A glimmer of hope

Thursday is practically the weekend, right? Well, I’m celebrating early with a glass of red wine and my favorite chocolate bar. And although the rest of the US and even Ireland is getting hit by winter storms, here in Utah we are having our warmest winter in years. It was in the mid 50s this week. What the hell? It would be the ideal winter for marathon training……

So where am I at with this calf injury? Actually, I’m feeling pretty good – my calf is behaving and I’ve mentally taken a big step and am surprisingly relaxed. So let’s get physical first.

On Saturday I decided to test out my leg with some run-walk injuries. My last really serious injury was hip bursitis (6 weeks out back in 2013) and I recovered from that using a run-walk strategy. It basically started with 5 min walk + 1 min run repeated 5 times. I like to think that this was what I needed starting with zero base, and I felt as if I could be a bit more aggressive with my interval splits this time around. But I still started with a 5:1 split #sensible. I did decide to push myself a little and see what I could do interval wise before I felt a the slightest hint of a twinge. This ended up being a 3:3 split – although the run portion was at just a little faster than my recovery pace (6.5 mph on the treadmill). I managed an hour – my gym now has individual tvs for every cardio machine and I spent my time watching the first Sex and the City movie. I think being able to watch tv and distracting myself with intervals helped me cope with the dreadmill. 5.5 miles total followed by lots of stretching and PT exercises.

One thing I changed was wearing some new kicks. I have been running in Brooks PureCadence shoes for the last 2 years and I managed to find a pair for $60 last fall. I was wondering if my current shoes might need to be replaced, and whether they might even be contributing to my injury.

Not my photo - sorry I forgot my phone. But aren't they cute?

Not my photo – sorry I forgot my phone. But aren’t they cute?

And holy crap – they felt so much stiffer than the shoes I had been wearing. Thinking back on it – I starting wearing my old shoes back in the summer and wore them for most of my long runs and my marathon so I think they needed to be retired.

I have also been taking it super easy. No fast runs. No tempos. No speed. Pushing off works your calves and that just ain’t happening for me right now. The overall consensus from comments after my last post was to slow down. That it’s better to run slow and easy rather than push things and end up injured again. My first race of the year is scheduled for next Saturday and will be my first ever road 5K. I still plan on running it but will need to repeat this in my head – I’ll probably have to shout it at myself and not get carried away with a race atmosphere. Think long term!

I’m swapping out long, slow runs for long, slow swim sessions. Sunday was about 80 mins in the pool – nice and easy. More run-walking on Monday and Wednesday (4.5 miles each – 3+3 intervals) and then a yoga class this morning where we did zero down-dogs and chatarungas!

I don’t know if it’s coming across in this post but I am surprisingly at peace with this injury. I mean I can run-walk at the minute which is good – some running is better than none. I’m still feeling a little tight in the calf but not when I am on the treadmill and it seems to be improving. I’ve also pretty much accepted that this marathon training season is not going to be perfect. And that’s ok. Not every race is going to be a PR. And that’s ok too.

Getting to the starting line in one piece and finishing the race still in one piece is my number one goal. And if I can’t manage that – well I guess I’d have to skip a race. And that’s not going to be the end of the world either. There are plenty more races in my future and what I’ve learned most from this experience is that you can’t fast forward through healing. It takes time and you have to accommodate that into a plan. Of course, I would have loved to do the perfect training schedule and aim for that BQ time. That’s going to have happen some other time. And you know what? I’m fine with that. I can wait because some things are worth waiting for.

That time when I had a running blog………..

Skiing picture

So my return to running after my calf sprain has not gone so well. In fact it hasn’t gone at all. I took a rest week and then decided that I should run three days in a row. Not smart, but I was putting pressure on myself to get into my marathon training schedule. And you probably can guess what happened next.

