Thursday, December 31, 2015

A very quick glance back, and a longer look to the future

Ah, making resolutions.  Something that I have loved to do for as long as I can remember, but this year I've dragged my feet a bit on this blog.  Not because I don't want to write new resolutions; I have lots of goals for myself this year floating around in my head just itching to be put down on paper.  It's because writing this blog entry means that I need to revisit last year's resolutions.  I knew what my big goals were even without looking... qualify for Boston and run 1500 miles.  Nope and nope.  I hate failure... hate it SO much!  But if I am going to be honest and put myself out there, failure is at some point inevitable.  Both of these goals were not met due mainly because the first goal that I set was not met: to stay injury-free.  This resolution annoyed me last year, and it annoys me even more now.  I know that no one can really control if they are going to get injured.  I did have a goal of running smarter in order to stay injury-free, and I honestly do believe I ran smart in 2015 about 90% of the time.  It was the couple of times that I didn't that left me at home lamenting what could have been.

There was one resolution that I made that I actually did accomplish: to continue to run with friends and run with joy.  This was honestly the most difficult part of not being able to run for so many weeks this past year. I missed my friends something awful!!!  When I was running, though, I surrounded myself with people who had my back 100% of the time.  My circle is huge and I love having so many amazing women who share my love for this sport!

OK, as the title of this blog states quite clearly, I am taking a "very quick glance back" on 2015, and that glance is over.  I don't want to dwell on the year that could have been.  It started out amazingly fantastic with my huge half PR in Virginia Beach, but since that race (well, a couple of weeks after) things haven't really been so hot.  Time to stop looking back and start looking forward to 2016!

1. Train smart.  This is a huge goal.  It is going to make or break my year, I am sure, so it needs to be my #1 resolution.  I need to keep in mind everything I've learned in 2015 and actually live it this year.  Training smart includes running each run how it's supposed to be run (pace, miles, etc.), working to keep injuries at bay by doing my PT exercises, and taking the appropriate rest days (during the training cycle) and weeks (after my big races).  

2. Qualify for the Boston Marathon. I'm not going to mince any words here.  This goal was so close that I could taste it back in March.  I have it in me... I just need to get to the starting line at Glass City in April.  Goal is a 3:35, which not only will qualify me (the standard is a sub-3:40 for my age group), but actually allow me to register for the race.

3. Compete in my first half-Ironman (HIM) race.  I have no time goals for my first HIM in August.  Some people absolutely don't believe that I can do this race without a time goal.  Honestly, though, my first triathlon back in July showed me that tri's are a totally different beast, and it's going to take me years to truly understand how to race them.  So for now, I'm fine with a "finish" goal for this one.  

4. Find gratitude in every run.  I never, ever want to take running for granted, not ever again.  So, even when it's windy and freezing rain like today's 5 miles, I want to be sure to take a second to thank God that I'm able to run.  Too many days without running has definitely instilled this into me!  Gratitude will be that I am out there with my friends, breathing in the air and moving forward.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Product review: PlowOn gum

The idea of caffeinated gum has interested me for quite a while.  I'm not a coffee drinker, as my friends know.  I don't drink a lot of pop either--maybe a can or two a week.  I do love chai lattes from Starbucks, but those are also a treat and not a regular thing.  Since I simply *must* have gum when I run, I figured the combination of caffeine and gum would be right up my alley.  

PlowOn gum is a mint-flavored Mento-sized piece of gum with 100 mg of caffeine, 10 mg of taurine, 5 mg of green tea extract, and 5 mg of ginseng.  Most of you probably know what these things are.  Taurine is an amino acid that has many benefits, including increased energy production.  Green tea extract is an antioxidant that is supposed to help increase physical performance.  And ginseng has been said to help increase energy levels as well as help athletes lower their recovery time.  However, the amounts of these additional ingredients are extremely low, so I'm not sure how much they are actually helping out.  It's the caffeine that is the powerhorse in this gum.  100 mg is the approximately the same amount of caffeine as an 8-ounce cup of coffee contains.  A Red Bull contains 80 mg of caffeine, and a can of pop 50-60 mg, for comparison purposes.  For someone like me, who drinks neither coffee or energy drinks, this is quite a bit of caffeine.  

I have tried the gum out on a few different occasions since receiving my free samples.  The first time was at home.  I needed to see how I'd react to it before I actually used it in conjunction with running, so I chewed a piece one morning when I was very tired before school started.  I didn't seem to have any adverse affects, so I decided to chew a piece before a recent 4-mile race.  Since then, I've used it two other times--once before a very early run when I felt very sleepy, and once when I was out of my Orbit Sweet Mint gum (and I can't run without gum!).  

Each time, I have definitely felt a "boost" from the gum.  My friends have noticed that I am even more chatty than usual when I chew it.  I actually like the taste of it--a very strong spearmint flavor.  Another positive is that it maintains its flavor even after you've been chewing it for 20 minutes (about the amount of time that is recommended to chew it to get the full effect of the gum).  I had two running friends try it out, as well as my husband.  One friend hated the taste after a minute or two--this is the caffeine being released, which other reviewers have mentioned is a bitter taste.  My husband said the same thing and had to spit it out.  My other friend, however, loved it--she's a runner-gum-chewer like me and found it to be very tasty and also energy-giving.  

