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Pain.

Pain is an interesting thing. People do not generally submit themselves to pain and it’s generally not a fun thing to experience. However, sometimes in order to improve, we must experience it.

This afternoon, in nearly 90 degree weather on a hot track, as I ran my 3rd interval, I started to question why I wanted to experience this discomfort. Yesterday I learned about the difficulty of running with a bloody blister on my foot and today, I was reminded of the pain. My shorts were too short today which caused some chafing and oh yea, it was hot. Somebody please, remind me why I want to do this? Oh that’s right. Now I remember…

I can not achieve my goals without a little hard work. I will never get faster unless I am willing to hurt a little. Training in the heat and on the hills, it’s an added advantage. I saw a video once and it said the following: In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s going to win that itch. I realize that unless I’m willing to do more than the next person, I’m never going to get where I want to be. Pain and hard work are part of the training. Embrace it. Welcome it. And let it make your stronger. Stay focused on the goal and it’ll always be worth it.

Here is the video:

 

Happy Trails & Happy Running,

Tracie

Running Update: A successful track workout today but I was a little tired afterwards. Going into the workout, I was a little down because I wasn’t looking forward to working out in the heat. However, after the workout, I was proud of my consistency, my effort, and how I felt my form was improving. My next marathon is many months away but I’m really excited to make a gradual progression to (hopefully) my peak condition. Stats are here.

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Calf Tightness

Hello blogosphere! After one week of no blogging whatsoever, I can now say that I miss it and am ready to contribute my two cents once again.

Running has been going okay. Not the amazing, pain free running I woud like but I’m still doing my workouts. Tuesday was my first track workout since January and thankfully, I was able to hit my goal times (actually a little faster), with no problem. However, my coach was there and he was quick to point out some things going on with my form that need a little work. For example, too much twisting in the hips and a left arm that barely moves and is held up significantly higher than my right. I’m working on it.

Thursday was an easy 5 miler out at the greenway and I couldn’t believe how tight my calves were. They hurt some kind of bad and thoughts of being sidelined for a month due to injury started to enter my mind. What the heck am I doing wrong? When I got back to my car, I decided to put on my Minimus shoes for a short jog just to see if they felt any better. Immediately the pain went away and my form corrected itself. I ran another mile pain free.

So my question is, why are my calves so darn tight?

I carry around a lot of tension in my body when I run. Because I’m always thinking about form, I don’t just let things happen. Foot strike and arm movement are the two main things always on my mind.

When running, the calf muscles are used to stabilize the ankle and absorb the impact during push off and landing. For some reason, when I get more miles on my legs, I start shifting my foot strike to my toes. I can feel it now and I could feel it back in January. I imagine that running on your toes requires a lot of extra effort from the calf muscles because the ankle and foot really have to be stabilized.

I read this from TheHungryRunner and thought this sounded about right for me:

Interestingly, calf tightness can also be symptomatic of weakness elsewhere in the leg.  If your glutes and/or hamstrings are weak, your calves will often try to make up for that weakness, which means the muscle gets overused, which in turn exacerbates calf tightness.  In that same vein, calf tension is rarely experienced in isolation; rather, if there is tightness in the calf muscles, there is also a good chance you are tight in your hamstrings as well, due to the synergistic nature of the hamstrings and calves for much of our daily movements.

Tomorrow I’ll spend time really focusing on my glutes, quads, and hamstrings. I’ve also been using the Rumble Roller (ouch!!!) to work on releasing some of these knots. And the final thing that I am going to do to work on my calf tightness is…. meditation. Perhaps that sounds a little odd but I have got to release this tension that I carry around. I think meditation is a great way to do this.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,

Tracie

Running Update: Today I did 12 miles in my Minimus. It was a little tough because I was up too late last night and only ate a small salad for dinner. On the plus side, however, my calves didn’t bother me one bit and my form felt a lot better in the Minimus. Maybe it is also important for me to alternate shoes more consistently. Stats are here.

Lesson #1 – Persistence

One year ago today I was sitting outside still sulking over my Boston DNF and my injury that kept me from racing again in May. As I sat sulking, I vowed to do something about it. I vowed to learn, to try, and to never feel that same way again… disappointed. Since then, 365 days have passed. During those 365 days, I have grown to be a runner that I never once thought possible. I am stronger mentally and I am stronger physically. Perhaps none of this would have been possible without the DNF in Boston and the glass of wine that brought me to my decision that Friday night. I am grateful for everything that has happened since I made that promise.

