Crazy, stupid or both?

Things have been slowly returning to normal in my running life. Here’s how the last two weeks’ training has gone.

Purple is my jam right now!

Purple is my jam right now!

3/23          Rest. Day after the day after my half marathon and I needed some more recovery time.

3/24          3.55 miles. Still felt a little sore so this one was at an easy pace. 5 min walk to warm-up followed by 3 x 9 min intervals @ 8.49 min/mile pace with 1 min  walk break in between.

3/25          Bike commute. In March I started bike commuting to work and it is awesome. I think I’ll do a post about it next week. It can be a hard workout on the way (680 ft elevation gain in just under 4 miles) but free wheeling pretty much the whole way home.

3/26          4 miles. 5 min walk to warm up followed by 2 x 15 min intervals @ 9 min/mile pace with 1 min walk interval. Bike commute.

3/27          Strength workout.

3/28         15 mile long run at 9.15 min/mile pace.

3/29         Bike commute. Strength workout.

3/30         4 miles @ 8.36 min/mile (no more walk breaks!). Bike commute.

3/31          Bike commute.

4/1            4.65 miles @ 8.30 min/mile pace. First completely pain free run in forever.

4/2           3 miles @ 9.18 min/mile pace. First time running two days in a row since January!

4/3           Rest.

Somehow my total mileage for March ended up at 86.55 which is almost 4 times what I managed in February (23.4 miles) and a nice surprise when I did the math. The main things that I can take away from March are that I have managed to get my walk intervals down to zero, I had one (hopefully the first of many) pain-free run and I managed to run two days in a row without damaging myself. I think that I might be back to normal (fingers crossed!).

So what next for April? Well this is where things get a little shocking, and you can tell me whether you think that I am crazy, stupid or both.

You might notice that I ran a 15 mile run last weekend. One of the local running stores was hosting a teaser run on a running trail about 20 minutes from my house. Basically, they set up water and gatorade stations along a stretch of the Jordan River Parkway. I’ve never run here before (some of the areas can be a little sketchy if you are running by yourself) so I thought it would be the perfect time to check it out. Bonus: it’s probably the flattest place to run in SLC -> 50 ft of elevation gain in 15 miles. The run went pretty well. It took a while to warm up but I settled in at a comfortable 9ish minute pace and decided that I would run for 2 hours. At the turnaround point I stopped to take a Gu and was glad to be returning with a tailwind. Miles 8-11 felt amazing. I even managed to dip under 9 minutes for these miles. My car was parked at mile 13 but I decided I’d hit up the north end of the trail for a mile out and back. The last mile was pretty tough because (how do I say this politely?) of a runner emergency. Luckily I spied a bathroom in time. As I was leaving the stall I noticed a tiny little stall that turned out to be……….a urinal. Yes, in my desperation I failed to notice that I was in the mens bathroom. Luckily, nobody noticed my mistake and I headed back to my car for some chocolate milk. By this time it was 68F and I was feeling pretty warm. My calf was bothering me a little and my right hip flexor was a little tight (story of my life). By late afternoon I was totally fine (yay for recovery!).

My mileage for the last two months has looked like this:

2/16-2/22      11.3 miles

2/23-3/1        14.6 miles

3/2-3/8          13.5 miles

3/9-3/15         18 miles

3/16-3/22      21.2 miles

3/23-3/29      22.5 miles

3/30-4/5        estimated 27 miles

A nice steady increase, right? So where is it all leading? Well, some of you might remember that I signed up for a full marathon on May 16th. Back in February I was pretty sure that this was impossible for me. 26.2 miles that is insane. But now…….I managed a half marathon on basically no training. My 15 miler went surprising well and only about 20s/mile slower than during the summer. I’m wavering. I’m actually thinking about running it. I think I can get my long run up to 18 miles and this should be enough to get me to the finish line. And that is all I’m interested in right now. Not worried about time or pace or BQs. The course is flat or downhill (900 ft drop over the whole race), it’s near my house and my husband is running it. His thinking is that if he can run a 32 mile trail race with a 15 mile long run then I should be able to finish a marathon. My cardio has been maintained during my injury spell. I’ve done the distance before so I know how hard it will be but also how to pace myself to finish. I’ll obviously pull out if my injury comes back (or something else happens) but I’m feeling great right now. I know it’s not ideal but is it totally crazy, stupid or both?

