Saturday, September 29, 2012

PT does not just stand for physical therapy

While doing PT tonight I thought of all the things it should stand for. Pretty tedious. Phucking tough. Painful torture. Pickled thighs. Pie time. Pizza tonight.... if you couldn't tell I went from grumbling to thinking about food. :)

I'm trying to get myself into the habit of making this a regular thing so I've been trying to figure out the best way for that. Likely I'll need to print out an excel spreadsheet with check boxes and tape it somewhere that I'll feel guilty enough to keep up with this religiously. I keep reminding myself a few things: This is a prescription. This is going to make you a stronger runner. If kept up regularly this might also mean your out of pocket costs to see the actual physical therapist will be pretty minimal. Soak up all the information you can get and stick with what works. It's going to take time to see results. This is now a part of your training... for the rest of your life. Get used to it.

Tough love is usually the only thing that works when I'm talking to myself.

If anyone is curious here is the long list of what I'm doing every night for now:
Single Leg Squat (hip stability / quad & glute strength / balance) this one is tough w/my knee creakiness so I usually don't do a full squat
Hip Press (similar to a bridge but lift one leg to ceiling with hips up - hamstring / glutes)
Side Plank Leg Lifts (ouch! - core strength / glutes)
Low Plank / Knee Tuck (core strength / hip flexor strength and ROM)
The Jane Fonda (haha) lie on side, lift leg up and back diagonally (glutes)
Single Leg Deadlift - (balance on one foot, push other leg back and up, hold - hamstring / ROM / balance)
Stairway Hamstring Stretch - one leg on ground, other leg straight up on a stair, foot flexed against step, slide hands up railing and feel the pull
Hip Adductor Stretch (leg bent and placed up on table that is hip height, move leg back for more stretch)
Foam Roller: IT band, quads and hamstrings

It's time consuming and I'll likely drop most of these things back to 3 times a week after a couple solid weeks. I've been strongly considering a gym budget so I can get in some more cross-training right now as well as hit the pool. The downside on this one is, the only gym that has a pool that I can afford is the gym that my ex goes to. I'm not too keen on running into him. Ever.

The stretch that is helping the most right now and is what I'm doing 3+ times a day is:
The Calf Step Stretch! - ball of feet on stairs w/heel off. Drop heel one foot at a time, hold for 60+ seconds both with knee bent (soleus) and knee straight (gastroc/achilles) twice on each side. Oh! This stretch hurts so good!

My sports massage therapist, Colleen, suggested to invest in this rocker apparatus that apparently works well for calf stretching plus increases dorsiflexion (stretching the toes towards head). In my last entry I think I mentioned that my feet stretch only a couple degrees where as the normal foot should flex at least 15. I've been warned that my lack of foot flexibility could put me at risk for plantar fasciitis if I don't loosen up. This funky rocker thing supposedly did wonders for Colleen. I'll happily pay $10 now to use some weird foot rocker if it means increased flexibility! Sold!

Another suggestion was to buy a 4 pack of lacrosse balls to tape together: 3 on bottom as a base w/middle one doubled up to use for focal glute and calf tightness. Sounds good to me!

Clearly I'm pretty eager to ward off any potential injuries even if it means spending a little extra right now to soak up information from as many resources as possible.

What kind of things have you done for PT? How did you learn to stick with the schedule? Is there an exercise or stretch that you really felt you benefited from? I'd love to hear any other suggestions or creative ideas!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cutting Back On Mileage (runner woes)

It's tough to cut back on mileage once you're hitting 30 - 35 miles a week regularly. I've been feeling really great sustaining this but the past 3-4 weeks have had small nagging pains that have forced me to alter my schedule a little. Mostly this has meant more rest time but I've still be running the miles. I'm in a comfortable schedule of running on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and sometimes Sunday and it's really tricky to break that but my knee and calf have been plotting a bit against that!

It started with a really minor ache in my knee on our 20 mile run that I didn't complete. I was okay with that as I know when to push through the miles and when not to since my knee injury in Sept 2011. After getting sidelined for 3 whole months and then slowly working my way back up to anything I knew I wanted to avoid any big alterations to my training schedule from an injury.

