Thursday, June 26, 2014

Here we go again...

It's officially been two months (plus a few days) since the Boston marathon, which was really the last time I had a somewhat decent run.  Turns out my hunches about being injured pre-marathon were correct.

In the weeks following the race, I felt horrible.  Beat up.  Like I never recovered.  I tried to follow reverse taper schedule, but instead of getting better, I was getting worse.  A month after the marathon I attempted to race the 5K my school puts on every spring. I finished over 2 minutes slower than my normal 5K time and my knee swelled up like crazy. A week later I tried one more time to get in a decent run.  I did three half mile repeats, and by the last one I couldn't walk on my right leg.

Back to the orthopedist.  He suspected a torn meniscus.  The MRI confirmed what I already knew. 

So... here I am on the couch recovering from knee surgery.  I'm a terrible patient.  I can't stand lying around.   My doctor says I can try running in about a month.  A month.  A month feels like forever, especially since I haven't run at all for three weeks. Granted, it's better than four months.  That's what I keep telling myself.  

Check out this quote I found today when I was bored out of my mind and reading medical journals on meniscus surgery (yeah, I'm a nerd.)

 Dedicated seemingly beyond logic.  A difficult group indeed.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Boston Part 2: Game On!

6 a.m. and I'm wide awake.  I'm the only one in the whole apartment.  I don't know WHY I'm awake, we don't have to leave until 8:30... the whole reason we stayed by the start was so we could avoid the crazy early race wake up time (that, and it was $144 a night for a two bedroom apartment with free breakfast and parking.)  I went downstairs to the buffet when it opened and expected to see tons of runners, but no, it was just me.  Apparently everyone else was still sleeping.  I had some oatmeal, a waffle, and some coffee, and headed back upstairs.  Everyone was STILL asleep.  7 a.m.  What was I supposed to do for 90 minutes?

Eventually, after an hour that seemed like eternity, Jamie (and Jack, and my dad) got out of bed, got ready, and headed to the lobby with Tuan.   They ate, I watched the news which was now predicting high 60s by 2pm,-- likely when I'd be in the last 10K, fantastic -- and headed to the car.

I was predicting mass chaos similar to our traffic jam disaster prior to the Philly Marathon, but there was none.  We got to the South Street athlete shuttle in less than ten minutes, and the line moved quickly.  There was a man with a metal detector, and I "went off" when he scanned me.  Why? GU packets.  Haha.  The detector really went off like crazy when he scanned Jamie, who removed a box he was holding under his sweatshirt.  He had Clif Shots.  "How many Clif Shots did you bring?" I asked him.  "Not sure."  he said.  I grabbed the unopened box that I had recently bought for $25.  "Um, honey, how many gels are you going to take?  There are 24 here.  You didn't want to grab, like, 6?"  "Ooops?" he said.  Tuan quipped "He's not taking any chances with his nutrition!"  I just rolled my eyes and we got on the bus.

By the time we got to the Athlete's Village it was starting to get warm.  Jamie, whose wasn't exactly in tip top marathon shape (the whole breaking a rib by falling on the ice back in late January didn't get his training off to a great start... six weeks of recovery, so he really only got in a six week cycle), decided he would go ahead and start in Wave 1 (which I wasn't allowed to start in) to avoid the later heat.  Tuan and I still had a 25 minute wait before I was allowed to walk to the corrals.  Jamie handed me the 18 Clif Shots he apparently didn't really need (which I tried to donate to other runners, but nope, no one wanted them, so I left them on the bagel and banana table) as he headed off.  Tuan and I got in the port-o-pot line.

It didn't move.  At all.  Not one step in ten minutes.  And then they called my corral.

There is no good place to pee in the Athlete's village.  And I really, really, really had to go.  We headed towards the start and I heard my name.  I turned and saw my (fast) friend Andie.  The first thing out of my mouth was "I have to PEE!"  I was really about to cry.  She pointed behind the dumpster.  "Just go!"  There was a police officer standing right down the road.  Game time decision -- I did not want to pee on myself.  So I went behind that dumpster and I swear the officer saw the whole thing.  He did not arrest me, and I felt SO MUCH BETTER.

I drank a half bottle of Gatorade on the 15 minute walk to the start, and when we arrived, I saw this HEAVENLY SEA OF PORT-O-POTTIES WITH NO LINE!  Seriously.  There were like hundreds of them. "I'm going again!" I told Tuan.  So I did.  By the time we got back, my entire wave was gone.  We had missed the Wave 2 start entirely, and Wave 3 was nowhere to be seen. So it was kind of a weird start.... we just started running.  And as I clicked on my Garmin and crossed the timing mat, I welled up with tears. I was really running the Boston Marathon.

1: 7:29 
2: 7:49 
3: 7:46 
4: 7:51 
5 - reset clock to match mile markers so 1.1 miles in 8:01 (7:53 pace) 
6: 7:47 
I was so excited!  I didn't really look at my Garmin much, and as usual Tuan was chatting to everyone, high-fiving all the spectators, throwing cups of water into my face... he qualified for this race with a 3:00:23, so going out at a... hey, what pace were we running anyhow?  We crossed the 5K timing mat just over 24 minutes.  Ooops.  That was not much slower than my 5K split at my last half marathon.  "SLOW DOWN NGUYEN!" I yelled.  "You're fine!  It's downhill... you need to have a little time in the bank for Newton, those hills are tough."  We kept running.  I took my first gel at 4.  I was already hot.

