Finding Something in Nothing

As a masters athlete, it is all about recovery. I eat a vegan diet, take ice baths, bathe in Epsom salts, use compression boots, wear compression socks, stretch, and foam roll so I can keep training at a high level. Anything that can help keep this body going is something I take great interest in, so when two people raved about Just Float, I immediately looked into it. Just Float offers float therapy, meaning for one hour you float on water in complete darkness and silence. Definitely piqued my interest, but the deciding factor was that these referrals came from people who implemented the float therapy for different reasons: one is an aging cross-fitting beast who uses it for physical recovery purposes, and the other is someone with a stressful job and personal life and utilizes it for relaxation and stress management. Since my husband and I have divergent interests, imagine my excitement at finding something that both an astral projector/deep meditator and an athlete would enjoy. The idea sounded intriguing and a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

The facility is clean and quiet, but certainly not luxurious, so if you’re looking for a spa experience this is not the place. If anything, there is a space age quality to it, and considering what you are about to do, the vibe is appropriate. After watching a short video on what to expect, you’re brought into your own private room that has a changing area, shower, and tank. It is definitely well set-up.

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Private room is sparse but tidy.

My mindset going into this was one of skepticism. How would I “just float” on water? Also, I thought for sure that having no light or sound would freak me out and keep me tense and awake. But whatever, you can’t beat $40 to try something out. Upon entering the tank, you press two buttons, one turns on the music and the other dims the light; both will fade and turn off in a few minutes, but it is an effective way to acclimate you to the deprivation of both. Just Float also recommends moving around in the tank to get used to the feel of floating. In short, they’ve thought of your concerns beforehand.

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Looks very Star Trekkian.

The experience was indescribable. Husband and I tried to articulate it to each other afterwards but fumbled with adequate words. Surprisingly, I was almost immediately able to relax in the pool and, just like anesthesia, one minute it seemed like I was counting backwards from 10, and the next I was waking up. It was the deepest sleep I’d had in…I don’t know, actually. It was profound.

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Close-up of flotation tank.

The only drawback is you only have 10 minutes to shower the salt off you and change before having to leave your room, so the staff can prepare the space for the next appointment. However, they do have a lounge where you can drink water or tea and just chill for a while (there are also coloring books if you’re so inclined). So there’s definitely time to decompress before you enter into the real world again.

Afterwards I was left with a craving to do it again, and yes, we bought two more sessions. As for the physical benefits, it did not solve the lower back issues I’d been experiencing, but I noticed that my back warmed up quicker on my next two runs. I do know it was an overall deep relaxation for my body, and I slept wonderfully that night. For an athlete, this probably works best as an all-over relaxation technique rather than a spot-specific recovery method.

Whether you’re a person who enjoys deep meditative states, an athlete, or someone having problems with stress, anxiety, or depression, I would highly suggest trying water therapy. There is something for everyone in this state of nothingness.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Listening to podcasts has been an effective way to get through a pool running session. If you’ve never pool run, imagine the lack of scenery and fresh air of treadmill running combined with the absence of a runner’s high, and you get the idea of the unique mental challenge that agua jogging presents. One podcast I’ve enjoyed listening to is “High Performance Mindset” hosted by Dr. Cindra Kamphoff, especially one recent episode in which she interviewed Dr. Mustafa Sarkar about his concept of resilience. Dr. Sarkar has done extensive research in this field and worked with many elite athletes, and it’s his position that resilience is not the ability to bounce back from a setback; rather, it is a proactive — rather than reactive — skill. More specifically, Dr. Sarkar’s work posits that resilience is the ability to use personal qualities to withstand stress and to maintain functioning under pressure, thus, there is no setback to come back from. This definition of resilience resonated strongly with me as tomorrow I finally return to running after being sidelined almost five weeks due to a freak injury.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. After reaching my ultimate goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon last November, Trainer and I had decided to concentrate on running track and shorter distances for the first half of 2017. This was partly for a change of pace, but most importantly, in Trainer’s view, to stay healthy since I wouldn’t be running Boston until 2018. I was mostly on board with this plan, but like a true distance runner addict, I struggled to not run more than the prescribed max of 3-miles per run. I soon found myself defying Trainer’s instructions, and at our Friday morning session on December 30, I finally stated that I would not be running less and that the idea of staying healthy was not a good enough goal since it felt like a participation medal…

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Pre-run. So confident. Little did I know what await me.

