Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Never rely on the girl with the map

Keeper of the map!!
So, y'all know I've been biking.  Me, runwithjill, biking.  Not my first choice (ahem) of endurance sports but one does what one must do to maintain a tiny ounce of fitness (most of it is loooong gone).  So a couple months ago I started riding with Christi on the weekends to prep for our upcoming hilly Elephant Rock 64 mile ride, which is in a mere 12 days (yikes!!!).  So I needed to get in another long ride before the big day approaches so this past weekend was the day to get 'er done.

I have absolutely zero clue how one approaches a long ride...does one taper for it like you do a marathon?  How long should my long ride be this weekend, the weekend before the race?  Help all you bikers out there!!!

That was just a mild panic attack....back to the story:  Christi couldn't go on Saturday and I had plans for Sunday afternoon so when Julie of you just have to tri asked if I wanted to join her for a 60 mile ride, I was all over it!  Yes!  I need the miles and the company would be awesome. 

Julie and I have never met before and really have only been reading each other's blogs for a short time, but we chatted like we've known each other for decades - I love those types of instant friendships.  I'm certain we'd have a blast in a Mexican restaurant with a couple margaritas behind us :).  Julie is about to embark on her first century in a few weeks so I got the brilliant idea we should ride the shorter course of her upcoming ride.

I printed all my maps of the course and was ready to go, studying them in great lengths glimpsing over them quickly before we set out.  I was venturing onto uncharted territory for me and I didn't relish the thought of getting lost and tacking on more miles with only one Honey Stinger bar and a few chews.

But that's exactly what I did - get us majorly lost.  Many times even.

Did I ever mention I have a minor in cartography???  What the heck is cartography, you ask?  Why, it's the study of map making!

So about 3 miles in was our first of probably 400 pulling out the map and checking where we were, by mile 4 we had already missed our turn.

Mile 12, I managed to fall (hard to believe) while pretty much standing still - but major bonus points on that fall cuz now I'm sporting a matching owie on my other knee and I'm more symmetrical now.

Lookie there, matching knee scars.  The right is the new one, the left is the one I mangled up
a few weeks ago.  Nice, huh!?!   And what the heck is wrong with my right knee all buldging ugly like that?

Somehow I managed this lovely on the back of my calf.  No idea what caused
those pretty scratch marks
So after I pick myself up and we enter the cute town of Golden, we're about to start our 2000' 4.5 mile climb up the infamous Lookout Mountain.  Julie was fearful; it is notorious for being tough on bikers legs, but it is jammed pack full of them - I was in awe at how that road was full of cyclist going up (and down) the thing.  I don't fear these things, I just suck at all hills so I just go as slowly as possible as not to rupture a lung or pull a quad muscle.  The thing really wasn't as bad as I was anticipating, all I though of the whole way was, "Push down with the quads, pull up with the calves."  I don't know why that helped, but it helped keep the legs pumping.

We finally got up to the top and it was such a gorgeous view:

View of the town of Golden from the Top of Lookout Mt.

View of the Rockies from the top of Lookout

Julie and I relived to be AT THE TOP!!!
I was actually a little more afraid coming down the backside of this mountain, it was steep and it was windy and the crosswinds were just ridiculous and making my bike wobble.  No doubt my physical therapist will tell me tomorrow, "That's because you're core is weak, Jill...."  Yeah, yeah, yeah....

Get to about mile 20 and I'm pulling out the map.  Good thing Julie was looking over my shoulder, otherwise we'd still be way lost right now in the town of Evergreen as I'd have had us turning right instead of left, as the map indicated.  Hate it when that map gets upsidedown!!

Get to the very bottom of that mountain and pull out that dang map again.  Let's turn right and go into Morrison, seemed like that's where everyone else on a bike was going.  This brought us along Red Rocks Park, famous for it's amplitheater and where I ran last summer running up and down the stadium stairs.

Hey Julie, where are we?
At least the background is pretty, eh?
Later that night, Julie told me we never should have been in Morrison.  Opps.  And an even bigger opps was when we left the town of Morrison, I was sure we were suppose to be on this trail that followed the highway....despite the map not really showing us that.  So we got on the trail and realized we're now at Bear Creek State Park, where we weren't suppose to be ... so we take this road which "looked" good.  About 2 miles in and 30-mph crosswinds ready to knock me out, we realize we are nowhere never close to where we're suppose to be.

Back track to the state park....only to realize I've LOST THE DAMN MAP!!!!

