The lake. The water was pretty darn cold - I just dipped my feet in but my husband went swimming.

Half marathon training week 5: the wheels are a little wobbly but haven’t fallen off

Half marathon training week 5 is in the books but not without some excitement and worry along the way. Here’s what happened.

7/18: Rest

7/19: 4.5 miles at 8.47 pace

7/20:4.5 miles at 8.09 pace including two miles up-tempo at 7.30 pace (I needed to convince myself that I can run fast)

7/21: Rest

7/22: 5.7 miles at 8.57 pace

7/23: Backpacking!

7/24: Backpacking!

7/25: 9 miles at 8.52 pace (Monday was a state holiday here in Utah)

Total: 23.7 miles

This is the fifth week of increased mileage and I think I reached my limit. By the end of the week my adductors were super tight and I was having flashbacks to injuring the same area back in April – which might explain my woe is me post last week.

One highlight of our week was our second backpacking trip of the summer. We headed to the Uinta mountains to get away from the crazy heat here in SLC (104F no thank you). We started in Christmas Meadows and ended up at Kermsuh Lake – about 7 miles each way we a steepish section over a pass into the Kermsuh cirque. Perfect weather and beautiful scenery.

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Our burliest creek crossing – you can balance on the log in front or wuss it out on the logs behind.

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Sophie will not pose for pictures but had the cutest little backpack.

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Our campsite.

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The lake. The water was pretty darn cold – I just dipped my feet in but my husband went swimming.

Utah is pretty scenic.

Luckily for me, I had a PT scheduled for Tuesday and it was kind of a mixed bag. But to explain why I need to tell you what exactly is wrong with me – and bear in mind I am not a medical professional but this is how I under stand it. Basically, I have severely limited range of motion in my left leg. My external rotation is abnormally bad – like call over other PTs to show them bad. When you run you need a balance of internal and external rotation to keep your leg straight. My leg wants to turn in and when it does the forces are unevenly distributed along my leg which means that some muscles are severely overloaded and this explains the muscle strains in this leg (calf x2 and adductor). To get everything back to normal we are working on increasing my range of motion (so that everything works as it is designed) mostly by trying to un-tighten my hips.

It was pretty obvious in the first 5 minutes that all my hip stretching has not been working. My external rotation had not improved in two weeks. And along with the tightness in my adductors I was feeling pretty down, like I hadn’t improved and had even gotten worse. This isn’t really the case. I’ve been averaging about 20 miles per week for the last month or so, but it seems that 23ish miles with a 9 mile long runs is my sweet spot and we decided to plateau for a while until my symptoms disappear.

So what do we do? Dry needling! I had this done before form my calf and it was not fun, but my PT was pretty hopeful that releasing my glute medius would help with stretching out those hips. So she stuck needles into three different spots in my glute medius – moved them around a bit and then electrically stimulated the muscle. And it felt really weird. Not painful but having your muscles involuntarily contract is the weirdest feeling – I honestly started laughing. And I think it worked. My rotation improved almost immediately and I have been feeling better during my runs and stretching routine. Fingers crossed!

I’m planning on plateauing my mileage for the next couple of weeks which should be pretty easy because we are heading to Ireland and Belgium for vacation next week. It’ll be great to see family, get out of the heat and visit some beautiful sites. I probably won’t be commenting on blogs but you can follow the adventure on instagram.

The struggle is real, yo!

Week 4 is in the bag. Four days of running and the first time I’ve run over 20 miles a week in a long while. I’ll take it.

7/11: Rest

7/12: 4.45 miles at 8.55 min/mile pace

7/13: 4.05 miles at 9.08 min/mile pace

7/14: Rest

7/15: 5.1 miles at 8.47 min/mile pace

7/16 Rest

7/17: 8 miles at 8.41 min/mile pace

Weekly total: 21.6 miles

But this doesn’t tell the full story. My running plan is approved by my PT. Increasing mileage 10% a week, including adding a mile to the long run per week. Nothing crazy. No speed work, no hill work – just building endurance.

In fact, my PT is confident that everything is going well and that I should continue increasing mileage and generally keep doing what I’m doing.

