Tuesday, February 3, 2015

January Check In

Last night I was reflecting on this past month of running in my new Believe Training Journal. I like that at the end of each month it prompts you to reflect back on the past couple of weeks so you can assess what worked and what didn't. Overall January was a fantastic month of training, but not without some hiccups. Here's the rundown for January:

The Good:
  • I logged my highest monthly mileage ever at 110 miles for the month. I've come close to 100 miles in a month a few times before but never passed this particular milestone. I credit running consistently 5 days a week and upping my mid-week miles. 
  • A new 5k PR!! I started the month with the Commitment Day 5k. Going into the race I wasn't really sure what I wanted to achieve, whether I wanted to race it or just take it easy. My training plan that day called for a negative split 5 miles so I decided to have a 2 mile warm up and see what my legs felt like doing for the race. I sped out the first mile at 9:16/mile and knew I really couldn't maintain that pace for the whole race. I was hoping for a 9:45 overall average so I tried to calm myself down in the second mile.The second mile clocked in at 9:58 and I was getting tired. I wanted to give it all I had for the last mile but the path was covered in black ice and we all had to walk a few portions. Since my number one goal is my half in March I wasn't about to risk injury. The last mile read 10:10. My official time was 30:37 (9:52 avg pace). So close to sub-30! It made me excited to try a few more 5k's after my goal race in March!

  • Nailing workouts that looked scary on paper. 
    • This training cycle is the first time I have tried tempo runs and I love them. Over the past couple of weeks the tempo miles have been increasing and instead of being intimidated, I find myself looking forward to them.
    • Long runs with a few race pace miles in the middle are also new to me and I was able to do them just fine.
    • My favorite run of the month was a negative split 6 miler. The plan called for a 2,2,2 run meaning that my pace should drop every two miles. During the week I usually run on the treadmill since I have to go very early in the morning. This particular morning I decided to drive out to the trail and try pacing on my own instead of relying on the treadmill. My plan was a relaxed first 2 miles, then my "B goal" half marathon pace (10:45) and then my "A goal" pace (10:30), By the time I got to mile 5 I was feeling so good I decided to give a little extra in the last 2 miles. I think I did pretty good.

The Not-So-Good
  • Perhaps related to my jump in mileage this month I have developed a tightness on my left leg, particularly in my calf. Because my huge injury last year was on my left side this gave me cause for concern. Then last week when I started feeling some old familiar pains in my SI joint I knew it was time to step back a little. I actually skipped my last long run of the month and took a couple days off. That seems to have helped a lot because everything is feeling much better.

Things To Work On:
  • My main goal for the coming month is to listen to my body and don't be afraid to take a step back if necessary. Taking a few preventative days off is way better than being forced to take 5 months off again.
  • Consistent core and hip strengthening. I have been doing this a couple of times a week, but I really feel that I need to incorporate a few hip strengthening exercises each day in addition to what I am already doing. I just ordered some resistance bands to help me out.
  • Get enough sleep!
  • Be mindful of what I am eating. I am slacking off a little and I need to get back on track.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Best of 2014

As far as running goes, 2014 just wasn't my year.  I had such high hopes. I went into 2014 calling it "the year of the marathon". My first marathon was supposed to be in April and then Marine Corps in the Fall.

My training for RNR Raleigh came to a screeching halt with my first 20 mile run. What followed was 4 months of physical therapy and 2 months of getting up the nerve and the athletic base to start running again. I DNS'ed more races than I ran, including Marine Corps.

To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. When I started running again in August, I felt like I had a huge hill to climb to get to where I was before I got injured. My legs felt heavy and nothing about it was easy.

But then something clicked. Looking at my training log it seems like all of the sudden with one 4 mile treadmill run everything changed for me. I stopped running intervals and my paces were dropping. I give a lot of credit to the Another Mother Runner 10k Finish It plan. I used it to train for my Thanksgiving Day 10k race and the workouts were more structured than anything I had tried before. And I was nailing them. Training for that race using that plan gave me so much confidence in my running.

