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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.

Treating yourself

Recovery week! Or two weeks. We’ll see. Every time I run a half I know that I should expect some DOMS but I forget how much it hurts. Damn muscles. I was fine by Wednesday. Well, fine is relative. My muscle soreness was gone but it was clear that my left leg was still not quite right. So I finally did the sensible thing and called my physical therapist’s office. Luckily, I got a next day appointment and was ready to find out what is going on with this darn leg.

It turns out that my hips and glutes are still pretty weak and my right leg is still considerably weaker than my left. Same old same old. But it all makes sense. My left leg is taking more of the load than the left because it is stronger. This basically means that there is more force going through it with each step so that’s probably the reason why it’s been so unhappy. It’s working overtime while rightie is slacking off. So we’re working on evening out this strength imbalance.

The other issue is my weak glutes and the lack of rotation i.e. flexibility in my hips – especially my left one. So there’s a lot to fix. He prescribed some plank, squat and clamshell variations to work on this. No running for another week – which is just fine by me and he’s predicting that I should be able to get back to it pretty soon. Fingers crossed.

So all in all a pretty good visit. It’s obvious what’s wrong. I also have genu valgum (which sounds like a Harry Potter spell) which means I have knock-knees. There’s a clear plan of action to get me where I need to be and my PT thinks my actual injury (pain in my quad) isn’t serious so we’ll mostly focus on correcting my biomechanics. I’m actually excited to get started. Thinking back over my (relatively short) running career I do my best when under supervision. My first marathon training cycle was pretty perfect 18 weeks and no pain or missed runs and it was after working with my PT for six months. Maybe I’m better off getting some help to keep my body on track?

But I’m still riding my post-race high. It was my fastest half marathon in two years. And I did what any normal person would do – sign up for next year’s race. April 22nd 2017 if you want to join me. This time around for $4 extra you could buy insurance so that if you can’t make it you get a full refund.

Then the shopping continued……..

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My husband used the Pfitzinger program for his BQ and this is the equivalent book for ever other distance. I’ve just started reading it but I’m excited to learn more. My next race is a half marathon in September and I’d love to use one of his plans but we’ll see where my body is at in a couple of months.

Then I just stopped by to check out what was on sale at Runningwarehouse.com. Do yourself a favor and do not make this mistake! They have a ton a super cute tanks and shorts including this purple Oiselle tank. I also bought my first pair of compression booty shorts because why not?

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How do you treat yourself after a race?

Salt Lake Half Marathon

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So this Saturday I ran the Salt Lake half marathon – my fourth road half marathon and my second time running this particular race – and it went pretty well (1.43.43 – how great is that  43-43?).

But first, I have a confession to make. Last Sunday I did my last long run of this training cycle and it went pretty well. On Monday I woke up and OMG I could barely walk. My knees were crazy sore – sharpy stabbing pain – the exact kind you don’t ever want to feel and especially less than a week before your half marathon. In fact, I had prepared a post about my goals for the half (sub 1.45 was my dream goal) but I never published it mostly because I was freaking out that I wouldn’t even make it to the start line.

By Tuesday, I was feeling a lot better. Still sore around my knee and in my left quad. I decided to try it out on the treadmill and made it exactly 3 miles before I had to call it quits. My knee felt like it was going to buckle underneath me and I was praying for a miracle. I didn’t run again for the rest of the week and was icing and Ibuprofen-ing like a maniac. I was seriously contemplating dropping out.

By Friday I was feeling a lot better – still tender around my knee and something weird going on with my quad but I decided I would at least pick up my bib. I went to bed – after a couple of glasses of wine – not sure if I would be running a half the next day.

But as you can guess, I ended up running. I’m still not sure if it was the right decision or not – the next few days will tell. Right now I’m in the grips of post-race muscle pain. And I would never advise anyone else to make this decision. I guess it’s crazy runner logic. Do as I say guys not as I do.

Saturday morning I was feeling OK. I was pretty nervous and this time I wasn’t worried about my finish time but I was seriously worried about seriously injurying myself and having to be hauled off  by the medics. I know – not a smart move. Don’t ever do this.

The race start is a 15 minute drive from my house and had a ton of free parking. I got there and had a Gu in my car (Salted Caramel) – how glamorous – before making my way to the start area. They had plenty of porta-potties and a great bag drop area. It was just under 40F and pretty chilly. I decided to wear a long sleeve top and shorts (no gloves) and FREE photos to come this week. With 10 minutes to go I dropped my stuff and headed to the corrals. This year they had set up corrals by estimated finish time. I was in corral B and it seemed to me that it worked out pretty well. The 1.45 pacer was hanging out in the corral and I decided that I would run with him for a while.

