Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas (and an update on the running front)!

Happy Holidays!

Apologies for another long absence.  I’ve been soaking up all the Christmas cheer and food there is to be found, and running has been far from my mind.

Within a week or two after the half marathon in Hershey (spoiler alert: I finished the race, although nearly 15 minutes slower than last year), I started to ache again during runs, but I was determined to give the Philly Half Marathon a go.  I averaged less than 8 miles a week in the time leading up to my final race of 2015, but I didn’t want to further injure myself.

Water/walk break at the Hershey Half Marathon
On race day, I was nervous (although not as nervous as at Hershey), and I was also a little bummed that I wasn’t about to attempt my second marathon.

Still, I gave the race my all, and just like last year, I had a blast on the Philly course.  I find the Philly Half to be one of the best city races (Rock ‘n Roll and other urban races have really boring courses, with far too much time spent along West River Drive).  Even though we covered West Kelly Drive and many roadways that were far overdue for repaving (along South Street, a woman tripped and face planted a few paces ahead of me), I was immensely entertained during my 13.1 miles.

Alas, I was hurting, and I was so grateful when the finish line came into view.  I finished the half at a pace slower than last year’s full marathon, but at least I finished.

Since I obviously still had not recovered from my shin splints/stress fractures/whatever annoying things they are, I made the decision to take the rest of 2015 completely off from running.  Taking several days, or even two weeks, off at a time wasn’t helping any.

So I’ve been mostly sitting and eating and celebrating.  My self-imposed timeout will come to an end on January 3, and needless to say, I am VERY anxious how about those first runs back will be.  I will definitely be easing myself back in gradually.  In the meantime, I am cycling through a full six weeks of the Butt Bible again (sounds silly, but it’s what got me into running in the first place).

I’ll be MIA through the end of the year, but I hope to be back to posting (and running) in the new year.

Until then, merry Christmas!

~Tomato Face

Saturday, October 17, 2015

When you don't have a goal for your goal race

I’d really like to be back to posting regularly on this blog, if only so I don’t have to give the obligatory “oops, I was gone a long time, so sorry, I promise I’ll post more!” update each time I sign back on.

But since I’ve been gone for so long…

Oops, so sorry, life has been busy, I promise I’ll post more!

With that out of the way…

Not much has changed since the last time I wrote.  I’ve been suffering from nasty shin splints since July.  After a painful run in Chicago on Labor Day, I decided to take two weeks of complete rest, hoping that would get me back to normal.  Unfortunately, my hiatus did nothing much in the way of recovery.  I still hurt, I’ve lost SO MUCH fitness, and I am woefully unprepared for the Hershey Half Marathon (my marquee race of the year) on Sunday.

I have only run a handful of times post-Chicago, and, if I manage to stay in one piece after Hershey, I will only run a handful of times pre-Philly.  At this point I have decided to drop down from the full marathon to the half; there is simply no way I can run or even walk 26.2 miles.

If I were wise, I would have booked an appointment with the doctor long ago, but insurance premiums and denial swayed me to my current state: run, rest, mope.

After last year’s PR-setting half in Hershey, I was looking forward to once again breaking the two hour barrier in that distance.  Now, more realistically, I’ll be running a 2:30:00 race (if I’m feeling really strong on the big day, perhaps I can get close to 2:20:00). 

It’s a huge bummer to have essentially three years of training erased over the past few months, but maybe (maybe?) after this biomechanical disaster I will learn some valuable lessons.  Like

1.) I cannot run multiple days in a row when I am not in peak training condition.  Two days in a row is already rough.  Three is absolutely not to be attempted.

2.) A warm up and proper stretching are essential.  I used to be really good about briskly walking for several walks before starting my run; this year, ever since I moved, I start running when I am out the door.  This is not great for lazy/untrained muscles.

3.) I must wear the proper footwear.  Yes, minimalist style shoes are fine for my shorter runs, but that doesn’t mean I can wear them for every workout.  I shunned my previously-beloved Asics GEL-Kayanos this year in favor of lighter Nike models.  Big mistake.  HUGE.

4.) Hills are my jam, but (major theme!) only when I am properly trained.  When I am in shape, hills help me get stronger.  When I’ve been running sporadically and skipping out on my strength training, they only serve as a possible source of injury.

So I go into Sunday with no hopes or goals other than to finish and to not break my legs (seriously).  It will be weird to not have a time goal (and this most likely will not be the la-di-da adventure that the Philly Marathon was due to the physical limitations I’ll have this time), but I am looking forward to the eats in Hershey (chocolate aid station at mile 12—never have I been more excited for this feature!!), the sights (country!  Greenery!) and my family.

