Running pic

Running pic
Yup, that's me!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Things are looking up

Happily, things seem to be coming together.  I got a call back from a swimming instructor at Galter and had my first of three lessons last night. We worked on getting the hitch out of my breast stroke so I could be more efficient and I can now do a (really crappy) flip turn. With some practice I should be able to swim continuously without pausing at the ends of the pool very soon. I also learned something – the markings on the sides and bottom of the pool are there for a reason.  The T’s at the end of the lane markers are to let you know that the end of the pool is coming up and the crosses on the end sides of the pool are to try to hit with your feet when you do a flip turn – good things to know.

I also had my first physical therapy appointment today at ATI-North Park. My therapist, Kristen, confirmed a gastrocnemius strain. After the initial exam she thought that instead of the TENS electric stimulation therapy that ultrasound therapy would be a better fit. So, I got the ultrasound for about ten minutes followed by a 10 minute Trigger Point calf massage (ahhhhhh…… good…….). She outlined some stretches to do, gave me a giant rubber band to do some hip strengthening exercises (it’s all connected so it can’t hurt to build up all my lower body muscles), told me to keep icing a few times a day, and gave me the all clear to do anything that doesn’t hurt: cycling, yoga, weights, swimming, even elliptical which I’m skeptical about trying.  She told me to not run at all for another week and then we can talk about how to start back up.  I have three appointments per week for the next four weeks and hopefully by the end of that I’ll be back and ready to go full strength. That is all good news and I can definitely tell that the muscle is feeling better and that the knot is breaking up.

So here’s the El Paso half round up from a spectator perspective with info from my nephew who ran the race. Packet pick-up went very smoothly although the expo was kind of lame – not enough running product booths and too many art/pottery booths (???). There was a booth for an El Paso running club and they seemed like a nice group of runners and they had some amusing shirts for sale - ‘We’ve got the runs’ and ‘Run with us – it’s cheaper than therapy’ were the two I noticed. On race morning, parking was very easy – the race started and finished near the convention center so there was ample safe parking for a nominal $5. The temperature was around 45 degrees with little wind and not a cloud in the sky – perfect running weather. The start chute wasn’t crowded and people seemed to be behaving themselves and letting the speedsters go to the front. It was easy to get a spot to watch the race start out – only about 1000 spectators in total - and then it was a quick walk to a downtown hotel to get a cup of coffee while we waited for my nephew to finish.  He predicted that he’d finish between 1:15 and 1:20 and he was right on the money – 1:19 and change garnered him 4th place (side note: I’d give my first born child to be able to run that fast just once).  He said the course had some rolling hills which quashed his hopes for a PR and the air was VERY DRY but there were ample water stops. After the race he got a kind of cheesy trophy for winning his age group and they had bananas, chocolate milk, water and Michelob Ultra beer for the runners. There was an outdoor party area with a really good band if you wanted to hang around and I believe that runners could get complimentary massages. He said he would do the race again which, to me, says that I should sign up for next year’s race and keep my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cleared for ........ biking

Updates, I got ‘em. I did get a call from Galter about the swim lessons, but it was from the desk person who just called to let me know she had passed along the lesson request and told the person I was interested in signing up ASAP.  That’s great, but the person scheduling the lessons hasn’t called me yet. Tick tock………

Went to the doctor yesterday so I could get my prescription/referral for physical therapy.  He confirmed the strain of my gastrocnemius muscle and told me to stay off of it for a few weeks.  But, he did clear me for swimming, pilates, some yoga, my weights class (but careful with squats and lunges), and biking so in addition to the other options I’m going to give biking a try and if it doesn’t hurt at least I can hit some spin classes at Galter and Ryder classes at CorePower. He asked me in I am interested in a kind of Physical Therapy that uses electric stimulation to speed muscle recovery and I basically told him that if he told me that putting giant hairy spiders on my calf would speed recovery I would sign up for Spider Therapy, so yes, I am interested. I called the PT place this morning and have an appointment scheduled for next Wednesday morning.  My husband was surprised that I didn’t press them to get in sooner, but conflicts, conflicts and that’s the first time I can get in to fit with my schedule. Then apparently the therapy will be 2-3 times per week for a couple of weeks.  I still have this horrible feeling in the back of my mind that in 3-4 weeks I’ll get cleared to run, go out for an easy 3-miler and crap my calf up again halfway through.  On the up side from my doctor visit he thinks I only need to lose about 5 pounds (I’d rather lose 15).