Approximately 8 hours later, I found myself face down on Sunset Boulevard with my left knee in agonizing pain. On what was supposed to be a fun 6-mile run, I had tripped on a wire left out on the sidewalk and landed squarely on my left knee cap. However, having fallen before a few times, I dusted myself off and ran four more miles to finish my mileage. Because runner.

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Not so confident anymore.

Although the pain was worse than my other falls, it wasn’t until the following Monday that I felt the need to have it checked out. I went to the ER, and one hour, one X-ray, and one set of crutches later, I hobbled out with the news that the X-ray indicated an avulsion fracture, meaning a fraction of the bone had been torn away from the patella. Yikes. It was at about this time that I would have given anything for that participation medal of good health.

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This diagnosis meant no running or even any cardio involving my legs for six weeks. In my twenty years of running, this was unchartered territory. Through any injury, I was able to at least do spinning or elliptical or the above-mentioned pool running to maintain cardiovascular conditioning and some muscle tone. Now, instead of going full-press into track season and running dreaded 600s, I found myself on crutches with six long weeks stretching ahead. And this is where Dr. Sarkar’s definition of resilience came into play.

One of my strongest character traits is being proactive. This quality manifests itself in my having put in place a solid foundation and structure through which I have navigated not only this and other physical tests, but also general life situations. Naturally, as in this case, I was not pleased with this occurrence. Of course there were moments of fear, doubt, and anger; however, through years of experience, and trial and error, I defaulted to a system that works.

The first building block is a spiritual practice. For almost twenty-five years, I’ve spent almost every morning with some quiet time. I usually spend a half hour in prayer, contemplation, reading, and writing, and this practice gets my head (mostly) straight and sets the intention for the day. It is not a guarantee that I’m not going to have hard times, but like any muscle, working this spiritual muscle provides a solid baseline, so that when difficult times do come down, I am in a better position to handle them. I am certain that the mostly positive mindset I maintained was the result of my faith and the purposeful attention I paid it.

Second, I have good people in place. Listen, as smart as I like to think I am, I only have so much headspace and expertise, so I outsource when necessary. For example, I have an awesome CPA, who advises me on what to do with my investments; OK, full disclosure, he is also my husband. Ha. And, in this case, I was aggressive in seeking the right people for my knee. I went to the best orthopedic doctors in Los Angeles, which meant that I could accept their diagnosis and prescription with full confidence, and thereby not have to waste time getting a second opinion.

Further, I had the right person to get me through the next six weeks. Not only did Trainer have expertise in rehabbing knee injuries, he had already instilled a system of prehab that I knew would hold some of my conditioning and possibly even accelerate my recovery. In emphasizing prehab in our sessions, we had been proactive so that in situations like these, we would not lose too much ground. Trainer and I hardly missed a beat in our training. I didn’t take any days off. When I couldn’t use my legs, he improvised, and I did my upper body work while sitting on an exercise ball. We did more core. Like a lot more core. Too much core. No really, I was over it.

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Too many planks.
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No wheels; no problem.

Ultimately, the MRI results determined that there was no fracture (the floating piece may have been an old injury), and that instead my issue was a strained quad tendon. Although I no longer needed crutches, I still could not resume running until three more weeks, which would bring the total to five. However, just as Dr. Sarkar proposed, resiliency does not have to imply a marked setback. Below are some photos of the type of work I’ve been able to do while injured; except for not being able to run track or road running, I am functioning at a high level despite my knee not being at 100%.

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And tomorrow morning I will run for the first time in five weeks. Trainer says if this active running “hiatus” works, then we’ll do this every year*, further adding to the veracity of Dr. Sarkar’s argument. I mean, can it really be a comeback if a five-week running break is built into the training plan? Regardless, it is comforting to know that despite not having my running legs under me, the learning curve will be much shorter due to the solid foundation and training structure that I had put into place prior to this injury, and now instead of trying to catch up, I can look forward. In fact, my new training journal arrived today to commemorate this new chapter. Here’s to picking up where I left off.

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Hope everyone has a great running week!

*He is just kidding. I hope. There is no way I’m doing this. Just saying.

