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Injured Runner = Easy Target

Must resist the siren call of new running gear.....

Must resist the siren call of new running gear…..

An hour on the elliptical this morning was a poor substitute for a run.  After yesterday’s visit to the sports doc confirmed a small tear in the fascia where my gastroc meets my soleus, I was handed a sentence of two more weeks of cross training.  I’m trying to take my cross-training-and-rest medicine like a good little runner but I’ve noticed something interesting happening to me during the past few weeks when I’ve been unable to run:   I’ve been itching to buy stuff.  And not just any stuff:  running-related stuff.   A new Garmin, a new outfit, new shoes – you name it.  Little “buy this now” urges have been cropping up ever since my treadmill started collecting dust.   Not wanting to give in to these urges, I’ve been digging deeper into WHY I am feeling this way.  I have a theory:   My brain has been tricked into thinking that all that shiny new running STUFF will equal a happier runner and propel me to a new PR this fall.  But guess what?  That couldn’t be further from the truth.

We are bombarded with countless advertisements each day.  Buy this!  Huge Sale!  Brand new version!  Countless messages that prey on our insecurities and know just how easy it is to get us to part with our hard-earned money.  As an injured runner I seemed to find myself even more susceptible to the advertisers’ sneaky tricks.  Here’s why:

Loss of control:   When we are injured, we are directly faced with a loss of control.  We have very, very limited control over how long it will take our bodies to heal, and we are forced to sit with that discomfort and that feeling of helplessness.  It’s not pretty.   Our minds want to run from that discomfort and so they try desperately to find something to make us feel like we are in control – and that often ends up resulting in a purchase.  That little rush of satisfaction you get when you click “Buy Now”?  That’s real, but it’s fleeting at best and not an effective way to deal with your emotions.  We purchase new clothing or new shoes, or get the latest gadget – anything to help us feel less helpless and convince ourselves that we are actively taking steps back towards that runner we want to be: in control, back on the roads, running well and ready for a new PR.

Fear:  Let’s face it: Deep down we all face running-related fears. We worry that we’ll have to give up on our “A” race when we get sidelined with an injury.  Or worry that we’ll never be the runner we aspire to be.   You may be worried that your comeback won’t go well and you’ll never get back to your previous level of fitness. Or you might be afraid of never being able to get your goal – no matter how hard you try.  These fears are so very real and personal to us.  And the marketing departments of companies know that – and prey on it.  They market to those fears – to convince you that once you have this new shirt/gadget/pair of shoes you’ll be back on top and setting PRs.

Feelings of inadequacy:  “You aren’t good enough”.  The subliminal message marketers want to us to hear is “you aren’t good enough without our product”.  It’s what drives us to purchase a cute technical t-shirt even though we have 25 free t-shirts from races already stuffed in our dresser.  It’s what tempts us to upgrade our already more-than-adequate GPS watch to the latest version with all of the bells and whistles.  The unspoken rule being “you won’t be a good runner until you have THIS”.   We are all good enough.  WITHOUT those new, shiny things.  A new technical t-shirt won’t make us suddenly run faster, and a new GPS watch won’t magically propel us to a new PR.

All of these items that we feel we “need” to buy don’t really give us control, or help us cope with our fears.  We hope they will, but ultimately they don’t.  We will always have to deal with uncertainty and fears that we aren’t good enough. It’s been ugly these past few weeks as I’ve come face-to-face with the constant temptation to comfort myself and my restless brain by buying something running-related to make myself feel better.

