Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sarah's First Running Injury

... I'll have to put that on a Christmas ornament for next year.
A little over a week and a half ago I ventured out on a post-work 5 miler. Totally normal mileage for me during the week and a route I've completed many times. About 2 miles in I could feel a dull ache starting to pulse in my knee. Nothing too painful to run through, but I was aware it was there. I stretched, foam rolled and iced it, taking it easy the next day with another round of stretching, foam rolling and icing.

I completed a couple more runs that week, including a 7-miler last Saturday, each time being extremely aware of my knee and any sign of the pain, but was lucky enough that it didn't seem to return. After a couple runs earlier this week and a day of cross-training, I set out on Thursday for 4 miles of hills. This time, I didn't get more than a mile in before I could feel the ache begin. Through another 3 miles, hills included (possibly not the most intelligent decision) it continued to ache and grind. I felt frustrated and stumped but was glad to get the miles in and came home to, once again, stretch, foam roll and ice. 

I took yesterday off again to ice and take care of it in anticipation of my scheduled 8-miler this morning. I could still feel the ache yesterday morning but tried to look past it. Today, when we set off toward Comm Ave, I could feel the pain right away. Per usual, it started as a dull ache and I continued to run through it. I borrowed a knee band from Molly to try and give it some more support, but I think this time around it only postponed the inevitable. About 3 miles in I knew there was no way I was making it through all 8 and reluctantly settled for run-walking my way back toward Brighton.

Since I started running seriously in 2011, I haven't had a single injury. Aside from typical muscle tightness, occasional chaffing or blisters, etc. I've been incredibly lucky. I've watched a number of friends cope with injuries - from shin splints and hip flexor issues, to knee problems and more. I heard all about their injuries, watched their frustration, and could never honestly say "I know how you feel." I took my good health for granted and was able to complete my training without any problems.

For many people training for Boston, today was the last long run they'll need to complete before the Marathon. I had hoped that running along Comm today would help inspire me to push harder and remind me why I've come to love running. Unfortunately, as I sunk into run-walk mode, I couldn't help but feeling angry, frustrated, disappointed and defeated. I can't tell you how many 8-milers I've completed, why should today be any different? I'd try to run, get about one hundred yards, and then have to stop. 

This morning was humbling. I watched so many amazing runners tackle Heartbreak Hill and the course through BC, saw so many organizations with water stops set up, thanked countless Boston Police officers for their help directing traffic so that runners didn't need to worry about stopping at busy intersections. Meanwhile, here I was stubbornly struggling to finish something that should be more than doable.

For now, I'm just going to wallow. I don't like being derailed. I have training to complete, and there's less than two months until Reach the Beach. I'm still angry and frustrated. I kind of just want to relax, eat my feelings and pretend like the world is ending. OK, slightly dramatic, but that's pretty much what I've felt like for the most of today.

So here I sit, on my couch, icing my knee for what seems like the 20th time in the past week and a half. I'll foam roll again, I'll stretch again, and I'll definitely ice again. And I'll try to come up with some kind of plan to move forward and fix whatever is going on. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Weekend

2013 is the first year since living in Boston that I've been in the city for St. Patrick's Day. I can't tell you how many times that made people gasp this past weekend... "What do you mean you've never been in Boston for St. Patty's celebrations?!"

Regardless, this year I was excited to be in town and embrace whatever small fraction of Irish I might have in me. Although, I would like to petition for new holiday colors. I don't own a whole lot of green, which makes it kind of inconvenient to fully embrace the spirit. Don't worry, I'm only half kidding, please don't stone me.

I started the weekend early, embracing Pi Day on Thursday with a 3.14 mile run. Don't let that lap pace fool you, that was my sprinting effort to get home and warm up. That whole changing-up-my-apparel-to-embrace-spring thing was a little premature. I don't actually run a 7:43 mile.

Birthday celebrations Friday night were followed by a Saturday morning 7-miler, Wrentham shopping adventures, Big-East Championship games and a Sunday full of Southie St. Patty's shenanigans with friends.

