Clamshells & Gossip Girl

Last week, by the numbers:

  • clamshells: 1400
  • donkey kicks: 700
  • bridge marches: 420
  • knee-to-chest single-leg bridges: 504
  • standing hip extensions: 420
  • “chair of death” squats: 240
  • single leg balances: at least 2-4 per day, per side
  • miles ran/walked: 22.5
  • miles biked (stationary bike): 11
  • yards swam: 0 (decided to take a break and focus on rehab)
  • episodes of Gossip Girl watched: 18

    Just your average high schoolers, right??

    Just your average high schoolers??

I started the week very committed to a new rehab regimen as outlined in Anatomy for Runners, but even I didn’t think I’d actually do the exercises every day.  But guess what?  I did!  One might question whether it’s really necessary to do thousands of clamshells. Well, maybe not, but the theory behind it is that to run with “good form” – i.e., using the right muscles while running – you have to train those muscles to fire on command.  And the way to train your muscles is through thousands of repetitions, thereby increasing your neuromuscular connections.  For most of us, the strength is already there, but the problem is getting the right muscles to activate at the right time.  That’s what neuromuscular training is all about.  (FWIW, this is more relevant to hip extensions, heel lifts, and other form drills than clamshells.)

Is it dull? Yes.  But the good news is that I’ve seen a lot of improvement in just 1 week.  My single leg bridges were abysmal on Monday, by Wednesday they were halfway decent, and one week later, I’ve graduated from 12 to 15 bridges per set.  The other thing that’s been good about these exercises is that some of them come with tips on how to do them correctly.  For instance, for donkey kicks, the book recommends to balance a stick on your lower back (I use a hiking pole) and focus on not moving the stick too much during the exercise.  If the stick jostles around a lot, you might be using the wrong muscles.  I guess I appreciate these tips because it’s so easy to do these exercises the wrong way — i.e., compensate with other muscle groups.

The plan is to continue on for another week and then do the tests again to see if I can move on to Phase II, which includes more advance core work and plyometrics.  The idea is to get the right muscles to fire first before strengthening them.

As for running, I continued to spend quality time with the treadmill — 6 miles on Tuesday (3 min run: 1 min walk) and 6 miles on Thursday (4 min run: 1 min walk).  On Sunday, I ventured outside for my longest run since Big Sur: 10.55 miles in 2 hours at San Leandro Marina.  I managed to convince JT to join me for run-walk intervals.  We had fun catching up and the time flew by.  JT definitely gets a gold star for helping out a injured runner friend!  As for my right hip, it tightened up around 6-7 miles, but it never got worse than that — i.e., escalating to gait-altering pain.  As I’ve mentioned before, my low back has been really tight, so I’ve been trying to be mindful to not arch my back towards the end of the run — my posture definitely suffers when I’m fatigued.  I’ve also been trying to engage my core more to stabilize my pelvis, core, and back.  I don’t know if it’s all in my mind, but the hip pain has yet to return.  Knock on wood!

Today, I’m a bit sore, as one might expect following a post-injury distance record, but I’m feeling okay otherwise.  The goal this week is to back off a little and rest up for the SF 1st Half on Sunday.  Even though the race will be a personal worst for me time-wise, I’m excited to see how far I’ve come in just 2 weeks: from questioning whether I’d make the 3-hour cut-off to looking at a finishing time of 2:30.  Yay for progress!

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Posted in Injuries, Training

