Bye bye stress fracture!

The good news: my doctor gave me the clear to start back running the week after next!

Admittedly the plan is to alternate running and walking for the first three weeks, but I can do that! Assuming I have no further pain, I should be able to do the 5K for Clean Air and Broad Street 10-miler. Very slowly of course, and Broad Street will probably have some walk breaks, but still, I’m excited :)

The next few weeks will be pretty running-involved anyway between hosting a club track meet, volunteering at a half marathon, volunteering at the Penn Relays, and going to club track nationals! I won’t be running at nationals, but one of my teammates suggested I try shot-put. I’m sure that would be hilarious because I’ve never seen anyone my size doing shot-put before.

What I’ve been doing while not running: a lot of biking and some swimming (and sleeping in past 6:35am).  I’m happy to say I’ve gotten better at each, but I miss running, especially with my running club friends. I can’t wait to be out there with them again.

I also had spring break two weeks ago – my friends and I traveled to New York and Boston. It was a good distraction, and although lugging around a cast wasn’t the most fun, it was more than worth it.

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From the Staten Island ferry at sunset

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From the top of Rockefeller Center

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We didn’t exactly take a typical “spring” break

While I’m very grateful that this injury didn’t put me out for very long, I’m still a bit sad I wasn’t able to realize the half marathon PR I know I’m capable of. However, like I said in my last post, the PRs in the marathon, 5K, and mile are enough to satisfy me for now :) Here’s to coming back stronger than ever.

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And better weather… spring, please stay for good!

Let’s make some new plans

I got my MRI last Tuesday. I asked them to give me a copy of the images so that I could look at them (and maybe self-diagnose) before my official doctor’s appointment on Thursday. That night I had my roommate, a fourth year dental student who has had a little bit of training in radiology (admittedly the foot is pretty far from his expertise!) and my dad, who’s a pathologist, look at the images and tell me if they saw anything obviously wrong. Neither of them did, I got to see the inside of my foot (SO COOL. I seriously want a full body MRI just to look around in there), and so I figured I would probably be good to go.

Wednesday was my last day before my doctor’s appointment. I decided to do a very short, easy, 20 minute run, just in case the doctor told me I couldn’t run the next day. My last chance to run without outright defying a doctor’s orders. So I ran on Wednesday, the weather was glorious, and I felt great! No pain whatsoever.

Then I went to my doctor’s appointment, and lo and behold… I have a stress fracture in my second metatarsal.

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Back to the boot

I’m actually not too down because of the news. I thought that if I were to ever get a stress fracture, I’d be devastated. But I’m actually pretty content right now. I got through the Philly marathon with a PR and Boston qualifying time, I got a shiny new 5K PR by an entire minute at the Feel the Love 5K (and won a free pair of shoes!), I brought my mile PR down to 6:16.89 at the Penn State Happy Valley Invite, and I got to experience what it was like to run 45-50 miles per week multiple weeks in a row (difficult!).

Besides, not running = more time for reading and coffee and brunch.

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 The only race missing out on is our running club national half marathon in Bloomington, Indiana the first weekend in April. But I ran that course last year, and it wasn’t exactly a fun course. Lots of hills, not many spectators. The weekend itself was awesome, just getting to spend time with my running club and other collegiate running clubs, but I can still do that this year! By a lucky (?) twist of fate, plane tickets are already booked, so I’m going to nationals! I’ll be the greatest spectator there.

Since I don’t have any pain in my foot (I don’t know why, and neither does my doctor – she pressed down on my foot and I didn’t feel anything, but the MRI clearly shows a stress fracture) the doctor said I only had to be out of commission for 4 weeks instead of the typical 6. And I can do cycling and swimming (I shall emerge a triathlete).

I know that after 4 weeks I won’t be able to jump back into the running world like I was before, but I am hoping to be able to do the Clean Air 5K on April 19 and the Broad Street 10 Miler the first weekend of May (both blessedly flat courses). Of course I won’t be “racing” them, but I’ve already paid, so just getting to experience them would be nice.

Have you ever gotten an injury that forced you to miss a big race?

Cross training and stuff

About three weeks ago after running club had a track meet at Albright College in Reading, PA, I noticed a pain on the top of my left foot.

I thought – it’s probably nothing. Well, as running things go, pain is never nothing. I kept running on it and lo and behold, the pain did not go away. The week after Albright, we had another track meet at Penn State, and the pain after my race (I PRed in the mile – 6:16.89! woo) was excruciating. And then I still ran the next three days. And then I realized I was limping even when I walked around, so I made an appointment with a sports med at the student health center and took four days off (taking the humorous advice of this article). My foot felt better. Then I ran the day before my appointment (it was BEAUTIFUL outside. 55 degrees & sunny in between polar vortices) and my foot starting hurting again. So I had the appointment. And now I have an MRI appointment on Tuesday. The word “navicular stress fracture” was thrown around a bit. Please please no.

Still waiting to find out. So the present = middle of a break from running, end TBD.

