2015: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Initially, I wasn’t going to write the obligatory end of the year summary.  As the year winds to a close, however, I naturally started thinking about where the year had taken me, and I wanted to document it – if only just for me.  It’s been A year!  I have had some heart-stopping, stellar moments.  I’ve also had some heart-stopping, heartbreaking moments.

2015 Word of the Year

Last year, I chose a word of the year: Balance.  I felt everything in my life was OUT of balance and I desperately needed to get control of things.  My running was clearly out of control – I was prone to over-training and terrible at supplementing my fitness with cross-training and strength.  I was over-scheduled in almost every area of my life – there were some things over which I had control of scheduling and many things that I did not.  I’m not going to lie….I still struggle with balancing all of life’s demands.  But, I am better at the balancing act now than I was 365 days ago.  Truth be told, this is an ongoing challenge, but I’m up for it!

The Bad and The Ugly

I’m lumping “The Bad” and “The Ugly” together because I simply want to be DONE with all this negativity! LOL

  • Started the year with an ITB injury that stole the first 4 weeks of the year from me.  I was finally able to s-l-o-w-l-y return to running the last week of January.
  • Battled another injury – stress fracture in my heel – in July.  This hiccup took another month of running away from me and in the setback I wondered if I would be fit enough to run the full at Dallas.IMG_4598
  • The entire year felt like a battle.  I was battling to beat my ITB.  Then I was battling to recover from my heel.  Recovering from injury takes a lot of time, patience that I don’t have, and mental fortitude.
  • My biggest battle was in my mind.  It isn’t a secret (or at least I don’t think it is a secret) that I don’t have a lot of faith in my abilities – unless you count my ability to injure myself, in which case I have full faith in that!  Spending basically an entire year injured caused me to doubt myself.  I didn’t believe that my body could recover enough to ever run long distances again.  I didn’t believe that I could run smart enough to stay uninjured.  I just didn’t believe in me at all.  This was, hands down, the biggest tragedy of the year.

The Transformation

When I looked back at some of my earlier blog posts, I realize how much I had to learn….and how much I have learned!  I can’t believe how much I have matured as a runner.  I know there are still many lessons to be learned, but I have been able to find a peace with running that I never had before.  Some things I learned on my own.  Some lessons were taught to me by John, my partner for part of the year until he moved, and others I learned from my current coach, Brent.

  • I started the year with the intent to train by heart rate, but that change didn’t happen fully until I started working with my current coach in October.  The beauty of this is that all things prepare us for what will happen in the future.  Since I had been monitoring my heart rate all year, I knew how my heart would react in certain situations. Since my training with Brent is set up almost exclusively by heart rate, I was ahead of the curve, in a sense, because I already “knew” my heart.  This type of training has been very good for my running!
  • My partner, John, taught me the importance of running slower (which, ties right into the heart rate training).  With his guidance, I learned how to pace myself (which is something that I COULD NOT do before running with him).  Developing this discipline in my running certainly laid the groundwork for great things to come and made it much more easy for me to execute workouts properly.
  • I finally learned to listen to my body, even though I didn’t always act upon it.  I hope that will come as I continue maturing as a runner.  The fact that I now notice those little things is a huge victory.
  • I gave up running with music.  BEST.  DECISION.  EVER.  Taking away the distraction of the music opened up so many amazing things.  First, I can listen to my footsteps to see if there are any imbalances.  I am more aware of my breathing.  I don’t get lost in songs and beats, which formerly meant I would end up running too fast.  In addition, during those tough spots in a run, I had to rely on myself to get through it rather than finding a song to distract me though it.  BIG difference.  I think that helped my confidence A LOT.
  • The most beautiful thing happened when I started believing in myself.  By the time Dallas rolled around, I began to have a quiet confidence and somehow learned to have peace with what would come – good or bad.  I honestly didn’t fret over that race, which, if you know me, is a MIRACLE.  I am carrying that peace and confidence with me into 2016!

Cycling helped me through the rough patches

I love to bike….outdoors.  I dislike riding on the trainer, but I did a lot of that early in the year because I knew how much the cross-training would help my recovery.  Cycling also saved me during my heel fracture, because I was given the green light to ride as much as I wanted as long as I didn’t suffer discomfort.  I biked A LOT in July!

This year, I transitioned from a hybrid to a road bike, and with that came clip-ins.  Most people know how clumsy I am, and so you can imagine the number of falls I had because I would forget to twist my foot out….all of them happened in my drive-way!  I still laugh about it.

I do love any time that I get on the bike, however, and who knows – there may be a tri in my future.

The Good, Running-wise

Despite the setbacks, I had lots of victories on the roads this year.

  • Ran Skyline HM in May, even though it might have been too close to rehab and recovery.  I was 8 minutes off my PR, but the important thing is that I was able to run a fairly strong race, and it felt like a HUGE victory.Medal
  • I ran Rock the Block 10k at the end of May because I wanted to focus on some shorter distances to help bring down my HM time.  I was able to PR this race by about a minute @ 57:46.

