This Week in Not Running

Sigh. The worst thing for a runner is an injury you can’t run through.

A72B28CA-D194-493A-8998-C37A9FA35826My right calf has been making itself known for the the last few weeks. At first, I thought it was tight and spent some extra time with the foam roller.

During the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon, it felt fine, hardly a squeak from it. The next week, the tightness returned, but it was tolerable. The pain would ease after a mile or two, and I was able to do my workouts.

The next week, the pain stretched to two or three miles. I took days off, extra stretching, icing, ibuprofen, even sprung for a chiropractic adjustment and a massage. Surprisingly, the massage therapist didn’t comment on how tight I was. The next run always hurt.

I took two more days off, then tried a gradual progression: 3 miles, 2 of which hurt. 5 miles, 2 of which hurt. 8, 1.5 hurt. I thought I was making progress. 11 miles, 1 hurt. 4 miles, they all hurt.

I gave in and called the doctor, suspecting that this calf strain might be something more, something like the dreaded ‘stress fracture.’ The x-rays did not show anything, but the doctor suggested a week off.

Sigh.

Mentally a week off is hard to accept, especially with the Bayshore Marathon coming up in two and a half weeks. The thought of losing the physical gains I’ve made is terrifying. I’ve been cycling to keep my conditioning, but it isn’t the same, and the bike seat is… uncomfortable.

My mind treads through the options:

By next week, my leg might feel better (It was only a strain, YAY!) and I can run the race. I’d have to adjust my goals, but that’s okay.

It doesn’t feel better, but it’s not as bad. Do I run or not? I don’t want to reinsure it or make it worse.

It feels the same. No race. I don’t want anything more than a stress fracture. What are the treatment options? Physical therapy? A boot? How will I drive?

The other frustrating part is that it only hurts going down steps and when I run, so it is very difficult to judge whether it is improving.

I could really use a run to deal with all these scenarios.

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Gazelle Girl Half Marathon Recap

The week leading up to the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon was a roller coaster in more ways than one. Weather reports fluctuated from sunny to rain to three inches of snow. My mom entered the hospital after a serious stroke and her condition improved and declined daily. My goals for the event wandered from going all out to just running to finish.

I entered the race as a check on my bucket list. With my sister-in-law running her first half marathon, this seemed to be the year to do it. My sister and niece also signed up for races. It would be a fun girls’ day.

My training goal is the Bayshore Full Marathon on May 25. I didn’t want to mess up my training by racing too hard and burning out before that race. Twenty-six miles is even longer when you start out on dead legs. My original goal was to use the race as a tempo run. I’d run a warm-up mile, then nine miles at marathon pace, and slow down for the last three miles. When my mom’s condition worsened and the snow predictions increased, I prepared for a miserable experience and switched my goal to finishing or not running at all.

The morning of the race, Mom was doing well and my spirits buoyed. The weather still threatened snow, but I felt more confident about the event. I decided to stick with the marathon pace and see how it felt. I programmed my watch to help me stay on pace.

At the start, when my niece stripped down to shorts, I questioned the multiple layers I wore. Did I really need a jacket, ear-warmer, and gloves? Too late to change. She would be done much quicker than I would, so she wouldn’t be cold for as long.

A mile into the race, I realized that I couldn’t hear my watch’s prompts through my jacket, so that plan wouldn’t work. Luckily, I had caught up to a pace group. They were a little faster than my intended pace, but if I could keep them in sight I would be close to my goal.

After a few miles, things were going well. The pace group was excellent and encouraging. My stride felt smooth, the pace felt manageable. The sleet at miles four and five made me thankful for my covered skin (and that I wasn’t the man in the grass skirt and coconut bra at the spirit station), but the inches of snow held off.

At the turn around, I saw my niece flying through the course. She looked fantastic.

I stayed with the pace group until ten miles. It felt good. I decided to finish hard. I dropped to my 5k pace. As the finish approached, I passed the 10k and 5k racers.

My sister and my niece found me, and we waited for my sister-in-law to finish. We could definitely tell that the temperature was dropping. She came across the finish line with a huge smile on her face. We all ran our best times for our distances.

Running well is a great experience, but watching someone discover the joy in a run is the best.

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Other notes: I wore Altra Torins and my feet didn’t get as tired as they usually go. I am hoping they aren’t the cause of the arch problem I am having because they felt really good during the event and during my long runs.

Trekking the Trails

With the sun shining brightly and spring in the air, Sunday was the perfect day to hit the trails.

