Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trying to Relax

First off, today is my first post on Boston.com.  Please go check it out!

Relax, relax, relax.  That is what I have been forcing myself to do for the past month.  Things did not go as planned and the extremely controlling part of me has been going crazy.

The Boston Marathon is in less than 3 weeks.  While I know I can run a pretty good marathon, I am pretty much just going to run that day.  I am going to relax and just see what my body can do.  Yes, I do have paces in my head that I would like to hit, but if I am being realistic, I have no idea if I am ready to hit those paces.  We are not talking huge PR here.  I would love to see a PR, even if it is only 2 seconds, but I won't be TOO disappointed if I don't.  Relax, it is only one race right?
We enjoyed every moment of this race, even if it monsooned for 13 miles then turned to 90 degrees for 13.

School has been kicking my butt lately.  I am doing amazing in terms of grades.  I am enjoying everything that I am learning and am really understanding everything.  Why do I need to relax about school?  Because I can't be perfect!  I have a huge bones test coming up next week for my Anatomy class.  I almost started crying in class last week because I had no idea how I would learn all these bones in time for the test.  This week, I decided it was time to take a deep breath and chill out.  I will do fine on the test, I know this.  Again, I can't control what this teacher will ask us nor can I add more hours to the day.  I need to relax and accept what will come from school this semester.
I can't control everything but I can think happy thoughts to get me through each day.

Physical Therapy Grad school, oh the dream that stresses me out.  For the past few months, on top of school and running, I have been observing at a PT clinic in Revere, Massachusetts.  Westford Mommy goes to Revere?  Yes, that is a good hour drive with no traffic!  Unfortunately, I have been having a hard time finding local PT clinics to let me observe, so I was fortunate enough that Steph's sister-in-law is an amazing PT and has been letting me observe.  I already have over 30 hours observing there, so I need to move on to another clinic.  I am trying to find something closer, but so far, I haven't been having luck.  I am hoping that my luck will change.  I also did apply at a few clinics to work as an Aid, so maybe I can get paid to observe.  But, again, I will relax.  I have until November to gain more hours.  I have a few more connections that I am currently following up with and know things will work out.  I just need to breathe and accept that I will find a way.
My husband is amazing and I know this, I need to trust that he knows when we should worry.

Finally, my biggest stress of all right now.....My husband works as a contractor for a software company.  He found out yesterday that they are not renewing his contract after April 20th.  Yes, April 20th....4 days after the Boston Marathon and the first anniversary of my brother's death.  What a good day that will be!  My husband isn't freaking out, but I obviously am.  I have absolutely no control over this.  In less than four weeks, our life will be completely changed, AGAIN.  As if this past year hasn't been crazy enough.
Change is OK because I will always have my three favorite people with me through it all.

So now today, I am REALLY TRYING to relax.  I skipped my spin class this morning, I know Boston will not be affected by missing a workout when I am exhausted.  I went to a yoga class this morning and breathed.  I will sit here and do homework today and surrender my worry.  Worrying will not take care of everything, it will only drive me crazy.  Things will make sense again, it has to.



Monday, March 26, 2012

Taper Time for Boston & Boston.com Blogger

I am tapering, again!  It feels like I was just tapering for the Disney Marathon and now here I am tapering for my first Boston Marathon.  I am so excited and so thankful that I am writing this after my past month.

On Saturday, you could find me here...


So are you wondering what race I did?  No race for me this past weekend.  I did my final long run on the Boston course on Saturday along with thousands of other people.  Yes, I said thousands.

I was told weeks ago about the last long run on the course.  I was told it was an event in itself and they were not exaggerating.  The roads were closed all around the starting line in Hopkinton.  Porta Potties were out at the start and even on the course.  There were water stops galore.  And there were people everywhere.  I saw local elite runners that I recognized and entire charities dressed up in matching costumes.  And there were police lined up at the major intersections stopping traffic so the runners could keep moving.

The huge amount of people out there had its pros and cons.  The main negative part was you still had to run on the left side of the road and there were a ton of cars on the road.  Because there so many people out there, we found ourselves running around people pretty much the first 10 miles.  You can say it was good training for Boston as I have heard the first six miles are brutal in terms of crowds.  My biggest marathon I have ever run is Disney and fortunately, I am fast at Disney so I start in the first coral.  I don't have to do much weaving.  At Boston I am in Wave 2 and the 7th coral.  I am number 14,187, so I basically have 14000 people in front of me.  WOW!

