Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Long Road

First, the bad news. I haven't written in some time. I've mentioned on Facebook and Instagram that I've been dealing with an injury. That's putting it mildly. I've been dealing with the worst running injury I've ever had, except maybe the stress fracture I got in 11th grade. It's been awful, insightful, and lengthy.

Then, the good news. Happily, things are looking up after many months. I can easily run 4.5 fast miles, and long runs are back up to 6 miles and climbing.

My PT encouraged me to write about what's happened, if for no other reason than to provide a chronology for future reference. Since this is a running blog, I thought that made sense!

Back in about June of 2017, after the Football Hall of Fame Marathon, I was running on the Towpath with my squad. I remember the day. It was a beautiful day. We were chasing each other back to the parking lot, pushing hard through the last mile. My knee buckled. It felt like if I hadn't twitched just right, it could have given out on me, but also that of course I would twitch right. There wasn't anything else to do. Alternately, I might have described it as feeling like my left knee was going to fly out of the left side of my leg, just for a brief moment.

Over time the buckling happened more frequently. Then, running down bridges got dicey. I figured out that if I took shorter steps and tucked my pelvis in as much as I could, I could reduce the frequency of the buckling. Sometimes it hurt more than other times. I had swelling around my left knee after any run. One day in August 2017, Cathy caught up to me on the Towpath. I was walking the last few miles back to the parking lot at the end of a long run. "What's this?" she said. It was pain. Lots and lots of pain. I foam rolled and stretched and backed off some. By New Years Eve (such a memorable run!) I was running 10 miles with precarious form, a buckling knee, and swelling, but not much pain. I thought I was on the rebound.

NYE 2017

I ran the Hermes 10 Miler with Candice in April. The last few miles were questionable. Then in May I paced Cathy to a sub-2 Cleveland Rite Aid half. By mile 9 my knee was having those moments, but now they hurt. I tucked and tried to ignore the pain. I could push through. It would be fine.

Hermes 10 Miler 2018

I continued more or less in this way until August. But, strangely, over time I noticed that foam rolling was doing less and less for me. There was no pain in my left quad or IT band. I didn't understand it. If my left knee kept swelling, how was foam rolling not helping? Stretching seemed to help, but only for very short periods of time.

In mid-May my massage therapist observed that my left leg appeared to be longer than my right, caused by having a hip out of joint. She was positive this was my problem. She referred me to a holistic well-being PT-ish person. He agreed with the massage therapist's diagnosis and "adjusted" me. My gait seemed to change after that, with my left foot insisting less often on turning out. This seemed to make sense to me, but at the same time, I saw a lot of red flags about this provider. This was late May.

In August I attended the third of a three-part trail race series. The August event was 5.2 miles or so. At almost exactly the half-way point, I stepping up and over a root, and something gave out. Suddenly and completely, I could not run. Even a little. My friend Candice passed me and asked if I was OK. I was not OK. She finished and came back to get me. She encouraged me to run even the last tenth of a mile. I couldn't do it. Very simply, this was the day I broke.

Part of our Full Moon crew, at the June race

I hobbled around for days, and I mean, hobbled. I awoke at night from the pain. My (new) massage therapist nearly bust into tears when she got into my quad a few days later. She wasn't sure if I had been out of joint, but she was sure I was a mess and was at a minimum over-rotating in my left hip. She referred me to a PT in my neighborhood.

*As a brief aside about how broken our medical system is, the PT said her company took my insurance. And they do. Just not my employer's version of that insurance. So I called the insurance's preferred provider to find out how I could be seen. They said it would be 5 weeks before I could be seen by the person who could then refer me to a PT, and no word on how much longer than that it would take to actually be seen by a PT. Not solely for this reason, but in part, I elected to continue to pay privately to see the PT in my neighborhood and not even bother with the insurance. I would see her 5 times before I'd even get a referral through my insurance. That's a broken system.*

My PT saw me for the first time in late August. She later admitted she did not know then what my problem was. There was a lot going on. And, I was really, really weak. She had me sit on the edge of a table and raise my left knee. She pushed down on it and told me to resist. I couldn't. She had me do a series of fairly simple exercises. I couldn't. There was pain and swelling. She gave me exercises to do twice a day everyday. I thought I was making great progress! Only later did she tell me how pathetic those first few visits were.

