Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tempo (Plus Mile Repeat) Tuesday

My second post-injury tempo is in the books – along with my first post-injury speed workout!
I am working on being structured yet flexible with my training.  Maneuvering around tentative races and a lot of what-ifs, considering my training needs and my training buddy’s needs, and balancing life variables in general has made my master training schedule more fluid than usual.  I think this is a good exercise in flexibility for me, and I am never going to be one to slack on training (I am more likely to be one to over-train, but I am being more cautious of that as well).  I prefer to be perfectly by the book, but post-injury training just hasn’t been 100% conducive to that.  Don’t get me wrong – I still have my Excel spreadsheet and know plans for my weekly mileage, workout days, and general weekly structure, but Tuesday’s exact workout changed a few times before it came to fruition.
The workout came together 1) after I decided I wasn’t ready to race the Rock the Parkway half due to bombing my March 26 10K race, 2) after I decided to run a local 5K on April 9 instead, and 3) because Missy wanted me to pace her on some tempo miles.  Missy is racing a half on April 2 and had to be at work early on Tuesday, so she didn’t want to/couldn’t do a long workout.  We decided that we would do a 1-mile warm-up, then run 4-5 miles tempo, and then she would break off and get ready for work.  I decided that if I felt good I would do 2 x 1 mile repeats after the tempo, then cool down to complete my workout.
Because I couldn’t do math at 4:20 a.m., I ended up rushing out of my house thinking I was late, speeding down deserted roads, then arriving at our meeting spot about 6 minutes early (4:49 a.m.).  I like to do a 2-mile warm-up before hard workouts anyway, so texted Missy that I was going to start my warm-up and would loop back to meet her.  I ended up running almost a mile before she arrived at the correct time, then ran a second warm-up mile with her, and then we were off on our tempo!
My legs didn’t feel as fresh as last Tuesday when I had an awesome first tempo back, but they felt a whole lot better than in Saturday’s 10K!  Our splits for our 5-mile tempo were:  6:326:326:326:306:21.  I was quite proud of my pacing consistency!  I dropped the final mile intentionally or I promise it would have been 6:30-6:32 as well, haha!  We talked a lot more during this tempo than we should have, and I noticed that when we were gabbing we would drift to 6:35+ pace, and when we weren’t we would be closer to 6:25 pace.  But it was a good confidence boost that she can run that pace talking, and I know she will have a great half this weekend.

I excel at even splits

Missy had time for a half mile cool-down and then took off to get ready for work.  I ran an additional half mile (for 1 mile total recovery), then started my mile repeats.  I didn’t really know what to shoot for not only because I hadn’t done speed work since January, but also because I’d never done this workout before.  So I just went for 5K feel and saw what happened!
My first mile repeat was 6:10, then I ran a half mile recovery, and ran my second in 6:12.  Holy cow I could tell that I hadn’t run speed work since January – those hurt!  Those aren’t awful split times for me, but they also aren’t fantastic – but it is also hard to compare to straight out mile repeats I’ve done in the past since I ran a 5 mile tempo first.  Regardless, I think it was a beneficial workout for me to mix tempo and speed in a day, and a good start back!  My PR mile repeat workout is 4 x 1 mile in 5:50 average, so I have that to work back to - but no tempo first on that day!
I ended up running a 2.5 mile cool-down for 13 miles for the day.  I was able to do math well enough by 6:05 a.m. to determine my total mileage (the run was split into 4 portions on my Garmin because I reset it between the warm-up and tempo, then the tempo and speed work, etc.).  My legs were pretty spent by the end of it all.
All in all, I am feeling great and getting stronger.  My 5K on April 9 will not be anything impressive, but it will be a fun event and a good speed workout to get back into it!  And I am continuing to find joy in running, period.  Even if I’m not as fast as I was, I’m running – wheeeeeeeee!

P.S. Check out all of the orange in my Tuesday night dinner!

Guess I needed some vitamin A!


Monday, March 28, 2016


I am always amazed with how variable running performance can be from day to day.  Some days, 6:00 pace feels effortless, and other days 8:00 pace feel very effortful!

Sometimes I can accurately predict how I will feel and perform, but others I am off in my hypotheses.  I may expect to have a great run following a lot of sleep, healthy eating, and several days since my last hard workout – and sometimes that happens, and other times I might bomb under those conditions.  The opposite is also true.  I may expect to have a crappy run because I’m sleep-deprived, stressed, and recently made a lot of poor food choices, and then end up having my best run of the season.
The things that I think influence my performance include the obvious:  how rested I am (sleep and recent workouts), how my non-running life is going, how I’ve been eating, and if I am running alone or with others.  Of course there is also time of day, temperature, wind, and other weather-related variables.  I suspect that hormones play a big influence, but I haven’t been able to reliably figure that one out!  Illness influences me a great deal, to the point that I usually know I am going to get sick before I actually do because I’ll see a performance decrease before other symptoms start.  I also usually know that I’m completely over an illness when I get back to full strength on my runs.
You’d think after all of these years of running and competing, I would better be able to predict when I would have good days vs. bad days, but I still feel pretty clueless sometimes.  I know what taper generally works for me:  keep the same training pattern but reduce mileage, take a day off or easy cross-train 2 days before the race, and do a short run with strides the day before the race.  However, sometimes I’ll feel stale coming off of that taper and then run my best time in an event or workout I trained through!  How can I know for sure what to expect?  There are no guarantees!
I like to control variables, and my job is all about using the scientific method and changing one thing at a time – which is no easy task – but there is a lot that I can’t control that influences my running and that drives me crazy sometimes!  Any other control freaks out there (I am watching while every Type A runner raises his/her hand!)??