Mon 1/12: Rest

Tues 1/13: 3 treadmill miles at 8.41 min/mile

Wed 1/14: 6 miles at 8.19 min/mile

Thurs 1/15: 2.5 miles at 8.35 min/mile

Fri 1/16: Rest

Sat 1/17: Strength + 40 mins AMT

Sun 1/18: 2500 m swim

If you guess that I would pull my calf muscle even more painfully than before………..Congratulations! Please come and claim your prize. The actual story of how it all went down is a lesson in running misery. My calves were feeling OK on Tuesday and Wednesday – just a little tight but not terrible. And the first 2 miles of my Thursday morning run actually felt pretty good. Then. BAM! OMG my calf hurts like a MOFO and I am 1.5 miles from home. Wearing my early morning running gear – headlamp, hi-vis vest. With no phone. And it was cold. I walk-limped slowly home – the runner’s walk of shame. Pissed off at my calf. And frustrated that I couldn’t move any quicker. By the time I got home the tips of my fingers were numb and I was Cranky McCrankyson, the mayor of CRANKYTOWN. I wasn’t really surprised though – I usually get swept up in the “too much too soons”, and although my marathon isn’t until May 16th I guess I wanted the security of completing ever single run in my marathon training plan. Well, that is not going to happen (Sarah – any thoughts on a 16 week marathon training plan?).

So I’ve been switching up my cross-training.

Mon 1/19: Skiing at Powder Mountain

Tues 1/20: 4 miles on the elliptical

Wed 1/21: 2000 m swim

Thurs 1/22: Yoga

Fri 1/23: Strength workout

I managed to hobble around work on Thursday and Friday – seriously guys, everyone was asking what I had done to myself. It was not pleasant. Days like that really make you appreciate the simple joy of being able to walk normally. I was feeling slightly better over the weekend and managed to get in some low impact cardio – including my first time ever in a 50 meter pool! It was awesome – until some guy broke lane protocol and we nearly collided. I hope he managed to get the full impact of my stink eye from behind my goggles.

Luckily, MLK was a holiday for me and I scored an awesome deal on ski tickets for Powder Mountain – one of the ski resorts that I have never visited before. It was so quiet there – no lift lines, beautiful views and low snow coverage. We still managed to get a ton of runs in (of the ski variety of course), and I even managed to conquer my fear of skiing between widely spaced aspens on a mellow downhill slope. Living on the edge over here! Skiing is such a great way to get outside in the winter (plus it was around 30F with no wind), and this particular resort has a ton of backcountry-type areas where you feel like you are skiing through a forest away from civilization. Plus a great way to crosstrain – that quad burn!

Tuesday and Wednesday were back to cardio. It’s funny, when I’m swimming I never feel like I’m working that hard but as soon as I finish my set I can feel my heart-rate and boy it is racing. As for the elliptical – I just have to play mind games to stay on that thing. Yoga this week was all about the hips – and it felt great. I felt lighter (even though this sounds weird) all day Thursday and even today – like a weight I didn’t even realize I had been carrying had been lifted off me. In yoga class, they often say that you carry stress/feelings in your hips. To be honest I’ve always felt as this was a little quacky (hello – scientist) but something was unloaded after that class.

I’ve also been doing consistent strength work (the number one thing that usually gets left of my list when I get busy) – mainly the exercises recommended by my physiotherapist over the last year. For me, this means focusing on building leg strength, and because I have a clear muscle imbalance between my right and left legs, this means a lot of single leg work – squats, leg press, leg raises, bridges. Although I can see feel differences in the stabilization between my left (stronger) and right (weaker) legs, I think that things are improving. It’s a little ironic that right now I’m in the best shape of my life – but I can’t run. Damn you Alanis!

So the plan for now……….Well diving straight into a marathon training plan is not going to work for me. So I think I’m going to do what worked for me before. Start back with a walk-run program until my calf pain is gone, and then increase mileage without worrying about pace. It sounds so easy/impossibly difficult for this inpatient chick.

Any advice for starting marathon training in less than ideal conditions?

