Summer Sights

One thing I love about running and biking is getting to explore places I probably wouldn’t see otherwise. I’ve seen a lot of good scenery the last couple weeks, so this is a picture-loaded blog entry.

In order to make time for one of my long runs, I had to head out at the crack of dawn. As hard as it is to get up that early on a Saturday, I really need to do it more often because it was one of the most beautiful runs I’ve done. Stony Creek Metropark is just a few miles from home, so I ran from home to the park, ran a few miles on the mountain bike trails, then ran back home. The pictures barely do it justice, but the park was absolutely stunning in the early daylight.

I felt like I was in a storybook when I came across this spot.

I felt like I was in a storybook when I came across this spot.

 

I'll sacrifice some sleep for this view.

I’ll sacrifice some sleep for this view.

 

A gorgeous trail.

A gorgeous trail.

 

Another beautiful place I’ve run recently was Kellogg Forest in Augusta, MI. While visiting Matt’s parents for a few days, I wanted to run and bike around some places I’d never seen. Although Matt grew up just a few miles from the forest, he’d never run there. I’m really glad he mentioned it and we got the chance to explore the awesome trails together. I don’t run on trails often enough and should try to change that. It was very peaceful and we only saw a handful of people during our two runs there.

Part of the North Country Trail.

Part of the North Country Trail.

 

Surrounded by trees.

Surrounded by trees.

 

Softer ground is easier on the body but definitely more challenging.

Softer ground is easier on the body but definitely more challenging.

 

On my way into the woods.

On my way into the woods.

 

Maple Manor.

Maple Manor.

 

Another place we explored was the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. It’s a very nice trail that was great for biking.

Over the river.

Over the river.

 

A beautiful day for riding.

A beautiful day for riding.

 

Another bridge.

Another bridge.

 

On the way to the nature center.

On the way to the nature center.

 

Matt also led me on a bike ride through Fort Custer State Park in Augusta. The park has campgrounds, mountain bike trails, a beach, etc.

Another beautiful day for a bike ride.

Another beautiful day for a bike ride.

 

The beach.

The beach.

 

Taking a break to watch some kayakers.

Taking a break to watch some kayakers.

I often end up running and biking around the same areas due to convenience and lack of time, but I hope to work in visits to new places more often. Hopefully I’ll have more pretty pictures to share throughout the rest of the summer!

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

 

First Try Triathlon Recap

Last year’s First Try Triathlon in Linden, MI was my very first triathlon. I chose it because it was beginner-friendly and the “super sprint” distance (300 yard swim, 9.1 mile bike, 2 mile run) is a little shorter than a regular sprint. It was a great race for my first experience. The race offers both “first try” and “fast try” divisions. The first try is non-competitive and designed for true beginners. The fast try offers awards for people who are looking to be more competitive.

Since I’ve been working my way back from injury the last couple months, the “super sprint” distance was appealing and I knew I could participate in the fast try division. I chose to make this race my first triathlon of the year on Saturday, June 21. I knew I was ready for the distance, but I wasn’t sure that my training had been intensive enough yet to count on much speed. I knew the race would be a good way to gauge my progress and see what I had in me.

As I prepared for the race the night before, part of me couldn’t help but wonder why I voluntarily choose to put myself through things like this. I used checklists to keep everything organized, but I still worried about all of the things I needed to remember to take. Forget one thing such as a bike helmet or goggles and it means the race is a no-go. I also worried the logistics of the race, such as how to get through the transitions as efficiently as possible. The worrying combined with waking up ridiculously early on a Saturday to put myself through torture seems pretty crazy when I really think about it. Despite all of that, I love it and couldn’t wait.

The ridiculously early Saturday morning started around 4:45, and I was on the road by 5:20. Linden is a little less than an hour away and the transition area opened at 6:00. I wanted to get there early to check in and get a good spot in the transition area. I remembered that it was pretty full by the time I got there last year and I had to squeeze my bike into a spot. I was able to check in quickly near the beach, then I went back to the car to get my bike and other stuff. One thing I really like about this race is that parking is available right across the street from the transition area, making it easy to go back for my bike after checking in.

The check-in area.

The check-in area.

I prefer to have my bike on a rack by the transition’s exit, and that was no problem thanks to my early arrival. I chose a spot right next to a guy with a really fancy bike, so I suspected he knew what he was doing. We talked for a little bit and he gave me some good advice. I found out later that he did indeed know what he was doing – he was the overall winner of the race! He’s 61 years old and races nearly every weekend through the summer. Very impressive!

The transition entrance.

The transition entrance.

The transition area.

The transition area.

The transition area closed at 7:20 so I had some time to kill before then. It rolled around before I knew it and it was time to gather at the beach for the pre-race meeting.

The beach.

The beach.

People could warm up in the water before the meeting, so I went to see how the water felt. I didn’t get all the way in because it was only about 60 degrees outside and I was afraid I’d freeze once I got out. The pre-race meeting went over every aspect of the race, then the first wave of fast try men went down to the water. I really like the wave starts for the swim as it reduces the congestion and craziness. I was in the second wave, and I’d guess that there may have been 15-20 women. We had a couple minutes to get ready in the water then we were off!

