On unexpected trips, minor injuries, and revised goals

Last month, I talked about my aggressive September training plan that I was excited to dive into headfirst.

On Thursday, September 8, the best laid plans went to pot.

My husband stopped by my office to bring me some afternoon treats, as he was nearby and it was on his way home. I had a webinar that I couldn’t pause, so he ended up waiting around a bit for me. It was during that time he had a pretty interesting email exchange with the promotions team at I Heart Radio and Universal Music. Turns out, he won a trip for 2 to London to see the premiere of Eight Days a Week. The trip ran from the following Tuesday through Sunday.

Long story short – we made plans for me to get an expedited passport (which, other than taking years off of my life as I waited and wondered if my application would be accepted, was surprisingly easy), canceled our original weekend away plans, and I took the following week off so I could fly to London. Fortunately, my boss was incredibly supportive!

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My boss happily granted my leave so long as I came back with this mug for his wife! ūüôā

Though I was¬†not initially¬†concerned, this obviously put a damper on my original running plans. I scrapped the training plan I had previously, scheduled a 12 mile run for the Sunday before our trip, and hoped for the best. And, really, things were going pretty well. I had to cancel my chiropractic appointment, but my piriformis syndrome had been feeling better, so I wasn’t too concerned. I knew I was going to get fewer miles in that week than usual, but I just treated it as a step back week. I got a run in on Long Island before our flight on Tuesday (a route I like to refer to as my “Hills for Breakfast” route, but after the unrelenting hills at Ragnar, it seemed like child’s play!), and a couple of nice runs on the Thames Path while in London.

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Trips to Long Island mean runs with Piper the Vizsla, aka the #redmenace!

I got about 6.5 miles in on the last day of the trip. A portion of the path through the park had some speed bumps in it – which seems incredibly dangerous on a walk/bike path, but I digress – one of which I didn’t see until I hit it. I didn’t fall, but when I caught myself, I collapsed into my right hip. I felt the pain radiate through my sciatic nerve and I knew it was going to be trouble. I finished my run, then proceeded to spend 8 hours on a plane and another 4 hours in a vehicle. Needless to say, on Monday I was in a lot of a pain.

I began to panic – I knew I couldn’t defer Adirondack Distance Festival, though I also knew I could still run it, if not as strong as I was hoping. I researched the deadlines for deferring Hartford. I still had time. I called and got into my chiropractor the next morning. I got out the ice packs and my foam roller. By Tuesday night I was already feeling a bit better, which was a relief. I went to the chiropractor on Wednesday and he chastised me for not stretching enough, though did not think I needed to stop training. However, in talking with my husband, *he* told me I needed to stop OVER training. And he was right. I needed to stop doubling up on workouts. And since I have these races coming up, running needed to be my focus.

I ran ADK Distance mostly without incident. (I wasn’t feeling great that day, but it had nothing to do with my piriformis.) I treated it as a long, leisurely training run and did not push myself, risking further aggravation of my injury. I decided not to defer Hartford, but rather modify my goal. I’ve been having trouble with my speed and I know it is due to my haphazard training this summer. Coupled with this injury, though I do want to push myself at Hartford tomorrow, the original goal is simply not realistic at this point. I did finally ditch my Altras and pulled out my old Adidas Glide Boosts from last year, which fortunately still have some life left in them, and my legs felt better on this week’s runs than they have in months.

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Adidas Supernova Glide Boost 6, bought in the fall of 2014.  Over 400 miles on them, but still going strong!

It has me thinking some about next year, too. Where do I want my running and fitness goals to take me? I found that I love running destination races, so I am thinking about purchasing the 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll Tourpass. Maybe I don’t want to train for PRs anymore, but rather train instead so I am at a fitness level to enjoy my races. I did find that while I very much enjoyed my winter and spring training, I have felt it to be a chore for the fall, and I think it is because the first half of the year I was training for fun and fitness, and the second with a goal in mind that has been hovering like a specter. Also, no more halfs 2 weeks apart (or less) unless it is for fun only (that is, special theme or destination race). They just cost way too much money and have too much pressure otherwise. While I enjoyed the race itself yesterday and we had ideal weather conditions, I think I would have felt better about it if it had been my goal race for the season rather than a throwaway.

I got chatting with a running buddy of mine last night who was in a similar dilemma this past spring. She’s already broken the sub-2 hour half marathon barrier, though, as she said it is a hard effort for her to do that, and her PRs were somewhat elusive this year. Though it is still a goal (one I know I can achieve at some point), we both agreed that it is more fun to choose races because we want to run those particular races and have a goal to work toward, not necessarily to achieve a new PR. Adirondack Distance Festival, for example, was a beautiful run with lots of amazing course support and cheering despite being a small race. It was near perfect running conditions. I ran a 2:24, which is my second worst (road) half time. (My worst time being 2:28 at Syracuse, which was by far the WORST road running conditions of any race I’ve run!)

