Surviving DOMS

In light of the tough workouts I have coming this weekend (long run + obstacle course training = wide spread pain!), I decided to do a literature search of what I can do to help with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) without taking handfuls of ibuprofen.

When I posted this idea on my personal Facebook page, my trainer/friend said, essentially, to enjoy it now because I will miss DOMS and the muscle building stage.  To which I mentally replied:

I’ll let you know in about eight billion years if that ever happens.  Meanwhile, I will keep track of what the “experts” say.  It should be noted that the medical community has essentially issued a big, fat “Huh!” on this.  There are many, MANY conflicting studies that have very small subject groups.  Just about all of them end with a line about how further studies in this area are needed.  Ya think??

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About half-way through my search, I found a fairly exhaustive website that cited many of the same articles I was planning to use so, to save reinventing the wheel, I will just link there: fellrnr.com/wiki/Delayed_Onset_Muscle_Soreness

Here is his chart for the click-adverse:

Strategy Timing Soreness Weakness Downsides
Repeated Bout Effect Before (days to months) Strong evidence of reduced soreness Some evidence of reduced weakness None
Carbohydrate and/or protein After Some evidence of reduced soreness Strong evidence of reduced weakness None
Cadence During Some evidence of reduced soreness Some evidence of reduced soreness None
Compression Clothing After Some evidence of reduced soreness Some evidence of reduced weakness None
Caffeine After Some evidence of reduced soreness Some evidence of reduced weakness Nonea
Massage After Some evidence of reduced soreness No benefit None
Warmup Immediately before Some evidence of reduced soreness No benefit None
Light Exercise After Transient pain reduction No benefit Nonec
TENS After Transient pain reduction No benefit None
Icing After No benefit No benefit Noneb
Antioxidents Before and/or After Mixed evidence Mixed evidence Conflicting evidence of reduced Endurance Adaptations
Stretching Before and/or After No benefit No benefit
  • Stretching temporarily weakens muscles
  • Can induce DOMS
  • Can lead to injury
NSAIDs Before and/or After Most evidence indicates no benefit Most evidence indicates no benefit Can impair recovery

My only quibble is with his statement that there is no benefit from cryotherapy.  From all of the literature I reviewed, the researchers leaned in favor (albeit marginally) to using ice/ice baths.  Also, I found no study that suggest that increasing water intake (another common suggestion) helps with DOMS.

My personal plans for managing DOMS (no, there is no avoiding it at this stage):

1. I will have a protein/carbohydrate rich snack after exercising.  I have a pumpkin bar recipe made with almond flour that should do nicely!

2. I will continue with light exercise every few hours. One of my biggest problems is the fact that I have a very sedentary job and everything tightens up during the day.  I will take regular (light) stretching breaks, utilize the foam roller that I keep in my office, and take a couple of walks during the day.

3. I will take an ice bath after my long run.  I did this after two half marathons but not the third and I did notice a difference in how my legs/hips felt.  I will also use ice packs on my arms.

4.  I will schedule a sports massage.  Score!

5. I personally have had good luck with Arnica cream, though all of the studies I found say it doesn’t help.

I may also weep quietly in the corner and walk like Frankenstein for a few days but really, who’s going to notice the difference 😉

What do you do to manage DOMS?

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6-ish Stages of Run Avoidance

(my apologies to Dr. Kubler-Ross)

1. Denial – I didn’t really have a run scheduled for today!  Oh, what’s that written in my scheduled? That’s just an optional run, not mandatory!

2. Anger – Yes, I DO know my big race is only 18 weeks out!  Why can’t you just let me take a nap?  I’m tired!

2a. Stalling – How can I possibly focus on my form when our son’s play room is a mess and there are still boxes in the garage from 6 moves ago and my spices aren’t alphabetized??

3. Bargaining – Listen, I’ll run some extra miles on Friday!  I will double up and hit it HARD all next week!

4. Depression – I know this is a lost cause!  Why bother? I’m just a slug!  Where did you hide the cookies??

5. Acceptance – Fine, where are my shoes?

6. Gratitude – Man, I’m glad I got my run in!  Why did I wait so long??

Some days we make it through all of the stages and some days we eat the damn cookies… But every day is a fresh start!