I am planning on ordering more of this gum (the company sent me two free sample packs of 5 pieces each), and right now they have a deal for free shipping if you use the code "joy".   Here is the link:  It's also supposed to give you 25% more gum, but for some reason I don't see that coming up on the checkout, so I've sent them a message to figure out what's going on.  I'll update this blog once I hear back.  I don't want to get into a habit of using it every day or anything, but it is sure is nice for a boost!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Training recap: week of 12/21-12/27

Week 3:

Monday 12/21--

AM: Fantasy of Lights run!  This was super-fun!  5 miles total running through the amazing display of lights.  I did the first mile with Theresa for her warm-up for her speedwork, and then dropped back and ran the rest with Tamara and Allison. Overall pace: 8:28.  We had trouble slowing down!  It was a bit misty out, but overall the weather was just perfect. 

PM: Boot Camp at Power Train.  Big group tonight--Allison and her neighbor Audra came, as well as Sharon!  We had a great time working out. 

Tuesday 12/22--met Allison at the rec center for a swim.  Typically I can't swim on weekday mornings as the pool isn't open til 6, and I have to be at work before 7.  With winter break, however, I could make it happen!  We chatted more than we swam, so I only got in a mile, but it felt good to stretch out my heel.  My PF always feels better after a swim.

Wednesday 12/23--6 miles with the old Lewis Center crew (my "book club" LOL).  This was a reunion run, as the group seldom gets together to run anymore.  It was good to see everyone together again!  Overall pace: 8:42.

Thursday 12/24--4 easy solo miles in my 'hood.  Wasn't planned as a solo run, but it was good to breathe.  This was the first run in ages where I didn't feel even one single iota of PF tightness/discomfort... not sure why, but it was nice. Overall pace: 9:00.  

Friday 12/25--rest day--Merry Christmas!

Saturday 12/26--14 miles with Amy and Allison L.!  Lori joined us for the first 7.  I love these ladies and I felt good during the run.  Heel pain was very minimal during the run (sore after, but lots of icing and mobility/stretching exercises throughout the day helped a ton).  Overall pace: 8:57.  The first several miles were right on track, but we sped up slightly at the end.

Sunday 12/27--14.5 miles on the bike at the gym.  I still don't have my trainer set up, and I need to get my bike adjusted at the Trek store.  Felt tired of making excuses, though, so headed to the gym to get in some miles.  Overall pace: 17.4 mph.  Nice and sweaty! 

Total running miles for the week: 29
Total cross-training workouts: 3 (yay!)

Other miscellaneous notes:

Big week/month for me... highest miles for a week (29) and for a month (over 100!) since March!  I'm happy to report that I feel good.  As long as I keep up with my stretching and icing, I can deal with the PF.  I saw my physical therapist, Jenny, on Wednesday this week.  Love her!  She's a runner so it's fun to "talk shop" with her.  She did a few glute strength tests and was disappointed that I haven't kept up on my exercises... she said that having an injury makes me more prone to other injuries, like PF.  Ugh.  Hooked me up to a machine for iontophoresis, where electrical current ran through my foot from my achilles down to my heel.  It was tingly, but that's about it.  But maybe it helped on Thursday, when I felt really good?  Who knows... she did some soft tissues massage as well.  I see her on Tuesday this week and she's doing to do another gait analysis. 

On Christmas Day Joe gave me his Visa card to buy my gift--a new Garmin! I've been eyeing the 910xt, which is a triathlon watch. It will track my swims and my bikes as well as my runs.  I can't wait til it arrives!

Big news today: I finally hit the "register" button for Glass City!  The price goes up in a few days, but only by $10. I contemplated waiting another month or two, but I decided to bite the bullet.  

The upcoming week is a recovery week for me. I've put one in every 3 weeks in this training plan.  Goal is easy miles, and a bit lower mileage.  Looking forward to running with friends as well as cross training a bit.  

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Training recap (week of 12/14-12/20)

Week 2: 

No post-run selfies this week... just didn't take any, not sure why! 

Monday  12/14--
AM: 5 easy peasy miles with Jess.  I wasn't sure that I would be up to running after my race, but Jess promised we'd keep it easy, and she made good on her promise!  Overall pace: 9:20.  Felt super good!
PM: Boot camp at Power Train.  Allison joined me for this workout and it was so nice not to be solo on a Monday night!  Dan worked us pretty hard, but again, I felt really good.  Sore glutes from my race, but that's it.

Tuesday 12/15--rest day

Wednesday 12/16--5 miles in Lewis Center with Erin and Steph.  I had planned on meeting Christine at 4:45 before my MRI, but her son had kept her up all night so when she canceled, I figured I'd be running solo up and down Polaris Parkway.  I texted Erin and she said to book it to Lewis Center and meet her and Steph.  I am glad I did--haven't ran with them in awhile, and I have missed them and the route!  Overall pace: 8:43.  Felt great :)  No evening swim workout because I had to bake 6 dozen cookies for a Christmas cookie exchange on Thursday!

Westerville runner mamas at the exchange!
Thursday 12/17--5@5 in Dublin with Becky, Lori, Lisa, Allison, Carol and Suzy.  I had made plans to run with Becky but she'd forgotten, so she asked if I'd join the Dublin girls today.  I enjoyed the different route!  Overall pace: 9:11.  Feeling great still!

Friday 12/18--rest day

Saturday 12/19--long run day!  12 miles on the Genoa Trail with Jess, Amy and Amber. I was apprehensive about this run... my last injury occured during a 12 miler in June, and I needed to get past this mental hurdle.  The plan was to run nice and easy, keeping at 9 min/mile.  We failed at this (overall pace was 8:51 and not a single mile was in the 9's), but as Jess said, at least we didn't run an 8:30/mile pace! ;)  This run was filled with stops--four shoe-lace-ties (Jess x3 plus Amy I think), one flying headlamp, and one stop to GU at mile 6.1.  Felt great, though! 

Sunday 12/20--hoping to get in my first bike ride on the trainer!