The best part of that run was the support.  I can not describe to you the amount of people that came to help that were out there.  The charities were everywhere.  Huge tables were set up with water, gatorade, and food.  I saw Girl Scouts and JROTC kids giving high fives and handing us cups.  The locals were at the edges of their properties yelling words of encouragement and ringing cowbells.  I am not exaggerating, this was my training run on Saturday, it was amazing!  


Now, I wish I could say that I felt as amazing as the experience was, but I would be lying.  :)  My shins still felt fine.  Unfortunately, my stomach was not as happy to run.    I felt great for the first 15 miles, but there is a point in the course that for some reason really drains me.  At mile 15, you leave Wellesley Center and go down a pretty steep hill.  You would think this would be great but on the other side of the downhill is a gradual, pain in the butt uphill.  It is long and just hurts.  My stomach started hurting at this point.  I was mad at myself for not stopping to use the bathroom at the Wellesley Community Center as I only knew of one for sure bathroom ahead and that was three miles in front of me.  

I dug deep and ran and ignored my stomach as best as I could.  I made it to the Newton Fire Station which is at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill...Thank goodness!  I may have waited in line for almost 10 minutes but that stop saved me.  I left the bathroom where I discovered I was bleeding from chafing on my arms and just pushed it up the hills for the last 3.5 miles.  

Miles 19-21.5 really hurt but the support out there really pushed me up the hills.  When I got tired, I started talking to someone else going up the hills.  I got water from another charity and continued pushing.  Right at mile 21, there was a finish area for all the charity runners.  I was incredibly sad that I wasn't done running but loved all the cheers I got as I ran through.  And FINALLY I saw my running club and my finish line.  I ran right past everyone cheering and fell to the grass and laid down.  21.5 miles done.  My longest training run I have ever run.  

Just writing all that exhausts me, what a training run.  Now onto other news.  Last week I found out I got chosen to be part of the Polar gear test team at Boston.com.  I am a huge running gear junkie so testing out a new piece of technology was right up my alley.  I will be blogging on Wednesdays leading up to the Boston Marathon at Boston.com sharing my review of the Polar RCX5 Training computer along with other training excitement getting ready to run Boston.  They chose four other runners as well so you can start reading about them today.  I already wore my RCX5 on Saturday and have quite a bit of info to share, but you will have to read the blog to find out more!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cross Training for the Stubborn Runner AND Shin Splint Exercises

Here is what my past few weeks have looked like training-wise...
To sum it up, since my injury on March 3rd, I have done: 
  • 1 hour of Elliptical
  • 3:20 of Swimming
  • 2 hours of biking
  • 2:25 of Spinning
  • 2:10 of Weights (I did more than this, but I forget to record them every time.)
  • 1:50 of Yoga
  • 6:10 of Running
This totals out to about 13 hours of cross training and 6 hours of running in 16 days.  I would love to see a total of 18+ hours of running in this amount of time but to see almost 20 hours of workouts makes me happy.

Looking at these numbers, I am incredibly impressed with myself.  While I am very happy I was able to cross train while I was not running, I am most proud that I have continued even though I am still running.  (I am known to express my hatred for cross training, so this is a huge accomplishment for me.)

In the past, when coming back from an injury, I bounce right back to running, sometimes not even taking any time off.  This time, I am being super cautious.  I am running pain-free in terms of shin splints.  Unfortunately, my calves are still extremely tight and to prevent further injury I have decided to take it easy.  I am not running every day.  I am allowing myself to cut workouts short if I feel tired.  And, I am icing and stretching the rest of the day so that my calves are ready for the next run.  

So, now I am going to fill you in on the types of cross training that I have been busy with.  As you can see, I started out with the elliptical, 2 days post-injury.    I get really bored on the elliptical and unfortunately, the position of my foot irritated my shins even more.  Swimming and cycling are the recommended exercises for shin splints so I decided I was done with the elliptical during this recovery period.

The next day, I joined my gym and started swimming.  The first swim in the pool, again, irritated my shin.  This is when I started freaking out that I would never heal.  I was on the swim team in high school so usually stick to freestyle swimming and usually can get in quite a few laps.  My 3rd day post-injury was the last day I felt pain so I was able to pick up the intensity in the pool and also did some pool running.  I talked about pool running a few years ago, so here is a link to a post where I talk about workouts and other information.

Next, I tried biking and spinning.  I have fallen in love with this form of cross training.  The biking has been fun, allowing me to get outside and enjoy this wonderful weather.  The spinning has been awesome because of what a great workout it is.  I am not saying I am good at spinning, because I kind of stink at it.  But I love how much it makes me sweat.  I have been wearing my heart rate monitor to the class and my heart rate has been pretty comparable to a moderately paced run.  This fact alone has allowed me to relax a bit when thinking about all the runs I am missing leading up to Boston.

