Category: Injury

50K Training, Week 19: Salvaging What I Can

It was my last full training week before the race next weekend. After losing seven consecutive training runs over a two week period while I was sick and recovering, I had my doubts about being able to run the race. Even though everyone told me I would be ready, I’m stubborn enough to know I have to convince myself first.

MON: Rest Day, Yoga (20:00)- After a two week layoff, I ran 9 miles on Saturday and 8.6 on Sunday on the trails. Today I am as sore as if I ran a marathon. I’m having serious doubts about being able to run 31 miles when 9 miles hurt as much as it did on Saturday. Yoga helped (forward bends) to loosen up the legs.

TUE: Rest Day – Couldn’t find anyone to run with this morning so I decided to give the legs another day of rest. It’s sad that I didn’t have the mental resolve to run alone. But my legs are still sore (whine whine).

WED: Run – 6 mi, Yoga (1:20:00)  – Met Liz and Hari at 6am for a run at the lake. We kept it nice and slow, then I came home and did a long segment of yoga to try and get my conditioning back up to par for the race.

Photo of White Rock Lake courtesy of Tamara Beltz Adamson, Dallas runner, cyclist, and early morning lake photographer extraordinaire

THU: Run – 6 mi, Yoga (25:00) – Met Liz, Bill, and Todd at the lake again at 6am. Liz and I ran ahead of the men and decided to make it a tempo run. My legs felt great and the pace got progressively faster each mile. Came home and did a new yoga workout with lots of sun salutations. The tempo run was so great I feel hopeful about running the 50K–and making it to the end. It’s also nice to know there’s a 12 hour cut off. God help me if I’m still out on the course that long!

FRI: Rest Day, Yoga (35:00) – Definitely feeling the effects of yesterday’s tempo run, so I did 35 minutes of easy yoga to stretch out.

SAT: Run – 15 mi – A very humid, warm run this morning. I think everyone struggled on this one, whether they ran 10, 15, or 18 miles. I know I did. My legs felt strong, but I felt incredibly fatigued the last three miles. Part of it was the humidity and running back up out of Turtle Creek, and some of it may be the remnants of being sick for two weeks. It’s good to know it was a tough day for everyone. If it doesn’t rain tonight Hari and I will do our last trail run tomorrow morning before next weekend’s race.

SUN: Rest Day, Yoga – (20:00)- It stormed in the middle of the night, just like predicted, and our trail run got rained out. Normally I would probably have gone ahead and ran (the storm was short), but I didn’t want to risk slipping and sliding in the mud and doing more damage to the ribs. I was sore from yesterday’s run anyway, so I did yoga instead (forward bends) and took an extra rest day. Since I am officially tapering, and want to have fresh legs, I’m trying not to be too hard on myself for not going ahead and running in the mud.

All in all it was a good week of running, and I did a lot of yoga to both work my core and stretch out my legs after the runs. I’m not happy that I feel sore after Saturday’s 15 miler, and it tells me that running 31 miles in a week is going to be tougher than I trained for, but it is what it is. Time to start mentally preparing for the race.

STATS for WEEK 19: Run – 27 miles, Yoga – 3:20:00

Advertisements

Hope is a Four Letter Word

For the first time since getting sick, I feel hope. Even though last week I thought there was no way possible, I’m going to go ahead and try the Palo Duro 50K next weekend. After today’s run, I’m really looking forward to it.

Despite a lingering cough and very sore ribs, I ran last weekend. I was slow, my legs were dead, and I was as sore afterwards as if I had run twice the distance. It felt so good to run again. I ran 9 miles on Saturday with the group,  and on Sunday I did an 8.6 trail run.

After the two weekend runs I felt like I had run a marathon. My legs were sore, really sore. I was amazed at how much conditioning I had lost from just two weeks of complete inactivity. On the flip side, I was still strong on the hills, especially on the short trail hills, so at least there was that. Even if my legs didn’t have a 50K’s worth of running in them, I could at least go out and see how far I got, taking a DNF if need be.