    Start line selfie with my favorite oldest daughter :)
    Start line selfie with my favorite oldest daughter 🙂
  • Even though Plano Balloon HM was the WORST race of the year for me, it was a victory.  I ran this race after being back from my heel injury only 7 weeks.  I realize (now) that I was being to aggressive, but thankfully it all worked out in the end.

    Maybe my favorite race sign ever :)
    Maybe my favorite race sign ever 🙂
  • I joined Renegade Endurance and love having the support of the athletes in the club.  It is so much fun to hear about their successes and lift them up, and racing is much more fun when your teammates are there racing as well!

    My RE team members are the BEST!
    My RE team members are the BEST!
  • Rock n Roll St. Louis was one of the highlights of my year.  I went into this race just wanting to finish strong, plus the main reason I went was to socialize with my group of Twitter friends.  At this point, I had run Plano Balloon just a month earlier and missed an entire week of workouts afterward because my body wasn’t ready to run that race.  I had just started working with Brent and the main goal was Dallas Marathon.  I was completely shocked and surprised when I ended up with a PR 2:13:17 (by 43 seconds! LOL).
    Pood paced me to an awesome finish!
    Pood paced me to an awesome finish!

    My Sole Sister Jenn
    My Sole Sister Jenn
  • Believe 10k was the first 10k I ever ran.  Every year, I want to get down to McKinney to run it again but it never seems to work out.  When I asked my coach if I could run it instead of the 8 mile training run, he gave the green light and I immediately signed up.  But then, the monsoons of Thanksgiving  nearly washed away my hopes of running the race.  The race went on as scheduled, and I went, prepared for a wet, cold race.  I ended up with another PR 56:15 (1:30 better than May) and first in my age group!
  • I knew that I would have to run a TERRIBLE race to not PR at Dallas Marathon this year.  2014 was the race of the bum ITB and it took me wayyyyyyy too long.  This race was to be the highlight of my year, plus I felt I had something to prove on that course.  I was somehow able to run the most perfect race ever…for me anyway…and ended up with 4:15:12, considerably faster than the 2014 bum ITB marathon. Plus, I beat my time goal by 15 minutes!  My biggest fear is that I have now peaked.  Even so, I’ll take it, because so many runners never have a race experience as good as the one I had!  This is the race that made me feel like a real runner; like a real marathoner.

Here are just a few of the well wishes I got from my friends, near and far during and after Dallas:img_6754


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This one had to call me at the finish line ;)
This one had to call me at the finish line 😉

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The Non-Running Stories

So many non-running things happened in 2015.  As I look back, it probably seems that I am going through a mid-life crisis, but I think I decided that I am too old to care what anyone thinks, plus I’m running out of time to do all the fun stuff!

  • I lost my tattoo virginity.  By the end of the year, I had already gotten my second tattoo!  Be looking for a 3rd after Ragnar….I’m forcing myself to wait until then!BraceletIMG_6173
  • I jumped out of a plane.  SO.  MUCH.  FUN.  I will go again in 2016, to take Logan when he turns 18 years old!Jennifer_Kirkpatrick 034
  • Taylor went to Thailand, lost her passport in Tokyo and lived to tell the tale.
  • Taylor graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas Woman’s University.147
  • Alli’s team, Madfrog 10 National, was the highest placing American team at AAU Nationals, placing 7th in the nation.  The top 6 teams were Puerto Rican.rainforest
  • While in Orlando for AAUs, I rode in a helicopter!Takeoff
  • Logan made a 34 on his ACT, which was supposed to be “just a practice”.

Looking back, 2015 was a very good year!  I look forward to continuing this progress in 2016!

Happy 2016!!

Jen

 

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Plano Balloon Race Recap

This weekend was the culmination of 7 weeks of blood, sweat and tears to get myself race ready.  When I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my heel on July 13, I fully expected that I would not have any shot at running this race.  I kept doing the math in my head over and over and I just didn’t see how it could happen.  My coach, on the other hand, told me that he felt it was a possibility and advised me to take it one run at a time.  Being able to cycle during the injury helped me maintain some level of fitness, although there isn’t anything that can keep you in running shape quite like running.  I’ve had some ups and downs the past 7 weeks.  I’ve been humbled – again.  Injuries have a funny way of doing that to you.

I’m not at 100% and I don’t expect to be 100% for quite a while.  Every increase in mileage has presented its hiccups.  And while I want nothing more than to focus on speed work – speed work provides an extra special hiccup that my body just isn’t quite ready to handle.  In the words of Juba from the movie Gladiator, I’ll be doing speed work “soon, but not yet”.

Queen of Stupid Sh*t (QoSS) Strikes Again

I had NO idea how this race would go.  I know how I have performed on the recent long runs – but those are at a turtle’s pace.  I know how I have performed on the easy runs (which are one degree faster than long runs).  I became increasingly nervous this week about “racing” the race, particularly because of some nagging heel issues from a tempo run one week ago Thursday.  It was bothering me so much that I had a lengthy discussion with my coach after Tuesday’s run and he told me to ditch the remaining workouts for the week except for the Saturday shake out run.  I iced it (some) and wore compressions (less than I should have) and continued my stretching.  My heel seemed to be getting better, but on Friday it just seemed to get worse…and worse….and worse.