Complicating all this, I had knee surgery when I was 14, which left me without feeling on the left side of my left knee. There was some concern that because I lacked the nerve endings on the side of my knee, my body and brain had no way of communicating about repair. Just...awesome. And if I'm being super honest, I was terrified that whatever happened when I was 14 happened again, and what if it was something that can't happen twice without ending your running life? I worried about this. A lot.

Weeks of PT focused on my quads, calves, hamstrings, hip abductor and adductor, glutes, lower back, and IT.

In mid-September I tried to run 1.5 miles. It was....weird. Probably it had happened before and I hadn't noticed, but I could feel the tendons rolling all over my left leg. That's right. Tendons rolling. In my leg. While I ran. My IT band was too loose. I didn't know that was possible. Literally never heard of it. This is why foaming rolling did nothing.

My PT told me I could build up, half a mile at a time, after each distance had gone well at least twice. Over time and attempts, I felt the tendons rolling less often. Be early December they had stopped rolling all together. Rebuilding went mostly smoothly. Mostly. One day while attempting 3.5 miles, something in my knee felt like it shifted right, and I was done. It hurt, badly, for several days. Other times I have inconsistent aches and pains, but those worry me less.

By mid-October I was joining friends for short runs again. Candice was really great about it the first time I tried to go and just couldn't. I was so disappointed. But I kept trying, and we got there. 

With Dena and Candice in October

Most disgustingly, through some back and forth between my PT and massage therapist, I learned that at some point, my left quad realized things were going badly. The response? It threw down an extra attachment point. You know, the attachment points at my hip and knee just weren't doing it, so now I got an extra one--three, actually, close together--mid-thigh. Not only is getting these bumps to release difficult, but my muscle between them had atrophied. Just f**g great.

By the time I learned that tasty tidbit, I had a lot of questions. Was my hip ever out of joint? How much work will it take to get my mid-thigh anchor point to release? Have I torn my meniscus in the process? Time will tell. Will I run a full marathon again? I don't know, but I sure hope so.

While recovering, I have joined a gym. It's taken a while, but I am finally getting into something of a routine for strength training. I'm not good at it and I don't enjoy it (there I go sugarcoating), but I need to do it. I've also spectated some races, because if I can't run them, why not cheer?

Cheering on Candice at Autumn Leaves.
As of today, I have built back up to 6 mile long runs and I ran a fast 4.5 earlier this week without pain during or after. I am clearly on my way. I have zero swelling post-run. My knee has not buckled in months. Tendons have stopped rolling around. The extra anchor point is, at least, much smaller, although I'm not sure it's totally gone. I'll take it. This is HUGE progress.

Love these girls. They have been nothing but patient and encouraging as I've slowly rebuilt.
Lessons Learned
Lesson #1. Guys, for the love of all things, cross-train. You know those Runners World videos you see and think "oh that seems great!" and then don't do? Do them. Think, "hey, I've been running for years without cross-training much and it's been fine. Why bother?" Wrong. Do it. Think once a week yoga is enough? It isn't. Really really. Work on strength.

Lesson #2. I used to think Physical Therapists weren't very helpful. Why? After having my first kid I had some lower back pain. I went to a PT who handed me a single Xeroxed page of exercises I could easily have guessed from the Internet. Not. Helpful. This time around, I was lucky to find a great PT who really worked with me to ID the problem and build a plan to fix it. I am eternally grateful to her.

Lesson #3. If you can find a massage therapist and PT who work well together, keep them. This turned out to be helpful. If not, ask your massage therapist for language to give the PT about what they believe is going on, and vice versa.

Lesson #4. Last, but definitely not least, if your squad is willing to encourage you and work with you to rebuild, keep them. They are freaking gold. I really don't know what I would do without my running crew here, from the ones I see every week to those I see once every few months. Nothing but supportive.

I'm not sure what my running goals are for 2019 yet, except to continue to rebuild from this awful setback. I'm signed up for a few races, but am still holding back to see if I think I can really train for something big. I can honestly say right now I'm thankful to be running at all. It makes my heart so happy, and I appreciate it all the more after not knowing what would happen. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

June Recap: I What?!?

