Sunday, July 29, 2012

Grand Island Trail Half Marathon Recap

Well, it's amazing how differently you can react to a race, simply because of different expectations put on it.  In May, I was unjustifiably disappointed with a 2:05-something finish at the Kalamazoo Half Marathon, because I had put a lot of pressure on myself to break two hours.  Yesterday, I was (and still am) over the top thrilled with finishing the Grand Island Trail Half Marathon in 2:32-something.  What was different?  Oh, a number of things, I suppose....First of all, I expected yesterday's trail race to be slower for the very fact that it was on trail.  Secondly, after dealing with my sore piriformis for a month or so now, I knew that that would slow me down, and I set my expectations accordingly.  In fact, I took my run/walk interval timer so that I could do a run/walk, and - for the first time ever on a major race - I took my camera phone (even though it is bulky), so that I could take some pictures along the way.  Also, coming off of a 10-day vacation with my mom and the kids, I really just wanted this event to be fun for me - no pressure.  And it was!

So, first of all, the Grand Island Trail Half Marathon is a beautiful event.  The scenery up on the Lake Superior shoreline of Michigan's upper peninsula is breathtaking.  Having been to the Denver and Colorado Springs regions of Colorado twice now, I was struck by the similarities....Okay, so there were no towering peaks, but the hills were high enough and pine-covered enough to fool me at least some of the time.  And, with the crystal waters of Lake Superior and perfect weather, I really was bowled over by it all.

I had been looking forward to this event for quite a while, ever since Great Lakes Endurance, the outfit that puts on the Grand Island races, had come to talk to our running club a couple of years ago.  I wasn't sure that this was the event I would end up doing, but I knew I wanted to do one of their events.  Their premise of eco-conscious racing and sourcing everything, inasmuch as they can, locally and/or organically is what got me initially intrigued.  The fact that I could finally fit in one of their events at the tail end of our Michigan vacation this year made me very happy and I looked forward to this race with much anticipation.  Plus, this would be the first longer distance destination race that I would do on my own - without Hubby by my side - and for some reason that was important, too.

Sunrise over Grand Island
Getting into town the night before the race, we had gotten lucky and were able to stay overnight at the Holiday Inn Express in Munising, which happened to be where the race "expo" and packet pickup were set up.  (We had been waitlisted.)  Besides being the center of race activity the day before the race, the hotel also offered a fantastic view across the water to Grand Island.  From our balcony, I enjoyed looking out at the island where I would run my second ever trail Half.  The hotel staff was very accommodating, having welcome bags for the runners which included a Larabar, water, and some trail mix, and breakfast was set obscenely early at 4 a.m. for runners.

Packet pickup was easy.  There wasn't really anything in the way of goody bags or swag, but you could buy some items if you wanted.  With the race bib, you got a nice, orange, short-sleeved technical shirt.  They were selling some wood medallions that said Grand Island Trail Marathon, I believe, and if I had known then that there wouldn't be any race medals handed out at the finish, I might have purchased one.  But I didn't, so I didn't, and that's a minor regret.

Getting over to the island the morning of the race was made very easy.  Shuttles were scheduled to pick runners up at a number of area hotels, as well as the local high school, and deposit them at the ferry dock throughout the morning.  The dock happened to only be a half mile from my hotel, but the shuttle arrived just as I stepped out, so I took advantage of the lift and rode to the dock in style.

Waiting at the ferry dock.
Waiting for the ferry was fine too.  I was only there for a couple of minutes before one puttered up to pick us up for the short, five-minute hop to the island.  Being in the half marathon, which was slated to start at 8 a.m., I was kind of impressed as I waited for the boat at about 6:45 that the folks there had the presence of mind to call out for any marathoners or marathon spectators trying to get over for the 7 a.m. marathon start to jump the line.  A couple people took advantage of that.  There was plenty of room on the boat, though, so most of us were able to hop on board.

After the short ride, I got to the island just in time to see the 7 a.m. marathon wave (the first wave had gone off at 6 a.m.) get their final instructions and start.

7 a.m. Marathon start.
That left me with an hour to wander around the welcome center, read the historic signs, and get myself ready to go.

Seeing as I have had issues with my piriformis, I had brought my trusty softball in my drop bag.  I took a few minutes to roll that out.  Then I swapped my sandals for socks and my New Balance 101s.  Clif Blocks were placed in the appropriate pockets, as was my plastic-baggied cell phone.  I sucked down a Roctane (cherry lime for the record) and mixed my Gu Brew in my handheld.  (Funny how after I belittled that beverage so much for the Kazoo Half, I have taken to running with it for longer runs. Hmm, there is a lesson there somewhere, I am sure of it.)  I dropped my bag under the tent they provided for just such a purpose and then walked to the start.

At the start.
We got our last minute instructions - follow the blue flags, not the orange - the horn sounded, and we were off.

With trail races, as with trails, I find there is a wide variety of what qualifies as trail.  This race was no different, and we ran a gamut of different terrain. Starting off we headed down a hard-packed dirt road (or maybe it was paved?) with a fine covering of sand over it.  The footing was very good and heading through the woods was pleasant.  There were some mild ups and downs, but mainly it was pretty flat.  Overall, the course was mainly shaded.

First couple of miles of trail was more like a dirt road.
At four miles, we reached the first aid station.  Volunteers there were very solicitous and helpful, filling our water bottles with our choice of Heed or water, and then asking if we needed anything else.  I hadn't really drunk too much yet, so I didn't need a refill at that point. In addition to the liquid refreshment, they had Hammer Gel and Endurolytes on hand, neither of which I required.  The volunteers were super friendly and complimented me on my choice of pink attire, which was fun.  (I no doubt had some witty reply to that, but I can't remember what it was anymore.)  There were no cups at the water station.  In keeping with their eco-friendly philosophy, the event required everyone to carry their own hydration units with them and carry out their own trash.

