Week of 12/23/13 – 12/29/13; or, The Day I Accidentally Went Hiking Instead of Running

Hope everyone had a good week and a merry Christmas! I warn you that this is a long one…

week of 12/23/13 to 12/29/13

As I reported last week, I tried out an ice bath after my 10 mile run last Sunday. I still have no idea if it actually did anything. I was pretty sore, especially in my right hip on Monday and mostly hobbled around work.

Tuesday was better, and I got off early due to it being Christmas Eve, so I went out for an afternoon run. I did intervals of 1:30 running, 1:30 walking, 3:00 running, 1:30 walking for three miles. It wasn’t too bad, once I remembered that I have to actually pace myself on the three minute runs. I think pacing is still a big part of my problem. I just want to run as fast as I could before I got injured, even though I can’t. It took me 42 minutes to get through three miles, which is the worst three mile run I’ve done since February. Ah, backtracking.

I was a little stiff the next day, but not too bad. I wanted to take advantage of being able to run outdoors since I was off work, so I went out for another three mile run while I was at home visiting my family, but with no set intervals this time. It started out pretty rough. As I said, I was a little stiff, so I first tried to concentrate on not being sloppy on form. Once I got that mostly under control, the next thing I tried to work on was pacing. I would run for a minute to a minute and a half and just be totally winded. Going too fast! I was running these around a 10-11 min/mi pace, so I consciously tried to slow down to something more sustainable, which turned out to be around 12:30 min/mi. I can deal with that. I managed to finish the run in just under 40 minutes, so slightly faster than the day before.

After I cooled down a bit, I decided to do a bit of speed work. I found a relatively flat section of road in front of my parents’ house, which was around 60-70 meters long. I set out a tree branch on each end, so I would know where I was supposed to start and stop. Then I just did eight strides back and forth as fast as I could, giving myself about a minute or two rest in-between. My fastest of the eight was the seventh, which I averaged 8:20 min/mi pace. Not too bad considering how stiff I was and tired from the three miles beforehand. My hip was starting to kill me, so I called it quits after eight of them.

I was pretty stiff and sore for the next two days, but I remedied that with my foam roller and The Stick. On Saturday, I decided to try out some trails for my long run, instead of the usual pavement, hoping it would lessen the impact on my knees and not make them hurt come mile 7 or 8 (spoiler alert, it didn’t help). I didn’t really know where a good place to go trail running was besides Percy Warner, and I didn’t really want to drive 40 minutes across town to get there. I ended up going to Long Hunter State Park, which isn’t too far from me. They have a variety of trails to choose from, so I mapped out a 12 mile course along their Day Loop and Volunteer Trail.

(Mother, this is where you stop reading. I don’t need you worrying about me more than you already do.)

Entrance to Volunteer Trail at Long Hunter State Park

It all looks so innocent…

I started off down the trail, and it wasn’t so bad. Soon I came to what looked like an intersection, though it wasn’t marked. I knew I needed to take a left at an intersection to go down the Day Loop first. However, this was not the left I needed to take. The trail dead-ended on some rocks. Too bad too because it was the easiest section of the whole route that I could actually run. I turned around and headed back and went the other way. Soon after, I came to the real intersection, which was actually marked.

After starting on the Day Loop trail, it soon became apparent to me why trail running was slower. It was actually very hard to do any real running. First of all, I’m a klutzy person. I run into walls on a regular basis. Sticking some tree roots and random rocks in my path is not a good idea, but I could mostly handle that. What I couldn’t handle is because of all the leaves on the ground, I couldn’t see where said tree roots and rocks were. I tripped SO MANY TIMES. I lost count. I never fell, but I just kept tripping all over the place. While walking.

Second of all, there were places where you couldn’t always tell where the trail was. There were markers on the trees every so often, but if you couldn’t tell the difference between the leaves that had been stepped on versus the ones that hadn’t and there were no tree markers in sight, well… let’s just say that there were a few times I wandered around aimlessly trying to find the freaking trail. I don’t think it helped that I had seen the second Hunger Games movie the day before; I was convinced this was going to end with someone attacking me.

Third, so many fallen trees! Some of them you could just climb over, but some of them you had to go off the trail and go around. So then you had to find your way back to the trail, which, as I said, was not always easy to do.

Tree blocking trail at Long Hunter State Park

I swear this was half the trail. I had to do some gymnastics to get over that thing.