As the Fall went on I PR'ed in the 5 mile, and 10k distance and placed 2nd in my Age Group for a trail run. I had so much fun coming back to running. Looking back on my injury, I can honestly say that I am thankful for it. While I could not see the benefits while I was in the thick of it, it gave me the chance to completely reset my running and the tools I needed to get even better.

So instead of looking at 2014 as "the year that wasn't" I prefer to focus on the positive experiences. And because I really like Miss Zippy's Year in Review (2012, 2013), here is my Best of 2014!

Best Race Experience
I'd have to say my best race experience was the Bull City Race Fest 5 miler.  It was a race I initially signed up for for fun because it was a local race and a lot of people I knew were running it. I was my first race in almost a year and my first in my Oiselle singlet. It was awesome to have friends and teammates on the course. Plus, I completely shocked myself with a >9 minute improvement over last year's time.

Best Run
It may seem strange but my best run was a 4 mile treadmill at a ungodly hour on a Monday morning in September. It was an easy 3 miles followed by 6 strides and I did the whole run without stopping once. This was huge for me. It got me thinking about the personal boundaries I set for myself and gave me the courage to push past them.

Best Piece of New Gear
My Oiselle singlet! This year I joined the Oiselle Flock and am having so much fun being part of this team!
Lovingly stolen pic from here

Best Piece of Running Advice
This came from my physical therapist who strongly indicated over and over again not to neglect my core and hip strengthening exercises. I very aware that running can't just be about actual running. To prevent another lengthy injury and to become a better runner I really need to make core work and hip strengthening exercises a priority.

Most Inspirational Runner
This would have to go to my Oiselle teammates near and far. I love reading their highs and lows and everything in between. In particular I absolutely love the little team we have assembled here in North Carolina. I've lucky to not only consider them my teammates but also my friends.

Oiselle Team NC at the City Of Oaks Marathon Relay in November

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?
A total learning experience.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Go Ahead, Call it a Comeback

Yeah, it's been a long time since my last post. The truth of the matter is that in the deepest throes of my injury, the last thing I wanted to do was talk about it. I pretty much avoided social media for months because I couldn't bear to read about my friends having great runs and PRing races. Maybe that makes me a jerk, but I was a jealous hater.

When I started PT in March, I thought I would just take a few weeks off and everything would just sort itself out. After six weeks, things were still pretty painful. I had dry needling sessions every couple of weeks from the middle of my back down through my hamstring. Just sitting in the car was so painful in my glute and SI joint I would cry on the way home from work. Things were progressing so slowly and to say I was frustrated would be a severe understatement.

Despite my whining, I kept up with my exercises and eventually I was cleared to use my road bike. I have always loved cycling but it always took a back seat to running. I was thrilled to be able to do some sort of physical activity. And loved being able to ride so much throughout the summer.

This was my view for most of the summer. I didn't hate it.

Between the biking and increasing the intensity of my PT exercises I was able strengthen my core and glutes and slowly eliminate all the pain I had been feeling for months. In July had a treadmill test where my gait was analyzed and after a few adjustments I was told to go home and try out a run on my own.

Maybe I was a little excited

My first few runs were very short and very slow and I paid super close attention to how every thing was feeling. While I was so happy to be running it was also discouraging to realize how much fitness I had lost over the course of three months. I had to start all over again and it took a while to stop comparing myself to where I was before the injury.

Because I work better with goals I chose a Thanksgiving Day 10k race to train for. I took a month or so to very gradually ease myself back into running on a regular basis. In September I  started the 10k Finish It plan from Another Mother Runner and very carefully started to increase the intensity of my workouts. Along the way though something just clicked. I was able to stop relying on run/walk intervals and run continuously.  This in itself was a big deal to me since I have been running intervals for the past couple of years and had convinced myself that I needed them. My runs got longer and longer and I found myself not needing to stop and walk. It was a huge confidence boost at a time I desperately needed one. 