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon

I lost seven training runs during weeks 17 and 18 of a 20 week training plan. I lost 55 miles of running two weeks before the race. Never having been in this situation so close to a race, I’ve really had no idea how to salvage these last two weeks. I decided to go by feel and run a little more mileage than the training plan calls for this week, and do yoga like crazy to loosen up and gently regain some lost strength.

Yesterday I ran 6 easy miles with Liz and Hari, and this morning I did a 6 mile tempo run with Liz, Hari, and Bill. Yesterday was good, but today I felt great. Yes, the ribs still hurt, but Liz and I ran fast, and it felt amazing. I know speed doesn’t equal endurance, and I certainly won’t be the setting any speed records in Palo Duro, but it was a good enough run to give me some hope.

Even better, I saw on the race website today that there’s a 12 hour cut off. I’m pretty sure, barring a fall that cracks more ribs or something dire like that, I can finish within 12 hours. As long as I can still move my legs, I’m pretty sure I can finish.

So today I feel hope again, and am very excited about racing in Palo Duro Canyon next weekend.

50K Training, Weeks 17 and 18: Betrayal

We think we are in control. We schedule, make a plan, eat healthy, and put in the time. We pound hours of our weeks on pavement and trail, preparing for a race that will prove to ourselves that we’re almost invincible. Almost.

After 17 weeks of training and a second 26 mile trail run, the taper begins. You look forward to running only a short trail distance of 10 or 12 miles the last few Sundays before the race, and you have your first 20K trail race to look forward to as a precursor to “the real thing.” It’s all coming together.

Only sometimes your body betrays you. Your legs and mind are strong, your heart is ready for the upcoming challenge, but something goes wrong. What you thought was invincible gives in only too easily.

It has no other choice.

What starts out as asthma turns into a incessant dry cough, the kind that keeps you up at night and you find yourself running at 5:30am on two hours of sleep.  You cough so much and so hard that you crack a couple of ribs, and the pain stops you in your tracks at mile 3 of an easy run. You realize you have a fever, your body is fighting back, and you forget your body’s only doing what it was made to do: protect itself.

Survival.

For someone who spends the greater part of each day working their body and getting stronger, you realize how quickly everything can change. Even when the mind may be willing, you can’t always talk yourself into doing something your body can’t. If the body isn’t on board, all your plans come to a complete standstill.

It doesn’t have to be anything life threatening. It just has to be something bad enough to knock you off your feet and land you on the couch for a few weeks.

It’s not the end of the world. But it might be the end of what you’ve trained for.

Medicine

MON: Rest Day – Ouch. Feeling very sore from yesterday’s 26 mile trail run, but not half as sore as I’ve felt after running a marathon. I feel such a sense of accomplishment today. Yesterday’s run was really good, and though I’m still nervous about running a 50K, for the first time my brain knows that I can do this. More than anything, I’m amazed at how much I enjoyed the run. I was very tired, and it was hard to keep running towards the end, but I did it, and I did it well. (It doesn’t mean I’m not still looking forward to the taper!)

TUE: Run – 4 mi- This was a very tough run today. Yesterday was nothing but a huge cough fest, which continued through the night until 3:30am. Since I had to get up at 4:30 to meet Bill, I essentially got no sleep. When the alarm went off I prepared a text for Bill telling him I wasn’t going to make it for the run, but decided I’d rather be running than sitting home beating myself up for missing my first run of the week. Even more alarming, all the coughing yesterday caused either a muscle pull in my abdomen or some cracked ribs! I know this is possible, I’ve cracked ribs before, and the pain made the second half of the run very painful. I will try to put some ice on the area, take Advil, try a cough suppressant, and see if anything helps.

WED: SICK

THU: SICK

FRI: SICK

SAT: SICK

SUN: SICK

MON: SICK

TUE: SICK

WED: SICK

THU: SICK

STATS for WEEK 17 and 18: Run – 4 miles, Broken Ribs – 2, Discouragement – a lot

Isle du Bois 26 Mile Trail Run: Hills, Spills, and Running on Rocks

The 26 mile trail training run had been staring me in the face for the past fourteen weeks. Every time I looked at the training plan, my eyes would sweep down to the first box  that held the number 26. There were two boxes with that number, but the first one seemed the most daunting.

