5

Current state of running and mid marathon training check-in

Honestly, I could make this my shortest post of all time and just say “ugh.” That would be accurate and all-encompassing. Okay, maybe frustrating too, but mostly ugh. Sigh.

Things have kinda been garbage since Chicago Marathon. Not entirely garbage, but sorta like an overly full trash can that you keep stuffing down instead of emptying. Everything seems fine for a hot minute, but only for a minute.

As you may recall, I had some IT band related pain during taper for Chicago. For the most part, this was just some residual soreness from the Newport Half Marathon that I PRed three weeks before Chicago. Though, that’s what got me started going to physical therapy.

Chicago went great and the month after were great. I signed up for the Philly Half Marathon and Marathon, but going into those races my posterior tibial tendinitis flared up. This is something I’ve dealt with a few times in the past. In retrospect, I could have run the races, but I DNSed them to be safe. This was really frustrating as I had just signed up for them last minute, but with Dopey Challenge six weeks later, I made the smart decision.

My milage between Philly and Disney was, of course, lower than planned because of my foot, but Dopey itself went fantastically! That whole week was a great week of running. It started with PRing a 5k on New Year’s Day and then ended with a 3:43 marathon for finish out the Dopey Challenge. This was a big up!

Two weeks easy recovery after the marathon, but then things really didn’t get going again.

With that, I decided to get more serious with my spring racing plans. I decided for sure on Grandma’s Marathon being my goal race and then picked out five (which later became six) half marathons as well. I wanted one of them to be a goal race and the others to simply exist as a way to change up my marathon training.

Things were looking good there. My foot was still not 100%, but it was feeling like I was starting to get it back under control.

Then there was the stress fracture scare in my other foot. With the help of my physical therapist and a great podiatrist, we determined it was bursitis due to my big toe being out of alignment. I was on track for needing surgery if things didn’t change. So I changed my shoes. Upon the recommendation decree of my surgeon and backed up by my physical therapist, I hung up the New Balance 1600s that had been my go-to shoe for nearly five years and laced up some Saucony Kinvaras with some off-the-shelf insoles.

Almost immediately, my posterior tibial tendinitis was 100% gone. My bursitis started getting better, quickly. It took me some time to get used to the extra cushioning of the Kinvaras, but I found I was running well in them.

I was starting to feel optimistic again. And then the murders began…

Wait, no, sorry, there were no murders.

My quads started getting tight again, like they had back around Chicago. And glute/hip tendinitis on my right side that I always have to work on started flaring up again. Yes, I am a mess of tendinitis.

Yuck.

So back down my optimism went as I approached the first of my six spring half marathons. First up was Philly Love Run. I ended up having a solid race. I was supposed to go easy, but I didn’t. I ran 7 seconds slower than my PR and at less than race effort. Back up I went!

But only for a hot minute as the tightness in my quads moved towards my my hips. Ugh.

I should mention, this entire time, I’d been working with my physical therapist on core, hip, and glute strength and mobility. With the switch to the Kinvaras, we also started adding some focus to my form. I’ve always been a very quad dominant runner. To the point where I don’t think my glutes or hamstrings do anything. Even after PR marathons they aren’t sore at all. We wanted to change that. With the switch to the Kinvara and insoles, we looked at how my foot was striking the ground now vs in the 1600s. My PT suggested consciously trying to pronate slightly and make sure the inside of my foot is coming down all the way like it should—something it stopped doing after the shoe change. As soon as I started doing this, it was like a whole new ballgame! All of a sudden my hamstrings and glutes were in play! I could feel the difference while running.

The week after Philly was the Ladies First Half Marathon where I PRed, took first in my age group, and was the ninth woman overall. Not too shabby. This was, again, supposed to be an easier effort, but I ended up falling right into a race effort. Best of all, my hamstrings and glutes were engaging! Honestly, this is probably want propelled me to a new PR without a taper and without really being anywhere near peak fitness level.

That was great, but my hips were still tight and I took an extra rest day in the week following.

Enter half marathon number three. This was originally supposed to be my goal half, but I knew I couldn’t put a hard effort into half marathons three weeks in a row. I tucked back with a pace group that kept me at a moderate effort and stopped me from going out too fast.

Since that race, two weeks ago, my right hip has been less than stellar. I’ve been missing runs and getting depressed. The tightness has become pain on the inside of my hip—what feels like my psoas. My PT wants me to be very careful and take some rest.

