A Glimmer of Hope (and a recipe!)

I finally posted yesterday about what the heck has been going on after being MIA for a few weeks. I think I was putting off posting because I was afraid to talk about my dumb Achilles (among my other aches and pains) for fear that they would become a reality. Like if I didn’t talk about it, it wasn’t actually happening. I’m excited to report that yesterday afternoon, I had a pain-free marathon paced run! Wooohooo!

I get my workouts from my coach every two weeks, but we’ve been in contact daily to tweak them based on what happened with the previous workout and my injury status. For example, the weekend where I ran 18 miles, I had a track workout scheduled for the following Tuesday (only one recovery day in between the two). Since my crew and I ran faster than anticipated for the 18, my coach modified the track workout to a general aerobic run, especially because of my achy Achilles. That’s what I am really enjoying about having a coach. Before, if the plan said track workout, well, I best get in that track workout. Now, I have someone telling me when to back off and when to push and I really, really love it.

Yesterday’s run was supposed to be 8 miles, 7-7:15 pace. Certainly not an easy task when I’m running solo, but also not impossible as long I was feeling okay. Since I try to follow a mostly Paleo diet, I’ve been finding that sweet potatoes before a run work pretty well for me. I’ve been eating them for breakfast before my long run and they seem to give me a good energy boost without bothering my stomach. Oh, and it’s an easy, welcomed addition to my diet because I love them. Knowing I was going to try to hold a faster pace, I decided to pack one as my afternoon snack at work.

I had a few options as to where I could go to complete the run, but they were somewhat limited since there’s a little coating of snow/ice in our area.There’s a local trail that I really love, but it isn’t necessarily the best place to run if speed is my focus for the day. The surrounding roads, however, are perfect. They are usually well cared for when the weather is poor. Gently rolling terrain with gradual climbs and descents, and only one or two relatively steep hills in the middle of the run. I still park at the trail head since it’s only about 10 minutes from my house (on the other side of a huge mountain, or I’d just run there!), so it’s also very convenient. I knew there would be some snow on the trail anyway and didn’t want to worry about it messing with my pace, so I hit the streets for this one.

IMG_8043As I headed out of the parking lot, I told myself to start slow to warm up. Don’t look down at my watch, just let my legs do their thing and warm up at whatever pace felt good. I didn’t care if my first mile wasn’t in my designated range. I figured I could do this as a progression run and still hit that 7:15 average. I looked down as I neared the one mile mark and saw…6:53? Was my watch broken? I was cool with being out of my pace zone, but wasn’t expecting to be under the faster end of it. I ended up averaging half of the miles in the 6:45 range and the other half in the 6:50 range – with an overall pace of 6:49. It didn’t feel “effortless”, but I just felt great. FINALLY! Best of all…no aches and pains to whine about! I have no idea if I could even repeat that performance if I tried. Did that even really happen yesterday or did I imagine it?

This morning, I got up and went for a super short swim. Today is a rest day from running, and my coach said I could swim about 1500 meters (usually I swim 3000 + meters in a workout), and to do some core/strength work. My gym and physical therapist are conveniently located in the same building so I got up, hit the pool and made it in time for my 6:30 am PT appointment. My legs were totally dead when I was swimming – it felt like I was lugging around dead weight! Anytime I did a set using a pull-buoy (a foam buoy that goes between your legs to prevent you from kicking, just focusing on using your arms to “pull”) felt like a rest because I didn’t have to make my stiff legs try to work. The routine I have going on at physical therapy is pretty simple, yet effective: the therapist warms up the achy region, does some ultrasound on it, then some Graston and massage, and then I stretch it out. The Graston makes it a little sore, but I can really feel it working to break up whatever was causing pain. I am hoping that I’ll be released from PT by the end of next week. If I can get through my long run and recovery runs with no pain, I’ll feel a lot more confident.

After my run yesterday, I made my favorite weeknight dinner – a Honey Mustard Chicken dish that requires little prep and just enough time in the oven that you can get a few things done (for me, that’s usually some core work and packing my stuff for the next day). It’s a great post run treat, and I served it up with some glazed carrots. I haven’t shared a recipe in awhile, so here it is!

IMG_8048Honey Mustard Chicken
Serves 4-6 

  • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard (preferably something organic and with only a few ingredients to keep it as Paleo as possible, but if that isn’t a concern for you – any mustard would really do nicely!)
  • 1/3 cup raw honey (or whatever honey you have on hand)
  • Salt (I like the pink Himalayan stuff or sea salt, but use whatever you prefer)
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2-3 lbs of bone-in chicken thighs (I’ve also used split chicken breasts, legs, etc.)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place the chicken in a large casserole dish. I like to use a 9×13 glass Pyrex, but you can use whatever will fit it. It’s fine if they are a little squished. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the chicken.
  3. In a bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the Dijon, honey, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Pour over the chicken. Top with the two sprigs of rosemary, and bake for about 45 minutes or until your chicken is 175 degrees on a meat thermometer. Sprinkle with a little more fresh ground pepper when it comes out of the oven. Try not to eat the entire tray 🙂

There’s some snow in the forecast for the weekend but I have a 22 miler on the schedule for Sunday. Hoping the snow doesn’t mess that up, but excited for some accumulation. Such a love/hate relationship with it this winter. I did make it out to buy some brand new yak tracks so hopefully if I have to run in the snow, it won’t jack up my body too badly.

