It’s amazing how much stuff you can fit into a raft – a giant cooler, two giant dry boxes + camping stuff, clothes, chairs, beer and other essentials for 3 nights in the great outdoors.

14577977539_403535fbbd_o

We only had about 1.5 hours of floating – but it went by really quickly with such pretty views.

14764623145_a1a95a5106_o

14764621735_d0d359682f_o

14578159597_cb4aeaa1dd_o

We set up camp and had some steak and shrimp for dinner (fancy!). In the middle of the night we were woken by the most insane thunderstorm – it seemed like the whole sky was ablaze with lightening and the thunder roared. It was scary and awesome. We also got rained on – in July and in the desert.

Friday and Saturday were spent floating on the river. Lots of eating and river beers. Plus some beautiful views.

14764618585_1243021e06_o

14577920960_b2976f949b_o

We saw some big horn sheep. And a bald eagle. And a ton of herons.

14761443631_9316e01c65_o

14577979648_66b4c9cd17_o

14741596166_41980a0eaf_o

Friday night camp was at Blackrocks. Some really cool rock formations and a nice swimming spot.

14578149307_3eabb47650_o

14761437791_751d35fbea_o

Saturday was our final float day – and we saw some classic Utah red rock walls and a demon face.

14578146277_3ba11dca59_o

14762247714_14c120c865_o

We camped just a little upstream of the rapid part of our trip – Westwater Canyon. You need a permit to travel down this section and it’s limited to about 70 people per day. It’s a pretty narrow canyon and you need to know what you are doing to get down without flipping your boat. Luckily we had an expert rower and made it down without any dips in the river.

14761424161_3622c52bc5_o 14764271512_3d365fb1d5_o 14762243354_03cac76eea_o 14741599746_fb6e5a2687_o 14784470233_42c78ded80_o

I think there were 12 different rapids – and we got soaking wet but it was so much fun. I think I laughed my way through each one. It took us about 10 mins to travel 2 miles (versus about 40 mins on the floater days).

We made it to the Cisco pullout at lunchtime on Sunday and were back in Salt Lake (via In and Out) by 630 PM. What a great trip!

And major thanks to Irene for being smart enough to bring a camera and waterproof case to document our trip.

Weekly recap!

I’m back and survived four days on the Colorado river. I am putting together a post on this awesome trip but here’s a teaser photo (taken by irenejean). And yes – it really was this pretty and so much fun.

14577985068_0280a58286_o

Last week was week #8 of my marathon training. I moved things around so that it would be a cutback week. I figured I wouldn’t get any running done on the river – so no long run. Instead I added some miles to my midweek runs. And it was actually pretty nice to take a mini vacation from marathon training. My next cutback week coincides with the Hood to Coast Relay and I’m psyched about that already (both visiting Oregon and running the race).

Monday: Strength training

Tuesday: 5.3 miles at 8.57 min/mile pace

Wednesday: 8.15 miles at 8.16 min/mile pace

Thursday: 5.4 miles at 8.50 min/mile pace

Tuesdays have become my easy run day – a way to get my legs moving after hard weekends. This run on Wednesday was my longest midweek run ever and it went pretty well. I’ve been running these at a decent pace – starting slow and building up to some sub-8 min miles. Usually I am ready to be DONE by the end.

I didn’t have time to hit the trails on Thursday – we were leaving for Colorado at 8.30 AM, so I decided to run some of the hills near my house. I live in a pretty hilly area (earthquake faultline!?!) so it’s easy to do hill repeats. Each hill is a little over a quarter mile and about 100 ft in elevation gain. Seven repeats for a little over 700 ft elevation gain.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were filled with spent floating on the river, eating, drinking, swimming and hitting some white water.

Now back to my regularly scheduled training plan and trying to figure out how it’s possible to put on 5lbs in 4 days.

Hills

canoe-colorado-river

Everyone should live in Utah!

