What to Work On

Coming back from injury means spending an awful lot of time doing rehab and strengthening and all kinds of things that I clearly wasn’t doing enough of before.  This has become absurdly evident with my new routine, which requires me to do these hip strengthening exercises and assorted recovery techniques DAILY, when I previously did half as much and only three times each week max.  I thought I was doing well, foam rolling after every run and incorporating core and hips two to three times each week, but clearly, it wasn’t enough.  I’ve learned it’s better to do a little every day to keep yourself consistently healthy and aside from those first few weeks, when it really felt like all I was doing was rehab, it really is manageable.  My routine is now so streamlined that it takes roughly 20-25 minutes to do the whole thing.  Twenty minutes out of my day is comparatively nothing.  And I’m still healing.  When I’m back to fitness, it will be more like 15 minutes.  Fifteen minutes to keep my body healthy and happy is a good deal, if you ask me.

 

But this whole comeback has me thinking.  I’m starting from scratch, so to speak, with my mileage currently at around 10 miles/week and (unbearably) slow.  It’s a unique opportunity to approach my running as trying to design the “perfect” version of my runner self.  One thing I have always been notoriously awful at is hitting negative splits.  Even in my best races, I have never hit them.  I’m an even-paced girl all around.  Almost every run is kind of ridiculously even paced, but I have had my share of positive splits in races (ahem, marathons).  One thing I’d really like to work on as I train is hitting negative splits in most of my speed workouts and doing progressive long runs.  I’ve failed those in the past,  somehow I could run at a faster pace for the entire length of a run but unable to start at a more moderate pace and finish fast.  It’s like my body doesn’t like to change speeds, which I’ve noticed in races if I get stuck behind a crowd and end up going slower, I can’t speed back up and hit my paces without blowing up.  It’s definitely something to work on.

 

Another thing that is high on my list of priorities is slowing way down on my easy runs.  I’m going to focus on nailing workout days (once I start those! base building for now), and running a true easy pace on easy days.  I’ve got a heart rate monitor that I don’t use nearly enough and I want to monitor my effort as I’m returning to fitness and make sure I’m not doing too much too soon on days that are supposed to be easy.  That way I can truly put 100% effort into the speed days.  I have been very guilty in the past of taking the easy day for granted.  Not that I tried to race my easy days, but I’d often run easy and start to get “bored,” especially on medium-long runs of 9 or 11 miles and I’d throw in pickups or end the last 2 miles at nearly tempo pace just to feel like I had some pop in my legs.  Ideal training means letting each run serve its purpose.

 

If you could had unlimited time/resources to incorporate an ideal element into your training or racing, what would it be?

Give me your favorite training advice!

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Injury Update

I was going to do this post tomorrow but I did pretty much nothing other than study yesterday to update you on so we’ll switch it to today.  I actually feel a little funny even saying that I’m “injured.”  I don’t have a stress fracture or a torn ligament or any acute injury, it’s more of a constant annoyance.  I started noticing it in the spring, a slight pulling sensation on the inside of my shin.  It didn’t hurt or change my gait, it was more of an awareness of a sensation than anything resembling pain.  Then, it started to pull a little more.  Then we went to Austria, land of mountains, and with all those inclines suddenly it wasn’t slight and it was just a little pull.  It hurt and it was pretty constant.  Not while doing day to day activities though, only if I tried to run or walked for a while.  So I wasn’t worried about a stress fracture but something was definitely up.

 

I was lucky enough to be able to go to a sports clinic that has 3D modeling and biomechanical assessment (much like the SPEED clinic at UVA) thanks to a girl who ran for my school’s XC program and now has a PhD in biomechanical engineering.  It was insanely cool, I got lasered up like a little video game figure and ran on a treadmill, which was assessed in real time and videotaped all with me looking like nothing but a skeleton.  We also measured both the flexibility and strength (with a little device that you push on while in various positions) of every different muscle group that is important for running.  My results were assessed in a 40 page work-up complete with graphs comparing me to the ideal runner for my height, weight, gender, and running ability.  It was seriously eye opening, because I’ve always thought myself severely inflexible (I can’t even touch my toes) but I actually tested right around optimal level in nearly every flexibility test (and it was explained that you don’t have to be flexible to be an ideal runner, you just need specific flexibility!).  But I also had a massive imbalance between my right and left sides when it came to anything hip-related.  My right hip was either not strong enough or too flexible, always way above or below the ideal range and even more disconcertingly, never close to what my left leg was doing.  Long story short, I learned that ten years ago when I tore my quad (soccer injury!), during the healing process an imbalance formed that I have never addressed.  I’ve never had hip problems (as far as I know), but because your hips are so important to your running, that hip imbalance was causing lower leg tightness which was causing my posterior tibial tendinitis (eventual diagnosis!).  So, to address my calf problem, I had to slowly strengthen and stretch my hips back into balance.

