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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Summer runs and life updates

Sure, I'm totally in shape and not
completely out of breath after every
single run (also, dang, that sweat-soaked
shirt! Ugh, summer!)
I am working my way back from time off rather painfully. I didn't do any cardio while I was off running, so not only am I out of shape aerobically, I also have some creaky joints and muscles suffering from disuse. But running has been going pretty well.

Right now, I'm on my very last class of this long, drawn-out MBA (due to program changes that limited how often classes were offered, my initial spring graduation date was extended to summer; my last four classes were taken alone rather than doubling up). Luckily, this class is not at all demanding, so I don't feel a time crunch affecting my running. My last class was seven weeks long, and every week required me to:
- read two chapters
- take a diagnostic quiz for each chapter
- take a quiz for each chapter, with content based on results of the diagnostic
- write a 1000 word essay
- complete an assignment (variable)
- take a 50-question test.
You know what that meant, of course. It meant that the essay content was pathetically poor, because the volume of work was just too great. Such a waste of time, and so little real learning involved! So I'm really enjoying this class, which is based entirely on your grade from three exams, no busy work required.

Anyway, I hit 40 miles this week, and did my first workout back: a fartlek I barely survived (it was very humid and I'm very out of shape). I also did some hill repeats today, since I think they really help with stride economy, glute strength, and power. I'm still doing my myrtles and some hip strengthening before every run, and I either do a quick stretching routine or a short strength routine post-run. Some routines I use are Coach Jay Johnson's "Grant Green" routine, a Runner's World strength routine, a glute medius routine, Peanut Butter Runner's 100-rep core workout, or a Nike training club stretch and strength routine. It varies - but about ten minutes max.

I'm feeling pretty strong, but honestly, my calves (yes, both!) don't feel 100%. I don't know if they're just weak, or tight, or what, but I keep feeling the need to stretch, and I often get sore after a short run. Hopefully all that works itself out soon - I've got races to run!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Spillway Classic trail 3 miler

I decided to carefully run the Spillway Classic, since it is just a 5k and it's slow and easy - it's on the trail. It sounded safe, and I promised to take it easy.

Timing for the race was going to be an issue: It started at 8 am in Norco, a good 35 minutes from the house, but I have church at 9:30. I'd have to run the race, drive home, shower, and get to church in an hour and a half. It would be cutting it close, but I thought I could do it. I left the house at almost 7, but that cut it a little close. The parking at the spillway was a mess, with no one really directing to the open lots, and plenty of cars parking on the roads or in very muddy fields. I found a spot, but then packet pick up was a mess, too - as usual at NOTC races, there wasn't any good signage, and for some reason the line for pre-registered runners was separated into n-z, a-e, and f-m...in that order. Not surprisingly, everyone was in the wrong line! I don't know why the track club doesn't invest in some whiteboard signs that they can put up where the line forms to tell runners which line they are in. But I got my number and had time to get in a mile and a half warmup before the start...because it was delayed. Of course. The packet pick up was such a mess that the race start was postponed, which meant that I was REALLY cutting it close for church!

I knew from experience that position matters in this race: it starts on a narrow levee for a mile, then you descend into the swampy woods and a narrow trail. It's really hard to pass on the trail, and the levee can be crowded, too. So I lined up closer to the front than usual. I planned to go hard on the levee (well, as hard as I could, since it is dirt and large gravel and I was in flats!), and then pick and stomp through the mud as best as I could. I sprinted out with the gun, but I was definitely not close to the start for the girls: I was probably 9th or so along the levee. Mile one beeped at 6:27, which was perfect.

The levee was hot, hot, hot, and pretty rough on my feet. I knew it was my only chance for speed, though - the woods were definitely going to be really messy as we've had a lot of rain recently. Sure enough, by the time we turned and charged down the slippery levee into the swamp, I could already hear the splashes of runners ahead of me.
That's my teammate in the white hat, and I'm behind him in orange putting my shoes back on!

Immediately, we were in a puddle over my knees. And immediately, I regretted my shoe choice. I was wearing my old Musha flats, saved just for this purpose: I'd never wear shoes I want to keep to this race! But the mud sucked them right off my feet. Luckily, I managed to hang on with my toes and shoved them back on rather than lose them forever in the muck. I trudged through, and was rewarded by semi-dry trails ahead. Man, was I winded after that! And the toes of my shoes were full of packed mud. The rest of the first mile was sort of dry; at least, it was more mud than water. I had gotten a little separated retrieving my shoes in the first big puddle, and I followed the guy in front of me...off course! Luckily we both realized it, not too late to cut through the woods and rejoin the race. I'd lost my position by several runners, including one girl I saw far ahead, so by now I assumed I was way back. The first big puddle cost me - mile 2 was 8:29.
We had several more puddles to wade before we were over, and then the hot run on the grass to the finish. Mile 3 was 8:17.
Emerging from puddle #1
I was a little annoyed at myself at the finish for not sprinting it in. I am still in recovery mode, but I was only seconds behind the girl in front of me, and should have tried to catch her - especially when I figured out that I was closer to the front than I thought. Several girls got lost! I finished in 23:17 gun time. I'm not sure my exact place, but I won my age group. I was covered in mud (although I caught myself and prevented any outright falls during the race), and ran over to the fire trucks to shower off. Then I jogged to the car, toweled off, put my shoes in a bag, and drove home. Somehow, I managed to shower and walk to church on time for the 9:30 start! I was still pouring sweat, but I made it!
#proof (although, really, I suppose I could have taken this at any time, haha)
I was happy with today's race, for the most part. I ran the best I could on the trails, didn't fall, had a solid first mile, and didn't hurt. It will still be a long road back to racing fitness, but I think this was a safe race with which to ease back in.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Testing speed at the summer series 2 miler