How did you celebrate your St. Patrick's Day?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring Running Gear

I don't know about you guys but I've officially caught spring fever.

After yet another snow storm last week, we're finally seeing temperatures in the high-40s, low-50s. In true New England fashion, I'm ready to break out the flip flops and fling open the windows in my apartment.

In case you haven't figured it out, I kind of loathe hitting the gym after work and fighting for machines (cough, treadmills, cough) that I don't even like. Thankfully, the combination of daylight savings and warmer weather has given me more opportunities to spend time outside! I went on my first post-work outdoor run Monday night and couldn't have been happier.

Warmer weather here means adjustments in my running apparel lineup, and though I may bite my tongue next week when an unplanned storm leaves us with another 6+ inches of snow, for now I'm putting away my heavy layers.

Check out some of my favorite spring running gear:

As a side note, the prices listed for Nike gear reflect what's on their website. I buy all of my Nike gear from the Nike Outlet store, and they usually have some pretty great deals.

I've also started trying out the active apparel lines from stores like Target and Old Navy and have loved what I've found so far. They have some quality stuff for really affordable prices.

What's one piece of running gear you can't live without?
Where do you usually shop for running gear?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Easy Confetti Mac and Cheese

I have a serious weakness for Mac and Cheese. Ask anyone I know and they will vouch for that fact. Unfortunately, it's not the healthiest weakness, but what comfort food really is?

You should also know that I am not a Kraft fan. Even in college, when Easy Mac was a pretty standard choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the majority of Bentley's student population, I just couldn't do it. I guess when you grow up with parents and grandparents who only feed you the good, homemade stuff, the cheap alternative just doesn't cut it.

My roommate pinned a recipe for Confetti Mac and Cheese a while back and whipped it up one day for a quick weekend lunch. I'll admit in hindsight that I was a little hesitant, but the girl knew what she was doing. I mean, Annie's is still from a box, but it exceeded my expectations and makes for a great, quick and somewhat healthier choice for a classic comfort food.

1 Box Annie's Organic Shells & White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
3 Tbs lowfat milk
2 Tbs butter or margerine
Chopped veggies as desired*
*I used carrots, onion, broccoli and a handful of fresh spinach

Prepare Mac and Cheese as directed on the box. While the pasta is cooking, chop desired veggies and saute them with butter, adding salt and pepper seasoning as desired.

Mix veggies in with your Mac and Cheese and enjoy!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Race Recap: Hyannis Half Marathon

All week long I dreaded checking the weather for Sunday, February 24. I did it anyways, and every time I looked the forecast stayed the same - snow/rain/high winds with a temperature hovering in the high 30s. That's what you get for signing up for a race in February on the Cape, Sarah.

I think my attitude throughout the week, regardless of how many times I checked the weather, was to just ignore what was coming. This is totally unlike me, but given the situation I knew there wasn't anything I could do about the weather. Instead, I focused on getting excited to run my first race of 2013 and spend time with some great people.

Disclaimer: as a race review and recap, this is kind of a long post, so please settle in or tune in next time!

Race Expo

We stuck with our original plan, and mid-afternoon Cat, Molly and I headed down toward Hyannis.

The race expo was held at the Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis, which is also conveniently where the start and finish lines of the race were. It was fun to see them beginning to set up, and get a sense of where we'd be headed the following morning.

The race expo was set up in the first floor ballroom and, in my opinion, was just your basic expo. It wasn't the biggest I've seen but it also wasn't the smallest. Lots of smaller vendors out in the hallway with bigger vendors like Marathon Sports in the ballroom itself.

Packet pickups consisted of a large manilla envelope with your bib and safety pins along the tables. They had plenty of volunteers there and it wasn't busy mid-afternoon so we were in and out in no time. 

After picking up your bib you moved over to where they were distributing long sleeved t-shirts. The size you chose during your initial race registration was specified on your bib envelope so there was no confusion. A woman next to me did ask to exchange for a different size but they were sticking to what people had ordered with the opportunity to exchange on race day if there were extras. 