What are your weekend running plans? How do you handle running in inclement weather? Are you battling any injuries right now?

Bring on the Cranky Pants

Okkkkay. I’m back. I’ve been semi-avoiding the blog world out of crankiness. My own crankiness, of course.

So way back before Christmas, I posted about a freaking awesome long run I had with my friends. I was on such a high. And then I got sick…on Christmas Eve (I had 20 people at my house for dinner and a fever. That was fun). Whatever I had lingered and caused me to miss about five days of training, and it was awful. But no problem, my coach and I communicated and agreed that I would rest and not panic. I missed a long run. I was bummed.

The next week, I jumped back into my training and felt decent – but had a nag in my left Achilles. I remembered feeling it after that last long run, but then after being sick it just went away. So I kept running. Got in a decently paced 16 miler, around a 7:25 in some slippery conditions but had some pain in the area that worried me. Still, I kept going. I hoped it was just one of those aches that would go away after a few days and work itself out. I even got in a nice track workout of 800s later that week and hit/exceeded my paces. The pain kind of just stayed the same, so I headed out for my 18 miler that Sunday. We had another epic day where we felt incredible – my friend Kathy and I pushed the pace and averaged a 7:08 for the entire run, hills and all. My ankle didn’t hurt while I ran – even so much as to think to myself, “Maybe this was all in my head and I’m past whatever it was!” Ha.

After the run, I made sure to take an ice bath (which was freaking torture, it is FREEZING in PA these days!) and popped some ibuprofen just because I wanted to get ahead of any potential inflammation. I’m not much of a fan of NSAIDs, but I thought it would be a good idea. Well, over the next few days I had some definite soreness so my coach backed off the intensity of some of my runs. By Thursday, I decided it was time to get in to my doctor. By some miracle of God, he had an open appointment right at the end of my work day. He had me get my left foot x-rayed before I even saw him and after a thorough clinical exam, determined it was a little tenosynovitis of my Achillies. So the sheath around the tendon was unhappy. Made sense, because I really wasn’t displaying any of the classic Achilles tendinitis symptoms.

He got me in for some PT – of course I have the therapist’s number in my phone so the three week wait to get in with him didn’t happen – I was there the next day for some Graston, ultrasound and massage. They also gave me the Flector Patch to put on the area – basically an NSAID patch that is directly applied to the source of pain. Which is kind of hard to find – there really is no pain to the touch, no swelling, etc. It’s so odd.

It seemed to work because I was able to log some miles at some decent paces over the weekend, but then we got hit with a bunch of ice, something I don’t mess with regularly. Started my long run (supposed to go 22 miles) on Sunday and the freezing rain began about 8 miles in. By mile 10, I started walking because I could barely take a step without sliding. I had to walk about two miles from my car, and I was frozen to the bone. Tried again the next day but had to wear my Yak Trax because it was still so slippery out. I made it 14 miles, but the outer edge of my left foot began hurting. My Yak Trax were kind of old and falling apart, so I think it threw off my stride. I threw in the towel, but my coach was still happy with the mileage I managed in such poor conditions. It was a rough run.

IMG_8039
Ski Area – Blue Mountain; Trail – Razor’s Edge

So on Tuesday, I went out for some easy-peasy recovery miles, and by the time I got about 2-3 miles into my run, the outside of that foot started aching again. What. The. Hell. It didn’t hurt all day and pretty much felt fine, so why now? I finished up six miles and sulked. Yesterday was a scheduled cross training/strength training day so I went tot he gym before work and lifted, and skiing after work. We got out of school early for some impending snow and I got on the slopes early and got in some extra runs. Felt good, no pain, but my next run is today.

I’m frustrated because since Christmas, it’s been just one thing after the other. Sick, injury, poor conditions. On one hand, life happened and caused me to miss some training. On the other, I’ve logged some quality miles. My next race is in a few weeks – a 10K – and then my first marathon of the “spring” season is on February 15th. With some of the long run paces I’ve hit recently, I wanted to shoot for 6:50-7 minute miles in the marathon, 6:20-30 in the 10k. Even with missing a long run and having to cut off some distance due to weather last weekend, I am confident that I can do this. I know I can. Except now I’m just hoping I don’t have a fracture in my foot or something. Honestly, I think I aggravated a tendon in there from running in the poor conditions in my Yak Trax, but it’s enough to have me concerned. I’ve had stress fractures before to know what they feel like, and what I felt was enough to worry me. The good news is, my “tell tale” stress fracture sign is the hop test. Anytime I had a stress fracture, I couldn’t hop on it without feeling something – and when I hop on this I feel nothing. So that’s good.

I guess when I take it for a spin today (after yesterday’s day of cross training), I’ll see what the deal is. Here’s to keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best!

How do you deal with injury interrupting your training? When something hurts, what “process” do you follow to try to heal it as quickly as possible?