Boston, 2012

Boston, 2012

Earlier this week, I wrote down my five lessons learned throughout all of this and lesson #1 was about how running is a journey. However, I changed my mind. Last night I was fortunate enough to have dinner with Thomas Keller, one of the best chefs in the world. (You can check out a couple of his restaurants here and here.) As he was making his rounds and talking to people, he stopped at our table. I asked him what is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given him. His reply, persistence. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. 

Mario and me with Thomas Keller

Mario and me with Thomas Keller

Over this past year, the most important thing I have learned is persistence. There was a time, many years ago, when I thought qualifying for Boston was an impossible dream. Now that I’ve done it the last three marathons I’ve run, I know I do more. Before becoming the avid runner I am today, I had set my own mental limitations and boundaries. Running under 1:30 for the half was crazy and my marathon goals (which I’m keeping to myself for right now), were impossible.

The race that led to 5 weeks of no running. Lesson learned - never run/race through an injury.

The race that led to 5 weeks of no running. Lesson learned – never run/race through an injury.

 

I have seen my running go from point A to point B, and now I no longer think in terms of the impossible. I believe in myself and I know that if I want these things to happen, I have to continually work for them. A sub 1:30 is in my future, and with enough hard work (and no injuries), I believe it’s in me to run around 1:20. My marathon goals give me butterflies just thinking about them, and I’m not going to tell myself I can’t do it.  I’m certainly not going to let anyone else tell me I can’t do it either. These are my dreams. My goals. I will always strive to make them a reality. I will always be persistent.

In 365 days, I have learned to always keep trying.

Tracie, 2009

Tracie, 2009

 

Tracie, 2012

Tracie, 2012

 

Happy Trails & Happy Running,

Tracie

It has been a wonderful experience this past year and I am thankful for everyone who has followed along with me. After this post, I will no longer be blogging every single day. Instead, I plan to take this blog in the direction I’ve been envisioning for quite a while. I will miss the daily blogging but it will certainly be nice to have some of my time to do other things. There are a few other things I’m trying to get accomplished and it will be nice to dedicate myself entirely to these tasks. 

It’s crazy how quickly a year goes by! But at the same time, so much happens within a year. This blogging journey has made me a much better runner, both mentally and physically, and I am thankful for the many hours I spent in front of the computer. It has all helped me to become the person I am today.

Thank you everyone! 

Lesson #2 – Perspective

Perspective… perhaps this has been the hardest lesson for me to learn. For so long, I have been running  for one run, and one run only – my run that day. It’s been extremely hard for me to realize that the ultimate goal is not to finish every workout with a faster time than the previous. The ultimate goal is on race day.

As long as I can keep my running in perspective, I will not get frustrated when I miss a day of running. I will not push my easy days because I will remember that easy runs also have a purpose. And most importantly, I will take a break, if my body needs a break. No one running injury has been as mentally and physically difficult as the one I had in February. I trained through the pain and I raced through the pain. The next 5 weeks were absolutely miserable and I really learned the importance of listening to my body. The goal is to be a lifelong runner and a race or workout (or even a week of workouts) missed, is okay. As long as I keep perspective.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,

Tracie

Lesson #3 – The Power of The Mind

The third most important thing I’ve come to learn over this past year is the importance of the mind. We spend so much time training our bodies, that we often neglect perhaps our most important muscle… the mind. Just as we must be physically fit, we must also be mentally fit.

While reading Chrissie Wellington’s book, I remember a chapter where she wrote that a lot of her training took place on the couch. Sitting, Thinking. Visualizing. Mentally preparing. She actually devotes quite a few pages to expressing the importance of the athlete’s mental techniques. It matters when you’re asking so much of your body.

As my training was derailed in September and October for my race in November, I took those words of wisdom and diligently applied them to my training. If I couldn’t do the miles, at least I could mental training. I spent hours coming up with a bank of positive images, mottos, and distraction techniques to get me through the City of Oaks Marathon. Those 26.2 miles were probably the most difficult I have ever run, physically. But mentally, those miles were the easiest. My mind was in the right place and my mind carried me to a time much faster than what I had planned. It was when I crossed the finish line that I truly understood that mental training is just as important, if not more important, than physical training. The mind can truly do amazing things.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Running Update: Today was suppose to be an easy run. I went out to the greenway again and my calves said they were tired of the hills. They hurt! Almost 5 miles and then 2 miles with run club (but I went with the walkers). I was so hungry when I got finished. I am really look forward to my rest day tomorrow. Stats are here.

