What kind of runner are you?

If someone were to ask me this question, I would immediately respond “Road.” But deep in my heart lies a burning desire to be on the trail. In my heart, I am a trail runner. And I hope that one day that will be all that I run. In the meantime, I will have to be satisfied with weekend jaunts to the hills and mountains just North and West of the city.

 

Trail runner disguise
Hat: Check. Buff: Check. Ready to run some trails. 😉

 

Sunday morning on the trails

This morning I got to take a lovely jaunt up to Pound Ridge, New York to Ward Pound Ridge Reservation with my friend, Mike. We had planned to do NYARA’s Hike-a-Thong today, but with it postponed because of trail conditions we decided to head out on a different trail. I am still coming back from my injury and my mileage is pretty low so we decided we plan for a 3.7 mile loop with a 4.5 mile option. I don’t have trail running shoes and I didn’t feel like making the hike into the city yesterday to buy some so I opted to wear my road running shoes with Yaktrax that I bought last Winter, but never ended up using. Mike had scouted the trail for us yesterday and thought that would be okay with some good wool socks. So at 7:30 am this morning he picked me up at the Dunkin’ Donuts and we headed out for the hour or so ride to Pound Ridge. By 8:45 am we were at the park and ready to head out on the trails.

 

View from parking lot
View from the parking lot. This is gonna be FUN!

 

As soon as we hit the trail I realized that my shoes were going to end up wet. The snow on the trail wasn’t packed so we were sinking with every step. I had worn my heart rate monitor and within the first .15 miles my alert was going off. I shut it off and ignored the fact that I am supposed to base training right now.

 

snow covered trails
Snow covered trails

 

The first 3 miles of this run were all an incline so it definitely had our hearts pumping. The loose snow made for unstable footing and there were spots where we were doing more power hiking than running. Around 2.5 miles we had an option to head back to make it a 3.7 mile run or extend to 4.5 miles. We were feeling good and having fun so we opted for the 4.5 miles. As soon as we turned on the trail though, things began to change. The trail was about 6 inches wide, 6 inches deep, and a few inches of powder. We were slogging along, hiking for about .75 miles before we hit the next trail we were supposed to take. It was even worse than one we were on! So Mike pulled out the map and figured out a different route for us. It was around this time that I decided to just jog a bit. To my surprise, running was better than walking! It was definitely shaky and we were head down the entire time, focused on not rolling an ankle, but it was definitely much more fun than the slow slog we had been on. The elevation at this point had leveled out a bit, too, so we were able to jog at a decent clip for awhile. Still, the footing was unstable so a good clip was really a 14 min/mi. At any rate, this is probably why we missed the blazes for our next trail.

 

Narrow, deep, soft trail
Narrow, deep, soft trail. Definitely not stable footing.
Me and Mike
Trail runners at heart. Loving the adventure in the snow!
Selfie
Queen of the trail!
A view from the ridge
Rewarded with a view.
Soft trail
Um, this trail may be too soft. Let’s recalculate. This is where we changed routes.

 

At about 4.5 miles, Mike pulled out the map to figure out why we were still in the middle of the woods and not at the car. Somehow we had screwed up and turned right instead of left. I was leading and reading the blazes, but somehow there was a miscommunication and I had turned on Red Yellow instead of just Yellow. We had been jogging at a good clip as it was all decline at this point so we decided to just keep with it. It turned out to be a happy accident. The last mile was our fastest and before we knew it, we were back at the parking lot. Other highlights from the run included me spotting a deer track and us being passed on the trail by a cross country skier being pulled by a husky with a little husky-like pup bringing up the rear. Such an awesome day!

 

Deer track
Deer track!
Another scenic view
Last view. Steep decline then we were at the parking lot!
Running in the snow
Running uphill in the snow. Yep, I do this for fun.
Post-run selfie
Post-run selfie. My heart is so happy!

 

Run stats

Time: 1:37:04
Moving Time: 1:27:27

Avg Pace: 17:54 min/mi
Avg Moving Pace: 16:07 min/mi
Best Pace: 8:29 min/mi (Not sure I trust Garmin here. I would say it was more 10mm at the end of our run.)

