This is when a time-traveling DeLorean would come in handy

If only I could go back in time to yesterday morning. I wouldn’t have ran. Why did I run?!?!?

I pulled my groin muscle (adductor) yesterday on a routine run. Wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. Wasn’t doing anything stupid. THAT’S the most frustrating part!! I had a running-heavy weekend that culminated with an 8-mile race on Sunday where I really poured out my heart into the run, so I took Monday and Tuesday off of running for a proper recovery. I’ve been doing everything by the book this training season – no overdoing it, lots of stretching and foam rolling, listening to my body…and now this! An injury completely out of the blue! It seems so unfair and I know that sounds whiny but…really? Why did this have to happen???

I can’t even walk right now that’s how bad this pulled muscle is. I’m currently lying on the floor of my apartment, my right leg propped up on pillows on my couch so it stays elevated. I’m icing the muscle every 15 minutes on and off, then massaging it and doing very, very gentle stretching. Taking anti-inflammatory medication every four hours.

I couldn’t sleep at all last night. Not just from the pain but also lying there worrying about Boston. Everything I’ve read about groin injuries says they take 4-6 weeks for recovery. NO RUNNING. I haven’t been to a doctor yet so I’m hoping against hope this won’t be true for me. I can’t let myself think long-term like that right now. Just focus on getting through the next few days and seeing where I’m at then. Boston has been my dream since I was 16 and if I have to crawl across that finish line come April 21 I will do it. I’ve trained so hard for this all winter and there is NO WAY a freak pulled adductor is going to keep me from this!!

Now I’m crying on my floor and I’m pretty sure this is the most pathetic I’ve ever felt. I KNOW it’s “just a race” to some people. But it’s not to me. Especially this year.

I can’t let myself think about this but it’s pretty impossible not to. What will taking 4-6 weeks off running do to my training? Even just a week off could have serious repercussions when it comes to my fitness level. I’m right at the peak of my training plan and getting into the 30km long-run range so this pretty much couldn’t come at a worse time. I was feeling so strong last week and at my race on the weekend and now this has literally knocked me down to the ground.

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Race day superstitions

There are a few superstitions I follow in day-to-day life, like knocking on wood or avoiding black cats and walking under ladders. I picked up a couple in my year living in Russia, too – I won’t sit down on concrete, for example (makes women infertile!), or buy an even number of flowers or put an empty bottle of vodka on the table after finishing it.

But what about running-related superstitions?

I went to Runner’s Choice to get my race kit today for tomorrow’s Refridgee-Eighter eight miler, which included the t-shirt:

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I never, ever wear the t-shirt until after the race. Anyone else do this? I feel like if I were to put it on before I run the actual distance, then I’m setting myself up to DNF (do not finish). I know logically this doesn’t make sense – you usually see quite a few runners at races wearing the race shirts, and I’m assuming they all finish. Or maybe I’m afraid if I wear the shirt before, I won’t run as fast or something will go wrong. So I save the shirt to change into afterwards! I feel like I’ve earned it, if that makes sense!

Other race day superstitions I follow:

– do the exact same stretches I always do before every run (arms out and twisting side from side for about 30 seconds, 4 side bends, hip flexor swings, 6 – 10 on each side…I don’t understand the random numbers, somehow they make sense in my weird mind)

– last minute trip to the bathroom

That’s it, really. I still haven’t figured out the perfect pre-race fuel that works best for me so I don’t have a go-to meal the night before. Something carb-y, but I need to get that down to a science before Boston! I also don’t have a lucky pair of underwear or flavour of GU or anything like that.

Out of curiosity, I looked up some superstitions and rituals famous athletes have. Here are a few:

– the universal one is apparently putting on your uniform in a specific order. Wayne Gretzky is one example. He put his pads on in the exact same order every time – left shin pad, left stocking, right shin pad, right stocking. Then pants, left skate, right skate, shoulder pads, elbow pads, first left and then right, and finally the jersey, right side tucked into his pants.

– playoff beards. ‘Nuff said.

– Tiger Woods’ red shirt.

– Steve Nash licks his fingertips before each shot at the free throw line.

– Boston Celtics’ shooting guard Paul Pierce ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich 55 minutes before every game.

What about you – are you superstitious in your day to day life? What about when it comes to sports and/or running?

Breaking ’em in and getting back in the race mindset

I enjoy having pristine new running shoes for at least a couple runs. Then something happens like I step into a foot of cold muddy slush or (like my long run on Sunday) my toes start bleeding somewhere during 24 km and now I have bloodstains on one shoe:

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All part of the war wounds that come along with running, right?

