2017 OUC Half Marathon: It’s All Going Down Hill From Here

“Running teaches us that we are capable of so much more than we ever imagined.

~PattiSue Plumer


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As always, I was eager to run the OUC half marathon. It’s my favorite race and it is the last race of the year for me. The one thing I’m not a fan of it is the long and patchy stretch of brick road – that I really can’t stand but I deal with it. When I was with the Track Shack group, I was exposed to brick roads every weekend in the areas of Winter Park. I became accustomed to it and it was nothing new on race day. But since training on my own and with my #runsquad in Ocoee/Winter Garden area, I haven’t really run as much on brick road. I still do run on brick in the Ocoee downtown area, but it’s usually not more than 400 m at a time.

But let’s forget about the brick road for a moment, as I apparently had forgotten all about it when I finally found a tempo/race shoes in Asics DS Trainer 22. I fell in love with it and it loved me back. It was a mutual feeling. Weighting only 6.8 oz, I felt I could fly during my tempo and fartleks runs. I was sure that I was running OUC in my DS Trainer 22, or should I say, in Pre (yes I name all my running shoes!).

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Asics DS Trainer 22

Even up to the start of the race, it was never even a thought that perhaps the DS Trainer 22 could be a problem for my feet. As I entered the first stretch of brick, then a lightbulb lit up. Too late! I was too focus on my race. I was driven and determined to reach my greedy goal or at least to come very close from reaching it. For the first time in a race, I was in the ZONE!

Here’s the race recap:

MILE 1 – 5= 8:21/8:27/8:38/8:23/8:19

Per Garmin, start of the race was at 64 degrees with 94% humidity, yikes! Started off with the 1:55 pacer group and carried a disposable bottle with my mix of Chocolate Explosion GU & Water. Yummy! Tasted like chocolate almond milk and SAVES ME A LOT OF MINUTES as my fuel is ready to be consumed at any time I need. Mile 1 at 8:21, I thought it was way too fast, but I stayed relaxed and with the group. Congested areas, brick road and water stop, helped slowed down the pace a bit. Closing mile 3 at 8:38 and feeling being held, I decided to leave the 1:55 group and kick in my greedy gear. I felt strong and confident in the early stage of the race.

MILE 6-10:= 8:15/8:18/8:15/8:22/8:23

I was on my own pace and feeling strong. My GU intake in sporadic sections of the race was paying off with steady energy. Kurt was on his bike and the plan was to meet me around Mile 4 with my UCan drink, but that didn’t happen. It was not until mile 7 that I saw Kurt. And guess what? My drink wasn’t in the backpack! Kurt thought I put in the backpack, but I left it in the cooler. Because I mentioned it was in the cooler, I thought he would check and put in the backpack. I said I needed it with a hint of panic but maintaining my cool, and if he could go back in the car and meet me even at mile 10, it would be of great help. So he went back to the car. I did my thing and stay focused on my race. But my GU mix had been gone since mile 7.

MILE 11-13.20= 8:35/8:45/8:28 / .20 @ 7:17

From mile 11 forward, in my opinion, it’s the most challenging part of the OUC course. I was starting to feel my energy going down, but I stay focused and pushed for the 8:xx pace range. Approximately 2.5 miles of the course is all on brick road. I remember at mile 11 thinking that my feet was taking a beating, and by mile 12,  I was getting really tired of the brick and needed my UCan more than ever. Exactly at mile 12 Kurt handed my UCan drink and I couldn’t’ drink it fast enough! Mile 12 at 8:45 was certainly the hardest as the sun was beating down hard. I really tried to push more but my legs were tired and didn’t have much energy to pull it from. But even then, I managed a 7:32 pace in the last 800 m to cross the finish line at 1:50:54. My goal was under 1:50, so that was pretty close 🙂

Crossing the finish line again under 2, but this time  with enough buffer was amazing! My effort allowed for a 8:41 PR, that’s a lot of minutes shed. I never thought that one day I would be running a 8:27 AVG pace half marathon. It has been truly an enlightening experience and journey. For the first time, I felt being in the zone and experiencing a  transcend moment. The best way I can summarize what it meant to me is: a sense of gliding through space, being in control and confident.

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As soon as I crossed the finish line, it felt that was snapped out of the moment I was in. It took me a minute or two to start breathing calmly, even though I thought my breathing was stable, and to be able to talk full sentences. My friend Krista, who works with the race management, came towards me with so much happiness asking if I was okay and about Kurt’s whereabouts. All I could do was to give her a hug, give a thumbs up and point my finger somewhere around the crow as a way of saying that Kurt was somewhere out there. I really just wanted to stop in the middle of the road, but she kept me guiding towards the exit of the corral until she had to go back to work.

I kept walking and looking for Kurt at the same, but I just have a hard time finding him in a crowd. After I had chat with some social media friends who had raced, Kurt finally came in towards me. You know the drill, Kurt wears the medal every time! I couldn’t ask for a better execution of this performance. I have grown so much, both physically and mentally. It was a strong race throughout and I’m very proud of my achievements. Having Kurt’s support means the world to me and I couldn’t ask for a better run coach than Coach Victoria Phillippi with Run4Prs. I have PR’ed in every race since becoming her athlete.

