Cape Cod

After the adventure of Boston #survivedTHATrain, we decided to pick up our car and head to the coast. As someone who lives in the desert, I always get crazy excited when I get to see the ocean. First stop (after Dunkin donuts – Boston creme for me) was Plymouth, MA. I am obviously not American (check out the username) so have a limited knowledge of US history but I have heard of Plymouth Rock. Plus, someone decided that we needed to see the coast in glorious sunshine. Let the photo dump commence.

THE rock. Or not - nobody's quite sure.

THE rock. Or not – nobody’s quite sure.

The rock's house - and check out the weather.

The rock’s house – and check out the weather.

We then proceeded to Cape Cod where I had my first ever lobster roll before checking in at our bed and breakfast. Because it is low season we got an awesome deal with the friendliest hosts. Breakfast was amazing – plus we got to witness their scone war dramatics. Definitely recommended if you ever need to stay near Hyannis.

 

Beautiful place to stay.

Beautiful place to stay.

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And then we had to take a sunset walk on the beach before dinner – it was about a mile away and beautiful.

Beautiful sunset.

Beautiful sunset.

No lifeguard on duty.

No lifeguard on duty.

Next day we meandered along the coast up to Provincetown and back via Cape Cod National Seashore.

Boardwalk. There were ospreys nesting in the marshes.

Boardwalk. There were ospreys nesting in the marshes.

The beach at Dennis. We accidentally went on the residents' side. Oops.

The beach at Dennis. We accidentally went on the residents’ side. Oops.

Lunch in Provincetown.

Lunch in Provincetown.

Racepoint beach.

Racepoint beach.

I am a little obsessed with visiting lighthouses.

I am a little obsessed with visiting lighthouses.

Atlantic coast. It was windy.

Atlantic coast. It was windy.

I decided that during my visit I would run in every place that we were staying. So Thursday morning I headed to the beach. It was tough (heavy legs) but the views got me by.

The nearest beach.

The nearest beach.

Lots of water around the Cape.

Lots of water around the Cape.

The Cape was exactly what I expected – and it a really good way. It was incredibly beautiful – those beaches are amazing. Full of really cute clapboard homes. Quaint little towns. Great seafood. We even managed to see whales from the beach near Provincetown. And we got blessed with the most beautiful weather to see it all. Next stop: New Hampshire.

Bike commuting for total beginners

Apparently it takes 6 weeks to form a habit. Well, I am 5 weeks into my bike commuting adventure so it’s pretty much a habit now, right?

First of all, I am not a biker. Yes I have a bike but it has been sitting unused in my house for the last 3ish years. It made a brief appearance last summer for some commuting but it was pretty much incompatible with marathon training. After being diagnosed with my stress response back in October I biked to work a couple of time but then winter happened. But now that spring has sprung I’m hoping to bike my butt to work at least twice a week.

My ride:

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I bought this bike a couple of years ago when I thought that I might want to start mountain biking. Well, it turns out that I much prefer being on two legs rather than two wheels when I am in the mountains. The bike itself is a pretty standard beginner mountain bike – although it has disc breaks which are totally awesome. The frame is pretty heavy (no carbon fiber here) and back in November my husband swapped out the bulky mountain bike tires for some smooth commuter tires. Honestly, I had no idea that (1) you could do this, and (2) that it would make such a huge difference. These new tires made the ride so much easier (big, bulky tires take more energy to travel along the road). He also put on a rear mud guard and we fitted it with some blinking front and rear lights.

Gear:

Besides the new lights and bike lock I added a couple of things to my wardrobe. The one major difference between running clothes and biking clothes is the need for wind-proofing. When I run, once I’m warm I know that I’m pretty much guaranteed to stay warm for the rest of my time outside. With biking you have to think about things like wind, speed and wind-speed. You can get pretty damn cold biking fast downhill on a cloudy day. This week I finally got to try out some wind-proof bike pants (amazing – and definitely worth buying) and am eagerly awaiting the delivery of my new Pearl Izumi biking jacket. I also got a biking-specific commute bag. It fits perfectly, has plenty of space and some added reflective panels.

th PZI01389_509462 Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 9.15.27 AM Now these additions are all pretty cool but I managed to bike in my running tights and jacket with a regular hiking day pack before I decided that I wanted to invest in some biking-specific clothing. You might notice that I don’t wear bike shoes and I don’t clip in. Mainly because that is terrifying and at heart I am a big scaredy-cat.

