post-injury: the new normal

I don’t know how long I’m allowed to talk about “coming back from injury,” but here we are, talking about it again.  Of course, this cause is helped by the fact that I haven’t been blogging that often – there’s not much to write about when you’re only running for 3-4 miles at a time.  Not knocking these shorter distances, but I can hardly feel warmed up and in the zone by the time I’m done, soooooo not too thrilling.

Getting back into running after taking time off is hard.  Not only because I missed running so much, but I miss how easy running was!  My last big run before getting hurt was 18 miles.  It wasn’t the best run of my life, but I ran 18 miles at sub-8 pace in some chilly temperatures – certainly an effort I’m proud of.  Although I’ve been telling myself to take it easy and not push myself on these shorter runs, I’m also swallowing a bit of my pride and saying that an 8:30 pace isn’t exactly the easiest for me right now.  Hard?  No, I wouldn’t say that.  It would be more difficult to hold an eight minute pace.  But I’ve spent a fair amount of my running life dancing around at 8:30 pace, not necessarily concentrating to move forward.  It’s a bit of blow to my ego, but it also reminds me to appreciate what my body can do when it’s working properly.

And about that “working properly” thing.  I won’t say that my hip/groin area feels 100%, as it does not.  It doesn’t “hurt” per se.  It’s definitely cranky in the morning and doesn’t feel that great when I walk to work in the morning.  I don’t notice it at work at all – not sure if that’s a shoe issue (I walk to work in running shoes and then change into my Danskos at work) or just me being busy at work so I don’t notice it.  Sometimes I feel something “off” when I walk home from work, but definitely not as bad in the morning.

For my running routine, I’m becoming much more high maintenance.  Ever since my high school years when summer running started at 6am, I’ve been able to basically roll out of bed and go.  Even when I started adding the distance, I basically wake up, eat, digest a bit, and go.  No stretching or warm up exercises here!  Perhaps that added to why I got injured, perhaps I’m just getting older and need a little more fine tuning.  I do a routine of front, side, back/side, and back lunges, some with twists.  I also do some squats and single leg squats.  The best way for me to replicate the groin pain when I was having it was to do a single leg squat and then transfer weight to my right leg – which is basically what running is, right?  A series of single leg squats then transferring weight?  It’s kind of my gauge to see how I’m doing.  (Please note:  I stopped doing that single leg squats when I was having a lot of pain – I was just testing!)

Once those are done, I do some leg swings (front and back, side to side) to further warm up the hips.  Then I head outside and start walking.  I don’t think I’ve ever done a walking warm up in my life (oops?), but now I walk about 5-10 minutes before I start running.  Mainly, this gets me to either Central Park or Riverside Park, so I don’t have to do the start-stop with running.  Additionally, it gets me down the big hill that I need to go down to get by the Hudson River…I don’t imagine that starting to pound downhill would be good for my elderly joints, so I walk down to the flat ground.  Gotta be kind to my body these days!

As I mentioned above, I’ve also been keeping the mileage low and plan on a slow build up.  My longer-ish runs have looked like this over the past few weeks:

  • 4 miles
  • 4.5 miles
  • 5 miles
  • 6 miles

Getting crazy over here, I know!  I do believe that one of the causes of my injury was building my mileage way too fast.  I was in a hurry to get into tiptop shape for Eugene, and I built my mileage without having much of a base.  I could get through the miles, but it obviously wasn’t good for the long haul.  As I’ve said to every doctor I’ve ever been to about running related injuries, I’m not in this just to run my next marathon, I’m in this for life.  Luckily, I don’t have any pain while running, which I consider to be a good gauge as to what I’m doing.  I don’t know why my groin bothers me while walking and not while running, but I’m just going with it for now.  My gait feels normal, which it definitely didn’t before I took my running break.  All good signs.