Oh good Lord!

Probably for the best...like that map was totally misprinted and not getting us on the right path anyway :).  I asked the park entry dude how to get on the bike path since I knew eventually that path would lead to the path that would take us back to heaven on earth: our cars!! 

Eventually we made it back, with distance PRs for both of us: 66.7 miles and some ungodly number of mega hours my butt sat on that tiny bike seat.  Does one ever get used to that thing cuz wowzie, my butt hurt those last 10 miles.  Bad.

Sunday, I was pretty lifeless but not really sore, just tired.  I ventured over to the state park near my house and attempted to run on some of my beloved running trails over there.  My calves and quads were pretty heavy (remember my chant up Lookout Mountain?  Yeah, it was payback time for Jill) so after a couple miles, I felt my form going all sucky and my heel started to complain.  Uneven terrain with stiff legs was not my brightest idea....but at least I remembered those trails I hadn't run on since last summer - and I didn't need a map.  And I was running. 

I wanted to say a quick note about last week's post on shoes.  I loved all the comments and thank you dearly for all your support, encouragement and kind words about how I'm running again - means a lot to me!  Shelly said it best, "Right now you are needing to give more to your overall wellness, running will be there when your body is ready to allow you to jump back in. Maybe it won't be a the pace you did in your 20s ...but it's the sheer joy of running that you want for a lifetime. Races and places are great but being part of this lifestyle is what it is all about."  So true!  Thanks, Shelly!  I am not going to go after a race right now, not even going to THINK about one, not until I feel I am ready and that's not going to be for a very,VERY long time.  And I'm ok with that.  I think.  More on that later, but on the Nike Free thing: my problem with my heel is not solely due to improper footwear - I have issues with overstriding, as I discussed in a previous post, and I also have imbalances in my hips and gluts, which I will definitely touch on in another post when I understand more.  These issues may, or may NOT, be shoe related but shoes have played a major role in my heel hell and all I can say is that my heel has felt better RUNNING these past 3 weeks than it had ever in the many months I took off prior ... I am building strength in my feet and I couldn't do that without the shoes I am wearing, strength I couldn't get in a non-minimalist shoe.  I don't know if they'll be the shoes for me forever, very doubtful if I ever get back to the marathon world, but they are the right shoes for me right now - they are giving me the strength back I so desperately need in my feet.  How cool is that?!?!

For an excellent article on which running shoes are best for you, click on this link here (please click on the link and "like" the article, I'd greatly appreciate it): this guy, Ron, has been instrumental in getting me back on the road running again and with his guidance, I am certain there will be a positive outcome.

5 months ago my podiatrist told me not to run .. yet in the very same breath told me that time off from running may not necessarily do any good.  Finally, after months of heel hell saga, I have found the source to my problem, something I begged my podiatrist to look for, yet he didn't have the resources to - nor the desire to.....

I am running some, I am gaining my strength back, I am learning.  I have been blessed with this blog as it has reached the right people who can help me more than any professional I've forked out major bucks to.  I am now cautiously hopeful!!

Run strong, friends!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let's Talk Shoes...

So, it appears I have done many things "wrong" with my training and racing for the past billion 35 years of running and as I nudge my way back into the world I have missed so much, I am overwhelmed at the abundance of things I am learning on a daily basis to make my body run "right" and overcome this miserable 13-month debilitating injury.  I'm so excited to share with you all the things I am learning, and doing, but honestly - much of it I don't fully understand and until I do, I will just touch on the things I do know for now.   

I'm thrilled to be running again - THRILLED - even at my meager 2-2.5 miles at a pathetic 12:00 - 11:00 min/mile pace.  It hasn't been an easy return to the road; at times it has been just too painful and exceedingly frustrating (ultimately, tears on Friday night).  At times, the heel pain is excruciating and I have to stop before I even get 1/8 of a mile into it, other times I have to fight through the pain a little, and then there are the few times I have some pretty decent runs....only having to stop because of the complete lack of any cardiovascular fitness and running 30 minutes is pretty much all I have in the gas tank right now.  But it will get better.  For now, it's just a matter of diligently doing the work prescribed to me, without fail -  no excuses!!  And I am, as you will see below with my training outline below.  And I am seeing vast improvements in my heel....and what could be more exciting than that?  Aside from the Matty canvas I won (pic to come next week, Matty!)!

