Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Two-Month Mark

After my amazing-slash-disastrous marathon on May 26, I spent the month of June in physical therapy, and was finally able to run again on Monday, July 1. On that day I ran .6 slow, awkward miles around Kezar Track, and could not have been more thrilled to finish those two laps without any pain in my hip. Sure, it was a humbling experience in some ways, but on the other hand, it meant I was able to run again (!), in some amount that was greater than zero.

Now that I've got two months of solid, post-injury running under my belt, I feel like it's time for a bit of reflecting.

In the first three weeks of July not shown here, I ran 2.6, 2, and 9 miles respectively, mostly in half-to-one mile chunks.

(This seems like a good place to insert my yearly plug for, which is my free web tool of choice for tracking my miles. I switched over to it after a brief stint on TrainingPeaks, which I found just a bit too overwhelming. You can track as many different activities as you want, color code them all, and have the option of using any number of a *HUGE* list of data fields like time of day, workout time / pace, route, type of run/ride/whatever, intervals & recoveries, weather, temperature weight, heart rate, etc. etc., or none at all. There is a summary view as well as a calendar view showing all your different activities, miles, & time for the past month or so, and forums / community options if you're interested in that. Also, it's FREE.)

While those weekly numbers are not enormous ones yet, I have lots of good things to say about the last two months:

  • With two exceptions, I've increased my mileage every week, and better yet, always by a very reasonable amount.
  • I've been very gradually increasing the distance on my Sunday run (traditionally my long run day), and haven't had any pain.
  • I've been able to start incorporating some shorter speed & tempo runs, & playing it by ear in terms of how my hip feels has been working out pretty well.
  • I've recommitted to strength work -- real, intentional, structured strength work -- in ways that have helped me get back to running with better form and protect my still-fragile sartorius muscle. Dealing with the injury has also forced me to re-focus on some long-term strength & balance issues that I fully believe can only make me faster and less prone to injury in the long term.
  • I've learned a LOT about mobility work as distinct from stretching, & how it interacts with that & strength work to influence both speed and susceptibility to injury.
  • I've embraced the value of cardio cross-training both in terms of retaining some semblance of fitness while sidelined as well as something that has a lot of potential benefits in general.

The most un-fun lessons I've learned from this whole ordeal have to do with my ability, both pyschologically and physically, to endure a sucky injury situation. I've had setbacks due to running injuries before, but this has been by far the worst in terms of the severity of the injury, how long it kept me from running, and how carefully and gradually I've had to come back from it. Secretly a part of me has always worried that if I was ever hurt long enough that I couldn't properly train for more than a few weeks that I'd lose all of my fitness, gain 20 pounds, & find myself huffing & puffing up the stairs at work, and that it would take months and months to get back to any semblance of the shape I was in before as a runner. And yes, all of those things happened to some small degree, but not in any extreme or irreparable way. Just as you can't become a strong, skilled, kick-ass runner in three months, it turns out you can't completely lose all those things in three months, either.

I also worried that I would have to deal with some mental & emotional setbacks as a result as well. In part I rely on running and racing to manage anxiety and OCD feelings, so not being able to do that creates a very real problem. While it was admittedly tough at times, I found that throwing myself into cross training as well as other non-active hobbies went a long way toward dealing with those issues. It also helped to let myself occasionally submit to pointless impulses like perusing and buying running gear, stalking races I was many, many months from being able to run, and creating absurdly detailed spreadsheets for cross-training and my eventual return to running. (Don't judge. You cope your way; I'll cope mine.)

Where Am I Now?

  • I can run again, for real. Today I ran seven miles, using my posterior chain not perfectly but pretty darn effectively if I do say so myself. At this point the distance I can run is limited more by the endurance of my glutes & hamstrings in terms of maintaining good form than it is by my cardiovascular fitness. Basically I've learned that if my glutes, inner hamstrings, & lower abs feel like I'm wearing Bike Shorts of Steel, I'm probably engaging them enough to run well.

    Hell yeah.

  • I do still have some speed. Not the speed I had when I PR'd both the 5K and 10K last summer; not even the speed I had in April while I was marathon training. But a respectable amount. I can do small sets of 200m & 400m repeats with no problem. I still have a long way to go before I'm ready to try to PR at shorter distances again, and that's perfectly fine.

  • My legs have gotten weak. Even running just 15-20 miles a week, they get tired and stiff and sore the same way they do during peak marathon training. I am usually a five-days-a-week runner, but I've been finding that after running two days in a row on Thursday and Friday, I do better to take an extra rest day on Saturday so that my legs are fresher for a longer effort on Sunday. Because my runs are so short right now anyway, I'll probably stick to that until my legs have had more time to re-acclimate to all the pavement pounding.

  • I am really, *really* excited to race again. In a perfect world, I would just love to PR at the Brazen 10K in October, but realistically there's just no reason to expect that will happen, mainly because I know what kind of training it takes for me to get into 10K PR shape and I don't have a) the base for it or b) enough time for it between now and the race. I'm trying to keep my expectations reasonable -- run fast, finish strong, don't tweak anything. If I'm under 50 minutes, that's more than fine. Under 47:30, I'll be thrilled. Under 45:00 & I'll throw a party. :)

* * *

Grand Total: 19 miles

    * 14.6 easy
    * 4.4 speed


a.m. strength work + p.m. karate


This is after 48 consecutive hours in the charger. Not even kidding.
2 easy / 2 speed work. I am taking the speed stuff really, really easy since that's the thing that's more likely than anything else to tweak my hip. My schedule called for 1.5 warm up, 12x(200m in ~0:45 / 200m jog), 1.5 cool down, so I decided to try to keep the spirit of the workout but trim off some mileage (so 1 mi warm-up, 8x200m, 1 mi cool-down).

