Walking the Line

I had mentioned in a hat I wanted to write a post about patterns that I have observed about the sport of running.  Patterns of health in contrast of injury, of PRs in contrast of DNFs, and “runners high” in contrast to burn out.  There is a very fine line in running, and I have sloppily blurred the lines many times.  My hope is to learn from my past mistakes and become a smarter runner.  I have been running for about 18 months now (obviously not too long in comparison to thousands of other bloggers), although I ran a few marathons in my young 20s.  I didn’t run for six years during my mid and late twenties (why? I honestly don’t know!  I just didn’t run.)

So, since you now know my credentials of being a runner for 18 months <insert sarcasm>, I will tell you that I have experienced everything that I listed above.

  • Major injury- check.
  • Months of injury free running- check.
  • PRs that I didn’t think would ever be possible- check.
  • DNFs- check.
  • Runners high- BIG check
  • Burn-out- check

Here is my biggest tip: Listen to yourself and don’t compare yourself to others.  I have experienced two major injuries: a hamstring pull and a stress fracture in my heal.  Both experiences have been not only been physically painful and frustrating but also mentally challenging too.  Before both injuries, I thought that I was just “pushing myself” on certain runs, but not with an excessive I-am-about-to-get-hurt reckless attitude.  I thought that I was making progress in becoming a better/faster runner; I wasn’t.

In the case of my hamstring pull, I ran with two runners that I had just met a few days prior on my last twenty mile run before a marathon (my first marathon in 8 or so years).  I had trained by myself, primarily on a treadmill, but I met some runners who invited me to run with them at a local arboretum.  Mistake #1- changing terrains (the path was very hilly) Mistake #2- running with people that I didn’t know too well.  We were running way too fast for what I was training for.  We were running 7:15 pace for the entire run (Mistake #3- running too fast on a training run).  I was exhausted and too tired to speak during the run.  I didn’t know the area, so I couldn’t leave them.  And, I wasn’t confident enough as a runner to ask them (both extremely experienced and fast runners) to slow down.  I was a newbie and didn’t know what I was doing.  I was intimidated by them.  It was a horrible day.  But, I finished the 20 miles and took it easy for a couple of days.  Then, a few days later, I was on an easy run with a good friend, and- literally- in a matter of seconds- I went from running to crawling on the ground.  My hamstring had pulled so badly that I could barely walk, and I had bruising behind my knee.  It felt like somebody had shot a bullet through the back of my leg.  It was incredibly painful.  I took a little over 2 weeks off, felt better, and tried to run the marathon.  Mistake #4: if you take over 2 weeks off from running, don’t start a marathon!  This is probably obvious to most runners, but I didn’t realize this at the time.

Please learn from my lesson.  Listen to your own body.  If you can do a high milage plan- great.  Do it.  If you can only run three days a week- great.  Do it.  If you love speedwork- great.  Do it.  Find out what works for you and stick with it.  There are a million good ways to train for a marathon, so find what you like and do it.  And do not- I repeat: do not- get caught up in what others are doing.

Once you find out what you like and what works for you, pick a marathon plan and follow it.  Stay on course.  Don’t jump around.  Some runners can make up marathon plans and still get a PR.  I am not one of those people.  I enjoy looking at marathon plans and writing each workout on my planner.  Perhaps I’m a little neurotic, but I just love doing that.  After 8 or so months of running, I discovered that I like running at a conversational pace of 7:30 to 8:30s with other people (although not the same people from above!).  So, when I looked at plans for my fall marathon, I found the advanced marathoning plan that emphasized long runs and slow(er) “general aerobic” runs.  It worked great for me and got me an easy pr  Some of my running friends, love track.  So, they will pound out twenty 400s (or thirty-two 200s!!) as part of their marathon training.  That is not me.  Will their plans work?  Yes.  Will my plan work?  Yes.  If I switched to their plan in the middle of my training, would it work?  Maybe.  But I could get injured.  Each marathon plan is made to account for rest/easy days and hard days, so jumping from plan-to-plan can be dangerous.

So, if you see another runner or blogger doing something else, think twice before doing it.  It might be ok, but it might not depending on how many rest/easy days that you have taken.  For instance, in December… I did a tough running workout that I read about online, followed by a tough BodyCombat class (lots of kicking and hard-stomping on the feet).  The next day, I ran “hills” on a treadmill at an easier pace, but I took one step and felt like a knife went through my foot.  Yes, the injury was probably long and coming since I have experienced mild foot pain for months (plus I recently found out that I am low in vitamin D), but that workout put me over the edge.  Four weeks of not running was painfully hard.  Lesson learned.