This winter I plan to train smarter.  Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be crushing major time goals in this same race.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My running hiatus is in effect


Shin splints suck.

Sure, shin splints aren't nearly as bad as fractures or tendon tears, but they are still awful.  After struggling through weeks of "training" with severe shin splints, I finally decided to take two weeks completely off from running.  I haven't gone to the doctor for an official diagnosis, so I pray my shin splints are just that and not stress fractures, and that a few weeks of rest will get me to feeling comfortable again.

Before my self-imposed running hiatus, I ran two shorter races.  Thing is, I haven't been able to do any hill or speed training since my marathon prep plan began 8 weeks ago, and so I was not prepared to run any PRs.  I did, however, want to participate in the races I had paid for months ago, and so I decided to tough it out for two more weeks and then reevaluate my injuries.

First up was the Philly 10k.  I ran the inaugural race last year, but for 2015, the course was altered so that it covered more of South Philly terrain.  Like last year, the race was impeccably organized by local store Philadelphia Runner, and there was a fun block party/packet pickup during race weekend and ample port-a-potties at the race start (always an indicator of a good event).

Cool merch at the Philly 10k packet pickup.

I bought this shirt!

The weather, although not as bad as last year's, was still pretty hot and humid, and that, coupled with my leg conditions, encouraged me to run slow and steady.

I quite enjoyed our jaunt through the 215, but I overheated several times along the course and had to stop for walk breaks.  My legs felt so-so, but I didn't try for any sprinting, afraid of causing a fracture or any worse soreness.

In the end, it was one of my slowest 10ks ever (59:35), but I was relieved that I was able to participate.

Runners lining up for their free beers post-race.

The following weekend, I traveled to Chicago to visit two of my best friends (more Chicago and Philly summer details to come in a future post).  I also happened to run the Magnificent Mile 5k with my friend/former "coach" Diana.  Once again, it was hot and humid, but I was more concerned with finishing than with nabbing an impressive time.

The course was unique in that part of it actually ran along Chicago's famed Magnificent Mile (gee, I wonder where they got the name for the race?), and I loved the change of scenery from my normal running route.  Both 5k and half marathon runners shared the first 2.5 miles of the course, but I never felt claustrophobic.  I also overheated in this race, once again being forced to take walk breaks (I really wanted to try to run the whole way through, even if that meant jogging).  I finished in just under 28 minutes, making it another slow race, but I got a high five from Lauren Fleshman as I crossed the finish, so that was pretty baller.

We somehow thought it was a good idea to line up right behind the elites.
Race organizers had wet towels and plenty of refreshments available for us (including chocolate covered frozen bananas!!!!), and the t-shirt and finisher's pendant were some of the best swag I've nabbed from a race.

After party entrance.

The next day, I attempted a long run along Chicago's lakefront path, but my legs gave me the worst trouble I have had since my shin splints first flared up.  I was bummed about cutting my run short (I only got through 6 very slow walk/run/jog miles rather than my hoped for 8-14), but since I had been so conflicted about taking time off, I realized this was my body's very forceful way of telling me to rest already.

I am hoping and praying that this hiatus gives me time to get back to normal.  I have already lost so much fitness and speed, but all I want at this point is to be healed.  At least this break gives me a valid excuse for sitting on the couch watching television and eating ice cream :)

I have a training schedule in mind for when I get back to running, but in reality, it is all going to depend on how I feel on my first run post-hiatus.  I have another 5k planned for October 3, and I really hope that I will be able to shoot for a PR during that race.  That event, the Conquer Run, benefits the Four Diamonds fund.  If you'd like to join me in supporting the fund's pediatric cancer research efforts, please check out my fundraising page here.

Have a great week!

~Tomato Face

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Week in Review: August 17-23, 2015

I figured it was high time I finally posted a week in review.  There hasn't been much progress on the marathon training front-- shin splints still got me down-- but I'm going to pretend like I'm all healed and recap my week like it's all good because 1.)  I'm strong.  I can get over this, no problem.  2.)  The power of positive thinking.  3.)  5 weeks is my limit for stupid things.  I am SO OVER shin splints.

So, here's a quick peek at the workouts from last week:

Monday:  Yoga for Runners
Tuesday:  REST DAY
Wednesday:  Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred Level 1 with 3 lb. weights
Thursday: REST DAY
Friday:  5+ miles easy at 10:02 minute/mile pace
Saturday:  12+ miles long at 10:10 minute/mile pace and Yoga for Runners
Sunday:  3+ miles fartlek at 9:57 minute/mile pace

Total= 20.39 miles

This is definitely not where I hoped to be in week 5 of marathon training, but sometimes life throws you curveballs.  My focus now is on recovering from my injuries-- I do not want to make things worse.