 

It has been a slow process, the tiny stabilizer muscles in my hips were the problem rather than glutes or any of the larger muscles.  They needed to be worked a little every day for months rather than strengthened with heavy weights.  So there has been no immediate relief, and I’ve been told not to run while still inflamed so for 2 months it has looked an awful lot like this: run 3 miles on Monday, inflamed Tues-Thurs no running, run 2 painful miles Friday, feel better by Monday and repeat.  But in the last 2 weeks, I’m noticing a change.  My hips have gotten a bit stronger, I can tell by how much easier the exercises are getting.  And my runs are sore, but the inflammation lasts only a day and the pain is more like it was in the beginning, an awareness rather than actual pain.  So I’ve cautiously begun running as of this week.  3 miles every other day to start.  There are walk breaks involved, I have to stop every ten minutes to stretch my calves more.  But it’s running, and I’m sensing a comeback that starts now.

A long vacation

The title is a little bit of a misnomer, I don’t know that I’d call what’s been going on this summer a “vacation,” but I sure took one monster of a vacation from blogging.  It started innocently enough, we moved two weeks after we got back from Austria so we had a TON to do, then the next two weeks were spent getting settled back in Virginia.  I planned on getting back to blogging once things had quieted down, but what you don’t all know (unless you’ve seen me mention it on instagram or twitter!) is that I sustained one giant pain-in-the-butt of an injury that just won’t leave me alone.  My motivation to post on my running blog while injured was pretty much zero, so I let it go while I focused on all the work I’ve been doing since we moved back.  It’s been so good for me, and maybe it’s even been good for me that I couldn’t run.  I have gotten so much work done and been so insanely productive, so while it has been frustrating to heal slowly, I also didn’t miss running as much as I normally would.  And I’ve even been weightlifting a decent amount recently, which is pretty much a sentence I never thought I’d say.  I usually avoid strength training like the plague but I’ve been enjoying it, if only because it’s the only place I’m seeing measurable progress 😉  I’ll go into a little more detail on the injury later this week but I am running again and excited for all the cool weather miles coming my way.

 

So, since you all don’t want to hear about work or non-running, I’ll do a little recap of some of the stuff I was up to this summer.

 

birthday

Spent several days at the adorable ice cream stand near my house where you can play games under the umbrellas while you eat homemade ice cream.  SO GOOD.  This was Joe’s birthday, with salted caramel flavored ice cream on his sundae.  I had a Kahlua milkshake, which I still remember vividly because it was SO DARN GOOD.  There was a lot of ice cream eating this summer.

 

 

 

 

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Went to a brunch with this girl that was a little about the delicious and a lot about the unlimited booze.  We made friends with our waiter and he brought us shots, which leads to wandering around the museum afterward like this:

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She’s too much fun for her own good.

 

And Joe and I had quite the awesome day at a baseball game!  Another sentence that isn’t something I thought I’d say…I’m definitely a football girl, baseball usually bores me to death.  But baseball is significantly more fun when you’re three rows behind home plate and there’s unlimited food and beer!

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And that’s us on tv!  I’m noticing a theme with my highlights…unlimited food=fun.

 

Just a few of my highlights but I’m so happy that it’s finally fall and I’m excited to be blogging again 🙂

 

Tell me some of your favorites from this summer!

What’s your number one favorite thing about fall?  (Mine is football, but a very close second is the gorgeous weather!)

Austria Day 5

This was definitely our most strenuous day of our active vacation.  We found out that there is a route from the mountain we’ve been climbing to the next peak over (which is a little taller) and obviously, we just needed to do that.  Even though it’ll make our roundtrip hike 14 miles and it was predicted to be 89 degrees and bright and sunny.  Oops!