RACE RECAP: Ventura Half Marathon – Shoulda Woulda Coulda

OK, so what’s the time limit on posting race recaps? ‘Cuz I’m just at three months and one day after I ran this race, and while I realize it’s slightly obnoxious, hopefully it’s a forgivable offense. The plan is to post two race recaps this week AND get back to a regular blogging schedule now that I’m in my offseason. So if you’re still hanging in there with this MIA blog, here goes.

The plan was to the run the Ventura FULL marathon. That was the plan anyway.

After my triumphant Mountains2Beach Half Marathon, where I landed a brand new PR at a time that I never dreamed of, I took my usual vacation week to recover. As soon as I returned, I dusted off last year’s training plan for the Ventura Marathon and got busy. I knew I’d only have 12 weeks to build up my mileage to marathon standards, and that I would be cutting it close, but I felt in good enough half marathon shape that the plan would be doable.

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First run after M2B — along the East River in NYC.

Training was going well. I was curious to see how my body would hold up to the added mileage on top of my increased speed and strength training and, as had been the case since starting with Trainer, I was unsure if the speed and strength work would translate into a fast marathon. The first 4½ weeks of training went as planned as I increased my mileage slowly and busted out an 18-mile long run for the first time in nearly a year. Then it happened: I strained my right Achilles. Gah! I had a weekend trip to Vegas planned, so even though I was not thrilled about missing a long run, I figured the timing was right to sit out a few days, get healed up, and still have enough time to get in three 20-mile runs.

My Achilles had other plans. I ended up having to take a little over two weeks off, plus a week to test it out and taper up, which left me only five weeks before the marathon. I am a fan of symmetry and had been looking forward to running the full distance at Ventura as it was exactly this race and one year since my last full marathon, but I decided to downgrade to the half marathon and use it as a training run for the Revel Canyon City Marathon in November instead.

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Bib pick-up. This is a super fun race expo on the beach.

With this decision, I approached Ventura with the mindset of running it at 80% effort. I had to take time off after the Surf City Half Marathon, and if I hadn’t already planned a vacation after the M2B Half Marathon, I probably would have had to take a week off then too. My body just needs to recover after race effort. Since I could not afford to take a week off in the middle of marathon training again, this race was not going to be a full-out effort.

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Kicked it on the beach for a bit.

My goals were as follows:
A-sub-1:50. Why not? That’s what “A” goals are for, right? Shoot for the moon.
B-PR (run sub-1:52:18).
C-sub-1:55 and not get injured.

I also had an unconventional A-minus *goal*, and that was to not stop at so many water stations! My number of water stops has been an ongoing battle — I mean, discussion — between Trainer and I. I have always stopped at EVERY water station during a race, no matter if there were one (like in a 5K) or twenty-six. I stop/walk and drink whether I’m thirsty or not. This, despite the fact that I never drink water at every mile when training and could easily run eight miles during a weekday run without water. Part of it is physiological, the body is expending more energy during a race, but I also knew part of it was a mental crutch. Yikes! The mere thought of skipping water stations terrified me. I felt dehydrated just thinking about it!

I lined up hoping to run with the 1:50 pace group, but there was no pacer for that, and I ended up – gulp – starting out with the 1:45 group. 1:45?!? Just like Mountains2Beach, I planned to hang as long as I could, hopefully until the 4-5 mile mark, and then hold on. I glanced down at my watch a few times during the first few miles and saw some 7:30-7:45 min. mile paces, which seemed about right because the pace felt just out of my reach. I dropped out of the pace group around mile 4 but felt good about cruising into a sub-1:55 finish time.

I found two women who were just slightly ahead of me and running 8:10-8:25 min. miles, which felt fairly comfortable, so I hung with them for the next five miles. This is an extremely flat and boring out-and-back course, so there’s not much to report here other than Ventura is flat AF. Anyway, I bravely and courageously passed by water stations. Oh, yes, friends. I was determined to reach at least one goal at this race, even if I collapsed from dehydration. (Part of me hoped that this would happen just so I could tell Trainer “I told you so”, but no such luck.)

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Nothing but flat highway for miles.

I started fatiguing and cramping as per usual around mile 9-10, only now not only was my body starting to break down, but my Garmin was dying too! It had been going in and out since mile 6, and I had no idea what my actual time was. At this point, I reminded myself of my overall goal for this race, which was to run it at 80%, use it as a training run, and stay injury-free. Thus, I backed off, and did just that.