It’s easy to fall into a pattern of discouragement when you come off of a run of PRs (which I was PRing all over the place last fall!), and easy to forget your reasons and motivations for doing all of this in the process. It’s time to start enjoying my sport again.

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Ragnar Trail: The Social Racing Event

Now that I have my training plan for September pretty much set, I’m anxious to get cracking on it.¬† This is, in part, a bit of delayed reaction adrenaline from the Ragnar Trail New England Relay I participated in about a week and a half ago.
For those of you unfamiliar with Ragnar events, they are one of the largest relay race organizers in the country.  They have two different types of events:  1.  The original, point to point road relays, consisting of about 200 miles covered by 2 vans and 12 runners over the course of about 30-36 hours, and 2.  Trail relays, consisting of camping at a forested locale (usually Рthough not always Рa state or national park), and rotating between three different trails among 8 runners, and over the course of about 24-30 hours.  My team was running at Northfield Mountain in northeastern Massachussettes.  And, though yes, northeast mountains have lower overall elevations than the west coast, the elevation gains were no joke.  Just look at these elevation profiles!

 

With the exception of much of the downhill portion of the yellow trail – which had some pretty gnarly steep, technical sections – most of the trails were on wide cross-country ski paths, which made it easier to pick up speed in those sections.¬† Even so, it was hot, and I was under trained – both for trails and distance – so my times were slower than I would have liked.¬† I averaged 15-16 minute miles on these trails, and I was really hoping to be more in the 14 minute range.¬† Overall, however, I was proud of my accomplishment, covering just over 15 really tough trail miles over the course of about 22 hours.¬† It’s the most distance I’ve ever covered in a less than 24 hour period – on roads or trails – and given that I wasn’t trained up as much as I wanted to be I was impressed with myself and my ability to get it done, and get it done pretty strong.
I knew going into this that I was not as trained as I wanted to be, and I was having a lot of anxiety about the race.¬† I was worried about running at night (I frequently fall running trails in the DAYLIGHT), I was worried about running in the heat, and I was worried that I was going to significantly slow my team down.¬† Well, I didn’t fall, I planned properly for hydration, and I didn’t significantly slow my team down.¬† In fact, running at night was not nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be.¬† After I finished, I had such a sense of accomplishment, was reminded how much I really did miss trail running this summer, and I had so much fun with my wonderful team.¬† I was really glad I knuckled down and stuck with it despite my fears.¬† However, after I finished it, I declared Ragnar Trail a “One and Done.”
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Undertrained? Maybe, but at least I look jacked in this photo! Smiling because this was only trail 1 of 3 for me!
I told my husband that I did not think I would sign up for another Ragnar trail.¬† I also told him that there were a lot of people who do multiple Ragnars (road and trail) per year.¬† They travel to them.¬† They buy additional Ragnar-themed gear.¬† They are addicts.¬† I wasn’t judging – we all have our favorite things – merely stating my observation.¬† C laughed when I told him this.¬† He pointed out that I certainly have my addictions (half marathons, for example!), and that Ragnar events are far more social than the individual pursuits I have chosen, which¬†he found it ironic given what an extrovert I am. Ragnar Relays being, of course, far more social than pretty much any other racing pursuit just by nature of what they are.
When Ragnar sent out a survey a couple days later, it prompted me to go to the website to take a look at other events.¬† It seems that the Massachusetts event is especially hilly.¬† My favorite trail running is, for those of you who are local, similar to what is found at Thacher Park – some hills, but more technical than hilly and have lovely views.¬† When the hills are too steep and unrelenting it makes it difficult to RUN the trails, and the technical portions make it fun and interesting.¬† So, maybe I misspoke.¬† Maybe I would do another Ragnar Trail, depending on the course, just probably not THIS Ragnar Trail.¬† We’ll see.¬† As my husband pointed out, after all, I am a social creature.
However, what I really want to do now is tackle a van Ragnar – the traditional, point-to-point relay.¬† Ragnar Adirondack is in my backyard, but they¬†recently released a new race along¬†the Niagara Escarpment in Canada for next spring, and that one is very tempting indeed …

