Detroit Marathon: Week 16 training recap

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Normally the two weeks before the race are all about tapering — i.e. decreasing mileage and intensity in order to make sure your body is as rested as possible so you can maximize your potential. But since I haven’t run much in the last month, things are a lot different this time around; I’ll actually be trying to slowly (and safely) ramp up in mileage in preparation for race day.

Even though I’m technically out of the woods with my injury, I can’t just jump back in from where I left off because if I bite off more than my body can chew, it’ll only set me back. So I’ve got to slowly start building again to raise my level of cardiovascular fitness, continue to work on my weak links and develop the strength and stability to prevent future injury.

Of course, this makes it interesting when you’ve got a marathon in two and a half weeks…but more on that later.

Here’s what was on the schedule this week:

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And here’s how my actual workouts are panning out:

  • Monday: Elliptical (45 min), plyometric & Bosu stabilization exercises, physical therapy
  • Tuesday: Revocycle class (45 min), PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Swim (30 min, ~1300m), strength training, treadmill run intervals (2 min run + 1 min walk x 10 = 22 min), PT exercises
  • Thursday: OFF, Bosu stabilization exercises, foam rolling, PT exercises, run coach strategy session
  • Friday: Treadmill run intervals (10 min run + 1 min walk x 4 = 44 mins), PT exercises
  • Saturday: Aerobic recovery (long bike ride, 1.5-2 hours), massage, PT exercises
  • Sunday: Treadmill run intervals (10 min run + 1 min walk x 5 = 55 mins), PT exercises

Three things of note this week:

First, my PT “graduated” me; I’m feeling strong and was able to run for 15 minutes without pain last weekend, so she referred me to a running coach at the training facility to make a plan for getting up to 26.2 in a matter of weeks. Frankly, I haven’t a clue on how to go about that, so I’m glad to have help.

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Second, I spoke with the coach yesterday, and together we made the call  for me to officially bow out of the Portland half marathon this weekend. His thinking is that it won’t help me, fitness-wise, at this point and could only potentially hurt me. I totally agree. But I’m still disappointed — and, frankly, a bit scared — being this far behind so close to the marathon.

Third, and along those lines, we had a really open, honest and difficult discussion yesterday. Although I’ve got a good base of fitness and have been racing regularly this year, the fact is, I’m running out of time. To jump into too many miles too quickly might injure me again before race day, yet to not do enough mileage in advance might be damaging to my body when I’ve suddenly got to run 4+ hours on race day.

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We talked about potentially backing out of the race altogether and focusing on another one in the spring…but after a long year of racing, my body needs a break and, mentally, I was hoping to switch things up and focus on getting faster at shorter distances and getting back on the trails. So a slow, steady and cautious build it’ll be in these last two weeks in order to try to complete the Detroit Marathon on October 19.

Notice I said “complete:” I had a rough day yesterday coming to terms with the fact that racing this event simply wouldn’t be a good call. It comes down to staying healthy and strong, advised the coach, rather than digging myself into a deeper hole that I have to spend all off-season getting myself out of. It helps to try to keep perspective in these situations — there will be other races — but it’s still a process of mourning having to let go of a goal you’ve been working toward for six months.

It sucks. I’m angry — mostly at myself for starting an aggressive training program when I wasn’t 100 percent. I know better, but I let my excitement get the best of me. So I’ve got to accept it, learn from it and move forward. And I know if I’m able to run another marathon in the future, it’ll be as a stronger, smarter runner. Which is the cruel irony of this sport!

On a lighter note, one exciting part of getting to run again is trying out new running shoes. I’ve been a longtime fan of my Asics Gel Kayanos, but since my PT was thinking they’re a little too stable for me, I’m taking a new model for a spin: Hoka’s Conquests.

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They may look like a beast of a shoe (seriously, the outsole is huge), but the beauty of them is in their state-of-the-art weight-to-resilience ratio and cushioning. Billed as being “fast, highly-responsive” shoes, the Conquests are light as can be and promote accurate foot roll through the gait cycle — not to mention they’ve been comfy as hell as I’ve been slowly breaking them in.

More time — and mileage — will tell, but I’m excited to see if these might be my new “sole” mates on the road. Between now and next week’s recap, I’ll (fingers crossed) be able to break them in a bit more.

Stay tuned for week 17; thanks for the kind words, encouragement and for following along!

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Detroit Marathon: Week 15 training recap

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Big news this week! Hint: It rhymes with “funning.” 😉

Yep, I’ve officially been cleared to run. Ok, so maybe it’s twice a week for five minutes at a time on the treadmill, but I’m thrilled A) to be making forward progress, and B) to be getting stronger.