The day had arrived.

The day before, after a 10 mile run with the running group, everyone either laughed or gaped after they asked how far we were running the next day. There were no takers when I asked if they wanted to join us.

Hari wanted to try a new trail, one further out from the city. I was sick of Grapevine, so we agreed on Isle du Bois at Ray Roberts State Park, 57 miles northwest of Dallas. Happily, after fourteen weeks of hot, humid, long trail runs, we finally caught a break with the weather.

Lake Ray Roberts

I picked up Susan at 5:10am and we headed north. Just before we got there, I realized I had forgotten to bring cash for the entry fee. Susan wanted to buy a state parks pass anyway, which would cover both of us, but we discovered when we got there that no one would be in the office until 8:00am and it was self-pay until then. We drove to the trail head without paying, but my guilty conscience got the better of me. Fearing either a ticket or my car getting towed, we drove back up to the gate and shoved Susan’s six one dollar bills and every coin we could find in my car into the envelope. I had two nickels, one dime, and a whole bunch of pennies.

By the time we paid and found the trail, it was already 7:00am, one hour later than we usually start our long runs. I decided to wear my water hydration vest, and it’s a good thing I did because it would be 16 miles of running before we made it back to the cars.

Half a mile into the run, Susan disappeared. She eventually came running up and said she had lost her sunglasses. Sunglasses are expensive. We ran back to the cars slowly, surveying the trail, but never found the missing sunglasses. I remembered losing my sunglasses at the start of the St George Marathon, which I later said had been my sacrifice to the Weather Gods, and took it as a good omen.

Right off the bat, we knew it was going to be a tough trail for a 26 mile training run. It was very rocky and hilly, and flat, smooth sections were almost nonexistent. The rocks were red and volcanic, and they were everywhere and every size.

On the plus side, there were not as many roots and stumps as we’ve been used to running on. But the loose rocks were challenging, as were the large, pointy boulders that had to be walked over. Other than Palo Duro Canyon, it was the prettiest trail we had been on so far.

Despite running 10 miles the day before, I felt great. I felt smooth and strong on the rocks, and was priding myself on having my third trail run in a row without falling. Being the slowest of the three runners, I stayed in the back and took my time, carefully placing my feet and avoiding any missteps on the trail. I could really tell all the weeks of running trails and the increased mileage had made me stronger and more agile.

Hari looks at the Isle du Bois trail

Hari looking pensive on the trail

Within the first 10 miles, Susan went down, banging up her knee. She went to the back of the pack behind me, to force herself to slow down, and within ten minutes fell again. She looked up at us from the ground and said, “I might have to quit.” She thought it was low blood sugar and ate an energy gel.

We discussed the possibility that the trail might be too challenging for a 26 mile training run, and that we might not be able to run the full distance. At that point, I couldn’t imagine how we were going to manage to run another 16 miles or so on those rocks and hills. I found myself wishing we had decided to run at Grapevine after all.

Susan’s determination carried us through. She is one tough woman.

The trail was a series of loops, A through E, but we never really knew where we were until we came to Loop D. We just ran. When we weren’t running, it was to stop and watch the deer in the woods. We saw a total of 21, all does, and most with fawns. There were very few bikes on the trail, and no other runners, just a few hikers.

We kept running, on and on, and Hari kept us entertained with his stories of living overseas, what books he had read, what movies he had seen, and what foods he had eaten. I love running with people who do all the talking.

Hari eventually ran out of things to talk about, and then he ran out of water. Susan shared some of hers, and we ran back towards the cars, not really sure how to get back. I have to say, those middle miles were great. Everyone was running well, Susan wasn’t falling anymore, and it felt great to be running in the woods. Everything became so simple. Life was simple: just keep running.

We were coming up on 15 miles, and I suddenly realized: We can do this. We can go ahead and run the full 26 miles. But we were starting to get hungry and it was getting warm.

