Archive | August, 2013

Running Away

28 Aug

Alex and I travel a lot. It’s kind of our thing. Alex has gotten really good at finding points deals and coming up with the best ways to redeem them, so not only do we travel a lot, we often travel for free. People are often impressed by this so we’re pretty well known for our points-savvy-travel, in fact I’ve had someone in another department at work who I’ve met maybe a handful of times bring up in conversation “so I heard you went to Aruba for free…” Once people hear that you’ve found a way to travel for free (or well, get anything for free) they often want to know how they can do it too. Well, I don’t really have that answer, but what I can talk about is running while on vacation.

When we first started traveling, a vacation was a sacred entity to me. It was a time to eat unhealthy but delicious food, and read books that haven’t been assigned to you on a syllabus; to ignore things like email, and laundry, and dishes. Basically, vacation was a time to throw all responsible behaviors to the wind. I couldn’t be expected to be responsible, I was on vacation! I was taking a break from responsibility, and of course that also included taking a break from exercise. While I truly enjoy working out now and think of it as a chore less and less frequently, back then it was up there with unloading the dishwasher. So you can bet your bottom dollar that you wouldn’t find running shoes, tech shirts, spandex shorts, or an iPod armband in my bag.

Suddenly that changed. When Alex and I went to Rome in 2011 (mostly for free) we decided that it would be neat to run in a foreign city. Somewhere new, fresh, and international. So the picture on the banner of my blog is me running along the banks of the Tiber river. I picked this picture because I kind of felt like choosing to run during my “rest from responsibility” was a sure sign that I had transformed into a “real runner” (and because I like the scenery and my lime green shirt). Since then we’ve also run in Aruba and in Boston. We had intended to run in Curacao, but I ended up feeling under the weather for the bulk of our trip.

We’ll be in Turks and Caicos for a spell (I can’t tell you when, because according to all of the email chains I’ve received from concerned family members, if I post when I’ll be out of town on the internet one of you will figure out where I live and break into my house, or something. I’ll save you the trouble, we don’t have nice things.), and since I am still hopeful to meet my half marathon goal, we will need to get some training runs in while we’re there. So as Alex and I prepare for our next trip, I’ve started to research our running options. Our hotel has a gym, so we can treadmill it if necessary. There is also the option of beach running, which I’ve never really done. Finally, our hotel is on a main road that is not highly trafficked nor is it too secluded.

While doing my running recon I learned that the Google Maps Pedometer website that I use has the same functionality on the map of Providenciales as it does for Philadelphia. I suppose that shouldn’t be that surprising, the site is fueled by Google, but it is a small island that not a lot of people have heard of, so I was impressed. I’ve mapped out a route that will work for a longer run. The route also ensures that we’ll never be more than 2 miles from our hotel at any given time, so if something happens with my ankle I’ll be able to stop and just walk back.

I have my running packing list going in addition to my regular packing list. I’m planning to bring an older pair of sneakers so we can go beach running and not be concerned about our new $100 pairs of running shoes getting sandy/salty/just-plain-wet. The rest of the gear will be my usual running duds.

I’m so excited to run in one of our favorite places! Where is the coolest place you’ve run?



The Quandry of the Half

27 Aug

I rolled my ankle 11 days ago, and in those 11 days I’ve run once. I started biking as soon as I could after the injury to keep things moving, keep my fitness level up, and to try to build the muscles back up in a no-impact fashion. It’s also just an easy way to get to work. So it’s not like I haven’t gotten some exercise in, but in 11 days, I’ve only run once.

The swelling has finally subsided to the point that someone who doesn’t know my ankles well isn’t horrified at first glance. Those of us who have met my ankles before can still see a difference. The inside of my ankle still has the tiniest bit of bruising and is lightly sensitive to the touch… the bruising on the outside has also faded significantly, however it is still definitely painful to the touch. Basically, the sucker isn’t all better yet, which, I’m sure you can understand, is really effing annoying.

I’m sure I have high expectations (and a low-level of patience) for my body’s healing mechanisms. I suppose it is unreasonable to believe that a sprain that caused my ankle to swell up to the size of a soft ball (which is really big by the way, you saw the pictures. Also I have dainty ankles… it’s all about perspective) is the kind of sprain that completely goes away after 11 days. But dear ankle, aren’t you aware that we have a half-marathon to run in 19 days? I mean, did you forget?

About that…

I keep going back and forth on the half.

One minute I’m like: You know, I’m sure I can do it. If I get my mileage back up in the next three(ish) weeks it’ll just be like a normal Sunday long run. I mean, I used to do long runs every Sunday, this isn’t any different, right? So if I start running again this week, I’ll be golden. Probably won’t reach my original time goal, but hey, that’s okay, I’m not a machine or something.

The next minute I’m like: this is it, I’m sidelined, I’m couched, I’m out. There’s no way I’ll be able to get back where I was in time. My endurance will be shot, my training base will be gone, I’m probably stupid to think it’d even be possible. Also, I don’t know, perhaps it’s a real shit idea to run 13.1 miles on an ankle that was so recently the size of a softball and looked like a toddler had broken into the blue and green finger paints and used your ankle as a canvas.