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My PT even said I had a crazy-huge grin on my face at my last session when I realized I wasn’t feeling my previous aches and pains. But, oh, does running feel different now that I’m actually using my butt muscles! Go figure.

Here’s this week’s schedule; I get anxious thinking of all this peak mileage I’m missing…but I’m thankful to be able to run, regardless of pace (and still mulling over race-day goals…other than the primary objective of finishing healthy).

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And below is my actual schedule; as you can see, I’m still hitting it hard with PT and trying to keep my cardio up through non-impact exercises. I’m also substituting some serious (for me) bike mileage for my long runs, which will hopefully help me maintain the strength and endurance needed for 26.2.

  • Monday: Spin class (60 min) & physical therapy
  • Tuesday: Elliptical (45 min), Bosu stabilization drills & PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Swimming (40 min, ~1500m), jog on treadmill (5 min), strength training & PT exercises
  • Thursday: Revocycle class (45 min) & physical therapy
  • Friday: OFF, Bosu stabilization & plyometric drills, PT exercises
  • Saturday: Long bike ride (aiming for 40-60 miles), PT exercises
  • Sunday: Elliptical or swim (45 mins), jog on treadmill (up to 15 min), PT exercises

Two other highlights from the week, since I’m trying to remain positive and goal-oriented:

First, I’m finding a swimming groove. Whether it’s that I’m trusting my leg again or regaining some fitness in the water, I was able to cut two minutes off my 1500m time from last week and five minutes from the previous week.

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And second is this shot from my weekend long ride, which is pretty self-explanatory. If you like fall — and running — as much as I do, then you’ll understand why (surprise!) fall running is one of my very favorite activities.

So even though it’ll be some time before I’m out logging miles on foot, I’m thankful to be able to enjoy this view from my bike in the meantime. Especially because my days of riding outside in the sun are numbered this season, according to what all the Portland locals are telling me…

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Next week my PT and I will have some decisions to make. I’m registered for the Portland Marathon half on October 5, but I’m not stuck on the idea of running (or even walk/jogging it) if it’ll jeopardize my chances of being able to run my full 26.2 later next month.

As much as I’d like to start building mileage again soon — probably more so to mentally prepare for a marathon — I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself. The last thing I want to do is undo all the work we’ve done so far, so I told my PT I’ll do whatever she says as long as it’ll get me to the starting line in Detroit, healthy and ready to run.

So stay tuned for week 16 as the countdown to race day continues!

Detroit Marathon: Week 14 training recap

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So as not to bury the lede, I’ll start with the bad news: I’m still not running. And I had to back out of the Ragnar Napa relay this weekend as a result. It’s one of my few DNSs (Did Not Starts) to-date, which smarts, as does feeling like I’m letting my team down. But I keep telling myself to, “Suck it up, Buttercup!” because I’ve got to keep a long-term perspective.

Which brings me to my good news: PT is going well. So well, in fact, that I was able to slowly add in some impact exercises a few times this week to start testing how my leg is healing. No, we’re not back up to those 10-mile track workouts or tempos by any means, but I’ll take a few minutes of nearly pain-free skipping and jump-roping any day. Progress!

Here’s what would have been:

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And what actually was:

  • Monday:  Elliptical (45 min), physical therapy & massage
  • Tuesday: Swim (45 min, ~1500m) & PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Revocycle class (45 min) & PT exercises
  • Thursday: Swim (45 min, ~1500m) & PT exercises
  • Friday: Elliptical (45 min) & physical therapy
  • Saturday: Long bike ride (aiming for 50 mi) & PT exercises
  • Sunday: OFF (cheering Hubby on in his triathlon!)

With the focus still off running, I’ve been wanting to bring more regular weight training back into my weekly workout regimen, but that will most likely be on hold for a few more weeks.

My PT has been keeping me busy with daily strength and stability exercises to keep my core working and my glutes firing, and if all goes well, I may (fingers crossed) get to do a little walk-jog work next week. Until then, it’s all about the Bosu.

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Other than that PT progression, there were two major highlights since last week’s training update: First was the 45-mile training ride I went on with my friend, Kevin. He pushed me further and faster than I’ve ever ridden before, but I loved every minute of it.

The weather was that perfect mix of summer sun with fall crispness in the morning, and I can’t tell you how nice it was to be able to challenge myself mentally and physically while remaining run-less.

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The second, well, every time I tell this story to a non-runner, I get blank stares…but as a total #runnerd, I’m still excited about it. While we were out cycling Sunday, I saw a petite blonde woman running on the other side of a deserted stretch of road. She looked so familiar, but I couldn’t place her until I was already past her.

Then it hit me: It was Shalane Flanagan, one of the top American long-distance runners.