So what’s the solution?  I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I can offer you a few ideas that have helped me: Read more

Strength Is The Product Of Struggle

Hello?  Hello? It’s been quiet on this blog lately, but not on purpose.  Some training seasons seem to move along so fluidly – a building crescendo of workouts capped by an amazing race.  And other seasons are full of stops and starts, sputtering along as you try to cobble together the workouts needed to move you forward.  I’ll let you guess as to which season I’m experiencing. :)

A good day - 4th place female at the Colonial Half Marathon

A good day – 4th place female at the Colonial Half Marathon

I hadn’t planned on taking such a long absence from writing here but I found that every time I sat down at the keyboard to type, I had negative post after negative post swirling around in my head.  And I felt…very unlike myself.  I consider myself a fairly positive person, but I have struggled these past few months and I didn’t want to commit all those negative thoughts to blogging history.  It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride over here.  I’d have a great week of workouts where I’d finally feel like I was seeing progress (tempo miles in the 6:30s!) – followed immediately by a disaster of a week where I’d bomb both quality workouts I attempted.   I tackled a tough, hilly beast of a race that I used as a great workout (Colonial Half Marathon – 4th female overall), followed by a minor calf strain that cropped up on the first workout after the race.  :-(

Stop. Start. Stop. Start.  Days of cross-training followed by a few runs back, followed by a few more days of cross training.  It’s been tough to make plans for any spring races with the ups and downs that this particular season of life has dished out.  But in the spirit of Lent and Easter, I’ve been putting more effort into two things:  1) Being grateful and 2) letting go. Read more

Trials of the Track-less: How to run track workouts without a track

The 2 mile warmup was uneventful.  I was a little nervous about the workout but excited to get my legs back on the track and see what I could do.  At 5:30am my running buddy and I reached the school, ran up the sidewalk and came to an abrupt halt as our headlamps illuminated the sign on the fence:

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Well, time for Plan B.  With no desire to run back home to drive 20 minutes to another track, and my type-A runner personality demanding that I find a way to complete the workout, it was time to improvise.  So we did.  We figured the empty high school parking lot was big enough (and relatively flat enough) to make do.  A quick math-on-the-run calculation and we had our new marching orders:

Original workout: 2 mile warm-up, 2k (6:45/mile), 1600m (6:30/mile), 1k (6:25/mile), 800m (1:35/400m), 400m (FAO = HARD) ea w/ 400m easy to recover, 2 mile cool-down

Actual workout:  2 mile warm-up, 1.25 mi (6:41), 1 mi (6:27), 0.7mi (6:17), 0.52 mi (6:03), 0.28mi (5:39*)
*downhill on this part

Around and around that parking lot we went – sneaking glances at our watches as we wove in between the deserted rows of spaces.  We left the parking lot with a strange sense of satisfaction from having not only completed the workout, but having refused to let the closed track defeat us.  I don’t know how long the track will remained closed.  Weeks?  Months?  Indefinitely? But I do know that I can get in my workouts without it.  It may not be as pretty, but they’ll get done.  So for those of you who are in the same boat, take heart:

How to run track workouts without a track Read more

Hope & Despair

When an athlete is injured, their mind often ping-pongs daily from hope to despair.  I spent most of October through December in that state as I dealt with not one, but two bizarre (non-running related!) injuries that left me unable to run.   I’d wake up hopeful:  maybe today I’d feel better!  But the despair would flood in:  It’s going to be forever until I can run again – and I’ll be starting from scratch.  The truth is, I often had a hard time choosing to be hopeful – even though I know that psychologists have proven that hopeful people live longer, happier and healthier lives.   I tried each day to choose hope.  To choose to be hopeful, to be grateful for everything in my life that was going right, even if the running wasn’t going the way I’d wanted.   I know that statistics say that around 79% of runners will be injured in a given year, so most of us are in good company when we do suffer an injury.  Of course, that doesn’t mean we like it.  Running is a source of great joy – and for me the need to run feels akin to the need for a daily shower.  It has simply become a part of my daily routine.  So how do we keep our spirits up when we are forced to be apart from the sport we love?

Do Something Different: 

Something different: Convincing my extended family to take my BodyPump class!

I even convinced my extended family to take my BodyPump class!

