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.
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.
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