Impossible Just Takes Longer

I was talking to someone recently and they asked about my running so I told them about training for MCM and the possibility of tackling an ultra (50K) at the end of the year.  They basically told me that I was insane and that there would be no way that I could handle the extra 6 miles of the ultra, etc., etc.  I naturally consider what this person said because they have the “runner’s look” that I lack.  They have also done a marathon already so must know more about it than my half-marathon-only self.

Perhaps I am foolish to think I can do it.  Perhaps it isn’t possible for me.

This was the track my mind has been taking after our conversation.

Last night, I watched updates on Facebook and Titter as two of my favorite writers/bloggers, Dimity from Another Mother Runner and Meredith from Swim, Bike, Mom finished their first Ironman race at Coeur D’Alene.   Both women are “average” working mothers who decided that they were going to finish an Ironman, SO THEY DID!  Neither is a professional athlete.  Both experienced significant set backs and struggles during their training but they persevered and CRUSHED their race!

Instead of listening to the nay-sayers who have no idea of my potential, I will follow the lead of these two awesome women — the next time someone says that I can’t do a race, that it’s impossible, I’ll just smile sweetly and say “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.” (thank you Army Corp of Engineers!)

Don’t let anyone limit your potential!

Up and Over

This weekend was jammed packed with all sorts of running and cross training fun!  I decided to join my moms running group for a 4 1/2 mile run around one of the local lakes.  I had boot camp scheduled at 8 but we were supposed to start our run at 6:30 so plenty of time!  Uh, not so much.  Several were running late and then we needed to take pictures so it was almost 7 by the time we started.  I was worried about the time so I told my running partner that I needed to turn back and get to boot camp when we were about twenty minutes into the run (I wasn’t sure how much further we had to go because my Garmin couldn’t pick up a signal).  While I was trying to find the entrance off the trail to the parking lot, I ran into my running partner again, coming from the other direction!  I was only 5 minutes late to boot camp and I made very good time on my run – win, win!

On Sunday, I had my “long” run waiting for me and I was not loving the idea.  I was having some stomach issues and my head hurt from an incoming front.  I slogged out the majority of it but I did not set any land speed records.  I then went down to Quantico where I met a friend for my first crack at obstacle course training.  I didn’t realize the course was on the base and, of course, the guys at the gate decided it would be funny to mess with me a bit (“Do you have a bike? No? We don’t allow running on base, Ma’am”  What??  “Just kidding, Ma’am, have a nice day”).  I attempted the course 4 times.  A lot of lower logs to jump, a wall to climb – doesn’t work well with trail shoes, by the way – high logs to hoist yourself over, pull up bars, ropes to climb, double bolted tractor tires to flip, and regular tires to frog hop.  Considering this was my first time, I think I did … okay.  I couldn’t make it over the wall or the high logs without a boost – though I did come close on the last log – and forget about the pull ups!  This was a specular display of my lack of upper body strength.  I was a little frustrated by my inability to do more but  I did give it my all, as the bruises all over my abdomen and arms can confirm!   We will hopefully be able to hit the course 2 more times before our first obstacle course race.  I look forward to the day that I can nail all of the obstacles!

My reminder for the day.

Appearances

“You don’t look like a runner”.  No one has actually said that to my face but I have read it in their expressions many times.  To be fair, it’s something that goes through my own mind quite a bit.  I have always been more sturdy than skinny.

You can’t argue with Sir Mix A Lot…

I threw shot put and discus in high school – did fairly well with the shot put, not so much with the discus due to my late releases – and was always happiest when it was a weightlifting day.  The few times that the running coach tried to make the throwers run, you can bet I helped lead the mutiny until our coach could rescue us.

Running was uncomfortable.  I felt like an elephant, lumbering along.  I didn’t see my big thighs as powerhouses but rather more weight to slow me further.  I would get horrible side stitches and my knees hurt and I was (gasp!) sweaty.  I hated that last part the most!  Those painful, ungainly runs have been my mental picture of me running for a very long time.

I know that not all runners are super skinny, have long legs, and perfect abs. I also know that a growing number look like me.  (See the great photo galleries that Another Mother Runner has compiled)  That said, I still didn’t feel it.  I almost felt like a fraud when I told people that I am a runner.

Then I received my pictures from Sunday’s trail half marathon.