And so it begins……..

stepstorunamarathon

……….with a whimper. Last week I did something to my already tight calves which meant lots of limping on Thursday and complete rest on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday morning I was feeling better and headed to my local yoga studio for a more chilled out flow class. It was great for stretching and relaxing – exactly what I needed. Sunday afternoon was a full body workout at the gym including one whole mile of running on the treadmill. This mile was pretty slow but I only felt a slight twinge in my calf. My plan was to take another full day of rest (and to deal with post-gym DOMS) on Monday and then try 3 miles on Tuesday. Because this week in WEEK ONE of marathon training! Woohoo! Well woohoo! in my mind. Mentally, I am totally ready to dive in to a full marathon training session (I spent Sunday evening drinking wine, watching Downton Abbey and putting together my marathon training plan). Unfortunately, my body is not quite on the same page.

I’ve decided to use a modified version of Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 plan but incorporating some of the things I learned from the Pfitzinger book – specifically adding in some tempo and fast finish long runs. The mileage should top out around 50 (which is a little more than last time) with one tempo-ish workout per week. I also have 4 (!) races scheduled between now and May 16th (M-Day) that I had to work into the schedule. Yay for racing! I think that if I had been in better (not injured) shape I would have totally committed to the Pfitzinger plan, but considering where my body is at right now I think that this would have been an injury in the making -> Day 1 is an 8 mile run with 4 miles at half marathon pace! So I’m pretty happy with my plan and excited to see where I can get to in 18 weeks. My current goal is to PR and in the later stages of training I’ll see where I am in terms of running a BQ. I’m torn between wanting to get more marathon race experience – and – just gunning for that sub 3.35 time. I feel like I’ll have a better idea of where I stand with some serious mileage behind me -> this time I’m planning on two 20 milers and one 22 miler.

As for the calf? Well it was feeling a ton better by Monday. And on Tuesday I got to try out my new gym after work. The weights area was crazy packed but surprisingly I had my choice of treadmills. I started out just fine but after a while my calf decided to let me know that it was not happy! It isn’t a bad pain – just uncomfortable-ness (word?). This is a hard choice for me. When I went to my physiotherapist last year I was surprised that she never told me just to stop running. Even though I had knee pain that required about 6 months of exercises to cure I was given the go-ahead to run through it all. The caveat was that the pain should never be higher than 3 on a pain scale of 10. If I had been doctoring myself I would have wimped out and stopped completely. My current thinking is that a little bit of constant pain (i.e. it doesn’t get more painful as the run progresses and never gets higher than a 2-3) is OK.

I decided to see how outdoor running felt this morning (clean air!!!!!) -> it’s awesome! Again a slight uncomfortable-ness in my left calf but low on the pain scale and it didn’t seem to be affecting my gait. I have been rolling with my stick all day (+ compression calf sleeves) and it is feeling so much better – and completely different to the pain of last Wednesday. The plan for the immediate future is to keep running unless the pain starts to get worse, but to keep everything at a pretty easy pace. The marathon is a long way away and part of me feels a little foolish for even running at all. So I’m trying to find a balance between being a little braver and trying not to be too foolish. At times like this I wish I could trade my PhD for an MD……….

 

 

Friday randomness

Friday already? I don’t know about you but this week has just flown by over here in Utah. Today seemed to call for a little bit of randomness.

Calf update: I figure that everyone wants to talk about my calf as much as me, right? Or not. But I will say that I’m feeling a lot better. There was some limping on Wednesday but also plenty of stick rolling, compression sleeves and ibuprofen. Thursday was a little improved – no ibuprofen but still sleeves. I was able to stretch a little and really got stuck into that muscle with some finger massage. Today – even better. Still a couple of twinges when I walk up and down stairs but am definitely on the road to recovery. My medical research (thanks Google!) suggests 7-10 days until you’re back to normal so that should have me trying some easy runs in the middle of next week. The perfect start to week 1 of marathon training?

