Saturday, December 27, 2014

No-bake tasty bites!

And now for something completely different. I'm bachelloretting it for the weekend, and destroying my kitchen to make tasty things is one way I like to stay busy instead of feeling lonely. I've seen recipes for protein-energy balls and bars before but never tried them myself. Until today!

This is adapted from Gimme Some Oven based on what I had in my pantry, since I can't be bothered to plan ahead. :) I'm listing the ingredients I used and not all things were measured (clearly).

1 cup quick oats
1/2 cup Justin's vanilla almond butter
1/4 cup Nutiva shelled hemp seeds
1/2 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp-ish of honey (what was left in the bottle)
2 tbsp-ish of pancake syrup to make up for the lack of honey
1 tsp vanilla extract

I stirred together the oats, almond butter, hemp seeds, chocolate chips, vanilla, and honey. Once there was a rough blend, I used my hands to see if it was sticky enough to start shaping balls. Not so much, hence the maple syrup. I added enough to reach a better consistency, then covered the bowl and put it in the fridge. I actually left it in there most of the day as I had a bunch of errands to run.

I put the bowl on the counter while I was making dinner and rolled the dough into small balls about 45 minutes later. My hodge-podge of ingredients above made 20 balls, nestled in their Ziplock home in my refrigerator. I think that if you keep to the proportions of ingredients above, you can tweak the recipe to make other yummy flavors. Nutella, cookie butter, dried fruit, chia or flax seeds, and different extract flavors (although some of those things might alter the proteiny-energy-healthy goodness).

Check your pantry and see what you can throw together! NOM.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Owning who you are

Hi there! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas (and/or another holiday you celebrate). This post was 99% written a week ago and today seems as good a time as any to post it. Hopefully...

This has been lingering in the back of my mind for a while and smacks me in the face each time I see the singlet hanging up in my closet. I kept thinking I had a good reason not to officially say anything, but I really didn't. 

Yeah, you might not consider the badge on the blog subtle. But, it isn’t the same as a post saying “Hey everyone! I’m part of this amazing group of runners, most of whom happen to be wicked fast and in shape and win/place in races but I’m neither of those things, just chubby and injured and slow.” Part of me doesn’t want to embarrass the brand. And part of me doesn’t want to embarrass myself. I get that “other people” chatter going in my head. “SHE’S associated with Oiselle?” following by mocking laughter while they run away on their 7 minute mile recovery runs.

But…right now my readership seems to be my sister and MS, so….yeah. Plus, chubby injured and slow IS the runner I am right now.  That isn’t the runner I WANT to be, nor is it the runner I have the POTENTIAL to be.  I haven’t worn the singlet in a race yet, partly because of the “I’m injured, I can participate but not race” thing and partly because I don’t want to post what chubby looks like in team gear. I am torn between being (gently) honest with who I am (and the many runners out there who might identify with that) OR continuing to leave this part of my running life out of the picture because I harbor the belief that I’d be 
embarrassing  poorly representing the Oiselle brand/exposing myself to internet ridicule (you know, for all 2 of my readers ;)).

However, becoming a part of The Flock involved no vetting. I didn’t have to run X:00 miles or win X number of races. There are several other team aspects of the brand that are specific to runners who can do those things. In my case, all I needed a passion for running, a love for the brand, and a desire to share both with as many people as possible. DONE.

Bottom line, the issue isn’t the imaginary “other people” or the Internet. The issue is how I see myself and the value judgments I place on what I see. So, what do I do about that? I’m not sure. For now, this is what I do know. Being a runner isn’t static. Being an athlete isn’t static. Being a human being is NOT static. Yes, I am the runner/athlete/human I am right now. But that isn’t the same runner/athlete/human I was two years ago. And I bet another two months from now I won’t be the same yet again. Not better, not worse, just different. 

So please allow me to introduce…myself. Flock runner. Head up, wings out. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Turkey Trot report and good news!