The race began at 7 am and off I went – following my pacer. He was really great. Super friendly and chatty (and in the middle of training for an ironman). It was pretty nice not to worry about pacing. In fact I don’t think I looked at my watch until mile 3. This first portion went pretty quick. He told us before hand that he would be running a little under goal pace to start as the first third is net downhill. So that’s what we did – 7:55, 7:59, 7:12 (156 ft drop in this mile), 7:46. 7:56. I was feeling pretty good. Running with a pacer made sure that I reigned in the pace at the start. My legs were feeling pretty achy on the downhill. Not as bad as my previous run on Tuesday but not great. But I made the smart decision of just ignoring any pain. By this time I was pretty certain that my leg wouldn’t explode so I made the decision to leave the pacer behind and try to keep my pace close to 7.55.

The next couple of miles are pretty interesting. There is a mile long gradual uphill followed by a slightly downhill portion and then a b*tch of a short but steep climb. I ran by feel and hoped for the best (smart race strategy, right?). They ticked by in 7:59, 7:41, 8:06. The rest of the race is flat or slightly downhill. After an hour, I had a Gu – chocolate coconut which I thought tasted like German chocolate cake. I also passed the split for the full and was so glad I only signed up for 13.1.

My longest training run had been 10 miles and that really showed in the last couple of miles. My lack of endurance was really telling. It was tough. Mentally tough. My legs could do the work but I had to convince my mind that it was possible. Doing some math I figured I could finish sub 1.45 if I kept my pace around 8 minute miles so that was my goal. Miles 9-13 were 7:55, 7:56, 7:47, 8:04 and 7:57. I turned a corner and saw the finish line and it felt like it took forever to get there. I crossed the line in 1.43.43 and was pretty happy. Well most of me. My calves and quads were super tight. After I picked up my free pancake (yum!) I headed over for a free postrace massage (would recommend after every race). I was sore but pleasantly surprised that I had made it in one piece and withing my goal time. I really enjoy this race – the course is challenging not like most of Utah races which are usually totally downhill through our picturesque canyons.

IMG_20160416_200447Then it was time to recover with all the food (and wine). And remember how painful it feels when you give it your all during a race. It has to stop hurting eventually, right?

Half marathon training Week 11

Less than a week to go until half marathon number 5. It’s really happening. Gulp!

Last week I had a great confidence-boosting 15K race and this week was mostly trying to keep that momentum without aggravating my mortal enemy i.e. my left leg which has been bothering me since January.

Sunday: 30 mins on the stationary bike – a little over 7 miles. Since I’ve cut back on my running days I’ve added some easy biking in place of recovery runs. Low setting and taking it really easy but a great way to get the legs moving after some hard workouts. On Sunday, I decided to do some extra strength works and boy was I (and particularly my a$$) feeling it for the next couple of days.

Monday: 6 miles at 9.13 pace. Treadmill again. Spending all of this time running indoors has let me catch up with the Gilmore Girls. I never watched this when it was on tv but I am totally digging it. I only watch it while doing cardio at the gym so it’s extra motivation to get those treadmill and bike miles done.

Tuesday: 30 mins on the bike and some strength work – mostly legs and core. Working on keeping those hips and glutes strong.

Wednesday: Last real workout of this training cycle. 7.3 mile progression run starting at 8.34 and finishing the last 0.3 miles at 7.47 pace. Felt tough but not impossible. Boy, am I a sweaty mess during these runs – I’m continuously surprised at how much liquid ends up on the treadmill. Yuck!

Thursday: Rest!

Friday: 6.7 miles at 8.34. Solid run. The only downside was some slight pain in my peroneal tendon (the one on the outside of the ankle) on my – of course – left leg. Over the past couple of months I’ve had a bone and muscle injury in this leg so it seems fitting that my tendons get in on the action. It’s more of a mild irritation and I’m hopeful that I can get to the starting line in one piece and then take some time off. #RunnerLogic.

Saturday: 3o mins on the bike plus some core and strength work. This even included some arm stuff. And a rare moment in the gym where I was actually admiring my own legs. Usually, working out in front of the mirror is a checklist in what I would like to improve in my physique so it was nice to feel some positive vibes.

Sunday: 10 miles at 8.47 pace. Last long run of this cycle. 8 miles on the half marathon course and it felt great. 700ft loss in elevation – woohoo! – but also 350 ft in gain. It felt great and I felt so ready to run this race. The only downside was a reappearance of that peroneal pain (boo!). Lots of stretching, rolling and icing (plus some ibuprofen) to get me ready for that start line.

On the schedule for this week – two short easy runs and then showtime.

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When it’s good it’s really really good

Most half marathon training cycles are a tumultuous mix of highs and lows. This time around the lows have definitely outnumbered the highs. Stress response in my left lower leg, re-tweaking of my left calf and general not weirdness in SLL AKA stupid left leg. BUT I have been able to run (albeit with more breaks than I would like) and after last weeks 10 miler I was pretty confident that I could finish the Salt Lake half marathon on April 16th. But part of me – the obnoxious, competitive side – wanted to figure out a realistic goal pace for the race. Lucky for me, this weekend was the last in the RUNSLC series – a 15k that I wanted to use as a tune-up for the big 13.1 in two weeks.