Speak of marathon training, I have become a little obsessed with my Advanced Marathoning book. There is so much useful information in there. (Random fact: they recommend cooking with cast-iron to increase the iron in your diet -> more iron -> increased hemoglobin -> carry more oxygen in your blood -> run better). If you plan to race a marathon I would recommend it. I’m still not convinced that I am in the right shape to launch into this program right now (Week 1 is 33 miles starting with an 8 mile tempo run), but I can see myself incorporating some of the things I’ve learned into my marathon training program. One thing that really spoke to me was their recommendation of even pacing throughout the race. They even say that if you run a negative split that you likely ran the first half too conservatively and are capable of a faster time. For my marathon I ran my second half two minutes faster than the first so I’m not crazy for thinking that there might be a PR on the cards this spring.

But in one way it’s kind of the ideal time for me to take a break. My gym is closed for this week – no pool, no treadmill. But it will open on Monday and looks awesome. Thank you students and your ridiculously high tuition fees for funding this!). We are also experiencing the dreaded January inversion. This is the dark secret of Salt Lake City that nobody ever wants to mention. In winter we can get a temperature inversion here. Basically, when it snows the cold air gets trapped in the valley (because the ground is so cold), meaning that it is warmer in the mountains (9000 ft) than on  the valley floor (4500 ft). You’re probably thinking that it doesn’t sound so bad especially because our highs have been in the 40s for the last week. But this cold air traps all of the pollution (cars, wood burning, oil refineries) in the valley. And if there is no storm to mix up the air the pollution builds and builds. For most of the past weak it was in the “moderate” to “unhealthy for sensitive groups” range, but yesterday it was in the “unhealthy” range. This means exactly what it sounds like – that our air was unhealthy to breathe in, and you should minimize your time outside. During January, not only do I check the weather so I know what to wear to stay warm but I check our Division of Air Quality to make sure it’s safe for me to run outside. Luckily, the pollution varies during the days so if you get up early enough you can run outside but man January SUCKS!

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You can see the smog in this photo. But looking out of my office today I can’t see the top of these mountains anymore :(.

I really enjoyed this article – about the dangers of disordered eating and exercise addiction. A story about a talented runner who is right in middle of the recovery process. While I personally have never suffered from disordered eating, I did have a close friend in college who suffered from anorexia. Articles like this always hit me hard and bring me back to that time in my life when I watched helplessly as a close friend starved herself. Since then, I’ve always been extra-vigilant about self-monitoring for any disordered thinking/behaviors. I think back to how I felt watching someone else go through that, how hard recovery is, and how getting caught up in this pattern can change your whole personality. I like to run. I like to eat a nutritious and balanced diet. But most of all I value my health – physical and mental – and that is my priority. Sure, I’m not thrilled when the number on the scale goes up and when I eat too much chocolate I feel a twinge of regret. But I let it go – and don’t beat myself up about it.

Enjoy your weekend! I will be either inside away from the air or up in the mountains.

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.

IMG_0986

                                                                  Any recipes that you’ve been loving lately?

 

Progress

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas. Over here in SLC it was pretty low key – lots of food, drinks and snow.

This was Christmas morning.

This was Christmas morning.

Waiting for the bus to work this morning.

Waiting for the bus to work this morning.

Winter has definitely arrived. I even made it skiing on the day after Christmas. The morning was perfect. Not too cold. Beautifully soft snow and some ungroomed runs with some floaty powder. But by the afternoon the chill had set in, 11F with a real feel of -1F. That was it – when you get brain freeze from skiing (on the one little sliver of my face that was actually exposed to the elements) you know it’s time to call it a day. It helped that the ski lodge was serving hot cocktails – I had an apple pie (rum, butterscotch flavor and apple cider – and it tasted awesome).

On Saturday, J and I headed out for a long run. But where to go? The one thing I hate about winter running is the slippery sidewalks (I feel 3 times last year) so I wanted to run on some packed down snow. So we headed up to Park City and ran on East Canyon Road. Normally, it’s a low traffic dirt road and in winter it gets taken over by cross-country skiers. The conditions were pretty good. I only slid down one little hill (although I like to think I was surfing gracefully down) and no falls. But it was COLD. It took almost 2 miles for my fingers to warm up. I managed just under 9.5 miles. A couple of rolling hills. Not so great traction. But pretty views and it felt great.

