Ramble on

I’m not even sure where to start. It’s been since November since I’ve written any kind of update about my own training. I was just starting with a new physical therapist then and starting to unravel the issues with my pelvis, sacrum, sural nerve, and starting back to running really slowly after a month completely off running.

 

 

The new physical therapist has been such a blessing and by February-March I was starting to get back to really training and focusing on Grand Canyon 50k. My training took a little longer to pick up than anticipated when I signed up, but I felt confident with how well things were going by March that I wouldn’t be undertrained. In Mid-March I ran NYC Half as a training run and felt strong pacing a teammate to a new PR. By the end of March it had warmed enough that I was able to head out to my local trail. I had some little twinges here and there–in my hip, my hammie, and my back–but PT was keeping everything in check for the most part.

 

Eight weeks to Grand Canyon

The first weekend of April I went down to Georgia to crew a friend running Georgia Death Race. I did 2 runs in the Georgia mountains that weekend. I ended up rolling both ankles and my left ankle in particular pretty badly on the second run. I was able to run the rest of the run, but knew it was going to take some care and rehab. I made a plan with the PT to cut weekday trainings short and just focus on getting in my long training on the weekends which seemed to go okay. I had developed some foot pain in my left foot on some of the longer runs, but we assumed it was too tight shoes and made adjustments.

Five weeks to Grand Canyon

I headed out for my 20 miler at the end of April on a rainy morning and by mid-way through the five hour run the trail become very, very muddy. By the end of the run not only was my left foot aching, but my right ankle had gotten pretty aggravated from the mud running. I limped home and skipped my long run the next day.

 

Three weeks to Grand Canyon

In an effort to save my foot, ankle, and my training cycle I took 2 weeks off of training before my peak weekend of training which was going to be 22 miles on Saturday followed by Broad Street Run 10 miler the next day. My left foot was still a little tender by that weekend so I decided I would run for time instead. I got in 4 hours of training and had some slight shin and foot pain, but all-in-all I felt okay going into the 10 miler the next day. During the 10 miler my foot hurt a little and at one point I walked for a half mile, but I was able to finish it in under 2 hours and was feeling pretty good about being able to finish Grand Canyon 50k. I’d use taper to rehab my ankles and foot and hopefully line up at the start feeling healthy and ready to go.

 

On the way home from Philly, my right foot had a really sharp pain that came out of nowhere and it hurt a lot to walk. (The left was the one had been bothering me to this point.) I limped home and a couple days later my chiro popped my foot (cuboid) and while it didn’t completely calm it down right then, within a day the pain was gone. I again skipped my weekday runs and got in my 14 miler that weekend. Then I had to skip the following day’s 90 minute run because I woke up with a cold.

Two weeks to Grand Canyon

That was this past Monday and the plan this week was to run a few times at low mileage in some new shoes and incorporating a dancer’s pad to offload the 5th metatarsal joint on my left foot. But when I woke up Tuesday, one of my cats was very sick and my cold had worsened significantly. By Wednesday, my cat was at the emergency hospital. Long story short, I did not train all week and was under a lot of stress. I still planned to do Brooklyn Half Marathon and my 90 minute run on Sunday, though. And hoped that my kitty would recover in time for me to head out to the Grand Canyon.

One week to Grand Canyon

Yesterday I lined up at the start of the Brooklyn Half Marathon. I had taped my left foot in hopes of it holding together and didn’t really think about my right foot because it hadn’t bothered me since my chiro popped it. I noticed my right ankle felt a little sore and wished I had taped that ankle, too, but it was too late at that point. I crossed the start and glanced at the clock. 22:22. I took it as a good sign. I’ll spare the details, but by the 10k mark I was walking with considerable pain in my right foot and by mile 8 I had dropped from the race. Later that evening my kitty got to come home. She needs medication twice a day and I have to monitor her eating, drinking, a bathroom breaks. She is still showing some symptoms and if her condition worsens, she will need to go back to the hospital.

So here I am, six days out from Grand Canyon 50k with two injured feet and a sick cat. I can arrange for care for my cat, but will be at least 18-20 hours away from home if anything happens. I’m not sure if I will even be able to walk around the Grand Canyon much less run 33 miles with the current state of my right foot. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon and this was going to be a bucket list trip for me made even better by the fact I have friends coming out, one of them I am coaching and this will be her first ultra, and I planned to stay a few extra days for adventuring out there and back in Vegas. To say I am conflicted about what to do would be an understatement. Staying home to take care of my baby and myself seems to be the most logical answer, but I’ve invested so much in this race and this trip. Not to mention not wanting to let my friends down. I have no idea what I am going to do.

