Unfinished business

I’ve only run a handful of miles since my marathon all the way back in mid-October. It total. It doesn’t feel good. My foot and ankle actually feel worse somehow, like my arch has fallen and I have no support through it.

Ever since I got back into running after a hiatus in college, I’ve noticed a trend: I pick a race, train for it like crazy, have some minor issue that I don’t take time off for, race and am disappointed with the results, then get sidelined because the minor issue becomes major. It sucks. I have wasted so much time the past three or four years recovering from stupid injuries when I could be building on my fitness levels to get faster and stronger. As a runner, it’s in my nature to be a hard-headed idiot, but it’s time for me to learn some lessons and get it together so I’m not constantly saying “if only.” “If only I hadn’t hurt myself. If only PT weren’t so expensive. If only I had a few more weeks to train.”

I’m ready for 2014 to be a PR year. As proud as I was after running my first marathon, hindsight and perspective have left me wanting more. I still haven’t attained my sub-2 half marathon goal, the one I set back in 2011. Why? I was so burnt out and sour after my first attempt that I stomped off in the other direction and did nothing for a while. Then Dan broke his leg, and I didn’t have the time, let alone the finances or energy, to sign up for something else and try again. Then inertia took hold, and I wimped out of really pushing myself toward that goal and settled for running races in distances I’d never done before. Automatic PR, right?

I’m Twitter friends with a lot of runners, and it’s driving me bonkers seeing all of the “I signed up for _____ as my spring marathon!” and “Just registered for ___!” posts. I’m freaking jealous! I want to feel like I’m achieving something quantifiable, something I can chart and compare and say to myself “this is better than last time.”

Now that the holidays are over and we don’t have any travel or excitement on the agenda, it’s time to tackle the scary questions: What in the hell is wrong with my foot, and what will I have to do to fix it? Will I ever be able to run pain-free? Will I ever be able to run long again? How much is this going to cost? I have an appointment with the podiatrist next week, so hopefully I’ll have some answers soon. Until then, my current race times will be burning in my brain, and my subconscious will be whispering “you can do better.”

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So…now what?

Tricky thing about training for races, especially longer ones: They happen, you feel awesome, then you have a bunch of free time and no idea what to do with it.

In classic runner fashion, I went from excited about training, to feeling overwhelmed with it, to being irritated with myself for signing up, to being proud of my improvement, to looking forward to tapering, to losing my mind during the taper, to successfully finishing my race, to being so happy it was over, to missing running all the time.

So there’s that.

The same ankle that’s been harassing me this entire training cycle did so well during the race… then that same foot started acting up. Ms. Super Genius over here wasn’t thinking when I packed footwear for Chicago and spent all day Monday walking around the city in Chuck Taylors (I know). The outside of my foot started throbbing toward the end of the day and has a weird nob/bump on it. I went to the doctor, who promptly told me to quit being an idiot, put on real shoes, and stop running for a week or two lest I give myself a stress fracture. So, that’s where I’m at right now.

I’ve been icing, elevating, and calcium-ing it. I have to admit, it is feeling better. My custom orthotics have arrived, but the office can’t get me in to “fit” me for them (aka, let me pick them up and make sure they didn’t mess up my order) until Nov. 4. Until then, no running and minimal walking (as much as I can help it).

For now, I’m going to hit the weights and the bike, hard. I bought “The New Rules of Lifting for Women” some time last year and made it through the first few cycles with pretty significant gains, so that’s what’s on the agenda for now. I’m hoping to improve my strength, which shouldn’t be hard given how little time I spent in the weight room over the summer, and correct some muscle imbalances in doing so.

After that, it’s time to tackle my half marathon and 10k PRs (PR = personal record). They are old, outdated, and not indicative of my ability. Look out, spring racing season, I’m coming for you… as soon as my foot heals.

Not a training recap

I won’t bore you guys too much with the stuff I have/haven’t been doing re: my training plan. It’s been a little spotty the past few weeks, as my ankle injuryย from a moving mishap over Memorial Day weekend (yes, that long ago) has been flaring up.

I missed 2 significant long runs because my ankle was in such bad shape: a 12-miler and 16-miler. After going to a few doctors, it looks like I did actually do some damaged when my ankle was smashed by that piano. It seems as though I tore some smaller ligaments that healed funny, and now my ankle doesn’t have enough stability when I run. Luckily, taping up my foot really helps, and I have a few PT sessions set up to try and sort everything out. Because taping my foot has been so beneficial, my doctor is recommending some custom orthotics, which will hopefully be here in about 2 weeks. Not ideal, but better than a “no run” order!

