Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Running Like a Mother

I have just finished reading Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving-- and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity. Loved it! You know how every now and then you read a book to which you totally relate? This is one of those books. The authors totally nailed the voice of the mother-runner.

Run Like a Mother feels like one of those conversations you have with a friend on a long run. It's a book that all female athletes can relate to, regardless of motherhood status or running experience. However, for those of us who both run and mother small children, it's an especially relatable book. At times it's part memoir--telling of Sarah's and Dimity's journeys as runners and marathoners (including a few race reports!), and other times it's more like a helpful training manual--giving advice on running gear, nutrition, and staging a post-pregnancy comeback. You won't find a 16-week marathon training plan in here, but you'll emerge from this book knowing what worked and didn't work for Sarah and Dimity as they trained. As a running coach, I liked the technical talk about running 8 X 400 meters and other training-specific tidbits. But as a mother and a fellow female athlete, I think I most enjoyed the deeply personal revelations about body image, weight, marriage, and mothering. I loved the personal essay format. By the end of the book, you'll feel like you have two new friends: Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell.

I also posted this review on Amazon.com. I wish Sarah and Dimity much success with this book! I appreciated the advance copy!

HUBBY UPDATE: My husband was feeling so much better with both his knee and ankle that he cancelled his appointment with his orthopedic doctor. (Grrr....) He wants another shot at the half-marathon, hopefully in October. Until then, he plans to make running a regular part of his week (at least two or three times per week --Yay!). Training will officially start in late July or early August.

Other training tidbits: My half-marathon training group ran their first double-digit run this past Saturday and everyone finished! Some had doubts going in. (Ten is such an intimidating number.) AND they did the last two miles on a gravel/dirt trail! I'm so happy to be able to expose them to different aspects of running--- speed work, hill training, trails, looonnnng distances--- that runners often won't try on their own. It's a fun job.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lessons from a Bad Half-Marathon

My husband ran his first half-marathon on Satuday, and he ended up in the ER.

I didn't put any pressure on him to join me in the running world, I promise! It was his decision. One day in December, he randomly decided to train for a half-marathon.

As for the race, it could have gone better. I didn't coach him like I should have. I seemed to forget he's a newbie runner. I just gave him a training schedule and let him go....

He had ankle pain for the past 5 weeks of his training, since his first 9-miler. Up until then, I had him running 1 mile, walking 1 minute, and he avoided injury up through the 8-mile distance. He ran fast, at goal race pace, that day instead of at the recommended slow, easy, conversational pace. He continued to run on a sore ankle and did another 9-miler and a 10-miler, again pretty fast. Each time, his ankle was killing him by the end of the run, usually after 7 or 8 miles. His longest run was 10 miles. He reduced his week day mileage, but never actually took time off from running. He went into the race on a sore ankle (against my advice!). He didn’t want his training to go to waste, which I absolutely understand.

The ankle was ok until 6.8 miles when he felt a pop and it started to hurt. I’m sure he altered his form to compensate for the sore right ankle. That put more pressure on the joints of his LEFT leg. At 11 miles, he felt a shooting pain in his left knee. He could barely put any weight on it. Adrenaline was going at that point, so he managed to finish. He still made his time goal, which was 2:30, with a 2:29:19 finish. When the adrenaline left, he realized how bad his knee was and hobbled to the car. Six runners offered him help—it was clear he could barely walk. (Runners are good people!) By the time he completed the 45-minute drive home, he couldn’t extend his knee out straight or bend it. He called me from the driveway because he couldn’t walk into the house, and I immediately drove him to the hospital.

I had to go into the ER and get a wheelchair because he couldn’t put any weight on that knee or hop on the other foot because of ankle pain. It’s a sad thing to have to wheel your husband into the ER in a wheelchair. After 4.5 hours and one set of x-rays, he was discharged in a full-leg brace and on crutches. They diagnosed a torn or strained ligament or tendon in the knee. Because of that sore ankle, he must have altered his stride so much that it affected the knee on the opposite leg. He didn’t fall or wrench it in any way, it was just from running with a different stride than usual. By the next morning, inflammation had subsided and he could walk, just painfully. It was a little better today and he can go up and down steps. He’s seeing an ortho on Thursday.

Lessons I'm taking away from this experience and will be sharing with runners I coach:

1. Don’t go into a race with pain. There is annoying discomfort/soreness that goes away as you run and there is PAIN that gets worse as you run. They are different. If something hurts, especially when you are just walking, you need to take 5-7 days off from running and see a doctor! There will be other races. At the very least, run/walk (mostly walk) if you feel like you must do the race. Adjust your finish time expectations accordingly.