So I basically ran when I could see the path, there weren’t a bunch of things that could trip me up, and there weren’t a lot of things I had to scale over. According to Strava, I ran a grand total of 24 minutes! Out of nearly four hours. So there you go. This was a hike, not a run.

pace analysis

On top of everything, it started to rain when I was about four miles in. It wasn’t too bad at first, so I kept plugging along to the turnaround spot about 6.5 miles in. Once I got there, it started raining harder. Rain made the rocks super slippery. I was sliding all over the place, which meant slower times and less running. Oh, and did I mention that since I was going so slow that I miscalculated what time I would be done? About 8 miles in, it started to get dark. Yes. The sun was setting. I flipped out mentally. I was trying to do some quick math in my head. I had about 45 minutes before it would be actually dark, maybe less since I was in the middle of the woods. I had four miles to go, and I was averaging between 17-20 minute miles. That meant..crap, it would be dark before I got out. It was hard enough to see the trail in the daylight! It was raining harder and getting chillier. I wished I had brought my gloves. I thankfully had worn my neck buff, so I covered my head and ears with that. I pressed on. This wouldn’t end like the Blair Witch Project…

fallen bridge at Long Hunter State Park

Bridge is out!

My fingers were completely numb. I thought about bringing my arms into my shirt for warmth, but figured I needed them for balance on the rocks that felt like they were made of ice. I ran when I could, which wasn’t often. I swear I saw lightning at mile 10. Then again, I stopped for a breath at mile 11 and noticed my vision doing some weird pulsating thing. Fantastic. I was delirious. I was definitely hungry. That Nutrigrain bar at 10:00 in the morning hadn’t done much. Why hadn’t I packed food? Oh yeah, I thought I would be gone maybe 2.5 hours. It was coming up on four. I started making plans for what I would do when I couldn’t see anything and was completely lost. I would need to build a shelter and find a way to stay warm. I hoped a bear didn’t eat me. I told you I was delirious.

I finally got back to the intersection of the Day Loop and the Volunteer Trail. I just kept chanting, “Only half a mile more. Only half a mile more.” When I finally arrived at the trailhead, I was never happier to see my car. Remember that my fingers were completely numb, though, so it took a few tries to get the door unlocked and all my gear off. I sat in the car with the heat blasting for a few minutes, thankful that I hadn’t become some crazy news story. (Yes, maybe I was being overdramatic.)

It wasn’t all bad, though. The trail ran along the lake, and you could see it every so often.

View from Volunteer Trail at Long Hunter State Park

I took this picture when I was lost and couldn’t find the trail. Making the best out of it!

Anyway, I would like to try trail running some more. Just on a less technical trail. And on not as long of a run. And not when it’s raining. It was fairly enjoyable before I freaked out.

The next day was gorgeous outside, so I ended up doing an unplanned four miles of 2:00 running, 1:30 walking intervals. I never once heard the demons in my head wanting me to stop, so I must have worn them out on the trail. It was almost like I actually enjoyed running again! Ah, maybe soon…

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Week of 12/16/13 – 12/22/13: WDW Half Training, Week 14

week of 12/16/13 - 12/22/13

This was not a week for running.

I had good intentions. I really did. My first run was scheduled for Monday, but then Jonathan wanted to go see “The Hobbit”, so we did that instead. Tuesday was out because we were going to a Predators game. Wednesday was iMac Day. Running in the mornings is out because (a) I am so not a morning person and (b) I just started a new job and didn’t want to be late my first week.

Then I planned to run over my lunch break on Thursday, but I was running late in the morning and didn’t have time to get my stuff together. So, hello, run #1 of the week on Thursday evening. The thought of the treadmill really made me want to skip it, so I ended up strapping on my reflective gear and doing my run outside on the road since the weather was pretty nice. But, WOW. My legs felt like lead. It was all I could do to make it thirty minutes, and I only got 2.2 miles in that time.

Disgruntled, I was determined to have a better run on Friday, but I ended up not running. Nor did I run on Saturday. Ah, such good intentions. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t make you stronger.

I did, however, get in my long run on Sunday. Long run, indeed. I’m in the double digits, people! It was the perfect weather for running. Sixty degrees and cloudy. Perfection. I headed out in my Lululemon running skirt, a tank, my water vest, and I stuck some arm warmers on for the beginning of the run. My plan for the run was doing 1:30 run/walk intervals. I will admit, despite the amazing weather and the small intervals, I was not having a good run at first. I had all the demons in my head, saying stuff like, “Ugh, it’s only been a mile? I feel like I’ve been running forever. And I’ve got nine more miles of this??” Once I got to 2.5 miles in, it was a little better. At least I could tell myself that I was a quarter done. Then a third done. I had taken off my arm warmers by this point and strapped them onto my water vest. For the first three miles, I averaged around a 13:15 min/mi.