Tonight I get back in the pool – I’m going to try to go a mile again.  The first time out I went by time (20 minutes) and then the second time I went for distance (1 mile) but didn't keep track of time. So this time I’m going to see how long it takes me to swim a mile – I’m betting close to an hour.  Keep in mind it’s a small pool (25 meters) so I spend some time pausing at the ends – it’s not like I’m swimming the mile straight with fancy kick turns.  Plus when I start to think I’m going to die I grab a kickboard and just frog kick for a few lengths. To keep me interested in swimming and also because I’m all about the gear, I ordered a new swimsuit and anti-fog goggles from a discount swim shop. The suit is a Nike competition suit and I hope it at least looks semi-flattering. My current suit is a Sugoi – who even knew they made swimsuits? – that I got from the REI outlet and it looks pretty OK.  I try to never spend more than $25 on suits because I tend to forget to rinse them out and then they disintegrate from the chlorine.  I’ll never forget the horror of looking down at my chest and realizing that my suit was in such bad shape that it was almost see-through. #freeshow #oops

On the running front, even though I can’t run the El Paso half this weekend I’m still going.  My brother lives down there and that was mainly the reason for visiting anyway – the race was just a bonus and a way to feel better about all the delicious Tex-Mex I’ll be eating. I guess I’ll go to the Expo to get my shirt although I refer to shirts from races that go unrun as Shirts of Shame.  This instance is slightly less shameful than just rolling over and turning off the alarm clock and deciding I’m too lazy to run, but to me it will still be a Shirt of Shame. And yes I checked – no deferrals to next year, even with a doctor’s note.  So, I’ll recap the race next week – just from the perspective of my nephew-in-law who is also coming down and running the race.

Monday, February 18, 2013

IIf I keep telling myself swimming is fun perhaps I will begin to believe it

Awesome.  I get added to the Chicago Run Bloggers blogroll just as this blog turns into a sobfest about injury recovery time with a bonus side of swimming as rehab.  Swimming = boring unless you are Michael Phelps or that other douchebag from the Olympics whose name I can’t even remember.

I had both setbacks and positive things happen this weekend. On the setback front I did something sort of stupid – but I swear I didn’t mean to.  On Saturday morning I was heading to a CorePower yoga class and because I’m a chronic over-sleeper I was running late.  I parked my car and got my meter sticker and without thinking I turned and started running back to my car to put it on the dashboard. I made it four steps and felt something shift in my calf – painfully.  I limped into class and lasted about 10 minutes – no down dogs for me. I came home and promptly burst into tears completely freaking out my husband. I should change the wording on my blog photo to read: Look at the smile! Whoever thought I’d burst into tears because I can’t run!

On the positive side later that day I was helping a friend look for her lost cat and I knelt down to look under a car. As I got up I felt the same shift in my calf but when I stood up it felt better.  Not like ‘Let’s go for a run!’ better but more like ‘not gimping around as much’ better. So I’ve been icing and wearing compression socks and not even thinking about running.  I went to the gym yesterday and swam for a mile.  I don’t know how swimmers do it – it’s so incredibly boring. And, if I may, I’m going to complain about my gym for a moment. I belong to Galter Life Center and normally I love them.  It’s a very welcoming place for people of all abilities, ages and sizes.  Because it’s a medical fitness facility there’s a heavy emphasis on rehabilitation, especially cardiac rehab so you see many older people who are in not so great shape.  But, it’s heartening to see them trying to make a change for the better.  I joined many, many years ago so I never Yelped reviews for Galter before I joined, but now I occasionally read the reviews and there is an alarming trend of crappy customer service that is getting them one and two star reviews.  I was on the receiving end of the potentially crappy customer service yesterday.  I figure if I’m going to be stuck swimming for several weeks then I might as well take a few private lessons to see if I can better my breast stroke and become more efficient.  I filled out the request for at the front desk and the attendant took it and told me someone would be calling me in about 4 weeks.  Wha? I told her I was hoping that 4 weeks would be the time of my rehab and I wanted to take these lessons sooner rather than later.  She marked the form to call me asap, but really? Why would it take 4 weeks for someone to call to schedule a swim lesson? I figure whoever runs the swim program would just sit down once a week and call all the people who requested lessons and be done with it – not sit down once a month. Whatever.  If they don’t want my money I can muddle through with my poor form without them. I also sent my old Pilates instructor an e-mail to see if he thought Pilates might be a good fit.

