March training

March ended in a whirlwind of travel for a conference and family visits, some wild weather, and a little hamstring trouble that changed my training plans from high mileage and fast workouts to a couple weeks of focused glute/core/hamstring work and easy running. With all the chaos and unexpected hamstring trouble I still managed a little under 160 total miles, or just over 5 miles a day on average, giving me plenty of miles to enjoy the experience of running on new and home-town trails.

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The adventure of mid-late March started the Saturday before last, as I stepped groggily from the crowded, air-conditioned airport and into the startling mid-day San Diego sunlight, poster tube in hand and suitcase full of conference and running clothes, ready to enjoy a change of working and running scenery.

I was excited to attend my first Orthopaedic Research Society meeting (which turned out to be AMAZING!) and was also appreciating the change to escape the chill of the mountains for the warmth of the southern California coast.

My first run from my hotel the afternoon of my arrival did not disappoint – I sweated through 13 meandering miles exploring the nearby Balboa Park, taking in the shimmer of the happy green plants and the sweet scents of the flowering trees. The difference from the bare branches and grey, muddy fields back home was an enjoyable surprise!

After three solid days of air-conditioned long-run recovery spent absorbing (or at least trying to absorb!) a steady stream of orthopedics basic-science knowledge, research presentations, and new names and faces, I escaped into the overcast, humid outdoors of downtown San Diego for a more physically challenging activity.

I’d been lucky to find the San Diego Track Club online prior to my trip, and decided to check out the free Tuesday workout, which is open to visitors as well as club members.  I jogged over to Balboa Stadium to warmup, and then joined the large group for a couple laps and drills. The workout on the schedule was a fartlek of 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 hard/easy on the track. The club director broke our large group (maybe 100 people) into three groups by pace (from 10+ minutes/mile for 5k down to sub-six pace) and I hopped nervously in with the fastest group.

Each group got 3 lanes of the 9-lane track, and we spread out quickly enough that the large group provided lots of pacing buddies, but no overcrowding. The air was humid and warm, and the fog of sweat and shimmer of shadows thrown by the stadium lights provided a hypnotizing backdrop to the swirl of colorful runners. We sped up and slowed in a huge flock, obeying the sharp sound of the coach’s whistle every few minutes. I started to fall off near the middle of the workout, breathing becoming ragged and legs becoming heavy in the heat. I latched on to a few runners and focused on sticking with them on the shorter segments, trying to ignore the sinking feeling that came with being lapped by some of the faster women. I full-out sprinted the last 1-minute segment, racing with the flying herd of fellow sufferers.

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Unfortunately, my hamstring didn’t find the combo of travel and hard running as delightful as the rest of me did, and it stiffened up as I cooled down back to the hotel along the now-dark downtown streets. I spent the rest of the week nursing a crampy medial hamstring, but luckily my next stop at my grandparent’s home a few hours outside of San Jose provided the perfect place for some shorter, relaxed runs and plenty of time for stretching and foam rolling.

With the recent rains the ranch roads around the fields below their house were muddy, and the road their house sits on has no shoulder, so I was effectively forced into a couple of days off. I did enjoy 2 short runs after the mud set a bit, and was glad to feel only mild tightness during those runs. Instead of worrying about missed training I spent my time chatting with my grandparents, looking through old photos with them, and curling up on the couch with coffee and several of the books scattered about their house to enjoy the quiet, windy days in the country.

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After several days with the grandparents I got to hop onto yet another flight, this time back to cooler regions and my parents’ house in Idaho. I was lucky to be able to trade scar-tissue-removal/sore-muscle-fixing tissue mashing sessions with my sister, who recently had ankle surgery. We left each other’s legs bruised and sore, but hopefully a bit healthier! Outside of these *delightful* pain-sessions I was able to take the recovering hamstring out for some spring bloom viewing, trail exploring, and former-teammate visiting runs. I’ve also tried out these amazing core/glute activation exercises, with good results (and sore core/hip muscles the next day!)

Overall the travel was a good time to have a fiddly little injury, since it limited my running a bit and allowed me the free time to work on rehab and rolling. The visits with much missed friends and family made any decrease in my running mileage feel unimportant, and the runs I was able to do covered either exciting new routes or familiar, and much loved, hometown trails that distracted me from the usual post-injury running anxiety.