OK…back up.  My coach also told me to “take it easy on the strength” during taper week and I did take it easy.  However, Friday morning (I know you can all see the slow-motion crash about to happen) I had a “great” idea while I was doing my ankle exercises.  Instead of doing my strength set for my hips, I would do those single leg deadlifts that I have been meaning to add in.  (Can I just say this was before I had even one whole cup of coffee?) So, I did the deadlifts.  And they were HARD.  And I should have stopped.  And I shouldn’t have used the heaviest handheld weights that I own.  And I regretted it as soon as I finished.  I seriously have NO idea what came over me.  Obviously someone let Crazy Jen loose AGAIN and forgot to tell me!  Just when I thought that I had committed ALL the sins of running….

As a result, my hamstrings hated me and I think that was THE reason my ankle was so angry.

Luckily, everything felt fairly decent on the shake out run, so I tried to put my worries aside.

Up, Up and Away

Race morning finally arrived, and…..I didn’t feel good.  My stomach was just nauseous.  I tried to eat, but it just didn’t taste good.  I knew this was going to cause a problem during the race, but at one hour until the gun, there really wasn’t much I could do.  I had decided to stay in a hotel so that I could sleep later, but I was away from home so that kind-of backfired since I didn’t sleep that well.  Plus, I had gone to GrapeFest (tomorrow’s post!) and had lots of wine and some fried pickles.  Even though I had really good intentions of hydrating at the hotel, it didn’t happen……I’m sure you can see a pattern developing.

My HM PR is 2:14.  I’ve actually run a 2:04 HM in training, but I can’t count that.  My ego, even knowing that I’ve only just built enough base for this race, really wanted a 2:14.  After the week with my ankle, I knew I couldn’t possibly shoot for that without causing some big problems down the road.  My coach advised me to run the first mile at 11, through mile 6 at 10:45 and pick up to 10:30 until mile 11, where I could open up if I was feeling like it.

The first few miles went fairly well.  I still felt crappy with my stomach issues and nagging allergies, but I was able to maintain my pace easily enough.  By mile 7, I started to struggle to keep the pace, which at this point I was sure was directly related to my lack of breakfast (lack of properly hydrating on Saturday hadn’t even crossed my mind at this point).  I was planning to take my gel at the next water station but it just so happens that they were handing out squeeze packets of applesauce.  I opted for the applesauce.  Just thinking about the gel made me sick to my stomach.  The applesauce did make me feel better for a bit and it gave me the energy boost I needed.

WAIT!  I haven’t even mentioned my ankle.  My ankle was a little sore at the start and through the first 3ish miles, but after that it worked itself out or I just went completely numb or I was too worried about my stomach.  In any case, the ankle wasn’t an issue. 🙂

The aid station with the applesauce was a two-way water station, so I grabbed an applesauce on the way back through.  The second one didn’t taste as good as the first and I spent the next mile or so just dealing with the yuck feeling of water and applesauce sloshing around on my stomach and debating whether to push myself to the point of puking (because I would have HAD to feel better, right?)

Around mile 10, I felt my psoas getting tight.  And then I became upset with myself because I haven’t released my psoas in some time and I was sure that the hamstring issue was impacting my psoas and I came full circle to being angry with myself about those dead lifts again.  And then I was just mad at my myofascia guy – he really shouldn’t have moved to Colorado and left me to take care of all this on my own.  Luckily, I wasn’t thinking about my upset stomach while I was cursing my myofascia guy.

The nausea at mile 12 became almost more than I could handle, so I walked for a tenth of a mile to calm my system down.  It worked and gave me enough of a boost to git’er done.  I was able to run a good, quick pace the rest of the race.  I was glad that I had some in reserve to do that and it sort-of redeemed the crap that happened on the course.

I ended up with 2:26:11.  That is my slowest HM EVER.  But you know what?  I’m not upset at all.  Just 10 weeks ago, I was sure that I would not be able to run.  And even though I did commit some biggies on the running sin list, I still did it.  And my coach told me that I hit it out of the park!  Even though he gave me times for a faster race – he expected a 2:35 finish.  Imagine what I could have done had I hydrated and eaten properly on Saturday….and skipped the new strength exercise….and not had too much wine at Grape Fest….and actually fueled my body with a good breakfast….  Aaaaaand my ankle seems OK.  It is a little swollen and a little sore, but I have my compressions on and am icing it every chance I get.  All in all, I have to declare this race a huge success!

Except for the fail….when I stopped my watch at the end of the race, I hit delete instead of save.  So I have no splits.  No cadence.  No heart rate data.  No elevation.  I nearly passed out right there before I got my medal.  Each time I think of it, I get a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.  This will be good therapy for my OCD.  Right??