Gearing up for #FallTraining

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s been HOT this summer. ¬†Unrelentingly so.¬† It has made my typical training schedule almost impossible.¬† I basically took the month of July off from heavy training, but have forced myself to get out there for August so that I could be somewhat ready to tackle the Ragnar Trail New England Relay this past weekend.
I logged just shy of 75 miles this month, which considering the conditions I am extremely happy with this mileage.  (I ran less than 45 in July, and 65 in June.)  My times have been mud slow, which though understandable given the temperatures and the humidity levels, is not doing me any favors for my PR goal in October.
Ragnar, though leaving me a little broken down and sore this week, has helped to kickstart me a bit in planning my September training.¬† I have a busy few weeks coming up (including a “tune up” half marathon 2 weeks before the goal race … ironically, this race had a higher registration fee than the goal race, too!), and planning long runs when you have jam packed weekends can be tricky.¬† My friend Christine at Albany Wayfarer recently wrote about using the Hanson’s Marathon Method to get her mileage high, which includes shorter runs but more of them, as she trains for Philadelphia in November.¬† While I’m not going to pretend I know the specifics of the training plan, the method gave me an idea.
We have plans to be out of town in a couple of weeks, and immediately following our return is Troy Craft Beer Week (which also coincides with our wedding anniversary!).¬† I had a thought – what if, perhaps, instead of one 12 mile run and a handful of 3-4 mile runs, I did 2 or 3 8 mile runs peppered with some shorter runs that week?¬† It’s about 8.5 miles to Troy using the Mohawk Hudson Bike-Hike Trail … what better way to get in those midweek miles than to run to tasty libations?¬† Then, keep myself in check by planning a 3-4 mile “wraparound” run the following morning.
I don’t know how I’ll fare with this.¬† The first half (Adirondack Distance Festival Half Marathon on September 25) is my “tune up” half, so even if I crash and burn that I still have hope for some rest and recovery for a strong run at Hartford on October 8.
Wish me luck!

Finding motivation

It’s HOT you guys.¬† Hazy, hot, and humid, as the weathermen are fond of saying.¬† After two summers of really lovely weather, we’re being hit with more typical Upstate NY heat and humidity this July, and it’s really bogging me down. I’ve had to force myself to go out and run, and even so have been running far less than I feel I should be running.¬† I had a goal of keeping an 8-10 mile “long run base” this summer, which would make my fall training that much more smooth, but that’s already gone completely out the window.¬† I could probably force an 8 mile run right now if I had to, but it wouldn’t feel good.¬† 10 miles would feel downright awful.

Of course, some of this is excuses.¬† I’ve been a gigantic baby about running lately.¬† Running up hills.¬† Running in the heat.¬† Running in the rain.¬† Running alone.¬† Running with buddies who are keeping exactly the same pace I am at any given moment.¬† It’s like if I don’t have the perfect unicorn conditions and at least one buddy (running the perfect unicorn pace, of course), I just don’t want to.

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Extreme hills + extreme heat? Yikes, who wouldn’t be scared!

Am I burnt out on running?  Maybe a little bit.  I ran three half marathons last spring:

1. ¬†While on vacation in Puerto Rico. I didn’t know that El Medio Maraton de San Blas¬†overlapped with our scheduled trip until 3 weeks before we left, so my training was¬†slapshot at best.

2.  Syracuse Half Marathon:  I actually trained really hard for this race, but was waylaid by freak blizzard conditions.

3.  Steel Rail Half Marathon: Though not a PR, I ran a really strong race with good friends and had a great time.

Sure, the first two races were less than ideal, but so it goes sometimes.  I had a great time training in moderate temperatures most of the winter, and feel pretty good about where my running and fitness level is right now.  Upcoming, I have two half marathons scheduled for the fall that I am actually quite excited about.

So … no.¬† I don’t think I’m burnt out on running.¬† I think I just need to get out of my own head.¬† In addition to the two halfs, I have Ragnar Trail New England coming up at the end of August.¬† After opting out of it last year and then seeing all of the photos on social media of all of my friends having a great time, I jumped at the chance to join a team headed up by a friend.¬† It is a great group of people and I feel confident we will have a good experience running together.¬† However, my main reservation for not participating last year was a bit of fear of running trails at night.¬† I’m a klutz on the trail in the best of circumstances.¬† FOMO¬†is real and it convinces you to participate in things that may otherwise be against your better judgment.

So, if I am totally honest with myself, anxiety about Ragnar is what is making running feel like a chore.

Silly, right?

Last year, a group of us registered for Beat the Blerch in New Jersey before it was announced that it was a TRAIL half marathon.¬† The longest distance I had ever run on trails was a 15K, which seemed plenty long enough to me for that kind of running, and we all had some pretty hefty reservations about the race.¬† However, we knuckled down and trained for it, and we finished the race, and, considering some of the issues with the course, we were happy with our results.¬† I felt so energized afterward, and kept thinking, imagine how great it would be to run a trail half where the conditions were more optimal?¬† It would be AWESOME!¬† And I was also so happy that I didn’t back out and let my fears get the best of me.

I mean, you guys, I ran a half marathon IN A BLIZZARD.¬† And I’m anxious about Ragnar New England?

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Yup. Blizzard. This is pre-frozen eyelashes.

However, in the meantime, the weather lately really IS brutal.  Trading in some miles in favor of more time at the (air conditioned) gym is not going to negatively impact my training in the long run.  Cutting myself a deal Рsure, conditions are less than favorable, but I need to at least do SOME running Рwill make it seem less of a chore and more of an accomplishment.