Speaking of my long run, I switched things up again (the week before I ran with my best friend Kelly, which was awesome!) and this time I ran to my friend’s apartment in the next town over. We were having our first book club meeting that afternoon (sadly our book club is comprised of just the two of us so far! *cue melancholy violin music) so J.P. proposed I end my run at his apartment and we could start our book club while I stretched and foam rolled. Aww, supportive friend!

He swung by my place earlier on Sunday on his way to church and picked up my bag with a change of clothes, deodorant, face wash (is it gross that I didn’t shower? Feel free to weigh in, but I say in freezing temps when you don’t really break a sweat especially doing a very slow, long run, it’s not), post-run snacks and my foam roller and then shortly after I set out. Two hours (and six minutes) and 24.24 km later, I got to his front door!

It was nice having an actual destination for this run, plus I got to run in a different part of the county and explore some roads I’ve written about in the newspaper (fun stories on housing developments! zoning bylaws! woo!) but have never actually seen.

J.P. had the kettle waiting for tea and I changed, warmed up and then stretched while we discussed Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise.” It was a great afternoon! Then he drove me back to my town since there was no way I’d be running back! The 24 km was tough, but changing up the location definitely helped. Another help? Dividing up the distance in my head to four six-kilometer sets, and then, towards the end, pretending each kilometer was a runner that I was picking off one at a time.

That leads me to the second point of this post’s title. I haven’t raced since May 2013 when I did a (chocolate-themed!) 10-miler in St. Catharine’s. So it’s been awhile since I’ve ran with that competitive mindset, dealt with pre-race nerves and really, really pushed myself until my lungs burn and I feel like I’m going to throw up. You know, that awesome feeling.

You just can’t replicate it when you’re running on your own, no matter how fast you try to go!

I’ve signed up for the Around the Bay 30km road race in March, and today I signed up for the RunWaterloo Re-Fridgee-Eighter 8 mile race in a week and a half! I’m really excited for this – yep, mostly because I’m a sucker for a cool name and a free t-shirt. And my friend Emily will be running the 8km option and Kelly is going to be our official cheerleader! I can’t wait! One of the best parts of running is sharing it with friends and family and honestly, I could never run without their support. This is going to be lots of fun!

It will also be great to get back in that racing mindset before Boston. I need to stir up my competitive streak even if it’s just to get my butt handed to me by some majorly talented runners (like, uh, KRISTA DUCHENE!!!). The Refridgee-Eighter and Around the Bay will give me a chance to get used to racing again, practice with pre-race fuel and GU (during Around the Bay; I don’t usually have GUs for distances shorter than 21km) and of course get inspired by other runners.

What about you – do you like to race, or just run for the fun of it? Are you a sucker for themed races too and/or free t-shirts and cool medals? What’s the coolest themed race you’ve ever done?

I think my favourite themed race was probably the Philly Rock ‘n’ Roll half, although the chocolate one was a huge hit (at water stations they gave out chocolate-covered strawberries and marshmallows on sticks!). The coolest medal I have is probably my snowflake one from the Hypothermic Half in Newfoundland, that snapped off because of the cold so my dad power-glued it back together, but upside down 🙂

How I (hope to) prevent injuries while training for Boston

Runner problem #1: when a song ends right when you’re in the middle of a hill climb and there are a few painful seconds (slash an eternity) of complete silence except the ragged gasps of air coming from your lungs before the next song kicks in (and of course it’s a slow ballad).

Runner problem #2: INJURIES!!

So let’s talk injuries today. If you run, whether it’s marathons or 5ks, you’re bound to get injured at some point, unfortunately. The only thing we can do is learn from our injuries and try not to repeat the same mistake twice.

The biggest running injury I’ve dealt with that comes to mind are stress fractures. A few years ago, I wasn’t competing in any races but I was running every day. No matter what, I’d be out there running. (Ironically, I’m a faster and better runner now running 4-5 times a week than I was running 7 days a week for a couple years!). I know there are people who run every day and swear by it (here’s a guy who hasn’t missed a day since 1968!) but for me, taking recovery days and doing cross-training has made me a better runner, made me love running more, and made me less likely to get injured due to overuse/overtraining.

So in the winter of 2008, I got a stress fracture in my metatarsals but just fought through the pain and kept running (also borrowed a friend’s old pair of running shoes for a few runs – not smart). Two weeks later, I was in so much pain just standing while lifeguarding at work that I realized I needed to go to the hospital. Turned out the tiny fractures in my metatarsals had expanded into a full out fracture because I had kept pounding away and for the last two weeks, I had been running on a broken foot. Awesome!