About 5 km in, I got to the point on the greenway that I had never gone past before. This point is at the bottom of an enormous hill. I was on a walk interval as I started up it, but my run interval started and carried me through the top. This thing is like a quarter mile of 10% grade. It’s awful and it contributed to my slowest mile of the run, at 14:22 min/mi. But I made it! After that, I ran past Mcgavock High School, through Two Rivers Park, past Wave Country, under Briley Parkway, and finally I made it to the bridge that carries you over the river and down into Shelby Park. This was my turn around spot, a little over five miles in. I took a snapshot, turned around, and headed back.

Shelby Park Greenway Bridge

I was actually feeling pretty good by this point. My fastest miles of the run were miles 5 and 6, coming in around 12:20 min/mi each. Towards the end of mile 6, I realized that one of my arm warmers that I had strapped to my vest was missing. I hoped that I had dropped it earlier rather than later, so I kept an eye out for it on the rest of the run. Around mile 7, my knees started hurting again, just like the week before! What IS that? It’s not enough that my hip hurts?

Just after mile 7, I got to run down that enormous hill, which was pretty fun. I think I averaged around an 8 min mile down that thing, and came in on mile 8 at 12:24. At 8.75 miles, I found my lost arm warmer! I secured it to my vest again and continued on.

I still don’t think I’ve ever experienced the so-called “runner’s high” but I did get to a point around mile 8 or 9 where my legs just got numb, so it felt like I could just run. I still stuck to my intervals, for the most part, because I wanted to make sure I could finish 10 miles without dying, but I thought that was interesting. They just hurt so much that I could really no longer feel them. I ended up completing 10.1 miles in 2 hours and 13 minutes. Whew! Just three more miles to the half marathon!

Here’s my mile splits and elevation changes:
20131223-203836.jpg

When I got home, I drew my first ice bath. I always thought those things sounded terrible, and, yes, it was just as sucky as you would imagine. I didn’t think I could sit there for ten full minutes. My legs enjoyed it, but my feet were just freezing. My feet hate being cold. After my ten minutes were up, it took a good hour or two for me to stop shivering. I’m still pretty sore as I type this five hours later, but we will see if it will help in the days to come.

Happy holidays!

Week of 12/9/13 – 12/15/13: WDW Half Training, Week 13

This post is late because I was sans computer for a little while, due to changing jobs and ordering a new iMac. But better late than never, right?

week of 12/9/13-12/15/13

My first run of the week was on Tuesday. It was, of course, a treadmill run. Shocker. And it was slow. Double shocker. There wasn’t much variety on the gym TVs, so I chose some news program to listen to. I did run/walk intervals while the show was on and then progressively faster runs through the commercials. Basically, when it went to commercial, I would start at 3.5. For each new commercial, I increased speed 0.5. That means by the last commercial before the show came back on, I was up to 6.0 or 6.5 and about to fly off the treadmill. (And curse the long commercials that come at the end of commercial breaks!) Once the show came back, I would walk it out for a minute or two and then do two minute running intervals. It seemed to pass the time nicely. I meant to go for half an hour, but I inadvertently hit the “Cool Down” button and once you hit that thing, there’s no going back. You have five minutes and then everything will reset. So I ended up doing 25 minutes instead.

After that, I did 4.5 miles on the recumbent bike. I mentioned this last week, but I kind of love that thing. I mentioned hating stationary bikes before, but the recumbent bike is so nice for a running cool down. I can sit on that thing and pedal while browsing around on my phone or reading. I wish running could be so mindless.

I was scheduled for another thirty minute run on Thursday, but everything went wrong when I got home. (For example, my cat threw up in my running shoe. In front of me.) I didn’t get to the gym till after 9pm and all I could muster up was a mile on the treadmill and a couple miles on the recumbent bike.

I had been worried all week about Saturday’s eight mile long run. The forecast had been calling for 100% chance of rain, but I found a dry period of time and headed out. I planned to do some heart rate training, so I first set my Garmin to alert me whenever I went out of Zone 3 (which, for me, is defined as between 157 and 173 bpm). That seemed a little too easy, though, so after a mile, I switched it to Zone 4 (between 173 and 189 bpm). This was too tough, so I changed it again after another mile. After a couple more adjustment periods, I settled in on going between 165 and 185 bpm. My main plan was just walk when my heart rate got too high and start running again when it got too low. Once I found my sweet spot, that worked pretty well, and by mile seven I was feeling really good. So good, in fact, that I managed my fastest mile of the run and nearly ran the whole mile without walking. My heart rate only really got up over 185 up hills. However, I had a new development during mile eight: my knees started hurting. What?? I’ve never had my knees hurt when I run.