Total running miles for the week: 27
Total cross training workouts: 1 (hopefully #2 will be tomorrow, if I can get my bike trainer set up today!)

Other miscellaneous notes:

I had my MRI on Wednesday morning, and got a call on Friday at lunch from my doctor.  It is never a good thing when your doctor takes the time to call you; this I know.  So I was pretty nervous when she started to discuss the results of the MRI.  "Severe plantar fasciitis, with a partial medium to high grade tear of the fascia.  Possible stress reaction of the cuboid bone."  I almost died... these were not words I was expecting.  I'd had such a great race on Sunday... and such a wonderful week of running.  How could my injuries be that bad?  My doctor was able to fit me in that afternoon so that we could discuss matters further.  When I went in, she immediately felt my foot and pressed hard on the spot where the MRI showed a "spot"... no pain.  None at all.   She said that it was likely just fluid, and that we'd disregard the findings.  Disregard the findings!  Can I get a woot, woot?!!

Snoopy happy dance after meeting with my doctor!!!
This was music to my ears, but there was still that partial tear to discuss.  When I expressed my concerns, she examined my foot, noting that I was actually experiencing less pain than I was the previous week.  In fact, it didn't even hurt when she pressed on my heel.  I was kind of shocked.  I was even more shocked when she told me that as long as I still wasn't limping or altering my gait, she was fine with me continuing to run.  I went from thinking I would be in a boot for the next month, to hearing, "Go ahead and do your 12 miles tomorrow."  Crazy!  She did suggest physical therapy, as they will be able to do photophoresis (where steriod gel is applied via ultrasound), and she's had patients who have had PF and it has worked well for them.  So I scheduled my first PT appointment with my fav PT, Jenny, on Wednesday afternoon. 

As I said, overall, I've felt so great all week.  My heel was a bit sore on Monday, but icing and stretching this week has helped.  I never had anything more than a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10 on any of my runs this week, and I've felt good just walking around at work and such all week as well.  Praying this is the beginning of the end of my PF!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Race recap: Holiday Run 4-miler

I should subtitle this one as "The race that wasn't a race until about 5 minutes before it started!"  That was literally when I decided I would treat this race as an actual race, and not just another fun run with friends.  Lately, that's how my "races" have all been.  The Run for the Health of it 4-miler on Labor Day, the Donut Run 5K, the Ohio State 4-miler... even the Market-to-Market relay wasn't really a "race" for me.  I haven't set out to run fast since March 22, when I had one of the most amazing races of my life in Virginia Beach.  Since then, injuries have kept me from wanting to push myself.  Don't get me wrong, I have really enjoyed running races for the fun of it... two of them were with my 10-year-old son, and those were amazing!  I also go to pace my friend Molly to an amazing PR at the Donut Run.  So, the races haven't been in vain... they just haven't been for me.  A few close friends knew that I was contemplating racing this one, and one of them said to me, "Feeling selfish lol?"  As a matter of fact, I was! 

I have honestly wanted to do this race ever since I started running in 2012.  It is one of several races that take place each year in my hometown, but the only one that is at Sharon Woods, the metro park where I grew up picnicking, playing on the playground, and riding my bike with my dad and my siblings.  I can recall having to walk my bike up the huge hills on the 4-mile trail, and the feeling of satisfaction the day when I finally was able to ride all the way up without stopping!  Now I would get to RUN on those hills!  I've ran on the paved trail several times, of course, but not recently as the loops can get a bit boring.

I had three options for this race.  I could run it with my friend Tamara, who initially had been the main reason I'd signed up--we were going to race together and get her a sweet PR in the low 32's.  Her knee has been giving her fits since the Chicago marathon, though, so she was going to run it a bit slower of a pace (9-9:30/mile).  I could run it with Molly, and try to help her achieve another PR.  Or... I could go ahead and see what I had in me.  I decided to wait until after my warm-up miles with Felicia to see how my heel felt.  I ended up resting (not planned) the two days prior to the race, which made my heel very happy!  Felicia and I met shortly after 8 AM and were able to fit in 4 miles prior to the start of the race.  I felt good on our warm-up... very good.  Good enough to know that it was going to be go-time for me.  Just before the race started, I popped a piece of "Plow On" gum (something new I'm trying out that I really like--I'll blog about it another time though!) and after a pic with some of my MRTT friends, I headed to the front of the pack.  

Volunteers + runners from MRTT!

Ready to go... see me in purple???
This is a smallish race--under 300 runners.  However, the path that we'd be running on is tight, and I didn't want to get stuck behind people.  I found my friend Jenni who I knew would definitely be speedy (she always is!), and talked for a bit with her and Joan.  I said hi to my friend Tamara's husband Josh, who would be the eventual winner of the race, and got a big hug from my favorite MIT-pacer-dude Steve.  

After the national anthem and the countdown, we were off!  

Here we go!
It was great to actually take off and RUN!  I felt so smooth, so light on my feet.  I watched as Jenni and one other women took off at a pace that was a bit faster than I was comfortable with.  I decided not to look at my watch for the first mile, to just think about relaxing and breathing and my form.  One other younger girl ran by me early on, and at that point I knew I was running in 4th among the women.  The first mile of the race was very flat, and ended at the bottom of the first hill. Sharon Woods is one of the only places in Westerville where you can truly find hills to run.  There are a few big ones, and with a 3.8-mile loop, they can't be avoided in this race.  I peeked at my watch as I passed the mile-1 marker and was elated to see a 7:10.  I felt good, and was kind of amazed to see this time--it was my fastest mile in a race ever!  Kind of crazy!  It was at this point that I was passed by the only runners who would pass me during the race--a speedy pair (male and female) who were chatting it up.  Clearly this pace was an easier one for them than it was for me, as even though I felt great, I couldn't imagine trying to talk while holding low-7's!  I decided I was very comfortable with being 5th among women at that point.