Of course, this weekend, I have the runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Challenge with a 10k and a half marathon. My only run this week was four very slow miles on Monday. I’m a bit worried about things for this weekend. The plan agreed upon with my physical therapist was to run, but go slow and absolutely take a DNF if the pain gets about a 4-5 out of 10. I’ve never gone into a race quite with that mindset before. Luckily, Disney is never a place I race. I’m always just there for fun and photo ops.

This weekend also puts me eight weeks out from Grandma’s Marathon, halfway through my training. I feel like a mess. I feel like training has been a mess. I’ve been missing runs. I’ve been bouncing from one injury or near-injury to the next. I’m completely failing at staying healthy. Even when I do things right, I’m not avoiding injury. I foam roll almost every day. I do it so much now that I’ve developed complete Stockholm syndrome with my foam roller.

Not AWFUL, but too many rest days.

It’s utterly frustrating. Grandma’s was supposed to be a goal race. I wanted to go for a nice big PR. I haven’t shared my goal time with anyone, but I had a specific one in my head. At this point, that seems pretty unattainable. I know I could get up tomorrow and probably have enough fitness to run a sub-4:00 marathon. I’m not weak or entirely out of shape, but I’m flailing and struggling. Increasingly, it’s looking like that will become the plan for Grandma’s. Do the marathon, but not try for anywhere near a PR. Just get through without breaking myself more.

This fall, I have Chicago Marathon (for the third time) and then Dopey again in January, followed by Boston (!!!!!!!!!) in April. Boston is a year out, but it’s very possible to put myself on an injury track that lasts that long. My primary focus has to be not jeopardizing Boston and that’s something that I have to think about now.

So, yeah, this sucks. I really wanted a training cycle where I was pushing it hard. I wanted to werk. When I trained for Chicago last year, it was planned to be a bit of a lighter training cycle as I was coming back from surgery. I didn’t plan any speedwork. I just did what felt right each week. In the end, I had a massive PR and got my BQ with tons of time to spare. It was a dream come true. I wanted different this time, though, but it’s not going to happen this cycle. At no point during the first half of this cycle have I even felt healthy enough to try running hard. Even those half marathons were more of a getting-caught-up-in-the-moment thing than a planned hard effort.

That’s where my running is right now. In the last seven months, I’ve PRed the 5k, half marathon twice, and marathon. I’ve won my age group in a half marathon. I’ve BQed by over 11 minutes. I’ve run two marathons and five half marathons. I’ve run a 3:43 marathon the day after a half marathon the day after a 10k the day after a 5k. The point of re-hashing all of these things is to really drive home to myself how much I have accomplished through all of this. I can’t ignore any of this. But I’ve done so with so many ups and downs. So much stress. I want to know what I can do when I do stay healthy. I want to be healthy enough to 👏 put 👏 the 👏 work 👏 in. And, mostly, I want to stop writing blog posts every six months about how my training and running aren’t what I want them to be and that I’m battling to stay healthy enough to run.

😕

1

Chicago Marathon training recap

img_0395It’s marathon time. I guess. Well, not I guess, actually. It is marathon time. Tomorrow. Oof.

For the most part, training went better than I had expected, but one part of marathoning that I’m really bad at is managing the nerves leading up to the race. I’ve be super stressed about it for the last two weeks. This is typical for me, but this time around it’s even worse.
I got a later start running consistently again after surgery than I hoped so my base wasn’t anywhere near where I wanted it to be by the time I started my training. I adjusted for this as much as I could with my plan and put together one of the least aggressive training plans I’ve ever done.
After a few weeks of training, though, my body started to really fall into sync. I was kicking ass on my runs and feeling pretty good. I run by effort rather than by trying to hit certain paces and it was turning out that my runs were overall much faster than I thought I could run at all effort levels.
As training progressed, my goal for the race started to move from “probably just want to be around 3:40” to BQ to “I don’t think 3:28 is impossible.” My training runs were faster than they have been for any marathon training cycle since Chicago 2012, which was before I transitioned. I was pleasantly surprised with that.

