This Runner's Trials

Mind games

Posted by runnerstrials

Wow, so it appears from my last post as if I’m the only one not using compression socks!  I cannot wait to get them after hearing all of your praises.

I’m sure you guys are getting sick of hearing me say that running is a mental sport. But it’s the truth. And I’m not a liar. So you’re going to have to keep listening to me say it ;)

I honestly believe your state of mind can be the difference between a “good” and a “bad” run.

Actually, let’s go deeper: Your mindset can also help determine if you have a “good” or “bad” day. Or a happy vs. unfulfilling life. No one wants to hang around someone who is negative and complains all the time, right? Being Debbie Downer = no friends= loneliness. See my point? Of course you do…

I love to run. Shocker, right? But most of the time sometimes getting through my runs is tough.

Today I had an 8 mile run with 4 one mile speed repeats scheduled. On the treadmill. During a rainy day. After a hard day at work.

Part of me did not want to run. But the other part of me- the part I like more- was eager to cross my last interval run off my marathon training schedule.

It took all of my willpower to lace up my beloved Brooks. As soon as I stepped on the treadmill, I wanted to get off. I knew I’d have to rely on my mind to guide my legs to that imaginary finish line.

And guess what? The run went spectacularly! 8 miles at an average 7:53 pace with 4 miles at 7:13. The session completely re-energized me and left me in a good mood.


So how did I get through it? Here’s a glimpse into my mind tricks:

  1. It’s only one hour. (Ok, so it was really one hour and 3 minutes.) One twenty-fourth of your day. Sure, one hour seems like eternity when you’re out there pounding the pavement or the treadmill belt. But I bet you’re one hour lunch break or episode of Glee breezes by. Case in point.
  2. Lose yourself in the music, the moment… I don’t exactly listen to music in the traditional sense when I run (I can’t put things in my ears :( ). But I do sing songs in my head. Today- like most days- Eminem was on repeat during my speed intervals. The more inspirational, the better.
  3. Fight a different battle. For most of us, there will come a time where we’ll do something much more physically challenging than running. For me, it’s yoga. Kidding… kind of. When the going gets tough, I try to relish the feeling. I want to remember how strong I am so when I need to fight cancer or push a tiny human out of my girly parts, I can call on that strength to get me through it.
  4. My body was made to do this. God gave us legs for a reason. Do you know why almost all adults suffer from back pain (source)? Is it because most of us are dedicated athletes? I’ll let these maps from my beloved Centers for Disease Control and Prevention answer that question. No, folks it’s because we sit in front of the computer, steering wheel and television for hours on end. Our bodies were meant to move. Just be happy you only have to run and not hunt, gather and dodge tigers like our ancestors.
  5. I am awesome. And so are you! Envision yourself running your next big race. Hell, imagine you’re running the Boston Marathon, the Olympic trials or away from that tiger. Thinking about how strong you are in that fantasy may directly affect your current performance. Positive mental imagery is kind of amazing that way.

What mental games do you play to get through tough workouts?

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8 Ways to Recover Right

Posted by runnerstrials

Thanks for all of you words of encouragement and congratulations from my half marathon. I’m very glad that race is behind me :)

I am officially in the taper stage of marathon training. WOHOO!

But before I can jump head first into my taper, I need to recover from my last long run/ race.

Recovery is the most critical- and most overlooked- part of athletic training. (source)

Before this venture into marathon training, I never really gave recovery much thought. My body was so used to half marathon training, that I never felt burnt out.

When I switched to triathlon training this summer, I didn’t need much recovery time since I was using different muscle groups for the 3 different sports.

Then I started marathon training. Ha. Recovering from runs in the teens is much different than recovering from a brick workout. At least for my body.