For weeks 11 and 12 of training, I mostly stuck to the bike and elliptical with a few run/walks in there. Nothing worth writing home about. For week 13, I did a fair amount of walking but didn’t manage much gym time. Honestly, I was defeated and feeling pretty sorry for myself. Not a great thing when you’re trying to accomplish a goal that requires motivation and consistency.

Before all of that nonsense, I had registered for McKendree University’s Harvest Challengeย “half” marathon (actual distance: 13.25, not the standard 13.1 miles). It fell on a weekend that my training plan called for 18 miles, and I thought it’d be nice to have some course support for a good chunk of that run. Plus the registration was less than $37, including Active.com service fees. After the issues with my ankle and significantly lighter training the past few weeks, I decided to just try and make it through the race and not tack on my extra miles. Turns out, that was a smart decision.

I had been dreading this “race” all week. Like I said, I was feeling defeated and I really didn’t know how/if I’d be able to make my way through it. It was weighing heavily on my mind and putting me in a terrible mood (sorry, everyone). We drove out to Lebanon, Ill., the night before and crashed at the Drury in O’Fallon (thanks, Dad!). I slept like a baby and woke up at 6 a.m. to get ready and eat breakfast. By the time we got to the university for packet pick-up around 7:15, it was 70ish degrees and 97% humidity. It only got worse from there.

This about sums it up.

This about sums it up.

The entire course was through farmland. Mostly corn fields. At one point, we ran past a place housing a bunch of thoroughbred horses, which was pretty cool.

The scenery for roughly 11 of the 13.25 miles of the race. Fields, fields, more fields, and no shade whatsoever.

The scenery for roughly 11 of the 13.25 miles of the race. Fields, fields, more fields, and no shade whatsoever.

This was a TOUGH race. Even if I’d had better training leading up to it, it would have been really difficult. Everyone I talked to was resigned to just trying to get through the thing. It was relentlessly muggy, and there wasn’t a single patch of shade to be found on the course between miles 1.5 and 12. Really, really tough. Not to mention, the elevation map looked like this:

OUCH. Think this looks bad? Imagine trying to run it at 80 degrees and 70% humidity.

OUCH. Think this looks bad? Imagine trying to run it at 80 degrees and 70% humidity.

I had decided that I wasn’t going to kill myself for this thing. My strategy was to make it through the first 3 miles, then walk for a bit and take some Honey Stingers (my favorite fuel so far). After that, I planned to run to each aid station, then walk for 0.1 to 0.25 of a mile. I mostly stuck to that, though I walked much more in the “hill country” of miles 8.5 to 10. Trying to run up those things was just a wasted effort at that point, they were so steep. It might not look like much to trail or mountain runners, but I don’t run a ton of hills like that on a regular basis! I tried to run halfway on the uphills, walk the rest, then run the downhills and flats. It worked out OK.

I don’t even know my official time, but my Garmin had me at 2:41ish for 13.35 miles. My ankle held up really well; it never hurt during the run. However, I ended up with some pretty good blisters on my feet from tape the doctor used to wrap up my feet. I hardly ever get blisters, but I could feel them developing from mile 9 onward.

Overall, dragging myself out to do this run did me a lot of good. It broke through my “woe is me” mentality and gave me a little confidence. Yeah, it was super slow. Yeah, I had to walk more that I ever have before. At the same time, my ankle was able to withstand the stress, and I don’t feel like I lost too much endurance with my lighter training the past couple of weeks. I also got to talk to some cool people and add another nice race shirt to my collection. Given the weather, I don’t feel too bad about the outcome.

It’s time to tackle week 14 with confidence and gusto!

Double dose: Weeks 6 & 7 recap

Sorry for the lack of updates! The past two weeks have been really busy at work and in life, and the last thing I felt like doing every day was writing about running…or anything, really.

Week 6 was pretty uneventful; I ditched on my long run for the week (7 miles). Maybe not my finest hour, but it did feel good to get some extra rest. I’m at the the point where both my body and mind are starting to fatigue from the grind of training and figuring out how to get everything done each week. It helps to just take my plan one day at a time, but my long runs are getting long enough now where I have to plan a bit more so I can get them done, be a responsible adult, and still have a life on the weekends.