I took this between periods of laying on the ground, thinking I might die at any moment while I was waiting on my friend Erica to cross the finish line!
I took this between periods of laying on the ground, thinking I might die at any moment while I was waiting on my friend Erica to cross the finish line!

Friends at Races are THE BEST

I recently joined Renegade Endurance, which is a running/racing club that has several members in my area.  I was able to meet up with a couple of the ladies in the group who also ran the race.  It was so much fun meeting new runner friends and I am excited to be a part of this amazing team!

Aubrun and her mother Christy from our Renegade team!
Aubrun and her mother Christy from our Renegade team!

And Dara, the cohort in crime to Erica, volunteered at the race and made a sign especially for little ‘ole me!  I LOVE IT!!!

Dara volunteered instead of running this race this year. And she made this sign just for me! I LOVE it!!!

 

Wilderness Adventures and Guinea Pig Murders

I have really good intentions of posting more often, but life is really getting in the way!

Last week, I found out that I DO NOT need bifocals….or corrective lenses, for that matter, which obviously made my week!!  That was until 15 minutes later when I drove through to grab Logan a hamburger and couldn’t find my wallet.  No worries….it was safely in my purse.  Why didn’t I look there first?  LOL

Wilderness Adventures

Ok, I didn’t really go on a “wilderness” adventure, but my sister, brother and I went out on Saturday afternoon to survey my mom’s 113 acres.  I haven’t been over there in AGES and it has really changed….changed in the fact that it is completely overgrown with thorn-producing trees and plants! IMG_5261

Somehow, I managed to escape the situation without poison ivy or poison oak, which is nothing short of miraculous.  I am extremely allergic to those terrible vines.  As soon as I got home, I stripped, threw my clothes in the washing machine and immediately took a shower to wash off any plant oil with which I may have come in contact.  At this point, I think I am good, since 4 days have come and gone and I have no sign of an itchy, red rash! *whew*

Since the “roads” were overgrown and practically impassable, we were on foot for much of the tour.  I felt like Bear Grylls – all I needed was a machete!

Yes...we worked our way through this!
Yes…we worked our way through this!
An area rooted up by feral pigs, literally the biggest menace in Texas!
An area rooted up by feral pigs, literally the biggest menace in Texas!
The cabin my oldest nephew built for high school weekend campouts has definitely seen better days!
The cabin my oldest nephew built for high school weekend campouts has definitely seen better days!

Guinea Pig Murder

In my ONE post last week, I mentioned Alli’s new pet guinea pig.  Turns out, she didn’t really like the guinea pig so I advertised the Great Guinea Pig Give-Away on Facebook Sunday evening.  Almost immediately we had found a new home for Bevo and the new family wanted to pick him up that evening.  Bobby put Bevo in the cardboard box in which we brought him home and placed it on Alli’s desk.  I took the cage outside for a cleaning.  When I came back into the house, Sophie was at the end of the hallway WITH Bevo in her mouth!  I have NO idea how a miniature dachshund was able to get that box off the desk in the first place.  In any case, Bevo was dead within minutes and I had to call the family back to tell them they would be getting an empty cage.  So far, no one has spilled the beans to Alli.  As far as she is concerned, we gave the guinea pig away! LOL

Bevo's last pic...literally less than an hour before his untimely demise!
Bevo’s last pic…literally less than an hour before his untimely demise!

Time for Cupcakes

It’s been a while since Alli and I baked cupcakes.  Monday evening we whipped up a batch of Red Velvet and last night we made my favorite, Kahlua.  Alli even tried a new fancy frosting decoration on some of the Red Velvet!IMG_5309

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Hitting My Stride

As I look back through my recovery journey since August 3, I am absolutely amazed at the progress I have made.   In August, I somehow managed to run 59 miles.  That number is incredible to me, considering I started with a 30 min 2:1 run:walk interval my first time out!  Last week, I ran 23 miles!!  I stopped focusing on mileage as a number quite some time ago, but I feel incredibly blessed right now because those 23 miles last week were the most amazing miles I’ve run since last year’s ITB injury.  The actual running has felt effortless – my runs would have been completely effortless if not for this stubborn, humid heat!  I am not currently having any of the post-run stiffness that I was experiencing before my stress fracture occurred, which I have also been battling as I have been rebuilding my strength and my running base.

Soul Sister 7 Mile Race

My friend Jenn and I signed up for a virtual race hosted by GoneForARun.com – Soul Sister Run which was 7 miles and to be run 8/28-30.  However, Jenn ended up with stitches in her foot so we postponed in order to run the race “together”….virtually. 🙂

Sunday morning, I set out on the run and it was amazing!!! And HOT!  I didn’t “race” it, because I am still building base and I will be racing Plano Balloon HM on 9/20.  I ran it at my turtle long slow run pace.

This will be the ONE and ONLY time I wear a race shirt on race day!IMG_5281

The funny thing is….you can’t tell that this shirt is completely soaked with sweat.  It was a hot one, but a good one!

Happy Hump Day Friends!