Bring it on 2018!

 

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“It comes down to one simple thing: How Bad Do You Want It?”

 

P.S. If you want to know more about my feet, that’s for the next blog posting!

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Chasing Mental Strength: Post Race Recovery and the Beginning of a New Training Cycle

“No human is limited. It’s not about the legs. It’s about the heart and mind. With a strong heart and good mind you can do it. If you don’t rule your mind it can rule you.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

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There’s no doubt racing JAX Marine Corps half marathon under 2 hours demanded a great deal of energy – pre, during and post-race. I was running on runner’s high for a week and excited to turn down a notch with training because I had a valid justification to do little and simple recovery work such as PT workouts, stretching, rolling and spinning. The only issue I had to address were my sore calves which after 4 days of no running I was good to go. It felt good to run 5 miles on the treadmill with no pressure or discomfort. It was also nice to run 8 miles on Saturday as my LR and feeling that I was well-recovered.

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Great run with my friend Krista

One week recovery was enough, so that meant that I was easing right back into training for another 13.1, the OUC half marathon on December 2 in my neighborhood downtown Orlando.  Coach Victoria didn’t waste time planning my training calendar, and there it was, WEEK 1 Training OUC starting with 3 easy miles on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 8 mile on Saturday.

Physically I did very well completing all my weekday runs. But then when Saturday hit, I wanted nothing to do with running. I was tired of getting up early and getting runs done. All of the sudden, I felt my mind and body wanting to shut it down. I could sense my mind sending signals to my body that all the hard work I had done for JAX Marine Corps would have to restart all over again and harder!

I got up at 5:00 a.m. and it was a no go. Got up at 7:00 a.m. and nope! Finally decided to get up whatever the time I wanted and run whatever miles my body felt okay running. Thankfully, the weather was somewhat fresh that I was able to get out the door at 10:20 a.m., which for me is as if I were running at 3:00 p.m.. My mind thought about getting 3 miles in, then it turned to 4 miles, but I was happy and peaceful with just 5 miles out of the 8 scheduled.

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WEEK 2 Training OUC arrived fast like a laser, but I was not ready for a Monday run. To that end, I wasn’t ready for a tempo run scheduled on Tuesday either. So I decided on 4 easy on Tuesday and pushed my tempo for Wednesday. The sad thing is, I wasn’t ready for a tempo period. Feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I reached out to Coach Victoria and asked for a pass on that tempo run so that I could regroup and move on forward with week. I am glad I did because my LR+tempo on Saturday was a great run which I exceeded the recommended paces.

5 mi up = 9:26 pace 
20 minutes @ HMP (8:45-9:05) = 8:28 pace
5 minute recovery jog
20 minutes @ HMP (8:40 – 9:00) = 8:19 pace
Cool down to mileage 1 mi @ 9:06  – 11 miles total
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WEEK 3 Training OUC came along and the fact that I was now going on my second week without Newton (my treadmill) was simply miserable and mentally hard to keep going. During a software update, the treadmill iFit software froze. There was nothing to be done but to wait for Pro Form’s slow process of sending me a SD card with the software update. It took them 6 days to process my claim and another 6 days to receive the SD card via UPS. I was going crazy!

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But eventually it arrived, my husband fixed the treadmill and I was back in business – just in time for my fartleks and more tempo runs. At this point, I was more mentally ready to keep moving forward but I still felt that I needed to be fed with lots of inspirational methods such as TB12 Method audiobook, watching Kenyan runners’ documentaries and marathons while I got my run on Newton.

My breakthrough workout came in a few days later in Week 4, and it was worth the wait! I had a 7-miler strength run on the plan. I wanted to get it done early in the morning, but I really lacked energy and decided to get it done after work.

2 mi easy warm up
3 x 1 miles @ 7:55 – 8:10 pace
With .25 jog recovery in between
Cool Down to mileage – 7 miles total

And here’s what I got:

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2 mi up @ 10:14
3 x 1 mile = 8:04 / 7:56 / 7:49
1.27 mi cd @ 9:04

Seriously! This was the best feeling so far! I could not believe I was able to reach 7:49 pace and still feel wonderful while running it and not grasping for air as much. This was such a confidence boost – just what I needed it. Next, I had another tempo run for Week 5 which was taper week. I was very happy with this run – a 1 mile warm up with a 4-mile tempo @ 8:10-8:30 which I managed an 8:28 avg. run for a total of 7 miles and an 8:54 avg pace.

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Until then, it was all about banking the mileage, staying healthy and enjoying Thanksgiving weekend. But for Week 6 I had a 4-mile pace work just to tune up for race. Although I didn’t like the 94% humidity that morning, I was glad to exceed the recommended pace.

1 mi up = 9:56
1 mi @ 9:00 = 8:56
1 mi @ 8:45 = 8:32
1 mi cd = 9:14
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There’s no doubt that this short training cycle of just 6 weeks was tough as well. JAX Marine Corps cycle was different in a sense that I was dealing with summer temperatures and still getting acclimated to speed work. OUC on the other hand, my brain already had an idea of what was coming which required a lot more of mental strength and discipline to get me moving forward. I must say that a cooler weather in Florida lately has helped a great deal. For that reason, I don’t feel so intimated for a speed workout like I used to. And I know that I’m capable of pushing the pace.