The knee thing comes and goes but I started to have a few other things crop up. There was the week where running just felt really weird. That was when my chiropractor adjusted me and told me that my left hip was a bit turned out. He told me I needed to work on stretching my hip flexors as well as loosening up my IT band (with the foam roller). I listened for a couple days. The past few weeks have been calf pain. Nothing major, just little aches. Over the week it traveled down toward my Achilles which caused me to cut a run rather short. Walking back to my car with that dull nagging pain and realizing that this was the fourth week with some minor ailment confirmed to me that I had to talk to someone. I have been pretty darn tired of these weird little aches. They've been small but I know how they can grow and I'm ready to cut anything off at the pass. I'm sure my knee injury last year was a blessing in disguise because it's made me ultra-aware of anything that doesn't feel right.

The main thing that happens to athletes is overuse injuries. This can be exacerbated by a few things like improper shoes, form, or a weak core, but the first place winner for injuries is too many miles and not enough rest. The risk for injuries increases exponentially for newer runners, like me. Because let's face it, I really didn't start any sort of consistent training program until the end of this May. Garmin files prove it. I ran about 170 miles last year total and this year from May - present I've already run 425.

When I started this season I tried very hard to be diligent about my stretches and strength training. As the months wore on though and I settled into a comfortable schedule those exercises kind of dropped into the "when I feel like it" zone. Laziness is a big reason why this happened because I just ran 8 miles darnit, do I really need to spend 10 whole minutes stretching? Do I still really need to keep doing single leg deadlifts, side plank leg raises and bridges? Well, according to the PT I saw yesterday that my coach referred me to, why yes, yes I do!

I'm really thankful for the resources I have been connected with in this program. My insurance doesn't cover PT until my absurdly high deductible is reached and even then they only cover 30%. I was able to be seen by a fellow athlete and runner for a free 20 minute consultation that turned into a 90 minute session with some cold laser treatment, electro-therapy and a lot of awesome information on stretching and discussions about what was likely going on these past 4 weeks: my foot flexibility - or lack thereof. My calves are so darn tight that I can't flex my foot up towards my toes more than a couple degrees. I found out that normal flexibility should be at least 15 degrees. Vince, the PT, told me that I had very strong calves but because I'm built with quite a bit of muscle I absolutely can't skimp on the stretching. I also really need to keep up with the core strengthening exercises I was doing because core strength is so important and likely my glutes aren't pulling their weight. When one thing starts to fail because they're not up to par, it's pretty easy for other parts of your body to overcompensate and BAM! you're feeling aches and pains all over.

The main stretch I'm working on to loosen up my calves and Achilles is a calf extension drop stretch done on a stair. This is when you're on the ball of your foot and drop the heel back over the stair and feel this intensely painful and torturous stretch up your calf. Or at least for me it feels that way. The sad part is that my heel drops like 2 inches, maybe. The good part though is that even after only two days of doing 2 sets for 60 seconds on each side, twice a day, my calves feel a little looser. I was able to run last night in track and felt pretty great!

Vince told me that I really need to think of these stretches and exercises just like a prescription that a doctor might give me. Saying that to me kind of hit home how important consistency really is. It's more important than running at this point. I've also been told to cut mileage in half for the next 3 weeks to let my body rest. I have a half in a couple weeks that I was hoping to set another PR on but he reminded me that I'm 29. I have years and years of setting PR's and running ahead of me if I take care of myself now. Even though I know this, sometimes it really helps to have someone remind you of this. It's so easy to get caught up in the "now" but running is really about keeping yourself strong and healthy for the future. Isn't that one reason why we run in the first place? To stay healthy? Getting some extra rest in now and maybe shifting that focus to some biking, climbing and even swimming could be the difference between myself managing to get by right now with random aches and pains vs coming back as a stronger, faster and well rested runner.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm still running! I want to run. I can blog about what I am going to do all day but it doesn't mean that this isn't tough. Vince said to continue to run on the days that I've been running to keep up with my schedule but cut that distance in half. I need to spend some time thinking about this because our program is up next week and I'd still like to devote my Saturdays to longer runs of 8-12 miles. (Originally I had planned on 12 - 16). But if I plan a 12 mile run that means I only can run 3-5 miles during the week. That... sucks. And honestly, that won't work for me. I've got to figure something out that does work and that likely means giving up the longer weekend mileage for a little bit. I've never been very good at running distances over 6 miles on the weekdays so for now that's at least a good thing!