I have zero clues how it's July already, but alas. Summer, slow down! (said every academic ever). Welcome to the June recap.

Yeah, guys, June was not like any month in recent history. Even the summary stats show that:
Total miles: 50. Fifty. I don't want to talk about it, but we're going to.

Yoga classes: 3. Still with the hour-long format and loving it.

In early June I continued to experience pain around my left hip. I had visited my sports massage lady in late May, and she'd referred me to a "holistic PT" near here, swearing he was some kind of miracle worker. I scheduled an appointment for June 13.

The appointment took about half an hour. Since he doesn't take insurance this turned out to be a very expensive half hour in which I learned that my pelvis has been out of joint for almost a year. My what? Did what?! The PT took a little too much interest in listing the ways this might have happened and the ways I might avoid it. Some were exactly what you're thinking. One was "did you have big babies?" To which I replied "Yes, but the youngest is six. I've run 5000 miles or so since then. He didn't do this." And I called him an evil son of a bitch when he told me not to run for 2 weeks.

Sidebar--I cannot take seriously anyone who sells a book they wrote about the power of your primal instinct against pain. If writing such a book doesn't already appear in the ways to ruin a date with an academic, it should. So it's possible I didn't entirely believe the running embargo was necessary.

He also told me to avoid anything like lunging or walking on uneven surfaces. I responded by promptly going hiking with my friend Tina.

And then rock climbing in West Virginia for 3 days, which was mind-bendingly amazing, followed by hiking up Spruce Knob. The WV trip was among the best weeks of my life. Absolute magic.

From the summit of the south peak of Seneca Rocks--the highest technical peak in the eastern US

My son at the summit of Spruce Knob, the highest mountain in the state
So, I didn't exactly follow the PT's orders, but I also wasn't about to change up my trip, and I'm not sure how much I believed him. Since this happened I've learned that it's fairly common for runners AND yogis to pop out of joint. I've now heard one story of a runner getting adjusted in the middle of an ultra trail race, and another of being casually put back in joint on a massage table at a race finish line.

I tell you this to say two things:
  1. If you hurt and foam rolling doesn't help and massage provides only temporary relief, go see a PT sooner rather than later. I wish I'd seen one six months ago.  Truthfully, a foam roller and/or massage therapist had never failed me. Ever. Until now.
  2. It's way more common than you might think. Or at least, way more common than I thought.
In happier running news though, a bunch.

The Big Run in early June
Then, Rachel and I kept our June streak alive. Before the running embargo, my Dad and I planned a very last minute trip to St. Louis for the opera festival. Happily, this was just before Rachel's marathon (WHERE SHE BQ'ED LIKE A BOSS) and I got a few miles in with her. While opera isn't really my jam, the trip was delightful. I got to see dear friends, eat good food, make some memories with my Dad, and soak in a city I so love.
In St. Louis
Soon after, my friend Katie had her baby. We found her walking at the end of our long run today (July 1), and I got to meet the baby. More on that next month, but can I just say how impressed I am that Katie is up and walking two miles already?! Total badass. 

Then just a few days ago, I ran my third ever trail race, which was a mud bath of epic proportions, and a lot of fun. I signed up for a 3-race series with these beauties and a few other mommas who missed the picture. There are after pictures somewhere, but I prefer to just tell you I had to throw my shoes in the washer.
Me, Becky, Candice, and Laurie at the Full Moon Trail Race 3-Miler
Here at the start of July, I still can't run long miles, but when the pain comes, it comes on distinctly differently than before. I'm hoping this means I'm still in joint and my muscles are just adjusting. I'll be going to a less quacky PT in the coming weeks, keeping my fingers crossed, and really working on beefing up my primal instincts. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

May Recap

I started tracking my nutrition again sometime in April, using the app MyFitnessPal. The app offers a lot of functionality. It gives a calorie "budget"--the number I should aim for given my height, weight, gender, and weight goal. The number is based on your standard daily activity level, which it determines based on the type of job you have (on your feet a lot, desk job, etc). You then enter everything you eat. If you exercise, you enter that too, and it adjusts the calorie budget to accommodate the calories you've burned.

