Sunday, January 30, 2011

Woe is me!

Woe is me.
I have an injury.
Few things are worse for a runner to face
I have to accept this will slow down my pace.
I am hopeful that it's just a shin splint
But it hurts when I walk, much more than a hint.
If this is a stress fracture I'm going to be mad
For the PRs I hoped for will not be had.

The only good thing I can think of to say,
I'd rather be injured now than in the month of May.
There's snow everywhere, so I'd be stuck on the 'mill
Just one long flat surface, not one single hill.
I think that's the culprit of my shin pain anyway,
To much treadmill running, and now I'm having to pay.
Now it's pool running for me, and elliptical too
I cannot land run until the pain has subdued.

I've been stretching and strengthening and treating with ice
Despite all these measures, my shin feels not nice.
Even at rest, I can feel a dull ache
I certainly hope my shin bone didn't break!
All of this makes me extremely frustrated,
I don't want my spring season to be so ill-fated.

A bone scan this week will determine my fate,
Will I run a spring marathon, or do I have to wait?
I was doing so well with my training, you know
I averaged 7:26 on my 5-mile tempo.
With my heart rate staying in that LT zone.
And I thought I was no longer injury prone!

My fitness had reached an exciting new peak,
Can I preserve it without 50+ per week?
I did a 3-hour pool workout of running and swimming
And that seemed to be effective, and not at all skimping.

Woe is me.
I have an injury.
And what is the damage?  That's left to be seen.


Thanks to everyone who commented on my previous blog and the Cool Pool Runners who helped me get started with that!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shin Splint!

I've been injury free for 15 months, so naturally it's difficult to accept that I would have any injury now that would be serious enough to keep me from running. Well. . .

Two Fridays ago, while doing an easy 6-miler on the treadmill I noticed some pain in my shin. I've never suffered from shin splints before (except for about 9 years ago when I ran on the beach barefoot) so I was surprised that suddenly my shins would hurt. The next day, I proceeded to run 15 miles outside and I only felt the shin pain slightly. On Monday of this week, I did a 10-miler outside, include 3 x 1-mile repeats and I barely felt the shin at all. I didn't even mention the issue in last week's blog because it was minor enough to ignore.

However, when returning to the treadmill on Tuesday due to the ice storm, I once again had shin pain. My theory is that this pain is being caused by the sudden introduction of the treadmill (I had been doing 100% of my runs outdoors up until December) and the new model of a Nike shoe which doesn't fit me as well as the previous model. But probably moreso the treadmill, because that's a more significant change. I said in a previous blog that one of my main reasons for not liking the treadmill is that it's so repetitive that I worry about overuse injuries. And Voila!

I went to the doctor on Thursday just so I could confirm the diagnosis and get a prescription for PT if I needed it. He agreed that it was shin splints and showed me some stretches and strengthening exercises. And of course told me to "back off" the running. He also suggested a compression sleeve which I blogged about over on the Pacers Ambassadors blog. I had been doing a lot of stretching, icing and foam rolling prior to seeing the doctor, but not the strengthening. The thing I've always wondered about strengthening exercises for injuries: does it really help with recovery, or does it just help prevent them in the future? I can't imagine that my muscles are going to benefit from the strengthening for at least a few weeks, so I don't see the exercising really speeding my recovery.

On Friday, I had six miles on tap, and given the "real feel" of 9 degrees due to the wind chill, I opted for the treadmill. The pain was the worst it had ever been. The run just sucked, and I stopped after five miles. Yesterday (Saturday) I was scheduled for 18 miles. It was only 20 degrees with a "real feel" in the teens whenever the wind blew, but I knew I had to brave it because the treadmill would be too painful.

During the first few miles I was very discouraged. Even though I was wearing my new compression sleeves and compression tights (and other pair of pants over that because it was so cold!), the shin hurt. It hadn't ever really hurt on an outside run in the past so I was upset. I couldn't be injured! I had gone 15 months without an injury! I'm doing everything right! I would have thought that my transition from running mainly on the treadmill to doing 100% of my runs outside would have caused an injury, but it didn't. Who would have thought that returning to the treadmill would have caused a problem!?

I started to think about how this would affect my goals. I had been showing signs of huge improvement over the past few months, and I think I was poised to run a marathon in the 3:30's, and set a PR at my next 5K about about 15-20 seconds. But with reduced mileage, then I don't know how likely these goals are for me. I would love to start pool running, but don't have access to an indoor pool. Maybe I will research that more, though.

Anyway, I thought that I would just throw in the towel and cut my 18-miler down to five. But once I got to about mile four, things felt better so I continued on. I was fighting a constant battle in my head: should I go home now and accept that I am injured and need to stop, or should I push through because I can? I kept running through neighborhoods that were close to my home, so I was only a mile or two away from my house at any given time. Eventually I compromised with myself. I did 11 miles, which would count as a "medium long" run in the training log. Also, the wind was picking up and my lips and face were starting to hurt.