FHHMstairs
Up the stairs!
Right after the stream crossing
Right after the stream crossing

Not only do I see a runner, but I also see someone who is healthy and having fun!  No, I will never fit the traditional “runner” mold but that does not diminish my worth as a runner.  It’s time I finally stepped up and owned it!

Product Review: Huma Chia Energy Gel

I, like almost everyone else, first learned of the benefits of chia seeds by reading Born to Run.  The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico can reportedly run amazing distances fueled by nothing but chia seeds, juice, and water.  While I wasn’t expecting any such miracles in my own running, I have been adding chia seeds to my green smoothies on a regular basis ever since.  Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I first learned about Huma Chia Energy Gel from Swim, Bike, Mom.  I cannot tolerate any artificial sweeteners and I am trying to “eat clean” so having a short list of ingredients that I can readily identify is a huge plus for me!

Love the ingredient list!
Love the ingredient list!

I finally ordered a mixed box a few days ago and they shipped super fast!  Since I had them in-hand, I decided to break one of the cardinal running rules and try something new for my trail half marathon.  I did have a strawberry one on Saturday, just to be sure nothing untoward would happen, but I didn’t use them in a stress situation until the actual race.

When all else fails, use safety pins!
When all else fails, use safety pins!

Since I had a green smoothie with chia seeds for breakfast, I decided to wait to have my first one until about mile 5.  I had my second around mile 9.  I think I waited too long to have my first, given the challenges of the course.  I did feel a nice little energy bump with each gel and they caused no stomach problems.  I also didn’t feel sick an hour after the run as has become my habit with tough runs.  Coincidence or the gels?  I had one strawberry and one apple cinnamon but I honestly didn’t notice the taste (I was too tired!).  The consistency was almost like jelly but they weren’t sickening sweet and they didn’t leave a funny aftertaste.

I plan on trying these again between my kickboxing and TRX classes on Thursday and for my long runs during training.  If you are looking for an energy gel that has a short ingredient list comprised of real food, I highly recommend trying Huma!  I think that I will see the real benefit once I get my timing ironed out.

Race Report: Fountainhead Half Marathon

I have professed my love for Marine Corp road races in the past and now it is time to do the same with EX2 Adventures and trail races!  I ran/walked/sloshed in the mud their inaugural half marathon at Fountainhead Regional Park yesterday and had a great time (what better way to kick off marathon training??)

Registration, Packet Pick Up

The registration fees were very reasonable for this race – early bird is only $60. I used my volunteer coupon that I received for volunteering for the Hemlock Overlook race towards the registration costs.  Packet pick up was the morning of the race.  After signing a waiver, I quickly moved through the pick-up line for my number (99!) and shirt.  The shirt is a cotton shirt so I won’t use it for running but it’s a great royal blue with a gold logo (a nice nod to Boston) that I know I will use a lot during my “normal” life.  My only gripe is that the shirts do run very small but I already knew that and sized up.  My husband dropped me off at 7 and I was through packet pick up and hit the bathrooms by 7:15.

Pre-Race

The pre-race announcements started promptly at 7:50.  The race director walked us through the course, made sure we knew which way to go at the trail splits (right!), described the aid stations, and made sure everyone knew the basic rules of trail races – no headphones, pass on the left, let people know you are passing, etc.  At 8:00, we started the half mile prologue to place ourselves before entering the trail head.

The Course

When I volunteered at Hemlock Overlook, I thought that I was so glad I wasn’t trying to run that!  It was very hilly and looked incredibly tough.  Well, guess what!  Fountainhead is at the other end of the same system!  Thankfully, I have trained out there twice, made it 4 miles out the last run, so I sort of knew what was in store for me but the unknown 3 miles were … hmm, challenging.

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My Garmin died at mile 9 – it was more of the same only all of the downhills in mile 1-3 were now uphills!

It is a heavily wooded forest so there was no direct sun, other than one small open area.

You can see how steep the hills are by the angle at the side - and this wasn't a terribly big one!
You can see how steep the hills are by the angle at the side – and this wasn’t a terribly big one!
Walk the plank!
Walk the plank!

We crossed several wooden bridges, a few quagmires of mud, and one larger stream that was we couldn’t jump.  The stream was a lot of fun, the very steep and muddy hill right after it was a bit less fun.  I was a little worried about that hill because it was a real mess by the time I hit it.  I made  it up safely but it did kick off my tendonitis in my ankle.

