So Far, So Good: Running Happy in 2014

So far, I'm really enjoying 2014.  My running focus this year is to run happy, and I've had some pretty happy (and good) runs so far.

On New Year's Day, I rang in the new year with a 16-miler at the Bicentennial Trail with my good friend Andrea and several others.  Andrea and I always have fun on our runs, which we look at more as adventures than training runs.  "Look, a new trail!  Let's see where it goes!"   "Hey, we've never been down that road before.  Let's try it!"  That spirit of adventure and not taking ourselves too seriously both contribute to really enjoyable runs.   My mantra for 2014 is

My outer knee/IT band had been bothering me for a few weeks, and around mile 12, it was definitely unhappy.  We ran/walked the last miles, and I finished up with a good bit of outer knee pain.

I spent a few hours self-diagnosing myself on the internets with ITBS.  No, not IBS.  Wrong bodypart.  ITBS.  IT Band Syndrome.  It extends from the hip to the knee and inserts at the tibia.  It crosses a bony protusion on the outside of one's knee, and that area can get really, really sore.  IT band FRICTION syndrome is another name.  Based on my self-diagnosis, self-treatment would include stretching, foam rolling, running fewer miles, running fewer hills, running on a soft surface when possible, and maybe sports massage (not done by self, obviously).   Foam rolling the IT band is rather awkward as you lay on your side with your weight on your forearm and elbow and attempt to roll back and forth on the outside of your leg.  I netted a new and unusual running injury from it--- carpet burn on my elbow.

I think overdoing it on the hills in my neighborhood and nearby Savannah Subdivision plus hilly trail runs created this IT band problem, but it's not too severe.  I was just doing back-to-back-to-back hilly runs.

I'm definitely making a couple of training changes in the coming months.  One change I'm making is to crosstrain at least once a week for 30-60 minutes on the bike or elliptical.  It will just be a gentle way to increase endurance.  Another change I'm prescribing myself is to not run long EVERY week, just run long every 10-14 days.  That will give the old IT band a bit of a break.   The "Running Doc" website says you can can run through IT band treatment if you train smart.

I have a favorite flat, dirt/gravel trail that is just about the perfect soft surface on which to run.  I've visited a couple of times since January 1.  It follows along the Cumberland River, and I absolutely LOVE running there.  See why?

Unfortunately, it is duck-hunting season here in beautiful Tennessee, so my serene trail runs have been interrupted by the sound of gunfire.  One day, pellets actually rained down from the sky into the parking lot where I was standing after a long series of gunshots.  That wasn't the worst part though.  Last Thursday morning, my friend Kim and I were getting our gear ready for a run there when a man with a rifle slung across his back walked quietly toward us in the parking lot.  I said, "Kim, don't freak out or anything, but there is a man with a gun behind you."  Of course, I SHOULD have said, "Here comes a hunter" or something a little less alarming.  He was dressed head to toe in camo.  I was 80% sure he meant us no harm.  It unnerved me though.  Two unarmed women alone in a parking lot.  One armed man.  Scary.  

It is tough to find flat routes around here.  I had to resort to a treadmill run last Tuesday.  I hadn't done that in a long time.  I blame the Polar Vortex.  It was about 9 degrees here with a strong wind and a windchill near zero.  But, the treadmill IS considered a soft, flat surface.  I may have to utilize that more in the coming months.

Yesterday was the 10-day mark since my last long run.  I was due for a 17-miler.  The IT band was feeling great.  Due to scheduling issues, the hilliest route was also the only convenient one for such a long run.  I went into the run with no expectations.  I was curious to see at what point the old IT band would start talking.  My friend Kiki met me for the first 11.  We ran at a faster pace than I usually run my long training runs---about 30-45 seconds faster, but still a comfortable pace.  Then I met my husband for 6 more miles as he is training for his 3rd half marathon.  (I'm even coaching him!)   We ran more hills, but in these last six miles, I chose to walk up a portion of some of them.  Toward the very end, I could tell my IT bands were tighting up, maybe aching a little, but nothing like 10 days prior.  However, I felt stronger at miles 14-17 of that training run than I had in my last two marathons or any training run in recent memory.   I only took in real food during the run--1/2 banana, dried fruit, rice crackers, and an organic fruit puree.  I drank water and Nuun.

I finished that 17-mile run with a 10:26 pace average.  Hmmm.  That is faster than my last two marathons and any other 17-miler I've ever done as a training run.  I put it in a running calculator and was inspired to see it was a 4:33 marathon pace.  My PR is 4:36.  So, that was encouraging.  I didn't have 9 more miles in me at that pace by any stretch yesterday.  But my next road marathon isn't for 10 weeks.  There is TIME.   But, I'm not going to stress about it.  If a PR happens in the marathon this year, it is going to be because it just happens on one of those really good days.  

I am continually praying about being the athlete that God wants me to be.  I really want to use running as a way to encourage and inspire others and to glorify Him.  I haven't really been doing a very good job with that the last couple of years.  I want to follow God's will for my life, and I think that running is part of that plan.  I love this quote from the movie Chariots of Fire.  It resonates with me... except for the fast part.  

After I trained very hard in July, August, and September of 2013, my races in October, November, and December just didn't quite come together.  I was fatiguing in my marathons by mile 14.  I was struggling through training runs.  I couldn't run paces I could run just a few months earlier despite consistent training.  I was tired all the time but couldn't sleep at night.   At my December check up, my doc ordered a blood panel.  I thought maybe I had low iron or something.  As it turns out, I have hypothyroidism.   The thyroid regulates energy and metabolism and sleep.   I started a low dose of meds on Friday.  (It would be too soon to account for that awesome training run though!  Placebo effect?)   It runs in the family.  I'm not shocked.  I'm actually sort of relieved to know why I ended 2013 feeling and running the way I did.  

My endurance is growing.  My IT band is healing (hopefully).  I've got my priorities aligned better.  I'm feeling really encouraged and blessed.

Cheers to a happy and healthy 2014!  So far, so good!  I'm looking forward to many adventures this year!

By the way, January is 


Susan W said…
Hi Donna! I love your run happy focus, I get overwhelmed with training/schedules and what I 'should' be doing and forget the fun sometimes.

If you have more IT Band issues, I found acupuncture worked last year. Needles helped my inflamed knee and cupping loosened the band (3 treatments and I could run again after extreme sharp knee pain during several runs). I also wore zero or lower drop shoes. Just a thought, it is not fun and I hate to hear of anyone going through it.

Here's to more adventures!