Monday, April 30, 2012

April 2012 in Review

April's been a pretty sweet month, and not only because the weather's looking up!

Mileage Recap

A year ago - April 2011: 103.58
January 2012: 181.21
April 2012: 89.59

Boy does that number feel good, especially after March! Did I mention how much I <3 running?

Cross Training Recap

Since I was injured in February cross training has become a huge part of my weekly workouts. I decided it was about time I started recapping that on top of running mileage. I will be curious to see my own trends and whether I keep up with it. So, for April:

5200 m swimming
2 spin classes
81.93 miles road cycling
4 Pilates classes

What went well

Well, obviously the number one thing that went well is that I'm running again, and I am now over 5 weeks injury free and without pain. I ran my first double digit weekend in months. I bought a new road bike, which I love, love, love. I even learned some cool stuff from Christopher McDougall. 

What didn't go well

I'm still dealing with the after effects of a pro-longed injury, both physically and mentally. I know the longer I remain healthy, the less and less I will feel these effects: my running fitness will fully return, I won't be scared that I might suddenly be in pain again, etc. etc. Baby steps. 

May 2012 goals

May is going to be an insanely busy month! On the calendar is:

- My first wedding dress fitting
- Broad Street Run on May 6th
- Pack up our apartment
- Move into our new house!
- Do a million and half things for the wedding, which is now a little less than 7 weeks away
- Continue to cross train, do PT exercises/stretching every night, and remain healthy!

Are you doing any races in May?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Favorites

Again I've been a little MIA this week. Apologies. I've had my nose in a Middle Egyptian dictionary all week and had a four hour final on Thursday. It reminded me of the SATs, except instead of English, I was looking at hieroglyphs for 240 minutes. Needless to say my brain and body are still exhausted. Hello graduate school!

Getting to the point though, here are some things that have been knocking my socks off lately:

Darrell Lea Liquorice
I love candy, but I've never been a huge fan of liquorice. Never, that is, until my neighborhood stores started carrying Darrell Lea Liquorice from Australia. It's just about the best damn thing I've ever eaten. I think I like it better than chocolate (sacriledge!).

Oh, what's that? You never heard of mango liquorice? It will change your life.

Physical Therapy
Next week is my last PT session since the doc only gave me a six week script when I went in for my shin splints. Not only do I really, genuinely love my therapist, but everything she's taught me has been so invaluable. I am, after all, running again, and I 90% chalk it up to PT.

Foam Rolling
Call me crazy, but I've really come to love foam rolling. The PT has been having me do it every night and I'm kind of addicted now. Funny thing - when you foam roll every night, things hurt a lot less. Who knew!?

If you're curious, I use this foam roller and it's freaking awesome (not pictures above).

I signed up for a four week intro class at my gym two weeks ago. So far I'm really digging it. It's like yoga, except the core focus is greater and it's a lot more fast paced. I think I will keep it up and start taking some Mixed Mat classes after the intro period is over. I do, after all, have a wedding to get ready for. Maybe we can all be Pilates-happy like Miley Cyrus one day.

Looking good Miley...except that unibrow. Get some new glasses girl.

Future Prospects
I'm a long term kind of thinker. So, with my master's program probably ending in the next 1.5-2 years, I'm already thinking about the never step. I would really like to get my Ph.D, but my field is extremely small and extremely competitive. Frankly, it can be downright depressing to think about trying to get into a program.
After getting through year one of my master's, however, and realizing that I'm actually not half bad at deciphering dead languages, I have higher hopes for the future. I've even been thinking more about getting out to do some field work maybe next winter or summer. Who knows, maybe one day I will be Dr. Kristin!

I want to go to there
 What are some of your favorite things lately?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Double Digit Weekend

Sorry I have been MIA for a few days. This week is the end of the semester and finals start so things have been a little crazed.

Good news though: I ran my first double digit mileage weekend in TEN weeks! Seems crazy to think it's been that long.

It's now been a little over four weeks since I've had any pain and exactly four weeks since I started running again. But even though it has been a month, I still cannot seem to move past the feeling that my shin will start hurting at any moment. I still spend every run over-analyzing every twinge and feeling of tightness. And whether I'm running, walking, or sitting, my left shin always feels different from my right. Not painful, just different. I know that much of this must be mental, but I shouldn't be pushing it anyway, so I suppose this is all helping to keep me in check.

Saturday morning I ran 8 miles, my longest run since getting injured. Apparently 8 am was already too late in the day to run, because at 70-some degrees I felt like I was dying in the heat.

Taken after a run last summer. Kind of how I was starting to feel on Saturday (and it's only April!)