I feel like I phoned that last update in, guys and gals. Sorry about that. I wanted to get something up because there was much to talk about but my brain wasn't interested in been thoughtful or creative. My apologies. Here is the overdue report on the Pete Keyes Turkey Trot 5 Mile Run. I hesitate to call it a race report because I was not racing, not even close. I had been in PT for a month at this point and technically this distance was well out of reach for where my body was. It was important to me to be able to join the rest of my family at the race and I had a very clear action plan (okayed by my PT) in my head for race morning.

Normally the family treks an hour or so away from the house in NY to a local 5k turkey trot, but the addition of my nephew makes staying close to home a priority (especially when you need to leave said toddler with Grandma who is also trying to cook the Thanksgiving feast). Enter the Pete Keyes Run. It was super close to the house and it was a longer run for a killer reg fee of just $20 (long sleeve tech shirt too!).  Put on by the Triple Cities Running Club, the proceeds of this race go towards scholarships for high school runners in the triple cities area. Aside from the proximity to my house, I also loved that it was held at Otsinengo Park. I have ran in that park many times while still living in the area, so I know it well. Added bonus: the course is entirely inside the park so I didn't have to worry about wayward cars and the like.

So, race plan. It was pretty simple, logistically speaking, but the execution was a guaranteed shot to the ego. Warm up: walking briskly for about 5 minutes to get the blood flowing. Stretch those pesky calves. Once the race starts, take it easy. Snail-through-molasses easy. Walk as needed, and stop if the pain level in the Achilles or hamstring hits a 2 on the 1 to 10 scale. Yes, a 2. After the race, however far I get, do all the stretching and foam rolling I've been doing for the last month. Simple? Yes. Frustrating? You betcha. The most helpful thing was having my family there. My father, my sister, my brother-in-law and MS all ran as well. They reminded me that it was just great to be out here at all, that I’d been injured, that it was temporary, and that running smart today would pay off big tomorrow. Not that I’d say it to their faces, but they were right.

The race had a little bit of a late start, which irked me only because the temperature was in the low 20’s with wind and snow flurries, not to mention the 8 or so inches of snow that fell overnight. I wanted to get moving if for no other reason than to feel warm. Glad to finally be going, I started my Garmin (pace display covered with tape) and tried to settle in. The pavement was wet but not slick, they did a great job of keeping the course clear. I had that “I’m going to finish last” feeling, but for the first time it seemed like a real possibility. I’m not going to lie, the first mile was rough. My leg had been aching for the past few days, especially during the 7 hour car trip up from VA. I was trying to focus on the form tips given to by my PT and calm myself down.

I haven’t been sedentary since I started PT, but the elliptical and spinning alone haven’t kept my cardio level where I would like it to be and I felt it. I took a minute walk break somewhere around the end of the first mile, more to pull my head together than anything else. I wasn't experiencing much, if any, discomfort yet so I forged ahead. MS has been down for the count with a wicked case of PF, so I had (miserable) company along the way. Between mile 2 and 2.5, I started to stress again. It was taking forever and realizing I wasn't halfway yet didn't help. I haven’t had a DNF yet in my running career, and while it may be unavoidable I did not want it to happen today.

After the first mile and a half, the course becomes an out and back. Although it meant I knew exactly how much I had left to run, it also let me see the lead runners coming back and cheer on my family as they came by. Looking for people you know during a race is a good distraction if you are not having the best day. Other than that, I tried to focus on a specific form tip and the fact that I got to be out there in the first place. I don’t have to run, I get to. And on the morning of a day devoted to being with loved ones, surrounded by the incredibly beautiful sites along the trail. Pristine snow on the ground, tree branches draped in white, flurries coming down and landing on my tongue. Who in their right mind could be unhappy?

Like any good race, there was a short but steep hill within the last ½ mile. I knew it was there and I tried to maintain effort and form on the way up and over. Crowd support has appeared now, and it was greatly appreciated. I heard my Dad yelling for me and it was exactly what I needed. I didn't have a kick at all, but I tried to push a little harder because feeling strong at the finish is important to me. The time was what it was and I decided right there to let it go. I finished. I was not in pain. That’s a win in my book.