Not a lot of miles here at all :/

Not a lot of miles here at all, especially those weeks without long runs :/

I should make a clarification here, though. My mid-week runs were great. Even my longest, hardest runs during the week were beyond solid. By the end, I was crushing nine and ten milers at paces near my 5k PR. In fact, I had a 7-miler during a step back week that was a faster overall pace than my 5k PR and I felt fantastic doing it. Even my stupidly easy effort runs were quick despite some of the lowest heart rates I’ve since on runs since I started monitoring it.
What wasn’t consistently great were my long runs. Some were good. One was really good. Most were eh. And a couple were “god fucking dammit.” One of my 17-milers got split into two runs, a morning one and an afternoon one. And my 19-miler was cut at 11 because I was feeling terrible in every way and gave up. And my last long run, a 21-miler, didn’t happen at all.
Three weeks out from marathon day, I ran a half marathon. This was built into my training plan from the beginning. The race was on a 20-mile day and I ran 10k before it to cover most of the extra miles and then another mile after. The race went really well. I ran faster than I expected. Unfortunately, I also ran faster than planned and than I should have. I was sore afterwards, but I chalked it up to DOMS and then continued into my peak week of training without making adjustments to properly recover. I did my runs at an slightly easier effort, but I didn’t adjust my mileage or run as easy as I should have. By the end of the week I was still sore and started to have some pain on the outside of my right thigh. I massaged it a lot, but that seemed to only make matters worse. Come the Sunday following my race, I knew running a long run was going to be a bad idea. The pain had moved down along the length of my IT band from my hip down into my knee. I decided to take three days completely off. I wasn’t thrilled about losing a 21-miler, but avoiding injury is priority number one and I’d rather risk my time than risk my ability to run at all.
In addition to skipping a couple of runs, I also made an appointment with a sports physical therapist who is also a runner right away. I didn’t want to mess around. I got three appointments in with her where she mostly focused on massaging my very tight legs. With less than two weeks to go, there wasn’t time for much else. Just massage, foam rolling, and a few exercises to loosen things up. It definitely helped, but physical therapy isn’t magic.
Free beer at the expo. Photo stolen from Ellen's Snapchat.

Free beer at the expo. Photo stolen from Ellen’s Snapchat.

My runs during taper have been very easy effort, but my legs have been tired and garbagy. It’s really hard to feel out where they’re at right now. There is still some soreness in some spots, but the pain has mostly settled in behind the top couple inches of my IT band. This is the same place I had problems four years ago going into Chicago, but this is a bit more intense.
Ultimately, it feels okay enough to run on. I know it’s going to be uncomfortable during the race and recovery is going to be a bit harder and longer, but DNSing doesn’t feel like the necessary move here. I might just be being stubborn about it, but my physical therapist doesn’t seem too worried about it as far as my decision to run.
This does affect my goal a lot though. Missing that last long run after having a couple others not go well worries me for the last 10k of the race. My overall milage through training was lower than I normally do so I don’t have much confidence that my legs are ready for the distance.
I still haven’t fully decided exactly what my exact plan is for tomorrow yet. If I hadn’t developed this issue and had done my last long run, I’d be shooting for 3:30 as my A goal with a stretch of 3:27 or 3:28. Now I’m leaning more towards a 3:33 with 3:30 as my stretch, 3:37 as my B goal, and 3:40 as my C goal. This is still not fully decided though.
Boston 2018 is the day after my 35th birthday so I get an extra five minutes on my qualifying time. 3:40 will qualify me, but it’s looking like 3:37 is the slowest I can go to have a decent chance of actually getting in, based on the last few years.
I had thought about pulling back my goals a lot for this race and not actually racing it, but looking at how my race schedule is coming along for the spring (and with Dopey in January), it looks like this might be my last chance to make a BQ attempt before next fall. To be fair, a BQ attempt wasn’t really on the table when I started training. I didn’t think it’d be a reality at all, but my training makes me feel like a goal for a race any slower than BQ time would be selling myself short.
In the end, I hope to play it smart tomorrow and listen to my body. Not being injured is the most important thing so if my assessment is wrong, I need to be smart and stop. The key will be starting out slow and not taking off at the start like I always do no matter how hard I try not to. If I can have a slow start for the first couple of miles, I can feel things out and then hopefully stay stronger throughout the rest of the race. A lot of this race may be a play-by-ear situation.

6

Halfway to Chicago Marathon – training check-in

Eight weeks down. Eight weeks to go.

Training is flying by! It feels like I just started this training cycle, but here I am eight weeks in. That’s a good thing, it means things are going well and I’m not miserable or counting down the days until it’s over. I’m actually really enjoying it so far! If you recall back to eight weeks ago, I didn’t know what to expect from training. I was still building up and nowhere near where I wanted to be at the start of a new training cycle. I started off training easier than normal and put together a fairly non-aggressive training plan.