Finally, I have been doing a Group Centergy (Power Yoga) class and weights.  The Centergy class is a great upper body workout and seems to keep my heart rate higher than I would expect from a normal yoga class.  I have been pretty sore from this class but a good sore.  I have also been continuing on my normal strength training routine and finally seeing results.

So yeah, lots of cross training and reduced running.  I have hit two key workouts this past week including 19 miles at a pretty good pace and a 10 mile track workout yesterday.  I don't think I will PR at Boston, but I think I am setting myself up for a good race and will most definitely make it to that finish line injury-free.

And if you are interested in shin splints exercises, I highly recommend watching this video....So many exercises to try and they seem to be working for me!




Monday, March 19, 2012

Training Run #2 on the Boston Course


Guess who is running again?!!!  Sorry, I left you kind of hanging while I had my shin splints, but I have a really hard time blogging while I am injured.  I didn't want to share my woe is me thoughts and feelings so I kind of just avoided Twitter and Blogging while I was recovering.

I have to confess, I am not 100%.  I currently have no shin pain at all.  I do still have incredibly tight calves.  I blame my tight calves for helping me to develop shin splints, so I am being more careful this time.  I have run and today's post will be about my awesome run on Saturday, but I am being cautious with my running.  For example, today was supposed to be a recovery run day....I woke up with a knot in my calf.  Tomorrow I have track work scheduled, so I skipped my recovery run in hopes that I can hit a good run tomorrow.  Instead of running, I went to the gym and did a spinning class.  Umm, yeah, that spinning class was much harder than my run would have been.  Win, right?!

So Saturday....Saturday was AMAZING!  As, I told you before, I joined the Greater Lowell Road Runners club in order to take advantage of their Boston group training runs.  I mentioned how nervous I was to run with them, as I am pretty anti-social at first, but it was the best decision I could have made.  My first run with them was two weeks ago on the day I developed my shin splints.  Yes, my day ended not-so-good, but the run was still awesome.  And we have someone taking pictures of us on our runs!  Check out this awesome picture, that was taken of me on that first run...
Doesn't that picture scream hard core?  It surely doesn't scream shin splints and 11 days off from running will result from this day.  :)

So this Saturday, was group run #3, but only #2 for me as I skipped last week hoping that I could heal up my legs.  I had run two runs earlier in the week to test out my legs so that I wouldn't get out there and find out I wasn't healed.  We met at a Dunkin Donuts in order to carpool down to Hopkinton.  
My first training run, I ran solo, but luckily this time, there was another woman running that offered to run with me.  I say she offered to run with me because she is an AMAZING runner.  Sub-3:20 marathon runners and myself usually don't get to run long together, so I was so excited to have someone to push me on my run.  We started off in Hopkinton, and if you have read about the course at all, it goes downhill, immediately!  This fact alone has haunted me all week as my shins were fine going uphill, but going downhill made them hurt.  On those first few miles of mostly downhill running, my shins felt FINE!  :)  My new friend, Rebecca, was looking to hit 8:30's the first 10 miles of our run and pick it up so I figured I could probably hit those 8:30's with her and I think I did a decent job of it.  We probably started out a little too fast because of the downhills, but nothing crazy.

My running club had water stops set up about every 2-3 miles.  I still carried my own water because I didn't want to be without water when I needed it, but it was so nice having refills out there.  I also loved being able to get gatorade when my body started craving it.  I seriously need to get some wonderful volunteers to come to my trail with me.  The conversation was so good those first 10 miles, that I was all smiles and I didn't notice a thing going on with my legs.



And then my speedy running partner needed to pick up the pace and I knew I needed to slow it down if I had a chance to finish my long run so we said our goodbyes.  The first few miles after she left, I still felt great and maintained sub-8:40 pace.  I couldn't believe I was hitting such awesome paces with so much time off.



And then....I got tired.  Mile 15 hit and I wasn't hurting, but I was feeling the lack of recent miles.  I knew I had the Newton Hills ahead of me so I knew I needed to dig deep in order to finish my run.  The run club's plan for the day was 21.5 miles.  I had one water stop left at 19 before the final 21.5 miles.  I didn't think my body was in for 21.5 miles after 11 days off from running so I told myself I could stop once I made it to mile 19.  I still had hills in those next four miles so I knew I would complete an amazing long run if I could make it to 19.