I will see how tomorrow's workout goes - workout #2 post-injury!  My perspective is a bit different not, because even if I blow it like I did race #1 post-injury, I will still rejoice that I could run, period.  I choose to be thankful for every day and every run!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Week in Review - with the Easter Sun Run 10K & Pictures

Weekly Re-Cap

53.4 miles (44.4 outside/9 AlterG treadmill)

Monday 3/21 – 45 minutes HIIT bootcamp and 45 minutes elliptical (off running)

Tuesday 3/22 – 12.2 miles total.  2.1 mile warm-up (7:38), 8.1 mile tempo in 52:09 (6:26 average – splits of 6:256:276:296:256:236:266:266:23), walked about 45 seconds and was then convinced by my running buddy to “slow down and do two more miles”), 2 mile tempo-ish in 13:28 (7:02 and 6:26), then no cool-down because I had to get to work!  More info here.  In the evening I rode the spin bike on low resistance for 40 minutes/15.9 miles for recovery and as penance for missing my running cool-down.  I wrote a longer blog about this workout, but in summary I was very pleased with how it went, being my first workout back.

Wednesday 3/23 – 14.1 miles total.  10 base pace miles (7:34 average) a.m., then 4.1 base pace miles (7:43 average) p.m.  It was windy!!!

Thursday 3/24 – 9 miles on the AlterG treadmill at 80% body weight in 54:38 (6:04 average).  I am going to run on the AlterG once a week for more miles/less impact until my passes run out.  I figure it has to be helpful for my leg turnover too!

Friday 3/25 –  Easy 45-minute swim (off running), since on Thursday evening I signed up for a Saturday race (so skipped HIIT bootcamp)!  Nothing like a spur of the moment 10K after not running any speed work post-injury!

Saturday 3/26 – 12+ miles total.  2.6+ miles warm-up (I didn't have my Garmin going for all of my strides and jogging, so may have been more like 3 miles), Easter Sun Run 10K in 41:13 (6:35 average - splits of 6:17, 6:35, 6:31, 6:43, 6:41, 6:44, and 6:16 for the last bit), 3.2 miles cool-down.  This did NOT go as planned!  I'm not in good enough shape to race off of a heavy training week I guess, and this was too soon after a tempo workout, because my legs sure had NOTHING in them.  It might have something to do with having only 3 weeks of post-injury running and no speed work in them too!  I hoped to maintain about 6:15 pace for the race, but at mile 2 I knew that wasn't going to work out so well and just tried to hold on.  I left my decent 10K in my Tuesday tempo...I passed the 10K in about 39:56 in that workout, so I thought a 38:50 was in reach today, but my body said HECK no!  I walked away with $100, so we will call it an off day and hope it is my worst performance of 2016!  I am trying not to dwell on this and to be thankful that I can compete again.  We had a fun family day with the race as well, as an Easter egg hunt and BBQ followed the event and the weather was pretty nice, except for a powerful cold wind.  Wichita races are flat but always windy!

Around mile 5 - just trying to hang on!

Easter Sun Run overall awards

Reunited with my high school running buddy Tanya! 
She was 2nd in our age group.

Thankful to nab some cash!

Thankful for the Easter egg hunt after the race!

Sunday 3/27 - 6 miles shake out with 6 x 20 second strides during mile 5 (8:10 average).  I ran this one in a sloppy snowy slippery mess!  Who knew it would snow on Easter morning??  I didn't mind the conditions since it was an easy run and I didn't care that they slowed me down, but I did mind it when a driver failed to move over or slow down (on a non-busy road when no other cars were in sight) and threw up a mix of cold water and snow all over the front of me before mile 2.  The slop brushed off my thicker jacket fine enough, but my tights were drenched.  My shoes and socks were also soaked, which made for a cold 4 more miles!

Sloppy snowy mess!

I am thankful to have another week over 50 miles.  My legs are handling it well, but I was definitely more tired this week than last!  It's nice to be back in the groove and back on a schedule.  Hopefully I will also bring my race times back down soon.  I have a half in 5 weeks so hope that another 4 weeks of 50+ mile weeks will be enough for a decent time there!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Baked “Fried” Pickles & 2-a-Days

I rarely eat fried foods (we’re talking once or twice a year), but if I did fried pickles would be one of my top picks (along with sweet potato fries and jalapeno poppers!).  We recently acquired a massive jar of pickles, and my husband had the idea to make baked “fried” pickles out of them.
Huge jar of pickles with 12 lb cat for comparison purposes!
This picture doesn’t do the finished product justice, but there were fantastic!  I honestly think they were better than the fried version, although my husband Jon would probably disagree.  All I did was coat the pickles in egg, dip them in fine breadcrumbs, and bake them on a cookie sheet sprayed with a little non-stick spray at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.  These would be good as an appetizer for a meal after a hot long run where you sweat a lot!
Finished product, but I'm not food photographer
In running news, I ran my first 2-a-day today spontaneously.  I put in 10 base pace (7:34 average) miles early this morning with Missy in some CRAZY south wind!  We ran mostly east and west, but had a 1 mile straight that was south straight into it and that was tough.  Then while Albani was at Awana, I ran 4 miles (7:43 average) with Jon as an easy recovery run for me and a tempo run for him.  I didn’t need the extra miles necessarily, but tomorrow I was planning to run 4 outside followed by 8 on the AlterG, so I will probably skip the outside miles and it will all even out. 

