Top 12 of 2012

2012 has been a busy year and it’s been the first full year of the existence of DrRachelRuns. This New Year’s Eve, I decided to reflect on some of the highs and lows of the year. My running life has been an adventure deserving of its own retrospective.  Here are my top twelve running memories of 2012:

  1. Hood to Coast – Hood to Coast has to be the best thing I’ve ever done as a runner. It was amazing. Challenging, crazy, hilarious, and downright unforgettable. Read all about it here and here.
  2. Gasparilla with my mom – I’m March, I participated in the Gasparilla Distance Classic with my mom. It was her first real race and doing it with her was something I’ll always treasure. We had so much fun that we signed up for the 2013 races on opening day – and we’re both doing multiple-race challenges!
  3. Fleet Feet coaching – This fall, I had the amazing opportunity to coach for Fleet Feet Sport’s half marathon training program. I loved my team, and I loved seeing new half marathoners succeed. The best part of the whole experience was pacing some of my team through a great first half marathon.
  4. Lucy started running – Lucy, my non-running dog became my running companion. I am delighted to have her as a running friend and I’ve loved seeing how much she enjoys running.
  5. First triathlon – In August, I completed my first triathlon. It was a wonderful experience. After nearly dying on the swim, and suffering from swim-related exhaustion the rest of the race, I learned that I could endure a surprising amount of pain and still run well. Triathlon has made me a better runner.
  6. Dartfish analysis – In January, I had professional gait analysis. It was one of the best things I could have done as a runner. I saw imbalances and potential for injury. I also saw what I was doing well. Learning more about my running, and working with my trainer on improving in key areas, has been wonderful. I’ve been healthy – thanks to catching problems before they were problems.
  7. I’ve traveled a lot! Which means I’ve run a lot, all over the country.
    1. Salt Lake City  – where I ran “at altitude” for the first time
    2. DC – once to run the Rock N Roll DC with a friend, and once for work
    3. Michigan in July
    4. North Carolina for work
    5. And I’ve been to Florida (where my parents live) a lot!
  8. Running with friends – I have some really wonderful running friends and I’ve had a chance to run all over with them. We’ve done quarter marathons, runs in dresses and skirts, relays, and races.
  9. I passed my two year knee surgery anniversary – I’m not sure why this felt like such a huge landmark, but it was. Hooray!
  10. Accidental PRs – It happened once at Rock N Roll Providence (August), and then again when I was sick at Cape Cod (October). Surely there’s a lesson to be learned in my habit of accidentally running well.
  11. Becoming president of a running club – I haven’t blogged about this one yet, but I was elected president of a running club. I feel so honored to have been trusted to lead, and revive, a club that’s faded in recent years.
  12. And, finally, growing as a runner. As I read through old posts and looked at old pictures, I saw how much I have grown as a runner this year. Not only am I inching toward my pre-surgery speeds, but I’ve tried new things (triathlon and overnight relays), and shared my love of running with my mom and true running friends. This year has been a wonderful year and I’m so grateful for the amazing things that running has brought into my life.

Happy Holidays!

Dr Rachel Runs has been on hiatus for the last several days to celebrate the holiday season. I hope that each of you have enjoyed a happy holiday time with friends and family.   I hope that you’ve squeezed in some time for fitness with friends and family. Whether it’s a run, a hike, yoga in the park, or just chasing after the little ones, the holidays are a perfect time for fitness.

It’s been a nice, but busy, end of the semester and start of the holiday season for me. For college professors, the real panic of the end of the semester starts after Thanksgiving and the work load increases until the semester ends. This year, our program had the exciting bonus of an end-of-semester visit from audits from our national accrediting body. Life was all about work for a few weeks. Horrible. Luckily, I made it through that with my sanity (at least mostly) intact. I’m so thankful for the end of the semester and the freedom that brings.

My leg has continued to heal and I’ve increased my runs accordingly.  I even managed to squeeze in a 20-mile run just in the nick of time. I’m training for the Disney Marathon (yay!) and had built into my schedule several extra weeks, just in case a winter storm thwarted my running. I was so thankful to have a few extra weeks when injury struck. Somehow, I managed to get back on track and get my 20-miler in just three days later than scheduled. It was a little slower and more painful than I had hoped, but I made it.