The problem is me. I was talking to her and almost waiting for her to tell me to dial things back. Things still haven’t clicked. My original injury has resolved itself but my left leg is still not quite right. No major pain just a little discomfort and probably a huge dose of paranoia. I mean a medical professional has told me that everything is fine – and a couple of aches as I’m getting my mileage up is totally normal and nothing to panic about, so why don’t I trust her?

I think it’s mostly that I’ve lost some faith in my body. I’m running but having trouble imagining that I’ll ever get a new PR or have that smooth flowing feeling when running. I guess I just need to appreciate that it will come. But if anyone has any stories of successfully navigating a return to running and learning to trust that your body can get back to it’s best. Please share!

 

So I guess I’m training for a half marathon?

Hello again! It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post – and usually that is a bad thing. When my running is not going well I tend to avoid writing about it but not this time. I am happy to say that my running is actually going well and it turns out that I am on week 3 of a half marathon training program.

Say what? When I last checked in I had completed my run-walk program and had completed my first 30 min run. The next couple of weeks were a little hit and miss. My pain in my leg was pretty low but I had a few things pop up that scared the bejaysus out of me: tight calves (always terrifying to someone who has strained their calf twice) and outer knee pain (also something I’ve dealt with before). Cue a couple of days of panic. But some stretching, rolling and religiously doing my PT exercises has resolved everything. Now I’m enjoying pain-free runs – well except that pain of being out of shape.

This return to running has luckily coincided with the start of my half marathon training. I signed up for a race here in SLC on September 10th. My main goal is to get through the next 12 weeks in one piece and I’m pretty confident that will happen and I’m hoping that my PT will agree when I see her next week. My current plan is nothing crazy: run 4 (maybe up to 5) days a week. Right now my weekday runs are 3-4.5 miles and my first two long runs were 5 and 6 miles respectively. All at easy paces. No speedwork. I’m aiming to increase distance 10% per week and I know from experience that increasing distance with speedwork just does not work with my body.

So here’s what’s been happening:

Week 1:

6/20: 3.9 miles@ 8.54 pace

6/22: 3.9 miles @8.48 pace

6/24: 3.3 miles @8.59 pace

6/26: 5.0 miles @8.30 pace

Weekly total: 16.1 miles

Week 2:

6/28: 4.1 miles @8.53 pace

6/30: 3.8 miles @9.13 pace

7/1: 3.9 miles @8.55 pace

7/4: 6.0 miles @8.29 pace

Weekly total: 17.8 miles

Week 3:

7/6: 4.5 miles @8.50 pace

7/7: 3.85 miles @9.06 pace

The highlights (besides being pain-free) were those longer runs – I cannot wait to get out and spend some time out on the road and managing two days in a row. This wasn’t ideal but we spent Saturday and Sunday hiking in the Uintas (a mountain range about 1.5 hours from SLC). This meant a 8.5 mile hike in and a night spent camping by one of the many lakes (Baynes lake I think). So much cooler (in the 60s) with beautiful scenery (just in case you thought Utah was all desert) but so many mosquitos. It was great to get away from it all but a rude awakening to carry a backpack on mountain trails – the whole time we were at 10000ft.

And the best part: my legs were just fine. Tired feet and sore hips from carrying 30lbs (you gotta have some backpacking wine!) but those legs – I think they might be back to normal.

Return to running

I was going to title this “Injury Update” but I thought that was a little inaccurate. I’m not really injured but I’m not yet back to normal – kinda in the purgatory of recovery. The good news is that I’m running again. As in actually putting on my shoes and running non-stop. And it’s amazing.

I’m not the type who thinks that running cleanses my soul/gives me spiritual meaning – I’m much to practical for that. But it is something that I really really enjoy doing. I like the simple task of putting on my shoes and seeing what my body can do. Sometimes it’s fun, a lot of times it’s hard and most of the time it feels like second nature. And I can do it again.

My first non-stop (after weeks of run-walking) was on May 30th and was a great way to finish the month. Right now, I’m working with my PTs (yes – plural) and am cleared for running every other day, starting with 30 mins and increasing 10% per week as long as there is no increase in pain.