 

I probably should’ve been a little smarter and done zero running, but it is just so hard to turn down the gorgeousness of this scenery.  So hike, then 4 miles on the mountain thinking that I was keeping it pretty light for a full day’s worth of hiking.  Joe caught one picture of me again.

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Then we started really booking it to the top, we were pretty much experts at the main part of the mountain by now.  We made it to the top about 30-40 minutes quicker than the previous tries and that was a very good thing because it was getting HOT.  We had to stop to fill our water bottle with snow!  We knew the new route at the top would be an extra couple hours but we weren’t quite prepared for how steep, how slippery (lots of loose rocks), and how very very little room you had on the “trail” before massive drop offs off the side of the mountain.  In places, it was just one foot in front of the other and a whole lot of me not allowing myself to look 6 inches to my right.  I stared at my feet an awful lot.

 

Luckily, the views were pretty awesome whenever I found a place I wasn’t scared to take a pause and get a picture.

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Once we got close, I felt like I was on top of the world.

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And we got a pretty awesome view of the valley from the top.

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All the snow was pretty enticing, it was 90 degrees!  It was quite funny though, this side of the mountain (from the other peak) was very gently rolling downward and looked completely different from the rugged and steep climb we had from the other side.  You could tell who came from each side at the top, children and dogs had made their way on the other side and the ones with hiking boots and poles and covered in sweat had come from our side.

 

We had a pretty uneventful hike all the way back down, and I repeated “ice cream and diet coke” over and over in my head when I was starting to get tired and my feet were hurting.  I had been planning since about 10 minutes in to have that as soon as I got back.  We definitely made good:

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Except Joe decided ice cream and beer made a better combo.

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Does anybody else crave a soda when they’re eating ice cream? I very very rarely have a soda but I always crave the carbonation when I’m having ice cream for some reason!

What was your run today?

Austria Day 4

After the leisurely river run, I was really eager to hit the mountains again (whether this was a good decision or not is yet to be determined).  We followed the same pattern as the first time and hiked for about an hour, then I ran, then we hiked the rest of the way to the top and hiked back down again.

 

The views were pretty awesome again.

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And I decided to find a new portion of the mountain for my run.  Joe couldn’t catch pictures of me this time since I wasn’t running the same stretch over and over but he did manage to get one.

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And I found a tiny waterfall/stream and of course had to touch it.  It was cold and perfect to pour over my head.

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We started our day super early but it was quickly getting VERY hot, with temperatures in the mid-80s even on the mountain.  So I was pretty happy when we reached the false summit and only had another 90 minutes to the top!

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Luckily, we got to the top and were able to head back down before the sun came out strong and the heat got even crazier.  I almost stepped on this guy on the way back down:

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I thought he was a rock!

 

Obviously, the best way to refuel after 5.5 hours of really steep hiking is with Austrian beer.  I was a big fan of the local brewery, Huber, and particularly the lighter of their two hefeweizens.  Joe liked the Egger, but I think mostly because it was served in giant 1 liter stone steins.

 

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We bought two steins to bring home, Joe got one of the Egger ones he loved so much and I got one with a painting of the town on it.  I have a tradition of drinking the local beers when we go on vacation and if we are at the beach, I fill up an empty one with sand from the beach I’m visiting.  I’ve got some from the Bahamas, Honduras, Belize, etc.  I figured the stein was a pretty good addition to the collection even if there’s no sand!

 

 

Do you have any souvenir purchase you always make on vacation?

Or a tradition of always tasting the local food/drinks?

Austria Day 3

After the hell that was running on a mountain, I decided it was best to stay flat the next day.  We had seen a river from the top of the mountain that flowed all the way through the valley, connecting town to town so I thought that seemed like the ideal place to run.  I wasn’t wrong.  It started in a nice, shady part of town:

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And I quickly headed out of town and along the crushed gravel path running right beside the beautiful and incredibly clear river.

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The view to my left wasn’t bad either.

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It was seriously one of the most beautiful places to run I’ve ever seen.  I must have said to Joe 50 times that I could live in this town.  Obviously, one of the most compelling reasons would be the perfect running– this trail goes on forever and ever and no chance of getting hit by cars, just perfect scenery and a beautiful, flat trail.  Bonus: Even in the heat, the water was FREEZING (being glacial water and all) and made the perfect ice bath for my super sore muscles.