In spite of sitting in the charger for two days, my Garmin greeted me with a low battery warning as soon as I took it out of the cradle Tuesday afternoon. From experience, I knew that generally meant it had about 10 good minutes left, so I plugged it back in & resigned myself to an effort-based track session.

Normally track sessions are the one workout where I really just can't do without GPS if I want to have any sense of what I'm doing, particularly if it's something involving different lengths of intervals or paces too close together to distinguish by effort. But given the simplicity of this workout & the fact that I'm really just trying to get back into doing some fast running in some amount, I figured I could probably just be impressionistic about it & everything would be fine.

The other nice thing about Tuesday was that I was working at home for the day, which meant I was able to get out to the track an hour earlier than usual, which meant it wasn't too crowded. No one else appeared to be doing fast intervals, so after four laps of warm-up I didn't feel bad about doing my 200m's in lane 1 (meaning they were probably *actually* pretty close to 200m). I didn't worry about pace all that much & just tried to run them just fast enough to feel hard but not so fast that I couldn't recover with the 200m jog. It was still hard, and I was glad when they were over, but it's also kind of remarkable how quickly two miles goes by when you're alternating 200m hard / 200m easy. I'd recommend this as an intro-level track workout to anyone. As we've seen, you don't even need a watch. :)


Strength work only. Boy, my Wednesdays have been utter fails as of late. No karate that night (since karate is 7-9 in Berkeley & the bridge closed at 8), but instead of doing something else active I came home & crashed & basically just continued to be a non-functional person for the rest of the night.


a.m. strength work + p.m. 3 easy. Thursday's run was an exercise in frustration. My Garmin was still refusing to hold a charge, and I was still completely sick of my usual route, so I got this warm fuzzy idea to stop at Sawyer Camp Trail Head in Belmont on my way home from work, just off of 280, where I used to run almost every day when I lived in Belmont back in the mid 'aughts, but part way to the trail head I ran into a "Do No Enter" traffic sign. Apparently there was construction or something going on.

Instead, I drove home to SF & stopped by the REI to get my new Garmin (woo!). I thought that once I got home I'd just do a few laps around our neighborhood to get the three done; I just didn't have a great reference for the distance.

The following things happened when I got home:

  • My old Garmin continued to not hold a charge.
  • My new Garmin had zero charge right out of the package (predictable, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try).
  • Our shitty, shitty internet refused to load Google Maps or any other web page.

At this point I was determined to run, if out of nothing more than spite. (And I speak from experience -- you'd be surprised just how much you can accomplish on spite alone.) I loaded up the MapMyRun app on my phone, which is annoying to stop & start at traffic lights but is totally functional for tracking distance, & set out.

This. Run. SUUUuuuUUUUuuuCKED. But, in less than half an hour, it was also done.


2.6 easy / 2.4 speed (1.2 warm-up, 6 x (.4 @ ~7:05), 1.4 warm-up). Arrrrrgh this sucked as well, for so many reasons.

  • I was supposed to do 3 mile repeats at half marathon pace, which I can do just out in the neighborhood, but I still prefer the track. Unfortunately there was a soccer game going on & I was relegated to the concrete upper track, with which I have a long and storied history.
  • My new Garmin could not get a satellite signal to save its life. Seriously. I left it on for over an hour. There was no signal to be had. #pissed (Fortunately, I know from experience that the upper track is just about exactly .4 miles, and I could still use the Garmin as a stopwatch. A $170 stopwatch.)
  • Like I've said before, my sense of pace is still pretty broken, and I just could not lock into half marathon pace, and with no functional Garmin, I couldn't adjust as I went. This meant I ended up running closer to 10K pace or faster.
  • My glutes were so, so tired. I could not run a fast mile. Could not. Yes, partly this was because I was running too fast, but I'm not sure I could've run mile repeats that day anyway. Instead I decided to just keep things simple & do laps on the upper track. Six seemed like a nice, round number & would keep me in the 5 mile neighborhood for the day.

BUT. I didn't quit. I damn well stayed up there until the five miles were done. Mental toughness, & all that.




7 easy.

Next week looks like the first one where I might *actually* be able to do all the runs that are on the schedule, as written (though I'll probably still take a rest day Saturday & add a couple of miles to the easy runs earlier in the week). That would be super sweet.


  1. Congrats on being 2 months into recovery! I know it must seem like it's taking SO long from your perspective, but from the outside, you're recovering really strong and fast!

    I hope to cheer you on to a sub-45 10K on 10/19! (I also really, really want you to throw a party. haha)

  2. YOU GO GIRL! So happy that you are really getting back into it. I have no doubt that you are going to be in tip top "fighting form" in no time.

  3. Keep at it girl, you are doing great. Love the new garmin too, enjoy logging those miles.

    Isn't it great to finally be over the hump?

  4. Fab new garmin, what a great price. Already regretting not buying one ;) Congrats on getting back up to speed!

  5. I definitely hear you on all those injury things. I admire your smart return to running. Congratulation on the new 310XT! I love mine even though it has always had some glitches that I have learned to live with (I literally swapped it out three times and decided to just suck it up).