My brain (and my ankle) are starting to lean more towards the second school of thought. First of all, my three miler was not great, it didn’t hurt, but it wasn’t great. Second, my ankle felt worse yesterday than it had in days prior. Not a lot worse, but worse. Third, sometimes I like to think I’m invincible, and in my older age I’m trying to remind myself in more practical terms, that I am not. On the “I’m not invincible note,” I’d like to keep my ankle around for a good long while, and I don’t want to bust it up for good because I was anxious to start running again. In other words, is real ankle damage worth one race?

I am interested in your opinions though. I’m not the most seasoned runner, and this is my first running injury. So let’s do a poll. Vote for answers 1 or 2 in the comments:

1. You can totally do the half, or you know, at least show up, start it, and finish it.

2. This is a shit idea. Take the time to heal and try again later.


Sound Medical Advice

23 Aug

Last week when I was panicked that my ankle might be broken and not just sprained, because you know, I’m: a.) a hypochondriac, and b.) a runner, who likes to, you know, run, and having a broken ankle kind of impedes that. So I did what all red-blooded, 21st-Centruy Americans do. I took to the internet!

After Googling “broken vs. sprained ankle” I was taken to an article on WebMD called “Ankle Injusries, Sprains, Strains, and Fractures: Causes and Treatments.” It seemed as good a place as any to start. I got through the first 3 pages which described different symptoms and treatments, and then I got to the last page, which had this little beauty:

Thanks Captain Obvious...

Thanks Captain Obvious…

Apparently, this wouldn’t have happened if I had “tried to avoid falling.” Who knew! I mean, obvs I pitched myself onto the ground on purpose.  I really need to stop doing that I guess. Well, thanks, but no thanks, WebMD, your ridiculousness has just made my go-to the next time I ask Dr. Google for medical advice.

Ankle Update:

The swelling is way down today, and the bruising is slowly starting to subside. We’re getting closer. My new tentative “get a few miles in” goal is Sunday, but I’m taking this day-by-day.  Seriously though, this bruising is magical:

Look, a rainbow!

Look, a rainbow!

Thoughts from the Sidelines

22 Aug

Beside the obvious “shit, I can’t run” ramifications of my most recent fall, I think one of the hardest things about falling a second time was people’s reactions. Let me explain. I’ve written about the many reasons I run before, but I’m not certain that I really touched on this particular reason. I run not only for my own health, but also to inspire those around me to try and be healthier, too. I don’t expect others to jump into fitness whole hog, and I of course don’t believe that I know what’s best for others, or that I have the power to change people. But I do like to think that by being a positive role model, people around me might feel empowered to take care of their health too.

So when I debuted my new running-fall-induced hobble, I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised that these same folks that I’m trying to inspire’s first response was, “see, I’ve always said that exercise is dangerous!” or “they say exercise is good for you, but see what really happens?”

You can’t change people, and you can’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, so I know I shouldn’t feel like I’ve “failed” these folks. But I was disheartened that instead of helping them to see the positive benefits of running, I went ahead and proved what they’ve been saying all along.

Do any of you feel like it’s your “job” as a fitness enthusiast to inspire those around you?

Ankle Update:

The swelling is down, but not gone, it’s still pretty puffy. And there is a rainbow of bruising all along the outside of my foot. I’m not limping, and I almost have full range of motion, but I feel like as long as it is this swollen, the sucker’s not healed enough to run. I rode my bike on Tuesday, and then took yesterday off, I’m going to ride my bike again today. My original goal was to go for a short run tomorrow, but I think I’m going to shelf that goal, and perhaps aim for Sunday. I’ll keep you posted!

I Get Knocked Down … Again

19 Aug

I fell. Again.

Last Thursday I was out for a 5-miler, and at the 2.5ish-mile mark I tripped I took another tumble. This time I did not get up again, at least not in the “brush yourself off and keep running” manner. I mean, I got up, and rather quickly because I was mortified and on a busy street, but there was no running. I rolled my ankle as I fell, so what came next was more of a hobble, or a limp. Definitely not a run.

I broke one of my cardinal rules when I went out for that run. I had my drivers license, debit card, and insurance card, but I forgot my Septa pass. Which put me at 1-mile from my office, with a rolled ankle. I called Alex to come up with a plan. As luck would have it I fell outside of our favorite watering hole, so I went into the pub and told my friendly bartenders what happened. They got me some ice and a drink and I waited for Alex to come and pick me up.

The ankle swelled up quickly, and badly. I could walk, but the swelling made me really nervous. I made a doctor’s appointment for Friday afternoon, with an upcoming vacation, school and a new internship starting in a week and a half, and, you know, training for a half-marathon (in less than a month!!!) I wasn’t messing around.

Can you tell which one I hurt?

Can you tell which one I hurt?