MILES 7-16
7: reset clock to match mile markers so 1.11 in 8:05 (7:58 pace) 
8: 7:50 
9: 7:54 
10: 7:57 
11: 7:57 
12: 7:51 
13: reset clock to match mile markers so 1.1 in 8:06 (7:59 pace) 
14: 7:52 
15: reset clock to match markers so 1.1 in 8:10 (8:04 pace) 
16: 7:49 
The course wasn't as steep of a downhill anymore, and I was able to settle into the 7:55-7:59 pace I had planned.  It felt great.  Tuan told me I'm right on pace to PR, and throws another cup of water over my head.  We get to Wellesley and he leaves me to kiss all the girls cheering on the right.  Their signs are hilarious.  I love this race.  I am running Boston.  This is the best marathon ever.

MILES 17-18
17: 8:31 
18: 8:34 
The Newton Hills begin.  I had budgeted on an 8:30 pace for the UP parts, and a 7:40 pace for the down parts..... unfortunately after I got up the first hill, the down started to hurt like crazy.  My quads were not happy. This suddenly was the worst marathon ever.

MILES 19-21
19: Reset laps so 1.2 in 9:35 -- 8:55 pace. 
20: 8:48 -
21: 9:07 

I'm seeing a lot of 9:XX registering on my Garmin.  That isn't boding well for a PR. I'm really hot, and I know I have two more miles of hills.  My quads are revolting.  I turn to Tuan after the 19th mile and say "We went out too fast."  He says "Well you aren't PRing today.  You might as well just have fun."  I look at my watch.  I can still BQ... maybe... but it's going to take some hard work.  I stick in my ear buds, which I had set to my favorite playlist "in case emergency motivation is needed", but instead of what I thought I had it cued to -- my hip hop mix of running songs (BORN TO RUN, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, etc.), out blares THE WIGGLES.  THE FREAKING WIGGLES!  You have got to be kidding me.  What happened to my playlist?  I am not listening to my two and a half year old's favorite band while I run up Heartbreak Hill.  I ripped my iPhone out of its case and shuffle up hill #3 as I find MY playlist.  It made Heartbreak a little more bearable, but I think that half mile was at a 10 minute pace.  I started to wonder if a re-BQ was even possible.

MILES 22-25
22: Reset clock to match mile markers. 1.2 in 9:15 -- 8:40 pace. 
23: 8:54 
24: 8:51 
25: 9:14 

After Heartbreak, the course is pretty much downhill, so I was sure I could make up some time and finish under 3:35.  Except I couldn't run downhill anymore because MY QUADS HURT SO BAD!  The sun was blazing.  Tuan had given up on me and kept telling me to "run for fun."  I didn't train this hard to give up at the end, and I was going to give it all I had, which at this point wasn't much.  Every time I saw a 9 on the Garmin, I'd try to put some surges in.   They didn't help my overall pace, and 3:35 was no longer attainable.  Under 3:40 and try again next year?  Maybe.  My legs felt like they were going to fall out from underneath me, and I was beginning to wonder if I could even pull THAT off -- it would mean no ten minute miles.  And the pace was really starting to creep up there.  It was so hot, and Tuan had disappeared, so that meant he wasn't dumping water on my head anymore. Screw this marathon.  I hate everyone.  I think there might have been people cheering on the sidelines, but all I could see was pain.  I am never running this far again, ever.  Ever, ever, ever.  And where the heck was Tuan?   (Apparently, I found out later, he saw me suffering and ran off to get me water, then accidentally dumped it on the wrong girl, who was not pleased... and then lost me completely.)

26: 9:11
.2: (which came in at .3) - 2:41 (9:20 pace)
 I ripped out my ear buds because even MY PLAYLIST was annoying me, and figured I should listen to the crowds at the end.  Except my legs hurt so much I couldn't enjoy them.  WHERE WAS THE FINISH LINE?  I crossed the 26th mile marker, and spotted Tuan, who wasn't running... he appeared to be looking for me.  He was on the left side facing the oncoming runners, and I was on the right.  I feebly attempted to wave my arms and call out his name, but I didn't have any energy left, and I knew I was only a couple of minutes from the end, and very close to having absolutely no BQ cushion.  So I just kept my eyes on that finish line.

And then I crossed that timing mat that comes a few yards from the finish, so they can call out your name as you cross, and I knew I was going to make it.  And I smiled.  Big time.  I finished Boston.  Not in the time I had set out for, but I did requalify by a little over two minutes and I did give it my all.

3:37:52.  The Garmin says 26.55.... way to run those tangents, Gretchen.


A year ago I had a pelvic stress fracture.  7 months ago I was running on an Anti-Gravity Treadmill.  6 weeks ago I fell on ice and wasn't sure I would be able to run this race at all.  On April 21, 2014, I finished the Boston Marathon.

My phone, fully charged at the start, was almost dead even though I didn't turn on the music until I was well into Newton... how did that happen?.  Jamie called me and said something about he was done and his legs hurt so he was getting a massage.   Tuan was nowhere in sight, and hadn't brought anything with him except his drivers license, so I had no way to find him.  My dad met me at the end of the finish chute (he has some iPhone app he can track me with, which come to think about it probably was the reason my phone was dead.)  I posted something on Facebook that Tuan and Jamie should meet us at the Family Meeting area (and later I found out there were TWO family meeting areas -- what kind of ridiculousness is that?), and eventually - like an entire hour later, after Tuan checked his Facebook page at the AT&T booth for some clues on where we might be -- we all reunited.   But too late to get the train back to our car and retrieve Tuan's backpack.  He just got on the T and went straight to the airport, carrying nothing but a credit card and his drivers license.  He claims that 75% of his flight were runners. Wouldn't you love to be the non-runner on that flight.....

The Boston Marathon - Part 1: PRE GAME!

