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Well, hello there number 8

Injury update time! Today marks six weeks since I pulled my calf muscle for the second time (and seven weeks since I injured it for the first time – oops!). I started by taking two weeks completely off running and then tried to return but that wasn’t working out so well. I realized then that it was time to call in the professionals. Two more weeks without running and plenty of hip stretching (hip bone-connected to the calf muscle?). And then I had the-all clear to start back with run-walking as long as pain level was low and preferably non-existent. So, how did it go?

Sat: Fresh snow and skiing!!!!

Sun: 5.15 miles (8 x 3:3 run walk intervals)

Mon: More skiing!

Tues: 3.6 miles (5 x 4:2 run walk intervals)

Wed: Yoga (plenty of deep hip stretches)

Thurs: 4.5 miles (5 x 4.5:1.5 run walk intervals)

The best part: running outside and with minimal pain. In fact, I’m totally pain free when I’m running and just feel some tightness during the walk intervals. Sometimes I don’t understand my body! I’m back in my high-vis running gear and early morning starts and it feels amazing. Looking back, I think I was burnt out after my marathon and was struggling to get motivated to run on my regular routes. But the hunger is back and I’m excited to be back on the road. The plan is to increase the percentage of running versus walking until I can run for 30 minutes straight. And to be honest, I think that this is going to happen pretty soon. Woohoo!

I saw my physiotherapist for a follow-up appointment this week. She did a lot of work on hip mobility (painful) and then the needles came out. I’m not convinced that dry needling works. She worked on my calf and hip and at least this time it was less painful than the previous time. She thought that this was because my calf was healing although the scientist in me wonders if it would have healed to the same extent even without the treatment. The thing that makes me not like the treatment was that I had pain in my calf that afternoon and the next day. Pain that was different from the actual calf strain. So, I’m still skeptical about it. On a positive note, she watched me run on the treadmill and had no complaints. And I don’t need to come back. And I should be completely symptom free in 6-8 weeks.

I also managed to finally look at my run intervals – my Garmin was having some issues – and it was some pretty good numbers. My run intervals were in the 8.10-8.30 min/mile range and I even had one 8.47 mile (including a walk break). Hello, number 8! It’s been a while. All in all a pretty good week!

Bonus: after a balmy February it seems that winter has returned to SLC. So that means we’ll be able to hit the slopes again this weekend with some fresh powder.

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This was our view from Park City on Monday. Don’t let the sunshine fool you – it was so cold. Freeze your face kinda cold.

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And you know you’re a real runner when your husband buys you some North Face arm warmers for Valentines Day. I always thought that these were a little silly but after having a few races with cold starts I am excited to try them out.

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Don’t worry I still got some chocolate! This stuff is amazing! Roasted coconut on the bottom and salted caramel in milk chocolate. If you see it in the store you should buy it – you will not regret it. 10/10 would recommend.

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Waiting for the worst to happen…..

Why can’t four day weeks happen all the time? Monday was mostly work-free (although scientists never really get a day off) and as an added bonus my gym was open for the whole day. I got a strength workout in – and it was a toughie my glutes were sore for the next two days. But that’s good, right? Well for me it’s always good to work my glute medius which is one of my many weak spots. And then it was time to run……….

My physiotherapist told me to take two full weeks off running and that time ran out on Sunday. I don’t see her until next Tuesday (#popular) and I wanted to try to run so we had something to talk about. I settled for run-walk but couldn’t bring myself to climb on the treadmill. Instead I used the indoor 320 (random!?!) meter track. I did a 5 minute walk to warm up and then 5 x 6 min intervals (3 min walk + 3 min run) and a cool down. I have no idea of my pace but I did about 2.5 miles in 30 minutes. And it was awesome. No pain when running. And you guys know how awesome it feels to finally run again! Woohoo! Runner’s high for everyone.

Tuesday was an early morning yoga class that was all about those hips. I noticed a little tightness in my calf. It’s a little hard to explain how I’m feeling. I think that it’s so subjective. I keep expecting for things to hurt. I’m constantly checking in with myself to gauge if there is any pain. It’s exhausting. I guess I’m expecting the worst to happen all of the time. Like I said already I had major DOMS in my glutes and it reminded me of the pain I felt when I had hip bursitis so I tried not to freak out that I had injured myself AGAIN. But then I reminded myself that it’s probably impossible to get an overuse injury from running 2.5 miles!

