Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Unexpected Hiatus

In April I ran the Hawkeye 25k and right after that started to feel some tightness in my right hip.  I figured it was from running on the uneven surface of the trails, so just stretched it out a bit more after workouts.  Soon it shifted more to my glut area.  After a few weeks of it not going away I scheduled some ARTappointments.  I kept running as the soreness/tightness would only last a block or two at the beginning of my run, then was just fine.  
Then, 3 weeks and 1 day after the race, it all went to hell.  I did a long, hard run workout and felt fine, but that night I couldn't sleep. My bum throbbed so bad I kept waking up.  The following day was a rest day. The next day was a short run which wasn't pretty.  I tried one more run after that and knew I needed to stop.  I took a full 6 days off of running before trying again.  Still no good.  I was able to run without my gait being affected, but my bum was sore the entire run.  Time to go back to Iowa City Physical Therapy.  Ugh!
Pinpointing the issue was a little difficult, and I wanted to know for sure what was going on, so made an appointment at the UI Sports Medicine Clinic.  Dr. Hall quickly determined it was High Hamstring Tendonitis.  The "good" news is I could run through it if I wanted to. The risk of tearing it was extremely slim, but the recovery time would be at least twice as long.  The "bad" news was if I completely rested, it was still 3-6 months to recover.  I quickly did a ton of research and sought out people that had the same issue (if you have gone through this, let me know...someone should really start a support group with how common it seems to be).  Unfortunately, it all looked kinda grim. 
Two days after my appointment was the Marion Arts Festival Half Marathon.  Originally my plan was to attempt a PR, but now I had to figure out a new plan.  Run it casually and hope I don't make anything worse? Skip it and ride my bike around the course to cheer on Wes?  Push the pace and see what happens? I kept going back and forth on how to approach the race.   At this point I hadn't completely ruled out doing the Afton 50k in July and figured if I can't try to run a half marathon at a decent pace, there is no way I could train/race the 50k.  And, Dr. Hall said I could "run at a reasonable pace and see how you feel".  So, I went with the later ("reasonable" = "push the pace", right?) and see how that night (throbbing while sleeping?) and the following run (will I be able to run?) would go.
Race morning was beautiful.  The temps weren't too warm yet, but I knew they would climb high enough that I would want to keep things in check throughout the race.  I decided to not do a warm up, but did walk around quite a bit.  I lined up in front of the 8:00 pace sign thinking maybe that would be a good set of people to run with for a "reasonable" pace.  I started the race at a comfortable pace, not paying attention to my watch. I slowly caught a few people that had started in front of me, which kicked in my competitiveness.  At the mile markers volunteers were calling out the current clock time, and at mile 1 I was already way ahead of 8 min/mile pace.  Oops!  But, it felt good and I kept going, slowly catching more people.  My pace felt relaxed and easy to hold for 13.1 miles.  My time ended up being better than I had expected given the previous few weeks of training and the effort I put in for the race.  Official time was 1:33:48 (7:09/mile pace), with my watch saying the distance was 13.11 miles (amazingly accurate!).  I looked up my race results from the Marion Rotary half marathon 2 years ago. My official time was 1:33:45, but my watch said the distance was 13.34. At 13.11 miles my time was 1:31:59. I am pretty sure I could have done that at the Marion Arts Fest Half Marathon if I would have tried just a bit more.
The day after the race was a rest day (although we filled the time with gardening), then two days of short, easy runs.  The area felt no worse then before the half, but no better (I didn't expect it to). There was a dull pain in my glut area for the entire run and I couldn't sit upright in a chair for more than a half hour at a time without the area throbbing.  After some further thought, and encouragement by my coach, Daniel, I decided to stop running until fully healed.  In the triathlon world, that would mean missing an entire season of racing, but running is fairly year-round.  Most of the races I have looked into are fall trail races with various distances to choose from.  I also plan to run Boston 2017.  So, not running during the summer is actually good timing the more I think of it.  It does mean not doing the Afton 50k or a Colorado Adventure Trip (anyone want to take my place?).  But, the summer is the best time for cross training...long walks with the dog, bike rides, stand up paddle boarding, and gardening.  
I am one week out from my decision to take a break.  I have a half hour of physical therapy exercises every other day along with 15 minutes of stretching every day.  Weekly I meet up with Steve at IC PT to change up my routine and make sure I'm doing the exercises correctly.  I'm taking more advantage of Core Fitness, not only to do the exercises, but I also think the stepmill is amazing cross training for running and they are one of the few gyms that has them.  There are some additional things I can try to quicken the healing process, but most are not covered by insurance.  More decisions to make.   
On the bright side we are going to have the best garden ever!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hawkeye 25k - Racing on the Trails

My first trail run is in the books...the Hawkeye 25k! I learned a few things and am excited to keep that learning going.