Because the race was small, the only pictures I've seen were of local race club members, not of all participants. We did snap a quick picture before the start (someone is clearly freezing).

No one was interested in lingering post-race so we piled into the cars and headed home (after a brief stop for coffee and donuts as per tradition). I stretched and rolled like a good PT patient, then showered and got ready to embrace the holiday. If I was sore later, fine (I wasn't).  I’m so relieved that it went the way it did and I’m looking forward to more runs as PT progresses.

I was going to wrap this up with a request for good thoughts as I waited to hear back on my application to be a Nuun Ambassador for 2015. As luck would have it, I didn't need to wait any longer. Behold:



We are so happy to welcome you to the Nuun family! You have been selected to represent Nuun in all of the amazing areas in which you live, work, play, and compete in.

This year we have restructured the program a bit and we're excited that you been accepted as a Nuun Ambassador within our program!

I am beyond excited (if the Facebook and Twitter posts didn't bear that out already).  I've got another post ready to go, you'll see that later today or this weekend. Early Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A quick PT update

I meant to have this up before the Thanksgiving holiday but that obviously didn't work out. How I used to blog almost every day back in 2011 is beyond me. At any rate, here is a status report on physical therapy. I have been going to see Christine at the EAC twice a week since my analysis was done back in October. I put my full trust in her, our appointments at the clinic, and the exercises I did at home every day. The Monday before Thanksgiving, November 24th, was the first reassessment and I was hoping that I'd be far enough long to participate in a turkey trot with my family on Thanksgiving Day.

Our normal routine is for me to hop up on the table and give Christine an update on things have been since the previous appointment while she pokes and probes and stretches and rubs. In addition to that she did a few tests on certain areas in order to compare the results to my initial analysis. I was able to resist more to her pressure and had improvements on degrees of motion. I was also re-tested on single leg calf raises and single leg hops. NO PAIN. That was not the case during the analysis. For me, lack of pain is huge. I have been used to sitting, standing, walking, and running with some level of pain for so long that it had become the norm. No, I wasn't running. But something that used to hurt no longer did. I was pumped, to say the least.

She put me through a series of exercises that we've done in the past and aside from muscle soreness from doing the work, I was still pain-free. My sessions at home on the elliptical have also become increasingly easier, and I am confident that it is direct result of physical therapy. Christine told me to enjoy the turkey trot with my family, get in a sold warm-up, and be smart. I had no problem committing to taking it easy, focusing on my form changes during the run, and being willing to pull the plug if I reached a 2 on the pain scale. I was also hoping that the joy of being with my family and having running shoes on my feet would carry me through.

So...this post is going up a week into December. How did the race go? Stayed tuned :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

On being an emotional athlete

I want to kick off today’s post with a quote from one of my favorite elite runners:  

"We don’t always get what we want.  Sometimes we work so hard, only to stumble. But our hard work is not lost. The work we do happened and although we may not have been able to show it on the day we hoped, it will be realized later on. " Kara Goucher, post-NYC Marathon 2014.

A lot has been said, and continues to be said, about Kara’s emotional nature and her unconventional re-entry into elite racing. Her tearful interview immediately following a difficult NYC Marathon showing either broke your heart or made you squirm in your seat. Personally, I found it refreshing. Athletes are human beings, not robots, and not products being churned out by a sponsor. I am glad that I don’t get the same canned response normally seen during a post-race interview. 

I appreciate her honesty and I think it makes her more approachable to fans and fellow athletes. If being emotional about your life’s passion is a weakness, then I feel for all those who just put their head down and run. I don’t see their commitment as clearly. I don’t feel their anxiety, joy, or disappointment. We as fans of the sport love to see joy following triumph. But sadness after a dream denied? Move long. 

If sponsors want fans to buy their shit engage with and root for their newest darling particular athlete, the first thing they should be concerned with is showing us that they are human beings. I don’t want to hear the finish places of their previous 5 races this year. I want to hear about the work they have been putting in when no one but their coach is watching. The missteps and the imperfections along the way. That is what makes me care about the outcome of your race today and the races you aspire to run in the future. None of us is foolish enough to believe the path to the start line was sunshine and rainbows.

