Calling all New Englanders!

First of all let me ask for your help. This arrived at our house last week:

This is not mine!!!!

This is not mine!!!!

It is not mine! I have not secretly qualified for Boston and not shared it with the world – you guys would definitely be the first to know. But my husband qualified last May (with a 3.03 – husband-brag!) and we decided to splurge and make the trek over to MA. As you can guess flights from SLC -> Boston are not cheap so we are making a vacation of it. One whole week out east. Are plans for Sunday and Monday are pretty much wrapped up in picking up his bib and getting to the finish line. But after that? And because of the crazy winter weather that I’ve been hearing about for the last couple of months it seems as if we haven’t picked the ideal time to visit……

Anyway we are thinking of driving down to Cape Cod and checking out some of the towns there (maybe all the way to Provincetown and some whale watching?) and then heading up north to Maine (for important craft beer research in Portland). So if you live near Boston could you share any travel tips? Portland is a definite but other than that we are pretty flexible. Most important: seafood, microbreweries and ocean views. And just how bad is the snow right now? Is it starting to melt at all? Do I need to find my down coat (it is 80F today in SLC so my winter clothes are out of rotation)?

I also wanted to talk a little about my injury. Today marks 5 weeks since my last physiotherapist appointment at which I was told I should start to be running symptom free any day now (4-6 weeks recovery). My recovery has probably been slowed a little by my decision to run the Canyonlands half marathon a couple of weeks ago (not PT-recommended) but I am pretty happy with that judgement call. The truth is that my running is symptom free right now. I can still feel tightness in my calf on most runs (which is better than (1) sharp pain or (2) dull ache) so I am still waiting for that hallelujah pain-free run. But what has improved drastically is my recovery.

At the start of my rehab I was doing 3-4 miles of run-walking. My calf was sore during the run, after the run and the next day. Running two days in a row was totally out of the question. Now, it is tight during the run, and this tightness usually lasts for 2-3 hours afterward, but I am feeling fine by the afternoon and completely recovered by the following day. So while I can’t claim to be 100% recovered right now I can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel. I also am free of random calf pains during the day (going up stairs or pushing off on my bike) and I am feeling NORMAL again. Woohoo! It only took about 2 months.

My positives right now are:

1. I can run without needing walk breaks.

2. My endurance is still pretty good (I managed 15 miles this past weekend – more on that later in the week)

3. My mood is 100% improved. Runners’ high all of the time.

4. I am now ready to introduce another day of running (4 days per week).

Nuun and egg/avocado sandwiches - long runs are back!

Nuun and egg/avocado sandwiches – long runs are back!

The only negatives:

1. No speed work at all. All runs are at an easy pace. I’m not too worried – I believe that speed will return with mileage.

2. No trail running. Calves + Hills = pain! Hopefully in the next month I’ll be able to remedy this.

 

But right now I’ll take what I can get!

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Running favorites

The lovely Charissa at Charissa Running tagged me to answer a couple of questions about my running favorites. So here goes…..

1) Location: Trail, Road, or Indoors?

Hmmm…….it has to trails. No cars. No traffic lights. Beautiful views and no pressure to do anything but enjoy being outside. My two favorite runs last year were both on trails: at Dead Horse State Park and in Great Basin National Park. The only downside is my overactive imagination and irrational fear of coming across a rattlesnake.

2) Time of Day: Morning, Noon, or Evening?

Morning. No question. I find it hard to get motivated to do anything after work. All I want to do is eat and hang out in my pjs. I used to think my husband was crazy for getting up at 6 AM to go running, but now I’m on board with the crazy o’clocks. Just don’t talk to me before I’ve had a chance to shower/eat breakfast.

3) Weather: Sunshine, Mild or Hot?

Mild. Hello, Irish person here. We do not do well in extreme conditions. My perfect running temps are 50s and overcast. But I can’t lie sometimes I just want to run in the sunshine but that gets pretty old once the sweat gets in my eyes (it stings!).

4) Fuel: Before, After, and sometimes during?

If I’m running less than 10 miles I don’t eat anything beforehand. My stomach just can’t handle that.  This is also my limit for bringing a gel with me. If its 14+ I will try to eat something beforehand – usually a Nature Valley granola bar or toast with cookie butter. Last summer I was bringing Nuun with me for runs but I realized they were not great for my stomach so now I just bring water. And afterwards – chocolate milk!

5) Accessories: Music, Watch & More?