April 19.  Arrival to Boston.  We made great time, leaving at 5am and getting to our hotel in Westborough at about 12:45 pm.  Jamie had a nap (he had driven most of the way ) and my very restless kids starting tearing the two bedroom apartment to shreds.  It started with hide and seek and turned into tag, and I decided that we needed to get out of there.  We headed into Boston to pick up our bibs and hit the expo.  My parents were NOT making good time, so we had to take them with us.  Note to self:  two kids under the age of 6 at an expo who have spent the majority of the day strapped into a seat belt watching movies on the iPad is a bad, bad idea.  They decided to run their OWN marathon in the convention center.  We lost them a few times.  They hid behind the expo curtains.  Susanna almost knocked over one of those 50 foot high booth dividers.  Sooo....  we headed back to the hotel and gave up on dinner.  My parents were there when we got back, and hadn't eaten either, so my mom and I headed out on route 9 to try to pick up some food as well as Easter treats.  We ended up getting lost.  Got back to the hotel at 10pm with beer and pizza.  Probably not the BEST carb-loading strategy.  Got the kids to sleep, played Easter bunny and finally got some sleep myself a little after midnight.

April 20.  I had every intention to go to a church for Easter, but that didn't happen.  Instead, we celebrated in our hotel, including a fabulous brunch in the lobby (with a lot of other runners -- about 109 of them, I believe.....) and then headed out to a park so the kids could burn off some energy and hunt down some plastic eggs.  Loved the little New England town we were staying in, and met a family from Hopkinton who was just fabulous.  They had a little girl Susanna's age and we played and chatted for an hour.  They said nothing ever happens in Hopkinton except the marathon!  I got a text from Tuan that said he was at the expo and that he'd decided he would run with me.  I had made plans to run with some of the people from DC Road Runners also hoping for a 3:30ish pace, but hadn't yet met up with them (actually, I had yet to run into ANYONE I knew) so Tuan and I decided we'd stick together and start with the other two if we actually found them.

We got back in the car and headed to Boston so my parents could do some sightseeing and we could pick up Tuan.  We decided to drive the course.  All 26.2 miles.  This is probably not a good idea to do the day before running it.  It was hilly.  It took almost an hour to drive it.  My daughter was complaining about how far it was.  At about halfway, she whined "I HATE BOSTON!  IT IS SOOOOOO FAR AWAY!"  I turned to her and said "Mommy and Daddy have to run there tomorrow."  She looked at me like I was crazy and said "Mommy, why would you do that when you could drive?"  Yeah, that's a very good question, isn't it.  Then we hit the Newton Hills, and I decided there were actually four of them.  This did not look like an easy course.

We had a hard time finding parking and only got a space we had to get out of by 6 (it was 4pm at this point), so we split up and Jamie and I met Tuan and decided we'd walk to the athlete's dinner and stop and check out the finish line area on the way.  We stopped on Boylston and tried the 26.2 Brew, which I REALLY liked and was bummed it was the day before the race because I would have liked to have more than a couple of sips (Jamie drank most of it) and then walked to the athlete dinner to get in line.  Except we couldn't find the end of the line.  We walked around the block... and the next block... and the next block... and the next block... and still hadn't seen the end of the line. I guess if you offer free food to 36,000 .... It was cold.  I was hungry.  My husband was really hungry and really cold and these are the two things that turn him into a gremlin.  I felt very sorry for Tuan because at that point, I think we pretty much almost got divorced right at Boston City Hall (this was, of course, my idea to partake in this dinner... he wanted to just eat at Unos on Boylston.... poor Tuan!) so we went down to the train station and discovered that there wasn't another train going back to Ashland for like two hours.  Soooo..... we called my Mom and she agreed to pick us up at Boston College, which was still like 20 miles from our hotel.  We got on the train and met a family who had gone to the pre-pasta dinner.  They had waited in line for an hour.  They said the food was quite good (salad, rolls, pasta, 26.2 brew.... all free...) and were carrying the dessert goodie bags containing Lindt Easter Bunnies and Toblerone bars....I was really, really, really hungry now.

At BC, we found a little pizza shop that served pasta.  It was greasy and not very good, but it was food.  We finally got picked up at 9pm, and were back to the hotel by 9:30.  I spent some time getting my race outfit ready, started getting really nervous, freaked out a little more, and finally got to sleep.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Verdict.... IT Band Tendonitis.  I landed right where it connects to my knee during my fall, and it is apparently just a little angry.

I can live with that.  Normally that would not be super news, but I think I can keep it under control until the race.  At least I hope I can.

My immediate future looks like I'll be wearing an IT Compression Strap on all my runs, taking NSAIDs afterwards, and resting the day after long runs (and I only have one more long run) to give the IT time to calm down.  Also, the doctor prescribed massage.  Can't complain about being ordered to get multiple massages in the next few weeks!

Here is my IT strap.  Stunning!
I was pretty excited to not even feel my IT during this run.  Except right after I took my selfie, I did start to feel it, but it wasn't really painful.  Definitely improvement!

AND IT IS SPRING!  FINALLY!   I saw about 8 deer on my run in the woods, but I only could catch two of them before they hopped away.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

18 more days and a doctor's appointment....

I finally broke down and made an appointment with my orthopedist.

It's been exactly four weeks since I fell.  My knee and hip are still popping all the time.  I still get some knee pain on and off during runs. And my knee and hip keep swelling up after hard workouts, with stiff muscles the next day.

The positive:  I'm not having, and haven't had, any major pain during a run. I've been able to go easy for 18-20 miles, I've even done some tempo runs at race pace without major pain, and aside from a few runs where my knee started bugging me with a very manageable ache, I've had no chronic pain.  When I had the EPIC fracture, the pain would start within a mile and just get worse as I ran.  Now, if I do get knee pain, it comes and then leaves as my leg loosens up.  I can hop on my leg and it doesn't hurt.

BUT the "payback pain" is so similar to what I had when my stress fracture was undiagnosed, but healing.  When I would run about two months into the healing process (and I never tried to go more than a couple of miles) it would feel okay but the next day my leg would lock up and I'd have an inflamed hip and knee, with snapping and popping in the joints.  Exactly the same feeling as what I had all day today.

