Half marathon number 6!

……..is in two days!

I’ve delayed writing this post mainly because I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the starting line but (fingers crossed) I think it might actually be happening.

So a little rewind. I ran my first double digit run since April on October 2nd and it felt pretty good. A lot of it was on the half marathon course and I was starting to get excited about doing my first race in forever. The next day I woke up to calf pain. The usual suspect: left leg and I immediately knew that I had overdone it. I’m still working to strengthen and increase the mobility of this leg and when I do too much it comes out as muscle pain. This time: super tight calves. I took it easy on my runs afterwards and was feeling fine by Friday so I attempted my longest tempo run in a while -> 7 miles. This was honestly one of the best runs I’ve had in a long time. Most of it was on the half marathon course which follows a pretty steady decline. It felt easy and natural and I was on a total runner’s high.

Monday October 3rd: Rest

Tuesday October 4th: 4 miles easy @ 9.22 pace. Average HR 141 bpm.

Wednesday October 5th: 5.1 miles @ 9.05 pace. Average HR 150 bpm.

Thursday October 6th: Rest.

Friday October 7th: 7 mile tempo. 1 mile @ 8.25; 5 miles @ 7.41; 1 mile @ 8.56. Average HR 162 bpm.

Saturday October 8th: Rest.

Sunday October 9th: 11.7 miles @ 8.45 pace. Average HR 150 bpm.

I knew just a couple of miles into this run that my calf was not going to be happy. I took it pretty easy (did I mention that it’s almost completely downhill). My first mile at 9 minutes flat and everything else between 8.41-8.47. But my body was rebelling. Too much too soon. The worst/best part was that I had a PT session scheduled for the following Tuesday where I would have to tell her I was an idiot and then get my calf poked by some needles.

Monday October 10th: Rest.

Tuesday October 11th: 4 miles @ 9.13 pace. Average HR 148 bpm.

I wanted to test out my legs before my appointment and it was ok. Not a strain but still working those muscles too hard. At my appointment I straight up told her that I overloaded my calf and hurt myself. We laughed. And then the needles came out. Basically, my muscles were too tight and needed to relax. The answer to this is to stick a needle in the biggest knot we could find and then send electrical pulses into the muscle to help it relax. I would describe dry needling as a little unpleasant – not super painful – and a little weird because your muscle will contract involuntary and this feels different for every needle placement. The first time I had it done I didn’t think it helped but this time I felt a little better almost straightaway and a week or so later am feeling just fine.

Honestly, I thought my PT was going to tell me to drop out of the race but she said I could still do it. I should just shorten my scheduled long run and stop if I needed to. I then got to graduate PT. No more appointments. Just keep working on stretching that hip and strengthening those external rotating muscles.

Wednesday October 12th: 5 mile progression -> 9.42, 8.59, 8.48, 8.32, 8.11. Average HR 153 bpm.

Thursday October 13th: Work trip to Zion National Park. Yes – there are some perks to living in Utah. We got to do a quick hike in Bryce National Park on the way to our accommodation.

Friday October 14th: 3 miles @ 10.04 pace. Average HR 152 bpm.

So many hills – about 400 f t worth and at 6500 ft above sea level. But that was just a warm-up to sprinting around at paintball.

Saturday October 15th: Hike in Zion National Park. Observer Point.

Sunday October 16th: 7.1 miles tempo. 2 miles @ 8.55 pace. 3 miles @ 7.59 pace. 2 miles at 9.08 pace. Average HR 163 bpm.

This run was no bueno. Between traveling, long days and almost no sleepĀ  I was so incredibly tired. I was working hard for no so stellar times. I guess it was obligatory bad training run.

Monday October 17th: Rest

Tuesday October 18th: 4 miles @ 9.13 pace. Average HR 141 bpm.

When I finished this run I figured it was an unremarkable run, but on my way to the bus to get to work my feet suddenly started hurting like a mofo. What the hell happened? I still don’t quite know. It was some acute onset plantar fascitis pain and I started to freak out that this race was not going to happen. I rolled my feet, iced and stretched my calves, and decided to switch my last run to Thursday. And then prayed for a miracle.

Wednesday October 19th: Rest.

Thursday October 20th: 3 miles @ 9.07 pace. Average HR 141 bpm.

And amazingly it pretty much resolved itself over the last couple of days. I guess it was a case of the tapers taking it out on me.

Friday October 21st: Rest.

Saturday October 22nd: Race day!

