‘Tis but a scratch

As athletes we know that the mind and body are capable of more than most realize or acknowledge. We know what it feels like to push ourselves when our body starts to ache and our mind tells us to quit. We pride ourselves on being able to just “suck it up” and get the job done. These are great qualities that help us to achieve our goals, but sometimes that same tenacity and perseverance can lead to trouble.

As a coach I often have conversations with athletes about the “niggles” that pop up here and there. It is important to be able to accurately assess the severity and determine whether it is just a little tightness that can be worked out at home or whether it is the start of something more serious that is or might turn into injury. I will say that the best defense is a strong offense, meaning focusing on prevention (pre-hab) is one of the best things we can do to help remain injury free. In cases where pain does arise, here are some tips to help assess and address the issue.

RICE is your friend
R.I.C.E. which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation is typically a good first line of defense for just about anything. Especially the rest part. Don’t push through pain. Try to manage initial inflammation (and pain) with ice, compression, and elevation.

Stretching and rolling is not a cure all
Stretching warm muscles and rolling is advisable for tightness, but NOT advisable for pulls, strains, and tears because it could cause more damage and inflammation. If you can’t tell the difference, see a healthcare professional before doing either.

Sharp pain, swelling, and numbness or tingling are red flags
For sharp pain, bruising, anything with significant swelling, or numbness and tingling you should see a healthcare professional as soon as possible. If you have pain during normal activities, pain that keeps you up at night, or pain that is significant enough that you need to take something for it, you should probably see a doctor sooner rather than later–meaning make that call within a couple days if pain isn’t subsiding.

Act sooner rather than later
If pain is not getting better with complete rest after a few days, consider seeing a healthcare professional for evaluation. Do not try to run through pain unless you are keen on adding time to your recovery.

Fool me once…
If you have pain that comes back after being “healed” by rest, see a healthcare professional. Don’t try to deal with a chronic issue yourself. See someone and figure out the cause. The more times you trigger the same injury the more likely you are to do permanent damage.

Don’t waste time
If you don’t start to see progress with a healthcare professional after a couple of weeks, get imaging, get a second opinion, or both. Don’t spend months with someone who isn’t helping you heal. Don’t worry about offending the doctor. This is about YOU and your recovery. You have to be an advocate for yourself.

They tried to make me go to rehab…
If you are seeing a doctor who treats structural injuries (ortho, podiatrist, etc) and not a movement specialist (physical therapist), make sure to see the latter once the former “releases” you. Your initial injury may be healed, but you most likely will need some attention to help with any muscle imbalance and compensation patterns that developed while you were injured. This part is the most often overlooked piece and the reason why many athletes will end up in an injury spiral, in my humble opinion.

Treat the cause not just the symptoms
Maybe most importantly of all, once the initial acute reaction has resolved be sure to figure out the cause and treat that. (Unless the cause was just some freak accident.) Otherwise you are very likely going to end up injured again. I see this over and over again with athlete friends. If you don’t treat the underlying cause you are just going to end up back in the same place over and over again. Again, the more times you trigger the same injury the more likely you are to do permanent damage.

As a coach it can be challenging to get an athlete to admit they need help from a healthcare professional and make that first appointment. Once they finally make it into the office, I typically hear from them “I wish I would have done this sooner!” Making an appointment to see someone can be challenging mentally because it can feel like you are admitting that something is really wrong and that you may need to cut back on training for awhile. Let me offer you this alternate perspective, though. The sooner you go to a pro (ortho, podiatrist, physical therapist) the sooner your recovery and rehab can start and the sooner you can get back to training. Worst case scenario you go and they immediately tell you to rest and that recovery period starts at that moment instead of being delayed for weeks because you were stubborn. Best case scenario you go in and they say it should heal on it’s own and you have the peace of mind of knowing that. It really is a win, win.

I’m not trying to say that you should run to the doctor every time you have a little niggle. What I am saying is that it is important to properly assess and to not delay that hard decision. Heading to a healthcare professional for assistance shouldn’t feel like defeat, it should feel optimistic because you are getting help.