I’m grateful to close this training cycle with 141 miles and to go into another race 100% healthy.  I am ready for OUC and I’m confident that I will reach another big PR. With that, I close November strong for a total of 118 miles.

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With gratitude, let’s do this!

“Passion is a choice. You need to choose to be great. It’s not a chance, it’s a choice.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

 

Chasing My Breaking 2 Half Marathon

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          Jacksonville Marine Corps Half Marathon                          October 14, 2017

“Look in the mirror…That’s your competition.”

~Unknown

It has been a long journey in the quest for a breaking 2 half marathon. I’ve given all I’ve got to shed 55 seconds of my previous half marathon PR. I’d say it has been worth every single second, minute, hours, and days of hard work. I will forever cheer my first sub-2 half marathon.

Taper week was as crazy as it got. A combination of runner’s crazy and PMS symptoms made the week interesting to say the least. However, I was grateful I didn’t have to deal with it on race week, so that was a huge plus, lol! On race week, I ran Monday and did a last fartlek run on Tuesday, which I considered a success. At that point, I was done physically and mentally and all I could think was to rest my legs and do a final tune up on core and some PT workouts for legs and hip. My shakeout run on Friday went well, but I couldn’t believe that my legs felt heavy even after a Wednesday and Thursday rest day from running. But Coach Victoria calmed me down by sharing that the body goes through some crazy reactions from tapering. Thank goodness I am not crazy!

My husband has been so supportive throughout my entire training cycle, and of course, since I restarted running back in 2014. Our last half marathon running together was the Jacksonville Marine Corps in 2015. He left me eating dust in the last 3 miles to reach a PR of 2:16 and I was so happy for him. This time, he was my “manager”, riding on his bike along the course to provide me with positive vibes, ice and nutrition. It makes a huge difference not having to run with a disposable bottle of UCan mix.

On race morning I was feeling more nervous and excited than previous races. There’s a different level of expectation since I’ve been busting my booty and it would not be normal not to bring the results based on the work done. However, nothing is guaranteed, especially on race day. The weather was what it’s expected in FL, hot and humid at 76 degrees and 78% humidity at 5:00 a.m. If I had an enemy precluding me from reaching my goals, it would have been the heat and humidity. But I was also confident because that’s the weather I’ve been training on for the past 6 months.

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My husband kept me calm, he did everything to help me get settled at the start line and gave some positive advice: stay calm, focused and keep a relaxed breathing. These words were so valuable to me more than he can ever know. From the moment the gun went off, I ran calmed, focused on a relaxed breathing state. I was then body, mind and spirit going through the streets of Jacksonville on a quest to break 2.

Race Recap

  • Mile 1- 3 (8:59, 9:03, 9:15) = started out a bit too fast and followed my husband’s advice to stay calm, focused and a relaxed breathing throughout. Breathing technique really paid off, especially on the steep overpass at mile 3 & 12. Never missed a water station and used some water to pour on my head. Next time, I need to do a better job in avoiding water go run down my legs. I realized how soaked my feet were at mile 13 – no cool! I was able to avoid a blister big time!

  • Mile 4-6 (9:02, 9:01, 9:04) = got into a steady rhythm and used the 2:00 Pacer group as a guidance. Body started to get acclimated to the heat & humidity. I knew then, this was an okay pace to stay in but I needed ice asap (to put inside my sports bra) at mile 5 and UCan drink if I were to sustain this pace. Kurt got ice from a 7-Eleven as he was on his bike following my journey & providing support – positive energy, ice and nutrition.

  • Mile 7-10 (8:57, 8:56, 9:12, 8:58) = UCan at mile 5 and GU at mile 6 started to kicked in, I tested out to see if I could leave the 2:00 pacer group, but with a slight road elevation and a sudden feel of energy going up and down, I decided to keep the pace at 9:00’ish as I slowly consumed GU with chunks of ice – a second round of cup of ice at mile 9 provided by Kurt.
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Probably approaching mile 10 or 11, I can’t remember too well.

  • Mile 11 -13 (9:09, 9:16, 8:40) = Kurt handed my second serving of UCan (used a 8 oz disposable bottle but only fill up about 4 oz of UCan as I didn’t want to upset my stomach on larger dose) at mile 11. Really had to start talking to myself here, put on the effort to bring pace down, but at mile 12 going over the overpass, the 2:00 pacer group caught up to me. Out of about 25 people in that group, there were only about 4 of us left. By halfway of mile 12, I finished my serving of UCan with a Kipchoge’s attitude like he did at the last lap of Breaking2; I tossed the bottle away and hauled ass to the end. That was hard! I asked Kurt to stay close and to talk to me because I was getting disoriented as the sun was shining bright on my face. I don’t even remember feeling my legs at this point; I felt all upper body moving me forward. Finally after my Garmin registered 13.1, I then saw the finish line that never seemed to be anywhere near. 1:59:35 and that’s that! Kurt gets to wear the medal, every time!