So I called and made an appointment.  And I'm so, so scared.

I broke down crying this afternoon.  I'm terrified of another stress fracture.  I've been so good about not overdoing it, about taking easy days and rest days, and not running on anything that hurts.  And then I fall.

I was going to make today a rest day, but my husband told me to go out and run with the kids in the jogger, and to stop if it hurt.  They needed fresh air, and I needed that run.  I took some Advil and ran about four and half miles on the Accotink Trail.  I didn't go fast.  It didn't hurt, and it still feels good.

 Some days I have no doubt that I'll get to the starting line healthy, and other days (like today) I am convinced I have a major injury that is going to take months of rehab.  I'm not willing to race Boston if it's going to put me out for another season, so I am getting this checked out.

But -- please excuse the sappiness here -- it's going to break my heart if I can't run this race.  Jamie is running. My parents and children are coming to cheer us on.  And.. it's Boston. I worked SO hard to qualify for this race.

Selfish?  Maybe. It's just a race, right? Last year I put in the training cycle of my life, and got a stress fracture during the taper.  This year I have trained through the winter that nearly killed me -- can we say FROZEN -- I'm talking miles and miles on the treadmill, long runs with negative wind chills, far too many numb fingers and toes and honestly, unpleasant runs that I could only do with this goal in my head....  I want to cross that starting line, and that finish line, more than I can put into words.

Anyone training for a spring marathon through this Polar Vortex deserves a medal just for the training...

Anyhow -- virtual hand holding appreciated at tomorrow's doctor's appointment.  Fingers crossed that this is nothing major.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

26 days ago go... just get me to the starting line.

I haven't written for awhile because I haven't wanted to admit what has been going on.  But, let's start from the beginning....

So it's been a snowy, snowy winter.  Fairfax County isn't the best at snow removal, and that means that every time it snows (which has been pretty much every week since December) there is no safe place to run.  I have spikes in a pair of running shoes but even they haven't been suitable for 6+ inches of snow that hasn't been plowed.  So a lot of my runs this year have been on the treadmill.  Still, I have managed to get in a really decent training cycle.

Three weeks ago to this day, I was just so sick of the treadmill.  There was no safe place to run in my neighborhood, and we'd been out of school for two days and had a delay on Wednesday.  Susanna's school opened on time, so I figured I'd be okay running on the well plowed sidewalk at the Merrifield Town Center after dropping her off.  I had 8 easy miles on the schedule, and needed to be at work by 10:40.  I looked at my watch when I had a couple of miles ago go, and decided to pick up the pace for the last couple miles.  I was on my 7th lap of the town center loop when I found myself sprawled on the street.  I don't remember falling.  All I remember was sheering pain in my knee and elbow.  It was so bad that I couldn't stand up. Some construction workers ran over to me.  "How did that happen?" I thought.  Then I noticed the black ice, in between two sections of sidewalk.  I was bloody and hurting, but I still needed to get back to my car. Running didn't seem to hurt too badly, so I finished up and remember thinking I was glad I didn't break anything.

The next day I stuck to the treadmill.  Running didn't hurt, but everything seemed to swell up afterwards.   5 easy the next day, and I felt okay. 22.5 -- the biggest run of the training schedule -- was on Friday.  I felt fine during the run but afterwards everything hurt.  I took the following day off and felt okay on Monday.

The next week started out okay with an easy run Monday. Tuesday I did speedwork in the morning, and then an easy 8 in the afternoon.  Again, everything swelled up the next day.  My leg hurt all of Wednesday but loosened up for the run.  Easy Thursday -- felt better. Friday easy, all good.  Saturday 18, and I was feeling great so I did 14 of that at planned marathon pace.  The next day my knee swelled up again. Did an easy 8 and didn't feel any better afterwards so I called my physical therapist.

She was able to get me in on Monday, and could see swelling.  She advised me to add a few rest days that week, which I did.  I did a great tempo run on Thursday, an easy run on Friday, and felt great for my 20 miler on Saturday, albeit sore afterwards.  Sunday I did a short easy run and again felt everything flare up again.

Monday I set off for a morning run with my friend Holly and although I had pretty dead legs from my long run, I felt decent... until about 7 miles in.  My knee, for the first time since I fell, started to hurt DURING the run.  It was the same area that has been swollen afterwards, but this time it hurt with every step.  I had ten miles on the schedule, so after I bid Holly farewell at the 8th mile, I slowed the run to a jog and felt much better.  I was able to finish without much pain, so I decided I would skip my speed session on Tuesday and just attempt to get in some easy miles.

Tuesday is track day, and I got in about 5 before the track session started.  I decided to see how a 1K repeat felt - it felt great!  I did it at a 6:40 pace, and did a slow lap around the track.  I did another one, felt great, another slow lap.  Took off for the third, and by the second lap I could feel my knee start to ache. I slowed it down to a jog again, and figured I'd just try to jog the last three I had on the schedule to get to 14.  Except the pain didn't subside this time when I slowed down.  So I quit.

I skipped today, and I am not going to even attempt to run until Saturday.  I am icing.  I am foam rolling.  I am praying.

I have worked so hard to train for Boston.  I want to run the race I trained for.  However, at this point, I also just want to run the race.  After sustaining an epic injury, I am terrified I will not even make it to the starting line.

I know, I know, I know.  Go see a doctor.  Get an x-ray.  Well, guess what.  Last year my doctor told me I was fine to run Shamrock, the x-ray picked up nothing, and I started the race with a fractured pelvis.  Excruciating pain ended my attempt three miles into the marathon, and even after that I didn't get a correct diagnosis for two more months.  Quite frankly, a "good" diagnosis from a doctor will not give me "peace of mind."  And quite frankly, every major injury I've had (pelvic stress fracture, Iliotibial Band Syndrome, Metatarsel Stress Fracture, and Plantar Facsaitis) I've managed to figure out myself and then had to ask the doctor if that is what I had, and I was always right.

