Sunday, December 7, 2014

A pain in the ass

It's not the first time I've used this meme!! And it probably won't be the last...
I've had a tough week. Not only with this injury, this pain in my butt that has limited my running this week, but in general. I could choose to focus on the crap at work, which I wrote about earlier this week and in another post. But there isn't much I can do to change what's going on there, right? As my partner told me this week, head down and do your job. That's how I'm going to approach things this week. I could focus on my husband's dubious employment situation..he's been out of work for a few weeks and now his boss is throwing a few scraps his way, which affects unemployment compensation...sigh. But again, there's not a whole lot I can do about that either, right?

I could also focus on my injured son who, in addition to the MCL tear that he is currently rehabbing, broke his big toe on Friday. He was running late to gym, and had his shoes in his hands...I know, I know, he's 15...tripped up the stairs and fell, stubbing that toe in the process. I knew it was broken and of course he argued with me, but a trip to see my partner and an xray proved that mother does know we're arguing because he's refusing to wear the boot. I don't blame him for not wanting to but last night he bumped the toe and almost cried in pain..I just shrugged my shoulders and walked away. I mean, really what do I know?

As if that were not enough, yesterday my husband couldn't get off the couch, complaining of back pain. Sounds like a herniated disc to me. My husband has put on some weight over the years, and I'm sure that having a large waist doesn't help the back at all....but what do I know?

Dealing with all that life ass pain would be bad enough, but not being able to run it off? Oh, hell no! I've been working the foam roller and the lacrosse ball furiously this week. Both of them were pleading for mercy. Seriously. I couldn't find my foam roller this morning. I think he was hiding behind the couch. At rest, my leg has been feeling pretty good. So yesterday, I made up my mind to try 4 miles at slower pace. I pulled out a new pair of my beloved Asics Gel Nimbus. It was hard to hold back, but I was rewarded with a full 4 miles, no stopping. No shin splints, and just a little nagging reminder in my glute that I needed to take it easy. I came home and rolled again. Rolled last night. And decided to go for 8 this morning. I ran slow, using short strides, and it was another joyful run...I smiled the whole way, except for the moment where I stepped in a hole and felt that leg pull. I gingerly continued on my run and shook it off. Whew!

This is one happy runner!
In the meantime, I did a little research on this butt pain. I've been calling it piriformis pain, but after watching this video by my new boyfriend Dr Jordan Metzl, I realized that I was mistaken! I've been treating myself correctly, but now I know the real cause for my pain. High hamstring tendonitis aka proximal hamstring strain. Dr Metzl explains the difference so well and so logically. As a medical professional, I can appreciate that. As a runner, I liked that he said I could keep running. He gets me. Even though he doesn't know me.


So yes, I can run through this if I run slowly and shorten my stride. Which is what I've been doing! And continue strength training for my glutes. Which is what Becky has me doing!

Because it's all about that bass, right?

A couple of lessons were learned this week. You can teach an old runner new tricks. First, I need to stretch and foam roll regularly, not just when I'm hurting. I'm usually so good about this, but since the marathon, I've been slacking. Riding the wave, so to speak. Taking my success for granted, I guess. Another lesson learned is that I need to change my shoes at the first sign of pain. Actually, I should have changed them after the marathon. I felt so good, that I didn't see the need. And these were my "lucky" shoes, I ran that awesome marathon in them. Lots of good juju in those shoes, right? Yeah, lots of miles on them too. Doh!

Today, I feel so much better about running and life in general. All that crap that happened this past week...I have no control over any of that. But my running? I do have control over that...if I do some maintenance and not take it for granted. I need my running to help me cope with everything else life throws at me. I know this.

Ending a bad week on a positive note? Let's hope that I can carry that positivity into next week. Onward and upward! Head down and do the work.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Favorites--My favorite running songs

It's no secret that I love to run with my tunes! Even in spite of the recent safety scares in my area, I still listen to my tunes when I run. I love music. I always have. Even as a little girl, I have memories of listening to music with my dad. My mom played bridge once a month with her friends, and my dad would pull out his 45s (yes, I'm THAT old) and we'd listen to those songs on the stereo. I have such great memories of this time with my dad and because of it, I'm great at song trivia. Seriously. Play me on Song Pop and see how you do...