This led to my running 5 days a week. I literally ran so I could eat. I'm that lady. 😂😆

This brings me to my total miles for the month: 120.7.
I'm close to 500 for the year and 7000 since I started tracking! I should hit both in June. 

The most memorable runs were certainly the Rite Aid Half and my mid-week run to the West Side Market.

An update on the Rite Aid Half. Remember I reported there was a lot of online complaining about the course and people believing it was as much half a mile too long? I went back and checked my old race data. I learned that I typically run a half (13.1 miles) in 13.19-13.25 miles. I clocked 13.37 at Rite Aid. So, it was a little high for a typical half for me. The race organizers announced later that the turn-around had been misplaced, and the course was 0.18 miles too long. This puts the race right in line with my "normal" GPS error. I respect their effort in double checking and reporting out.

What's weird about it, though, is that they aren't adjusting people's finishing times. The only other time I've seen a mis-measured course, the organizers adjusted everyone's official race time down accordingly. Is there a standard operating protocol for when this happens? What have you seen races do elsewhere in this situation? 

My other memorable run: The West Side Market is an absolute gem in Cleveland. It's a publicly owned food market that dates to 1840 and has operated out of its current building since 1912. (Read more here) One day in May I ran from my town to the market to meet my parents for lunch and some produce shopping. The run was perfect and our visit to the market was wonderful. I bought strawberries and made jam out of them.

I also did my regular long runs on Sundays and met up pretty regularly with Candice, who takes the best silly post-run pictures. The only rule? We never re-take them. One and done.

Outside of running, I went to two yoga classes. The second one was an hour-long class with an instructor I hadn't had in many months. The class was harder than I expected, which I realized is partly due to the fact that I've been doing 45 minute classes all academic year. Welcome change for the summer. I'm really looking forward to getting stronger through the longer class.

Otherwise, summer in Cleveland really is the best. There are festivals, races, concerts, and about anything you can imagine, every weekend, all over the metro region. Here are a few pictures from a recent field trip I chaperoned with my older son.

The Arcade
I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting some other events. I think that's just a sign of a great month. How did your May shape up?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Cleveland Rite Aid Half-Marathon Race Report

On Sunday I toed the line at the Rite Aid Half-Marathon. It truly was coming full circle. In 2011 I ran the full. It was the first time I ever visited Cleveland and I had no idea I'd later move here. Seven years later and here we are, back at that same start line. This is one of those times it's hard to wrap my mind around all the places we've lived and the journey through them all. 

Sunday morning I was up at 4:45 to make sure I got all the way through the routine before leaving to catch the train to downtown at 5:20. The train was surprisingly full--I think I counted ~50 people, and I couldn't see all the way to the back of the second car. The train newbies clutch their singles as they board, because on the Rapid (our train system), you pay when you board when going east, and when you exit when going west, and this is totally unclear unless someone tells you. There is something vaguely charming about the quirkiness of it--of the assumption that people understand it.

When I exited the train at Tower City (the central hub), it was raining, harder than you'd like if you plan to wait outside at the start line. Instead, I found my way to the bathrooms, because indoor permanent restroom > port-a-potty. Then, as I was about to leave to head toward the start, my Sunday morning crew messaged me to stay put, that they were coming into Tower City and we'd just meet there. We hung around about as long as we dared before heading to the start.

As we snuck through an opening in the corral gate, moments before the start, I saw my friend Robin who was there as a volunteer, because she's awesome like that.

Moments later, Cathy, Tina and I were off and headed over the start line. The course wound through downtown and, other than going over some metal grate bridges, was a pretty flat, smooth course. The most noteworthy part of the early miles was another runner.

There was a woman running with a Cleveland Indians flag. A full flag, on a pole that was several feet long. It said Indians and had a picture of the mascot. I've seen people run with Marine Corps flags, and that I understand. But the Indians?! Curiosity got the better of me. "Did you lose a bet?" I asked her jokingly. She glared at me. "Just a big fan of the Indians? Why the flag?" She replied that they are getting rid of the Chief as the mascot and she is protesting.

I blankly stared for a moment and moved back away from her. Come again? I thought. You're running in the rain with a generic Indians flag to protest?! Cathy and I just looked at each other. I mean, if you're gonna protest maybe just make it clear what you're protesting? So Cathy and I talked about how people get too wrapped up in things sometimes.