Lesson #4 – Running is a Complete Body Sport

Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons I have learned over this year long journey is that running is a complete body sport. It’s as much about every other muscle group in your body as it is about the power of your legs.

From my personal experience, I can tell you that your back and hips play an important role in efficient running. In particular, if your back muscles are tight or weak, some other part of your body will start compensating. At first, this isn’t such a big deal, but over time it adds up. Back muscles might not be such a big area of concern for other runners, but for me, it is. I take 10 minutes before every run and do stretches specifically for my back. So far, so good. And I’m thankful I came to realize this.

With regards to hips, I’ve always thought I had pretty flexible hips. Many of the hip opening yoga poses are fairly easy for me. What has needed work is my hip strength. Back in February when I really injured myself, I think it was a combination of weak hip flexors and tight back muscles. I spent a month working on my hip flexors and the difference has been amazing. I can now feel my hip flexors engage and facilitate smooth running. I feel more upright when I run and overall, my hips feel stronger. Hip exercises have become a routine part of my workout schedule.

Runners get injured. It happens. But I think it’s incredibly important to analyze why we get injured. What part of our body is weak or tight? How has our mileage increased? Have we been too hard on our bodies without enough rest? We have to reflect and we must get in tune with our bodies. Many injuries don’t have to happen.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,

Tracie

Running Update: I have to admit, I didn’t want to run today. I was incredibly tired and it was almost 90 degrees outside. But I spent some time reflecting on my running goals and made it out the door. It was hot. Really hot. And I had 8 miles on my schedule. Much to my surprise, in spite of the heat, I had an awesome run. The goal was to focus on easy and not push to a point where I felt like I was really trying. My last two miles were 7:40 and 7:35 and that actually felt easy. Perhaps all the hill running is starting to pay off. Stats are here

The Top 5 Things I’ve Learned in a Year- #5, Running Form

In five days my one year blogging journey will come to an end. In 360 days, I have learned A LOT of things but there are 5 that I think will carry my running a new level. I would like to share my list of the most important things I’ve learned this past year…

#5 – Running Form

Running form is particularly important to me right now because I’m coming back from an injury that I know was caused by bad running form. I could feel it when my form started to deteriorate, and because I chose to ignore it for so long, I realize how incredibly important it is.

Back in June, after seeing a few race photos, I realized my form needed a little work. In comparison to the super fast runners out there, my form was a mess. In July, I took a Chi Running class and was amazed at the things I learned. For a while, I focused on my chi running techniques and it worked quite well. However, over time, as I got more interested in speed in distance, I let the form go.

My lesson from this is the following: bad running form exacerbates a running injury. Everything in the body plays an important role – your legs, your hips, your core, your back, your shoulder position, your head position… everything. Two Saturdays ago a guy went flying past me. His running form was beautiful. Efficient. Effortless. And clean. I immediately tried to imitate it and found my pace quickly increase.

I have learned that when you feel your form start to go, slow down. Rest. Take a break. Stretch. Speed and distance are never worth the numbers, at the price of bad form. It will catch up with you.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,;

Tracie

Running Update: I had a pyramid fartlek run today. 1-2-3-3-2-1 minute intervals with :30,1:00:1:30 minute breaks in between. I was not excited about it. I found myself really taking it easy on the warm up mile because I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. I did my intervals and at the end I realized I only did 1-2-3-2-1 and missed my second 3 minute interval, or so I thought. I made up my second 3 minutes at the end. Turns out I was wrong… I did do all of my intervals plus an extra one because I can’t count. Or at least speed and hills make me forget how to count. I did a 2.5 mile cool down and was incredibly happy with how strong I felt up that one beast of a hill. For 7 miles with some intense speedwork, I was very happy with the end result. Warm up mile is here, fartlek run is here, and cool down miles are here.

 

Seeing my bad form for the first time...

Seeing my bad form for the first time…

 

An improvement after my chi running class...

An improvement after my chi running class…

 

City of oaks

I think I have good for in this too…

 

 

Mindfulness & Running

Mindfulnessthe trait of staying aware of (paying close attention to) your responsibilities. 