Watch. Hat (always – see being Irish). Road ID. And water bottle.

6) Rewards: Food, Wine, or …?

Food. Food. Food. My ideal is a giant brunch cooked my someone else – and preferably of the egg variety: Benedict, breakfast burrito, scramble. And always avocados.

7) Type of run: Long, tempo, intervals, hill repeats, progression, or recovery/easy?

For my marathon training cycle my favorite type of run was my midweek tempos. They were the runs were I was nervous before leaving the house and worried that I wouldn’t make my paces. But they were also the ones were I felt strong – almost invincible. If I could run 9 miles at 7.45 min pace before breakfast then there was nothing that I couldn’t do that day.

Bonus: Running photos from Saturday’s half marathon. They actually look pretty good (surprisingly).

Mile 5. And I've finally learned to spot photographers!

Mile 5. And I’ve finally learned to spot photographers!

I think this is at the finish. And I feel that this photo doesn't adequately convey how much hurt I was feeling at the time.

I think this is at the finish. And I feel that this photo doesn’t adequately convey how much hurt I was feeling at the time.

And now I get to tag 7 other bloggers. Apologies if you’ve already done it or been tagged by a bajillion other people:

http://runningonhealthy.com/

http://shesgoingthedistance.com/

https://boringbroadruns.wordpress.com/

http://www.themilereport.com/

http://bayrunnerjamie.com/

https://runawaywithkristenk.wordpress.com/

http://pipersrun.com/

Upheaval Dome hike

I wasn’t sure how I would feel the day after my half marathon but I was secretly hoping that I would be have enough control of my legs to do a short hike somewhere near Moab. You can’t come to the desert and not explore. After a quick test of walking into town to try and get some coffee I decided that I was in good enough shape to tire out those legs some more. There are two national parks near Moab – Arches and Canyonlands, and Arches is definitely the popular one that everyone wants to visit. We figured Canyonlands (which is a little more out of the way) would be a little quieter and had some trails that were new to us.

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We settled on Upheaval Dome trail which is literally at the end of the road. It was a shortish hike – about 1.8 mile round trip.

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Desert flowers were out – and purple seemed to be the color of choice.

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This is the view from the first lookout. I am not a geologist but my understanding is that scientists don’t quite understand how all of that grey rock got to be there. Not the prettiest view but if you’re into geology it probably rocks your world (#sorrynotsorry).

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I’ve been in Utah for 5 (!) years now and I still am mesmerized by the red rock desert views. The trail continued on to the second viewpoint and got a little more gnarly (I don’t think I’d recommend it for young children). The trail was marked with cairns but it was kind of shocking to me how people were ignoring the obvious route to walk down some pretty steep slickrock. I mean they the NPS literally carved steps into the stone to make it easier (and safer) for everyone.

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Viewpoint two had guardrails so you know it was super dangerous. And we got another view of the mysterious grey rock.

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It was nice to get my legs moving before we hit the road for the 4 hour drive home. See you soon Moab!

Race recap: Canyonlands Half Marathon

Yes you read that right – a half marathon. And I know it sounds crazy – considering my limited running over, well, pretty much the whole of 2015. So let’s rewind and figure out why I thought that this was a good idea.

I was given the all-clear to run back on February 18th so I started a run-walk program – doing 30 minute workouts and gradually building up the percentage of running vs walking. I did manage a long “run” of 5.15 miles, followed by 7.5 miles the next weekend. Then my first race of the year – the RUN SLC 10K. This was actually the first non-stop run since my injury setback. The next week was a little rough – my calf was a little stiff but after an extra rest day I was feeling pretty well recovered – and still taking regular walk breaks to keep things nice and easy.

I think that I mentioned previously that the Canyonlands half marathon had a five mile option that I could switch to at packet pick-up. And originally that was the plan. Because that would be the smart thing to do. But I reasoned that if I could survive a longish run the weekend before the race then I would stick with the half marathon distance. And I survived 10.5 miles of mostly running. Still with breaks. It was tough. But I made it and felt pretty good, and more importantly I recovered from it pretty quickly. As the week progressed I was becoming more and more settled on doing the half marathon. I know a lot of you are thinking “This girl is crazy!”, and I admit I would never advise anyone else to do this. And if it turns around and bites me in the ass in the next couple of months feel free to call me out on it.