Trail Support and Aid Stations

There were volunteers ALL OVER this trail!  I was amazed!  They were at all of the spots where we had to split onto a side trail for the loops and there were several that were just out to make sure everything was okay.  There were 4 aid tables that we hit a total of 7 times.  They had water, Gatorade, and one of the double stops had Gu in a variety of flavors.  There was plenty of water, etc., even for those of us bringing up the back.  There was even a nice golden retriever that I had to pet a bit to boost my morale. 🙂  It was pretty humid in the woods and I was sweating like a horse heavily.  I decided at the last minute to bring my small bottle of extra concentrated EFX and I’m glad I did.  I drank at least one cup of water at every station, all of my handheld, and even refilled it at one of the later stops and still drank most of that!  I also used two of my new Huma Chia gels, review coming tomorrow.

Partial view of the lake
Partial view of the lake

The trail was very well marked in the unmanned areas.  There were LONG pink streamers that even I could spot and the “wrong” trails were marked off with caution tape.  There were several times when I totally lost the pack so I really appreciated the conscientious marking.

Finish

I was one of the last runners in.  I knew I would be and I’m okay with that.  My only goal was to stay ahead of the sweep, and I did!  At mile 7, I saw a runner behind me who was wearing a vest and I thought that was the sweep.  I panicked a bit because I knew I couldn’t push hard for an extra 6 miles.  Turns out that it was just a runner wearing a Nathan’s hydration vest!  D’oh!

My final time was something like 3:20.  I did a lot of walking at the end.  Even with my late finish, there was still plenty of food left including hot egg and cheese wraps!  They were perfect for my rebelling stomach!  They also had cookies, a variety of crackers, bananas, water, soda, and Papa John’s pizza (much to Little Runner’s delight!).

Overall

Overall, I give this race a solid A.  I truly hated that muddy hill but I think it would have been a different story if it had been drier.   Everyone was super friendly and helpful. I must also comment on my fellow runners – trail runners are not the same as road runners.  At my other halves, I hardly get a head nod from the faster runners as they pass me on the way back.  At this race, every runner who passed me told me “good job” or the like.  One woman even told me that I was stronger than I thought and to keep pushing.  I really appreciated those words of encouragement!  What a great group of people!

I really hope they keep this course in the rotation and I plan to do it again next year.  Maybe I’ll be “middle of the pack” by then!

DONE!
DONE!

Running Happy in My PPEs

Yesterday was National Running Day so I took the dog out for an easy 3 miles.  Before I did, I decided it would be a perfect time to start breaking in my new kicks in preparation for marathon training that starts on Sunday.  I mentioned before that I try to find good deals for my running gear and these shoes – in my model and size – were significantly discounted because of their unusual color.   Behold, my Purple People Eaters (PPE)!

Sorry it's blurry - my running companion was not happy about waiting!
Sorry it’s blurry – my running companion was not happy about waiting!

As I was lacing them up, I was thinking how… unusual they look.  I mean, they are REALLY bright!  A little fugly, even.  But then I thought that these shoes are going to see me through a lot of training and my first marathon!  Suddenly, they were the most wonderful shoes I have ever seen!

The dog and I then did a spectacular, Garmin-less, joyful run!  We hit the hills strong – true story, I used to breath so hard on one hill that my hands would go numb and I would start considering the possibility that I was stroking out – and took a couple of breaks to roll in the grass and act stupid (him more than me).  Don’t get me wrong, I did breath hard and sweat and work but I felt so strong and happy!

(I am a big fan of the Run Like a Mother and Train Like a Mother books and the authors.  Even if you aren’t a mother, there is a ton of good advice for how to manage training and your real life.  They have a very active blog, message boards, Facebook page, and they also do weekly podcasts.  They “hosted” a virtual 5K on Mother’s Day – women trained beforehand using their training plan and then the authors released a special hour long podcast to accompany the runners.  I’m finally listening to it now and let me tell you, it is awesome!  It is a very empowering broadcast that focuses on finding your joy in running and it is very encouraging to those who are struggling or just starting out.   Plus, the ladies share some of the favorite running tunes so it has a nice track to go with it.  I highly recommend you give it a listen and I know I will relisten to it a couple of times.)