And here’s where the I Shoulda Woulda Coulda comes in. My finishing time was 1:51:18! Yes, of course I was happy about a new PR by 1 min. 10 sec., but I was also left disappointed – I was thisclose to going under 1:50. If I had known how close I was (why, trusty Garmin, why?!?), I would have kept the pressure on. To top things off, I ended up having to take five days off after the race to recover from a minor bottom-of-foot inflammation anyway, so I just shoulda kept the pace up; I woulda felt better about my race effort; and I coulda gone sub-1:50…argh!

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Hey Finish Line, I see you!

Moral of the story: There are no training races. I don’t race enough to have some “fun” races, and I am competitive enough that if I line up, I want to go hard. So lesson learned…leave the 80% effort for training.

Here are the final race stats. Not bad considering I turned 49 a month before!

Finishing Time: 1:51:18
Pace: 8:29/mile
Age Group (45-49): 9/131  — finally cracked the top 10!
Women: 73/938
Overall 203/1490
Water Stops: 4

So this makes three half marathons and three PRs in 2016. It is astonishing to think that for seven years, I hovered in the 2:14-2:04 range, breaking through only twice to hit sub-2:00 finishes, and now I had run three races in one year at 1:55:59, 1:52:28, and 1:51:18. I mean…

But would these half marathon times translate to the full mary? That question still remained and hung over most of my marathon training cycle. The next recap is scheduled for later this week and will document my first full marathon in over a year. Here is the teaser in hopes you will tune in: It involves the word “Boston.”

Hope you have a great running week!

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I love this medal — so Ventura!

Training Week 12/7 to 12/13/15: Things That Make You Go “Hmmm…”

After spending eleven days in Europe subsisting on tapas, bread, cheese, and sugar, and doing no running (save one in Paris), I entered this week girding myself for the pain of training re-entry.

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Freezing in Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Trainer did not disappoint.

I was sore from Monday’s workout until Wednesday, and then Tuesday’s workout until Thursday. Truthfully, I felt pain in my upper abs until Sunday. I will never ever go on vacation again. Ha.

I decided to not run until our last day on vacation as I wanted to give my funny hip as much rest as possible. It had healed to I would say 90% plus, and I could only feel a twinge of “Hmmm, that’s not right,” during a couple stretches; however, knowing that I wanted to start piling on the miles as soon as I got back, I wanted it to be as close to 100% as possible. Sure enough, this past Thursday, I said aloud to Trainer the words I had been hoping to say for over two months: “At this moment, I am not injured.” Not to say everything is 100% (is there a 100% when you’re 48 years old?), but I am not seeing a PT and feel comfortable with increasing my mileage.

An interesting phenomenon that I’ve discovered since working out with Trainer is this idea of running through aches and pains. Previously, I chose to be conservative and would back off running as soon as I felt some pain. Working with Trainer has turned that model upside down, or at least provided me with an alternative. Instead of backing off or working around an injury, we have really just attacked it. Luckily, my friend who referred me to Trainer mentioned that we would do this, so even though it was different from what I was used to, I wasn’t too surprised. What has been surprising is the result. At first, I was happy to just not aggravate the pain. Yay. But this week, I had a fairly tight calf from our lower body workout, and during our track workout I mentioned that my calf was tightening up a bit; however, we just kept on pushing. Again, not on an easy run day, but a track workout day. Um, OK. Guess I won’t be running this weekend then. Well, turns out with my ice bath, stretching, rolling, and rest day, I was able to run both days this weekend. My right calf was a little tighter than my left, but nothing that was alarming, and it feels perfectly fine today. I didn’t have to miss one run or workout. It’s been a real “Hmmm…” moment as far as dealing with little twinges.

So while all this strength and speed/agility training has been fun, and I’ve liked the results as far as how I feel, the strength in my body, and even how I look, I have yet to test this out in a race. However, I have noticed that my training times seem to be 15-30 seconds faster per mile about 50% plus of the time. During my long run, I decided to add one mile at HMP (half marathon pace) or tempo pace, meaning 9:09. I busted out an 8:58 HMP mile. Again, it’s just training, and my mileage is low right now, but it’s pretty cool considering that not only did I take about a month off from running, but I also switched to a midfoot strike, which, from what I’ve read, generally results in slower times during the transition. Yet another “Hmmm…” moment, at least in terms of my Garmin data.