So in summary my half marathon training plan went like this:

1. Pull calf muscle in January. Repeat a week later.

2. Take 4 weeks off from running.

3. Run-walk 3 times a week for 5 weeks.

4. No speedwork, tempo runs and limited long runs.

5. Volia! Half marathon ready……….

I headed down to Moab on Friday afternoon to pick up my bib and check into our condo. Moab is crazy busy on this weekend so I would definitely recommend making a reservation or renting a place with a kitchen. Pick-up was really easy – a cute t-shirt (although the sizing ran on the large side) and a reusable shopping tote that doubled as your drop bag. I feasted on pasta and beer (carb loading like a champ) and headed for an early-ish bedtime.

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The race started on Saturday at 10 AM but being Utah you had to catch a bus to the start line between 7.30-8.15 AM and hang around trying not to freeze to death. Actually, it wasn’t that cold but we were in the shade for the whole two hours. They had coffee, hot chocolate, gatorade and water, plus plenty of porta-potties. At 9.40 we had to walk to the actual race start (about 0.4 miles further up the road) and drop our bags.

I wore my arm warmers for the first time – along with a tank and shorts. I was seriously cold at the start but once we got moving I warmed up quickly and running in the sun was pretty warm. Here’s some of the footage from the race organizers showing the start. Let me say that this is a really scenic race. You basically run along the Colorado river in a beautiful red rock canyon. Any time I was starting to feel bad I would remind myself to look UP and take in the scenery and enjoy just being outside and running in such a picturesque place. The other advantage of running in a canyon is that a lot of it was run in the shade which helped keep me cool as the temperature increased.

There were plenty of water stops – every 2 miles – and a Clif shot zone halfway through. The course was pretty rolling (about 375 ft elevation gain over the course and about 450 ft drop) with one short, steep hill at mile 9.5. At mile 10.5 you left the canyon and started heading towards the town. This meant running on the shoulder of a pretty busy road which was not fun but you quickly turned into some more residential areas that were closed to traffic. The race finished at the town park where you picked up your medal, race goodies and complimentary beers. The weather was perfect for post-race beer drinking – sunny and in the 70s. And also perfect for getting my first sun burn of the year. Boo! You’d think I’d know better having the whitest skin possible.

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As for the race. Well, it went about as well as I could have hoped for considering my lack of training. I thought I could run around 1.50 so I wanted to start out around 8.20 and see how it went. I knew the last couple of miles would be tough but I gave myself permission to walk if I needed to. So here’s the mile-by-mile:

Mile 1: 8.21  Feeling pretty good.

Mile 2: 8.14

Mile 3: 8.16

Mile 4: 8.18

Mile 5: 8.11

Mile 6: 8.15

Mile 7: 8.23

The first half felt pretty comfortable. I was feeling a little hot and a little hungry (which was a pretty worrying sign so early on). During the next mile I stopped to walk and take my Gu.

Mile 8: 8.39

Mile 9: 8.21

Mile 10: 8.26

Mile 11: 8.28

Things started feeling pretty hard around this point. I was now doing all of my mental tricks to convince myself to keep going but it felt hard. Bonus: we were now completely out of the shade and running alongside some semis in single file. At this point I had to stop to walk. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do this during a half marathon but it was the right choice. Then I got myself going again and convinced my legs they could keep moving until the end.

Mile 12: 9.11

Mile 13: 8.39

Final time: 1.51.21 with an average pace of 8.30 min/mile. I managed to finish in the top 20% overall and really couldn’t have asked for better considering the circumstances. My calf was feeling fine until the last 4 miles or so, and never really got painful enough to change my gait. It felt tight afterwards and I managed to ice it at the finish area. The next day it was a little sore and hello quads! how you doing? But, if I’m being really honest it’s probably the least bad (sorry English language) I’ve felt after any of my half marathons. And I know – that doesn’t make any sense at all!

Recap: Run SLC 10K

Way back in January ie. BCS (Before Calf Strain), I signed up for a race series (5, 10 and 15K) organized by a local running story. My physiotherapist had ordered full rest so I was unable to run the 5K (I volunteered instead). But I was hoping I’d be recovered enough to try to run in the other two races of the series.

So let’s rewind to my past weeks running. I had been incorporating some run-walks over the last 3 weeks and been progressively shortening the running portion. Last Sunday I did my longest run of the year -> 7.5 miles with 5 min walking warm-up and cool-down and a little over an hour of run:walk (3 min:3 min). It went pretty well. No major pain. But it made me realize how much endurance I’ve lost over the last couple of months. During marathon training, I was able to knock out these runs pretty easily before breakfast. Now, not so much. But I did it. And was a little sore the next day. But apparently that is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern right now (doctor’s advice).