You may remember her from the Boston Marathon this spring, and there’s a good chance you’ll be hearing about her again with respect to the upcoming Berlin Marathon (hint: she plans on breaking the American marathon record). But, regardless, it was thrilling to have a passing encounter with one of my running heroes, so I’m taking it as a good omen as I enter the final month before my own marathon.

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Thanks, as always, for following along as I count down to race day, October 19. Now, onward to week 15!

Detroit Marathon: Week 13 training recap

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One upside to being banned (for the time being) from running? Getting to mix things up for a change with my favorite forms of cross training!

For consistency’s sake, here’s what the schedule would have been this week. Yes, I realize I’m missing out on some peak mileage here (argh), but I keep telling myself that even though backing off may slow me down in the short-term, it’ll allow me to be stronger and healthier in the long run.

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So here’s a snapshot of my actual workouts for the week:

  • Monday: Elliptical (45 min) & physical therapy
  • Tuesday: 6-mile walk & PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Spin class (45 min) & PT exercises
  • Thursday: OFF (migraine) & physical therapy
  • Friday: Spin class (45 min) & PT exercises
  • Saturday: Elliptical (45 min) & PT exercises
  • Sunday: Long bike ride (aiming for 40 miles!)

Nope, it’s nowhere near the numbers or the intensity I should be doing, but I can assure you I’m still breaking a good sweat each day and challenging myself. In fact, it actually feels really good, mentally, to be doing some non-running activities and, physically, to be working some non-running muscles for a change.

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Another tip for staying positive amid a setback is to continue setting goals (within reason, of course) and striving for them. No, I may not be able to hit my weekly running mileage, but I can keep pushing myself on the bike and do some longer weekend rides to maintain that strength and endurance in the interim.

Plus, I’m loving all the quality time with Winnie, and it’s fun to try to keep up with Hubby, who is currently training for a triathlon.

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And in the meantime, I’m being religious with my physical therapy routine. From stretches to rolling, legs lifts to lunges, the exercises are something I can check off my to-do list each day to feel some kind of accomplishment — plus my PT says my mobility, range of motion, strength and stability are getting better, which is just the encouragement I need to keep it up.

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As for when I can get back to running, there’s no clear answer. Most of the aching has subsided in my shin, but there’s still a good amount of tenderness, so we’re taking a wait-and-see approach.

My PT is pretty confident that I’ll be back on my feet in time for my race in Detroit in October, although I won’t be resuming my training schedule anytime soon. All I can say in the meantime is…onward to week 14!

Detroit Marathon: Week 12 training recap

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I’m not quite sure how to start this one off, except to call it “the week that wasn’t.”

Here’s what was on the schedule:

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How much of it got done? Zip. Zilch. Nada.

What happened?

Well, after last weekend’s long run (a 16-miler), I felt pretty good. Yes, the calf/shin “tweak” was still there, but I seemed to warm up out of it a few miles in and was able to run with minimal discomfort.

Monday morning, though, I awoke with the same lingering pain; only this time it was more of a constant dull ache. At this point, I knew that it wasn’t getting better and I was probably only going to make it worse if I kept hammering away at it, so Hubby and I swam and biked instead.

Early Tuesday morning I set out for the track, determined to try to get back on track with my workouts, but a block away from my apartment I stopped, turned around and walked home. No, the pain wasn’t any different or worse, but I just knew in my gut that something wasn’t right. From years of running — and subsequent injuries! — I was fairly certain that this wasn’t a passing sore muscle.

Yesterday I was finally able to get in to see a professional and get some answers. I found a place that specializes in runners and triathletes (and therefore knows our quirks – i.e. me calling obsessively every day this week to see if someone cancelled and I could get in earlier to see what was up), and the PT there is amazing. She was my favorite kind of medical professional — straightforward, to the point and totally knows her stuff.

So after a series of evaluations, exercises, pokes and prods, she diagnosed me with a locked-up right midfoot (I’m not able to properly pronate through the joints), which most likely has contributed to my lingering case of plantar fasciitis (aha!) and most recently caused the acute “stress response” near my tibia. More culprits? Weak glutes, hips and core muscles — all of which are being “lazy” and throwing everything else off (oops).

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The good news? It’s not a stress fracture (yet); I caught it just in time. The bad news? No running for likely two weeks (maybe more), which totally throws a wrench into my training plans. Although she said that if I’m conservative with my activity and do my homework exercises to strengthen my glutes, hips and core in the meantime, I should be able to get stronger in month and can likely run my marathon in October — although the PR part may be questionable.

What’s next?

Because running is off the table for the immediate future, I’ll be re-acquainting myself with the pool, the bike…and this fellow, my cross-training nemesis: the elliptical. It used to be one of my main forms of cardio during college (with a magazine, no less!), but since then it’s something that’s been reserved for injuries and off days.

