Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Finding My New Limits

When planning out my running goals earlier this year, I had planned to train hard for the Brooklyn Half (on May 17) to learn what my limits actually are so that when I start marathon training I could set a reasonable completion time goal.

I still plan to learn what my limits are at the Brooklyn Half.  With 31 days to prepare, I have a new plan to jog/walk the race.  The required minimum pace is 13:45 per mile.  If I can walk half of the race at a 15 minute/mile pace and jog half at a 12 minute/mile pace I'll have an average pace of about 13:30, which is good enough.

My doctor said that running will not make my condition worse - so if you're worried about that, don't.  He did say that I probably wouldn't be able to run this half marathon, but that a full marathon in September is not out of the question.  He suggested that while I have pain, I walk or bike.

Yesterday I walked 4 miles at a 2.5 mph pace on a treadmill.  I'll need to pick that up to a sustained 4 mph walk for my race plans to pan out.  Its important to ease in so I can learn what I can do without hurting afterwards.  The 4 mile walk was fine, in fact I felt less pain after walking than I did before.  I'm planning to try another 4 miles at a 3 mph pace tomorrow.  On Saturday I'll attempt a jog/walk for about 6 miles.  If at any point the jogging is too painful I'll stop.

My injury is a back injury, however my pain is classic sciatica.  This means that my back doesn't actually hurt, rather the pressure on the nerve is making my right glute, calf, and ankle hurt. The pain is at its worst in the morning, getting better as the day goes on.  Sadly the race starts at 7am.  I'll come up with some plan to minimize the pain by the time I'm crossing the start line.

As a bright point: my treatment does seem to be working.  Last week, walking 2 blocks to the garage where we park our car was slow and terrible.  This week I can 4 miles with no pain.  Here's hoping that I continue to make this type of progress!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

2014: The year of setbacks

I'm back!  At some point in 2013 I abandoned the blog.  I was getting bored of constant race recap and training posts.  I'm sure you all noticed the posts were mostly the same with little reason to actually read them.

2013 was an amazing year for me.  I completed the Goofy Challenge, the NYC marathon, 4 half marathons, and enough nyrr races to qualify for entry to the 2014 NYC marathon (which I decided to forgo).   I managed all that in the same year that Alek and I got married!

However, things started to go downhill (without me even realizing it) just before the NYC marathon. I made a huge, huge mistake the night before the marathon.  I forgot to trim my toenails.  When your toenails are too long and getting pounded by your shoes for 4 hours and 55 minutes, blisters will form under them.  OUCH!

So I ended up with blisters under both big toenails.  I went to a podiatrist about a week after the race and she drained the blisters.  I thought my problems were gone...

...months later, I lost a toenail.  No big deal, it had been there long enough that a sliver of new nail had grown beneath it.  Then I lost the other big toenail at the end of January.  Also no big deal the same situation as the other and it wasn't painful....

... until the toe became infected.  This was pretty painful and kept me from running for several weeks until the toe healed.  But it did heal and I got back to my routine.

I was running, doing p90x3, skiing, and feeling pretty good about myself.  My running pace has been slow.  I blame that on two things.  1) lack of consistent exercise since November.  2) weight gain over the course of the year.

On March 9, we took my 9 year old nephew skiing.  I decided that this trip would be a great trip to work on my skiing form since we would be sticking to easier trails.  I felt pretty good about my new form.  I woke up with a back ache the next morning but didn't think much of it as I'd worked pretty hard skiing.

Over the course of March, the back ache came and went.  I continued working out but skipped the p90x when my back hurt.  On March 30 everything went down hill.  After a prolonged car ride I felt like I could barely walk.  I saw a doctor several days later.  He diagnosed me with a pulled muscle and sent me on my way with a prescription for pain killers and muscle relaxers.

The next morning I woke up and just walking a few steps was excruciating.  I lied on my back for most of the day before finally giving in and going to the ER.  Once there, I waited for 2 hours only for them to tell me that there was nothing they could do but prescribe more painkillers/muscle relaxers and suggested that I saw an orthopedist/neurosurgeon.  I spent the weekend lying on my back.