Jon asked me to take him through the first mile just under 8:00, through the second around 7:55, and push him through the third (he did 3 to my 4). I helped him run 7:58, 7:54, 7:30 - so was proud of my pacing abilities!
I’m not much of a 2-a-day runner because I fear injury, and if I do a second workout it’s typically the spin bike.  I have noticed that I recover better and stay looser if I do a short spin (20-40 minutes) in the evenings, so I’ve been trying to do that a couple of times a week.  It takes creativity to find the time, but I can fit it in when my family is occupied by electronics or while Albani is in bath, or she can ride her bike on the trainer while I spin!  I think there is certainly something to be said for splitting recovery run mileage into 2 runs (such as 8 and 4 or 5 and 5), but as a full-time working mom it’s easier for me to just do it all in the mornings!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Wheeeeeeeeeeee! First Workout Back!

My workout plan for today was:  warm up 2 miles, see how far I can get at 6:30 pace, cool down to 10 miles total.
6:30ish was my tempo pace pre-injury, and I ran a solid 10 mile tempo in 1:04:11 (6:25 average pace) at the beginning on January (that was also my 10 mile PR!).  With today being my first hard run back, I really didn’t know what would happen. My main objective was to set a baseline on where I was and then set workout goals from there.  Even so, I was a bit scared of this workout.  I knew I could run 3 miles at 6:30 pace, but what if that was all I could do?  Would I ever get back to 10 miles in training at the pace, and racing a half marathon at that pace or faster?  My half PR is 1:24:33 (6:27 pace) and I would sure like to better it this year!
My training buddy Missy is racing a half on April 2, so I talked her into doing this run with me to determine a solid half goal for herself.  She was putting down some really nice runs the whole time I was injured, so I had a lot of confidence in her nailing this workout, but zero confidence in myself.  She was the exact opposite – without confidence in herself but thinking I could do it.
We spent most of our warm up discussing how terrified we were!  I love workouts like this but not knowing where I was at or having a specific mileage goal really threw me.  I told myself it wasn’t a big deal, and I would just stop when I couldn’t do it anymore and then improve next time.  Full disclosure:  I really wanted to get in at least 6 miles at 6:30 pace to know I could still race a sub-40 10K. I also looked up the 8 mile tempo run I did 1 year ago, and I averaged 6:34 pace on it, so I knew if I could hit that it would be a good feeling.
We started off and I settled into what felt like tempo pace (I always aim for a half marathon pace feel).  I looked down at my Garmin and it was 6:20 pace, so I reigned it in a bit, but we came through the first mile in 6:25.  I hoped I didn’t regret that later, but the pace felt sustainable for several miles.
Mile 2 was 6:27, and mile 3 6:29.  I then told Missy that I was stoked I could do at least 4 under 6:30 pace!  I felt great but kept worrying it would hit me all of a sudden.  Mile 4 was 6:25 and at that point I felt good about going to 6 miles.  I think I got a little excited because mile 5 was 6:23, then back to 6:26 for mile 6.  At that point I knew that I was going to aim for 8 miles, and knocked out mile 7 in 6:26.  About 0.3 mile into mile 8 I looked down at my watch and saw my pace dragging to 6:45, and knew I needed to step it up to finish strong.  I pushed and in turn finished with a 6:23 8th mile, for an average of 6:26 for 8.1 miles (I didn’t get stopped right at 8 so went to 8.1).
I stopped my Garmin and saved my data while walking and waiting for Missy.  When we met back up, she said she was going to slow the pace a bit and go for 10 miles.  I didn’t think I had much more in me, but I am also easily swayed and was on a runners high so I jumped back in with her.  After what I estimate to be about 45 seconds of walking (could’ve been a bit longer), I ran a 7:02 mile with her and continued on to start the 10th mile around 6:45 pace.  She then asked if I could help her push the final half mile.  My initial answer was that I didn’t know if I had that much left, but then I decided I would try.  The last mile ended up being 6:26! The plus 2 made it this kind of workout:
Wahooooooo!  This was better than I expected and I am ecstatic about it!  I think this means that a spring half PR is not out of the question, and also that I am really close to where I was pre-injury (by some miracle).  It’s comforting to know that all of that cross-training wasn’t for naught.  I guess also that being off for 5 weeks isn’t THAT long, so I wouldn’t lose THAT much fitness.  My confidence was more what was lost, and I needed this workout to show me that I can still do it.  Let this be a lesson that often our minds limit us more than our bodies!
This also threw a possible change into my race plans.  Pre-injury, I was planning to run the Rock the Parkway Half in Kansas City on April 9.  As I’ve returned to running, I didn’t think I would have enough training in me to perform well there so decided I would not run it this year.  Well, now I think I might!  I am going to try a 10 mile tempo next week, and if that goes well I will be lining up at Rock the Parkway instead of the local 5K I was thinking of for that day! 
Tempo splits