Angela and Susan at Isle du Bois

Me and Susan, not looking sweaty and red-faced like usual because it was only 60 something degrees!

Finally, after 16 miles of running, we made it back to the cars for a much needed food and water break. We’ve discovered that real food trumps energy gels on trail runs, though we’re still figuring out which foods work the best for each of us. For me, it’s dolmas and Gatorade.  There’s something  about stuffed grape leaves washed down with Blue Glacier Freeze G that my stomach likes.

After the break, we looked at the trail head map and Hari asked if we wanted to finish the run on our own at home, or continue on. Susan had said from the beginning that she wanted to get the miles in on the trail, and I knew it would be hard to muster up the energy to run another 10 miles, solo, in the evening. We all agreed to power through to the end.

In my head, I split the remaining mileage in half and concentrated on running only the next five miles. Five miles was nothing, completely do-able. I was fatigued, but my legs still felt pretty good. Or so I thought. After the first mile or so, I started slipping on rocks and almost rolled both ankles, numerous times. My ankles were starting to show signs of weakness.

Every mile was a small victory. When we reached mile 17, we had only single digits left. Hari and Susan pulled ahead, I dragged behind. There was little talk. At one intersection, because we never really figured out where we were on the trail, and because we had inadvertently run in circles–literally–several times during the day, we made a huge rock cairn so we wouldn’t miss the turn-off back to the cars.

Rock cairn at Isle du Bois, Ray Roberts State Park, TX

The rock cairn

Mile 20 to 21 seemed like forever, and when I caught up to Susan and Hari I discovered they hadn’t stopped until 21.24 miles. Might as well run a little farther than 26.2 and say we had run our longest distance ever.

I had started walking all the uphills by this time, trying to save energy, but I still felt good. Tired, but good. Susan remarked that we had less than a 10K to go. Time to hunker down and put the brain on auto-pilot.

Half a mile later I fell.

Hard.

I had taken pains to always walk over the largest rocks on the trail, having paid the price several summers ago when I fell on a flat rock on a trail run in the Tetons and cracked a few ribs. This time, knowing my ankles were tired and weak, I ran up onto a large rock and had the thought, “I should have walked over this.” Before I knew what was happening I was headed for the rock, chin first. I landed on the side of my chin, flipped over onto my back, and landed in the leaves.

My chin had a big knot and was bleeding, my palms were scraped up, and my head hurt. For some reason I had only the slightest scrape on one knee, so my chin took most of the force of the fall.

Chin injury from trail running

Ouch

After sympathy from my friends, we continued on. I felt so pitiful and sorry for myself, and frustrated at falling yet again on a trail run. I hung in the back and had a little cry. I put on my sunglasses so Hari and Susan wouldn’t know. They eventually stopped to let me catch up, asked how I was, and I burst into full blown sobs. I couldn’t catch my breath and I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like such a baby!

It didn’t hurt that bad, and I knew it was the fatigue that was making the tears flow so easily.

Those last five miles were some of the toughest I’ve ever run. Getting hurt meant I was mentally washed out, which only compounded the physical fatigue. Nothing was going to stop me from making it back to the car on my own two feet, but it meant a lot of walking. I was scared of falling again on the rocks, I was exhausted, and I hadn’t eaten anything when we stopped at mile 21. Big mistake.

Hari and Susan were strong to the end, running up most of the hills and staying focused on finishing. My left ankle hurt worse since the fall, and running became painful. Not wanting it to turn into another week of foam rolling and icing, I walked all the uphills and a lot of the downhills, carefully making my way through the rocks.

Rock cairn at Isle du Bois, Ray Roberts State Park, TX

See all those rocks scattered around? We ran on those ALL DAY LONG!

Susan eventually said we had only a 5K left to run, and reminded us when she had said we still had a a 10K to go. Things began to look familiar. We were getting close to the end. I told Susan and Hari not to wait on me, gave Susan the key to the car, and told them I’d see them at the end.

Just like a few weeks ago when I had the stomach virus, I walked in all alone the last mile back to the car. It seems to take forever when you’re so close to the end.