My proactive move for today was to call my doctor to make an appointment (tomorrow! Yay for being flexible!) so I can get a referral for physical therapy.  I know I won’t be able to get a definitive answer as to when I can hit the pavement again, but I’d like to know if it’s OK to swim and maybe get suggestions of some other things I can do while I wait and see if there’s anything I can do to speed up the process.

So, sorry if you tuned in looking for a running blog and found a whiney rehab/swim blog instead but for the next few weeks it’s what I’ve got going on.  Hopefully there will be some comedy gold in petty swim lane spats, hot tub mishaps and Pilates mayhem.  Unlikely, but you never know.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Say a little prayer for me.....

So, I did this really stupid thing.  You know how when you start poking around on suddenly that flakey patch of skin becomes a sandwich of AIDS topped with cancer with a side of venereal disease? Well if you’ve got a running injury I’d avoid the forums on because you’ll be completely freaking out within a few minutes.  I looked in their injury forum and typed in ‘calf’ and immediately found a post from a guy who has similar symptoms to mine and hasn’t been able to run for four months.  FOUR MONTHS.  If I can’t run for four months several things will happen:

1.       I will cry. A lot.

2.       I will balloon up to my pre-running weight.

3.       Did I mention the crying?

4.       My running buddies will forget about me.

5.       The crying.

Now, for me I have been really, really good.  I walked for 2 miles on Wednesday and it wasn’t great.  It felt kind of wonky the whole time and then at the end of the 2 miles when I had to pick it up a little to make a streetlight it hurt like a mofo. So, I actually did the smart thing and I didn’t do anything yesterday at all and today I’m going to the gym to swim (this is huge – I hate swimming) because I have to do something or I’ll start climbing the walls and swimming seems like it won’t put stress on the muscle. I’m just worried because my symptoms are totally like this forum guy – it feels OK and then a mile or two into the run it – this is my description – feels like the muscle has ‘felted’.  If you’re a crafter you might know what I mean. If you’re not, imagine working something and as you work it, it gets bunchier and tighter.  Great for woolens, not so great for muscles.  The knot responds really well to heat so I’ve been using my flax bag to keep the heat on when I’m at home in the evening.  I joked that I should put one of those hand warmer packs down the back of my compression sock when I run and don’t think I won’t try that.

After I swim tonight my friend’s husband is going to put on the KT tape and I really, really hope it isn’t the big load of BS that I think it is. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

When you see a little light........

This may be a little premature, but believe I have seen the light and that light is trigger point massage.  I went out last night for my scheduled hour-long massage and told Jaye (my massage lady) about the knot.  She warmed up my calves while she worked out a shoulder knot and then went to work on my calf for 45 kinda painful minutes.  I usually go for 90 minute relaxation massages so I’m not really used to wincing, yelping, and tears running down my face.  But pain has its benefits – by the end of the session Jaye could totally feel that the knot had softened – and she said she was pretty sure it was just a knot and not any kind of tear.  Then later last night my friend and her physical therapist husband came over and he re-confirmed that it’s just a bad muscle kink and it will work out.  He showed me a few stretches to do and watched me do my home trigger point therapy to make sure I was doing it right, told me to drink loads of water, and said that if I took it easy and he showed me how to apply KT tape that I should be able to run by the 24th. So, that means for the El Paso Half I should be good to go.  It probably won’t be a PR by a long shot – although since I’ve never really done any kind of pre-race taper before, who knows? Maybe I will come out of the chute with blazing speed. Haaaaahahahahahahaha. Plus, since I’ll have KT tape on people will probably assume that I know what the hell I’m doing – which I patently do not.  It’s the same theory I have with arm sleeves – if you’re wearing them you must be good. Although now it seems that like calf sleeves (which I am totally guilty of wearing as a fashion accessory), arm sleeves are just a ‘thing.’ Witness the many ladies wearing them at the Zooma Amelia Island Half who finished after me (and plenty finished before me too).