20 miles!

It was a huge relief to get in my 20 mile run. I am feeling much more confident about the Disney Marathon. This week, I resumed running normally. It feels amazing. Running normally meant a Sunday trail run, and wonderful runs with friends on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas Eve brought sunny skies and excellent weather. Several friends and I met to run on a paved trail with lovely views of the local reservoir.

Dam

Christmas Day, I gathered with friends for a gorgeous, snowy run on a private trail. I brought Lucy, the running dog, and she was delighted to run with her doggy friends. It was a perfect run and made my holiday special.

I have been enjoying time off, time for running, and time with friends. I hope that you’ve been doing the same.

And So It Goes

The injury saga continues. My lower leg is feeling much better than my last report, but it still is not the healthy, fully functional leg that I had hoped for. The Disney Marathon is in less than a month and I’m fully committed to doing it – even if I have to hobble along. Everyone has said that running won’t make my leg worse; running makes it hurt like crazy. I’m running out of training time and starting to get really nervous.

I’ve been doing physical therapy for about three weeks and haven’t seen much of a change, honestly. I was pronounced fit, strong, flexible, and well-balanced. My therapist didn’t have much for me to work on in terms of strength or flexibility, nor did she have any idea what cause my fibular head problem. So, we’ve been working on loosening up my fibular head through ultrasound and gentle manipulation. It has helped a little. I managed to make it 9 pain-free miles last weekend, but had shooting, horrible pain develop without warning around mile 9.5 and couldn’t walk without a limp for days after the run. Feeling discouraged, I decided it was time to take aggressive action.

I have always been a little skeptical about chiropractors. I don’t know why. I have no rational reason for this skepticism. I have done massage, acupuncture, herbal treatments, and taping for various maladies in the past, but I had never tried chiropractic care. After my discouraging run last weekend, I decided I would take a bold step – I would try a chiropractor. If two weeks of physical therapy resulted in negligible gains, it was time to get serious. I scheduled an appointment with a chiropractor.

I met with him on Tuesday and it was amazing. He examined me carefully, had me perform a variety of jumping, bending, and moving tasks, and reported that he agreed that my fibular head was stuck. He, too, couldn’t see any reason for the problem and agreed that it might be “just one of those things”. He blamed my overall structural deficiencies in the right knee (since I had major reconstruction two years ago). He suggested a few little adjustments and a laser treatment. He wiggled my leg, pushed on it, and cracked it a few times. I stood up from the table feeling completely different. It was like taking off a too-tight pair of pants – I didn’t realize how bad I felt until I felt suddenly better. It was amazing. I have another appointment today and I can’t wait. Would it be weird to go every day?

Tips for New Runners

My sister in law recently started running and I couldn’t be happier. Dreams of family races are dancing in my head. Yay! Last week, she called me to get some running advice. Turns out she was struggling with running, and, most of the reasons were completely preventable. Inspired by her questions, I submit to you my best advice for new runners, including you Couch to 5k runners in training.

Q&A for New Runners

Why are my toenails bruised?

The short answer – your shoes are too tight. Most new runners start running in old trainers (probably the ones used for mowing the lawn, or going to the gym) and it’s an important rite of passage to buy proper running shoes. If your nails are bruising, your shoes are likely too small. Most runners like shoes at least a size larger than their shoe size (ladies – a size larger than flats, at least a half size larger than pumps). Another common culprit of bruised toenails is bad socks. Socks are largely an issue of personal preference and most runners are quite passionate about socks. Synthetic, wool, or blended socks are your best bet. I’ve written about a few different kinds of socks in my reviews. It’s a good idea to buy socks specific for running that are made from high quality materials. Wicking socks will also help prevent blisters. If new socks and the proper shoes don’t help, bruised toenails may be the fault of your running form or where you run. Downhill running can increase the likelihood of bruising. Consider consulting a running coach or staff at a running specialty store for more help.

How do you tell what pace you’re running and how do you run a consistent pace?