Leading into the race my long runs had ramped up to 16 miles and I did one 12.4 mile run on the course the week before.  That one run on the course was my extent of trail runs prior to race day.  May not have been ideal, but about half of it is on flat crushed limestone or road instead of all of it being on unstable surfaces.

Normally for a triathlon race I spend at least an hour (or two) prepping everything...getting the bike ready, putting my race nutrition in little baggies, packing my transition bag, packing race clothes and post race clothes, and rechecking my spreadsheet...I would be so lost without my list!  But, for running races the most difficult part is just figuring out what to wear. The temp at the race start was to be the mid 20s, sun, and with little wind.  I decided on capri pants and a really lightweight long sleeved top with a tank top underneath. My other concern was shoes and socks.  I didn't think the course would be very muddy, so wore my Zoot Kiawe racing flats which have very little traction, but drainage holes that I hoped would help with the water crossing (yes, we got to run through water). As for socks, I just recently purchased trail running socks and am still trying to figure out what I like and don't like.  Only one pair had been worn more than once, and seemed good enough, so Fitsoks it was!

Race morning I was up at 5:45am, did my morning chores (let the dog out, let the big girls out, get the little girls up, make coffee) and had breakfast a little after 6:15am.  I learned last fall that my normal pre-triathlon breakfast does not work well for running races, so I have switched to a bowl of cereal with a banana, and a good amount of coffee.  Shortly after 7:30am we headed over to the race site, which is only about a 10min drive from our house.  The 50k started at 8am with the 25k at 8:30am.  I was glad to get there early to have time to chat a bit (kept seeing people I knew, which was great!), and hit the restroom before doing a very short warmup.  I debated on skipping the warmup, but with the temp so cold I wanted to at least run a little, so jogged around the parking lot for 2 minutes.

The girls are growing up so fast!

I lined up near the front and we were off.  There were a pack of us running together for the first mile, then we started spreading a little more thin.  I could tell there were 4 women ahead of me, but not by much and I didn't seem to be loosing any ground.  Shortly after that Julie (my Thorsday morning running partner that is coming back from injury) dropped back.  The remaining 3 women and I stuck pretty close together for the next few miles.  At one point I felt strong and took the lead, which was taken back about a mile later, but she stopped at the next aid station (not just quick stop for a drink, but an actual stop), and I was back in the lead.

At 6.5 miles into the race is a water crossing.  All 4 of us reached it within seconds of each other.  During the training run I gingerly crossed trying not to slip on a rock. This time I just went, not caring how deep my foot went into the water...wet shoes is wet shoes.  And, I was out first, but not by much.

The water crossing...fun stuff!
The water was flowing a bit...
The 4 of us leading the 25k women's field.
Somehow I was able to climb out just ahead of the chick ahead of me.
I am definitly the least fashionable looking of this group.

This is where the hills and real trails start.  I think I am pretty decent at hill climbing, so wasn't too worried about this section of the course.  But, I quickly learned how wrong I was.  The first few hills weren't too bad, but my legs were really starting to feel it.  Not too long into this section, Britt passed me...flying up a hill.  She arrived at the next aid station before I got there, and took a bio break, so I was back in the lead again. It didn't last nearly as long as I had hoped, and Britt was back flying up another hill in front of me.  Going into the race I didn't expect to have to walk any hills, but twice I decided it wasn't worth the effort to attempt to run up such a steep hill...I wasn't going much faster than those walking them, so walked at least part.

Going into this race I wanted to enjoy the experience, but my competitiveness took over when I was in that lead girly pack. Now I was hurting, hating the hills, and just wanting to get to the paved road that takes us back into the finish line.  I wasn't having fun and was wondering why the hell I signed up for a 50k in 3 months that would be even more hills and technical trail...and twice the distance!

Finally, I popped out of the woods on to the road, and just as I get there I am passed by another women in the 25k.  I had no clue she was that close to me, and she was quickly ahead of me.  There were 4 miles left of the race and no way I was going to hold the pace she was going.  I couldn't see Britt either, so decided that I would finish strong, but not push my limits.  And, by strong, I mean something that felt kind of fast, but was actually kind of slow.  The hills had beat the endurance out of me, and I was spent.