Lastly, I had two long-ish (ha) runs this weekend, meaning I ran eight and six miles. Yes, incredibly humbling considering I ran a marathon three months ago, but I’m nonetheless thrilled to be able to run this pain-free and on a new stride. During my six mile run the day after my 8-mile long run, my legs felt surprisingly peppy. I wasn’t tearing through the park or anything; the times definitely reflected a recovery day, but my legs felt bouncy. I’ve read that one of the benefits of using a midfoot strike is that it causes less stress/pounding on the legs, resulting in faster recovery times. Do I sound like a Midfoot Fanatic??? Of course, I’m only running 20 miles a week, but I’m also doing some pretty intense leg strengthening, and despite this my yams felt pretty peppy. All I can say is “Hmmm…”

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So I’m just collecting information, and remaining curious to see how — or if –- all this cross-training translates into faster race times. At the very least, I can’t remember feeling this good while running in a long time. The thing I remember about my summer training for the Ventura Marathon was that it felt logy. My times were slow, and I couldn’t figure out if it was the heat, orthotics, allergies, or eating meat. I couldn’t string together marathon pace long runs and my recovery runs were dipping into 12 minute-plus miles. Was it tired legs? Maybe I just needed a break? Who knows. In the meantime, the experiment continues.

Here’s what the week looked like. Listed below are just my scheduled workouts — I also did extra upper and lower body, plus stretching, rolling, core work, etc. Oh, yeah, friends, it’s a whole new me. Hmmm…we’ll see.

M:     Upper body/abs workout
Tu:    Lower body workout; run 3 miles
W:     Run 3 miles
Th:    Track workout
F:       Rest Day
Sat:   Run 8 miles
Sun:  Run 6-miles

Total weekly mileage: 20 plus track
Long run: 8 miles (1 HMP)

Hope everyone has a great running week!

So You Think You Can Run

It should be natural. Put one foot in front of the other and go. It’s not that complicated, right?

I guess for most people this is true. And honestly, my form probably wouldn’t matter too much if I was running shorter distances, but the marathon distance has been humbling for me in many respects, and this may be the latest lesson. Upon reviewing my most recent marathon photos, it’s easily noted that they reveal more than just the unlikely occurrence of a hobbit shuffling down the streets of Ventura, they also highlight a few issues. But I jump ahead. Let’s dial it back.

“You should be like a deer skipping across a frozen pond.”

Back in the mid-90s, my track coach gave our running group this imagery in response to questions regarding our running form. The aspiration to be this graceful creature has always stuck with me, even though my form consistently shouted that I was more likely to bust through the ice and drown. One can dream, right?

After my fourth marathon in 2012, I saw my race photo and what jumped out at me — in addition to my ginormous head — was my inefficient arm swing and how I pulled my arms across my body. Alas, it would turn out to be a problem much lower that was hindering me.

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Post-marathon I went to see someone that my FMC had used for gait analysis. He filmed me on the treadmill in my regular easy running form, and then we watched the video together. He then pointed out the adjustments to be made and watched me run in the better running form to make sure that I understood his instructions. Honestly, the evaluator didn’t have to tell me– much less show me – what needed improvement. You could hear it. “THUMP, THUMP, THUMP.” Yup, I’m more like a Clydesdale lumbering across the plains than that light-footed deer my track coach mentioned. Surprisingly, though, he did say my form was mostly fine and that it was just a minor adjustment that needed to be made: shifting more to a midfoot strike. I guess I’m a heel striker, and sure enough, when we did some practice running employing the midfoot strike, I sounded more like that elegant deer.

I totally thought this would be an easy thing to do, especially since I planned to do it incrementally, but every time I tried to switch my foot strike, my calves would get jacked up. This was a big issue in 2012 as this was my first year of really committing to training for the marathon distance, and I suffered many calf strains even before this attempt at form adjustment. In fact, later that year I had to take six weeks off due to Achilles tendonitis. So even though every now and again I’d make an attempt at changing my footstrike, I pretty much put it on the backburner. All I wanted was to not have tight calves and stop wearing compression socks all the time.