Jen

 

Rising to the Recovery Challenge and Clip Ins make me clumsy

I’m beginning to think injury suits me.  Generally speaking, I am much more consistent when I know that I am having to fight tooth and nail for every run.  I tend to stretch and foam roll, strength train and cross train more consistently.  I’m not quite sure what this means about my mental state, but I’m sure it has something to do with Crazy Jen.

Running after stress fracture

It is probably a bit early to declare myself fully healed, but I’ve been out for 3 runs since my release on Monday.  The first run was a very cautious 2:1 run/walk interval for only 30 minutes with intervals run at 11:45-12:00 pace.  I could tell my ankle was a bit weak and I had some calf tightness on both legs after the run.

Wednesday’s run was much, much better!  I doubled the interval time to 4:1 for 30 minutes but kept the pace slow at around 12:00.  My ankle felt so much stronger than in Monday’s run.  I was so excited that I barely noticed the heat index of 105!  I do have to admit that I didn’t go until 6 pm and ran at the park so there would be some shade available.

For yesterday’s run, I ran 6:1 intervals for 40 min at an 11:30 pace.  I felt good throughout and somehow managed to settle into the prescribed pace fairly easily, but had some stiff calf issues to deal with post run.  I’m set to repeat this run on my next outing and am planning to run in the Enigmas to see if there is any difference post-run between them and the Newtons.

My friend Jenn told me that this owl represents the wisdom I've gained in dealing with my injury.
My friend Jenn told me that this owl represents the wisdom I’ve gained in dealing with my injury.

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I do love my Newtons, but I want to make sure that the shoe isn’t aggravating my injury (and rule out that they contributed to it in the first place).  For now, I’m going to continue this rotation and consider adding a third shoe to the mix.

I’m trying to be patient and not get ahead of myself (as per usual, for me), but if things continue to go smoothly, I believe that I will be able to run the Plano Balloon Half Marathon in mid-September.  If I’m able, my time will likely be my slowest to date, but at this point I don’t care.  I am going to do my best not to rush this training.  I need to keep the long term goals in mind (Dallas Marathon in December, Cowtown Ultra in February and Austin Ragnar in April) and avoid the temptation to cut corners in this important base-building phase.  (I’m so SICK of base-building!  I feel it is all I have done all year!  Wait…it IS all that I have done all year!)

Becoming a “Real” Cyclist

I mentioned in a recent post that I had ordered a road bike and was just waiting on it to arrive for pickup.  It arrived and I picked it up Thursday evening.  I was discussing the pros and cons of clip ins with the cycle shop employee (according to him there are NO cons…read the following paragraph to see that there is one) and ended up walking out with cycle shoes (NEVER thought I would own a pair of those) and different pedals on my bike.  He was extremely helpful and we discussed the best way to get used to them.  We all know that experience is the best teacher, and by experience, I mean screw ups.  Early Friday morning, I rode around the yard, practicing getting my shoe in the clips then twisting my foot out….it all seems so easy when that is ALL you are concentrating on! I ended up on the gravel in my driveway, focused on something else, when I found myself stopped and my foot still firmly in the clip.  Over I went.  It wasn’t a bad tumble – just bad for the ego.  I was determined to stay focused on getting my foot out of the pedal and off I went on a quick ride (and had NO troubles whatsoever!).

My beautiful bike on the bike rack that I assembled all on my own!
My beautiful bike on the bike rack that I assembled all on my own!
The bike shoes that I never thought I would own :)
The bike shoes that I never thought I would own 🙂

This morning, I went out early again, hoping to log 25 miles (which I DID and is my longest ride to date).  I stopped a couple times for water and, again, had NO issues whatsoever…..until I was back in my driveway.  In the SAME spot, distracted by my watch and my OCD about stopping on even distances, I just fell over!  This time, it actually hurt and I have a big bruise on my knee.  I am such a clutz.  And a dork.  And too ADHD.  But I’m still laughing about it!!  In any case, I feel like a legit cyclist now, which translates to feeling pretty cool.  I will not feel cool, however, if I fall off my bike again.  That phase is DONE.

I'm glad that I can provide entertainment for the masses.
I’m glad that I can provide entertainment for the masses.

Today’s ride was fairly easy, except for the South 15mph wind.  In the Summer in Texas, the South wind is ALWAYS blowing.  And even though I ride East-West for the majority of my ride, I ALWAYS feel as though I’m riding into a headwind.  I don’t know how that happens, or if I am just mental, but I curse at the wind.  A LOT.  To get home, I ride South-bound on an incline…yay for headwinds and hills (not really).  I haven’t learned to love the hills on a bike like I do on my feet.  I know it is possible, though, because while in the bike shop I mentioned I was from Bonham; they had ALL been to Bonham to ride and they ALL said, immediately, you guys have hills!