My injury and the weather collaborated to ensure that I didn't miss a Summer Series Free for All race this year. Since I went out with a bang finishing first female at the last summer series, and came back at the next summer series a month later, I didn't miss any of these free 2 mile races. There would have been one sandwiched in the middle, but it was cancelled for rain.
I obviously wasn't going to be racing this one. I just got back from injury, and a casual 2 miler while out of shape isn't the way I want to re-injure myself! I talked to Jimi, who did my acupuncture, and we discussed a fast-ish mile to see how I felt, then dialing back for the next mile. That would allow me to still run the race without attempting two fast miles just a few days in to comeback.

I wanted to be at the race because the Powermilers were sponsors (we provided food), so this sounded like a good option. I drove over to City Park straight after work, and it jogged through stifling humidity to the start. It wasn't a terribly hot night, just really humid after an afternoon of hot summer rains.

I ran into a couple of the guys during my warmup, and they cheerfully informed me that there was a 100 meter stretch of ankle deep water near the end of the course. Great! It seems that drenching new shoes is what I do at these races (last race I stepped in a puddle in my new Musha flats; this race, I wore my new New Balance 1400s). I shrugged and lined up - I'd done about a mile and a half warm up, no strides or anything. I did get closer to the front this time, and the start wasn't as terribly crowded as the last race. I was clicking along nicely, felt fine, but my half a mile, I knew that my effort was too great for the pace I was running. I began to feel like I was struggling as I drew close to mile one, and my breathing was labored. I hit mile one at 6:13 and began dialing back. Behind me, a friend kept shouting, "Pick it up! Catch yellow shirt! High schoolers come back!" but I was too winded to explain to him that I was running mile two easy. The truth is, if I'd felt great, I probably would have tried to race this thing, but since I could barely breath, I wasn't tempted at all.
Basically walking. What am I doing?! 

I practically walked across the finish line with a Garmin 12:56, and after lamenting my lost fitness for a while, joined the guys for some fried rice courtesy of the Powermiler track club!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

First steps back

I finally got brave enough to get out for a run, and it was a success!
I started out with my usual return-from-running: three miles. It's long enough that it doesn't mask the injury by simply being too short of a run to irritate the injury, but it's not so long that it would be overdoing it. Since everyone in the sports medicine world recommends starting with intervals, I interspersed my runs with walking for a total of about six miles. And it was fine. I actually felt some tightness in my calf on the injured side, but it was the back of the calf. By the next day, everything felt 100%. It was like I'd never been injured. Phew! I probably took off more time than I needed (a month), but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Plus, it was time for a break. I haven't had one since the fall, and that's probably a contributing factor to the injury.

That, plus three new pairs of shoes in a short time span, and ramping up miles, and continued high intensity of my long runs. As I ease back in, I'll need to reconsider some of these things to avoid a re-injury. I also need to stop skipping my strength workouts!

Unfortunately, I have both a 2 mile race and a trail 5k this week, both of which I'll probably have to skip, just because it's so soon. Bah! Bad timing! Oh, well. There will be other races, right?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Not yet

I'm still doing mostly weights: no running yet for me. I've tried short (just 100 yards) runs twice, and felt twinges, so I'm being quite cautious. But I'm not in pain right now.
Look! Going downstairs with no pain! Tulane,
please clean your garage stairs a little...

I had two sessions of acupuncture and they both improved my pain and mobility a great deal, but that last nagging tugging in the muscle didn't go away until I broke down and took naproxen. I don't like using NSAIDS when there could be bone involvement (I think this type of injury progresses to a stress fracture, and NSAIDS inhibit bone growth), but I've also noticed that sometimes persistent inflammation in a hard-to-reach area really responds to medication. In the past, I've done three or four high doses of NSAIDS, and that knocked the inflammation out. This time, two 500mg tablets of naproxen left over from hip surgery THREE years ago (Wow, I can't believe that!) got me over the pain hump. And now I'm just patiently waiting the requisite week or two before another try at running.

I'm ready to get back to running. I have races coming up - some short summer distances - and I'm starting to feel gross. For some reason, this running break I PACKED the pounds on, even though I was doing other workouts and was only on a short break. I don't normally gain appreciable weight with a break like this! Perhaps it just coincided with some particularly festive eating, but I'm starting to feel bleah in my clothes, so I'm ready to return to a normal routine.

