Monday, September 30, 2013

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all

Hello, I’m Kristen. I used to blog here regularly and then sporadically after I sprained my ankle in April. And then I went radio silent in May when my ankle didn’t heal as fast as I wanted it to (in time for a spring marathon). So now it’s October. I’ve been injured this whole time, not running, at times barely exercising, and I’m now back with my first post. We are all caught up!

It’s NOT just a sprain.

I didn’t think my ankle sprain was a big deal because it never swelled and there was no twist, trauma, or point when I knew I injured it during that fateful run back in April.

But a sprain can be a 6 to 18 month injury. That’s a major injury. It took me all summer to learn this lesson. And before I did . . .

A series of setbacks plagued my recovery: 
  1. I did a trail run 2 weeks after the initial sprain caused re-sprain. Genius!
  2. My physical therapist burned (froze?) me with ultrasound massage on my ankle.
  3. I allowed myself to carry a bad attitude for a long time. I stopped stretching, rolling, and doing stability exercises. I was also streaky with cardio and weights.  
  4. I ran 2 days in a row, 6 miles then 4 miles. Running only 1 or 2 miles was pissing me off, and I had decided it was time to be fully recovery. Ankle was not on board.
  5. I lifted too heavy during weight training workouts for legs.
  6. I ran 3 miles and then did 60 minutes of stair climber for (7 miles of stairs) on consecutive days. Too much impact.
  7. I continued to use the stair climber.
After learning the very hard way, I’m finally back on track to recovery and taking my recovery seriously. I’m not getting pissed off about lifting light weights, or running only a few miles at a time, or at doing ridiculously easy balancing exercises. I’m stretching, rolling, and doing stability exercises daily. And I’m finally making some progress.

And, more importantly, I’m excited to run again, even if it is only 2 or 3 miles at a time, every other day, only on the treadmill, at a gym without air conditioning.

So after all this time, I finally said something nice about running.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Things I Have and Have Not Been Doing

(1) Not running. I am on day 6 of my hip flexor strain recovery. It is much better, but not 100% and I do not want to start running on it until I'm confident it won't make it worse. First cross-training day is today!

(2) Trying new stuff and taking pictures of it. Below is me trying a Twinkie for the first time.

 Not sure what I expected, but I wasn't super blown away by them.

(3) Not running. Giving me the sadz.

(4) Getting my citizenship on! I took my oath this week to become a brand spankin' new American!

Does this mean I have to like twinkies now?

(6) Traveling to fancy places for work, and enjoying the view of downtown Manhattan upon flying "home" to NYC

(6) Seriously if I don't get to run soon I might clobber someone.

(7) Having lovely citizenship-celebratory dinners with my hubbo.

(8) Realizing that I've almost been through all five stages of a runner's injury grief in the span of 1 week, and I probably just need to chill out. I'll be running soon, so I can stop being quite so dramatic. In the meantime, I might take up knitting. Or baking. Something better than a Twinkie.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2013 Philadelphia RnR Half Marathon Recap

On Sunday I ran the Philadelphia RnR Half marathon. This is my second time at this race; I ran it as my goal half marathon last year, and loved it. Its a beautiful course, the spectators are wonderful and the weather is usually great. This year was no exception.

A couple of weeks ago, I was aiming for a 1:30:xx goal in this race. After a couple of great key workouts, my fitness seemed to indicate I could pretty comfortably aim for a sub 1:30 this time around, so that became my "A-goal". Long story short, I didn't quite make this goal, but came bloody close, and didn't kill myself doing so.

The day before I took a bus down to Philly from NYC. I ate a granola bar on the bus, oatmeal at Starbucks when I arrived, then met with a friend for my traditional french toast lunch at the Black Sheep.

 Sorry, it kinda looks gross all half-eaten like that. It looked much prettier when there was double that toast, with a big pile of fresh fruit. Ate it all except the banana sauce stuff (didn't like) and only a little bit of the maple syrup.

The rest of the afternoon, I chowed down on the ridiculous number of freebies I scored at the expo (all "payment" for how aggravated I was that, after picking up your race packet, you have to walk through several labrynthian miles of expo in order to find the meagerly sign-posted exit...).

After my snack attack, I went for a short 2 mile shake-out jog, feeling pretty good, though knowing that my hip flexor was tight and my groin a tiny bit ouchy.

I then went out to grab some dinner, and caught this pretty little snap of the main strip and capitol building (?) in Philly:

For dinner I ate steamed shrimp, a little broccoli and about 1 cup of steamed white rice... followed by some peanut butter cups. All in all, I think I had more junk food that day than I have consumed in the last six months combined. Sometimes junk is what the bod wants.

Next morning, up at 5am, with a 1/2 cup of oatmeal, a banana, a gatorade and a couple of cups of coffee. Did the bathroom thang, and felt surprising good and not weighed down by all my junk-loading the day prior.

Also took a couple of selfies for blog.

Hey Self!
Not sure what I was going for with the side shot here. Look at my shoes? Legs ready to run?