Making the hard choices

My word of the year has been “Balance” and I revisit it often.  I became unbalanced in my strength training and stretching and ended up with a stress fracture.  Due to several factors, I made the decision not to officiate volleyball this year, in order to balance out some things in my home life.  It was one of the most difficult decisions I have made in quite some time.  I absolutely love being out there on the court, but my family time was suffering (as was my ME time).  Today as the season started with scrimmages, I would normally have been in the gym.  This year was different and I spent the day at home and enjoyed the time with my family.  Plus, I got a bunch of stuff accomplished!  Even though I know it was the right decision at the right time, the gym is still tugging at my heart and will continue to do so!  I am hoping that one day soon, my schedule will allow me to do it again!

Before I go, I want to wish my friend Jenn a kick-ass Spartan tomorrow!  My wish for you is that you aren’t required to do ANY burpees!

Hopefully I will be able to get back on a regular update schedule!  I feel as though the summer vacation extended to my blog posts!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Jen

 

Summer is not endless but neither are stress fractures!

It has been some time since I posted an update.  It’s odd to think that I have been THAT busy this summer, but I have!

Game of Thrones

I’ve been wanting to watch GoT for some time, but couldn’t commit the time.  I’m a little obsessive with things and want to give 100% in everything I do.  (Except housecleaning.  I struggle with that.)  When I was sidelined with the injury, I did not stay off my foot which obviously made things worse.  When I learned I actually had a stress fracture, I decided that there was no time like the present to start the series, and could use it as an excuse to prop up my foot.  I took this job VERY seriously.  I’m a little proud and a little ashamed to admit that I finished all 5 seasons in the span of 2 weeks.  Yup.  Fifty episodes in 14 days.  I still get up in the morning expecting to watch another episode and have to admit I feel a little sadness that it is already over.  All I can say is that I CANNOT wait for Season 6!!IMG_4784-0

 

“The Boot”

Recovery from the stress fracture is gong well.  I spent one week in the boot 24/7.  Since then, I’ve been wearing it only at night, although I have to admit I skipped 3 nights!  (I’m a rebel!!)  The first week I was out of the boot, I had some soreness and aches in that area, but nothing substantial to report since one week ago Thursday.  I went to my follow up appointment yesterday and received the news for which I had hoped!!  I was released to run (@ 25% of the volume I was running before injury).  Of course, I ran last evening!  I ran a slow 30 min run with 2 min run intervals followed by a 1 min recovery walk.  All felt good, although I could tell that my ankle was a little weak.  This morning, things are still feeling good, so I will take that as a very good sign!  Today will be a rest day with some strength work sprinkled in….and foam rolling and stretching.  LOTS of foam rolling and stretching!

Cycling counts

I count myself extremely lucky to have been able to continue my fitness with cycling and have enjoyed every minute!  Cycling is different than running, in that I can feel the strength gained in each subsequent workout.  I hadn’t been cycling often, so I was a bit out of shape where the bike was concerned.  However, it didn’t take long to notice the gains in my fitness.  I started out averaging 11 mph and on a recent “easy” ride, I averaged 13.5 mph…..that was riding 2 gears higher than the first rides!  Thanks to training in the Texas heat, I even maxed out my heart rate last week!  The only problem I have encountered is that my competitive nature makes me want to push myself every time I’m out the door.  It occurred to me that cycling is probably like running, in that most rides should be “easy” and that the harder rides should have a specific focus in mind.

I have no complaints about this hot, Texas sun!  Summer is the best time of the year!
I have no complaints about this hot, Texas sun! Summer is the best time of the year!

When I bought my first bike a year ago, I was advised to get a hybrid.  While I have enjoyed that bike, I have longed for a road bike so that I could be more aggressive with my cycling.  (Remember my obsessive nature.)  The bike shop where I bought the hybrid seemed so expensive.  Honestly, I couldn’t justify spending $1,500 on a road bike.  I just don’t cycle enough to warrant spending that kind of money.  I decided to try some other bike shops to see what was available and found one right away!  The bike I chose was already on sale and I was able to get another 20% off so I ended up with something very affordable.  The only downside is that it had to be ordered but should arrive within the week!!  I’m even considering cycling to work until I start the school taxi service again.

One of my last rides on this bike.  My new one is supposed to arrive in the bike shop today!
One of my last rides on this bike. My new one is supposed to arrive in the bike shop today!

Speaking of work….

Work really is a terrible 4-letter word, is it not??  While I count myself extremely lucky to work in a school district which allows me a 6-week break every summer, I would be lying if I said I was actually ready to go back to work.  The summer has gone by faster than usual, even though I spent 2 weeks of my vacation on my arse watching Game of Thrones!  Today is my last day of summer vacation and I feel as though I’ve accomplished NOTHING!!  I’m in a bit of a panic over this, but part of me is happy to get back into a routine.  I am actually much more productive with a set schedule, so maybe I’ll get some thinks done around the house after all!  In any case, tomorrow will come whether I’m ready or not, so I may as well get prepared!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Jen

When all you can think is “Poor Jen”

When the Drama Queen comes out

It has been said that running is 90% mental and I completely agree.  But I think recovery requires more mental stamina.  Mentally, I’ve been dealing with this stress fracture in my heel very well.  For the most part, I’ve kept a positive attitude and have been able to focus on the positives.  I haven’t felt sorry for myself (well….not much) and I’ve been committed to doing everything in my power to help this fracture heal as quickly as possible.  But being mentally tough takes a lot of energy and effort.  And sometimes, you just have to let your guard down and wallow in self-pity, which is exactly what I did yesterday (even though at the time, I was just reactive and none of it was intentional).