I warn you future Boston runners.  Mile 15 to 19 aren't easy.  You have steep downhills.  You have highway overpasses.  You have Heartbreak Hill (really 3 hills, I only ran 2 of them on Saturday).  The best part on Saturday was that even when I was getting tired, I was never alone out there.  I am so thankful to live in Massachusetts and can train on the Boston course.  There are so many runners out on the course every weekend that you always have someone to wave to our encourage you as you pass by.  And the volunteers from the run clubs and charities are AMAZING!  The running community is so awesome here and I am so grateful that I am a member of it. 

I have never ended a long run like I did on Saturday....I was tired and ready to be done, but normally when I am on the trail alone, those last two miles go on forever.  That wasn't the case on Saturday.  I was soaking in every bit of support from the people around me those last two miles and while my body was saying we were done for the day, my mind was saying "I can't wait until next week!"



And look what was waiting at the top of the hill at mile 19, cookies!  Now, if that doesn't convince you to join a run club I don't know what would.  :)

And more experienced runners to chat with while we relaxed.  I am soaking up every bit of information I can from all the people who have run Boston before.


I finished 19 miles in 2:43 minutes that day for an average pace of 8:40.  This is a fast pace for a long run for me, but I will take it.  Yesterday, my legs were definitely feeling the hills, but I am so happy to have completed yet another long run in preparation for Boston.  

The Boston Marathon is 4 weeks from today!!!!  I am not really following a training plan.  I am just waking up each day and seeing what my body is ready to do in order to get me to Hopkinton and then on down to Boylston Street.  This was not how I pictured my training would go for my first Boston Marathon, but I will not complain, for now.  :)



 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Proud Mommy

Seven years ago today, I was on my third day of labor with my first child. I was miserable and scared. I had no idea when my baby who was due 9 days before would ever come and what being a mom would be like. She didn't come on March 14th, she waited until 4:06 the next morning to finally arrive, 10 days late on March 15th.
This trip was on her 4th Birthday

Welcome to the world Bridget! My life changed that day. I was a Mom. I had no idea what to expect, but I was ready to learn. Having Bridget has been more of a blessing that I could even possibly explain. I know I am biased, but I have to brag that she is by far the smartest kid ever.

My 4 year old princess.

Currently, everyone around me is pregnant, having a baby, or trying to get pregnant. I would be lying to say I am not having baby fever. I would LOVE to have another baby. I have two beautiful girls and would love to have a boy to complement our family. While, I would like this, it is not practical. I am so excited to go back to school and work on my career. I have accepted that my family is complete and am thrilled to get to be in the next stage of raising kids.

My girls.

This week, I learned even more from my daughter and sometimes wonder how she has developed traits that I could I only wish I had. Today is science fair day at the elementary school. It was not required to do a science project but when I tried talking her out of doing one she said "But it is my dream to be a scientist." Seriously, how could I say no to that?

The first time I got nervous for her, her first ballet recital.

My sister-in-law is an engineer/science geek (Hi Nicole!). Bridget loves her aunt and loves the books that her aunt gives her including a science experiment book that we have been reading to her for years. Bridget was so excited to have a chance to pick an experiment out of the book. We picked a pretty simple experiment and photographed the entire process. We put the project board together and then started discussing what would happen at the fair.
The project board.

Explaining to Bridget that she would need to describe to the judges and others how her experiment worked instantly made me nervous. I hid my fear from her as we worked on her presentation which she seemed to get down pretty quickly. She understood how her project worked and even remembered the more scientific words to explain things. This is when I started to realize how grown up she is. She is no longer a baby. She understands something that isn't just an easy concept.

Yesterday, we talked a little bit more about the science fair. Many kids in her class partnered up to work on their projects, so I again got scared for her. I was sending my baby to present her science project all by herself. This is something I could not have done as a little girl, and would be extremely nervous to do even today. I asked her if she was OK with being there by herself and she pretty much laughed at me. It was no problem at all to her. Where did she get this confidence and can I have some of it for myself?

Ready for school.

So Bridget left for school this morning incredibly excited for her first science fair. I sat home this morning prouder than I have ever been as a mother. Apparently, my husband and I are doing our job. We have somehow taught my daughter to be smart and confident. I can't stop smiling, being a Mom is the most rewarding job.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Shin Splints, Ahhh!

MIA, that has been me.  I have been incredibly busy with running, school, PT observing, so I have been kind of neglecting the blog a bit.  Unfortunately, my brain has been distracted and thinking what to write hasn't been as easy as in the past.

