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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Counting backwards from May……….18, 17, 16…….

Right now I’m in the middle of base building (Week 1: 15 miles, Week 2: 17 miles, Week 3: 22 miles, Week 4: 26.8), and it was going so well. Was. Until this morning when a previously tight left calf turned into a seriously sore left calf. Sad face. My warm-up mile went fine, followed by a fast mile (7.13 min) and then OW. I cut my run short and headed home to work it out with a stick. So a RICE day for me and probably a few days off. I think that hilly run on Sunday may have been a little too much. Oh well.

But it has given me time to think about my marathon training (after I googled the hell out of calf pain/strain) and what my approach will be to try and get a new PR. Last time I followed and Hal Higdon’s Intermediate I plan, and I think it worked out pretty well. What I liked about it was that there was two 20-milers (which was good because my first one sucked and I got a redo), and most weekends consisted of a run on Saturday that was usually shorter (5-9 miles) and often done at race pace and a long run on Sunday. It didn’t include any speedwork aside from this race-pace Saturday run, so I added in a midweek tempo run (6-9 miles) after the first month. My mileage peaked at 45 miles but was consistently around 35 miles per week. Despite having an awesome training cycle I have been wondering if I should do more?

For the last week, I’ve been reading Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger. This is the training plan that my husband used when he qualified for Boston last year. They have a couple of different mileage options but the lowest mileage plan tops out at 55 miles. Although I’m not committed to this plan it has been interesting to read about the physiology of different running workouts (lactate threshold, strides to improve form) and one thing that they have mentioned is doing long runs at a reasonable pace. That is doing part of some long runs at goal marathon pace – and this really speaks to me.

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The long runs I did last cycle convinced me that I could run at least 20 miles but I had no idea what pace I could sustain for a full marathon. Pace runs gave me a clue about how far I could run up to 10 miles but how would that translate to 26.2? That’s what I want to try to figure out for this cycle. So, I’m going to listen to both Hal and Pete and incorporate some miles at goal marathon pace (or close to it – 10 to 20% slower) into some of my long runs. Interestingly, both recommend avoiding short interval speedwork. Hal is totally against speedwork (except long pace runs) during marathon training – that should wait for another time of year. Pete – well I’m just about to start that chapter – but he likes strides (which I’ve never done) and longer intervals.

I thinking right now that I’ll follow Higdon but incorporate some of the things I’ve learned by reading Pfitzinger’s book. Or maybe……well I’m not 100% sure but I will decide soon. And by soon I mean next week. Because next week marks the 18 week countdown until marathon number 2 (Ogden marathon May 16th). I realized this on Monday when I was trying to figure out how many more weeks of base building I had left. Oops. Somehow I thought I had another couple of weeks.

Pfitzinger also devotes a chapter emphasizing the importance of proper hydration and nutrition – especially during long runs. It had definitely motivated me to keep my water intake up and to think about fueling as training ramps up. One thing that I have discovered is that there is now a name for my way of eating: reducetarian. People who want to eat less meat (but not ever quit eating meat) for ethical, health and environmental reasons. Finally, I have a pompous name to call myself! One recipe that I have been loving is this one from skinnytaste. It’s simple to make and absolutely delicious.

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                                                                  Any recipes that you’ve been loving lately?

 

It’s (almost) Christmas!

It has taken a while but the Christmas spirit has finally arrived in SLC. Gifts are wrapped, Christmas music is being played on a continuous loop in work, at home, in the car. Our kitchen is full of food and wine and we are ready to go. Bonus: we are due to get a winter storm on Thursday so we are 100% likely to have a white Christmas. This is a huge deal for someone who grew up in Ireland and could go for years without seeing white stuff on the ground. And I’m hoping to get a chance to get out on these:

Snow shoes!

Snow shoes!

A friend was upgrading her set and kindly donated these to me. So I’m hoping there is some trekking through snow in my future.

