June training

I wrapped up my June training this past week with a refreshing stint of reverse-altitude training in the form of a vacation to the Oregon coast. The drop in altitude and change in scenery helped me maintain steady training through a fairly sleep-deprived week and I ended up enjoying an unexpectedly smooth 10-miler as my final run of the month, gliding along a sunlit, blackberry-lined gravel-road route in the salty coastal air. Unlike my last run of that distance, my legs felt strong all the way through the last few miles.

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Reservoir at the inland turnaround point of my run

Based on that run and my last few weeks’ mileage I knew I was having a strong month, but definitely didn’t expect what I saw on opening Strava today to look at my total June mileage:

224 km (139 miles) – my highest month since starting to use Strava in January 2014 by ~30k (14 miles) and my highest since the Spring 2014 mono and toe injury!!! ***throws self a small approaching-a-respectable-10k-training-mileage-level party***

I know mileage isn’t that meaningful by itself and isn’t the end goal, but realizing that I had just spent a month at a higher volume than any month since that awful winter of mono and Spring foot-injury, while feeling strong and physically solid, was a thrill! Hopefully I’ll be able to gradually build on this return to pre-injury volume, allowing me to enjoy some stronger races and more adventurous long runs in the late Summer and Fall.

I freaking *love* running – so grateful it’s currently loving me back!

 

Training/foot funk update

Taking 5 days off out of the 7 days last week seems to have paid off! I got in some solid bike rides during my break and then came back yesterday with a fun running club run under rainbow filled post-storm skies.

Much to my delight, running club has added a third group this year, meaning there’s now a walk-run group (~2 miles of 2 min on/1 off), a medium run group (3-4 miles at 10-12 min pace average), and a longer/faster run group (4-6 miles at 8:30 pace average). This means I now have a more comfortable group to run with (12 min pace doesn’t agree with my IT band, sadly) and some speedsters to attempt to keep up with! The longer run group consists of about 5 guys and 1 other woman who also rides with my cycling club. We had a blast this week striding along through the sagebrush together and chatting as we wound through the trails.

We actually may have had a bit too much fun, as the pace quickened into the sub-8 range towards the end, bringing us to 6 miles at 48 minutes on the dot. On the plus side, I just ran what I thought was going to be my early season/altitude 10k pace for 6 miles at easier-than-tempo-run effort, and on a non-twinging foot! On the downside, as soon as the endorphins and post-run beer buzz wore off I started thinking about how far even 7:50 pace would be off my 10k times from ‘back when I was in shape’.

I recognized these feelings of dissatisfaction this morning and worked to turn them around, reminding myself to be grateful for the rejuvenated foot and the unexpectedly quick 6-miler. Looking at the past and wishing for a magic return to fitness is pointless…and frustrating.

Instead, I’m focusing back in on the moment and the joy that my current level of fitness brings to me. Even if my body isn’t as quick as it was in college, I can still find joy in my ability to get out most days of the week to run or bike, to enjoy a nice weekend long run (hour+, wootwoot!), and to put in the satisfying hard effort of my weekly tempo/fartlek/hill rep session.

Thankfully, endorphins don’t care about absolute speed 😉

Patience

There’s nothing quite like pulling out your race planning calendar and penciling in the highlights of the abundance of summer races to make one short on patience. I’m dreaming of gnarly trail climbs and fast road races, and all I really want to do is bust through some gut-wrenching workouts and increasingly lengthy long runs in the newly-arrived Spring weather.

Instead, I’m wrestling with my starry-eyed enthusiasm, pinning it down while I spend a week on lower mileage in an effort to get my recently uncooperative right foot to loosen up and stop nagging me every few strides. I went a bit too hard last week with a tough workout and a (horribly dehydrating) single-track long run, and my right foot got cranky enough to warrant an attempt at appeasement through reduced mileage. I’m already noticing results – less morning foot stiffness and only a little ache after my last (short) run, but waiting is hard. *sigh*

Based on others’ tales of woe, runners are almost universally lacking in patience. We want to get PR’s, speed through workout progressions and into full fitness, blast the early miles in a race and then carry on in some heroic breakthrough effort, and push through the pain of injury rather than taking the time to fully heal. But if we want to succeed long term, we have to learn to deal with the early season sluggishness, the many races that fall far short of our goal times, the illusionary slow early pace in a long race, and the pains that interrupt our training.

So even though I can still technically run on my nagging foot, I’m giving it a break. I’ll hop on the bike today, with an eye on races 2, 8, 20 weeks down the road rather than the disappointing number at the end of this week’s training log. In two weeks, the number of miles that I hit this week really won’t mean anything…unless it’s a foolishly high number that has me nursing an even sorer foot. My running enthusiasm is going to have to just sit down and chill for a bit until logic and my a-few-weeks-down-the-road planning decide it’s free to launch back into action.

 

Any other patience-enforcing strategies out there?

Running – a change in plans

As I write this, it’s been almost a week since I’ve gone for a run. My calf injury kept reemerging, creating cycles of a couple good runs, then a run with calf tightness and discomfort towards the end, a couple days off, and repeat. I suspect that the temporary painless periods were the result of the inflammation going down and new scar tissue growing into the strained muscle, and the subsequent return of pain was due to the new tissue being too weak to handle real runs and becoming re-injured.