Coming out of the first aid station, we emerged onto the shores of Lake Superior.  This was where I would run what for me would be the hardest part of the race effort-wise - the beach.  For fully one mile, the course took you through the sand.  Trying to run on the harder-packed wet sand was easier but I found myself constantly dodging the waves that were breaking on the shore.  Opting for the squishy sand just out of reach of the waves ensured dry feet but meant struggling with the footing and turning your ankle a few times.  I mixed it up as best I could, and by the time I got to the end of this stretch, I felt I had gotten pretty good at judging which waves were going to get my feet wet and which ones were not.  I did get wet a couple of times and turned my ankle a couple of times, so obviously for me neither sand option was ideal.  The breathtaking beauty of this stretch of the run, though, made up a lot for the difficulty.

Coming onto the beach was breathtaking.

Hmmm, dodge the waves?
Or brave the deeper sand?
Coming off the beach, we headed back into the woods onto a single track trail that would lead up the bluffs.

A runner behind me was nice enough to offer to take
my picture.  I get the feeling a lot of people were being
running tourists that day.
The climb had been described as the most difficult part of the race, but I found it gradual enough to not be that tiring or problematic.  Much to my hamstring's dismay, I even managed to run most of it.  From mile 7 to 9, we were back on the dirt road with a gradual downhill into the Mile 9 aid station - the second and last one.

Getting out of that aid station, we turned again onto single-track trail.

It's also here that we started merging with the marathon runners for the first time.  I am not sure who exactly we were seeing, but most of them still seemed pretty fresh.  (I got more compliments on the pink socks, but I don't mean "fresh" in that regard.)  That first mile after the aid station was very pleasant with good footing and soft, pine-needle covered ground.  From about Mile 10 to 12.5, though, the trail took a turn along the top of the cliffs.  While the views were beautiful, my recent tumble two weeks ago on the trails had me running very cautiously.  This stretch was littered with half-buried roots and rocks.  I only had to flex my fingers opened and closed to remind myself that another fall would be very unwelcome.  (Unfortunately, my hand is still sore from that fall.)  So, for better or for worse, I slowed down a lot.

Trail along bluff.
View from the top. The water was crystal clear.
Coming down off the bluff is a gradual event and before you know it, the finish line appears around a curve.  Crowds were cheering, a surprise after a fairly - although not completely - spectator-free run.

Finishing in 2:32 was a bit of a disappointment for about a tenth of a second.  It only took one good mental headslap to remind myself that I should be very happy with that time.  Sore piriformis, trail run, stopping to take pictures - I should be pleased that I finished so well.  Indeed, this is a trail half PR for me.  (The first I finished in about 3:15 after being sick.)  Finally, I am not 100-percent sure of the accuracy of the course, as my Garmin clocked 13.34 miles, rather than 13.1.  Although I trust its accuracy under ideal conditions, I know that woods and bluffs have a tendency to mess with it - so I take the exactness of the results (both my watch's and the race's) with a grain of salt.

As I mentioned earlier, I was a bit surprised to see there were no finisher's medals, as I thought someone else had said there had been some in years past.  I didn't sweat it too much, though.  I am happy with my shirt and the memories of the experience.  If you happened to be fast enough to win an age group award, though, you would have received a beautiful blown-glass medallion, a worthy match for the surrounding area's natural beauty.  It makes me wish I were faster.

I couldn't resist cooling off in the waters of Lake Superior after the run.
Getting back to the mainland after the event was as streamlined as arriving had been.  A constant stream of ferries ensured runners didn't have to wait long to leave if they didn't want to.  Once back at the ferry dock in Munising, a line of shuttles clearly marked with different hotel names waited to take runners back to their cars.

So, all in all, I have to say I really enjoyed this event. I am already thinking of how to get back next year to do it, too.  It was well run, well organized.  The scenery was amazing.  The people were friendly.  My only regret is that we had planned to drive the several hours home afterwards, opting not to stay the night after the race.  I would have been more than happy to hang out for another night, enjoying the amazing weather, going swimming in Lake Superior and maybe having a glass of wine or two on our balcony overlooking the lake.  Oh well, that is why there will be a next time.

Despite the piriformis, I was pleased with how I ran.  I really felt good overall.  The piriformis was a disappointing thorn in my side. It twinged at the start, but then was basically good until about mile 6 or so.  Then I could feel it tightening, and eventually it started sending those shooting pains down my hamstring.  Despite that, I was happy that my overall conditioning felt really strong.  I never did go to the run/walk.  And although I did walk a couple of times, the breaks were kept brief.  That's how good I was feeling.  In fact, for much of the race I felt that I was just gliding along.  I don't feel like I really hit any sort of wall, and for that I am grateful.

As to not having Hubby along,...standing on my own two feet, as it were?  That was kind of a bust.  I found that in the end I missed having him there to share the event with.  So, next time the plan is to drag him there too!  I wouldn't want him to miss out again!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Congrats BODYGLIDE WarmFX Winners!

Congratulations Michelle Werner and Caroline from On the Right Track!  You are both winners in my BODYGLIDE WarmFX Giveaway!  Contact me at with your contact information!

How to Hurt Your Hand While Running

A funny thing happened on my way to finishing up my long run yesterday - I tripped and fell and really hurt my hand.

