Pain Free Training

Last week was the first week since my hamstring injury and rehab that I felt as if I actually trained and it was truly pain free.  Not that my hamstring had been really causing much pain, but I would still get a dull ache now and again sometimes hours after a run.

Sunday my dad picked up Todd, Armand, Jason and me and we went to Lake Williams to run.  This was a new experience as the only trails I had ever ran were at Rocky Ridge, and I always chose relatively easy ones.  Our trail loving friend Scott (who recently completed 112 miles on a trail beginning in Massachusetts and ending in Connecticut) recommended we check out trail 2 to get a rough idea of what to expect during the Sasquatch Trail Run.  He advised us to make sure we didn’t end up on trail 2A which I’m now curious to see.

Our group set out and dad, Todd and Jason quickly pulled ahead of Armand and me.  They did pause at spots along the way to regroup.  At one point we came upon an incredibly steep hill and about halfway up I realized why it’s ok to walk on hills during trail races.  I’m fairly certain it took less energy and time to walk the rest of the hill than it would’ve taken had I kept trying to run up it.  Mentally it was certainly a new experience for me as I’m conditioned to believe you always run up a hill no matter what.

When the trail ended at a road we decided to run on it for some more miles as the trail itself was only going to be 4 miles round trip.  My legs felt much more at home cruising the hills on the road though it was nice to return to the shade of the woods.  We elected to check out trail 2B on our way back which was very narrow and slightly overgrown at spots.  There were some switchbacks and lots of roots so I slowed down greatly to be cautious of my footing.  Once again the front guys got ahead of Armand and me, likely due to my slow pace, and I was glad Armand was with me as I almost chose wrong at an intersection and would’ve ended up completing another loop.  He directed me to the correct path.  We finished with a solid 6 miles logged of good trail training.

Wednesday was calling for incredibly high temps and humidity, so I elected to run in the morning rather than with the group that evening.  Jason was up early and decided to join me.  We got in a fairly easy 3.5 miles over to the middle school and back.  It was much cooler and not even as humid as I had expected, so I’m glad I made the right call to run at that time.

Friday Jason and I had a vacation day.  We drove over to the Turkey Hill trail in Lancaster for a change in location.  While there is an actual trail in the woods there (which I’ve never ran but my dad says is rather steep at spots), we chose to stick to the flat trail along the river to complete our 7 miles.  Jason has really gotten better at monitoring his pace and not going out insanely fast then dying at the end of a workout.  I give props to his new Garmin for improving that.  It was lightly raining during the run and we were a bit past 5 miles when the rain grew steadier.  Fortunately it was warm enough that the rain didn’t make me cold, but it did start to annoy me in general and I was glad when it became light again.  I told myself that running in the rain makes you look tougher.  Given we only saw 2 other people on the trail though I wasn’t really impressing anyone.

I intended to run again yesterday (Sunday) morning but my hamstrings and calves were incredibly tight.  I’m not sure why given I had done a mobility workout on Saturday to stretch out.  All I can figure is it’s just my body still adjusting to “normal” training again after being sidelined.  I’m sure running 7 miles of all flat terrain didn’t help either as I’m used to having at least a few bumps in my runs.  I listened to my body and instead of running completed a 15 min MMA DailyBurn workout followed by 2, 10 minute upper body workouts then took a walk to the donation bins down the street to donate some clothing.

As I’m feeling a bit looser today I plan to run after work.  I’m still on the fence about training for a half marathon the end of October.  Originally Armand was interested in it, but now has another commitment that day.  Part of me wants to run it so I have something specific to train for, and another part wants to just continue easing back into my training until the York Winter Series begins in November.  I told Jason after we run Sasquatch I’ll let him decide if he wants to continue adding onto our long runs.  If he wants to then I may proceed with the half marathon and if not, I may just play it by ear.

Do you run trails often?  Do you enjoy rainy runs?  Do you find flat routes to be tougher on your body than hillier ones?


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Misfit Toys

I’m not one to use my blog for venting too often as I find it too much like the social media drama I left behind when I quit Facebook almost two years ago.  That said I have had a very tough day emotionally for a wide variety of reasons (including hormones) and felt I needed to use my blog as an outlet.  Apologies to those of you who much prefer the running related posts, I’m sure I will snap out of this soon enough and return to my usual running writing.

I’ve read various articles over the years about loneliness being an unaddressed health concern in this country.  With so many people working 40+ hours a week, kids being over-scheduled with activities and the general disconnect of people from one another it’s no wonder.  That said, I have noticed many people I know have a best friend or friends who they regularly spend time with.  By regular I would say around once a month or at least several times a year.  The type of friends who are there for important life events as well as casual fun ones.