So, I’m heading to my usual Chicks Night run at Fleet Feet-Lincoln Square tonight – not to run but to walk.  If I don’t do SOMETHING I’m going to go positively loony, and anyway I have Valentine’s Day cookies as a treat for the group. I think tomorrow I’m going to try to hit a yoga class at a local studio in the morning and the elliptical at my gym in the evening – the New Year’s Resolutionists will hopefully be gone by now and anyway it will be Valentine’s Day tomorrow so I’m hoping that everyone will be out eating overpriced fancy meals with their significant others.  Me? My husband and I will probably open the cards we got for each other and we will cook something simple that we both enjoy – like pasta with pesto sauce and a big salad.  Maybe we’ll go wild and have something delicious for dessert.

I’m going to try running on Saturday after learning the secrets of KT tape (frankly it totally seems like a big bag o’BS to me but I know people who swear by it so I’ll save my skepticism until after I’ve tried it for myself) and hopefully it will go well.  Sometimes it takes time away (even a little time) from something to realize how much it has become a part of your life and how much you miss it – I really, really, miss running. Yeah, I do some yoga, I do some lifting, but nothing is like running.  I hope I'm back lacing up my Brooks (or Newtons, or Kinvaras or whatever - I'm a shoe whore) soon.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cue the sobbing

Doom and gloom – that’s how I feel.  Other than a wee bout with plantar fasciitis last year that I managed to run through (although I probably shouldn’t have) I have never had a running injury.  No knee problems, no IT band issues, no back pain.  This is probably because when all of my running cohorts were running track and cross-country in high school and college I was being all emo and wearing black and listening to The Cure and Siouxie and the Banshees instead of working up a healthy sweat.  Teenage bad attitude = generally unused and therefore healthy body.  However, last Wednesday night’s ice run seems to have left a lingering pain in my left calf.  I thought it was gone until I ran last Saturday and only made it about 3 miles before having to call it quits.  I haven’t been able to run since then.  I tried to go out last night at the Fleet Feet fun run, but it was a complete fail.  I made it about 50 yards down Lincoln Avenue before crapping out with an ouchy pain.  I’m a little concerned because I have this half-marathon coming up in 12 days and since it’s in El Paso and I had to buy a plane ticket in addition to the registration I’d kind of like to run it.  So, I’ve gone into overdrive with the self-rehab:

Booked a trigger point massage for tonight and also another one for next week.

Bought a trigger point massage kit with a block, a roller, and a ball.

Started taking the leftover Napralen from my plantar fasciitis to reduce inflammation.

Weaseled a consult with my friend’s husband who is a physical therapist (will work for beer).

I know I should probably go to my doctor but I guarantee he’ll bitch me out for gaining 10 pounds and I really don’t want to hear it.  What I’m really hoping is that it’s a muscle knot and not something hinky with my Achilles tendon - that could be really bad and have lasting consequences.  I seriously don’t know what I’ll do if I can’t run.  I suppose I’ll have to start using the elliptical or taking spin classes again. I suppose I shouldn’t jump to conclusions – I’m doing the right thing and giving myself a few days of rest and hopefully that, combined with the self-rehab, will make everything all better.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Every day I'm shuffling...

So last night…. Yes, I did get in the 6 miles I wanted to but it sure wasn’t pretty.  The footing was pretty awful and since I didn’t think it would be that bad I didn’t wear my Get-a-Grips. I wound up having to adjust my stride to a sort of flat-footed shuffle and my left calf must not have appreciated it because it felt like my Achilles tendon was ratcheted up a couple of inches by the time I was done.  And did I stretch? Nah – that would have been the SMART thing to do.  I did use a heated flax pillow and take some Advil after dinner to loosen everything up and luckily it seemed to have worked because it’s OK today.