So, let's back up a bit.  The long run.  Yay!  I successfully completed a really long run finally, and I am over-the-top excited about it.  Was it perfect?  No.  Was it the best thing I could have done for my body? Probably not. The hip still hurts. It was slow.  But I got it done.

For me the day started bright and early to meet a friend at 6 a.m.  I got to the park where the trails were, and I was blown away by the early morning beauty.  The sunlight shining through the trees made an amazing mural on the wooded pathways, and coming into the park and having to slow down to let a wild turkey cross the road (brought a certain chicken joke to mind) and then startling some deer as I parked, were all a great way to start the day.  Once I met up with my friend P., we got ourselves organized, and then headed out at a slow trot.  P. had run a 10K race the day before, so she didn't mind when I suggested doing a Galloway-style run/walk.  I still think we probably headed out a bit fast for the first section, but I'll never know since I didn't start my GPS until we were a good 30 minutes into the run.  It was fun to have the distraction of conversation and be able to act as tour guide.  I've run this particular park so often with Hubby that I feel I know it almost as well as my own backyard.

At about 45 minutes into the run, we ran into friends from our running club's regular Sunday morning running group.  They usually meet for their run in town, but they have been of late occasionally taking their show on the road - well, in this case the trails.  There was some talk of maybe permanently moving the run out to the park, which would be fantastic.  We'll see if they do it.  In any case, we ended up running with the group for the next hour or so.

During the run, I would say my hip/hamstring hung in there and did well for about the first hour and a half.  Then they did start bothering me.  During the entire course of my run, I stopped back at the car no fewer than four times and rolled my piriformis on the softball I had brought with me, and that seemed to help.  I sure got some strange looks though.  I wonder what people think when they see someone sitting on a softball in a parking lot in the shade of their car...

Talking to N., one of the more experienced runners in the group, he gave me a lesson in what he thought my problem was.  "It's the P muscle," he said.  Now if that's not funny right there, I don't know what is.  Any woman who has been advised to do Kegel exercises is not going to first think of the piriformis as the "P muscle," but that is what he meant.  After I got over the nomenclature, I was actually able to listen to what he had to say.  After demonstrating a good stretch on the trail he suggested the name of a chiropractor who helped him out with just such an issue a few years ago.  This was the second time in as many days that someone had suggested a chiropractor to me, so I figure after my trip this next week, if the problem is still there, I might give it a try.  As for yesterday, while the pain was still there a bit, it seemed not quite so bad as in previous weeks and easier for me to mentally manage.  I am not sure how to explain it, but the discomfort seemed more encapsulated to that part of my body, rather than to seem so overwhelming.

Anyway, though, I am super excited that I managed to keep moving for a total of about 3:20 minutes for about 16 miles.  Since my watch didn't get started right away and I missed about 30 minutes of run time, as well as another 15 minutes mid-run, I am speculating a little bit on my totals.  What I do know, though, is that it is a damn sight farther than I have gotten in previous weeks, so pain in hip/hamstring aside, I will take it.

So, the trip and fall...  After about 13 miles, with my running peeps having long since gone, I decided to give Hubby a call and see how things were going on the homefront.  He hadn't gotten any treadmill work done yet like he had planned, so I suggested he make a lunch and haul the kids out to the park.  My reason for this was twofold: one, to be the caring wife and get him out the door for his run, but also to let me squeeze in a few more miles while I waited for them.  Unfortunately, this would turn out to be my undoing.

Heading out for my last three to four mile loop, I still felt strangely fresh.  My legs were tired of course, but I had perfected this run/walk shuffle to the point that I felt I could carry on all day. Mentally, I had had enough distraction that I didn't feel bored at all - I was really finding that elusive JOY again.  So, skipping down the wooded path, fa la la, wasn't it a massive bummer when my toe caught the edge of a root or rock or something and down I crashed.

Here's the part where
 if you are squeamish 
or have a vivid imagination 
you shouldn't read further....

As I fell, I couldn't get my tired legs under me, so basically I fell over like a tree being harvested for timber. In an attempt to arrest my fall, I threw my right hand out, but apparently I didn't do it well.  Because as I landed, I had a clear glimpse of all the fingers on my right hand hyperextending backwards, and that was just before my bodyweight crashed down on top of them finishing the job.  I heard a clear cracking sound, too.  As I rolled off my hand, I was almost surprised - albeit pleasantly so - to find that my fingers were not in fact pointing the wrong direction.  As I sat in the dirt, I had to force myself to try to move them, because the pain was like no other I had experienced in a while.  Wiggle them I could though, so from my years of medical school training of watching numerous medical-themed TV shows, I knew that they weren't broken.  They sure hurt, though.

Now it is safe to read again.

So, cradling my hand to my chest, I gathered up my water bottle and sunglasses, which had flown off, picked myself up and started to walk back the way I had come.  I got about 20 yards down the path, however, when I thought to myself, This is dumb.  What am I going to do?  This is clearly not a medical "emergency," so I might as well finish my run.  And, I did.  Holding my hand a bit awkwardly, I admit it, I managed my run/walk back to my car on my originally planned route.  As it turns out, I got there just as Hubby and the kids pulled up, and I was greeted with not so much concern as a "You look horrible" from LG and "You know they have showers down below, right?" from Hubby.  Granted, this was before they knew I had hurt my hand, but still.  Can you feel the love?  I know I could.  In their defense, I did look a mess - with black dirt caking entirely one half of my body.  After our picnic, it was time to head home and clean up.  A shower was never such a welcome sight.