My day long pity party was triggered by doing absolutely nothing this week.  While keeping my foot up has helped the healing process, there is no doubt in my mind that it drug me down into a mental slump.  I mean, I’ve watched the entire first season and half the second season of Game of Thrones….THIS WEEK!  (The ankle is feeling much better, by the way.)

I can still cross train on my bike and went out for a less than stellar ride on Tuesday.  I think I’ve been hanging on to that ride and projecting it onto my entire recovery.  Yesterday, I woke up in a foul mood and proceeded to speculate about how my recovery will affect my training (negatively, of course).  Plano Balloon Half Marathon in September was to be THE race of my fall racing season.  The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that I would not be able to run Plano under any circumstances.  I don’t want to say I had given up, but I was definitely beginning to give up on the hope that I might make it back in time to train for Plano.

I shared my fears and concern with my partner/coach.  He suggested that I not speculate and just wait and see how things progressed.  Of course, Negative Nelly (ME) continued to counter with all the reasons that I was SURE I wouldn’t be able to run.  Then something he said resonated with me.  He said, “Even though you have given up, I haven’t.  I still think you have a chance.”  So I backtracked and explained that I was just trying to be a realist, trying to avoid complete and utter disappointment in the event I can’t run, yada, yada, yada.  (I was still swimming in the self-pity pool, by the way.)

I held on to the sadness and apprehension all day long, but ended up deciding that I couldn’t roll over and play dead.  I must stay the course and figured it was time for a bike ride.  When I climbed onto my bike and rode out of my driveway, all the stress of the unknown was weighing me down.  As the ride progressed, I realized that my ankle was, indeed, feeling much better.  I left my doubt and fear out on the road and felt like a new person when I hopped off my bike at the end of the ride. IMG_4674

I’m still concerned about Plano.  I still think it is a long-shot.  But whatever happens will happen.  I am pouring my heart and soul into recovery and will do everything in my power to get back out there.  At the same time, I realize that so much of this is out of my control.  Missing one race isn’t going to make or break me, but trying to rush into running a race I’m not ready for could set me back quite some time….I need to keep this in the forefront of my mind.

I’m not sharing this to garner sympathy.  I am sharing because I think it is important for us runners to give ourselves permission to acknowledge the negative feelings every once in a while.  It is important to give voice to our fears, air them and then realize that they aren’t as bad as we thought.

And now the Jen you all know is back, refreshed and renewed, and ready to tackle the next phase of recovery!

At least one of us kicked the boot to the curb

Yesterday was a big day for Alli.  We went for her 2-week follow-up visit on her fractured growth plate in her foot.  All signs point to healing more quickly than our doctor expected, so she is out of the boot!!!  He has advised us to ease back into volleyball activities over the next couple weeks, because she will be at risk for reinjury for a bit.  She was beyond happy that she doesn’t have to sleep in the boot anymore (and I COMPLETELY understand!!  I only have 26 more nights….)  Of course, we celebrated with Bahama Bucks!IMG_4648

A family feud is brewing

Bobby bought a Jeep this week.  Taylor has wanted one FOREVER, and, according to her, we were just waiting for her to go off to college to make this purchase.  (She said the same thing about the pool!)  Alli and I drove it around town and had so much fun!  I think this should be my new summer vehicle! Bobby took Taylor and Logan out this afternoon and gave them the first lesson in driving a standard.  It went…..better than expected.  IMG_4657

I’m suddenly very thankful that my dad refused to purchase any vehicle with an automatic transmission.  I learned to drive a standard when I was in junior high out in the pasture in my Granddaddy’s old truck.  And even though I wasn’t terribly excited about the standard transmission that I drove in high school, I’m now very glad that I know how to drive a stick!

"Old Blue"
“Old Blue”

Great memories!!

Happy weekend!

Jen

 

Sometimes “keep moving forward” requires standing still

Many of you know about my tattoo, “Keep Moving Forward“, which I had placed on my left wrist.  It has ties to my marathon and running, my best friend, Allison, and the way I want to live my life, in general.  It’s taken on a new meaning of late, as I have been sidelined with *sigh* another injury.  In the days since the injury, I’ve been thinking about my tattoo – a lot.  My tattoo is speaking to me again, but in a slightly different way.IMG_4398

The Backstory

On Friday, July 3rd, I went out for a short 3-miler.  In hindsight, I wish I had stayed home.  The weather was crappy and I felt crappy.  I DID NOT want to go run.  I felt exhausted.  I honestly believe my body was screaming at me to stay put.  Smart Jen has been more present lately than not, but Crazy Jen took the wheel that day, and, well…..I ended up hurt. That run was tough from the beginning.  My calves were screaming at me the entire time.  I figured they would shake out as normal and I was expecting to get in a rhythm that would never come.  At the 2.5 mile mark, something drastically changed and I could not run through my stride on my right side.  I was running with a very pronounced limp.  I considered stopping to walk, but knew that would be just as painful (but walking takes longer) so I opted to finish it out.

