Christmas Treat

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After a big family lunch and two beers (ya know… To celebrate Christmas!) I decided a run was in order before the sun went down. It’s an unnerving feeling to be able to run down the center of a road with little to no traffic. If only it could be done in Chi! Indy is expecting 5-10 inches snow tomorrow so a snowy trail run may or may not happen. Either way I’m glad I treated myself to some Christmas miles. I hope you all did too!

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A Reflection on What Worked: 2012 Edition

Last year I wrote a Reflection on What Worked for 2011. I’ve realized lately that my blog is a really great way of celebrating how I’ve changed and what I can truly celebrate as I’ve become a more competitive runner.  If I didn’t write this stuff down, I’m not sure I would feel quite as accomplished. (So there is an advantage to furiously typing these thoughts!)

2011 was the year of “firsts”:

  • First marathon (and first BQ).
  • First year of 1,000+ miles.
  • First time running to both ends of the Lakeshore trail.
  • First time truly committing myself to racing regularly.

It was a big year. 2012 (thank goodness) has been much more manageable in terms of work-life balance and the frequency of races.

So, in my opinion, I think this is “What Worked” for me in 2012:

I raced half as much in 2012 as I did in 2011. 

In 2011, I raced 12 times. That’s a LOT in 12 months. Granted, I was ambitious and very excited about training for my first marathon. Every race I ran was to prepare me for the start and finish line of the Chicago Marathon in October. This year, I wanted to put an emphasis on training as opposed to racing. And, in doing so, I challenged myself more during my long runs and ran with high intensity each week of Twin Cities training. After the 2011 Chicago Marathon, I let myself rest, recover, and reset before jumping into training for the Rock ‘n Roll DC Half in March. I was rewarded with a 5-minute half marathon PR, despite a business trip to Madrid the same week. Then, my focus was on Carmel. I wanted another PR. If it wasn’t in the cards, I’d have another shot at Bayshore.

I think I gave myself a schedule that was pretty ambitious but not impossible. It was ‘smart’. I raced less and focused on finding some sort of rhythm after having started a *new job* in March. In 2011, I wanted to race all the time. I couldn’t get enough of it. In 2012, I decided training could be just as fulfilling but I stepped up to a start line whenever I felt the urge/need to.

I celebrated those “little wins”, but didn’t get caught up in #s.

I ran 4 half marathons, 1 5k, and 1 marathon in 2012. And I ran PRs in each of those distances. I didn’t go into each training cycle with a specific goal in mind. I followed Coach’s orders, kept my head on straight (some of the time), and realized those small changes in paces on tempo or speed workouts as I progressed (I’m not data-driven, but I would revisit my Garmin data from time to time and realize how much faster my mile repeats or 800 m Yassos were, compared to months’ past.)

2012 was also a fun year especially because of how competitive I was in my age group. Out of 6 races, I came away with 4 age group awards (one of which was a badass beer glass!). This, of course, was a complete surprise to me. I’m completely oblivious during races. I have no sense of where I am within the entire field and the only focus I have is running my own race. I couldn’t care less about collecting ‘awards’. [The surprise of having won an award was fun, though!] The time on the clock was always the ultimate reward and the age group award was the icing on the cake. [I’d like to say that 2013 will be a year of even more age group awards but now that I’m slotted in 25-29, it will only continue to get more competitive. There are some seriously speedy women in my new age group!]

2012Successes

I ran solo no more than 4 x per week.

I’ve always been a solo runner. It’s not that I don’t like to run with other people; I’d just rather run by myself. (“It’s not you. It’s me??”). I like to run on my own time and stay in my own head during tough (or easy) runs. I ran every single one of my long runs during Twin Cities training by myself on the lakefront. It was really tough, but I figure that I’m only racing against myself during a marathon and I might as well train the same way. [Note: I’m not ruling out a few group runs in 2013. A fun run to ‘cool my jets’ with other runners sounds nice every once in awhile!]

On the same note, running more than 4 times a week makes me feel sluggish and unmotivated. I’d rather allow myself enough recovery and dominate each workout than recovery less and run more ‘junk miles’. Every single workout has a purpose and I like committing to that goal week-in and week-out. Everyone is different and I’m happy to have found a good run/recovery balance that works for me. This might change at some point, but 2013 will likely be the same way!