I am facing the same dilemma right now. I had a five-mile recovery run on tap, but part of me thinks I should just take a rest day and be prepared for next week's 56 miles. However, I know that I won't be able to run outdoors for a good part of next week. On Monday morning, the temperatures will be in the teen's with a real-feel in the single digits. Yuck. On Wednesday, we're expecting snow, and I won't run in the dark if there is snow/ice on the ground. Do I opt for the treadmill and risk making the shin splint worse? Or do I settle for the boring (and not as effective) elliptical? I really do not like being in this position!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hold the Hotties!

The title of this post was inspired by a Facebook post I wrote about my glove situation. My friend Dash commented that I should coin the phrase "hold the hotties" that I used to describe running with hand warmers.

I suffer from Reynaud's syndrome, which is basically a condition where your hands and feet get cold very easily, go numb and sometimes hurt. It affects mainly women, and it's not uncommon. I have it more severely in my feet than in my hands, but it doesn't affect my feet if I start running the minute I leave my front door. (It affects me in non-running situations, like cold office buildings or even just sitting around at home). At races, however, I don't have the luxury of being in a warm spot while waiting for the race to start so I tend to run the first few miles with numb toes and/or a numb heel and it's not easy. If I'm going to be waiting outside for awhile, like in the NYC Marathon, I will wear shoe inserts that keep my feet warm until it's time to start the race-- you aren't supposed to run with them. However, at NYC, the foot warmers lost their effectiveness about hour before race start, so I still ended up with numb feet.

My number one challenge to running in cold weather is keeping my hands warm. Last weekend I did a 20-miler on the treadmill because the winds were 15-20 MPH with a real feel in the single digits to low teen's. I might have been able to tough it out had it not been for the Reynaud's syndrome in my hands.

When I first started running in cold weather back in the winter of 2006/2007, I bought a pair of Hind 3-Season gloves. They were advertised as being heavy and good for really cold weather. They worked okay, but my hands would still end up numb and often painful. Sometimes they would hurt so much I would think I was on the verge of frostbite. Then I bought a thinner pair of gloves and wore those underneath the heavy gloves. That made a difference, but my hands were still completely numb by the end of long runs. Even in weather that was in the upper 30's.

In the winter of 2007/2008, I discovered "Little Hotties" hand warmers. They were my savior: "Little Hotties Hand Warmers are little bags of warmth! They contain an air-activated heat source that provides warmth and comfort in cold conditions." That's from their web site. It's amazing how warm these things get! My solution was to wear both pairs of gloves, putting the Hotties in between them on the backs of my hands. This worked well, but it didn't solve the problem of my fingers going numb.

For the next two winters I used the same system and it worked okay. I wouldn't do long runs in weather that was colder than 30 degrees. My fingers would still go numb after an hour or so, but it wouldn't be painful with that "I'm getting frostbite" sensation.

Fast forward to this winter. I had been accustomed to doing 100% of my runs outdoors because I moved to a new home that had safer places to run. I was spoiled with outdoor running and very reluctant to head back to the treadmill. But it would always be in the 20's (I run in the mornings before work), which would pose a problem for my hands. I discovered that if I didn't use the gloves as gloves, but rather as mittens, my hands would be warmer. By bunching my fingers together and holding the Hotties in the palms of my hands, my fingers would be nice and toasty. But then the backs of my hands would get cold, so I would have to rotate the position of the Hotties, which wasn't easy to do while running. So my morning runs were basically a back-and-forth rotation of where the Hotties would be (about once every ten minutes), and yet I would still come home with painful hands that were immobile. I had even tried the Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves (the thinner ones) as a base glove because they are made out of a special material that turns moisture, like sweat and rain, into heat. They are great for rainy runs, but they still didn't do the trick, even when combined with the Hotties and a heavier par of gloves over them.

I finally looked into getting some running mittens, since that's how I was using my gloves anyway. My fingers were warmer when bunched up together and sharing heat. I did some research online and discovered the Asics Ecoline Fleece Mittens. They looked warm and came in S-M-L so I could get a pair small enough to prevent air from coming through at the wrists. I ordered them online, but they didn't arrive in time for my 20-miler last weekend so I was treadmill bound. But today I was very excited to try them for the first time.

The weather forecast for today's run (15-miler) was a "real feel" in the mid to upper 20's. My strategy was to wear the mittens with two Hotties in each mitten: one for the back of my hand and one to hold onto to keep my fingers warm. This would prevent the constant rotation that I was having to do on my other runs. Two miles into the run, my hands start to get hot and sweaty. It got more and more uncomfortable so I took one Hottie out of each glove and put them into my pocket. I ran two more miles and my hands were still uncomfortably hot and sweaty. The thing about these gloves is that they are very tight around the wrist and they let no air in. That's a good thing, but it also made it impossible for any of the heat from the Hotties to escape, and those things get really hot! So I took the other Hotties out of the mittens and ran the rest of my run with just the mittens. My hands were cold, but not to the extent of being numb and painful. My thumbs were the only digits that became numb by the end, and that could have been avoided if I bunched them up in my fist and didn't use the thumb area of the mitten. It's amazing how much heat can be preserved when the fingers can touch each other and no air is let into the mitten.