After my next race I have 2 months until my next half in December. They do a super in depth running analysis at the studio/gym that my coach works at. He is our coach but also is a personal trainer and triathlete superstar so he's awesome to have on board for this too. It's $150, so it's a little pricy, but it would be really wonderful to get some detailed feedback on my running style and what I might need to change or even if I'm on the right track but could use a few tweaks here and there. Both Vince and Jeremy watch you barefoot on the treadmill and in shoes. They make recommendations and then in a month or so there is a follow up. These recommendations would also include a rough schedule going forward. To understand the bio-mechanics of what is going on when I run would be incredibly useful for me because I know there are always things to work on. I'm not a skinny, flat chested, built like skinny dude, runner and that isn't changing anytime soon. I know that I am likely more prone to injuries but with that I know I can get the knowledge to prevent them. If anything I am at least in tune with my body and eager to learn.

Vince made a good point. He said that running for me right now is something I'm clearly passionate about. It's something that is a great outlet and it's fun. The last thing I'd want is to keep running the high mileage weeks right now and end up with an injury that could become chronic that either takes me off the trail or makes running so painful that it isn't fun anymore. The last thing any runner wants to hear is to cut back but while it's tough, I'd much rather take extra time off now than be forced to take time off in February when I'll be full-swing training for Big Sur. Got to keep my priorities in check because I am going to run an awesome first marathon! Maybe not an award winning time, but I will certainly be much happier if those 26.2 are pain-free. (Well, as pain-free as a marathon can be!) Cheers!

Monday, September 17, 2012

The milestones of a runner

This Saturday I ran 22.4 miles. That .4 of a mile is not to be neglected, let me tell you! It was a really tough run and I thought about stopping a lot during the last 6 miles. I ran this run with Deb and Shannon and Deb yelling to "push through" is really what got me through this. I finished the run thinking that I have no idea how people run another 3.8 miles, but I'm guessing the adrenaline does really help on race day. There isn't much of a reward waiting at at the end of a 22 mile training run besides maybe some peace of mind that you just slogged through something incredibly tough and experienced something that only a small portion of the population experiences.

I started the day not knowing what distance I was going for. Last weekend I had quite a bit of knee pain and ran 11 1/2 instead of 20. It was a smart decision then and it was the only reason why I was able to run like I did last week. The problem though last week was that disjointed feeling I kept having. A quick visit to the chiropractor on Friday told me that my left hip was turned out a bit, which was probably causing some of my knee pain, the stiffness and the awful back pain I woke up with that morning. He did his thing and told me I should be better by tomorrow (Saturday), and I was! But I didn't know that until I started running.

My plan was take the first 6 miles, see how I feel and either keep on running or head back and run the second half faster than the first (negative splits). I felt pretty great at mile 6 so I kept on going until 11.2 when we got to the end of the trail and saw my coach. He kind of rolled his eyes at me because he knew the chances of seeing me were pretty high once he saw I brought a water bottle to put in his car "just in case". I checked in and had no knee pain at that point either so I made the decision to finish the run.

Thankfully the last 5 miles of the trail are mostly flat and at a gradual decline. It slowed us down a bit on the way up, but helped to keep our legs moving fast enough and cadence up on the way back. We stopped at the picnic bench when we had 6 miles left to go to drink and take in some carbs. Deb told us we were going to break the 6 miles into two 3 mile sections. When you're running on tired legs it really helps to mentally break up the sections into shorter manageable ones. At mile 3 we didn't stop though, we kept a brisk walk for about a minute and then kept going. The main reason for that was so we didn't cramp up - at that point if you stop you're probably toast. Oh, how I wanted to stop, but I'm so glad she didn't let us.

2 miles left... then 1. I was ready to walk, telling myself that my last longest distance of 18.2 miles was 4 weeks ago. Two weeks prior we ran 17.5 but the jump to 22.4 was pretty significant. I knew if I stopped I'd still be proud of myself, but I also knew I was so darn close!

At 3/4 of a mile she called out "push through it!!!" and maybe it was just her trying to boost herself too, but it worked. Shannon had gotten a blister and Deb had a couple hot spots from rocks on the trail. I luckily had nothing going on except a sore pinkie toe (which I'm used to) and just very tired legs, which we all had. When we reached the gate though it was sweet, sweet victory. I did a final sprint/hobble to it, touched it and shut off my watch, which just hit 0% battery life (talk about timing it just right!!).

Our overall pace on the trail was 11:07, which for a trail is pretty good. Trails are softer, except for when you encounter those darn rocks, but I've read that people are 10 - 20% slower on trails. We weren't that much slower, and I think that speaks to our training. It certainly is a nod to Deb, our awesome friend and pacer. I ignored my watch because GPS and pace is always off in the forest. (My watch clocked about a mile short).