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling with injury for a large portion of the year and my training has been nowhere near what I wanted. It’s hard to know what to expect from this race. My last half was back in April and I think I was in similar shape (although I had to rest for the complete week before my race due to a sore leg) and ran a tougher course in 1.43. So maybe close to that? Honestly, I have no idea. All I know is that I’m really looking forward to racing and eating some pizza at the end.

Wish me luck!

 

Belgium

After visiting family and friends in Ireland we wanted to spend a week in Europe to fully relax and unwind. For this trip we decided to base ourselves in Ghent, Belgium. My husband is a huge beer fan and I wanted to check out some of the cities and eat moules-frites and waffles. Here are some of our highlights.

Bruges: F*cking Bruges! A beautifully preserved city where we had the most amazing mussels. Super busy in August but worth the trip – it’s a 25 minute train ride from Ghent.

Brussels: We had visited Brussels before when we lived in Scotland but my husband’s favorite brewery was there (Cantillon) so we had to go back. We visited the Grand Place which is always amazing and includes the Belgian Brewers Guild (just for the die-hards). Comics are really big in Belgium and there was a ton of really cool street art.

Ghent: We stayed in an Airbnb right in the historic center of Ghent. It was easy to walk around the tourist area – to bars, a random music festival, restaurants and the sights. We got a city pass that included bike rental and we made like the locals and headed out along the canals into the countryside. I can’t emphasize enough how absolutely everyone uses a bike to get around. It was so cool to see.

Originally, Belgium wasn’t my first choice but I am so glad we went. The towns were so pretty, the beer was amazing, we had some great food and were able to completely relax after the craziness of visiting our families.

Almost.

First of all, it’s our one year adopt-iversary of this girl. She is now a whopping 50 lbs and full of personality.

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The recovery is continuing. My left leg is feeling great and I think my right Achilles is following. It’s still stiff in the morning but slowly improving. A little uncomfortable when running but totally manageable. I even managed to get up to 79 miles for the month which is my second third highest for the year. I think in a few weeks I might – GASP – be injury free! What a miracle that would be.

Monday: Rest.

We had tickets to Sigur Ros. Last time we saw them in a giant stadium in Denver. This time it was a small theater and they played from 8.30 to 11.00 with a short intermission. It was amazing – so uplifting, ethereal and soul-lifting. Amazing! So glad I managed to stay up past my bedtime.

Tuesday: 3.6 miles @9.32 pace. Average HR 147 bpm. Bile commute to work 11 miles roundtrip.

Easy run with the pup. But man, is it dark in the mornings these days. Headlamps for the whole run, and sunrise is 7.15 am or later. Fall is here.

Wednesday: 4.75 miles @ 8.37 pace. Average HR 160 bpm.

You can tell from my heart rate that this was a tough one. I just couldn’t get my legs moving and it just felt so hard. Oh well, I just chalked it up to a bad day and tried to forget about it.

Thursday: Gym day.

Arms and legs. I’m trying to get to the gym twice a week to work on strength. Luckily, I an walk over at lunchtime and get some time in during my break. And thank God, the DOMS is not so bad this week. It’s also a good dose of inspiration when I see those kick-ass ladies killing it in their workouts.

Friday: Tempo. 1 mile w/up, 4 @ 7.42 pace (7.44/7.46/7.39/7.39) 1 mile c/down. Average HR 163 bpm.

My second tempo with 3.5 miles on my half marathon course and all of it with elevation loss. It felt tough but manageable – I guess how a tempo should feel? I am still trying to gauge my fitness after all my injury setbacks. I feel like I’m getting back in shape. My resting heart rate is going down, my VO2 max reading on my Garmin is tracking up, I feel like I’m getting leaner. All good things! But my endurance – well I’m still working on that.

Saturday: Gym day.

Arms, legs and core. Friday we had some beers with friends. That did not translate into a productive Saturday. I did make it to the gym later in the afternoon but it was touch and go for a while.

Sunday: 10.45 miles @ 8.42 pace. Average HR 154 bpm.

I had my husband drop my up Emigration Canyon so that I could 10 miles home – 7 miles of those on the half marathon course. My legs were feeling a little heavy from a combination of my tempo run and gym workout but I felt strong on my first double digit run since April. This course is super fast and made to set a PR – although not for me this year but maybe next time.

The run was beautiful – the fall colors are spectacular right now. Although hearing the howls of coyotes did freak me out, as did seeing a dead snake on the side of the road (it took me a second to realize that it was dead). I’m getting really excited about this race – and not just about the pizza at the end. I guess I’m excited that I’ll actually get to run it.

