Looking at the Bright Side of Injury

I’m taking my first DNS (“did not start” for those not in the know) for a race on Sunday. While my hip continues to improve — especially after a fantastic massage on Wednesday that utilized some Thai massage techniques — it is far wiser for me to sit out the half marathon. It’s an inaugural race in the park where I always train and I’ve really been struggling with the inner argument that wants me to run it anyway. But common sense is prevailing… And the glare my husband gives me if I so much as hint I might want to give it a go.

Lucky for me, this is the weather forecast for Sunday:

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If I believed in the man upstairs, I’d say he’s telling me something. ;) I won’t be sorry to miss running 13.1 miles in a thunderstorm in 80% humidity.

Hey, maybe they’ll reschedule the race. I can dream, no?

Fairfield Half Marathon Recap

Half marathon #6 completed!

The Fairfield Half Marathon is a really terrific race, one that I’m likely to run again next summer. It’s mid-sized, between 3,000 and 4,000 finishers, and has a gorgeous course and enthusiastic spectators. Usually about 20 or so elites run as well, although sadly I haven’t seen them except if they run by me during warm up. This year’s winner was Habtamu Arga Wegi of Ethiopia. It sounds like it was an exciting final push if you want to read the news story linked above. The first three men came in at 1:05:31, 1:05:33 and 1:05:37.

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MIL getting ready to serve dinner


For me, it is so great to be able to race in a place that’s comfortable and I can eat my right foods. My mother-in-law is so great about doing whatever it is I need for my races. For dinner the night before, we had grilled lemon-garlic chicken, grilled vegetables (cauliflower, onions, peppers, broccoli, zucchini and carrots) and baked sweet potatoes. We ate it out on her beachside patio and it was fabulous.

The next morning, I got up at 5:30 to eat breakfast (a banana and some sweet potato/beet purée) and drink coffee. I also took some apple cider vinegar and Advil. Normally I avoid Advil as much as possible, but I wanted to keep any hip inflammation to a minimum. When I awoke, the area felt alright. On Saturday, I did a 4.3 mile run/walk over the last couple miles of the race course. Or I should say I jog/walked; I walked half a mile then jogged half a mile. I also tried to skip a little, but my hip was having none of that — too jarring. Speed was questionable, so I didn’t do any of the strides I had originally planned to do.

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Finish line party location the day before

At about 3 miles into the run (and right where the race finish line would be), I stopped to take some beach pictures.

My hip felt a little tight race morning, but not in pain. I set out on this race with a few goals:

#1 Not to get more injured
#2 Have fun
#3 Beat 2 hours if the hip could handle the hills and the speed
#4 If everything was working, a PR

I managed everything but #4.

This course is not hip-wrecking hilly like the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half that I did two weeks ago, but it does have a couple tough hills. What’s interesting about them is that they are short-ish and steep. I find these a lot easier to deal with mentally and physically than the gradual inclines, although my big concern yesterday was jamming my thigh bone into my hip joint on the downhills which were equally as steep since we went over the hills both out and back. Total elevation gain is roughly 400 feet. Luckily, there is a lot of flat before, between and after the hills.

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Course elevation

I went out a hair too fast for the first four miles (not too fast if I’d had a 100% hip), but hill number 1 just past mile 2 did help settle my pace a little. Uphill number 2, which in my opinion is the hardest, started around mile three. Then we got a downhill for a bit before running through Southport town center then into Westport and Greens Farms. The course takes us by the ocean around mile 6 through 7.5. What was nice for me this run was remembering my training runs I did out there last summer. It really mentally juiced me knowing I was slower then but ran fine. I don’t know if it was reading Elite Minds, that I set appropriate race goals or what, but my negative internal dialogue was significantly minimized this race. I was more present in this race, much like I felt during the Nike Half in April. I like that feeling.

The temperature started in the mid-60s and went up to the low 70s. We had a nice breeze and a lot of shade on the course, but being in the sun was a little warm. The local fire departments put sprinklers out every mile for this race (and many locals are out with their hoses, orange slices, lemonade & ice as well, which is awesome), and I took advantage of the dousing like I did last year. It makes a difference in comfort level to be cooled down. I also took water at most of the stops, although I only slowed down a tad to get it and kept moving. I wasn’t sure how my hip would hold out if I stopped running, so I didn’t walk at all. It felt fine, but I spent a lot of time really focusing on form, which can be tiring and also uses my muscles different than perhaps how I’d been training. Form focus really ought to be ongoing, but, um, well, a bit of a fail on my part there.

Speaking of form, I believe I have a new way of dealing with down hills. I really exaggerated shortening my stride and increasing my cadence going down in order to protect my hip, and even though I felt like Fred Flintstone feet, I cruised past other runners.

