Waiting for the worst to happen…..

Why can’t four day weeks happen all the time? Monday was mostly work-free (although scientists never really get a day off) and as an added bonus my gym was open for the whole day. I got a strength workout in – and it was a toughie my glutes were sore for the next two days. But that’s good, right? Well for me it’s always good to work my glute medius which is one of my many weak spots. And then it was time to run……….

My physiotherapist told me to take two full weeks off running and that time ran out on Sunday. I don’t see her until next Tuesday (#popular) and I wanted to try to run so we had something to talk about. I settled for run-walk but couldn’t bring myself to climb on the treadmill. Instead I used the indoor 320 (random!?!) meter track. I did a 5 minute walk to warm up and then 5 x 6 min intervals (3 min walk + 3 min run) and a cool down. I have no idea of my pace but I did about 2.5 miles in 30 minutes. And it was awesome. No pain when running. And you guys know how awesome it feels to finally run again! Woohoo! Runner’s high for everyone.

Tuesday was an early morning yoga class that was all about those hips. I noticed a little tightness in my calf. It’s a little hard to explain how I’m feeling. I think that it’s so subjective. I keep expecting for things to hurt. I’m constantly checking in with myself to gauge if there is any pain. It’s exhausting. I guess I’m expecting the worst to happen all of the time. Like I said already I had major DOMS in my glutes and it reminded me of the pain I felt when I had hip bursitis so I tried not to freak out that I had injured myself AGAIN. But then I reminded myself that it’s probably impossible to get an overuse injury from running 2.5 miles!

I decided to run again on Wednesday. And again, I just couldn’t face running on the dreadmill. So I headed outside at 6 AM – just like the old days. And ran a flattish 3 miles out and back using the same 3:3 intervals. However, this route was the route I was running on when I pulled my calf muscle (0/10 would not recommend) so I was waiting for history to repeat itself again. Luckily I made it home with all muscles intact. Things don’t feel painful – just not right.

I remember last time I was running while recovering from an injury my doctor recommended continuing to run as long as my pain was less than 3 on a pain scale of 10. And that’s the advice I’m still following. I’m not in pain. So what is going on? Tightness following my run – which is real. But over-analyzing every ache is not helping. I’m really looking forward to seeing my doctor next week so she can tell me what’s acceptable pain and when I should back off. I really need her on speed dial!

On the bright side my new shoes got their first taste of concrete!

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Good karma

Being injured sucks. And it’s easy to wallow in self-pity and turn into a total Grumpy McGrumperson. My approach is to throw a little pity party, feel sad and frustrated – and then move on. Focus on what I can do – crosstraining – and what I need to do – lots of hip stretching – to stay healthy and sane. I also wanted to keep myself in the loop and experience a new part of the running community. So I volunteered.

I had my first race of the year scheduled for Saturday (and my first ever road 5K), but my physiotherapist suggested that I needed to take 2 weeks off running (and when she talks I listen) so I knew I wouldn’t be able to run. I decided I still wanted to be part of the event and emailed about volunteering. It turns out that race directors LOVE volunteers and I got an immediate reply and was told to report to the race at 7 AM on Saturday morning. I still picked up my race packet on Friday (if I am going to pay $25 for a mug you bet I’m going to go and pick that sucker up). I had registered for the entire 3 race series and also qualified for a $25 gift certificate for the running store that was hosting the races. How awesome is that?

Race day was beautiful -> 58F at 6.30 AM (this is not normal for February in Utah!) but just a little windy. I arrived and collected my volunteer shirt – it’s totally cool and is a Brooks tech shirt pretty similar to the one I picked up at Twin Cities last year. Plus volunteers also get a $10 gift certificate. Swag!

Volunteering sure pays off!

Volunteering sure pays off!

My job was to look after the post-race food and drinks. They had gotten a ton of free donut holes and hot chocolate from Dunkin donuts, plus some Nature Valley bars, oranges and a ton of bagels. We watched the runners head off and kept ourselves warm and away from the wind while they headed out for their 3.1 miles. The first man came in just a little under 18 mins and then we waited for the rest of the 200 or so other runners to cross the line. I’ve only race one 5K before and it was awful -> going out too fast and holding on (I think that’s how most people do it too?). And looking at the faces of the people as they finished – I was pretty glad that I didn’t have to run that morning. 5Ks are hard! We were all done by 9.40 AM and I headed to the gym for my own workout – 1 hour of strength and core work and then 1 hour on the bike (low resistance, high reps). Watching people give their all is definitely a great motivator to go and bring it at the gym! Although my glutes had a hissy fit and punished my with DOMS the next day.

I also managed to limit myself to one donut hole – mainly because I don’t really like donuts. I know this is a little controversial but I’m totally “meh” about them. Maybe I just haven’t met the right one yet?

