"We run when we're scared, we run when we're ecstatic, we run away from our problems and run around for a good time." Christopher McDougall (Born to Run)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recent Races: Mt. Diablo Trail Adventure 10K Race and New Year's Eve 10K Race

During the past three months since the Half Moon Bay marathon I have been taking it easy, but I have been getting outside to run here and there, and I even ran two 10K races. After completing the marathon I wanted to let my body rest, enjoy my weekends, and take a break from training for a little while. That said, I didn't want to completely lose the level of fitness that I gained during the past year.

After a month went by, I found that without an upcoming race scheduled, I had lost some of my motivation to log more miles both during the week and on the weekends. During marathon training I had avoided doing steep trails and focused on logging miles on flat surfaces. But now I had the freedom to sign up for anything, without fearing that it would disrupt my training. So I decided I would sign up for a a few local and low-key trail races to finish out 2011.

Brazen Mt. Diablo Trail Adventure 10K
On November 6, 2011 I ran in the Mt. Diablo Trail Adventure 10k (6.2 miles) race. In advance of the race I emailed a few of my friends who enjoy running. Come race day, my husband and four friends, and one of those friend's daughter participated in either the 10k or the 5k race! Below is a picture of all of us from after the race.
The route included two steep ascents with two equally steep descents. The route was entirely on dirt packed trails and was absolutely beautiful. My friend Julie and I ran together, and she ended up really helping me to push my pace faster. She and I finished at the same time and we both placed third in our age groups (we are a few years apart)!!! I actually thought I placed fourth in my age group but when I checked the race results page they updated the information and it listed me as being in third place! That was first time I've ever gotten a medal in a race! Below is a link to my Garmin information for the race.
Brazen New Year's Eve 10K at Lake Chabot 
The last race that I ran in 2011 was the Brazen Racing New Year's Eve 10K race at Lake Chabot. This race was also a steep trail run, but a portion of it was on paved walking trails. The route included one long climb from mile 2 through mile 3.5, followed by an equally steep descent from mile 3.5 through 5. 

This time I was again joined by some great friends. My husband ran the 10k with me, our neighbors and friends ran the half marathon race, and my friend who ran the Mt. Diablo 5k with her daughter, came back for this race and ran in the 5K again with her daughter. Below is my Garmin information for the race. This time I ended up placing ninth out of 41 runners (no medal) in my age group.

Recap on Half Moon Bay Marathon - September 25, 2011

On September 25, 2011 I ran in the inaugural Half Moon Bay International Marathon, and finished!  It is still hard for me to believe that I finally completed a full marathon, and I am still really thankful that I was able to do it considering the issue I had with my Peroneal tendons.  I am also thankful that I was able to fit in my long training runs and that I never had any real disasters during training, except for one long run where I definitely had an electrolyte imbalance and mild heat exhaustion.   It has taken me about six weeks to finally sit down and write a post, but here it is.

Night Before

The night before we went to the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company and I had a grilled chicken sandwich with french fries, and a small 12 oz beer in honor of my husband's birthday that day (September 24). My husband had the beer sampler, which looked delicious. After dinner, back in our hotel room, I had some Annie's Honey Bunny Grahams and dipped them in peanut butter - pretty delicious.  We watched some half-decent movie on cable in the hotel room and then went to bed around 9:30 p.m.

Morning of the Race

My memory is getting a little foggy now on the details, but I believe that I got out of bed at around 5 a.m. the morning of the race. I took a hot shower, and had coffee, a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, and probably a few other small items (likely a few Annie's Honey Bunnies Grahams), and drank some water.

I filled my CamelBak with Gu Brew for the race.  I was worried about my electrolyte balance since I experienced some problems with that on one of my longest run (discussed in a prior post).  I also packed Gu Energy Gels, Espresso Love and Vanilla Bean, which tastes like cake batter, yum!  The race started at 7:00 a.m., so we started walking to the starting line from the hotel around 6:30 a.m.

Photo taken a few minutes before the race started.

The setting of the course was absolutely beautiful. The majority of the course was on dirt packed trails along the coast.  The beginning of the course had a grouping of small steep hills, probably starting at around mile 2.3 through mile 9.  Then the course was flat until about mile 16 or 17, at which point there was another grouping of hills around the Ritz Carlton.  Below is information about the course from my Garmin watch, followed by a few photos of the course.

View of the course looking south right after the race started.

I finished in 4 hours and 28 minutes, with a 10:14 minute mile average pace.  I had hoped to run closer to a 10:00 minute mile, but in the end I was happy to have finished.  Below is a shot of me crossing the finish line!

I didn't experience any pain (or if any very slight) in my ankle or in my hips during the race, which was great.  At one point I think I twisted my ankle, but it did not hurt until after I finished the race.  I was limping the rest of the day after the race and the following day, but after putting my entire foot in an ice bath the following evening, the pain completely went away!!  All-in-all, it was a really successful race!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Countdown to Half Moon Bay

Less than two days until the inaugural Half Moon Bay International Marathon! We leave for Half Moon Bay Saturday mid-day and will be staying at a hotel only 0.4 miles from the starting line of the race.

This past week I've done my best to sleep more, eat relatively well, and not drink any alcohol. I did a nice interval run on Wednesday and today, Friday, I am going to do an easy 2 mile run with a little bit of elliptical. Tomorrow, I plan on either resting completely or doing an easy 2-3 mile run.

Saturday I am hoping to see Scott Jurek speak at the Expo. Saturday night, Adam and I are going to eat at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Big One

This past Sunday was the longest of the long runs in my marathon training plan: a 22 mile run. Here is a recap of how it went.

Preparation, or Lack Thereof

The week leading up to the run was perhaps the busiest five-day period I experienced at work, ever. I squeezed in a short work out Thursday morning, but otherwise did not exercise during the week. Thursday night I never went home and instead had to work through the entire night. I did, luckily, go home early on Friday and took a nap. Needless to say, I did not have a chance to prepare for my long run in the manner I had hoped (i.e. a few good but short runs, ample stretching, and sufficient sleep). I also did not plan out my running route or check my supply of running fuel (obvious foreshadowing here) -mistake number one.