Around mile 9, my iPod decided to go crazy, so I turned it off. I was listening to Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot. I’m glad I ran two of my races in Newton without my iPod because this malfunction didn’t freak me out or make me spend time fiddling with it while I ran. Instead, I just shrugged and ran on. I do wish I’d remembered I had a place to store my earbuds, but instead I left them in my ears, which was sort of silly. I get a little stupid when I run.

I may eschew iPods in races from now on. Definitely for ones shorter than a half. One less thing to fuss over.

Around mile 8.5, we got back to the big hill, this time with a slightly less steep but longer ascent. Then we go down and over a bridge, then back up one short but steep rise then about a half mile climb. But once you get over that hill just before the mile 10 marker, it’s a downhill then flat to finish off the race.

By the time I descended the final hill, my legs were just plain tired. Aerobically I was hardly working. I saw my husband just past the mile 10 marker and I was running a little on the slower side (he said he knew because he didn’t have trouble keeping up). I knew the rest of our family would be just past mile 11, so I hung onto that thought. I made sure I was on the side of the road where my sister-in-law’s house was, and there they all were: my mother-in-law, niece, nephew, brother-in-law, my son (up before noon!) and my sister-in-law with her camera. I waved and smiled and greeted the kids by name. My sister-in-law took some great pictures of me. I look relaxed and happy — they think I’m a weirdo.

I just chugged along the rest of the way. I wish I had some gas, but all the form focus had worn the old legs out. I made it a goal to keep it at around marathon pace for the remaining miles, and I succeeded at that.

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Jennings Beach walkway

Just before the beachside finish line, a section of the course ran over sand. That sucked. I felt like I was running backwards. I had no kick at the end of this one. The announcer had trouble with my last name, which isn’t really a hard name but people struggle with it anyway (it’s Dore and it’s pronounced like “door”). I know they had cameras at the finish last year, but I’d forgotten about it, so I might have a funny look on my face in a picture while the dude tried to figure out my last name.

And then it was over. 1:57:20. Nine minutes faster than last year. Not a PR, but it wasn’t a PR effort, so I am happy. My Garmin read 13.24 miles, same as last year.

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Race shirt & finisher medal

My husband met me at the finish (avoiding last year’s snafu of not realizing that with a larger race you should plan a meeting spot so you know how to find each other in the crowd), and we went to the Generation UCAN booth (I carried a handheld bottle with their Pomegranate Blueberry for fuel this race) and tried their new electrolyte product. It’s so damn good! It kicks even Nuun’s butt, and I’m a Nuun fan. Unfortunately the UCAN drink is sort of pricey. But I drank two cups of the samples and felt restored.

I skipped the hot dogs and pizza the race after-party offered. Those probably would sound appealing to me in a few hours, but immediately after a race it sounds disgusting. I’m a sober alcoholic and beer sounds horrible to me after a race, and that’s saying a lot since I used to drink despite feeling like I wanted to vomit. :P I don’t know how other runners do it, but I’ll stack both grease and alcohol aversion in the “benefits of distance running” column.

My husband and I walked back to my SIL’s (which is only a half a mile away if you walk straight there and not winding through the neighborhood like the final miles of the race). I was able to eat a turkey sandwich there and cheer on the other runners.

I truly love this race and the locals make it special. The crowd support is really nice and the water/Gatorade stops are well done. They have timing clocks at every mile. If I were to change anything, it would be to make the start time at 7 a.m. rather than 8:15. It’s June, and it’s a crap shoot over what the temps might be. Last year the end of the race was in the mid-80s. I ran/walked it then, and dumped a ton of water over my head, but I was so new to running that I didn’t know much better about how much the heat affects your running (cuz it pretty much was hard and sucky all the time for me back then as a total newbie).

One nice touch that I think was new from last year? is that at around mile 13, volunteers handed out iced, wet towels to the runners. I grabbed one of those babies and wiped down the back of my neck and it felt amazing. It was also good for wiping the salty brine off my face after I finished.

And one tiny little peeve… The start for men and women are at different places and we converge just after the first mile. I like this, but I don’t like that the men’s start gets a banner and we only have a timing mat. How much money could it be to get a banner for the women’s start? It’s not like the men’s starting banner doubles as the finish line because it doesn’t. I also wish there were additional timing mats on the course for splits and tracking, but that’s not a big deal to me, just a preference.

After a pasta dinner with delicious homemade meatballs with my husband’s family, we drove the three or so hours home.