And I finally made it back to the climbing gym. Now, that is a fun cross-training activity! Unfortunately, having not gone in months it was pretty messy – easy things felt hard and there was no elegant climbing flow – more like grunting and roughly launching myself from hold to hold. The climbing gym also has some treadmills that meant I could do a short run and get my weekly mileage up to 22. My last few weeks have been 15, 17, 20.5 and 22 so it seems as if this recovery thing is going pretty well.

Sometimes it’s hard to gauge progress. This is especially true for me when recovering from an injury. I want to be where I was in September. That is obviously not going to happen. So what I’ve been concentrating on is getting miles in and forgetting about pace. J (who qualified for Boston this year and who is super speedy) reminded me on our long run that the important thing is to build my miles and worry about speed later. This is after I asked him if he minded running with someone who is much slower than him. Speed doesn’t matter right now.

And looking at my mileage for the month – I’m pretty sure I’ll break 80 for December – which is amazing to me considering I’m coming back from injury, and compared to December 2013 where I ran 13 miles total for the whole month. These 80ish miles of running have come with a little under 7000 ft of elevation gain. So whatever about my speed right now – I am a much stronger runner than I was 12 months ago. 9.5 mile runs are no big deal. Trail runs (which I only started in April) are a regular part of my routine. My legs look and feel strong and lean. This is really exciting for my 2015. I’m starting from a much better place and I’m excited to see where I can go.

This was really clear to me after our ski day. The limiting factor for how many runs I get in on a day is my quads. After a while they start to burn (gravity can only do so  much to get you down that mountain). This year I was able to ski for longer, and on more challenging terrain (hello powdery, non-groomed runs) and still have fresh legs. This is huge. My injury might have pushed back my running fitness, but my leg strength is still there. I think one of the key improvements I’ve made is to do a short leg strengthening routine 3-4 times a week. This originally came from exercises prescribed to me by my physiotherapist but I’ve kept it up. And to be honest I usually do it in front of the television before I go to bed. It’s pretty simple and it’s hard to feel as if it’s really doing anything, but I know that this time last year I couldn’t run 22 miles a week, I couldn’t ski all day without wrecking my quads and those trail runs would be a big deal. I guess sometimes progress happens so slow that you don’t notice how far you’ve come until you look back at where you started.

Strength routine:

Leg extensions with resistance band: Stand on one leg. Extend your leg directly behind you ten times. Then out at a 45 degree angle ten times. Then to the side by 10. And finally directly in front of you x 10. Switch legs. Repeat 3 times on each leg. You should feel this in your glutes.

Squat with resistance band: Start with knees over ankles. Move knees out to each side (not a big movement – just slightly out). Keep feet fully on ground. Repeat 30 times. Hold out for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. When my physiotherapist analyzed my running form she saw that my knees would fall inwards and occasionally rub off each other (I think this is common for women) and this exercise was designed to get my body used to keeping my knees away from each other.

Bridge: I will usually hold bridge pose for 3 x 1 minute.

Lateral leg raises: Lying on my side, one leg on top of the other. I will do a set of 90 of lifting my top foot up and down. Then 90 reps making a circle with your top foot – clockwise and then anti clockwise. Followed by 90 clamshells. Make sure you engage your glutes. It doesn’t matter how high you lift – just that you feel it when you move. Then I’ll repeat the whole set on the same leg before switching for two sets on the other side. This burns your legs – and works your glutes (min and max).

I also like to go reclining pigeon pose. And to do plenty of calf stretches. I usually will include a foot stretch where I’ll sit back on my heels.

And lately I’ve been adding single legs squats to my routine – just 3 x 5 on each leg to start.

 

Have you ever had progress sneak up on you?

So about those 2014 goals………

Does anyone else feel that blogging is amazingly cathartic? Or has magic powers? In my last post I was talking about my intermittent foot pains, and wondering whether they were real or all in my head. Well, guess what? Those aches disappeared as soon as I hit publish. It’s a Christmas miracle!