I've poured over my training log, talked to friends and consulted with my hubby. I've definitely learned a thing or two about what helps my body bounce back. My long runs may be over for this marathon, but don’t think for a second that I’m not already looking ahead towards my next big race ;)

Here’s the recovery strategy that works for me. I encourage you to keep a detailed training log with your mileage and note how you feel in the days afterwards to see what works best for you :)

1. Stretch immediately after running. Stretching after a long run just feels good. Stretch as soon as you stop, and take the time to do it well. I always feel much tighter if I wait too long to stretch.

2. Get food in you stat. You only have about a 30 minute window of time to get a healthy mix of protein and carbs in you to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscles. My go-to choices are a bagel with peanut butter or Gatorade protein recovery drink. Check out this awesome article about Why, What and When You Should Eat After a Workout. You should also hydrate like crazy, but this usually isn’t an issue for me.

3. Ice, ice baby. I feared the ice bath for years. But guys, it’s not so bad. I promise. We’re runners so it’s not like this “pain” thing is new. To do it right:

  • Fill a tub up with enough cold water that its covering your hips
  • Put on a sweater ( it really helps) and get in
  • Pour 2 bags of ice on top of you
  • Take deep breaths and stop whining
  • Sit in the tub for about 10 minutes

(Yes, those are bathing suit bottoms)

It also helps to ice sore body parts later in the day. I always ice my shins at night after a long or hard run.

4. Get horizontal. I prefer to take naps (obviously, who doesn't?). But if you're short on time, just take twenty minutes or so to sit up or lay down with your legs stretched out. Your body will treasure the time off your feet.

5. But don’t be lazy. Resist the urge to spend the whole day on the couch. Take a walk around the block to stretch out your legs. Preferably with a furry companion ;) Stretching or practicing light yoga will also help the recovery process.

6. Care for your muscles. Nothing can top a professional sports massage/ stretching combo, but that’s not always the affordable. (Though I’d highly suggest skipping a few dinners out and forgoing some lattes to save up for this treatment.) Invest in a foam roller or a stick. Rubbing these sore, tight muscles hurts at first, but it gets easier with time.

7. Dine like a king. Fueling adequately after a race also helps speed recovery. You burned a ton of calories during your workout, and your body needs them back to function well. And plus, you just sweated your butt off for hours; you deserve a cookie or 6. Or a black bean burger salad and sweet potato fries... mmmmm.

8. Take a day or two off. I learned this the hard way. After my first 20 miler, I took 2 full days off of running and felt fine when I laced up my Brooks again. My long runs and tempo runs felt great. Then after my first (great) 18 miler, I followed my training plan and only took one rest day. Then my training went down hill. Coincidence? Maybe. But I learned my lesson and will give myself more days off in the future.

What do you guys do to recover? Has anyone tried compression socks? I heard the compression sock fairy may be visiting me this week :)

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Hiddenite Half Marathon Recap

Posted by runnerstrials

This post could have also been titled “That Time the Race Volunteers had to Call EMS for Me”.

Saturday my hubby and I ran the Hiddenite half marathon in Hiddenite, NC. This was my 10th half marathon :)

To say this race was a challenge would be an understatement. Thankfully, I wasn’t really “racing”. My plan was to run the race as part of a 20 mile training run. That was the plan anyway…

The race started and ended at different locations. We had to park near the finish and a shuttle van drove us up to the start via the race course.

Hubby and I boarded the first van at 7:30 so we’d have time to get in a few miles before the 8:30 start.

I almost had a panic attack on the van, no joke. Seeing the “hills” I’d be running up was almost comical.

This course was not hilly. I know hilly. This race was in the mountains. Therefore, it was mountainous. I’ve hiked up “hills” like these. But I’ve never tried to run on them for 20 miles.

I would have given anything at that point to be back home in Charlotte doing my 20 miles there. But we were 13.1 miles away from our car, so we may as well run those miles, and get in a few extra ;)

During our warm-up, I concentrated on the positive. We had a gorgeous view of a mountain ridge and it was peaceful to run on country roads in the middle of no where without much traffic (and the race organizers had animal control out to make sure no stray dogs attacked us.)