Last night, my hip wasn’t thrilled with me when I sat for any length of time. It is less painful than it was last week. Now that I’ve only got a 4-mile race on July 4 until my October marathon, I’m looking forward to doing the strength work to fix whatever imbalance I’ve got going. It probably would’ve been wiser of me to have been a little less aggressive with my spring race schedule so that we could do strength work and not just keep me race ready. I sacrificed around 30-45 seconds per mile in speed and risked a worse injury by piling on long distance races (for those who might’ve missed earlier posts, in the last 8 weeks, I ran 3 half marathons, 1 marathon, 2 10ks and a 5k). Live and learn.

In closing, I always thought the phrase “my blisters have blisters” was pure hyperbole. Apparently not.

Quick Heartbreak Hill Update

20140609-124855-46135190.jpgI have so much I want to say about my weekend in Newton, Mass, but I’m a little overwhelmed? Ambivalent? I’m sorting through my feelings, and the first thing that comes to mind is the advice from Dave McGillivray, race director for this event and the Boston Marathon, who said in the course strategy seminar that to be disappointed in your results is being selfish towards those who are unable to do this sort of event.

The short story is that it was an incredible experience and I highly recommend the whole event. The courses were great and some of the harder ones I’ve done in my brief running career. My right hip/groin area is paying for it. I’ve been having niggles there for a little while, and the up and downhills seem to have aggravated it. It was tough getting up to walk after driving home, but today it feels somewhat better. I’m pretty worried about it, though; I have another half marathon on my schedule in less than 2 weeks. My whole right leg feels sort of twitchy, all the way down to my ankle.

My favorite moment was running past Newton-Wellesley hospital where I was born. I might’ve gotten choked up there. All I could think was: “I’m back” and “This is mine now.”

No PRs, which I didn’t expect. My performance was solidly in the middle of my best and worst times. I think I might’ve been able to PR in the 5k if that had been my only race for the weekend, but I had to rein (or rather yank) it all in the last mile, which was uphill, because I remembered that I had another, hillier, race in just around 30 minutes and the half marathon the next morning.

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The Hills of Newton

Heartbreak Hill was tough, especially given our course for the half mimicked the elevation profile of the Boston Marathon with us running primarily downhill the first half and up the second. But the first hill right after the famous fire station was the hardest hill in my opinion. Maybe I felt more confident on Heartbreak because I’d run it during the 10k. One thing different than the Boston Marathon was knowing the finish line was only a half mile away from the top of the hill. You’ve still got a ways to go during the marathon.

My overall Hat Trick standing put me in 15th place out of 80 (or so. I think some people dropped trying the Hat Trick because of the course difficulty and/or the heat and did fewer of the races.) in my age group. In each race, I was in the top 19-22% in my age group. I was triumphant as hell crossing the finish line of the half knowing I’d made it through with my hip being in pain. Even though my time was mediocre, I fucking did it. My last .2 was in the 7:45/mile range, which — given that my right leg was not its best — made me happy. I’m pretty sure there will be a goofy picture or two of me in that last half mile. I was grinning like a doofus and throwing my arms in the air.

I also just found out I won the silent auction for some shirts signed by Katherine Switzer, who was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon (and nearly got thrown out for doing it. Click here to read about this inspirational woman.) The money goes to the Boston Children’s Hospital, which is where a family friend’s daughter received a heart transplant.

22.5 miles in the bag.

So this is what a negative split feels like

I had an amazing day in DC at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. The course, the race itself, the crowd support was fantastic. We had perfect weather. The hills were non-hills. My favorite segments were in a tunnel where they had drum corps playing. It was just the most fun race yet.

I didn’t quite stick to my race plan, which was to run the first 8 miles between a 9:12 & 9:30 pace, then run the last 5.1 miles at 8:55-8:57, my marathon goal pace. I ran faster than that.

The whole run felt super comfortable, like I was trotting along, until the last mile. It was really hard to hold back my pace, although I tried. It’s a testament to my training program that I felt so at ease and still PR’d my half marathon time by 2 minutes.

My last mile was my fastest. I think I’m ready for the full marathon next week.

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The race medal :)

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Goofy Garmin

We’re on our way to the airport. I feel pretty calm. Because I need to take it easy for the half in order to recover for next week’s full marathon, I’m making peace with not breaking 2 hours for the race — on purpose.

I had a nice run on the treadmill this morning, although my Garmin decided to try to use GPS despite that I was in my basement and usually get zero satellite signals down there. The watch kept pausing as if I were standing still and I thought there was a foot pod issue. I reset the watch twice while still running, but it didn’t help.

I didn’t know what had gone wrong until I uploaded the workout and saw it had graphed my run like this:

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It looks like I ran like a crazy person in my yard.

