Update on Feb 15-April 2nd: That time I tried a streak and failed

Hello readers!

It’s been a long time… and while I thought it was necessary to take this break from blogging, it didn’t actually make me more productive and interesting in “real life.” Frankly, I can’t think of a single moment where I did something where I said “wow, this would be cool to blog about.”Maybe that just goes to show that our lives are worth living whether we blog about them or not- or something. Still, I did find it a relief for the first few weeks after the marathon to not be accountable for blogging about my running life. Now though, I miss it again (and the interaction with you!) and feel it is time to return.

What do I have to report? Besides a few notes about my stupidity, not much.


run update feb through april

The marathon, as we saw, was a good one/run. I’m still tickled pink by the great improvement on my previous PR and being able to see what level I’m at. I know I want to be faster, eventually, but for now I haven’t felt the urge to better that run. I don’t feel like I have to prove something or avenge a bad run. It was an awesome race.

I still had the post-race blues though, through which I got with some heart-to-hearts with my family, an Epsom salt bath, foam rolling, and some new things to read. Then, once the post-race soreness was gone, I decided to go for a few easy runs. Those felt good, and for some reason, I thought I was ready to attempt a new run streak. My previous one in fall of 2014 (which left me with plantar fasciitis) was 61 (or 62, can’t remember, though I could probably look it up, but that seems like more effort than typing these few words) days. I felt that the last months of the semester before going abroad for vacation and more school was a good time to try it again. It started off well, and I felt good. A lot of doubles (two-a-days), and I was feeling motivated about strapping my shoes on and just lurching out the door. I ran watchless and musicless for four weeks, and it all felt so natural and free.

Then, I got over confident about my abilities, forgot to think about long-term fatigue and lack of rest days, and went out for back-to-back mid-distance runs, or went too hard two days in a row.

My mind was telling me that I couldn’t hold it up the way that I was going, that I should take a rest day and prevent an overuse injury, but my heart was saying “I’m strong, just as strong as many of those out there who do extreme ultra running (think Appalachian Trail runs). If they can do that, why can’t I handle running every day 1-10 miles?”

It came to the point that I was listening more to my ambition about the number on my “streak” log than the pain on the outside of my knee or heels of my feet. My runs got slower and slower, and I woke up with pain every morning that I manically tried to roll out with the foam roller and ease out with stretches 30-40 minutes a day. But what finally made me realize I was being stupid is when the runs stopped being enjoyable. I was running to keep the streak alive, not myself. That was foolish and so one Thursday, I just ignored my inner-voice telling me to go out, and the streak was broken.

Since then, I’ve eased off running for a bit again. I took a longer break than I did post-marathon and am slowly making it back into the 25+ mpweek range. My runs have felt better again, and I’m enjoying it again. I do run occasionally with my watch to see where my fitness is at, but I’m not afraid to run without it if I know the route I’m taking.

I have decided that I maybe didn’t take enough time off after the marathon, feeling pressured by some of my awesome running friends who run within 24 hours of their marathons. I thought taking three days off was already being a wimp, when really, I could easily have taken a week off, at least.

I have also decided that I don’t work well without a plan. The streak was fun because I didn’t have to think about whether or not I would run. I just ran what I felt like and pulled off some pretty great mileage because of it. But going from marathon week to 12 to 35 to 47 miles was stupid, for me. Also, I like planning out my hard and easy efforts during the week, and allowing myself the time to rest so that my hard efforts can be kick-ass. With my streak and without a plan, I was too easily drawn into the myth that I could handle two hard efforts in a row, take day easy, and then do it again. There’s a reason most running plans cycle easy, hard, and long runs, and I should have tried my streak with that in mind, or not at all.

So, lesson well learned. If I ever do attempt a streak again, I will do it with a plan in mind of following what has become my natural push and rest cycle. The light-tempo, interval or tempo, easy, rest or easy, easy, long run, rest cycle of runs works for me, so I should just stick to it.