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I’ve really enjoyed this race series (5K and 10K reports here and here) – for one they managed to find the only flat 9 mile section in Salt Lake. But it’s also well-organized, low key and a great motivator for early spring training. Plus, sprinkle-covered donut holes at the finish. The 15K also covers about 3-4 miles of the half marathon course.

Going into the race my goal was to race strong. At the 10K I went out too fast and felt so awful for the last two miles – I did not want that to happen again and have a much longer sufferfest. I wanted to start off conservatively/sensibly/who am I kidding I just picked a random number at 7.55-8.05 min pace and see if I could maintain it for 9 miles. The race started at 8 am with beautiful weather (sunny, blue sky and 40F).

The first three miles were pretty solid (7.57/8.07/8.02) and I was feeling good. This was the exact opposite of the 10K, where a quarter mile in I knew that I was not going to have a good day. One thing that freaked me out was I felt like the whole world was passing me out in that first mile and part of me started to panic. But then I had a little word with myself and decided to concentrate on my own race but it took some convincing not too run “just a little faster” to catch up. 9 miles is a long way.

By the end of mile three, the race had settled down. I could see a couple of women ahead of me and decided that I would try and catch them by the end of the race. This started six miles of a near perfect progression run (7.56/7.50/7.40/7.37/7.39/7.36). At the halfway point I was 11th woman (it’s an out-and-back so pretty easy to see who’s in front of you) and ended up finishing as 7th (28 overall; 3rd in my age group – dam 30-34 is super competitive). Catching up to and passing those other women was such a confidence booster – I did mention my obnoxious, competitive side earlier, right?

This was the first time in the series where I actually sped up at the finish – and this was captured by my husband who cheered (along with our dog Sophie) at two points on the course. Usually, I am just hanging on at the end and have not extra energy for a last push but this time it really was my day. I ended up finishing in 1:10:23 (7.49 pace) – pretty much the same pace (7.46) as my 10K race 4 weeks ago.

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This race was just amazing. I felt strong. Nothing hurt (besides my lungs at the end LOL!). I paced well. I ran a negative split. My last mile was the fastest. It was a total redemption race and made me excited – and not terrified – for my half marathon. It was everything you could ask for in a race. Well except for being 15K – it was only 9 miles long. Oh well.

OMG I’m running a half marathon in 18 days

To say that this half marathon training cycle has been less than ideal would be a total understatement. I’m just about 10 weeks in and so far I’ve managed to miss 2 weeks due to a stress response in my left shin and another week with a sore calf muscle – same leg. So that’s probably not the best way to prepare for running 13.1 miles. Oh well. I can’t back out there are pancakes at the end. Pancakes.

Last time I checked in I had successfully run a longish run – 8.75 miles of awesome feeling running. The new plan was to run every other day and start lighting candles to the patron saint of running miracles. Well, the good news is that I’m still running. The better news is that I have finally gotten around to watching the Gilmore Girls during my treadmill runs and it is awesome. The less good news is that I still don’t feel right. It’s a little hard to explain. Some days my calf will be a little tight. Other days I think I’m fine but still feel a little off and I’m not sure if that is my head expecting to fell sore or actual discomfort. Oy! Overthinking  is not helping.

So what’s been happening?

Monday 3/21: 6 miles at 8.35 pace on the treadmill

Tuesday 3/22: 7 miles on the stationary bike with some strength work.

Wednesday 3/23: 6.5 miles progression run on the treadmill starting at 8.35 and finishing a 7.55. BTW this run felt amazing.

Thursday 3/24: Rest

Friday 3/25: 6 miles at 9.13 pace.

Saturday 3/26: Some light strength work.

Sunday 3/27: 10 miles outside at 8.36 pace.

Monday 3/28: Rest

Tuesday 3/29: 7 mile progression run on the treadmill starting at 8.35 and finishing at 7.55.

Wednesday 3/30. 7.45 miles on the bike and some core/leg work.

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So that 10 miler…..it went pretty well. A few aches and a little discomfort but nothing short and stabby (which is my signal to stop ASAP). My husband dropped me on the actual half marathon course and I followed it for 8 miles. The course is pretty fun to run. It starts with a short but steep uphill (which I skipped for this run) and then it’s pretty much downhill until mile 5. And I mean a fast downhill – I managed one mile at 8.08 pace without really trying. There is a mile of gradual climb before another slight downhill section and the last quarter mile steep section just before mile 8. Then it’s flattish until the finish. I like the variation – it keeps things interesting but I think it would be pretty hard to run this as a negative split.

I was pretty happy to hit double digits now that my half marathon is just 18 days away. Holy crap! But first, I have to finish a 15K. This will be the last in the tune-up series and will be my long run for the weekend. It will also give me a pretty good idea of a time goal for the half. I just hope my left leg cooperates. Fingers crossed.