I’ve only swum in open water a couple times – this race last year and one other triathlon. My lack of experience was apparent immediately. It’s not that I freaked out, but my style and breathing were terrible at the beginning. I’m still not really used to “sighting” when I can’t see anything through the sandy water and I have to lift my head to spot the buoys. I had no rhythm and took a breath on every stroke for nearly the first half of the swim. As the group spread out more, I finally got into a better groove. The second half of the swim went pretty well once I felt more comfortable. I’m happy to say that I stuck close to the buoys, unlike one race where I ended up swimming way off track. 300 yards is pretty short, so I was probably in the water for a little over six minutes.

The swim, including the run to the transition area.

The swim, including the run to the transition area.

The run up the stairs to the transition area is included in the swim time, and it’s a lot of stairs to run when you feel wobbly coming out of the water!

Quite a climb!

Quite a climb!

My swim time was 7:39 and I tried to hustle through the transition as I grabbed my helmet, sunglasses, belt with my bib, and put on my socks and shoes. I got through the transition in 1:44 and headed out on the bike. Since I was in the second wave, not many people were out on the course yet, but I always seemed to have someone in front to chase. A number of speedy bikers with fancy bikes and aero helmets came along and zipped right past me. They always make me feel like I’m barely moving. The course is relatively flat with a little bit of rolling.

The bike elevation map.

The bike elevation map.

Because it’s an open course, there were some cars to deal with, but it wasn’t an issue. Plenty of people were along the course to direct us and stop traffic at crossroads. It went pretty well, aside from the moment when a dog ran in front of me. It came out of nowhere and made me swear out loud. Luckily it was far enough in front of me and I didn’t have to slam on the brakes, but it still freaked me out. I finished the bike in 31:42.

I kept moving pretty good and made it through the second transition in 37 seconds. My legs usually feel heavy as I start the run, but I noticed a slight numbness in my feet for at least half a mile this time – something new for me. I kept a good pace as I ran along the paved trail, but my breathing was pretty bad. The first half of the run was a bit of a struggle and when I felt like I should have run a mile, it was frustrating to realize I’d only run half a mile. I knew it was a bit of a climb at the beginning, and when I look at the elevation map, now I realize why the first half felt so tough…especially right off the bike.

The run elevation map.

The run elevation map.

The last part of the race went through a wooded area, and it was a nice way to break things up. At that point I gained on and passed a woman who led by quite a bit on the bike. That helped motivate me to finish strong. I finished the run in 14:57.

With my medal post-race.

With my medal post-race.

It took a few minutes for me to recover from a tough run, and the other woman finished just nine seconds behind me. We congratulated each other on a good race, with me complimenting her on a solid bike portion and she complimented my run. One fun thing about triathlons is seeing how everyone has different strengths. It’s interesting to see how it all plays out in the end.

The post-race food selection included oranges, bananas, grapes, and some awesome buttered bread. I cheered people on as they finished and waited for the preliminary results. I knew I had shaved a few minutes off last year’s time, so I was already happy about that.

The finish.

The finish.

I was thrilled when the results came out – I had won my age group! I think I was even more excited when I realized I was the second woman overall. This race that was supposed to be a good gauge of where I stood let me know that I’ve made more progress than I had realized.

Results.

Results.

Splits.

Splits.

The awards ceremony came a bit later, and I think my favorite moment was seeing the kids. I am so impressed by the kids who participate in triathlons. I didn’t even know about triathlons at their age! Two brothers under the age of 13 won awards. They weren’t in the area, but when they heard their names they came running and collected their glasses – which the announcer joked that they could use for chocolate milk.

Age group award.

Age group award.

Technical race shirt.

Technical race shirt.

Medal.

Medal.

When I looked at last year’s results, I realized I improved in every area. I cut almost 20 seconds off my swim, two minutes off my bike, ten seconds off my run, and both transitions were faster. I really surprised myself and it’s motivation to keep training hard. My back did ache a bit through the day, but I felt relatively good.

Overall, it was another great race and I highly recommend it. It helped me realize that I’ve made great progress as I move past my injury, and I have more in me at this point than I realized. I’m excited to keep training through the summer, increase the distance, and hopefully do several more races.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

 

Bouncing Back

Getting back to running and exercise in general after my car accident in March has been a gradual process. Although the aching in my back is not 100% gone yet, it’s getting close and I feel like I’m finally back on track when it comes to training.

Somehow I managed to survive not running for six whole weeks. When I did start to run again, I basically felt like I was starting from scratch. I was very cautious because I knew if I pushed too much my back would flare up. At first, I mixed some half-mile jogs into a walk. My first attempt at a continuous run was frustrating due to IT band issues. Matt and I spent a weekend in Cincinnati and we always love to go for a run when we’re on vacation so we can explore. My knee began to hurt by the time I made it to two miles and the pain got so bad I had to stop half a mile after that. It figures – my back was okay but my knee wasn’t. I hadn’t been doing the necessary rehab exercises because they irritated my back. It’s amazing what a difference those exercises make and I realized I had to reintroduce them in order to run without knee pain.

My 1st attempt at a run kind of failed, but at least the scenery was nice! The Purple People Bridge between Cincinnati, OH and Newport, KY.

My 1st attempt at a run was kind of a failure, but at least the scenery was nice! The Purple People Bridge between Cincinnati, OH and Newport, KY.