2. Don’t’ start half-marathon training without a 2-3 month base of running 3 X per week. The joints, bones, tendons, and ligaments are the bodily system that take the longest to adapt to running. Every run, even short ones, serves to strengthen your skeletal system. My husband was a once-a-week runner when he started training. Having a good base of mileage might have prevented this. He could knock out a 3-miler, then not run for 2 weeks or a month, then knock out another one with no problem. But, I should have KNOWN he needed more of a base.

3. Take at least 5-7 days off when you are injured and ease back into running with a run/walk, even if you have to miss a long run (or two). When you can walk pain-free, start adding back minutes of running. You’ll catch back up.

4. Try to stick to your training plan (when healthy). Those weekday runs are important. You can’t just be a weekend warrior and knock out the long runs. You need the weekday runs to strengthen your body. My husband often missed 1 or more of the weekday runs due to 60-hour work weeks, which made his base of mileage lower than it should have been. Missing 1 occasionally is ok, but don’t make a habit of it. Winter training is just hard anyway--it's cold and dark when you leave for work and it's cold and dark when you come home. I should have encouraged him to train for a different race.

5. The long runs should be at a slow, easy pace at least ONE-TWO MINUTES slower than you are able to run that distance. That was the number 1 thing I learned in my coaching class.

I feel like I let him down! I knew all this, but I didn't want to nag, nag, nag him about it, so I let him do his own thing. I'm not sure being a wife-coach works out too well!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Trail Running -- As Scary as It Sounds

I'm all for trying new things. I am. Since I've been running, I've wondered what it would be like to stop pounding the pavement and to give trail running a try. It just seemed so dirty and dangerous and .... mysterious. But since trail running comes with certain risks--- broken bones, sprained ankles, strained ligaments--- and I'm always in training for SOMETHING, I was never brave enough to give it a try. Until today.

After making plans earlier in the week to meet three friends today at 10:30, I found myself hoping it would rain. All this clean eating has left me feeling sluggish and irritable. (I think it's just a stage and will get better. I miss white flour and sugar!!!) Alas, the sun came out despite the 40% chance of rain. Sigh. I was stuck.

The first section was a gravel road. I thought, "Hey, this isn't so bad." But that wasn't actually the trail. We turned off onto the trail and suddenly it was all dirt and rocks and roots. I trudged up a hill that went on forever. Or maybe 3/4 of a mile. On the return trip down, I got a little cocky, over-confident, and speedy. See, downhills are my thing. I was chatting with my friend and suddenly lost my footing on a rock or something and rolled my left ankle. Unfortunately my left ankle is (was?) my good ankle. It's the stable ankle while the right ankle is all willy-nilly. Righty will just go weak and fall over for no apparent reason after I rolled it for the first time last March. I ran both marathons this past year wearing an ankle brace on my right ankle. Now, I suppose I'll need a matched set.

Really, it wasn't that bad. I rolled it 1.25 miles into the run, but was able to continue and finish 4 miles. It hurt for a minute, and it's vaguely ached ever since then, but it will be fine. I hope.

So, I figured the downhills were what you had to watch out for. About 20 minutes later, my friend was going uphill and her shoe got stuck under a tree root and she went DOWN. Like, all the way, dirt-on-the-forehead down. It was her first trail run, too.

I will admit, I liked the CHALLENGE of trail running. I think I would like it more on a nice wood-chip covered path.... or maybe a grassy path. Trail running is sort of dangerous! But I think I'll do it again. Maybe some trail shoes would help..... (any excuse to shop!).

Also, check out the blog 52 Beginnings. This woman is attempting to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks to raise money to help AIDS orphans in Africa. She's only been running about 3 years, which is amazing. She writes about how her 4 or 5 hours of suffering is nothing compared to what these children endure. It's very inspiring. She's coming my way for the Country Music Marathon in April. She finished last weekend's trail marathon in Maryland in just over 4 hours. Wow.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ready to Rock and Roll

I just added up my mileage for last week: 17 miles. And the week before was only 16.75. After months of logging 25-38 miles per week (except for that pesky week at Disney), it has felt strange to run so LITTLE.

I've actually had time to do other stuff.

  1. I've been reading up on clean eating and spent no less than 2 hours at Kroger last week in the organic/natural food section reading labels and trying to clean up my family's diet.

  2. I attended a PTO meeting and am co-chairing the Spring Fitness Fling at my kids' elementary school (and it wasn't even my idea!).

  3. I taught myself to do pull ups! I can do 3 unassisted. Then I have total muscle failure, but I'm pretty proud of three.