Today I'll briefly touch on my footwear and what I have come to find out from a few people who have helped me along this journey (like MissZippy's Soc Doc whom we've corresponded a few times, and this guy who has also provided me with a lot of insights and got me back running again - both of these guys pretty much the same philosophy, "Find the source and fix it"):

Soooo, here we go.  Most running shoes interfere with the feet doing their job, which could cause the whole body to have a poor gait, inducing stress into muscles, bones and joints. By wearing the wrong shoes you’ll never find your natural effective gait.  Constrictive, stiff, and overly cushioned modern shoes brace the foot, alter our natural biomechanics, and limit the ability of the foot and leg muscles to function naturally. As a result, these muscles get weak.

Of those billion years I've been running, I can tell you for certain I've worn the incorrect shoe type for my feet for at least the past 12 of those years.  Prior to that, I have no clue; in high school and college and even just beyond, I just wore whatever the fad was, and looked good; there was not a plethora of different types of shoes.  I'm not sure where or when I was told I needed a stability shoe, but somewhere someone did and for many, many eons, I wore the Asics Kayanos.  It was fine at the time - I really didn't know any better - but somewhere around the time of the summer of 2008, while training for my first Boston - I started to have some heel annoyance and numbness in my forefoot and gave up my long time Kayanos and went through a slew of different shoes, and inserts, trying to make the pain go away - all "stability" shoes since I apparently over-pronated.  As we all (unfortunately) know, the heel continually got worse to the point where it is today - chronic, constant pain!

The most fascinating point I have learned in the past few weeks is that many running shoes cause you to land on your heel instead of further forward on your foot. This is because they are built with large, over-supported heels and are marketed as providing us a “smoother, more cushioned ride.” But over time, the repetitive action of landing on the heel causes foot dysfunction as well the potential for ankle, knee, and hip injury. Now your body’s foundation is cracking at the most vulnerable areas and people with PF, Achilles Tendinitis, ITB, and an array of other running "injuries" can probably be dwindled down to improper footwear.  But for me, by wearing shoes with built-up heels (and those with arch supports or inserts) the arches in my feet and Achilles are not able to do their job making running a natural activity.  My feet (and my hips and gluts - more on those in another post) have become weak and you contribute this with a person who over-strikes and over-trains and...BAM - I have a severe case of plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis.  And probably 15 other heel related injuries, including a heel contusion.  Yay me.

I could go on and on about the findings I have been taught about improper mechanics associated with improper running shoes, siting countless articles and reviews and papers I have read (the runblogger site being my source of the most useful information I have found), but let's just leave that alone for now and let me tell you what I have chosen.  For now.

Nike Free 3.0 v2

Cushy, which makes me less afraid than running barefoot and stepping
on something gross or sharp
3-4mm heel drop; makes it easier to not heel strike

Very flexible, which allows my foot to not be constricted and more natural
I'm not here to plug the Nike Free's (I have more to try out and review here soon) nor I'm not here to preach the perks of minimalist running shoes; last summer I remember standing in a parking lot after brunch with Happy Trails as we all discussed using extreme caution towards the minimalist movement - but I firmly now believe that wearing improper footwear can be detrimental to your running's well-being and at least for me, a minimalist shoe is what is going to build my foot strength.  Our feet were meant to BE strong, WALK strong, RUN strong, and not be crammed into a shoe that someone at your local running store "told" you fit your foot after watching you walk, or run, for maybe 5 minutes.  I'm sorry, but that's not going to do it.  Go with what feels right to you...and go with your gut instincts.  If I went with what my podiatrist recommended 5 months ago, I'd be in a $600 custom orthotic with a very heavy, heel engulfing shoe which would be doing my foot absolutely no good right now.  Yeah, it may have put a temporary Band-aid on it, having not solved the source of pain, and that problem would soon return - and most likely cause further damage with paralyzing knee pain or ITB or something worse. Just ask this chica right here!!   My gut told me many months ago, an orthotic was not my solution.

Maybe you believe, as I once did: "I've been running for years and have had no major injuries or set-backs so I am fine with my beefed-up, heel padded, heavy shoes that were dirt cheap...."  Well, I ran relatively pain-free for 35 years until it all caught up with me one day and left me with the the mother load set-back of all set-backs. 

Everyone can benefit from strengthening their feet - everyone!  You don't have to necessarily run in the 6.1 oz shoes I do, but run some drills barefoot, in the grass, every time before and after your run - and I bet, in time, you will find strength in your feet ... and end up with a much less chance for injury.