Afterthought splits

Sunday, March 20, 2016

15 is Fantastic & Week in Review

Weekly re-cap:
  • 55.1 total miles (16.5 of them on the AlterG treadmill at 80% body weight)
  • Monday 3/14 – HIIT bootcamp & elliptical (no running)
  • Tuesday 3/15 – 10 miles base pace (7:33 average) a.m.; spin bike 19.3 miles p.m.
  • Wednesday 3/16 – 8.5 miles on the AlterG treadmill at 80% body weight (6:09 average) & elliptical
  • Thursday 3/17 – 13 total - 5 miles outside base pace (7:29 average) immediately followed by 8 miles on the AlterG pushing the pace a bit (5:49 average)
  • Friday 3/18 – 3.1 mile shake out (7:38 pace), HIIT bootcamp, & elliptical
  • Saturday 3/19 – 15.4 miles base pace (7:28 average) a.m.; spin bike 8.3 miles p.m. to loosen up
  • Sunday 3/20 –5.1 miles easy (7:59) with 6 x 20 sec strides in the final mile & spin bike 12.7 miles
What was so fantastic about Saturday’s 15 miler you ask?  Seems like just a normal run, right?  It was, but I am oh-so-thankful to be able to run a normal long run of 15 miles (technically 15.4) again!  I ran with my Ironman friend Missy, and I wavered back and forth on how far I was actually going to run.  I’d put 13 on my schedule, but I would probably never run 13 on the nose (gotta at least make that into a 13.1!), and even when I put that on my schedule I was thinking I would probably run 14.  I didn’t think more than 14 would be good since last weekend was my first long run back and it was 12 – BUT then I realized that I did 13 on Thursday (5 outside/8 AlterG) so thought 15 wouldn’t be an unreasonable leap.  This all may not sound logical at all, but it was to me, hahaha!  I also wanted to go by how I felt, and to give myself an out at 13.1 if I didn't feel good.
Even during the run I wavered on how far I would go, and we did two double-backs by my car for that reason (sorry, Missy!).  At 13 I told her I was going to stop at 14, but by 13.5 I’d decided I might as well do 15.  The extra we picked up put me a little over 15, but I finished feeling good.  Glad I wasn’t doing 20+, but good.
I want to keep this appreciation for each run!  I should appreciate each day I wake up, each day I am able to get out of bed and walk, each day I am able to run.  It’s all a gift!
Also appreciative to train with this awesome strong lady - look at us both airborne here!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

My First Official Pacing Gig

I’m going to be an official pacer for the first time and I’m pumped!
I saw a post on my local running club’s Facebook page today that was recruiting pacers for a local half marathon, the Big Party Half Marathon for Camp Barnabus, on April 2.  I have 15 miles scheduled for that day, and it’s quite easy to make a half into a 15 miler, so I volunteered to pace the 1:40 group.  My base pace long runs are done around 7:30 pace, and a 1:40 is 7:37 pace so it’s pretty perfect.  I get a free entry, get to do my long run with aid stations, and get to help other runners achieve their goals.  Sounds like winning all around!
Although I’ve never led an official race pace group, I’ve paced my husband in a lot of workouts over the years (including his 2-mile personal record time on the track), and also in a marathon.  Take note, single runners:  marry a runner who is faster than you and he/she will do this for you!  I think I’m a really good pacer, and even when I’m running at my max I’m consistent on workout paces and speed work reps.  I'm confident I can maintain all of my miles between 7:35-7:39 for a 1:39:59 half (because, come on, if you're running with the 1:40 group don't you really want a 1:39:5X?!).
I’m also pumped because my first post-injury race is going to be on April 9, so doing my long run in a race environment a week before will be nice as well.
If you want to run a 1:40 half on April 2, find me at:

Also, I now have an official post-injury racing schedule!  I will be running a “rust buster” local 5K on April 9, the Prairie Fire half marathon on May 1, and the Scout Strong Challenge half marathon on May 14.  Looking ahead to fall, I hope to run the Plaza 10K on September 11 and the Prairie Fire full marathon on October 9.  I will add in plenty of other races, but this is my start!  I am also gunning for the Phoenix Marathon in February 2017 since I missed it this year (although hopefully I will get my sub-3:00 at Prairie Fire and not have to wait that long)!  BUT --- a reminder not to be greedy and just be happy with the blessing that I am running healthy!!!  And I am very happy about that - this week has been amazing and I am thankful for every run!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Runners HIGH!

I was missing some serious endorphins during my 6 weeks off running.  One thing about returning to training after forced time off is that I am more appreciative of each run, and more thankful to my body for what it can do.

2 months ago and pre-injury, a 10 mile base pace run during the week was nothing to get excited about.  This morning, it was AH-MAZING!  Amazing in that I was so giddy excited to run it!  And amazing that I can run 10 miles at 7:34 pace before the sun comes up!

I also got to run with a great training partner this morning, and chatting with her makes the miles fly by.  Running has brought so many amazing people into my life.

I am uber excited to get back to some harder workouts, and I really, REALLY must remember how fantastic every day of running is.  It’s easy to get caught up with thinking that I’m not fast enough and that a certain workout wasn’t good enough, etc., etc., but at the end of the day any day that I am able to run is a good one.

I am feeling rejuvenated both mentally and physically; mind, body, and soul.  Maybe I needed the time off to keep my head up.  I didn't really realize how imperfect I was feeling pre-injury until now.  Maybe it's just the endorphins talking, but I think things are looking up!

So thankful! Back at it: Full Week 1

Weekly recap (44 miles - 27 outside and 17 on AlterG treadmill):
March 7 – HIIT bootcamp and elliptical
March 8 – 3 miles base pace (7:36) outside then 9 miles at 80% body weight on the AlterG treadmill
March 9 – 8 miles at 80% body weight on the AlterG treadmill and spin bike 19.3 miles
March 10 – 6 miles base pace (7:52) outside on a hilly route
March 11 – HIIT bootcamp and elliptical
March 12 – 10 miles base pace (7:17) and dropped final mile to half pace (6:29), 2 miles cool-down (7:58) and elliptical
March 13 – 6 miles base pace (7:44) with 6 x 30 second strides in final mile, and spin bike 17.1 miles

I had 30 miles planned this week – oops!  I felt really good and my legs handled the mileage better than I anticipated.  I guess all of that manic cross-training I did while I couldn’t run did count for something!  In addition, I am FINALLY feeling relatively normal again after being sick for 2 months (the severity was up and down but I was never 100%).  I didn’t realize quite how bad I felt until I started feeling better!  I will finish off my Prednisone prescription on March 17, and then I hope I will really be 100%.  I also hope I can drop the 5 lbs that Prednisone made me gain!  I felt just as strong this week and I did the week prior to my injury, and I think that is because although my fitness isn’t as good, I am not sick like I was then.