Gym Rat

With my plan of tackling the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon (SF1HM) with run/walk intervals in mind, I decided to do all of my runs this past week on the treadmill.  That way, I could stop whenever I felt any pain and not have to walk more than 1/4 mile back to my car.  I don’t mind intervals on the treadmill — in fact, if I have to run on the treadmill at all, I feel compelled to constantly change a setting, ANY setting, just to break up the monotony.  However, it’s pretty mind-numbing to do 2:1 run/walk intervals for over an hour.  Luckily, my gym is awesome in a number of ways.  First, they have a ton of machines, so I can be a treadmill-hog in peace and not have someone who’s waiting for a treadmill breathing down my neck and giving me dirty looks.  Second, they have a wall of TV screens so I can be constantly amused or befuddled by a combination of cable channels, like the Food Network, ESPN, and CNN.  What I have learned is that while CNN may be on a 24 hour news cycle, they basically report the same story (usually something scandalous or tabloid-worthy) on repeat for hours on end.  (I realize that this might be common knowledge; it’s just been so long since I actually watched CNN.)  Third, they have random treats, like free bagels and coffee on the 2nd Tuesday of every month, which I just happened to randomly come upon this past week.  Score!  Fourth, and very importantly, they have free wifi, which allows me to watch Netflix on my iPhone.  Confession: I started watching Gossip Girl yesterday while on the stationary bike.  Don’t judge — it’s pure fluff and doesn’t require substantial amounts of concentration, which is perfect for the gym.  Finally, membership is only $10 a month!  This makes the cheapskate in me extremely happy.

With 3 runs and 1 bike session, I did a total of 4 workouts at the gym this week.  So, it’s a good thing I actually like going there!

Here’s how the week went:

Mon: Rest.
Tues: Run/walk (2 min: 1 min) 4.5 miles.  Bonus: free bagels!
Wed: Swim 1200 yds — a new distance record!
Thurs: Run/walk (2:1) 6 miles.
Fri: Rest.
Sat: Run/walk (2:1) 8 miles.
Sun: Easy bike spin. 11 miles.
Misc: almost daily rolling; strength exercises 2 times

How did I feel? While I can’t say that I was completely pain-free last week, my hips did feel tons better.  I think the more frequent walk breaks helped to relieve whatever was going on in my right hip.  The achiness/dull pain that I did feel was mostly in my low and mid back, so I’ve been taking extra time to stretch, roll, and use a heat pad on my back to loosen it up.  I was really happy to run/walk 8 miles on Saturday without any significant pain or hitch in my stride — a world of difference from the week before!  As an added bonus, I’ve been able to average ~11:30/mile with the walk breaks, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to make the 3 hour cut-off at SF1HM with plenty of time to spare.  So, things are looking up!

Despite these improvements, I know that there’s a lot more work that needs to be done in terms of complete recovery.  The run/walk thing is just a band-aid to get myself to the finish line at SF1HM.   I’ve been reading Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicharry, which I hope to fully review once I put the advice into action.  A main argument of the book is that in order to be a good runner, you should also be a good athlete.  That means working on stability (core, balance, posture) and laying that as the foundation, and then building strength on top of that.  In Chapter 9, Dicharry outlines a number of tests looking at range of motion, stability/balance, and strength.  I did really well on some of them (yay for toe strength and control!) and horribly on others (my squats – both double and single leg – are laughable).  After the tests, Chapter 10 is full of basic exercises that help address any deficiencies identified in Chapter 9.  So, for the next 3 weeks, it looks like I’ll be up to my neck in clamshells, squats (“chair of death”), donkey kicks, hip hikes, bridge walks, and single leg balances (especially on my right leg).  When I’ve finally mastered all of these exercises, I can move on to the advanced strength exercises, which includes a lot of very hardcore-looking exercises with a Swiss ball and plyometrics.  I’m hopeful that these exercises will help, but if not, then the next step will be to seek advice and opinions from a medical professional.

And because blog posts are more fun with photos, here’s one I took yesterday at the Run to the Lake 5K:

RC and LJ after the race, very happily standing in front of the ambulance instead of being in it (as was the case last year).

RC and LJ after the race, very happily standing in front of the ambulance instead of being in it (as was the case last year).

A special shout-out to RC, who came in 5th out of 17 in his age group and in the top 20% overall!  It was really fun to watch the various runners at the finish line.  Some people looked like they were in complete agony, which is how I always feel at the end of a 5K, while others looked like they were barely breaking a sweat.  The overall winner was a young guy, Carter Mackey, who finished in a speedy 16:44, almost 90 seconds ahead of the next competitor.  Anyway, spectating really had me itching to race.  I’ve been thinking about focusing on shorter distances for the rest of the year, which seems like a smarter way for me to return to racing.  We shall see!