For a few weeks I didn’t run more than three miles at a time. Sometimes my back ached during or after runs, so I didn’t increase the distance until I felt better. I tried to stick to the “10% rule” of not increasing my weekly mileage by much more than 10%. Last week I ran five days, did eight miles for a long run, and finally hit just over 20 miles for the week. I had no knee issues and limited back pain. I’m thrilled, especially when I think back to the days a couple months ago when running three miles was rough on my body. I love getting outside again to enjoy the weather and see lots of beautiful sights.

The Polly Ann Trail in Oxford, MI.

The Polly Ann Trail in Oxford, MI.

Rochester Municipal Park in Rochester, MI on National Running Day.

Rochester Municipal Park in Rochester, MI on National Running Day.

Rochester Municipal Park in Rochester, MI on National Running Day.

Rochester Municipal Park in Rochester, MI on National Running Day.

Plenty of deer can be spotted on the Paint Creek Trail in Rochester Hills, MI.

Plenty of deer can be spotted on the Paint Creek Trail in Rochester Hills, MI.

During a weekend trip to the Chicago area, we were fortunate enough to run on some trails at the Busse Forest Nature Preserve in Elk Grove Village, IL. I’d built up to six miles for my long run by that point which allowed me to explore a decent amount of the park.

Nice paved trails at this park in Elk Grove Village, IL.

Nice paved trails at this park in Elk Grove Village, IL.

More scenery from the park.

More scenery from the park.

Plenty of people were out biking, running, and fishing.

Plenty of people were out biking, running, and fishing.

We also took advantage of a beautiful Memorial Day weekend and went to Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township, MI for a nice bike ride. I participated in a triathlon there last summer and have been meaning to get back there. It was fun to ride on the paths along the water and watch the boats.

Lake St. Clair Metropark.

Lake St. Clair Metropark.

One of my favorite pictures from Lake St. Clair Metropark.

One of my favorite pictures from Lake St. Clair Metropark.

Beautiful weather for a bike ride.

Beautiful weather for a bike ride.

By the water.

By the water.

Although I’m back to running relatively pain-free now, it took about ten weeks for the daily aching to fade. A spot around my left shoulder blade still bugs me now and then, but at least it’s not constant anymore. I’ve done a little bit of swimming, but as I approach a mile I start to feel that spot. I still feel it a little bit during and after biking if I hunch over too much or push the resistance. Little things like holding my phone in my left hand too long or doing other things with my left arm can set it off. For the most part, I’m doing great though and hoping I’ll be completely past all of these issues soon.

I’m feeling good enough that I’m going to test myself this weekend with my first triathlon of the year. I’m going to do the First Try Triathlon in Linden, MI. Last year’s event was my first triathlon ever and it was a great experience. The race has a non-competitive “first try” division for true beginners, and a “fast try” division for non-beginners with awards available. It’s considered a “super sprint” since the distance is shorter than a full sprint. I figure the shorter distance is a good way for me to gauge what I can handle. I’ve done a few bike/run bricks that have gone well, so I know I should be able to handle the distance. I will probably be lacking in speed, but I just want to get out there and participate again. I’m hopeful that my biking will be better this year since I’ve been consistently riding 30-40 miles per week versus maybe 20 miles per week at this time last year. I used my mountain bike for this race last time, so hopefully my nicer bike will help a bit too. I haven’t been swimming enough and have just started to reintroduce speed into a few runs, so I can only hope that I’m faster on the bike to make up for potential slowness elsewhere. No matter what my speed is, I’m excited to get back to triathlons. Hopefully I will be posting about a great race experience soon!

- Janet

follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Just a Little Patience

It’s been a month now since my training came to a complete halt when I was in a car accident that messed up my back. I’ve definitely made progress and I’ve been feeling pretty good…for the most part. For a couple weeks, I didn’t know what to expect from day to day. Sometimes my back was sore in the morning and at night but okay the rest of the day. Other times I felt fine first thing and got sore as the day went on. I’ve had several stretches of time where I thought I felt good enough to consider exercising again, then a new pain popped up to defeat my hopes. The last month has been extremely frustrating. This is much different from the kinds of injuries I’ve dealt with in the past, and my back is not something I want to mess around with.

Pretty much all activity has been on hold. For nearly a month, there has been no running, biking, swimming, or weights. I’ve been able to go for a few walks without pain, but that’s been about it. I keep attempting little things to see how it feels. I’ve found that although I CAN do certain things, I shouldn’t and end up paying for it later. Hanging from the pull-up bar and doing just one pull-up led to pain and soreness for the next two days. I’ve tried a few free weight curls, push-ups, planks, etc. and everything has resulted in back pain the next day. It’s frustrating because it seems like these things should be no big deal. I have to accept that my body still isn’t ready and I really need to be patient. When I’ve taken a break from running in the past, at least I could swim, bike, and lift weights. I’ve come to realize that pretty much everything uses the back in one way or another. After a month off, one of the things that kills me the most is knowing that I’ll be starting from scratch with all forms of training.

As I try to reintroduce activity, it seems like walking has been the safest way to start. I’ve walked as far as four miles without any issues. I got brave enough to try three miles on the elliptical last week and was frustrated by the results. I felt my back in my two main trouble spots, then my lovely IT band problem flared up and irritated my left knee after a couple miles. I’d been making really good progress with that injury prior to the accident, but I haven’t been able to do my hip/glute rehab exercises since the accident. Most of the exercises extend my back in a way that I need to avoid for now. As a result, I think my IT band has regressed. I suspect any attempts at running could be ugly until I can get back on track with the rehab exercises.