I’m back now in the chilly Colorado mountains, with a mostly-healed hamstring and a renewed dedication to getting my pre-run warmup done, squeezing my hamstring, glute, and core exercises in, and rolling/stretching regularly to keep me running healthy into late spring and summer.

Final race of the season – RSNA conference fun-run

It’s been a long, fruitful season since my first race back in March of this year, and I was excited to have the opportunity to do my final race of the season in Chicago (at sea level!!!) and with my awesome runner/tri-athlete coworker during our big conference week.

We both spent the few days before traveling, attending talks, and prepping for our own presentations (a podium for her and poster for me), which meant any pre-race prep and pre-race nerves were on the back burner. We did get in a lovely shakeout run along lake Michigan, and headed to bed early the night before so that the 6:30 a.m. start (oooof!) wouldn’t feel quite as rough.

Race morning dawned dark and unseasonably warm (45 degrees!), which meant shorts and long sleeves – definitely not the outfit I had envisioned when I packed my tights, wool socks, mittens, hat, and micro-spikes into my suitcase a few days prior. I brought my racing flats along for an extra little race boost and carried them on our 2-mile warmup run to the park where the race start was located.

My coworker and I got to the park and checked our extra gear, did a few drills and strides together, and then lined up at the start. We eyed a few other competitors (“Let’s beat those guys from Philips!”) and chatted happily with one of the women who’d run the race a few times before. It was a low-key start, with a steady friendly chatter beforehand and then a simple “Ready, set, go!”from the starter. I had to squeeze by a couple guys but then took off at what seemed like a reasonable sea-level pace with the windy-city wind blowing briskly at my back. A small lead pack led the way and we were soon moving briskly down the sidewalk along the lake shore.

I made it through the wind-aided first mile in a surprising 6:08 or so (eek!), but felt fine apart from the shock of seeing the surprisingly fast time on the 1-mile clock. Even with my brisk pace another woman passed me like I was standing still right before the mile mark, and another gal did the same right before the turnaround at 1.5 miles. I just kept spinning my legs and hoping I could hold my pace and fend off any more women coming up behind me. The turnaround meant a a direct flip onto the opposite side of the bike path and into the wind, and my pace slowed considerably to about 6:35 average in the final 1.5 miles with the added resistance. I was relatively alone, and couldn’t hear the runners behind me due to the wind whistling in my ears. All I could do was to keep pushing and hope for the best.

I finally caught a few guys with about a quarter mile to go and kicked with the pack as we spotted the 200m-to-go marker. I could see the finish clock from about 50m out and accelerated into the finish in the hopes of getting under 19:40. I crossed the line to find out I’d gotten third (woohoo!!!), well behind the 1st and 2nd place women who’d both run well under 19 minutes(!)

My coworker came in shortly afterwards at just over 20 minutes and we tiredly recounted our race experiences and gathered some food for the run back. Our cool down wound along the lake shore as the sun rose, making for quite the end to our early morning. We spent the rest of the day conferencing, happy to have gotten in a good 7 miles before spending the day in dress clothes and researcher-mode.

To be honest, it was a bit of a weird final race – I wasn’t all that nervous before hand and the results were fairly meaningless (although my 3rd place did get me a spot in the conference newsletter!). My coworker and I both ran well, but had other, more significant things to focus on that day. However, in spite of the low-key atmosphere I was really pleased with the race – I got to both enjoy my pre-race time without the usual anxiety and also managed to run a really solid race that confirmed the times I’ve been looking at with the altitude conversion from my high-altitude race times. It was definitely satisfying to see that I really did have a sub-20 (and a well-under-20!) in me, and that I was able to perform under the slightly weird conditions of such an early race.

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This is probably the only way I’ll ever do anything impressive enough to get into the conference bulletin ;P

Now it’s on to a little running break, and then a hopefully strong winter of steady, base-building running, strength work, skiing, snowshoeing, and other fun snow-land activities 🙂

Training and travel – strategies for conference survival without becoming a muffin and coffee-fueled blob

After returning home from Oregon I had just three days at home before cramming everything back into my suitcase and heading out for a conference a few hours drive away. The quick turnaround and long day of working, driving, and then finishing up some urgent work left me starting the 4 day conference already tired, but I was determined to get in some decent training in spite of the circumstances.

