25 Days and Counting…

Its been 25 days since I ran the Rock n Roll Half Marathon and I haven’t run more than 3.6 milesrunningwithdrawals since that day.

I. AM. LOSING. MY. MIND. 

My house has never been so clean. My car has been vacuumed, windows shined, and cleaned from top to bottom. I cut my grass twice. I experimented with multiple new recipes. I made muffins. (I never make muffins.) I’ve checked off over 80% of the items off my to-do list… and I’m still going. I’ve also signed up for at least five more races – all of which I can’t even start training for yet!

My hamstring has kept me sidelined.  Clearly, I’ve been trying to fill my time but again, I am losing my mind!  I must admit that I never realized how much I use that muscle in every day activities!  During these four weeks that I’ve been benched from any running activity, I’ve also been unable to do the other things I enjoy.  Generally, when I’m not running, I am spinning.  It’s a great cross training activity as an alternative to running on days I am just not feeling it. But, with a pulled hamstring, I’ve been unable to take any classes. I even tried taking a boxing class (very therapeutic!) but the next morning my hamstring hurt so much that I was barely able to make it down the stairs.

So, for over two weeks now, I have literally had no form of exercise.  I’m sure there are other things that a trainer could tell me to do in order to get in some form of fitness, but I wasn’t willing to risk injuring myself even more.  To say that I am feeling lethargic and pudgy is an understatement!  Then, there’s the feelings of “losing my cardio endurance.” I am afraid that I’m losing the endurance to maintain long runs! I know muscle memory is a legitimate thing and that it will come back quickly, but its one of many irrational thoughts I’ve been having during this time.  I just miss getting out there and losing myself in my thoughts during a good run and the feeling of accomplishment after its over.

A few days ago, I met with a running coach to help me rehab it back by strengthening key surrounding muscles.  I have some very specific exercises that I’ve been doing for two days now and, today, I am going to give a very short run a try and HOPE that I make it through with no pain. I really need to get back to my own sense of normalcy. I don’t have much left to clean… or at least nothing I WANT to clean!  Fingers crossed today’s run goes OK!

Rock n Roll Recap… Philly Love

Last Sunday was the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon. It was my first time running in any of Philly Rock n Roll Half Marathonthe Rock n Roll races.  Live music on the course definitely brings a different flair to a race.  While its always an accomplishment to finish a half marathon (or any race), this one was tough.  The humidity was so high making it unbearable to breathe.  This is an example of how you can’t control everything come race day and sometimes you just have to dig in and push through.

Miles 1-6:  As expected these were the easy miles. We ran through the city which is always motivating as the crowds keep you going. This is what makes me LOVE Philly so much.

Mile 7-8:  I’ve just hit the lesser populated part of the run.  I kept looking at my watch and started to notice how much I was hurting.  The humidity wouldn’t allow me to fully catch my breath.  I still have 5+ miles to go… feeling like this. Uh oh.

Mile 9:  I had the chills.  Not a good sign.  I did a mental calculation to review my hydration over the last few days.  I kept watching for the next water stop. WHERE IS IT?!

Mile 10:  Chills were in full effect.  The medical team had pallets of ice busted open.  THANK GOD!  I grabbed a handful and shoved it down my sports bra.  Held a handful to the back of my neck while running and threw some ice in my mouth.

Miles 11-12:  I started feeling nauseous and held off throwing up as long as possible.  (Yes, I may have vomited slightly in my mouth. It happens!) This time I grabbed some gatorade from the hydration station.

Mile 13 to the end:  Finally… nearing the finish!  A turtle could have passed me I was running so slow, but I made it through.

I was wobbly and cramping at the end.  At one point, I got scared because I couldn’t stop wobbling.  But, I downed a few waters and ate something immediately.  Slowly, I began to feel better and better.

Why do I do this?  There was nothing enjoyable about this race – except the end.  And, even that was disappointing because I missed my goal time by 6 minutes.

I do it for the sense of accomplishment. I do it because its a mental game to see how far I can push it. I am not an elite runner, but crossing that finish line makes me feel like an athlete.  

Yes, I’ve already signed up for next year’s Philly Rock n Roll Half Marathon.

Lesson Learned: Rest When Injured

Knowing when to say when isn’t always that easy – especially when you’re the classic type A person on a mission to accomplish something.

I’ve been training for months for my half marathon. I have a very specific time goal that I want to hit and I’ve been so diligent in my training to do everything I can to hit that goal. I hired a run coach to help me train. I mapped out my 12 week running plan to include hill and speed workout, short and long runs, and incorporated training paces that progressively increased for each segment. I even have my training plan color coded so it gives it more depth and life. Yes, I’m that anal about things. I’m not the fastest runner, but I am a runner who plans, trains, and generally works hard to accomplish her goals.

You can probably guess what happened… I got hurt. I pulled my left hamstring and watched all my training go out the window. Well, maybe its not that dramatic but it certainly put a damper on things.

Rest When Injured

A few weeks ago while I was training and running hills, I felt it… a slight twinge in my hamstring. Like many other stubborn runners, I chose to ignore it and assumed it would just go away. I kept running and running – for weeks. I kept doing speed work and hills. I worked my way up to 10 and 11-mile runs. My half marathon is only a few weeks away. I needed to get my runs in! But, my body just wasn’t cooperating.

The result? I have been benched from running for the last eight days. After my last 11-mile run, I could barely stand up and take a step. Since then, I’ve been foam rolling and working my hamstring back to health. I know this is something I should have done when the pain first happened, but I’m used to approaching things head on and just powering through. This time, the lesson I learned was that I needed to pull back to get ahead. I think we can all relate to that – whether personal or professional.

