injuries

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!

 

 

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2016 San Francisco Marathon

Yesterday, I finished the 2016 San Francisco Marathon. This was the first time I completed the entire course and it was the most difficult race I’ve ever run. All week, I was stressed out over my IT band. Would it bother me? Would it keep me from finishing?

SF Marathon

Pre-race

Let me start from the beginning….the race start time was 5:30am, but because I’m a slow runner, my corral start time was 6:22am. I woke up at 2:45am, groggy, blurry-eyed; it took me a while to have my sense about me. I’m really glad I woke early though. I had gone to bed at nine Saturday night, so I got plenty of rest. I had everything ready to go, but of course, I had to check everything two and three times, to make sure I didn’t forget anything.

I’ve never understood those non-elite runners who don’t carry anything with them when they run. I have to take so many things with me that I at least have to take a running belt with me.

After waiting and waiting for the MUNI Bus #38 that never showed up when it was supposed to, I walked to the starting line. It’s only about a mile and a half away, so it was actually a nice warm up and probably helped get me ready.

There weren’t enough porto-bathrooms, so I spent a long time waiting for one.

Marathon stop

Water stop at Chrissy Field

As I started running, I felt good. In fact, the whole first half went very well. I would have done great if I had just signed up for a half. It was after 15 miles when my right IT band and hamstring started giving me problems. I had to stop and walk a few times. I was very happy I brought my hand roller and used that a couple times. I also made two visits to Medical tables and iced the area. That helped a lot!

But as I got nearer to the end of the race, I wound up walking for about two miles. I couldn’t help it. The pain on my side was bad and there was NO WAY I was going to stop, but I just couldn’t run the entire way to the finish.

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Packed race on the Golden Gate Bridge

I managed to push myself to run the last half mile and I was even smiling finishing. My time was awful, but I don’t care. I finished and that’s good enough for me.

There were others who finished after me, but not many. By the time I ended the race, most of the cool goodies were gone and the sponsors were folding up their tables. I treated myself to a scoop of Nutella-Banana ice cream from Shoot the Moon in Embarcardero Center. It was delicious!

Since I’m not doing full marathons for a while, I probably won’t do this full course again, at least not for another year anyway. I may do the second half again, but I really don’t want to run on the Golden Gate Bridge anymore. Listen to me: RUNNING ON THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE IS OVERRATED. I hear people have this on their bucket list all the time. There are far, far better places to run than that bridge around here, trust me.

First, if the weather was like it was yesterday, it’s freezing, windy, wet and VERY cold. Second, there are metal grates in the street to keep the cars slowed down but are hellish for runners. It’s very easy to slip, trip or fall. I saw it happen. It wasn’t pretty. Third and worst of all, there were two lanes, the right going north and the left coming back south. Since I was towards the back of the pack, there were more runners in the South lane and they kept jumping into our lane to get ahead of the runners in their own lane. Because I had to deal with walkers and run/walkers, I tried to stay to the left of them, those lane hoppers were nearly running into me. It was like a video game! It was making me a little cranky. I was very happy to be off the bridge.

I do have a question for race directors. Why are aid/water/food stations always set up at the bottom of hills? The last place I want to take in nourishment is before I tackle a tough hill. I have never understood this. Since I wear a hydration vest I was able to pass up most of these until towards the end, when, unfortunately, many of these were folding up, just my luck.

I do want to give a big THANK YOU to the volunteers and workers. All the station workers, the police officers and the bikers who helped out with traffic and just making us runners smile, even when it hurt to smile. I love all of you!

The Expo the day before was nice. I was able to meet Lupe from one of the Facebook running groups I belong to and my friend Steve, so that was cool.

And, even though it was so difficult to finish, I DID finish. I made it and got my medal. I also had time to think about my future training goals and I will let you know once I get these more cemented.

Cheers!

Medal

My medal with Buster, my running mascot

This Is It!

Sunday is my next race – the San Francisco Marathon. I dare say it’s been really difficult getting there, perhaps even more difficult than the California International Marathon last December. My right IT band has been troubling me and lingering doubts over whether I could even finish have plagued me.