There are lots of great apps and devices for keeping track of pace, but that’s just numeric pace. I think the best way to manage pace when starting as a new runner is by feel. Runners and running coaches often talk about “conversation pace” runs, or the “talk test”. This means that you should run most of your runs at a pace at which you can have an intelligent conversation with a running partner. If you’re panting and can only sputter out phrases, slow down. You’ll be more comfortable, and build fitness faster, if you run most of your runs at a conversation pace. Once you have a good foundation of running, you can increase speed and challenge your fitness with different runs. If you want to keep track of numeric pace, consider downloading a free or low cost app for your phone (RunKeeper, Endomodo, MapMyRun), investing in the Nike+ system (its has an app, too), or making the larger investment in a Garmin Forerunner. The Forerunner line has a GPS-enabled running watch for everyone. Keep track of your runs and pace, using any method that works for you, in a running log. Then, you can review your log to learn more about what works for you as a runner. It also feels great to see evidence of your improvement.

What should I do about post-run soreness?

Rest, ice, and stretch. Self massage also helps. I love my foam roller and The Stick for self massage. Foam rollers are available everywhere and using them is easy. Basically, you lay on top of it and roll your body across it. It’s great for large muscle groups like quads and hamstrings. Google foam roller for instructional videos, helpful tips, and shopping. The Stick is an innovative self massage tool that has rolling washers attached to a longer post. Using it is simple – roll the Stick across sore muscles. Self massage is wonderful for post run soreness.

Are walk breaks ok?

Of course! There are a number of popular methods of running that include planned walk breaks, including the super popular Hal Higdon method. There is no shame in taking a break to walk, stretch, or lower your heart rate to maintain a comfortable pace. Running should be fun and if talking a walk break makes it more comfortable and fun, then do it! There’s also no shame in stopping at stop lights and standing still. Don’t feel compelled to run in place or dance around. Rest is good.

What can I do to control skin breakouts?

My best advice is to change out of sweaty running clothes as soon as possible, but I know that doesn’t always work. Running in sweat-wicking clothing helps. Running clothes that are primarily cotton trap sweat and dirt and that contribute to breakouts. I find it also helps to exfoliate frequently and to wash my face and skin with products that contain salycilic acid. I love the Neutrogena pink grapefruit line and the St. Ives skin clearing line (for a slightly less girly smell). Neutrogena makes skin and body wipes in the pink grapefruit line and they’re wonderful.

What stuff do I really need to make running more comfortable?

You don’t need much to run, but a few small things can make your running life much more comfortable. Invest in quality shoes. They are the most important part of your running life. Clothing that’s made specifically for exercise and has wicking material will make your runs significantly more comfortable. Target has a low cost line, RoadRunnerSports.com carries everything you could imagine, and specialty retailers like Lululemon, Lucy, Oiselle, and Athleta make great products for women. Don’t run in cotton if you can help it and select seamless or flat seam garments. Body Glide is  a wonderful invention that prevents chafing. I slather it on my feet in wet weather, on seams, and on any body parts that might touch and chafe. Buy some immediately. Purchase some nice socks, particularly if you’re prone to blisters. The blister-prone should also consider getting a box or two of Band Aid Brand Blister bandages. They’re specially made, cushioned bandages that last a long time, are impervious to sweat, and heal blisters. Finally, get a nice water bottle and keep it full. Be sure to hydrate enough, particularly if you live in a hot climate. Some people prefer a handheld bottle (I love mine and wrote about them on the blog), others prefer to stash a bottle mid-run. Either way, a nice bottle helps.

(And one from my brother) How do I stop my nipples from bleeding?

Two words. Nipple Guards. They’re nifty little yellow caps for the nipples. They really help (or so I’m told). Band aids are good (and much less expensive), and, in lower sweat conditions, Body Glide can help. Bloody nipples happen when the water and salt in sweat chafe the sensitive nipples, rubbing the skin off and making them bleed. Protect the nipples with a topical guard and wear proper fitting, wicking shirts.

