injuries

An Unfortunate Trend

I have a bone to pick with Runner’s World. OK, I have a few to pick with them recently, but I’ll only bring up one. I thought about this on my long run yesterday while preparing for my half coming up in a couple weeks.

The Javalina Jundred is a well-known ultra race in Arizona each year. It’s very popular and unfortunately, due to Runner’s World’s April, 2018 article “What Happens When You Really Show Up”, it’s about to get even more popular. The piece focuses on two female runners who have never run longer than a half marathon, and who can afford to hire a professional running coach to help them. In the end, they DNF. The moral of the RW story, they’re still winners.

How so, Runner’s World? I get the whole trying something new because they’re tired of their lives. I get it that they’re taking a giant leap, going for it, being brave. But they could also do that parachuting out of a plane. Sticking with that comparison, would they still be considered winners if their parachutes on that jump didn’t open? That would be a DNF.

The problem is that the two subjects of the story had never run longer than 13 miles and were going out for a 100k race, more than seven times longer. Those distances are worlds apart and they can’t be learned through a coach or a few months of practice runs. And much of the real learning doesn’t come from the physical act of running. There is so much mentally and emotionally going on in a super long race that these two know nothing about and no one can tell you about, so it’s much easier to give up. They would have had a taste of it had even one of them run a marathon previously. They didn’t know how their bodies would react, they didn’t know how their minds would react, they didn’t know if they were emotionally capable of finishing.

Jumping from shorter races to the longest of ultra races was unheard of a few years ago. Now, I see it more and more. Sometimes they work out great. Some people are born to run long mileage and they shine. Others are not so lucky and the steps they skip wind up hurting them. It happens mostly in novice runners. Newish runners, those who have only been running a year or two, will run a half, or not, and think that they can come back in four or five months and churn out a 50k or even an 100k. And then, bam, a week later, they’re injured. Maybe it’s my age and that I’ve been around running a long time, but I see no reason to rush into ultras; it’s the most difficult for a reason. And the only thing I can think of is it’s fashionable to do so. It’s hip and trendy to run ultras now, and that’s the sad truth that will leave many inexperienced runners injured.

I’m a linear thinker, so I would never, ever think of doing a 100k if I hadn’t done even a marathon before. OK, I could see maybe running a 50k. It’s not that much farther than a marathon. But even five or six more miles can seem like 100 if you’re exhausted from a distance you couldn’t dream of previously. Get used to longer races FIRST. Then get used to trail races and THEN go for the distance. Unless you want to do a one-off and don’t mind being injured for months or getting a DNF and still consider yourself a winner. Then, do what you want and nevermind what I say.

For the rest of us, Keep Moving Forward!

Some of my pictures from my run yesterday:

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DON’T SKIP THE GYM

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Picture perfect day in San Francisco!

For those who haven’t been reading me for a while, 2017 has been a difficult year. I had been suffering from IT band pain since the 2016 San Francisco Marathon and it finally got so bad in late February I could barely stand it. I took two months off running, but that didn’t help at all. The only thing that came out of it was weight gain.

Ug…..

I came back with the determination to run AND fix this! So, I did my homework and I found out that it most likely was weak hips. I didn’t go back to the doctor. With my high deductible and the fact that I had previously spent $200 for nothing (!!), the doctor didn’t help solve this at all, I decided to fix it myself.

I dedicated myself to a strenuous schedule of running and going to the gym. I weight train three days a week. I do core exercises every time I’m at the gym and then I trade off different training depending on the day. Mondays – shoulders, Wednesdays – legs, Fridays – arms. I do a series of exercises chosen to make me stronger, with sets and reps increasing very gradually.

I do not use light weights either. I choose weights that I can lift comfortably, but are still hard. Depending on the day and the exercise, I can choose between barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, cables and a few weight machines.

I will go into specific exercises in the future. But my point is runners shouldn’t think that running is enough. I can’t count the times I’ve heard runners say how much they hate the gym or lifting or exercising (besides running). Yeah, it’s different and you do have to be inside, but I love it, and I wasn’t a fan when I started. You don’t have to do it as much as I do, but do some. And if you choose to do some form of lifting, don’t think that the little 5 pound weights are going to do anything. They won’t. Push yourself, just like you do when running. Get the most for your time spent.

When I put my all at the gym, as I do my running, I don’t have any pain. My legs, hips, glutes, etc are happy. And a happy body is a working body.

My 8-mile run this morning was wonderful. It made me very grateful for the blessings that I have.

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The view goes on forever….

Keep moving forward!