Have you ever put off heading in to see someone for something and regretted it later? Would love for you to share your experiences!

should-i-see-a-doctor

Broad Street Run #LAST weekend (not the race report)

All tails were twitching as the week progressed. We were all excited about getting to hug each other, finally meeting some of “the people in our phones”, and spending more time with friends that we don’t get to see often. Sixty four LAST (Low and Slow Team) teammates, many of which who had only interacted online, were all heading to Philadelphia to run Broad Street Run 10 miler as a part of our the American Cancer Society’s Determination fundraising team.

 

My ankle had been bothering me all week since Leatherman’s Loop 10K and I hadn’t run at all since then. I saw my acupuncturist right before leaving and he put more pins in me than I think he ever has and also stretched me out a bit. (He is wonderful and if you are in the New York City area, I highly recommend you go see Russ at Runner Clinic NYC.) The train ride was uneventful and I started to get really excited to hug my friend Jeremy who I had been chatting with for weeks about training, races, and all things running. By the time I hit the cab we were texting and as soon as I had checked in, he headed over to my hotel. (I ended up staying in a different hotel than the rest of the team.) He walked into the lobby with his orange sweatshirt on and I was so excited that I probably seemed like a crazy person. We decided to wander around and find somewhere to get some cider and fries.

 

We managed to find the loudest pub in Philly, I believe. We had a few drinks and fries and chatted. Before we knew it, it was nearing time to meet the team for dinner. I grabbed a jacket at my hotel and we headed to the team hotel to meet the team. I was really glad that I came in a day early when I saw the size of the group. It was only about 10-15 people for dinner, but I had only really talked to Jeremy before. As much as I seem like an outgoing extrovert, I actually teeter on the extrovert/introvert line and forced interactions with groups of strangers can be a little nerve-wracking for me.

At dinner I sat with Jeremy and a lovely couple, Teresa and Jeff. Jeff has similar food restrictions to me so that helped break the ice. I got to have some good conversations with Therese and Andy, too. And of course, Stephanie and Ed were so much fun. There were some moments after dinner when I felt a little awkward, but all-in-all it was a good time. After dinner, I left everyone after the first block to head back to my hotel. Day 1 done.

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#LAST at Friday night dinner

The next morning, Saturday, I was really excited to run to the museum steps. The team shakeout run was only 1-2 miles so I had made plans with Jeremy to do 3 miles out and back from his hotel. He is much faster than me, but we managed hit a good pace that was a little faster than usual for me and still comfortable. It was really nice to have company for the run. We ran to the top of the steps, snapped a selfie, ran to the Rocky statue, snapped a selfie then ran back to the hotel and decided to have breakfast. We went to Green Eggs — one of my favorites in Philly. YUM! Therese and Anneke stopped for a minute to say, “hi” too. After breakfast, we went back to our rooms and got ready for lunch.

 

There were quite a bit more people for lunch than dinner and I lost Jeremy almost immediately. I paired up with Michelle who has similar food restrictions. Sarah and Mindy joined us at our table. Luckily some of my teammates are much more outgoing than me (and my fuschia hair seemed to make me easily recognizable) so lunch was less stressful than anticipated. I had several good convos then headed to the expo with one of my favorites, Richie, his lovely wife, Danielle, and a soon to be favorite, Jeff. We wandered the expo, took some photos, and eventually bumped into the rest of the team. I got some more quality time in with Teresa before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

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#LAST at the DetermiNation team table at the BSR expo

Saturday night was our Determination team dinner. Again, I stuck close to Jeremy and Jeff ended up close, too. (#posse) There were lots of stories shared during the dinner as well as cheers for all the money that had been raised. There were post-dinner drinks, but it was already getting late so I opted to head back to my hotel. (And missed our team flag signing, unfortunately.) Spent almost an hour getting everything ready for the next morning, doing my PT exercises, rolling out, and finally got to bed by 10pm with an alarm set for 5am.

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Sub-30 Low and Slow DetermiNation Team

Dinner with these dudes and the rest of the #iamlast #sub30club team 😍.

A post shared by Distance Traveled Endurance (@distancetraveledendurance) on

 

I’m going to skip over race morning as I will be posting a detailed race report. After getting showered after the race, I met my remaining teammates for lunch. I got to spend time with Richie, Jeff, Jeremy, and Michelle which made me so happy. As lunch wrapped, we took some photos and people headed out. I was so sad that the weekend was starting to wind down. Little did I know, there was still a lot of awesome to come!