Today was finally my first day of running on the Boston course with my new run club that I joined last month.  I wish I could say everything went great, but unfortunately, it didn't.  But I will back it up just a bit.

I had about 3 weeks of amazing training.  I was getting faster.  I was hitting speed work, tempos, marathon pace runs....Everything was going great until this past weekend.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that my big toe was hurting while I was running and it looks like I am getting a bunion on the joint of my big toe.  The bunion has been swelling a lot on runs and has been pretty painful.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to order new shoes right away.  I just kept thinking the pain would go away which sometimes it did.  But, I think when the pain would go away, it was because I was altering my gait.

#1 rule of running, do not alter your gait when you are feeling pain!!!  I should have just ordered new shoes and things would have been great, but I wasn't that smart.  So last weekend, I did 18 miles with 12 @ marathon pace.  I did this workout on the treadmill, again because of some crazy winds that we had.  I ran the 12 miles at 7:53 pace, which on my treadmill turns out to be around 7:35.  Mistake #1.  I got done with the workout and I had some calf tightness, but I figured it was from just the hard run.

I kept running the next few days and my calf would feel sore at the end of my run but nothing crazy.  Until Wednesday......Wednesday, I was on a 15 mile run (I ran a speed session the day before) and 8 miles into my run, I started having lower calf pain.  The pain was similar to the pain I had before I got my achilles tendonitis a few years ago, so I decided to cut my run short at 12 miles.  Yes, I ran on it for 4 miles, but again, I didn't think it was an injury, just tightness.  I decided to take two days off so that I would have a shot at making my long run today.

Thursday, I still felt the muscle tightness, but it was getting better.  Friday, I felt even better.  I did my PT observing that day, and the wonderful therapist I am observing massaged my calf and gave me some stretches.  I went home and the calf continued to feel better throughout the day and I woke up this morning with no tightness, yay!

I got ready for my long run and headed out for the slushiest, wettest long run that I have ever run.  But it was on the Boston course so I was in heaven!  We parked in Wellesley, so we hit the Newton hills within the first few miles.  I cruised up the hills.  I was feeling great and was maintaining a sub-8:50 pace even though I was trying to hold back.  I had no muscle pain so I thought the rest took care of everything.  My plan was to run 9 miles and turn around.  I got a little lost at Cleveland Circle but luckily our run club President was out on the course and saw me and got me back on track.  Right around mile 8.5 is when the muscle tightness returned.  UGH!

I turned around at 8.75 miles as I knew I needed to finish this run and my leg was not in the mood to be nice. Unfortunately, my run back was coming back down the Newton hills.  This would normally be a welcome break, but for some reason, my calf felt better going up, not going down.  So I toughed it out and still maintained my 8:50ish pace the whole way home.  We had a water stop set up at 4 miles to go and I considered stopping, but the pain wasn't TOO bad, so I figured I may as well finish my run because I knew this may be my last run for a while.

It was at this point that I started to convince myself that it it OK to throw out my Boston time goals.  I would rather know I can complete that race pain-free than to continue on this path I am on and not be able to run the whole race.  I passed so many people on the last 4 miles which mentally was even tougher as I was frustrated that I could run so strong but hurt so much.  I got back to the Wellesley Community Center, got changed, and that is when the calf totally seized up.
(Cold and wet but so happy to have completed my first Boston training run!)

Wow, my whole ankle was tight and so was my calf.  I ran an amazing 17.5 miles and had so much fun.  But now, it is time for me to rest.  The muscle on the inside of my shin is swollen, so I am guessing I have shin splints.  I am thinking since the pain has just started, and because it went away with rest that as of right now I have not fractured anything.  But, I refuse to let this get any worse, so I am going to rest my leg some more this week.  I ordered a new pair of shoes on Thursday, so when I do run again, I will hopefully correct the reason why this started in the first place.  I am so glad I already qualified for Boston again next year as mentally this decision was a lot easier to make then I thought it would be.  My time goal is getting thrown out as is my training schedule.  I will run when my body says it is ok and will make it to that starting line.  I will be wearing this on April 16th....
(I am not a fan of the orange, but I have told my husband I want to be buried in this jacket.)

So I sit here with ice on my leg and will concentrate on school for the next few days.  I am trying to avoid googling shin splints, because I never read anything good.  The most frustrating part is that was one of my fastest non-marathon pace long runs that I have ever run and I feel great minus my calf/shin. If it's not one thing, it is always another isn't it?

Do you find it hard to stop running when you know you should?  What would you do if you were 7 weeks out from a race you have been waiting 5 years to run and you suddenly injured yourself?