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.

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.