What would you do?

What is longer than a marathon?

Has it really been over 2 months since my last post? Well, let’s just get updated then. My physical therapist cut me loose in February and I have been maintaining my injury with daily stretching, strength work, and weekly acupuncture. I’ve managed to build my mileage up to about 20 miles a week. I still have some back and neck pain from time to time and have set up weekly massage and acupuncture sessions for the next month in an effort to finally break this stuff up for good.

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About 3 weeks ago my neck acted up pretty severely and I was really nervous that I was regressing. I had been adding a little bit of speed work to my training so I decided to shift my training to lots of easy and some aerobic running with nothing at or above threshold. I’ve also been reading up on Lydiard training and trying to apply some of those principles to my tiny (to him) amount of weekly mileage. I’ve been wearing my heart rate monitor again to keep me reigned in. I have to say that I have really been enjoying my workouts and am also starting to see some improvement which is promising.The past few weekends I have been running long on trail, too, which just makes my heart so happy. I’m now cautiously optimistic about being able to complete at least a marathon in the Fall.

 

At least a marathon?

Yep, you read that right. I turn 40 in October and in addition to considering Jungfrau which I had earmarked as my fantasy 40th birthday race way back in 2011, I started considering running an ultramarathon. What the heck is an ultramarathon you ask? According to Google, “An ultramarathon, also called ultra distance, is any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi).” I started looking at the shortest common distance race beyond a marathon which is a 50k (31.07 miles) and narrowed it down to a couple of options within driving distance.

Why an ultramarathon?

I wanted to consider something that seems completely out of reach. I’ve run a marathon and I know I can do it. The thought of tackling 31 miles which will likely take 6.5-7 hours to complete feels like a significant challenge. The training will be a significant commitment and challenge. Another thing is that I’m not in love with road marathoning. I love distance running, but running long on road doesn’t have the same appeal to me as trail. Sure, I could do a trail marathon next, but again, I know I can do that distance and I’m not particularly keen on upping the ante by throwing in a bunch of elevation or technical trail while my injury is still lingering. Having an excuse to be on the trails for hours every weekend is also a big motivator. And to be completely honest, I’m curious about the mental aspects of running an ultra. I know I am tenacious and have the ability draw strength from adversity, but where is the line?

My criteria for selecting my first ultra

  1. Out-and-back, point-to-point, or single loop course
  2. Driving distance from NYC
  3. Reasonable elevation (esp no steep declines)
  4. Well supported course (no heavy pack needed)
  5. Well-groomed trails (reduced trip hazard)

(The considerations in parens were to reduce the risk of aggravating my injury.)

About 2 weeks ago I settled on a race in Pennsylvania that’s about 2 hours away. It’s a point-to-point along the Delaware Water Gap with cumulative gain around 2,500 feet with corresponding loss. “A great mix ranging from rail-trail feeling cinder path to singletrack, the non-technical and rolling McDade Trail is a perfect venue for a relatively fast and scenic fall trail 50k.” reads the description on UltraSignup.com. A video of the course from last year’s inaugural race sealed the deal for me.

2015 Water Gap 50k from MountainPeakFitness.com on Vimeo.

I shared with a few running friends to confirm I wasn’t overlooking anything. I also shared with one of my dear friends in Brooklyn who I am going to ask to be support that weekend including driving me back home after the race. Most of my running friends will be at the peak of their marathon training before heading into taper for their big races and the thought of sharing this with someone who was friends with me long before I started this running journey makes it all the more special. I had intended to wait another few weeks to register because I wanted to lock down a training plan and get to better place with my back and neck, but on Friday (yesterday) I pulled the trigger. I very rarely favor my heart over my head, but betting on my tenacity (getting me to the finish of this thing) seems like a pretty safe bet.

So on Saturday, October 8th at 7am I will board a bus to the start of my first ultra. At 8am, I will start my run which I hope I will complete in less than 7 hours. I’m interested to see how this journey over the next six month changes me.

How injury is making me a stronger athlete

So we all know the story by now, right? It started with a pain in the neck about two weeks after the marathon and then a sneeze at the beginning of January that set me back again. It’s been a crazy few months trying to balance my recovery–physical therapy, acupuncture, rest–with the rest of my life including a challenging project at work and several other leadership position responsibilities in other groups. Add to that being a new coach with 2 athletes and I have plenty on my plate!

So how in the heck is this injury making me stronger?