Now that I'm injured and facing the prospect of not running for what I hope is a brief period of time, I've been listening to my running playlist in the car as I drive to and from work. It's really interesting how just listening to those songs give me a lift. About 7 years ago, I had a major surgical procedure, and when I started moving again, I walked. And listened to my running playlist. I swear that I felt as much of a walker's high as I do when I run. There is just something about music.

Today I'm linking up with the DC Trifecta for the Friday Five: Favorites. Everyone picked their 5 favorite things. Mine was easy.

Music has always been a big part of my life. On the road and off. But for the purposes of this blog, I'm sharing my top 5 running songs. My running playlist is continuously evolving. But there are a few tunes that never leave the playlist. Ever.

#1 Tom Petty- Runnin' Down a Dream--other TP songs have made the list but have left. This one remains. Always.

#2 Eminem- Lose yourself--there is one other Eminem song that is a perpetual favorite: 'Till I Collapse. But this one always sings to me...Do you think he knows or cares that he's so motivating to runners?

#3 Shinedown- Fly From the Inside--the lyrics just sing to me. "I've got the weight of the world on my shoulders..." and "I am focused on what I am after. The key to the next open chapter. 'Cause I found a way to steal the sun from the sky. Long live the day that I decided to fly from the inside". Yep.

#4 Stone Temple Pilots- Interstate Love Song--nothing meaningful here, just some great beats. 

#5 Foo Fighters- I'll Stick Around--one of their first hits, it has stuck around for about 15 years on my playlist. 

What? Only 5 many songs, so little time...unless you're running a marathon!

What are your favorite, everlasting running songs?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The injury paradox

My youngest son suffered an MCL sprain this fall while playing football. He caught the ball for an interception and was immediately tackled. He says his foot got caught in the grass and he felt a tug on his knee. The opposing team's trainer examined him on the sidelines and sent him back in to play. The pain got worse, and he sat out the rest of the game. I took him to be examined by the sports medicine doctor I work with, and after an MRI, we got the diagnosis of a grade 2 MCL tear/sprain. My son's football season was over and he was put in a brace.

"I wish I'd never gone for the interception," he said. Multiple times.

My son has played football since 3rd grade. He's not a natural athlete, and is small. But what he lacks in stature he makes up with his heart. I tried to discourage him from playing but he loves the sport. The last 2 years he went out for track, to improve his running form and speed. And in this, his 7th season playing football, his hard work paid off. He played on offense, defense, and special teams. He was the punt returner, the wide receiver, and a defensive lineman. He plays hard and gives 200% every time he plays. His coaches praise him frequently from the sidelines. He became an impact player. He's never had a serious injury. Until this season.

Now he's having second thoughts about those hard efforts he put forth during the games because he has been sidelined from the sport he loves to play. He's finishing physical therapy and he'll get to play next season. I keep telling him that the coaches are going to remember that interception. That if he took it easy, they most likely wouldn't remember him much at all. While he nods in agreement, he says he would rather have been able to keep playing.

I need to point out that the intention of this post isn't to brag about my son, although I am beyond proud of him. He worked so hard to become a player that he could feel good about. What I found so interesting after hurting his knee is that he regretted pushing himself and making an impact play because it resulted in an injury. And that is something, as a runner, to which I can relate.

Right now, I'm suffering from what is most likely a minor strain in my piriformis muscle, with maybe some IT band issues. I'm sure it's all related. I couldn't finish my run today because it was just too painful, even after stopping multiple times to stretch and walk. This thing has been nagging at me for a couple of weeks, but it wasn't until after I ran raced that Turkey Trot last week that I really felt the pain.

If only I hadn't raced it, right? Would I be hurting? If I had taken it easy that day, which I know I should have, I probably would still be running pain free right now. But if I hadn't pushed it, I wouldn't have gotten that 2d place AG. And that was fun. Was it worth it? I think so...

No guts, no glory, right? No pain, no gain? Go hard or go home? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! Suck it up, buttercup! Just do it!

There are so many of these sayings. Sports is such a paradox. On the one hand, you can push yourself to achieve things you never thought you could do. Me, run another marathon? Run faster at age 52 than I've run in my life? Those accomplishments put huge smiles on my face! What a great feeling! But feeling like that fuels the desire to keep on pushing. Which isn't always good thing.