Got to the race around 7am, and got in a queue for the porta-potties. After waiting 40 minutes, it became apparent that the line was not moving, so I jogged around and found a gas station where a few runners were waiting in line to use the bathroom. Perfect!

Except the very next girl to finish up in the bathroom, locked the keys inside. And the gas station manager didn't have any other keys. To the bathroom. Outside of which, about 10 very anxious and pee-needy runners were waiting.

By this stage it was about 7:45 and I was nervous about getting into my corral on time. So I went up to two speedy looking ladies in front of me and said something like: "Are you ladies interested in a tripartite-public-peeing-cover-up situation?" A resounding "yes" followed. So the three of us sidled up to some parked cars in the lot, and ducked behind them, keeping watch for each other. Of course, it wasn't until I stood up that I realized the gas station manager was able to see me the entire time. And was presently yelling at us for peeing behind the cars at his gas station.

Not my finest hour, I must admit, but a runners gotta do what a runners gotta do.

After Gas-Station-Bathroom-gate-2013, I did another brief jog and some strides. Hip flexor still not feeling 100% but I thought it would be fine. Jumped into Corral 1 with the sweet Megan and some of the other Central Park Track Team girls who were also aiming for a sub-90 half.

And off we went. My childhood friend Rory, had advised me to pace in the 6:50s for the first half, perhaps a little below that in the second and then to push the pace in the final 5k. For the first time ever, I actually followed my pacing plan.

Miles 1-5: 6:57, 6:37, 6:59, 6:51, 6:52. These miles clicked along easily.  It was difficult to gauge how fast I was going because (a) it felt so easy! and (b) in the city center the GPS gets all wacky. But I was happy with these splits. And my pictures tell the tale of feeling pretty comfortable.

 Miles: 6-10: 7:00, 6:46, 6:53, 6:47, 6:47.  I think the 7:00 was when I was telling myself to go easy on the pace and also when I was trying to choke down my Gu. The rest of these miles I just focused on keeping an even cadence. I know what my turnover should feel like at around 6:50 pace, so I just concentrated on that, and my breathing, to pace myself. I was very conscious of not pushing it too hard, as every other of my half-marathons I've really conked out in the last 2-3 miles.

Still feeling pretty comfy.
Miles: 11-13: 6:36, 6:40, 6:39 and 6:18 for the last 0.32. Here is where I turned on a bit of music, and concentrated on dialing up the speed. I wanted to start to feel uncomfortable, but not red-line - a very difficult thing to gauge in those final miles. At any moment I was expecting to hit the wall... but thankfully didn't.

Well, until I began running at my 5K pace for that last half mile, on the only significant uphill of the race. Which is also where my pain-place-face came to the party.

Look away! Look away!
I won't even show you the finish line photos. Suffice to say I looked like I reeeally wanted to be at the finish line.

So the end results:

Garmin times: 1:30:24, for 13.32 miles,  6:47 avg pace.

Gun times:

As you can see from the pace discrepancy between Garmin and gun, I ran 0.22 miles over the course, which represents probably a minute over time (typically I run about 0.1 over in a HM). Obviously running the tangents is part of any race, but on a course with a lot of turns, and a lot of people, this wasn't easy to do. That said, everything else about the race was perfect (weather, nutrition etc.) and there is always at least one thing about any race that you could blame those 23 seconds on!

Anyway, yes I'm a little bit disappointed that I didn't quite make the sub 1:30. But my real wins for the day were (1) finally mastering a pacing strategy; and (2) breaking through a mental barrier by running 13 miles at a 6:47 pace. I theoretically knew it was possible from my workouts, but never quiiiite believed it. Here's proof!

Finally, (3) I didn't want push myself to the absolute limit in this race as I'm still training for my ultimate marathon goal.  I'm pretty sure I met that goal; in the two days post-race, (and apart from an almost expected strained hip flexor, which I hope will clear up in a week or two) my legs and feet feel like I barely even ran a tempo on Sunday.

So for now, I'm resting up, hoping to get back into marathon training, prepping for the ING Hartford HM in four weeks, and Philly in nine!

~ Penny

P.S. I really have to give a shout-out to Jake and Andrea, who I met through the fastrunningblog and their own blog, Wasatch and Beyond. They are some amazing runners, but even nicer people. They are incredibly encouraging, and have provided some great insight and wisdom on running, both to me and tons of other novice runners. Go read them!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Look Who I Found!

My other little runner is still alive! And lookin quite perty might I add.

When we're not working our lawyerly tails off, and not running, we will almost definitely be eating. 

Last night we tried out the Oyster Bar in Grand Central. 

We had three different types and I have no idea which ones were which, but they were all delicious. 

Next was a squid salad. High iron meals for the win! 

Finally we tried Sea Urchin ice cream. Because it was on the menu and, you know, it sounds amazing. 

It wasn't.