  1. Being injured is a tough mental game. And I’m not just talking about the frustration of dropped races, missed runs with friends, and feeling like all my training gains from my marathon training cycle are withering away. Not being able to workout and especially run, changes your brain. No workout endorphins, no familiar form of stress relief, and a total disruption of routine will have physical effects, for sure. Add a little bit of a feeling of a loss of identity on top of uncertainty of when full recovery will happen and training can resume and there was a lot to wade through all at once. It wasn’t all bad and I did enjoy my social life a bit more, but I did find myself feeling more stressed than usual. In the past couple weeks I have definitely noticed a mental shift as I learned how to adapt. Maybe not so coincidentally, my recovery had a sharp upturn in progress when than mental shift happened!
  2. Consistency in strength and conditioning. During marathon training, I was getting in strength and conditioning about twice a week for at least 45 minutes each session. My physical therapy calls for 10-15 minutes of stretching every morning and evening with a few minutes here and there throughout the day. Additionally, I have 30-45 minutes of strength exercises to get in every day: single leg balances, 60 squats, 60 weighted lunges, 60 single leg bridges, several different core exercises in multiple sets, some weighted upper body work. It was a lot to keep up with. But I learned that I can do strength work every day and it’s not too much. It was also great mental training on the days I just didn’t want to do it. This was especially true for days that work erupted or other life stuff seemed to compete. There were days I had to dig really deep into the motivation well to get that strength workout in! And the results are apparent both in my increased strength and my body composition.
  3. Adding cross-training to the mix. During marathon training, I was also supposed to be getting in 1-2 non-impact cardio (spinning or elliptical) workouts each week. I hate the gym and riding my bike in the city freaks me out. Needless to say, I made it out for 2 cycling sessions at the start of my training cycle then quickly forgot about the 1-2 cross-training days. My physical therapist only wanted me doing elliptical and walking on a treadmill for awhile so I had to work past my gym anxiety if I wanted to recover. I signed up for the rec center gym around the corner from my apartment and have been twice in the past week. When I get back to training, I plan to keep the elliptical and stair climber in my routine at least twice a week.

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    I’ve been cleared for elliptical and short run/walk intervals so this morning I signed up for 6 months at the local gym and hopped on the elliptical. Followed that up with 30 minutes of strength and 15 minutes of yoga/stretch. I feel like a totally new person. Not training has been TOUGH. Much tougher than actually training!
  4. Letting go of expectations. For the first 2 months of injury, I was pushing to get back to training–sometimes to the detriment of my recovery. After the sneeze, I resigned myself to taking my time and removing expectations. My desire to plan my entire year’s race schedule (including goal times) faded and I became comfortable with the idea of just getting better and being able to run short distances. My physical therapist told me I can probably train for a Fall marathon, but I’m not even looking. I know there is still plenty of time to figure it out. I can figure out my goals as my recovery progresses. There is no need to declare my goals months or even weeks in advance.
  5. Getting back to basics — and appreciating them. A few years ago, I never thought I would run again. That first and second year back I was just so excited about every small goal — a 5 mile run, finishing my first half marathon. Last year I had a really great year full of PRs, heavy training, and a marathon. When I crossed the line at NYC Marathon, I felt like a real runner and athlete. I was so proud that I felt great for most of the race and was able to make my last mile my fastest. I was ready to push myself to the next, bigger goal. Being injured and not being able to do anything for awhile has reminded me of what a gift it is to be able to run. (Or just workout, for that matter.) To have a body that is able and mind that is willing to move is truly a blessing.
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First time running since New Year’s Eve. Only 2-3 lanes cleared on the track after last weekend’s storm. This was mostly walking, only 10 of the 30 minute workout was running and it was only 1 minute intervals. I’ll start increasing my run intervals until I get to 30 minutes of solid running again. It felt great just to be on the track and moving a little!

I’m slowly getting back to running with run/walk intervals and hope to be up to 30 minutes of solid running in the next week or two. Then I will start slowly building my mileage through March. No speed work until at least April, but I will be able to run both Broad Street Run (10 mile) and the Brooklyn Half in May. My physical therapist let me know this week that she is hoping we can wrap up our work together in the next week or two, but encouraged me to continue with acupuncture which I am more than okay with. I don’t know how soon I will go back to group runs, though. Running with friends on New Year’s Eve was fun, but also stressful as I felt the need to keep up with them. I think I will continue to fly solo for awhile until I get back into a comfortable pace for myself.

I’ll save the updates about my new role as coach for another post. However, if you are interested in a personalized training plan based on Jack Daniels (VDOT) philosophy do let me know!

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, 30Âș w 25Âș 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

3 races, 17.3 miles, 28 days

This week I was finally able to get back out there after a total of 10 days off of any type of exercise because of knee injury/overtraining. My much anticipated return was wonderful, but challenging.