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2012 wasn’t the year of firsts. It was more like the year of “Ok, I did all that last year. What can I possibly tackle in 2012?”.

I improved my 5k time by 2:22 min,

my half marathon time by 7:40 min,

and my marathon time by 15:06 min this year.

I raced in Chicago, Indy, Batavia, Traverse City, Twin Cities, and DC.

It’s really easy to forget about your accomplishments, I think. I’m determined to keep perspective on these kinds of things and realize that the tiny ‘baby steps’ you take usually turn into giant steps that you didn’t realize you were capable of.

Outside of running, 2012 was challenging both in my personal and professional life. I started a new job that took me to Madrid, D.C., Dallas, and San Francisco (totally over 30,000 miles in 9 short months) and I think I managed to stay focused while working at home 50% of the time. I went to Montana on vacation with my mom and sisters. My Grandma Eleanor passed away (love you!). My twin sister married her high school sweetheart. I had my wisdom teeth removed and endured my first root canal (gross). Manny (the boyfriend) started a new job (and we celebrated 5 years together). Annnnd I drank a lot of beer (DUH) 🙂 It was a crazy, fun, exhilarating, busy, interesting, hectic, and a completely silly year.

Now, I’m setting my sights on what I want to accomplish in 2013.

I’ve hovered around a 1:36 half for far too long. I know I can run a faster pace for 13.1 miles.

Before that happens, though, I’m looking forward to having fun in Boston in April. I don’t know what I’m capable of accomplishing just yet but if it’s a PR, it will be more than enough.

I will stay healthy and rest when my body tells me to.

I’m going to become a stronger runner in 2013.

Beyond that…who knows?!

-J

Update on the GM (Gluteus Medius)

Good ol’ gluteus medius. After putzing around last week and feeling sorry for myself, I’m feeling much more productive and “myself” this week. This can only be due to the fact that I’m actually sticking to some sort of cross-training routine and have seen the PT twice in 3 days.

Having never been to a physical therapist previously, I wasn’t sure what to expect. So far, it’s been a lot of heating pads, deep tissue massage of my left hip, and fun exercises on the pilates reformer machine. Not too shabby! Mike (Mr. PT) thinks that it’s just a matter of time before my hip lets go, the tenderness goes away, and I can begin to run strong again. I’m doing all that I can to stay active because, let’s be honest, if I’m not active I don’t know who the hell I am—not to mention the crazy pent up energy that has to be channeled in other ways.

I’m sticking to easy spinning in the dark spin room by myself (which is oddly therapeutic) and some vinyasa yoga. Today, though, Mr. PT said that he thinks that yoga is too challenging on my hips and actually has “compressed” them. I’m not shocked by this especially because of all of the deep lunge work you can do especially in the Warrior poses. On Monday, he encouraged me to continue going to yoga as an “experiment” to see how my hips would feel afterward and we decided that experiment failed. So, I’ll switch to spinning and elliptical more than anything else for the next few weeks.

On Friday or Saturday, I’m going to go for my first short “test run”. A tender gluteus medius apparently isn’t going to show itself during a run because of the range of motion used. When I first started to realize it was sore, the ache always showed up after a run. Here’s to hoping that weird ache stays away post-run on Friday!

I’ve scheduled a one-hour PT session every week for the next 3 weeks to work through the small amount of discomfort I’m dealing with. I’m on the up and up. All in all, I’m feeling confident about getting back to it soon. Until THEN, I’ll continue to wallow in retail therapy and large purchases of running gear online. What else is a girl to do?!

-J

Positivity

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I recently started reading Rainn Wilson’s book, SoulPancake, although I’m not really sure you “read” this book as much as “experience” it. It’s full of good thoughts, quotes, and questions that (yes) make you think. Winter is the perfect time to read something like that in my opinion.

I went to my first PT session last night. It sounds like after a few sessions, a couple quick targeted massages of my hip, a few days rest, and a prescribed strength program to make sure this doesn’t happen again, I’ll be “all systems go” to start Boston training. An entire week off (10 days actually… But who’s counting?!) did wonders for both my mind and body. I was stubborn and dramatic last week but I’m taking full advantage of the extra time and cross training this week. Hey, Boston, you better watch out.