Week of 12/2/13 – 12/8/13: WDW Half Training, Week 12

week of 12/2/13 to 12/8/13

Monday and Wednesday were uneventful thirty minute treadmills runs. Actually, I did 39 minutes on Monday because I was watching “Tangled” on my phone and got carried away during the reprise of “When Will My Life Begin?”. I also did a 12 minute recumbent bike cool-down on Wednesday. I’m beginning to like that thing.

On Thursday, I went to a free giant yoga class at Cannery Ballroom held by Lululemon. Despite me having “yoga” on my calendar for every other Saturday morning for several months now, this was my first real vinyasa yoga class, and I loved it. For the event, they had a DJ playing upbeat holiday tunes and a fireplace projected onto the wall. Plus they had free cookies afterwards, which was awesome! There was a professional photographer too, but I managed to not end up in any photos.

fireside yoga

That blue speck on the far left edge is me.
Photo by Daniel C. White

Saturday was my long run. I was scheduled for six miles, but I needed to go to Sally’s Beauty Supply for some things for my office Christmas party that night. So I decided to run there and back, which was about seven miles. I didn’t do any sort of structured intervals, just ran when I felt like it. It was cold (below 30 with a wind chill of 20 or so), but I felt pretty good on the way there. I managed to do the first mile in 11:54 (take THAT fourteen minute mile treadmill runs), the second mile in 12:30, and the third in 12:45. I was feeling pretty good and contemplating taking off some of the cold weather gear I had on. Halfway through the fourth mile, I arrived at the store, bought some stuff, and headed back out.

I don’t know if I just got unacclimated to the cold that quickly or what, but the way back was miserable. I think I was running against the wind, which made it harder to run and colder. I was FREEZING. I was glad I had decided not to take any of my gear off, but it couldn’t keep me warm. Oh yeah, and it was mostly uphill on the way back. The final three miles back were done in 13:09, 13:45 (I had something in my shoe and had to stop to pluck it out at one point…then it was hard to tie my shoe back with gloved hands so I had to stop and retie it at another point), and 12:18. I’m pretty sure I only managed to pull off that last mile at that speed because I was bribing myself with the hottest shower ever upon returning home. And it was glorious.

I know I complained about the heat during the summer, but I think the cold is worse. Can I have my 90 degree temperatures back?

Injury screening, part deux.

Monday I went in for the second injury screening of my life. The first one was, of course, when I hurt my calf and my hip earlier this year. I basically knew that I kind of had the same problem going in, except on the opposite legs and my ankle instead of my calf this time.

If you don’t remember, back in June, I hurt my right calf, but continued to try to run and walk on it, which then made my left thigh/hip hurt from overcompensating. This time I hurt my left ankle, but continued to walk on it (I blame The Mo Run) and ended up hurting my right thigh/hip due to overcompensation. I will learn one day.

So, I went to an injury screening with Results Physiotherapy at Nashville Running Company. My appointment was at 5:45, and I showed up around 5:40. The girl at the desk said the therapist was running late, and there was one person in front of me who was out walking her dog. I had a seat. A couple minutes later, the girl before me walked in, and it was Jessica that I had met at the half marathon info meeting the Saturday before! We chatted until the therapist showed up, then I filled out a form while he went through exercises with her.

Soon it was my turn. I explained what happened and what I’d been doing. He poked and prodded at me, mainly focusing on my thigh/hip, since I really can’t feel my ankle pain as much, unless you directly press on it. He concluded that I needed to work on core and hip flexor strength and showed me some exercises to do.

So, what are the exercises? Funnily enough, two out of the three are the same exercises that the doctor showed me after I hurt my hip last time that I started out doing, but manage to maybe only do once a week now. So maybe this will ingrain it in me that I really need to do them and often. He also added a new one: single leg bridges. I do bridges all the time, but the single leg versions are supposed to work your glutes and core more. I’ve been trying to do all three exercises three times a day: when I wake up, when I get home, and before I go to bed.

He is supposed to contact me after a week to see if I’m doing any better. But the best news? He said I could keep running. I was so scared I was going to have to take more time off, thus ruining both of my upcoming halfs.