It could be something that a a few days of rest will take care of.

It could be a fracture.  Since, after all, it's March, and that's when I seem to get them.  (And by the way, the only good thing about the month of March is that my daughter was born.  Did I mention that I slipped on the ice while running on my due date with her, and landed on my belly?  She was okay, and I was okay, but I rest my case that March is not the best running month for me.)

Anyhow - if you have any positive vibes to send to my knee, please do.  For now I'll be pool running for a few days with my fingers crossed.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


Exactly one year ago... the Thursday after I ran the RRCA Club Challenge... I set out for a short little tempo run.  I dropped Susanna off at school at 8am on the dot so I could get in four miles before I had to be at an 8:40 meeting.  I was feeling fatigued and hadn't done any speed work since the race, and felt no pain on this run (or any previous runs) but could not get my pace below an 8 minute mile.  Defeated, I went to my meeting.  When I stood up, I was limping.  And thus began my epic injury that consumed thousands of dollars in doctors appointments, PT, and of course, lost race fees.

I had planned on a 12 mile run before work this morning, but my calf has been cranky, my right achilles has been tight, and my neighbor Holly who usually does these way-too-early runs with me is skiing in Utah.  When my alarm went off at 5:07am, I checked the weather -- 17 degrees with a windchill of 5 -- and rolled over to go back to sleep.  Running alone in those conditions was just not appealing...

At noon, I started to get phantom pains in my left hip.  Could they be real?  Every time I sat down, I was sure that when I stood up I'd be limping.  I decided that maybe I should take a rest day, even though last week was a recovery week and this week I'm supposed to be at peak mileage. Aside from the calf that seems to be getting better every day, I didn't really have a reason to skip the run.  Except then I'd feel another twinge... my right ankle this time.  Or maybe it was my left hip.  Or maybe my right foot.  Come to think of it, my knees kind of hurt.  And maybe my shin?

At lunch I googled "warning signs of a stress fracture."  And basically it said they come on without warning.  That would be right -- there was NO warning for either of the fractures I've sustained. They came on suddenly, the first during a marathon (far left metatarsel on the left foot, and only an 8 week layoff from running, during a time I would have been recovering from a marathon, so really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things -- plus it got me hooked on swimming and biking and led me to my first tri season) and the second when I wasn't even running (that being the injury I never, ever, ever want to relive..)

I spent the majority of my lunch break reading Camille Herron's blog on stress fractures.  She advised serious runners to take it easy most of the time... she said she had the most stress fractures when she was doing all high intensity runs on lower mileage, and the least on high mileage (averaging 120-30 per week!) when she did about 80% of her runs about 2 minutes per mile slower than her 5K pace.  My 5K pace is probably a little under 7 minutes per mile, and I have no issues at all with running 9s or even closer to 10s.  So I decided I would go ahead and try to get my mileage in -- slowly -- today.  I did the middle six miles with the Lululemon Run Club, and got in almost 12 total.  Walked in, ate dinner with my family....  I wasn't limping after dinner.  So I've officially made it one year post injury without another stress fracture.

I'm still flipping out.  This whole "stress fractures come on without warning" thing is a little more than scary.  Poor Paula Radcliffe, the marathon record holder, can't even jog more than a few miles at a time due to a stress fracture on her foot that never healed.  I read a recent article where she said that she just wants to be able to run for pleasure at this point.  She said she can't even run after her two children.

I've spent so much time in the past 2 years trying to better myself as a runner.  I want to push myself to the breaking point.. but not break.  I guess all of us out there who are trying to set PRs and get the most out of our "running years" deal with this.  How far can we push our bodies before they cry "Uncle!"

I want to reach the start line of the Boston Marathon.  Unbroken.  But ready.  It's hard to know where that magic line is.

Monday, February 24, 2014

RRCA Ten Mile Club Challenge -- Take TWO! (Race Report)

I’m pretty sure the RRCA Club Challenge 10 Miler was the last straw in my overtraining last year… the straw that broke the camel’s back my pelvis.  Four days after that race, which I ran on untapered legs and finished up with not one but eight cool down miles for a total of 20, I began to limp.  All that marathon training went down the drain, as well as any hope of running for the next four and a half months.  A pubic rami stress fracture is not an injury I would wish upon anyone – but it healed, and that experience is far behind me.

So why did I sign up for this race again?  Because it’s a great training course for Boston full of challenging hills and a well-organized event with a super fast field consisting of the RRCA groups in MD and DC.  Oh, and it was on a Sunday (a must for races this season, since I coach on Saturdays) and, well, the entry was paid for by DC Road Runners.  I shuffled around my recovery weeks so that this time around I would not be hitting peak mileage the days preceding the event.  Course redemption here we come. 

Jamie fell on the ice about three weeks ago and cracked a rib, so his training hasn’t been stellar but he told me last week that he still wanted to do the race.  We had the babysitter coming overnight since we were leaving before 6am.  So Saturday night I say to Jamie “We need to set up the guest room since Hillary will be here at 8.”  Jamie says “For what?”  I say “For the race tomorrow?”  He says “WHAT RACE TOMORROW?  I thought that was next weekend!”   I say “Um, no, it’s tomorrow.  Did you run this morning?”  He says “Yes, and hard.”  Well, at least one of us looked at our training plan.  Hey, maybe I’d actually beat him in a race for the first time ever.

We got to the race and I was still unsure of what shirt to wear, long or short sleeved. We did our warm up mile in the long sleeves,  and then headed to the gymnasium until 10 minutes before the start.    It was 42 degrees … figured I’d ditch the long sleeves.   I threw it in the car and jogged to the start.