I buckled down last Monday and decided to just take a whole week completely off – no running, and no calf strengthening (just stretching and foam rolling). I’m feeling surprisingly ok with this thanks to consistently icy streets and a relatively high-volume cross-training regimen.

Although I’ve been forced off the road bike due to the ice, winter has opened up the possibilities of indoor trainer rides (good for dark evenings), snowshoeing, skate skiing, and classic skiing. The skate skiing is by far my favorite option, since it closely mimics running effort and speed but works totally different muscles. I’m re-focusing my ‘athlete’ mindset, and concentrating on the joys of still being able to get outdoors even if it’s not in my running shoes.

I’ve also decided to address some of the chronic weaknesses that I suspect are contributing to my propensity for injury even at relatively low mileage. The IT band exercises that I’ve been performing regularly have kept that particular issue at bay, so I an hopeful that addressing my other weaknesses will have a similarly strong effect.

In order to identify where else I’m weak or lack mobility, I took a functional movement screening test. I learned about this test back in an undergrad conditioning course. The idea is that you can test several primary movement patterns via a set of 7 scored exercises and then focus on addressing specific identified weaknesses in strength, coordination, and mobility. My results indicated that I have plenty of room to improve:

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Those deep squat results…oof :-/

As indicated by this testing and past experience, my main weaknesses are:

  1. Calf tightness/low ankle mobility (part of why deep squat is so bad)
  2. Hip mobility (ditto, + the active straight leg raise)
  3. Thoracic mobility (the deep squat requires an overhead press – mine is severely limited by my thoracic spine tightness)
  4. Foot weakness (mainly based on experience rather than this test, but I can tell that it contributes to the inline-lunge low score on one side)

Based on these results I plan to perform calf/ankle mobility exercises, more  consistent hamstring and hip flexor stretching and strengthening, thoracic spine extension and rotation exercises, and to continue with the foot exercises (and skiing! Kills my arch/stabilizer muscles) during this heavy cross-training period. Next week I’ll incorporate some short runs (1-2 miles if pain free) and calf strengthening in addition to the mobility exercises).

Hopefully being smart now and addressing these chronic weaknesses will lead to the ability to actually race this Spring! I love my cross-training activities but I really, really, REALLY miss racing.

I ran 7.5 miles today!!!

I ran 7.5 miles today! Which is my first run over 7 miles since DECEMBER. I couldn’t believe this when I first skimmed through my training log, but I guess that calf injury + the IT band flare-up really did smother my Spring and Summer training more than I’d remembered.

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7.5 sweet miles of trail.

Part of me is really frustrated by the fact that it’s been ¾ of a year since I ran over 7 miles. However, I have noticed that I’ve been more appreciative of my runs lately and, having taken a break from workouts or structured training beyond a general mileage goal/limit each week, have become better at just running for the pure joy of running rather than with a training goal in mind.

Thinking more deeply about the last few frustrating years I am starting to see them as worthwhile contributors to my running, which is definitely not something I could have said even last year. When I consider how differently I feel about running now versus during the last few frustrating seasons of collegiate competition I can see what a difference it has made to be forced to train and plan more casually over the last few years than during any previous running seasons. Viewed as a mental re-set this span of running is much less down heartening than when viewed, more negatively, as a physical pause-rewind-pause-rewind-pause, etc.

I am of course still hoping to move forward physically, but for now I can appreciate the mental benefits and focus on carrying my improved mentality forward with any physical advances.

June training

Well, the IT band issues definitely put a dent in my training. My running mileage ended up at 55 total for the month – my third lowest in the past year. However, my cycling mileage was actually just a bit over last month’s at 299 miles – my highest ever! When I added everything up my total training time ended up being my 2nd highest of the year – very comforting in the midst of the running injury frustration! 

I started this month off with some beautiful 2 milers up on the dirt roads while visiting MountainMan. Things are definitely feeling better and I enjoyed the change in scenery.

   
    
   
I don’t think I’ve actually lost too much fitness, and my running form is appreciating the extra attention. Hopefully all the form work, PT, rolling, and stretching will pay off with a nice build back up this month!

IT band is playing the song of pain

I was supposed to be warming up for a trail race right now. Instead, I’m sitting in my living room on a sunlit patch of carpet, pondering how to fill a run-free, bike-free weekend. My IT band begins to ache unless I sit with my hip in *just* the right position as I type this.
My IT band started acting up on Monday. I suspect that it became tight, but a symptomatic, during my 50-mile ride and then became irritated during the group run on Monday, which started out at a veeerrryyy slow pace, a known trigger for my IT band. I ran 4 miles on it Weds with some pain and rolled it out thoroughly afterwards, hoping that would solve the problem. However, Thursday was worse, and I made it only half a mile before deciding to stop. 
I’m guessing (hoping?) the increased pain was due to bruising from the foam roller, but I’ve decided to take a 3 day break rather than testing that hypothesis. My right glutes/tensor fascia lata are still uncomfortably tight and the band itself is very unhappy when I start poking around the distal portion near my knee. 
On the positive side, I got to sleep in this morning. And I was kind of dreading my long ride, so maybe the more desirable mental break from the bike will make the anxiety-inducing physical break tolerable. I’m just giving my training a chance to soak in, right? 
Now I just need to spend the next couple days using my run/bike-free time productively, keeping the band happy with stretching, icing, and some gentler foam rolling, and not panicking about the what-ifs…