I was trying to keep us at about a 8:57-9:00 pace throughout, with a planned slower start and to make it up in the middle somewhere. We got wrapped up in the energy of the start, but got into our groove pretty quickly. Here are the mile splits:
Mile 1: 8:36

Mile 2: 8:51

Mile 3: 9:09

Mile 4: 8:40 (we had some downhill)

Mile 5: 8:58

Mile 6: 8:52

In the middle of mile 7 we came around a corner to meet, face-to-face, the course's largest hill. I actually laughed at how unexpected it was, just so all of a suddent. According to my Garmin, even including the last few feet of elevation gain that were really past what looked like the top of the hill, this "monster" was 100 feet in elevation gain. About 70 feet of this came in about a quarter mile. I said out loud, "Can we agree not to complain about this later on Facebook?"

No, no we couldn't. I've been struggling with all the complaining lately. After the Hermes 10 Miler in April, people took to the Hermes page, the MRTT page, and their own timelines to complain about a hill. For Rite Aid, people complained about all sorts of things, including this "monster" hill. It was a quarter mile. If you spend more than 4 minutes complaining about it, you have spent longer complaining than you did running/walking it.

People also complained loudly that they thought the course measured long. I find all the casting of aspersions disrespectful to the race organizers. I think they know how to measure a course. If you think the turn-around was wrong, send them a note to double check the placement. My first sub-2 was in a race where the turn-around was misplaced. They acknowledged it and adjusted our finish times. It happens.

But all the online complaining about things that may or may not be valid, that I find difficult. Guys, MapMyRun is not super accurate! It tends to measure long. Cathy and I ran side-by-side and hers clocked the course at 13.7, while my Garmin measured it at 13.37. Also, the very urban environment is hard for GPS accuracy. I recently ran the Hermes 10 miler in vaguely the same part of town. My Garmin under-measured it by a quarter mile, just due to the hills/buildings/overpasses. All this stuff is legit. And if it isn't, and the course was actually long, they will sort it out.

We lost a few seconds at the turn-around, which was a 180* turn, but otherwise stayed reasonably close to mile-to-mile goal times through the second half, adjusting up and down for water stops and slight elevation changes. I enjoyed the on-course music and crowd, and by the second half the rain had stopped. It was just a cool, foggy morning.
Mile 7: 9:09 (the turn-around)
Mile 8: 8:56

Mile 9: 8:47

Mile 10: 8:58

Mile 11: 9:03

Mile 12: 8:49

Cathy was going for her first sub-2 half. I've seen her run sub-2 paced 10 milers almost every Sunday for months. Then she goes to races and psyches herself out! Today would be different. I told her I would make sure she crossed in under 2 hours. Over the last few miles she kept asking me, "Are we going to make it?" "Are we still under 2?" ""How much time before 2 hours?" I kept telling her we were fine, even if Garmin error was insane, we were fine! She had this.

We approached a bridge back into downtown. I reminded her how many times she'd trained over the shorter, steeper bridges on the Towpath, all for this moment. She nailed it. There was a slight incline into the block-long straight-away. We attacked it. She had this. We kicked from about half a mile out.

Mile 13: 8:39

FINISH: 1:58:27.
Katie (our very pregnant race crew/cheering section), Tina, me, and Cathy
I couldn't have been happier to see Cathy reach her goal. She was so well trained and ready for this! I loved getting to be part of it. A runner's first sub-2 is such an achievement!

After, we were all a little chilly, so Cathy and I found a merch tent. I bought a "Run the Land" t-shirt (LOVE!!) and she bought a nice race sweatshirt. They screen printed my shirt on the spot, so it was even warm when I put it on.

We tried a couple places for brunch but due to the race route, we found we couldn't get out of downtown headed in the right direction. We ended up eating on the east side, which worked out well to join up with Candice and her daughter. 

All told, what a great race experience. I'm just so full of gratitude for it all.

Monday, April 9, 2018

March Recap

I know, I'm really late. Life has been busy. You know the deal.