Anyhow, I couldn’t realistically be more pleased with this for my first full week back.  My 12 mile long run on Saturday was done by feel - except for mile 10 which I pushed - and my pace was super consistent in miles 1-9 (7:19-7:26).  Miles 11-12 were an afterthought done as a cool-down (I only planned 10, but in the end it was hard to stop at 12 because I felt great, and I am confident I could have done 15, but I am trying not to be foolish).  I plan to do a few more miles next week, but keep a couple of runs on the AlterG at 80% body weight and gradually fade that out.  My tendon feels just fine and I am so thankful!  I probably took a week more off than I HAD to, but it was worth it to have my tendon feel 100% and not iffy.

So thankful!

Not running related, but this is my awesome ABA department at our company's annual employee appreciation night, which was the evening after my 12 miler.  I am also so thankful for this bunch - they make my job as a supervisor easy!  It's also not too often I have a dressed up photo!

Wahooooo! Back at it: First 2 runs!

I’m baaaaaaacccccck!

My first “official”/”real” run was a measly 2 miles on Wednesday, March 2.  I didn’t time it because I was terrified it would be over 9:00 pace!  It was 100% pain-free and I rejoiced and reveled in that, but it was harder than I expected.  Oooof!  I ran this on the indoor track at the YMCA before a cross-training workout, so it was still kind of non-real since it wasn’t outside -- but I wasn’t sure I would be able to run pain-free since I hadn’t yet, and I didn’t want to bundle up to go outside at 20 degrees just to walk back inside after a failed run attempt; I’d done that once already.  I became hopeful my return was coming!

On Saturday, March 5 I was ready to try a real outdoor run!  I was so excited, yet so terrified at the same time!  I was excited to run pain-free and to resume training – or even just to resume easy 5 milers occasionally.  I was so scared that my tendon would hurt again and I would have to stop (or worse, the injury wouldn't be healed and I would make it worse and need additional time off), and I was so terrified of how much fitness I had lost.  I vowed not to look at my watch and to run by feel.  I also planned to run by feel on distance, but definitely no more than 6 miles.  After a thorough warm-up of plyometrics and leg swings, I was off!

I wanted to run on dirt to ease the impact, and the most convenient way to do this was on the YMCA’s half mile dirt loop (this also allowed me to call it at any time necessary, and to easily go cross-train after what I knew would be a relatively short run).  I started off at an easy sustainable pace, and really tried to make myself not look at my Gamin, but failed.  I looked down, saw about 7:35 pace, and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  7:30 pace was still easy - maybe I didn’t lose everything after all!  I snuck a peak at my watch about every lap, or every half mile, and my pace was generally hanging out in the 7:20s.  This was a pleasant surprise!

This was all good and well for about 3.5 miles.  Then I started to get tired, so I decided to stop at 5 miles total.  In the end it was 5 miles at 7:19 pace, and honestly the last mile was far harder than I thought it “should” have been.  The run was a controlled effort, but not easy peasy like I wanted to it be.  I was actually ready to stop at 5.

I had to remind myself that it was my first real run in 6 weeks, AND I was on antibiotics and Prednisone.  It’s not like I should be setting PRs!  But I did cross-train my tush off while I wasn’t running, so wanted something in return for it.  In the end, I finished the run EXTREMELY thankful to be pain-free, but also a little worried about my fitness level.  Patience is not my strong suit!

My first week back was 25 miles (16.5 of them on the AlterG treadmill), and I was also far too obsessive about cross-training.  Weekly re-cap:

February 29 – HIIT bootcamp and elliptical a.m.; elliptical p.m.
March 1 – 8.5 miles on the AlterG treadmill at 80% body weight and spin bike 22 miles a.m.
March 2 – 2 miles untimed on the indoor YMCA track, HIIT bootcamp, and elliptical a.m.; spin bike 19 miles p.m.
March 3 - 8.5 miles on the AlterG treadmill at 80% body weight a.m.; elliptical p.m.
March 4 – spin bike 20 miles and elliptical a.m.
March 5 – 5 miles base pace (7:19), elliptical, and strength a.m.
March 6 – 3.5 miles easy (8:30 - first run on pavement and was very tentative), elliptical, and spin bike 16.9 miles a.m.