Even though I didn’t finish as strong as I wanted to, I did it. It might have been my toughest run ever. Not only did I complete a 26.4 mile trail training run, it was also my longest training run ever,my longest run of any kind ever, and my highest mileage week ever (56.7 miles).

It was so good to be done! We celebrated with cold beers in coffee mugs, cold Gatorade, tabbouleh, sandwiches, and shade.

Isle du Bois trail

One of the few flat, smooth sections of the trail

Other than the 57 mile drive home, there was still one thing left to be done: I had to stop at the park entrance to pay my fee, fess up to the envelope full of pennies, and pay the balance.  The state park ranger laughed when I explained how we had had to scrounge around in the car for all my loose change at 6:00 that morning, and she said they were wondering what the deal was with the 65 cents in change. Everyone had a good laugh at our story, didn’t make me pay the 35 cent balance, and I felt good about being honest.

I didn’t get home until almost 4:00pm. We were on our feet for seven or eight hours. None of us is really sure. Trail running is exhausting.

For that one day it was our job.

Michael took pity that night and cooked steak and baked potatoes for dinner. I was asleep by 8:30 on the couch. I’ve never slept better.

50K Training, Week 14: Longest Run Ever!

After returning home from one of the hottest camping trips I’ve ever been on, it was tough to stay motivated and upbeat in the continuing heat. I usually get through the summer by never expecting September to be any cooler than August, but this year I allowed myself to have false hope after a few teasers of cooler temps in late August. My misery was my own fault. My friend Nick reminded me not to waste these last few days of hot weather on “the wrong attitude.” Pamela Positive got told. Thankfully, the temperature finally came down just in time for our weekend long runs.

MON: Hike – 3.5 mi – Went for a hike at sunrise with Kurt in Palo Duro Canyon. Hiked the Rojo Grande Trail and part of the Juniper Trail (which I think we will be running on in October in the 50K race). Heard coyotes calling in the field as we walked along a creek bed, and enjoyed the canyon for one last morning. Sad to be leaving, but not sad to leave the extreme heat.
See you again on Oct. 20, Palo Duro!

Palo Duro Canyon

TUE: Running rest day – No excuses, I was simply too tired from the trip and sick of the heat to get out of bed and run the scheduled 4 miles on the plan. I told myself I would run at the gym (didn’t), at least do strength (didn’t) or yoga (didn’t), or run in the early evening (didn’t). Mostly, I’m ticked that it’s still in the 100’s in September. Blah.

WED: Run – 12 mi, Strength (arms), Yoga (twists)  – Great run this morning at 5am with Hari and Susan. Kept up a good pace, and the temp wasn’t all that unpleasant. I’m resolving to make up my missing 4 miles from yesterday, and get back on track with yoga and weights.

THU: Run – 8 mi (hills), Yoga (back bends)  – I decided to punish myself for not running on Tuesday morning by joining Susan for her hill run. I’ve always been envious of Susan’s level of fitness, and now I know her secret weapon. Those hills kicked my butt. It was a great workout. Rounded it off with some yoga.

FRI: Running rest day, Yoga (forward bends and hip openers) – Woke up feeling somewhat stiff and a little sore from Susan’s killer hill run yesterday. Did some yoga to help loosen up the muscles for this weekend’s long runs. Thankfully a cold front is supposed to roll in tonight and bring cooler temps, so I couldn’t be happier about starting Sunday’s 26 miler in 64 degree weather.

SAT: Run 10 mi – What a difference 10 degrees can make! Everyone today on our group run couldn’t stop talking about how much better it felt to run this morning compared to our usual Saturday morning runs. It rained very lightly before the run, which brought the humidity up a bit, but it still made a huge difference. I loved telling Michael last night that I was “only” running 10 miles today. I felt strong during the run, and it felt easy. Yay!

SUN: Trail Run – 26 mi – Longest training run ever, and longest distance run ever. 26.4 miles in the books, and it was tough. We were lucky to have the coolest temps all training season (around 60 degrees), and it made a huge difference. We ran at Isle du Bois, which is in Ray Roberts State Park, and perhaps it wasn’t the most optimal trail for a 26 mile training run. The trails were very rocky and hilly, and after Susan fell twice in a ten minute span of time within the first 10 miles, we questioned whether we would really be able to run a full 26 miles on all the rocks and hills.

