Ten Miles, Finally!

When I first started out, I promised myself that I would keep it slow, which I did, and quit after around nine miles which I didn’t. I was just too close. I have heard from many people that they just ran the Broad Street with no training. Just woke up and showed up and ran. Some with incredible times.  I’m not that person. Besides, for me, the working up to the event is way more important than the event itself.

In truth, I’ve realized that I really don’t even like the actual event. An introvert by nature, somewhat shy and incredibly socially awkward, showing up alone at an event that attracts large numbers of people is hard. I don’t do small talk, and have no filter for my mouth. So, whatever is on my mind has a tendency to come right past my lips. Sometimes this is okay and humorous, and sometimes it is, well just not. Anyway, reaching ten miles was important for me.

And hard. It is four weeks about until the Broad Street and I needed to know in my own head that I could do it. Even if, for some reason, I can’t do it that day. I will. I know I will. I’ll be so distracted by trying to remain invisible that I’ll run the ten miles. And it will be hard, because it always is. This week my long run is planned for between six and seven miles. And even though I have already done more, those six or seven will be hard. If I set out to do three, it is three hard miles. It’s a head game I can’t seem to win.

Anyway, I changed up my route some, because there is only so many ways you can loop around my neighborhood. And besides, with my leg hurting I wanted to try to find a terrain with a few less hills. Which did and didn’t work. I was rewarded with adding an easier three miles to my run, and almost getting hit by a car.  I also noticed that my form didn’t start to break down until into the eighth mile, which for me is progress. However, the top of my left foot started to hurt around the sixth. It felt as though I was slamming my foot against the road, and I kept trying to change the way I placed my foot on the ground. My right leg was, for the most part, fine. I did add in some quick sprints in the first two to three miles. Just a few, but I do think they helped.  Otherwise, I kept my pace between a ten and eleven minute mile (mostly) for the first three. My plan was to try to keep it between ten and ten and a half for the next three and then just run for the last three, which turned into four. This sort of worked.

As I rounded through the seventh mile, I knew I was going to be able to make it to nine. I have to admit I was slightly annoyed by the timing. Normally when I reach seventy minutes, I am just past seven miles. To not reach seven until closer to seventy five minutes was bugging me. I don’t know why. So instead of timing, I started to map out the rest of my route in my head, promising myself that wherever I was, when I finished what I planned I would be done. I also started to do some math in my head as a distraction. When I get really bored and really tired I try to figure out how far an elite runner would be running the same amount of time I am running. I try to get it down to the second. I never do. I forget to carry the one, or forget where I am in the equation. But I persist until I get to some number, which I’m pretty sure is wrong. I would share what it is, but damned if I can remember.

As I was closing in on the end of the run, I felt myself really tire. But, my legs weren’t huge cramping tree trunks, so this is progress. I remembered that I can always slow down, and started to try to pull back on my pace. I was passing nine and a half miles and way too close to just stop. I was determined to make ten. Even if they were going to be ten slow miles. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself as I past the nine point six mile mark, when I became annoyed. Annoyed with myself, annoyed with my neighborhood and annoyed with the damn water bottle in my hand that was sloshing around. I had to pee. Screw this! I picked up my pace. I only had less than half a mile to go, if I really hustled I could finish in under five minutes. And I did. And it felt great. There was something so empowering about picking up my pace as opposed to slowing down. It wasn’t any groundbreaking time. There were no wings on my feet, but I was pushing harder, my form was coming back and I was counting. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, straight up to sixty and then starting over. And then there it was, ten miles. Woo Hoo!!!!

I walked it out for another seven minutes or so and then went home and stretched. Later, I would have frankenstein legs and much later I would feel the need for some pain reliever. But on Sunday I was mostly okay, a little stiff and sore but the more I moved the better I felt. And this morning I was fine.

And, just in case I ever need to run ten hilly, cold, windy miles – well, I got that.

WTF!!!!

Wanted: New Right Leg, preferably one with strong thigh, but not super strong. Needs to work in conjunction with left leg. Imperative that it works without pain. Needed immediately.

Since I ran in the snow and then decided I was superwoman and tried to do a speed work out that was clearly too hard for me, I have been dealing with pain in my right thigh.  It begins hurting when I run, and then sort of settles out until around mile seven of a long run. Then my leg begins to cramp and pushing through is a pain in the ass.  Shorter runs, it just feels stiff after the first mile. Interestingly, it is most sore after I sleep or sit for a long period of time. I can’t decide if it is actually getting better or I am just getting use to it. But I think it is getting better. Ibuprofen helps. The long and the short of it is, it is starting to make me crazy. It feels like forever since I have run without pain and it is starting to get in the way of my life when not running. After a long run, it can sneak up on me when I get out of the car and make walking without pain impossible. And then, after I walk around it will go away. Or at least be manageable.