Luckily this coincides with the start of training for my next half marathon. in 12 weeks time I’ll be running down one of our local canyons. This won’t be a goal race because, well see above, and also we are doing a ton of travel this summer (first world problems yo). I have a second race late in October that finishes one mile from my house with pizza so my goal for that is to get to that pizza as quickly as I can.

The plan is to run 3-4 times a week, gradually building up my mileage and not really worrying about pace. Mostly, I’ve been running with the pup before work with a solo run at the weekend. This Saturday I ran my longest, fastest, lowest pain run in forever.

Screen Shot 2016-06-19 at 17.29.05I might also have accidentally found my way into a race in my local park and it was nice to get some words of encouragement even if I wasn’t the lead lady. One day……..

You might notice that I said this was the lowest pain run and not pain-free. I still haven’t had that breakthrough. My first week of running was a little rough, so my PT and I decided that I should take another week before increasing mileage. Luckily, since then the pain has decreased on every run. Also, pain might be the wrong word. It’s not a sharp pain, more like a discomfort that I’m constantly expecting to rear it’s ugly head. The take-home message is that things are getting better……….finally!

What else I’m working on: strengthening those hips and glutes. And that seems to be working. I made significant strength gains in both legs and am continuing to work on that. We did an analysis of my form and that has also improved – more hip stability and perfect cadence (180 spm!). The one thing that has come out of all of this is my limited range of motion in my left leg which we think has been the cause of all my problems – and I’ll probably do a more detailed post about that later.

Bike commuting! For the last three weeks I’ve been cycling to work. I bought a single speed from a friend and finally got it back from the shop complete with 2 extra gears and a rear brake.  It’s about 11.5 miles there and back but all uphill (about 600ft) in the morning and takes 35-40 minutes depending on traffic/lights/the tiredness of my legs. I’m really loving it right now although by the end of the week my legs are pretty tired – especially if I’ve been running beforehand. I’m hoping that cumulative fatigue will help in the long run.

Yoga – still doing some hot yoga. I’m trying for once a week. Every time I go I think that it’s the sweatiest I’ve ever been in my life. Do you ever get used to the heat?

I’ve started June on such a great note and I’m quietly hoping that it will continue.

 

Recent travels

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks – and the craziness of summer has started over here. We’ve had two trips out of town and some hot hot weather.

Over Memorial weekend we decided to head down to the desert because – the desert is awesome. We drove to the San Rafael Swell – an area in central Utah bordering I70 that is usually immune from the craziness of Moab and Zion. We scored this amazing campsite and did some exploring.

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We hiked by the San Rafael river, making our way towards a natural arch. One surprise was coming across an airstrip – that apparently is still in working order because there were people who had flown in to camp.

IMG_20160528_140941IMG_20160528_162009We bushwhacked our way towards the arch – along some beautiful red walls and the quiet of a real out-of-the way place. We turned around just in time to get rained on which is a little unusual in the desert.

IMG_20160528_150014IMG_20160528_150018The next day we explored some more side canyons – Pine and Cow Creek. And Sophie got her first desert experience.

On the way home we swung by the Little Grand Canyon.

IMG_20160529_125447Can you believe that this viewpoint is just a 3 hour drive from our house?

After a short week at work we then did a 180 and headed for the big city – St Louis. We were traveling for a wedding and had a bunch of really fun weekend events – including the big day – spread out over the weekend, but we did get to do the two touristy things that I really really wanted to experience when I was there.

We had booked the Beermaster tour months ago. This is a small tour – we only had 6 people – that lasts about 2 hours and you basically get to see everything you could want to see around the brewery – and taste beer at different stages of the process. It was surprisingly enjoyable – especially the historic aspects. It turns out that a bunch of the buildings are historical landmarks and are incredibly ornate. And the clydesdale horses live right there too.

IMG_20160604_121936IMG_20160604_103030 We also visited the Arch – which is an experience. It is undergoing renovation right now to build a new visitors center and museum but you can still go to the top. And the trip to the top is in small futuristic pods – futuristic in the 1960s sense of the world. But the view from the top was pretty cool and the structure itself is impressive.