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Posted in Training

A quick update

I wish I could report that my return to running last week was all unicorns and rainbows…alas, it was not.  Here’s what I did last week, exercise-wise:

Tuesday: Ran 3 miles at Lake Chabot.
Wed: Swam 1000 yds.
Thurs: Ran 3 miles at Lake Chabot.
Fri: Biked 12 miles on the stationary bike. Strength exercises.
Sat: Ran/walked 7 miles, then walked 3 miles.

Doesn’t look too bad, does it?  Actually, I felt really good through Friday’s workout, especially during my strength exercises.  I didn’t have any substantial pain or lingering aches due to either of my 3-milers and no “hot spots” screamed out at me while I foam-rolled, lacrosse balled, etc.  I headed into Saturday’s long run extremely optimistic.

The training plan I was sorta following called for a 9 mile run on Saturday, which I knew would be tough coming off of zero running base, even without injury.  So I aimed for 6 miles of run/walk (5 min run: 1 min walk), and figured anything beyond that would be bonus.  The good news is that I made it to 6 miles without significant issues.  I could feel my right hip tightening up, but I stopped often to stretch it, which seemed to settle it down temporarily.  Between 6-7 miles, the pain in my right hip intensified quickly, to the point where I decided it would be foolish for me to keep running on it.  I had another 1.5 miles back to the car, but then I came upon what I thought was a shortcut… which turned out to be a dead-end, adding another 1.5 miles to my trek.  Blargh.

I felt really annoyed/mad/frustrated about my right hip.  However, considering that I walked another 3 miles after I stopped running, and that I was able to walk without limping or in severe pain makes me just slightly optimistic that perhaps if I continue to ramp up slower (and not be stupid), and keep doing my strength exercises, that I may just eventually get back to “normal” (i.e., running without pain).  I think I need to be a lot more patient than I have been so far.

As for the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon, this past week has completely changed my strategy.  Now my goal will be just to finish, even if that means I end up walking a majority of it.  The website says the cut-off is 3 hours, but I can’t tell if that means 3 hours from chip time or from when the last wave starts.  I’ll have a 30 minute head-start on the last wave, so hopefully that means I’ll have 3.5 hours to finish?  I looked up last year’s results and there were a lot of runners who finished after 3 hours, so it sounds like 3 hours won’t be the hard cut-off.

Since I’ll probably be walking a lot at SF1HM, the next 3 weeks will be comprised of getting into good walking shape.  On Saturday, my walk breaks were all around 18:00/mile.  I’d like to get that down to ~15:00/mile.  Mixed in with very short periods of jogging (I’m thinking 2-3 min jogging to 1 min fast walking), I can hopefully still maintain an OK pace without getting into the pain zone.

I hope everyone had a relaxing a fun holiday weekend!  Mine was very chill.  On Saturday, I headed to Pigeon Point Lighthouse, where Cathryn and her family had booked a bunkhouse at the youth hostel.  They graciously invited me to stay with them for one night, along with 2 other families (I went solo as the Gypsy Runner was away at a guys’ weekend).  It was a gorgeous and neat place, and I had lots of fun hanging out and getting to know some new people.  Thanks Cathryn!

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Brrrr!  It was 80 degrees and sunny inland, and about 20 degrees cooler (and windy and cloudy) at the coast!  (Photo courtesy of Cathryn)

Brrrr! It was 80 degrees and sunny inland, and about 20 degrees cooler (and windy and cloudy) at the coast!  Crazy California “summers”!   (Photo courtesy of Cathryn)

 

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Posted in Injuries

Flashback Friday: My First Half Marathon

One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is how little time I have to prepare for my next race, the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon on July 27th, which is just over 3 weeks away (!!).  I know I can do it, it’s just intimidating coming off a running base of ZERO MILES.  However, whenever I start getting anxious about how soon it is, I think back to my very first half marathon in July 2008, the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon.  From what I can recall, my preparation for that race was pretty much weaksauce (yes, that’s the scientific term).  Two of my friends from Maryland, LS and MS, planned to visit Wine Country in the summer, and we somehow decided that running 13.1 miles together would be a great idea despite the fact that none of us were runners. (I still don’t remember whose idea it was originally).  Even though I had only run a handful of races during graduate school, and despite never running longer than 10K ONCE (in 2003), I decided that a half marathon would be no problem.