-J

Why, Gluteus Medius, Whyyyy?!

On Monday this week, I decided to give myself the challenge of NOT running for a week. No one gave me this challenge. My coach didn’t tell me that it would be a good idea. I listened to what my body was telling me and (stubbornly) imposed the goal on myself.

Tuesday.

I chatted with my Coach about what I was feeling and the specific motions that made my hip hurt. We decided it was time to start asking the experts for help and schedule some physical therapy. I saw a sports med doc and he basically agreed that my outer hips are weak compared to the larger muscles that are taking on the majority of the work when I run (not surprising). The pain isn’t enough to make my stop when I’m already out for a run, but any sideways motion exacerbates the discomfort.

Prescription: Physical therapy 2-3x/week for 4-6 weeks

BOO HIP

Wednesday.

Woke up feeling like a big baby. I spent my morning pouting and wondering why this is happening to me now. I feel like I’ve been concentrating on my hip strength with the lunge matrix and Myrtl routines for the past year. I keep thinking about the timeline and how many weeks I can comfortably give myself to heal before going into Boston training. I worry that this is going to sideline me for too long and I won’t get back up to a strong training level until too late in the game. Will I beat my PR at Boston? I haven’t even been running consistently the past 2 months and I feel like I’ve given myself more than enough time to recover from Twin Cities. Basically, the question “why is this happening NOWWWWWW?!” keeps swirling around in my head.

I’m so frustrated and all I want to do is go for a run, which is the ONE thing I can’t do. I’m such a baby about all of this.

I realized today at noon that I never asked the doc if running was “allowed” (see how stubborn I am?) so I emailed him. He responded promptly with this:

This is an injury that you can continue to run with. However, it will take you longer for your pain to completely resolve. Since you have some time before dedicated training begins I would advise 10-14 days off running with cross and strength training substituted.

Poop.

After wallowing in my “sorrows” for far too long, I made my way to the gym to do a 40-minute easy spin. I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone (yes, I was still in “pout mode”). For once, I envied the people running on the dreadmill. (I know. I’m dramatic). I made my way to the empty, dark Spin Room and adjusted the bike. I climbed on, turned the tunes on, and turned over the legs. 20 minutes in & and I felt like myself again. My hip didn’t hurt. I kept the resistance low and the cadence high. I had endless entertainment as I watched people check themselves out and flex their muscles in the one-way mirror that leads to the spin room. (Note to self: NEVER do that, even if you think that there’s no one on the other side!). After 40 minutes on the bike, I spent 20 minutes on a basic core routine that skipped the side and rotating planks.

I walked home and realized that my attitude was just silly all day. Not being able to run is not the end of the world. And despite being emotional about the whole thing, I know that the pain will subside and I’ll feel stronger after a few weeks of PT.

Thursday.

I woke up this morning feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep. And one of the first thoughts that occurred to me was that I had been sleeping on my left side most of the night. The dull ache in my left hip had prevented me from flip-flopping for the past week because it was uncomfortable. Guess what? No ache. I’m inclined to think that the cycling helped move some junk out of my legs–good for the body, mind, and soul. Hello Optimism!

Neither hip hurt as I went to meetings downtown. Surprise surprise. All of that Wednesday fuss was seriously for nothing. Still, I know that I’ll have my good days and my not-so-good days while I strengthen muscles that will get me to a PR in Boston. I spent the evening in Andersonville with my mom and cousin. If I can’t treat myself to a run, I’m at least good at treating myself to delicious food and St. Lucia rolls from the Swedish bakery.

Friday.

I took a day off work today and treated myself to some pre-birthday pampering. I rarely get massages but after feeling sorry for myself and realizing that a lot of my back pain has to do with the glute muscle that is giving me problems, I decided it would be a nice treat. I walked out of that massage a brand new person. Jude at Massage Envy is a genius, a god, or a saint. He did a lot of active isolated stretching of my creaky old lady hips. It was (BY FAR) the best massage I’ve had in my entire life.  I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my mom and didn’t think about my hip for more than approximately 4 minutes the rest of the day. 🙂

Saturday.