I’m going to sleep extremely well tonight and the drive home required a large cup of iced coffee, but I managed to fit in all but the last couple conference sessions, some socializing, and still hit my training goals of 1) 32-36 miles (~33 total) for the week, and 2) regular core and hip exercises.

Here’s what worked well, and what didn’t for getting my runs in during a hectic few days:

 

Packed running clothes and shoes!

  • Yes, this seems like a freebie, but I was frazzled enough that I could have screwed this up had I not created a list and then laid everything out in very organized piles on my bed while packing.

Running in the morning/being flexible with run timing:

  • Even though getting out of bed before 5:30 after a late night was rough, running in the morning the first day of the conference allowed me to attend the evening social/networking functions. However, I slacked off and didn’t quite get up on time, meaning I had to squeeze in a few miles between the end of the conference sessions and the evening events. I had to be a little cautious with the beer at the event after losing so much water to sweat during my half-hour slog in the scorching sun.
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Not pictured – my elbows dripping sweat in the adjacent grass while taking this shot 😐

  • On the second day of the conference we had a short morning session only, which meant I got to head out for a longer run after going to lunch with some lab-mates. I planned to run and then catch up on work, but ended up being less efficient due to an unexpected tornado warning. That’s definitely not the usual thing that delays a run for me!!!

Finding new places to explore, and planning at least the start of my routes out ahead of time, and utilizing Strava’s segment explorer/GPS map:

  • I planned one run from the place I was staying, and two runs in nearby parks that required short drives to the start. Since I ended up doing two runs on Thursday I actually did two from the hotel, but managed to find different trails on my morning and afternoon runs (hurrah!). For my other two runs I planned the start of my routes through the parks and then used the trail signs and Strava’s segment explorer to figure out where to explore from there. Having a smartphone and Strava has definitely improved my running away from home, where good running trails and paths can be hard to figure out without reference to the popular local routes, and the fear of getting lost can inhibit exploring if one doesn’t have an easy way of mapping out directions back to the start.

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Heading out even when I didn’t feel like it or conditions weren’t ideal:

  • I really need my introvert time and conferences are not so great for this. I ended the day on Friday feeling totally wiped out from sitting and absorbing SCIENCE all day, as well as emotionally wiped from trying to keep up on some of the really shitty things going on in this week’s news. When the tornado warning popped up I was tempted to just crawl into bed and trade my run in for a nap, but instead made myself get dressed to run so that I would be ready when the storm cleared. Going for a run ended up providing a much stronger rejuvenation of mind and body than a nap would have, and I was grateful for the time to unwind and focus only on the scenery and my foot placement on the winding sand-and-rock-strewn trails.
  • It was extremely hot compared to the temperatures I’ve been running in, but I managed to stay positive about this by viewing it as an opportunity to improve my somewhat dismal heat tolerance.
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Bunnies!

Eating healthy and staying well hydrated:

  • Hahahaha, yep, I totally failed at this. I did finally manage to get some healthier groceries so I would’t have to live entirely off free conference coffee and sugary breakfast pastries, but I definitely ate much less fruit and veggies than usual and spent the last couple days with mild nausea due to dehydration and eating wayyyy too many of the tiny, citrus-flavored candies that were the only food provided besides breakfast at the conference itself.

 

Any other stellar running-during-travel tips out there?

Race report – Vail Valor Memorial Day 5-mile

*This race report has been a little late in coming because between wrapping up a cadaver study at work, moving between apartments, and trying to prep for some upcoming travel things have been a little busy!*

I got a 5-mile race PR on Monday!!!

(Ok, so it was a race distance that I’ve never raced before…but I’m still giving myself a little pat on the back.)

It’s tough finding local non-trail summer races in the land of ski resorts and ultras so I’ve had this particular race circled on my calendar since volunteering at it while injured last Spring. The race is locally hosted and serves as a part of the town’s Memorial Day events, with many racers running in honor and memory of relatives and friends. The hard-core endurance runners tough out the hilly 13.1 and marathon courses, but there’s also a relatively flat 5-miler and a 1-mile kids race for those of us with a desire for something shorter and faster.