Since I still like to break a sweat, especially for more than 30 minutes at a time, I’ve been adding in some other workouts to my routine.  I’ve heard a lot about Beachbody products, and a bunch of nurses at work are doing the 21 Day Fix.  I ended up buying the program for the workouts.  I liked that there was a variety of workouts ranging from weights (total body, upper body, lower body) to pilates to yoga.  Coming in at about 30 minutes each, the timing is great since I don’t necessarily want an hour workout on top of running.  (Or I’m lazy, who knows.)  I also did a Piyo workout (I think it was called “Sweat”) on Friday after my running, and not only was I sweating, but my shoulders were definitely sore this morning.  I’ve been thinking about buying Piyo because I know I need some stretching in my life, especially as I build my mileage.  I feel like the weights are great too – strong muscles not only power you through a run, but they also help provide support and stabilization.  Yes, please, to both of those.  (If you have experience with either of these programs, please let me know!  Also – any other classes/workouts?  I admit I like the videos because I pay once and I’m done versus paying $35/class for these NYC classes…)

Back to running!  My first “long” run aka need to count on two hands run was this morning.  Six miles!  Woohoo!  I did the entire routine mentioned above, heading to the Hudson River Path. I’ve been running north a lot, so I decided to head south.  Keep it easy, that’s the name of the game.  I told myself to hang around 8:30 pace – not that I could blaze at 7:45, but I often need to remind myself to not push myself just because of the numbers on my watch.  My first mile clicked off at 8:38…alright, we’re doing this.  Admittedly, I spent a bunch of time staring at my watch to make sure my pace was okay.  I’m not quite ready to just go and run by feel because I’m not exactly sure what these paces feel like (read:  I’m out of shape), but I like the feedback from my watch.  Other things I appreciate:  It was 70 degrees this morning, not 85 and crazy humid like it has been.  That helps.

After three miles out, I turned around to head back.  Fairly unexciting as far as runs go, and although I pondered a walk break, my plan was to keep the pace even and easy and make it all the way back.  A few red lights on the path led me to stop for a few seconds, but nothing major.  As I ran back north past the Intrepid (aircraft carrier  in the water around 42nd St), I noticed huge clouds of smoke ahead.  Not sure what it was, I kept heading north.  Once I got past about 50th St, it was clear that the clouds were coming from a building along the water/riverside.  I got up into the 60’s, and black BLACK smoke was billowing from a building.  You could smell it in the air and I spotted a few flecks of burned things floating in the air.  People on foot and on bikes were stopped along the path, staring at the building.  FDNY was already present with a couple ladders placed up the building.  After awhile, it looked like the fire was on a terrace – flames could be seen along with all the smoke.  I waited around for a few minutes with the crowd, and by the time I left the river side, FDNY had put out the flames.  (Thank you, FDNY!)  News reports say that either no one or one person was injured (hopefully no one).  Report/video/pictures here.

I finished my run – I had less than a mile to go before my break to see the fire, then I did a walking cool down and some stretches at home.  Eric and I then headed to brunch, which is always a great way to cap off a “long” run.  Right?  Right.  Not that I need to refuel from six miles, but that’s not important.

photo

Saturday, June 27 – 6.02 miles in 50:35, avg pace of 8:24

Not so shabby.  I’m still adjusting to this new normal routine – I’ve always known that I should add in more warm-ups/stretching/strengthening, but I’ve always been able to get by without it.  Running has never felt like work to me, while all the other stuff does – but as I tell Eric often, sometimes you have to do things like you don’t to get the things you want.  And I want to run (always), so I’ll have to fit in the other exercises.  It’ll be worth it in the end to hopefully keep injuries at bay.

News on what I’m training for will be coming soon – but in the meantime, I’ll take your tips for keeping injuries away!

2015 Enormous Elephant Run (London) Race Report

Greetings from way in the future!  It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to blog.  Last we heard, it was race week, and Eric and I were heading to London!  Well, we’ve been back for almost two weeks!  Between working those long shifts and wanting to spend the rest of my days outside/not in front of a computer, I haven’t really sat down to share the fun we had!