Behold the glamour of trail running: The trails were really dusty, so I was getting a bit dirty anyway.
The fall just made the filth more complete.
On a side note, there were a couple of things that have occurred to me since the fall.  One positive thing that came from it was that for fully two miles or more after the incident I didn't notice my hip or hamstring issues.  So, lesson learned?  If you are trying to work through a running injury and they are bothering you, just try to hurt something else worse.  You'll forget all about your running injury; works like a charm.  One negative thing that has come from this is that - all jokes of "at least you can still run" aside, I am starting to realize all the things I CAN'T do - some of it running-related.  For example, yoga and foam rolling have now become significantly more difficult if not impossible to do.

Today, the hand is a bit better, but not much.  It is still swollen and it hurts when I try to make a fist, straighten my fingers, or spread them apart.  I clearly did something to the tendons or ligaments in there, so I am following the RICE protocol of any soft-tissue type injury.  Luckily, for the blogging world, the half-curled shape that seems most comfortable for the fingers works just fine for mouse wrangling and typing.

Yesterday's fall has prompted me to think about all the times I have tripped or almost tripped while running trails.  This is surely the worst outcome of a fall I have ever had.  I think of all the times before Pikes Peak that I would run one particular trail along the lip of a ledge, because I wanted to get used to seeing drop offs.  I don't think I'll be doing that anymore.  I'd hate to think my trail-running confidence is shaken, but I have to believe at least for a while, I will be more cautious.  In a way, I am glad I completed my run yesterday, because I think I would be even more worried if I had just limped back to my car in defeat.

So, what is the worst non-running related running injury you have ever incurred? 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Relax? I AM RELAXED! As Much as a Mini-Panic Attack Allows

* Don't forget to enter my BODYGLIDE WarmFX Giveaway.  Two winners will be chosen July16!

It's Saturday, and for me that means my day of rest.  I used to actually approach these days with a mixture of anticipation and a bit of dread - happy to have earned a good day off but sad too because I was so into my routine of exercise and activity that having nothing to do seemed a bit daunting.

Today, if I have either of those feelings, they are directed not towards my rest day today but my long run tomorrow.  Having taken so much time off the past couple of weeks for my hip/hamstring, I am very excited to be able to go out and run long - give it another try after last week's no-go.  But, I am dreading too what it will mean if I fall short. Originally, I had it down that I would run 18 miles tomorrow, but now my hope is to head out and just run three hours. If I get to 18, great; if I get to 15, good.  Mainly, I just want to be doing something for a long time, and I know I will beat myself up if I have to call it quits again after eight or nine miles.

So many long run fails in a row would definitely make me start to think.  Should I rethink The Plan, such as it is?  What would that look like?  Would I have to take time off?  Would it be me and the couch for a couple of weeks while I try to get this hamstring under control?

Will it be a frustrating journey of discovery as I try to find some sort of cross-training that doesn't aggravate the injury, when in fact there aren't too many cross-training options open to me that would fit into my tight, strangled summer schedule?

Mainly, though, I think ahead to the BIG GOAL in September - the Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland.  You know?  The one where I run up an Alp?

Every fiber of my running/racing/anticipating being is focused on that event.  It's not a goal I can revise.  It's not the Kalamazoo Marathon where I can just say oh well, not going to work for me this year and then downgrade to the Half.  There is no Half.  There is only the Marathon.  And it is in Switzerland.  I won't be getting back there anytime soon to make up for this year's loss if I don't do it.

I ask myself why I care really?  I mean, when I signed Hubby and me up for this thing, it was really more for him.  I only signed myself up on a whim, fully knowing that there was a good chance I wouldn't be able to make the 6.5-hour cutoff to the finish.  I accepted that, telling myself if nothing else it would make a good tale to tell. After all, I am sure it would be as equally amusing/fascinating/whatever to talk about how I got XX miles and then was yanked off the course as it would be to report how I finished in a triumphant feat of endurance and agony.  But, the truth is, now that I am into the training program, and hell - probably even as I was signing up - I have come to the realization that I WANT to finish this event.  I WANT to do well.  I want to cross the finish line a bona fide finisher of a tough, kickass race.

So, what to do?  Where does that leave me?  On principle, I am generally against taking time off from running when injured. Why?  Because it has never done much for me in the past.  There is one injury that I can remember where I HAD to take time off because I could not physically stand to run on it.  That was a patellar strain last year.  I took two weeks off and then picked up the pieces again.  But, for me, that is the exception.  Mostly, when I have taken time off - once even for TWO MONTHS - I come back and feel really none the better for it.  So, instead I have taken the run-through-your-injuries road, and that has worked for me.  I may not run as fast.  I may do a run/walk.  But I am still moving and getting things done.

But is that right this time?  The truth is that I don't know.  With being so focused on this BIG GOAL race, I feel I would just about do anything I needed to to finish it.  Take a month off?  Okay.  Run every day three times?  Okay.  Whatever it takes.  The problem is that I just don't know.  I can't tell the future, and unfortunately my history of injury and recovery doesn't really give me a clear roadmap to go by.

The Magic 8 Ball isn't much help. Although I did ask it
if I would have a good long run tomorrow.  Here's the
answer I got:
MOST LIKELY.  I like that answer. Unfortunately, I had
to shake the 8 Ball a couple of times to get an answer I did like.  
So, I guess all I can do it to vent my panic and confusion here (thank you, therapists of the Internet; this is very cathartic) and to my friends.  I am going to take a couple of deep breaths, prepare for my long run as best I can, then get out there and find the joy again.  And hope that it all works out.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Bored kids and Running Through the Discomfort

"I'm bored."

Those have got to be the two worst words in the English language to a mother of young children.  Hearing it from your four-year-old at 7 o'clock in the morning a full two minutes after he gets out of bed is even better - just peachy.