I have started to be more hesitant when I run, and won’t run two days in a row. This was something new for me, so it isn’t as though I had been doing it for a long time anyway. I do the shorter recovery run and have ditched my threshold runs. This bugs me. I keep hoping that one more day of not running will help to heal it. And, as I said before, I think it is getting better. But not to the point yet, where I can enjoy running. It is like coaxing a stiff board forward. Even biking doesn’t seem to help.

In response, I have researched constantly on the Internet, ( I have not read all of these, I stop when I get bored, feel out of my depth or read stop running) and in true  me fashion, have ditched any possible reason that gets in the way of my running. So, anything that says stop activity until there is no more pain, is automatically rejected. Couldn’t be that. On one forum I found a response that was sort of what I was looking for. A runner posted similar pain, and one of the responses spoke about running through the pain. How a doctor had predicted that there would be no long term damage, but that there would be pain for quite some time. Two months was what this poster related.

I have also looked for better strength training routines that could help prevent further injury. This has lead me to the articles on the posterior chain and the importance of the psoas, especially to a runner. So, after unscientifically rejecting anything I don’t like, I have come up with what I do like, or at least can live with. I have cut my running back by a day. I have developed two new workout routines that target my glutes, hamstrings, quads, calf muscles, hip flexors, lower back and abs. And finally, I have promised myself that I will take walk breaks during my long runs until the pain disappears.

Hopefully, it will continue to get better. Since I don’t think there is any way I can just click this leg out and pop in a new one.

Stretching, Who Knew?

Sunday, after much avoidance, I got my butt out the door and did eight miles. The goal was eight miles or eighty minutes, whichever came second. As it is, they came at pretty much the same time. It was warmer but blustery and I took my time. I realized as I ran was that the weather was never going to be perfect, or at least rarely. I definitely preferred the wind to the freezing cold. A little sun would have been nice.

I never stretch before a run. If I run within an hour of first waking, I walk to warm up and then try to start with a slow run. If I have been up and cleaning, running up and down the steps I just go out the door and go. And most days after a run I just don’t have the time. I have read quite a bit about this, and have been under the impression that not only do I not have to stretch, it really isn’t recommended. The two former runners in my family totally disagree and just shake their heads at me.

For my entire running career, all ten months, this has pretty much worked for me. Sometimes I would put my leg on the step and stretch for about ten seconds but then I was done. I just don’t have the time.  Or the patience. However, since I have been upping my miles, I have noticed that my legs really hurt. This has caused a little bit of conundrum. I read that I need to strengthen the muscles that support my running and I just don’t have time (sensing a theme?) to run and do a strength work out on the same day, which means, obviously, I do strength on non-running days. I know this isn’t optimum, but it is how I can fit it in. Which means the muscles don’t get a lot of healing time. Something that I think might be important. Or maybe not. Some people run six days a week. I know, they are elite, but I’m just pointing out that it can be done.

Anyway, the last half mile of my long run on Sunday, I started to really fade. That’s an understatement. I felt as though my whole right side was just going wonky. I felt like a Disney short, where the robot’s parts just aren’t working the way they are suppose to. So while my left side persisted normally, my right side decided to get funky. It was a weird feeling to say the least. But I was so close to my goal, I just kept going. Five more minutes, four more minutes, I didn’t think I could do it. I started to talk myself through it. And then, my last resort, the count down. When I  feel as though I can go no further I count up to thirty or sixty with Mississippi’s. And for some reason it keeps me going. It gives my run a cadence. The caveat is that after the third round of counting it sort of loses its power. So I keep it for the very end of my runs. But it worked for me, and I felt a splash of life and my right side brought itself back. I finished. Hooray!

When I came home, the cramping in my legs that started a little after the seven mile mark had developed into quads that seemed to resist any movement whatsoever. They were stuck clenched and not letting go. So I went to my stretching mentors, also known as my husband and my son. My husband showed me how to sit with one leg bent back and the other stretched out forward and then lay back. It hurt like hell. Thirty seconds for each leg and then some calf stretches. Here is the shocking part. It worked! My legs were still sore. But I wasn’t in awful pain. Just normal tired, somewhat sore legs. Two days later I was sore as hell getting out of bed, but that’s another story. (Delay onset muscle soreness maybe?)

So, I guess I’ll add in more stretching.

Still Finding My Way

Today is my long run. Normally a Saturday event for me I finally compromised on the weather yesterday and waited until today. What this means for the rest of my work out schedule this week I have no idea. I keep getting emails from RunCoach, but can’t seem to get into my account to post what I am, and more likely, am not doing. I just can’t keep up with that schedule anyway.