Because of how the last two weeks went, I decided not to sign-up for the 10K that was supposed to happen today in my area, but I did do a pretty sweet 10-mile run at 7:35 overall pace yesterday, which felt darn good. I know I could have gone faster, so I’m motivated to keep working on my running in a smart way to be prepared for some summer races.

I like having my running, because sometimes it’s the only thing I feel like I’m marginally good at, and it helps distract me from failures I experience in academia or life. I turn 25 on Tuesday (quarter-life crises, I hear, are a thing). I’m figuring out what I’m going to do next year, how I’ll finance it and support myself, and whether I can rise up to the expectations I have for myself, and it’s good to have running to get my mind and body in the space to think these things through and remain positive. A running life really is a good life, so I’m glad I stopped the streak when I did to avoid a long-term injury (even if plantar fasciitis symptoms can be pesky).

Hope things are good on your end! I’ve been following blogs as well as I can this semester, so I know there are a few awesome races coming up that I can’t wait to read about!


Active Recovery

In my last post, I describe a little how I collect most of my running knowledge. A lot of my reading, of course, has to do with training- as a part of my search to find a good training plan for me. In these searches, I come across many running debates (you know, like low-profile versus high-profile shoes, running tights versus shorts over running tights), and one of them has to do with the uses of active recovery.

First, let me point out that the terms “active rest” and “active recovery” are often used interchangeably, but I argue that they should not be. First of all, the difference between rest and recovery should be clear. A rest day is one where you give your body and mind respite from the period of time where you did not give them a chance to back off and rest. Recovery is implied with rest, that is, by resting, you should be recovering. However, since recovery is something you do actively and it implies development from “I’ve just killed myself” to “I can do a few sprints right now,” the recovery is what I think can be active, while rest is just rest… no action required. Or, in more other words, active recovery are actions you take to maximize the repair of your body from it’s latest workout(s). So, for this post, I will be using “active recovery,” since I feel that “active rest” is a paradox and does not really describe the thing properly (semantics, tsk, tsk).

Runner’s World uses the term and break down the issues I have with using “active rest” as a term as well, so here’s that article.  Here’s another one (in case you’re super interested).

Anywho, to continue, most of the time active recovery is something talked about in the weight-lifting community. It’s something that seems more reasonable in that community, given the fact that weight lifters are not pounding miles of cement everyday (hence involving bones and muscle), but rather mostly using joints and muscle. They may not need rests as runners need breaks from running (though everyone needs a break at some point). However, these active recovery days are useful for anyone. As explained on breakingmuscle.com, “Active recovery focuses on completing a workout at a low intensity, but just high enough that it gets the blood moving and helps reduce residual fatigue in the muscle.” This makes sense to me, and may make sense to you too.

It used to be that people thought running also cleared out the lactic acid, but really the running helps increase the blood flow that helps bring the whatever to the muscle to help repair the microfractures.

So, obviously for runners, some of the best forms of active recovery involve activity that increases blood flow, but not impact on the body. Swimming, stretching, cycling, etc. are the most touted forms and since practicing them myself, I find myself able to recover more quickly from things like long runs and hard interval runs than I would if I took the day completely off. Here are some other suggestions of what to do on rest and recovery days.

Active recovery, long story short, is something I discovered once in a training plan, did some reading about through various sources (mostly my friend Google), and now practice, especially the day after my long run, to feel good for my next workout.

The end! Hope this is useful, and I’d appreciate comments about experiences you’ve made practicing active recovery, or suggestions for workouts to do to help recover.



You know you haven’t run in a while when…

You know you haven’t run in a while when…

  • you suddenly have so much time
  • you feel satisfied with eating less or you continue to eat like you do while you ran, and you start gaining weight
  • your GPS watch is completely out of battery
  • your laundry basket is really empty
  • you forget to take a shower, or you take a shower, but don’t feel compelled to wash your hair
  • your running shoes are not always underfoot, or on your feet
  • you run errands dressed like a civilian
  • you look up rates for the nearest pool, or nearest gym
  • you calculate how much time to can take off without interrupting your next scheduled race
  • you no longer feel the urge to nap on the afternoon after a long run
  • your neighbors check in on you because they’ve become used to seeing you run past their windows
  • your family is surprised to find you actually in bed when they come in your room in the morning
  • friends remember to include you in their plans for Friday night, since they finally realized that you haven’t been waking up early on Saturday
  • you discover you actually have hobbies outside of running
  • your room/house is cleaner than it’s been in ages
  • you suddenly have so much time!

and so you can’t wait to get back to it.