I loved the AMR plan because it also incorporated speed work, which is something I never really did with any other training plan. Speed work came mostly in the form of short high intensity intervals. They started out small and gradually increased in difficulty each week. I found myself looking forward to these workouts. Because all of my mid-week running is done on a treadmill, they really broke up the monotony and occupied my brain for the whole workout.

Around the same time I also started really focusing on my diet in an attempt to lose some weight. I added cross training to my training and continued focusing on core and glute strength. To date I have lost 15 pounds and have seen all sorts of benefits. I can now fit into a pants size I haven't seen since before my 9 year old was born.  Most exciting to me though is watching my paces drop. The combo of the speed work and the weight loss has done incredible things for my running so far.

In October I decided to test things out with a local 5 mile race. Originally I was going to skip it this year but a bunch of friends were running and I had a ton of FOMO. I decided that it would be a no pressure race and just have fun. As I was running I couldn't believe how great I felt and I couldn't believe the numbers I was seeing on my Garmin. I finished the race in about 9.5 minutes faster than last year and had my first single digit average pace (9:59 totally counts). 

My first race in a Oiselle singlet. It definitely gave me wings.

I used the momentum from the race to drive the rest of my training for the 10k. I relied on the MacMillan calculator for my training paces and set a goal time of 1:02:xx which would be about a 5min PR for me.  I was nervous about this goal but equally as excited.

The 10k itself was in Ohio where we were spending the holiday with my husband's family. I expected it to be flat but encountered a lot of rolling hills. I'm used to them so they were no big deal, it was just a surprise. With the exception of a down hill second mile clocking in at 9:35, I kept the pace around 10:00/mile for the whole race and knew that my A goal was within my reach. I stayed strong physically and, most importantly, mentally throughout the whole race. I was able to push through the times where I wanted to slow down or even walk. I felt I ran as strong as I could the entire race. I finished in 1:02:08, which is a 5:39 10k PR for me.

Total goober

Training for and running this race was beyond anything I could have hoped for. I have said on more than one occasion that getting injured was the best thing that has ever happened for my running. Sure it was impossible to see that when I was in the middle of it, but recovering from injury allowed me the chance to totally reset my running. I am gaining the confidence I need to run faster and to try new things. I am approaching my diet and cross training with a different mindset as well. I believe all of this is just setting me up for great things ahead.

Next up - double digit runs and my return to the half marathon!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reflections on my DNS

I had been looking forward to this past Sunday for months. Counting down the months and weeks focused on one singular goal - to cross the finish line of my first full marathon. I woke up much earlier than I wanted to more times than I care to count to count. I suffered through the coldest temperatures I've seen since we left Boston six years ago just to run. I missed hours with my family. All for this one goal. On any given day I could tell you the exact number of days until April 13th.

Ever since my doctor and physical therapist told me a few weeks ago that my hip injury was too  severe to even think about running the marathon, I've been dreading April 13th. When I first got hurt I thought I had come to terms with what it meant for my running this spring. It turns out that was a big fat lie because in the weeks and days leading up to Rock n Roll Raleigh every time I got and email or saw a Facebook post it was like a punch in the gut.

I know this all seems a bit melodramatic. That's because it is. I kept repeating to myself and my friends that there are people in this world with real problems. Problems more important than missing a race. But I was disappointed and I just wanted it to be over.

However, because this was the biggest road race Raleigh has seen, I still wanted to be a part of it and I wanted to make the best of my situation. I decided to volunteer at my running group's water station at mile 4. This way I could help out while cheering on my friends. (Besides, volunteering is just good race karma.)

I also decided to keep some of the plans I had made with my friends. Brent was away for work for the weekend and my kids went to stay with my parents, so I had a little stay-cation with my friends in Raleigh. They were running the half and I wanted to be there to experience the weekend like we had planned all along.

So in pure lazy blogger form, instead of sharing every single step,  I shall share my weekend in pictures.

Thursday night was an amazing dinner with Jolene followed by the Another Mother Runner party. I've been a long time fan of AMR and I just love Sarah and Dimity and the community of mother runners they've created.