The trails double as the local Cross Country course, and competing comes back to me as I navigate the twists and turns. The course provides a nature escape through maples and pines. It traverses gentle inclines, steep hills, and rugged terrain. I imagine I am flying past the trees and over the roots. The movement is freeing and exhilarating.

Scenic views overlook a pond and a creek bed. The spring brings melting snow amid the chirping of blackbirds. Grass slowly greens and freshens the air. I followed deer tracks along the road.

The course can be as long or as short as you would like to hike as it crosses the road through the park in several places, making a quick jaunt back to your vehicle.

As I ran, I encountered families hiking through the disc golf course, enjoying a fine spring day. Others spread a family picnic through the pavilion and played catch by the playground. Children can capture frogs and minnows in the pond near the play area.
Before I left my husband showed me his mud-caked shoes warning that my brand new shoes would be similarly encrusted after my trek. Even though I sloshed through mushy soil and snow, my shoes were perfectly clean when I returned home. My soul was enriched.
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Keeping it steady

Two of my running girlfriends and I were chosen as Pacers for the Lake Michigan Half Marathon this weekend. The race goes along Muskegon Lake and takes a jaunt along Lake Michigan.

Running this race as a pacer is perfect timing for me. While I would love to do another race, I’m not mentally ready to challenge myself for that level of exertion. Pacing is giving me some time to run easy and think about what went wrong at Bayshore and how to better prepare for the next race. I’m hoping that I can also line up at the start of this race without the emotional anxiety that I experienced at the marathon. There’s no pressure to push myself to a PR or a Boston Qualifier. I get to run with some very cool people  and help them achieve their goals.

 

Being a pacer comes with its own challenges. If everything is going well, I’m not too bad at keeping a consistent pace. As a pacer, I need to keep a consistent pace that is a specific pace. Our assigned group pace is about a minute and a half slower than my average, everyday pace. I shouldn’t have to worry about falling off pace or going too slow and disappointing the runners who are seeking personal bests. I’ll be able to encourage people, chat with other runners, and carry the pace sign.

What I’m struggling with is that slower pace and not getting carried away by the race atmosphere. Sometimes while talking (especially if it is about something irritating) I start pushing harder and suddenly I’m running a minute faster than my normal pace. Once I get into the groove of that pace, it’s difficult to slow down. I don’t want ruin another runner’s race by not sticking to the pace they need.

I’ve tried some treadmill runs at the desired pace so I can get a feel for the turnover rate. I plan to wear my GPS so I can check and correct our pace frequently. Certain conversation topics are off limits.

What tips do you have for being a pacer?

If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I ran the Bayshore Marathon. It promises a flat and fast course along the picturesque Old Mission Peninsula in the Leelanau Bay.

My training had gone pretty well, but I was ready for the race to be over. The months of thinking about my A goals, B goals, and C goals were taking their toll. I needed mental relief.

During May I anxiously watched the weather. A month out, sunny and 80 degrees was predicted. Being a bit of a weather geek, I calmed myself that predictions a month out were never right. It could change a dozen times over the next few weeks. And it did. Temperatures at race time fluctuated between 50 and 70; sky cover moved from clouds to partly sunny to thunderstorms.

 

Then Race Day came. It was 70 degrees and sticky at 7 am. I’m not a hot weather runner, but figured I could stick it out as long as it remained cloudy as the weather app promised. And perhaps, the peninsula would be cooler because it was surrounded by the cool lake water.

But my stomach was churning in anticipation. I hoped that once I started running the nerves would dissipate and I could deal with the temperatures and humidity.

Once we were moving, the nerves eased and it was such a relief, I was almost in tears. I didn’t have to sort over what would happen anymore, I could just run.

 

But the heat and humidity were a factor. By mile 6, I was feeling empty and dizzy. I opted to walk on the theory that going easy now would give me more strength later. Probably a good decision.

My husband met me at mile 11 and walked with me for a bit. I was ready to quit, but he made it sound like I could finish. Time goals jumped in the bay as I focused on the turnaround. At 13.1 miles, it would be a new race. I could forget about the miserable first half and start over.

 

Well, I was completely soaked, so I shed my tank top (sorry onlookers!) and forced myself to keep going. Somehow spots on my sports bra were still dry. I ran and walked. It probably would have been easier to keep running. Each time I switched, my stomach cramped for a few seconds.

While the sun stayed hidden, the heat was affecting more people. More people took walking breaks. We played leapfrog as we switched. I chatted with a man who tore his IT band. He was still walking, claiming the hot and humid weather was his favorite racing weather, proving I wasn’t the craziest one out there.