I decided to run again on Wednesday. And again, I just couldn’t face running on the dreadmill. So I headed outside at 6 AM – just like the old days. And ran a flattish 3 miles out and back using the same 3:3 intervals. However, this route was the route I was running on when I pulled my calf muscle (0/10 would not recommend) so I was waiting for history to repeat itself again. Luckily I made it home with all muscles intact. Things don’t feel painful – just not right.

I remember last time I was running while recovering from an injury my doctor recommended continuing to run as long as my pain was less than 3 on a pain scale of 10. And that’s the advice I’m still following. I’m not in pain. So what is going on? Tightness following my run – which is real. But over-analyzing every ache is not helping. I’m really looking forward to seeing my doctor next week so she can tell me what’s acceptable pain and when I should back off. I really need her on speed dial!

On the bright side my new shoes got their first taste of concrete!

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Moab!

I’m so glad Monday was a holiday! I needed a full day to recover after our weekend in Moab. We left on Friday lunchtime so that J could check-in for his 55K race and we could both have an early night (5.30 AM wake-up calls are the downside of racing!). But you know you’ve signed up for an awesome race when you pick up your bib at the local bar.

We made it to the start of the race at 7 AM (the 55K started at 8 AM and the 33K at 8.30 AM). I found the volunteer coordinator and go my hi-vis vest – once you wear this people ask you all kinds of questions. It was in the mid 30s which meant frozen toes but still a lot of fun watching people who paid actual money to run 32ish miles over red rock in February. An additional bonus is that you literally cannot see a bad view in Moab.

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While J was running for 5.5-6 hours I decided to hit up one of the best hikes in Moab, and which was conveniently located right beside the parking lot for the race finish. Corona arch is about a 3 mile round trip with minimal elevation gain and the most amazing views. (And no calf pain at all!)

Back in the desert.

Back in the desert.

Red cliffs.

Red cliffs.

Bowtie arch.

Bowtie arch.

Corona Arch.

Corona Arch.

The arch up close.

The arch up close.

Added adventure.

Added adventure.

I managed to get to the finish in time to watch J finish – under 6 hours in his first ultra. The race was around 32 miles with 4000 ft of elevation gain and by all accounts it was pretty tough -> especially if your longest run was 15 miles!

What a terrible view at the finish!

What a terrible view at the finish!

We spend the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the sun drinking a beer or two before meeting some friends for dinner and having an early night. The next day J was feeling annoyingly surprisingly good so we headed to Canyonlands National Park after breakfast at the Love Muffin (the only place to get your breakfast burrito in town).

We did a hike down to the False Kiva. It’s a protected historical site so it’s not on the official park map but if you ask (or use the internet) you can find the start of the trail (which is really obvious and well-marked). It started off pretty easy and then we made our way down about 500ft in a pretty steep descent before making out way up to the kiva. It’s called a false kiva because normal kivas have an underground section but who cares when you see this view. What a great way to recharge those batteries!

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Looking out over Canyonlands - towards the Green River and White Rim.

Looking out over Canyonlands – towards the Green River and White Rim.

 

Who wants to come to Utah?

Friday check-in

A quick post before I leave work and head south! Woohoo! Moab is one of my favorite places in Utah. Two National Parks and amazing red rock scenery. You should all go visit – especially because this is the weather forecast for this weekend.

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And if you decide to leave right now, you can join me for my first ultra marathon experience. Wait – Aren’t you injured and can’t run at all let alone 55 KM? Yes – blog reader! My husband is running his first ever ultra marathon race and I’ll be doing some volunteer work at the start. To be honest, I think I’m more excited about it than him. Probably because I’ll get to experience the excitement at the start and finish without having to worry about staying on my feet for 6+ hours.

a912ba_58192493ee644a59b18be4c5852b6624.png_srz_p_110_120_75_22_0.50_1.20_0I’m hoping to get a gap before he finishes to do a little hiking while he runs. The finish is near one of my favorite (and free – no national park entry fee) hikes – Corona Arch. It’s pretty mellow, 3 miles out-and-back and I’ve hiked it before so I know I won’t get lost (I am directionally-challenged).