On the running front, soooo much going on in March. Let's start with the big picture numbers:
Total Miles: 103 (Hundo club! Yay!)
Yoga Classes: 3 (I missed a week during spring break)

I had some highlights this month, including a 5-mile race with friends. It was my friend Candice's first race post-injury. It was billed as an obstacle course, which it wasn't. When we arrived no one was feeling it. It was a very cold, very windy day, and we'd be running on the beach of Lake Erie. So....cold wet sand? After a mile we all warmed up and it ended up being a lot of fun. No one was pushing the pace. We were just out to be out and get Candice back out there. We went to brunch after at a place I'd never been. Good food and loved the vibe of the place. 
Afterwards, Laurie went to Fleet Feet and bought three new pairs of shoes because we'd "run on dead fish" during the race. There's a chance she's more focused on clean shoes than I am.

With Candice back, it meant a return to running in the dark with her. I particularly like this post-run selfie. A beautiful sunrise and a goofy friend. That's a wonderful morning.
One Saturday we decided to meet at an intersection where we'd never met. I parked part-way between my house and the meet-up spot and ran to meet her. If there's one thing to know about Candice is that she loathes being late. Loathes it. So when our meet-up time came and went and no Candice, I knew something was up. I waited close to 10 minutes. I considered what might have happened, and just started running in the direction I thought was most likely where she'd ended up. We found each other, ran, and got breakfast at a drop-dead amazing bakery. I drank about 30oz of coffee and ate, then decided I should run back to my car. Don't do that. That's dumb. I did that.

Throughout March, I also continued running about once a week with my neighbor Jake. We've been running together since early last summer. It's been a great way to get to know him, and the accountability of a running buddy is always a good thing. I realized I'd never taken a picture of us.

My long run schedule got rearranged a few times for different reasons. The last day of March this meant running closer to home. I "picked up" Candice for the six middle miles of this run. I had to laugh when she said "what's two miles from your house" and I knew exactly. Only a runner would know down to 0.02 miles the distance to everything.
This run was also something of a wake-up call. I felt this run substantially more than most long runs. Why? Because my usual long run has about 75 total feet of elevation gain. Running closer to home means about 300 feet. Lesson: I need to vary my long runs more. Running on totally flat ground all the time is going to make a hilly race feel a lot harder.

And, we do stuff other than run. Since I realize this is hard to believe, here's a picture. We got together for a glass blowing class on night, then went out for dinner after. We made glass flowers. We got to choose our colors and even the shape of the stem, and the total length (shorter ones if they were ring holders). I would definitely do it again!

I also ran with my usual Sunday morning crew a few times. I enjoy them so much. For some reason this is the only picture I can find at the moment. I will have to correct that for April.

Monday, March 5, 2018

February Review

Miles: 73
I'll be up front: I had some challenges this month. I ended up missing my long run twice--once due to illness and once due to weather. I missed some weekday runs due largely to weather. This was life.

 But then sometimes you run in the fluffy beautiful snow and get frost in your eyelashes and everything is right in the world. 

I had two notable runs. The first was on Valentine's Day. A project I'd had under review for two long, agonizing years at work had finally been accepted. When the email came I got up, changed, and went for a run. I ran fast. I ran happy. I ran 5.6 miles at an 8:12 pace, and was trying to go slow at first. I ran mostly negative splits. It was one of those runs that is everything. You fly, and you smile.

Then the next morning, I went running with my neighbor. I told him I needed a shake out run after going so fast the day before. We spent it dodging last bits of ice and snow, most of which had melted overnight from warmer temperatures and rain.

When we got back to our street and stopped at his house, I looked down at my left ankle, which hurt, and was surprised to see it was bleeding. My sock was so short it didn't protect my foot from the top of my shoe, which isn't usually a problem. It hurt to walk. "Should I drive you home?" my neighbor kindly offered. It's about a tenth of a mile. No, I said, I'd just take the shoe off. But then it was weird to walk in one shoe. So that's how I came to walk barefoot in Cleveland in February.

Yoga classes: 5
I attended my weekly 45-minute lunchtime Vinyasa class four times. Man, I love this class.

I also attended a Yin class with my friend Candice at the end of the month. I'd never heard of it, Yin. In the first 5 minutes I thought, "well, at least it's only an hour I'm wasting." But by the end I was ready to sign up to go back.

The good: Such.Deep.Stretching.
The bad: I'm just not that into my chakras.