Weekly total: 24.8 miles

Good news, better news and a cold hard fact

Good news! My PT doesn’t want to see me again. I’m symptom free for my hip adductor, and my external rotation is – well, not exactly in the normal ranger – in the “normal for Sarah” range. I’ve been doing hip stretches for months and they are finally opening up a little more. Imagine lying on your stomach with your lower legs perpendicular to the floor. Your legs should flop over to each side. For a normal person, your legs can flop inwards to an angle of about 45 degrees – this is a measure of your external rotation. When I first came in my measurements were in the teens with a huge difference between my right and left legs. Last week both were around 30 degrees. Progression! But – cold hard fact time – this reduced rotation (which is probably due to my anatomy) is going to be an issue for me forever, and I am more likely to get injured because of it – specifically over-loading muscles to compensate. That was not awesome to hear but that’s how it is. I will have to work on it as long as I want to continue running.

The other good news: I correctly diagnosed myself with an Achilles problem. I talked to my PT about it and learned some stretches to work on (eccentric heel drops) and to avoid hills for a while. But, and I’m quoting here, this is the one kind of injury that you can run through. What? Ok! As long as the pain stays low and is improving then you can keep running. So that’s what I’ve been doing. It is improving, albeit very slowly – and it can take up to three months to completely heal. I do have an appointment set up for October but if I’m feeling ok I have the go-ahead to cancel it.

Side note: Graston on tight calves hurts like a mofo.

Monday: 3.5 miles @ 9.03 pace. HR: 149 bpm. Bike commute to work 11 miles round trip.

Nice and easy run with the pup to start the week. Although she wanted to stop and smell everything!

Tuesday: Bike commute to work 11 miles round trip. PT appointment.

Wednesday: 4.75 miles @ 8.57 pace. HR: 155 bpm. Bike commute to work 11 miles round trip.

Another early morning run with the pup. My first mile in the mornings is always significantly slower than the rest. I guess it’s figuring out why we’re running in the dark at 6 am instead of staying in bed.

Thursday: Rest.

We had a big storm rolling in to the valley on Thursday so I decided to drive to work and take it easy. And find my fall boots – it’s been a while.

Friday: 5.5 miles @ 8.04 pace. HR: 161 bpm.

It was supposed to rain all day Friday, so originally I planned to hit the treadmill after work but I just couldn’t face being cooped up in the gym. Plus, there was a football game on campus and traffic was going to be a mess. So I braved the rain and decided I would run home. This would give me another chance to practice on a small section of my half marathon course. And I’m Irish – I’m used to rain. My husband was planning on pacing his friend later that day for about 30 miles of a 100 mile race in the rain and snow so I figured I could run for 45ish minutes in a light drizzle. The rain also resulted in this being an impromptu tempo run -> 8.38/7.54/7.42/7.40/8.33. These are the first sub 8 minute miles I’ve ran since my Parkrun 5K back in August so that was a nice confidence boost – although there was a lot of elevation loss (without having gained it first) so it felt a little like cheating. Hopefully, I can get a couple more tempo-style runs in before the race on October 22nd.

Saturday: Gym day! Arms, core and PT exercises.

Sunday: 8.9 miles @ 8.49 pace. HR: 157 bpm.

The storm really cooled down temperatures here in SLC so this was a pretty pleasant run. I tried to keep it as flat as possible – which is actually pretty difficult here in Salt Lake. The route I chose “only” had an elevation gain of 270 ft, but 120 ft of that was in mile 8 so that was a little tough. Oh and I had weird stomach issues and – hopefully not TMI – but I had to sprint home to make it to the bathroom. This is a new one for me. Usually, my stomach is pretty solid and I’ve never had problems in any of my long runs before. I’m hoping it was a one-off but it was not pleasant.

Weekly total: 22.65 miles.

Tempos: love them or hate them?

How flat/hilly is your city?

 

 

Reality check

I feel like this year has been like a horror movie. Every time I think I’ve slain the bad guy BAM he’s back from the dead and just not giving up. Ugh!

Flash back to April this year when I strain my hip adductor. The road to recovery on this one has been long and probably a little more holistic than I’ve experienced before. The muscle injury was just a symptom of the underlying problem: poor flexibility and mobility. So I’ve been working on that for a while and progress has been slow. Well, slower than I would have liked. I’d have a couple of great weeks then SURPRISE my adductor wants to have some cutback weeks. And while not quite back to square one, it felt pretty close.