Traffic:

So how does a nervous rider come to terms with biking during rush hour? Easy: find the safest route and bike it. Luckily for me Salt Lake is a great biking city. There are a ton of recreational bikers on the roads for pretty much the whole year, so drivers are used to them. Most drivers – there are still those who get a little too close. FYI: you should give a biker 3 ft of clearance when you pass. Our mayor is also an avid biker so we have a ton of well marked bike lanes criss-crossing the city. For my commute I am mostly on quieter residential streets and bike lanes. The other trick is to take as much room as you need. If the edge of the road is not bike friendly don’t be afraid to take your space. With biking I feel that you have to be a little assertive. Your safety is the number one priority so don’t be afraid to take a longer route to get to your destination in one piece. I have a couple of intersections that are a little nervy – they involve crossing traffic for a left turn. If I don’t feel safe I’ll take a side road and double back to get across safely. But the main thing to do is just get out there and get used to being part of traffic. It does get easier.

Work:

I’m in an interesting position where my work attire is amazingly casual. I don’t have to look put together in any way. I throw a change of clothes in my bag (along with my lunch) and some makeup. My workplace has a shower (that is surprisingly nice) with lockers where I keep a towel plus shampoo/conditioner. I can have a quick shower and spend as much time on hair/make-up as I need to (usually 2 minutes max). We also have access to bike lockers inside the building for extra security. I still use a lock but it’s one less thing that I have to worry about.

Cardio:

Whenever I am injured my doctors always recommend low impact cardio. Swimming worked just fine in winter but once the weather gets nice I want to be outside. Biking gives me about 30 minutes in fresh air with just my thoughts, and lets me start the day chilled out and ready for whatever is waiting for me at the office. The ride itself is pretty tough. A little under 4 miles each way but all uphill in the morning. It feels like a pretty good workout but you can make it as hard as you want by switching up your gears.

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I’m not going to lie the first time I biked in I thought my heart was going to explode. I was in pretty good running shape but that didn’t seem to transfer over to biking especially when the steepest sections is right at my house. I was in my lowest possible gear for nearly the whole way in, and when I got off my bike my legs were incredibly wobbly. But like anything cardio-related it gets easier with time. I’m hoping that it will help with my running. My husband managed to complete his marathon training while biking to work everyday and he qualified for Boston. So then I should be able too?

Other points:

We are a little spoiled with weather in SLC. It’s a mountain desert so we don’t get a lot of precipitation making bike commuting a more pleasant experience. I’m not sure I could cope if I was still living in Ireland or Scotland. The other main bonus is that I’m no longer constrained by my bus time table. I can leave when I’m done! The bus is a great back-up because I still haven’t figured out how to change a flat. And our local buses all have devices on the front where you can load up your bike if you need it.

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I am signed up to take a bike maintenance class at REI next week so hopefully I can figure out what I’m doing then.

Any bikers out there?

Upheaval Dome hike

I wasn’t sure how I would feel the day after my half marathon but I was secretly hoping that I would be have enough control of my legs to do a short hike somewhere near Moab. You can’t come to the desert and not explore. After a quick test of walking into town to try and get some coffee I decided that I was in good enough shape to tire out those legs some more. There are two national parks near Moab – Arches and Canyonlands, and Arches is definitely the popular one that everyone wants to visit. We figured Canyonlands (which is a little more out of the way) would be a little quieter and had some trails that were new to us.

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We settled on Upheaval Dome trail which is literally at the end of the road. It was a shortish hike – about 1.8 mile round trip.

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Desert flowers were out – and purple seemed to be the color of choice.

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This is the view from the first lookout. I am not a geologist but my understanding is that scientists don’t quite understand how all of that grey rock got to be there. Not the prettiest view but if you’re into geology it probably rocks your world (#sorrynotsorry).

