The beauty of a Bad Run

Oy.  That Hurt.

Saturday was the winter edition of Mark Iscool’s semi-annual Really Early Morning Run (REMR).  A group of 10-12 crazies (mostly ultra-junkies) gather at 2 a.m. to run up to 25 miles.


Upon returning to Mark’s house, runners enjoy coffee, baked goods, and lots and lots of BACON.  Its always a good time.


The companionship and BACON did not disappoint this year, but the run…ugh.  Its been a long time since I hurt that badly.  While I am really annoyed at myself for suffering like that, there are a LOT of lessons to be had.  I realize that we need these bad runs (or bad parenting days) every so often so we don’t take the good ones for granted.  Just because one has the base mileage doesn’t mean one can ignore such important factors like recovery, nutrition, sleep, fuel and hydration.

  • Recovery.  Still healing from running hard at Holiday Lake.  Upping the strength training has left me with aching quads and glutes.  The tendons and ligaments in my feet are also still sore.
  • Sleep.  The run started at 2 am.  I did not get ANY sleep beforehand.  I went bowling instead.  Bad Annie.
  • Nutrition.  I’ve had a lot of luck with eating a big breakfast, protein-rich lunch, and carb-based early dinner the night before a big run.  A bowl of oatmeal 2 hours before the start tops off my tank and gets me through the first 2 hours feeling strong.  Friday, I had a small breakfast, a salad for lunch, and ate a late dinner – a huge mexican meal that sat like a rock in my stomach.
  • Fuel.  The undigested food in my tummy meant I had NO desire to eat anything during the run.  I forced down a gel around 90 minutes in, but it had no noticeable effect.  I ate nothing else the rest of the time, and I bonked HAR D around mile 14.
  • Hydration.  I also had no desire to drink anything.  I forced down about 20 ounces of fluid, but probably needed twice that amount.

I believe ALL of these factors contributed to the extreme nausea that plagued my run.  I knew 1/2 mile in that it was going to be rough.  By mile 6, I was questioning my ability to continue.  I wanted to throw up, but couldn’t.  I ended up slogging through 18.5 miles – almost 3 hours.  Even though it was miserable, I knew it was good training.  I’d much rather feel this was on a fun run than in a race.  As an added bonus, it was dark – so no one could see the near-death expression on my face!!!


I have more of these “bad runs” as a mother than I’d like to admit.  When my patience frays.  When I’m not as present with the girls as I’d like to be.  When the clutter, mess, dishes, and laundry take over the house like a mutant-plant-creature in some B-grade horror movie.  If I can just step back, there are always root causes.  There are always solutions.  And, like muscles, bones, and tendons, my family grows stronger each time we’re tested.  Thank goodness for tomorrows – a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over again.

Recovery – Week 3

Days Since Injury:  22


First full week back running.  Per my Physical Therapist’s recommendation, I limited my running to 3 easy miles, with at least a day of recovery after each.  While I was aware of my left achilles at points during each run, at no point did I feel pain (yay!!).  I continued my core work (2-3 times/wk), leg strengthening (same), and eccentric calf raises (1-2 times/day).  Spring break travels limited my ability to cross-train, and I have started to feel as if my cardio is suffering a bit.

Read on if you’d like all the details…

  • Monday – Ran 3 mi.,  easy pace.  I felt like I was running in slow motion, and aside from a few small hills, I kept to the flat course.  Average pace was about 7:45/mi.  Iced immediately afterwards for 10 minutes, then again after showering and breakfast.  In the afternoon, we took the girls to a local state park and did some easy hiking (about 2 miles).  I rested and iced as soon as we got home.  Minor swelling, but no pain.
  • Tuesday – No running.  Core exercises in the AM (abs) and PM (back).  Eccentric calf raises (3 x 15).
  • Wednesday – No running, no core.  Walked the National Mall and Smithsonian with the girls.  Jealous of all the runners, even on a cold, gray, and windy day.  I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since I worked here!!
  • Thursday – Ran 3 mi., easy pace.  While there was no pain, I FELT my achilles more than earlier in the week.  I iced it right away when I got home, but it still swelled a bit.  Several more icing sessions, and it is back to normal.
  • Friday – Total Rest; No running, no core
  • Saturday – Core exercises
  • Sunday – Ran 3.5 miles.  Tried to keep HR under 160 bpm, which meant a 9:15 pace.  Eccentric calf raises immediately following run.  No pain during run, but felt stretched during the lower leg work. 