As for the training, I vaguely recall putting off any regular running until the late spring, and by “regular running”, I mean 3-4 miles 2-3 times a week.  I had so many excuses back then: Berkeley is so hilly!  Being a post-doc is so demanding time-wise!!  I need my beauty sleep!!!  I can’t train for a half marathon in 5 year old running shoes!!!!  I can’t afford new running shoes because I make no money as a post-doc!!!!!  And so on…

Eventually, I did invest in a new pair of running shoes and I did start running 2-3 times a week.  Just as I got into a decent rhythm, I left the temperate Bay Area for hot and steamy Taiwan for 2 weeks.  I did zero running in Taiwan, though I made sure to carb load.  I came back from Taiwan only 2-3 weeks before the race.  That’s when I freaked out.  I quickly ramped up my mileage over the remaining weeks, starting with 3 mile runs and topping out at 10.

I recall being pretty nervous about maxing out at 10 miles during training when I’d have to run 13.1 at the race.  I also thought too late about fueling.  From a few friends that were runners, I knew about Gu, but was advised not to try anything new on race day.  I heeded their advice, but was nervous about bonking (though I didn’t know the terminology at the time).  One more thing that added to my anxiety was that LS and MS dropped down to the 10K (or was it 12K?), due to training or injury problems.  So much for running my first half marathon with friends by my side.  Whomp whomp.

The day before the race, I packed up my things and drove up to Sonoma, where LS and MS graciously let me set up my aerobed and crash on their hotel room floor.  We had a nice dinner and hit the sack early, as we had a shuttle to catch around 5 or 6 am.  Both distances started at the same place, so I was happy to have LS and MS’s company for a while longer while we took the shuttle to the start.

I don’t remember that much from the race itself, except having a general goal of running 10-minute miles the whole way.  Not having a Garmin back then, I must’ve kept track of my pace with my old Timex and the mile markers.  I was probably pretty pleased with myself, since my average pace ended up being 9:54/mile.  The thing I remember most clearly was being incredibly hungry by mile 11, and wondering how I was going to make it.  By the last stretch of the race, with only about half a mile to go, I recall staring at the ground and willing my body to keep moving forward, getting dizzier with every step.  Eventually, I crossed the finish line and attacked the food area with such voraciousness that I think I may have scared one of the volunteers.

A couple shots taken close to the finish. I look a lot more alert than I recall!

A couple shots taken close to the finish. I look a lot more alert than I recall!

After I stuffed my face with fruit, yogurt, and a bagel, it finally set in — I ran and finished a half marathon!  I was giddy with excitement and looked forward to telling LS and MS about my race.  Even though they should’ve finished an hour before me, they were nowhere to be found.  It turned out that there weren’t enough shuttles to bring them back to the finish area, and they had waited 45 minutes to just get on a bus!  I was just relieved to finally have found them, considering I didn’t have my cell phone with me and we hadn’t come up with a meeting spot or plan.  (We were race amateurs, obvs.)

Post-race photo, with medal, commemorative wine glass, and peace sign.

Post-race photo after I finally found MS and LS. With medal, commemorative wine glass, and peace/classic FOB sign.

After a quick shower, we headed to lunch at the girl & the fig, where I think we had made reservations.  You can see our priorities — post-race meet-up? Nope, didn’t even think about it.  Post-race food? YES OF COURSE.

In retrospect, what strikes me about my first half marathon is how naive I was, and how it both worked for and against me.  I had no idea what the heck I was doing, and yet I survived just fine.  I’m sure I was a little bit nervous, but mostly my anxiety was aimed at finishing, not at any specific performance or time goal.  And the fact that I finished 88th out of 199 women (top 44.2%) with so little training suggests that I may have a bit more natural running talent than I usually give myself credit for (if I do say so myself!).

With that first half marathon experience in mind, I can put my upcoming race in perspective.  Even though SF1HM is a much tougher course than Napa to Sonoma, I’m also a tougher runner than I was 6 years ago.  I’ll do my best with what I’ve got and the rest will take care of itself.  Whatever happens, there’ll be a Irish coffee at the finish line with my name on it.

Cheers, and Happy 4th of July!

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Posted in random

I’m Baaaack!