Weather: Hazy/Overcast, 30º w 25º WC, 80% humidity, 5mph wind

-Mile 1: 16:03
-Mile 2: 18:19
-Mile 3: 22:07
-Mile 4: 19:35
-Mile 5: 15:08
-Last .6: 13:45

Garmin distance: 5.57 miles
GPSies distance: 5.45 miles

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 2.21.39 PM

 

After the run

I headed to the port-a-john and then we headed back to the car. My shoes and two pairs of wool socks were soaked through. No blisters, though! We changed into dry socks and shoes and headed out for brunch. We stopped at the same diner that we had stopped on the way out (so I could pee) and it was PACKED. The wait was short though and before we knew it, we had tons of food and boozy drinks in front of us. A well-deserved reward after an almost 700 calorie workout! At this point some of my digits were still numb and I was chilly from still being in my damp run clothes so the warm restaurant and food was amazing. We practically inhaled our food then headed back to the city.

 

Post-run brunch
All the meats! Post-run brunch is one of my favorite things ever!

Injury report

My calf was bothering me a bit this morning, but I felt okay running if we took it easy. I stretched a bit and once we started the run, I didn’t notice any pain. My right ankle/achilles did start to bother me pretty early on though and then my right knee started to act up a bit. After a couple of miles, though, they seemed to be okay. I was surprised when we got back to the cars and I took off my shoes and my feet are sore! I know that tomorrow all kinds off places that I don’t typically work will be yelling at me, too. Looking forward to the wonderful post-workout pain. Break it down to build it up stronger!

Go your own way

After almost a month off, I tried to get back to running with two super slow and short runs only to have my calf pain return. I was frustrated and ready to head to physical therapy. But something inside of me felt like I should give myself chance and I decided that for two weeks I would try to get back on track on my own with consistent conditioning sessions and a slow return to running. I am almost to my two weeks and I am happy to report that not only has my injury not returned, but tonight I had a great run.

In the past 10 days I have gotten in five solid conditioning sessions and 3 slow and short runs (2mi, 3mi, 3mi, in Z2). The conditioning sessions have included reverse plank, side planks, forearm plank, clams, calf raises, squats, glute bridges, and one leg balance. I have also been doing calf stretches multiple times a day. Each of my runs has been followed with my typical 20 minutes of yoga. I have seen consistent and significant improvement in my pace in Z2 over the past 5 runs this month and my fitness returning more quickly than I anticipated.

I am cautiously optimistic that I am back on track for training. And pretty proud that I was able to get myself back on track with my own program, if that is the case!

On the run
I’ve missed this so much

Recovery and the holidays

Well, it’s been almost two weeks since my last race. After the race, I knew I needed a break and that it would likely be at least 7-10 days before I should run again. I shot an email to the sports doc and never heard back so Dr. Google has been my guide during recovery.

I got a little conditioning in last week, but then did nothing over the week and the beginning of this week. Between holiday prep and not being able to run or climb it was difficult to find motivation to keep up the normal conditioning routine. For the past two nights I have been massaging my calves and doing some calf raises (3×10). They are feeling okay, not too sore, and I think I am ready to up the exercises. According to Dr. Google, once I can do three sets of 20 calf raises without pain I am ready to incorporate some running back into my training. So the plan is to massage and slowly up the exercises until that happens. I also want to get back on track with the rest of my conditioning and possibly throw in some (flat and fairly slow) cycling. I contacted my climbing gym to have them freeze my account until I return so there is no rush to get back on the walls aside from a 10-pack of visits that I purchased to another gym that expires at the end of February.

It’s interesting how not training will affect you. For the first week, I had all kinds of little aches and pains in different places. I have enough experience to realize that those weren’t real injuries, but my body healing itself. For the past week, my body has felt good aside from that melting feeling you get when you aren’t training. Mentally, I was okay for the first 7 days or so. After a week though, I really started to miss running and climbing. Being off of work for the past week hasn’t helped that much either. One of my favorite things to do on days off is to day run or climb. The weather has been so gorgeous excluding Christmas Eve which adds to the longing, I am sure. But I want to do this right and not come back too soon.