Sunday I really had no intention to run. In fact, I was planning to go on a nice long bike ride. I bought actual bike shorts and was stoked to try them out. Unfortunately the weather had other plans and it poured all day. So what's a girl to do? I tripled checked in with my legs to see if they were up for it and ended up running a glorious, albeit wet, 6.5 miles.

The next challenge was dealing with this rainy, rat's nest of hair
I ended up scoring about 29 miles for the week and I couldn't be happier. Two weeks until Broad Street!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Like a Kid in a Candy Store

Happy news people! Mike and I have officially signed the lease on our new house!

We've come a long way in our living situation together. Back in 2008 we had our first co-habitation experience in a 422 square foot studio in DC (no better way to find out if you're a truly compatible couple, right?). Then we hiked it up to Philly where the going was good and the rents were cheaper and we snagged an amazing one bedroom. We've lived in our lovely apartment for nearly 3 years now, and while we adore it and the fantastic Center City experience, we're ready for more space. So, mid-May we will be moving into our very own (okay, rented still) three bedroom (count 'em THREE!) house just outside Center City.

The concept of having more than two rooms, let alone a whole building to ourselves is enough to make me giddy. To tell you the truth I've never wanted to live outside the downtown area. With everything at our fingertips (hello Trader Joe's and Lululemon) and a mile long bike ride to work you could say I am completely set. Really, the only thing that sealed the deal for me in terms of moving out of downtown was better access to this:

Since we found our new home I've been mapping and re-mapping new routes to try out. Sure it will be a 15 mile round trip bike ride to work, but I'm only ONE MILE from this:


Sorry for going all Kayne West on you with the caps. If I could shout my level of happiness in your face I totally would.

How do I know moving further out is the right decision? I don't. I could totally hate it and curse myself every morning because I now have an actual commute into work. What I can tell you is that the idea of being able to run in the area that we're moving to every single day is making me absurdly jubilant, so I'm taking that as a good sign.

Have new running routes ever dictated one of your moves? What MUST you have easy access to from your home?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Recipe For a Great Weekend

For me, there are four things that can help turn a plain, ol', boring weekend into a super, fantastic, awesome weekend:

1. Exercise

Sure, I spend many of the weekdays exercising too, but weekends are a chance to get out there for a longer workout. The more time sweating, the merrier I shall be!

I have been thinking of getting a new bike for the past month or so. I love my hybrid, but between carrying my books and gym clothes to work every day, it can get quite heavy. And, since we are possibly moving further out of the downtown area, it's made me want to upgrade to a road bike even more as my commute to work would be longer.

Dear Hybrid, I love you, but I need an upgrade!

So, when Mike suggested that we hit up the bike store Saturday morning I was all for it! I tested two bikes, but ended up falling in love with the Specialized Dolce. It's a beaut! One hour later we were out the door, me with my new bike and Mike with a new set of clip-in pedals and shoes.

Oh yeah, I also just downloaded Instagram, so now that I'm super cool you should prepare yourself for super cool pictures

We grabbed some water and hit the road. It's amazing what a little less weight can do for you. I still struggled with one of the hills when we hit the Manayunk area, but overall the ride was so much easier and enjoyable. We covered about 30 miles total before arriving back home. I look forward to taking my new baby out every weekend now hopefully!

For Sunday's workout I had 6 miles planned, which would be my longest run yet since my injury. I work up early and was out the door by 7.

The streets were empty and peaceful. It was drizzling just a little bit when I left, but the sun started to peak out on the way back. It was the kind of run that makes all the bad runs worth doing.

2. Productivity

Productive on a normal weekends means getting to the grocery store and getting my homework done. This weekend I maxed out the productivity and got all my wedding invites done on top of all the other stuff!

Four hand cramps, three mess-ups (yay extra envelopes!), and I seriously can't lick another envelope for  a year or so

3. Good Food

No commentary needed.

4. Good Friends

On Sunday morning after my run I went to cheer my friend Amy on for her first 10k. I have been coaching her for the Broad Street 10 Mile Run in early May and though the plan we had to create for her was very accelerated (she was a non-runner less than 3 months ago!), she's doing fantastic!

I'm so glad I got to be there to see her finish!

What is your recipe for a great weekend?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lessons From Christopher McDougall

Last night I attended a lecture by Born to Run's Christopher McDougall. Sorry, I do not have any pictures because I'm lame. Also, his talk was really engaging and I sort of just forgot. I was supposed to go on a fun run with him and some other locals beforehand, but I did the right thing, which is listening to my body and my body told me I wasn't ready to try and keep pace with anyone yet. Better safe than sorry.