Week 6

  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 3.5 on the treadmill
  • Wednesday: 5 on the ‘mill
  • Thursday: Easy 3
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Rest (should’ve done 7 miles)
  • Sunday: Rest

Totals: 11.5 miles in 1 hour, 48 minutes. Nothing worth writing home about. It was really hot all that week, and that definitely contributed to my lack of motivation.

Week 7

  • Monday: 3.3 @ 9:05 on the treadmill + strength work
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 1.25 walk on my lunch break + 6.3 tough miles after work (outside, 10:09 pace).
    I was really excited for this 6 miles at the beginning of the day, because the weather was great! By the time it came time to do it, I was not in the mood and really struggled for motivation to put on my gear and get out the door. To make matters worse, I had steak and broccoli for lunch and it was just NOT a good meal to eat before a “longer” run. My stomach was upset from mile 4 on, and I had to take a few walking breaks, which I hate.
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 2 mile walk to dinner and back
  • Saturday 13.1 miles @ 10:27
    Woke up Saturday morning feeling tired and not terribly excited to run, given that we celebrated Dan’s birthday the night before. The one thing that got me out of bed to meet up with my group was the great weather. It was fantastic. I felt pretty good once we started running, and I locked in with a group of 5 or 6 other people to get this run done. I had banana and a piece of toast for breakfast, plus an almond milk latte on the way there, fruit bites at 5.75 miles and another pack of bites at 10 miles. In the future, I’ll probably do my nutrition at 5 and 8 miles instead. The last 3 miles of this route were super hilly, and my legs were feeling it. I ran without any break until the 10-mile point, then took a few walk breaks over the last 3.1 (I think maybe 3 walk breaks in total). This is the longest run I’ve ever done! From here on, each long run will be a distance PR for me. Exciting stuff!
  • Sunday: All of the rest.
    I thought I would be more sore after Saturday’s run, but I didn’t feel too bad! My shins are a little tender (from all of the hills), and my hips are a bit tight, but nothing major.

Totals: 25.95 miles, 5 hours, 6 minutes

It’s time to kick off Week 8. I’m already feeling a little stressed out about it, because I a lot of work to do, my monthly freelance assignment to tackle, and friend/family obligations for my birthday. It will definitely be a balancing act trying to get it all done.

How to run a PR and whine about it

1. Train for months.

2. Race.

3. Finish.

4. Grumble about your time to anyone wh0 will listen.

Anywho, I ran my second half marathon Sunday in Eugene, Oregon. I was aiming to finish in less than two hours, and all of my training indicated that I would.

The reality, however, was a bit different. I finished in 2:07:58, significantly slower than I hoped/trained for, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. Not so much because I missed my goal; more so because I missed my goal and I feel like the reasons for that were preventable.

I completely underestimatedย  how hard air travel would be on my body prior to a race. My sleep schedule was all out of whack. My nutrition was atrocious. I didn’t eat very well or nearly enough the day before the race. I had a huge, late lunch that didn’t contain enough carbs. I was so full for the rest of the day that I only managed to eat one slice of pizza before bed, which I had to force myself to do. I got to the race way later than I wanted to, and as a result, didn’t have time to putter around and wash down a gel with plenty of water before the gun went off. The hills toward the end of the race were tougher than I expected, and my lack of food didn’t make them any easier.

Here’s the breakdown:

Miles 1-3: Ok, it’s really crowded. I’m not going fast enough. I need to bust through and pick up the pace. It’s cold. My hands are cold. Oh well. Keep going. I really should’ve taken a gel. I’ll just down one at the first water station.

Miles 4-7: This feels good. I’m on pace, a little faster. I’m cruising. The course is pretty, things have opened up a bit and I can feel my hands again. Take a gel. Have some water and Gatorade. Feeling optimistic. (This is the best I feel the entire race.) On pace for a 1:58/59

Mile 8: Crap. This is a huge hill. I am a machine, I am a machine. What? I’m only halfway up the hill and feel like dying? What? This is miserable, but I will NOT walk. I’m passing tons of people who are walking. Why is this song stuck in my head? Only a little longer until I’m up this thing, then I’ll get to recover on the downhill that must surely be on the other side.

Mile 9: Phew, that’s over. Thank God there’s a downhill for me to coast on. Legs are a little tired, but that’s OK. I’ll perk back up here in a minute. Have some more Gatorade, choke down half a gel and my stomach turns. What?!! MORE HILLS?! I can do this. I can do this. On pace for 2:01/02. I can still get this.