It bothers me because I feel like a forty seven year old woman who has run for almost a year should be able to keep up with a programmed schedule. Even as I type it, I realize how stupid it sounds. But, isn’t that what I was paying for? Only twelve dollars, but still. I was looking for someone to tell me what I needed to become better. Not next level better, but just better than where I was. Am. I don’t know. But keeping up with this schedule and persisting through some wintry runs have left me missing more days than running.  Just when my legs feel good and I have a fulfilling run, I wind up feeling as though I am limping through the next one.  And I persist because I keep thinking I am teaching myself to work through the pain. To get through the hard parts.

I never walk. Ever. On a treadmill I don’t take rests for obvious reasons. I have seen people do that cool jump thing where they hop up to the sides of the machine and then hop back on. Yeah, I know I would go flying across the room. And when I am outside I don’t walk because I just keep telling myself to push through a few more minutes and it will get better. But today, I am thinking of taking walking breaks. I am aiming for eight miles and I want to get in the mileage. Besides the obvious trepidation that this is going to be hard and it is going to hurt, the idea of running for well over an hour seems a little boring. What else am I going to think about besides, how much longer?

And that whole fuel in the middle of a run thing just confuses me. I’ll look into it more, but I just think I would rather grit it out. But who knows? Maybe it would help. It’s just the idea of needing to carry water bottles and some type of food,  you know a small picnic, to go on a run just seems to defeat the purpose for me. I run because it is simple. I run because I can just go. I don’t want to have to plan a trip. I just want to run.

First 5K

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Today I ran the Village Tavern Shock Run. Originally, I was going to call this the first 5K of the season, but then I realized this is really my first 5K. The only other race I have entered was the Seaside Heights Duathlon. So, I guess for my first 5K it wasn’t bad. I finished with a time of 28:46, per RunKeeper and averaged a 9:11 mile. Most of that was because the first half of the race was downhill. Of course, this means that the end of the race was uphill. I always think that is annoying, when I read that the end of a race has a hill. I know it is suppose to be to make it harder, but as a new runner and a teacher by trade, I guess I find it frustrating.

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I couldn’t believe how hard it was at the end. I really had to push myself to finish the last mile or so. I think I would have been better off if I could have convinced myself that I was out to run more milage. How could I run six miles last week and three point one seem so hard? I don’t understand this. And, it was much warmer than it has been lately when I run, so it should have been easier. I also quieted the pain in my legs with some ibuprofen before the race.

There were a lot of people there, and they all seemed so happy and to know at least five other people. Mini parties everywhere. People dressed in green dresses, tutus, and headbands with flying clovers. You could feel the party simmering just under the starting line. Enough joy and dynamic tension to make me feel excited to be there, but also a little lonely to be, well alone. I felt like the anonymous runner. Which is kind of what I was.

There wasn’t a starting gun or anything like that, at least not that I heard. The pack of people just suddenly started to move. At first, I was frustrated. There were people everywhere and I felt hemmed in. Not that I’m fast, but I like to be able to pant in open space. Finally, I was able to edge out to my left, scoot around the small blonde child running with her father and get some running space. I kept an eye on my pace and reigned in my nervous energy, keeping a pace of around 9:30 to 10:00 minute mile. And then we hit the downhills and I just sort of let myself go. I knew that I would be able to make time going down the hills, and that would allow me to slow down if need be towards the end coming up the hills. Actually, the hills weren’t that bad. The good thing about living in Oreland is that there are a lot of hills, and nothing I hit during this race was anything harder than what I was already doing. But, I was moving faster than I normally run, at least lately. My goals for outdoor runs have been to gain distance, so I am constantly trying to keep my pace at around 10:00 mile.

Last night, as my son and I were talking about it, he asked me if I was worried. Worried? Why would I be worried? And then it hit me, this was a race. I was actually suppose to be trying to win, not just finish. I was suppose to be past “just finishing” a 5K. Was I?  Or, you know, try to beat my own personal best time. For me, I was happy to be showing up.  In my mind, it was something I was doing for half an hour or so this weekend. It wasn’t until last night that I really started thinking about having a real goal or doing well.

Last summer when I was training for some event in the fall, originally the Pocono Challenge, and then the Duathlon, I had fooled myself into thinking I was better than I was. One race quickly and permanently shooed that from my mind. So, of course, I adjusted to trying to do better than me. A goal I am really happy with, until I have to go out and be with people that are really very good, and I have to be uber aware of the fact that I am not. But racing is the only way to really measure my progress. And yes, see where I stand in comparison with the rest of the world.