I decided I’d take the opportunity to try some things I’d never done – like a BodyCombat class – and surprised myself at how much fun I had getting my cross-training groove on.  Yes, it definitely wasn’t the same as running and I missed my running friends and routine, but thankfully I got to get to know several amazing women at my gym and their friendship gave me lots to look forward to when I was putting in miles on the elliptical instead of on the roads.  If you are injured, use the time to do something you’ve maybe always wanted to do but hadn’t had the time or energy to pursue.  It doesn’t have to be a physical activity, but trying something that you are interested in can help remind you that there are so many things in this world to be passionate about.   Read more

Rest and Reset

Erie medal and race bib hung up with pride

Erie medal and race bib hung up with pride

Let’s catch up, shall we?  It’s been three and a half weeks since the Erie marathon and I’m in a much different place (mentally).  I’ve hung up my medal and bib as I always do, and I’ve hung the beautiful framed print that they gave me for 3rd place.  I’ve had a chance to reflect on the race and take away a few lessons learned:

 

What went well:

  • The injury-free buildup.  I think that sticking with the strength training and a similar running schedule that had worked for me in the past helped me get to the starting line injury-free.   I’m so grateful for that.
  • Tempo runs this cycle.  I’m shocked that these went as well as they did.  I credit my friend Kevin to pulling me along on these and making me push a bit harder than I might have if I’d done them all on my own.  Having him out in front of me at 5am in the morning helped wake me a up a bit and by “chasing” him I saw faster paces on my watch than I ever have for tempo runs.
  • Competing for placement.  It’s only been within this past year that I’ve been in races where I’ve suddenly been in contention for the top spots.  This is a big mental shift for me and I’m still very new to the whole idea of racing against others – I’ve always just raced myself or the clock.   I’m proud of myself that I didn’t give up at Erie when I knew I wouldn’t get my sub-3 – instead I refocused and worked on placing 3rd.

Lessons learned: Read more

Erie (Presque Isle) Marathon 2015 Race Report

Before my sub-3 bubble burst

Before my sub-3 bubble burst

3:06:27.  Third Female Overall

Well.  The Erie Marathon did not go as planned.  I was shooting for a 2:57:30, ended up with a 3:06:27.  I was third female, but this race was really about me against the clock.  It was sub-3 or bust – and unfortunately, as you can tell from the time I actually ran, it was BUST.
I’m still not quite sure WHY this race didn’t go as planned.  I had a fantastic (for me) training season – nailed my pace mile runs (even ran the last one averaging 6:40 pace for 12 miles), had a great buildup, stayed healthy and sickness free.   Stopped teaching BodyPump 10 days prior to the race to give my body time to rebound, and carb loaded really well the day before.  I lined up at the start ready to go and get that sub-3.   Before I get into the nitty-gritty of the race details, I’ll start at the beginning of race weekend when things still looked incredibly optimistic.

Friday
The view from lunch! We stopped at a cute tavern.

The view from lunch! We stopped at a cute tavern.

After putting my daughter on the school bus in the morning, I picked up my teammate Kevin (who was also running the race) and we headed up the road.  A stop for lunch and many, many hours of driving later (why is Pennslyvania so big?!!?), we finally make it to Erie around 6pm.  It was raining and would continue to rain for the next 30 hours.  We had some pasta with friends at a nice Italian restaurant, and then got some sleep.  Pretty uneventful day besides the ridiculously long 9 hours of traveling.  (Note to self:  Maybe pick a closer marathon next time)

Read more

Taper Time: Two Weeks You Love To Hate

Have you hugged your tapering marathoner today?

Have you hugged your tapering marathoner today?