Thankfully it’s just a sprain. I was wicked concerned I had broken something. The doctor said to follow the R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, elevate) method, with a course of Advil three times a day for five days. She also prescribed some stretches for me to do. So I’ve been writing the alphabet with my foot with a pointed toe for the last few days.

I MacGyver-ed my ice pack at work.

I MacGyver-ed my ice pack at work.

I took it easy all weekend, and kept the walking to a minimum. For the most part I’m no longer limping. It’s still a little swollen, and the entire side of my foot is bruised, but it’s better on the whole. So hopefully by the end of the week I can start running (a little, slowly, in a low-mileage sort of way).

I am really frustrated about being sidelined, even if only for a week. I already took a week off during this training season, and I didn’t feel too good about that, so two weeks is really not sitting well with me… It is what it is though, and this race isn’t my last race, so I need to keep reminding myself that my running career is a marathon, not a sprint.

Half Marathon Training Update

12 Aug

All in all I can’t really say that my training has been going that well. I was going strong for a while, and then things just sort of fell apart. First it was a string of awful long runs. I blame the heat for those. Then I fell, which led to soreness, which warranted some down time. Waking up sick on a long run day followed, so 9-miles got scrapped. I figured I would just move those 9-miles to the following week, but then I had class at 9 a.m. on my usual long run day and that didn’t work out. The shotty race training culminated in a very ill advised week off from training.

I tried not to beat myself up over the week off, in the past two weeks I have worked 9 regular days plus 15 hours of overtime, spent 10 hours in my Tuesday/Thursday class, had two 8-hour days of my weekend class, turned in three papers, given three presentations, and then spent 3 days in State College celebrating my husband’s MBA graduation. I’m not superman. By the end of those two weeks I was spent, and had nothing left to give. Not even to running.

Then there was the awful diet. When things are busy in my office we cater lunch every day. It’s not healthy lunch; it’s terribly bad for you, stress eating, tasty lunch that I am usually unable to turn down. And you can’t go to State College without drinking a fair bit, polishing off some pub food, and hitting the Creamery for Penn State ice cream at least once (or in this case, twice). Suffice it to say, between the lack of exercise and the abundance of crap food, I have one pissed off bod.

It’s time to revamp, recalibrate, recommit. My summer classes have wrapped up, and I don’t go back to school for two and a half weeks. I now have the time to gain some clarity and ramp things back up. So I’m going to make a commitment, right here, right now, on the internet, in front of all of you. I have one month and three days until race day. For the next four weeks (and a bit) I will:

• Not eat the work lunch.

• Run 4 times per week.

• Cross train once per week.

• Core train 2 times per week.

• Blog about my progress 3 times per week.

So bring it on, because I’m in it to win it.

For Your Consideration (and Mine)

1 Aug

I don’t know about you, but I have a habit of getting super disappointed, and perhaps even down on myself, when a run doesn’t go as I planned. If your time or distance aren’t to your liking, or if you get a bad case of the side cramps, or if your legs feel like lumps of lead, don’t automatically assume that all is lost. Here are some things you might want to take into consideration:

• City Running: Training in the city comes complete with stop signs, stop lights, people walking their dogs, people with strollers, sidewalk cafes, children on bicycles on the sidewalk, adults on bicycles on the sidewalk (that you want to yell at because it’s illegal!), things to look at (like the Liberty Bell, or store fronts)… you get the idea. It is impossible to run a race pace in the city when the streets haven’t been cleared.

• Bicycle Commuting: Bike commuting is awesome. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re in the aforementioned city. That being said, just because it’s your commute, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t “count.” Riding your bike 4 miles in the a.m., and then another 4 miles in the p.m., and then setting out for a 6 mile run isn’t impossible, but it’s also not exactly ideal for a race pace training run. It counts, and your legs will feel it.

• Crappy Eating: If you put in crappy fuel, you’re going to get crappy results. Just like watering down gasoline before putting it in your car would make for a crappy drive to work, filling your tummy with cookies, caramel popcorn, and some oily pasta salad during the day does not a good evening run make.

Last night I went out for my 6-mile midweek training run, and it honestly went very well, but I was hitting 11 and a half minute miles, and I wanted to be in the 10s. I was beating myself up over it as I ran, and then I started realizing the things outlined above. They’re things I know, not new revelations, but things I have to remind myself of nonetheless. The city running and bike commuting are fine to be realized during the run, but the crappy eating I need to get better about preemptively striking out.

Still, it was a great training run, I got out there, I did it, and I felt fabulous (albeit tired) afterwards. As my friend Lana’s dad says “oatmeal is better than no meal” (oatmeal is also falls under the good fuel category, so you might want to get on that).


Sorry I’ve been radio silent in the last week. I am wrapping up the last two weeks of my 6-week summer courses, and getting ready to welcome the new students at the university I work for. It’s been a lot, all at once, and I’ve lost my footing on the life-balance that I usually have. Not to worry though, I’m still making time for training, and I’m getting back into the blogging groove!