It wouldn't surprise me if someone out there disagrees with me. It is, after all, only my opinion. The opinion of a back of the pack runner who won’t stand on a podium or qualify for certain race entries. Perhaps that means I am not aware of proper elite athlete behavior. Or what a sponsor or coach prefers is said or not said. But in a time of almost unfettered access to anyone through social media, it is getting increasingly harder for athletes to remain separated from the sport and its followers.

Unfortunately, I only need to spend five minutes watching SportsCenter to get the latest in athletes behaving badly. I’d rather spend those five minutes watching Kara or Rinny or Meb laugh, cry, and generally share with me what that race felt like in that moment. I think we can relate to those race moments on some level and have that “me too” feeling. Whether it was the urge to walk or cry or quit, runners of all levels have been there and I find it comforting to know that it happens to the best of us, not just the “meh” of us. I carry that with me on the trail, in the gym, and at the physical therapy clinic. Highs and lows, joys and sorrows. Me too. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Run analysis recap

Earlier this week I had an appointment at the Endurance Athlete Center (EAC) for a run analysis. This was something that was long overdue but something I was in no position to afford for quite some time. Additionally, I knew that whatever information I learned from the analysis would most likely require some follow up appointments (PT, etc.), which I also lacked funds or health insurance to afford. Now that I am more gainfully employed I'm in a better financial position to focus on my health. YAY! After an amazing sports massage (thanks, Mom!) from Scott in early October I knew that having this analysis was the smart next step if I was truly committed to healing my banged up body and becoming a stronger runner. Three short weeks later, I was sitting with Kerri Kramer to kick off my two hour analysis.

A little background on the EAC. They are actually a mashup of several companies (Fast Track Physical Therapy, Functional Fitness VA, Strong Foundations, and Rise Above Cycles) working together to provide a myriad of services (massage, physical therapy, personal training, podiatry, and nutrition, to name a few) to endurance athletes. Triathletes, runners, cyclists, swimmers, and adventure runners comprise a large part of their clientele, but any person engaging in an active lifestyle can benefit from what the EAC offers.

Working in a local running store and being a member of the greater NoVA running community has exposed me to a large number of health professionals and runners who have been treated by them. What led me to choose the EAC is two-fold. One, the multidisciplinary approach/one-stop shop nature of the organization. Two, they specialize in endurance athletes and most of the staff are endurance athletes themselves. This means they not only know how to treat my kind of athlete, they also understand exactly how we think and feel. No, we don't want to stop swimming/running/biking. Yes, we'll do whatever we can to keep moving forward. They know the frustration and disappointment that comes from a DNF, a DNS, or just an interrupted training schedule. In short, they GET IT. I think that experience is what helps the staff of the EAC connect with their clients on a critical level. Health and happiness for an endurance athlete are inseparable.

So, a run analysis. This two hour session is broken up into two parts, an assessment of your body's flexibility, strength, and range of motion, followed by a slow motion video analysis of your body in running motion. Up first, the assessment. I sat with Kerri while she reviewed my health history (both running-related and general). We talked about previous injuries and treatments, what was going on right now, and what my running goals are for the next 6 months or so. We talked about my current exercise routine (weekly mileage, days per week, etc). Nothing about this was rushed; she listened to every piece of information I had to provide (relevant or otherwise) and asked plenty of questions while taking copious notes. Next up was a check on what my body is and is not currently doing. She observed me in several positions or motions (touching my toes, doing one-legged squats and jumps, among other things). She manipulated several extremities/joints to examine my range of motion and flexibility. She also performed several muscle-specific strength tests focusing on my calves, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hips (adductors and abductors.) All the while Kerri was taking notes, making measurements, talking about degrees and letting me know how my body stacked up to a healthy running body.