Monday morning I called the doctor referral lines for both NYU and HSS to try to find someone who could get me in soon.  NYU initially said that they couldn't get me in until May.  MAY!  I couldn't walk - there was no way I could get through the entire month of April.  Both NYU and HSS eventually found doctors who would see me on Tuesday.  I chose to go with HSS because of their fabulous reputation for orthopedics.

I saw the doctor Tuesday afternoon.  He diagnosed me with a herniated disk after a physical test.  He then prescribed some nerve medication along with the painkiller/muscle relaxer.  He also suggested a steroid injection into my spine after an MRI to see exactly which disk was the problem.

Its now Saturday, after a few days on the new mediation and having the steroid injection yesterday I'm feeling far better than I did last weekend.  However walking long distances is still painful and I'm not sure when I'll actually run again.  Boo!

I'm signed up for the Brooklyn Half on May 17.  My current plan is to walk or do a walk run for the race - since I'm certainly not trained up to running a full half and I don't want to cause any more damage.

After the brooklyn Half, I'm hoping to start marathon training for the Via Marathon in September. But I'm going to take this one day at a time - the last thing I want is a regression to last weekend.

I'll keep posting updates. sigh...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Take a Hike! Staten Island's Greenbelt Park

Alek and I enjoyed our hikes in Hawaii quite a lot (posts about those will come one day).  After we got home, we decided to try some day hikes near home.  With Staten Island's Greenbelt Preserve only about a half hour away from home, we decided to start there.

Prior to going to the park, we'd read about it in AMC's Best Day Hikes Near New York City.  The book rated the hike as difficult and recommended a longer path than we ended up taking.  The park itself rated most of the trails as easy-moderate with one labelled as moderate-difficult.  Alek and I weren't sure what to expect but we were hoping for a moderate-difficult hike.

We planned to start at the nature center and then take the blue trail to the yellow trail out to High Rock Park.  There we planned to have lunch, after which we would take the blue trail to the white trail back to the nature center.

Our hike went mostly as planned.  We had a little trouble finding trails at the start, as we weren't following the trail markers properly.  The trail markers were rectangles painted on trees. Once we realized how to read them we were fine.  There were a few times when we back tracked to make sure we didn't miss a turn-off.

Trail makers the red trail goes left here and all others go right
We purposefully deviated from our plans a tiny bit to follow the red trail out to Buck's Hollow to see the ruins of the Heyerdahl House.  The trail map was simply marked with ruins and since ruins are always cool to see we had to stop off.  

Ruins on the trail map?  We're in!
Ruins on the trail map?  We're in!

Part of the ruins
After seeing what remained of the old stone home, we were off toward the yellow trail and Moses Mountain.  Before getting to Moses Mountain, the trail goes out on to the street.  Here things got a bit confusing so we looked at a dam while we gathered our bearings!

Dam along the road.

We crossed the street and come to a fork in the path.  Immediately ahead of us was a somewhat steep rock scramble while to our left was a flatter path.  We knew the yellow path was marked moderate/difficult so we took the rock scramble up to the top of Moses Mountain.  It was good climb.  Not super difficult but I commented on the way up that I hoped we wouldn't need to come down this way.  

This photo doesn't show the steepness, but if you can see the rock in the top center we climbed up and over that.
The top of Moses Mountain was really nice.  There were many birds and beautiful views of the surrounding area from 260 feet above sea level.

birds and some views
We did end up having to come down a steep path with some loose rocks.  The descent was awesome but tricky.  After we got down we realized that we'd gone off the yellow trail on to something that was maybe more difficult.  It was definitely worth it though!

After some more hiking over foot bridges and through woods, we came to the parking area for Rock Hill Park.  This was a good area to stop for lunch and bathroom breaks once we found the picnic tables and bathrooms.  Here we had our lunch of goat cheese, walnut, and fig jam sandwiches followed by a girl scout cookie dessert.  Then we were off again.  By now we had hiked 3 miles in nearly 2 hours.  We originally thought we might go longer but changed our minds after the scramble. From here we decided to find the blue path to head back.

They way back was easier and mostly uneventful.  Most of this hike was through marshland.  We did pass by a cool pond with a lot of lily pads and a small pier going out over it.

There were also a bunch of fun foot bridges, including one that was a bit bouncy when you crossed it.  

I'm bouncing in the middle. What, that didn't become an animated gif??