I can hardly wait to get back out in that 90+ degree weather. Oh yeah! How's your summer running going?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A foray into acupuncture

As my calf pain continued into a second week of injury, I was getting miffed that it still hurt to walk. I wasn't healing very quickly. My body has been pretty resilient this year: I have not really had a break, despite running two marathons in three weeks, so I suppose I can't grudge my joints some down-time. But I want to get back out there for some of the short, summer races, so I looked for some help healing.
Naturally, I decided to go see Jimi at Crescent City Acupuncture. He's the talented fellow who writes the Power Milers workouts, and Allison recommended him; he'd treated her similar calf pain before.

I've never had acupuncture, but Jimi explained that he'd be treating the tissues near the bone to recruit healing cells to the area and stimulate muscle fiber reorganization. So... kind of like dry-needling, but if you say that in front of Jimi he'll probably have a stroke (and never speak to you again). AND. I have to admit that he is right. I've had dry needling before, and I thought it was effective, but acupuncture was much more targeted, and I felt results much more quickly. Dry needling non-specifically stimulated healing to a large area of affected muscle, and as a result, not only did it take longer for the damaged areas to heal, but it sort of gave me that not-quite-satisfied feeling, like when you just can't dig deep enough with the foam roller. Acupuncture hit exactly the irritated spot, and after 20 minutes of electrical current application, felt immediately better. I think a big difference is in the depth of the needle placement: I felt like dry-needling was very uniform. The same needles were inserted to the same depth all over, with varying success. But Jimi was able to insert the needles much more adeptly: he got some into the back side of the bone, and I could tell at once that he'd hit the right spot.
Waiting room full of Runner's World: always a good sign!

I am now a total acupuncture apologist. I walked up the stairs to my appointment with a limp. I walked out without pain. Amazing! That was last night, and the effects have mostly remained. I still have some pain when I stand on my toes or do heel lifts, and NO WAY would I tempt fate by running yet, but I am 75% better. I'm on my way back!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Series 2-miler

 I managed to work my schedule in such a way that I could run one of the Summer Series 2-milers at City Park this year. It was a hot night, and surprisingly windy, but I actually felt pretty good pre-race. That was unusual, since I don't always do well at night races (mostly stomach issues from lunch timing).
I chose that night to break in my last hoarded pair of Mizuno Mushas: I finally had to give up on the maroon pair I'd been wearing for years (they had under 400 miles, but for a flat, that's a lot). I parked about half a mile from the start and jogged around Big Lake to pick up my number...and immediately stepped into a puddle up to my ankles. So much for brand new shoes. I took them off and wrung out my socks and insoles, then continued my warm up.
Dirty new shoes :(

I did about 1.5 miles warm up two shorts strides - only because the ground was so wet that there was no room for anything else. I could have done strides on the race course, but everyone was lining up and I felt silly and self-conscious out there warming up with a bunch of fast people. Where this sudden abashedness came from, I do not know, but I'm sure it didn't do my race any favors. I also wandered several rows back for the start, for the same reason, and I'm really annoyed at myself for that, because a. I knew this course is on a narrow walking path and is pretty congested, and b. I JUST had a bad race start because I lined up too far back at the Greek Fest 1-mile. So what's wrong with me?!

Anyway. Back to the race. We started, and I was clogged up in a bunch of kids. Kids everywhere. Kids left and right. Kids bunched in front. So I struggled and fought through the hoards for at least the first half-mile (including a bunch of barefoot kids - I'll write more on that later). The rough start meant that I not only dodged and wove a lot in the first half, resulting in a slow first half-mile and too much energy expended, but also I (of course) overcompensated on the second half of mile one. By the time I hit the mile in 6:14, I was panting for breath. The second mile was definitely harder for me: I was really trying to keep my pace even, and that's tough when you are running my pace: I'm right at that pace sweet spot at which many people can run one mile, but may not be able to sustain two miles. As people around me gradually slowed, I had to make sure I was dialed in to my own pace, and not pacing off them. This is a problem I face in shorter distances, and I did ok this time. As I approached the final turn, a guy yelled, "First female!" and I realized that I didn't have a CLUE as to my place. I also couldn't remember who I'd passed, and when, and how close they may be to me: I was in such a crowd at the beginning that I couldn't remember anyone specifically. So I just gunned it to the finish!
At the finish!

12:29. The clock actually said 12:19, which is very close to my PR, but my watch read 12:29. That means that I've run two races this year in which the clock was wrong! What the! But anyway, it was a win for the women, and that's always fun, even if there aren't actually places/awards at these races (it's actually more fun. I love these easy, short, low-pressure summer races).

I am both happy with the win and a little annoyed that 1. I ran the second mile one second slower than the first and 2. I'm not under 12:20. I should be able to do that! So that's my goal for this summer IF my injured calf gets better in time for the free races. It's actually a little better today, so I'm hopeful!