As we wrapped up this portion of the analysis she stated that she had some ideas as to what was going on with me (specific to my issues of tight calves, Achilles pain, and high hamstring pain) but wanted to review the videos we'd make next before showing me her hand. Before putting me through the motions she put a bright strip of tape vertically on the back side of my running shoes and two strips of tape horizontally on my backside side. This meant I had the pleasure of running with my shirt tucked into my compression shorts so it didn't cover the tape. I looked pretty hot, trust me. Kerri recorded 5 short videos of me running. Three were on the treadmill and two were outside. For the treadmill videos I walked for a few minutes to warmup and was then instructed to settle into my comfortable long run pace. Once I was in a groove, she started recording. The first video was a side view of me on the treadmill, the second was a rear view, and the third was a front view. We then headed outside to the parking lot. Kerri stood to my left side, halfway down the lot and instructed me to run down past her to the end of the lot and then run back. She captured a brief video each time.

Now, the painful truth. We went back inside and sat down together at her laptop while she plugged in the camera and pulled up each video to view in excruciatingly (to me) slow motion. My first reaction? Stop eating bagels. And other things. Yikes. Luckily, Kerri's insights were more relevant and useful. I will include pictures (not of me) as I describe some of this information. First, my footstrike. I don't crash down on the back of my heel, but I still overstride (see example below). This is impacting my cadence. I am averaging approximately 156 and should be closer to the "ideal" 180. I am also "sitting back" in my run. I couldn't find a good picture of what this means, but it involves an anterior pelvic tilt. More on that momentarily.

From the rear view (and by far the LEAST flattering), we learned a lot about my not so sweet hip action. The bright yellow tape on my black shorts ratted me out. I've got a left hip drop going on. Many of the descriptions of this that I have read use a lot of terms that I don't understand (like sagittal plane and cantilevered side). In short, this means that certain muscles (like my abductors or glute meds) aren't firing. This could be a muscular or neural issue. Or both. Regardless, by continuing to run without correcting what is going on, overuse injuries often result.

The rear view also showed excess cross-motion in my upper body (my arms cross in front of my body and my torso twists side to side). This is wasted energy that, once corrected, will improve my running speed and economy. The front view was not remarkable, I do appear to be running with my feet an acceptable width apart (which I knew solely based on the fact that I used to kick my inner ankle bones during a run and don't anymore). The outside videos confirmed what we saw on the treadmill. I truly did look like I was sitting in my run. My upper body down to my butt was behind the rest of me. I wish I could describe it better, as it is a really weird position to see. I was still overstriding and still had that pesky anterior pelvic tilt. 

This pelvic issue may be the main contributor to both my high hamstring pain and my Achilles pain (when combined with the overstriding). This is where you will have to use your imagination and refer to the previous pictures in order to "see" what I'm talking about. When my leg is extended forward my hamstring and my Achilles are being stretched. The overstride (picture number one) means both are being stretched more than they should. Add in the anterior pelvic tilt (picture three) and you get the high hamstring pain (picture four below). The top of my hamstring is being stretched upward behind me (due to the tilt) when my leg is mid-stride. At the same time it is being stretched downward in front of me (due to the overstride). Not cool.

All this excess also tweaks my tight calves (both the soleus and gastroc shown in picture 5) and my Achilles tendon. My pain is at the mid-part of the Achilles (see picture 6 below) and has reached the tendonosis stage. Same with my hamstring.



OK, but what do I DO with all this information? First, all the soft tissue work and manipulation in the world is not going to fix the root problem(s). If you have not been following along, the big problems are the overstride, the hip drop, and the anterior pelvic tilt. Kerri's goal, and the goal of the EAC, is NOT to make me run a certain way or like someone else. The idea is to tweak my run so it is the best it can be. With that in mind, Kerri outlines a game plan.

This might be the point where you think she's going to give me the hard sell on months of physical therapy and new-fangled toys or contraptions I need to own and use every day until the end of time. You would be wrong. Based on what was going on with me, what my goals are, and my current fitness (aka this will be different for each individual), the plan was straightforward, simple, and completely doable. No, I don't have to stop running. No, I won't be in PT for 6 months. Yes, I will run my half marathon in December. I volunteered to do all my workouts for the next two weeks on the elliptical or spin bike just to give my body a jump start on healing (and because I want to run a 5 mile turkey trot on Thanksgiving with my family) and she was down with that.