For as wonderful as mile 1 felt, mile 2 felt incredibly hard.  The bulk of the hills were in this mile, and I had to work hard to control myself as we ran down them and not get overwhelmed going back up again.  As I mentioned previously, I know this trail like the back of my hand, so I was very happy when we crested the final big hill.  I was pleased with my split of 7:36 at mile marker 2, especially with all of those hills.  I knew that the rest of the course was nothing more than slight inclines.  Unfortunately, I had trouble during the third mile with my breathing.  The air was so humid!  I focused hard on maintaining a relaxed breathing pattern, but it was not easy.  I remember wishing that this race would magically become a 5K!  I could see Jenni ahead of me still, as well as the younger runner who had passed me early in the first mile of the race.  Jenni had just passed her, and I knew that I would be able to if I stayed consistent.  This helped me a lot during that third mile--trying to catch up to her!  The split for that mile was a 7:41.   Right around the 5K distance, I finally overtook the high-schooler.  I wondered if I could maybe catch Jenni as well, but I just didn't have it in me to push it any harder than I was.  I also realized at that time that I would very likely run a sub-30 minute race, which has been a secret goal of mine in the 4-mile distance for ages.  I was content with that knowledge, and didn't need to push any more than I already was.

We rounded the corner to the finish, and I quickly realized that the race was going to be short.  UGH!  I hate that!  I had been spot-on with all of the mile markers, but that last mile 
ended up only being 0.96.  I turned on my grin for the photographer...

My final split was a 7:03 (which was a pace of 7:22).  I half-considered running through the finish line to get 4.00 on my watch, but instead enjoyed the finishing experience.  I had finished as the 4th overall female, 3rd in my age group (yes, 30-39 year old women are FAST!), and 15th overall in the race out of 277 runners, with an official time of 29:31.  Not too shabby for my return to racing!  This was a 6+ minute PR for me, as I haven't raced a 4-miler since March of 2013 (my 2nd race ever).  Granted, the final 4 miles of my half marathon in March were a 29:27... but I was in the best shape of my life for that race, and I'd laid it all on the line.  This race was more about me gaining confidence in my ability to run fast again, and it gave me exactly what I needed.

After the race, my  heel tightened up almost instantly.  I was annoyed, as it'd felt great during my warm-up and during the race.  I set out to do my two easy miles, joining first Josh for a bit, then Jenni and Joan.  I had 10 miles on the schedule for the day, but I took those last two extremely easy, finishing at the race finish so that I could see my friends and hang out a bit more.  

Jenni and me, after the race
MIT pacers plus me, Molly and Sharon

My takeaways from this race: 

1) I haven't lost my ability to run fast!  I honestly was worried about this, as it'd been so long since I tried.

2) I can go out strong in a race and (while not negative-splitting) still finish strong.  This is a mental thing for me, and I was very happy to prove to myself that I could do it.

3) Running fast isn't my heel's favorite thing.  I'm hoping that the MRI on Wednesday shows plantar fasciitis or something else that I can work with and still incorporate speed starting in January.  I won't need to run as fast as I did today, thankfully, so hopefully it will all work out!

YAY, big ol' PR to finish off 2015!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Training recap (week of 12/7-12/13)

Each Saturday or Sunday during marathon training, I plan on writing a brief recap of the workouts that I did for the previous week.  This is mostly for me, just to see how things are going throughout my training cycle.

Week 1:

Monday 12/7--
AM: 5 miles at 5 AM with Jess.  This was the first of what Jess and I plan on being many, many Monday 5@5er's in her 'hood in Dublin. Actually, they'll eventually be a bit longer than 5 miles, so we will have to start earlier (UGH!).  Overall pace: 8:38.  This felt okay... I hated how dark the path was, so I need to get a stronger headlamp for next week.  I also was fighting off the kids' colds that they all have, and had a bad headache.  My heel also was sore for most of the run.

This was actually taken in the DAYLIGHT the day before :) 

PM: Boot camp at PowerTrain.  It was just me (again), with a substitute trainer from Hilliard.  She was pretty crappy (played on her cell mostly), but I made sure I was working hard anyway.  Mostly arms tonight.  The monitors weren't on so I have no clue how many calories I burned.

Tuesday 12/8--rest day

Wednesday 12/8--
AM: 5 miles at 5 AM with Allison L. and Meggie.  Met the girls out at Allison's house.  Overall pace: 8:37. This run was almost the exact same pace as Monday's, but I felt a lot better!  The route was a bit better lit, and I was felt better as well.  My heel didn't bother me at all after mile 2.

Allison's pretty house served as the backdrop. And I need a selfie stick!
PM: 2,000 yard swim.  I went to Worthington for the evening workout.  Ended up making up my own workout which consisted of a warm-up, a short drill set, a longer pull set, and an IM transition set.  I didn't have a ton of time so I busted this one out in 36 minutes and headed home.

Thursday 12/9--4 miles at 4:30 AM with Allison S.  Overall pace: 9:10.  We both wanted an easy run so this was absolutely perfect.  The crazy part: we also wanted more time together to hang out, so we ran at 4:30 AM and then had a Starbucks date afterwards!  I felt great on this run (zero heel issues).

Friday 12/10--rest day

Saturday 12/11--I planned on heading over to DK Fitness for CXWORX class at 7:15 AM, but I was out with two friends late on Friday night and just didn't feel like setting my alarm.  It was so nice to sleep in until 7:30 AM!  We had a super-busy day, so I didn't get a workout in at all.  Which was just fine.  Oh, I did meet Steph M. and her hubby at Lifetime Fitness for a swim lesson--I think I swam a total of 400 yards.  Not counting that!