Morning of the Run

Sunday morning came along and instead of waking up early and hitting the pavement, I slept in. And here we have mistake number two. As I lied in bed Sunday morning, looking for any excuse to hit snooze on my alarm clock, I seized upon the following excuse: it was more important to recoup the sleep I lost Thursday night than it was to get up early and run during the cooler hours of the day. Well, all I can say is that this excuse sounded entirely rational at the time.

After waking up late, I made a third mistake, I decided to run on the Iron Horse Trail (IHT). I was toying with either running on the Bay Trail or the IHT, but chose the IHT because it was a much simpler and more straightforward route. Because I've never gone more than 10 miles on the Bay Trail, I wasn't entirely sure how I would piece together a 22 mile run without doing loops. Also, the Bay Trail has no water fountains while the IHT has several on the northern end of the trail. I ran out of water for my 19 mile run a few weeks ago while on the IHT and ended up using the water fountains a lot during the last several miles. I checked the weather forecast for Walnut Creek and Danville, and it said that it will only be around 77 degrees at 1pm. I could handle 77 degrees. The decision was made, I would run on the IHT.

Thankfully, no mistakes were made with regard to the pre-run meal. Breakfast that morning consisted of a peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich, a small amount of coffee with soy milk, and a glass of water.

As I gathered my things to head out the door, I realized I only had two GU gels, which was definitely not enough for a four hour run. I drove to the local running store only to find out they would not open for several more hours. I then scrambled home to search for any GU gels that I might have missed earlier in the morning (and get my Garmin watch, which I forgot to grab). I found no additional GU gels or Chomps. I did have a single granola bar, but I knew that if I ate that during the run my stomach would revolt. Finally, I called my brother-in-law and was able to borrow two gels from him.

The Run
I finally got on the road at 10:15 a.m., almost two hours later than the time I left the house for my 19 mile run a few weeks ago. As soon as I drove through the Caldecott tunnel into Orinda, the cool and refreshing mist hovering over Oakland and Berkeley was nowhere to be seen. Instead, an almost cloudless sky lay overhead. My stress level increased ever so slightly. But I could not turn around. We had a big dinner planned that night and there was no way in hell I would be in a better position to run tomorrow morning. There was no turning back.

I finally arrive at the IHT. It is 10:45 a.m. and it is already warm, not hot, but warm, probably somewhere around 70 degrees. The majority of the IHT was drenched in sun. I took every opportunity I could to run in the shade, when shade was available. But only a few miles of the trail had consistent shade. After only 5 miles I tore off my tank top and just ran in my sports bra. By the time I reached the half-way point of 11 miles I was really tired and pretty damn hot but still had energy left.

When I got to 18 miles I began feeling nauseous and slightly light-headed. At one point I really thought I was going to vomit, but I did not--thank god! To this day I have not vomited during a run. I stopped for a few minutes under a tree to rest and do a self-assessment. The last thing I wanted was to faint from heat exhaustion. I started back up again, but for the last three miles I ended up doing a combination run/walk. I would run for maybe a half mile, then walk for a few minutes, then run another half mile, then walk for a few minutes. I ran the last half mile and finished the full 22 miles. One great thing about the run is that I had no pain in my left hip and no pain in my feet or my ankle, and for that I was very thankful. I did not finish the run until around 3pm--meaning I ran during the hottest hours of the day--what an idiot I am. I checked the temperature when I finished the run and it was about 84 degrees. I know, that does not sound very hot, but after 22 miles I felt really uncomfortable.


For several hours after the run I did not feel right. I know, who the hell feels "right" after running their first 22 mile run? But, I am not referring to fatigue or muscle soreness, but something else. I drank a few glasses of water and had a protein shake. But then I started feeling nauseous again. I started thinking that my electrolyte balance was off. We had plans to get drinks and then dinner, with a departure time of around 6pm. I quickly drank a small glass of salt water but then had to leave the house.

When we got to the bar I ordered some olives (for the salt content) and had a small 12 oz beer. After eating two small dishes of deliciously salty green olives I finally started to feel better. At dinner I also felt fine. I had only a little bit of wine with dinner (well two small glasses), and otherwise only had green tea and a lot of water. The only thing that persisted through the evening was that my face felt like it was on fire all night--like I had a sunburn, but I didn't.

Then came the late hours of the night. I initially fell asleep, but then found I could not sleep sometime after 1 a.m. I was really hot and my face still felt like it was sunburned. I finally got up and turned on the fan, but found that I still couldn't sleep and then realized I was really thirsty. Eventually, at around a quarter to 3 a.m. I got up and went to the kitchen and read about the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. I drank a full glass of water, then realized that I had some free samples of electrolyte drink mix. I poured another glass of water and added the electrolyte mix, ate half a banana, and cooled my face with an ice cube. I got back in bed around 3:15 and was able to fall asleep after a half-an-hour or so. Today I felt fine.

And there you have it, the full story. The Half Moon Bay International Marathon is now less than three weeks away. After this past weekend, I am relieved that I chose a marathon with a coastal route, as there is no chance it will be hot in the morning. If anything, I will likely be cold for the first several miles. My remaining long runs are not very long at all, one 13 mile run, and one 8-10 mile run the weekend prior to the race.

Lessons Learned From Sunday's Run:
(1) Always plan out the route for a really long run (especially a new distance) at least one day in advance;
(2) Check on your GU gel supply prior to the morning of the run;
(3) By all means get your ass out of bed and run early when running for more than two hours; and
(4) Do not underestimate the heat.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Iron Horse Trail - 19 Mile Run

Last Saturday I ran 19 miles on the Iron Horse Trail. I began the run around 9:15 am in Danville, ran south through San Ramon, then turned around and ran north up to the south side of Walnut Creek, and then back to where I started. I finished the run sometime around 12:40. The last hour or so of the run I did my best to run underneath the shadows of the trees along the trail, but many stretches of the trail were soaked in sunlight. Below is a map of the route I took.

I have not widely broadcasted that I signed up for the Inaugural Half Moon Bay International Marathon on September 25, 2011. I signed up a few weeks ago just prior to the event selling out. I have been superstitious about the marathon distance after getting injured back in May, and now I've been experiencing soreness in my right foot since the 16 miler. But, the reason I ran 19 miles is because I am training with my eyes set on running the Half Moon Bay marathon.