Runners talk about everything. We talk about poop a lot. We talk about our bodies a lot. We talk about pain, and triumph, and random, mundane things. You know what we don't talk about? Our chakras. Not one time--ever--have I heard someone mid-run be like, "You know, my air chakra is just out of whack this week." No. Not a thing.

So yinning, what is it? It's holding a pose for 1-4 minutes. You won't sweat, or feel frustrated. You will leave feeling amazing. Try it. If you hate it, it was only an hour.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

January Review: A Tribute To Yoga

Total Miles: 84.9
Yoga Classes: 5. This might, in all seriousness, be some sort of record for me.
Other: I went skiing one day with my older son. I love those days so much. 

Before I get to my Tribute To Yoga, a brief review of running.

Mid-month my friend Candice was finally ready to start re-entry to running, after dealing with an injury. I was happy to meet her one sunny Friday to see how things would go. After a quick 30 minutes we were all smiles.

People sometimes ask how I manage to run outside in Cleveland in the winter. How do I deal with the weather?

Sometimes you get lucky and it sleets on your rest day. Often, you suck it up and run on snowy roads or in a snowstorm. When forced to, you get on a treadmill. But sometimes, if you can just wait and go at a different time, either the storm has passed or the roads are cleared. My delightful Sunday run group used this last strategy a few times--just ran later. On this day, I think we started at 4 or 5pm. This is one of my favorite pictures of us.

 My Tribute To Yoga
In about 2004, I regularly attended a Pilates class for about a year. A few years later, I discovered yoga, mostly through DVDs I found in clearance bins. I don't, frankly, remember the first yoga class I ever attended. What I am certain of is that I saw a sports medicine doc and a sports massage therapist for a knotted left piriformis early in 2011.

I went to a few classes in St. Louis, sometimes with my friend Linda. In Utah, I attended a weekly class at my work for about a year, then an early morning class near my house another year. The class was seldom difficult. I enjoyed the feeling I had when I left. But I can't say I enjoyed yoga. It was something I did to avoid injury. I did it because I felt I had to. 

I felt like that until just a few months ago. Back in September, I realized that my knotted piriformis was part of the problem I was having with my knee. I also learned that I'm really tight in places, and that my iliopsoas was really, really angry. Yoga could help.

I also finally learned the expression "set your intention" for your practice. Prior that, I saw yoga as essentially standing still and sweating while frustrated. I finally grasped that I needed to take yoga inward. That was difficult at first for this runner, who loves to go fast and who is decidedly extroverted. But with practice, I got it. Finally. 

Then, about 3 weeks ago, in mid-late January, my piriformis finally released. After at least 7 years of living with it in a sometimes-painful knot, it finally released. You might wonder how I did this. The answer isn't glamorous: Weeks of sitting on a golf ball for long stretches, then rolling on a pressure point ball until one day, it let go.

After that, yoga positions that call on hip strength became more realistic, but on my left side, it often feels like there is nothing there to hold me up. Like my body has to learn how to live without the knot now. Like it just stopped trying to build muscle there, because a knot was in the way, or because my body had to compensate for it. But I'm going every week, and I'm slowly seeing improvement.

What's better? I actually look forward to it now.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 In Review


2017 was our first full year in Ohio. My highest mileage year ever. A year of new PRs for the 5k and 10k distance. My fifth marathon. New friends. So many other things.

The Big Picture
Running miles: 1320.6. Highest ever! Woohoo!!

I can  easily pick out some notable events on this graph. For instance, Marathon #5 happened April 30, and some time off in May. Then, one day in September some pain I'd been having came to a head, and I had to drastically cut mileage, even dropping back from the Towpath Half in October to its 10k distance. I spent November and December slowly building back up. On New Years Eve, I finally got back up to 10 miles for my long run.

Bike miles: 15
Really just biking to yoga class and back over the summer.

Yoga classes: 14
I went about twice a month from June onward. I know it's not a lot, but I'm calling this one a win.

The Actual Pictures
Past the numbers, this year was nothing short of incredible. It started out a little rough, as my transition out of Utah and to life here was a bumpy one in some respects. The year ended on such a bright note--logging ten miles in ten degree weather with a group of funny, honest, strong women I got to know along the way.