 

Obviously, the best way to recover was a gelato in town.  I got lemon and mango, Joe had hazelnut and blueberry (we only discovered this afterward, we basically guessed at the German words and what we thought they might be).  Best lemon gelato ever, it was super sour and felt so good on a hot day.

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We spent the afternoon being lazy and resting our sore bodies, which meant I got some serious sun time with my beer.

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Before we knew it, it was dinner time.  Started with a salad with blueberry dressing.

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Carrot and thyme soup.

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Quiche lorraine.

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Delicious fish and roasted veggies.  I would have felt pretty healthy if it wasn’t for the liter of beer and gelato I had earlier.

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Where was your prettiest run?

Favorite flavor of gelato?  I really like fruity flavors like lemon, mango, raspberry in the summer but cappuccino is my favorite if it’s not as warm out

 

 

Austria Day 2

I said I was going to run in town then hike the mountain, what ended up happening was a little different.  We decided to combine the two since it was 10 miles round trip up and down this gigantic and STEEP beast.  We hiked up the initial part, which varied from 17-25% grade (ouch) then we hit a more gentle 3% section and I did a one mile warm-up.  Next up was a switchback half a mile in length at 5-8% grade so I ran 4 miles by going up and back down this section.  Up was an awful lot of work and down felt like I might fly off the side of the mountain but you couldn’t beat the view.

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And because Joe was just sitting and reading while he waited for me to get my run in, he caught a few photos of me every time I ran past him (sometimes I was going up, sometimes down).

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He took about 10 pictures and they are the only pictures I think I have ever liked of me running but I like all of them.  Must be the mountains.

 

I did a cool down mile then it was back to hiking the rest of the way to the summit together.  The actual hiking time was 2.5 hours to the top and 2 hours down and 10.2 miles.  The steepest sections were 25% grade, the vast majority at 15-18% grade, and the nice “flat” section where I ran in the middle was 3-8% but covered such a tiny portion of the actual mountain.  Let me tell you, my hill repeats did not prepare me for that workout, I was sore in places that I didn’t know I had.

 

And I was so ready to eat all the food.  Thank goodness for a big meal.

Chicken pate and beef broth with horseradish dumplings

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And pork with balsamic onions followed by vanilla ice cream with sea salt and pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil sauce.  Everything was delicious.

 

 

What was the hardest workout you’ve ever done?  This didn’t feel like the hardest necessarily while I was doing it, but I was more sore afterwards than I was after my marathons!

Do you like pictures of yourself running?

The day of bacon

Yesterday I just really really did not feel like running so I didn’t run.  I know, novel concept, but it just felt right.  I wasn’t tired, sore, injured, or anything of the sort, I just thought about running and decided that even sitting around and researching sounded more fun.  I can’t remember the last time that happened (though I will totally chicken out of runs in terrible weather or move rest days around…I just never REALLY don’t want to run).  Then I tried to ask myself if I wanted to do anything at all, and unlike those days where your body just wants/needs to lay around, I really did want to get moving.  For some reason, running didn’t sound appealing, but pretty much everything else did…including lifting (insert shocked face here).  I ended up doing insanity plyo, plus 20 minutes-ish of kettlebells and 15 minutes of core.  I’m going to hurt like you wouldn’t believe after that.  I’ve been very guilty of neglecting strength training lately.

 

When I went to go make breakfast, Joe told me that we had some bacon that we should probably try to use up.  There was quite a good amount of it so it wasn’t going to happen at breakfast but I figured it was the perfect excuse for pancakes and bacon.

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This is Joe’s plate, I promise mine only had about half as many pancakes.  I’m really glad I exercised first though because I was stuffed to the gills after this.

 

At lunch time, I figured I’d try to use more bacon because it just had to be eaten, right?

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Jalapeno wrap, pesto, gouda, turkey, fried egg, and BACON.

 

I had some cupcakes for an afternoon snack but since that doesn’t go with the theme we’re just going to ignore it and move on.  For dinner, Joe brought home a fresh baguette so I thought soup would pair perfectly.  I made some lobster bisque and then realized I was on a roll with the bacon today so we used up the rest in our soup.

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If you’re wondering, bacon, parmigiano cheese, and lobster bisque are best friends.