Lastly, recognize that running is a lifestyle.  It isn’t just about getting a PR or losing ten pounds (although I don’t run for weight control, but I am aware that many female runners do).  It’s about taking what you are given each day, and making the best of it.  Do I want to PR?  Hell yeah!  But, if I had to choose PRing versus running for years, I would definitely choose the longevity of running.  I once read something that went like this, “I don’t run because I want to live longer, I run because it makes me feel like I’m living.” It makes me enjoy my day.  It gives me something to work on and continually try to improve.  And, I just like it.

That’s all my ramblings for today.  But, since every post needs at least one picture, here is my daughter’s first pedicure (from her babysitter!)

More Booty Work

Tues workout: core class plus strength

I had intentions to run 6 or so miles today, but the foot is still achy so I took a rest day from running.  Especially since I have an appointment with a podiatrist tomorrow, I don’t want to further complicate the injury.

I did take a core class (love!) and my abs and booty were on fire!  It was killer.


Step 1: Grab a free weight or plate.  I use a 10 lb dumbbell, but any size should work.

Step 2: Stand on one leg, bending it slightly.  Hinge forward at the waist so that your nose is over your toes (the more horizontal you are, the harder it is).  Lift the opposite leg behind you and point the toes.  Rest one hand lightly on your hip.  Extend the other hand holding the weight down.  Keep hips square to the floor and not tilted.

Step 3: Squat on the single leg.  Continue to point the toes of the leg in the air and flex your booty.  At the same time, bring your arm with the weight up towards the ceiling, trying to pull your shoulder blades together.  Remain steady and release.

Step 4: Repeat a dozen or so times on a side, then switch legs.

On the homefront, I made baked French Toast from a new recipe for dinner.  Oh my- rich and delicious!  You know it is going to be delicious when the ingredients include half-and-Rich and delicious- CHECK!

Does anyone else love the single leg squat? 

Do you eat breakfast for dinner?  If yes, please share your favorite recipe!


Saturday workout: sprinting through the San Fransisco airport while carrying my daughter and a thirty pound carry-on bag.  And, we made the connecting flight!  Maybe I like track workouts after all…

A few of you commented about my positive attitude in regards to the injury.  Thank you- I appreciate your kind words.  I am a big fan of the noted psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman and the following tips come directly from his work. He has a three-point method for overcoming challenges.  I don’t explicitly focus on doing each step; however, they have become an essential part of my outlook on life and crisis management. (I know, for non-runner readers, taking a month off from running seems like a blip in the road.  However, for runners, injury and time-off is a big deal).

Three Mental Tips for Overcoming Challenges

1- View the Challenge as Temporary.

  • Will I run again? Yes.  Of course.  In the grand scheme of life, a month or two is quite short.  The expression “Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel” goes right along with this point.  Whether it be an injury or a divorce or a financial setback, if you view the event as temporary, you are more likely to come out unscathed.

2- Focus on Something Else, and Limit the Challenge’s Scope.

  • As I joked about on Friday, I am trying to fill my time with other fun activities (with the exception of cleaning) to distract me when I’m not riding the endorphin-high that running gives me.  If I focus too much on running, I fail to see the big picture.  And- in that big picture- includes a husband that I deeply love and admire, two awesome kids, a supportive extended family, a network of caring friends, great coworkers, and the list goes on and on.  I’m not saying that to brag, but only to point out that life if full of great things.  And, if you are struggling right now, try to list out the blessings in your life.

3- Don’t Overblame Yourself.

  • There are a thousand factors that can contribute to an injury [old shoes, new shoes, too many hard workouts, stepping in a hole, slipping on ice, skipping strength sessions, poor sleep, etc etc…].  I take steps to minimize potential injuries, but at the end of the day injuries can still happen.  It comforts me to remember that even elite runners are often injured, and they have talented coaches who look over their training schedules and make injury prevention a top goal.  I am an amateur runner without a coach, doing the best I can at my hobby.  Do I make mistakes?  Of course.  But do I get too hard on myself?  Nah.  Life is too short to let guilt weigh me down.
  • And, if you’re going through some other trial in your life, don’t cast sole blame on yourself.  There is a time and a place to take responsibility for your actions and own up to your mistakes.  However, if you struggle with guilt, resist the urge to place sole blame on yourself.

How do you deal with setbacks and challenges?  Any tips to add??

When answers are elusive

Doomsday for my foot has arrived.  I went to a new podiatrist for a second opinion on my lingering foot injury, which was previously diagnosed as plantar fasciitis leading to a stress fracture in my heel.  Unfortunately, this podiatrist thought it is tarsal tunnel syndrome (even though I don’t have any nerve type pain) and gave me a treatment plan to wear a new shoe insert and ice.  As he was walking out the door, I asked him if he had reviewed my Xrays or if he was going to look at them tomorrow.  As what seemed as an afterthought, he went to the machine and said, “Oh wow- looks like you have a large and prominent heel spur.  If we don’t see improvement in ten days then we’ll have you wear a cast to immobilize your plantar fascia.”  What?  We had just spent the previous five minutes discussing tarsal tunnel syndrome.  (He had ruled out PF since I am pain-free in the morning).