Hey y’all!  I’m back from my vacation, which was Wonderful and very relaxing.  It kicked off with a girls’ weekend in Guerneville, CA to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of AJ & CR.  I hung out with a fantastic group of ladies, spending the weekend being lazy on the Russian River, hot tubbing, eating, drinking, and being generally not-very-bachelorette-party-ish, which is the very best kind of bachelorette party, IMHO.

Then, I was home for about 12 hours before taking off for the East Coast, splitting 10 days between the Outer Banks and Maryland.  I had such a great time hanging out with friends and family, eating lots of delicious food, and just relaxing.  Here are some of highlights (as seen on my Instagram/Facebook feeds):

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I love the Outer Banks! (Or, OBX, as the locals call it)

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One of many selfies I took throughout the week, this one featuring cutie LT.

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North Caroline BBQ: YUM.

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Our beach tradition: a jumping photo! (photo courtesy of AC)

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More goofy selfies with my niece K. :)

I got back Thursday night.  The best way to kill the relaxed vacation buzz is a too-quick return to work, so I was very glad that I had decided in advance to take Friday off.  I spent the long weekend slowly adjusting to life at home, taking care of small projects around the house, cooking, reading, hiking (more on that later), and binge watching Orphan Black.  It was so nice to get away, but I’m also glad to be back.

However, this is a running blog, not a vacation blog, so let’s catch up on my recent mileage, shall we?  For the month of June, I’ve run only 4.5 miles, which I ran on June 4th – also the date of my last run.  I continued to cross train (swim, bike, & elliptical) through the 2nd week of June, but my aches and pains hadn’t completely subsided.  As such, I decided to take a true break from exercise during my trip and hoped for the best.  Minus a few tiny bouts of activity — splashing around in the ocean and pool, and chasing my friends’ kids around — I really committed to being as physically lazy as possible.

Unfortunately, a week into my trip, I was still feeling some lingering aches and pains in my hips and also in my low back — which I now suspect as being a co-conspirator, if not the main culprit, behind my ailments.  Since rest didn’t seem to be helping, I decided to slowly ramp up physical activity to see how my body would respond.  Also, being that I’m supposed to run the San Francisco 1st Half Marathon (SF1HM) at the end of July, I didn’t have much more time to play wait-and-see.  My plan was to start slowly, i.e., with walking.  Here’s how that went:

Monday (6/23): Walked 3 miles.  After the first mile, my hips and low back were not very happy.  I stopped to stretch, which seemed to help some, and kept going with only mild discomfort.  I made sure to stretch afterwards, and to my surprise, felt really good for the rest of the day.

Tuesday: Walked 3 miles.  Less aches than the day before.  Progress!

Wednesday: Walked 2 x 2 miles (first walk was with my sister to breakfast; second walk was solo).  Actually felt pretty strong.

Thursday: (Travel day. Rest.)

Friday: (Errand day. Rest.)

Saturday: Hiked 9.5 miles at Lake Chabot with the Gypsy Runner.  I know, this sounds like a crazy jump, but here’s what happened: the GR needed to train for an upcoming backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail, so he wanted to hike around Lake Chabot with a loaded backpack.  Even though I haven’t run in almost a month, I’ve still got my sights set on a trail marathon in the fall.  And since I felt significant improvement from the walks earlier in the week, I thought – hey, why not go on a crazy long hike?  It turned out great.  I didn’t feel fatigued until after ~7.5 miles, and the worst “pain” I felt was my 2nd right toe smushing up against the front of my shoe (oddly, I never feel that when I’m running).  It was the first time that I went clockwise around the Lake, which made it a completely new (and fun) experience.  Plus, there’s just something about taking long walks that generates really cool conversations.  After the hike, I felt tired and the first inkling of soreness, but no significant hip or low back pain.

Sunday: Feeling a bit sore, but generally okay, I headed to the gym for an hour on the bike.  I chose the recumbent bike to give my back a rest.  My goal was to do an easy to moderate spin, keeping it at ~80-90 rpm.  After the bike, I did some strengthening exercises (e.g., single leg squats, lunges, clamshells, planks, alternating “superman”) followed by stretching.  Not surprisingly, my ability to hold a plank (both regular and side) has taken a nose-dive in just 2 weeks.  Good thing it won’t take long to ramp back up again.