 

  • Mile .26 (7:59)

2 Goals accomplished:

  • 1) breaking 2
  • 2) PR
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It was a feeling like no other! 1:59:35 PR by 0:1:19

Another runner also got more than 13.1 registered in her watch, because I swear it looked like they had the course longer even though their official measurement marks 13.19 on the website. My Garmin stats were 13.26 / 1:59:36 / 9:01 pace. By Training Peak application which I use with my coach, it had me at 1:58:14 for a 13.1, so yes, that’s a huge difference which I could have almost missed my goal due to course technicality. The good thing is, I know that I did perform much better. There’s no doubt my average pace was at 9:01.

RACE STATS: 13.1 / 1:59:35 / 9:07

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Bib # 1059, coincidence?

Crossing the finish line was a relief and happiness all mixed together. It was an honor to earn the 2017 Jacksonville Marine Corps Half marathon and to receive it from a Marine. Running is easy in comparison to what they do and go through. My hard work paid off today. I couldn’t have done it without the expertise and kind support I receive from Coach Victoria. Since starting working with her in December 2017, I’ve reached paces and goals I never thought possible. She’s ahhhhhmazing!! Her philosophy works and she could not had chosen a better brand name – Run4Prs. So far, every race – 2 5K s; third and second in AG; and a half marathon, placed 16th in my AG, have been a PR for me.

And the best part for me was meeting my husband at the finish, hugging, thanking him, and of course, placing the medal on him. He is my hero!

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“With a strong heart and a good mind, you can do it.”

~Eliud Kipchoge

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It Takes Guts to Build Mental Strength

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“It’s hard to beat a person who never GIVES UP.”

~Babe Ruth

September was another hectic month; add Hurricane Irma’s stress to the occasion and you’ve got some real stress and some tight muscles as a result of it. Since surpassing 100 miles for the month, I started to get hooked and excited to find out how many more miles I can accumulate in a month. However, I kept in mind that a healthy month was and is more important than the accumulation of miles, especially in the final stretch of training cycle.

My awareness towards my body’s well-being was in higher frequency this month. I paid attention to every detail and unusual discomfort my body was feeling. This time my left calf and shin area was more than I wanted to. However, it is was not a surprise as I was exiting August with 120 miles for the month.

Two days after Labor Day weekend, the news were blasting us with updates on the fast approaching arrival of Hurricane Irma and its deadly force of a Category 5 hurricane. Seeing the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Matthew in Texas, Florida wasn’t going to be the one state to play with its strength, and a state of emergency was then effective. The prediction of the storm’s arrival in Central Florida was for Sunday evening, so up to Thursday, I was able to log in my miles. But my right calf wasn’t too happy.

After my husband examined my left calf, he found a dense knot and it hurt. I took a rest day from running on Friday, rolled, iced and stretched, but I was not 100% sure if it was in the best interest to run my 11-miler on Saturday. I knew it was due to stress and I know that when I run on a tight muscle, nothing good happens. The entire week was about Hurricane Irma prep – going to the store to stock up on water and food, maneuvering through hectic traffic frenzy, arranging for a tree company to come over and cut tree branches hanging on top of our roof, helping my father-in-law remove flying debris from his backyard, removing our patio and yard furniture out of harm way, and really doing the best we could given the situation and time we had was exhausting.

All of that added up and my body felt unrested. It was no brainer that I’d be better off sacrificing 11 miles out of training than to run the risk of losing the entire cycle and possibly missing another race. My Coach could not had agreed with me more!

Going through the storm on Sunday evening was one of the scariest experience I’ve ever had. The storm started around 8:00 p.m. and it lasted for a good 12 hours. The rain and wind intensified around midnight as the eye of the hurricane passed through. For most part,  it was a steady rain fall with an occasional 10-minute break between gusty winds. At 2:30 a.m. I could not take it anymore and had to go to bed, not that I really feel sleep. Kurt came to bed around 4:00 a.m. when the storm appeared to be lessen. When we got up around 8:00 a.m., the rain was gone but the wind gust and tree branches were all over the place. We were very grateful that all we had to do was clean up. Many people lost electricity, we did too, but we only lost for 16 hours whereas many people in Central Florida didn’t have electricity as much as two weeks.

The before, during and after Hurricane Irma left me drained for days. It was exhausting, bust I used the non-running time to rehab my tight calf with icing, tens-unit sesh, rolling and lots of stretching. By the time I got back into the running routine again was on Tuesday after the hurricane. It felt good, but I was still lacking on energy. After that, the rest was history as I kept moving along with training and tackling one speed workout after another. The mental strength training this time was even tougher, especially preparing and executing what I’d say was one of the toughest run yet.

8 Mi Speed Workout

 

2 mi easy warm up

6 x .5 mile @ 7:45-8:00 pace with .25 jog between

Cool down to mileage

2 mi up @  10:31

.50 @ 7:38 (death pace for me!)

.50 @ 8:00 (yep, slow down a bit, Celia!)

.50 @ 7:49 (crank up a notch, you can do it!)

.50 @ 7:48 (steady and fast, find a sweet spot)

.50 @ 7:48

.50 @ 7:49

1.50 cool down @ 9:20

 

TOTAL: 8.0 / 1:23:23 / AVG 10:25

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I did it!