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#LAST at post-race lunch

After almost everyone headed out, Sarah, Nicole, Pam, Michelle, and I hopped to a smaller table and hung out for hours drinking and talking. IT WAS AWESOME. Jeremy eventually made his way back, too. Eventually it was time to eat again and we ended up at Charlie Was A Sinner, an awesome vegan restaurant. Some of our teammates from smaller towns found the menu a little different, but luckily decided to be adventurous. The food was excellent! And I got to have a dessert which never happens! After dinner we made plans for a morning run and I again parted ways to head back to my hotel.

The next morning, Monday, I did NOT want to get out of bed. After several nights of less than usual sleep and several days of lots of activity, I was beat. But I really wanted to run with my friends so I sucked it up. We did the same route that I had done with Jeremy on Friday, took lots of selfies, and had an awesome time. When we got back to the hotel, Pam was the first to leave us. I wanted to cry. Nicole, Sarah, Jeremy, and I had breakfast in the hotel. Then Sarah headed upstairs. UGH. I hate goodbyes! Then it was a hug goodbye for Nicole. My heart was just flat out breaking at this point. And then it was time to hug Jeremy goodbye. He was my partner-in-crime all weekend. How was I supposed to go back to real life without him?! We hugged for a long, but not long enough time. I walked him to the elevator or he walked me halfway to the door–I don’t know. I think at this point we were just eeking out more seconds. As I walked back to my hotel, I felt like I might cry. What did these strangers do to me? ❤

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Epic Jer-Bear hug!

It was just a sneeze

It was Sunday morning and I was getting ready for my longest run since injuring my back and neck–a little 5 miler after which I would meet up with my run crew for brunch. I was bent over the sink, brushing my teeth, when it snuck up on me. I sneezed and immediately knew something was wrong. I was paralyzed in the position for a moment and afraid I wouldn’t be able to stand back up.

But let’s back up. If you’ll recall, about two weeks after my marathon I suffered a back and neck sprain. It was a perfect storm of a few things that lead to it including but not limited to an already tight back from marathon training, being sick in bed for several days, running a trail race in cold conditions, then hanging out for hours in the bitter cold. I saw a physical therapist a couple of days after the race and have been seeing her ever since.

Through November I worked mostly at home so I could stand while I worked. I stretched twice a day and did some short, easy running twice a week. In December, I was able to add some strengthening exercises including some light weights and up my running to longer (4-4.5 miles) easy running three times a week. I was still in pain pretty much all the time, but it was significantly less and there were days when the pain was barely noticeable. Last week my physical therapist told me I could start adding stairs and hills to my training and try going a little longer. She was optimistic that I would be able to run (not race) a 10 mile race that I am signed up for in mid-January.

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Another half mile added to my distance was an awesome Christmas present. Getting stronger and really hoping my PT let’s me run 3x next week. Ready to get back to training!

On New Year’s Eve I ran the Midnight Run in Central Park. It was a packed scene and we decided not to drop our bags. My pack wasn’t very heavy (it only contained a jacket), but it wasn’t a running pack so I ended up holding on to the straps the entire time. By the end of the hilly race, my back and shoulders were pretty sore. Disappointingly, I decided to skip my New Year’s Day hike the next day to allow my body to recover. By the next day, Saturday, I was feeling better and able to do my strengthening exercises and on Sunday morning I was ready to run my 5 miler. Until that sneeze.

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Happy New Year from Central Park! Rang in the new year with these babes.

Less than 24 hours after that dreaded sneeze, I was in my physical therapist’s office getting a massage, ultrasound, and muscle stimulation. My doctor told me that my back is spasming, likely because I injured a disc during the sneeze. For the next few days I am to stand instead of sit as much as possible, do my stretches multiple times a day, and ice my back. And no running. I’ll see her again on Friday to assess how I am doing.

I’ve had friends express concern about me not having an MRI or X-ray. I trust my therapist and from what I have learned from my own research and she confirmed this morning, the protocol that we would follow even if I got an MRI or X-ray and they saw something would be much the same. My pain, while significant, isn’t something that I want to take pain killers for and my therapist is fine with that. The only thing that might be different if I went to specialist is the option for surgery, but typically a therapy approach is followed first and surgery is only used a last resort. At this point, I don’t think surgery is a route to consider. My therapist and I are both optimistic that this can be healed naturally and as long as I show improvement that will likely be the case. This sneeze situation is coincidental to my current injury and my therapist believes that in a few days the spasming will subside and we can get back to my previous recovery protocol.