A different day, a different boredom, but you see what I am facing here?
Bored?  I am so rarely what I would consider bored anymore that I cannot even fathom what that feels like.  Between child-rearing, house caretaking, yard cleaning, errand running, meal prepping, running, exercising to support my running, and blogging, I am pretty darn busy.  On those rare occasions I actually do have a minute to breathe, I read.  Currently, I am plowing my way through Scott Jurek's new book Eat & Run, which I am sure I'll have a lot to say about in a few days.  (I am really devouring it! Pun intended.  Seriously, though, it's good.)
Okay, so granted, LG can't read yet, and that is to his disadvantage. He is only four, though, so that time will come.  In the meantime, I am starting to understand why so many moms I know who have older kids so look forward to the end of summer vacation and back-to-school time.

Anyway, even if I had time to be bored, I couldn't be right now.  I am spending WAY too much time trying to figure out why my hip/hamstring aren't getting better faster.  I wish I could figure out the whens and hows of recovery.  Since my deep tissue massage on my left hamstring and hip, I have felt seriously bruised and beat up.  Read about it here if you missed it.  That's not so bad, but I feel like I need to get past the bruised feeling to be able to assess if things are getting better.

On today's run, which I managed to do after rolling out of bed at 5:30 a.m. (very proud of myself), I managed a decent three miles before I had to head home for Hubby's departure for work.  I was hoping to try the barefoot thing again, but time wouldn't allow it.  The run itself wasn't too bad - more difficult due to the humidity in the air than anything.  However, I did notice the injured areas flaring a bit towards the end.  Again, though, I am not sure yet how much of that can be attributed to the injury or just feeling beat up from the massage.  When I got back home, I thought I would try to stretch my mileage and get some time in on the treadmill.  I decided instead of just running like I had outside I would do a 3-1 run-walk.  In the best of worlds I would have gotten an additional three miles. As it turns out, I got about 7/10 of a mile before calling it quits.  I felt a bit of spasming discomfort deep around the sit bone a couple of times and I thought I just had better not go there.  Quit while I am ahead, right?  I am still open to the possibility of a longer run on Sunday.  I fully intend to head out and try for three hours.  With any luck, I can do it.  If not, c'est la vie.  It's about the joy, right?  A friend of mine will be joining me for the run, so I am looking forward to that change of pace.

I suppose I could view today's run in either a positive or negative light.  It didn't go exactly how I wanted; I wish I had covered more miles.  However, it wasn't miserable either and I feel I managed to get in some good miles before the real discomfort started.  And, I think I made the right move in stopping when I did - so props to me for actually listening to my body for once.  My most fervent hope - and with any luck it will happen - is that I can just keep running through this discomfort.  I am going to take some time though and just listen to my body - do what I can.  I have a half marathon in two weeks, and I really want to finish that comfortably.

Giveaways, Giveaways, Giveaways

So, have you signed up for my BODYGLIDE WarmFX Giveaway yet?  You only have until Sunday, July 15, to do so!  Enter for a chance to win a .45 oz. sample of WarmFX from BODYGLIDE.  They will even send it to you directly, so you don't have to wait for me to get to a mailbox!  Then, stay tuned for three more giveaways coming your way, including:
  • A Marathon/Half Marathon Race Entry
  • Compression gear
  • Awesome running clothing
I'll have more details coming soon.

Happy Running!

Do you get bored?  What do you do when you are bored?  How do you distract/entertain your kids (if you have any) when they are bored?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Asking for Pain

* Don't forget to sign up for my BODYGLIDE WarmFX Giveaway HERE!  You have until July 15!

I have to remind myself that I asked her to beat me with a sledgehammer.  And, not only that, I paid for the privilege.  Am I some sort of masochist?  No, not at all.  Was it really a sledgehammer?  Nope, not that either.  But being hammered away at by a deep tissue massage therapist leaves you feeling about the same, I imagine.

So going into yesterday's half-hour massage, which actually stretched to about 40 minutes, I was hopeful that this might do the trick on my tight hamstring.  If you think DTM is generally uncomfortable, try having someone work at ONE problem spot for that length of time.  It was seriously torture.  I won't go into the details.  If you have gotten a deep tissue massage yourself, then you know what it feels like.  If you haven't, then you can read about it here.

So, before you start thinking that I am some fancy rich person who can afford massages whenever I like really like this form of torture, know that I was desperate.  Here I am, EIGHT weeks away from my grand Jungfrau adventure, which will have me running a full marathon up the side of an Alp - not just a mountain, one of the infamous Alps.  (See? Follow the red squiggly line; theoretically, that's going to be me!)

I WANT to do this.  I NEED to do this.  However, my hamstring/glute/hip have been wonky the past few weeks, and that has derailed my training a bit.  I needed all the help I could get to get back on track.  DTM may not feel good at first, but a couple days after there is generally a great feeling of ahhhhh and I am hoping that this time is no exception.

As I suspected, my left hamstring and piriformis are both extremely tight right now.  Why?  Probably for all the reasons stated here.  I also suspect it has something to do with my lack of regular yoga as well.  During the school year I had gotten into the habit of yoga twice a week, and I think that went a long way towards keeping me stretched out and flexible.  However, with summer came a serious upheaval in my schedule - what, with the kidlets home and all.  I try to fit a class in here or there, but there is no rhyme or reason to my going right now.  And the DVD I bought turned out to be kind of useless.  Beyond that, I am starting to wonder if I am somehow not running efficiently. I think I am going to sign up for a run gait analysis soon and see if maybe there is something there that I could improve.

For now, though, I am going to ice my bruised leg and continue on my stretching and rolling regimen - but take it to a new level.  I am also going to try to go in for a follow-up massage next week.  (See?  Desperate.  There goes my birthday money.)