That "along the way" covers so much! It's an odd thing to type, but I feel like I gained a metric shit-ton of wisdom this year. The year brought some preposterously less-than-rosie situations and also some new and renewed friendships that have made my heart so full.

I learned (or re-learned) how crucial it is to always cheer for your people. Even if you disagree with them. Especially when you're competing with them. If you can't support a friend, you take a breath, exit stage left, and reappear when it's blown over.  

So, this should apply to everything. EVERYTHING. It's in economics--cooperative competition makes a thriving set of businesses in a region. In running, Shalene Flanagan taught us about applying this to running. I watched the NY Marathon finish like 20 times. I wasn't misty-eyed you were misty-eyed. It was awesome.

In general, runners are great about this life lesson. We're conditioned over thousands of miles to cheer for other runners. In November, I ran a local 5k with friends. I paced my friend Candice for the first two miles, and then knew she had it and I wasn't any additional help, so I went ahead. When she later realized I won our age group and she won second, she exclaimed, "You bitch!" with the biggest smile and a congratulatory hug. Because the fact that I ran faster only means she chased me. The fact that my friend Katie runs faster than I do only makes me stronger, because for months I chased her on long runs. Your ability does not diminish me, it makes me better.

This flip-side of this lesson learned is respecting the voice in your head that alerts you to red flags. That tells you that sometimes, other people make you uncomfortable, and you need to respect that and shift the situation rather than ignore it. This year, I gained the confidence--through some hard-learned lessons--to hear that guiding voice, and to set some limits on what I was willing to accept.

     Put yourself out there

Part of the confidence needed to hear that guiding voice is in the willingness to put yourself out there to change your situation, whatever the issue is. Put yourself out there. Try new things. There was so much good waiting for me. I just had to look. Soooo many applications of this this year, but take this picture from early 2017. The hardest part of running in the winter is convincing yourself to just go. Go! And then you go and it's not terrible at all. Look at us. We're laughing. It was cold as $&%^* that day.
Such a theme of my year. Where I felt overwhelmed by getting to know neighbors in 2016, I embraced it in 2017. When I missed a long run one Saturday this past summer, I joined up with a group I didn't know (through MRTT) on Sunday, and began forming friendships that have come to mean so much with an amazing group of women. And when I had the courage in other situations to say, "hey, these things don't sit right with me," I found support and more doors opening than closing.

About Those PRs
The 5k PR happened by accident, pacing my friend. After that I realized I hadn't run a 5k literally in years. YEARS. So this is a goal for 2018--to race one for real and see what happens.

I PRed the 10k twice this year. First, at the Hofbrauhaus 10k in August. I had a head cold which slowed me down, but I was happy with the results.
With Cathy at Hofbrauhaus
Then, one day on a long run, some pain I'd had for months just came to a point where I couldn't keep it at bay any longer. Cathy found me walking back to the start during a long run. "What's this?" she said as she came up to me. I told her I was in pain. This was September. On the last day I could, I dropped my Towpath Half registration to the 10k. I wasn't sure I could even do that without hurting, but I did (you can read about that here). I won my age group and PRed, both of which were a surprise. I turned in a 48:13 that day, and while I'm sure I still have more to give at that distance, I'll take that one.

My long run group was in full force that day, a few of us PRing and cheering each other in. My friend Kelly came from WV which made me so happy, and I got to watch her turn in her first sub-2 half.

But then, despite a consistent training cycle, I did NOT PR my spring marathon. Because it was 86* and sunny. But that's the thing about marathons--there is no certainty. I'm not sure I'll re-attempt that one in 2018, but I will go for a half PR for sure.

Looking Ahead
I finished 2017 feeling so hopeful. I have come to love Cleveland, and it has come to be my home. As a family, we have found our people in our neighborhood and elsewhere. Maybe it sounds corny, but my heart is so full ending this year--full of thankfulness for our street and our neighborhood, full of love for this crazy tribe of runner women I've come to be part of, full of appreciation for other aspects of life that have nothing to do with running.

So, 2018, I'm coming for that 5k PR. I'd love another 10k PR. And I'd most of all love a 13.1 PR, but that one will be difficult. I'm going to have a great time trying.