We made it back to the visitor's center after having gone 5.5 miles in about 3 hours.  It was a great hike.  It's remarkable to have an area like this within the city limits.  Other hikers were far and few between and the hike offered up a lot of solitude!

I'm excited for more hikes like this throughout the summer and fall.  We'd love some recommendations if you've gone hiking near the city!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Race Recap: Brooklyn Half

I mentioned in Friday's post that this year's Brooklyn Half would be very different from the race I ran in 2011.  In some ways that was true.  I assumed the course would not change but when I checked where the race start would be I was in for a pleasant surprise.  This year's race began outside the Brooklyn Museum and looped around the park before taking a loop in the park.  I had been expecting two loops around the park. We didn't repeat any of the course!

When we got off the subway around 6:20 the station was packed with runners.  After we got above ground it was still crowded but no longer felt like a sardine.  The port-a-johns were in the corral with quick moving lines.  The entire pre-race setup was fantastic.

Crowded subway station

In the corral

The new course offered a change from what I'd expected.  This was also the weekend of the 2nd annual Great Googa Mooga in Prospect Park.  While it was too early to see any partakers, the signs for bike valet were amusing.

The great pre-race organization continued during the race as there were many water stops and the course was consistently wide enough for the runners.  It started wide, narrowed a bit in the park, then widened again as we went to Ocean Parkway.  There was never a problem with people clusters or passing.  I have to admit to being disappointed that there was no entertainment along Ocean Parkway.  We ran for nearly 6 miles down a long, straight, fairly flat street.  It got a little monotonous.

A dog passed me on the course around the 10th mile, and I saw him again at the finish line.  I'm not sure who he belonged to, but he seemed to have finished the race.

This pup is a runner too!

Even the weather played nice! The temperature was in the 60's (perfect for running) and the rain held off until later in the day.

I came in at 2:09:01.  Not my best time, but certainly not bad for not having run for 3 weeks leading up to the race.  We also got finisher medals to add to our collection!

Finish line photo

Friday, May 17, 2013

2013 Brooklyn Half Partaaaaay!

I'm back!  The last few months of wedding planning overwhelmed me quite a bit.   I had trouble making time for many things, including blogging.  I now have a ton of material from races and other activities over the past few months to keep me going for quite some time.

I'll come back to that later though.  I wasn't going to start the blog back up until next week.  Then I went to the Brooklyn Half Pre-Party to pick up my packet for tomorrow's race.  This is not the same race it was in 2011!

The Brooklyn Half was my first half marathon so it will always hold a special place in my heart.  When I ran in 2011 there wasn't much fanfare around the race. NYRR pushed it as a celebrate Brooklyn event with a Coney Island party after the race.  Other than that, it wasn't so different from any other NYRR race.  Packet pick-up was at the NYRR HQ, there was one wave for the race start, and no finisher medal.

For 2013, NYRR has pulled out all of the stops!  Packet pick-up is taking place at the Tobacco Warehouse in Dumbo.  We stopped by on Wednesday night.  The setup was very cool.  For those of you not familiar the Tobacco Warehouse is an unroofed 1 story brick structure with large open "windows" near the waterfront in Brooklyn.  It is open to the public as a part of Brooklyn Bridge Park and is usually empty except when hosting events.  NYRR gave it a transparent roof, had a DJ, and plenty of decorations to make the space feel completely different and well themed for Brooklyn Running.  Even if you're not running the race you can stop by to check it out.  The party continues today from 10 am until 9 pm.

T-shirt pickup area

New Balance was there selling Goods.  These treadmills belonged to JackRabbit Sports, who also had representatives and goods for sale.

What more could you want?

At the information counter, Alek and I donated money toward Hurricane Sandy relief and received a Brooklyn Half poster as well as a few temporary running tattoos with quips including "Run your meatballs off" and "Outrun the Subway".  I plan to sport one of the tattoos for the race tomorrow; photo coming on Monday!

Poster for a donation

race shirt with reflective NB on sleeve

Outside the Tobacco Warehouse the tattoo phrases were projected onto the wall above food trucks.  We had plans after the party so we didn't eat food truck food while there.

There will be two start waves for the race.  I'm in the first wave, which needs to be in the corral by 6:30 AM.  The second wave, where my new husband will start, needs to be in the corral by 7:05.  I'm not much faster than Alek, so I'll have about a half hour to cheer at the finish.