The Further-Back Story

I had been suffering from tight calves for about 4 weeks.  I avoided foam rolling my calves because – it hurt!  I stretched some, but not enough.  I knew the slacking was going to come back and bite me in the arse.  While I was on vacation, I only ran twice toward the end of the week, so I considered it a rest week.  However, the calves were still not-so-happy.

The In-between Story

In the 10 days since “the injury”, I have stretched, foam rolled, iced, used essential oils, compression socks, Ibuprofen (which I later discontinued bc it made me feel TOO good!), Epsom salt baths and two visits to my myofascia guy.  My calves were better, but the “ankle” wasn’t getting any better.  I finally decided on Sunday that I needed to go to an orthopedic to see if I could get some answers.  I knew in my gut that this was more than a simple strain.  I went in thinking that the bursa behind my Achilles might be irritated, but the words “stress fracture” had started creeping into my thoughts….A LOT.

The Current Story

On Monday, I was lucky enough to get in to see Alli’s orthopedic.  I.  LOVE.  HIM.  (I did not expect to feel this way when I walked into the exam room.  I was very apprehensive.)  (Side note: yes I liked him for Alli, but I want a doctor that understands runners and running, which, for me has been hard to find.)  The first thing he said to me was, “My job is to get you the most out of your athletic life.”  He followed that up with a very intelligent discussion about foot strike and how incredibly high my arches are and lots of running stuff in general.  When we were discussing the cons of running on concrete versus cross training, he told me he couldn’t give me a magic number of days to run on pavement and a magic number of days for cross training – because each runner has to work out that balance for themselves. I totally agree!!  Every runner is different.  The balance is so hard – I’m still working on finding the right balance for me.  And I think I just found my medical soulmate.

He thoroughly examined from my calves down to my toes, discussing my symptoms and how they were presenting.  Along the way, he used the phrase “as we age” more times than I would like to count, but always tempered it with “but I’m not saying that is you.” LOL!!! He shared that while it is too soon for a stress fracture to show on X-Ray, he felt very strongly that it is indeed a stress fracture and all the reasons he felt pulled in the direction of that diagnosis.  However, my calves are still tight, and he feels that contributed to the injury and, at the very least, is now hindering my recovery.  As a result, I am in a boot 24/7 for a week and after that will continue the boot at night (yay…not really).  Plus, I have the green light to swim and bike, as long as the activity doesn’t cause pain during or discomfort in the hours following.  How awesome is that??

How does this relate to my tattoo?

Since I’ve gotten used to having my tattoo on my wrist, I don’t always notice it.  But I’ve been noticing it a lot this past week.  I’ve let some negative thoughts creep in like, “It’s hard to keep moving forward if you are sitting still because you are injured.”  It dawned on me today that sitting still is a part of moving forward.  In this case, trying to move forward with training will only cause me to backtrack.  Today I realized that giving my body the time it needs to heal will propel me forward in ways that I cannot yet know.  I’m committed to doing what I need to do right now in order to get back out there as fast as is possible – as healthy as possible!

The Silver Lining(s)

There are many pros to this situation, if only one looks for them:

  • Alli and I are Boot Twinkies. (OK…this may not be a pro)  IMG_4598
  • All this required rest has given me time to finally start watching Game of Thrones. (May I say that I was hooked after the first 15 minutes?!?)
  • Being on my feet too long causes my ankle to swell.  So maybe the floor shouldn’t be swept after all.
  • Extra time can be used for hair straightening.  IMG_4567
  • Alli and I can experiment with new cupcake flavors (and decorations….I stink at the decorating!).IMG_4559
  • I can still cross train on the bike and in the pool (Hip, hip, hooray!).
  • Laying out by the pool.
  • Laying out by the pool.
  • Laying out by the pool.

The Not-So-Silver Lining

It’s not all unicorns and rainbows.  Sleeping is…..a challenge.  I have some sensory issues and can’t even sleep in socks.  A boot is throwing my nervous system into overload.  I did sleep in 2 hour increments last night (the foot needed a few minutes to “breathe”) and am hopeful that will improve.  The most obvious drawback is the hit that my training is going to take.  I am really concerned about the fall races that are planned.  I didn’t mind sitting out the 15k on Sunday, but my cornerstone race was to be Plano Balloon Half Marathon in late September.  It is now 9 weeks and 5 days away and I feel that one has already slipped through my fingers.  Even if I recover fast enough to train for that distance again, I know that the PR I was chasing will be out the window.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t mourning that a bit.

I want to thank EVERYONE who has voiced their support and concern.  I love the running community (and my non-running friends 🙂 !!!

It’s Tuesday – Eat some tacos!

Jen