It actually hasn’t been dreadful in the slightest. I spend my mornings studying and drinking coffee instead of braving the sub-freezing temps while 99.7% of Penn is still asleep. 

That said, I haven’t exactly been doing nothing to keep up my fitness. I’ve been using the stationary bike at my apartment’s gym, CrossFit-ing, and even went SWIMMING for the first time in years (also attempted pool running – not feeling it). Nice to change things up a bit.

I think it’s clear that whether I have a stress fracture or not, I may have bumped up mileage just a little too fast. Even while training for the Philly marathon last fall, I was only running about 40 miles a week and maxed out at 53. Over the past few weeks I was at 45-50 miles consistently. I didn’t feel like that was a lot at the time, but 50 miles up from 40 is a 25% increase in mileage, so… that ain’t no joke. 

Admittedly I have gotten faster (5K PR by one minute! Mile PR by 30 seconds!) so if all is well with my foot, I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do at the club running national half marathon in April! And my foot is honestly feeling better (no embellishment on that, I swear) so let’s hope for the best. 

Feel the Love 5K 2014 Recap

I DID IT! I PRed in the 5K! 20:56 (6:45 pace) down from 21:55 last April.

I admit I was a little skeptical of my ability to PR on Saturday.  I knew I was in better shape now than I was last time I ran a 5K and could theoretically PR, but I’d also run 12 miles two days before the race, 9 miles the day before the race, and 2 miles the morning of the race. My legs were a bit sore, and I’d had a cold since Monday. My friend & I were almost late to the race (well, sort of – we took a taxi and made it in plenty of time, but we would have missed the race start if we’d taken public transit like we’d originally planned), so the element of stress was in the mix as well.

I did this same race with four friends last year. It’s a pretty awesome race. First of all, the course: two totally flat loops of the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Two ~1.5 mile loops go by pretty fast with giant destroyers, blue skies, and water to look at. Last year it was unbearably windy and cold, but Saturday’s weather was actually nice, which definitely made it more enjoyable than last year. Another note is that last year, my friends and I ran to the Navy Yard from Penn’s campus to warm up (about 5 miles). Now that race lives on in infamy. “Remember that time we ran 5 miles to a 5K?” Yeah, not the best idea. This year, like I said, we taxi-ed there and then took public transit back. 

Another awesome fact: it’s a partner race, so places are awarded based on the combined time of you and your partner. One partner runs the course clockwise and the other goes counterclockwise, so you get to cheer each other on and high five along the way. It’s a fun atmosphere! 

I felt good the whole time. Yep, the whole time. No near deaths here. I ran at a 6:45 pace for 20 minutes 56 seconds and felt fine. It was unexpected. 

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Last ~1/2 mile, I believe

I mostly focused on catching or staying with the people in front of me. I read their shirts, watched their ponytails swish back and forth, tried to guess what their relationship was to the person they were high-fiving… good distractions. I knew I would PR if I kept up, I just didn’t know by how much. I definitely wasn’t expecting to meet my one of my goals for 2014 (sub-21 minute 5K) in February. Apparently I need to aim a bit higher! 

To add to the fun, my partner and I got first place in our division! Admittedly there were only 10 teams in the mixed gender division (whereas there were 90 in the lovers category) but still ;) We each won a pair of free New Balance shoes! That’s probably actually the most expensive prize I’ve ever won haha.

Guess I need a new goal now. Sub-20:30 by the end of the year? Honestly even repeating a sub-20 5K could be a challenge on a different course since this one was so flat! 

Following a training plan (but actually)

I never liked the idea of having a training plan. I never wanted to feel like I was being forced to run. If I run because it’s fun and I enjoy it, then it should never feel like a chore.

In the fall I typically planned out my weeks pretty vaguely. Approximate mileage, maybe a workout or two. The closest I’ve ever been to following a real plan of any sort was in high school track, but even then it was just the workout (400m repeats with 400m active recovery on Mondays, building up number of repeats over the season) and I didn’t have any kind of goal pace to aim for. It wasn’t even until much later that I realized that even though I was the always the slowest during intervals, the times I had (usually 1:35-1:45) were actually quite good for the level of fitness I had at the time. I feel like even just that one consistent workout a week really helped propel me from almost zero running ability to being able to do 30 miles/week comfortably.

So when a few weeks ago, one of my roommates mentioned that a grad student in running club (who recently won a major half marathon) was coaching some of the guys on the team, I asked if he’d be willing to coach me. He’d never coached a girl or anyone at my level of fitness before, so he said sure and that it would be interesting.

I was excited to get some structure back into my schedule with running because I felt kind of sluggish between the Philly marathon back in mid-November and the start of Christmas break mid-December. I got my first 3 weeks of base training from my coach the week of Christmas and followed it pretty closely. I liked that he made it really flexible – an example would be like 35 miles for the week total, including a long run of 9 miles, 4 x 800m repeats at 3:20 with 2 min recovery, and 5 x 150m striders that I could do in whatever order I wanted provided there was at least one day between the repeats and the long run. That kind of plan I can follow.