Saturday was the expo. I was bummed about picking up a bib I was never going to use (except for the beer ticket. I used that) so my girls Monica and Francesca knew EXACTLY how to cheer me up. Behold, gelato and cupcakes on the same plate. They just get me.

Sunday I was up bright and early to hand out gatorade like a BOSS. This was actually an incredibly awesome way to watch the race. And when anyone from our running group came through - complete madness. So much fun!

The water stop was at mile four and only a couple of blocks from the finish area. I was able to get there after our water stop closed to cheer on the finishers and wait for Monica and Fran. I think that cowbell gave me blisters. 

My coping mechanism for my big fat DNS: double fisting at 11am on a Sunday morning. I think I handled it pretty darn well.

I am happy to see the weekend behind me. There were a few self-pity moments and a couple of times I wanted to cry, but the good times far outweighed the bad. I had a great day hanging out with so many people I know from the Raleigh/Durham running community. And I felt so much love from my friends.

So I am dusting off and moving on. Next up Marine Corps. And just so you know, October 26th is in 192 days.

Monday, March 31, 2014

My First PT Appointment and Dry Needling

Alternatively titled: The Time I Jumped Head First into a Controversial Medical Treatment on Blind Faith

This past Saturday I had my first physical therapy appointment for the pain I have been having in my hip. My physical therapist, Mike, was all business and I liked that. I am completely serious about getting this issue kicked as soon as I can so I can get back to running.

After a good while manipulating my legs and hips he narrowed my problems down to the piriformis and my SI joint. Apparently they are all out of whack (yes, this is the actual scientific medical terminology) because my pelvis is pretty unbalanced. I favor my right side, which makes the left side weaker and less flexible.

Immediately he made a plan: 1) deal with the pain, 2) get my pelvis properly aligned and 3) strengthen the left side. I was pretty encouraged by his enthusiasm and confidence that he could fix me.  Furthermore, I was pretty psyched that we could start dealing with the pain right away with some Dry Needling. 

I'm sorry, needle? What?

In Dry Needling, small acupuncture needles are inserted into the trigger points, or knots, in your muscle. The needle is inserted directly into the the knot and than moved slightly around the area. This causes a local trigger response, which feels like a muscle spasm. This makes the muscle fibers release allowing the muscle to relax. 

Mike warned me extensively that this was not a comfortable procedure. He offered me the chance to go home and research it and come back. Or I could do it right now.  I surprised myself in agreeing so quickly, since I am a huge baby when it comes to needles, but I love running more and I want to get better quick.

He had me lay on my stomach on the table while he located the knots in my piriformis. The muscle is so tight that it was quite uncomfortable just to have him palpate it. The needles themselves didn't hurt, just the tiniest pinch. I felt nothing until he hit the trigger point. When he did, it felt like a jolt of electricity which was quite uncomfortable.  He did this for 4 trigger points before we stopped for the day. 

When I got up off the table the results were immediate. My pain was gone. It was crazy and too good to be true. I was sore from the muscle spasms, but the actual pain I had been experiencing for the past three weeks was so much better.

I woke up on Sunday with quite a bit of soreness which, from what Mike told me and from I read after the fact, was to be expected. This morning I am feeling no pain in the piriformis area. My SI joint is still pretty achy, though.

I have to say that I am glad I didn't go home and read up on it first because a lot of what I have read would have deterred me from going through with the treatment. Most people say it is very painful. While there was some element of pain and discomfort, over all it wasn't too terrible. Also Dry Needling is a pretty controversial treatment in the PT world and not approved in every state.  I can only speak for my own personal experience. I went into that appoint hoping for a miracle to cure my pain and I got one.

This is only the first step to my road to recovery. I will most likely need more dry needling sessions in the coming weeks, but now that we've been able to significantly lessen the pain, I have to get to work on the underlying problems that caused my pain in the first place. We'll work on strengthening up my left side. hopefully a return to running might not be too far off.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Change of Plans

I've had pain all around my hip for two weeks with little to no improvement. I was nervous to go to another sports medicine doctor because my last experience was not awesome. But by last Friday afternoon I was nearly crying from the pain. I was able to get an appointment with a different doctor first thing Monday morning.