The mental strength and toughness I had to dig for this month was no joke! I constantly used watching Breaking 2, Breaking 2 Special edition, the 2016 London Marathon, part of the 2016 Berlin Marathon, the New England Patriots post games press conferences as part of mental training as I logged another massive 57 miles just on the treadmill. In addition, I’ve been listening to Peak Performance audiobook and the fascinating TB12 Method by Tom Brady audiobook.

The heat and humidity in September was still intense. It seems that such weather conditions do play tricks in your head as I started to feel unsettled on whether I could run a slightly faster pace under these conditions. My Coach had a 13-miler on the schedule, and I saw that as a great opportunity for a trial race training; however, its success was possible to my husband’s assistance. On a Saturday, I headed to the trail with the intention of completing 13.1 without stopping. Kurt rode the bike and followed me with water and nutrition. I felt like I was having Kipchoge’s special treatment throughout the run. And that, made a huge difference! That Saturday was a 6-day running streak, so my legs were tired, and unfortunately due to heat, humidity and a late start (6:50 a.m.), I started to feel the crash in the last 5K. Completing this 13.1 training run gave me a huge confidence boost – just what I needed to finish the month strong.

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Thanks to my hubby for helping me 🙂

Even after losing the 11-miler LR, I was still able to close the month with a PR – a PR by just one mile, but nevertheless it’s hard earned miles that I am proud of because I managed to close the last week of September with my highest weekly mileage at 35 miles to bring to a total of 121 miles. Yes, I did it! And I still managed to take a day off from running during this week to respect my body and be cautious as I’d be entering taper week on the following week.

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And as if you already didn’t know, to celebrate the month and to keep my body healthy, I had my monthly chiropractor adjustment, therapy and cryotherapy sesh as the week and month closed. And to my surprise, Saq was there doing cryo too! That was an interesting experience as I met the former Orlando Magic and LA Lakers basketball player in the same place I do cryo.

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Whether you are 5’3” or 7’1”, athletes do cryo! That’s a wrap for September guys!

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3-minute, temps as low as -255F

(P.S. I also hit my cryo sesh PR at 3-minute as temps went as low as -255F = take that to the mental strength bank!

“Excellence is not a singular act but a habit. You are what you do repeatedly.”

~Shaquille O’Neal

You Can Do This

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“That’s what a comeback is. You have a starting point and you build strength and momentum from there. Stay the course… remain patient. Focus on small steps that are constantly forward.”

~Kara Goucher

Coming back from an injury is never easy even though we’re so looking forward to the day to start running and increasing mileage. It’s like a concoction of emotions inside a Blentec blender ready to get mixed and blended into a perfect smooth result – a pain free and happy run. But, will that happen? Is the body ready for it? Is the mind ready for the challenge?

The only way to find out is to just do the darn run and be smart about it. I started to do my test-long-run with a 6 miler. On that Saturday morning, I was scheduled to run 4 miles. But two days before my scheduled “long run”, I started to prepare and believe that I could go for 6 miles. My body was responding well to the steady 2 and 3 weekday miles and an extra 10-minute worth of running. PT, strength training and recovery methods were all included. I just cannot afford not having it done. Quite frankly the way I see it, if I don’t get my foundation done I’m simply not allowed to run. I’d only be sabotaging myself if I neglect my body from what is needed.

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At mile 4 my left leg started to feel stiffed and my thoughts started to go crazy in my head telling me to stop and that I should not had gone this far. But I was determined to end the day with 6 miles; however, I also promised myself that I’d go easy and stop for water breaks at every mile. There was no pace settled, only going the distance mattered. I calmed myself by focusing on deep breathing while running and enjoying my surroundings. I also pep-talked positive affirmations and that’s when it came to realization that perhaps the light discomfort and stiffness was a way of my body to adapt to the longer mileage and promote healing process that way.

From that moment on, the discomfort settled at that level and never got any worse. I was very thrilled to get that run done and having gone the distance without any major setback. My body was starting to respond well and getting acclimate to longer mileage. A 30-minute active isolate stretch and rolling session was a must for post-run recovery.

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On the week to follow, I was even more diligent with my PT and recovery methods routine because I had planned to run 10 miles with Beata. Beata is training for her third major world marathon, the Berlin marathon. She is on fire, strong and determined to become a better runner than she already is. I believe in exchange of energy and I do my best to be of support to my running peeps. So running with her or at least some of her planned mileage in prep of her race is an honor, and I get to run with friends in my favorite trail, the West Orange Trail.

When we first discussed about our runs together, I intended to run half of her scheduled mileage. I was being cautious and conservative to avoid any unnecessary setback. I consulted with Coach Victoria for feedback on the mileage and my plan to run half of Beata’s mileage. She gave the go ahead because I should be okay by going on an easy pace with walk breaks when needed. To my surprise, when I looked on my TP calendar, I noticed that Coach Victoria had scheduled my Saturdays’ run for the full mileage. Whoa, I am thinking… well, Coach must believe that I can do this and that going up on mileage at easy pace is doable.

I was excited and a little nervous on that morning, but seeing Beata and Rebekha gave me a boost of energy. Beata and I ran the entire first 4 miles together while Rebekha and Paige took off. We met at the 4-miler turn around point to figure out what’s next. Paige and Rebekha decided to go back to the starting point and complete their 8-miler run for the day. Beata needed to run 11 miles for the day since she was short 1 mile the day before. I had in mind 10 miles, but since I was feeling well and there was no pressure on pace, I felt confident in adding another mile with breaks as needed. It was settled then! Beata and I proceeded for another 2 miles, although, she thought we were going just an extra mile and turn around.