A Rough Recovery

You know the advice to keep walking after finishing a race? Try to stay on your feet for at least 20 minutes? Well, it’s good advice.

Unfortunately, after my half-marathon two weekends ago, I failed to take it and got comfortable on a curb with a plate of food within ten minutes of my run. I hadn’t even finished my first bottle of water yet.

Sitting felt good. Getting up, not so good.

My thighs were incredibly sore and anything more than a shuffle hurt. Well, I also wasn’t able to complete a cool down run, and settled for a slow, painful walk to the car. This is a far stretch from my last half marathon where I lost my car key in the walk from my car to the starting line and used the moment I crossed the finish line onward to find security personnel along the race and ask if they had found my key. A quick run from one person to the next meant I had a good cool-down (and got my key in the process). Should have lost my key again, I guess.  The rest of the day after this race I moved very little, happy to be sitting down. I haven’t done an intense long race in a while, so I don’t know if I felt that way after my marathons, but I certainly never felt that way after a half before.

Monday wasn’t much better and it not only hurt going down steps, it hurt going up and horizontal as well. I was in very bad shape. It was my own fault though, and while I didn’t do much immediate post race recovery, I put more effort into the recovery for the rest of the week. I gave myself daily massages, took Epsom salt baths, got enough sleep, ate a lot of foods with important vitamins and minerals, stretched and did yoga, basically, everything one is supposed to do. By Thursday I was feeling much better, but after a short 2 mile run, quite sore again. It was mostly my thighs that were complaining, but the blister on my foot was still making trouble. Friday morning I went out for another run that felt much better (seems like the run the day before cleared out some of the pain), but I started feeling a slight pain in the top, right side of my right foot, and my paranoid self (as well as the knowledge that four days of rest after my effort had not been enough) made me fear the worst: stress fracture.

It’s not just paranoia. I am a likely candidate. I have been increasing my mileage and running on a foot plagued by plantar fasciitis since July. I lost about seven pounds since my arrival in Hamburg, as well as my regular period. While losing my weight was not intentional, I also wasn’t vigilant about making sure I had enough to eat for the amount of running I was doing. I also chalked up the amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycle) to hormonal shifts based on the stress of being in a foreign country and having some homesickness and culture shock. It wasn’t until I got home, right before my race where I realized that I had lost weight and may have been unhealthy. To top this list, I had fractured a bone in my foot before by playing soccer barefoot (brilliant, I know). The slight tingling I feel on my foot in various stages of movement make me think that if I had a stress fracture, the location would be in about the same place.  Because of the combination of these factors, I kind of think I may be in pretty bad shape to begin marathon training.

But, after that almost 6 mile run on that last Friday (the 20th), I consequently avoided running and long periods of walking. I have continued stretching and massaging, and I am trying to stay active by biking and swimming. I also did a workout of pool running, but I still feel silly when I do that.

Anyway, I don’t plan to run again for another week at least. Also, if I don’t feel better on Jan. 2nd, I may just take one more week off (to give myself three weeks of potential recovery).

I know I should not self-diagnose, but if I basically know I have to take time off and rest, what more can a doctor tell me? At least time off may ensure that I recover from the fasciitis.

Welp. So much for injury free. It’s hard to sit on the sideline, since I wasn’t actually experiencing real pain (just some pangs of discomfort) when I stopped running and probably could have continued running. On the other hand, with this marathon I registered for, and a soccer team I want to continue playing for, I also know I’d rather take time off now, while I can, than run and have to stop and not have enough time after recovery to train properly. Oh well.

I can’t believe I’ve only taken one week off and already feel antsy. How will I make it to two or three more??