I originally planned to run 18 miles, but around mile 10 I started thinking that my last mile jump was from 13 to 16 (3 miles) with a lower mileage week in between. If I wanted my longest run prior to the Half Moon Bay marathon to be 22 miles, it would not be a good idea to do an increase of 4 miles for my next run (18-22). But, if I ran 19 miles, I would have consistent 3 mile increases in mileage (16-19-22). Hopefully, I'll be in a position to run the full 22 miles. From a confidence standpoint, it felt great to finish 19 miles last weekend. A year ago if someone told me I was going to run 19 miles in August 2011, I probably wouldn't have believed him/her. A year ago this time, I hadn't even run 10 miles yet.

For the 19 mile run my pace was 9:54 - with a moving time of 3:07:22. But including all my breaks for water/GU/stoplights, the total elapsed time was 3:20:09, meaning all of my breaks put together totalled 13 minutes, making my actual pace around a 10:30 pace. I'm pretty sure the majority of the breaks occurred in the last 6 miles. My Camelbak was running low on water so I started to stop at the water fountains.

The weekend of September 3/4 is the 22 mile run --the longest run prior to the marathon. After that I get to taper my mileage prior to the marathon. I'm anxious to get the 22 miles done with!!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Quick Update

I am very excited today because while I still have some slight soreness in my foot, I do not think it is anything serious. Earlier in the week I was really nervous that I had a new injury to deal with, but the bruise has gone away and the pain has significantly decreased.

I took a few days off this week and iced the bottom of my right foot to help the inflammation go down. On Tuesday night I just rode the bike at the gym. Yesterday morning I ran a quarter mile to see whether I experienced any pain during or after. I had absolutely no pain at all! Last night I rode the bike and then ran just 1 mile (per Dr. Jess's orders) at the gym and again had no pain during or after! This weekend I had originally planned on running 13 miles, but I will probably only run 6-9 miles just to give my body a rest. The weekend of August 20/21 is when I'll run my first 18 miler and I want to make sure I am feeling strong for that run.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sonoma 16 Mile Run

Last Friday, August 5th, I went on my first ever 16 mile run! We were away for the weekend so I had to find a route in the area we were staying. The route was in the town of Sonoma. I coasted through vineyards, farms, a little bit of high-traffic roadway, and then the lovely downtown Sonoma and residential area around the town. I averaged a 9:48 minute/mile, faster than I thought. I was actually aiming for a slow 10:00 to 10:15 min./mile pace.

Unfortunately, Sunday morning (almost 48 after the run) I woke up with pain in the bottom of my right foot. I cannot remember whether the pain started Saturday or not because I spent most of yesterday wine tasting and the effects of the wine may have dulled the pain. I do know that I had no pain in my foot during my run. Here is a photo of the bruise that formed on the bottom of my foot:

When I apply pressure to the spot where the bruise is located, it is really painful. However, I am able to walk with basically no pain. My foot ached on Sunday but hasn't really ached since then. There is only pain when pressure is applied directly. Sunday night I read some scary stuff online about tears to the plantar fascia and so I made an appointment with Dr. Jess for Monday (yesterday).

Dr. Jess looked at my foot/ankle and said she cannot be sure yet whether I tore the plantar fascia. She told me not to run for a few days, then run just a quarter mile and see how it feels the day after. If the pain doesn't spike or get worse, I can run a mile after another two days. She said I cannot do a long run this week. I will see her again next Tuesday. I am desperately hoping that the pain will resolve itself quickly and that I can return to doing long distance runs in a week or so.

I'll report back soon. Cross your fingers that this damn thing goes away!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

San Francisco Half Marathon

Today I ran in the San Francisco Half Marathon. My goal for this race was to beat my time from the Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon (which was 1:59:38). I accomplished my goal, I shaved off five whole minutes!! Here are my stats:

Finish Time: 1:54:28 (8:44 minute mile pace)
Overall: 1025/4244 = top 24%
Female: 301/2367= top 12.7%
Age Group - F20-29: 123/756= top 16%

This time I raised money for the HALO Trust, a non-profit organization that clears land mines all over the world. With the help of friends, family, and co-workers, I was able to raise $700.

I ran in the "Second Half" which started in Golden Gate park at Spreckels Lake, meandered through the park, then eventually through the Haight/Asbury district, down through SOMA (area South of Market), past AT&T Park Stadium, and down the Embarcadero, ending just before the Ferry Building. Here is a shot my husband took of the finish line.

My friend JP ran this race with me again, which always makes things more fun!! She and I ran together the whole time, so she had the same finish time as me!

Here is a shot of my husband and me, enjoying the free Sierra Nevada that was offered at the finish line area.

Below is the map & time from my Garmin watch. My Garmin was off by 30 seconds because it clocked the end of the race by .1 miles too soon. The distance of the Garmin is probably accurate in that it likely reflects the tiny amount of distance added by weaving around other runners for the first several miles. Even though the race had five different wave times, there were a lot of runners in front of us with a much slower pace than our wave group. The beginning of the route was also narrow, making it harder to get around people. Once we got out of Golden Gate Park, we had much more space to maneuver around other runners.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Street Speed Intervals With Dog

This week I did 2 rounds of interval training. On Monday I did my regular 400 meter repeats with a mile warm-up on the treadmill for a total of 4 miles.

Tonight I took Jackson (my dog), and my husband, on a speed interval run on the streets around our neighborhood. We started with a mile warm-up, followed by 4-400 meter sprints at around 6:30-7:00 minute mile pace. Then we finished with a cool-down mile.

It was really difficult doing fast running with Jackson because he wanted to sprint really fast, instead of moderately fast. At first he was sort of all over the place. We taught him the "heel walk" a while ago, but it was necessary to teach him the "heel run" tonight. Basically I taught him not to run all over the place in front of me like some crazy monkey, and instead run alongside me and keep my pace. It is definitely a work in progress. Jackson is still panting from our run! The picture below was taken of him about 10 minutes after we finished the run.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flying Yoga on Telegraph in Oakland

I have been having a lot of tightness in my hips and legs from the last few long runs I've done. I've been doing exercises on my own to loosen the muscles in my hips (particularly my left which is weaker), but in preparation for this weekend's half marathon I wanted to make sure I could squeeze in a good solid yoga class.