But before the storm hits I had a chance to continue my return to running. J is signed up for his first ultra in February and wanted to hit the trails. This sounded like an awesome idea. Well, it didn’t feel so awesome climbing 1000 ft in about 3.5 miles. We topped out just under 6000 ft and got some beautiful views across the city and valley. And you know that what comes up must come down! Rollercoaster-ing those downhills was a ton of fun. 7.15 miles pain-free (well except for my lungs) and my longest run since October 12th.

It was a little muddy up there.

It was a little muddy up there.

Sunday was a rare occurrence here in Utah – running in the rain. Because it happens just a couple of times a year it was surprisingly easy to convince myself to go out for a short recovery run. I was also excited to try out some new shoes. I bought these Altras way back in September, but between marathon training and an injury break they have been sadly sitting in their box waiting for the chance to make a break for it. I ended up doing a little over 3.5 miles – a little longer than I’d planned mostly because my sense of direction is so bad that I can get lost on streets I’ve ran a million times before.

Pretty! And a Utah local!

Pretty! And a Utah local!

My very first impressions: They are incredibly light and the toe box does let your toes splay out. I did notice that although I wear a size 7 in my Brooks PureCadence that the same size in these shoes felt a little snugger. I think I’ll keep them for very short runs for now. My ankle felt a little achy on Monday – and my calves were incredibly tight (no real news there) so I’m going to take it easy with these guys. Luckily for me, Sarah at RunningonHealthy just wrote a blog post about switching up your running shoes. I think she might be a mind reader.

The rest of the weekend was spent in a baking/cooking haze. We had a cookie exchange party on Saturday night. I have never baked a cookie that I have been happy to share with other people………..the baking gods do not want this to happen. But I can make biscotti – especially the chocolate chip variety – so that is what I brought. We ended up coming home with a ridiculous amount of deliciousness that I have been slowly working my way through as after lunch and after dinner treats.

Damn - I need to stop hanging out with people who bake such deliciousness!

Damn – I need to stop hanging out with people who bake such deliciousness!

As you might know I am also slightly obsessed with Skinnytaste (the biscotti recipe is from her website) so I tried out her butternut squash lasagne recipe for dinner and a white bean crostini recipe for a savory party snack. That woman can do no wrong in my book.

All from Skinnytaste.

All from Skinnytaste.

But the food highlight of the weekend was saved for Sunday afternoon. For my birthday, J had booked me into a cooking class for October at the Sur la Table in downtown SLC. Unfortunately, they had to cancel that class and couldn’t rearrange it until December. By that time I had found a couple of girlfriends to go. It wasn’t too hard – the class was described as “Cooking with Decadent Chocolate”. We got there at noon and immediately were offered coffee, water and a freshly-made (and amazingly delicious prosciutto frittata). The class was a mixture of hands on cooking and demonstrations (like seeing how to make your very own caramel). The key seemed to be splashing your cash on the fanciest chocolate that you can afford. We (well mostly the instructor who was super nice and informative) made pistachio and peppermint bark, chocolate caramels, chocolate and cherry biscotti and rum and raisin truffles. Everything tasted so good and we got to take samples of everything home to *cough* share *cough*.

My parting gift of chocolate with more chocolate.

My parting gift of chocolate with more chocolate.

I had never done a cooking class but it was so fun. They even do date nights but I think I’ll have to work on J for a little to convince him to come cook with me.

I think I’ve mentioned already that I’m hoping that some running-related gifts make it under my Christmas tree. But I couldn’t stop myself from treating myself to my first ever grab bag from ProCompression. Three pairs for a little under $38. Happy Christmas to me!

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Happy Christmas everyone!

Swimming Lessons

I like to find the silver lining in even the darkest cloud. In my running life that means taking the positives from a layoff due to injury. To summarize what I learned from my first one-two punch of sciatica and hip burisitis in 2013:

1. Don’t ignore a new pain. Rest. Scale back your miles. Get it checked out.

2. Don’t rush your comeback. Injuries take time to heal. Don’t jump straight back into your regular mileage – this will inevitably lead to a new injury or a recurrence of what you are healing from. Trust me on this one.

From my latest break from running I’m learning something else.