After a mandatory post-expo pit stop at Mary Lou's, we hunkered down for a low key evening of baked ziti, games and relaxing.

With a start time of 10am, we didn't need to rush to get ready on Sunday morning. We took our time, stared out at the pouring rain, forced down some bagels, peanut butter and bananas and began layering up and getting ready to head out.

We arrived at the start around 9:35, the perfect amount of time to head into the Conference Center for last minute bathroom stops and one last chance to mentally prepare. Given the weather conditions, having the conference center right there to provide shelter until the last minute was really helpful and comforting.

The field size for this race isn't big in comparison to some others (400 max for the marathon and 2500 max for the half marathon, plus some 75 relay teams), so there's no corrals or staggered starts... at least that I was aware of. We finally bit the bullet and headed outside around 9:58am during the National Anthem and made our way toward the start line, funneling in with the other runners as the race began.

Course, Staff and Spectators

The course itself is as described on the race website, flat and gentle with a few rolling hills primarily occurring between miles 5-8. Nothing to be afraid of, which was good for me considering I really didn't look at an elevation or course map prior to the race. We ran mostly through residential neighborhoods with a few sections along roads with ocean views. The views in the beach areas were nice, but not necessarily what we wanted to see on race day considering they meant that you were more exposed to the wind.

Volunteer coverage for the race was average - not bad, but not amazing either. I think this may have had something to do with the weather, which was understandable. I honestly believe it's harder to stand and volunteer during a race with crappy weather conditions than it is to run one. Water stations were placed about 2 miles apart for the most part, with scarce coverage at first with volunteers struggling to keep up with demand early on but it improved as we kept going.

It wasn't a big spectator course, but there were a good amount of people around cheering on runners which was especially nice given the conditions. I don't think they know how much of a boost it can be to have someone out there cheering you on, even if you don't know them.


The first few miles of the race ticked by pretty easily. I'm usually not quite comfortable with my pace until somewhere between miles 3-5 of a long run, but I felt pretty good out of the gate so I went with it. We maintained a solid 9:40 pace for most of the first 7 miles, with those slower miles clocking in higher due to traffic at a water station and a few instances of road flooding that we had to tip toe around. 

I started to feel the fatigue a bit starting at mile 8 and plaguing me up until right around mile 11. I could tell my legs were starting to get heavy and it was harder to stay focused and mentally strong. Molly had asked me around mile 10 what my half marathon PR was and as soon as she realized we were going to beat it she started to pick up the pace.

I spent the remaining 3 miles cursing her name keeping up with her and focusing on letting the miles tick away. With 2 miles to go I knew it was all going to be a mental battle, and that I was more than capable of completing the race physically, it was just a question of how fast. We used the old method of focusing on a target, and then another, and then another, and started to pick people off as we picked up our pace.

With a mile to go, race-mode Molly was in full force. We kicked it in around 12.2 and focused on getting to the finish. I knew at that point I'd have a decent PR, just wasn't sure by how much. Thanks to all the puddle dodging on the course, my Garmin registered the race as 13.22 mi, so when the nice man told us we had half a mile to go when I was convinced it was more like a quarter I kind of wanted to punch him.

In the home stretch I gave up on keeping my feet dry and splashed through some pretty big puddles full-speed ahead to pass a few more people and hit the finish line in 2:07:35, over 4 minutes faster than my previous half PR. I took a few seconds to catch my breath before pressing stop on my Garmin, hence the difference in official results time and watch time.

As I mentioned early on, my attitude toward this race was somewhat nonchalant throughout the week. After running Philly in the fall, I was actually excited about racing the half marathon distance. It didn't feel like a big deal, and since I wasn't planning to sub-2 this race I just wanted to enjoy it and hopefully come out with a PR.

Despite the crappy weather, I really enjoyed the race and had a great weekend. February isn't exactly race season in the Northeast, so i was just happy to have a race to train for and get me back into distance running. There isn't much you can do about New England weather except make the most of it, and I think we did just that. Coming away with a solid PR was just the cherry on top.