Last night I finally had a chance to check out Flying Yoga on Telegraph Avenue in the Temescal district of Oakland. I went to the 7:45 p.m. Bhakti Flow class with Rachel Meyer.

The sequencing in the Bhakti Flow class encourages alignment, flexibility, balance, strength, and cardiovascular endurance. The climate of the class was moderately hot. Rachel played music during the class and I found it really added to the experience for me. I found that the songs coincided well with the flow of the movements and I liked the artists she chose. Rachel did chant at a few points during the class, but it was tasteful and not annoying.

I found the class appropriately challenging. While they say it is "moderately hot" I was definitely dripping in sweat during most of the class (as were my neighbors). Some of the postures were cardiovascularly challenging, but the emphasis was not huge on strength building (it isn't Power Yoga). By the end of the class I felt rejuvinated and relaxed.

I definitely recommend Flying Yoga to new and experienced practitioners of Yoga!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bay Trail 10 Mile Run

Saturday's 10 miler went pretty well, I clocked a 9:03 minute mile. Note, this time did not include one bathroom break at mile 5, and the break I took for stretching after the first mile.

Next week is the half marathon!!!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Almost There

This past weekend I ran 12 miles for the first time since the flare up in my tendons, and I had no pain after the run nor any pain today! The longest distance I've run to date still remains at 14.5 miles. Hopefully in a few weeks I will be back to that distance.

The half marathon is now less than two weeks away!! I will try to post photos of the event.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Making Progress

It has been three weeks since I've posted an update. The one major thing (well major in my eyes) that I dealt with in the past few weeks was coming to terms with the fact that I wouldn't be able to run the SF Marathon. Because of my injury, I got way off track on my training regimen. I will, however, be ready to run a 1/2 marathon by July 31st. So I downgraded from the full to the half, and that sure is better than not being able to run at all. This will be my third 1/2 marathon, and maybe my fastest? The route will have several hills, so it may be challenging to beat my time from the Oakland 1/2 (which was flat), but I'm going to give it a shot.

The last three weeks I have intensely focused on my stride and the number of steps per second I take while running. I still run with the metronome, but now use it for about half of my runs. Each week for the past five weeks I've been adding one mile per week. Dr. Jess had me start with just 3 miles, which was tough considering I was running 14 before I got injured. The exciting thing is that by increasing my steps per minute to an average of 180-182 I have gotten a little faster. Last week my long run was 6 miles, and I kept an average pace of 9:08.

This past work-week I only managed to run once, but I had a strong 3 mile run with an 8:28 pace. I had a few stop-light breaks during the run, which helped, but overall I didn't actually push myself that hard. This week I think I will try for an 8:20 or 8:18 for my short run.

On Thursday I went to a yoga class for the first time in a long, long time. I go through spurts where I attend a lot of yoga classes. Then I will go for months without attending any. I struggled during Thursday's class, which isn't normal for me, and a sure-tell sign of how weak my upper body strength is. Today, Sunday, my arms and shoulders were still sore. It's time that I incorporate more cross-training into my weekly routine.

Looking ahead to the 1/2 marathon, I figured out this past week that I needed to start increasing my long run mileage by more than 1 mile per week, otherwise I wouldn't be ready. Today I ran 8 miles (increase of 2 from last week). I ran down to Lake Merritt and back and was, again, surprised by my time. For my long runs I usually clock between a 9:30 and 10:00 pace, depending on the length of the run and whether it is a new distance. Today, I successfully ran 8 miles with no pain during or after the run. Not only that, I ran an average 9:07 pace for the 8 miles. I think that might have been my fastest 8 mile. I would have gotten a sub-9 minute mile if the run had been flat, but the incline on the way back dragged my time above 9 minutes.

All in all, while getting injured was not fun, I am starting to think that I am becoming a stronger runner. By focusing on my form and working on key muscle weaknesses, I am slowly getting faster and hopefully, more efficient. I am still going to Dr. Jess Greaux about once a week. She has been exploring other parts of my right leg to see what other muscles are having issues. We discovered that I have a really tender and tight spot on my upper thigh, slightly to the back of my IT band. I also have a lot of tenderness in the lower part of my calf. The good news is that the area surrounding the upper portion of my peroneus muscles is markedly better. The scar tissue in the muscle and the nerve entrapment are almost entirely gone!! Now I just need to get the remainder of my leg muscles healthy!

I've now got my eyes on the inaugural Half Moon Bay Marathon in late September. I haven't registered yet. I am going to wait a few more weeks to assess how my body is feeling and whether or not I continue to make progress. I also need to plan out a new training program that will prepare me in enough time. There are so many marathons to choose from in the fall, that I am confident I'll be able to find one that works.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Diagnosis, a Video, and a Metronome

First Visit: Initial Diagnosis
During my first appointment with Dr. Jess Greaux at Innersport I learned that my suspicions about the pain originating from the peroneal tendons and peroneal muscles was correct. Unfortunately, I was hoping that I had a simple tendonitis, but her initial diagnosis is that I have tendinosis. Tendinosis is defined as damage to a tendon at a cellular level. It is thought to be caused by microtears in the connective tissue in and around the tendon, leading to an increase in tendon repair cells. Explained another way, tendinosis is an accumulation over time of small-scale injuries that don't heal properly; it is a chronic injury of failed healing. She pointed out that I had a build-up of scar tissue all along the side of my right calf where it was currently experiencing tenderness and pain.

Dr. Greaux (or Dr. Jess) used Active Release Technique (ART) and the Graston Technique on the side of my right calf where the muscles and tendons were tender to the touch. She also applied Spyder Tech tape to the side of my calf. My first visit was on a Thursday, and by Sunday the pain and tenderness on the side of my calf was dramatically decreased. That Sunday I even went for a 4 mile and I had NO PAIN! This was amazing considering just prior to my visit I was experiencing pain after running a mile or less.

