Half marathon training: Injury interruption.

Monday 2/15: 2 mile hike. President’s day hike in the foothills with this girl.

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Tuesday 2/16: 3 mile elliptical. I am coping pretty well with my injury-imposed sojurn to the elliptical. This is mostly due to being able to watch Netflix on my phone. This past week I finally got up to date with Scandal.

Wednesday 2/17: 4.35 mile elliptical. 45 min tempo…………on the elliptical. 10 minute warm-up, 25 minute harder and 5 minute cooldown. Does anyone else feel super slow on the elliptical? I feel like I can never move as fast I would like.

Thursday 2/18: Rest!

Friday 2/19: 3 mile elliptical.

Saturday 2/20: 8.5 mile elliptical. My original schedule (which has now totally gone out of the window) called for a 90 minute long slow run – so I turned it into a 90 minute stint on the elliptical. I watched most of August: Osage County – one totally dysfunctional family. Followed by a mile run-walk around the indoor track. I just had to see how my leg felt – and it was all good news.

All workouts this week were supplemented with weight training – either my PT hip and butt exercises or actually lifting of heavy things. At least 15 minutes a day as part of February’s StrongBody Streak.

Sunday 2/21: Skiing! I live an hour from 10 different ski resorts, and this season I’ve been skiing a total of zero times. But spring skiing has finally arrived. Blue skies and temperatures in the low 30s. It was time to find my skis and hit the slopes with some friends.

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We hit up Powder Mountain – about an hour north of Salt Lake City and one of the quieter ski resorts. Also, the only ski resort where you have to ski down a run to get on your first lift. The snow was skiing so well – not icy in the morning and not much melting after lunch. We glided down a whole bunch of runs – and my quads only burned towards the end of the day. So much fun!  I guess I’m a fair weather skier. And the views were pretty incredible. You could even see the Great Salt Lake.

A great week overall. And my second rest (at least from running) week. This week was the chance to see how my shin splints have healed. So far, so good. Fingers crossed it’ll stay that way.

I’m finished with Scandal on Netflix. What do I need to watch next?

Well, hello there number 8

Injury update time! Today marks six weeks since I pulled my calf muscle for the second time (and seven weeks since I injured it for the first time – oops!). I started by taking two weeks completely off running and then tried to return but that wasn’t working out so well. I realized then that it was time to call in the professionals. Two more weeks without running and plenty of hip stretching (hip bone-connected to the calf muscle?). And then I had the-all clear to start back with run-walking as long as pain level was low and preferably non-existent. So, how did it go?

Sat: Fresh snow and skiing!!!!

Sun: 5.15 miles (8 x 3:3 run walk intervals)

Mon: More skiing!

Tues: 3.6 miles (5 x 4:2 run walk intervals)

Wed: Yoga (plenty of deep hip stretches)

Thurs: 4.5 miles (5 x 4.5:1.5 run walk intervals)

The best part: running outside and with minimal pain. In fact, I’m totally pain free when I’m running and just feel some tightness during the walk intervals. Sometimes I don’t understand my body! I’m back in my high-vis running gear and early morning starts and it feels amazing. Looking back, I think I was burnt out after my marathon and was struggling to get motivated to run on my regular routes. But the hunger is back and I’m excited to be back on the road. The plan is to increase the percentage of running versus walking until I can run for 30 minutes straight. And to be honest, I think that this is going to happen pretty soon. Woohoo!

I saw my physiotherapist for a follow-up appointment this week. She did a lot of work on hip mobility (painful) and then the needles came out. I’m not convinced that dry needling works. She worked on my calf and hip and at least this time it was less painful than the previous time. She thought that this was because my calf was healing although the scientist in me wonders if it would have healed to the same extent even without the treatment. The thing that makes me not like the treatment was that I had pain in my calf that afternoon and the next day. Pain that was different from the actual calf strain. So, I’m still skeptical about it. On a positive note, she watched me run on the treadmill and had no complaints. And I don’t need to come back. And I should be completely symptom free in 6-8 weeks.

I also managed to finally look at my run intervals – my Garmin was having some issues – and it was some pretty good numbers. My run intervals were in the 8.10-8.30 min/mile range and I even had one 8.47 mile (including a walk break). Hello, number 8! It’s been a while. All in all a pretty good week!

Bonus: after a balmy February it seems that winter has returned to SLC. So that means we’ll be able to hit the slopes again this weekend with some fresh powder.

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This was our view from Park City on Monday. Don’t let the sunshine fool you – it was so cold. Freeze your face kinda cold.

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And you know you’re a real runner when your husband buys you some North Face arm warmers for Valentines Day. I always thought that these were a little silly but after having a few races with cold starts I am excited to try them out.

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Don’t worry I still got some chocolate! This stuff is amazing! Roasted coconut on the bottom and salted caramel in milk chocolate. If you see it in the store you should buy it – you will not regret it. 10/10 would recommend.

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

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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?

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?

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…….

Day 49 – Spring skiing

I woke up today feeling surprisingly OK – no quad pain and normal knee issues. I even managed to sneak in a full 8 hours of sleep. And then today I spent all day wearing these.

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J had got some tickets to Snowbasin during a fundraiser for the Utah Avalanche Center and we have some friends who have season passes so we decided we needed to make a trip up north to check it out. Plus, time is ticking on ski season here in Utah.

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Snowbasin is about an hour north of SLC and is where the downhill skiing events were held during the winter Olympics in 2002. It has a ton of acreage and a lot more vertical that some of the resorts we typically ski. As a bonus we had beautiful blue skies and almost no lift lines. I can honestly say it has the best views of any of the ski resorts here in Utah.

Also, it’s pretty fancy. Here’s the chandelier we had lunch under.

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We managed about 9 runs – including a bunch of steeper stuff that would normally be outside of my comfort zone – before my quads gave out and we had to call it a day.

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In true ski bum style we tailgated in the parking lot afterwards with some burgers and beers.

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Tonight we’re recovering with our typical apres ski drink – white Russians to celebrate a great days skiing and maybe the last great ski day of the year.

Back to running tomorrow!

 

Day 14 – only half ski bunny

Last night J and I visited the Utah Symphony to hear some Mozart and Shostakovich cos we’re fancy like that! The building where the symphony plays has an awesome Chihuly sculpture in the lobby. You can also see the Temple in the background.

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So what do I wear to the Symphony? Red skinny jeans obviously! They’re from Old Navy and so comfy.

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Today was a rest day, which was exactly what I needed. We got a ton of snow in SLC this week so we decided to hit our local ski resort and have a day of cross-training. Usually, it takes about 40 mins to get from our house to the ski resort – I know we are really lucky – but today it took 2 hours! First world problems. It was snowing pretty much all day and there was fresh powder on every run. Including the steep as hell gully that I somehow ended up on after following J through a freshly opened gate. If I haven’t scared myself and worried for my life while out skiing I haven’t tried hard enough.

Unfortunately, my phone died at lunch time so I have no cool photos. But I can tell you that lunch was tomato soup, half a nature valley and a can of Sierra Nevada IPA all in the back of our car. Cos we’re classy like that.

All in all I skied 8 runs. On the last run my quads insisted that I call it a day before they spontaneously combusted. And as a bonus my knee was totally fine all day despite me falling over about a half dozen times. Win win.

FYI crockpots and ski days go together like bacon and eggs, peanut butter and jelly, turkey and avocado……….OK I’m a little hungry now.

Weekly recap:

5 runs

Total mileage: 20.05 miles

One strength workout

One yoga class

One ski day

Longest run of the year: 6.46 miles

Fastest mile of the year: 7.20 mins