Race Report: Richmond Marathon 2017

Well, that was fun.

Week of the marathon, everyone was losing their ever-loving minds over the weather (cold) and I was feeling a bit cruddy (stomach) and stressed (headache on Friday that was close to migraine territory).

I caught a ride down with a woman from my running group and her husband.  We went directly to the expo, shortly after it opened, and were in and out relatively quickly.  It’s fairly small but they had some gear vendors, a few other races (including Blue Ridge Marathon!  Sign up already and use RACEBLUERIDGE for 15% off!)  They also had the most brilliant vendor there – Thomas’ English Muffins!  With freshly toasted muffins for everyone!  Soo goood….

After that, we headed to our hotel.  We were both staying at the Holiday Inn Express that is downtown.  I would not stay here again.  My room was okay (other than having the filthiest carpet I have EVER seen in the room) but my friend got stuck with a room that had been recently smoked in and I had problems with a late check-out (more on that later).  They went to get lunch but I was feeling gross so I went to my room, unpacked, and literally sat on the couch while watching 3 hours of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and ate peanut butter filled prezels.  Don’t judge me.

A large group of us then went to dinner at Graffiato’s. It was very good!  It is supposed to be a tapas type place but we all ate our own plates.  I had the gnocchi and roasted beets.  Mmmm (Fun fact, the “beet effect” is more pronounced when you are dehydrated.  I literally thought I had a kidney rupture later on Saturday).

Saturday morning dawned quite cold but clear.  It was about 25-27.  I had an awesome race outfit, though, so I decided to stick with it.

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Skirt from InknBurn. Shirt from my friend who did a custom decal

I did have a throwaway top and a mylar blanket to wrap around my bottom while I waited.  It really wasn’t that bad.  By the time I walked to the group photo and then moved to the start, I was comfortable.  I did run with the blanket for the first mile but I think that was more because I was feeling a little nervous about my short shorts 😉

Mile 1 through 10 was awesome!  My goal pace was 9:45-10:15 and I was around 9:30 the entire time.  I saw my family at mile 9 and was really feeling great!

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See you in 10 miles!

My knee was holding up and the weather was absolutely perfect for me!  My only area of concern was that I knew I was behind on my nutrition.  My stomach problems of the past week made me nervous.  I really didn’t want to have to make a mid-race pit stop.

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So good!

Mile 11 had us coming out from the very flat river portion of the course and climbing a couple of hills, the first one short but quite steep.  And I felt something “go” in my back.  And my back began to progressively tighten.  I started rubbing it and running with my hand on my back to give some support.  No dice.  I then moved to a run walk plan.  I was muttering out loud “It’s okay, it doesn’t matter” as I watched my pace click higher and higher.  By the time I reached the long bridge at mile 15, I could hardly walk in a straight line and I couldn’t stand fully erect.  I was slowly stumbling along and crying like mad. I texted my husband and told him I didn’t think I could finish.  I texted my friend who was at mile 22 and told her I was screwed.

One of the big running groups in Richmond had a ton of coaches on the course and a lady with a giant apple hat (I think it was an apple) came running over and did everything she could to help me.  She tried rubbing my back and basically shoved Advil down my throat.  She told me to just get to medical at the other end of the bridge and they could help stretch me out so I could at least finish the race.  I thanked her and kept stumbling on.

I never did see the medical tent in that section but the Advil eased the pain a bit so I could get my head on right.  I had three big problems.  1. I could not run.  I was having spasms so bad that the pain was radiating down both legs just walking.  2. I had to check out the hotel by 1:00 because they refused a late check-out and told me I would be charged for an extra day if I was late.  3. I had to finish the race. I already bought a quarter zip and a Christmas ornament!  Oh, and 4. I was PISSED.

So, I texted my husband and told him to have my sweatshirt ready for me by the time I got to 19.  I was going to walk the entire effing back half, if I had to.  I gave him my room key and asked him to check out for me and then meet me at the finish (I was going so slow, he’d have plenty of time). I then let my BRF know what was going on and she said she’d meet me at mile 20.

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One sad panda, let me tell you

So, my friend is totally nuts but has a heart that’s bigger than anything.  She was also wearing a a pink Llama costume and had been spectating all morning.  After I left my husband, I was slowly slogging to mile 20, feeling pretty miserable.  I looked up and suddenly see this pink llama sprinting down the road towards me, hair akimbo and looking a bit crazy.  It was the funniest, and best, thing I have ever seen!  She then proceeded to walk with me for the next two miles.  We chatted, made snarky comments, admired the houses.  MarathonFoto got a picture of us but I won’t post it since she hates it but let me tell you, it is the BEST.  We’re both smiling and trying to act like the camera isn’t there (I was feeling pretty sheepish for walking).