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 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.

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!

IMG_1145

Happy Christmas everyone!

Marathon recovery

It’s been 5 days since my first marathon and I’m finally starting to feel normal again. Honestly, I had no idea how my body would cope with running 26.2 miles but wanted to write a post for any other first timers about what they can expect for the post-marathon week.

Towards the end of the race itself I knew I was going to be sore. My legs felt SOoooooo tired – my left calf and both quads were busy letting me know how pissed off they were for subjecting them to this race. And they pretty much stayed that way until Tuesday night (the race was Sunday morning).

The muscle pain was similar to what I’ve felt after a particularly hard half marathon (avoid all stairs + sit down as much as possible in work) but it feels as if there’s a whole extra layer of muscle fatigue that I’ve never experienced before. My legs feel heavy – although this is slowly improving.

So what have I been doing?

Sleeping! 7 AM wake-ups for me and usually in bed by 10 PM. That is a lot of sleep for me but I totally need it right now. No 6 AM runs or gym sessions.

Drinking a ton of water. I’m hydrating like it’s my job.

Eating better. A 3 week vacation followed by carb loading has left me feeling a little squishier than I would like. With training volume WAY down and no longer having daily access to cheap Chianti I’m getting my diet back on track. Lots of veggies, not much meat and as unprocessed as possible.

Some cardio. On Wednesday I was itching to get my legs moving again so I went to the gym and did 5.5 miles on the stationary bike. Very easy and nice to flush all that crap out. After work on Thursday I jumped on the treadmill for 3 easy miles. My legs were still feeling pretty heavy but it felt good to be running again.

Foam rolling. I have a huge knot in my left calf that I’m trying to get rid of using my foam roller. It’s the right kind of hurt. Plus lots of stretching.

Cross-training. Marathon training takes up a lot of time and I definitely had to sacrifice other activities.I haven’t been to yoga or to my rock climbing gym since the start of August (!). Hopefully, that will be changing next week. My hard-won arm definition is long gone so I’m hoping to get in more strength training time.

So what’s next? Well, last year I signed up to run my second half marathon (Snow Canyon half) but had to pull out due to injury. I emailed the race organizer who said I could defer my entry until 2014. That means in theory I should be running a half on Nov 1st. Originally, I was pretty excited about this. I could use all of my marathon training to bang out a new half marathon PR. Plus it’s a really fast and pretty course.

Well – I’ve tried to get back in touch with the race organizer and so far no dice. I’m also feeling a bit meh about racing again. I figure if I hear from her I’ll run it but if the deferral isn’t going to work out I’m not going to care that much.

But what I have signed up for – the Ogden Marathon – May 16th 2015. I ran the half marathon at this event as my first ever race back in 2013 and want to go back and do the whole thing. That day was pretty miserable – non-stop rain from 1 hour before the race until after I crossed the line. But it was a beautiful course down Ogden canyon. It’ll be a complete U-turn after Twin Cities but something to get me motivated to go running on dark February mornings.

And finally, my reward to myself for finishing my first marathon. New shoes! What else could a runner want.

2216876-p-MULTIVIEWI’ve been interested in trying out some Altras for a while but wanted to wait until after the marathon to transition into zero drop shoes. Plus they were $50 on amazon. I’ve bought a couple of shoes through amazon. Usually they are sold directly through the company (these are from Altra and are $15 cheaper than their own website) and can be Prime eligible. Hopefully, these guys will be waiting for me when I get home from work later today.