Kerri outlined a series of drills/exercises/stretches for me to do every day for the time being. They include an ungodly number of single leg squats in two different ways. For the next 8 weeks I will come to the clinic 2 days a week for a little one on one time. She suggested two days a week so that I (or my body) wouldn't forget the exercises between appointments. I should notice a difference in the pain level within a week or two, and we should see gains in speed a few weeks after that, including changes in my form on the videotape.

I love how uncomplicated this plan is. I also love that she didn't sugarcoat anything or go all doom and gloom on me. I love that she was committed to getting me to be the best runner I can be and seemed genuinely interested in my progress. After we went over the plan, we had about 15 minutes left and she used that time to work on my Achilles a little bit, since a few of the test exercises earlier in the session caused some pain. I'm looking forward to doing the work and I have confidence in how it is all going to come together. My first appointment is at 7 a.m. tomorrow morning. Yes, 7 a.m. on a Monday morning. Gotta do what you gotta do and I can't afford to take any time away from work. I'll provide updates as things progress.

A few things before I wrap this up. First, the EAC didn't ask me to write this post. In fact, I don't think they even know I have a blog. I went in there as a runner who needed help. Second, each person going in for a run analysis will have a different experience based on their sport, their current health and so much more. This is just my personal experience. If you live in the greater DC area and are curious about how to make your run better, make that lingering ache go away, or just want to learn more about how run analysis works, please contact the EAC. Any of the misuse of anatomy terms or physical therapy techniques is mine. I made a few notes at the end of the session but otherwise relied on my memory (and the Internet) for the rest.

Have any of you had a run analysis or something similar done before? Is it something you would consider doing? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Managing expectations

I've had a few different posts bouncing around my head these past few weeks. My datebook has post-it notes with these little ideas and half-thoughts sticking out of it in hopes that I don’t forget anything I wanted to say. If you hadn't noticed, I’ll point out that there are two new pages on this blog. For some reason those were easier for me to write and post than a traditional entry. I’d love your feedback on both. I have plans for another page or two, all in good time.

With that housekeeping business handled, I’ll get right into what has been occupying my brain space. Expectations. What are they, who has them, and how do I manage them. For the most part I think that the major expectations in my life come directly from me, on a variety of subjects. Most commonly, of course, is running. I think part of my issue with having expectations is what happens if you fail to meet them. I am absolutely my own worst critic and I know that is why I have not been particularly open with some of my more recent running-related goals or actions.

I have gotten better at becoming more realistic with my expectations, and that is crucial. It is possible to dream big, believe in your potential, and still be realistic (given your current life circumstances) about what is achievable. This doesn't end once you set a goal or a desired outcome specific to that goal. As you begin to take steps to reach your goal, it is imperative that you reflect and reevaluate along the way. Life can throw so many things on our path, whether it be related to work, family, or physical health, and all of those things can impact meeting those pesky expectations.

I’ll give you the example that has been dogging me for months. I have set my eye on completing my first 50k. It has been on my radar since early winter 2012. The original plan was to train for the 2nd marathon (scheduled for March 2013), take a week or two to recover, and then tack on another 8 weeks or so of workouts that would maintain my fitness until the 50k the first weekend of June. It seemed logical at the time. I was in a supervised marathon training program and had a solid 50k training plan that overlapped with the end of the marathon cycle. I had the time to devote to training. The race was local, which eliminated a lot of stressors. What I didn't plan on was how lackluster my marathon training turned out to be (100% on me) and how not fun running was by April 2013. It felt like a chore. I didn't want to run. Period. It wasn't fun. I made the call (days before the race) to back out. I was angry and frustrated with myself.

Because I so completely missed that goal, I was humiliated. Most of my friends and extended social circle knew that I was registered for that race. It was awful. The race organization was incredibly gracious and let me transfer to another 50k event later in the year but that did little to ease the sting. I did not start to get my running mojo back until later in the summer, at which point I was starting from scratch. I wanted to run but my body was reminding me what time off meant to my fitness. It didn't take long for me to realize that the 50k wasn't going to happen in 2013, period. I struggled through Ragnar in late September and then threw in the towel. It was the smart thing to do, particularly since my body began rebelling in October and has been doing so ever since. 