Unfortunately Jason and I have not been so fortunate as to have found these type of friends in either area we have lived.  The couple we connect best with lives near Chicago, a high school bestie of mine, Alecia, and her husband, Ryan.  We visited them in 2016, Alecia visited us twice in the past four years (thanks to work trips bringing her nearer to PA) and the four of us took a cruise together in 2017.  We planned to visit them fall of last year, but when our flight was cancelled and rescheduled until evening we realized we wouldn’t even get to spend 2 full days together.  We decided to nix the trip completely as it wasn’t worth the money and they completely agreed.

As I put it to Alecia today via a text vent – I often feel like we’re in this awkward world of not wanting kids, not wanting to climb a corporate ladder, not Trumper enough to live in this area but too nature loving to want to live in a city.  I know Jason wants to move but I feel we’ll be in that boat no matter where we live.  We’re just misfits.

It’s hard to make friends as an adult and even harder to find couples to befriend.  Most people our age are consumed by debt, children, work or all three.  We’ve struggled in vain to branch out and connect to people through other channels in hopes of “getting lucky” and clicking with another pair.  This has been especially challenging for Jason who is naturally an introvert.

We began attending a Unitarian Universalist church in November, but over the months decided it wasn’t the right fit for us.  Like most churches I’ve attended, the majority of attendees while very nice, consisted of older people and families.  They were certainly more liberal than most people in our area, but actually bordered too far left in terms of political activism, something that Jason and I don’t regularly participate in beyond my involvement with Citizens Climate Lobby.

We run with a group sometimes, but it consists of my dad, one of his close friends (father to guys I attended high school with), my hairdresser’s husband and and an older guy.  While they’re all great and fun to run with, they’re not exactly looking to hang out regularly with two 30-somethings.  We usually all attend a pizza and trivia night once a year which is fun, but not something we get to do regularly.

We go through cycles of contentment with it just being the two of us and periods of irritation that we have no friends.  We recently visited Kennett Square for a day trip and I saw a poster for a murder mystery art stroll and immediately thought of how fun that would be to attend if Alecia and Ryan lived in the area.  At those points I’m reminded of how expensive airfare is and how far a drive Chicago would be if either of us could even handle the insanity of its highways.  That’s when the loneliness hits.

Texting is a wonderful modern way of staying connected.  Phone calls and hearing someone’s voice do help to make you feel closer to them.  At the end of the day though nothing beats face to face chatting and laughing be it over a nice dinner or a board game.  In a world where we can so easily connect to so many, it’s incredibly hard to find the deeper connections and makes for some very lonely times in life.

Do you have close adult friends?  Do you and your significant other have couple friends?

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Testing Limits

I’m finding that while dealing with an injury is tough, figuring out if you’re truly healed and how to train post-injury poses its own set of challenges.  My physical therapist had advised that it would be normal to feel some discomfort in my hamstring as I intensify my program and tax the tissue harder.  This is due to the remodeling of the tissue.

For the most part anytime I’ve felt twinges in my hamstring in the past several weeks it’s tended to resolve in a short period of time, something that I’m to expect per the therapist.  I need only be concerned if the pain is sharp or lingers.

Last Wednesday I ran with dad and Armand for a 5 mile loop.  I watched my pace to ensure I didn’t push it too much given I had ran a challenging 6 mile loop with dad and Jason on Sunday.  The run went fine though we got a bit wet during the middle portion thanks to passing showers.  I had no issues with my hamstring.  On Thursday I did a DailyBurn yoga workout and took a 15 minute walk around the cemetery with Jason.  On Friday my hamstring continuously ached while I worked.  No matter which way I sat the dullness persisted.  Due to my workload I wasn’t able to get up and move around quite as often as I normally try to and wasn’t sure if this was aggravating the area or not.

Jason had planned for us to do a speed workout Fri. evening.  This was partially due to him wanting to test out the workout feature of our new Garmin watches.  I was debating on the smartness of doing the workout given the dull ache, but figured I could always back off the intensity or limit the number of intervals if needed.  I really wanted to test out my hamstring’s limits to determine if it was bordering on being injured again.