Sunday 12/12--On the docket, a 10 mile run. I had previously signed up for the Holiday 4-miler race at Sharon Woods with my friend Tamara C. and the plan was to get her to a nice PR, but she has been nursing a knee injury.  A full race recap will follow, of course, but I ended up deciding to race it myself!  I met Felicia for 4 easy miles beforehand (pace 9:05), and then did the race at an overall pace of 7:27 (my official time was a 29:31).  Finished up with 2 miles easy at a 9:41 pace.  My heel felt great during the warmup and the race miles, but tightened up after I stopped running to recover, chat at the finish and cheer a bit before cooling down.  The cooldown miles weren't so hot.   I've been icing today and stretching--both seem to really help.  

Total running miles for the week: 24
Total cross training workouts: 2

Other miscellaneous notes:
I saw my new doctor on Friday morning.  She agrees with Dr. Bright, that my heel pain very likely is plantar fasciitis, but due to the random achiness that I get, she wants to just make sure that it's nothing else, so I have an MRI scheduled for this Wednesday morning.  This will rule out a stress fracture.  I'm 99.9% positive I do NOT have a stress fracture (as is my doctor), so I'm not too concerned with the MRI.  Dr. Dimitris said that as long as I'm not limping or changing my gait, I can continue to run, so that was good news!

On Friday my new bike shoes arrived, and my clips came in today!  I am dying to get starting on riding my sweet new-to-me bike, but I need to get it to the Trek store to be adjusted and air in the tires and such. Hopefully, next weekend my friend Tracey can come over and help set up my trainer!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Back in the (training) saddle again

I can't believe that it's actually time for true training to begin again.  The past few months have been spent ever-so-carefully returning to a normal running schedule.  Take a look at my weekly miles... 

From, where I track my runs...

Week 34 was back in mid-August, when I slowly started back into running again.  I refused to let myself get carried away with how good I felt as the miles added up.  I only ran three runs per week for 11 out of the past 15 weeks.  When my foot wasn't feeling so great after the Hot Chocolate 15K, I only did two runs.  It's taken me awhile, but I've learned that if I don't pay attention and listen to my body, things will quickly go downhill for me.  

I will be honest, I haven't completely avoided running fast over the past few months.  Not all the time, at least.  I ran fairly quickly at the Hot Chocolate race, and a few of my runs have been on the speedier side (average in the mid-8's).  Most of them, however, have been in the high 8's/low 9's.  Speedwork doesn't officially start until January (more on that later, though).

Okay, enough avoiding the inevitable question that my true followers (all four of you LOL) are asking... how is my foot?  My appointment with Dr. Bright was lackluster at best.  He completely dismissed my chiropractor's view that it was not actually plantar fasciitis, and assured me I had a "classic case" of PF.  It wasn't that I didn't want this diagnosis... as I believe that I have stated previously, PF is one of the "better" running ailments--you can usually train through it.  He recommended continuing the treatments I was already trying (taping, stretching, icing), as well as getting a night splint to wear.  He also recommended physical therapy, but I couldn't see fitting that into my crazy-busy life right now (it was easier in the summer when I was off from work!).  Besides...

I still don't think I have PF.  I don't have some of the more "classic" signs--feeling the most pain with the first few steps out of bed in the morning (mine is pretty much the same all day long), warming up throughout the day (again, it never really changes), tightness/pain in the arch (it's all in my heel).  I still don't know what's wrong with me, but I do know that nothing that I was doing to treat it was working.  A few days ago, I called it quits.  I stopped taping, stretching, wearing my Oofos sandals everywhere, etc.   I wore my wedge shoes to work on Monday, and lo and behold--my foot felt pretty good at the end of the day!  I ran six miles at a relatively fast pace on Wednesday morning (overall pace was 8:23), and while I could feel my heel most of the time, it wasn't any more painful or annoying that it usually is.  I decided to go ahead and schedule an appointment with a new doctor, and had my records transferred to MaxSports Westerville, which is much closer to my house.  My friend Amy has a doctor there who she really likes, and I am going to see what her thoughts are about what's going on with me.  I see her a week from tomorrow and I'll be sure to update on how things are going.  I do plan on writing at least a short blog every week of my training cycle, to keep track of how things are going, how I am feeling, etc.  

The big change this training cycle: the days when I am running and working out.  I have arranged it with my son's dad and stepmom to have my oldest son Hunter on different evenings, so that I can run at least twice a week with my friends Jess and Amy.  Up until now, I ran on different days from Jess, but we are hoping to train together more this cycle, so changing made sense.  Here is my planned schedule:

Mondays: AM: comfy pace (8:30-9:00/mile) run between 5-9 miles (increasing throughout the training cycle), PM: boot camp or Body Pump

Tuesdays: rest day 

Wednesdays: AM: speedwork (won't officially start till January, but for now I'm good with anything from 8:20-9:00/mile), PM: CXWORX class

Thursdays: AM: easy recovery run (no faster than 9:10/mile) between 3-5 miles, PM: swim

Fridays: rest day

Saturdays: AM: long run (10-20 miles)

Sundays: AM: bike on trainer

All of this is definitely subject to change... I may try to swim occasionally on Friday nights instead of Thursdays, and I'm not sure how Wednesday nights are going to work out with Joey being at basketball practice.  Right now I'm swimming on Wednesday nights because I can go after Joey has practice.  And I haven't set up my new bike or borrowed trainer yet, nor do I have bike shoes, so obviously Sunday mornings isn't happening anytime soon.  I'll slowly get into the swing of things.