So I ended up rocking a boot cast for three months:

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I won’t even go into how awful lugging this thing known as my foot around for three months in the snow was, with the cold slush soaking my sock and having to wrap my leg in a garbage bag as I trudged around campus while Western girls in Uggs cast pitying looks at me and Western boys let library doors slam in my face.

The absolute WORST thing about it was not being able to run for those 12 weeks. Gone was my running streak. Gone was my number one way of dealing with stress. What was really frustrating was knowing it was my own stubbornness and pride that put me in that situation, but I like to think I learned from it. Since then, I haven’t dealt with any bad running injuries and I really, really hope that’s a streak that continues!

So how do I hope to prevent injuries while training for Boston? Here’s my plan of attack:

– COMPRESSION SOCKS. Swear by these. Didn’t have any injuries at all last year while training for the Gettysburg marathon, and I put a lot of credit into these babies. I wear them for runs that are 10 miles + (16 km), and wear them after the run for as long as possible to aid in recovery and circulation (at least 5 hours, although sometimes that means wearing them under jeans haha).

– Stretch, foam roll, repeat. Foam rolling is new to me this year but so far I’m loving it. It’s time consuming (I do it every day and even though I tell myself it’s just for 10 minutes it usually ends up being more like 30) but it’s like a deep tissue massage for your muscles. I focus on quads, hams, calves, IT band and piriformis.

– nutrition: I take a calcium/vitamin D supplement every day now in addition to eating Greek yogurt every day (protein + calcium). You’ve got to keep those bones strong! Especially if osteoporosis runs in your family or you’re experiencing the female athlete triad. I also include anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and ginger in my meals and smoothies. By eating anti-inflammatory foods you keep inflammation from intense exercise localized, meaning that your body recovers quicker and heals injuries faster. And last – beets! Apparently beets and beet juice are one of the best things runners can eat because of the healthy nitrates. Awesome news for the girl who lived in Russia for a year and ate beets all the time…

– new shoes. As soon as I feel any kind of pain/tenderness in my shins while running, I check out my shoes and usually end up buying a new pair. I should probably buy new shoes more often, but small town journalists don’t exactly bring in the big bucks so I make do with 2-3 pairs a year.
– be aware of your environment while running. Practice constant vigilance while running in the winter! I’m constantly terrified I’ll wipe out on the ice and end up breaking my leg or something. Watch out for black ice, traffic, deep snow banks, all that fun stuff. I usually have one or two wipe-outs every winter, but so far I’ve been lucky and gotten away with just some bad bruising and no breaks. If you’re going to fall, I guess my advice would be to try and break your fall with your hands rather than your legs? Better a broken wrist than doing anything to your knee, ankle or foot, I think. Oh and watch out for cars! Wear reflective gear and don’t trust that drivers will look both ways when making a turn.

– pay attention to your body. Muscle pain is okay. Joint pain isn’t. One of the benefits to running and training for a race is that it makes you a lot more in tune with your body. Don’t let little warning signals develop into bigger problems! Sometimes that means taking an extra rest day even if mentally you’re struggling with that. No matter what, I take one full rest day every week.

– strength train. Not my favourite kind of workout to be honest, but stronger muscles = less prone to injury. Also, including a strength training day prevents overuse. Yesterday I knew I SHOULD strength train, but sometimes it just seems easier or more fun to run instead. But I had a pretty intense weekend of running coming up, so I skipped the run and did Jillian Michaels’ yoga inferno plus my runner’s core workout (ie 10 minutes of death).

– SLEEP! That one’s easy, and I’m more than willing to do it 🙂 Sleep is when your body’s muscles repair themselves, and marathoners apparently require more sleep than the average person. So try and get as much sleep as possible!

What are your tips for preventing running injuries? What’s the worst running or fitness-related injury you’ve dealt with? Please tell me there’s someone else out there stupid enough to keep running on a broken foot for two weeks…

Two halfs, three days and a bit of (non-Superbowl) football

Thursday was one of THOSE days that runners occasionally get – the perfect day where everything comes together. Weather, route, energy = everything just felt awesome. I really needed a day like that just mentally in terms of training, you know? It was such a confidence boost and left me beaming all day.