  4. I figured out how to use the rowing machine last week and rowed 1/2 mile (ok, that's only 5 minutes, but it's a start).

  5. I cycled 3 or 4 miles TWICE at the gym.

  6. I joined http://www.dailymile.com/ to log my runs.

  7. I've even blogged twice in the past 3 days. That's pretty unusual for me!

Not running as much sure leaves time for other things! I did enjoy those 17 miles though.

On Tuesday evening, I ran 2.5 miles of them while watching the Biggest Loser, which I cannot watch without exercising. I think I must feel, "There but by the grace of God go I" or something, because watching it makes me feel the need to do squats, lunges, crunches, lift weights, or run. (Thanks for putting that t.v. in the home gym, Honey!) I can really relate to the people on the show. I grew up on fried chicken and fried potatoes and green beans from a can and corn bread.... good southern comfort foods. I know the lifestyle they are leaving behind because I've lived it. I would say that MOST of my family on my mom's side struggle with their weight, and my paternal grandmother was very close to morbidly obese. I think it could be in my genes, and that scares me.

On Thursday, I just popped into the gym and ran a couple of quick miles, did some pull ups, and experimented with the rowing machine, which I loved. I'm really trying to make myself crosstrain, but I think I have crosstraining ADD because nothing quite does it for me like RUNNING! Maybe rowing will be a good option.

On Saturday, my training group met for their first 9 miler. It was new mileage territory for everyone in the group except the couple of folks who trained with me last fall. I had a 4-mile out-and-back set up for them, then a 5-mile out-and-back portion. I decided to run the first section as a tempo run, and it felt so good! I have only been doing easy running in the name of recovery, but running at a pace between half-marathon and marathon race pace felt amazing. (And that's on the slower side of the "tempo" spectrum.) I'm excited to ease into faster running once a week again.

During the 2nd part of the group run, two folks from my Couch to 5K class joined us. One runner had run 3 miles nonstop a few times before, so I focused a little more on the teenaged novice runner who had NEVER completed 3 miles before and wasn't overly confident that she could. (It's so neat--she's a visiting exchange student from a small village in Israel.) We aimed for a 7:4 run/walk, but we wound up only walking about 2 minutes between runs. She was so proud of herself at the end! She was tired, but elated.

I'm really blessed to have such a great job! And I managed to get in 10 miles in the process!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Like a Ship without an Oar...

PMS, or post-marathon syndrome, has set in. I can't figure out where to go with my training from here. I'm on day 19 of marathon recovery (26 days typically--one day for every mile raced). Next Friday will be my last recovery day. I can resume speed work, start thinking about my next race, and even begin a new training plan. But what? When? Where?????? I feel sort of lost and unmotivated about the whole thing.

I'm training about 20 people to run the Country Music Half-Marathon on April 24. I could always run that since I'm doing the training anyway. Or not. It is so crowded and those 50-person deep port-o-potty lines at the start are no joke! It's also very costly---up to about $90 for the entry by now, I imagine. I doubt I'd set a half-marathon PR on that hilly course, but I'm fairly certain I could beat my time from 2 years ago when it was my first half. I've shaved about 10 minutes off my half times, but that's mostly by running flat courses! On the hilly ones, it's more like.... 5 minutes.

I don't have fond memories of that course from last April's heat wave marathon, either. I'm sure it wasn't that bad, but at the time, it seemed horrible with the unexpected heat and humidity. The sound of ambulance sirens pierced the air throughout the race, and literally hundreds of people had to go to the hospital. Not a good memory.

I've toyed with the idea of getting redemption on that FULL MARATHON course. I'd just have to hit 2 or 3 long runs between now and then... maybe a 15-miler, an 18-miler, and a 19-miler. But I don't think my heart is in that, either. I'm marathoned out after 31 weeks of training.

Coming up are a few things I think I'll add to my calendar. On April 10 or 11, there is the Purity Moosic City Dairy Dash 5K and 10K in Nashville. I haven't run a 10K in a year and a half. It's probably time. Then there is a 5K here in my current hometown on May 2 and one in my growing up hometown on May 9 or the following week. At some point in May, there is usually a duathlon (biking and running) here. That could be fun, even though I have a rickety OLD mountain bike. In June, my running club puts on a 5K/10K race that I have worked at, but never run in. This year, I hope to find a way to run it (as well as volunteer and be a good little club member).

Reading this month's Runner's World that came in the mail yesterday, I saw a 6-week 10K training plan for people coming off marathon/half-marathon training who want to get back some speed. Hmmmm...... Maybe I can just be a middle-distance runner for a while.....