We ran 16 miles before a break at the car for more water and food, and knew we would be able to finish off the last 10 miles. I felt good, though fatigued, but after a few times of almost rolling both ankles on loose rocks, and then falling hard on my chin on a big rock at mile 21.5 (and crying in front of my friends!), the last five miles were both mentally and physically tough. We did it, though, and somehow we made the 57 mile drive home afterwards, too. I was asleep by 8:30 on the couch, achy and sore from the fall, and oh so glad it was done.

Susan and Hari at Isle du Bois, Ray Roberts State Park, TX

Susan and Hari

Trail fall at Isle du Bois

Ouch!

STATS for WEEK 14: Run – 56.7 miles, 1 strength/core workout, Yoga – 80:00

A Step Back Kind of Year

Looking back on this past year of running, I realize it was  a step back kind of year for me, sort of like how Stella lost her groove. While other people and blogs are celebrating running 1,000+ miles, I barely cracked 886. In retrospect, this was the year I ran less, got slower, had a few minor injuries, and overall didn’t enjoy running as much as before.

Kind of like not seeing the forest for the trees, I couldn’t see the joy because of the pain.

The year started with a marathon in Death Valley in February. Even though I was excited to be running in the desert, I barely slogged through the training. Mostly I remember my friend, Hari, dragging me on 9 mile tempo loops around the lake after work, cursing him under my breath for making me run faster than I wanted. The race in Death Valley was one of the highlights of the year, as tough as it was, and it made me realize how much more I enjoy running smaller races in scenic locations than huge marathons in big cities.

After Death Valley, however, I truly lost my running mojo. Without a new goal race in sight, with no training plan, I became untethered. I ran sporadically, making excuses for my lack of enthusiasm for all things running, and just kind of checked out for awhile. This coincided with the decision to quit teaching, and I’m sure a general lack of direction was the culprit. It was all mental, but the body didn’t have any trouble following the lead.

Then there was the summer. The summer of unrelenting heat. The summer that almost swallowed up the rest of the year. The summer that nearly killed all desire to ever run again.The hottest summer on record in Texas history.

I decided to run the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa and rounded up a few friends to go with me. We started training in June and trained right through the hottest temperatures any of us have ever run in. I avoid summer races like the plague, but a bunch of us let Steph talk us into running a 15K in July, the Too Hot to Hold. We knew it was crazy, but we ran it anyway, just for fun (and the hat and the tech shirt). We made friends with the heat for that one morning, and were surprised that it really wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Little did we know how much worse it would get.

At first it was a game: let’s see how hot it gets before it kills us! Eventually it became nothing more than depressing. Day after day after record breaking day of temperatures too crazy high to run in, we kept on running anyway. There were days I simply couldn’t talk myself into running after dark when it was still in the 100’s, and I think I reached my temperature limit at 105 degrees. Speed work and hills were out of the question for me. It was hard enough just to raise my foot off the ground for an easy run. Long runs at 6am when the temperature was already in the 90’s made me want to cry. The summer became an ultramarathon of heat, and the finish line kept getting pushed farther and farther out of reach. There was never a break, month after month of heat, and no one complained louder than I did.

Letting the heat get to me led to wildly inconsistent training, which probably caused two minor injuries that plagued me until the end of the year: ankle tendonitis and piriformis syndrome. One week I would pull it together and run 35 miles, the next I could barely rouse myself to run 10. The ankle tendonitis is an old friend, greeting me whenever I ramp up the miles too fast, kind of like shin splints. The piriformis was a completely new ailment, and reminded me a lot of plantar fasciitis because of its tenacity in holding on.