I tried to alleviate my soreness by taking the first half of the week off.  When I finally went running on Friday, I felt the best I have all season.  The humidity was low (hallelujah!), the sunset was glorious, and my shin splints felt nearly nonexistent.  On Saturday, I could feel a vague ache in both shins, but I was able to run 12 slow miles. 

So pretty!

On Sunday, I probably made a mistake.  I've been so bummed about not hitting my four days of marathon training each week that I forced myself to at least hit three.  Although Friday and Saturday were relaxed, by Sunday I felt not so great.  On Monday morning, I could really feel the pain, especially in my right leg.

My plan going forward is complicated.  I don't want to make things more severe, but I also don't want to miss my races (August 30 and September 6).  I'm going to incorporate some backwards running (some people online claim this helps by stretching the lower leg-- we'll just see) and be hyper vigilant about stretching and icing, AND I'll be better about spacing out my runs (no more three in a row streaks).  If I still don't feel better after next week's 5k, I'll take 2-3 weeks of total rest.

Wish me luck in my 10k on Sunday!

~Tomato Face

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The annual return of my shin splints

They’re baaaaaaack.

Yep, my recurring shin splints made their annual return at the commencement of marathon training.  For some bizarre reason, I tend to get mild shin splints for 1-2 weeks each July.  On further reflection, it’s not so bizarre at all—my legs are most likely adjusting to increased heat and humidity, higher mileage and more time in less-supportive shoes (like sandals and ballet flats).

One day I set out for 5 miles and had to stop at 2 because my shins and calves were so tight, they felt like they were going to snap in two.  I stretched and massaged for a few minutes, and I only made it to 3 total miles before calling it a night.  I missed out on a group run I really wanted to do the next day, but by that Friday I was feeling a bit better (the compression socks I wore helped, too).  I was well enough to attempt my long run, but I decided to cut that short as well (8 planned miles turned into 6.5).  I definitely do not want to risk a more serious injury this early in training—better to rest and repair when I have something treatable than to push to the extreme.

So here I am in week 5 of marathon training, and I’ve had to cut workouts from every week and reduce mileage of executed workouts.  SO.  MUCH.  FRUSTRATION.

In happier news, I finally made it on Saturday to the East Falls Bridge for the first time since the Philly Marathon.  Woah.

My training schedule mileage-wise is geared to my late November marathon, but once again, my goal time race will be the half marathon (although this is me saying that in Week 5 of training—things could change).  After achieving a sub-2:00:00 last fall, I am not yet certain what I want to do in the distance this year.  1:55?  1:50?  1:45?  (not likely)  Or do I want to forget the time part of it and focus on a different goal, like running the whole way through?

All this isn’t to say that I don’t have a time goal for the marathon: I hope to break 4:15:00, but I feel that that will come with training diligently for the half (but at this point, who knows if any training will get done).  Since I’m still a relative newbie to the marathon, I’m not as stressed about hitting a certain mark in that race.  If I finish, I’ll be happy.  Hopefully I will naturally shave some time off in my second go around, but that is not my main focus.  Improving in the half marathon, a distance I have now run many times, is a much more achievable goal.

Getting me to those two big races are a few smaller events in the late summer and early fall:  the Philly 10k on August 30, the Magnificent Mile 5k on September 6 and the Conquer Run 5k on October 3.  I don’t expect to PR in the 10k (hello, it’s in AUGUST, and last year’s race weather was BRUTAL), but I would love to finally nab my sub-25:00 minute time at one of the 5ks.

First, I’m crossing my fingers for these nasty shin splints to go away so that I can get down to business!

~Tomato Face

Monday, July 20, 2015

3rd Annual Independence Day Run (Pictures Post)

Oops-- leave it to me to procrastinate!  I thought I should (finally) share a few photos from my annual Independence Day run with you all.

This year's excursion did not reach the same levels of epic-ness that last year's did, but I still managed to throw in 7 miles of awesome Philly detours.

Due to some holiday traveling, I had to bump up my run on the calendar, but that allowed it to coincide perfectly with the Tall Ships Festival, a special one-weekend-only bash that brought the infamous World's Largest Rubber Duck to my fine city.  Alas, the Duck was nowhere to be found on either of the two times I ventured to Old City during the festival, but that's okay.  I had a blast revisiting some of my favorite historic attractions, even if I was a puddle of sweat by the end of my journey.

Rainbow crosswalks in the Gayborhood, 12th and Locust Streets

Tall Ships Festival on the Delaware River

Corn Exchange Building, 2nd and Chestnut Streets

Christ Church, 2nd and Market Streets

Not the Duck I was looking for, but a Duck (Ride-the-Ducks) nonetheless!