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I’ve been in Utah for 5 (!) years now and I still am mesmerized by the red rock desert views. The trail continued on to the second viewpoint and got a little more gnarly (I don’t think I’d recommend it for young children). The trail was marked with cairns but it was kind of shocking to me how people were ignoring the obvious route to walk down some pretty steep slickrock. I mean they the NPS literally carved steps into the stone to make it easier (and safer) for everyone.

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Viewpoint two had guardrails so you know it was super dangerous. And we got another view of the mysterious grey rock.

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It was nice to get my legs moving before we hit the road for the 4 hour drive home. See you soon Moab!

Race recap: Canyonlands Half Marathon

Yes you read that right – a half marathon. And I know it sounds crazy – considering my limited running over, well, pretty much the whole of 2015. So let’s rewind and figure out why I thought that this was a good idea.

I was given the all-clear to run back on February 18th so I started a run-walk program – doing 30 minute workouts and gradually building up the percentage of running vs walking. I did manage a long “run” of 5.15 miles, followed by 7.5 miles the next weekend. Then my first race of the year – the RUN SLC 10K. This was actually the first non-stop run since my injury setback. The next week was a little rough – my calf was a little stiff but after an extra rest day I was feeling pretty well recovered – and still taking regular walk breaks to keep things nice and easy.

I think that I mentioned previously that the Canyonlands half marathon had a five mile option that I could switch to at packet pick-up. And originally that was the plan. Because that would be the smart thing to do. But I reasoned that if I could survive a longish run the weekend before the race then I would stick with the half marathon distance. And I survived 10.5 miles of mostly running. Still with breaks. It was tough. But I made it and felt pretty good, and more importantly I recovered from it pretty quickly. As the week progressed I was becoming more and more settled on doing the half marathon. I know a lot of you are thinking “This girl is crazy!”, and I admit I would never advise anyone else to do this. And if it turns around and bites me in the ass in the next couple of months feel free to call me out on it.

So in summary my half marathon training plan went like this:

1. Pull calf muscle in January. Repeat a week later.

2. Take 4 weeks off from running.

3. Run-walk 3 times a week for 5 weeks.

4. No speedwork, tempo runs and limited long runs.

5. Volia! Half marathon ready……….

I headed down to Moab on Friday afternoon to pick up my bib and check into our condo. Moab is crazy busy on this weekend so I would definitely recommend making a reservation or renting a place with a kitchen. Pick-up was really easy – a cute t-shirt (although the sizing ran on the large side) and a reusable shopping tote that doubled as your drop bag. I feasted on pasta and beer (carb loading like a champ) and headed for an early-ish bedtime.

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The race started on Saturday at 10 AM but being Utah you had to catch a bus to the start line between 7.30-8.15 AM and hang around trying not to freeze to death. Actually, it wasn’t that cold but we were in the shade for the whole two hours. They had coffee, hot chocolate, gatorade and water, plus plenty of porta-potties. At 9.40 we had to walk to the actual race start (about 0.4 miles further up the road) and drop our bags.

I wore my arm warmers for the first time – along with a tank and shorts. I was seriously cold at the start but once we got moving I warmed up quickly and running in the sun was pretty warm. Here’s some of the footage from the race organizers showing the start. Let me say that this is a really scenic race. You basically run along the Colorado river in a beautiful red rock canyon. Any time I was starting to feel bad I would remind myself to look UP and take in the scenery and enjoy just being outside and running in such a picturesque place. The other advantage of running in a canyon is that a lot of it was run in the shade which helped keep me cool as the temperature increased.

There were plenty of water stops – every 2 miles – and a Clif shot zone halfway through. The course was pretty rolling (about 375 ft elevation gain over the course and about 450 ft drop) with one short, steep hill at mile 9.5. At mile 10.5 you left the canyon and started heading towards the town. This meant running on the shoulder of a pretty busy road which was not fun but you quickly turned into some more residential areas that were closed to traffic. The race finished at the town park where you picked up your medal, race goodies and complimentary beers. The weather was perfect for post-race beer drinking – sunny and in the 70s. And also perfect for getting my first sun burn of the year. Boo! You’d think I’d know better having the whitest skin possible.