Martha

 

 

 

47 Hills Part 9 – Irish Hill

Irish Hill is or WAS the 39th tallest hill in San Francisco. At 250 feet, it doesn’t seem very tall, but at one point it was and then it disappeared, seemingly overnight.

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Here is what used to be Irish Hill (RIP)

Sitting in the Dogpatch area of San Francisco, this area has a long history. In the 1800s, it was an industrial neighborhood, and the city made quick work of leveling many of the hills. So, Irish Hill had to go to make space for some sort of factory. It sits at Illinois Avenue and 18th Street, just east of 3rd Street. Union Iron Works had a big mill around there and also within the vicinity were several shack-type hotels for the workers.

Even though the hill had disappeared the area was known as Irish Hill for a long time. The area was poor and filled with mud. The city never bothered to build wooden sidewalks there and it was known for the blue-colored mud permeating everything. Gangs ran everything, from the saloons to collecting hotel rent and that led to The Blue Mud Wars in the 1880s in which rival gangs fought bitterly for control of the area.

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The shipping yards across from Irish Hill

Now, the only battles are amongst rival real estate agents. Outrageously-priced condos are up everywhere, including where Irish Hill once stood. There is no trace of the where the hill once was and anyone who remembers it is probably long gone.

I took my run through this area, one I am quite familiar with, as it is a really fun place to run, and took a few pictures of where I thought the hill would have been. The private security guard of the condo asked me what I was doing, and I told him about the history of the place. He was surprised. No one knows anything about the south part of San Francisco.

In fact, even just a few years ago, this part of the Dogpatch/Potrero was desolate. Except for The Ramp and The Mission Rock restaurants, this area didn’t have a lot to offer near the water. But this is one of the few parts of San Francisco available to grow outward. So there is no choice.

And it was a lovely morning. I feel grateful to see such a wonderful sunrise.

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Now THAT’S a sunrise!

During my run, my IT band bothered me more than I liked. I decided to incorporate more yoga into my daily routine to see if this helps. I’m going to try everything I can. Quitting running for two months didn’t help, so if I do stop running, it will have to be for a much longer time and I’m not ready to do that. So, yoga it is!

I will stay positive and hope this helps!

Cheers! Keep Moving Forward!

 

47 HILLS – PART 4 COLLEGE HILL

For a couple of weeks, I battled IT band problems. It kept me away from running for over a week, during which I stretched and walked and still managed to get to the gym. It was hard, because both my legs were letting me know I had to do a lot of extra work to keep running.

And so I will! I will keep going to the YMCA. I will keep doing the stretches, the leg strengthening exercises, squats, planks and lunges I must in order to run.

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The Top of College Hill

This past Sunday, I got back on the road and continued my 47 HILLS story for my blog.

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Looking up College Hill

College Hill is the 44th highest hill in San Francisco. It’s so unremarkable that you’ve probably never noticed it, ever, even after riding by it a hundred times on the MUNI #14. I didn’t even think of it as a hill, yet when I ran up it Sunday, you bet it’s a hill! It sits in the Outer Mission area, just south of Glen Park to the east of the Excelsior, near the turn off for Highway 280. There are a few good restaurants in the area and just a mile or two down Mission is where all the action starts, so this is a fairly sleepy part of town.

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Neighborhood businesses on Mission at College Hill

It hasn’t changed much in the last few years which is nice and Glen Park BART just up the street makes this a convenient place to live for quick access to Downtown.

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The view down College Hill west

After running around the area a little bit, I’m happy to saw my legs feel great and I can’t wait to run some more!

Keep Moving Forward!

Just For Fun

For two months I didn’t run. I attempted to heal or cure or whatever, my IT band issues, but it instead of going away completely, it remains. It is better than it was, this is true, but I had hoped that by stretching and resting it for eight weeks, it would feel better running again.

Nope. It still gets a little sore. Granted, I am going a little slower and shorter distances. I’m taking it easy.

The time off wasn’t in vain, however. I consider it to be a useful time of reflection and it did help me put things into a much healthier perspective.

I do believe I was trying too hard to be better. Self-improvement is a good thing, but when we push ourselves physically too hard, too soon, we’re asking for injuries. I wanted (OK, still want to) to be fast. I’ve had a great desire to be a better running, run faster than I did. And in actuality, I am 30 seconds faster right now than I was a year and a half ago.

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The beginning of the trail in Golden Gate Park

But where I live there are just not many slow runners. Or so it seems. Most people here in San Francisco are speed demons. Someone told me they were slow at 10 minute miles. I would have killed to run that fast at one time! I can do that pace really pushing myself, sprinting, but comfortably? No way.