The spectators were awesome. Many people came to their front yards to cheer. Some had make shift water (or beer) stations. Some played music (although that made me feel old since I didn’t recognize many of the pop songs.) And there was one guy in a too-small wool sweater, a crazy wig, ringing a cowbell. Thank you all for giving me something to smile about.

Throughout the race, I contemplated whether this was my last marathon. Five is a nice number. I’ve run two that were reasonably tough, two that induced tears, and one that was spectacular. Maybe this wasn’t my distance.

I gritted my teeth and pushed through the last mile. After I crossed the finish line, I gratefully kicked off my shoes, happy to not have to run for a few days.

Despite it being a brutal experience, I have some take-aways:
-I need to find better gluten-free ways to carb load.
-I need to do more strength/cross training workouts.
-I need to keep my head in the race. I lost that battle too early.
-Body glide rules! Despite sweating half my bodyweight, I didn’t have any chaffing and only one small blister.
-I got to run with my college roommate for a bit which was really cool.
-It probably isn’t my last marathon. I’m considering a fall one–late fall when there’s no chance of it being 70-plus degrees (although we are talking about Michigan where anything can happen).
What have you learned from a tough race?

Inspiring Running Friends – Jodi South

Please welcome fellow Michigan runner, Jodi South

1. Favorite shoes (please include a picture):

I don’t really have a favorite shoe. I have found New Balance and Nike work well for me. I don’t spend a fortune on running shoes but I do replace them about every 4 months. I still have the silver pair of Nikes I wore in my first Boston marathon in 2010.

2. Favorite race/distance/Bucket-list race:

My favorite race distance is a 25K. More than a 1/2 marathon but not as brutal as a full. My 3 Bostons are the highlight of racing for me. My favorite race was the T-Rex 10 Mile Trail race I ran the last 4th of July and plan to do again. The trail was rigorous and entailed going over, under, across, through rocks, trees, creeks, steep hills you name it. It was very fun and adventurous. Bucket List: Great Turtle 1/2 Marathon on Mackinaw Island, Yellow Stone 1/2 Marathon, Ragnar Relay to name a few.

3. Trails, streets, or treadmill:

I do the majority of my running on the street. A true street runner. But I also love trails and feel trail racing calling out to me….I see more trail races in my future. It’s extremely rare for me to utilize the treadmill for a run.

4. Why did you start running?

I’ve been running for over 20 years. Running is just natural for me. I’ve always been into health and fitness and nothing gives me the workout that running does. Some people have coffee…I run. I feel most alive and free when I run. Running helps me work through stress, keep things in perspective, it’s my time to think, pray or just enjoy music and nature. When I don’t run my day feels “off”. I was born to run.

5. What keeps you motivated?

Keeping motivated is never a problem, I wake up…I run. Different races motivate different types of training and long runs. People tell me my running inspires them so that too provides motivation, it’s a cycle…I motivate you, you motivate me. I consider all who support me to be part of my team as their support pushes me even beyond what I push myself. It’s important to me to help others be fit, I believe in them and I want to help them to believe in themselves. I like the feeling of being healthy and fit and keeping the level of fitness I’ve achieved also motivates me. I hope to help people find a healthy balance for themselves as I truly believe fitness brings and maintains quality to life. #Be fit. #Be healthy. Be happy.

Inspiring Runner Friends – Tom Francis

Please welcome Tom Francis as he shares some of his running motivations!

1. Favorite shoes:

Newton is my favorite racing shoe.

2. Favorite race/distance/Bucket-list race:

5/3 River Bank Run is a 25k in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Spectators form a gauntlet at the six mile turn and line the finishing blocks. It’s pretty cool. My favorite distance is a 10k. You can make up for a bad mile and the distance is not that popular any more. Moab Trail Marathon is currently at the top of my bucket list.

3. Trails, streets, or treadmill:

I prefer trails to roads but in northern Indiana trails are rather tame.

4. Why did you start running?

When I first started running it was all about finding out how fast that I could go relative to other people. After several decades of not running, it became about getting back outside and feeling the the changing seasons.

5. What keeps you motivated?

Motivation comes from my friends from college that run. Surprising I am also driven by FaceBook groups. Before I down my first cup of coffee I find out that I’m losing ground to people I’ve never met. So I find myself adding mileage to catch up. Understanding that I’m lucky to still be running with friends keeps me on the roads.