Chris McDougall
Back to the lecture though! It's been a long time since I've seen a lecture without a powerpoint or slides or anything, but all it takes is one speaker to make you remember just how captivating words alone can be. He opened by talking about Caballo, how he first met him, and his passing two weeks ago. Caballo seems to have died in what Chris described as the exact way he would want to go - doing something he loved, running.

Caballo Blanco
He spent the rest of the lecture talking about meeting the Tarahumara for the first time, doing research for the book, observing the Tarahumara's unique running form, and how our species is designed for running. A few of the major things I took away were:

We're Born to Run
Well, obviously. I read the book, so I knew what he was talking about. But hearing him explain it again - our evolution as a species, how we are exceptionally good at sweating and breathing at the same time, how we are fundamentally designed for running as fish are for swimming and birds are for flying - it hit home. Kind of nice to know you're doing exactly what our species is designed to do best.

Run free
When someone in the crowd asked him what he thought about the newest Newton running shoes, his answer was simply that we shouldn't spend so much time focusing on "the stuff." It's not about the latest shoes* or the time on our Garmin. Of the things that influenced him the most he said Jenn Shelton's motto "run free," was one of the best. I've naturally been incorporating this into my injury recovery and hearing him talk about makes me think "running free" will have an extended stay in my life.

*Chris himself was sporting some huaraches made by Barefoot Ted, which he wore to the fun run and the lecture. 

100 Up
I imagine the question he most often asked by runners (and was last night) is how exactly the Tarahumara run. It's not something he could really explain, but he told the audience to go home and find a video called the 100 Up. See the video below for a demonstration. You can also read his original New York Times article about it here.

Have you tried the 100 Up? How do you feel about "running free?"

Monday, April 9, 2012

After Injury: Things Lost & Things Gained

Running injuries can change you in many ways, Mentally, physically, emotionally. As I move further into recovery after a full 6 weeks on the bench I'm starting to really see what those changes were.

Things Lost

Running Fitness
While my first mile and 2-mile runs after injury felt great, by the time I worked up to 4 miles, I quickly realized just how much running fitness I'd lost after six weeks of non-running activities. Even though I put in a solid effort to cross train at least 5 days a week, rotating between swimming, yoga, and spin, I still wound up feeling winded and lethargic after only 3 miles.

For someone who closed out a 31 mile race right before I was sidelined and was no stranger to 50 mpw, feeling sluggish after such a short distance was discouraging. I'd put in so much time and effort to get to that point. Have I completely screwed myself? Will I have to start back a square one like I did a year and a half ago when I started running? How long until it feels "easy" again?

Having dealt with smaller injuries before, ones that required taking a few days or maybe up to a week off, I never had any problems bouncing back again. But the difference between one week and six weeks is huge! After doing a little research (here and here) most people seem to say that taking up to two weeks off from running doesn't do any real harm, but that after that point you will lose fitness exponentially each succeeding week. Awesome.

Let's break down "running fitness" a little bit more:

Speed: I've never been a particularly speedy person, but I'd be lying if I didn't feel slightly better after running a route faster than I did the week before. For the immediate future I'm not focusing on speed anyway. On the contrary, I'm intentionally going as slow as possible right now to ensure that my injury fully heals. I haven't even been bringing a watch when I run. I don't want to know. It doesn't and shouldn't matter. 

Endurance: The thing I fear most that I have lost and will take me the longest to regain is my endurance. After all I do want to continue running ultras, and those tend to focus a little more on how far vs. how fast. There's also that great, big, lovely July race on the horizon that I would like to do resonably well in.

Things Gained

Other Types of Fitness
I wrote a post a few weeks ago, shortly before I started running again, about finding the positive in injury. This included a well-balanced set of muscles strengthened by cross training. It's true, spin class is more enjoyable since I can make it through the 10 minute climb, I can swim more laps in a row, and I can even stomach doing continuous chaturangas in 90 degree heat.

There's nothing like sitting out for 6 weeks to make you learn the value of patience. What took even greater patience however, was only running every third day for the past two weeks. Last week I found myself getting sad towards the end of every run and immediately starting a countdown after it ended until the next time I could lace up my Kinvaras. It was really, really hard to run so little with so many days in between, but I'm really glad I did. This week I'm allowed to start running every other day and looking back I definitely wouldn't have been ready to do that before this. Baby steps!

An Appreciation for the Bare Minimum
I'm talking about stepping out the door, no watch, no intended pace, no special tempo or speed or hill repeat workout. Just running. The bare minimum.

