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?

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.

IMG_1131

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