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Then we’ll hang out in a hot tub and get ready for the post-race party where we’ll see Rob Krar who was voted ultra runner of the year for 2015. And who is an amazing advocate for mental health -> check out his short movie about coping with depression (and admire his awesome running form).

In other news, Runnersworld is reading my mind! First my brand new shoes are this month’s Editor’s choice. And they have a whole article about strengthening hips. Apparently, weak hips can lead to all sorts of problems *COUGH*calf strain*COUGH*.

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And finally, I’m feeling great! I haven’t run in 12 days (except when I almost missed my bus on Monday morning – oops!). And I’ve taken it a little easier this week – including two days of complete rest. It’s a little funny when you finally start to feel normal – no pain doing anything! And then I realized how crappy I’ve been feeling for the last month or so. Feeling some kind of pain everyday becomes your new normal and it feels so good to be healthy again. So I’m going to spread the love to all those runners starting out on their 33/55 KM journey on Saturday and will enjoy the sunshine for all of you northeasterners!

Have a great weekend!

Good karma

Being injured sucks. And it’s easy to wallow in self-pity and turn into a total Grumpy McGrumperson. My approach is to throw a little pity party, feel sad and frustrated – and then move on. Focus on what I can do – crosstraining – and what I need to do – lots of hip stretching – to stay healthy and sane. I also wanted to keep myself in the loop and experience a new part of the running community. So I volunteered.

I had my first race of the year scheduled for Saturday (and my first ever road 5K), but my physiotherapist suggested that I needed to take 2 weeks off running (and when she talks I listen) so I knew I wouldn’t be able to run. I decided I still wanted to be part of the event and emailed about volunteering. It turns out that race directors LOVE volunteers and I got an immediate reply and was told to report to the race at 7 AM on Saturday morning. I still picked up my race packet on Friday (if I am going to pay $25 for a mug you bet I’m going to go and pick that sucker up). I had registered for the entire 3 race series and also qualified for a $25 gift certificate for the running store that was hosting the races. How awesome is that?

Race day was beautiful -> 58F at 6.30 AM (this is not normal for February in Utah!) but just a little windy. I arrived and collected my volunteer shirt – it’s totally cool and is a Brooks tech shirt pretty similar to the one I picked up at Twin Cities last year. Plus volunteers also get a $10 gift certificate. Swag!

Volunteering sure pays off!

Volunteering sure pays off!

My job was to look after the post-race food and drinks. They had gotten a ton of free donut holes and hot chocolate from Dunkin donuts, plus some Nature Valley bars, oranges and a ton of bagels. We watched the runners head off and kept ourselves warm and away from the wind while they headed out for their 3.1 miles. The first man came in just a little under 18 mins and then we waited for the rest of the 200 or so other runners to cross the line. I’ve only race one 5K before and it was awful -> going out too fast and holding on (I think that’s how most people do it too?). And looking at the faces of the people as they finished – I was pretty glad that I didn’t have to run that morning. 5Ks are hard! We were all done by 9.40 AM and I headed to the gym for my own workout – 1 hour of strength and core work and then 1 hour on the bike (low resistance, high reps). Watching people give their all is definitely a great motivator to go and bring it at the gym! Although my glutes had a hissy fit and punished my with DOMS the next day.

I also managed to limit myself to one donut hole – mainly because I don’t really like donuts. I know this is a little controversial but I’m totally “meh” about them. Maybe I just haven’t met the right one yet?