My first mistake was not honestly reflecting on the likelihood of meeting my goal given the change in circumstances. I didn't want to accept that not racing meant that I had failed. Thinking about it now, I don't think that missing the race a second time was a failure. I think not listening to my body and being realistic about what I was physically and mentally capable of was a failure of sorts. Honestly, I didn't really embrace that truth until a few weeks ago. It took me a YEAR. In that time I took on a coach and tried to force my body to cooperate when it wasn't ready and I didn't have all the tools to do it the right way. I'd like to say that with this new perspective the third time would be the charm for this 50k. Not so much. 

I'm participating in the race series in December, but at the half marathon distance. By no means am I letting go of my 50k goal. No way. But I'm going to be a bit more cautious in my approach, be realistic about what I am capable of, and continually reflect along the way. When the time comes for me to make that leap, I am going to crush it. I know that I am not alone in struggling with expectations in training and racing. There have been times when I have made it to race day and not had the performance I hoped for. While I didn't like the discomfort of it, I did sit down (after a brief pity party) and look at what went wrong. Most of it had been under my control. I'm not saying that you can't be upset or disappointed when a race goes awry. You absolutely can; that is totally human. What you can't do is ignore the role you may have played in the outcome. If you do, the odds are that you'll make those mistakes again. And again. 

This isn't rocket science. But because it requires us to look at ourselves honestly (and without judgment), we tend to get uncomfortable. It isn't fun. There are plenty of reasons not to do it and plenty of external factors to lay the blame upon. Remember that running doesn't have feelings. It won't pout if you cross-train one day a week instead of hit the road. Running doesn't judge you, you judge you. Managing expectations is all about the end game and I think that runners of all people can understand that. We've got long-sighted covered. If you can, take a moment today to think of an expectation you have of yourself or you believe that someone else has of you. Without judgment, consider if it is fair/honest/reasonable. It doesn't have to be running related, just give it a shot. I took me a year to get this concept through my head, but it has been beyond worth it. Trust me. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Falling down

It is no secret that running is continually providing each of us with lessons that extend beyond the trail. Even when we hit the road to escape whatever ails us, we often come back with clarity, perspective, and the resolve to get up again tomorrow. Sometimes, however, the running experience is a bit more literal.

Case in point, Saturday July 26th. Mississippi and I joined a friend, J, on a trip to Old Rag. Neither of us had been before and were excited to finally check it out. Given that J is currently prepping to climb Mt Rainier and has done Old Rag approximately 1,000 times, we thought he was the perfect lead. Also, we were lucky he let us crash his day because we pretty much invited ourselves.

An early alarm, some mandatory coffee, and a short car ride later we were there. Although it was my second trip to the Sperryville area, I forgot how close it really was. Good thing, as the parking lot was already filling with lots of other eager hikers. For no other reason than sheer curiosity, I hit start on my Garmin. We let J set the pace since he's the one getting the workout in and knows what to expect on the trail. If nothing else, Mississippi and I figured we'd get a reality check on our fitness level. It didn't take long.

I liked all the switchbacks on the ascent and we had a good sweat going in no time. I'd be lying if I said that my trouble spot wasn't bothering me, but it wasn't anything I couldn't easily ignore. We stopped now and again to admire the view and take in fluids. The rock scrambling was, for the moment, my favorite part. I can't remember the last time I used all those muscles and all the endorphins made me so happy to be outside and unplugged.  After a few false summits (thanks, J, such a tease), we were at the top. 4 miles on the dot. The views were wonderful and the weather was perfect.