It’s taper time over here – just 10 days to go until it’s time to unleash the 1400+ miles of training on the Erie Marathon course.  I’m working this week to hold on to my sanity and convince myself that my fitness has not suddenly evaporated overnight and that yes, the hard work has been done, the hay is in the barn, etc. etc., and that there is nothing else I can do besides relax and try not to freak out.   (key word:  TRY)

These two weeks always remind me just rough the taper can be on a marathoner’s psyche.  It’s the feeling of being somewhat helpless while you wait and wait to finally get your chance to line up and just RUN the darn thing.  Sure, there are things you need to do this week to stay on track, to maximize your nutrition, to make sure you are physically and mentally ready for race day.  But on the whole, the theme of these last two weeks is:  DON’T SCREW IT UP BY DOING TOO MUCH.

So I’m doing my best to relax and silence the voices in my head that say “Hey, all this extra non-running time would be a GREAT time to clean the attic…or go on a house-project spree and finally install those shelves/paint/organize….or head to Lowe’s and exhaust yourself by lifting 35 bags of mulch and carting them around the entire yard!! YES!!!!”

As you have probably guessed, I don’t do “rest” very well.   This week has also marked the emergence of my tendencies to over-research and second guess myself.  Stick with my normal 3-day carb load w/no depletion phase?  Try a 10-day “fat load” and THEN carb load?  Cut out caffeine?  Keep caffeine in and just load up on race day?  You can see where this is going.

So in an effort to silence my own thoughts and commit to a plan, I present to you:

The FoxRunsFast Non-Crazy Taper Plan Read more

Week in Review – T-minus 1 week until taper! (8/17/15 – 8/23/15)

Early morning run on the Gettysburg battlefield

Early morning run on the Gettysburg battlefield

So. Close.  I’m allllllmost to the taper.  This past week was the peak for the season – 96 miles for week.  Why not make it an even 100, you ask?  I was tempted, but on Sunday by the time I ran 8 miles, then ran 2 more at the gym, then taught BodyPump, then came home and did yard work for 2.5 hours, I was beat.  I decided that the 100-mile-week milestone would have to wait one more season.

This past week can be described in two words:  tired and slow.  I think all of the miles caught up to me this week as my body was feeling pretty beat up for most of these runs.   While I complain about it, I secretly love peak weeks like this.  There’s something about knocking out each of the long runs (and double runs!) on the schedule that makes you feel invincible.  I also really enjoy being able to eat tons of food to fuel all of the miles.   I try to make most of it quality food, but I’ll admit I allow myself a few more treats than usual to celebrate a high-mileage week.

Pumped to knock out 12 miles at pace!

Pumped to knock out 12 miles at pace!

Let’s recap it up!  I started the week coming off of a really great run.  I was up in Gettysburg with my family visiting my in-laws over the weekend and had to do my last pace-mile long run up there.  Let’s get something straight:  I did NOT want to do this run.  I was nervous about having to do an 18-mile run w/12 miles at pace solo and on unfamiliar (and hilly) terrain.  In the days leading up to it I even emailed a few of my running friends to get their opinion:  push the run to the following week so that I’d have company on the pace miles?  Move the run to two weeks from now to be able to do it on a flatter course in more of a true Erie marathon course simulation?  It took a good friend of mine about two seconds to figure out what I needed:  A good kick in the pants.  He saw through my excuses and knew that I needed to get over my anxiety, gather my courage and just go do it.   Once he refused to give me an out, I knew he was right.  I just needed to go and get it done.   So I ran 18 miles, on my own, on a hot day up in hilly Gettysburg – and had my best pace-mile run to date:  18 miles with 12 of them at an average 6:40 pace.  I was stoked.   So with that awesome run to kick off this week, I got to work. Read more

Hold the Vision, Trust the Process

Focus_QuoteT-minus 5 weeks to go until Erie, folks!   I’m still standing, albeit on very, very tired legs.  We’ve gotten to the part of marathon training where I feel like I have to start tapping into all of the mental reserves I can muster.  Though I am mighty sick of the 4:30am alarm setting and the suffocating heat and humidity that seems to follow me on every run, I am extremely grateful to still be healthy and running.  I can feel myself getting closer to my goals – now I just need to hang on and put in a few more weeks of hard work.