I have to wonder if I will ever go in to get a nice, relaxing spa-type massage again. And, if I do, what will the therapist think when she or he sees me cringing on the table in anticipation of being hurt?

Happy Running!

What do you think of massage?  Just for relaxation or therapy?
Have you ever had a gait analysis done?  Was it worth it?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finding Joy

"Bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse
assail him, impale him with monster-truck force"

If you are not a Cake fan, then you probably won't recognize those lyrics from their song "The Distance."  However, I can't help repeating that line in an endless loop inside my head when I think of where my training plan has gone these past couple of weeks, namely, down the toilet.  Dealing with a hamstring/glute/hip injury at such a key point in my Jungfrau training has definitely shaken me - caused me much doubt on where this all is going.

When I look at the bright side, I remind myself that I actually planned for getting injured.  That's why I have two 20-milers on The Plan, in the event that I have to revise The Plan.  When I don't focus on the bright side I sing my own doubt-and-remorse, woe-is-me song about not meeting goals, disappointing myself, never being able to run again!  Okay, okay, I know that last one is overkill, but still - we're talking about strong emotions here.

So, in the midst of my doldrums and glumness, and facing a 17-mile slogfest this past Sunday, Hubby gave me a simple piece of advice - go out and find the joy.  Huh?  What do you mean?  I'm joyful.  I love running ..... just not now.  But there is a reason for that, right?  An excuse?  I am INJURED.  How am I supposed to feel?  Well, apparently, joyful.

We had a long conversation about this, but I'll try to sum it up briefly here.  Basically, what he was trying to remind me of was that running is supposed to be fun.  Training plans, race goals ... those don't mean much if you are not finding the joy in running.  According to him, injured or not, I would be better off running for the joy of it and not worrying so much about The Plan.  After all, what good is doggedly following a training plan going to be if when I arrive at race day I am miserable, burned out, or hurting?

He reminded me that if I run for the joy of it, even if I don't hit the miles I want on a weekly basis, I will still be able to do the race because I will enjoy the experience - and that joy will allow me to keep going where misery would not.  Strangely, it all made sense.

So, in concrete terms, what did that mean for my Sunday 17-miler?  Well, upon Hubby's advice, I was to go out to the trails and, first of all, just enjoy being on the trails, which I do love.  Secondly, I was to run for the joy of it.  When it wasn't so joyful anymore, I should run so long as it was just mildly uncomfortable.  Finally, I should run so long as I could tolerate it.  Anything past that, and I should be done.  Notice I didn't say "quit."  Quitting would come if I were stubbornly adhering to The Plan, which right now isn't working for me.  Being done means that I am listening to my body and knowing when to stop.

So, Sunday I went out and found the joy again.  I ran the first mile at a 1-1 run-walk with my kids and Hubby, who was wrapping up his own run.  (And if you can't find joy in running with kids when they are happy, I don't know where you can find it.)  I then did a Galloway-style run for another eight miles.  I started with a 2-1 ratio, and when that went well, I moved to a 4-1.  I honestly did find peace out there on Sunday.  My hamstring/glute/hip weren't the happiest feeling, but I loved being on the trails. It was a beautiful day and running was fun.  Well, for about five miles.  Somewhere after that, it dipped to just tolerable.  And then by nine miles, I knew I should be done.  But, you know what?  I am okay with that.  Sure, I was a little disappointed that I didn't reach The Plan's Goal, but I left the run on a positive note.  I was happy with what I accomplished, and I enjoyed myself.  I somehow put my faith in the fact that everything will work out.

Finding Joy on the dusty trails.
After my Run for Joy on Sunday, I got home and rolled the crap out of my legs and then decided to take Monday off.  Strangely, yesterday, when I woke up I was feeling so much better and I was actually eager to get out there to try to run.  I took the same Finding Joy approach, and although I wore my watch for record-keeping's sake, I didn't look at it.  I ran for a total of five miles, and the first three and a half felt relatively good (even better than Sunday did).  When the joy started to flag a little, I took off my shoes and socks and decided to run barefoot in the grass for a bit.  Ostensibly, this was to work on my form some, but really it just turned out to be fun.  I felt like a kid playing around.  After a third of a mile, the legs were noticing the strain, but with Joy recharged, I ran the last mile home with a big smile on my face.

I am not sure where the injury is at in its healing process, but I think it is getting better slowly.  I have a massage scheduled for today, which I am looking forward to, then I'll try running again tomorrow or Friday.  Regardless of when I run again, though, I will definitely be on the lookout for the joy.  I kind of like this approach to running.

Have you signed up for my BODYGLIDE WarmFX Anti-Pain Balm Giveaway yet?  If not, now is the time!  Go here to enter!

Do you have anyone who motivates you to think outside the box with your running?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BODYGLIDE WarmFX Review and Giveaway

Let me think back to all the things I have done in the past couple of weeks...
  • 10K race
  • Start of speed work
  • 5K race done on very lumpy grass
  • 11 mile long run
  • More speedwork
  • One power yoga class
  • 16 mile run
  • Two power yoga classes
  • More speedwork - which included 100-yards of lunges, 60 squats, 40 one-legged squats
The result?  I think I hurt myself.

So, this is what happens with me: I feel good, I do more and more, I think I am invincible, and then reality hits and I find out - no - I are not invincible, just incredibly stupid.

So, what went wrong?  I am not exactly sure, but I am thinking it is either high hamstring strain or the piriformis since I feel it across the hip, near the sit bone and down the hamstring a bit.  When I do yoga (halfway lift), I feel it in my high hamstring.  When I run, I feel it just about everywhere.