I led us from about mile 12 - 17 when the miles started to get tough for me. Sometimes I need to stare ahead down the trail to focus, and I seem to focus better when I feel like I'm on my own and not watching someone directly in front of me. I don't always feel like that, but I do prefer to be in the front or side by side. This run was by feel and sometimes I felt a little panicky that I was going too slow because I certainly felt like I was dragging, but it looks like we were fine!

Running 22 miles is a big milestone for any runner. Especially for the first time. I'm not sure if I'll run this distance again before Big Sur, but I will run 18's and 20's. I think running 22 miles is more about feeling confident in your mental ability to push through the wall and keep running on tired legs. I'd like to read a bit more about how much actual benefit it is for you physically in a training cycle. Big Sur won't be about time, it'll be about finishing. I feel confident I can finish (it's still 7 months away) but I'm pretty glad I didn't sign up for a marathon this season.

I've had a great training season so far and would have never guessed I really could have made it this far. Going into Saturday with an open mind was the way to go as that's kind of how I've approached this season. I had hoped to go for the distance since June but I kept an open mind. I'm pretty stoked that I really have been able to do it! I'm humbled every step of the way, let me tell you. I have major respect for first timers that tackle these marathon training runs on their own - I am pretty sure my mental fortitude is not strong enough to push past all these walls. Having a couple people to share these runs with has made a huge difference in confidence and I will carry that forward with me.

Erin is running the Toronto Marathon in a few weeks and has been running these long runs on her own. She's someone I know can do it because she's always been a lot stronger than me. I remember when she visited me a few years ago and ran like 7 miles on the track in the rain just to keep up with training. I still can't imagine running 7 miles flat out on the track. (That's 28 laps. Ugh). Her goal is to finish the marathon, but I already know she's going to do really well; Erin has never been a quitter and she's tough. I wish that her and I could run our first marathon together, but we just couldn't work that out. So wish her luck!! Go Erin!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Summer heat and into the mind of a runner

7pm and it's still 84F. In the Pacific Northwest the temperatures peak later in the day. I've learned that if a forecast says it should be 90F that day that the thermometer won't hit even close until 3pm and usually will peak at about 5. Some people are better at running in the heat than others, but I'm definitely a big heat wuss. I like 50 degrees, but I'll run in 70 semi-comfortably if it's not sunny.

Last night was a track night so I already had my fair share of hot weather running for the week so it looks like tonight's a bust. I've had a stressful week (work and my car deciding it needed an expensive new radiator) so I'll be thankful when I get a little bit of a breather this weekend.

Tonight though I really wanted to run. Besides it being a normal running day, last night just didn't go very well. It was a long track workout and I got 5 miles in with some speed intervals, but my body felt super awkward. I was like the kid at gym practice who runs into the dodgeball by mistake and gets herself thrown out. I think the best way to explain it in non-joking terms is, my body just felt out of alignment. I have a feeling a trip to the chiropractor would benefit me so I may try to get in there tomorrow.

So, I've already given up on tonight. At 6:50 when I looked at the temp I knew that I just wasn't going to have enough time to run where I wanted to run (15 min drive over) before the sun went down. It sets pretty early now and I want to get about an hour of solid running in if I can, which is about 6 miles, give or take. When you only have XX number of running clothes and 1 laundry day a week you find yourself getting stingy on the quick runs. I love going out there for a couple miles, but only if I know my good clothes are still clean for the longer runs. This weekend is shaping up to be hopefully a couple solid days of long/medium length runs so that's nice to look forward to.

If I can drag myself out of bed early enough tomorrow I'll get a run in, but I'm gonna be honest, I SUCK at waking up before 7am for a run. I don't know how people get up at 5am. Discipline? I don't know... it sounds like torture to me. I like my sleep. Even if I fall asleep tonight before 10, waking up at 6 to do anything but pee and go back to bed is pretty unlikely. I will sleep until 8am, maybe even 8:30 if I can get away with it.

Oddly enough though waking up early on the weekends for running is way easier. I'm guessing it's because I don't have to coordinate a shower so I don't offend my coworkers. Plus the sitting at a desk part all day answering emails to grumpy people about money is kind of a good mood killer. On weekends I can get a nice run in, head home, eat a delicious lunch and then nap or chill out for a few hours before anything socially exciting may happen.

Tomorrow night is out for a run because Saturday morning I'm running with the group. I'm still really undecided on what distance I want to run and at what pace. I guess I'll let my body on Saturday tell me what I'm feeling like doing. It's unlikely I'll go the 22 miles because I didn't do the 20. It's probably more likely that I'll run about 12 with 6 at a slower pace and the last 6 faster (as the last 6 will be on my own). It would be good training! It would also mean Sunday's chances of a nice 7 miler or so are a lot better.