 

 

You should be glad I didn’t have Joe take pictures of me working out in our non-air conditioned house (sweaty is an understatement) but instead provided you with pictures of a full day of bacon yumminess.  I’m declaring yumminess a real word, my English major be damned.

 

 

Ever have a “themed” day of eating? 

Do you ever just REALLY not want to run but still want to work out?  What is your go-to workout if you’re not feeling running?

I’m addicted

Yesterday’s 400s were ROUGH.  I don’t often do speed work that early in the day and something just wasn’t clicking, I felt like I had no energy from the warmup on.  But, I made it through and it really does feel fantastic to be done with a really hard workout before you do anything else that day.

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I also ate really healthily all day, which you probably don’t even believe is possible but I promise I do it a few times each week.  I always eat healthy breakfasts and lunches, it’s dinner where I add a little craziness sometimes, but for dinner last night I had salmon cakes with a light homemade lemon dill sauce, mixed vegetables (eggplant, cucumber, tomato, peppers, and onions), and couscous.  And avocado on top because it’s the best.

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I’ve had fish and veggies for dinner twice in the last 3 days so now I’m really ready to have something a little more fun tonight.  We are going to see X-Men later and will probably try a new restaurant while we’re out.  I’m a little excited.  I’m NOT excited that the movie is in 3D.  Am I the only one who hates that?  We got these early screening tickets so we didn’t have a choice but I never see 3D if I have the option, it’s been probably 4 years since I’ve seen one. 

 

I had another picture for you but my computer just won’t cooperate in loading it so I’ll give you a confession instead: Joe and I have fallen into the pit that is Breaking Bad addiction.  Neither of us had ever seen an episode and we thought the premise sounded weird when we first heard about it but we didn’t have any friends who watched it to change our opinions.  After all the fuss about the finale, we decided we were curious enough to watch one episode and see if it sucked.  Well, we finally got around to that on Monday night.  We certainly didn’t think it sucked, we stayed up until 1am the last 2 nights after I finished my work watching all 7 episodes from the first season.  Oops.  I usually make myself stop reading if I’m still researching when dinner rolls around so I can have a few hours to myself at night and give my brain a break.  For the next few weeks, those 2 or 3 hours at night will inevitably be dedicated to us being addicted to this show.  

 

Any shows you loved but were super late to the party in watching?

Favorite healthy dinner? fish and veggies is for me

What was the last movie you saw?

A little bit of everything

My internet was down yesterday and it taught me very quickly how much I rely on it for a million little things.  For some reason, this only affected my computer and Joe’s was doing just fine.  I managed to steal his for a few minutes and read a few blogs but I couldn’t transfer my photos or anything so today you get a bit of a catch-up.

 

Monday was GORGEOUS out so I had a sunny and fantastic easy 5 mile run then did 20 minutes of core.  Then I had my favorite post-run food:

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Toast smeared with creamed honey, avocado, and poached eggs on top with a little bit of garlic salt.  Yum.

 

And we just couldn’t say no to my craving for more pizza.

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I also tried to take a little picture for you guys to prove that I do sometimes wear a little makeup and straighten my hair.

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It’s sort of ruined by a few things: a) my mirror is spotty as heck  b) I may have on some makeup but I’m still wearing a sweatshirt and c) I’m really awkward at taking photos of myself

 

Yesterday for no good reason my hips were CRAZY sore so I took the day off and am moving my interval workout to today.  I actually get excited when 400s are on the schedule because they go by so quickly that I can convince myself that running that fast isn’t so terrible.  12×400 as soon as I digest this oatmeal.

 

Oh…I almost forgot!  Super fun news…we are going on vacation!  In TWO WEEKS!  Yes, that’s very last minute (or at least it is for me! I like to plan things) but we got an amazing deal that we couldn’t pass up to visit another country we haven’t been to yet.  So I’ll be practicing my running at altitude and blogging to you from AUSTRIA in the very near future 🙂  We are spending the whole week in a small town in the Alps with access to 50+ miles of hiking trails and hope to spend all our time outside exploring if the weather cooperates…apparently, it rains a lot.  But you can hopefully expect some pictures like this:

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What is your workout plan for today?

Have you ever taken a hiking holiday?  Or just an outdoorsy holiday with no other plans than to explore the area?