A few days before the race I had looked up last year's results to get an idea of what times were like for the women. I noticed the course record had been broken at 2:01:something. Second place was 2:09.  So, something under 2:15 sounded look a good time to aim for even though I didn't really know what to expect.  As I rounded the corner for the final stretch to the finish line I looked at my watch and saw it wasn't even 2 hours yet. I picked up the pace in hopes to get under the course record.  I crossed in 2:01:09 and later found out I did come in under the record, although two other women beat the record by more than I did.  Also, the chick who passed me when I reached the road also caught up to Britt and passed her with a half mile to go.  I am pretty sure that no matter how hard I had tried at that point, I wasn't going to move up in the standings, but I probably should have at least tried.  A huge flaw of mine.

Final results...3rd place for the women and 11th overall out of 152 finishers.  Good enough for my first trail race.  And, only one, little fall (went into some grass to avoid a puddle and tripped over a hidden log).

Spent a while at the finish line eating the great post race food spread, then over to Big Grove Brewery for lunch and drinks with friends while waiting for Wes to join us.  He spent the morning volunteering on the course riding around on his fat bike.

So much food!  This isn't even all of it. They were also making pancakes!
Finishers medal...also a bottle opener :)

Age Group prize (3 legged stool).  Will come in handy camping this summer!

Garmin file for those that are curious:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Looking Back and Moving Forward

On the surface, 2014 looked like a good year.  But, in my super competitive head I fell just short too many second places, just getting under 20 minutes in a 5k in my running block, and finishing up the triathlon rankings in 21st for my age group (my goal was top 20).  I decided 2015 would be my final year of triathlons, and I wanted to go out feeling on top.

This past year, 2015, was focused on the Age Group Olympic Distance National Championships in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 7th.  The year started off with an injury that kept me from running for 8 weeks.  Then, I raced a few times earlier in the summer, but my results were nothing stellar.  My times were slower than 2014, and my confidence was starting to dwindle.  My main reason for continuing triathlons in 2015 was to finally race in a world championship race (in Chicago on September 19).  So, I still had that since I had qualified the year before, but I really did not want my last year to be a huge disappointment.

As I was nearing the national championships in August, things started changing.  My biking and running were finally coming around.  My workouts going into the race had me perfectly rested and my mind was ready to go.  I had the race I had been hoping for, setting a personal best at that race (it has been the same course for 3 years) by over 2 minutes (which is a lot), and placing 3rd in my age group.   One of the best parts was finally being content with my season.

At the world championships in Chicago in September, my only goal was to enjoy the experience, which I did...not only at the race, but also our time in the windy city.

Usually at this time of year I am ready for my season to be done, but I wasn't quite there yet.  Instead of taking the break I had planned on, I rolled right into a 4 week training block for my first marathon. I greatly out performed my expectations for that race.  That, along with finishing 14th in my age group in the national triathlon rankings (out of 2,013 women), rounded out a great year.

After a month of not doing much of anything, I started running again and researching races for 2016. My goals:
  • No injuries that keep me from running for more than a few days (With so much running, I am most worried about this goal)
  • Have fun training and race! (This has been a tough one the past few years)
  • PR a half marathon (I typically do an early season half marathon, but didn't last year due to injury. This year I am racing the Marion Arts Festival half in May)
  • My first 50k trail run...31 miles for the metric challenged (There are so many to choose from.  After narrowing them down by date, I decided on the Afton 50k in Minnesota near the twin cities)
Training so far has been going great!  I have been running 6 days a week, have not swum since my last race, and biking has consisted of commuting to work.  I also go to the gym twice a week for a little weight and core work.  I love it!  All of the extra time has allowed for taking long dog walks on the weekend (up to 6 miles) and more time to just relax.  

The most difficult part has been eating...how much do I need and how not to eat too much.  For so many years I have put on a few extra pounds in the winter and it has come off when training ramps up in the spring.  But, my ramp up won't be nearly as many hours of training as it has been in the past.  The amount of calories I burn is decreasing, but my appetite has not.  I am still trying to figure it out, and just hope I can get back to my ideal race weight before too long.

This year I have competed in 3 events so far...an indoor row race (we bought an erg last fall for cross training for me and for training for Wes), an indoor row-bike-run triathlon (as close as I will come to a triathlon this year), and running the We Run Luck Run 10k.  The first two were for fun, which I succeeded at, and the 10k was to see where my training is currently at.  I was extremely happy to be within 30 seconds of my PR on a cold day (just above freezing) with a very congested head (I hate spring colds!).

Next up is the Hawkeye 25k this Saturday morning.  Part of this race is on trail, and some of it is a bit technical, so just hoping to stay upright and no twisted ankles.

Along for the ride this year are Team Zoot with Zoot Sports, We Run, and Core Fitness.  Happy and  honored to have them stick around with me while entering uncharted territories.  And, I have Daniel Bretscher pushing me every step of the way.

I am incredibly excited to see what 2016 brings!