Then BOO! I managed to tweak my right Achilles and then wore some trail shoes that cut the back of my feet really badly so I could no longer tell if it was my gaping wound (slight exaggeration) or tendon that was hurting. Turns out it’s the tendon. Luckily, I’m seeing my PT on Tuesday and will get her advice on how to work through it (she’s a pro running-if-you-can PT).

But I’m still getting runs in and need to think big picture. So, pity party dismissed and here’s what happened this week.

Monday: 3.1 miles @ 9.57 pace. Easy recovery. HR 140 bpm. Bike commute 11 miles round trip.

Tuesday: Bike commute 11 miles round trip.

Wednesday: 4.1 miles @ 10.16 pace. Trail run. HR 156 bpm. Elevation gain 430 ft. Bike commute 11 miles round trip.

The same route I did last week but Oh My God I thought I was going to die. Usually, when I run this trail I drive to work (it’s right by my office building). This time I biked to work and then two hours later I went out to run. Bad idea. My legs were just not ready. My calves were burning and I had to stop to stretch them out – which has never happened to me before but seemed to help. I also had to walk up some uphill sections that I usually run up. It was all a bit demoralizing. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

Thursday: Run commute home from work. 5.5 miles @ 8.35 pace. HR 153 bpm. Elevation loss 590 ft.

I am signed up for a half marathon at the end of October that comes down one of our canyons and finishes about a mile from my house – with pizza! It’s mostly downhill so I thought I’d get some practice runs in over the next few weeks. This was nice and easy – although a little warmer than I’m used to – and I got to wear my vest so I looked totally legit!

Friday: Bike commute 11 miles round trip.

Saturday: 7.5 miles @ 9.02 pace. Long. HR 163 bpm. Elevation gain 240 ft. Bouldering.

I ran around some of my old stomping grounds on a beautiful Saturday morning. But this felt a little harder than I would have liked. But good to finish the week with 20.2 miles of running and 44 miles of biking. I also had my first trip to a climbing gym in forever. It was so fun and reminded my how much I enjoyed figuring out those climbing problems.

Sunday: Gym! After realizing my complete lack of upper body strength at the climbing gym, I headed to the regular gym for a whole body workout and it felt great. We’ll see how tomorrow goes LOL!

About that half marathon……

The Revel Big Cottonwood half marathon was on Saturday. Conditions were perfect – blue skies, sunshine but not too hot. And I was in bed. Deferred til next year. Sigh.

This is a fast course and a race that I’ve heard great things about – free race photos, nice t-shirts and a scenic course. But I sat it out.

I saw my PT two days after I got back from vacation and while my hip flexibility had improved (despite me mostly forgetting about them while in Europe; beer/chocoloate/sightseeing/friends >>>> PT exercises) I still wasn’t ready for 13.1 miles. In fact, I was sure that if I ran the race I would land straight back at square one and I was not about to let that happen. She then massaged my right leg – hip adductors to be precise. One of those massages that hurts but in the right way.

And then something switched. That pesky leg has not bothered me at all since my appointment. In fact, running has felt great. Certainly, not all rainbows and unicorns – a little niggle here and there – but I’ve felt strong and and am enjoying every second.

This past week I’ve managed 18.3 miles.

Tuesday: 4.1 miles @ 8.52 pace

Wednesday: 4.1 miles @ 9.32 pace

Friday: 4 miles @ 10.07 pace

Sunday: 6.1 miles @ 9.21 pace

It’s a start. Well, I hope it’s THE start of my long-awaited comeback.

There’s a couple of things that I’m doing to help myself.

Taking it easy: I’ll admit that I have an ego about my running times. I don’t want to run a half marathon just to finish. I want a “good” time. And in the past that has crept into my training runs. I never wanted to see a “slow” mile. I should always be getting faster, right? Recently, I’ve been reading more and heart rate training, and how you should be running most of your miles in the easy/aerobic zone to get a better base. So here I am, telling myself to actually take it easy and monitoring my heart rate (average of 149-159 bpm for runs this past week).

Releasing the pressure: Following on from taking it slow, I’ve been trying to enjoy my runs. During the week, I run with my dog, which is always an adventure – basically trying to avoid having her trip me up. I also decided it was time to find a trail. This may have been a little over-enthusiastic as my calves were bitching at me after my run on Friday. But it felt so great to get on those familiar trails looking over the whole valley and taking in the view. One thing that has come easily to me this year, is an appreciation of having a strong body that can do things. That is a gift.