I’ve hesitated to try biking because my back gets sore pretty quickly when I sit without back support. I figured I’d give it a shot this past Saturday and I’d quit if I got uncomfortable. I kept the resistance low and successfully rode for half an hour. Finally – something I can do! I’m still feeling some discomfort in my back every day and have to be careful about certain movements, but I’m hoping things are starting to look more promising.

In the meantime, being so busy lately has helped keep me from trying too much. I went to my primary care doctor a week after the accident just to make sure everything seemed okay. I don’t think I gained much from that visit, but at least it helped reassure me that I should be fine. The doctor also made me realize that issues I’ve had with my left ear are due to noise from the side airbag. I’ve had occasional problems with sound getting distorted if it’s too loud. I hadn’t really thought about how loud airbags are, but it’s similar to having a gun go off right next to my ear. Luckily it’s not much of a problem and hopefully it will fade with a little more time. I’ve also been busy with chiropractic appointments. I’ve been going to one chiropractor three times per week and my active release/sports rehab chiropractor one time per week. They have different techniques and while the one chiropractor concentrates mostly on spinal adjustments, the other uses active release that gets the tissues and muscles. He also helps me figure out which exercises are safe at this point. I’m thankful to have a couple of great doctors who are helping me get back on track.

Hopefully the black cloud hanging over me goes away soon because I’m having a streak of bad luck on the road lately. Since the insurance company chose to total my car, I got a new one about a week later. Unfortunately, it seems like I’ve developed a tradition of breaking in my new car by blowing out a tire. When I got my last car, I hit a pothole and destroyed a tire after one month. This time, it only took me one week. Unbelievable. It was on the same stretch of road both times, so now I really dread driving through that area. At least I was just over a mile from home and was able to pull into a parking lot. Plus, since my first flat tire experience had happened only a year ago, it was still fresh in my mind and I was much smoother at changing it myself. It’s also a good thing I was so close to home because Matt was able to come help me. After taking my tire/wheel off the car, I realized it was heavier than I thought and it wasn’t very smart to lift it with my back problem. I’m very lucky that Matt could come help and lift my trashed tire into the trunk!

Obviously the last month has been a bit more exciting than I’d like. Hopefully things settle down and the drama is over. For now, I’m going to continue to be cautious and take things slowly as I try to get back to normal. I’m still hopeful that I’ll have time to get ready for the triathlon season this year. Recovering properly is the most important thing though, so I’m going to try to be as smart and patient as possible.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Car Crash

I’m sure you can guess by the title of this blog that it’s not going to be a good one. On Monday afternoon, I was in my first real car accident when my car was T-boned on the passenger side.

My poor car

My poor car

It was a sunny day with clear roads as I drove from work to the gym. I was less than a mile from the gym when it happened. I was cruising westbound on a main road around 40-45 mph when I saw the red Chevy Cruze on the neighborhood street to my right. There was just enough time for me to think, “Oh crap, he’s not going to stop.” Then BOOM, he flew into the right side of my car. I was completely conscious the whole time, but it was so fast that I couldn’t register everything that happened. I came to a stop and couldn’t see much, then I realized my side airbags were hanging down. I didn’t even know what to do. The car was stopped, so I tried to start it but it wouldn’t start. I realize now that the ignition may have shut off automatically and I probably didn’t even have the car in park. I wasn’t thinking straight then though. I was able to get out of the car and went to the side of the road. My car that had been headed westbound was now facing eastbound in the eastbound lane.

The kid who hit me (who I found out later was 21) came over to see if I was okay. I didn’t feel anything initially and it seemed like I was just rattled but otherwise fine. A nice woman stopped to make sure I was okay, and she stuck around while I called Matt and the police. I’m so thankful for smartphones because it made it easy to search for the right number to call, though it took a few minutes of me typing the wrong letters as my fingers kept shaking. After calling the police, I just stood at the side of the road. The kid said maybe I could try the car again to see if it would move. I did want to get it off of the main road where it was blocking traffic. I climbed in under the airbag and realized I still had to put it in park. Sure enough, the car started and I moved onto a side street. I called Matt again, and luckily he was able to leave work and meet me within 15 minutes or so. I knew I should take some pictures, so I snapped some of the side of my car.

The Oakland County sheriff’s deputy came pretty quickly. He asked me what happened then moved on to the kid. The kid’s mom had shown up and asked if I wanted to wait in her car. I was freezing out in the cold so I went in her car with the heat on for a minute. The deputy asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance, then told me I could wait in my car. I didn’t really want to go back in seeing as how a powdery substance comes out of the airbags and makes the car smell, but I got in anyway and cranked the heat. As I sat there, I realized the kid didn’t get to wait in HIS car – he was in the deputy’s car. The whole time we were there I never saw him get out of the car. Matt got there and I rotated on and off between crying and trying to compose myself. At some point the deputy asked if I was hurt and I said I thought my back was a little sore. He was pretty gruff and wanted a yes or no answer, so I said no. I knew that although I was a little sore at the moment, it would probably be another story by the next day. Aside from my back, my left ear felt like there was water in it or something. It didn’t feel blocked up, but there was a crackling noise. On the surface, I was totally fine. The front airbag didn’t go off, I didn’t hit the steering wheel or anything else, and the side airbags didn’t seem to do anything to me. The deputy returned my license and stuff and gave me a printout with the incident number. We had to go online to purchase the actual report. A tow truck came for my car because the airbags had deployed so I couldn’t legally drive it. We were right around the corner from the dealer, so I asked to drop the car there. I gathered some of my stuff from the car then went to Matt’s car to contact the insurance company.