What’s next?
The great thing about this last vacation is that I had a lot of time to think about goals and priorities.  As far as running goes, my plan is to slowly ramp up mileage over the next 4 weeks for SF1HM, while also doing some easy trail running to prepare myself for a potential trail marathon in the fall.  Since SF1HM was never an “A” race for me, the focus of my training will simply be to get to the starting line injury-free and fit enough to complete the race.  So, if this means walking instead of running some of the time, so be it!

To make things slightly more complicated, the trail marathon I’m considering is in mid-October, only 15 weeks away.  Since Hal Higdon’s novice 1 marathon training plan is pretty lightweight in terms of mileage and days spent running, I’ve decided to start with week 4 of the plan and see how it goes.  Tomorrow will be my first run in 4 weeks, which fills me with excitement and trepidation.  I hope it goes okay!

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Posted in Training, Travel

Glass Half Full

Some runners get really depressed when they can’t run.  I admit that I got a little blue at the prospect of taking a little break from my favorite means of acquiring endorphins.  However, there have been some good things that have come out of my running hiatus, including:

1. Not running a crazy hot and tough trail marathon on Sunday.  According to KP, who ran the Big Basin marathon, it was 90 degrees at the start (!) and they ran out/were very, very low on water at the first 2 aid stations (!!).  It was so hot that KP said she kept overheating, making running nearly impossible and reducing her to power walking for a majority of the race.  This was on top of the fact that the terrain was full of small, irregular stretches of ascents and descents, which made it very difficult to establish any kind of running rhythm.  So, yes, it was a very good idea that I sat out of that race — it sounds like it would’ve been a strugglefest even if I was completely healthy.  With my relief came a heavy dose of guilt at making KP sign up for Big Basin and then not accompanying her on race day.  Sorry again KP!  Hopefully this will take care of all of your hot weather running karma for a little while.

2. Letting my legs reset.  It hit me this weekend that it’s been a LONG time since I’ve woken up without pain and/or soreness in my legs… I think the last time I had zero pain or soreness was in December 2013.  No wonder they needed a break!  Constant soreness and fatigue might be normal during peak weeks of marathon training, but I had forgotten that they shouldn’t be an everyday occurrence.  DUH.

3. Letting my mind reset.  I’ve been stuck in marathon training mode physically AND mentally for many months now.  Even though I decided to DNS Big Basin last Thursday, I still had the mentality of going balls to the wall with my cross-training and exercises… until I realized how sore I was (see above), and that rest and recovery were probably more crucial right now than maintaining fitness.  Sleeping in on the weekend and hanging out with people who I care about — also more important than working out.  Double DUH.

4. Developing and accomplishing non-running goals.  I suck at swimming, but I’m slowly getting better at it and it’s been fun to hit new benchmarks with every swim.  The nice thing about being terrible at something is that improvement is around every corner!  It’s definitely a nice feeling.

5. Hiking and taking long walks.  When I was running a lot, especially on weekends, I would be too tired after my run to also go on a long walk or a hike with the Gypsy Runner.  This past weekend, we took advantage of my non-running status and went on a nice hike on the Coastal Trail in San Francisco.  It was awesome!

Two of the most famous features of San Francisco: the Golden Gate Bridge and the fog.

Two of the most famous features of San Francisco: the Golden Gate Bridge and the fog.

6. Maintaining perspective.  Even though I’m at times angry or sad that I can’t run, I’m still grateful for my health and the ability to be physically active in many other ways.  Things could definitely be worse, and my prognosis could too!  My injury seems relatively minor and will hopefully resolve in few weeks.  (Fingers crossed!)

I would say the only really “bad” thing about not being able to run right now is that my appetite has not adjusted to the decrease in activity.  I still feel like I get regular bouts of “runger” even though I’ve run less than 10 miles in the last 2 weeks.  All things considered, it’s a minor issue and one that should be remedied with a little bit of self-control, I hope!

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Posted in Injuries, random

My First DNS

I wish that my run this morning went so well and so painlessly that instead of writing the following post, I was writing a race preview for Big Basin Marathon.  Unfortunately, after 6 days off from running, multiple sessions of strength/rolling/stretching, daily icing, continued cross-training, and even a couple of strips of KT tape, I could not ignore the feeling of a nagging ache in my right hip as I finished 4 easy miles on the treadmill.