Friday, March 4, 2016


I haven’t talked or written much about my recent health issues.  This is in part because I keep thinking that everything will clear up any day, and partially because I keep thinking that they are somehow my fault – that I am doing something wrong.
Backtrack a couple of months.  I ran the Dallas Marathon on December 13.  My daughter had a nagging virus for a couple of weeks before Dallas.  My husband caught it from her, but I didn’t.  Her pediatrician said it could hang on 6-8 weeks.  The week after Dallas, I got a little sick with sore throat, fatigue, and cold symptoms, and figured I picked it up from her because my immune system was down after the marathon.  I wasn’t too sick, however, as I ran my second fastest half marathon ever on a slow course 6 days after Dallas (why that occurred is another story!).
I had continued minor symptoms for the rest of December, and I figured that I just had the nagging cold that Albani’s pediatrician said could hang on awhile.  I had days when I felt worse than others, especially Christmas, but overall it wasn’t impacting my work schedule or running.
On January 3, I ran a PR 10-mile tempo, and that evening I heard myself start wheezing.  I had asthma as a child and have always been more vulnerable to bronchitis and walking pneumonia because of that, so I started worrying that my illness might be turning into one of those illnesses.  I went to the doctor a few days later, and she said she thought that the virus had irritated the bronchioles in my lungs, which was causing the wheezing.  She sent me away with Prednisone steroids and an Albuterol inhaler.  She said the steroid should reduce the inflammation that was causing the wheezing.
When I got back to work after my appointment, I Googled whether Predisone or Albuterol were banned substances!  They are not.
Running didn’t make me feel any worse, and most days I didn’t feel very bad even though I kept wheezing (some days I took a “lunch break” and laid on my office floor, though).  I tried taking days off running.  I tried taking days off work.  I tried running on the treadmill, in case the cold outdoor air was irritating my lungs.  I tried covering my mouth with a bandana to filter the cold air.  I tried the inhaler before and after running.  I tried sleeping more, drinking more tea, eating more, eating less.  I took more vitamins, I stood in the hot shower, I elevated my head and upper body at night.  Nothing seemed to matter.  Nothing I did made it better or worse, and although I was more fatigued than usual I could generally hit my running paces just fine (this is very different than when I have had bronchitis or pneumonia – those kill my running).
I went back to the doctor and she gave me a steroid inhaler, Flovent.  After a week on that, the wheezing was gone and I celebrated!  I started hitting my stride with workouts, but then I got injured (see “Well that didn’t work out…” blog).
Then the wheezing returned – when I wasn’t even running!  I thought surely I would kick it while off running, but no such luck.  The Flovent didn’t help any longer, and neither did Albuterol breathing treatments on a nebulizer.  Throughout this whole time span, I had other symptoms that seemed to cycle, but not reliably related to anything.  Some days I would feel great, others I wouldn’t want to move from bed (mostly the former, though).  I had periods of sore throat, runny nose, sinus pressure, ear pressure, and fatigue.  Some days I would think I was surely on the mend, only to feel bad again the following day.
Since I wasn’t getting well progressively, it was back to the doctor, and she gave me a Symbicourt inhaler (which didn’t do anything for me except mess with my blood sugar) and decided to refer me to a pulmonary specialist.  By the time I saw the specialist on March 3, I had also caught another illness my daughter brought home from school, so I had a double whammy of the wheezing along with sore throat, a very productive cough, and drainage city from my nose.  Despite all of this, I didn’t feel THAT bad.  I had also stopped all of the inhalers since nothing was helping, and actually thought I improved some when I stopped.
The specialist started me on an antibiotic, Azithromycin, and again on Predisone (a more aggressive dose).  She also told me to resume the Flovent inhaler.  She did blood work, and scheduled me for a CT scan of my lungs, which I will have on March 8.  If these tests don’t show anything, I will have additional testing.  She said she wanted to be aggressive with finding the cause and treatment for this, because I am otherwise so healthy (but my lungs sound horrible).  I heard her and the LPN mention my heart rate of 40 and “she’s a marathon runner” outside my exam room!  She said I’ve been able to compensate since I have such great lung capacity as a runner, but if I were a sedentary smoker I would probably be in the hospital.  Yikes!
I guess sometimes when it rains it pours, but I guess if I had to have illness and injury, it was preferable to have them both at once to get them over with!  It seems that after one dose (albeit a hefty dose – 7 pills total) of the new antibiotic and steroid, the wheezing has improved quite a bit.  So I will be optimistic that this will kick it.  And – my theme of the year – if this doesn’t work out, something else will.

***Update:  After a few days on the Azithromycin antibiotic, I was mostly fine, and after finishing the round of antibiotics completely I was completely fine.  Apparently my PCP should have just given me an antibiotic to start with.  I know they try to avoid using them, but it sure did the trick!***