Mile 22 had us back to the MRTT aid station.  My BRF stayed there but I think only because I hooked up with someone else from our group who was also injured and we were going to do a slow wog (walk/jog) together.  I got a bit more Advil and a few more hugs and then my new partner and I slowly moved on.  Somewhere in our wog, the meds kicked in and I was able to pick up the pace just a smidgen.

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So, so bad

I lost my partner somewhere in mile 24 but found another friend in mile 25.  By this time, my back was screaming again.  My new friend was also hurt but we decided that we needed to just “finish this shit” and started our final push (big thanks to our other friend who saw us to the last corner!) Our decent down the finishing hill was 100% profanity.  We were so done but we weren’t going to let the bastard get us down!

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Pretty much

Official time: 5:39.  Not my slowest marathon, so there’s that, but almost an hour slower than what my “C” goal was. Bah.

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Overall: The race itself was great.  Tons of support.  Tons of spectators.  Good course. I love the blanket at the finish.  I have no complaints about anything to do with the race.  Also, the support of my friends and family was, literally, everything.  I would still be sitting on a curb somewhere without them

With me, though?  That’s another story.  I am supremely frustrated by my body.  My training was on point.  The first half of the race was perfect.  I KNOW I can hit 4:30 but for some reason my body fails, yet again, to agree with me.  Maybe I should stop trying to run for time and just stick to “fun” races.  Maybe I should get serious and lose 30 more pounds so I’m not lugging so much around all the time.  Maybe I should try something else.  Maybe I should stop kidding myself.

Oh, hey, that took a dark turn.

To be continued…

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The Hips Don’t Lie

So, what’s going on with my hips and my lack of running (spoiler alert, I waited to write this after I had a successful run and knew I wouldn’t be sidelines for the foreseeable future)?

I’ve had problems with my left hip since … huh, a while.  I had dry needling done on it regularly before Blue Ridge and it hadn’t bothered me since then.  Huzzah, I’m cured!  Not so fast.  Three weeks ago, I got a little over-exuberant with my extra cross training time and did tire flips and a tire carry and felt something …give… a bit.  Two days later, I ran a somewhat fast 9 miles.  Two hours later, I could hardly walk.  So, I did the logical thing and rested. For a day. And then tried to run 8 miles on my treadmill (made it just over 7. So stupid).

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Why do we do this?

Okay, I thought, I’ll rest a bit more.  Three days, this time!  Look at me resting! Tried to run four miles on Saturday and felt pain with the first step but pushed on for 1.5 miles, to keep a friend company (again, stupid).  I then came home and lost my shit on my running group’s message board.  Thankfully, someone worked somewhere that had Saturday hours and a physical therapist could see me if I got there by noon.  You can bet your ass I was sitting in the office at 11:45!

The physical therapist tried to assess me but I was so inflamed, she couldn’t do all of the motions.  She did say that nothing was torn or broken (whew!) and it seemed to be a problem with my hip flexor and a lazy ass glute.  I told her that I worked on that quite a bit and I showed her what I did.  Which, apparently, was all wrong.  I was using my back and every other muscle than what I was supposed to use.  She then prescribed a regimen of clam shells, glute bridges, hip flexor stretches, and foam rolling.  Thankfully, she said I could use the elliptical and swim, as long as it didn’t hurt (but no running until I was down to 0 pain – which was not a problem because I couldn’t even roll over in bed without the pain waking me up).

So, I did my exercises and learned to love the elliptical.  I saw the PT a week later and she finished her assessment and confirmed that I was moving in the right direction but still no running 😦  She also had me show her my squats and they were atrocious.  I mean, I was embarrassed by them!  When did they get so bad?!  I also learned that I can’t tell when my pelvis is square and that I keep dropping my hip and rotating and that is causing the problems.  So, I now have some squats and single leg balancing to add to my list of exercises.  And more elliptical.

These are all the exercises that I have been doing:

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Clamshell, with theraband
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Straight leg lifts, with theraband
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Donkey Kicks
side kick
Fire Hydrant
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Glute Bridge (not using my shoulders!)
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Hip Drops
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Standing around on one leg

This morning, I decided to do a test run of a mile.  My pain has been very moderate and I would call it more of a tight feeling than true pain.  I’m also seeing my coach tonight to see if we can salvage my Marine Corps Marathon plan (I hope so, I’ve been working hard to keep my base intact!) and I wanted to be able to tell her honestly if I could run.  The first mile felt good at 11:13 so I decided to pick it up just a smidge and keep going. Mile two was 11:05, still okay.  Mile 3 was 10:59 and then I ran 2/10th of a mile at 8:00!  Again, no pain, just a bit of tightness.  I then did all of my PT exercises and declared it a win!  Now to figure out what to do with my training (I’m glad I have a coach to help with this!)