We came back from our warm-up feeling pretty confident. Then it started to get hot, really hot. 91 degrees with 88% humidity by the time we finished. The course had no shade, very few aid stations and tons of hills. For a salty sweater like me who avoids running in the heat of the day at all costs, I should have expected this would be a recipe for disaster.

Still, we started the actual race off pretty strong. My legs weren’t tired or sore as they had been in previous weeks, and I genuinely felt happy to be out there.

Until a downhill around mile 3. I hate running downhill. (Am I the only one who loathes it as much as uphill?) My “bad” knee from a torn meniscus in 2006 started bothering me on the first steep downhill. Then my piriformis injury from 2008 flared up on the next uphill.

I thought about pushing through it, but this race was not my goal. I kept saying out loud “my marathon is my goal, this is a training run”. And the last thing in the world I wanted was an old injury to start bothering me now, 3 weeks before my marathon. We slowed our pace a lot, and I took walk breaks up almost every hill.

I hit my half marathon at 1:53:21, an 8:39 pace. Way slower than recent halves and way slower than my goal time. But for the conditions on this day, I was cool with the time and I didn’t let it get to me.

We still had close to 5 miles to go to get to the finish. The sun really started taking a toll on me and I longed for more gatorade. I could tell my pace was slowing even more so I told my hubby to go on without me.

I had one last mountain climb before the finish and it lasted an entire mile. The second place female was just 30 yards or so ahead of me, and I foolishly made it my goal to pass her on the last hill. So I did my best combination of walk/sprint to get up the mountain and eventually did pass her (side note: apparently she recently BQ’d and even she was struggling, so I’m not counting myself out just yet ;) ).

I passed through the finish line and think my official time was 1:57 something. This would be my slowest 1/2 marathon in years, but I was ok with it.

Then I stopped. When I stopped, my legs didn’t. They started shaking like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I would have collapsed if it wasn’t for two wonderful race volunteers who held me up. I saw my usually calm hubby running towards me with a panicked look on his face, and I realized maybe something was truly wrong with me. The race volunteers sat me down, and hubby had me chug no less than 7 cups of gatorade. And within minutes I felt fine.

(I hate salt, I love water and I’m a salty sweater, especially on hot days. This is a recipe for disaster for runners because of a dangerous condition called hyponatremia. Hubby and another Dr. who came to my aid both speculated I was experiencing that.)

Understandably, the lovely race volunteers would rather be safe than sorry, so they called an ambulance for me.

I had to politely and officially refuse medical treatment from the EMS folks. I honestly felt fine though, and wouldn’t have refused medical treatment otherwise.

Hubby said he wishes he got a picture of me when I first looked bad. Rumor has it all color drained from my face and my eyes were rolling back in my head. Would have been an awesome picture for the blog, huh? Oh well, there’s always next time. I’m kidding.

At the awards ceremony, I got second overall female and my friend Emma (who had to leave early and I’m so bummed we didn’t get a picture together) got third. Way to go, Emma!

 (The first place female and me.)

Hubby got second in his age group, but he would have done much better if someone didn’t make him run with her most of the race. But that someone was very appreciative that he did :)

Then came a hard decision. I was at 18 miles for the day; I was supposed to run 20. It was very hard for me to justify running 2 more miles in the heat, without sunscreen, when I just almost passed out. I doubted those 2 miles would make the difference between meeting and missing my marathon goal, so I skipped them. I’m just glad I already had 2 twenty mile training runs under my belt, so I wasn’t “forced” to do 20 today.

My final stats on the day were 18 miles at an 8:58 pace.

I thought this race would hurt my confidence for my marathon goal. But it didn’t. These courses are like night and day. The marathon is at the Jersey shore so it’s completely flat. I’ve been training on flat roads, and not mountains so I know my legs will respond better. And the chances of it being 91 degrees in NJ on October 17 are pretty slim. Though I’m sure crazier things have happened.

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