Second Visit: Video Analysis
While things were looking up, I still awaited finding the cause of the tendinosis. Dr. Jess had me do a running analysis during my second visit. In order to analyze my stride, Dr. Jess' assistant took a video of me running in front of the office at the beginning of my appointment. She took a video from the side and from the front/back. As I ran for the video I purposely didn't think at all about my stride so that I would demonstrate whatever bad form I have when I am not paying attention. Dr. Jess analyzed the video and we discussed what was out of alignment. I was embarrassed to find out that I was heel-striking worse than I thought I was, I wasn't taking enough steps per minute, and my feet were staying on the ground too long. One of my hips was also dropping down more than the other one. All in all, my alignment and my form need improvement.

A Metronome
After seeing the weaknesses in my running form, Dr. Jess directed me to purchase a portable digital metronome to run with. She said if counting every foot-strike I should be at 176-180 on the metronome. If I am counting one foot strike, it should be 88-90 on the metronome. She also directed me to do running exercises which I basically call "knee thrusts" where you thrust your knees forward as hard as you can, lifting your leg in a more exaggerated fashion forward. Finally, during both of my visits she gave me several different exercises to do at home, some stretching exercises and some glute strengthening exercises. Dr. Jess also told me during my second visit that until further direction from her, I am not allowed to run more than 3 miles every other day. She didn't say I had to give up on running the San Francisco Marathon, but also didn't say that I could. So the jury is still out on that issue.

Like a good student, I purchased a metronome immediately after my second appointment so that I could start running with it. I purchased the Seiko DM70B Pocket Digital Metronomee, and had it delivered within two days to my office. I ran with it on Thursday and found it was challenging at first to make sure I was taking enough steps per minute. On Saturday while at the gym I ran on the treadmill and instead of using the metronome I just counted 30 foot strikes for 10 second increments every few minutes to make sure I was taking an average of 180 steps per minute.

This week I have two appointments, Dr. Jess recommends that her patients come twice a week during the initial weeks. I will report back soon with any updates.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spoke Too Soon - Pain Returns

If you read my post Beginning Again, then you know that in 2007 I struggled with ankle pain that caused me to stop running. I'm sad to report, the pain came back two weeks ago.

Prologue to Pain
During the first week of May I was at a conference in Fish Camp (just outside Yosemite) for work and basically did not run. I only ran a total of about four and a half miles while at the conference and took one very easy and short hike. I arrived home on a Friday, and departed for vacation in St. Thomas on Saturday. I planned on running Saturday morning prior to leaving for vacation, but I was too tired so I skipped that morning's SFM run. I then spent a week in beautiful St. Thomas (U.S. Virgin Islands), where I ate too much, drank too much, and didn't run at all. I did take one six mile hike and managed to get in a decent amount of swimming, but all in all, barely exercised. I flew back from the USVI the following Saturday.

Last Recent Long Run
On the Sunday after returning from St. Thomas (May 15), words cannot express how pumped I was to finally hit the pavement. I ran 11.5 miles that day (SFM scheduled run on Saturday was 11-13 miles). That evening I felt stiff (which is normal). I was sitting on the couch for a while, and when I got up to take Jackson (my dog) out for a short walk, I noticed that I was limping a little due to soreness in my right ankle. I only walked Jackson around the block (maybe 1/3 mile total) but the whole time my ankle was aching.

The "Oh Shit" Moment
Monday morning I got out of bed and immediately took Jackson out for his walk. I noticed my ankle still hurt. In fact, that morning my ankle seemed to feel more stiff and the pain was a little worse. At this point I got a little worried that the epic ankle pain of the summer of 2007 had reared its ugly head. I took it easy Monday, did not exercise, iced my ankle and took some ibuprofen. Tuesday night I skipped the SFM track practice and just went to the gym to do the elliptical, stretch, and do some abdominal work. I had no pain on the elliptical.

Thursday night I went to the gym, spend 20 minutes stretching and using the foam roller as well as the hard black plastic roller. I followed that up by using the bike for about 20 minutes, trying to warm up my muscles. Finally, I got on the treadmill to see whether I could run without pain. I ran a mile and took a few breaks to stretch my ankle and legs. As I got closer to mile two, the pain in my ankle began slowly increasing. I stopped running at only 1.8 miles. It was obvious that I was not ready to start running again. At this point I started getting a little more worried. That weekend I went to the gym but stuck to the elliptical and the bike. I was on my feet all weekend cleaning, running errands, and gardening, so I didn't exactly rest but I did not run (in my head that is a big difference but perhaps not). During that entire week I continued icing my ankle and taking ibuprofen.

1 Week Later & A Discovery
Monday (now May 23) comes and it has now been one week since my ankle began hurting. I ran into my neighbor "H" who is a regular runner and she recommended I go see Dr. Jessica Greaux at Innersport. I went online to Innersport's website and noticed I could make an appointment online (this is huge for me because I hate calling places). I was lucky enough to find that there was an open appointment within the week, so I scheduled the appointment for Thursday.

On Tuesday I was getting impatient and thought I could maybe try to run again. If anything it would be a good experiment prior to my appointment with Dr. Greaux. However, prior to running, I made a relatively important discovery. I noticed that the entire right side of my calf was tender to the touch. One would think I would have noticed this earlier, but for some reason I didn't. It basically felt like someone kicked me in the leg a dozen times with a steel-toed boot. I learned, based on my very adept online research (more like desperate hope that I could get through this without the assistance of a doctor or physical therapist) that there are two peroneus muscles on the outer side of the calf that lead into two peroneal tendons that lead on and around the outside of the ankle. When I had ankle pain in 2007, I never knew about the link between the peroneus muscles and the peroneal tendons.

So prior to heading out for a run that Tuesday night, I took our wood baker's rolling pin and massage the side of my calf where the peroneus muscles are. I then head out for a run. During the run, I stopped every quarter to half mile to massage the side of my calf and stretch my calf muscles. I ended up running 4.5 miles and by the end of my run I was not even in any pain. I am still, of course, unsure of whether this means I have made progress or just found a short-term bandaid.