3. Cross-training can be fun!

After completing an 18 week marathon training plan I was a little burned out with running. Or more specifically with following a plan with prescribed workouts – pace/distance/number of runs per week. I wanted my workouts to be fun again. And not being able to run meant that I HAD to change things up. The first couple of weeks I had to avoid anything that put weight on my foot – so no running (obviously!), no leg weight training and no yoga. I was pretty much free to do anything else. Luckily, this coincided with a burst of beautiful fall weather in SLC. So to keep up my cardio I started biking into work 3-4 times a week and I started a swimming program. This time around I completely avoided the elliptical – mainly because I think it is the even more tedious/mind-numbingly boring cousin of the treadmill. Biking got me outside and swimming had a plan with a measurable end goal -> my kind of combination. As I improved (and my foot was never terrible to begin with – see lesson #1 get that sh*t checked out straight away before it gets out of hand) I added back in yoga and weight training with a couple of very short (1-1.5 mile treadmill runs) and on Thanksgiving did my first run outside.

What surprised my most was a new love for swimming.

Like most people I took swimming lessons when I was young – learning the basics before graduating to a weekly 1.5 hour swim practice where I tried to figure out the butterfly stroke. Then I hit my teens and pretty much gave up on any exercise for the next………….um………….10 years.

So I started a swim program with the aim of completing 1 continuous mile after 6 weeks. I also had an old (5+ years) Speedo swim suit and goggles and I was ready to go.

My first day there the plan was to swim 700 yds total (4 x 100 yds, 4 x 50 yds and 4 x 25 yds with rests in between). That sounds pretty easy, right? Well, no. It turns out that swimming is all about technique and breathing (duh!). My technique is pretty crappy but enough to get through a lap. Breathing was the thing that took me longest to figure out. At the start I was holding my breath so that when I turned my head to get air I had to first empty my lungs and then breath in. As you can guess this is not efficient in any way at all. I was literally gasping for air after every lap. But without really working on it my breathing suddenly became more natural. After a couple of weeks everything started feeling effortless. No more swallowing that delicious chlorinated water and spluttering attractively during every break between sets. It’s amazing but true – our bodies will automatically become more efficient with practice.

And for me this effortlessness came after a threshold. 200 yds seemed difficult at first and the 66 laps needed to complete a mile…………..oh my God, how would that ever happen? But once I did 400 yds, 600 yds wasn’t that bad and 1000 yds seemed doable. It was kind of like marathon training. When I first looked at the training schedule that 20 miler seemed crazy. But after finishing 16, and then 18 it suddenly seemed doable. It’s strange to me how progress can sneak up on you that way.

My one piece of advice is to splash out (pun intended) on some gear. My old goggles were made of hard plastic and hurt (I’m talking red marks around my eyes), before they finally cracked just before I was about to get in the pool (great timing!). It also turns out that swim suits have come a long way in the last decade. I took advantage of the REI sale and found a TYR swimsuit and I love it. My other piece of advice is to prepare for some dry skin. I have been moisturizing like it’s going out of style.

Any of course the number one advantage: cute guys in speedos no impact cardio.

Mon: 3.25 mile run

Tues: Strength workout + 1650 yd swim

Wed: 3.30 mile run

Thurs: Yoga + 1650 yd swim

Fri: 4.15 mile trail run

And just have to brag a little about my husband who this week made homemade pasta which was amazing.

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We got to use the latest attachment for our KitchenAid.

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We actually took a cooking class while in Tuscany on our honeymoon and have been waiting for the right moment to try it in our own kitchen. It was amazing – it just slid down my throat and tasted exactly like how we made it in our Tuscan restaurant. Married life rocks.

Tuscan countryside

Tuscan countryside

The view from our room

The view from our room

 

Update

Today I did something I rarely do – a lunchtime workout. I wanted to do a swim workout and usually that means hitting the pool after work and getting home late, or going at 6 AM and having breakfast at work. I finally figured out option 3: go during my lunch break. And take advantage of our amazing weather (clear blue skies and in the 50s) for a nice 15 minute walk each way. I am usually stuck in my building from dark til dark these days.

Winter came on Saturday but was gone 4 hours later.