Because the harder you push yourself, the more likely you are to get injured. I've been here before. Lots of times. I've never been good at slowing down, at taking it easy. Usually, my body tells me when its time to do that way before my mind lets me. Today was that day. As I write this, I'm sitting on an ice pack. I've already foam rolled and rolled on my lacrosse ball. I'm going to work as hard at getting back to form as I do preparing for a race.

I'm not a natural athlete either. As a youngster, I was never good at sports. Gawky and clumsy, I tried tennis. I injured myself, not playing tennis, but off the courts by getting my foot stuck in the revolving door at the tennis club. Seriously. In high school, I tore ligaments in my wrist playing volleyball in gym. As an adult, I found a love and some skill for running. It wasn't easy at first. But I've worked hard and have been rewarded with endurance and some speed, which is more than I could have dreamed for.

Do we avoid taking risks, pushing ourselves, playing it safe to avoid injury? I don't think I have it in me to do that. I don't think my son does either. He's told me that he wants to sign up for rugby this spring. I know, football without a helmet, right? While I'm a little nervous about it, I totally understand where he's coming from.

As for me, in the words of the Terminator:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Not fair

It has come to this.

Today I was told that by praising my medical assistant, I am inadvertently making the other medical assistants feel badly. Not every provider shows their gratitude like you do, I was told. You nominated for her for an award, which she won. But it made all the others feel badly. We know how much you appreciate your medical assistant. We know she does a great job. We know you two work so well together. But you just can't say anything positive to her in front of the others because it hurts them. If you have anything to say, you need to take it to a private area. To protect the feelings of the others.

Oh. Wow. Seriously.

We live in a world of fairness. Political correctness. Even steven. Fair and square. Equitable. Everybody wins. Everyone needs to feel good about themselves. No one can stand out. In life and in sports too...

When my boys were little, they played soccer. It was cute. Some of the kids were natural athletes. They scored goals! They stopped others from scoring goals! Some kids weren't really into the game. They were picking flowers along the sidelines, oblivious to what was happening on the soccer field. But at the end of the season, everyone got a trophy.

I get that. Little kids should feel good about trying. But when does it stop?

We're not kids. Adults should know that life isn't fair. Not everyone gets a prize at the finish line. Do adults need "participation medals"? While writing this post, I read some articles about this. One author says "competition is life". Think about it; in a race there's only one winner. Unless you are an elite athlete, there will always someone better, faster, stronger, smarter. And actually, that isn't a bad thing. Losing can be motivating. If everyone wins, does anyone win? Does awarding everyone reinforce mediocrity?

I've been a runner for a long time. I ran a lot of 5ks and 10ks "back in the day". When I ran those races, you were lucky to get a race shirt. There were no medals for those distances. Only runners who completed a half and a full got rewarded with a medal. As they should. Those are tough distances that require commitment and training to complete.

A few years ago, I ran a half marathon where there was also a 5k. The half marathon runners received a medal at the finish. The 5k runners did not. I heard some loud complaining about that.

I realize that by putting this out there, I may offend some people. I understand that for many people the distance of running 3 miles seems difficult. But compare that to a half marathon (13.1 miles) or a marathon (26.2 miles). There is no comparison. Training for and running those distances is completely different than a 5 or a 10k. I don't feel that the shorter distances are worthy of a medal. Sorry. To give awards to the shorter distances downplays the training and accomplishment of those who complete the longer, more challenging distances. And personally, I find that training for and finishing the race is, in itself, satisfying. What is it that they say? There's joy in the journey. Truthfully, I'd be ok without receiving a medal.

I recently ran a Turkey Trot where there was a 5k and an 8k option. There were no finisher medals. I was ok with that. Shorter distance, no medal. Seems fair. I did leave with a medal because I placed 2nd in my age group. Yes! An award for an achievement. There was a little award ceremony. Seems appropriate.