Sleeeeeep. Sweet, glorious sleep! 4 PM rolls around, at first, I’m a bit disappointed in myself that I haven’t made it to the gym since Wednesday. What the hell—just go with it. A birthday manicure and a nap on the couch under the Christmas lights was in order. I’m good at pretending to feel guilty about not running and then realizing that’s just what I am. Thank goodness I had my birthday to look forward to and distract me all week.

Annnnnnd. TODAY! To sum it all up, I basically haven’t felt any hip pain since Tuesday. I will go to my first session of physical therapy tomorrow. I spent way too much time this afternoon deciding which yoga and spin classes to take this week, but that’s what happens when you don’t get your Sunday long run therapy. 🙂 Looking forward to nipping this in the bud and getting back to it in January!

-J

A New Challenge

I’ve been struggling with one fussy left hip the past few weeks. I can feel it ache when I lay on my left side in bed, it’s vocal during portions of easy runs, and it, in general, feels like it needs some TLC. Like most runners, I don’t like to rest. I feel like that’s all I’ve done since the Twin Cities Marathon over two months ago. My mileage is somewhat laughable and enormously inconsistent. All I want to do right now is jump into a solid training cycle and challenge myself again. My heart says yes but (right now), my body is saying no.

So, this week. I am going to NOT run. I am going to cross train and strengthen. I went to a 90 minute vinyasa yoga class during lunch today and felt incredibly challenged. Lunges that I did two days ago are still locking up my quads and there are definitely muscles that needs to lengthened and strengthened. I feel like I’m going to go stir crazy, break down, and hop on the treadmill for “just a few miles”. I don’t want to. I want my hip to be kind to me and stop bumming me out.

I foam rolled and stretched right when I woke up this morning. Foam rolling the area seems to help for a bit, but then the muscles lock up again (I sincerely hope this is a muscular issue, as opposed to a skeletal one). I’m more conscious about how I sit when I’m working. I’m hoping this is something that a deep, sports massage can take care of.

Ok, I lied. I might go for a birthday run this weekend. But it definitely won’t be the 12-13 I was hoping to log.

Self-imposed challenge accepted.

A Holiday Moment

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This is Humphrey, the Christmas tree. 

I think it’s a good name. Happy Holidays Humphrey!

This past weekend was filled with some fun holiday festivities. On Saturday, I went to the Renegade Holiday Craft Fair at the Pulaski Park Fieldhouse in Wicker Park. The summer edition of the fair on Division has become a favorite and I knew it would be a lot of fun. I managed to snag some cute gifts for my mom and sister and check a few off the list. The fieldhouse was PACKED and the upstairs rooms were pretty stuffy, but my friend Kate and I managed to cool off with a cold Woodchuck.

I envy people that have the ‘creative gene’. Some of the artists’ tables were stunning (especially the jewelry) and I resisted the urge to buy every cute paper product for sale (surprising).

The evening included a visit to the Lincoln Park ZooLights with a group of friends (including Team Run With Us!) and way too much pasta at Vapiano down the street. Last year, the group endured a temperature of 10 degrees, which is approximately 40 degrees too cold to be comfortable. This year, with the super warm temperatures in Chicago, was disorienting. Ice sculptures melting in the dark? Hot mulled spiced wine, causing muggy sweats? It was all too much for my body and mind to understand.

The holiday festivities did NOT stop there, however.

After a weird foggy Steven King-esque run along the lake last night, I was determined to track down a Christmas tree (Humphrey!) to call my own. And by ‘call my own’, I mean stick in my living room and watch it gradually dry out. But it’s so festive! It didn’t take long for us to find the absolutely weirdest looking one at a good price and decide to head to the register. At first sight, I said, ” I don’t know. It’s kind of weird lookin'”. To which, Manny replied, “I know. That’s why I like it”. Alrighty then!

It was a fun weekend. But it would have been a little less confusing if it were the standard 20-30 degrees out with snow on the ground! I’m going  to punch myself in the face if I ever read this in mid-March when the chill never leaves my bones and I dream about beaches and 90 degrees 24/7. Until then! ….I want snow.

-J