This morning I took a CorePower Sculpt class and it was so freaking hot in the classroom I was a sweaty mess by the end of class.  Does the heat really do anything? Are there any studies out there? I’d love to know.  I suppose it’s good to sweat out the toxins – or is that just a myth too? 

On a non-workout note I wore really warm clothes today because it’s supposed to start snowing and be really crappy by the time I have to drive home and I always want to be ready in case I have to walk home (ridiculous – would NEVER happen).  I have on black leggings, shearling boots (NOT Uggs), a chunky black turtleneck and a grey wool A-line skirt.  I should have known better – when I went to put on the skirt this morning the zipper was sticky and I had to force it to zip up and down.  I wrestled it up and figured I’d have it replaced after this wearing when I send it to the cleaners.  Ha! -the zipper had another scenario in mind for me. I was bending over to pick up something and I felt the zipper separate and now it’s just not working at all.  Luckily there’s a hook & eye closure at the top or I’d have to stay seated for the rest of the day or risk my skirt puddling around my ankles. My sweater is long enough to cover the gap but it’s not making me feel too confident – I have to dig through my bag to see if I can find a couple of safety pins – what good racer doesn’t have a million safety pins around? I suppose I could always use small binder clips.

Tomorrow morning hopefully my faithful running buds will be ready and willing to head out into whatever weather is it so we can get in a frosty 5 miles, and then I’ll do 8 miles on Saturday morning. And I WILL get in those 8 miles.  I’d actually prefer to do 10 since I’ve got a half coming up in a couple of weeks, but I’ll take whatever I can get.

I’ll be back after the weekend reporting on some non-running activities: there’s a Winterbrew festival at the German Cultural Center, Restaurant Week group dinner at Bistro Campagne, and then a leisurely Sunday spent at the Naked Korean Spa.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Snowy runs

The past few times I’ve been out running has seemed more like a cross-training adventure.  Our first measureable snowfall in Chicago has produced sloppy, uneven surfaces that provide a fantastic core and ankle strengthening workout.  Last Saturday’s run seriously felt like I was running on soft sand and left my hips screaming.  I ran on Monday and Tuesday morning (5 miles each time) this week and I wore my Get-a-Grips both days and they did seem to help a bit – especially since the fine citizens of Chicago have (mostly) cleared their sidewalks but left just enough for the Get-a-Grips to dig in.  I think it might be time to replace the spikes though – they seem to have worn down enough that they aren’t really digging in the way I’d like.  I think there are about 6 spikes per shoe and I should have enough extra spikes to swap them all out. If you want to keep running outside through the winter you really have to have some sort of snow & ice overshoe to keep you upright and moving forward.

I’m running tonight at FF-Lincoln Square’s Chicks Night and I’m hoping to slog through 6 miles.  It’s warmed up a bit so hopefully the packed snow and ice on the sidewalks and path will be mostly gone. I’m on track to hit 29 miles this week which will add a nice slug to theover-20  bank.  I’m starting to think that the 1000 miles in 2013 goal might be selling myself short. Ragnar training has been going on now for a few weeks and the mileage is starting to ramp up and in a couple of months I’ll be running 30+ miles per week.  I have to think that I could hit 1,300 miles.

Speaking of Ragnar training, in looking at the training schedule I am so not excited by the super-long runs.  18 miles does not make me jump with joy.  There is a reason that I’m 99% sure I am part of the One and Done club with marathons and that reason is the grinding long, long runs. My feet were a mess with blisters between my toes and the onset of plantar fasciitis, I was getting strange aches in my hips and it seriously felt like I pulled a muscle in my uterus.  My uterus.  Is that even possible? I loved finishing and I’ll say it – I love being able to say that I have done a marathon.  The training? Not so much.  Half-marathons I absolutely love.  I can do them anytime.  Maybe not well, but I can step it up and finish in a time that I am at least not ashamed of.  If I bother to train and lay off the pizza I’m pretty sure that I could go sub-2 again.