Water Stop in July: Hari, Bill, Don, me, and Genevieve

In the end, I decided to run only the half in Tulsa, which was a good decision for me. The weather was cold, the race somewhat small, and I ran the entire 13 miles with Heather, and with Bill, Hari, and Liz always close by. Afterwards, I felt as if I had been kissed by the running prince, waking me up from a long slumber of running malaise. I don’t know if it was running in the cold, running only a half marathon, or running with my friends, but suddenly I looked forward to running again.

The piriformis pain was still an issue, though, and I decided to start doing yoga again to see if that helped. I had done yoga almost daily years ago before I started running, and it was my favorite part of the day. It was the same this time as well. I do yoga almost every morning now, and sometimes after a run. It’s made a huge difference in alleviating sore muscles, I don’t feel as stiff in the mornings, and I feel more relaxed–and stronger–in general. I also realized this week, for the first time in months, that I hadn’t thought about my piriformis once during or after my last 10 mile run, and that it no longer hurt.

Yesterday I ran the Bold in the Cold half marathon in Grapevine with around 13 of my running friends. Heather, Hari, and I had already decided that it would be a training run for us, so we kept it at training pace for most of the race. At mile 7, though, at the top of a hill, I suddenly felt great, and Hari and I stepped up the pace for a few miles. It was good to know I still had some speed in my legs, and I loved that feeling of flow that only comes when you run fast.

Next up: the Eugene Marathon at the end of April. It looks like there will be a Dallas invasion for the marathon, and I am so excited. For the first time in a very long time, I’m actually looking forward to training for and running another marathon. I’m determined not to let the heat get to me this spring.

Looking back, it wasn’t that bad of a year after all. There were challenges, but nothing I couldn’t handle. This summer may have turned me into a madwoman, but we all suffered through it together, and it made us that much tougher. I got to run a marathon in my favorite setting, the desert, and I rediscovered the benefits of yoga.

Even though it was a step back kind of year overall, it eventually  led me to a renewed excitement about running and reminded me why I run in the first place: because I love it, and because it’s what I do. Nothing more, nothing less than that.

Scott Jurek on taking time off

When Stepping Back is a Pain in the Butt

Things haven’t been going so well in my training these past three weeks. The Route 66 Marathon is next weekend and I’ve had to make the decision that I can’t run it. Disappointing, especially after running through the Hottest Summer on Record in Texas, but stepping back isn’t necessarily the end of the game. I think I still have enough training under my belt to run the half marathon instead of the full.

The reason for stepping back is the nagging ankle tendonitis, which I’ve had off and on this entire training season. Despite trying everything from RICE to lower mileage, it still comes and goes. In addition, always running on a sore left ankle has probably led me to change my gait, which has resulted in a sore piriformis muscle in my other leg. This new pain in the butt, literally, has been getting progressively worse, and makes any run over six or seven miles very uncomfortable.

I really haven’t had many serious running injuries these past six years. Like most runners at some point, I’ve had both ITBS and plantar fasciitis, but only once and they never reappeared. The ankle tendonitis is another issue altogether. I used to get it all the time before I ran, when all I did was walk and do yoga. It tends to come and go through the years, and this year it’s decided to stick around for awhile. I suspect the sore piriformis will be like the ITBS and plantars and leave on its own, never to return (hopefully).

In the meantime, I’ve been cutting back my mileage (which coincided with the taper), walking, and doing a lot of yoga.

There’s a part of me that wants to go ahead and run the marathon. I know I can do it, I can gut it out and finish, but do I really want to put myself through that when I know I can’t do my best? I used to tell runners I trained with to “respect the distance” of the marathon. Time to take my own advice and accept that there will be other marathons in the future (namely, New York City in 2012 or 2013).

If someone in this same situation asked me what they should do, I would tell them not to run the marathon. If I sound like I’m trying to convince myself I’m doing the right thing by stepping back to the half, you’re right. I am.

It’s been a year since I ran my last half marathon, so I’m looking forward to running a shorter distance. The best part of Route 66 is that the half and full marathon courses don’t split off from each other until just before mile 13, which means I’ll be able to run almost the entire length of my race with the friends I’ve trained with since July. It will be hard not to continue on with them and cross the line at 26.2, but I’ll be waiting for them at the finish line a couple of hours later.