After some x-rays and being bent and twisted every which way, the doc said he didn't think I had a stress fracture. In terms of soft tissue injury I have "a little bit of everything" - tightness and strain in my IT band, my piriformis and SI joint.

"Great!" I said, "So can I run my marathon in 3 weeks?"

For a split second he just looked at me.

"Ummm, no"

I mean, I knew what he was going to say, I just needed him to say it out loud. And the knowledge that he was actually going to say no, didn't make hearing it any easier.

He did say that I could run it, but most likely I wouldn't finish and turn a manageable injury into something much worse. I tried to hold myself together while we discussed our plan: 6 weeks of PT with a focus on core strength and hip flexibility. (I also have to say that I am glad I didn't let my previous experience with a sports med dr keep me from going to a different one. I loved this doctor. He had such a great attitude and seemed to genuinely care about getting me back in my Brooks.)

When the appointment was over I allowed myself a couple of minutes to cry it out and wallow in my self pity. I mean, months of running in the freezing cold just down the drain. Eventually I gained some perspective. This is not a real problem. A set-back for sure, but there will be other start lines. Right now I am choosing to look at this as a lesson that in the back of my head I knew had to be learned: that I can not train for these long distances by running alone.

This winter I half-assed my core work and barely lifted anything heavy. I knew better but I just didn't follow through. So I am picking myself up and pulling up my big girl pants and getting to work.

Step 1: Get Better

My first PT appointment isn't until Saturday. Until then I will be rolling and stretching like a boss. I was using just a regular foam roller but have since upgraded to the Trigger Point roller after many recommendations. I bought a lacrosse ball to get the oh-so-hard to reach piriformis. (I had to look up YouTube videos on exactly how to do this. I don't recommend that. It was kind of creepy.) The stick comes with me to work, much to the chagrin of my office-mate who asked why running is my hobby when I need to use torture devices to do it. Some people just don't understand.

Step 2: Cross train

Running alone just isn't going to cut it anymore, especially if I want to run longer distances or improve my speed. Definitely going to put more emphasis on core work and strength training.

Did you know that "Go For It" by the Hot Sundaes is
not available on iTunes? WTH?

Step 3: Nutrition

While I am working on the bigger picture I can not ignore the vital role of nutrition. If I can focus this rebuilding period on cleaner eating and perhaps even some weight loss, all the better.

Overall, I am surprised at how quickly I have come to accept my current situation. I mean, crying and self pity is not going to change anything. It turns out I already had a back-up plan. Last week I found out I was accepted into the Marine Corps Marathon. I couldn't be more excited. It will be my biggest race by far. I'm ready to do the work because in 7 months I am more determined than ever to make it to this start line!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Everything hurts

Well, I am three weeks out from my marathon and everything hurts.

And not in a good way. My training came to a screeching halt about 2 weeks ago after my first 20 miler.

The run itself was good. I consisted of 2 5-mile out and backs on my favorite running trail. There are a couple of people in my running group also training for the Rock n Roll Raleigh full and I have loved running with them. I had pleasant company and mentally breaking up the run into 4x5-mile segments was a great way to get the run done.

When my Garmin did hit 20 miles I stopped and walked and stretched a bit, but my legs just completely locked up. It was quite painful, but I just attributed it to having run my longest distance ever. I continued stretching and rested the next day.

In the week that followed I developed a pain in my left hip that radiated down my leg. I tend to suffer through some minor hip pain at least once per training cycle. I decided to rest for a couple of days and concentrate on yoga. This combo has always worked immediately in the past.

This time it isn't working as quickly, or at all for that matter. Right now I am existing on ice packs and Advil. My tiger tail massager is my constant travel companion. I am contemplating calling a sports medicine office. I am getting really nervous about not being able to run this race that I have been working so hard for.

Until I know any better, I keep stretching and icing and try to remain calm.