This past week I’ve been taking it easy. I’ve gotten a couple small runs in with lots of stretching and rolling. My leg has felt good and I am mentally in a good place going into race weekend.

The military have a saying “Embrace the suck.” So I’ll be doing that if it gets real bad Sunday, for I do NOT plan on giving up…I WILL finish this race.

But my goals have changed, for the next year anyway. I no longer think I should try to keep going longer. I think after Sunday, I’ll stick to half marathons and shorter and lose about 15-20 pounds, to be in prime shape. I want to run faster before I go farther. If I can kick this IT band thing, then I can run marathons much more efficiently and relatively pain free. RELATIVELY.

So, I’ve been quiet in here, at times frustrated, and trying to stay positive, which isn’t always easy. But it is always necessary. I will write all about my race with lots of pictures after it happens!

Cheers!

When Runs Go bad

Sometimes, our runs, especially our long runs don’t go as planned. And sometimes they have to be stopped very short of our desired mileage. It’s happened to every one of us for different reasons. It happened to me this past Sunday and I’m still disappointed over it.

I was scheduled to run 16 miles, in preparation for my marathon in late July, but after the first mile, I could tell my right IT Band was going to give me issues. So, I took it slow and for a while, everything was great. But then, after mile 6, my leg started acting up and I knew I didn’t have far to go. I ran a few more miles and gave up. It wasn’t worth trying to get the mileage I wanted to, for a couple of reasons. I build some safety nets into my training. If there are a couple long runs with glitches, I can switch things around and get away with running a shorter length once or twice. I’ve learned from past mistakes that I can never have an all or nothing training plan. Life happens and sometimes the runs aren’t what we want them to be.

And as I walked to the bus stop, I knew why I couldn’t go the full planned mileage. “Such a rookie mistake,” I grumbled to myself, shaking my head.

I had not spent enough time stretching and strengthening my IT bands that week. I love working out at the gym. I especially enjoy working with weights and even planks, squats and lunges! Yes, I love all of those. But the repetitive stretches and band work I do to keep my IT bands and knees happy is not exciting at all. I do them to run, that’s it.

But instead of hating them, I have to look at them a little differently. To improve my running, I should view them as a means to an end, much like brushing one’s teeth. Is it exciting? Nope. But by doing all the stretches, the band work and the rolling, I can continue doing the one thing I love more than nearly anything else in my life!

It is THAT important.

As I continue to add mileage, leading up to my next marathon, it won’t get easier. It will be harder and harder, so I need to roll even more, push myself at the gym more and prepare for this old bod to push back more. It’s worth it, right? RIGHT?

I think it is.

Cheers!

PLANS CHANGE

The last few weeks I had been ramping up my mileage in preparation for my upcoming marathon. I was also getting in plenty of strength training, doing lots of rolling and stretching.

But I have found that I am mortal after all. My IT band on my right leg, the bane of my existence,  started bothering me during my last two long runs. After today’s long run, I decided to switch from a full marathon to a half.

This saddened me, but I knew it had to be done. I know that at this time, with the nagging aching of my IT band after eight miles or so, I couldn’t finish 26 miles. I can handle 13. It might not be the best half I’ve ever run, but I’ll do it. I’m already registered to run the full San Francisco Marathon, held in July, so I’ll start training for that at a much slower increasing pace with plenty of time.

It’s only been three months since the California International Marathon, much too soon. I know that now. I guess I thought I could handle it. Now I know.

After a few hours, I’m looking at it in a more positive light. I will work harder, be a better runner, get as fit and trim as I can. And I will write all about it.

Cheers!

 

Summer Doldums and Long Runs

Buster and I

Buster and I

It’s been warm in San Francisco. It is August, but you never know what summer will be like in The City. Travel 50 miles south to San Jose and it’s always hot in summertime. Same with Walnut Creek in the East Bay, it will be hot, hot, hot. But in San Francisco Proper, the wind blows the fog in from the ocean and more often than not, it stays cool all summer long, fooling the tourists, who think it’s going to be just like home. They huddle in groups, freezing in shorts and tank tops and newly bought San Francisco sweatshirts.