And what great timing! Today I cranked up those Christmas tunes and planned out my Christmas Day grocery list. The countdown is on.

Another, less fun countdown is the closure of my pool and gym. Yes, they are both moving to an awesome, brand-spanking new facility even closer to my work, but the gym is out of use til Jan 12th and the pool is closed for 10 days starting this weekend. Not so awesome timing – especially with the amount of food and beverages  that I plan to consume in the next week. Oh well.

Mon: 1750 yd swim

Tues: 5.1 mile trail run (so awesome – raced the sunset!)

Wed: 2000 yd swim

Thurs: 4.7 mile run

This time of year is also a great time to look back at 2014 and see how those pesky goals worked out. So here’s a reminder of the running-related goals that I set myself way back in January. So, how did I do?

1. Stay injury free

This was probably my most ambitious goal for the year. The last third of 2013 was pretty much derailed by injury including a month or two with exactly zero miles. I also had some consecutive injuries from a case of the TMTSs (too much too soon). Looking back, I probably should have reworded this to something like “Minimize risk of serious injury”. Basically, I had hip pain in February that disappeared pretty quickly, but which morphed into knee pain that needed trips to the physiotherapist until August. That sounds like a total fail, right? Well, I don’t think so. Because, during this time I managed to set a half marathon PR (see below) and was able to ramp up my base mileage. At the same time the PT identified my muscle imbalances (basically my whole right leg) and improved my form. I had a brief rest in May with mild foot pain which was cured a 2 week break from running.

But most importantly I completed my 18 week marathon training program (+ the marathon itself) injury-free (I think I skipped 1 run because I was feeling a little sore). The injury that I’m currently recovering from resulted from a case of the NRAMs (not resting after a marathon). I learned the hard way that I need to take two weeks completely off from running after a marathon. Valuable lesson. I did manage to get through the whole year without a zero mileage month (November was the low at 28 miles).

Personally, I think that I learned a lot about listening to my body, being proactive about injury and understanding the importance of rest. And the by-product of all those PT exercises – my legs have never felt stronger.

2. Set a new half marathon PR

This is a definite win. I shaved 3.04 minutes off my PR at the Salt Lake City half marathon. This was a tough race for me (went out too fast and held on for the last couple of miles). I also feel that there are easier courses and would love to get lower into the 1.30s next year.

3. Complete my first full marathon

Yes! I really enjoyed the whole marathon experience. The weeks of training. Those new-to-me distances every week. There were a couple of awful runs and plenty of times I wondered if I was capable of finishing 26.2 miles but it all come together in October with a dream marathon debut at Twin Cities.

4. Run in the Hood to Coast Relay

I can’t believe I never wrote a post about this. But it was amazing! I guess I can do a 6 month look back. 24 hours – minimal sleep (I slept on a tarp for 2 hours in random place Oregon) – 40 min wait for my teammate at 2 AM in the freezing fog – and bringing the team home on the beach. Unforgettable.

5. Run 1000 miles for the year

My yearly mileage ticked over 1000 at some point during the Twin Cities marathon which I think was extra fitting. This seemed like a huge goal at the start of the year – and is more than I’ve ever run in a year by a lot. I’m hoping to tick across 11oo miles for the year. I’ll get back to you in two weeks.

6. Run a sub-7.00 min mile

This was the first goal that I crossed off my list for 2014. I somehow (and totally unexpectedly) managed a 6.36 during my first 10K race of the year! I very rarely see a 6.xx on my Garmin. I think I could count on both hands how many times it’s happened this year. Weirdly, it showed up twice during this race, and then a couple of times during some short tempo runs in marathon training. I’m hoping to become better acquainted with this number in 2015!

How was 2014 for you?