We need to be able to feel good about ourselves, about our accomplishments. Why should anyone's achievements be minimized to pacify the feelings of others? Wouldn't it make sense that watching another achieve success should motivate us to do the same? Why should everyone get a trophy for just showing up to run? Get praised just for showing up for work? And should we downplay the work of the high achievers just to make everyone feel good about themselves? Hard work, be it in life, in a job, on the road, in sports-- should be rewarded. And we as adults should all understand that.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Promises, vows, and honor thy legs

Last night I learned about yet another local woman getting attacked while running. Apparently she was running with a friend at 4:30pm yesterday, and the perpetrator supposedly jumped out of the bushes, stabbed her in the abdomen, and ran away. All reports say she's going to be ok, which is good news. Kind of unnerving, though! This incident happened in the forest preserve where I did a lot of my long runs this summer. I've written about that forest preserve before, and I'm well aware that it isn't the safest place for me to run alone. Let me tell you that yesterday's incident was on my mind this morning when I went on my Sunday long slow distance run. It makes me angry that this keeps happening here and I really hate that I can't just relax and run. This morning, I took my run to the retention pond, hoping that it would be safe and uneventful. And it was both. The path was empty, with the exception of a few walkers, and one runner. It was also joyful, as I was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise in the fog and over the frozen pond:

My run was slow and steady, but it was not pain free. There comes a point in every runner's life where they have to acknowledge some injury--or a nagging precursor to an injury. Today was that day. Besides the shin splints that have been plaguing me the past couple of weeks, as I ran around the pond, I began to finally realize that my right piriformis needs to be addressed. Because not only was I feeling a pain in the ass (literally), I had some tugging at my right IT band. The shin splints were also only in my right leg. Could they all be related? I'm thinking yes. Experience tells me that if I don't intervene now, this thing is going to progress. And then I won't be able to run at all. Been there, done that (many times, sadly), and no, I won't let that happen.

In addition, yesterday I pulled out a new pair of shoes to replace the Asics Gel Nimbus that have been so kind to me this year. Back in June, I won a pair of Sauconys of my choice from another blogger. I researched the entire line of running shoes and thought that the Guides would be the closest to my beloved Nimbus'. So yesterday, I slipped on the Guides and went out for a 4 miler. 

The Guides were very different from my Nimbus'. I noticed right away that they felt stiffer. I could hear my feet flapping on the ground, and I had to stop multiple times to roll out my ankles to release my shins. Running in these shoes reminded me of when I started running in orthotics. Too stiff. My legs felt tight all day, and I foam rolled twice yesterday to try to release the muscles. When I woke up this morning, I was stiff and sore. Not good. Its amazing what a different pair of shoes can do to a runner! So I pulled out my old favorites, and headed out for 8 miles. Being sore initially, I loosened up fairly quickly. I noticed the cushy ride that I'm used to with my Nimbus'. Felt a sigh of relief. And made a decision not to run in those Saucony Guides again. I will never again stray from my Nimbus'. Ever. Girl scout honor. I'm not saying the Guides are a bad shoe. A lot of my friends swear by them. But the Guides are not the shoe for me. And now I've aggravated some already angry hot spots...ugh! I'd blame the shoes, but no, this stuff has been talking to me for a while. I really have no one to blame but myself.

I was a girl scout--on my honor!
Another thing is that I haven't been very good about stretching and foam rolling lately, besides my weekly yoga session. I have made a vow to get back at it on this "off season".  I need to do some hip strengthening/balancing that Becky showed me back when we first started working together. Clamshells, resistance band, monster walks. 

I'm also back at this: 

The lacrosse ball. My secret weapon. This thing is great for getting into tight spaces that you might not be able to hit with the foam roller. Or if you can't afford regular massages. has a great article on 10 self myofascial release exercises for runners. You can read it here.  I also use the lacrosse ball for my hamstrings. I've tried a tennis ball but it isn't firm enough. The lacrosse ball is hard as a rock. Hurts so good. And very effective, when you use it...

I sure don't want to take any time off, but I really need to give myself a break. It's so hard to do after such a fantastic running season! I've been down this road before and I can't seem to learn from it. It's the advice I give to everyone else and I need to listen to myself:

For the next 2 months, it's time to rest and recover. Yes, I'm still going to run. Shorter distances during the week, and those Sunday long runs will be slow. No speed work. Foam rolling and lacrosse ball massage after every run. Yoga 1-2x/week. And strength training with Becky. Hopefully, come February, when I need to step up my training for my half in March, I'll be all rested and fresh. 