IMG_20160605_102456IMG_20160605_104849Now, are travels are done for a couple of months. So time to focus on fun stuff around SLC. And right now I’m doing that on a combination of two almost pain-free legs and two wheels. More on the injury saga – spoiler things are looking good – and my return to bike commuting later.

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Light at the end of the tunnel

In the first stages of an injury it is hard to even imagine running again, especially if it hurts to walk and there is no quick improvement. But with patience and doing the smart thing i.e. rest and working on those weaknesses, you eventually begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And that’s where I am now – eagerly anticipating making my way into the full light.

That’s not to say that it’s easy or pretty – things are still not quite right but I’m healing – feeling better and stronger. My back-to-running program is all about run-walk intervals to build up the strength in those tendons, bones and muscles. So far so good.

Walk 4.5 mins; Run 0.5 mins   14.00 min/mile

Walk 4 mins; Run 1 min            14.29 min/mile

Walk 3.5 mins; Run 1.5 min     13.40 min/mile

Walk  3 mins; Run 2 mins        12.49 min/mile

Walk 2 mins; Run 3 mins         11:37 min/mile

A couple of runs even had these beachfront views.

A work trip out to CA? OK. I  can do that. Even got an ocean view from my room.

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I never get sick of the water – especially living so far inland. I even got a chance to travel south – hitting up La Jolla cove – with all the seals, sealions, surfers, paddle-boarders, SCUBA divers, kayakers. I can totally see what people love California. (P.S. – This American Life did a brilliant episode recently about the seals at this cove and after listening to it I knew that I had to go to visit but we didn’t see any craziness when we visited).

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Further south we ended up at Sunset cliffs and took a walk along the ocean before finding some awesome fish tacos in Ocean Beach.

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So much deliciousness. I also tired out the TWO Stone Brewing pubs – in Escondido and right by the airport and they are both amazing. Best pub food ever and beautiful locations.

It was back to reality this week but I am feeling better with every run and by this time next week I should be doing 30 minutes non-stop. That’s not a huge deal to most people in the blogiverse but to me it feels like a huge leap forward!

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Catch-up

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks and there hasn’t been much running going on over here. My PT and I figured out that I had strained my adductor and not my quad like we had first thought, but the recovery is the same – strengthen my hips and glutes and wait for the muscle to calm down enough to start a run-walk return to running programme, which I started today (yay!). It was not pretty but I want to run again so badly.

So in the meantime I’ve been doing what any normal injured runner would do.

Go crazy at the local running store and at runningwarehouse.com. So much pretty.

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Adidas Boost, Nike Free RN Distance and Brooks PureCadence 5. All on sale and a mix of heel drops, feel and rigidity. I’m excited to try them all out – and now I can’t buy another pair til at least the fall.

Also, I”m finally a convert to hot yoga. After some pretty unpleasant experiences at Bikram yoga I decided to try out Corepower – mostly because it’s just over a mile from my house and you can get a free week to try as many classes as you can. The first class I tried was their unheated intro class and afterwards I remembered how much I loved yoga. Then I tried my first heated class – I think it’s between 92-95F – and thought I was going to melt into one giant puddle and get carried out in my water bottle. My heart rate was crazy high – in Z3 for the entire hour and I did not like it at all.

But I had another four days to try out classes (for free! and free things are my favorite and a hangover from my poor grad student days) and decided to try again. And the second and third time was so much better. I even got the hang of side crow and half moon pose. So, I am officially signed up. It’s quite a bit different from the yoga I did before – not as much emphasis on correct alignment, more workout-y and with music but it’s a fun workout and a great way to work on those stabilizing muscles.

The other thing is hiking with Sophie which is always fun.

Our local dog park has a cool creek where your mutt can go crazy.

Then some hikes along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail on a super sunny but windy day.

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And just to show that we still have snow in the mountains. This was in Neffs Canyon – another off leash area that finishes in a beautiful meadow. The snow was pretty slushy and I did fall on my butt a couple of times on the way down.

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And this is what happens after a hard days hiking.

I also was able to get free downloads from the Salt Lake half marathon. Not the greatest photos and the only two I could find uploaded. 3 weeks ago – and the last time I was able to run properly but hoping that will change soon.