 

Learning to trust myself

Hello again! Last week was a much needed break from blogging – busy at work and stressful personal stuff do not make a good combination. But luckily this weekend has been the definition of relaxing and worry-free. And we finally got into the Christmas spirit. Tree. Check. Cards mailed. Check. Gifts purchased. Check-ish.

Real trees are awesome.

Real trees are awesome.

So let’s rewind to workouts. I was trail running with a friend this week (more on those runs later) when she asked me if my foot pain is real or psychosomatic. And I wasn’t sure. I know that when I’m distracted or running then my foot doesn’t hurt. But I’m terrified of getting a stress fracture so I get random foot pains and convince myself that I’ve broken my foot. That is super duper fun. As well as that, after every run I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop……..so to speak………..really I’m waiting to get punished for daring to try.

As someone who never exercised regularly growing up I’ve always found it hard to trust my own opinion of how my body is feeling. I seek reassurance from PTs or doctors to hold my hand and tell me when I should push myself a little harder. Having to rely on my own judgement for this is scary. I’m scared of making the wrong decision – and maybe this is a reflection of my life in general. The fear of choosing the wrong thing and being full of regrets. I know that I need more faith in myself. In my own judgement. And not being so afraid – of failing, getting it wrong, admitting I f*cked up.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Running when I’m a little scared – of triggering my injury, getting a compensation injury. Believing that I am more resilient than I believe. Aren’t we all our own harshest critics? I know that this is true for me. I hold myself to much higher standards than I expect from anyone else. The one thing I have noticed is that yoga seems to aggravate my foot – probably due to the one-footed balancing – so I’m taking a break from that. My gym is also out of action until mid-January so strength training isn’t really an option right now either. Cardio it is!

Sat: 2000 yd swim (this is the half iron-man distance 1.2 miles)

Sun: 4.2 mile trail run + PM skiing!

Mon: 2000 yd swim

Tues: 4.2 mile trail run

Wed: 1350 yd swim

Thurs: 3.9 mile run

Fri: 4.35 mile trail run

Sat: 2500 yd swim (fastest mile 37.05 minutes, and longest distance!)

Sun: 5.3 mile run

My doctor recommended that my return to running should be on softer surfaces – so for me that means plenty of trail runs. I’m lucky to live in Salt Lake City where it is easy to get to a trail-head in 10-15 minutes (including a whole bunch right by my workplace). Although they tend to be full of hills.

One route I’ve been running is a little over 4 miles with 500 ft of elevation change plus beautiful views over the valley. I’ve been lucky in that both J and my trail running buddy A have made these runs so fun – plenty of chatting which keeps the pace manageable. Most of these runs have also been at lunchtime which gives me the rare pleasure of daylight running in winter. It was even in the 60s for our run on Friday!

On Tuesday we tackled Dry Creek canyon. I ran this a lot during the summer. It’s one tough uphill run – a little over a mile non-stop uphill with 426 ft elevation gain in that distance (800 ft total for the whole run). It is hard and I couldn’t quite make it to the top without stopping for a walk break. It was a little discouraging – I used to run ALL the way to the top in the summer – so I know that I’m not where I was during marathon training. Although why that was surprising to me I have no idea. I haven’t been running the same mileage, tempo runs or hill work so why should I magically retain that fitness? I guess I needed to get a reality check.

I will defeat you Dry Creek!

I will defeat you Dry Creek!

What I like about trail running is my complete lack of interest in pace/split times. I personally believe that trail running improves your running efficiency – it shortens your stride, strengthens your feet/ankles, and works your cardiovascular system in a way that seems fun (well……..most of the time). One of my main goals for 2015 is to do longer trail runs in the ski resorts in Park City and enter some trail races. (I always thought that these races were for crazy people………..so um yeah I think I’m turning into a crazy person).

Top of Dry Creek from the summer.

Top of Dry Creek from the summer.