After the race, as I ran past the finish, and then meandered into the restaurant that was hosting the event, I realized that I wasn’t that tired. I should have run a little harder. I could have worked, maybe to do a little better. I should have trained for this, instead of ignoring it. But, at least I have a starting time to beat by the end of the summer. After the Broad Street this may be something for me to work towards. But it was fun, just the same and I am glad I did it. The next time, I would like to have somebody with me, to have a beer with at the end.

Crazy, Painful Week

This week I have learned a lot. I have learned that a $12 online training program may not be right for me. I have learned that my limits are not as far out as I would like them to be. I have learned that there is a thin line between feeling like a super hero and hating going to the gym. And I have learned that Mother Nature can be your best friend dressed as your worst enemy.

This week Runcoach had me starting the week with a speed run. It was suppose to be on Monday, but we had an ice storm on Sunday night, so I didn’t get to the gym until Tuesday. I should have moved right into the strength/cross training routine scheduled for that day, but I stubbornly persisted on following the schedule one day late. I was going to drop the easy run  scheduled for Wednesday and do a cross training that day. I doggedly attempted to do the run because I knew it was too hard for me and I wanted to overcome that. Why? I don’t know. Because I felt as though I was wimping out in some way. And, I recently came across pictures of myself from last spring and was astounded by the difference. Yeah, back to that whole number thing again.

Anyway, long story endless, I attempted after a one mile warm up to up the pace to 7.2 miles per hour for one and a quarter miles. This works out to about an 8:30 mile, something I could do at the end of last summer, at least see. The thing is, I also hit an 11:30 mile during those same runs. But I thought I was teaching my body to hold a speed and to work through pain. I read that somewhere, that you have to learn to work through the hard parts. I’m not sure I’m learning anything, because most of the hills in Oreland are still hard for me. So, I did it for the first mile and a quarter. It was really hard and the one minute thirty second jog recovery time was simply not enough for me. But I pushed through and did the second mile and a quarter. And then I thought I was going to die. I also have caused some ongoing pain in my right leg. Now, in addition to some weird calf pain, I have pain on the top of my foot and my inner thigh hurts every time I am off of it for any extended time. Also, sneakers have been the only way to get through the day.  I backed off  both the times of speed running and the amount of time I was running it and finished the workout. Way beneath the milage and speed Runcoach laid out, but at least I finished. But my legs still hurt.

So Wednesday I did a light weight work out, and then biked it out for thirty minutes on the stationary bike. I have become a firm believer that biking has some type of magical quality that truly helps to heal my legs. I know it is the use of the muscles and blood flow, but really it feels like magic how much better my legs feel after even a stationary bike ride. I can feel my legs getting warm and the muscles sort of self massaging. It is great!!!

And yesterday, we had a snow storm. Now, I probably could have gotten to the gym before it started. I was awake and ready to go. But just as I was ready to walk out the door, I realized my husband’s car was blocking mine.  I looked but couldn’t find his keys. And then I decided, that I would just go after work so I didn’t have to wake him. And because my leg was really hurting and I wasn’t sure I could do the run. And I didn’t really want to anymore. And then it snowed like crazy, and I wasn’t going to the gym anyway, so Mother Nature took care of that for me.

This morning, I am up and ready to try again. I know my body needs more than a mile to warm up, and my body, even after it is warm, can’t hit high speeds at the beginning of a work out and probably can’t maintain them for more than ninety seconds right now. I am not at the two minute mark yet, And from now on, I have decided to listen to my body over the $12 fitness plan. Because, as a friend pointed out, if it isn’t fun anymore, why do it?

Icy Mornings

Today I didn’t go to the gym.  I was going to go, but then I slipped and slid to the car, slid down the street a little and then came to a “Road Closed” sign. They had started working on the street. Since it had already taken me longer than normal to get to my car, since it was the second time this morning, (thanks to a two hour delay) that I tried, and since I was probably looking for a reason anyway, I turned around and came home.  I was looking for a reason because I was still hurting from my run on Saturday. My inner calf has been aching and is sore to the touch. Normally I would have Sunday off, and sort of lay low, but yesterday we spent the day at the Flower Show, so I was on my feet all day. Had a great time, but still tired. Long chain of excuses to say, “Taking an unscheduled day off.”

Trying really hard not freak out that I am suppose to be right now on the treadmill trying to maintain a nine minute mile for a little over two minutes. I know that is really easy for some people, but not for me. So I was sort of excited and nervous about it. But for now, I am sitting here watching Spy Kids II and typing. Lunches are mostly made and I am so tired  after a night of spotty sleep. So, tomorrow. Tomorrow I will try the speed work. And tomorrow I will pick up my momentum. And tomorrow I will get excited again about speed workouts, thresh hold runs, and whatever else Runcoach has up its sleeve. But for today, my biggest challenge is going to be fighting off the urge to have chocolate cake.