Fast forward to this year’s Mountains 2 Beach Marathon. During the marathon, our pace leader Tammy turned back to me and told me that my stride was too heavy, and that if I didn’t lighten it up, I’d pay for it later. Now keep in mind, there were about twenty people in our pace group, along with a hundred or so marathoners in our near vicinity as we’re charging down the road at a good clip, and she could hear my footstrike! You guys, I don’t weight that much – how am I making so much noise?!?

So once again, during the first week of the Ventura Marathon training cycle this summer, I attempted to change to a midfoot strike at like intervals of .10 of a mile for each, or every other, mile. My calves immediately tightened up, and I got scared and stopped asap. I did not want to stop the momentum of a marathon PR and no post-marathon injury. I just wanted to keep training. Later, midfoot strike.

Now we’re here.

On my second session with Trainer – before I got the no-run directive from ART doctor – we met at the track, so he could watch me run for a bit. He asked me to do a warm-up jog around the football field…he later told me that he thought I was going to fall over. I mean, he’s not totally out-of-bounds for thinking that. After all, I did fall on a training run and during the M2B marathon and still have a nasty little scar to bear witness to it.


So at the track we did a lot of warm-up drills, which were basically to get me focused on being light on my feet and driving my knees upwards. In addition, in most drills we do, Trainer reminds me to keep my arms in tight, moving front and back, and at 90 degree angles. I guess the hope is to avoid this.

The smile stays, but the arm swing needs some work.
The smile stays, but the arm swing needs some work.

Finally after all this foreplay, we got to the main event. We took all the technique I worked on during our warm-up drills out onto the track: proper arm swing, knees up, and light feet. In fact, he wanted me to exaggerate lifting my knees up, so I could get used to it. The actual track workout was a brief 8 x 200 with him shouting out any corrections. Here’s a video of one of the later 200s. Remember, the form is a little exaggerated.

I had hoped to see a video of my initial warm-up jog (i.e., the “before” my form adjustment), but it was missing from his phone. I suspect his phone rejected it: “WTF is that?!” Despite the correction, it’s obvious I’m still not a deer skipping across the pond. In fact, my husband saw the video and said I looked injured…I am – are you happy?! However, believe it or not, it is an improvement. Since I don’t have a “before” video, this photo from the Ventura Marathon will have to do. Knees not as high, a little more of a heel strike, and a forward lean that hints at the possibility of the runner falling down.

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During the later stages of the marathon so it’s not always this bad.

During one of the later 200s, Trainer said I could relax my form a little and not drive my knees up as high. When I finished that 200, he told me I wasn’t ready yet and that I had slipped back into some bad habits when I relaxed. Here’s the interesting thing: He didn’t have to tell me. My butt had immediately started to hurt when I went back into bad form. On all the 200s that I ran with good – albeit exaggerated – form, my butt never hurt. Upon more research, I read some articles that stated that one way of preventing/treating piriformis syndrome is to shift to a midfoot strike. Now, Trainer never actually uses these words, and maybe that’s good because my previous attempts at switching to a midfoot strike have freaked me out. He just focuses on lightness and keeping my knees up. For some reason, my brain can process this easier.

Of course my calves were jacked up afterwards, but I think the overall strengthening work we’re doing will help address that. Ultimately, he said I just have to work through it. “Luckily” I don’t have an upcoming race, much less a marathon, so I have the time and willingness to focus on this. For now.

I’m not sure where this leaves me. The idea of adjusting my form at the age of 48 is a bit daunting. The idea of trying to run like this for 26.2 miles is fucking overwhelming. For now, I’m just taking it a workout at a time and going along with the process. I feel stronger despite the fact that I’m injured, and even if I take away only a fraction of what I’ve been learning, I think it will benefit my overall training.

So that’s the running update.

Hope everyone has a great running week!

Ventura Marathon: Training Cycle Review

As is tradition at Run Mary Run, it’s time for the training cycle review. (OK, I know twice is hardly tradition and that last time the “tradition” was to do it before the race…fuck tradition.) Below is the self-assessed report card of my training for the Ventura Marathon: The Slow, The Fast, and Vegas.

Total Miles Run in 11 weeks: 459! I averaged over 41 miles per week – even with having a calf strain one week and taper another. Hurrah! Me.Strong.Ish.

Me have strong calf.
Me have strong calf.