Cue customary photos of happy hikers:

The 5 miles back down to the parking lot were much easier on the legs. No scrambling and less steep, at least. I knew ahead of time that there was a fire road involved and wore my NB1210s with the intention of running the last mile or two down that road to the car in order to see how trail running felt on tired legs. I also wanted to see how trail running felt on my constantly sore tendony parts. With NFEC on the horizon I wanted any kind of sign that it might be physically possible. Enter this:

I honestly didn't know it was happening until after it happened. The road was mostly downhill but nothing steep and not particularly technical. I was cruising right along and grinning like an idiot. It had been so long since I'd be outside running on a trail, I was just so grateful. It couldn't have been more than 20 seconds from falling to being up and running down the trail again. Like a real winner the first thing I checked was my Garmin. Not broken. Nothing was gushing blood either. The closest first aid was the car and my hiking partners were a ways behind me still walking, so it just seemed logical to shake it off and finish the run. Oh, and ask a total stranger to take the lovely photo above once I finished.

So, the metaphor part.  We all fall down. Often and over again. The lesson is in getting back up and moving forward. Yes, apparently my gut instinct was to hop up and finish what I started. But this wasn't always the case. Had this exact fall happened a year or six months ago, the outcome would have been very different yet still 100% under my control. I would have sat there and cried. Blamed the trail and its wayward rocks. Called myself clumsy, stupid, and a laundry list of other oh so flattering adjectives. Told myself to quit running because I clearly suck at it and would only continue to embarrass myself if I kept training. Not to mention the epic humiliation sure to befall me on race day. 

I can't tell you exactly why that didn't happen this time. I wish I could. What I do know is how badly I want to finish my first ultra. That I believe that I am 100% capable of doing so. That one bad run doesn't represent me or my worth as a runner. That trails are inherently more dangerous than paved roads and this fall will not be the last one I take. I'm glad that I fell. I'm even happier that my brain didn't think for a second about anything other than GETTING UP. I don't think the smile ever left my face. 

When you want something bad enough, when it means just that much to you, nothing else matters. I don't need anyone else to believe that I can do this. Or anything else I want to accomplish in life (oh hi, Masters degree). Sure, supportive friends and family are incredible but they are not a given. Nor will they be able to do any of the WORK that needs to be done to get you there. You run the miles. You lift the weights. You rise to the early alarm. You fall down. You are also the only one who can get you back up. 

So, in that moment. On that day, when it comes. Because it will. When you fall, get up. Run on. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pushing the RESET button

And then walking away for well over a year.

I've had a post started, either in my head or on this computer, for months. The more time that passes the more I struggle with what to write. So much can happen in fifteen months time, both as an athlete and in my everyday life. At some point I had to accept that recapping that block of time is just not possible. Nor does it have to be.

All of the experiences I had during that time have and will continue to influence each day of my life going forward. As the pieces come together I am sure that stories from those missing months will make their way onto this page. Frankly, sitting here spinning my wheels and hemming and hawing about what to say just wastes my time. As an expert in wasting my own time, I can't continue to encourage such useless behavior.

So. July 2014. Almost August, actually. How time can simultaneously fly by and drag its heels, I have no idea. Right now I'm trying to get lingering tendonitis in my left calf/ankle/foot to GTFO so I can train the way my body wants and needs to. Best guess is posterior tibial tendonitis, but the label is less important than the treatment. For a few different reasons I am currently treating it myself. Treating is probably too strong a word since I have no medical skills to speak of. Rather, I am acting on the advice of medical professionals to do what I can on my own to heal, become stronger, and get back out there.

This is a conglomeration of things. Rest. Stretch. Drill. CROSSTRAIN. And because nothing exists in a vacuum, I am also working on nutrition, motivation, and mental toughness. An injury is a 24/7 exercise in mental toughness, for sure. Being able to control the controllables and letting go of the rest is crucial. It helps eliminate background noise and clarifies what I really to focus on. A narrowed focus also helps with motivation, no question. Adios extraneous crap! Don't let my foot kick you in the ass on the way out!

I'll get more specific in posts to come. Workout recaps. Introductions of awesome people (big and small!) that rock my socks. Race goals. All that good stuff. For now, I'll just brush off the dust and say hi! Or, welcome! Or, thanks for staying/returning! I missed you.