Based on the pre-race experience, the race itself will have to be more fun than it was 2 years ago.  Maybe simply because of additional excitement from the build up but I also expect more effort to have been put into on-course entertainment.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Race Recap: Disney Family Fun 5k

Sorry for the lack of posts over the past week - we just got back from an exhausting Disney trip and I didn't find time to post while there.  Now that I'm home, I have lots to share about the Run Disney events that I participated in over the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend!  I'll start with the Family 5K since that was our first event of the weekend.

On Friday January 11, the Walt Disney World Fun Run 5K started at 6:30 AM.  This meant getting up at 4:00 to catch a bus over to Epcot from the Coronado Springs Resort.  My parents entered the race with us.  Unfortunately, my mom has a torn tendon in her foot so we just walked the 5k.  This did give us time to stop of for many character photos on the race course through Epcot Center.  I'll post some of the character photos later, once they're uploaded!

It was nice to take the race at a slow pace this year.  Last year we tried to run, but got caught up by large crowds of people.  It was a bit frustrating at the time.  This year it took us an hour and a half to finish, but it was more fun to take character photos.

The 2013 shirt and medal were better than those from 2012.  They featured Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto! Overall it was a fun event, despite our sleep depravation!

Race bib, medal, and shirt

Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Buy Ski Boots

Skiing isn't strictly related to running, but I do use it as a form of winter cross training.  So I'm going talk about my boot buying experiences because I think its important for anyone considering a boot purchase to read!

In the fall of 2010, I decided that I was finished renting every time I went on a ski trip!  I went to a ski shop near where my parents live.  With the help of a sales person, I tried on a few pairs of boots.  He told me that the boots should be very tight but didn't give any other description of how my boots should fit.  I walked out excited for the season to start with my very own boot, ski, and pole set.  I settled on the Dalbello Aspire 67 boot.

Alek and I didn't ski a lot in the 2010-2011 season.  Every time we did ski, the boots hurt my shins and the top of my foot.  I thought that they must still be breaking in, so I stuck with them for another season.  During the 2011-2012 season, we went on one ski trip.  The boot fit was worse than I remembered, this time I felt like my calf was also being pinched.

At the start of the current season, we planned several trips.  During the first trip, I noticed that my boots were cutting off circulation to my toes.  The calf and shin issues were still plaguing me.  While I hadn't skiied much in the previous two seasons, the boots should definitely have been broken in by now.

This past weekend we had our second ski trip of the season.  Knowing that every trip would be miserable in the boots, I did some investigation to find the best place for boot fitting near Killington.  Several forums highly recommended Northern Ski Works.  Before skiing on Saturday, we stopped in.

Once inside, I was directed to the boot fitting area.  After waiting for my turn, I met Hal, a bootfitter,  and explained how my old boots were wrong.  He had me take off my shoes and then he flexed my foot at the ankle to determine my range of motion.  He mentioned that my ankles don't want to bend beyond 90 degrees and with my good musculature (read huge calf muscles from running), my calf muscles actually push against the ski boot.  Since my ankles don't want to bend very far, this lifts my heel out of the boot causing all sorts of issues because my leg is being pushed too far forward.

Hal fit me with the Nordica Cruise 85w ski boot.  It has a more straight stance than most boots, accommodating my ankle stiffness.  The boots are also highly adjustable.  Hal was able to adjust the top of the cuff near my calf so that it would fold out more giving my calf some space.  He adjusted the "canting" or the left to right tilt of the boot so that the tongue wouldn't bother my shin bone.  As I mentioned pressure points, he pushed the padding of the liner down.  Hal said that some of the pressure points would have naturally gone away as I broke the boots in, but he helped me get comfortable nonetheless.  He also put a lift in the boot liner so that my heel would touch the bottom of the boot even when my ankle didn't want to flex.  Finally, I was having some rubbing at my left ankle.  Hal took a look at my ankles and said that mine isn't located where ankles typically are located, but he heated the boot and molded the plastic to make space for my ankle.

My boot purchasing experience at Northern Ski Works was amazing.  After the visit, I had the best day of skiing for quite some time.  I had much more control and my feet and legs were comfortable even at the end of the day.  I strongly recommend going somewhere with a full time boot fitter if you're thinking of purchasing your own set!