All that being said, after 8 days of rest, my hamstring is feeling a lot better. Its still sore and I’m going to give it another day or two before testing out a short run. I’m still planning to run my half marathon, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may not hit my race pace goal. I’m actually OK with that because I recently signed up for another half marathon in early December and will continue working towards my race pace goal.

So, what am I doing to work through my slight hamstring pull? Here’s what seems to be working for me:

  1. Ice – I’ve been icing my hamstring multiple times a day. I keep it on for about 20 minutes and reapply a few times. I’ve been taking ice packs to work and doing it throughout the day while at the office.
  2. Foam Rolling – I’ve been carefully foam rolling my hamstring, but also my buttocks, quads and hip area. Because I’ve been limping around, I’m overusing other muscles that I don’t normally use. Foam rolling is helping to keep things loose all around.
  3. Lacrosse Ball Massage – In addition to foam rolling, I’ve become addicted to my lacrosse ball. (Great tip from my run coach!) It’s a little more solid than a tennis ball and larger than a golf ball. I use it as an additional massage to get in there and work my hamstring muscles. I’m very careful not to use too much pressure, but its get to places that my foam roller just can’t reach.
  4. Omega-3s – Finally, I’m taking an extra dose of omega-3s to help with the inflammation in the body.

I’m slowly feeling better and can’t wait to start running again! To be honest, I’m slowly losing my mind not being able to get out there. When I’m not running, I spin. Because this is a hamstring pull, that’s off the table too. I keep telling myself that the rest will help and I’ll be back out there in no time!

Tempo Runs are a (Busy) Girl’s Best Friend

Tempo Runs are a Busy Girl's Best FriendI’ll admit that when I first started running I had no idea what a tempo run was. However, as I trained for race after race, I came to realize just how important they are. This isn’t just because tempo runs (when done consistently) can help improve your speed and strength come race day. But, also, because its one hell of a way to release tension from the day!

So, what exactly is it? If you google the term “tempo run” you’ll find a common definition – comfortably hard running for a prolonged period of time. This means, you increase your speed for a set period of time or a specified distance. (The runs are obviously buffered by a 5-10 minute warm up run.) Incorporating this into your runs just once per week can have a big improvement come race day.

So, what does a busy day have to do with tempo runs? Plenty! If you’re the typical Type A person (present company included!), you tend to carry stress with you. A tempo run allows you to just RUN IT OUT! Say goodbye to the tension in your shoulders or the nagging headache from the day. That comfortably hard run forces you to concentrate on powering through your run. When you’re finished, you realize how good of a workout it was. You feel spent but accomplished. You’ve just released so much tension and let go the stresses of your day.

Many of us have been there. I work in an office with some highly passionate personalities. Every day brings some new fire that needs to be put out. Some days (like today) I just want to crawl under my desk and wish everyone would go away. It doesn’t happen every day and I genuinely love the people I work with, but stress happens to us all. I’ve learned to love tempo runs because they are helping me build both mental and physical toughness to push through my races and sometimes my day.

Happy Running!

A Day of Firsts

Today is my first official blog post AND my first day of hill and speed training. To say that I’m exhausted after a LONG workday is a complete understatement.

I’m currently training for a half marathon and came to the realization that I need help. Doesn’t everyone?   I know I need to work on my hills and speed while training but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Personally, I feel it’s a huge accomplishment just finishing an 8 mile run. The thought of voluntarily running and rerunning over and over again up and down hills sounds insane. But, I know how critical it is to training and improving my time. So, I hired some much needed help.

Today, I worked out with Kristy, a local run coach, who pushed me through hills. Our first hill was a half-mile upward climb. While I powered through it, I kept wondering how many of these I would actually have to do and was silently wishing is was over.  Hills can do that to a person.  Then, came the second hill… I struggled and fought the voices in my head telling me to stop but I still powered through it. By the third one, I had enough and was ready to stop. I’ll admit, I had to walk a few steps mid-way, but I made it to the top and did an easy mile run afterwards. Overall, it was about a 3-4 mile run but one that I would have never done on my own. When it was over, I checked my Polar watch and I burned a whopping 536 calories in under an hour. That works for me and the sizable dinner I knew I would have soon thereafter! Although, later Kristy admitted she took it easy on me because it was our first session. Only six days to go until I have to do it all over again!

The point of this post is that sometimes you have to ask for some help – especially when days are hectic, time is scarce and you have a desire to improve. I have access to run coaches all around me. Philadelphia is a running city and I’m so blessed to be here among so many inspiring runners, coaches and a very welcome running community. While many don’t have access or the money to hire a coach, there are other ways to find help to keep you on track. When you can’t hire an in-person coach, try any of these instead:

  • Download an app. – There are plenty that can help train you to improve your runs. Many are free or can be purchased for a minimal charge of $1.99 – $5.99.
  • Find a local run group. – Social media is great for this. Try searching “(your city name) running” and see what comes up. Group runs are a great way to improve your runs and meet new people.
  • Find a buddy. – Have a friend who runs? Push each other to do your hills and speed work once per week. Its always better when you have someone else there to push you and help you perform your best.
  • Give virtual coaching a try. – If you aren’t located in an area when you have access to run coaches, give their virtual programs a try. Some run coaches provide virtual training programs that require you to log the runs, results, and provide feedback. They communicate with you through their virtual platform with daily or weekly workouts and expect you will execute on them. While the burden is still on you to do the work, you will still have someone that you’re accountable to.

I hope these tips help! I’m about to crawl into bed and fully expect my legs and butt to be sore tomorrow. I’m certain there will be aches and groans as I attempt to get out of bed in the morning. But, in the end, I know its all worth it!