This morning’s run wasn’t all bad, though.  (Happy National Running Day, BTW.)  My left hip/glute and right hamstring stayed relatively quiet, which was a big #WIN in my book.  Unfortunately, in their place, an ache started in my right glute and spread though my hip joint to my TFL/hip flexor area.  It didn’t bug me until the very end of my run, so I was hopeful that it would just go away.  However, as I stepped off the treadmill, I felt the same piercing pain that had bugged me 2.5 weeks ago at Lake Chabot (a.k.a. the first installment of the traveling pain).

I knew this was a very, very bad sign for Big Basin.  For a couple of hours, I was in denial, thinking about how I could push through the pain on Sunday and still finish my first trail marathon.  Looking for advice, I texted KP, who is also signed up for Big Basin, to tell her the mixed results from my run this morning.  I mentioned that, despite the 99% chance of pain, I might start the race and see how I feel.  Because she is a good friend and a wise runner, she responded, “Why do you want to run if you will be in pain the whole time?”  Touché!

I took a hard look at the reasons why I wanted to run this race, which included:

  • it would be my first trail marathon.
  • I was excited about racing with KP. (Also I felt guilty about making her sign up in the first place.)
  • I was excited about running through Big Basin Park.
  • I was looking forward to meeting the other Jen, with whom I’ve been commiserating re: our injuries.
  • I had already paid (but I could get a partial refund). (1/2 reason)
  • it would qualify me for Marathon Maniacs. (1/4 reason)

Then, there were the arguments against racing:

  • pain… for many, many hours.  The pain was certain; the only question was where would it show up?  (Note re: pain — sure, I could take a ton of ibuprofen, but I promised myself a long time ago that I would never, ever do that just to get through a race.  It’s not worth it to me to mask the pain and risk getting a serious injury…)
  • possibly injuring myself further
  • not enjoying it, due to the above pain and injury
  • prolonging the recovery period (or basically, starting all over again)
  • if I DNF’ed (DNF = did not finish), I’d have to wait around for the aid station volunteers to finish up and hope that one of them would take me to the finish
  • a DNF is listed on your race results forever, whereas no one has to know about a DNS (DNS = did not start) … except when you write about it on your blog – ha!

Really, it boiled down to one word: REGRET.  What would I regret more, running and hurting myself, or not running at all?  Since Big Basin hadn’t entered my radar until 5 weeks ago, the regret factor was relatively easy — this was NOT a goal race, and I’d much rather get healthy and finish my first trail marathon strong and smiling instead of limping and wincing.  Not to mention, there’s the immediate future to consider — a 10 day trip to the East Coast in mid-June and the San Francisco Half Marathon (1st half) at the end of July.  I would hate to still be recovering from an injury for those occasions.  The fact that I could still get a partial refund was pretty sweet (actually, it’s race credit towards any Coastal race in the next 12 months, but it’s still better than nothing!).  And finally, getting KP’s blessing to DNS sealed the deal.

The other way you know when you’ve made the right decision is when things click into place and you just feel so much better.  When I was still thinking of running on Sunday, I was filled with doubt and trepidation.  Many of the runners that I know well and trust advised me not to run, and I stubbornly ignored them, even though I knew they were right.  Once I made the decision to DNS, I felt great.  A weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt extremely relieved.

So, what’s next??  I’m not sure, except that there will be no running in my immediate future as I continue to do strengthening exercises.  And when I do start feeling strong enough, I’ll start with very short runs and slowly build up mileage (like a smart person), especially now that I’m not pressured to run a marathon anytime soon.  With this recent injury rollercoaster, I have to admit to feeling a little bit sad and frustrated, like I’ll never run long distances again, but I just have to remember to be patient and keep on working.  Hopefully, I’ll be back before I know it.

Have you ever DNF’ed and/or DNS’ed?  If you’ve done both, which was worse and why?

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Posted in Injuries
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7/27/14 - San Francisco Half Marathon (1st Half)
9/19-20 - Ragnar Napa

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