The marathon is a strange beast.  To truly race it well, to run it while pushing up against the very limits of your current fitness, requires laser-like focus.   Not only focus on race day, but constant focus over the course of the season to keep yourself on track.  It’s not the hard workouts, early alarms, or higher mileage that proves to be my nemesis, but the sheer mental effort required to maintain this level of focus throughout the season.  THAT’S one of the reasons why marathoning is so challenging.

I’ve hit up against this issue of maintaining focus in a couple of ways this past week.

1)  Focus within a workout:  This Thursday I had 5×1200 on the schedule.  I managed to talk a speedy friend of mine into running them with me and at 5am we made our way over the the track in the dark.  I was dreading this workout – DREADING IT.  I knew I’d be running on tired legs from teaching BodyPump the night before and I just…wasn’t feeling it.  I had dead legs on the warmup over to the track and my mind quickly searched for excuses not to complete the workout.  But I talked myself into (in part thanks to not wanting to look like a wimp in front of my friend), and started the intervals.  On each one, I found I had to really work to maintain focus to keep up the pace.  The middle lap was the worst – I’d start out fast on the first lap, then my brain would want to mentally check out on the second.  The toughest part of the workout was really having to work to maintain my turnover and intensity on that second lap – and even then it was still my slowest lap for each interval.   It was great practice for being aware of the mental work that was required and not giving up.  With each rep I practiced being focused on each lap and staying committed to the workout.  I’ll need that focus on race day when I have the tendency to “check out” in the middle-to-late miles of the race when things start to hurt and yet the finish line is still so, so far away.  At Tobacco Road my pace tanked by a full minute when I stopped paying attention – I will not let that happen at Erie, and these kind of workouts are great practice.

2)  Focus on the schedule: The second area that can be difficult to maintain focus is on the marathoning schedule as a whole.  It’s all too easy for me to get overwhelmed with how many weeks I have left to go when instead I need to be focusing on nothing but the current week that I’m in.  Taking it day by day and workout by workout can help prevent that overwhelming feeling of “will I ever reach the end of this?”.  I know this, and yet I often struggle to stay focused on the day’s run and purpose of that run. Read more

The Rest is (not always) Easy

It's a rest week:  This happened.

It’s a rest week: This happened.

Greetings from sweltering RVA – where the “feels like” temperature topped triple digits this weekend!  (Whew) It’s made for some super sweaty runs, that’s for sure.  But enough about the weather – let’s get to the training.

This week was a recovery week for me.  When crafting my schedule I had slotted this week to fall 9 weeks out from Erie.  Like any recovery week, its goal was to give my body some time to absorb the last few weeks of hard training (70, 79, 86 miles each week, respectively), and to recharge my batteries a bit before plunging into the last big block of work before taper.   I had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of this week:  I’d sleep in!!  I wouldn’t have to do any doubles!!  I had a “short” long run of only 16 miles – what would I do with all that extra time!?!?!

Well, the week finally arrived and while it was nice to sleep in a bit and not have to do any doubles, the week was surprisingly difficult and left me feeling kind of…flat.   This has happened to me in past seasons as well.  I often do not feel as well on recovery weeks as I do during heavy training.  Not sure if it’s just my body being jolted a bit out of its regular daily-grind rhythm, or if the sluggishness comes from the body absorbing the gains and making adaptations.  In either case, rest weeks have proven to be not so easy – both mentally and physically – and I have to remind myself constantly that my fitness has not disappeared when I’m dragging my tired legs up a hill in an “easy” 8-miler.   We all know that rest is where the magic happens, where we make our gains from the training.  But it can be so hard to take that much needed rest when it can leave you feeling more tired than you felt before!    I know that it’s just a phase, that my body will adapt and I’ll feel better once I get the next week going.  We’ll get to that in a second, but here’s how this past week shook out: Read more