We went to the park and completed a 1 mile warmup over to the high school campus and back.  Then we had a 2 minute rest before beginning the .1 sprints that finished up a slight hill.  I had done a similar workout back in February but couldn’t remember how much recovery time I gave myself before each sprint.  Originally we planned for 2 minutes but that seemed too long, so Jason change it to 45 seconds.  We found out soon enough that 45 seconds was not enough time to quickly walk/jog back to our starting point before the watch beeped to begin the next sprint.  This ultimately pushed our ending point back which wouldn’t have been an issue except there was a fenced off area at the top of the hill so to get the full .1 in we had to turn around and start back down the hill.  Jason continued to sprint, but I tended to ease up on the downhill portions so my sprints were more like .8 of a mile.  We completed 10 of those sprints to get a full mile in then ran a half mile cooldown.

All evening and all day on Saturday I waited for my hamstring to start bothering me.  It didn’t.  Yesterday we went to the rail trail to run 6 miles.  Again I was a bit concerned since the portion we ran was nearly all flat and I tend to need hills to break up my pace and give my leg muscles a change.  The run went well though, and I think I could’ve ran farther as the morning weather felt more like fall than mid August.  My hamstring behaved and I only felt it twinge a bit later that day while in the car for an extended period of time.

I feel much better having pushed my hamstring more and see that it didn’t cause any negative setbacks.  I know I still need to be smart and not try to increase my mileage or pace too much too soon, but I feel like I can begin actual training without so much fear of re-injury.

Have you struggled with fear of re-injury after recovering from an injury?  How do you determine your rest periods during a speed workout?


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A Few Running Firsts

This past week I was reminded of the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie“.  If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s a cause and effect story that begins with a mouse receiving a cookie which makes him ask for a glass of milk.  Then he asks for something else once he receives the milk.  Spoiler alert – the book ends with the mouse requesting a cookie.  There is a similar book called “If You Give a Moose a Muffin”.

I want to add another book called “If You Buy a Husband a Garmin Watch”.  Jason decided recently that he wanted to take up running more rather than lifting.  We bought him a much needed pair of new running shoes.  He then began researching Garmin watches as we currently have one, a Garmin 10 I believe, and it can be tedious to share because we don’t always run the same pace.  He settled on the Garmin Forerunner 45 and we bought it at the local running store last Thursday as an early birthday present.

His first running watch of his own led him to wanting to test it out the next morning.  We decided to run a quick mile out and back in the alley behind our house.  He pulled ahead of me before the turn around point.  I turned around, crossed a street and spotted a first on a run – a skunk scurrying across the alley.  I slowed and watched it.  It noticed me and came to a complete stop and began to raise its rear.  I came to an abrupt halt.  The skunk lowered its rear and proceeded across the alley in between two bushes.  I cautiously began walking and kept my eye on the bushes.  The skunk turned around and stared at me.  At that point I decided I wasn’t taking any chances, so I backtracked to the intersection and proceeded up to Main St to run a block before heading back to the alley.

Jason’s first run with his Garmin watch then prompted him to sign up for his first trail race, the Sasquatch Preservation Trail Run.  That day at work he received an email that his company was a sponsor of the race and had a few complimentary entries.  He forwarded me the email and asked me some questions (I had to clarify that “trail race” did not indicate simply a run on the rail trail) and then signed himself up for the 10k.  While I haven’t actually signed up yet, I agreed to trying the 5k and my dad said he wanted to join us and run the 10k.

Years ago dad and I regularly ran a race called “Partners in the Park” that was the closest to a trail run I’ve ever completed.  It utilized well groomed, frequently used trails at Rocky Ridge County Park.  While there were some rocks to tackle, it was nothing like the typical trail run descriptions I’ve heard from other running friends.  The description of the Sasquatch noted that all runners would cross the Codorus Creek near the end and joked that “If you finish and you’re not wet and dirty, you’re disqualified”.  For anyone who knows me I am NOT a fan of being wet while running and I loathe mud.  I am also rather clumsy despite having been a hurdler and have been known to walk into things and trip up steps.  Needless to say this should prove to be an interesting experience.

Due to signing up for the trail race I advised Jason that he would need to get in some hillier runs.  Yesterday morning dad joined us for my 6 mile loop that included tackling Blymire hill.  It was Jason’s first time ever running that course and that hill, and my first time running it since my hamstring injury.  He did very well and actually ran smart, pacing himself at the start so he would have energy for the hill.  I was very proud of him.  I felt my hamstring twinge a bit in the last half mile of the run which I attribute to running hills for the first time again.