Winter came on Saturday but was gone 4 hours later.

 

Plus I swam 1 mile for the first time – although with a couple of breaks – but I am almost done with my 6 week zero to 1 (continuous) mile swim program. And I could spy the new cardio equipment and 50m pool in the new gym that will be opening in January 2015.

Shiny new gym.

Shiny new gym.

I could get used to three day weeks! No races for me tomorrow. My body (or more specifically – my right foot) just isn’t ready – and I know that I cannot take it easy in a race situation. I’ve managed two 3 mile treadmill runs in the last week. Running is pain free but my hypochondriac injury detector has gone into overdrive.

When I started back with my 1 mile runs I was feeling little aches in weird places (shins for the first time ever and calves as usual) but these went away pretty quickly. I think that my body was just getting used to running again. So one part of me now thinks that I just need to be brave and push myself a little. To toughen up a little. But (there is always a but) I still don’t feel right. It’s hard to explain: I’m not in pain (and certainly not the rapid onset that made me make an emergency appointment with a doctor) but my foot doesn’t feel normal. I’m not sure if this is actual or imagined weakness in my foot, but I think it isn’t doing any harm to be hyper-vigilante as I start to add back the miles. So vigilant that I’m wearing my compression socks today.

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I kinda feel like a superhero – wearing my superhero socks under my regular clothes!

So, like I said no race but tomorrow is a big day. I’m planning to try a short run OUTSIDE on one of my favorite trails with J and my running buddy A. I haven’t run outside since October 16th and I am so excited, especially because the weather here is meant to be unseasonably warm. Thank you Thanksgiving gods!

Seriously, if I ever move back to Ireland or the UK I am bringing Thanksgiving with me. It is just the best holiday ever. Like Christmas without all the pressure of buying gifts. I also like to think of it as practice for eating Christmas dinner which is a huge deal in Ireland (we do turkey AND ham). We will be eating delicious food and hanging out with our awesome friends.

Speaking of delicious foods……….I think enchiladas are my favorite thing ever.

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These ones are black bean and sweet potato (and you know I need to have avocado and jalapenos). But I’ve been making my own sauce for a while and thought I’d share because it is ridiculously easy.

8 oz can of tomato sauce

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp chilli powder

1-2 cloves of garlic chopped

1 chili in adobo sauce chopped (these are in cans in the Mexican section of the supermarket)

Mix everything in a small pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 10 mins and it’s ready to pour over. I think I could happily eat this everyday.

Workout summary: 11/17 – 11/26

Mon: 2 mile run + leg strength/stretching

Tues: AM: Yoga

PM: 1600 yds (40 mins)

Wed: 2 mile run + leg strength/stretching

Thurs: AM Yoga

PM 1600 yds (40 mins)

Fri: 2 mile run + leg strength/stretching

Sat: 1600 yds (40 mins)

Sun: 3 mile + full body strength

Mon: Rest!

Tues: 3 mile + leg strength/stretching

Wed: 1650 yds (1 mile!)

Happy Thanksgiving y’all! And if you live in the UK or Ireland I recommend that you take the day off work and have an early Christmas dinner!

2 miles and feeling great!

Well the return to running is going great. 2 treadmill miles at 6 AM on Monday morning. No pain running and no aches later in the day. I think I might be back! One of the greatest feelings is going about your normal day (up and down stairs, walking to and from work) and realizing “Nothing hurts!”. I’ve had so many recurrent, but not serious injuries, for most of 2014 – that it SOOOO nice to be able to do everything and not hurt anywhere. I had forgotten how good it feels to just be healthy. I’m loving it! My plan is to gradually increase my mileage until I’m back in the 25ish mile per week range. My marathon training will being at the end of January so I have a ton of time and am in no rush to get back – especially because it is freezing right now! Not much snow yet in SLC (although the first of the ski resorts is opening today) but BRRRRR! I think we’re back above freezing today.