Plan for this week:

After meeting with my PT this morning, we decided that I’d up my cardio to 6 sessions per week, including three runs (3, 3, & 5 miles).  I did 45 minutes on the bike this morning, and will also add in the elliptical & pool.  I plan to do yoga 1-2 times, in addition to core & leg work.

Small Steps

I ran Friday.  2 miles.  Slow.

It was my first run since my Achilles Tendon Time Out.  12 days off.  I have switched from training to rebuilding.

I realize that I have not detailed the injuries that have plagued me since December.  To be honest, I really did not take them seriously.  In the past, a day or two of rest was enough to banish the pain and regain my form.  I’ve never pushed myself to the breaking point.

But its been four months now, and I still can’t get back to my Happy Place.  I’ve had to cancel two races that I was really excited to run, and a third (NF Endurance 50K) is pretty much a lost cause.

So this blog is going to switch gears for a bit, because it’s important for me to chronicle these feelings and take notes during this time of rebuilding.


I first noticed that something was wrong on November 26, 2011.  I had run the Turkey Trot 10K on Thanksgiving Day.  With my marathon base, I was happy to PR on an exceptionally hilly, difficult course.  I should not have been racing on legs that were still in recovery, but overall I felt strong.  Two days later, however, Jimmy and I went for a 9-mile run on the Appalachian Trail.  My knees, right hip, and ankle were all painful, and I had to walk a large portion of the route.  The next day, I stubbornly insisted on an 8-mile run up and over the hilly terrain of Western MD.

Over the course of the next two weeks, I went for my standard runs.  5-6 miles at a time, but my legs just felt dead.  I was slower.  I hurt more.  The joy was gone.  I managed a few long runs before Christmas.  The last, an 18-miler, was torture for the final four miles.  The pain centered on my right hip and ankle.   Femoral Stress Fracture?  Anemia?  Lyme Disease?  My doctors ran series of tests.  They ruled out fractures, iron deficiency, and illness and gave me my diagnosis – Piriformis Syndrome.


I’d dealt with this when training for the Marine Corps Marathon in 2001.  A few PT sessions, and I was good to go.  My doctor referred me to a well know PT, who told me that I had overstretched my Piriformis muscle.  He told me to stop stretching, analyzed my gait and recommend a few changes.  It didn’t help.  A friend referred me to her guy, who had helped her get over a similar problem the summer before.  I started PT with him on February 5, just days before Holiday Lake.

Andy gave me the once over and determined that it wasn’t just my Piriformis that was acting up.  My pelvis was misaligned, my lower back had slipped out, and my glute medius was aggravated.  Over the next month, we worked twice a week to massage out the knots, heal the muscles, and strengthen my core.  And it was working.  Until we added lunges.

For some reason, as soon as I tried to do a left-side lunge, I felt a weakness in my left knee and left Achilles Tendon.  I’m not sure what happened, but the previous week (March 7th) I took a nasty spill during a trail run.  A few days later we took the girls hiking in Shenandoah National Park and I ended carrying 30 lbs of SweetBabyJ a mile & 1/2 up the side of the mountain.

The knee pain really didn’t bother me, but I started to notice a creakiness in my AT.  It was worst when I flexed my ankle, but it didn’t hurt when I was running.  I continued to train, with fair warning from my PT that I was on the edge of full-on tendonitis.

To be safe, I backed out of the Instant Classic Trail Marathon.  But a week later, as I posted, a triple-dose of runs caused the tendon to swell, and the rest is history….