Unlike last year the weather was gorgeous and sunny, and I enjoyed a comfortable warmup around the awakening village before stripping down to ¾ tights, a Oiselle tank, and arm warmers. The long-distance folks had taken off half an hour before, so it was just the 5-milers and kids on the starting line, making for a more consistent group pace and reasonable open start conditions. I did the whole “where should I line up?” scouting bit and ended up behind the kids and next to an impressively buff gal in a patriotic-themed race outfit (she even had a star-spangled tutu!).

The race director counted us off and the first row of other 5-milers and I took off after letting the kids get a few steps on us. Having the kids in front of course led to a bit of chaos as they dropped items of clothing and stopped to grab them, and generally zig-zagged haphazardly across the course. Trying not to trample any small, adorable children made the first half mile go by quickly, and then they veered off onto their own course back to the start/finish and the 5-mile group followed our designated lead cyclist onto the paved bike path and out of town.

The tutu-gal had already gapped me at this point and I spent the rest of the ‘out’ section of the course trying to convince my brain that I still had a chance of catching her. I’ll admit her super ripped physique was already putting doubts into my mind – watching her power up the hills didn’t inspire much confidence in the idea of her fading later in the race. Due to the slightly uphill first mile and a couple steep rollers, my legs already felt heavy and I was struggling with the feeling of being maxed out on pace in spite of not being very out of breath. I focused on keeping her tutu in sight but had let the gap grow from 5 seconds to almost 15 at the turnaround. I was still feeling decent except for the heavy, sluggish legs and thought that just maybe I could regain my pep and throw down the last couple miles to catch her.

However, she realized where I was on the turnaround and must have picked it up much more than me on the slight downhill heading back because the gap rapidly widened and she passed the guy in a Mexico Tri Team kit who had been steadily pacing her for the first 3 miles. In order to keep some sort of mental focus even as she pulled further away I focused on seeing if I could catch him too, and very gradually reeled him in over the fourth mile. The downhill did put some more spring into my legs and I was able to pass Tri guy as we turned into the last mile through downtown. I kept pushing all the way to the finish and, although I didn’t even come close to catching Tutu-gal (she finished 45 long seconds ahead of me) I held Tri-guy at bay and finished as the 5th runner overall with 3 men and Tutu-gal ahead of me.

I was reasonably happy with me time – the pace was about 10 seconds per mile slower than my recent 5k and corresponded to a predicted 5k just a few seconds faster than the Moonlight race – and really enjoyed the chance to run a 5-miler, which was my favorite tempo distance in college but isn’t a common race distance since it’s easy to add on a mile to get a standard 10k. I also got to cheer for several friends along the course during my race and for some more endurance-savvy friends after the 5-miler as the longer distances started to come in. Overall it was a very social event with several good speeches and moments to honor those being remembered and honored by the racers and attendees.

 

A few take-aways from the race:

1)       Even if things don’t go as planned (couldn’t catch lead gal), I can create new goals mid-race to help motivate myself (catch Mexican Tri guy)

2) Sometimes is pays to ‘just keep running’ and avoid thinking about the number of miles you have left

3) I *really* need to get some turnover back in my legs…time to bring back the strides, drills, and some more consistent leg strength/power work!

A long week

Oof, well that was quite the week! I’m finally sitting down with MountainMan reading and drinking some Sunday afternoon coffee. It’s been a week crammed with good and bad, stressful and fun, and I’m glad to finally have some slow, quiet time to process everything before I start again tomorrow.

The bad/stressful: 

  • 4:20am wake ups on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday + 12 hour days Monday and Tuesday due to work events/meetings.
  • MM being gone all week for a funeral 😦
  • Taking care of furbaby – fun but stressful since he seems to act up when anxious about MM being gone
  • Some disconcerting work stuff 
  • Thought MM had crashed because the 100 mile drive from the airport today took him 4 hours. Nope, he just stopped to nap and didn’t tell me
  • A crazy commute Thursday that involved bad bus schedules, lost car keys, cycling in 27 degree weather, and misplaced office keys. And then, thankfully, free bacon

The good:

  • Science club students rocked it at their final presentations! So proud 🙂 
  • Tempo run on weds started wayyyyy too fast but then I held on and managed to drop almost 20 seconds in the last mile, totally shocking myself
  • Finished another conference abstract and made good progress on the study design and budget (new skill, yay!) for a new study – actually felt focused and productive even after 2×12 hour days to start the week
  • May have found a new road bike! 
  • Found a sweeeet new dirt-road running route and got to explore it with furbaby

  • Joined the #oisellevolee team! So excited to be on a team with new and former teammates 🙂 More on this coming soon…

  • Related: Started planning my summer race season and got wayyyy too excited. All the trail races!
  • Finished up a 30-mile week (woohoo!) with a sunny, celebratory shake-out run 


After all that I’m grateful to have a few hours to relax and recharge before jumping back in to work, another week of training, and the general stress of adult life. Thank goodness for my favorite fleecy blankets, comfy old track-team sweatshirt, and decaf evening coffee 🙂

Celebrating 1 year of ‘real job’ life!