Cross-training: This summer I have been biking into work almost everyday – about 11 miles return. It’s a great way to clear my head and get ready for the day plus I get to avoid the parking nightmare at work. It’s tough – about 600ft climb on the way in but a nice and easy glide home. But I think it’s been paying off. My trail run had about 370 ft of climbing and normally the first time back kills me. Not this time. My legs were up to it which was pretty nice payback after all those rides on 90+ weather.

New shoes: I have a weird obsession with buying running shoes when I physically can’t run. This time I bought four (I know! but they were on sale….well mostly). I had been running in Brooks PureCadence (4 mm drop) for the last three years so I wanted to try version four and I do not love them. They just don’t feel right. So I’m hopping off the Brooks train.

I got fitted at my local running store and came back with a pair of Adidas Energy Boost (8 mm drop) and I love them! They feel so comfortable. A little stiffer sole than the Brooks but such a smooth ride and super cute. These are my go-to for longer runs.

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They are cuter in person. The upper is stitched, seamless fabric.

I’ve also used this time to transition to zero drop shoes. Altra is from Utah and my husband swears by them (Fun fact: he met the founder in a half marathon in Utah about 5 years ago after they both finished in the top five). And so far so good. Although, I did my first trail run them and my calves were super achey afterwards but look at them! They’re beautiful and have the most amazing lugs.

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And finally, I tried out the Nike Free RN Distance which are hands down the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn. I’m still not completely confident that they will hold up for longer distances but they feel like clouds (and come in gorgeous colors).

Hopefully, I’ll be putting miles on all of them soon.

View of the islands in Clew Bay.

I’m back! And Ireland highlights.

Where did the summer go? We’ve been back in Salt Lake for two weeks after a three week vacation in Ireland and Belgium and a quick trip up to Montana so my husband could run an ultra over Labor Day weekend.

So here’s a photo dump of the highlights of our 10 days in Ireland!

Highlight 1: Visit Dublin! Dublin gets a lot of slack for not being “Irish” enough but it’s a city full of life, good vibes and an amazing restaurant/bar/nightlife scene – although I’m a bit biased as I grew up in the suburbs and went to college in the city. It’s the anti-SLC – people everywhere, busy and so much going on. Please visit if you have the chance.

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View of the River Liffey – and an unusually sunny day in Ireland.

After a couple of days on the east coast – including my first ever Park Run – we headed to my husband’s home town in Co Clare.

Highlight 2: Get out of Dublin. If you visit Ireland you have to rent a car and get away from the cities. We headed to Killaloe and took a cruise on Lough Derg and has some amazing seafood (crab, prawns (shrimp) and smoked salmon).

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View of from the lake. Don’t let the picture fool you – it was in the 50s for almost the whole time we were there.

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As good as it looks.

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NBD – just the ancient church in the town. I think it’s from the 1500s.

FYI: Irish cuisine has improved SO much! Growing up it was pretty bland but now they have embraced the quality ingredients that are available especially sea food.

Highlight 3: Westport! Luckily, we happened to be in Ireland for my birthday this year and I decided I wanted to take a trip to Westport, Co Mayo, which is on the west coast – right on the Atlantic. It is famous for being close to Croagh Patrick – Ireland’s holy mountain. Legend has it that St Patrick spend 40 days and nights at the top of this mountain during his time here and every year you can climb the mountain as part of a pilgrimage (hardcore pilgrims do it barefoot).

The trail is about 6 miles outside of town and is about 2500 ft in elevation gain with the last section being steep and full of talus, but the views (if you get them) are worth it.

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View of the islands in Clew Bay.

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Church at the top.

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View out to the Atlantic.

Highlight 4: Achill. A short drive outside Westport is the island of Achill (which can be reached by a bridge). This was historically one of the most remote and poorest parts of Ireland and is stunningly beautiful with some tragic history.

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Keem Bay. At the end of the road. People were actually snorkeling in the bay.

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A deserted village.

Highlight 5: Kylemore Abbey. We took the scenic route back to Dublin – for a family wedding – through Connemara stopping at Kylemore Abbey. A castle and victorian walled gardens built by a man for his wife. When she died tragically young he built a miniature cathedral for her. The weather while we were visiting even upped the romanticism.

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The castle.

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The walled garden.

img_20160811_120343It was amazing acting as a tourist in my own country and of course we got to spend time with all of our family and friends.