We had such a great time catching up on so many things and time flew by so fast. After passing Killarney Station, we went about .40 mile further. That’s when Beata said, let’s turn around. I said, well we are going for 11 today so let’s keep going a little further because it’s amazing this part of the trail and that’s when the hills begin. Her eyes went wide open; nevertheless, she went along with my suggestion. I was happy and excited to show her this part of the trail. When the hills started we both were mesmerized how steep it looked. We ran through three hills, I think, until we decided to head back stopping only on the top of the last one.

At mile 10, we were both getting worn out. We were hungry and tight. The sun was shining brighter and hotter by the minute. Our motivation to keep moving was to get our Garmins to show 11 miles. Beata’s Garmin was .22 mile behind mine because she didn’t restart the watch from one of our stops. At that point, she didn’t care if she had even mileage. I encouraged her to get it done by running with her. She thought about it, said no, but then she went ahead to get that 11 mile mark.

Just like that, we got it all done! Running can be a team sports. It’s up to us to get ready and run the miles on our own feet, but a good company can take us much further than we think our limit is.

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 “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

~African Proverb

 

Road To Recovery

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“Don’t lose your fire.”

~Unknown~

March was definitely the injury month, and even then, I managed to log 40.04 miles. It’s a significant decrease in comparison to February month at 90.1 miles, but things happens. However, I was hopeful that April would bring brighter miles and a speedy recovery; hence, I was mistaken.

April miles were even less than March miles. I closed the month with only 34.2 miles. It was frustrating, but what was even more frustrating was the fact the my left adductor injury aka: groin, hamstring, quads, glutes and hip nagging pain-in-the-ass for lack of better analogy, was still bothering me. The road to recovery was a long one, too long.

On the other side of the picture, the hours I spent doing strength training, cross training and PT workouts was something I’ve never had spent so much time on it. I wish I had done it before the injury. Not being able to run teaches to focus on what I can do instead of crying over spill milk. So for strength training I spent 17:25 hours working on arms, legs, core, upper, lower body. For cross training I opted to spinning sessions and I put on 1:11:52; equivalent to 22.23 miles. For every strength training session and cross training session, I included physical therapy (PT) workouts involving resistance bands, Bosu ball, stretching with resistance bands and yoga blocks, for a total of 12:00:00 worth of PT.

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It has been a difficult month for me both physically and mentally. At times I came to the realization that I just need to be patient and do what I can do when I can do, but in reality, it is difficult and challenging. It took me two weeks and some change off from running to start to feel that I could give it a try again. When I did my try-runs, they were still uncomfortable. Some of the runs were great; for example, a 3.10 miles at 9:37 average pace, but after the run was over, the stiffness on my leg didn’t lie informing that I still needed to be cautious and needed more rest.

Coach Victoria was very cautious with my training. She did not hurry anything and approached the new cycle with a new method – run and walk for a few weeks, 2-minute run, 2-minute walk and only for 2 miles. I was just happy to be on a training schedule again, but this time without any pressure to get ready for a race. The only pressure was to start to feel 100% better.

Patient is truly a virtue. Through this new method I had to learn to be patient with myself, be kinder to my body and focus on what I can control. As the weeks passed under this new method, I started to feel stronger and the stiffness on my leg were more manageable after each run; something I could fix with a post-run stretch and roll session. Seriously, I could not neglect stretching and rolling.  The Roll Recovery R8 has been a life safer for me. It has been so helpful that I decided to get R3 as well. With R8 I can roll my entire glute, hamstring, quads and especially the adductor area. I immediately feel the release of tension and flush of lactic acid on my legs. I roll my calves and Achilles as well.

Going through another recovery period has taught me a different kind of mental toughness. Instead of being upset and negative about it, I kept on focusing on the positive aspect of the journey. I realized I was doing things that would make me a stronger runner. I’d be lying to say that it was easy and that I didn’t have my crying moments on my husband’s shoulders and ears. But I did my best to stay focused on searching for positive quotes and acting upon it. And I truly believed on the saying: “Every setback is a setup for a comeback”. But the breakthrough of learning to run by feel is one of the most valuable so far along with my Coach’s emphasis that “sometimes it takes more will power to hold back”.

It’s hard to get injured and disrupt the flow of the body’s adaptation to the hard work of training. But a setback is a form of adaptation, and every time we push our bodies, it will come to a point that it will need a break to regroup. At the end of the day, there’s nothing more valuable to feel than gratitude whether it is for a bad run or for the good ones. I believe that this time I was more ready to face a setback than I had ever been before. It’s about learning to get up stronger when I fall down. But a refusal to give up when falling down.

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2:2:2 recovery jog, faster pace , walk (w/out walk break) 11:19, 9:32, 10:20, 9:26, 10:05, 9:02, 9:46, 9:04, 10:01 8:47

“The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen the body, and polish the spirit.”

Morihei Ueshiba

Tomoka Half Marathon No More

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“The pain of training is nothing compared to the pain of not reaching your potential.”