I just realized earlier this week that I’ve now been at my new/first non-student/amazing job for an entire year!

With all the huge changes at the beginning of this job, April 2015 seems like much more than a year ago. Last April I was sighing with relief that MountainMan actually liked the place we’d chosen to live and was mourning the loss of my grad school community of friends. I was suddenly dropped into a pool of unfamiliar acronyms, procedures, and people, which was both thrilling and terrifying. I had only the vaguest idea of how MRI worked, was working with an extremely rusty knowledge of anatomy and very little cadaver experience, and was more than a little intimidated by the 100+ page Matlab GUI code that I was expected to modify to fit the labs research needs.

Now I’m looking for a new place in current-town with MM and have only almost-stress-cried once, I have a new pool of local friends to add to my network of awesome people, and I’ve reached the point where I can give a passable explanation of MRI concepts, can lead someone else through the procedures for getting CT or MR from the techs or writing up a study for the hospital IRB, and have bonded with coworkers over geekery and the hospital staff over the coffee machine and construction woes. I can (generally) explain how MR images are captured, have lugged random body parts up and down from the freezers alone at night without getting creeped out, can name the meniscofemoral ligaments (hi there Wrisberg and Humphrey!), and have written my own GUI additions and scripts to add to our (heavily in need of organization) collection.

Yes, the future still makes me nervous and I still have frustrations and worries, but I’m in a much happier place than a year ago. My work and personal lives seem to have found a more enjoyable equilibrium, and are both much more pleasant in the improved environment of current-awesome-town-that-MM-also-likes. I no longer regularly read papers and code through tear-reddened eyes, I actually feel like a worthwhile human being on most days (woohoo!), and I only rarely feel either work-slacker or wife-slacker guilt. To top it off, I am absolutely thrilled to see that I’m still learning something new almost every week in spite of being out of school and into a ‘real job’.

My path over the last year feels much like one of the local running trails. It has been regularly steep and challenging, and occasionally frightening when I fear I’ve taken a wrong turn, but has also been full of stunning views that have reminded me to enjoy the privilege of traveling somewhere so amazing and to keep moving forward even through the rocky sections. I am incredibly grateful to the incredible good fortune, amazing people, and general propensity towards geekyness/stubbornness that have allowed me to get to this mile of the trail and to be finding so much joy as I travel along.

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Sunny days/false Spring 

With a brief burst of Spring-like weather last week’s training was arranged to maximize my enjoyment of the steady sunshine. I ran under the smooth cloudless sky during a Friday commute-run that included a brief detour over a sparkling, snow-crusted soccer field, enjoyed a Saturday session of outdoor drills on the artificial turf and arm/core-focused yoga on the patch of sun-warmed carpet beneath our living room window, and glided through a Sunday long run with my pale legs and arms both happily exposed to the afternoon sun for over 7 miles. 
   
   
These sunny miles completed a decent 77 mile month, with long runs reaching back up into hour-plus territory and paces dropping down with the improving road conditions. I’m still reigning myself in and staying dedicated to very gradual mileage increases and consistent cross-training, but I’m allowing myself some spring race dreaming and some Flotrack Workout Wednesday video viewing (a potentially dangerously inspiring endeavor) on trainer rides.

Today’s weather has turned back to winter, with strong winds and gray clouds weighed down with potential snowflakes, but that glimpse of Spring was hopeful enough to motivate another round of pushing through the late-winter cold and grey*.

*full disclosure, I’m still going to be a little jealous of all the folks headed to the double conference of AAOS and ORS this week in the warm, sunny state of Florida. Ortho awesomeness combined with high temps in the low 80’s sounds super appealing this time of year. The slightly frivolous lure of warm weather conferences may just be my new winter research motivation…