The Junk in the Trunk
Even with all the cross training I still managed to put on 4-5 pounds during my injury, a large portion of which seems to have migrated to my rear end and surrounding areas (yikes!). I've always been a curvier person, but when I started running things started to flatten out a little bit. And it's not that I mind a little "junk in the trunk," but I would prefer if my clothes fit properly again. Can't I have it both ways?!

This would be an example of not enough "junk in the trunk!" Where's the happy medium?!

What sorts of changes do you notice when you're injured? Whether positive or negative?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Favorites

Welcome to my random amalgamation of things that make me jump with joy!

4 Mile Morning
This morning I woke up early, laced up my running shoes, and ran before work. Not only was it a magical four miles on it's own, but it was my longest run in 8 weeks and  my first early morning run in at least 9. I forgot how much I love running when the rest of the world is still asleep. I even got Mike out of bed to come enjoy it with me.

No better way to wake up than with a run along the river
The PT has instructed me to take two more days rest before my next run, but starting Monday I can begin running every other day if it feels okay! OH JOY!!

Mike's Birthday
Tomorrow Mike celebrates his 29th birthday! I am taking him to a rock climbing gym, which he has been begging me to do forever, and then we are going to Fogo de Chao for dinner, another thing on his bucket list.

Happy Birthday Bubs!
We're Moving!
Our lease is not up until September, but we have been slowly growing out of our one bedroom apartment over the past two years. Luckily we have an awesome landlord and she agreed to let us move out June 1st. That is not only going to be moving weekend, but also conveniently the weekend I would have run The North Face Endurance Challenge DC 50-Miler. I will be sad to miss it, but at least I will have moving to keep me busy. I'm super stoked to get a bigger place, maybe even our own house. I'm ready for a change!

Countdown to Caitlin
My sister has been studying abroad in Senegal since January, but it's now officially less than a month until she comes home. I've missed her so much and I can't wait to see her (and celebrate her belated 21st birthday)!

The Long Course
This past Monday I headed to the pool after work and when I got there I realized they had the long course set up, so that a length was 50 meters instead of just 25.

The barrier in the center comes down on Mondays
I was a little nervous about not having enough endurance to get through my workout (and possibly choking on a gallon of pool water and embarrassing myself in front of the Penn Varsity swim team practicing a few lanes over), but it was a success! I actually really enjoyed the long course. I think I'll make an effort to get to the pool more on Mondays now that I've tested it out.

A Blogger Meet Up?
I feel like I always read about bloggers in other cities doing meet ups with other locals and to be honest it sounds like a blast!

Would any Philly bloggers be interested in a meet up? Has one been done before? Group run? Drinks? Both?!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Run! An Exhibition

It's not often that two of my favorite things, running and museums, go together. But thanks to the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, I can now get a double dose of geek-out in one place. On Saturday they opened a new exhibition, Run! Super-Athletes of the Sierra Madre.

The exhibition will coincede with the famous Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track and field competition in the United States. The event was first held in 1895 and now brings in more than 15,000 participants from high schools, colleges, and track clubs all over the country and the world each year.

While the average joe may not know anything about the people of the Sierra Madre, anyone who had read Born to Run knows exactly who I'm talking about. The people of the Sierra-Madre, or as we know them the Tarahumara or the Raramuri, live and breathe running. Running is not just a form of exercise, but something that is completely intertwined with their culture. The sandals they run in helped launch the barefoot running movement after Christopher McDougall described them in his now-famous book. As someone who is now a minimalist runner I can say that reading about the Raramuri and their experiences with barefoot running led me to try it out in the first place.

The exhibition itself inhabits a small hallway at the museum. The space is filled mostly with photographs of the Raramuri taken by Diana Molina, who has documented their culture through the lens for over ten years. The gallery is prefaced by a short video introduction to the culture of the Raramuri. The late Micah True (Caballo Blanco) makes an appearance and talks about moving to the Sierra Madre and starting the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon as a way to support and protect the Raramuri culture.

Lining the walls of the gallery are huge, colored photographs of Raramuri runners and some close ups of their shoes made from tire treads. In addition to the photographs there are a few cases filled with artifacts including a traditional runner's garment and the equipment used during the game of Rarajipari, in which participants pass a ball back and forth to one another over courses as far as 100 miles.

While the most notable characteristic about the Raramuri is their undying love of casually running ultra marathon distances, the exhibition goes beyond that, and reveals other parts of their culture. Visitors will learn about how the Raramuri celebrate their Semana Santa (Holy Week) around Easter with all sorts of festivities.

If you are in the Philadelphia area and have 30 minutes to spare this exhibition is definitely worth checking out. And, if you're feeling really gung-ho about the Raramuri, then come to the Museum next Wednesday, April 11th for a lecture by Born to Run's very own Christopher McDougall!