I’d love to start a group of slow runners and I still may. But I’m no longer going to push myself to injury to fit in to any of the established running groups. Some of them say “all paces”, but how fun is it to be the only one slower than everyone else at every run? Unless you are that one person, you don’t know what that’s like. It’s stressful and not all that enjoyable.

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So green!!!

I ran twice this week. My first run was a simple run from home down to the Bay along Market Street and the Embarcadero. My IT band was sore the first mile, but felt better as I ran. This is progress. I told myself.

Tonight’s run was pure joy. Because of eight non-running weeks, I’m a little out of shape, so my trail running isn’t what it used to be. It will take some time to get back to where it was. Work was slow at the end of the week and the big boss was out, so we were let go after a half day. Who wouldn’t be in a good mood after that? I zipped home, changed clothes and took the bus to Golden Gate Park to run my favorite trail.

I know it well, even though I hadn’t run it since last November. It had been a while. But just starting my run I smiled and everything was okay. The weather was in the high 60s, a cool breeze whistled gently and the sun was bright. The trail was empty, except for a couple hiking. Even the disc golf course I passed was quiet.

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The Redwood Grove

We’ve had so much rain, the park was bright green and lush, with flowers popping up everywhere. My pace was slow, but not terrible. I found myself more out of breath than I would have liked, but that will improve. And my IT band? Not bad at all.

I’ll take it easy and see if combined with strength training it gets better. I have a huge deductible in my medical insurance and no money right now, so it’s not like I could see someone even if I wanted to and taking time off isn’t an option anymore. I’ll just enjoy that I can run, even a little and see what comes.

Keep moving forward!

DISAPPOINTMENT

Sunday mornings are usually my favorite time of the week. I set my alarm early; sometimes as early as 4:00am, go to bed extra early on Saturday night while my neighbors are heading out to have fun and wake up in the darkness looking forward to that week’s long run.

Everything changes with an injury. My IT band problems are keeping my from running for at least a month if not longer.

Sunday, I woke up late. I didn’t set the alarm as there was no morning run. In fact, my leg ached a bit, so I woke, did my morning stretches and figured out what else to do besides my long run. Unfortunately, I didn’t choose the smart and sensible thing. I ate a large breakfast and watched Netflix.

I’m not used to being side-lined. I’m not used to not having my favorite activity to plan. What to do, what to do…..the responsible person would get their fast spreading butt to the gym to get a decent workout in. At least I could clock in some stretching and cardio, but not this Sunday. I couldn’t get myself out of a funk.

This sorry state has lingered longer than I would like, but learning to cope with delay and disappointment is part of life, so I’m working my way through it. Sometimes, getting through a rough spot means just putting one foot in front of the other, so I will do that….

Keep moving forward…..

BACK AT IT!!!

If you’ve ever been sidelined from running and watched other runners gleefully breezing past you, then you know the helpless feeling of being sidelined due to injury. It’s discouraging and unpleasant. It’s what I’ve been going through the last few weeks as I wait for my right quad muscle to feel better.

It finally was this past week, so I got my now-heavier Self back to the gym. I gain weight like a rocket. If I go three or four weeks without working out, I can easily put on five to 10 pounds. Losing them isn’t quite so easy, so I have a long climb ahead of me.

During this forced time off, I had to determine what was wrong with my right leg. I now believe it is because of my right side’s inflexibility more than anything else. But not being able to run and having pain even walking gave me time to think. The quad muscle was never painful to the touch, instead it felt like a muscle does the day after a hard workout with that pain never going away and only exacerbating during my runs. So, a couple days before my first run back, I stretched and rolled and then stretched and rolled some more. I also worked on strength training and will continue to do more. I had gotten lazy about this over Christmas and know it only added to my muscle’s pain.

I took my first run since the Chinese New Year 5K yesterday. It was a short 2.5 miler, but I so looked forward to it. For the most part, my quads felt good. There was still a little stiffness and soreness during the run, but nothing like I had in early February.

So, this morning, I stretched and rolled as well. I even brought a hand roller to roll my quads out every hour. If this is what it will take for me to continue running, so be it. I’ve learned that for me, my training must shift, to evolve with my age. I can still do the workouts I want, but I need to prepare for them a lot more diligently. If it takes more time, it is definitely worth it.

Tonight, I’m at the gym again. Yes, I love my workout routine, I’ve missed it so.

Keep Moving Forward!