This past week I ran 45 miles. Seriously, that’s more than I was doing on average in the weeks building up to the Philly marathon. But I love it and love that I was able to do it. I often fall into the mindset that I’m still a beginner runner and that ~5 miles a day is enough to improve, but at this point, I’m definitely ready for more, and that’s what I’m getting through this plan.

My (vague) goals right now are to break 21 minutes in the 5K (current PR is 21:55 from last April on a not-flat course) and to break 1:40 in the half marathon (current PR is 1:42:43 from September on minimal training). I know those are attainable goals, and I’m really looking forward to smashing them.

So that’s what I’ve been up to.

And just because I haven’t posted anything in awhile, here’s a nice picture of what people look like when you transplant them Georgia to Pennsylvania in the winter (since you probably haven’t heard all over the news about the ridiculous temperatures across the country).

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Post marathon training

Miles since the marathon have been e-a-s-y.

As in:

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A total of 61 miles in 5 weeks.

Post marathon I wasn’t injured or anything, but I just needed a mental break. Nothing like 3.5 hours of straight running to fill your quota for awhile.

My second run back I won 2nd place female in my tiny town’s Turkey Trot, haha. I knew I wasn’t going to go very fast or anything, so I just ran at 5k “effort.” My dad ran the 10k, and I think this was technically his first ever “real” race (we ran a free 4 mile prediction race together a few months ago) so that was fun.

It’s been a struggle convincing myself to run outside when the weather is in the 20s in Philadelphia, but I’ve only resorted to the treadmill once (on a particularly snowy day), so I’m pretty happy about that. I never thought I could be a cold weather runner.

Although since I got back to Georgia for Christmas break, I haven’t had to be a cold weather runner. Yesterday morning the temps were in the high 50s (happy first day of winter?). Then this morning it was 73. Felt unnatural to be running in shorts and a t-shirt on December 22.

Right now I’m just trying to get to where running most days feels normal (base building I guess). Then in the spring, I believe I am getting a coach of sorts. I’m very excited!

Reflections on Philly

I’ve been riding a runner’s high all week after getting 3:34:38 at Philly last Sunday.

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I can’t stop staring at the medal. So big it’s honestly kind of gaudy.

It was 100% mental strength that carried me through this race. I can’t take all the credit for that strength – I don’t think I could have done it if I hadn’t had my friends there with me before the start, during the race, waiting for me at the end, and overall believing in me. But I felt like I was reaching my physical limit at mile 18 – when my overall average pace on my Garmin was flickering between 8:12 and 8:13. Although 8:12 is the pace for a 3:35 marathon, I knew my Garmin was picking up extra distance and that realistically I’d probably need it to show at least an 8:10 pace to be sub-3:35 by the race clock (at the finish my Garmin registered 26.36 miles, so an 8:12 pace would have actually had me in about 3:36:09). 

So I was 8 miles (over an hour) from the finish line and feeling worse by the minute. By mile 20, my legs were by all definitions trashed. I could feel my form trying to deteriorate; my quads hurt, my hips hurt, my back hurt, my breathing was hard. I was tired and my thoughts were getting foggy. I could see the end but wasn’t sure if I’d get there.

I mainly used a mental tactic that has gotten through track workouts where we do 2 mile repeats. 2 mile repeats are hard, and they’re long enough that there are plenty of opportunities to quit when things get difficult. But I always tell myself, “If you don’t finish these 2 miles at this pace now, you’re going to have to attempt it again some other time during some other workout. And next time you’ll be afraid because you already failed once. If you don’t do this now, you’re going to spend all week wondering why you couldn’t. Don’t do that to yourself.”

During the last 8 miles when everything hurt, I went over what I wanted. I wanted to run sub-3:35, which was a possible outcome as long as I kept up my pace. When’s the next time I would be able to run a marathon? Late spring? Philly next year? I thought about how hard it would be to mentally confront the marathon again if I were to fall short by only a few minutes this time. 

During the last 10k, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to make it under 3:35, but I knew that if I slowed down at all I probably would not get it. What did I want to talk about after the race – how I was so close but just missed my goal by seconds - or how I was so close but reached my goal by seconds? It sounds like a simple choice now, but it was hard to make that decision when I was in so much pain.

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Checking my watch right at the finish… it was so close, I didn’t know whether or not I’d gotten it until that moment.

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Having to negative split = painful… but pretty nice on paper.

My friend and I ran part of the course backwards at the start. We started too far back in the corral and had to weave around people for the first 7 miles. I didn’t pick up the pace enough right after the half. I got nauseated after I drank gatorade, which I don’t ever usually drink. I didn’t take enough gels early in the race, and by the end I was tired and my stomach turned when I tried to take a final gel at mile 23. I walked through water stops. My legs were trashed by the end.

If I hadn’t met my goal, those would be excuses. But now I can say in spite of all those things, I did it. I hope to run Boston in 2015 (hopefully the qualifying times don’t change, and hopefully I’ll be able to get through registration). I’m thinking about going up to watch the 2014 race in April, so let me know if you’ll be racing!