Philadelphia skyline as seen from the halfway point of the Ben Franklin Bridge

United States Mint, 5th and Race Streets

National Constitution Center, 5th and Arch Streets

National Museum of American Jewish History, 5th and Market Streets

Independence Hall, 5th and Chestnut Streets

Hope you had a great Fourth!

~Tomato Face

Saturday, June 13, 2015

About that time I won an age group award (Girls on the Run Spring 5k Recap)

I wanted to race again before this summer became too miserably hot (haha, too late—it’s still spring and we’ve already had several days in the 90s).  I thought a late spring 5k might present me with the chance to PR, but I did not want to run West River Drive again.  Luckily Girls on the Run was holding their spring 5k at the Philadelphia Zoo on June 7.  Score!

I’ve wanted to work with GOTR for quite some time, but my work and class schedule doesn’t allow me to join regular practices.  The organization also gives the option of being a “running buddy” at their races, but for this event, I elected to run solo.

When I was reading up on pre-race information, I noticed that this 5k would be giving awards to the top three placeholders in each age group.  “Hey,” I thought to myself, “I might have a shot at finally making a podium!”

As I waited for the race to begin, however, I spied some serious competition.  While at first there were only preteen girls and their running buddies onsite, more and more solo runners started to arrive.  So I adjusted my expectations and decided to have fun, in the spirit of GOTR: this run was going to be about positivity and confidence building, not pressure.

And they're off!
With my newfound motivation, I didn’t stress too much as we started queuing for the race itself.  I started out near the front of the pack, but gradually I was crowded in by young runners and their parents and mentors.  ‘Twas okay—this was about the kids (and I was more concerned with not stepping on a youngin’ or accidentally elbowing somebody than I was with getting to the front).

We went off with a very faint cry of “go,” and it was all tangled limbs and confusion as everybody tried to find their pace.  I started off slow so as not to collide with any of the kids, but I was able to pick myself through the crowd within the first half mile.  I was moving along at a fairly fast clip, but still I enjoyed the shade (shade!  So unlike West River Drive) that the zoo course provided. 

With our first loop inside the zoo complete, I settled into a brisk but comfortable pace behind a pack of three girls (these chicks were half my size and kicking up serious dust).  I eventually ended up alongside one of the three, and we began to chat.  “Are you trying to win?” she asked me.  BLESS YOUR HEART, I thought.  

I told her that no, this was not about winning—I was out there to support all the girls and have a fun time.  

Having the girls nearby helped the time to pass quickly.  I followed on the heels of a seven-year-old for much of the race—I swear, she had one of the steadiest paces I’ve ever seen.

Even though I had brushed aside thoughts of a PR, I wanted to run the course the whole way through.  Sadly, I wimped out and took a short walk break on a particularly gnarly hill.  The zoo was full of them hills!  I still like my elevation gain, but my body wasn’t into charging up the steepest one.

My walk break separated me from my seven-year-old "pacer," and without her to guide the way, I became lost several times.  There were orange cones and volunteers at several turns along the course, but other splits (the zoo has many of them!!) were unmarked.  I found myself questioning, slowing and turning around many times.  To this day I still do not know what the course was supposed to be (there is a map online, but being that this was only my second time ever at the Philadelphia Zoo, it means nothing to me).

Thankfully I managed to spot the girl runners or a volunteer each time to lead me back to the main path, but I know I lost some valuable time due to my confusion.

Eventually I found myself at the final turn, and I tried my best to power through.  In the end, I finished with a time of 26:19.  It wasn’t my best 5k, but it was a good effort, especially given my loss of direction.  I knew I had finished near the front, but what I didn’t know what that I had finished third overall, and first out of all adults—automatic age group award!!!  My seven-year-old pacer finished second—she was a little powerhouse!

Overall I loved the zoo setting, but I wish the course had been more clearly marked.  I was happy to support such a good cause and see so many kids achieve their goals.  I’ll be back in future years!

Course: B+ (grading based on course and setting, not the markings)
Expo: N/A
Post-Race Experience: A
Event Organization: C (due to a lack of course markings and chaotic start line)
Overall Grade: B+

After the race, I hung out in the zoo, and it was awesome.

I was probably more excited than any of my preteen counterparts who had been in the race.

I saw lions, gorillas, otters, peacocks and so many other kinds of animals.  I even took a few laps around the lake in a swan boat.

Yep, I am truly a kindergartner at heart.

This weekend I was originally supposed to head to Hershey for a 5k, but then I saw the weather forecast (90s, sunny, humid) and decided NO.  So it’s air conditioning and resting all the way instead.

What are you up to this week?

~Tomato Face