The other running option is a local park about 1 mile away that has a wood-chip 1.5 mile trail around it. We had plenty of rain here yesterday so when I went for my run today there was a real spring in my step. I had no expectations for this run except that I wanted to run at least 5 miles. When I left my house it was 33F and snowing lightly and I felt great. So I pushed it a little – 8.08/8.07/8.10/7.55 for 4 miles. And the first time I’ve seen a sub-8 minute mile in two months. After that excitement I decided to be sensible and slow it down for the way home. Overall, 5.3 miles at 8.14 min/mile pace. And it felt awesome! I might not be in peak shape but I can see myself getting there again.

The other thing that you may have noticed is that ski season has started. We haven’t gotten a ton of snow here in Utah yet but I wanted to test out my ski legs. So last weekend we headed up to Alta for a couple of hours of skiing – $10 for 1.5 hours. 5 runs and no quad burn. That is usually the factor that puts an end to my ski day. Luckily the green runs didn’t kick my butt too much this time.

Skis!

Skis!

So I think I might be finally ready for winter…….

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.

IMG_1133

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

 

Hope you had a great four-day or two-day (non-Thanksgivingers) weekend.

Thanksgiving started with a “Pumpkin Pie” yoga class where sadly no pumpkin pies were eaten. But we did try to get into the most ridiculous crescent roll pose.

Something like this - minus the beach.

Something like this – minus the beach.

Then a quick stop at home to get some dough ready for our contribution to the Thanksgiving festivities.

Freshly baked sourdough courtesy of J.

Freshly baked sourdough courtesy of J.

And then on to the part that I was dreading/looking forward to all week – my first run outside in about 7 weeks! My treadmill runs had been going fine but were incredibly boring (I swear that time slows down in the vicinity of the dreadmill). I wanted to get outside so badly that I was having serious runners’ envy when I spied people on their daily runs. I decided that Thanksgiving was the day to take things outside.

But there has also been the ever present knowledge that doing too much too soon (AKA the classic injured runner trying to get back on the road ASAP) could lead to recurrence of my injury or even worse a full scale stress fracture. I haven’t noticed any symptoms in my foot since taking a break from running back in October but I am all too familiar with finding myself with a brand spanking new injury while recovering from something else. Yay – runner’s problems!

So with a little trepidation I headed to one of my favorite trails near SLC – the Pipeline in Millcreek canyon. The temperatures in the valley have been pretty mild lately and our high on Thanksgiving was set to get near 60F. Obviously I decided to wear some shorts and contemplated running in just a t-shirt. That is until we got near the trail head and saw snow everywhere! Yike! I guess I forgot that 1500 ft can make such a difference in winter.

Millcreek_run

It wasn’t that cold – 39F – but the trail was packed down with snow for the first mile which made running a little slower and a lot slicker than normal. The second half was snow-free and mostly dry although I still manage to get my legs nice and muddy.

Running

 

Just a little over four miles but with 898 ft of elevation gain. Maybe not the easiest way to return to running but it felt amazing! Pain-free and out on the trails – who could ask for more?

I woke up the next day expecting to feel pain – and I did but mostly from my intense yoga posing – hello hip flexors! My calves felt a little tight, which seems to be the story of my life. But I can deal with muscle pain – it doesn’t scare me like tendons/bone pain.

After de-muddifying we headed for dinner and filled our bellies with an amazing spread. This might be a controversial opinion but my favorite thing about Thanksgiving dinner are the sides. Give me extra mashed potato and stuffing over pie any day.  And pumpkin flavored things – meh – I can take it or leave it – and this even applies to pumpkin pie. Sorry if we can’t be friends anymore – although if we stay friends I’ll give you all of my pie (in return for some of those taters).

Friday was some low impact cardio – a 35 minute (uphill) bike ride to work (yes work – boo) followed by a core yoga class. And then more trails on Saturday (right now I’m running every other day) – 3.75 miles – bringing my total mileage for the month up t0 28ish miles. Not exactly what I wanted but I am going to take.

And I’ve become an accidental triathlete. Biking + trail run on Saturday and a swimming session on Sunday. Don’t worry – I have no plans to ever ever ever intentionally do a triathalon – that is officially for badass/crazy people. But I am really digging all of this cross-training right now.