But it hasn’t been that way the last two weeks. It’s been sunny and warm or hot and humid. There’s only two weeks until the San Francisco Giants Step, my next race, a Half Marathon, so I needed to get one long run in today.

I started early, at 7:30am. I picked a course from my apartment, up to the Presidio National Park down around the SF Bay and wind up at AT&T Park, running 12 miles. I made it 10.44 miles. A few things cut it a bit short.

Chrissy Field

Chrissy Field

It was mostly a decent run. There were a few uphill parts and I did well on those; no walking, running slowly, everything felt good, my Ghost 8s are great, socks, great…but it was warm… I ran up to Golden Gate Bridge, then ran down to Fort Point under the bridge and down around Chrissy Field, the Marina and through Fisherman’s Wharf, which was just starting to get busy.

As I got to the Embarcadero past Pier 39, my right IT band, the one that usually causes the problems starting feeling tight. I stopped and stretched out for the first time in my run. This was after about 8.5 miles. It felt better for a little while. But after the 10th mile, it acted up again, I kept running until I got to the Ferry Building and stopped; it wasn’t worth pushing it farther.

Even though I roll out my IT band muscles, as well as most of my leg muscles, out every day, it looks like I need to do it more than once per day and maybe I need to ramp up strength training even more.

Whatever it takes to get through this and push my running even more. It’s hard getting older, but running it worth it. I love being out there. I love it when I’m moving and everything feels good. I feel as if I could keep going and never stop. And when it feels good, I sometimes think I won’t ever stop…

Cheers!

REOCCURING THEME…

Or maybe I could have titled this Reoccurring Annoyance, which is probably more accurate.

As most of you already know, I’ve had problems with my right leg, namely, my IT band and knee. It hasn’t gone away, but it’s gotten better than it was. It still bothers me at times, usually after a hard hill run or tough weight workout, but it is livable.

I credit this to a couple different actions I have taken.

FOAM ROLLER:

Although I sometimes forget, I do try to roll out my legs twice a day. This helps a lot.

I also use a ROLLER BALL that I take nearly everywhere with me. I love this little gem.

My Roller Ball

My Roller Ball

After reading about how band work can help strengthen leg muscles, I use bands to do a few different exercises. I do these at least three times a week. There are four different ones I do.

STRETCH BAND:

I do four different exercises with elastic bands. Here are pictures for two of the four and I’ll describe the other two.

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This first one, start with the band around the ankles and slowly bring the top leg up, hold for a second and bring it back down. Do three sets of ten, each leg.

The second exercise is the Clamshell. Still laying on one side, have the legs bent, with the band around the legs, just above the knees. Bring the top leg up, with the bottom leg still, as a clam shell, holding for a second. Do three sets of ten each, both sides.

The last two are standing and are more difficult than they sound. The first, as pictured below, with the band around the ankles.

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With the band around your ankles walk sideways in small steps ten steps, three sets each way, being careful not to fall. After three sets, it will feel hard, trust me.

The last band exercise I do is standing with the band around the legs, above the knees. Walk sideways the same way as before, ten steps, three sets each side.

I do these 3-4 times a week. It helps making the area around my IT band muscles stronger.

Cheers!

GROUP CHALLENGES? I’LL PASS BUT THANK YOU

It’s a big thing now for running and fitness groups to set up challenges, especially at the start of the new year. It’s been a growing trend. A lot of people love these. I’ve joined a few myself in the past. They were fun, because I was able to help set up the guidelines and rules about the challenges.

But the new ones I’m seeing are more and more extreme. “Run 2015 miles in 2015” “Run 100 miles a month!” “Run 3 miles or Walk 3 miles or bike 3 miles every day!”..and more.

I understand that there are very good intentions behind these challenges. We all want to get in better shape and feel better. But, not everyone can do what everyone else can do. We all achieve our goals at different paces. And each of us have different levels of goals. There is no One Size Fits All. And these unfortunately make it seem as if everyone should do the same thing.