The fact is that for this type of injury it will take about 2 years before I am fully healed. That doesn’t mean I will be in pain or active recovery for that long, but it will be that long before the risk of relapse isn’t significantly higher. During that time (and for the rest of my life if I want a healthy spine) I will have to keep a good maintenance routine of stretching and strengthening. This would be the case even without injury as I start to run longer and more technical trail. The fact of the matter is that I am older and have some degeneration, have had poor posture most of my life, and I haven’t been taking care of my back. My massage therapist repeatedly told me through marathon training that I needed to see someone because my spine motility wasn’t very good and my back muscles were always very tight. And in regards to stretching and strengthening I did very little to help myself. Even if I hadn’t strained my back and neck, the sneeze while bent over could have had the same impact because of the condition of my spine and back strength.

So what does this mean for my running? Well, no running for now. I am going to give up my spot in the mid-January race and focus on recovery for as long as it takes. At some point, I will be able to run again. It may take weeks or months to get back to it with any kind of real schedule and I don’t even know how long it will take to get back to technical trail or long distance. Those things don’t really matter right now, though. I know that when I am able to get back out there, I will just be happy to be running. I have always seen running as gift that I am so grateful for. Less than 3 years ago, I didn’t think I could do it anymore. This time I know that I can. It is just going to take some time.

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

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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.

Race Report: Prospect Park 5M Turkey Trot

I have always wanted to do a turkey trot. Something about running on a holiday makes it feel like more of an accomplishment. On a holiday that is centered around gluttony and sloth, it not only feels like accomplishment, but like a smart life choice. Even so, I went back and forth on whether to add this one to my race schedule. Since I have been struggling with my knee, it seemed silly to add a 5 mile race. But a friend asked if I was registered and said that she and her girlfriend were going to run/walk it. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to mark this race off my bucket list, have a good time with friends, and earn a medal. As a bonus, the race swag was a sweet knit hat instead of a shirt!

 

Turkey trot race swag
Sweet hat!

 

Before the race

The night before the race was low stress since this was going to be a fun run. I did K tape my knee for the first time ever with the help of YouTube. It was horrible weather the entire day before the race, but was supposed to clear up over night so I had no worries when I headed to bed. Race morning was also pretty low stress aside from deciding on my commute. I ended up just taking the subway which was easy enough. I did manage to forget my heart rate monitor which was disappointing, but I wasn’t too concerned. Got the race a half hour early, used the facilities, dropped my bag, and headed to the start. Met up with the ladies a few minutes before the start.

 

K taped knee
K taped my knee the night before the race to add support.
Flat Brandi. Holiday Edition.
Flat Brandi. Holiday Edition. I made the arm warmers from holiday socks!

 

The Race

The start was interesting. There were 2500 runners and walkers, and no corrals. We all just kind of herded in and waited for the gun. The start wasn’t even marked. We only knew we were crossing it because of the timing mat. Just after the start we were at a pretty good jog when all of the sudden the race came to a halt. Runners were all bunched up and no one seemed to be moving. We slowed to a very slow walk. It wasn’t until I saw the huge puddle taking up half the roadway that I understood what was going on. Puddle bottleneck! Once we passed it and turned onto the outer loop of the park, the congestion cleared. As my watch alerted me at mile 1, I looked for a mile marker on the course but couldn’t find one. It wasn’t until mile 2 that we realized that there were small markers, low to the ground on the inside of the loop. This definitely wasn’t an NYRR production!

My friend’s girlfriend hadn’t run in awhile so my expectation was a pretty slow pace with plenty of walking. I was surprised when at mile 2 we were still running and at a pace a little bit faster than my typical easy (Z2) pace. Around mile 2.25 we started walking. For the past quarter mile it seemed like it was starting to rain or snow, but it was so light and sporadic we couldn’t figure it out. As we started walking, it started coming down more heavily and we realized it was a light snow. I really love running in snow, but am typically wearing a water-resistant jacket which I hadn’t worn. So the snow was landing on us and then melting and making our clothes wet. Not ideal in 36º weather, but it was all in good fun. We started running again around mile 2.75 and kept at a good clip until 3.2 and then walked to 3.3. After that brief walk break, the ladies picked up the pace to 10:00mm and continued to speed to 9:15mm to mile 4.1. We took short walk breaks between 4.1-4.3 and 4.5-4.6 then ran the last ~.5 mile around 10:00mm until our finishing kick. My watch clocked my finish at 6:52mm.