Going forward, my hand solution will be to start the run with just one set of Hotties, and then remove them if need be. My hands ended up being okay without the Hotties in today's temps, but in the upper teen ands low 20's, I might need those Hotties back!

The results of today's run: 15 miles at an average 9:04 pace. This week was a cutback week, so I netted a total of 43 miles. I'll be back into the mid 50's next week. Keep warm everyone!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 Year In Review

Like many runners, I like to track my progress and analyze my running stats. The end of the year seems like the most appropriate time to do that. 2010 was a milestone year for me in many ways, and running is no exception. I set PRs in five distances (although not the marathon, which ironically is what I mainly focus on) and I set a new record for total mileage.

Yearly Mileage
In 2010, I ran a total of 2136 miles. This is 171 more miles than in 2009, when I ran 1965 miles. Percentage wise, I increased my annual mileage by 8.7%. This is primarily due to the fact that I was not at all injured in 2010, whereas in 2009, I had to take about four weeks off due to a foot injury, and then ease back into it.

Of these miles, 580 were on a treadmill and the rest were outdoors. That's 27% treadmill and 73% outside. In 2009, I ran 992 treadmill miles, which was about 50%.

2010 Weekly Mileage

My highest mileage month was January with 219 miles. This is surprising because we got hit with a huge snow storm that month. My lowest mileage month was November with only 126 miles. This was mainly because I was tapering for and then recovering from the NYC marathon.

My average weekly mileage was 41, and I'd really like to see that increase in 2011. If I set a goal of averaging 46 miles a week, then my 2011 mileage goal would be 2396. If I can stay injury-free then I think this is a feasible goal.

As shown by all the red bars in the chart above, I ran a lot of races. They weren't all "A" races, but I figured that since there is an element of luck involved with racing, the more you do it, the better your chances are of having good conditions. Also, racing is great speedwork and also great "practice" for going at full effort. I wasn't as high-anxiety about most of my races this year as I have been in the past. I just wanted to go out and do my best. The PRs are highlighted in red.

Crystal City 5K
  • March: Van Metre 5-Mile in 37:10 (PR by 2:30)
  • March: Shamrock Marathon: DNF at mile 13.5 because of the heat
  • April: Crystal City 5K in 22:21 (PR by 1:01)
  • April: GW Parkway Classic in1:22:xx (this was a fun run, because I had been planning to a marathon the following weekend)
  • May: Bob Potts Marathon in 3:53:56
  • June: UVA Reunion 2-miler in 14:07
  • June: Lawyers Have Heart 10K in 49:50
  • June: Run for the Red 10K in 51:10
  • July: Firecracker 5K in 23:21
  • September: South Fairfax Chamber Challenge 10K in 47:55
  • October: Heritage Half Marathon in 1:41:30
  • October: Army Ten-Miler in 1:17:54
  • November: NYC Marathon in 4:08:32
  • November: Virginia Run Turkey Trot 5K in 22:33
  • December: St. Jude Memphis Marathon in 4:14:38
  • December: Reindeer Run 5K in 22:37
  • December: Ringing in Hope 10K in 46:34
That's 16 races that I completed in 2010 (not counting that Shamrock DNF). I think that's a PR in terms of number of races. 

Chamber Challenge 10K
I think that I also set a PR for number of awards won, but I'm not completely sure. This was definitely my first time coming in first in my age group during a 10K. 
  • UVA reunion 2-miler: 1st place class of 2000, 3rd overall female 
  • Firecracker 5K: 3rd place in age group
  • Chamber Challenge 10K: 1st place in age group, 2nd overall female 
  • Heritage half marathon: 3rd place in age group

Blog Updates
I have been committed to regularly posting in this blog. It gives me closure after a race to write a report and I enjoy having the history. I also hope that I can in some way offer something to others who read this blog. This year, I gave my blog a fresh new look with new zebra stripes in the background. I also added some tabs in the top navigation that talk about my running history and give some context to my blog posts.

Looking Ahead
I don't really have time-based goals for 2011. Although I would like to BQ and get my half marathon time under 1:40, my primary goal is to run a strong marathon. I'm not as focused on the time as I used to be. It's just that I have bonked in every single marathon I have run since March of 2008. That's going on three years of all bonks. My secondary is goal is to increase my training mileage. Ideally by an average of 5 miles a week, provided that I don't get injured. Of course, for most of these running goals to be achievable, staying injury-free is a must, so I guess that trumps the marathon goal. 

2010 is going to be a tough act to follow, but I'm planning on enjoying the ride.