I then had two more runs during the week. I like to call them progressive runs ->basically increasing the run portion over 5 intervals (Tues: 3:3, 3.5:2.5, 4:2, 4.5:1.5, 5:1 and Thurs: 4:2, 4.5:1.5, 5:1, 5.5:.5, 6:0). By the end of the week I was able to run 6 minutes straight. So I was totally prepared for a 10K on Saturday, right???

Honestly, I went back and forth a lot about whether I should run this race at all, and how I should approach it if I did. The last thing I wanted was to set back my recovery by re-injuring myself for some random race. I didn’t make up my mind until Friday where I convinced myself that I should take it as an opportunity to push myself a little and see where my fitness and calf health are at. My aim was to finish healthy, run comfortably and ease back if I was feeling anything. It might not have been the smartest decision I’ve ever made but it was the right one for me.

So I picked up my packet on Friday night. At this race you get a mug instead of a shirt which I think is pretty cool.

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Race time was 8.00 AM and the starting line was only a 10 minute drive from my house, so I was able to sleep in until 6.30 AM, get ready (in my souvenir shirt from Twin Cities) and eat a small Lara bar (I’m pretty sure I got it as a free sample from some expo).

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I also ran my first race in my new Saucony ISO Triumphs. They are pretty bright!

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Parking was pretty easy -> plenty of spaces in a nearby residential area. The race starts and finishes at the running store.

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This is pretty cool because you can hang out in the wonderfully warm store right up until race time, and check out all the shoes and apparel you want but cannot afford.

The weather was sunny but still in the mid 30s at start time. My feet were a little cold for the first mile or so, but by the end I was feeling pretty warm (I wore my Nike running tights along with my Twin Cities long sleeve shirt).

We started right on time. It’s a pretty small race (about 300 people) and everyone had great racing etiquette by lining themselves up by race pace (no walkers at the front!), and is advertised as a flat course. I think my Garmin registered just a 60 ft gain in elevation over the whole race which for SLC is pretty amazing. It’s hard to avoid the hills around here. The course was an out and back to a park (where I do used to do my mile repeats). We did 1.5 laps of the park (it’s about 1.5 mile around) and then headed back. One interesting thing was that we had to cross the rail lines for a UTA Streetcar. On the return leg, I saw the lights go red and the streetcar pass by just in time for me to cross without having to stop.

Post-race there was water, Nuun, coffee, bagels, granola bars and some cuties. No donut holes this time! But one big plus was the free massages that were available. I’ve gotten these after my last half and full marathons and think they are amazing at getting the healing process started so I treated myself this time too. At 9.30 AM we had the awards mixed in with raffle prizes. Some lucky highschooler walked away with a $125 gift card.

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As for my race…..I wasn’t totally confident that my calf would last the full 6.2 miles. And I wasn’t sure if I would need any walk breaks. I decided to go out at a comfortable-ish pace and take a walk break if I needed to. The first 3 miles ticked by pretty nicely – and with amazingly even splits. Bonus: no sign of calf pain. Added bonus: I was racing (well kind of) and actually passing people. I guess I’d forgotten how much I enjoy that aspect of running. Added added bonus: I was running sub-8 min miles.

Mile 1: 7.51

Mile 2: 7.48

Mile 3: 7.48

Things started getting a little harder at mile 4. Probably because of my total lack of training for basically all of January and most of February. I mostly tried to talk myself into keeping going. Things slowed down a little but I was still feeling pretty good. In fact, I experienced my first calf twinge coming up to the mile 6 marker. I was actually pretty surprised that it held out for that long.

Mile 4: 7.59

Mile 5: 8.00

Mile 6: 8.03

Final time: 49.15 (7.56 min/mile pace)

I finished 16th woman overall and placed 4th in my age group. Not bad for a post-injury run with almost no training.

IMG_1250This race was a huge confidence boost. I felt pretty good except for those last 0.2 miles. And although my endurance is not where it used to be, I’m still pretty happy with my cardio -> even pacing, sub-8 minute average, and knowing that I had more in the tank if I had to push for it. All in all, a pretty good race.

I spent the rest of Saturday on a runner’s high. Rolled out my calves a couple of times and did my PT exercises. I felt a little calf tightness but of the knotty muscle variety and not the torn muscle kind. Now back to my run-walks and some easy-paced runs.