Well – at least for this week! Thursday is Pioneer Day here in the Beehive state, which is our state holiday to celebrate the first pioneers (duh!) to settle here. It is a big deal – way bigger than July 4th. And also the perfect time to visit one of our neighboring states for a mini vacation. So, on Thursday we are heading with four of our friends for a four day river trip to float/camp/white-water raft down the Colorado river. I am beyond excited to go.

canoe-colorado-river525eef8764ae6.image

We’re lucky to have met so many cool friends in Utah that have let us tag along on so many cool adventures – rock climbing, canyoneering. Things I never in a million years thought I’d be doing…….mainly because I’m a big ol’ scaredy cat.

This also means that I will not be able to run at all for four days! OMG – how will I cope? Well – I’ve already scheduled this week as a cut back week and will be getting three good runs in (adding one mile to each scheduled distance) before we head away. As much as I want to do well in this marathon – sometimes life gets its awesomeness in the way.

This decision was made a lot easier by the great training week I had last week (week 7/18 for Twin Cities).

Mon: Yoga

Tues: 4.3 miles at 9.11 min/mile pace

Wed: 7 miles at 8.14 min/mile pace + yoga

Thurs: 4.6 mile at 9.50 min/mile trail run

Fri: Rest

Sat: 6.2 miles at 7.31 min/mile pace

Sun: 16 miles at 8.50 min/mile pace

Total mileage: 38.1 miles and my longest mileage week ever.

A couple of things stood out for me this week. I did a fast run on Saturday (tire out those legs) at a moderate-hard pace. A couple of miles were at 7.20 pace. I remember training for my half marathon back in April and doing some 1.5-2 mile tempo runs and really struggling to hold this pace. So being able to do it for 10K was pretty special. And my time for this run was pretty much my 10K PR!

Sunday was long run day and the first time I’ve ever attempted to run 16 miles in one go. J has a race in Park City in a couple of weeks and wanted to run some of the course. I decided to join him and run on the Rail Trail which is a pretty flat* trail that leaves right nearby where he would be running. The morning was perfect – 60 F and overcast. And this time I remembered to fuel before I started my run. I skipped out on this last week which probably contribute to the yuckiness that was that run.

The trail was half paved/half dirt road with a slight downhill for the first half (about 400 ft loss in elevation that I would have to run back up on the second half). It ran mostly through farmland with a couple of gates you had to open (and close) on the way. I did notice some dried cow pats on the trail but no cows. That is – until I was at about mile 11 and came across a cow feeding two calves right on the middle of the trail. With nobody around and in the middle of a field with a pissed off looking cow I was a little freaked out. So I slowed to a walk and ducked down off the trail to creep past the cow and hoping it wouldn’t charge. I made it through that animal encounter only to come across a bunch of geese a couple of miles later. Same approach – slow down and try not to get attacked. And just to add to the adventure – I saw a snake at about mile 16. I do not like snakes. But I survived.

More importantly – my muscles and knee were pretty OK. And I wasn’t tired later on. I was wearing my trail shoes though, which I think are a half size to small so I had a couple of feet issues. And that is a first for me. By Monday everything seemed back to normal. So I was pretty pleased with myself.

We also spent most of Saturday in the mountains – this time at Snowbird Ski Resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon. This was the venue for the Speedgoat 50K ultra race – basically running up and down (and up and down) some pretty steep and technical trails. We had our camp chairs and hung out to watch some amazing athletes finish.

IMG_0958 IMG_0959

The winning man finished in 5.12 hrs and seriously looked like he was out for a casual jog. Amazing! We saw the first 20 guys finish and stayed til we saw the winning women (at about 6.30 – these ladies looked strong).

On Saturday night we watched the Grand Budapest Hotel (quirky and fun) and J made the best burgers ever – beef burgers made with Cremini mushrooms and topped with a fried egg, arugula and an amazing – ketchup/mustard sauce. He needs to cook more often.

IMG_0962

Tonight we are celebrating with a friend who just completed her MBA. Then tomorrow I just have to focus on making it through my workday and packing for a trip. On Thursday with hit the water!

How do you celebrate your state/national holiday? Who’s coming to Utah on their next vacation?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 180 other followers