Having completed a successful hillier long run, Jason is now set on us completing a speed workout this Thursday.  I told him of one I completed earlier in the year, a warmup followed by a .1 mile partially uphill sprint with a walk recovery repeated 10x followed by a cooldown.  It will be his first speed workout and my first since the injury.

The Garmin watch seems have been a near $200 well spent given how much Jason is using it and enjoying it.  He’s already trying to convince me to buy one.  The watch has certainly kicked off plenty of firsts and we’ll see how many more arise as he progresses into being a more regular runner.

Do you have a Garmin watch?  Have you ever encountered wildlife on a run that made you change course?

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Random Thoughts

Arriving home from a concert after midnight means my brain isn’t running on full power today, so that’s a good enough reason to feature some randomness in this week’s post.

-I don’t know how people manage to work full time, run their household and study for a degree.  This 10 week NASM personal trainer course is enough for me.  I just finished week 6’s work today and I’m ready to be finished.

-The discussion questions are what annoy me the most.  They’re so time consuming.  They do reinforce a lot of the key concepts so I know they serve a purpose but there’s definitely no “discussion” going on in the forum.  We each just answer the questions.

-Running three times in a week feels good.  I need consistency to feel like I’m accomplishing something.

-Running 6 miles on one of those runs and 7 miles on another doesn’t necessarily feel so good.  My legs are spent.

-Why is the cat still shedding this late into the summer?  It is gross and I’m tempted to ask Jason to give her a bath.  #Ihateanimalhair

-Actually sometimes I hate human hair as well.  I love that Jason saves money cutting his hair at home but I hate how it clogs the drain.  That reminds me, I still need to buy Liquid Plumber as our bathroom sink is slow as molasses.

-Why am I not at the beach?  Oh that’s right, it was cheaper to go in September and my parents say it will be less crowded.

-I cannot handle hard cider with an alcohol content over 7% despite eating a very filling meal with it.

-A legit bakery would make crepes fresh, not freeze them to be thawed out and served.  It definitely throws off the texture of the dough.

-I love finding new used book stores.  4 books for under $20 is a major score.

-I had no idea Red Robin now offers bottomless chips as a side instead of bottomless fries.  I might be apt to visit more often now.

-No matter how old I get or how sleep deprived they make me, concerts will always be one of my favorite experiences in life.  Three Days Grace was awesome but Breaking Benjamin will always have my heart.

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Double Digit Week

The week of April 21st I ran more than 10 total miles.  From that point my mileage declined until I ran the Turkey Hill Country Classic 10k and was forced to take two weeks off from running due a mild hamstring injury.

I am happy to report I am finally reversing that trend and adding miles to my weeks.  I had two weeks in a row of two runs, the first week totaling 8 miles and the second week totaling 9 miles.  This past week my goal was to get in three runs totaling 10 miles.

Monday after work I logged 3 miles running towards the high school and back.  I planned to just run comfortably but managed to clock in at 28:21, faster than I expected to be.  My last mile was just under 9 minutes though I do credit the downhill grade of the alley for the speedy finish.

Wednesday I originally wanted to run with my regular running group.  Watching the weather forecast Tuesday evening though I decided it would be better to get my run in before work rather than contend with increasing heat and humidity and possible thunderstorms.  Early morning running is a rarity for me, but I mentally committed to getting up and getting it done.  I wanted to run 5 miles and figured I would run the same route to the high school and just go down the one road further before turning back.  While I was awake enough to run, my brain apparently wasn’t awake enough to do math.  I ended up turning around sooner than I should’ve and was approaching 4 miles as I neared my house.  I contemplated adding on another mile by running in the cemetery but decided I had ran decently and preferred to get showered and get my work day started.  I found that 4 mile run to be a good wake up as I was more alert while working.

Friday was a vacation day for Jason and me.  We originally wanted to take a day trip to Kennett Square, but since the heat index was to hit triple digits we decided against it.  I decided to knock out my 3 miles shortly after getting out of bed.  I added a loop in the local park to my usual route to change things up.  I thought running on gravel would be a nice change though the lack of shade reinforced how quickly the day was heating up.  The humidity made it harder to breathe and sweat was dripping off my nose until I returned home.

Jason and I went shopping on Friday to get him new running shoes (after a foot/gait analysis he is now in Brooks Ghost like me and dad).  He decided he wanted to break them in Saturday morning.  Because of this I added another 2 miles to my week.  It was just a mile up and back in the alley, but it felt tough due to the weather.  This brought my grand total for the week to 12 miles.