My next posting will explain what I learned from Dr. Greaux at my appointment at Innersport on May 26.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday's 14-mile run

Departure time: 20 minutes past high noon.
Temperature: 74 degrees but my face was on fire!

Friday, April 29, 2011

516+ miles in 9 months

I started tracking my runs at the very end of July 2010 by using the Nike+iPod and uploading them to Nike.com. Last week I purchased a Garmin so I will no longer be tracking my runs on Nike.com. Tonight I uploaded my last Nike+iPod run (last weekend's 10 miler). After uploading the run data a nice little video message came up saying I had run 500 miles! Adding in my run from this week (and ignoring the dozen or so runs that I was unable to track) I ran 516 miles in 9 months!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Week of April 24-30

My last post was about my struggle with running on Wednesdays after Tuesday's track workout. This week I changed my Wednesday workout and finally made both the Tuesday track session and the Thursday run. Here is a break-down of my progress this week.

Sunday and Monday: Rest Days

Tuesday: This week's track session consisted of a timed mile at about 85% exertion level. I didn't know we were doing a timed mile and did not have a chance to properly warm-up (I arrived late as usual, getting out of work at 6pm is tough). Nonetheless, I ended up doing a 7:38 mile, not bad. I have not run a timed mile since high school and I do not even recall what my time was. I have a feeling I ran slower in high school. After the timed mile we did 12 sprint repeats around the track, jogging or walking the curved part of the track and sprinting the straightaways. The total distance was 1.2 miles worth of sprint work, or 6 laps around the track. One of our running coaches complimented my form on the sprints and asked me if I ever ran track. Perhaps I remembered some of my high school winter track coach's teachings? I never ran track for real (winter track was not taken seriously), I only ran winter track to stay in shape for soccer and lacrosse.

Wednesday: Paying heed to last week's disastrous Wednesday run, I went to the gym and did the elliptical for 45 minutes instead of running. I also sprinkled in a little abdominal and triceps work and of course spent some quality time with the foam roller. So far I have not experienced any IT band issues and I hope never to develop any so long as I keep using the foam roller.

Thursday: For the first time since starting the SFM Training program I actually made the Thursday night run!! We ran from the Lake Merritt Boathouse to Jack London Square and back (5 miles) and I did a 1.5 mile warm-up run (total 6.6 miles). I felt pretty great throughout the run, doing my best to keep up with some of the faster runners in the group. Overall pace for the run was 9:08. Not bad! My goal pace for the marathon will likely be around a 9:20 pace if I can do it. Below is a view of the run we did.

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: This weekend I'll be out of town so I will miss the SFM scheduled long run which is 14 miles.

Sunday: I will need to do a 14 mile run all by my lonesome. I may try going to the Emeryville Marina and run along the East Shore freeway trail along the water. We did this last Saturday for the 10 mile run.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Not Every Run Is A Good One

Generally people enjoy telling stories about recent PR races or satisfying training runs (myself included) but rarely mention those poor performance training days or races. In an effort to be transparent about my marathon training, I thought it would be a good idea for me to share information about a recent unsatisfying training day.

I have at least a few runs a month that leave me feeling like crap, such as those where I get a stubborn side stitch, feel like my feet are encased in cement, get slightly light headed for no good reason, or for one reason or another just cannot get into an enjoyable tempo were I can forget about the mileage and instead just zone out in the scenery and my music.

My SFM training program schedules us to do a tempo run every Wednesday. Last week was only a five mile tempo run. (See description below of tempo runs.) For starters, I didn't do five miles. Nope, I barely squeezed out four miles. How fast did I run? Well, not even close to a tempo pace. The run would be better characterized as an "easy" run, or more bluntly, a "dragging my tired butt along" run. The entire time I was running I couldn't help but look at the mileage, dearly hoping it would be over soon. I thought to myself, why am I doing this? I should have just skipped today's run. I not only ran at a snail's pace, but because I had to pee the entire time (bad planning on my part) I stopped for a few minutes at around mile three thinking I'd duck into a local restaurant to pee. After stopping, I felt so tired that I realized if I waited another five minutes to start running again I wouldn't even finish four miles! So I didn't stop to pee and just slogged through the last mile.

This past weekend I thought a little more about my training program and how to avoid repeating last week's crappy run this coming week. I don't want to skip tempo runs, but I've learned that the SFM training schedule does not always work for my schedule or my body. I am notoriously tired on Wednesdays from the Tuesday track session, which always involves speed work. By using Wednesdays for cross-training, instead of a tempo run, I can let my body rest from the speed work, and re-direct my energy toward making Thursday's marathon-pace run a worthwhile endeavor.
Tempo Runs:

I've read about them, but mathmatically, I am not always sure how to pace out a tempo run based on my goal pace. John Hanc of Runner's World Magazine defines a classic tempo run as "a slow 15-minute warmup, followed by at least 20 minutes at a challenging but manageable pace, then a 15-minute cooldown--as often as twice a week." So what is a challenging pace? Here is how the article explains it:

To ensure you're doing tempo workouts at the right pace, use one of these four methods to gauge your intensity.

Recent Race: Add 30 to 40 seconds to your current 5-K pace or 15 to 20 seconds to your 10-K pace
Heart Rate: 85 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate
Perceived Exertion: An 8 on a 1-to-10 scale (a comfortable effort would be a 5; racing would be close to a 10)
Talk Test: A question like "Pace okay?" should be possible, but conversation won't be.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday's Trail Run

Yesterday, I went on the eight mile trail run scheduled through the San Francisco Marathon (SFM) training program in which I enrolled. The trail run started at Lake Anza in Tilden Park. The trail was a single track trail that meandered through thickly forested portions of the park, over (far too frequent) patches of deep, wet, and inescapable mud, it included several rocky uphill climbs, and a few peaceful grassy meadows. Unfortunately the poison oak is in full force (at some places it was several feet high), but I managed to avoid it. For the first time in the seven years I've lived in California, I saw not one, but dozens of banana slugs. They seemed to be attracted to the deep damp patches of mud. So, in addition to avoiding falling on my butt in huge puddles of mud that looked like brownie-batter, I also tried to avoid squishing the banana slugs (which were absolutely enormous)! All in all, the trail was hilly and muddy, but also beautiful.