I attempted to make some changes to my training since Mountains2Beach in May:

  1.  Change my tempo pace from 9:20-9:30 to the 9:10 range.
  2.  Change my MP pace from 9:55 to 9:40.
  3.  Add in one more 20-mile (22) run, for a total of two.
  4.  Increase my highest mileage week from 48 to 52 miles.
  5.  Run the race course.

Must we review how these good intentions panned out? Ugh, fine.

Tempo Runs. These mostly went well. There were only five tempo runs on the schedule, and I was able to complete four of them at the faster pace (except for a couple outlier zone-out miles). The one 10-mile tempo run that did not meet goal pace was done at former tempo pace, so not too bad.

MP Pace. Boo. Easily my greatest disappointment in this training cycle. I was terribly inconsistent in the amount of MP miles I did during my long runs, and there were three weeks when I did zero of my long run miles at marathon pace. In addition, I tapped out at 13 MP miles in my last training cycle, but only reached 10 in this one. At least during the few long runs in which I did some MP miles, the pace was around the faster 9:40 pace. Super disappointed in myself.

The additional 22-mile long run and the increase in weekly mileage were done easily and without negative consequences. Phew. And being able to run the course that saw me first injure my IT band was a relief mentally. I was worried that there may be a weird slant to the pavement, but even if there is, my knees were able to handle it, and this dress rehearsal took that little weight off my mind.

Ventura Pier.
Ventura Pier.

Here’s how I did in the other categories on the big training pie chart.

Cross-Training. Meh. I deluded myself into thinking that I would do more this time, but chalk it up to the Long Hot Lazy Summer, but my cross-training remained a solid C+. Now I did make a valiant attempt at upping my cross-training by getting a trainer, and, well, see Week 7 and how that turned out. So basically there were some leg exercises, a sprinkling of Pilates, and a lot of thinking about cross-training.

Diet. Ha! Two words: Vegas Buffet. Another two words: Birthday Celebrations. Not only was it my birthday, but also a couple others, and that was a lot of dining out. I think the healthiest thing I ate at one dinner was a fried blue cheese olive (it’s a vegetable, right? a good fat?). So of course I can’t blame all my poor nutritional choices on these special events, but it didn’t help. I ended up…oh, the shame…gaining two pounds for this marathon. Another disappointment.

All of the desserts. Mine!
All of the desserts. Mine!

And there were a couple unexpected happenings this training cycle.

Low Point. This freak upper body injury I got with a week and a half to go until the marathon! What an odd thing to happen. The exact low point was on the Thursday, ten days before the marathon, when I lay in bed surrounded in cake crumbs and greasy chips, binge-watching Snapped and wondering how I’d be able to run something that I had trained eleven weeks for when I was in so much pain. Super down, super bloated.

Things I Missed. Running with people. I was a solo runner until this year, but one of my 2015 goals was to be open to running with people. I ran with four new people at various times during Mountains2Beach training cycle, and while they’re weren’t regular running buddies, it was an unexpectedly fun experience to share a few of my weekend runs with people I’d otherwise not have gotten to know better. I also missed running the marathon with a pace group to keep up my spirits and take my mind off, well, the fact that I was running a marathon. I’m still bent towards running alone, but running with people was better than I thought it was going to be. Spoken like a true borderline misanthrope.

Worst Revelation. Do not get $20 massages! Do not pay $$$$ for Beyonce Vegan food!

Best Revelation. Doing track work won’t necessarily injure me. I can do track! Yay!

I hoped the KT tape would work, but nope. Looked cute with the pink headband tho.
I hoped the KT tape would work, but nope. Looked cute with the pink headband tho.

Overall, I hate to say I’m disappointed in myself, because I made it through a second training cycle and consecutive marathons without a running injury, and that’s pretty cool, especially at my age and with my recent injury history. And I get that it can be difficult getting motivated in the summer, but I really hoped to have a better training cycle and kill it at Ventura. I just never seemed to get in the groove with my running, cross-training, or diet. However, my body – minus my left chest and forearm – felt strong and the marathon distance seemed to take less of a toll during and after the Ventura Marathon. I’m hoping that completing these training cycles and staying injury-free will build upon each other, and that I can continue to see improvement even as I stare down 50. In lieu of a letter grade, let’s give the Ventura training cycle an encouraging note of “Needs improvement.” So lame, so not-Asian.