I want get some good base training and cross training in over the Winter so that I am strong for marathon training next Summer. I am even considering a personal trainer. According to how base training goes, I am also considering taking on a running coach. I already have a cardiologist referral from my doctor to get my stress EKG and a full panel ordered to make sure I am healthy enough internally to take on this distance. By the time I run next November, it is likely I will have an entire support team! I have plenty of friends that took on a marathon with self-training. There is something about this distance though that makes me feel like some support is a smart thing especially given my injury-prone past.

Luckily I have plenty to distract me while injured. I had friends visit last weekend then spent the beginning of the week doing holiday related things. Next week I’ll ring in the new year with friends which I am very much looking into. My best friend wants me to take her climbing for her first time so I am hoping my calves are up to it by then. If not we will have to settle for a gentle hike which hardly seems like settling!

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday and has a wonderful new year!

Happy Holidays! xo Brandi
Happy holidays! xo Brandi

Race report: Ted Corbitt 15K

Before the race: Injury report

Took the entire week off of running after my race last Saturday. My injuries weren’t feeling horrible, but I could tell they were still recovering and I knew I had to get through this race. I did core work and lower body conditioning three nights this week in an effort to keep fit. On Thursday, I considered going out for 2 easy miles, but decided against it. Everything felt fine on Friday night and I thought I might even be able to run the entire distance albeit slowly. On Saturday I woke up and my calf had a little bit of pain and surprisingly, my IT band started giving me grief as I headed to the start. My IT band does tend to get cranky when it’s cold so I am going to assume that is what happened. At any rate, I headed to the start with calf strain, runner’s knee, and ITBS. Good times!

 

Flat Brandi
Flat Brandi reporting for duty

 

The race: Runners are the best

I met up at the start with an online teammate and her friend. They planned to take it easy and potentially run/walk as well. Last weekend’s race started to wear on my mentally around mile 3 so I was glad to have company for this 9.3 mile race. We started out faster than I had anticipated, but I felt fine. It wasn’t until around mile 3 that I needed to slow down. Funny thing happened around mile 1, one of the girls I was running with has been looking for a job and was talking about it and another runner overheard the conversation. She ended up chatting with her for awhile and eventually hopped off the course to call whoever it was after taking information down. Crazy awesome!

The weather was great once we warmed up and Central Park was absolutely stunning. If I hadn’t been having such a great time talking with the girls, I would have been snapping a bagillion photos! But I was having a great time and the miles just ticked off. After mile 4, I need to make a pit stop and they even slowed to a walk so that I could catch back up. I was so grateful for the company, and it was great company at that. After the halfway point, we walked more often. We laughed and thanked all the course marshals for their enthusiastic motivation cheers. I said to one of them, “Just need to finish this one!” At one point I joked about stopping at one of the park food carts to buy a coffee. We did have two different people yell to us about walking which was a little annoying. I almost hollered back, “I’M INJURED!” but let it go.

Before too long we were heading into our last two miles so we picked up the pace a little bit. We ran the entire last 1.3 miles picking up the pace as we got closer to the finish. As we headed through the finish, I threw up 9 fingers and was so happy it was done!

 

Post-race selfie
Me and the ladies post-race

 

The race: The stats

Official finish: 2:01:21
Pace: 13:02/mile

Weather: Clear, 36º, 55% humidity, 9mph wind

-Mile 1: 11:47
-Mile 2: 11:12
-Mile 3: 13:47
-Mile 4: 11:41
-Mile 5: 16:05
-Mile 6: 12:50
-Mile 7: 14:06
-Mile 8: 13:57
-Mile 9: 12:40
-Last .3: 9:51

Garmin distance: 9.48
Last comparable race (9/28/2014, 10mi): 48:42, 13:04 pace

After the race

After the race, we took a quick selfie then the girls headed to the train and I headed to bag check. Changed my top, got into my warm-ups, used the facilities then headed home. Ended up feeling pretty horrible on the train. Stopped and picked up some groceries then headed home to make some brunch and have a little celebratory prosecco. My legs felt okay immediately after the race, but weren’t feeling great after the long train ride. Definitely going to be taking some time off to fully recover! Hoping that 10 or so days will be enough for me to get back to some climbing. Plan to come back slow and easy to running over the winter with some base training.

 

9+1 guaranteed entry
It’s happening!