 

After the finish
Post-race selfie

 

The race: The stats

Official finish: 58:42
Pace: 11:44/mile

Weather: Cloudy with light snow, 37º, 75% humidity, 4mph wind

-Mile 1: 12:14
-Mile 2: 11:33
-Mile 3: 12:54
-Mile 4: 11:01
-Mile 5: 11:03

Garmin distance: 5.11
Last 5M PR (8/10/2014): 53:36
Difference: +5:06

After the race

After the race, we grabbed a water and took a photo with our medals before the ladies headed off to the train. I picked up my bag, used the facilities, changed out of my wet shirt and put on my warm-ups over my running clothes. I tried to grab a gatorade, but the machines were all sold out. Munched on my KIND bar and headed to the train. I was freezing, it was lightly snowing, it was an outdoor platform, and holiday service so it took awhile for the train to arrive. It was fun to look around the train on the way back and see all the turkey trot hats and medals. I always wonder what non-runners think of these scenes on the subway.

Injury report

We ran faster than I had assumed and on the way home I noticed my knee was hurting pretty badly. Going down stairs is definitely not my friend. Or up stairs, for that matter. Some yoga seemed to help, but I was definitely feeling my knee for the rest of the evening. Today it is hurting, but more so on the back of my knee than the front. I am wondering if the K tape just shifted the issue. At any rate, I will need to take it easy for a few days again and just try to maintain my fitness for my last two marathon guarantee races.

 

2014 Prospect Park 5M Turkey Trot
2014 Prospect Park 5M Turkey Trot

Race report: Race to Deliver 4M

As I mentioned a few days ago, I am still recovering from my injury. I believe now that what started out as overtraining before my last race turned into an actual injury during the race. As a result I have had to cut back a lot on my training. This week I was only able to get out for an easy 5 miles and took off the 4 days after that lead up to my race this morning.

Race week: Appreciating NY running history

Friday evening I headed to NYRR headquarters to pick up my race packet. It was my 8th trip there since the end of June and it has become quite familiar. There is something about turning on to Fred Lebow Place and then walking into that old (1902-built, Beaux-Art style) townhouse that Fred Lebow bought in 1981 as the first permanent home to the New York Road Runners. It is starting to feel a little empty since they plan to sell it soon, but there is still something magical about walking through the home base for New York running history. Or I was just feeling extra emotional that evening. Whatever it was, I felt a sense of appreciation and a little bit of sadness that NYRR is moving. I was, however, excited to see what color my bib would be since my last race set me in a new pace group! I’ve been rocking the pink bib (or brown for larger races) since 2011. I am now officially aqua corral! (Which totally matches my running gear better. Bonus!) The night before the race was pretty uneventful. Since I was just going to race to finish and try to take it easy because of my injury, it was very low stress. I had some spaghetti and got bed early after setting out everything I needed on race morning.

 

Race bib
New corral/bib color–Aqua!
Fred Lebow Place
Fred Lebow Place

 

Race morning: Preparing for a planned anti-climatic race

The morning of the race I got out of bed 10 minutes later than planned. Showered, dressed, ate, grabbed my bag, and was out the door on time. Stopped by the bodega for a coconut water. Got down to the platform on time, but I guess the train was early because I missed it. The next one was in 20 minutes. I felt a little stressed because I needed to drop my bag ahead of the race, but decided to dismiss it. If I had to, I could always run to bag check and the start. I used the time to finish dressing–putting on my arm warmers, Garmin, and SpiBelt–and to pack my drop bag then slide into my backpack for efficiency in dropping. (NYRR security requires you to use a clear bag and you can’t just slide your backpack into the clear bag. Contents have to be visible.) The commute was pretty smooth after finally getting on a train. I always enjoy the build of runners on the train. Where I get on in Brooklyn I rarely see other runners, but as I get in to Manhattan more and more hop on the train. By the time we get to the Museum of Natural History stop, it is a crowd of runners exiting the train and heading into Central Park. It’s a scene that I never tire of.