Thursday, March 3, 2016

High-Tech Rehab

During my recovery from my posterior tibial tendon strain, I remembered a Groupon I’d noticed months ago for an AlterG treadmill session package at a local rehab facility.  At the time I was intrigued by it, but had no reason to purchase it (although I did consider it as a way to add more miles with less impact, but since it’s still a treadmill I was not too excited about it)!  A quick search on Groupon showed me that the deal was still available, and it was on sale for a bit.  I kept it in the back of my mind, but I didn’t think I could yet run on an AlterG since at that point I couldn’t do the elliptical without shooting pain.  A week or so later, I got a “20% off a local deal” coupon from Groupon, AND it was still on sale, so I decided it was God telling me to buy the AlterG package!
Having never run on an AlterG before, I did a little research prior to my first session.  I learned that I could run at anywhere from 20% to 100% of my body weight (of course, why would I use it to run at 100%?) and that I should wear spandex shorts to go under the rubbery shorts that zip into the machine.  I was a little scared of the unknown when I went to my first session, but I was excited to try!
This is what the AlterG looks like!
After a quick orientation, slipping into the rubbery shorts, zipping myself into the machine, and calibrating the machine, I was off!  Before the session, I thought I would run at 20% body weight for the first time, then gradually increase the weight across the 12 sessions.  However, once I got on the treadmill and started decreasing the weight percentage, I realized that 50% was already pretty extreme and I didn’t need to go any lower.  I completed my first session of 5 miles at 50% body weight.  I ran 10 mph (6:00 pace) for the majority of the session, but sped up to 11 mph for 3 minutes (mainly so I could get in exactly 5 miles during my 30-minute session, as I had to make up for the time at the beginning that it took for the belt to speed up to 10 mph).  Put in perspective, I ran at about my in-shape 5K race pace for 5 miles and it was easy!  It was an interesting feeling because the leg turnover felt fast, but the effort and breathing were easy.  I guess if there is ever a way to lose half my body weight yet maintain all of my muscle, I will set some huge PRs.  Ha! 
This is where you "zip in"
I had quite a high after that first session, because it was my first run after 4.5 weeks off.  Almost as good as the run was that a lady working asked if I was on a local university’s cross-country and track teams.  At age 35, that is sure a nice question to be asked!
The day after and two days after my first session, my core was super sore!  It was from the way the machine "held" me, and I was told it wouldn't hurt like that once I got up to 60%+ body weight.
For my second AlterG run, I started at 60% body weight for the first bit, but the shorts were pulling in an uncomfortable manner so I changed it to 70% and ran for 6.5 miles (I was going to run 6, but had the display covered because I hate staring at it, and when I uncovered it I was at 6.18 so had to go the additional 0.32!).  This run was at 6:15 pace - which is a tad slower than my 10K PR pace for comparison – and still easy.
My third run on it (today!) was all done at 75% body weight, and was 8 miles at an average pace of 6:25.  I started at 6:31 pace, then upped it gradually (maxing at 6:00 pace) until decreasing it to cool down on the last half mile.  I now understand why the professional runners who weigh 90 lbs are so darn fast!  Following the run, I helped an athlete who is on a local university’s cross-country and track teams get set up on it for the first time.
The most amusing part of my AlterG experience has been the rubbery shorts.  I’ve been wearing my spandex race shorts under them, and even during mid-summer 80 degrees humid runs I have never seem the spandex so sweaty as when I finish on the AlterG.  Gross!
These are the rubbery shorts -
& clearly this isn't me but a stock photo I found online!
The most amazing part of the my AlterG experience is how much easier it is to run when supporting less than your full body weight.  My weight generally stays somewhere in the 120's at 5'7", so I don’t consider myself a heavy runner (although when I see the 95 lb professional ladies I may feel like it!), but without holding all of my weight it’s sure easy to run fast.  I figure it has to be good for my leg turn-over even though it isn’t real.
I’m currently easing into running outside and at 100% body weight, but plan to use the AlterG to supplement until my 12 sessions run out.  I think it will help me ease back in and get in more miles with less impact.  If I ever win the lottery, I may even buy one to put in more miles with less impact!  For now, I sure love Groupon!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Well, that didn't work out...

After missing my sub-3:00 goal in the Dallas marathon when I know I was in sub-3:00 shape, I identified what I thought went wrong. Some of it was out of my control (weather and not the fastest course), and some of it was my fault (not eating enough race morning, peaking at 55 mpw for fear of injury). After running a 1:26 half marathon that felt easy 6 days after the Dallas marathon on a course with probably 100 turns, I felt confident about taking an abbreviated rest period followed by an abbreviated marathon build up. I was salivating for that sub-3:00 and I wasn’t willing to wait.

I chose the Phoenix marathon on February 27 for my next race. The course was supposed to be about 4 minutes faster than Dallas, so I reasoned that even if I had a so-so day like in Dallas, I would still go sub-3:00. But I also wasn’t leaving anything up to chance – plus, why not try to go way under 3:00 with an opportunity to run such a fast course.

On December 28 (2 weeks after Dallas), my build-up to Phoenix commenced. The training schedule was hard, but I was up for the challenge. I planned more mileage and intensity, and more cross training to add second workouts without adding too much mileage to risk injury. I hit the workouts. In the first week I ran a 10-mile tempo at 6:25 average pace – starting around 6:35 and finishing around 6:10. I also ran one of my favorite speed workouts faster than I ever had: 2 mile, 1.5 mile, 1 mile, 0.5 mile in 12:11 (6:07, 6:04), 8:55 (6:00, 2:55), 5:52, 2:50 on the road with rolling hills around my house. I was tired but the training was doable; and I felt it was sustainable for 6 more weeks. I was so hungry for that 2:5X.

Around January 3, I got sick. My daughter had a nagging virus that her pediatrician said could hang on for 6-8 weeks, and since she’d had it for several weeks already I thought I was out of the woods and wouldn’t catch it. I guess my immune system wasn’t as powerful as usual with coming off of Dallas and resuming hard training, and I caught it. I started wheezing, along with a sore throat and fatigue. I was able to train through it for the most part; I believe you can train through about any illness, although that doesn’t mean you should (see lessons learned at the end of this blog!)!

On January 19, we had an ice storm followed by a snow storm. I ran outside the morning of January 19 before the winter weather came in, but after my typical 20-minute commute home took 2.5 hours that evening, I knew that January 20 would have to be a treadmill day. I avoid the treadmill as much as I can, but choose it above no run. So on January 20, I ran my easy 8 miles on the hamster-mill Except I alternated easy pace (7:30) with goal marathon pace (6:50) every half mile (at 1% incline) so I didn’t die of boredom. Still an easy workout, but not as easy as prescribed.

Then on January 21 I was finally feeling 100% from my illness, so I was excited to get back to harder workouts! The roads were still treacherous, so my 6 x 1200 m. workout became 6 x 0.75 mile at 1% incline on the treadmill (with 0.25 mile recoveries). I ran the 1200’s between 5:52-5:56 pace, and this was a solid workout with under 2:00 recoveries. It was also 10 miles total. January 22 was a non-running day, and I did a HIIT bootcamp class and some easy cross-training (my typical Friday routine).