Coincidentally, this was today’s post from Another Mother Runner.  I plan on adding those BOSU exercises, plus some daily plank work, plus yoga once a week (because I’m as flexible as a metal rod) to my rotation.  It will be a lot of work but I think it will keep me in running form!

 

On Pins and Needles

I have been having hamstring issues for a very long time.  It was an intermittent problem until RnR DC last year when my knee went wonky.  At the time, I thought it was a new problem with my IT band but it has become clear that it’s just a continuation of my hamstring problem.  Since I’m training for a very hilly race, and running as many hills as I can find – plus dedicated speedwork and hill repeats every week – the problem has intensified.

My first 20 miler of this training plan was cut at 16 because I literally couldn’t lift my right leg any more to get up the hills. Not good!

I’ve been trying to find a chiropractor that I like and that I can see with my goofy schedule and I kept striking out.  The two I had before both left the area.  I had been eyeing a third for a bit and finally decided to see him last Monday.

He confirmed that my hamstring was the culprit but there were no tears or major damage.  He used dry needling plus TENS stimulation, some Graston therapy, and manual manipulation, and then taped up my hammie with 4″ Rock Tape.  It worked wonders!  I ran pain free for most of the week and my leg didn’t really bother me until mile 18 of the 20 miler.

Here’s a little description of the different therapies:

Dry Needling is when the therapist uses acupuncture needles to stimulate the muscle.  In my case, he did it in my upper thigh (lower butt) and lower on the back of my thigh.  The first time, he just inserted the needles for a few minutes and then used a TENS machine to briefly “zap” each part of the muscle – it doesn’t hurt but I did feel a bit like a dissected frog! (I won’t gross you out but google “dissected frog muscle twitch” if you don’t know what I mean). The second time, he “dug” a little deeper to really activate the muscles.  I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t a lot of fun.  It wasn’t unbearable but I wouldn’t want to do it for more than a few minutes at a time.

Graston Technique is when a metal tool is used on soft tissue to break down scar tissue.  The back of my thigh is riddled with scar tissue.  It almost feels like a sheet of braille, with all of the bumps!  Breaking up the adhesions will help eliminate muscle constriction and improve function.

Graston
grastontechnique.com/WhatisSoftTissue.html

Manual manipulation basically consisted of his assistant moving my leg though a series of motions while he applied pressure to various parts of the hamstring.  At the treatment yesterday, I was able to feel the muscle dramatically release at one point – it was pretty awesome!

The final step is to tape the hamstring to provide extra support.  This step is optional and will depend on my training plan for the week.  Since I was facing a heavy week and he was booked for the rest of the week, taping last Monday was a good call! The tape is super adhesive and I was able to wear it through Friday with no rolling or pulling away from the skin.

My plan to see the same practitioner twice a week until the marathon.  In addition to this, I am also working on my unilateral leg strength (bridges, single leg deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats, etc) and trying to be more mindful of my stretching and rolling.  I noticed today that the pain is significantly reduced and I am pretty positive that I will be able to keep it in check through the rest of my training.

What therapies have you used to keep on the road? Would you consider more invasive alternative therapies?

 

What to say to an injured runner

A. Missing some training this close to your race isn’t a big deal.
B. Clearly it’s a sign your body needs some rest.
C. Time for some cross-training!
D. That’s not as bad as when I got injured and blah, blah, blah…
E. Nothing

The correct answer is E! That’s the only one that doesn’t carry a high risk of being strangled by a pair of compression sleeves. Just throw a bag of Oreos at said runner and back slowly out of the room, avoiding eye contact. If the runner makes a lunge for you, don’t worry too much because they’re injured and can’t go very far or fast! They can swear a blue streak, however, so you may need to avoid all contact if your sensibilities are easily offended.

Bring on Marathon #2

So, this came on Monday…

RnR DC!
RnR DC!

And I can’t wait to wear it this weekend, the official start of my training season for Marathon #2!

The Marine Corp Marathon last year was quite the experience and I learned a lot from it.  I’ll admit that I really struggled, in my training and in the race, because I did not have a very broad running base at the time.  I think the past year of additional running has really helped to set me up for a much better experience.  Last summer, trying to run a sub-10 minute mile was a real effort and I would want to die at the end of one.  This year, my “conversation” pace is in the 9s and now a mid-8 minute mile is my “gasp and puke” effort.  I don’t blanch at the thought of a half marathon and I’m not scared to death of double digit runs.  (I’m still scared of the 20 milers, though.  I’m not insane.)