I’m planning on getting in at least 12 miles, if not more, this week.  I want to start throwing in some of my hillier routes to build up my strength and speed.  I’m still not committing to training for anything specific at this point, but am enjoying being back to a more normal running routine.

I have often heard that weekly mileage shouldn’t be increased by more than 10% to prevent injury.  This would mean adding barely over a mile a week for several weeks which I find very tedious.  Do you follow this rule?  How to do you decide how many miles to add each week while getting back into training shape?

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Note – If you are sensitive to stitches/scar/medical type pictures you may not want to read this blog as I have 2 pictures listed below.  They are post outpatient surgery so there is no blood.  I have included them for my own future reference if I have to undergo a similar procedure again I can refer back to this blog entry.

On Monday I had two excisions done, one on my left bicep and one in the middle of my upper back.  It wasn’t my first experience with this procedure as I had two done on my right arm a few years ago.  The reason?  Melanoma.

The two moles excised on my arm were a very low level melanoma, barely measurable.  Due to this though, when I had two moles removed by the dermatologist in May and they came back as “abnormal cells” (in my bicep) and “possible melanoma in situ” (in my back) I was referred to plastic surgery to have the areas excised.  That’s just a fancy way of saying they cut out the full mole in the deeper layers of the skin as well as cells surrounding the area to ensure if there is any melanoma that it hasn’t spread to other cells.

I had the option to be sedated, but I chose not to as I wasn’t the first time and figured I would be fine with the topical anesthetic.  The surgeon excised my arm first and while I didn’t watch him, I looked at it once it was stitched up (internal ones that dissolve this time which was nice) and wasn’t too bothered by it.  Lying on my stomach on a laid back chair not really designed to be an operating table was the most challenging part.  I suggested that a face cradle like those on massage tables would be beneficial as keeping my head to the side became uncomfortable.  The doctor lowered the headrest and I ended up resting my chin on the end of the chair back with my forehead on the headrest.  Not ideal, but tolerable enough that I wouldn’t move during the procedure.

I was very relaxed, or as relaxed as one really could be given the circumstances, but at one point emotion swept over me.  I fought off mental images of the doctor cutting into my back and tried to think about beaches, lakes and other nature images instead.  I began to think about the scars I would have.  Ironically I had just finished reading Frankenstein a few weeks ago.  This was a shallow thought as I knew my health was more important than appearances, but the fear that I might have to continue to go through this process every few years, having various moles excised to leave scars behind, depressed me.  I reminded myself that my sister would be enduring much worse in a few months when she experienced labor and delivery for the first time.

When I was finally allowed to roll over and the chair was transitioned to its upright position once more, I felt very lightheaded.  I rubbed the side of my head and mentioned this and the nurse offered to get me water.  I then began to slightly cry for no apparent reason.  It scared me a bit and I asked the doctor if that was normal as it didn’t happen after my other excisions.  He handed me a tissue and said he had seen it happen and that I went through a lot having two done instead of one.  The nurse then got me some goldfish crackers and they let me recover in the room alone for a few minutes.  The snack helped me get my bearings back and I quickly dressed and found the colored gauze the nurse left me to cover my arm if I wished.  Looking at its swollen and bruised ugliness I decided yes, I needed it covered and immediately wrapped it.

I scheduled my wound check follow up visit and headed home to promptly take a Tylenol and lay down on the couch.  It never fails to amaze me how exhausting even mild outpatient surgery can be physically on the body.  I recounted my visit to Jason when he got home from work and that night before bed I finally looked at the surgical area on my back.  It was a lot longer than I expected and I joked how wonderful that scar would look at the beach this year.

In the days following the excisions I began to feel better, physically and emotionally.  I was reminded of many others who have large scars – my brother in law from back surgery, my first boyfriend from scoliosis surgery and my mom from her Cesarean delivery of my sister.  My mom showed me pictures of a coworker who had major melanoma removed from her neck and the incisions on either side of it.  It really hit home how much better it is to be scarred than have your health at risk.  As my sister bluntly put it later in the week, “Better than being dead”.

The doctor called on Thursday to say that pathology confirmed there was no melanoma found in either location which was welcome news.  In some ways it’s hard not to think that I was scarred “for nothing”, but health is something that you can’t take chances with.  If the whole process reminded me of anything it’s that you need to be grateful for your health and everything that your body can do.  It is also my public service announcement to anyone who reads this that annual skin checks are important and if anything on your skin ever looks awry to see a doctor.  Melanoma is very treatable when caught early.

Do you have surgical scars?  Have you ever had an emotional reaction following any type of surgery?

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