Try, Try Again

20140321-203402.jpgMy support team has been tattling on me.

My husband and my chiropractor are apparently upset on my behalf about my calf strain injury brought on by an excessive personal training session last month, and they’ve been talking to other people about it. I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it’s great to have people looking out for me. On the other, it’s not my intention to get my ex-trainer in trouble even if she was negligent in her training of me.

But one upside is that I think I may have a new personal trainer. This one is also at the Y, but at a different branch (good so that I don’t have to run into the old trainer while with a new one – awkward, although my husband says it’d be “her own damn fault”). I talked with him on the phone today, and I liked what he had to say. In retrospect, I realized that the ex-trainer didn’t do an assessment with me when I first started with her, but this trainer and my first (still much missed) trainer do this with their new clients. I probably should’ve been concerned over that too.

The new guy knows a bit about my situation from my chiropractor, and he made a point of telling me that the workouts during marathon training would be set up to support the training, not to escalate new muscle work. From what my chiro told me, this guy was also shocked that the ex-trainer had me doing aggressive workouts just days before a marathon.

Fingers crossed. I see him Wednesday morning.

In running news, I had a terrific tempo run this week. I ran 12 miles total, with 5 tempo miles at an average 7:44 pace. By far my fastest tempo run. I was actually surprised it felt so good.

I’ve got a 5k in three weeks, a half marathon (the Nike Women’s Half in DC) in 5 weeks and then the Providence full marathon in six weeks. I’m excited but also scared silly. The roads are still sucky here, and I’ve not logged nearly as many road miles as I’d like. I hope this changes soon. It’s funny, though, in many ways I feel no more or less scared than I did this time last year as I approached my very first race.

Scheduling Races

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I’m very excited: today I received notification that I was accepted in the lottery for the Nike Womens Half Marathon in DC.

I also put my name in for the NYC marathon.

And I emailed a local training group about training with them for the Providence Marathon.

Lots of running plans. Which reminds me that I’d better email my coach and let her know how my first week of training went.

I Hate Not Having a Plan!

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The past two mornings, I’ve had a hard time getting going. I’m tired, which isn’t surprising given I ran a half marathon a week ago. I spent yesterday lolling in bed until noon, catching up on blog reading. I would’ve done the same this morning, but our neighbor called the house and I decided I needed to get back on a normal-ish schedule. We’re home for two weeks until we go to my mother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving. That’s a long stretch compared to the past 6 months.

It’s been challenging staying on the training track while our lives have been so abnormal this year. I have a fear of backsliding into couch potato-land. I took two whole days off from exercising this week, neither of which was particularly restful. Sunday I spent roaming the Animal Kingdom at Disney World, then had a 9:00pm (past my husband’s bedtime) dinner at a fancy schmancy restaurant. Thursday was a travel day home, and after my flight, I had errands to run.

Clearly I don’t know how to properly rest.

Yesterday I ended up doing 6.2 miles on the treadmill in an easy progression run. I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic, although watching latest episode of The Originals helped. I’m not the least bit embarrassed to say I love this show and look forward to it every week. One of my favorite aspects about the show is the clever, twisty plotting. Those Michaelsons always have a plan. And what wasn’t to like when Elijah ripped out some hearts? He could have mine and not even have to mess up his natty suit to get it.

What’s not to love about this grin from Klaus?
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No, I am not too old to be watching television programming on the CW. At least I’m not mooning over Bella and Edward from those horrid Twilight books/movies. Bella makes me want to punch her face in for being such a milksop loser.

Today I went to one of my favorite yoga classes. The instructor always does a ton of vinyasa sequences and long holds for lunges. Afterwards, I ran 5 miles on the treadmill. That wore me out pretty good. Then I went to see Thor and ate a bucket of popcorn all by myself. I don’t always make good food choices. I’ve been craving popcorn since I smelled it at Disney, and I’m not sure how I resisted until today. Now if I could get rid of this pizza craving. It wouldn’t be so bad except that there’s not very good pizza to be had around here, so just getting random pizza wouldn’t satisfy and I’d end up sampling every pie in the area in a fruitless quest. Maybe I’ll make my own.

20131116-174208.jpgI’m ready to crawl into bed now. Clearly I’m tired and rambling.

Although I’ve got a couple races during the holidays, I’m feeling a little letdown. After all, I spent most of this year preparing for the Philly Rock n Roll and Disney Wine & Dine half marathons. I’ve been telling people that the remainder of this year is about taking a little break from hardcore training and let my muscles recover. It’s the smart idea. But it feels so — squishy. How am I supposed to know how much to run each day?