We have one final long run tomorrow of 12 miles, which I’m looking forward to. It will give me an idea of what to expect next weekend and to see how the piriformis holds up, at least over 12 miles. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t make it worse.

Have you ever had to step back from your original race plans and either switch to another race or bail completely? Did you ever decide to go ahead and run a marathon, even when you were injured or hadn’t trained well?

Tendonitis (Again)

After a strangely tough 16 miler on Friday, I woke up Saturday morning with a very sore left ankle. Again.

Tendonitis above the inside ankle has been a recurring problem of mine for years. I even had it years ago when the only exercise I did was walking and yoga, so I know it’s not solely a running thing. Sometimes I get it when I ramp up the miles too quickly–kind of like shinsplints–and sometimes it flares up when something else hurts and I change my gait.

Which is what happened on Friday.

I got busy during the week and missed a run, so I decided to make it up on Thursday night, the night before the 16 miler. Dumb idea. Usually 5 miles the night before a long run wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but for some reason this week it was.

The second half of the run I started to feel my right piriformis muscle aching all the way down into my hamstring. It got so bad I felt like I was almost limping the last few miles of the run and I think this affected my gait. My ankle was fine until the next morning, and I was surprised at how tender it was.

So much for wanting to run on Sunday. Or Monday.

This is why we RICE.

Stats: 16 miles @ 9:42 pace

A Short Vacation from Running

8/27/11 – 15 MILES

Last Saturday’s The Most I’ve Ever Walked in a Long Run run, combined with this never ending heat, broke me. My nagging tendonitis worsened and I decided to take a Short Vacation from Running to get rid of it once and for all.  Our record breaking temperatures continued and I barely left the house all week.  Tuesday rolled around, then Wednesday, then Thursday, and not a day did I run.  I’ve run long enough to know that a week off won’t significantly impact my marathon training, and might actually do some good.

I was right.  Even though I still had some soreness above my left ankle, I had a good 15 mile long run.  We decided to start at 5:30AM, 30 minutes earlier than usual, to stay out of the sun as much as possible.  It was a good tactic and we all ran much better than last week.  Bill and I resolved to keep our pace slower at the start so we wouldn’t crash and burn the last few miles like we have been doing.  It’s taken us all summer to figure this out the hard way, but we really do have to slow down more than usual when the temperatures

There was a tiny sliver of moon in the sky, which meant it was a dark start to the run.  Even though it was projected to be 79 degrees at the start,  it was 84 when we started and fairly humid, and we were drenched by the time we got down to the lake.

Our route took us the reverse of an old DRC route we used to run, but we still had the privilege of running up through Lakewood and down Swiss.  I’ll take running down Swiss, as opposed to that long,  gradual slog uphill, any day.  Next we ran through ‘da hood’ over to McKinney and Turtle Creek, then through everybody’s personal favorite, Highland Park, aka The Bubble– scene of many hassles in the past from the HP police because they demanded we run on the sidewalks, not the street, stalking us in their police SUV’s, and generally looking and acting like they didn’t have enough to keep them busy other than hassling predawn runners.  (I only mention this because their behavior really was quite ridiculous.)

I needed a good run and I got it.  Genevieve, Bill, and Heather really kept me going.  I celebrated with an ice cold 9AM beer afterwards–a first for me.

For the rest of Saturday I was pretty much wiped out.  I tried to nap but, as usual, it just didn’t happen.  Later that night, as I rolled over in bed, I was aware that my quads were sore.  Really sore.  Like I-just-ran-a-race sore.  This surprised me since we had purposely kept the pace very conservative.  Sunday I hobbled around and realized my week off  did have some repercussions, and my sore quads were the small price I paid.  I used it as a good excuse to spend the day lounging on the couch with my Kindle.

The tendonitis, however, is gone.  I only wish I had spent my Short Vacation from Running someplace a little more scenic, a little more beachy, and a lot less hot.

Chris (showing how he feels about running in the heat), me, Heather, and Bill

Stats:  15 miles @ 9:56 pace – 84 degrees and humid at the start