You might notice my latest pair of shoes in my collage. I just started wearing my latest pair of Brooks PureCadence and wanted to get another pair (I like to have two pairs in rotation). I hit up the running store and got my gait analyzed. I am a neutral runner and asked to try on everything in the store. Well, I narrowed it down neutral shoes that work for someone with narrow feet (this can actually be a problem – especially if you need to buy ski boots!). I think I tried on at least 10 pairs ranging from 4-12 mm drops and minimal to maximal cushioning. Personally, I like to get a yearly check on my gait and see what’s new. I really liked the newest PureFlows but I felt that they were a little too similar to the PureCadence. Then it was between the Adidas Boost, Mizuno Wave Rider and Saucony Triumph ISO. After running on their treadmill I settled on the Sauconys – only a 8 mm drop (most traditional running shoes are 10-12 mm and my Brooks are 4 mm) but with lots of cushioning (but still felt surprisingly light). I’m thinking of using them as my long run shoe. Obviously, with my current calf strain they are sitting by my front door ready for their first trip outside. So look for a review sometime in March? April? May?

As for the calf strain…….It was still a little sore through Saturday morning. And to be honest I’m not sure if this was residual pain from the dry needling *SHUDDER* or my actual injury. Standing around by the donuts on Saturday morning seemed to aggravate it but it was fine after my gym session in the afternoon. Sunday I had my recovery swim followed by some soaking in the hot tub and was feeling good. I can still feel a tightness in my calf but it’s not painful. Plus, I’ve been attacking the huge knot in my calf with my torture stick. Ah the joys of being a runner!

A slight change of plan

Or rather a giant change of plan. So I’ve been dealing with a calf strain for the last couple of weeks. One slight strain followed a week later by an even bigger calf strain. Not fun. Two weeks off running and then a tentative return to run-walk intervals. Last Friday I managed 4.9 miles and felt pretty good but this deteriorated over the weekend so much so that I had to bail after 2.5 miles on Sunday. Things were achy so I decided it was time to get some professional help. Mainly to get a recovery plan and to pay someone to make the decision about how much time I had to take off from running. I’ve lost some faith in my own ability to figure out how to get over this and I am a sucker for advice from a MD/DPT.

Luckily I was able to get a last minute appointment with my physiotherapist (who happens to be in charge of the running clinic at the local orthopedic center). So we had a chat about what happened since I last saw her back in August. Basically, I didn’t take enough time off after my marathon – 1 day per mile raced (not a total break but taking it easy) so about a month of very easy running before starting back up again. Note to future self.

Next she checked out my leg. It turns out that I have the tightest hips ever. She was literally amazed at the lackĀ  of flexibility in my hip – it’s never good when your medical professional thinks you are some kind of freak of nature. It also turns out that tight hips can seriously affect your stride resulting it extra work for your calves. It was no surprise then that my super tight left hip was the probable cause of my calf strain. I guess it’s a reminder that having one piece of your gait out of stride (pun intended) can mess you up. The plan is to increase hip mobility. And two weeks rest. No running. Or jumping – so no more all day jump rope fests. All other cross training is OK.

I also got some soft tissue massage and graston technique which was mildly uncomfortable. And then we got to the torture part of the visit. She asked me how I felt about needles. Well, does anyone really like needles? She was quick to point out that it wasn’t acupuncture but something close called dry needling. The theory (at least as I understood it) was to release trigger points in damaged muscles using small needles (don’t ask me how this differs from acupuncture – I think the trigger points might differ). I was willing to give it a try – anything to get better, right? But it was not pleasant at all. Initially, it felt like getting an injection – followed by significant pain and involuntary muscle spasms. It was pretty painful to me and the pain in my calf lingered for the rest of the day (which to her credit she warned me about). My calf was still pretty sore today but I think this was from the dry needling. I’m still on the fence about whether it has helped or not.

As for my race plans…….I have a 5K scheduled for this Saturday. Obviously, I will not be running this. I do plan on picking up my mug and $20 Brooks gift certificate. And I’ve decided that the glass is half full and I’m going to volunteer at this race. One of my favorite local running stores (where I just got a brand new pair of non-Brooks running shoes) is organizing it and I hope that the series becomes a regular event. I’ve also signed up to volunteer at an ultra race that my husband is running in Moab in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping to spread some good karma into the universe!

I have a half marathon on March 21st that is looking a little iffy right now. Luckily, they have a 5 miler on the same morning (new distance!) that I can switch to the day before. The marathon is a different story. Right now I’m 15ish weeks out and with two more weeks with no running that would leave 13 weeks to complete a marathon training program. Personally, I feel that this is not enough time for me to properly prepare to run 26.2 miles. This race doesn’t allow for deferrals or switching to the half marathon so it looks like I’ll have to eat this one. I’m a mixture of bummed out and relieved. Sad that I won’t be running my second marathon this spring. But relieved that I don’t have to put pressure on myself to get into marathon shape in a short period of time. My main focus now is to get healthy again.