Needless to say, I have taken a bit of a break from running the past two weeks.  I haven't completely given it up, but out of the past 14 days, I have had fully NINE days of no exercise.  In normal times, I would only have two days off.  C'est la vie.  It's been busy anyway, so the breaks I was giving myself probably weren't a bad idea anyway.  When I have gone running, I have been able to do about four miles with only mild discomfort.  Anything past that, though, and it's more of a crapshoot.  Oh well, slow progress is better than no progress.

Warm FX Review and Giveaway

......In the meantime, if there is a silver lining in this at all it would be that this finally gave me the chance to test out a new product that the makers of BODYGLIDE were nice enough to send me.... WarmFX Anti-Pain Balm - heat therapy for muscles and joints.

I have to say that when I first got this, I was a little dubious.  I am not one to take anything for pain relief - internally or externally.  In fact, usually when I am injured I don't even take Ibuprofen.

However, when my hip and hamstring came up sore last week, rather than to continuously reach for the Advil, I thought this might be a nice time to try out the WarmFX.  For some reason, applying a topical analgesic appeals to me more than taking a systemic one internally.  So, I opened the package and rubbed it on.

So, according to the packaging, WarmFX offers non-greasy anti-pain relief for over-exertion, simple backache, arthritis, bruises, strains, sprains, and cramps.  You can use it before activity, after activity, when needed, where needed.  Active ingredients include menthol (15%) and methyl salicylate (30%).  Considered safe for daily use, the package does say not to use it if you are allergic to salicylates, which I am not.  It is not to be applied more than four times in one day.

Now that I had aches and pains to rub away, I was eager to try WarmFX out and what I was most interested in were its claims to warm up faster, relieve minor aches and pains, and all this without mess.  So, does it?

The first thing I noticed about WarmFX was the applicator.  It comes in the same kind of container as BODYGLIDE, so to use you just have to take the top off and rub it on.  There is no mess.  You don't get it on your hands at all.  While I consider this a plus in any way, shape, or form, it is especially nice considering the nature of the product.  There can't be much worse than trying to wash off a waterproof-feeling, warming menthol product from your hands.  And, who wants to take a chance that they are accidentally going to rub some in their eyes?

Once applied, it takes a minute before you notice the WarmFX working.  In fact, I might have overdone that first application a bit because I wasn't sure it was working.  What I did notice right off, though, was that it definitely offered a non-greasy feel.  I had no qualms about wearing clothes over the product for fear of grease stains appearing through the material.  Once the product does kick in it offers a nice warming, icy-hot type sensation, which continues to warm for quite a while after application.  The warming effect lasts for at least an hour.  (I know, because I looked at the clock.)

The best part is, of course, that it does seem to offer temporary relief of aches and pains - something I appreciated especially after the crazy lunge and squat day I experienced two weeks ago.  Everything felt a bit looser and pain-free.  As the package says you can use WarmFX before a workout, too, I thought it would be remiss of me not to try it.  Heading out for a run just this morning, I knew I still had a bit of tightness in my hip, so I applied a thin smear of WarmFX to that area.  Honestly, I can't say if it was the WarmFX or not, but my hip didn't bother me during the run at all.  Only at the very end did I notice a slight tugging/tightening sensation in the hip, so I consider that test a success.

WarmFX does have a menthol scent to it, which I actually find kind of pleasant.  If that is not your thing, though, know that it doesn't linger forever - at least not so as I would have noticed.  I felt very comfortable applying WarmFX and then going about my business, even if that business took me out into public.

So, final word?  WarmFX receives two thumbs up for temporary relief of muscle aches, no mess, easy application, and for the fact that it makes it easy to target your problem areas.  I like that you can target a sore spot on your body without turning to Ibuprofen.  I liked WarmFX well enough that when I went on my nine-miler this past weekend, I stashed the tube in my car in the event that any ache or pain crept up on me.  (As it turned out, everything hurt, but that is another story.)

So, here's the best part - the giveaway!

If you would like to try it yourself, then you are in luck!  BODYGLIDE will give out two .45 oz. tubes of WarmFX for you to try! This is the perfect size for traveling and carrying with you!  To enter to win a WarmFX for yourself, all you need to do is:
  1. Follow my blog via the Join this site button at the right and let me know in the comments that you did so.
For additional entries to win, do any or all of the following and let me know that you did in separate comments:
  1. Follow Tales from an Average Runner on Facebook.
  2. Follow me on Twitter.
  3. Go to BODYGLIDE's website and let me know what you find most interesting.
  4. Follow BODYGLIDE on Facebook and let them know I sent you.
  5. Follow BODYGLIDE on Twitter.
  6. Spread the word of the contest via blog, Facebook, Twitter or any other cool sites I don't know about.  Don't forget to let me know you did!
I will select two winners via on Monday, July 16.  Note: The contest is limited to those in the U.S. only.  That's it! Happy Running!

* Please note that although I received a sample of WarmFX to review, I was not otherwise compensated in any way for my review.  My review on this product represents my own opinion.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Crazy week of birthdays, guests, golf championships, and races - oh, and the heat...

I can't believe how fast time has flown by.  The last time I blogged I was looking ahead a week to the Fourth of July and the 5K run I was going to do with my daughter.  Since then there has been little time to write.  Although I hope to get back to daily blogging this next week, I thought I would hit the past week and a half's highlights here in brief.

Family visit

Yay! House guests!  Well, in this case, house guest.  We don't get a lot of visitors our way, but we were excited to have Hubby's mom here for a week long visit.  She helped keep us entertained during the heat wave.