If changing my form and wearing minimalist, zero-drop shoes will prevent future feet problems and other running-related injures, I am there.  Even if it means sludging through two measly, agonizingly slow11:00 minutes miles right now. It took me a long time to develop this set-back and therefore change will not come overnight; there is no time-line for which I will be "cured" and racing again....but I can tell you this: I see change seeping in - and the change is good!  And that, my friends, is what gets me up everyday - I am determined to make this work and get back to th world of running I love so much.  It WILL come, eventually it will.

VERY quick other news:
- I have been crazy busy at work this week as seniors check out, which has vastly cut into my blog reading time; their last day is today and though I am very excited to see them move on to the next chapters in their lives, it is also very sad for me to see them go.  The school puts on an exit assembly for them and the faculty and staff form a gauntlet for them to go through at the end of the ceremony - it always makes me cry.  The other emotional part for me will be when my boys, who have sat in the "freshmen" section of the gym for all assemblies this year, will move down to the "sophomore" section.  Man, where does time go!?!

- Since I bragged about Ryan two weeks ago running his 5:05 PR, I must also brag a bit about his non-running twin, Brendan, who today was awarded the most outstanding freshman band award, and most improved (my daughter said that's cuz he sucked before.  Whatever...).  Both my boys are doing well :).

Run strong, friends!!!

Last Week:
2 miles run
PT exercises: core, gluts and hips
1200 yds swim

2.5 miles run (ran 2 miles, walked/ran last half)
Biked 13.55 miles to PT
PT exercises with PT man
Bike crash (again) on ride home (Damn car!!), slow 13.55 miles home.

2 miles run
11 miles biking
PT exercises: core, hips, gluts
upper body weights

11 miles biking recumbent bike at gym
lower body weights
PT exercises: core, hips, gluts

2 miles run
11 miles bike
PT exercises: core, gluts and hips

50.02 miles biking
PT exercises: core, gluts and hips

2.5 miles run
PT core, gluts and hips

Sunday, May 8, 2011

All I used to know is out the window...

I guess it's time to post; my mailbox is flooded with inquiries asking if I am still breathing.

For the most part, yes....but wow, what a busy couple weeks.

First, I have to say thank you for all the birthday wishes...um...three weeks ago (things have been a little manic here, sorry for not posting, nor reading.  End of the school year revving up and all and a big job interview I was prepping for (and didn't get *sigh* )...); my heart was truly moved by all the generous comments; you made my day! Just another example of kindred souls in this vast blog land; nothing like a blog to turn a mish-mashed group of runners and cyclist and triathletes into one big happy family. I am honored to have your faces in my mind as I write today. 

I started writing a post several days ago; between my laptop constantly locking up on me and the ever so unfriendly blogger, I accidentally posted a bunch of notes.  I quickly deleted it, so sorry for the confusion for all that saw it in the blog reader.  I wonder if there will ever be a day when blogger and I become friends.

In the meantime, I have so much news to share....

I have to start out with a little bragging about my son, Ryan, who yanked out a 5:05 mile on Thursday (many of you know this via FB - thanks for all your kind words there!).  I could not believe it - that was a 20 second PR!!  It was a really warm day and Ryan was a little unsettled with the new-found warmth Denver recently acquired and unsure how he'd fare.  I gave him the ole pep talk about how he was stronger than a little heat and I positioned myself on the infield after he took off so I could get as close to him as possible.  I screamed my heart out each lap and on the last lap I told him to go and fight for this, it was inside him.  He grunted and by golly he kicked it into high gear and cranked out a 1:12 last lap and finished in 8th place (he was ranked 20th).  That kid's gonna go places with his running (he's only a freshman!), he just needs to learn to pace each lap a little better, stop looking at his watch 400 times, stop wandering around his lane, and get a little muscle on his scrawny bod.  Anyhoo, so very proud of him.

Also in running related news: A HUGE congratulations to EMZ who rocked her 24-hour treadmill run.  She sent me a really great text later that night. "No sleep, lots of potty breaks, one IV, 3 pairs of shoes, 3 treadmill changes, and 100.16 miles."  Amazing, girl!!  There is still time donate to the Sojourner Center for battered woman, if you haven't already, the charity she ran those 100 sleepless miles for.  Click Here.  I proudly don my EMZ shirt in her honor!!!

In my attempt to evade my own sucky heel melancholy, I have been putting in major cycling miles (for me anyway) in an attempt to reclaim even a portion of my pre-heel injury fitness.  I have a very long way to go, but I think I am starting to make a small dent.