I think the the marathon left me burnt out. It has taken me a month to feel ready to get back into the swing of things. Now those 5.40 AM wake up calls don’t seem so bad. I’m excited to work out – prepping meals at the weekends so that I can fit everything in and still eat healthy. My swimming program is going nicely – 2/3 of the way through and ready to hit 1000 yds tonight. My body feels fresh and the “softness” that came with taper time is gone and I’m feeling in great shape. Woohoo!

And then there’s food.

Rice, beans and salsa for Skinnytaste burrito bowls. And salmon fishcakes.

Rice, beans and salsa for Skinnytaste burrito bowls. And salmon fishcakes.

I had a weird (and unseasonal) craving for homemade Caesar salad dressing.

I had a weird (and unseasonal) craving for homemade Caesar salad dressing.

J's soda bread.

J’s soda bread.

And J's homemade chicken pot pie was amazing!

And J’s homemade chicken pot pie was amazing!

As soon as it gets cold outside I want to get in the kitchen and cook me up some comfort food.

We also went to see the first play of the season – we have tickets for one of the local theaters here in SLC.

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One Man, Two Guv’nors – set in Britain in the 60s musical/comedy/slapstick. I loved it! Usually a dark room after 10 PM is a sure thing to make me fall asleep but I loved this especially the music interludes where people played washboards, drums, and a bare chest.

A tentative return

Running injuries suck – I think everyone can agree with that. But one of the hardest things about an injury (at least for newish runners like myself) is knowing when it’s OK to start running again. For this I rely on my doctor’s advice (REST REST REST) and listening to my own body. I took two weeks completely off from running – but supplemented with swimming and biking which were completely pain free. After the first week my foot (diagnosed with stress response AKA if you don’t stop this will become a stress fracture) was feeling great so I decided to test it out. 1 mile on the treadmill – and it felt fine. The next day I was a little achy but this went away pretty quickly. So I kept it up – running every second day with a 5 min walking warm-up and followed by lots of stretching and foot strengthening exercises.

I bumped it up to 1.5 miles this week and my foot is still feeling good (total mileage 7.5 miles for the month). But I am freaking out about every little ache or pain – hypochondriac right here. On one hand I want to get back to running ASAP but I do not want to injure myself in the process. The day after my second comeback run my shins were feeling sore – then I remembered that I have the tightest calves in the world and need to remember to stretch them everyday. And volia – shin pain disappeared. But (there is always a but) my foot still doesn’t feel quite right. I can’t quite figure out what is wrong (and it’s definitely not the stress response issue) so I might have to rest a little more. Or at least continue with my constant body surveillance and decide for myself when an ache is really a pain.

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But workouts are still happening.

Sat: 1.5 mile run + strength session at gym

Sun: Swim (1500 yds) + yoga (first class in 4 weeks!)

Mon: 1.5 mile run + strength

Tues: Swim (1500 yds)

Wed: 1.5 mile run + strength

So lots of swimming (I’m about 2/3 of the way thru my 0 – 1 mile swim program) and lots of core + leg work. I’m actually feeling pretty good and like I haven’t lost that much fitness. Also, today was the first time since the marathon where I’ve gotten up before 6 AM to workout. Of course, I did pick the coldest day of the year to do that. But it seems like I’ve suddenly got my energy and motivation mojo back. And if you live with me that means baked goods.

Chocolate chip zucchini bread and pumpkin granola AKA breakfast this week.

Chocolate chip zucchini bread and pumpkin granola AKA breakfast this week.

AAnd some non- homemade treats.

I did use the dough to make the cookies and it was amazing. Fresh made cookies need to be eaten with ice cream.

I did use the dough to make the cookies and it was amazing. Fresh made cookies need to be eaten with ice cream.

And because John was out of town all last week (and I was somehow way more busy than usual hence my complete lack of posting) I managed to catch up on my new favorite shows – How to Get Away With Murder and the Mindy Project.

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It seems like today is our first real taste of winter out here in SLC – I am currently wearing a million layers to stay warm – but we were treated to some beautiful sunsets last week. Luckily for me my offside is west facing and I get to take in the view before I leave for home (in the dark).

From work last week.

From work last week.

On the way to yoga on Sunday.

On the way to yoga on Sunday.

Any tips for returning from injury?