As far as the actual running goes on this plan, I've written my own plan (again).  I just feel most comfortable when I'm in charge of what I am doing.  I have trouble giving up control to someone else--big surprise LOL!  I have made sure that this plan isn't huge on the mileage (I am peaking at 40 miles, which is really short for marathon training), and is limited on the speedwork (only once per week, and every three week, none at all).  These are two things that I feel strongly about for me, at least during this training cycle... that I need to take it relatively easy on all fronts--and that includes keeping my long runs easy as well (although some will have "fast finishes" or "marathon-pace miles").   As I've reminded my training partners several times, my plan is fluid.  But I am happy with how things look for the next 10 weeks, so I will go with that and continue to reevaluate as needed.

With that, let the training begin!  Look for a blog entry each weekend that will recap the week of the cycle.  :)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 15K

This race was honestly NOT on my radar. Three years ago, I ran the Hot Chocolate 5K as my first-ever race (it was my "graduation race" from the Couch-to-5K program).  A few weeks ago, after I ran the Donut 5K Run with Molly, she mentioned that she thought I should run the Hot Chocolate 5K with her and pace her to another PR.  Later that week, a few other friends mentioned that they were doing the 15K.  I looked at my training schedule, and sure enough, I had 10 miles on the schedule.  A 15K is 9.3 miles... hmm... the higher-than-usual price of $72 was a turn-off, but when someone on my local Moms Run This Town Facebook page posted a $10 coupon code, I registered before I could second-guess my decision.  

And I am so glad I did--this race was awesome!  Best swag and post-race food, hands down.  All of the runners in both the 5K and 15K got a sweet jacket.  It really is an incredible jacket--that's what we paid for, though.  

The blue zipper one is the woman's jacket
Also, the 15K finishers got a really nice medal.  

And everyone who raced got a big finisher's mug with hot chocolate, dippable chocolate and treats to dip (banana, rice krispy treat, cookies, marshmallow and pretzels).  Definitely my kind of post-race food LOL!

I had a hard time deciding how exactly to run this race.  I had plenty of options.  I knew people running anywhere from a 7:45 to a 10:00/mile pace.  I didn't want to truly "race", of course--I haven't trained to race at all yet.  Amy and I agreed to run together, have fun, and make it a good training run.  We figured we'd run at around an 8:30-8:45 pace.  I really should've known that would never happen... neither of us are good at controlling pace in a race situation!

Amy picked me up at 5:50, as the race organizers recommended we arrive downtown to park by 6 AM.  We figured 6:15 would be fine, and it was honestly plenty early.  We ended up sitting in the car until 7:00 to stay warm!  It was actually the perfect day for a run, with temps in the low to mid 30's at race start, and not a drop of rain (or snow!) to be seen.  By the time the race started at 7:30, the Ohio sun had risen and it made for a gorgeous day to race.  

We headed to the porta-potties after we left Amy's car, and then straight to the starting line.  Hot Chocolate does corrals (thank goodness, with 15,000 runners!) as well as two wave starts. We were in Wave 1, Corral A, and it actually wasn't too crowded at all.  Amy and I looked pretty awesome in our throw-aways, I have to say ;)  

I freaking love this picture!

Tamara and Jon found us in the corral immediately, and we hung out with them for the 10 minutes or so that we had until it was go time!

Amy, Tamara and me with her friend Kayla, right before race start!

The first mile or so was really crowded, and things didn't really thin out until the 5K'ers turned off at mile 2.5.  Amy and I ran into several friends during this time--Dani, Felicia, and my new friend Megan are a few who I remember seeing.  Everything felt pretty easy during the first three miles, although we did have a bit of trouble with pace during mile 3.  Our watches both lost satellite reception, so we didn't know our true pace.  It ended up being our fastest mile on accident, but we slowed down after that. 

Our friend Lynn captured this shot as she was cheering at mile 3.5!

Throughout the race, Amy and I both kept checking in with each other, making sure that we felt good.  We both are so very in tune to our bodies after a spring/summer full of injuries.  I, unfortunately, did not feel good.  My heel had been tight when the race started, despite stretching and a ton of massage before the race while we were in the car.  I kept thinking it would warm up and feel better, like it usually does... alas, this was not the case.  In fact, as the race went on, it went from mildly annoying to a bit painful.  By the time we hit mile 6ish, it was a level 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 to 10.  I was able to block it out by telling myself that a) it was "just" plantar fasciitis, which was fine to run through, and b) focusing on Amy's stomach issues, which started at around mile 6.5.  You just never know how a GU is going to affect your body, and Amy's fuel at 5 miles definitely didn't settle well for her.  I could tell she was not feeling great when I started to pull ahead a teeny bit and she didn't respond by pulling even with me as she usually does.  The plan was to stick together, and I really didn't need to go any faster than we were already going, so I relaxed a bit and tried to chat as much as I good at a semi-uncomfortable pace of about 8 minutes per mile.

It was great to see the finish arch at the bottom of a downhill (I HATE it when races finish going UPhill!).  Amy and I sprinted in and crossed at the exact same time, of course :)  I felt great in every way possible, except for my stupid heel.  It just felt awful. I couldn't wait to get my shoe off and massage it.  We saw a few friends and then headed over to the Finisher's Tent to get our yummy treats.  

I didn't run with my phone, so no shots of the deliciousness--this stock photo will have to do!

We met up with Amy's daughter Teagan, who had raced the 5K with her friend, but didn't stay much longer after that, as we were both getting really cold (sweat dries fast!).  Breakfast at a local Westerville diner (The Pancake House) was the perfect end to our morning, although by that time my own stomach had started its revolt against the GU I had taken during the race.  That didn't stop me from enjoying my omelette and toast, though!