Everything I ever thought I knew about cycling has been totally ill-conceived - I know nothing.  For instance: My uber-cool free bike from Tara was way too small for me; the cycling shoes I own are actually mountain biking shoes; you do not dress like it is 20 degrees warmer than it is, like you do running; 20 miles is really nothing on a bike; you actually DO have to fuel while riding a bike for an extended period of time...51 miles with only half a Honey Stinger bar is not going to cut it; just because you are an ok hill climber running does not automatically make you a hill climber riding (I SUCK riding up step hills!!! - different muscles I guess); riding in 40-mph crosswinds is unbelievably obnoxious!!!!; it is perfectly acceptable to wipe snot on your bike gloves - 200 times; never ever ever ever ever ever shift gears mid-hill or you'll end up with your chain totally dismantled, you sprawled out across the entire road praying a car doesn't quickly make you road-kill, and left with a big boo-boo on your knee:

Is that sweet or what?? 
Though I am far from calling myself a true cyclist, I am learning and I have to agree with BDD when he told me as I first started out on this little cycling journey a couple months ago, "I bet you'll even like it."  Not so much at first, but yes...I actually DO enjoy it a little now (if we could remove the hills.  And the wind.).  What I love the most is just being out there and covering the distance and the amazing topography as the landscape can change drastically in the course of a very long ride.  You don't get that running much, not even running 26.2 miles.  I have met up, and ridden a few times with, this rock star, hill climbing, studette cycling woman: Pedestrian Runner Christi:

Taken a few weeks ago, Christi and I on our first ride together
Christi lives in Colorado Springs, I live in Denver - about an hour away, so we meet in a small town in between called Castle Rock and ride the the hills, more hills, and then some hills together.  We've even signed up for the famous Elephant Rock ride next month, a 64 mile ride combing the notorious hills we've been tackling the past few weeks.  Christi, in all her awesomenss, has been very patient with me, waiting at the top of every flipping hill and giving me tips galore.  I've deemed her "coach" and I just pray one day I can keep my sorry ass up with her.  Thanks, Christi, for not dumping me on day one!  Today we had a great ride as the temps hit the low 80s and it was one of those beautiful sun-shiny, bright blue-skied Colorado days! 

That'd be me, with Pike Peak in the background.  Wish the
picture did it justice, it's truly magnificent!

That'd be Christi.  Way in front of me.  As usual! :)
Only cuz I wanted to share the pics: recently, my other twin, Brendan, and I rode from our house to the flagship REI store downtown - about a 42 mile round trip ride. 

Brendan and I at the state park where I have logged well over
a thousand miles running in all these years.  Rockie mts. as our
backdrop - nice, huh!?
Brendan at our destination - the REI flagship store; awesome place!

A little break at Confluence Park by the REI store
I'm certain I will have tons of cycling stories to share as I enter a new chapter in my life....

.... but, as you all know, my heart belongs to my beloved running shoes and per the advice of Miss Zippy - to keep knocking on doors until you find an answer - I think I have finally found a breakthrough.  A cause for the heel pain, not the quick-fix to make the pain go away (though that'd be nice, I firmly believe it's not a solution ... if the cause persists, the pain will eventually return).  Through this little blog of mine, someone came to my rescue and is helping me understand my problem: 

Hello, my name is Jill, and I have a huge over-stride problem. 
Obviously, not me - last I checked, but
this is the problem I have
And you know what?  All this laying off running is actually hurting my plantar fasciitis and Achilles because  the muscles in my feet are becoming weaker... and I am to run.  Did y'all hear that???  I AM TO RUN!!!!

Not to build miles, not to base build - but rather, to re-learn how to run properly:  Shorten my stride, quick on my feet, and land on my forefoot, not my heel *gasp*.  All I used to know is now out the window ... I am re-learning, from scratch, how to do it all over again.

It's going to be a very long road, and I'm certain very frustrating - but I am willing to do what it takes - however long that is.  THIS is what I am most excited to be sharing with you in the upcoming posts - my journey back to running.  I have my PT on board and we're already making great strides in finding my imbalances to fix this nightmare (perhaps more enthralling PT videos???_...

....finally, I feel I've turned a huge corner, and my days of running, really running, are on the horizon.

Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.
- Harriet Beacher Stowe
Run strong, friends....I'll be joining you out there one day ...soon!