Matt had an appointment with the chiropractor that afternoon and I said he should still go. He tried to convince me to come in with him, but I was still so rattled and kept crying every few minutes, so I didn’t want to go in and make a scene. He was able to get good information from his doctor and I was convinced that I should get in there as soon as possible. I’m glad we have experience with chiropractors and not only had one to turn to, but also knew the importance of getting in there after trauma like an accident. When we got home, we went to the website to get the crash report. It’s kind of annoying that I had to pay $15 for it, but I wanted more info. I was curious why I never saw the kid get out of the deputy’s car. The report said the kid had a suspended license, so that explains things. That made me even more angry. The report also showed that the kid was clearly at fault for failing to yield to a stop sign. At least there was no question about who was at fault.

I worried about my back when I went to sleep that night and made sure to lie flat on my back. I got terrible sleep. I still felt okay, but I was so worried about all of the things I’d have to deal with that I couldn’t get my mind to shut off. The next morning I was able to get a ride to work with my awesome cubemate, who was also great about taking me to a rental car place after work. I moved slowly in the morning and could tell my back was sore. I had taken some Aleve and figured it helped mask some of the pain. I was able to survive work, but I was very cautious. I take photos of cars and various parts of cars that are being tested, which often requires me to contort my body to get the shots. I really didn’t like squatting or maneuvering around things and made sure I didn’t do anything I shouldn’t. As the day went on, I couldn’t tell if my stomach was cramping or if I was feeling my ribs. In general, I was just sore and very aware of my back.

I was very fortunate that Matt’s chiropractor was willing to see me Tuesday evening. I had met the doctor before, but I had never been to him myself. Since he works with our insurance and is so close to home, I knew I should give him a try. He had me explain what happened, examined me, and gave me a gentle adjustment. He even stayed late to make sure we took care of X-rays. His initial look at the X-rays showed that my spine had twisted. We set an appointment for me to come back and analyze the X-rays more thoroughly the next day. We had plans to go to an Oakland University basketball game that night and I wanted to give it a shot. I held up pretty good, but I got pretty uncomfortable as the night went on. The game went into overtime (resulting in an OU win!) but I couldn’t handle the discomfort anymore and headed home early.

On Wednesday, I realized my stomach was not cramping and I was definitely feeling soreness around my ribs. Not the ribs themselves, but the muscles and/or tissues around them. The chiropractor confirmed that it was probably due to the twisting motion my body had gone through. I felt discomfort in the middle of my chest too. I still felt my back, with the lower back being the worst. I didn’t really have much pain, but I was extremely uncomfortable. I was able to do what I needed to at work, but I really didn’t want to be there. I was so uncomfortable that I felt pretty miserable. That evening I got to see my X-rays. In addition to a few other issues, my lower back had twisted pretty good and seemed to be the primary concern. I knew well enough that it meant a lot of visits to the chiropractor. We went through the options, with his recommendation being to come three times a week for the next two to three months. Of course I don’t HAVE to follow his recommendation, but that’s the best bet to make sure we really fix the problem and hope it doesn’t continue to haunt me over time.

When I got home that night, I was just mad. The night of the accident, I was shaken up and emotional. The day after, I was sore and uncomfortable. By Wednesday night I was in a really foul mood. I was pissed that this stupid kid who shouldn’t have been driving had screwed things up so bad. Now I was going to be stuck going to the chiropractor all the time. Don’t get me wrong – I think the doctor is a great guy and I really like him, but I sure don’t want to visit him all the time. I’d been on the phone and computer a ton to deal with the rental car, auto versus health insurance, whether my car might be totaled and I’d have to get a new one, etc. I knew that our hopes of taking a weekend road trip to Pittsburgh to see three of our favorite bands was not going to happen. I knew that participating in the indoor triathlon the following week was not going to be a good idea. I was pissed. I was extremely thankful that things were not worse and that I was relatively fine. A quick glance at the news was enough to give some perspective that my problems were really not that bad. Still, I was angry.

By Thursday, my mood was a little better. I felt better than I had the previous two days, but I still felt back stiffness in the car. I was moving better at work, but I was still cautious. Bending over, squatting, or rotating certain ways made me aware of my back instantly. After talking to someone at the dealership and someone from the insurance claims department on Tuesday, I knew that my car was damaged bad enough that it was going to be a close call whether they decided to repair it or total it. Everyone I talked to told me that I’d want it to be totaled. I’d have to wait at least a month for it to be repaired and would have to pay for the rental car that whole time. Even after they fixed it, I’d always wonder if they really fixed everything or if any rattle or problem that developed was from the accident. My car would certainly lose resale value. Well, I got the call that I wanted on Thursday afternoon informing me that they were going to total it. They were going to write a check for the market value of the car, and the amount they gave me was right around what I’d been hoping for.

At first glance, it seems like some damaged doors aren’t reason enough to total a car. Especially since I’d only had the car for one year! However, the damage extended into the front and rear just beyond the doors, requiring replacement of those parts. The side airbags would have to be replaced, as would the headliner that ripped when the airbags went off. With all of the parts and labor required, I guess it was more worthwhile for the insurance company to write a check and get money for all of the parts they could salvage from the car.