I got to the park at 8:00, dropped my bag at 8:10, used the porta-potties and was heading to the start line by 8:13. Side note: I will never understand why people don’t walk to the furthest porta-potties. Not only are they typically cleaner IMHO, but the lines are always shorter. The closest lines were 10 deep and the furthest was only 2. I was literally in and out in 2 minutes. Anywho, got to the start line and did the standard shifting around as girls flicked their ponytails, people flailed around seemingly unaware of those around them, and people stood uncomfortably close to me even though there was plenty of room for personal space. After about 10 minutes, the race was finally starting.

The race: Mile 1 and ditching the plan to run happy

So as I mentioned, my plan was to run super easy so I didn’t aggravate my injury. For the first half mile, I cruised along at 11:45 pace and took in the scenery–the remaining fall leaves, the Obelisk, The Met, The Guggenheim. I even stopped to snap a pic of the Fred Lebow statue. It seemed reasonable that I would I keep my pace around 11:30 for the entire race. Then something happened. I’m not sure what it was, but I just found it really difficult to run that easy. I kept looking down at my watch and I was running around a 10:30. My knee felt fine, but I kept telling myself to think about the long term goal. Run easy, play it safe. I still have two marathon qualifiers to run for my guaranteed entry. But it was a losing battle. Every time I looked down, I was running too fast even when I thought I had slowed down. I was getting frustrated. That’s when I decided to run by feel.

 

Fred Lebow statue in Central Park
Fred Lebow statue in Central Park

 

The race: Miles 2 and 3

My Garmin is always a little bit off when I race so I can’t really rely on my lap pace when it ticks off a mile because I am typically not at the mile marker yet. So in the miles after the first, I have to do math to figure it out. I decided that was frustrating, too, so I stopped doing it. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it was the perfect weather. Maybe it was that my knee wasn’t bothering me as much as I thought it was going to. Maybe it was that I can’t stand the thought of just finishing a race. Whatever the reason, miles 2 and 3 were around 10:30 pace. I felt good, the pace felt good, and I wasn’t stressed about pace or injury.

The race: The final mile

Around mile 4 I decided to let myself push a little harder. My knee felt okay and there was only a mile left so I figured why not. When I looked down at my Garmin, I was running a sub 9 minute mile. Now I know I probably shouldn’t have done what I did next, but I just couldn’t help myself. I was so excited about how good I felt and my pace that I raced that last mile. At a half mile to go, I was starting to feel it. (Pushing, not my injury.) When I got to the turn for the last .2 or so miles I was hurting, but the finishing chute was in sight and there was no way I was slowing to trot through that thing. I pushed even harder and finished that last mile at a 6:46 minute mile pace according to my Garmin. Final lap time was 8:45!

The race: The stats

Official finish: 41:47
Pace: 10:27/mile

Weather: Cloudy, 45º, 39% humidity, 7mph wind (Perfect!)

-Mile 1: 11:41
-Mile 2: 10:47
-Mile 3: 10:34
-Mile 4: 8:45

Garmin distance: 4.05
Last 4M PR (7/12/2014): 42:02
Improvement: 0:15

 

Race stats. Splits differ because of Garmin drift.
Race stats. Splits differ because of Garmin drift.

 

Post-race: Heading home

After the race I grabbed my bag, changed out of my sweaty shirt and arm warmers, added some layers and then sat for a bit. I was super light headed and hadn’t packed a snack. After about 5 minutes, I headed to the train still with a little bit of race brain. Heading down to the platform I had a funny exchange with some runners who were stretching on the stairs. I got to take the C train which is one of my favorites–they are the oldest still operating–and got to help some very thankful tourists with directions. Came home and made some yummy breakfast, relaxed, stretched, napped, and am feeling pretty good. I am optimistic that my knee may actually be okay, but I never know until the day or two after.

Just two more races now to complete my guaranteed entry to the 2015 NYC Marathon! It’s so crazy that in 20 days this thing I have been working on for 3 months (5 if you count from my first MQ) now will be done.

 

Post-race selfie
Two more qualifiers to go!