Add to that the appearance of competition and people feel badly if they’re not doing as much as someone else. I don’t mean to sound so politically correct, but running shouldn’t be keeping up with the Jones’, it should be a sport where one challenges oneself, not a group of other people.

I haven’t even mentioned the whole Rest Day. Many people who dive head first into these challenges don’t like rest days and don’t take them. It’s not a surprise that injuries happen. A runner’s rest day is JUST AS IMPORTANT as a running day. I truly wish runners wouldn’t look at a rest day with dismay. Enjoy your rest day. Indulge if you like, but realize that without a rest day, no muscle growth, and your chance of injury multiplies.

There are those runners who are “Streak Runners” – meaning they run without taking breaks in between. It’s not something I would ever do, or even think it’s a good thing to do, but a few people are okay doing that, the rest of us are more likely to get hurt, fatigued or sick. It’s better to slow down, take a day or two off and enjoy giving your body the rest it deserves.

And if you send me a request for yet another challenge, please don’t take it personally if I say “No thank you.”

Cheers,

GOODBYE 2014

So, I’m spending New Year’s Eve at home, as I usually do. I’m not a fan of NYE celebrations; I don’t enjoy being around drunk people, especially masses of them, and I before I was injured, I wanted to go for a run on New Year’s Day. Instead of that, I’ll enjoy my morning, do some reading, stretching and watch hockey. Not a bad way to spend the morning.

I bought a bottle of Trader Joe’s Sparkling Wine Chardonnay Grape Juice to open for the occasion, but I couldn’t get it open. In my drinking days, I opened hundreds of champagne bottles, but I could not get this one uncorked.

So, I looked at this unopened bottle as the past year. There are lots of good things and great moments, but the best is yet to come.

2014 has been a year of hard work, disappointments, proud achievements, frustrations, amazingly wonderful surprises and through it all there were the people I truly care about: my family, my friends, my foam roller and my new friend, the roller ball.

The Holiday Season was difficult for me this year. It was a little lonely and also hard because of my lack of finances but once Christmas Day was here and being with my friends everything was right again. When it comes to Christmas, the best thing is to enjoy yourself as best as you can and ignore everything else. Ignore all those boasting about what presents they got, or where they’re going or anything else that you wish you could have or do. Just enjoy what you already have.

And that’s exactly where I continue my journey in 2015…enjoy what I have already, PLUS open that bottle!

This past year was about setting the foundation. The upcoming year is about setting and finishing the first floor.

My workouts will take center stage. Weight control is of prime importance and once I can start running again, I will add on the miles and be back in business. Until then, I need to get my core, legs and arms strong.

Attitude is another area I will be working on. Many times I defeat myself by being so self-judgmental. If I recognize those self doubts when they rear their ugly head, I can stop them. And if I can do that, my attitudes towards everything will improve.

For 2015, my fitness goals are:

  • Run 1 half marathon and 1 marathon
  • Lose weight
  • Obtain my Personal Trainer Certificate
  • Be more positive in my thinking

Enjoy your New Year. I just know 2015 is going to rock!

Cheers!

No Running This Christmas

It’s been a bit of time since my last entry. These past few weeks haven’t been the easiest. I’ve been on the mends; my IT band problems are getting better, although I’m not at 100% yet. So, as of this blog entry, I’m not running.

Christmas this year was fun, I spent it with friends. It was nice and quiet. I’ve been sharing Christmas with this great group for years now and it’s something I really look forward to. But no running for this girl. My last run resulted in some not-so-fun IT band pain that told me if I did NOT stop and take some real healing time off running I’d have bigger and worse issues to deal with.

In fact, I took a few days nearly completely off, as walking was difficult without feeling pain. I kept doing my elastic band stretches and rolling though, and now I’m dragging myself back to the gym. It’s not easy going right now, but it is definitely worth it.

I’m going to take a trial run on Sunday and the minute I feel any discomfort I’ll stop and go home. I will not push myself too far or do anything stupid, but I have to keep trying.