My body has spoken. It's time to pay attention.

PS. I'm linking up with Tara at Reading n' Running for her Weekend Update!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Long Grove Turkey Trot Race Report

As Thanksgiving approached, I thought it might be fun to run a Turkey Trot this year. I hadn't run one for several years, since my oldest son and I ran a 2 miler. He decided that running wasn't for him, and that was the end of our Turkey Trotting. But I wanted to run this year, and figured doing the 8k option would get my miles in for the day, plus I've missed racing since the marathon, so this would satisfy that too.

I convinced Marcia, from Marcia's Healthy Slice and Sara, from Cheesy Runner Mom, to run it with me. Both of them were reluctant, for differing reasons. Marcia has run this one before and was concerned about the large crowd this race attracts. Sara is planning on a half this weekend, and wanted to PR. She said it would be hard to hold back and not race this one. But they both agreed and we made a plan to meet up about an hour before the race.

It was 22 degrees and we sat in Marcia's car to keep warm before heading to the start line. Sara and Marcia had never met, but they hit it off right away. Both of them are super nice, so I didn't expect anything else. Marcia brought goodie bags for us, containing some CocoaVia (I've been wanting to try it!), a Boston marathon headband (inspiration!), SOS rehydrate, Alkaline sports drink, and Balega socks (yes!). So thoughtful and I love this woman. I've said it before, but I feel like I've known her my whole life. Plus we have a lot in common, even besides running.

Pre race: Marcia, Sara, and Me (in my "throwaway" sweatshirt)
We made the brave decision to head to the porta potties before the race. There were plenty of them, and the lines were short. People were quick about their business, probably because it was cold. You know its cold when the stuff inside the potty is frozen. Yes, I checked. It actually made it a little less frightening.

My pre-race attempt at a selfie! Actually multiple attempts...
We headed to the start line and lined up with the 9 minute milers. The 5k and 8k runners lined up together. I didn't tell Marcia and Sara, but I hoped to race this one, if my legs cooperated. I've been having some issues with shin splints and hoped they didn't flare up during the race. As the start time approached Sara and I took off our "throwaway sweatshirts" and I stuck them under a table in the refreshment tent.

The gun went off and we moved slowly towards the start line. Apparently, the organizers were letting us go out in waves. I kept jumping up and down to stay warm. Finally we crossed the starting line. As we headed under the covered bridge, we spent a lot of time weaving through runners, walkers, and yes, strollers. Apparently people didn't pay attention to the pace signs and lined up wherever. So annoying. This is my #1 racing pet peeve. As we kept weaving, I had to remind myself that this was a Turkey Trot and to just roll with it. Eventually, I decided my legs were going to cooperate, and I kicked it up a notch, leaving Sara and Marcia to fend with the crowds.

Most of the race is on paved roads, and I continued to weave through all the walkers. After mile 2.5, the 5k participants go there own way, and I was able to open up a little bit. We ran through a neighborhood, and then down a path to a rural road. This is a really pretty area, and I've biked here a bit. We passed the north entrance to one of the places I run, and I never realized THAT's where it comes out! I told Marcia this after the race, and we talked about meeting halfway sometime.

About mile 4, I passed a little girl, running a nice steady pace. I called out to her, "good job!" but she just ignored me. Maybe she was super focused on her run? I kept going. Sara caught up with me. That's when I knew I was running fast, because she's super speedy. I knew she was holding back, but still I was pretty excited to be running with her for the rest of the race! She took off ahead of me but I kept her in my sights. Then we merged with the 5k walkers, and the weaving started again.

We pushed towards the finish. I heard a little boy tell his mom, "that lady's fast!" when Sara passed them. Right before the covered bridge, we had to run on a stone path, and there was a lot of congestion again. I pushed to the side of the path and plowed through the walkers. We crossed the finish line under the covered bridge. I was so excited when I checked my Garmin and saw 40:52. Sara and I hugged and waited for Marcia to finish. When she caught up to us, we congratulated her and headed to the results table. I saw that I finished 3rd in my AG, and so we stuck around for the medal presentation.