Gear Love:  after soaking and then freezing my feet on Saturday in a pair of cotton-blend socks I ponyed up for a couple of pairs of Smartwool socks.  Like all the Merino wool gear they were pricey – about $14/pair – but totally worth it.  I wore a pair on Monday and my feet got wet in all the slush but the never got cold and that makes a HUGE difference. This past fall I was lucky enough to model in the Fleet Feet-Chicago Fashion Show and I was chosen to wear Icebreaker (and keep the gear I wore) and it’s engendered a complete love affair with Merino wool. Absolutely nothing keeps me warmer and more comfortable.  Like I said – it’s an investment. At $100 for a half zip and $80 for a t-shirt (let’s not even get into the $250 for the jacket) I can’t deny that it’s pricey.  But, if you can do it, wait for the post-season sales (Icebreaker has 30% off on a bunch of styles right now) and pick up a piece or two.

Friday, February 1, 2013


I hate skipping runs, but sometimes it’s just what’s in the cards.  I put in 5 miles on both Monday when I absolutely wasn’t feeling it, and Wednesday when I had to run super-slow to avoid wiping out on the ice, but the 5 I was supposed to get in this morning just didn’t happen.  It was 2 degrees with a windchill of -17 and my buddies bailed out for our usual 5:45am run.  I totally would have gone if I’d had company, but even in my safe neighborhood I don’t like to run alone at a time when there aren’t many people out in the streets to hear me scream.  Plus, if I wiped out on the ice there’d be nobody to make sure I got home and didn’t just freeze to the sidewalk. I have the winter running clothes and I actually enjoy running in the freezing cold – I was all prepared to wear the following:

Sugoi Bun Warmers – got these last year in the summer from a Fleet Feet sale and I’ve heard great things about them.  My ass apparently doesn’t have enough blood flow to keep it warm in really cold temperatures so I’m hoping that these help out.  They look like bike shorts with a fleecy lining and extra fleece covering the ass.

Craft Storm Tights – love, love, love these. Flattering, perfect length, warm, I could go on and on. Really, I should just work for Craft so I could get paid for blithering on about their awesomeness.

A turtleneck base layer – I bought it at a TJ Maxx (shut up – they have some great workout stuff if you’re willing to dig) a few years ago and it keeps me so warm I can only wear it on super cold days. Maybe Climalite?

A GoLite Windstopping/thermal ¼ zip top – I think I got this from the REI or Sierra Trading outlet a few years ago and it’s really heavyweight and keeps me warm, yet I can also unzip a little if I start to overheat. It’s also nice because it’s a light grey and has some reflective detailing which makes it easier for me to be seen by cars. I just looked them up online and they seem to be blowing out all their stuff on their own website and they have some great deals on winter tights and even some Merino baselayers.

Icebreaker Tank – I pulled this out as a possible under-base layer (which I guess would make it the base layer) in case I thought it was just too freaking cold out there, but I probably wasn’t going to wear it.

A fleece convertible balaclava that I think I got from Sahalie a couple of years ago.  It’s nice because you can push the head covering back and it becomes just a neck warmer or pull the mouth covering down to make it more of a hood and it has drawstrings to keep it all in place.

Brooks HVAC gloves – the warmest I have but my fingers will probably still be cold for a few miles.
Yu-Be Moisturizer - used by the Japanese ski team to prevent chapping and it really works.  Good for guys too since it doesn't smell girly at all.  I got mine at Merz Apothecary but it's at Sephora as well.

C’est la vie – I guess I’ll just wear it all tomorrow when I do my 8-miler with the Fleet Feet Breakfast Club run. Even with the mileage from this run it will mean that I won’t hit the 20-mile weekly goal (short 2 miles), but since I have miles banked I’m not going to stress out about it.  Plus after running/racing two half-marathons in two weeks it’s not the worst thing in the world to just take a break and cut back the mileage a little. I did squeeze in a few CorePower Sculpt classes for cross training so I wasn’t a total slacker.  I had been toying with the idea of doing a pre-Superbowl race in Chicago to justify the crap I’ll be eating later, but it’s really no fun to do races without someone else.  Maybe I’ll hit a morning Sculpt class or head out for a few miles on my own.

So, weekly mileage total will be 18 (unless I go out for a few miles on Sunday), 111.85 for January/overall.