I’m not going to lie I had a mini pity party – complete with junk food (thanks Superbowl) – but now I’m going to make the most of my doctor-recommended break. And my advice to you – go to your trusted medical professional ASAP. And in my personal opinion physiotherapists are the way to go. Also, if you have the PBS app on your streaming device – you need to check out the Great British Baking Show. It is seriously addictive.

A glimmer of hope

Thursday is practically the weekend, right? Well, I’m celebrating early with a glass of red wine and my favorite chocolate bar. And although the rest of the US and even Ireland is getting hit by winter storms, here in Utah we are having our warmest winter in years. It was in the mid 50s this week. What the hell? It would be the ideal winter for marathon training……

So where am I at with this calf injury? Actually, I’m feeling pretty good – my calf is behaving and I’ve mentally taken a big step and am surprisingly relaxed. So let’s get physical first.

On Saturday I decided to test out my leg with some run-walk injuries. My last really serious injury was hip bursitis (6 weeks out back in 2013) and I recovered from that using a run-walk strategy. It basically started with 5 min walk + 1 min run repeated 5 times. I like to think that this was what I needed starting with zero base, and I felt as if I could be a bit more aggressive with my interval splits this time around. But I still started with a 5:1 split #sensible. I did decide to push myself a little and see what I could do interval wise before I felt a the slightest hint of a twinge. This ended up being a 3:3 split – although the run portion was at just a little faster than my recovery pace (6.5 mph on the treadmill). I managed an hour – my gym now has individual tvs for every cardio machine and I spent my time watching the first Sex and the City movie. I think being able to watch tv and distracting myself with intervals helped me cope with the dreadmill. 5.5 miles total followed by lots of stretching and PT exercises.

One thing I changed was wearing some new kicks. I have been running in Brooks PureCadence shoes for the last 2 years and I managed to find a pair for $60 last fall. I was wondering if my current shoes might need to be replaced, and whether they might even be contributing to my injury.

Not my photo - sorry I forgot my phone. But aren't they cute?

Not my photo – sorry I forgot my phone. But aren’t they cute?

And holy crap – they felt so much stiffer than the shoes I had been wearing. Thinking back on it – I starting wearing my old shoes back in the summer and wore them for most of my long runs and my marathon so I think they needed to be retired.

I have also been taking it super easy. No fast runs. No tempos. No speed. Pushing off works your calves and that just ain’t happening for me right now. The overall consensus from comments after my last post was to slow down. That it’s better to run slow and easy rather than push things and end up injured again. My first race of the year is scheduled for next Saturday and will be my first ever road 5K. I still plan on running it but will need to repeat this in my head – I’ll probably have to shout it at myself and not get carried away with a race atmosphere. Think long term!

I’m swapping out long, slow runs for long, slow swim sessions. Sunday was about 80 mins in the pool – nice and easy. More run-walking on Monday and Wednesday (4.5 miles each – 3+3 intervals) and then a yoga class this morning where we did zero down-dogs and chatarungas!

I don’t know if it’s coming across in this post but I am surprisingly at peace with this injury. I mean I can run-walk at the minute which is good – some running is better than none. I’m still feeling a little tight in the calf but not when I am on the treadmill and it seems to be improving. I’ve also pretty much accepted that this marathon training season is not going to be perfect. And that’s ok. Not every race is going to be a PR. And that’s ok too.

Getting to the starting line in one piece and finishing the race still in one piece is my number one goal. And if I can’t manage that – well I guess I’d have to skip a race. And that’s not going to be the end of the world either. There are plenty more races in my future and what I’ve learned most from this experience is that you can’t fast forward through healing. It takes time and you have to accommodate that into a plan. Of course, I would have loved to do the perfect training schedule and aim for that BQ time. That’s going to have happen some other time. And you know what? I’m fine with that. I can wait because some things are worth waiting for.