You might notice my latest pair of shoes in my collage. I just started wearing my latest pair of Brooks PureCadence and wanted to get another pair (I like to have two pairs in rotation). I hit up the running store and got my gait analyzed. I am a neutral runner and asked to try on everything in the store. Well, I narrowed it down neutral shoes that work for someone with narrow feet (this can actually be a problem – especially if you need to buy ski boots!). I think I tried on at least 10 pairs ranging from 4-12 mm drops and minimal to maximal cushioning. Personally, I like to get a yearly check on my gait and see what’s new. I really liked the newest PureFlows but I felt that they were a little too similar to the PureCadence. Then it was between the Adidas Boost, Mizuno Wave Rider and Saucony Triumph ISO. After running on their treadmill I settled on the Sauconys – only a 8 mm drop (most traditional running shoes are 10-12 mm and my Brooks are 4 mm) but with lots of cushioning (but still felt surprisingly light). I’m thinking of using them as my long run shoe. Obviously, with my current calf strain they are sitting by my front door ready for their first trip outside. So look for a review sometime in March? April? May?

As for the calf strain…….It was still a little sore through Saturday morning. And to be honest I’m not sure if this was residual pain from the dry needling *SHUDDER* or my actual injury. Standing around by the donuts on Saturday morning seemed to aggravate it but it was fine after my gym session in the afternoon. Sunday I had my recovery swim followed by some soaking in the hot tub and was feeling good. I can still feel a tightness in my calf but it’s not painful. Plus, I’ve been attacking the huge knot in my calf with my torture stick. Ah the joys of being a runner!

A slight change of plan

Or rather a giant change of plan. So I’ve been dealing with a calf strain for the last couple of weeks. One slight strain followed a week later by an even bigger calf strain. Not fun. Two weeks off running and then a tentative return to run-walk intervals. Last Friday I managed 4.9 miles and felt pretty good but this deteriorated over the weekend so much so that I had to bail after 2.5 miles on Sunday. Things were achy so I decided it was time to get some professional help. Mainly to get a recovery plan and to pay someone to make the decision about how much time I had to take off from running. I’ve lost some faith in my own ability to figure out how to get over this and I am a sucker for advice from a MD/DPT.

Luckily I was able to get a last minute appointment with my physiotherapist (who happens to be in charge of the running clinic at the local orthopedic center). So we had a chat about what happened since I last saw her back in August. Basically, I didn’t take enough time off after my marathon – 1 day per mile raced (not a total break but taking it easy) so about a month of very easy running before starting back up again. Note to future self.

Next she checked out my leg. It turns out that I have the tightest hips ever. She was literally amazed at the lackĀ  of flexibility in my hip – it’s never good when your medical professional thinks you are some kind of freak of nature. It also turns out that tight hips can seriously affect your stride resulting it extra work for your calves. It was no surprise then that my super tight left hip was the probable cause of my calf strain. I guess it’s a reminder that having one piece of your gait out of stride (pun intended) can mess you up. The plan is to increase hip mobility. And two weeks rest. No running. Or jumping – so no more all day jump rope fests. All other cross training is OK.

I also got some soft tissue massage and graston technique which was mildly uncomfortable. And then we got to the torture part of the visit. She asked me how I felt about needles. Well, does anyone really like needles? She was quick to point out that it wasn’t acupuncture but something close called dry needling. The theory (at least as I understood it) was to release trigger points in damaged muscles using small needles (don’t ask me how this differs from acupuncture – I think the trigger points might differ). I was willing to give it a try – anything to get better, right? But it was not pleasant at all. Initially, it felt like getting an injection – followed by significant pain and involuntary muscle spasms. It was pretty painful to me and the pain in my calf lingered for the rest of the day (which to her credit she warned me about). My calf was still pretty sore today but I think this was from the dry needling. I’m still on the fence about whether it has helped or not.

As for my race plans…….I have a 5K scheduled for this Saturday. Obviously, I will not be running this. I do plan on picking up my mug and $20 Brooks gift certificate. And I’ve decided that the glass is half full and I’m going to volunteer at this race. One of my favorite local running stores (where I just got a brand new pair of non-Brooks running shoes) is organizing it and I hope that the series becomes a regular event. I’ve also signed up to volunteer at an ultra race that my husband is running in Moab in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping to spread some good karma into the universe!

I have a half marathon on March 21st that is looking a little iffy right now. Luckily, they have a 5 miler on the same morning (new distance!) that I can switch to the day before. The marathon is a different story. Right now I’m 15ish weeks out and with two more weeks with no running that would leave 13 weeks to complete a marathon training program. Personally, I feel that this is not enough time for me to properly prepare to run 26.2 miles. This race doesn’t allow for deferrals or switching to the half marathon so it looks like I’ll have to eat this one. I’m a mixture of bummed out and relieved. Sad that I won’t be running my second marathon this spring. But relieved that I don’t have to put pressure on myself to get into marathon shape in a short period of time. My main focus now is to get healthy again.

I’m not going to lie I had a mini pity party – complete with junk food (thanks Superbowl) – but now I’m going to make the most of my doctor-recommended break. And my advice to you – go to your trusted medical professional ASAP. And in my personal opinion physiotherapists are the way to go. Also, if you have the PBS app on your streaming device – you need to check out the Great British Baking Show. It is seriously addictive.

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 onĀ  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.