It was around -5, sunny and I ended up wearing the perfect amount of layers where I wasn’t too cold or too hot. I warmed up with 5km then ended up on a country road that is a long hill. I marked out a kilometer and ran four hill repeats for a total of 8km. Uphill, I tried to focus on breathing and core strength, and also tried to work in a burst of speed at the very top. Downhill was all about relaxing, loosening up and sitting back a bit while letting my legs pick up some good speed. I felt awesome the whole time, although definitely challenged, and when I finished I had been planning to do an easy 3km cool-down, but I decided to just go for it and do a full 21.1. It was just too nice a day to pass up!

I wasn’t sure how smart of a decision it would be though because I planned to do my long run (22.5) this weekend on Saturday rather than Sunday, with my best friend Kelly who recently moved back to Canada from Scotland. Kelly is such a running inspiration – she’s BQed, ran various trail races in Scotland and a midnight half-marathon in Iceland, worked at a running store in Edinburgh and has a TON of knowledge about running. We met in high school cross-country so it’s fitting that our friendship has taken us through many, many miles together! We’ve laughed, cried, talked about big things and little things, missed race starts (usually because we were laughing too hard) and commiserated over unshovelled snowy sidewalks, dark training runs before or after work, waiting 20 minutes + for our satellite watches to kick in, sports-bra chafing and a bunch of other lovely things that come along with being a runner.

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Getting ready for a run in Edinburgh this past spring

Kelly and I are both signed up for Around the Bay 30km road race in March, so she was game to head out for a snowy 22.5km on Saturday morning. I’ve never ran two half-marathons with just a day off in between, so I was a little nervous my Thursday run would come back to bite me in the butt. I took Friday completely off and just lazed around and re-watched Season Two of my favourite show ever, Friday Night Lights. Did a bit of foam rolling and stretching, and even though I felt a little sore, the day off really helped my muscles recover.

Saturday we headed out a little after 10 with a loose idea of where we wanted to run. My parents were great and so helpful in helping us plan a route (my mum even drew a little map that I tucked in my pocket!). We knew the city streets would be a mess so we did a few kilometers along a busy highway (treacherous! Not fun!) until we could turn onto this absolutely beautiful country road. Everything was completely blanketed in snow, there was very little traffic (maybe 6-7 cars total?) and there were some rolling hills in there that we both loved. Gets you in a nice rhythm. The snow didn’t stop coming down the whole time, and was in our faces no matter what direction we ran in, but honestly, that’s to be expected. Temperature was so great (-3), we couldn’t complain! And best of all was the company. I LOVED having a friend to run with, and those kilometers just flew by in a whirl of conversation! (except for when we were going uphill…I’m still not good at the hills + talking). I wish I could do my long runs with Kelly all the time!

I had some issues with pre-run nutrition that kicked in at the 15 km mark (let’s leave it at that, I’ll write more on nutrition/fueling/digestion in a future post but if you have ANY tips, please share them!!) and a bit of muscle soreness from Thursday, but otherwise felt good. We ran a nice 5″28 pace and did 23 km out and back. Normally Kelly and I both loathe out and backs but this one was different – I think a combination of the company, the lack of traffic and the pretty snow that changed up the scenery all helped!

We ended back at my parents’ house and after cooling down a bit, the only thing both of us wanted to do was get out of our running clothes, shower/stretch/foam roll and watch our  mutual TV obsessions (FNL for me, Homeland for Kelly). We discussed how some runners are the “socializing after the run” type who head right to the coffee shop immediately following a run. There’s definitely nothing wrong with that, but we both agreed that the last thing we want to do after finishing a run is sit around in our running clothes, especially after you’re running in extreme temperatures. I’d love to do a “let’s go home to shower then meet up later and post-mortem about our run – or talk about other things!” (even though let’s be serious, it’s way to easy to get caught up in talking about JUST running) but immediately after a run I’ve got my own list of things I like to do:

– stretch, foam roll, do my 10 minute core routine

– shower

– put on compression socks; get dressed in (clean) running clothes (they’re comfy!)

– plug in my GPS watch, look at my splits and pace, etc

– eat

What do you like to do after working out?

Today I took another recovery day from running. I went to a gym and did 30 minutes of very light biking while reading a magazine to just flush out my legs a bit, and then tomorrow I’m planning on going for a 5km run before work. The past three days were intense ones with the two long runs so I’m taking it easy and not overdoing it. I think in the past I would have pushed on with another run, but overtraining and injury are my big fears right now so I learning to listen to that common sense voice in my head and giving my body a nice break!

And now back to FNL! Who needs the Superbowl when the Dillon Panthers are playing?!?