All in all, I was super happy with this race.  Our splits were 8:29, 8:11, 7:47, 8:08, 8:07, 8:00, 8:01, 8:05, 8:01, and 2:55 for the final 0.4 (a 7:13 pace), for an overall time of 1:15:42.   We both placed in the top 25 in our age group out of several hundred runners (not a goal but still pretty cool, considering this truly wasn't a "race" for us).  The pace didn't feel terribly hard; we were both able to talk throughout the race to each other and others on the course.  The only real negative was my heel, but boy, was it a big negative.  After I got home, I massaged it, iced it, and soaked it in Epsom Salt.  Nothing seemed to help.  It just HURT.  It never got loose, and never really lessened.  My friend Steph brought over her Strassberg sock, which is a semi-torture device to be worn when a runner is sleeping to help with plantar fasciitis.  I was excited to wake up this morning, hoping after a night in the sock that I'd feel 100% again.  Nope--zero relief.  It was then that I started thinking that maybe this was NOT plantar fasciitis.  Typically it warms up quickly when I start walking around in the morning, and when I wear my Oofos sandals it always feels good.  Not so much today.  I made an emergency appointment with my chiropractor this afternoon to see if he could work any magic. His diagnosis: NOT plantar fasciitis.  I knew it!  The pain is in my lower heel, and not at all in the upper heel or arch of my foot.  Right now, we are thinking I have a mysterious syndrome called "heel fat pad".  It's a lot like PF... here's a video explaining the difference between the two.

Tonight I did the taping recommended in the video, and I'm happy to say that it worked like a charm.  Even though in the video, the doctor says you can run and workout once it's taped, I am going to be a super-smarty-pants and wait until Thursday when I see my sports med doctor to do anything; I want him to verify the diagnosis.  I'm hoping this is nothing more than a tiny blip on my running plan leading up to marathon training starting in just three weeks.  I've worked so hard to rehab and be smart for the past several months... I need for this to just go away, please and thank you!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Races and PF and Ironmans, OH MY!

A not-so-quick recap of the past 25 days... during which the following occured, listed in no particular order:

  • My son and I ran in our second race together
  • I paced my friend Molly to a big 5K PR
  • I entered the world of plantar fascitis
  • I registered for a half Ironman

Yes, just your typical 25 days, right?  In a word, not so much!

Race recaps first...

On October 25, my son Joey and I ran in his second-ever race, the OSU 4-miler.  This has been a race that I've been dying to do ever since its inaugural year in 2013.  That year, I ended up signing up for a half marathon the day before it, so I sold my bib to a friend's husband.  Last year, the race was a month before my marathon, and I didn't see the point in paying $50 to run an easy four miles in the midst of high mileage weeks.  This year, I volunteered at a couple of M3S events to earn free race entries for Joey and myself.  

Pre-race selfie

It was so very worth it!  This race has become the largest 4-miler in the country, with 15,000 entrants!  Joey and I had a great time running together.  I'm amazed at how he can rock out four miles with literally zero training.  

Kicking some booty at around mile 3...
This time, I decided to start us just a bit faster than last time.  Joey responded perfectly, and I still had to hold him back most of the race!  Our splits were 10:24, 9:55, 9:32, and 8:24, although his final split was about 7 seconds faster than mine, as he took off at the end and I couldn't keep up with the little speedster!  He PR'ed by over two minutes, which is even crazier when you consider his first race was only 3.7 miles and this one was almost exactly 4.   

Approaching the stadium during the final mile!
Moving right along, six days later I ran in the 2nd annual Donut Run 5K with my friend Molly.  She had convinced me a few weeks ago to register.  I don't typical do expensive 5K's, and this was was $40 when I registered... but the prospect of donut holes at the water stops and a half-dozen of the city's finest donuts waiting for me at the end was alluring enough to convince me! 

Oh the sweet yumminess...

I wanted 8 miles for my long run this weekend, so I headed down to the race early and did five solo miles before meeting up with Molly.  She was with her friend Sharon, and they were both hoping to go under 28 minutes.  Molly's PR was a 28:24.  I knew from a few runs that we'd done together, as well as training side-by-side at Power Train Fitness in Westerville, that she was definitely capable of a much faster race.  I promised we'd start out at an easier pace in the low- to mid-9's and progressively get faster.  The problem was that I had just finished five progressive miles myself, and my fifth mile was an 8:14.  I have trouble slowing down once I've sped up... which is why our first mile was an 8:43.  Molly was still in a conversational mode after the second mile (8:35), so I continued to press the pace.  Our final mile was a 8:09.  Molly confessed to me as we headed toward the finish that she felt like she was going to throw up.  I knew I had done my job as a pacer!  Final time: 25:57, a crazy-awesome PR for her!  As for me, I relished in the knowledge that a) I had helped Molly achieve a time she didn't feel she had in her, and b) I felt amazing relaxed doing it.  My legs are finally coming back!

Sharon, Molly and I after the race!
Rewind back a couple of weeks... on October 16th, I had a short 4-mile training run with some friends in Westerville.  I wore my Mizuno Paradoxes, which I'd been rotating in on runs for the past few weeks.  This was the 6th time I'd worn them.  I hadn't fallen in love with them, but really wanted to, so I kept giving them chances... well, that was dumb.  I should have known better.  Occasionally after a run in them, my heel would hurt.  Not awful, and not for more than a day.  This day, things were different.  My heel hurt as soon as we stopped running.  And the pain didn't let up.  It wasn't an actual pain though.. more of a tightness in my arch that went up into my heel.  I quickly googled the two words that happen to be the most common running injury known to man: plantar fasciitis (affectionately known as PF to runners).  I knew after reading the description that I was a member of a club I had never wanted to be a part of.  Since then, I have shipped back those horrible shoes and began a regime of massage (both with my hands and rolling on a racquetball), icing by rolling my foot on a frozen water bottle, and using KT tape for additional support.  I also have found my Oofos sandals to be the most amazing relief yet.  I thought I loved them before I experienced PF... and now I know they are a new level of nirvana.  Fortunately, PF is not really an "injury", but a condition.  One can run through it... my foot tends to warm up after about 2-3 miles, and from that point I feel great. I have heard it can go away as quickly as it comes on, and I am confident that with continuing my routine as well as having my chiropractor work on it weekly, I will battle it into submission.