The damage

The damage

That door is a mess

That door is a mess

Airbags and headliner damage

Airbags and headliner damage

I headed to the dealer to get the rest of the stuff from my car and to start debating if I should try a different kind of vehicle or stick with the one I had. I test drove another one, but ultimately decided that I really liked what I had and wanted to stick with it. Full disclosure – I’m a contract worker at GM so I may be biased, but I sure was happy with how my Buick Verano handled the crash. It kept me safe and I’ve loved the vehicle for the year that I’ve had it, so I’m sticking with it. While it was fun to shop for a new car, I decided to stick with what I know I like. Hopefully everything will come through by early next week and I’ll be in a nice new car.

Though it seems like I’ve felt better the last couple days, by the evening my back is usually worse. The work week was kind of miserable simply because my back has consumed my thoughts almost constantly. I’m feeling it pretty much all of the time. Even when it’s not painful, there’s an aching and uncomfortable feeling there. The tissues and muscles around my abs and ribs are still sore at times. At this point, I’m just worried. I hope that a few months of going to the chiropractor will fix everything, but is there something else going on internally that I don’t know about? Every time I feel a twinge of anything, it makes me worry. My chest was bothering me on Friday night and it freaked me out. I have no idea if anything else could be wrong. I worry that a visit to my normal doctor wouldn’t tell me much if there’s something going on internally. Searching the internet on Friday night was probably not a good way to ease my mind. Reading about people in simple fender benders who ended up with serious health issues doesn’t make me feel good about what this pretty major side impact could have done to me.

In the meantime, my routine of swimming, biking, running, and lifting weights is on hold. I don’t want to do anything stupid, especially when my back hurts whether I’m sitting or standing. The chiropractor asked when my next race was, and he basically let me know there’s always the next one. I had been training so hard and was really excited for the indoor tri on the 15th, but I know I shouldn’t even consider it. Right now I need to make sure my body heals. This is a setback I sure wasn’t prepared for, but hopefully time and chiropractic adjustments will help and I’ll be active again soon.

If anyone out there has been through something like this before and has any advice, please feel free to share.

One more side note – I find it kind of ironic that after months of not photographing one, I’m taking photos of a side impact test at work on Monday. It figures.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Burton Hot Chocolate 5k Race Recap

On February 15th, Matt and I headed up to Burton (near Flint, MI) for the Hot Chocolate 5k. When chocolate is part of a race’s name, it immediately grabs my attention. I found the race on RunMichigan.com when I was looking for races coming up soon. I’ve been anxious to get out and race, having not done so since October’s marathon. My IT band has been getting better and I’ve reached the point where I know I can at least make it through 5k without it flaring up. I waited until a couple days before the race to register when I was convinced the weather conditions should be reasonable. It has obviously been a rough winter when I consider just above 0 degrees to be “reasonable.” Most importantly, we’d had a day or two since it had last snowed. I was hopeful that footing would be decent enough.

One perk about running this race was a noon start. Even with a 45-minute drive we had plenty of time to sleep in. We lucked out with a nice, sunny day. The sun lifted my spirits, but it was deceiving because it was still plenty cold. I wore two layers each of hats, shirts, mittens/gloves, pants, socks, plus a jacket. Bentley High School was the base for the race, so we were able to use indoor restrooms and hang out in the gym to stay warm beforehand.

Bentley High School's gym

Bentley High School’s gym

Packet pickup in the gym, and a warm place to wait for the start of the race

Packet pickup in the gym, and a warm place to wait for the start of the race

We collected our race packets, which included a long sleeve cotton shirt, a few Valentine’s Day candy hearts and mints, and a nice gel ice pack. That was something I haven’t received in a packet before and I’m sure I’ll put it to use. It’s not only large, but it’s also the kind that doesn’t freeze solid, allowing flexibility for spots like shins (the spot I tend to ice the most).

The race shirt

The race shirt

Gel pack

Gel pack

We went for a warm up jog around the parking lot about 15 minutes before the start of the race. I ran just under half a mile before heading to the starting line. We figured we should start pretty close to the front, especially with a gun start. The race started right at noon and we were off.

The start of the race

The start of the race

Pretty early into the race we got to a pedestrian bridge that took us over I-69. The spiral climb up was the only real elevation change throughout the otherwise flat course. Luckily there was a lot of salt on the bridge, leaving no worries about slipping. Certain stretches on the neighborhood roads were a different story though. Some spots were a bit snowy and I had to be cautious, so I was glad I chose to wear trail shoes with a little more traction (Merrell Mix Master Tuff). For the most part, the roads were in good shape. I was fine temperature-wise, but my eyes were watery for a bit and I didn’t really enjoy having tears running down my cheeks when it was so cold.

I felt pretty good for the first half of the race. Since I’ve been building my miles back up slowly as I’ve been coming back from being injured, I knew I wasn’t conditioned enough to attempt running at my 5k PR pace. I figured I would be okay running closer to my 10k pace, and that happened to be the pace I naturally hit for the first couple miles. Halfway through the race I encountered my usual 5k mental challenges. I didn’t want to run so fast anymore, questioned why I put myself through this, calculated what my time would be if I slowed down, etc. My breathing was pretty labored and I’m sure the cold didn’t help. As I approached the bridge over I-69 on the way back, I could see Matt up ahead. He saw me and slowed down enough for me to catch up after I crossed the bridge. He pushed me to finish strong and we crossed the finish line together. My official time was 23:43. When I looked at the results on the race’s site, there were a few pictures of the finish (as well as the one of the start seen above). There was an option to download the pictures for free! I don’t see that very often and really appreciated it. Here are a couple pictures from the finish.