On January 23 (Saturday) the roads were good again and I had a 20-mile long run on tap! I was pumped for the run and also had a great training partner, Missy, scheduled to run with. We cranked off the miles around 7:20 pace on rolling hills and all was going smoothly. I felt wonderful not to be sick anymore (I had run 17 miles the Saturday before with Missy while I was wheezing and feeling weak)! Around mile 14, my right calf started feeling tight. I kept running, hoping it would loosen up, but it got progressively more painful. Miles 14-15 slowed to around 7:30 pace. Around mile 16 I stopped to stretch, which didn’t help. I really wanted to finish the 20, and figured I could do anything for 4 more miles, and also that I could do my usual recovery tricks (ice bath, foam roller, stretching, compression socks – not in that order!) and my leg would be fine. I had never had any issues with that area on my leg before. PLUS, it was 20 degrees out! I knew if I stopped running I would freeze. My pace slowed to 7:45ish.

By mile 17.5, I knew something was wrong. I told Missy I was going to stop at 18. I made it to 18 at 8:00 pace and stopped and walked. I hated not finishing a key long run, but by that point I couldn’t run without a limp – and I never run while limping. Missy ran ahead to get her car (parked at 20) to come back for me, but it was sure a cold walk waiting for her. My calf area hurt some while walking, but not severely. The cold walk was also sure a stressful one, as I debated the possibilities. And I was correct about freezing once I stopped running – I was so terribly cold. I debated taking off my sweaty sports bra to help, but my hands were too cold to even try that. I was thankful I didn’t have to walk the full 2 miles as I would have if I had been alone.

I limped around the rest of the day, despite doing a lot of stretching, foam rolling, icing, elevating, and compressing (no ice bath because I was far too cold for that after walking while waiting for Missy!). I was still disillusioned enough to think that maybe I would wake up on Sunday and be fine. I instead woke up on Sunday barely able to walk. I limped to my workout room and tried the elliptical, which was just as painful as walking. I then tried the bike, which I would ride seated okay (but if I got out of the saddle my leg screamed).

Initially, my goal was to still run Phoenix so I worked with an ART therapist hoping to rehab quickly. He diagnosed me with a strain in my posterior tibial tendon. He said it was likely because I abruptly ran hard and double digits on the treadmill when I wasn’t used to treadmill running. He is a runner himself, and also told me that he chooses skipping a run over running on the treadmill because of the injury risk since it makes you run differently, and that he had several injured runners come in after the ice storm we had.

The ART treatments helped, but walking normally was out of the question, so even trying a run wasn’t going to happen. At 1 week off, I was still hopefully about Phoenix. After 2 weeks off and still limping around, I was getting doubtful. I also put on a walking boot I had from a previous injury, as I thought that walking around at work was hampering healing. The walking boot sped up healing and I wish I would have put it on from day 1 (I also wish I had stopped at mile 14 of that long run, but you know what they say about hindsight!). At 3 weeks off, I officially pulled out of Phoenix.

Initially I could only bike seated, swim (but not push off the walls very hard when turning), aquajog, and do some strength training. I have cross-trained religiously though; and my weekly duration is more than the duration I would have spent running. Gradually I progressed to being able to do more activities, in this order:
1. Arc trainer
2. Stairmill (going up stairs didn’t hurt at all even when walking on flat ground did, although going down stairs was a beast!)
3. Stand up on the bike
4. Elliptical
5. Alter-G treadmill running at 50% body weight
6. HIIT bootcamp (this includes a lot of jump moves, and running in place)
7. Alter-G treadmill running at 70% body weight

At 5.5 weeks out, I am almost back to running outside; in fact, I am going to try tomorrow. I tried on February 28, because after being able to run in place, jump, and run on the Alter-G I thought I was ready, but I couldn’t run without a limp. Something about the forward propelling motion at 100% body weight I guess.

So the Phoenix marathon happened before I could run again. I kept searching for upsides of missing it: It was hot. I was sick again (this is a whole other blog, but I just can’t kick this illness, although it cycles). We saved a lot of money not going. Clearly, I wasn’t meant to run it this year. On February 27, the morning of Phoenix, I did a solid 2 hour cross-training workout and then took my daughter to the Discovery Center, a local hands-on children’s science museum. On the drive home, it suddenly hit me: I should have been in Phoenix that day. I should have just finished a sub-3:00 marathon. My eyes welled up with tears behind my sunglasses, but I kept my composure as I drove us home.

It’s only running, and it’s only a race (I missed 2 other races that were less important as well). I am thankful I’ve been able to cross-train, and I am thankful that I am healing and will heal 100%. I am thankful I should have a chance to run marathons in the fall and to run Phoenix in 2017. When our plans don’t work out, it’s because God has better ones. I 100% believe that, and it’s exactly what I thought after Dallas, but I also think it’s okay to be disappointed while having this faith.

I learned. I learned to not jump on the treadmill for hard and long miles abruptly. I’ve done it in the past and gotten away with it. I learned not to push too hard running when sick. I didn’t recover as well from my workouts when I was sick, and I believe that contributed to this. I learned patience – perhaps it’s been forced patience, but patience with running (or anything) isn’t my strong suit, so I am looking at this as an exercise in patience. I am going to be patient with my comeback. I am not expecting anything great race-wise until fall, so I can come back safely and slowly. I am not giving up on my 2016 goals of a sub-3:00 marathon and a sub-38:00 10K, and I hope I haven’t lost all of my fitness, but 5.5 weeks off is a long time.

That didn’t work out, but something else will.