….AND I’M INJURED

I didn’t expect to be injured. Who does? The setback I suffered from hasn’t gotten better. Weeks ago, I felt a small but irritating pain, sort of a nagging cramp in my right quad muscle. For a long time, I thought it was just tight muscles, so I worked at making the muscles, as well as my core stronger, but it never got any better. I then took a couple weeks off running to rest it, icing and heating and propping it up as much as I could, hoping it would heal.

After walking some this past weekend, I was still in pain.

One of the most difficult things for runners to admit is to succumb to injury. Being injured means races get cancelled, training schedules go out the window and our favorite activity stops. Completely. I have been looking forward to the Chinese New Year’s Race this Sunday, sponsored by the Chinatown YMCA as their biggest fundraising event of the year. I like doing the 10K. It’s a great course, going a double loop through Chinatown, Northbeach and along the Embarcadero, but I had to reduce my race to the 5K. I can always walk it if it starts hurting.

Not being able to run creates all sorts of negative side effects. I’ve started putting on a few pounds, especially over this past weekend. It was kind of a shock how fast I gained. I’ve since started being careful about my eating, but until I get back into running, the weight won’t be coming off very soon. And my mood….I’m working real hard on being optimistic.

Next week is my birthday and my stepmom is visiting me for the week. I’m taking a few vacation days, so we’ll have a great time. But, I’m still bummed out I can’t go run on a few of these days.

Tomorrow I will go to the gym for the first time in over a week and I’ll work mostly upper body and core, and try out the treadmill just to see how my leg feels. Wish my luck.

Keep Moving!

SETTING GOALS

Inspiration and drive are sometimes in short supply. After this year’s San Francisco Marathon, I didn’t have much of either. It was much, much more difficult than I ever thought it would be; the training for it alone gave me burnout and took all the fun out of running.

So, as I was running last night in preparation for the Giants Race half Marathon race this Sunday, I had to think of ways to get the excitement back into running. After this race, I’m not signed up for anything. It’s not because I don’t want to race, it’s really lack of funds. I need to buy new running shoes this month, so spending more money on an upcoming race won’t happen for at least another paycheck or two.

During the last few weeks of marathon training, I realized that for the first time in a very long while, I had very little motivation. I still ran, but I barely stuck to my way of eating, which resulted in weight gain. I had promised myself that I was going to lose weight this year and here I was, not accomplishing what I wanted. In 2015, I had set out a goal to run 3 marathons this year and that seemed like a galaxy away. Obviously, that was asking too much of myself. But I also started wondering if marathons were for me at all….

I can’t accept that.

So, I took a few days off of thinking about my future in running and just lived my life. I admit that I didn’t workout as much as I should have, I didn’t go to the gym as regularly for a week, but it was the space I needed for a new perspective.

And it was during my run yesterday when I started thinking about my last marathon. I don’t want that memory to be my only memory of this race. I want to create better memories. There’s only one way to do that, to run it again next year, but this time, plan better, do better.

I have a full year it’s time to think about how I’ll do it. The California International Marathon, even though the same distance was nowhere near as difficult or taxing on me. It could be that my IT bands weren’t stressed out as much at the time of my race or maybe I was more prepared, or maybe this race is just harder on them because of those blasted hills. But none of that matters. What matters is if I am serious about doing it a second time, I need to make this time count!

So, I will keep you informed about my ongoing training. Up until next July, there are some shorter races I plan to do, including my half this Sunday. I’m looking forward to it, no stress at all.

Cheers!

Running Just for Fun

When I was training for my marathon, the stress of trying to get in my long runs and scheduled weekly running miles took their toll.

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Seen on my run: A wedding party frisbee game 

I took an entire week off running to help my IT band feel better. Because of it, I was forced to re-focus, reset my running brain and attitude towards running.

Knowing that the marathon was done and I do not have another planned, at least for the few months ahead, was a relief.

I do have a race, the Giants Step Half Marathon in September, but there’s no stress, it’s a fairly flat out and back and halfs are a pretty comfortable distance for me. I would like to PR this time around, but more on that in a later post.

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Lots of wild life in SF

The result of no stress and relatively shorter runs? Enjoyment, better times and greater satisfaction. This morning’s long run, a 6-miler is the perfect example. I’m gradually increasing my distance for my half. Today’s run was smooth, painfree and I spent a lot of it with a grin. I have rarely done that in the last months.

My suggestion is if you feel the strain and stress of running marathons, you don’t always have to sign up for them. Take a few months off and run halfs, 10ks, 5ks or even don’t race at all. I will continue to do races, but with costs going up and up, I’ll be extra picky about which ones. And that’s perfectly fine. Remember, no stress.

Cheers!