Mainly, the race fun.  Because if “fun” doesn’t describe running in an elephant costume, I don’t know what does.  On with the show!

image

For those unfamiliar with the Enormous Elephant Run, it’s a 5k/10k fun run to raise money  to support the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  DSWT is (mainly) a elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya.  They rescue elephants who have been orphaned as a result of poaching and raise them until they are old enough to return to the wild.  Elephants are prized for their ivory, and poaching is certainly not going anywhere despite cracking down on it.  With the elephant population dwindling, it’s so important to help save orphaned elephants. 

Hooray!

Lucky for us as non-morning people, the race didn’t start until 10:30am.  This gave us plenty of time to wake up and take advantage of the delicious breakfast that our hotel had.  A ridiculous line up of fruit (grapefruit and pineapple for the win), yogurt, muesli, pastries, sausage, eggs, potatoes, etc. etc.  SO GOOD and great for kicking off our days our playing tourist.  Not so great for right before a 5k, ha.  Eric had mentioned that he wanted to wake up early enough so that he could get a light breakfast in before the race – the “light” breakfast ended up involving at least two lemon muffins plus plenty of other food.  I eyed his plate, but restrained myself from commenting.  (Until now, ha!)

We left our hotel and headed to Clapham Common for the race – about 30-40 minus on the  tube + walking.  (For the record, I love London’s Underground system…it arrives often, is super clean, and very easy to use.)  It was a bit more of a chilly day than it had been, in the 50’s with the sun shining.  I didn’t appreciate the cooler temperatures en route to the race, but I was perfect once I put on the elephant suit!

We walked through the park (or the common?  Not sure what Londoners call these places…) and spotted tons of people out enjoying their Saturday.  Lots of outdoor workout classes and runners.  Post-race, Clapham Common was full of picnickers.  You know how to enjoy a good day, London.  We weren’t totally sure where we were headed, but we spotted tent with elephants on them and realized we must be in the right spot!  To get the full experience, I made sure Eric and I arrived with plenty of time to spare.  We arrived our around 9:30am for a 10:30am start – early enough to secure us low bib numbers!  Numbers 10 and 11 were ours, as were our elephant suits.  (It was a fun run, so no timing devices, etc.)

We zipped into elephant suits and did what anyone in an elephant suit would do – we took lots of pictures!  Selfies (we broke down and bought a selfie stick for this trip…), pictures with elephants, jumping pictures, pictures of Gatsby, etc etc.  The usual.

Here’s a taste:

IMG_9089 The jumping picture, obviously.

IMG_9108 Eric and me!

photo 1 (47) A bunch of elephants hanging around…

photo 2 (47)  Eric getting ready to run!

IMG_9077 And me too!

After hanging out for a bit and getting used to the elephant suits, the race directors called all the ellies (as the British seem to call elephants…) over for a warm up!  A local yoga instructor led us through some various stretches and exercises – including jumping jacks, squats, the gravevine, and the standard stretches for calves/quads/etc.  The race had a photographer on hand, so in case I ever wonder what I look like when doing a jumping jack in an elephant costume, I’ll have something to reference.  I’m the last full body in the front row on the left.  No idea what we’re doing…

Picture compliments of the Enormous Elephant Run.

After the warm up, we gathered for a group photo, as the race was attempting a Guinness World Record…they ended up with 292 runners in elephant costumes, although I admit I have no idea what the record is and if we beat it. 

Eric and I are somewhere in the middle/front…and pictures again compliments of the run!

After the warm ups, it was time to line up for the start.  The 10k started a few minutes before the 5k, so after lining up the 10k runners and doing a countdown, they were off!  Then the rest of us lined up…probably the first race in a long time that I didn’t have any starting line jitters – I suppose it’s hard to be nervous in an elephant costume…

photo 3 (25) Let’s get this show on the road!