Tips for New Runners

There you have it. My best advice for new runners, couch to 5kers, and everyone else who’s new to running and has questions. Have a question I didn’t address? No problem! Contact me using the handy link above, tweet me, or find me on Facebook. I’m happy to help.

Connecticut Race Report – December 2012

It’s winter in Connecticut, and though we don’t have snow right now, the cold temperatures and threats of bad weather mean that racing season is coming to an end. There aren’t many upcoming races, but there are opportunities to save on great spring events. I will highlight a few great events in this short Connecticut Race Report.

December Events

Hartford Track Club Indoor Track Meet, “Bring Back the Mile”, December 9, 2012, 7-10pm – The HTC is holding an indoor track meet at Weslyean University in Middlet5own, CT.  Events include the mile and 5k. Races will be organized by age in the mile and by pace in the 5k. There is a youth quarter mile event for children.  More information can be found on the Hartford Track Club website and the listing for the event on Active.com.

Save on Registration for Spring Events

Want to get a jump start on that New Year’s Resolution? Consider signing up for one of these great spring events today. Need a training plan or a coach to help you get (and stay) motivated? Check out my coaching information.

Bolton Road Race, Sunday, March 10, 2013, 1pm, Bolton, CT – Featuring both a 5 mile and 5k distance for the second year, the Bolton Road Race has something for everyone. The 5 mile race features a challenging hill at mile 4 and both races have lovely, rural loop courses. The race is well organized thanks to a great race director. Advance registration in the month of December is only $15 online.

Hartford Quarter Marathon, Saturday, March 30, 2013, 10am, West Hartford, CT – This annual event is a favorite of local runners. The unique distance, great finisher’s buffet (with homemade food!), and friendly crowd make it a fun event. Advance registration, before January 1, is a bargain at $25.

On My Last Nerve

I’ve been kind of quiet lately, and partly that’s due to an injury. I didn’t want to write about it until I had a plan. Plans are important to me and it makes me uncomfortable to have a problem and not have a plan for responding to it. What can I say? I’m a solver. I have to have a plan.

It all started last week. I was in Florida, running and walking my dog and generally on a nice little retreat/vacation. One morning I woke up with this odd pain in my lower leg.

Thinking it was nothing, I decided to go on about my day. I was sure that the pain would subside and all would be well. About 20 feet into my run, the pain started to change from that-feels-weird to stabbing. By a half of a mile, the pain was super not kidding around and it was affecting my gait. I called it quits at one mile to walk and stretch. That didn’t help, so I ended the run. I was sure that I had just slept funny, or tweaked something and it would be better in the morning. The next day my mom and dad returned home and I set out with my mom for a walk. All was well in my leg during the walk, so I was sure it was fine. “I’ll just try a few miles”, I said to myself. I made it about 15 feet before the stabbing pain returned. I immediately stopped running and went home to ice my leg. I didn’t run any more on vacation, but I texted my wonderful massage therapist and emailed my physical therapist/athletic trainer. I’m pretty sure my text said something like “Emergency! Disaster! Leg is popping off!” I secured a massage appointment for about an hour after I would get off the plane.

During the massage, my wonderful massage therapist and I hypothesized about the source of the pain. She was able to easily find the epicenter of pain and suffering and worked on it. I met with my trainer the next day. He confirmed the diagnosis. Something had gone awry with my lateral gastroc and it was pulling on the attachment point where a whole bunch of stuff, including a little bitty nerve, come together. So the crazy, stabbing pain I was feeling was the nerve being compressed. There’s a neat little diagram here. Not so good. I’ve had a week of total rest, one decent run, two massages, one physical therapy appointment, and several terrifying run-ins with Google’s ideas about my injury.

Here’s the plan:

Significantly increase rest. Status: Boo.

PT three times a week. Status: Appointments scheduled; one completed.

Massage. Status: Done. Sports massage weekly until pain subsides, self massage with foam roller and The Stick twice daily.  I’m even carrying around a tennis ball just in case I need a quick mini-massage.

Gradually test leg on runs. Status: So far so good. Here’s hoping it’s tolerable by this weekend for a long run.

I’m determined. I will prevail – and I will run the Disney Marathon in 5 (!) weeks.