Jamie and I stood there chatting and then got in place for the race (he up a little closer to the timing mat.)  Wait… TIMING MAT!!!!  CRUD!!!!  My bib…. and my timing strip….  was still attached to my long sleeved shirt… IN THE CAR!  You have got to be kidding me.  No time to go back and get it.  I figured I would just time it for my own sake.  Oh, I was so mad at myself!

This race is all up or down.  There is no flat in Columbia, MD.  So I had no idea how to pace myself.  Last year I ran a 1:16 and this year I hoped to break 1:15.  My goal was to hit 7:20s, but the first mile had a lot of downhill and I felt like I was barely working when it clicked off at 6:58.  That scared me a little, but this course was impossible to keep an even pace.  My Garmin consistently read under 7 for the descents, and would click all the way up to 8 or even a bit higher for the climbs.  They were relentless.  Up, down, up, down, up, down.  I am not used to the terrain and could feel it in my calves (especially the right one) by the third mile.  By the 8th mile (which I think was my slowest mile at 7:40…  it was mostly up and I was ready to clobber whomever came up with this course) the right calf was really aching, and it hurt the rest of the race.  

My Garmin had been spot on with the mile markers and so exhausted as I was, knew after I hit 9 that I had just a few more minutes to go.  I concentrated hard to keep pace, and thought how nice it was that unlike a marathon, when you see the last mile marker, that really is it – one more mile.  No “point two” to mess with your head.  Except then my Garmin hit 10 and the finish line was still a good 100 yards away.  AURGH!  Darn you!  I did see the clock still was in the 1:14 realm so I sprinted hard.  Ended up with 10.08 by my Garmin, and 1:14:23.  The timing people were right there at the clock, so I immediately went up and asked them if they could record my time.  He said “Yeah, it’s okay, we had a guy come in a few minutes ago who also didn’t have his bib, but we saw when he crossed.  What’s your last name?”  I said “Lynch.”  He said “Interesting, so was that other guy’s.” 

Of course it was.  Of course my husband would be the only other person in the race to forget his bib. And of course, even with a broken rib, he still beat me.

It’s now  Monday, I tried to run 6 recovery miles at a snail’s pace, and I officially am sure I have a calf strain.  This race hates me.  Looks like I’ll be taking it easy for awhile…

TOTALLY Flattering Race Photography 

Jamie looks a little less pained.  And he's the one with the broken rib.

Finally smiling, because I don't have to think about that course until next February.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

MESOCYCLE 1 - Done Done Done!

1/3 of the way through my Boston training plan!  I can't believe it there are just 12 weeks to go!  The first six weeks of the plan I'm following are endurance building, and has hardly any speed.  Aside from some strides thrown in the second half of weekday run, and the occasional 30 minute tempo, most of the miles are easy.  This is to get my body used to the high mileage before stressing it with intense workouts so I can AVOID INJURY!  Brilliant concept, eh? So far so good.

I am also making a valiant effort to keep the strength training going at least 2 times a week if not three.  I am going to do my best to make it to the Boston starting line in tip top shape, and with no pulled muscles or fractured bones.

Mileage build up has been:  54, 57, 59, 61, 65, and 69.  Next week is a "recovery week" -- ONLY 59 miles.  ONLY!

For the most part I've enjoyed my runs, and have been glad to find some great ladies in the area to do morning runs with.  Running really is my social life -- since I choose to put so much effort into endurance sports, that needs to be my social outlet as well.  It's nice to arrive home at 6:45 a.m. with my workout finished as well as some great girl gabbing.

This polar vortex things has got to go, however.  Seriously.  I know I don't live in Canada or Michigan or whatever, where they've had windchills of something insane like -65 and real air temperatures of -30.  Not even close, and I don't want to think about it.  And yeah, I grew up in Indiana but don't give me that "You're from the midwest" bull.  I've always hated winter.  I can handle running in 30 degrees, but once temperatures dip into the single digits, I can honestly say it's miserable.

Never before have I gone on a run where afterwards my thought was "I wish I hadn't done that."  Until Friday.  My regular Friday running buddy had 18 miles in her schedule, and  I had 8.  Our usual running route was covered in ice so we decided to instead run on Pickett St, a 1.6 mile stretch of road with well plowed sidewalks and good lighting.  I had done 11 miles there the day before in the sunny mid morning.  I figured it would be a little cooler so I bundled up with two pairs of wool socks, two pairs of running pants, two long sleeved tech shirts, a windbreaker, winter cycling gloves, a face mask, and a winter hat.  We began our run, and realized that the plowed part of the sidewalk was too narrow for us to run two abreast, so this made speaking to each other difficult.  A half mile in my lips were frozen despite my face mask, so I guess that didn't really matter.  At two miles I had to go to the bathroom and I realized I couldn't feel my nose or my wrist, which was slightly exposed, so I ran into the Cross fit studio owned by another lady in our running club.  Seriously, had we only gone two miles?  It had to be more than two miles.  Ugh.  Outside again, another loop which seemed to take at least an hour (although apparently only about 30 minutes) and I again couldn't feel my hands.  I ran inside Einsteins Bagels to warm up a little bit.  I made sure every square inch of flesh was covered up, and then continued outside for my final loop.  It was still dark out, the traffic was picking up and cars were blinding me with their head lights (I swear everyone had their brights on), and unfortunately there is a filling station for Semis on the streets so we were constantly getting passed by massive noisy trucks with stinky exhaust fumes.  The sun was rising by the time we got to the end of this loop, and my GPS was at 7 miles.  I still had one to go, but when my running companion told me she was done with her run (this being someone I swear can find beauty on ANY run.... except apparently this one) we both declared it the worst run ever and headed to our cars instead.  7.15 miles.  Not 8.  That's okay.  I can live with that.  I couldn't feel my fingers at all, so unlocking the car became an unexpected challenge.  Once I managed to turn on the ignition, I realized my numb hands couldn't maneuver the steering wheel, so I had to sit there with my hands on the heating grates until I could safely drive home.  After I was thawed out I checked the CURRENT temperature.  It was 6 degrees at 8 a.m. with a ReelFeel of -10.  So who knows what it was at 5:45 a.m. when we started.  I don't know how these people in Chicago train through winter because that seriously had me dreaming lovingly of the treadmill.