Finishing together

Finishing together

Finishing strong

Finishing strong

Garmin splits

Garmin splits

Although my legs didn’t feel wrecked, my breathing was pretty bad and I needed to walk around for several minutes to recover. Once I felt okay, we headed inside. The school’s cafeteria had cups of hot chocolate and bowls of marshmallows we could scoop up into our drinks. They had little trays with a few small pretzels, graham crackers, a big marshmallow on a toothpick, and a bag of apple slices from McDonald’s. Women at the end of the line poured a big scoop of fudge into a spot on our tray. It was a really good post-race treat.

The cafeteria after the race

The cafeteria after the race

Yum!

Yum!

We sat in the cafeteria for a while and wondered when they might mention awards. Nothing was happening in the cafeteria so Matt walked around to see if he could find anything. He finally figured out that awards were at a table in the gym. I was a little frustrated that no one said anything because the gym was down the hall and there was no reason we would have gone back in there. Matt realized we could scan our bibs to see our results and we were both age group winners! We were excited to get cool little medals, then we were able to start the trek home.

Age group winners!

Age group winners!

Cool medal

Cool medal

Race stats

Race stats

We both really enjoyed this race. Neither of us considered ourselves in peak race shape, but it was nice to get back out there and enjoy the race environment again. I saw this race as a way to measure where my current fitness level is coming back from injury. I was really happy with how it went, though it’s clear that I need to work on speed endurance more. I felt good, but I know I have more in me. I’ve just worked my way back up to 20 miles per week again and have slowly reintroduced speedwork the last few weeks. One of the most important things for me was to get through the race pain-free. I’m sure it helped that the course was so flat, and luckily the climbs up and down the pedestrian bridge didn’t seem to bother my IT band. Though I would have told you otherwise halfway through the race, it was nice to get back to racing again.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography

Rebuilding a base

After running a total of 37 miles in December, I was pretty happy to make it up to 69 miles in January. One of the most frustrating parts of dealing with an injury is how slow it can seem to rebuild the base mileage. I’d prefer to maintain a base of 20-30 miles per week, but that just wasn’t possible when I could only run three miles at a time a few times a week. I’ve increased my mileage gradually over the last couple of months as my IT band has become more cooperative. I’m up to four days of running per week now and have finally gotten close to 20 miles per week. Crossing that line back into the 20s makes me feel more secure and like I’m heading back towards where I want to be.

My IT band recovery has been going pretty well. ART has made a difference and I’m now going in for treatment every two weeks or so. I think the hip/glute/core rehab exercises have made a huge difference. I’ve been doing things like side leg raises, clamshells, squats, exercises with a stability ball, etc. on a regular basis and it seems to be paying off. I’ve been running pain-free for the most part, but I’m not totally in the clear yet. I realized that the hard way when I attempted to run five miles at Stony Creek Metropark recently and couldn’t pull it off. I’ve been trying to run on flat stretches as much as I can. The flattest stretch at Stony tends to be really windy at the beginning, and we went on a day when the wind was especially brutal. I thought it might be best to avoid that stretch and head up the hills instead. Even gently rolling hills make a difference with a sensitive IT band, and I guess it doesn’t take much to set me off. I had decided to go out halfway and run back, which was a mistake. I was feeling overly confident because my knee hadn’t hurt for weeks. I’d been smarter for other outside runs because I’d never go more than a mile or so away from the car in case the pain started and I had to quit early. Well, I started to feel my knee after three miles, meaning I still had two miles to go. I managed to push through four miles, but the pain got bad enough that I had no choice but to walk. When it’s windy and 10 degrees outside, it’s no fun to walk a mile to get back to the car. That was a frustrating run for me and made me realize that I still need to be cautious. I was smarter during a run at Stony yesterday and stuck mostly to the flat stretch, adding a little bit of hills towards the end of the run. The pain still caught up to me eventually, but I made it through 6.75 miles – my longest run in recent months.

Regaining a solid base has allowed me to reintroduce a little bit of speed. I’ve taken that slowly as well, starting with some 400s at 10k pace one week, then 800s at 10k pace the following week. Last week I rotated between 800s at 10k pace and 400s just below 5k pace, making it through three of each before I’d had enough. So far so good! I’ve been on the treadmill for the most part, which is the only way I’ve been able to get good enough footing to pick up the pace. The few runs I’ve done outside have been on the slower side due to spotty footing. It seems like the snow has been non-stop this winter and I’m extremely cautious about slipping. I really don’t like to run on slippery and snow-covered sidewalks, and doing so while my IT band is iffy probably isn’t ideal. Smart layering has helped me feel fine running in the ridiculously cold temperatures – it’s really the footing that bothers me the most.