~Josh Cox, US 50k Record Holder

It appears that my push for a PR in Swamp House 5K and a surprisingly second place age group award came with a price. It was not a wonder that my calves took a beating on that race and that my legs were tired after logging 90.1 miles for the month of February. However, I was confident and feeling strong that with a few days of rest from running and some general rest, I’d be able to pull it off and gear up in the upcoming weeks for Tomoka Half marathon. After some rest, miles and hours of strength training later, my left adductor told me otherwise.

It was such a beautiful Saturday morning for a short-long run on the West Orange Trail with the fam. Kurt was getting his exercise on wheels with his rollerblades, R2-D2 was enjoying his 10:10 interval – 10 run: 10 ride on his stroller (yes, he has a baby stroller), and I was happy as I could be running an easy 7-miler on my own feet until I felt a sharp pain traveling from my the bottom of my leg all the way to my hamstring reaching the groin area. What in the world was that? I told Kurt about it, but we didn’t put much thought because pain is part of running.

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At West Orange Trail on the way back around mile 6 pushing to get it done

My pace slowed down during mile 5 and 6, but I was able to pick it up back at mile 7 but I slowed down for the last .50 and used as my cool down. I ended the run with a brief walk and a quick stretched sesh. The stretch was very uncomfortable and every step was getting stiffed by the second. Getting out of the car after seating for a 10-minute drive home was horrifying. I haven’t felt pain and stiffness like that in a very long time – not even when I finished a half marathon race or my 20-miler last year training for Tomoka marathon. It was super sore after Tomoka, but again, nothing like after this 7-miler run. Having realized the state of pain, I went on for a real stretch and foam rolling sesh before eating.

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I sat down for breakfast and I felt like I should not had done so. The pain again was sharp with every body movement I took. At that point, I decided that I really needed to take an ibuprofen and go to the pool for some cool water therapy since the water was a cold enough (68 degrees) as a short-cut to an ice bath. I spent about one-hour standing/walking in the pool in hopes that the discomfort would diminish with every passing hour. I suppose I can only hope but not ignore the fact that DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) was yet to come, right?!

I hardly ever take naps. First of all, I can’t afford naps since I work an eight-hour shift Monday-Friday. Second, I avoid creation such habit. And third, I use naps as a reference point to know when my body is really tired and in need of rest rather than being lazy for a nap. This Saturday, unfortunately, was a day that my body was telling me it was super tired and a nap was needed. After taking two more ibuprofen, I napped for almost two hours, but the soreness was still present with every movement I made and step I took.

The following Monday, I had a 3-miler easy run on the schedule. I did run, but it was brutal. My pace and strides were off as the discomfort was still present. At that point, I decided to see Dr. Brad at Orlando Sports Chiropractor. Dr. Brad diagnosed the injury to be a strained adductor muscle, some heat therapy, lots of stretch and rest. Going through gastron technique performed in the left inner thigh was ridiculous painful. I’ll take calf soreness if I had to choose.

Physical therapy, rest, spinning, heat and cold therapies, and strength training workouts was the priority at this point. After Monday’s chiropractor visit, I started to feel better. Kurt (he’s a licensed massage therapist specializing in sports massage and AIS) worked on me on Tuesday for a 25-minute session of AIS (Active Isolated Stretching technique) and it has helped a great deal. By Wednesday, I was hopeful that it was healed. I didn’t feel any major discomfort when moving, I was more stable in doing my Bosu ball stability workouts; therefore, I was ready to give a test-run on Thursday morning and find out for sure if racing Tomoka half was even possible.

Comes Thursday morning and I felt a little stiffness on the injured leg. I did drills warm up as usual but as soon as I started to run, the discomfort let me know that it hadn’t gone away just yet. I estimated to be foreseeable to feel some discomfort. Because the discomfort was a lot lesser than on Monday’s run, I kept going. At some point at mile 2, I had to pause and I wished I had not. The pain wanted to settle in, so I restarted the run to complete the scheduled 3-mile run. I was able to pick up pace to finish the run with negative splits at 11:32, 10:35 and 9:59.

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It was hard even to pose for a picture! Ughh! Ouch!

I haven’t felt anything worse than an angry adductor after a run until now, and I thought that Saturday’s run was bad! Oh my goodness… the pain was excruciating, my left leg was stiffed as a wood board; it hurt to bend, it hurt to stretch, it hurt to raise my leg, it hurt to put pressure on, and it hurt to walk. Some slow movements of stretch was the only thing that it appeared to alleviate the pain I was feeling, but still, it was hurting as hell. I got scared at that point. Getting in the car to go the gym for a more decent stretch and shower was becoming a hard and scary task. I was barely walking and it felt like I needed crutch. I was thinking, what am I doing to myself? But I needed this test-run to see where I was in this injury. With only nine days shy from race day, I was certain that I could go ahead pull out of the race and cancel all travel plans.

Since the mind-opening and body-painful experience I had in Lighthouse Loop half marathon in October 2016, I promised myself that I would never put myself in such situation again. I’ve learned to respect my body and mind more after this experience. No race (unless it is the Boston marathon) is worth pushing through pain when clearly I am not 100% healthy or confident. Logistically, there was no reasonable explanation or indication that I would have a comfortable and fun race; most importantly, there was not a possible outcome for a sub-2 result. Before Lighthouse Loop, I didn’t realize how mentally draining a race can be. There’s a fine line of pushing mental fitness boundaries for a goal and pushing it out of greed or ignorance. I will pick my battles wisely from now on.