Time for the most exciting news... after many rumors in the spring and summer, Ironman announced in early October that they would be using the nearby suburb of Delaware, Ohio for a half-Ironman competition on August 21, 2016.  A half-Ironman consists of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run, for a total of 70.3 miles of racing.  Having only raced one (VERY short) triathlon, I wasn't sure if I was up for the daunting task of racing such a large distance.  Peer pressure encouragement from many friends led me to obtaining an early entry to the race, and then to pushing the "register" button on October 18th.  I am still in semi-shock, but I am more excited than anything!  This weekend my parents loaned me money to purchase a road bike that will actually fit me correctly (my borrowed bike from my dear friend Carolyn was great, but was also a few sizes too small!). 

My gorgeous new-to-me ride!
The only thing left to do now is to start training!  I am planning on swimming weekly this winter and spring, and hope to fit in biking as much as I can, but not on a set schedule until the Glass City marathon is over in late April.  I will have 18 weeks before I enter the waters of Delaware Lake for the big race, so this summer will be a fun one, that's for sure!

The last few weeks have been good, running-wise.  I've worked up to 16-20 miles per week.  I have my first double-digit run since June coming up on Sunday.  I feel like I'm ready for it, after running 8 miles on two different occasions.  In a few weeks I will add in a 4th day of running each week, and in just five weeks, on December 7, marathon training officially begins! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Time-hopping back a year...

A year ago today, I found out I didn't have a stress fracture. A year ago today, I was probably the most grateful person on the face of the earth.  A year ago today, I was told I could indeed race the Columbus Marathon.  I can still remember the feeling of utter joy as I walked out of Dr. Bright's office at Max Sports.  I called my closest running friends and cried tears of joy as I drove home.  I cautiously trained for the next eight days, praying that everything would fall into place at the race. And for about 15 glorious miles, they did.  I loved that race... until my calves began to seize, and I had to walk several times and (gasp) even completely stop three times to stretch.  Needless to say, it was not exactly the race I had hoped for.  Despite a PR of 12 minutes (3:44:29), I couldn't be happy with the race.  I kept telling myself to be grateful, but all I could think is what might have been.  I surely would have gone fast enough to qualify for Boston in 2016 with a sub-3:40 if I hadn't had those cramps.  

A little over a week ago, I found out that it would have taken a 3:37:32 or faster to run at the Boston Marathon in 2016.  You see, just because a person runs faster than the qualifying standard does not mean that they get to actually run in the race.  The Boston Athletic Association sets the actual standard each year depending on how many people register as well as other mitigating factors.  This must have been a banner year for registrations, because for the past two years it's only taken a time of less than 1:30 under the standard to make it to Boston.  

Oddly enough, it made me happy to hear this.  I wasn't "only four minutes" away from qualifying. I was actually seven minutes.  That's a lot more in the running world.  It would've taken a lot for me to actually hit that standard last year.  Almost the perfect race.  If I would have kept the same pace I was racing at when the cramps started (8:15), I would've gone just over four minutes faster. A 3:40.  Not even fast enough to qualify for Boston, let alone actually race there.  My race plan, of course, was to keep getting faster as I raced.  I mean, that's how I always race.  Who knows if that would've actually happened, but I realize now that I would've needed to go quite a bit faster for those last ten miles or so to even have a chance to make it.  

Why does this all even matter to me?  It just solidifies the fact in my mind that Boston 2016 is not, and was never meant to be, MY RACE.  For whatever reason (maybe because it's my son's 11th birthday?), I was not supposed to be there.  I will happily "stalk" my friends Andrea, Carol, Melissa, Jason, and Amanda, virtually cheering them.  I will show my students live video footage on April 18th, just as I did this past April as I nursed my injury.  

And, hopefully, I will be preparing to run in my third marathon just six days later.  I have written a training plan that begins on December 7th, 20 weeks before the 2016 Glass City Marathon (April 24, 2016).  The plan is conservative by all definitions of the word.  The weekly mileage isn't super high; I have it peaking at 38.  I only have speed workouts planned once a week (alternating track and tempo), with a week of no speedwork at all every third week (coinciding with my dropback weeks). Oh, and the speed doesn't actually start until mid-January (six weeks into training).  My fourth weekday of running (which I plan on adding back in around Thanksgiving) will only be 3-4 miles of running.  I'll be cross- training, of course (boot camp, swimming, and core work... oh and hopefully some yoga, one of my newest loves!).

I contemplated using a pre-written plan this time around.  I scoured the Internet one night, trying to find a plan that would suite me.  I just couldn't find one that spoke to me.  So, as always, I borrowed and stole from various plans that I found.  I am having a few friends take a look at my plan and give me feedback, as I am still not sure it's where it needs to be.  Meanwhile, I am thoroughly enjoying every aspect of my "non-training plan" right now.  Running three days a week, cross-training two or three days a week, and being incredibly grateful each and every time I lace up.  I don't think I will lose that gratitude this time around.  As my friend Jen said to me, I am a changed runner.  Here's hoping it's for the better.