While I ran the first few miles without stopping, a few miles into the run we hit a huge, never-ending, uphill climb and after running the first portion of it, I finally gave up and walked. As we continued on, I realized that I would re-characterize the morning's trail run into what was really a "trail run/hike" since I ended up walking (or hiking) a majority of the uphill climbs.

Somehow I managed to stay at the beginning of the pack with a group of about 6-8 people and one dog. I was at the back of the group, but we were far ahead of any other runners. The entire running group that morning was probably around 25 people. The run was absolutely exhausting. During the last few miles, my right hip flexor began to ache and my ankles and knees began to feel sore, but the pain was not so bad that I couldn't finish. When I did finish, my feet were entirely caked with mud. In fact, the trail's mud patches were so wet that my socks were also soaked in muddy liquid. When I removed my sneakers and socks, even my toes were covered in mud! Gross!! Here is a photo of my sneakers from after the run:

When I got home I was starving. In an effort to aid my muscle recovery, I slammed a protein shake and gobbled down a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. Yum! While I wanted to lie like a corpse on the couch for the rest of the day, my husband and I had big plans for the remainder of the afternoon and evening, which included spending the next seven hours on our feet (took the dog to the dog park then went on a long overdue shopping trip), followed by dinner and drinks with some friends in San Francisco. Needless to say, I definitely over did it Saturday. Fortunately, today I was not as sore as I expected to be. My quads and calves were not sore at all (which was sort of amazing). I just have lingering soreness in my joints but that is it!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Getting Over My Doubts About 26.2

Since last November, I have been thinking about running a marathon. However, until a few weeks ago, self-doubt about my ability to run that many miles prevented me from taking the plunge and signing up. After the Oakland Running Festival I felt so pumped and excited that I figured I should seize the moment, find a marathon, and sign-up. So I did. I signed up for the San Francisco Marathon on July 31, 2011. I noticed that the SFM listed various training programs - in particular an 18-week program that had recently started. In line with my record of self-doubt in the marathon arena, I figured I should sign up for the training program to stay on top of training and to stay motivated.

Up until last weekend, my longest run was 13.1 miles, and I had only completed that distance twice. But last Sunday, after returning from a short snowboarding trip to Tahoe the night before, I set out for my weekly long run. The 18-week training program suggested I run only 10 miles, which would be no problem. But, I was ahead of the game having just finished a half marathon in late March. Plus, it was a beautiful day, not too hot, sunshine was abundant but not oppressively strong, and the air was crisp. As usual, I set out for a run down to Lake Merritt (in Oakland) and back (H & C introduced me to this route, which you can customize by adding/subtracting how many times you circle around the lake). Around mile five I began toying with the idea of running more than 10 miles. I told myself, I would mentally and physically "check-in" throughout the run to see how I felt. At mile seven I still felt pretty good, and when I finished mile nine I found I was not nearly as exhausted as I anticipated I would be. So after completing ten miles, I just kept running, and running, and running. I looped back from the lake and meandered around the streets off of Piedmont Avenue. At first I thought I would maybe run 12 miles. But then I approached 12 miles and thought, well shit, I should just run a half marathon. But then I realized, why not try to set a new distance PR and break through my fear about running distances greater than the half marathon? And so I did, I ran 14.5 miles. I will admit that the last mile was rough. I ran out of fuel and had barely any water (I wear a very lightweight CamelBak on my long runs). My stomach felt more and more concave and grew slightly tense, but I finished. Most importantly, I won a small battle (in a longer war) against my fear of the marathon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Runner's High

How do you feel when you finish a run? Elated? Invincible? About a month ago, the New York Times ran a story entitled Phys Ed: What Really Causes Runner's High discussing the cause of "runner's high." The article first points out that endorphins are not the cause of runner's high.
Endorphins first gained notoriety in exercise back in the 1980s when researchers discovered increased blood levels of the substance after prolonged workouts. (Endorphins, for those who know the word but not the molecules’ actual function, are the body’s home-brewed opiates, with receptors and actions much like those of pain-relieving morphine.) Endorphins, however, are composed of relatively large molecules, “which are unable to pass the blood-brain barrier,” said Matthew Hill, a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University in New York. Finding endorphins in the bloodstream after exercise could not, in other words, constitute proof that the substance was having an effect on the mind. So researchers started to look for other candidates to help explain runner’s high. Now an emerging field of neuroscience indicates that an altogether-different neurochemical system within the body and brain, the endocannabinoid system, may be more responsible for that feeling.

The article detailed a few different research studies concerning the effect of endocannabinoids during and after exercise. What appears without question is that "the endocannabinoid system 'is well known to impact onto central reward networks.' . . . Without it, exercise [seems to provide] less buzz. . ." In fact, in experiments on rats, the rats with non-functioning endocannabinoid systems did not indulge in exercising on their running wheel as much as those rats with properly functioning systems.
Although the full intricacies of the endocannabinoid system’s role in motivating and rewarding exercise is not yet understood, it seems obvious, the researchers say, that the cannabinoid-deprived mice were not getting some necessary internal message.

While the article concluded that current research is not decisive on the issue of whether endocannabinoids are the cause of "runner's high," "endocannabinoids are a more persuasive candidate, especially given the overlap between the high associated with marijuana use and descriptions of the euphoria associated with strenuous exercise."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recap on Oakland Running Festival

On March 27, 2010, I ran in the Oakland Running Festival's Half Marathon. The race began at 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland. The course meandered through Oakland's China Town, by Laney College, near Jack London Square, through West Oakland on Mandela Parkway (going right by the famous Brown Sugar Kitchen) and ended with the last three or so miles around Lake Merritt.

From start to finish, the race was a joy! The course included dozens of live bands; a large scale metal-work piece of art with flames on Mandela Parkway that you could run underneath; a group of Oakland A's fans cheering on the runners near Laney College; as well as Oakland Raiders fans in what I believe were gorilla costumes and masks! The water stations were incredibly well staffed and all the volunteers very helpful and enthusiastic. One water station also included free energy gels. At the finish line, there were orange slices and bananas, beer stands (race registration included two free beers), free massage tents for runners (which I took advantage of), and various food carts. Whether you are a local Oakland resident like me, or traveling from another part of the state, or traveing from out-of-state, I highly recommend the Oakland Running Festival. Hopefully one year I'll run the full marathon.