Although it is frustrating to be on the shelf for a few days, there’s a part of recovery or rehab period that it is gratifying. We have to at least try to find the good in a not so favorable situation. It is part of the growth of being a better person and a better athlete. And in this phase, it is where practice of mental toughness and fitness plays a great deal on whether we stay on the path to our goals or take the short cut path which is to give up, because the reality is, there is no short cut. Either we do the work or we don’t. Either you learn to adapt or not.

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The first twelve days of rehab/recovery consisted of a straight-forward routine of physical therapy, strength training, cold and hot therapy, and a mental break as well on the days that I felt that I needed to give some rest while practicing not feeling guilty for not doing a workout.

Day 1
Epson Salt Bath Heat Therapy Pool Therapy

3 x
10 bird dog
5 forward lunges
10 step up
10 inverted flyers
10 front squat (2 sets on Bosu)
10 Bosu, side, front and back lift
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 single leg bridge
10 fire hydrant
10 triceps dip
Stretch

Day 2 3 x
10 bird dog
10 forward lunges
10 step up
10 inverted flyers
10 front squat
10 each – Bosu side, lateral, front and back kick
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance30:00 Heat Therapy

Day 3

Easy 3-miler run – It was a no-go for Tomoka half.

Dry Sauna session

AIS session w/ Kurt – lower body, focus on hip for range of motion and sports massage

30:00 Heat Therapy

Day 4

Rest day

30:00 Heat Therapy

Day 5

2000 meters Rowing 55:00 Spin Class 1:40 Strength Training

3 x
10 bird dog
10 forward lunges (2 sets on Bosu)
10 step up
10 inverted flyers
10 front squat (2 sets on Bosu)
10 Bosu, side, front and back lift
10 Bosu side lunges
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 single leg bridge
10 fire hydrant
10 triceps dip
10 stability ball sit up
10 single leg dumbbell dead lift
10 Dumbbell Upright Row
Stretch

Heat Therapy

Day 6

5 miles Outdoor Bike ride Stretch / Foam Roll

Day 7

Stretch / Foam Roll

1 x
10 bird dog
10 inverted flyers
10 Bosu squat
10 Bosu side, front and back leg kick
10 Bosu side lunges
10 Resistance band (or cable) standing hip abduction (leg out to the side)
10 Resistance band standing (or cable) hip adduction (leg crossing in front of standing leg)
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 fire hydrant
10 triceps dip
10 Dumbbell Upright Row
10 Dumbbell bicep curl
Foam Roll
Stretch

Day 8

15:00 Spinning Heat Therapy Pool Therapy

3 x
Reverse Crunch (10 reps)
Toe Touches (10 reps)
Plank Hip Twist (10 reps each side)
10 One Arm Dumbbell Row
10 Dumbbell Upright Row
10 squat (2 sets on Bosu)
10 Bosu, side, front and back leg kick
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
10 Resistance band standing hip abduction – hamstring and quad (front and back direction)
10 Resistance band clam shell

Day 9

Rest Day

Stretch / Foam Roll

Day 10

2-miler Test Run – Great progress, but more recovery/rehab work required. 2.01 miles, 9:44 pace with negative splits – 10:10 & 9:18

Dry Sauna Stretch
Static stretch (focus on calves, hip, back)
Yoga Movements
10 Side Lying Hip Abduction with Resistance Band
2x 10 Resistance band clam shell

Day 11

Rest Day

Pool Therapy

Day 12

Rest Day

Stretch / Foam Roll Resistance Band PT workout

 

On day-10 it was time for me to do a test-run and see how far I have progressed. I was confident and eager to go out for run. I spent a little more extra time doing warm up drill, in part because I knew I had to focus more on that, and in part because I was getting a little nervous about it. As soon as I hit the start bottom, the feeling of being able to run again was exhilarating. I felt in peace and so grateful. I felt like a bird being able to freely fly again.

I was very conservative on my comeback test-run and made sure to go easy. Nothing really bothered me during the run and it was a solid 2-miler until the end. My heart rate averaged at 163 bpm. It’s in the aerobic capacity and a little higher than my recommended easy pace of under 155-150, but I’m excited to know spinning sessions and rowing sessions has helped keep my cardio going. After the run, my leg was a little thigh indicating me that stretch was a MUST and that more PT work was most certainly needed. The routine will remain until I feel 100% healed, and even then, I’ll be putting a lot more focus on hip flexor and legs strength training.

It is a bummer to miss this year’s Tomoka half marathon. It has become a tradition to run a Tomoka event for the past two years, and I was so eager to see how my performance would be since starting to work with Coach Victoria. However, I have nothing but gratitude for being where I am today with my progress in running. I’ve reached goals that I never thought possible. I know that despite this set back, my body is much stronger than it was a year ago. I am counting my blessings today and every day and I will continue to become an even stronger runner than I was yesterday. Giving up is not an option, not now.

I wish all runners a successful and fun race!

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“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.”

~ Oprah Winfrey