A lot of the messages that I heard on the podcast were replaying in my head on my run yesterday.  About how I was doing something that the majority of American’s would never dream of doing just by lacing up my shoes.  How my pace doesn’t matter but the fact that I keep trying does.  How I need to find joy in my run and not let it become drudgery.  All of these things keep going around in my mind and I found my pace was good, my form was good, and I had a smile on my face the entire time.  It’s so easy to become fixated on the numbers on your watch and your age group standing but at the end of the day, the fact that you did it is all that matters.  I thought that was a great reminder on National Running Day!  “Run Happy“, indeed!

Race Report: Springfield 15K

Or, as Little Runner called it, “The Death Run”!

This was a small, hometown 1K, 5K, and 15K. 282 participants ran the 15K which led us down some of the “main” roads of town (eh, this is just an area where all of the interstates converge in one massive CF so there isn’t much of a town – but there are overpasses!) and then on some roads and paved trails through the local park before back to the streets/overpasses for a track finish.

Registration, etc.

This was a super cheap race and, even though they did end up filling all of the slots, there was plenty of availability until at least the week before.  The race was organized by the local running store, Metro Run & Walk, and packet pick-up was there.  No expo but, you know, there was an entire store. The shirt was an okay cotton t-shirt.  Decent design so I’ll use it for low cardio days or bumming around.  Various pens, key chains, etc., in the bag.  Took about 3 minutes to pick up my stuff on the way home.

The Race

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Waiting to start.

The race began at 8 am and I heard that this is 30 minutes later than last year.  I wish they had kept to the earlier time.  It was already heating up by 7 and the humidity was high.  Parking was simple at the local mall (which is in the process of being torn down so no other traffic).  The crew from Positively Chiropractic lead everyone through a series of warm-up moves and then we were off right at 8.

It was a mass start for all distances, even the 1K.  I didn’t realize that so Little Runner didn’t get a chance to do his race.  Everyone self seeded themselves into pace groups and seemed to do a decent job as I didn’t have to pass a ton of walkers at the start.  The last pace group was labeled “walk/run”.

The 5K split off from us after a bit over 1.5 miles and then the field thinned quite a bit.  There were a ton of kids running the 5K so I wasn’t sad to see them head for the turn-around.  The run to the park was so incredibly hot.  There was one water stop in that portion and I had my handheld but I think they could have easily added another water station in the sunny stretches.  Luckily, once we hit the park, we had decent shade.  The final 3 miles were in full sun and had the most hills.  It felt like the surface of the sun and it was a pretty desperate slog at the end.  We finished with a 3/4 lap around the track of a local high school.

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OMG! Where is the finish??

It was 85 when the race ended and I was seriously fantasizing about the coffin-sized cooler filled with ice that Scott Jurek used in his Badwater races across Death Valley.

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No coffin of ice so I stuffed it down my bra and the back of my tank, instead! It did help a bit…

I wore a tank (something I never do!), capris, thinner socks than my normal wool, a white visor, sunglasses, and sunscreen.  I still felt over dressed.

Good

Small field so easy parking, no lines, etc.

Live music on the course.  One group hit us 3 times and were very encouraging to everyone.  I greatly appreciated their enthusiasm!

Okay food at the finish – though the oranges were gone when I finally arrived

Bounce house for the kids

The family that was giving out ice pops at mile 8ish. You can bet I sucked mine down, HFCS and all!

The spray shower that they were using at the last aid stop for the runners who wanted it

Bad

The weather. I know the race coordinators can’t control that but really? An 8 am start in this region on June 1 is NUTS!

Confusing start so first-timers didn’t know so send the 1Kers out too

Could have used at least 2 more aid stations

Needed better traffic control for the last 1/4 of the race.  We were on live roads with no coned off lanes for some of it.  There were police at busier intersections but I had to really  hustle to keep from being creamed a few times. I suspect they opened traffic early so us back-of-the-packers didn’t have full support in that area.

Overall

B-.  I don’t know if I will so this one again.  I think any traditional road races are off-limits for me after early May.  I just can’t handle the heat/sun. Yes, I am a whiny cry baby but one who survived the Death Run (and my first hot run of the season. Huh, maybe that was the problem…)

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LR made me a trophy for surviving! I think the resemblance is uncanny.