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As for the race. Well, it went about as well as I could have hoped for considering my lack of training. I thought I could run around 1.50 so I wanted to start out around 8.20 and see how it went. I knew the last couple of miles would be tough but I gave myself permission to walk if I needed to. So here’s the mile-by-mile:

Mile 1: 8.21  Feeling pretty good.

Mile 2: 8.14

Mile 3: 8.16

Mile 4: 8.18

Mile 5: 8.11

Mile 6: 8.15

Mile 7: 8.23

The first half felt pretty comfortable. I was feeling a little hot and a little hungry (which was a pretty worrying sign so early on). During the next mile I stopped to walk and take my Gu.

Mile 8: 8.39

Mile 9: 8.21

Mile 10: 8.26

Mile 11: 8.28

Things started feeling pretty hard around this point. I was now doing all of my mental tricks to convince myself to keep going but it felt hard. Bonus: we were now completely out of the shade and running alongside some semis in single file. At this point I had to stop to walk. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do this during a half marathon but it was the right choice. Then I got myself going again and convinced my legs they could keep moving until the end.

Mile 12: 9.11

Mile 13: 8.39

Final time: 1.51.21 with an average pace of 8.30 min/mile. I managed to finish in the top 20% overall and really couldn’t have asked for better considering the circumstances. My calf was feeling fine until the last 4 miles or so, and never really got painful enough to change my gait. It felt tight afterwards and I managed to ice it at the finish area. The next day it was a little sore and hello quads! how you doing? But, if I’m being really honest it’s probably the least bad (sorry English language) I’ve felt after any of my half marathons. And I know – that doesn’t make any sense at all!

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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Moab!

I’m so glad Monday was a holiday! I needed a full day to recover after our weekend in Moab. We left on Friday lunchtime so that J could check-in for his 55K race and we could both have an early night (5.30 AM wake-up calls are the downside of racing!). But you know you’ve signed up for an awesome race when you pick up your bib at the local bar.

We made it to the start of the race at 7 AM (the 55K started at 8 AM and the 33K at 8.30 AM). I found the volunteer coordinator and go my hi-vis vest – once you wear this people ask you all kinds of questions. It was in the mid 30s which meant frozen toes but still a lot of fun watching people who paid actual money to run 32ish miles over red rock in February. An additional bonus is that you literally cannot see a bad view in Moab.

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While J was running for 5.5-6 hours I decided to hit up one of the best hikes in Moab, and which was conveniently located right beside the parking lot for the race finish. Corona arch is about a 3 mile round trip with minimal elevation gain and the most amazing views. (And no calf pain at all!)

Back in the desert.

Back in the desert.

Red cliffs.

Red cliffs.

Bowtie arch.

Bowtie arch.

Corona Arch.

Corona Arch.

The arch up close.

The arch up close.

Added adventure.

Added adventure.

I managed to get to the finish in time to watch J finish – under 6 hours in his first ultra. The race was around 32 miles with 4000 ft of elevation gain and by all accounts it was pretty tough -> especially if your longest run was 15 miles!

What a terrible view at the finish!

What a terrible view at the finish!

We spend the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the sun drinking a beer or two before meeting some friends for dinner and having an early night. The next day J was feeling annoyingly surprisingly good so we headed to Canyonlands National Park after breakfast at the Love Muffin (the only place to get your breakfast burrito in town).

We did a hike down to the False Kiva. It’s a protected historical site so it’s not on the official park map but if you ask (or use the internet) you can find the start of the trail (which is really obvious and well-marked). It started off pretty easy and then we made our way down about 500ft in a pretty steep descent before making out way up to the kiva. It’s called a false kiva because normal kivas have an underground section but who cares when you see this view. What a great way to recharge those batteries!

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Looking out over Canyonlands - towards the Green River and White Rim.

Looking out over Canyonlands – towards the Green River and White Rim.

 

Who wants to come to Utah?

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?