When I run, I am not as mindful as I should be. Sometimes I try to force something instead of letting it happen. When I stop trying to force it and let it happen naturally, it’s so much more enjoyable. Many times when I tell people I love running, their first response is I hate running, it’s so boring. I believe it’s the complete opposite… when I am being mindful. When I am being mindful, running is effortless. My feet are swift and my body is light. I am not fighting myself. I am letting what is, be. Running means so much more when I am being mindful.

Tomorrow, I will aim to be more aware of my responsibilities.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,

Tracie

Running Update: Today I could feel myself carrying a little too much tension as I ran. I found my shoulders creeping up a little more and my form wasn’t what it should have been. I ran out at Umstead and got quite the hill workout. Stats are here and just check out this elevation chart.

A few hills this afternoon

A few hills this afternoon

Posture and Running

One might not think how we sit in a chair has anything to do with how we run. I actually think they are very much related. Slouch in a chair all day and you might find yourself slouching during your 6 mile run. I’ve noticed that when I grade papers, my right shoulder creeps up to my ear. And I’ve also noticed that when I run, my right shoulder creeps up to my hear. One carries over to the other.

I recently read this interesting article in the NY Times: The Posture Guru of Silicon Vally. I had no idea you could you could make a living out of teaching people how to sit properly, but it totally makes sense.

Amy Schoenfield:

Ms. Gokhale (pronounced go-CLAY) is not helping aching office workers with high-tech gadgets and medical therapies. Rather, she says she is reintroducing her clients to what she calls “primal posture” — a way of holding themselves that is shared by older babies and toddlers, and that she says was common among our ancestors before slouching became a way of life. It is also a posture that Ms. Gokhale observed during research she conducted in a dozen other countries, as well as in India, where she was raised.

Posture matters when running. A good posture while running leads to better running form. And because our muscles have memory, having good posture while sitting will help our posture while running. Check out the posture guru here.

Happy Trails & Happy Running,

Tracie

Juicing

There is an amazing juice bar right beside work and I absolutely love it. I had never been much of a veggie juice person before, mainly because I had never tried it. However, since trying the many fruit/veggie combos at Juiced Up, I can’t imagine my diet without them.

Today, Mario and I had a class with Liz, one of the owners of Juiced Up who was kind enough to sit down and answer all of our questions. Why juice? What type of juicer should we buy? How do you make juices? How do you do a juicing cleanse? It was quite informative and I am sold now more than ever on the benefits of juicing.

I’m one of those people, who once I get an idea in my head, I share it with everyone and strongly encourage you to do the same. So here you go…

In my mind, I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to juice. First and foremost, it tastes absolutely delicious! It’s not the nasty V8 stuff you think about it a can. The juices are light, sweet, and super easy to drink. Second, juicing does so many great things for your body. It heals you from the inside out and gives your body exactly what it needs… lots and lots of micronutrients. Juicing also detoxifies the body, which I’m sure we could all use.

The way I think about it is the following: Your body is like a factory. Put a bunch of crap into your body, and your factory starts to break down. Your cells are weak, your organs aren’t functioning properly, and pretty soon everything on the outside starts to get affected. Low energy, bad skin, restless nights, etc. However, if you give your body all the micronutrients it needs, your factory is booming. Your cells are happy, your organs are happy, and everything on the outside is glowing. Liz, the owner of Juiced Up, is an excellent example of this. She is always beaming with positive energy and has a radiant glow about her. She does a reboot every Monday and juices twice a day.

Juicing takes times. That is a given, but your body deserves a little kindness. Sure, it’s is not the same as eating the fruits and vegetables but who says you can’t do both? Juicing just allows your body to be flooded with micronutrients, and for me, it helps me to get my veggies for the day. Since I’ve been juicing more, I’ve cut down drastically on my meat consumption. I’m loving the way I feel – even more energy, well rested, and overall, just very positive. We plan to buy a juicer next week.

Look at all this goodness! I had my first juice with aloe vera today... yummy!

Look at all this goodness! I had my first juice with aloe vera today… yummy!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

Tracie

Running Update: Well today wasn’t the 12 miler I was hoping for. I did a slow 2 miles with a new member to our run club (super awesome lady!) and then did another 10. The workouts from this week have made my legs feel a little heavy, and I could really feel the fatigue. Tomorrow, I will only do strength training and stretching. Stats are here (warm up miles) and here.