Mile 10: Don’t walk. Don’t walk. You will hate yourself if you walk. You are only 5k away from being done, DON’T WALK. More hills. OK, you can walk through this water station to get a drink and eat some of those weird electrolyte-fruit-bite-thingies. But only for a second. MORE HILLS?!!!! Let’s do this. I can do this. Keep going.

Mile 11-12: *Hits wall.* Legs feel completely drained. I shuffling along. If I walk I will hate myself. Legs keep hurting. Maybe walking for a few seconds will make me feel better… OK, I’ll walk for a few seconds. OK, I’ll walk for a minute โ€” maybe 2 minutes. Legs still feel like crap. I’ll run some more. Maybe a few more seconds of walking. I play this game for a while.

Mile 13: Get it together. Don’t embarrass yourself; the crowds are yelling, you can’t walk. Run the rest. It’s only another mile. It doesn’t matter how slow you are, just run it. Just finish. Cross the finish line and you can collapse and sleep all day. 2:07:58

So that’s that. I walked for the first time ever in a race. That even includes when I first started running in high school and was TERRIBLE. More than anything, I’m mad at myself for walking. It’s one of those things where when it’s happening, you feel like you’re doing your best. Then later, when you’re feeling better, you think back and say to yourself “I could’ve pushed harder. I didn’t do my best. It didn’t hurt that much.” Not a great place to be.

I’m left with this “Mission: Unaccomplished” feeling, and it’s not very fun. I realize that there are tons of people who would kill to run the time that I ran, so I don’t mean to be ungrateful or to come across as saying “this time sucks.” It’s not the time that I’m disappointed in as much as the reasons I ran that time and the feeling that I didn’t plan carefully enough. I guess it means I’ll just have to do another one! Mostly like the STL Rock ‘n Roll this fall. But what will I do until then?

I think I want to get back to my “roots” and do some 5ks. See what my speed is like after all these years. I’ve never raced a 10k, so those will be on the menu, too. Keep my fitness up while also taking a break from training for a half.

The EXCELLENT news is that there’s nothing major wrong with my back. I got into a great sports doc the Wednesday before. He popped my SI joint back into place and really worked me over to loosen up my hips and hamstrings. He slapped some kinseo tape on my back for support, and I was good for the race. So that’s a huge relief. I managed to make it through training without injuring myself, which is also awesome. AND, I have almost a solid year of consistent, significant mileage under my belt. Which means my base is strong and I’m ready for some harder runs.

So that’s what up. To quote Kid Cudi:

“The end is never the end. A new challenge awaits. A test no man could be prepared for. A new hell he must conquer and destroy. A new level of growth he must confront himself. The machine in the ghost within. This is the journey of the man on the moon.”

Trying not to freak

My race is a week away, and my back is killing me.

I’m trying not to worry about it, but it’s hard.

It’s particularly hard, because what I’m experiencing feels naggingly similar to the back injury I had in high school that ended my running “career” my senior year. Only this time, it’s on the right side of my back and not the left.

I’ve been training for this thing since January, with the goal of breaking 2 hours. Before this nonsense with my back started a few weeks ago, I was confident that I’d achieve my goal and probably even surpass it. Now I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to run the whole thing. It’ll be completely dependent on whether my back wants to cooperate.

I’ve been trying to take it easy and stretch a lot. I smell like an old man because I’ve been incessantly applying muscle rub. I have myself on a steady diet of NSAIDs, and I’ve been sleeping a lot more.

I ran once last week. A measly 6 miles. That’s it. I did a solid 9-miler the week before, so I’m not too worried about the training aspect, I guess. I wanted to get 10 miles in last week, but that’s not wise at this point.

I just wish that this would’ve started AFTER my race. Waaah, waaah, waaah.

At any rate, I have the name of a good doctor to call tomorrow morning. Even though I probably won’t be able to get in before my trip, at least I’ll have an appointment set. Mostly, I just want to have fun and not be a grumpy, uncomfortable mess.

Now, time to stop whining and start planning!

Not jealous

I hate warm, humid weather. Ideally, it would always be 45 to 60 degrees.

As a result, I’m not jealous of my friends running in the Go! St. Louis Half/Marathon. The weather would be a nightmare for me:

UGH.

Though I’m not running in the race this weekend, I do need to run 9-10 miles at some point, hopefully tomorrow. I’m not looking forward to it, but it’ll pay off May 1 when I run in Oregon. If the weather is anything like the averages say it will probably be, I’ll be a happy camper.

High in the 60s, low in the 40s? Yes, please.