I’m between training plans, and I don’t like it.

I should get my first part of my McMillan Running training plan next week. I’m eager to get going, but I kind of hope my coach puts in a bit of a breather over the holidays. Because my body needs one, but my stupid brain probably would make me do too much by labeling me a lazy wuss if I didn’t. I need someone else to tell me to lay the fuck off myself. Sad but true. My default is not to treat myself with kindness.

It will be good for me to run, do yoga and strength train over the holidays. I find this time of year difficult, what with my nonexistent relationship with my parents and bad memories. This year will be even harder because of the loss of my father-in-law and some other family issues that indirectly will affect us. Running is definitely a mood booster, but I don’t want to over-exercise to compensate for emotional craziness. Again, this is why having a plan to stick to will be important.

Meanwhile, I should make a plan to unpack my suitcase, but that plan seems really boring. It’ll probably sit on the floor until I get sick of looking at it. I’m feeling a little adrift at the moment. That isn’t really a good place for my wee noggin to be.

20131116-175115.jpgInstead, just for today, I’m going to try to be nicer to myself and maybe indulge in a daydream or three over Tom Hiddleston, who played Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies. I like a conflicted villain, especially those with a wicked sense of humor.

[PS: why is it that the male denizens of Asgard all look like they need to wash their hair?]

West Palm Beach Time

Those of you who have been reading me through several blogs (seriously, what is wrong with you people? But I’m glad you haven’t run away screaming… yet), know that I go to Florida a couple times a year to visit with my husband’s family. They are fortunate enough to winter here, and we are fortunate enough to be able to mooch off take advantage of grace them with our presence when we need to get away from seasonal affect syndrome. It stays daylight later here in addition to being warmer. Downside? I got mosquito bites yesterday. I do not miss mosquitos in the winter.

It’s a little weird visiting this time since my father-in-law passed away this summer. His widow, my husband’s stepmother, is a really terrific lady and we’re glad to be here seeing her. We used to spend thanksgiving with her and my FIL, but my MIL is pretty much expecting us to be with her in Connecticut this year. So,we thought we’d drive here after Disney to do a little early celebration with stepMIL. I have to say, I still feel kind of shitty for abandoning her for thanksgiving, but I think she has other plans anyway.

It feels like my FIL will be shuffling down the hallway any minute now. I can’t imagine how it feels to my husband without his dad here. Plus this is the first time we’ve come without our son, who’s still at his first semester at college. Life Changes: they happen, grow with it.

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Raw meat. The elk is in the back.

We got here Monday, and my husband’s uncle made us elk tenderloin and sirloin steaks. We had roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts on the side. My husband made a shallot and balsamic reduction sauce for the meat. Then we shared a sliced up Mrs Prindables chocolate toffee walnut caramel apple for dessert. It was all delicious.

20131113-122319.jpgRace recovery seems to be going ok. I’m anxious to get going on my new training plan, but I won’t have it for another 7-10 days. My new coach looks impressive according to her bio. Like scary fast and experienced. She’s a professional athlete and I really look forward to learning from her. I feel very optimistic about this new phase in training. I’m looking on it not so much as putting pressure on myself to get ridiculously fast, but rather as “let’s have fun seeing what this body of mine can do.” One priority is to stay injury free, so going bonkers on overtraining is not my goal.

Yesterday I went out for an easy run. Which would’ve been easier if it hadn’t been 86 degrees. I’m acclimated for northeastern weather. So I made this into a pseudo-mile repeats run, with breaks between the miles to cool down a tad.

20131113-115912.jpgThen I went to the local Fit2Run store. That was cool. I didn’t buy anything, although my Christmas wishlist is getting longer.

Last night we celebrated my husband’s uncle’s 60th birthday a few weeks early. We went to Cafe Boulud, which is my favorite place in the area to eat. After dessert, they serve you these divine madelines that they bake there. It doesn’t matter how stuffed you are from dinner, you have to eat at least six of these. I may have stolen more than my fair share.

Today I am heading out for a run, then I’m going to join my stepMIL for her personal training session. I’ll probably try to get into the hot tub here too. My right calf muscle remains really tight after the half marathon. Plus I still haven’t broken in my jaws/the little mermaid swimsuit.

Right now, I’m hanging with the dog. She’s a rescue boxer and completely adorable. She doesn’t photograph well because she’s mostly black, so you’ll have to trust me that she’s beautiful.

She just sighed loudly, so she’s either saying hello to y’all or is exasperated with me for disturbing her nap on the bed. Where she’s not supposed to be. Shhhhh! I won’t tell if you don’t.

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My husband petting the dog last night. Sorry so blurry.