Weekly mileage total for the last eight weeks

Weekly mileage total for the last eight weeks. That big jump in miles halfway was something I was nervous about, but I needed it somewhere.

At the halfway point, that decision seems to be paying off, I’m running very well. I’m getting all my miles in and don’t feel like I’m struggling through much of them. Even when my legs feel tired, they don’t feel too tired. I’m able to push them. My mid-week runs are ticking off and I’ve gotten my body very used to 5:30am alarms for pre-work running. I’m getting out the door and destroying miles. My 10k – 8mi runs are going as well as they ever have for me. In fact, I’m putting down as good or better paces and splits than I have since I started transition. Even better, I’m getting faster. Last week, I threw down my fastest training mile in nearly four years at the end of an 8-miler. And I felt great doing it! I feel nowhere close to plateauing yet. And the best part is that I don’t typically really feel like I’m settled into training and hitting my stride until somewhere between week 8 and week 10; I’ve already been hitting my stride for a few weeks now.

I’m not doing any speedwork besides tempo runs, but I didn’t plan to this training cycle. My focus was mostly getting the miles in, staying healthy, and building and that’s what I’m doing. Unfortunately, I haven’t been getting any cross-training in. I’ve been wanting to start working a spin class into the mix, but I’m only just in the last 2-3 weeks feeling as though I might be ready to get my crotch back on a bike again after surgery—this took months longer than expected. Right now, I’m running six days a week and I’m still lacking the confidence to make any day a run + spin day so it may be a few more weeks still.

COME ON!!!!

COME ON!!!!

Where things aren’t going as well has been my long runs. I messed up my schedule and did 13.1 on my first week scheduled with 12 miles so I just went with it and ended up with three weeks at 13.1 miles (as opposed to two at 12 and one at 13.1). These were all tough. It was hot and humid out and hydration was a major issue for two of them. I ended up getting dehydrated and having to battle those symptoms, including bad nausea that kept forcing me to have to stop. The other 13.1-miler was plagued by some bad GI issues…which is pretty abnormal for me. Despite this, my paces were all right on point in the 8:40s and, besides the hydration and GI issues, comfortable.

This past weekend’s long run, a 15-miler, was a different story, though. Similar pace at 8:43, but very different feel. I felt strong, comfortable, and without any hydration issues. At the 85º, 83% humidity, and a heat index into the mid-90s by the time I finished at 9am, I expected hell. But I was smart about hydration early on and it made a difference.. I felt good the entire way, better than I have on any other long run in the last four or five weeks. Very encouraging!

In general, my body is responding well all around. Compared to my last couple of training cycles, my heart rate has been lower at most paces and the same efforts are yielding faster paces. I’m feeling good so far.

I don’t plan on making any adjustments for the second half of training. I’m going to stick with my plan and what I’m doing and see how that works out on race day. Every indication I have so far points to my suspicion and hope that surgery would pay off with my running performance. No longer having the side-effects of spironolactone (testosterone blocker) and now having (what I’m suspecting is) a higher testosterone level (I’m getting labs done soon to verify this) is making a huge difference. Why did that sentence have three parentheticals? Anyway, the only negative I’ve noticed so far is my potassium level may be something I have to actually start thinking about again. For three years, I didn’t have any cramping/charley horses in my legs on account of spironolactone being a potassium-sparing diuretic. Recently, I’ve had some minor post-run cramping, but so far it hasn’t been anything major. It’ll just be something to keep an eye on. Maybe throw a few extra avocados into my diet. You can never have too much avocado, right? Right.

So, that’s that so far. I still don’t have an official goal for Chicago yet, besides just having a good race. I do want to go for a PR, but given my relatively slow PR, the question seems to be less if I’ll PR, but by how much. And I don’t mean to sound like I think a 3:44 marathon is slow by any means. It’s not and it’s a PR I’m proud of. It’s just that I’ve had multiple training cycles now that have been on track for sub-3:30 and have yet to be able to execute a successful marathon. Anyway, I’m not going to lie, I’m eyeballing that 3:40 Boston qualification time for 2018—thanks Boston 2018 for being one day after I turn 35 and jump an age group! But I’m not setting anything officially just yet. Just going to see how the next few weeks go and play it all by ear.

How I watch the Olympics while at work

How I watch the Olympics while at work

And, of course, the women's 10,000

And, of course, the women’s 10,000