After another countdown, we took off as fast as running in a herd of elephants would let us!  We headed up a slight hill and elephants were bopping all over the place.  (Note:  The head of the costume didn’t stay on top of your head very well, which I suppose it okay for ventilation purposes.)  We had no race plan other than to keep it easy for Eric and to stick together.  I told him to let me know when he wanted a walk break and that would be that.  It was a beautiful day for a ridiculously fun run, and that’s all that matters.

photo 4 (16) Look!  A little ellie!

We hung around 10 minute mile pace as the course took us on a paved path, a packed trail, and on the grass.  Clapham Common is a lovely park and it was fun to run through as other people were out working out/enjoying Saturday morning.  Volunteers pointed us in the right direction at the turns and yelled “Go ellies!!”  I could get used to the British speak – “ellie” is super cute.

Otherwise, Eric and I chugged along – my hip/groin seemed to feel fine, and Eric looked strong.  And I was having the time of my life!

photo 5 (6) Go Eric go!

photo 1 (48) It doesn’t get better than this…

photo 3 (26) Quite the clouds, London.

We took a few walk breaks here and there, which Eric would always end by saying, “Ready to run again?” and I would say, “I’m always ready!!”  ha.  The race even had some fun signs along the course…elephant-related, of course!

photo 2 (48) This is true.  And we enjoyed the water break.  Elephant suits are hot!

photo 4 (17) TRUNKS UP!

The course seemed to wind a bit throughout the park – wouldn’t be so great for running a PR, but entertaining for a fun run.  It was also cool to look across the park and see other elephants running…you don’t get to see that every day!

image Up down left right.

We rounded the final corners and headed back for the big red arch – the finish line!  Eric was still holding strong, and we certainly cheesed it up a little bit at the end…

I think we look happy?  haha.

The course was a little short, coming in at about 2.9 miles – oops!  But it was a fun run and we’ll call it a win.  30:34 – that’s a costume run PR, right?

image Splits on splits.

We received a medal after crossing the finish line which will hang proudly next to all those marathon medals I’ve got…

IMG_9200 We did it!

And because if you didn’t notice, Gatsby actually ran the whole way as well.  In an elephant costume of his own.  OBVIOUSLY.

photo 5 (7) You go, Gatsby.

When Eric and I finally decided to do the run, I had the great idea of Gatsby having an elephant costume of his own…because an elephant in an elephant costume would be so good, right?  Of course, I’m not that crafty (my mom has made all of Gatsby’s clothes), so she took apart a beanie baby, made it a little bit smaller, and added some elastic to the front.  Gatsby was the coolest kid in London on race day!

photo 2 (49)Just hanging with my elephant.  In elephant costumes.

We hung out for a bit before heading out for brunch…with elephant costumes draping over our necks.  Luckily, they’re pretty compact, so they fit well in our suitcases.  I secretly wanted TSA to open a suitcase just to find an elephant costume sitting on top…I’m not totally sure what we plan to do with the elephant costumes, but if anyone needs something for Halloween (or your next marathon?), let me know!

So in short, we had so much fun running in elephant costumes!  It was a fun way to get Eric to try running for a bit – running a 5k was all his idea (surprisingly not mine!), but the fun run in an elephant costume kept the pressure off.  (Good for me since I just started running post-injury!)  Eric said he would do another 5k, so I might have to hold him to that one. ;)   If you’re in a running slump, working to get someone to try running, or just want something different, I definitely recommend a fun/costume run – this PR chasing girl had a great time!

On a super positive note, the race raised over 50,000 pounds (that’s a lot more in dollars!) to help the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in their super important work.  If you’re looking for other ways to help, you can run the next elephant run in Manchester on July 25th (if you’re in England…or just want an excuse for a trip!) or simply donate or adopt an orphaned elephant!

Don’t tell me you can resist this face…

Picture from the Enormous Elephant Run.  Cuteness totally belongs to the elephant.

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