So here I am, in recovery mode.  After the 2 mile run Friday, I iced and wrapped my ankle.  I tried to stay off it for the rest of the day.  No major swelling.  Small Steps…

Saturday, I got on my bike for a hilly 6 mile loop.  My AT felt very similar to my run the previous day.  So I repeated the icing.

Today I’m resting.  The AT remains creaky with just a hint of tenderness.  I’ll run again tomorrow and see how it goes.


I continue to do my core-strengthening routine every other day.  Crunches (2 x 50 each:  center, left, and right), Flutter Kicks (2 x 50), Atomic Situps (2 x 25), Back Extensions (3 x 30).  Plank leg lifts (2 x 10), Planks (1 min hold).  I also do leg strengthening:  25 forward lunges (both sides), 25 side lunges (both sides), Side leg lifts (w/ resistance band): 3 x 15 (both sides).  Eccentric Calf Raises (3 x 15, each side).   I feel like I need to up these numbers, as I don’t quite reach failure.  But it is so hard to motivate.

I took a Power Yoga class Tuesday and loved it.  It did a better job of working my core & legs, and I was sore afterwards – what a good feeling!

I’m trying out some supplements:  Glycine, Lysine, Creatine, Glucosamie Sulfate, and Vitamin E.

I have backed off the Ibuprofen.

I’m trying to drink more water.


If all goes well, I will continue to run 2-3 miles every 2nd or third day.  I will only increase this mileage as my AT can tolerate it.  I hope to maintain my cardio base with spin classes, bike rides, and swimming.  I’ll do Power Yoga 1-2 times per week, as well as core & strengthening 3 times per week.

I want to give myself enough time to properly train for JFK, which means I have about 6-8 weeks to turn this around.

Wish me luck!

#1 – Dispense with the Unessential

I really, really, REALLY want to start my “resolution” posts with #2 (Rest, Recharge, yada, yada, yada), because it is particularly appropriate today.  But, since I am a left-brained, everything-in-its-place, type of gal…Let’s begin at the very beginning, shall we??

I would like to be, mind you.  I’m an accountant by training, so I despise (in theory) redundancy and wasted effort.  But personally, I spin my wheels.  A LOT.  Again, it comes back to laziness.  Sometimes, its just easier (in the short term) not to think, but just do.  SO I clean rooms that will be messy again in an hour.  I drive to the store to purchase XYZ instead of calling to make sure its in stock.  I pick up an extra thermometer, bottle of shampoo, hairbrush, etc. instead of taking 5 minutes to locate what I know I already have.

But what really gets me…what is my true achilles heel…is my tendency to overcommit.  Try it – ask me anything.  Want me to watch your kids?  No problem.  Host a party last minute?  Be glad to.  Need a spare kidney?  I’m free a week from Thursday – want to squeeze in the surgery then?

I suffer for this, a bit.  But my girls and Jimmy really take the brunt.  I’m so focused on completing all the things I “HAVE TO” do, that I lose sight of their little needs.  Sure, we play and snuggle, I feed and bathe them.  But too often, I’m brushing them aside for something that’s not really that important.

Not this year.  This year, I’m taking a page from my friends’ playbook.  I say “no” when I need to.  I ask for time to think before giving an answer.  Somedays the dishes & laundry won’t get done.

Today I had to make the most painful dispensation.  Two races, which I have looked forward to for months, must be scratched.  I am NOT ok with this. The first was to be my longest trail run to date (35K).  The second was to be my first ultra-marathon.  I could cry right now thinking of it.

But the numbers just don’t add up.  Since December 4, each run has become more painful.  My pace has slowed by almost 1 min/mile. My heartrate has increased.  I knew I was injured.  The doctor just confirmed it today.  No impact activities until the pain subsides.  No estimate on when that might be.

It is essential for me to be a good mother & wife.  It is essential for me to be a runner.  The rest can be put aside.

Please say a prayer for my sanity, will you??