The week in review

On Tuesday morning I headed out for an easy 3 mile run. I run with a heart rate monitor and was going to keep it in my zone 2 or below 70% max. It was a challenge not only to keep the heart rate that low, but to keep it consistent. My knee did okay, but did hurt a bit. All that being said, mentally it was wonderful. I definitely benefit from the mental aspect of running, that is for sure!

On Wednesday I noticed that in addition to slight knee pain, I had some foot pain on my opposite foot. It didn’t seem swollen and certainly didn’t hurt enough that I couldn’t walk on it, but I was bit concerned about what it might mean for next run. Thursday rolled around and the knee pain subsided, but the foot pain remained. I skipped my run on account of weather and my foot.

On Friday I really needed to get out the door for 4 miles. I decided to also make this an easy run as I am still working on my return to a normal training schedule. I felt my knee during most of the run, but my foot was fine. After my run though, as I was walking to join a friend for lunch, my foot started to hurt again in two different places. After dinner I headed home and RICEd both my knee and foot.

Striking the right balance

This morning I had hoped to join a group run and coffee, but ended up just making it to coffee. My foot felt a bit better, but my knee wasn’t having it. Over the course of the day, my knee has gotten gradually more upset with me so I have spent the day RICEing it. I am supposed to head out for an easy 5 miles tomorrow, but am now questioning it. Hopefully staying off of it tonight and getting a good night’s rest will allow me to run tomorrow. If I have to skip tomorrow’s run, I am concerned about my ability to properly train up before my last marathon qualifying race–a 15k in 4 weeks. I also have 2 other qualifiers before that final race, but they are only 4 milers. It is a delicate balancing act right now between getting enough miles in for the 15k while not pushing too hard so I can complete the 2 races before then. I can’t afford to be injured right now, but I also don’t want to go into the longer race without enough training.

Every challenge is an opportunity

To add to all of this, on Monday I woke up with odd swelling in my face. A walk-in clinic sent me home with a diagnosis of an allergic reaction something, but by Tuesday it was worse and I went to see my GP. As it turns out, I have an infection and was prescribed a pretty serious dose of antibiotics. It’s an unexpected complication on top of these other concerns.

A few weeks ago I joked with some teammates that I thrive when faced with a challenge (my RoadID even has engraved on it “In every difficulty lies opportunity.”) and I think the universe decided to test my theory. My goal for the next few weeks is to stay healthy by training smart and to knock out these last three races for guaranteed entry. Less than a month away from guaranteed entry to the 2015 New York City Marathon!

On the injured list

For the first time since August 2013, I have been injured and not able to run for 7 days. My knee had been a little upset in the days leading up to last Saturday’s race (race report coming soon) and I pushed for and achieved a PR in that race. The day after the race was the NYC Marathon and I was on my feet walking or standing and cheering for about 6 hours. After I got home on Sunday evening I noticed my left quad was pretty sore from pulling the weight from my sad right knee. Needless to say, by Monday I was in pretty bad shape.

My commute in to work is 3 flights down, .6 mile walk, 2.5 flights down, 5 minute train ride, 1 flight up, a very tall escalator spanning 4-5 flights, another flight up, a walk down a long platform, 5 minute train ride, then 2 flights up, another even taller escalator (it has to be at least 6 flights), then a .25 mile walk to the office. The commute home is all of that in reverse. I stayed home on Monday and Tuesday to avoid all of the walking and stairs.

When I left the house on Wednesday I felt good for the first half of the commute in, but considered coming back home by my transfer point. I ended up going ahead and heading in and iced my knee a few times at work. I had hoped to run that evening, but by mid-day it was apparent that wasn’t going to happen. Such was the pattern for Thursday. By Friday I had resigned myself to just trying to get in my Saturday morning team run. I wasn’t feeling well today so a run was out of the question.

I am now hoping to get out the door tomorrow. I have a 15k (9.5 miles) on 12/14 and my longest run since the half marathon in mid-October has been 5 miles. I am a little nervous about being properly trained for the 15k. I don’t intend to race it for a PR or the other two 4M races before it, but I do have to finish all 3 races for my guaranteed entry to the 2015 NYC Marathon.

I had hoped that a week off wouldn’t mean too much of a loss of fitness, but my SportTracks is showing that my fitness level has dropped to lower than it has been in 4 months when I did the 5 mile race and started training for my 10 miler. I haven’t been doing anything this week–not just not running, but no yoga , climbing, or strength/PT exercises either. Hopefully getting back into my normal routine will get me back on track quickly!

 

SportTracks Training Load
SportTracks Training Load

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