So there you go - that's a peek into the mind of a runner. Well, at least this one. We pretty much think about running a lot. We see trails or nice shaded roads and make a mental note to come back and run them. We're usually thinking about our future runs. Sometimes we're feeling a bit guilty for skipping one. This is completely normal. Think about something you really love to do. Heck, I can even compare it to religion. It's really not that different. You may say a prayer every night at dinner before you eat or every night before you go to sleep... but one night you were rushed at dinner or drank too many glasses of scotch before bed and passed out. Those feelings of guilt are very similar to the feelings of someone who hasn't stuck to their exercise schedule. Even if it's for a fairly valid reason, it's just how it works. We just make sure we'll make it up tomorrow or have a couple super awesome runs over the weekend. Or we will learn to let it go. And that's okay too. When you embark on a 20 week program of doing anything 4-5 days a week it just kind of sticks. But it's a good kind of stick.

All in all though it's probably better I didn't make it out tonight. While I could have used the stress killer I am pretty sore today. I haven't been sore in awhile, so that's reason #12 for why I know my body is out of alignment. I think I'll get some nice stretching in and a quick yoga video or two on youtube. I should probably make a date with the foam roller. I've been avoiding him for awhile; we have a volatile love/hate relationship. I do all the work anyway! Typical. (Of course my foam roller is male. That thing inflicts pain! Haha)

Hopefully after my season is done I'll come back around with some more exciting updates. Not really sure what though! I don't plan to stop running but I may cut down a little bit on mileage for a few months and might pick up hiking again. I like where I'm at now in terms of miles/week but it's always good to rest too! Nothing crazy though - you all are pretty much stuck with hearing about this for a long time. C'est la vie! At least I don't smoke crack. :P

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lacamas Lake Photo & Quick Update

Oh - and before I forget! I actually bought a race photo for once because it was on sale. (It was still $23). This is from my Lacamas Lake 1/2 back in July. Between mile 9-10, running a steady 10:15-ish pace.

I'm a happy runner! I did see the photographer on this one but I didn't slow down. I think I've just started to master the race photo.

Today was another 18-miler. It turned out to be a little over 17 1/2, but we ran two big hills. The second was the toughest as it was close to a 200 foot climb over about 3/4 of a mile. I was pretty sore but I did my normal post-long-run thing where I buy a really delicious sandwich, something sweet (this time it was a jamba juice protein smoothie), come back home, watch some netflix, and nap for a bit. Wake up feeling pretty stiff/sore, put on compression socks (I should remember to do this before napping!) and then I slowly start to roll out my muscles on the foam roller. I'll keep the socks on and roll out my muscles again once more before bed, which will come early tonight.

Last time I went out to a show and danced a little then walked around my neighborhood at night (it's safe), but I'm warm and cozy in my bed right now. Tomorrow I'll probably wake up early-ish and depending on how I'll feel I'll probably consider a slow recovery run to work out the lactic acid. I've been responding really well to recovery runs, but since they aren't on the schedule my coach has told me it'd be good to sit one out a month although he agrees that it's really great I'm doing so well.

Our next 3 weeks are 20, 22, 22 miles. I started to question what I was going to do after the 22's. I also started to question whether I wanted to even bother running two 22's. I guess I will see when I get there. It also depends on where we're running. I do not want to run 22 miles in Forest Park on those hills. We can (and we will) run up Vista again, which is super tough, but the up's and downs of Forest Park would be too much for me I think!

Time for me to settle on in and get some sleep soon! Hopefully this week I'll be able to meet up with Aundria and get in some rock climbing. I've missed it the past two weeks. I also really miss her! She's been on vacation and is back now - yay!

My cats are snuggling at the end of my bed. D'aww, they're too darn cute. Maybe it's already bedtime. *yawn*

Flying Finish

Dear World,

Running has not taken over my life but would you really tell me to cut back and watch out after seeing this picture?

This was me flying into the finish at the Eugene Womens Half. I passed about 6 people or so in the final tenth of a mile and I was grinning like I had just won a lifetime supply of gummy bears.

I think this pretty much sums up why I love running and why it will be a part of my life as long as it can be. Will I become a crazy ultramarathoner? I really don't think so - but I'm sure as shit happy where I am right now. This is a candid moment caught on film after 13.1 miles. Pretty darn awesome photo!