 

Race report: Jingle Bell Jog 4M

This is likely to be the most boring race report ever. As you are probably already well aware, I am injured. I am suffering from calf strain in my left leg and runner’s knee in my right. It’s swell. Really. My doctor has advised me not to run excluding my last two races for guaranteed entry and he has asked me to go as easy as I can in those.

Before the race

So preparation for this race was very light. I picked up my race packet on Thursday evening and then late Friday evening I packed my bag and set out my clothes for the next morning. I’ve ran 10 races since July so I kind of have prep down now. One thing I can say about doing so many races in a short time is that you stop worrying so much forgetting things. As long as you have your shoes on and your bib (and maybe fuel for longer races), you are pretty much good to go. The rest is just icing on the cake.

Race morning went pretty smoothly. Got out of bed on time, left early, caught the train I wanted. Had some GI distress on the train which was odd, but it cleared in time for the start. Got to the park 45 minutes before the race, made 2 pit stops, and dropped my bag. It was pretty warm and humid so I decided to run without my jacket. I had brought my water resistant jacket because there was chance of rain. It looked a little ominous, but I decided to risk it.

This race is more of fun run, in my opinion. Most everyone was in the striped socks that was our race swag. Many people were wearing red and green, holiday themed accessories, and some were even in full costume. I saw multiple Santas, a grinch in full face make-up, a snowman, and a gingerbread man. There were lots of selfies being taken and seemed like everyone had a running buddy or full on crew. It felt a bit like a holiday party. On the course there were plenty of people walking.

 

Festive feet
Race swag was these super sweet socks and bells for our shoes.
Before the race selfie
Before the race. Everyone seemed to be in the spirit.

 

The race

The race started around 9:30. I started off slow and trying to rein myself in. I thought a 12:00 minute mile pace would be reasonable with my injuries and wasn’t going to let myself go any faster that 11:30. It was difficult reining myself in for the first .75 miles until I forced myself to walk. I figured I would jog .75 miles and walk .25 for each mile. The first mile went well like that, but in the second mile I started to feel my calf and knee. I had forgotten to tape my knee or wear my brace for support and would definitely pay for that mistake. At 1.6 miles I slowed to a walk and walked to the 2 mile marker. Picked up the pace again at mile 2 until 2.5 miles. At this point, I was no longer just aware of my calf and knee–they were actually causing me pain. So I walked.

It was around this point that I gave myself a serious talking to. I was frustrated and a little deflated. I was just overwhelmed with thoughts and feeling like a failure. I was also super disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to sink that first race record. (This is the first race I ever ran. Way back in 2011!) My head was wanting to spiral out and I decided to refuse to let it. I reminded myself that this is all a part of something bigger and being upset was about my ego. I was doing the smart thing for walking and not further injuring myself. I was strong for reining myself in when I just wanted to push through the pain and run. No one was there asking me to speed up. No one cared if I ran that thing. And there were still plenty of runners behind me so I was in no risk of not finishing because of time. My desire to push and my feelings of failure were all my ego talking. I focused on the beauty of the park. I tuned into my music. I was jamming Black Sabbath because I didn’t get reception in the park and my race playlist isn’t synced to my phone. It seemed like a strange music choice at the start of the race, but at this point I was grateful. The music kept me calm and steady for that last two miles. Around 3.5 miles it really hit me that there is only one more race to go for guaranteed entry. My heart was happy.

At 3.75 miles I decided to jog the rest of the way in. I have to say, it is super strange to be trotting along at minimal effort while people are cheering for you. As I neared the finishing chute, I reminded myself that I didn’t need a kick. I needed to just trot through that finish line without further injury. So that’s what I did.

The race: The stats

Official finish: 55:15
Pace: 13:49/mile

Weather: Cloudy and wet, 48º, 81% humidity, 6mph wind

-Mile 1: 13:44
-Mile 2: 13:35
-Mile 3: 13:21
-Mile 4: 14:35

Garmin distance: 4.06
Last course record (12/10/2011, 3.7 mi): 48:42, 13:04 pace
Last 4M PR (11/23/2014): 41:47, 10:27 pace
Difference: +13:28

After the race

It started drizzling just after I crossed the finish. I had to make my way through the crowds to get my bag and by the time I was changing my top and putting on my jacket it was almost full on raining. Finding my way out of the park turned into a bit of challenge. There were lots of runners doubling back ON the course (not beside it which is totally annoying) and I didn’t want to do that and I don’t know Prospect Park very well. I ended up finding my way out, made a pit stop, and headed to the train. By the time I got off at my stop it was full blown raining. Really glad it held off for us this morning. Hoping next weekend’s weather is good for the 15k!