Heat wave

Did I mention a heat wave?  Oh yeah, it was miserable.  Most of you probably already know what this is like since unless you live in Nome, Alaska, it seems to have affected everybody.  In our neck of the woods, we were seeing temps in the mid-to-upper 90s with humidity.  That pushed the heat index upwards to about 200 degrees, I believe.  To say the people in Northeast Wisconsin are unhappy with this turn of events is a gross understatement.  Sub-zero temps and blizzard - no problem.  Heat wave - problem.  Anyway, the heat made volunteering at the US Women's Open that much more fun.

US Women's Open

Hubby and I were both excited to have the opportunity to volunteer our time at the US Women's Open this past week.  I worked for three days, and I enjoyed every one.  The week started out with a bang for me.  Well, a bang of thunder.  I had no sooner gotten onto the grounds for my Tuesday shift when I was told by a sheriff's deputy to clear the golf course because there was a storm cell moving in.  I then got to stand in the cart barn for over an hour while we watched the clouds and rain move in.

Unfortunately, that storm turned out to be pretty close to the best weather all week.  The rest of that day and the next few days were a miserable sauna of sunshine.  My job as marshall had me out in the sun standing the whole time, but it was cool nonetheless.  There is something about having the power to tell people - politely, of course - to shut up that is satisfying.  I also got to move some ropes around to let players walk through and keep the riffraff - er, patrons - away, and tell people not to take pictures.  It was a very glamorous job (sic), which I thoroughly enjoyed.

My green to guard my first day.  Hole 7 green.  I got to watch them cut the pin hole.  Quite the scientific process.
In exchange for my time, I got to watch the best women golfers in the world at their game.  That part was very motivating and even got me thinking I should bring my clubs up from the basement and dust them off.  Although I enjoyed watching the golf, the best part was having E. and LG come out during the practice round on Tuesday to watch some golf with us and then go autograph hunting.  Amazingly, they collected around 20 to 30 autographs - from some top players too like Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer.  Very fun.

It's hard work collecting autographs when it is 100 degrees.  Gatorade is a must.
E.'s birthday

One day this week was completely consumed with E's birthday.  My little girl has turned 7! Unbelievable.

Fox Firecracker 5K

So, the Fox Firecracker 5K....the last thing I posted about before going unintentionally on blogger hiatus.  That unfortunately didn't work out like my head-in-the-clouds hopes would have had it.  First off, it was a miserably hot morning.  I mean, it was Mississippi hot.  Stepping outside and doing nothing caused an outbreak of sweat and complaints.  So, poor E. was really put to the test.  She was game enough leading up to the start of the race, though.  She was excited to cheer her brother and a friend of hers on in the kids race.  Then we gamely walked to the start line.  She was a little quiet, but she seemed happy enough.  We started off running and here is where my dream scenario ends.

At about a third of a mile into it, E. started walking and decided she didn't want to run again.  She was done.  Boom.  Door closed.  The race was shut down for her.  I tried to motivate her, I tried to get her to do a run/walk, but she wasn't having it.  She said she had a pain in her tummy, which didn't surprise me since she hardly ate any breakfast and refused to eat the banana I had brought for her.  When she told me though that she hadn't realized how long 3 miles was going to be (this was at the half-mile mark), I have to admit to an unproud mommy moment as I about lost it.  Before signing her up I explained to her in every way I knew how just how far she had to go.  She's run mile races before; she's run a two-miler.  I thought for sure telling her to take her two-miler and then add her one-miler on the back of it would give her a clear idea, but apparently not.  Anyway, as luck would have it, the grandmas and grandpa were walking the 5K and were closing in on us fast.  As soon as they caught up, I deposited her in their capable hands and continued running.

Looking back, I feel that a "good mom" would have stayed and walked with her daughter.  Unfortunately, I was hot and tired, too, and I had to go to the bathroom, so my good humor refused to surface.  I found myself literally wanting to run away rather than listen to her complain the whole way about what I had gotten her into.  In the end, though, I finished the race with a nice little running ego boost for me.  Since I was literally starting from the back of the pack, that ensured that I was passing people the whole way to the finish line.  It was a fun race, too, in the sense that I didn't feel any need to catch a certain time, so I stopped to talk to a couple of people along the way - one was a friend doing intersection control and the other was Hubby who I found right before the three-mile mark.  As the first water station had run out of cups, I sent him running back with a bottle of water to find E.  Apparently, she didn't really want the water but he walked the rest of the way with her.  Once they got to about a half mile to go, he convinced her to run the rest of the way in with him - and she gave me a big smile as she passed by.  So, in the end, the race wasn't what I wanted.  I wish, too, that I had stuck it out with her rather than get impatient.  However, she did finish a 5K event, and no one can take that away from her.  I am very proud of her for for finishing.

I wish this wasn't so blurry, because there really were a couple of smiles there. 
Injured Reserve

So, as far as my running has been going, it has been extremely hit or miss. Out of the past two weeks, I have had fully eight days with no running.  That hip/glute/hamstring thing that I briefly mentioned in a previous post are still stubbornly hanging in there.  I am stretching, rolling, and icing like crazy, and that is helping, but it is slow going.  I think I am done with speed work for the summer and am going into proactive protection mode.  What does that mean?  Well, I just made the term up, but basically it means that I am going to go back to what has worked for me in the past.  More on this later.

So, that is basically what is happening in this Average Runner's life.  If you have stuck with me to this point, then you deserve also to know that you should STAY TUNED!  I actually have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR giveaways in the works for you all.  I know, I know, I haven't done too many of these, but I find them kind of fun, so I am excited to say that I will have some coming up.

Happy Running!