While I trained on a regular basis for the US Half in San Francisco last November, I had less time to train for the Oakland Half Marathon. Yet, I still managed to beat my time from November. My goal for the US Half was to finish in 2 hours or less. Whether it was the pouring rain, the poorly staffed water stations, overtraining, or nerves, I didn't make my goal and finished that race in 2:06:14. But, I was happily surprised when I finished the Oakland Half Marathon in 1:59:38. The other pleasant surprise was how great I felt. During the US Half, I vividly recall feeling exhausted at mile 10, like I had slammed into a wall. During the Oakland Half, I did not have the same experience. However, the US Half has several hills in and around the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge, whereas the Oakland Half did not have any serious incline at any point during the run.

US Half San Franciso - Nov 2010 (First Half Marathon)
Overall: 1071/2978 (35.9%)
Gender: 379/1624 (23.3%)
Age Group: 131/475 (27.6%)

Oakland Running Festival - Half - March 2011 (Second Half Marathon)
Overall 1013/3409 (29.7%)
Females 396/2096 (18.8%)
Age Group: 97/379 (25.6%)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Beginning Again

Solving the Pain Problem

Almost exactly one year ago I started running again. In April of 2010, my husband Adam and I took a trip back East to visit some close friends in Pennsylvania. Ski season had recently ended, and while I had maintained a certain baseline fitness level, it was time to set free the extra pounds my thighs had taken hostage that winter. In between eating Philly Cheese Steaks I managed to get in a few short runs for the first time in almost three years. Those first few runs, while only three to four miles long, were not easy. At the end of each run, I was red-faced, dripping in sweat, and panting like a dog. While I could partially blame the balmy spring air of eastern Pennsylvania, I was mainly just out of shape.

The main reason I stopped running was due to an unresolved over-use injury that began in the Summer of 2007, which I spent in Anchorage, Alaska. That summer I interned with an environmental legal non-profit after having finished my second year of law school. There is a well-known paved trail in Anchorage called the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail which runs along Knik Arm and Cook Inlet in Anchorage. It is the perfect setting to fall in love (or back in love) with running. A few other interns I met that Summer were avid runners, and they inspired me to get into running. I went to a local running store, got sized up for the type of shoe I needed based on the salesperson's views on my pronation and arch needs and got to running! As increased motivation, I registered for the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon Relay with three other interns. My portion of the marathon was only six miles. At that time I found six miles to be rather challenging since I had not been running regularly, and certainly not six miles. After the relay, I decided to keep pushing forward with my mileage, and that was when I ran into trouble. I started getting a sharp pain in the peroneal tendon on my right foot (tendon running under the ankle bone). The pain would begin as a mild irritation, but as I kept running it developed into a sharp stabbing pain. At times, it was so sore that I was unable to walk without pain. For a period of time I biked almost everywhere, even short distances. Long story short, as a student with minimal health insurance coverage, it was hard to go see a doctor in Alaska and not pay through the nose. So I rested when the pain started, but did not see a doctor until returning to law school. When I finally visited the doctor at the student health service office, he said there was nothing wrong with me and left me searching for answers. In the following months, I would try to run a few miles here and there, but each time I did the soreness in my ankle would return. And so I stopped running, turning back to the standard elliptical and bike machines (yawn).

Fast forward to 2010. During the winter months, I began reading "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. Within the first few chapters of the book I was brimming with curiosity. As I read on, my curiosity turned into optimism, and my optimism turned into action. The (now well-known) theory of "barefoot running" and minimalist shoes was fascinating to me on both an academic and personal level. Instead of going to the extreme and buying Vibram's, I decided to try out the Nike Free's. And it was those Nike Free's that I took with me to Pennsylvania to log my first few miles since 2007. Perhaps the ankle issues I experienced in 2007 were caused by the pronation control/stability running shoes I bought in Anchorage, or perhaps not. So began the Nike Free experiment.

The first few runs I had no pain, no ankle issues, nothing. Of course, perhaps I just had not logged enough miles to cause a flare up. So I kept running, mostly three to four miles at a time, while also continuing my regular cross-training at the gym. In July, I started to run a little farther, logging a few runs of 5 miles and one 7 mile run. I was feeling great--nothing was in my way. I broke down the only significant barrier preventing me from running-pain.


My husband and I moved into our current house in January 2009, but we didn't really begin to meet our neighbors until a year later. One of our neighbors, a couple I will refer to as H & C, are not only great people, but are a large part of the reason I started running longer distances. Both H & C have about 10 years on me, yet each of them are incredibly fit. They each have run several marathons/triathlons, and C has completed an IronMan. The interesting thing was that C had only recently started running long distances. Over several months, listening to them talk about running, races, and training, a light-bulb went off in my head: maybe I could run a marathon, or at least a half marathon. For some idiotic reason, I had always written off the possibility of running really long distances. I resigned myself to the assumption that long distances were for "other people" for real runners-- not me. With a revised vision of my capabilities in hand, I decided to sign up for the November 2010 US Half Marathon in San Francisco. I started reading "Runner's World" magazine and reviewing various Half Marathon training programs and then set off training!

Running Buddy

Another huge factor for my enthusiasm for running is attributable to my running buddy, who I'll just refer to as JP. While I logged most of my miles alone, JP and I would run on average once or twice a week together -- and still do. She also signed up for the US Half Marathon and we ran the race together. After spending months and months running together, I feel like I know JP a great deal better than I did before, and I appreciate her as a friend more than I did before. Sometimes we would log a five-miler while bitching about our day, or planning for ski season, or without talking much at all. Running was no longer just a workout, it was a social engagement -- a healthier version of getting a drink after work (which I also enjoy). JP and I continued running after the US Half, and just ran our second half marathon in March at the Oakland Running Festival.

And that is, in short, the story of how I got back into running. In a matter of 12 months, I went from not running at all, to completing two half marathons and training for my first full marathon in July!