The treadmill is really getting old, so I’ve tried to get outside for a run each weekend. When I heard that a ton of snow was coming last weekend, I was frustrated. I really didn’t want to attempt six miles on the treadmill, but knew things would be really messy on Saturday and Sunday. Matt and I debated whether we should try a run late on a Friday night while it was still clear. It had been a long day on my feet at work, followed by dinner and a basketball game. Tacos and a couple of monster sugar cookies aren’t my typical pre-run meal, so I didn’t know how well that would go over. We didn’t get home until after 9:00 at night and I was pretty wiped out. A run didn’t seem ideal, but neither did running through the snow or on the treadmill the next morning. Knowing that Oakland University’s campus is well-lit, we knew we could get away with a nighttime run there. We viewed it as an adventure and figured we’d cut it short if we didn’t feel up to it. Oakland’s campus has some rolling hills, which I’ve been trying to avoid. We managed to find enough sidewalks and empty parking lots to get the mileage in while also keeping it relatively flat. We had headlamps, but didn’t need them for the most part because nearly all of the areas had enough light. I’d been aiming to run six miles and luckily my knee held up. We finished the run sometime after midnight and we thought it was a pretty fun and different kind of Friday night date. It’s definitely not our typical running time! One of the best parts was sleeping in the next morning, seeing a ton of snow out the window, and knowing we didn’t have to go anywhere. Instead, I hopped on the bike in the basement in the early afternoon and got in a workout without having to venture out in the snow.

Speaking of the bike, I’ve been trying my best to ride three days each week. I’m not always successful but have been pretty good. I’ve made it up to 22 miles for one long ride and I try to ride at least half an hour each time. I love having a bike in our basement because watching TV keeps me distracted. I watch anything from the news to Seinfeld to concert DVDs and it really helps the time go by.

I’ve also been pretty good about swimming twice a week. I’ve been getting up crazy early to swim a mile one morning during the week, and I get in a longer swim during the weekend. I’ve built up to swimming two miles the last few weekends, and I feel like I’ve definitely improved. I’m sure swimming twice a week has made a big difference, versus the one weekend swim I used to do each week last year. I’ve been working in some speed, doing 8x50m repeats at first, then bumping up to 100s. The last couple weeks I’ve done 8x100m repeats and felt pretty good. I’ve been trying to get some brick workouts in as well, even doing the full swim/bike/run thing a couple times. I realized today that I probably need to fuel better when I do that though. After swimming a couple miles and biking 10, I got on the treadmill for a few miles. Things were all good for the first mile, but then my stomach cramped up. Every now and then I get stomach cramps that I can’t run through, and this was one of those times. After a mile and a half I had to call it quits. I drank a few sips of water between sets while swimming and drank fairly often on the bike, but maybe it wasn’t enough. I’d been working out for a good 1:45 when I had to quit running, and I probably need a sports drink or some kind of snack to fuel that kind of workout. I guess training is a good time to realize these things.

I’m trying to get enough solid workouts in for all three sports because triathlons are my ultimate goal this summer. The first race that I’ve actually signed up for is coming in mid-March. That’s when our local Life Time Fitness has its yearly indoor triathlon.

Life Time Indoor Tri

Life Time Indoor Tri

When I did the race last year, it was my first attempt at doing any kind of triathlon. I loved it and I’m curious to see if I can improve on last year’s time. I’m not feeling confident that my run is fast enough yet, so hopefully working harder on biking and swimming lately can help make up for it.

In the meantime, I keep eyeing 5ks each weekend. For the most part, the weather and poor footing have kept me away. One of these weekends maybe I’ll finally decide at the spur of the moment to go for it. There’s a hot chocolate 5k in Burton next weekend that I’m considering now. It starts at noon, involves chocolate, and it might be a little warmer – definite perks.

I have a couple more things to update that tie in with my last post about strength training. First, I’ve been sticking with the pull-up workout I talked about and it’s going really well. I’ve been doing it for a month now and have already been able to do a few more reps than I could do when I first started the workout. Matt started doing the workout as well, and it’s fun to encourage each other and see how we improve. Second, I finally found a way for all of the time at the gym to pay off – literally! Matt and I went to Oakland University’s homecoming basketball game a couple weekends ago. There were a lot of different activities, including a push-up contest. I was really excited about that because it’s right up my alley! Orthopedic Spine and Sports had a table outside the gym where people could do push-ups to win a pizza or gift card. The male and female winners would get $25 gift cards, and anyone who did at least one push-up would be entered to win a pizza at halftime. I was thinking more about the pizza, but was curious how many push-ups the female leader had done. 35 was the number to beat and I figured that would be pretty rough since I usually stop at 25, with 30 probably being the max I’ve ever done. I had to give it a shot though, and immediately I realized that their setup made things easier for me. They had a foam block on the floor to make sure everyone’s chest went low enough. I usually go low enough for my nose to touch the floor, so I didn’t have to go quite as low as I’m used to. It allowed me to squeeze in a few extra push-ups, and my arms finally gave out after 36. That was good enough to take the lead, and apparently I hung on to it since I got a call the next week to pick up a $25 Visa gift card! I was so excited. It’s not too often I come across a push-up contest, let alone one that earns me money!

Even if I’m not quite where I want to be with running right now, mixing it up with weights, swimming, and biking is keeping things fresh. I’m sure all of the other activities have helped me maintain a level of fitness that helps make up for running fewer miles. Hopefully my IT band will continue to improve, and in the meantime, I’m satisfied that I’m nearly up to seven miles considering how I struggled to hit three just a couple months ago.

- Janet

Follow me on Twitter @reidphotography