Anyway, I’m off to continue recovering. Thanks for reading the weekly updates, friends!

Ventura-Blurb

Ventura Marathon: Plan C

There is a legendary story about NFL Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott that epitomizes toughness and gladiator-like mentality. In the NFC playoffs, Lott had his left pinky finger badly mangled in a collision – supposedly part of it lay on the field — but he came out briefly, taped it up and continued to play. Later, when given a choice between a bone graft that would mean missing playing time but could eventually give him full use of his finger and hand, he opted for the second option, which was to amputate the top of his pinky and keep playing. Dude played eight more seasons without the top of his pinky. I fucking love Ronnie Lott.

So you can imagine how much of a loser I felt last night.

I drove down for packet pick-up for the marathon, got my bib and super cool shirt, and headed on back to my car. I stopped to sit on the beach as it was sunset, and I don’t get to the beach much even though I live in LA, so it was a rare treat. Anyway, I just kinda sat there for a while, looking at the waves. It had been a busy couple days both at work and in my personal life with a dead battery to top it all off. But finally, some peace. And the thought came: I’m going to downgrade to the half [marathon].

Venturaj-1

In my last post I was sure that I’d be running the full marathon. I had started visualizing how I’d like the race to go and had even begun my race week rituals by doing some visualization, taking Juven and being careful with hydrating and what I was eating. I even juiced for Chrissakes! But the decision to run the full was mostly based on the certainty that my upper body would continue to heal at the pace it had been. I figured I’d be at 80%. Alas, friends, that’s not what happened. While the chest area inflammation calmed down a bit, there was now referred pain along my forearm that until now hasn’t improved. It feels like I broke it or there’s a cramp or, I don’t know, it just hurts, and it’s intermittent, which is why at times I felt hopeful thinking it had gone away…only to return.

I hoped the KT tape would work, but nope. Looked cute with the pink headband tho.
I hoped the KT tape would work, but nope. Looked cute with the pink headband tho.

Thursday I was told by doctor number two that he didn’t think I should run the race; however, he did offer to give me a steroid shot if I insisted. This kind of freaked me out. I saw yet a third doctor on Friday morning, who confirmed the other two doctors’ diagnoses of chest inflammation most likely done when the masseuse hit a lymph node under my arm, but she did not think I would do further damage by running. It was just a matter of how much discomfort and pain I wanted to withstand. What a relief?

My FMC mentioned that her husband would be camped out a little past the midway point, so that if it got too painful to continue, then I could get a ride back to the start from him. She was so kind in letting me know that DNFing was not a bad thing and offering me an out. So I now had a Plan A (run the damn thing) and a Plan B (DNF if it got too painful). Sitting out on the sand, Plan C materialized — run the half instead. My chest was aching and my forearm was throbbing, and I know from experience that a small pain can turn into a large pain during the long course of a marathon, and I just wasn’t up for it. Knowing that there are two local marathons in the next eight weeks that I can run instead was the final factor in my decision.

I went back to the registration tables, and less than one minute later, I was officially listed as doing the half. I had mixed emotions walking back to my car. I was relieved for sure, but, well, is self-condemnation an emotion? “Quitter, loser, wimp” and variations of those monikers ran through my brain. I called my husband and burst into tears. Ugh. And my husband, who is the walking antithesis of my loving but hard-driving Asian Tiger Parents, god bless him, my husband said “I couldn’t be more proud of you.” He has watched how uncomfortable it’s been for me to sleep and had hoped I wouldn’t run at all of course…but I mean, that’s crazy.

So blogging family, after eleven weeks of training for a marathon, I sit on the verge of running half a marathon instead. The plan is to get the cortisone shot Tuesday morning, after which I’ll have to wear a sling for 24 hours. I’m so over this. Hopefully later next week I’ll be ready to go back to marathon training for either Long Beach, or most likely Santa Clarita in mid-November.

Oh, and it turns out that my hero Ronnie Lott…well, it turns out that he regrets amputating his finger and cautions that type of tough-guy mentality. OK, so an achy chest and painful forearm isn’t quite the same as cutting off the tip of my pinky, but if my disappointment is any indication, then bowing out last minute for a race that I trained ten weeks for is pretty tough too. Side note: I’m hoping that I can run angry tomorrow and get a PR.

Hope everyone gets in some good runs this weekend!