Today was a little warmer -- ReelFeel of 1 degree, actual temperature of 20.  I ran my first 14 miles with one of the runners in the group I'm assistant coaching, but after she left I had a really hard time finding any motivation, especially since as a coach in the program I can't use headphones.  There were still people out on the course, so I kept running until they all finished (at this point I was up to 19 miles) and then called it quits and got in the car.  After I'd thawed out a bit, I forced myself to head out the door and run the last two miles on my icy, frozen neighborhood streets.  21.  Done.

Ready. For. Spring.  And we're not even a month into winter....

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

20 Miles. #Megsmiles

On Tuesday evening, I dropped Susanna off at her dance lessons and headed out for 14 miles total, including an hour with =PR= at the track.  I'm so used to running near the Vienna metro, which is very runner friendly with plenty of light even at 5 a.m., wide sidewalks, and pedestrian crossings at all intersections.

Well, Reston isn't like that.  There was absolutely no sidewalk on Sunset Hills Road, which I have to run on in order to reach the track.  My headlamp wasn't bright enough to see the ground, and once I hit South Lakes Drive, I had the choice to run on a pitch black trail in the woods, or on a road without any sidewalk.  I chose the road, thanked the Lord I was wearing reflective clothing, and was quite thankful to get to the stadium lighting at the track.  I don't love running in circles, but it was better than the roads in Reston.  When track ended, I had exactly 25 minutes to get back to Susanna's class, almost three miles away.  I ran along the road, some parts without a shoulder, and prayed the cars would see me.

That night, I sat down to check email and Facebook and saw something someone posted about running in memory of a woman named Meg, a runner killed by a drunk driver.  I hadn't heard of this, so I clicked on the link.  And then I couldn't look away.

She was 34, just a year younger than me.  She lived in Ashland, VA, just 80 miles away.  Like me, she was training for the Boston Marathon.  I put her name into the "search" box, and her profile popped up.  She had a daughter about the same age as Susanna.  Her wall, like mine, was full of pictures of a recent trip to Florida, pictures of her children on Santa's lap, comments from friends just days prior.

On Monday morning she set off on a 13 mile run after her children were in school.  She only made it about one mile from her home before a driver, a doctor on his way to work and still apparently intoxicated from the night prior, swerved off the road and hit her as she ran along the shoulder.

I couldn't stop thinking about her.  Her children.  Her husband. How in one moment, everything - EVERYTHING - about their lives was altered.

I couldn't stop thinking about how that could have been me, just hours before.  There are plenty of people who have too much to drink at Reston Town Center, think they are okay to get behind the wheel, and drive home.  I had just been out running on roads with no sidewalks or shoulders, during Happy Hour for crying out loud, with a headlamp that wasn't really working.  I was at home with my family.  She was out in broad daylight at 8 a.m., and she will never go home to her family.

My thoughts turned to August 2012 when I learned of Heather Boyum, the teacher and mother of two whose life also tragically ended too soon when she was hit by two intoxicated drivers during a Sunday morning training ride.   We had raced together two weeks prior.  We were both out on training rides that Sunday.

I never met these women, and I don't claim to know them.  All I know is that like me, they were runners who had children to whom they were THE ENTIRE WORLD.

On Saturday runners around the world came out and dedicated miles to Meg to raise awareness about the dangers of drunk driving.  On Saturday I ran my first 20 miler since my injury.  On Saturday I thought of Meg, and of Heather, and of all the runners and cyclists whose unarmored bodies were no match for a vehicle operated by a drunk or distracted driver.

Meg, we are all thinking of you.  Rest In Peace.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Somehow, I'm already in week 4 of my Boston training program!  After last winter's "choose-your-own-adventure" training plan ended in the worst injury of my running life, I've decided to stick to the tried and true Pete Pfizinger "up to 70 miles a week"  program I used for California International.  I guess the average is about 62 miles a week over 18 weeks if you count the buildup and taper, though the middle months are all at or close to 70.  This is the first week I'll hit 60.

Runs were pretty easy to get in over the holidays, especially during our Christmas in Saint Augustine, FL. The beach, coupled with perfect morning running temperatures of 55 degrees, were pretty motivating.  Our last day finally had clear skies and I got in the most beautiful sunrise run.

Now I'm back in Northern Virignia, and it's, well, not 55 degrees.  I have a really hard time getting up to run solo in the freezing cold.  I'm even worse in the ice.  However, I've really got no excuses.  I have great winter running gear.  And check out my shoes:

On Saturday my long run was on the ice covered W&OD rail trail.  While most people were slipping and sliding, I was able to run comfortably.  I have YakTrax, but this seems to work better, especially when the surface terrain changes.  Plus you don't need to worry about walking up your ice covered townhouse steps into your tile entryway, forgetting to take the Yaks off, and falling flat on your face.  (Of course, I'm not speaking from personal experience.  On three separate occasions.)  Total cost of sheet metal screws in a pair of old shoes?  About $4, cheaper if you share the 100 pack with a friend.  

I still ended up on the treadmill yesterday.  I prefer to do my speedwork on it, since I can control the pace.  I also use it as one of the few times in the week I can watch mindless movies on Netflix. I am going to try to limit myself to two days a week on the mill, maximum... my running injuries have only ever occurred in the winter, and I've read some articles lately that point to high mileage on the treadmill leading to hip flexor issues... hmmm..... 