 

Prospect park
Prospect Park is not a bad place to get lost in. Even in the rain.

Ugh… I give up.

Seriously. I’m done. Running with an injury has sucked all of the joy out of it. To make matters worse, I now have a second injury. Well, technically it was my first, but who is counting.

This sad story starts back in October. Exactly a week and a half after my half marathon. I went out for a “race pace” run the day before heading down to Florida to see family. The run went well and I technically got a PR on the run. I felt good and was feeling confident for my 5K that was coming up in a week and a half. The next morning I woke up with a dull pain in my left calf. It didn’t hurt all too much so I didn’t give it much thought. I went out for a few more runs through the weekend and following week. The calf pain didn’t bother me while running and it was never painful enough to raise a red flag for me. A week later when my right knee started acting up my focus shifted. And as I decreased my mileage for my knee, the calf pain almost disappeared completely.

I am not sure whether it was my bump in mileage last week, my 6 mile long run, or the 3 climbing sessions, but yesterday I noticed the dull calf pain was back. Again, it wasn’t significant enough to alarm me, but I noticed it. Then this morning, it was worse and as I got into my commute which has plenty of stairs, it got even worse. My calf was so sore that it hurt to cross my legs. I made an appointment for lunch time to see a sports medicine doctor.

The doctor was fairly certain it wasn’t clot because of the location of the pain. Phew. As he poked around he thought it could be some kind of strain and said it would be best if I took some time off running. I immediately said, “That’s not going to happen.” To which he replied, “Are you psychologically addicted to running?” “That’s besides the point.” is what popped into my head, but instead I told him about my guaranteed entry plan and that I had two more races — a 4 miler this Sunday and 15K (9.3 miles) next Sunday. He was very concerned about the second race. He asked me to take it easy for both, run/walking for both, and to not run at all other than the races. He recommended RICE, a high dose of anti-inflammatories, and compression socks. He also told me that he wouldn’t be surprised if my right knee issue wasn’t being caused by my left calf issue. As any runner knows, an injury typically leads to your body compensating in an unusual way that can lead to other injuries.

As we were talking through, he rechecked my calf and he noticed it was swollen. And he looked a little concerned. He made a phone call and told me he was sending me for an ultrasound for my calf to rule out a blood clot. Great. He asked me to email him afterward (if it wasn’t a clot) and we would make a plan from there. Luckily, the almost 2 hour visit to the diagnostics lab did not find a clot. It means that we don’t exactly know what is wrong, though, and that I can’t run.

I emailed the doc to see whether it is okay to climb and do any other sports while in recovery and am still waiting to hear back. I have a feeling he is going to want me to lay off anything that will use my calf. In the meantime, I skipped climbing tonight, came home and pulled on my calf compression sleeve and have been RICEing my calf and knee. I also took some ibuprofen. From what Dr.Google has told me, a calf injury can take 7-10 days to heal if it isn’t a tear. If I don’t run until my 4 miler on Sunday, that will be 7 days. Hopefully that will allow me to heal enough that I don’t do more damage. I’ll take it easy and then take off next week until the 15k if I have to. I’m nervous about running 9.3 miles with practically 2 weeks off of running, but I also don’t want to risk a tear.

This is not how I wanted to this to go. Things went so well with my training this year. I’d be lying if I said these injuries haven’t made me think about marathon training next year. I just keep trying to remind myself how much I progressed from the end of April when I started training for my 5 mile race to the half marathon in mid-October. A total of 24 weeks of injury free training while increasing my weekly mileage by 300% and my race distance by almost the same. Nine races in five months with two to go in the next two weeks. I just need to get through these next two races without permanent damage and take a break to recover fully. Marathon training doesn’t start for another 7 months. This is not how I wanted this to go, but I should still be able to complete my guaranteed entry. And that is all that matters right now.