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Emotionally, I did give myself a few days to mope around; it’s usually easy to adjust to these things physically — but it’s the mental part that’s the most difficult. Adjusting your course when you’ve been going full-throttle in one direction toward a goal can be tough, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. But now that I’ve had a chance to process things, I’m picking myself up and getting ready to attack this next phase of training with the same dedication as my previous one.

The lesson here: Being injured isn’t an excuse to throw up your hands and quit. It doesn’t mean you’ll never reach your goal; you’ve just got to figure out an alternate route to get there. It’s an opportunity to work on your weaknesses, get stronger and come back healthier. And it’s about a long-term plan, versus a short-term focus.

The other lesson? Get yourself checked out by a professional sooner rather than later, people! I am kicking myself that I didn’t go to see someone about my plantar fasciitis earlier because we might have been able to recognize the underlying issue and address it earlier. But hindsight is 20-20, and I’m thankful that I found someone who is helping me address it now so I can be a smarter, stronger and more efficient runner in the future.

Onward and upward to week 13 — let’s hope it’s a luckier one!

Detroit Marathon: Week 11 training recap

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Is anyone else feeling a little beat up from last weekend’s Hood to coast adventure?

Note to self for Napa’s Ragnar Relay in September: Try to temper that adrenaline rush!

Here’s what was on deck for the week:

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Aside from feeling tired overall, I’m also nursing a tweaked calf because — despite my best attempts at stretching between legs and using some massage tools in the van — it was nearly impossible to stay limber when alternating racing with being cramped in close quarters for 30-odd hours.

So my body was definitely telling me to back off this week, and I tried my best to listen while maintaining my training schedule. Case in point: Check out these stats from my tempo run last week.

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And this week’s run, exactly seven days later — same route, same time of day, same feeling of exertion, only it’s 20+ seconds slower per mile. Ouch. And this is after a massage and an appointment with a trainer to work on some stretching and strengthening exercises for my lower legs.

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But I can’t feel too discouraged; Tuesday’s track workout went well, and I nailed my paces.

Speed work is officially over, and now we’re moving into the strength portion of the training program. This means I’ll be doing longer repeats, but they’ll be closer to goal marathon pace — just 10 seconds faster, in fact.

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I thought this shot was particularly appropriate for how it felt to be running another workout of almost eight miles around the track, though: infinitely endless!

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The plan, going forward? Rest more, focus on recovery, be consistent with my daily stretching and strengthening exercises…and try to get that calf feeling happy again.

Onward to week 12! Thanks for following along 🙂

Detroit Marathon: Week 10 training recap

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Happy Hood to Coast weekend, everyone!

While I’m off accruing my Friday/Saturday/Sunday miles over the next 24+ hours (and taking Sunday as a much-needed REST DAY!), I wanted to share what the week looked like.

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You know how I mentioned last week that my “easy” runs were getting done a little quicker than the program called for? Well, not so much on Monday, when I struggled to get out of bed and had to drag myself through a slow and sore seven-miler (9:25 pace). Factor in a 15-miler the previous day plus a lingering sleep deficit from IDEA World, and you can see why I wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

But — yes, there is a but! — the point is that I pushed myself out the door and got it done. There’s a difference between over-training and being tired. Allow me to illustrate: This is “before,” as I was trying to psych myself up for the Tuesday track workout.

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And this is “after” where, clearly, I’m happy I fought the urge to throw in the towel and treat myself to brunch with mimosas instead (seriously, I could smell bacon as I circled the track = delicious torture!). This week I simply hit the wall because I’ve been burning the candle at both ends between work and our recent move.

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Why the big smile, though? Even though the workout felt tough, I managed to hit my pacing after getting a feel during the first 1200 meters (three laps around the track). Again, the purpose of this is to gauge whether or not I picked the proper race goal time (3:50), plus it’s also an exercise in allowing my body to get used to running hard for longer distances and adapting accordingly.

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So “catching up” was the name of the game for the rest of the week leading up to Hood to Coast: from recovery to work to home life.

I knew I’d have a pretty quick turnaround before I’d be off and running again (!) this weekend, so I tried to set my self up for success — especially because we’re short one runner and I’ll be doing an extra leg during the race. That meant giving myself an early bedtime curfew, as well as focusing on pre-race fuel and hydration.

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The lesson here? It goes back to what Jillian Michaels so wisely said at last week’s BlogFest keynote: “Work with passion is purpose, but work without passion is punishment.” She encouraged us to establish perspective and set a goal — the critical “why” will carry you through any amount of “how” (i.e. work) needed to get there.

And in between? Just try to enjoy the journey because, as my friend Mike reminded me, that’s where the most interesting stuff happens.

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Coming soon: my recap from Hood to Coast…stay tuned!