Initially its fine, right up until about 1.8 seconds after you swallow it, and you are left with an aftertaste roughly approximating that of an old wetsuit you left in the garage, in amongst mothballs and lost dreams of being a pro-surfer one day. 

And of course we found time to imbibe O' Ye Elixir of Life. At a new favorite spot, Macchiato on 43rd st and Lexington. 

To possibly be continued with a different type of imbibing on Sunday night! 

~ Penny

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Philly, the Skookle and My Best Workouts

This week I got sent to Philly and Pittsburgh for work. Weirdly (for a foreigner) I actually have quite a lot of friends in PA, and so happily had some people to catch up with... and pick the brains of, concerning the best running routes in those cities.

Unfortunately I didn't get any time to run in Pittsburgh, but in Philly I was told about the Schuylkill River Trail that runs right through the city. FUN FACT: Schuylkill is actually pronounced skoo-kel. Weird. Anyway, the trail itself actually reminded me of the Yarra River Trail in Melbourne; a double-lane, dual-use trail, running along the river for mile upon uninterrupted mile. Just lovely.

I got two wonderful runs in along the trail; an easy-10 miler and an 11 miler including a half-marathon specific workout. It was kinda motivating running along the same road I will be running in a week's time for the RnR half!

Now speaking of workouts, I gotta say, I'm quite excited to recap my training the last two weeks. Save for two complete suffer-fests of long runs, I think I've actually been running the best I ever have.

August 25-31, 2013
Sunday: 20 miles at 8:30 avg pace (not counting tons of stops). Horrible, awful, no good, terrible. The weather was about 75 degrees but the humidity was quite high. Miles 16-20 were particularly nasty. I had planned to eat a particularly carb-y dinner the night before, which hadn't worked out, and so was also acutely under-fueled and dehydrated. Not pretty.
Monday: rest
Tuesday: 9 miles, treadmill, 1.5%. From one extreme to the other. Ate two pieces of cake at work, before a run-lunch, and after getting over the initial imminent cake-vom feeling, I felt like I was going to fly off the treadmill. Kept it at an easy 8:30 pace + leg workout (3 x 20 squats (40lb); 15 standing lunges (30lb); 15 side lunges (no weight); 15 single leg deadlifts (17.5lb) and 15 leg extensions on machine (cant remember weight)).
Wednesday: 8 miles easy, around 8:30 with 10x100m strides
Thursday: XT - 50 mins on elliptical  + yoga
Friday: 10 miles, with 2x3 miles at HM pace, 1 mile jog recovery. Was totally stoked with this one as I have never completed this workout without stopping. Splits were: 6:59, 6:57, 6:44 (8:58 recovery) 6:52, 6:50, 6:43. It was really warm/humid, but I got it done.
Saturday: 8 miles very easy + planks and arm workout
Total: 56 miles

September 1-7, 2013
Sunday: 18 miles at 8:24 avg pace, with 1 mile (16) at MP (7:19). I was going to do the last two more miles up tempo, but couldn't. The entire run was brutal; 82 degrees and about 85% humidity. Had plenty of fuel, stopped many many times for water but I just couldn't beat the heat.
Monday: Walked around Coney Island and got on a few roller coasters. That counts as speedwork, right??
Tuesday: 9 miles at 8:17 avg pace
Wednesday: 10 miles easy at 8:09 avg pace. Weather in Philly turned cool (65 degrees and no wind)... such a beautiful releif.
Thursday: 11 miles with 6x1 mile repeats at HM pace, 3:30 mins jogging recoveries (between 8:30-9:00 pace, no stopping). Splits: 6:48; 6:38; 6:45; 6:34; 6:37; 6:34
A note on this workout. I did this before NJ Marathon earlier this year, and wasn't even coming close to these speeds. Its probably the most successful speed/lactate threshold workout I've ever done. I had not eaten anything that morning, but I'm betting that the 800 calories of pure carbs I consumed after dinner probably had something to do with it. I tried to slow down in that third mile, but I just kept banging out that pace as though it was nothing. I almost thought my garmin was malfunctioning!

Its fun to compare these two HM workouts with the same from earlier this year. In April I did 2x3 miles at HM pace, and finished with a 7:02 avg (last week I finished with a 6:50 avg). In March I did the same 6x1mile repeats at HM pace with longer recoveries, and averaged only 6:55 pace (last week averaged 6:39 min miles). Big difference! 

Friday: 40 mins easy elliptical
Saturday: a.m. 7 miles easy at 8:40 avg pace; p.m. 30 mins easy elliptical + leg strength workout
Total: 55 miles

This week I'm doing a mini-taper. The beauty of doing an 18-week marathon plan, has been that I have been able to schedule a couple of races in the middle, and not be stressed (I do get a little OCD with training plans) that I'm missing any significant amount of training for November 17. In fact this is the first time I have actually sketched out a planned season of racing, rather than just a single race.

You're totally engrossed by that fun fact, I'm sure.

Anyways, I'll be back next week with a race recap and hopefully a shiny new half PR!

~ Penny