Post race sweaty and satisfied!
We walked to the refreshment tent and YES! our throwaway sweatshirts were still there. That was a good thing, since it was so cold. The post race snacks were nothing exciting. Water, granola bars, protein bars, and fruit snacks. Meh. Marcia and Sara stuck around with me while we waited for the AG awards. Last to be announced were the 8k AG winners. When they announced the 3rd place winner in my AG, it wasn't me. Turns out I came in 2d. I was stunned and excited, which you can see by the picture that Sara took of me. What a thrill! And so nice of them to stick around with me, since it was so cold!

Did I mention how cold it was?

Here's my official results: 40:46 finish time, pace time 8:12min/mi.,153/771 runners, 2/118 AG.

Would I do this one again? It was fun but it was cold. I hate the weaving around people. But the race was well organized and parking wasn't really a hassle, since we got there about an hour early. I liked that it was so close to my home. It sells out every year, so there's no last minute impulse racing. You have to plan. But yes...I would. Only if Marcia and Sara do it, tho!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An attitude of gratitude

On this Thanksgiving eve, it seemed appropriate to reflect on all that I have to be grateful for. It's nice to have holidays like this that remind all of us that no matter how we might be feeling about life, there's still plenty to make us feel thankful. I'm especially thankful for all the wonderful people in my life.

First and foremost, I'm thankful for my family. Sure, my teenage sons aren't exactly warm and fuzzy these days, but bottom line, they're good boys. Certainly, they give me a run for my money but when I look at what I see other teenagers doing,  most of what they're doing is "normal" teenage behavior. All I want for Christmas is their frontal lobes to return.

That didn't really sound thankful, did it? Trust me, I am. I do love them. They just don't want me to show it...

Here's the rest....

My husband, who lets me be me. He lets me do my thing--be it running, school, whatever, and doesn't complain about it...much. He gets me. Sleeps on the couch when he's snoring or gassy. And for that alone, I am thankful.

My parents, who treat my every accomplishment as if it were an Academy Award. There is no one who loves you more than your parents, I think.

My sisters, particularly my sister Lisa, who is my best friend and keeps me laughing at the silliest things that only sisters can get. John Edwards photobomb, anyone?

My coworkers, especially my medical assistant Zuly. I know that at times I can be difficult to work with, with my drive to deliver the best care to my patients that I can, to run on time, all while trying not to crumple under the pressure. Zuly rises to the occasion every time and meets my expectations, no matter what the circumstances. We make a great team, and our patients reap the benefits. And she has become a cherished friend as well.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my medical director and my practice manager. My medical director is a wonderful man, whom I have known for over 15 years, since he was a resident in training at the hospital where I work. He has a gift for making everyone feel better just by talking with them. Not only that, but he's a great physician who is extremely knowledgeable and caring. What a great combination! He has a great sense of humor too. And my practice manager, who is a dear friend of mine, whom I've known for over 10 years. A runner as well, she gets me. She too has a gift for a calming presence and the ability to deliver a difficult message in a way that makes you feel ok after you hear it.

My coach/trainer, Becky. Oh my gosh, what a gift she has been in my life!!! Instead of feeling badly about getting older, she's injected me with youth and a desire to achieve goals I never thought possible at this point in my life. She's served as a pseudo-psychologist as well, helping me to erase self doubt (burpees anyone) and increase my self confidence. How lucky am I?

My friends both running and non-running. I am amazed at the non-running friends who follow my FB page, which means they have to put up with my non-stop talk of running and my selfies! And the ones who send me good luck texts on race days. And who do a much better job than I do of staying in touch.. of trying to rope me in for a lunch date or a girls' night out. I'm so fortunate.

And my running friends, for whom I am so grateful. This has been my best year of running and it is in part due to the support and encouragement I have received from these wonderful ladies. It sure is a lot more fun showing up and running a race when you know you have friends who will be there!

Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who has read and commented on this blog. At times, I feel self indulgent when I write and publish this public diary. Writing has always been a great outlet for me, and I love the fact that there are so many of you who take the time to read it! Thank you for all of your support and feedback.

There is so much to be thankful for! But for me, it is the people in my life that make me feel most grateful.

Postscript: I'm linking up with the Friday Five Linkup!