I think my overall fitness is much better this year.  The cross-training I do for triathlon fitness is a huge bonus.  I have knocked quite a few percentage points of fat off from my frame.  Until training really ramps up in January, I am going to focus on my diet to try to bring my overall weight down.  Ideally, I would like to lose 15 lbs, but we’ll see.

Injury-wise, I’m maintaining.  My plantar fasciitis is gone in one foot and almost gone in the second.  My broken toe is… still broken (maybe again, after having too much fun bouncing around in taekwondo last night) but I can still run.  My back/hip is its usual wonky self but I have a line on a new chiropractor that I want to try.

The training plan I’m using this time is Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 1 program.  I chose it for the two twenty mile runs.  I am adjusting it a bit because he doesn’t call for any speed work or hill work.  I know that the RnR course has a nasty hill at mile 7 and a few other hills later in the course and I need to be ready for that so I’m throwing in a day of hill repeats on Tuesdays and choosing hillier courses for most of my long runs (not a difficult thing to do in NoVa!)

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My life for the next 18 weeks.

My big, scary, A goal is to finish in less than 5 hours.  That would be a 50 minute PR (I told you I struggled!).  I think I’m ready to do it!

Switching Horses Mid-Stream

After much thought and consideration, I’ve decided to defer my entry to this year’s Marine Corp Marathon.  I’ve been thinking about it for a bit (more so after listening to episode 112 of Another Mother Runner Radio about when to stop training for a race).  Yesterday, it hit home when I realized that I was already a week behind in my training schedule and this weekend’s 8 miles was really supposed to be 10 miles and I just wanted to cry.

Other factors:

  • I would have to run 17 miles the day after a very, very hilly Spartan Super.
  • I would have to work in 14 miles around a sprint triathlon.
  • I would have to work in 19 miles around a (difficult) 30 mile Olympic distance triathlon.
  • I am in a “fresh meat” roller derby training program that runs until 11:15 pm once a week but will soon bump up to twice in August so that means at least 2 fewer run days (likely more because I’m always dead the day after derby practice).
  • I won’t have time to work with my personal trainer because any free cross-training has to be used on the bike or in the pool.
  • I would definitely need to stop taking family taekwondo classes with Little Runner. We’ve been doing it for the past month and he absolutely loves it but that’s another hour of my evening to schedule around.
  • I am already the “walking wounded” with plantar fasciitis now in both feet.  Ramping up the miles now will not help that – at all.
  • I have not really enjoyed a race or done overly well in one since Rock n Roll in March.

So, what does this mean?  It means that I can stay in derby, stay in taekwondo, get back to PT, and really focus on my triathlons.  It will also give me time to work on my running pace.  I plan to stay “half marathon ready” and would like to work to get to a two hour time.  I also plan to do a spring marathon so I can train over the winter when I will have fewer commitments.  I think the benefits greatly outweigh the cost of this decision.  Am I sad to be deferring and do I feel a bit like I’m not trying hard enough?  Yes, of course but I would rather cut back and do well in all of my events than do it all but just very poorly.

I do plan to volunteer at the race and cheer on all of my runner friends who will be out there.  That’s (almost) the next best thing.

 

(Trying To) Train Smart

My hip/SI joint has been problematic since … well years, but the most recent flair-up is due to it popping out right before the 17.75.  It has been very angry and inflamed since then.  Last week it had settled down by mid-week so I keep a date for a group run of 6 miles on a very technical and hilly trail.  That sounds like a good choice, right?  </sarcasm>

I love, love, love that trail!  It is super tough but so pretty and peaceful and I just couldn’t say no to it even though I was thinking that maaaybe it wasn’t such a hot idea.  The run went great without too much pain.  Our group then did a lot of prolonged stretching in the parking lot immediately following the finish – you knew we were all in pain because we were sitting right in the gross lot instead of moving to the nice grass.  I iced, Adviled, and rested and had total rest on Sunday.  Monday was tolerable so I ran 1.5 miles to my personal training session (where I limited my movements) and then ran 2 miles back home.  Everything was totally locked up with severe muscle spasms within the hour.  Sadly, I’m still in pain so I decided to finally do the right thing and call off my 10 mile trail race on Sunday.

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So frustrating

This is so annoying because I finally have my plantar fasciitis resolved and now this!  Bah!  I’m trying to take the long view and focus on improving my bike/swim for the May 11 triathlon.  I just hope my body gets this all out of its system soon because marathon training will be here before I know it!

Anyone else currently benched or limping along?  Feel free to commiserate in the comments!