Today the ice has melted and the temperatures are in the single digits.  Although my childhood in the midwest saw many winter days like this, I live in Virginia (the south?), and they have cancelled school.  I don't really understand why, but I'm going to take advantage of the daylight and get my 14 miles in this afternoon.  

So the general schedule is:
Monday - Speed/ Tempo.  Treadmill.  I so far have failed every time at getting up early enough to get in the full mileage and get back to my house in time for Jamie to leave for work, and end up running laps around my townhouse to finish up.
Tuesday - Mid-Long Run (12-15 miles) OUTSIDE in the evening.  I can't say enough about the new DROP OFF KIDS ACADEMY OPTION at Lifetime Fitness in Reston.  Susanna can play in the child center or enroll in classes and I can run outside!  She takes tap dance from 6-7, so I can drop her off between 5:15-5:45, get in my mileage (partly with the =PRR= Reston Distance Training Program), and then grab dinner with her after her class before heading home.  
Wednesday- Easy recovery miles before work.  Strength training during Susanna's swim class.
Thursday- Longish (9-11) run OUTSIDE in the morning.  I am hoping to find regular company for these!  I usually get in 8-9 before Jamie leaves for work, then run laps around the townhouse until 7:15.  That might sound a little tedious/ crazy but it is preferable to a treadmill and/ or getting up any earlier than 5am.
Friday- Easy recovery miles before work, or on the treadmill while Susanna has Zumba class.  I am guessing that if I don't have some pre-arranged company, I'll end up on the treadmill.  This Friday, I do have some buddies to make me accountable!  And that means I can get in strength session #2 during her dance class.
Saturday- Long runs with =PRR= Reston Distance Training Program.  I'm in my first season with them as an assistant coach, so I am running with the participants.  I'm having a great time meeting new people, all of whom have different goal races, and there are a few ladies training for Boston that are on the same mileage schedule as me, so it's been good to have some company.  

As far as tune-up races, they need to be on Sundays since my Saturdays are now with DTP.  I think I did too many tune-up races last year and it lead to my injury, so at this point I'm just planning to do one half marathon or ten-miler and possibly a shorter race in March. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014


A year ago, I sat down and posted about what an amazing running year 2012 had been.  About how I'd accomplished all of my goals, set new PRs, run 2000+ miles, and was excited about what 2013 had to bring.  I jumped right into a high mileage, high intensity training plan with the intention of breaking the 3:30 barrier at the Shamrock Marathon, and admittedly, running consumed me.

And then I couldn't run at all.

It has been 10 months since February 28, 2013, when I began to limp after finishing up a tempo run.  In that time, I spent 2 months without any answers and questioned if I'd ever run again, then another two months knowing I had suffered a pelvic stress fracture and doing all I could to stay sane.  Today I got onto Daily Mile to look what I'd done these past 12 months.

January and February - I ran every single day, with the goal of running every day in 2013.  No rest days, high intensity runs at least 3 times a week.  I slept very little in order to get in most of these miles before my kids woke up. 
March - Obviously injured, I kept attempting to run but stopping after the pain became excruciating.  I had my first ever DNF at the Shamrock marathon.  Aside from these 15 random test miles, I gave my legs a break from the pounding and started swimming again after the marathon that wasn't.  Started physical therapy at the end of the month, 3 times a week.
April - 1 mile test runs on the treadmill at PT every couple weeks indicated that I wasn't even close to healed.  Lots of PT, lots of swimming.  Started cycling on the trainer.  Insisted on an MRI at the end of the month, which showed a clear stress fracture of the lower pelvis.
May- NO running, but lots of swimming and cycling!  I figured I could do a triathlon at the end of the summer, skipping the run if I had to.
June- Started running on the antigravity treadmill.  Woot woot!
July- X-ray on my birthday clears me to run, almost four and a half months after the initial injury.  SUPER SLOW, but I ran 104 miles in July and decided to sign up for the Skipjack Triathlon.
August - Lots of cycling, swimming and running!  150 miles of running, still not up to speed, but just thankful to be out there!  I also did the Reston Century Ride.
September - First race since February!  My run was definitely slower than it would have been with more months of training, but I was thrilled to complete a half-iron-ish distance triathlon.  After that I put my bike and goggles away and set my sights on a half marathon PR.  
Ocober - Averaged 50 miles a week!   I also ended up running the Ragnar Relay at the very last minute (I found out the team I had originally planned on running with had an injured runner and made the decision to join them the day before the race!) which turned out to be one of the best running experiences of my year.  I met some great ladies who were serious about running but also a ton of fun.  We ended up winning the women's division as well as the team spirit award.  I think I could become addicted to relay races!
November - My goal was to break 1:40 in the half marathon.  I ended up with 1:40:36, which got me second place overall, a nifty age group win plaque, and 37 seconds to get rid of for my next goal. After that, I spent the rest of the month running with no real purpose other than running.  Jumped on long runs with my marathon training friends (18 miles when you aren't training for anything?  Why?  Just because!)
December - Took one down week (only 30 miles) and started to go a little crazy -- insomnia and restlessness -- how did I ever go four months without running at all?!?  Halfway through the month I started my BOSTON TRAINING PLAN!  I'm following the same program I did when I PRed at California International.  I think the rest day and mostly easy days were key to me staying injury-free, even though the mileage is high.  Hopefully this will prove true!

Total miles run in 2013:  1541.

Challenges:  Pelvic Stress Fracture.  'Nuff said.

Highlights:  PRs in in the 10 mile and the Half Marathon.  Ragnar Relay!  Skipjack Triathlon.  Registering for the Boston Marathon.

Goals for 2014:  I'm not making any, since you never know what life or your body is going to throw at you.  I'm just going to work hard, train smart, and take it as it comes.