Then the appointment was over.  I still had a million questions for him (of course!) but he left before I could ask him.  Bummer.  I am going back to my first podiatrist and let her know what is going on.  Now, I just have to wait for my appointment in mid February.

From my research (I wasn’t able to ask the podiatrist because he left the room so quickly), a heel spur is a result of the plantar fascia pulling on the bone so that the bone deforms.  A heel spur is not usually painful; it is an indication of the tightness of the plantar fascia.  It can be painful, however, if the heel spur is pressing on other tendons or nerves.  The treatment appears to be the same as plantar fasciitis: ice, stretching, specific insoles, NSAIDs.  Basically, the exact same treatment that I have been doing for over a month, but I am not getting any relief.  Boo!  I feel that I am at the point that I need a good month (or even a few months– but I sure hope not!) of complete rest from running to allow that fascia to heal.

Here’s what is boils down to:  I love to run, and I want to run the rest of my life.  It makes me happy.  My long term goals for running trump Boston Marathon 2013.  I am not going to run it.  Getting this foot injury under control is more important than trying to cram training in for Boston and potentially worsening the injury.  I don’t think it would be healthy for me physically or mentally to try to push through this injury.  Am I incredibly disappointed and sad?  Yes.  Just ask my husband, I sobbed on his shoulder for a couple of minutes before pulling it together.  Am I going to miss running for the next month or two?  Yes.  Am I going to come back in the spring (or summer or fall) and run again?  Yes.  Am I going to run Boston sometime in my life?  I hope so, but this is not the year.

Let’s move on to something positive please!  We went to the Field Museum today (hooray for free day!!) and I just love these two kids.  My heart is full.

Zero to seventy?

Sun workout: none.  I am hoping to cross train and lift on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this week.  Mini-steps, right?

As I was surfing the internet after the kids went to bed on Sunday night, I read this articleon Runners World.  If you haven’t read it, I will give you a brief summary.  The author was sick for the first few weeks of January and ran nearly zero miles.  Then, in preparation for Boston, he ran 70 miles in one week.  Essentially, he went from a zero miles to seventy miles in one week!!  He explains that since he was running extra slow for him (10:10 pace) that he was hoping to stay injury free.  Has anyone ever tried this?  What is the largest amount of miles that you have increased in a week?

I am not planning on increasing my mileage by seventy miles when I come back from myinjury, but the idea is alluring.  To think that I could be running 70 miles a week in just a few short weeks sounds incredibly enticing.  I will not let myself  be seduced into trying it though.  Hold me to that promise, folks!

In thinking about my return, I am uncertain on how to build my miles back up.  Obviously, all miles will be “slow”, but does anyone know of guidelines that give advice to a runner in my situation?  I am aware of the 10% rule, but it seems that if I followed the rule, then it would take weeks or months to get back to my ideal mileage (example of each week: 5, 5.5, 6, 6.6, 7.2 etc….).  Seems too slow of an increase, right?

How have you come back to running after a period of weeks or months off from training?

A shot in the foot

Wow- has it really been a week since I blogged?  Sure enough- it has been.  There are a few reasons for my absence:

  • I am still not running.  It’s hard to think of topics to blog about when I’m not running, and I don’t want to bore everyone with details of my foot.  It still hurts, even after the rest.
  • I turned a shade of blue.  It was very hard for me to not run while on vacation.  I usually love running on vacation, and I use running as a way to explore new locations.  This was not happening in Hawaii this year (obviously), and I found myself becoming jealous of the hundreds of other runners out in the mornings.  I wanted to shout to them: I am usually out there with you!!  I am a runner too!!  I didn’t shout, of course.  I internalized those negative thoughts and became somewhat depressed when I even thought about running or saw another runner.  So, no blogging.  No reading running websites, blogs, magazines, or books.
  • Did I mention that I was on vacation?

On a brighter note, I returned to my (original) podiatrist today.  She believes that the pain is more plantar fasciitis flare and recommended a cortisone shot.  I debated for about 5 seconds, then happily got one.  For the record, I am not advocating a cortisone shot for every injury across the board.  Or for every runner.  For my specific injury, I feel that I have completely exhausted other options (ie: long periods of rest, immobilization through a boot, high dose NSAIDs for inflammation control, ice, rolling golf balls under my foot, stretching) and am still struggling with pain throughout the entire day.  For an article that further explains using cortisone for plantar fasciitis, see this Runner’s World article.

So, I am hopeful that relief is coming soon as my podiatrist believes that it should help within 24 to 48 hours.  I am not letting myself jump the gun and even think about running.  But, I’m optimistic that my next post will be pain free.  I don’t ever want to blog about this again!!