injured runner

Some runs mean just getting through the miles on the training plan. Others, well, let’s just say that they are more than just putting one foot in front of the other.

I’ve known for a while now that there’s something about the Marl Lake trail near South Higgins Lake State Park in central Michigan that can feel magical or whimsical. There’s just something special about a trail that can assault your senses with both the sounds of your trail shoes crunching on dry leaves and the smell of pines that smell like Christmas.

Marl Lake

Today’s experience assaulted something I didn’t even know I had: fear. Fear that a recent diagnosis of runner’s knee would finally bench me.

Sure, I’ve come back from hurt shoulders and my dumb butt. And I’ve been trying to remind myself that if I take a step back, invest in my recovery and do what I’m supposed to do, that I’ll get better.

But there was always that voice in the back of my head that wondered if that was really true.

Just a quarter of a mile into my run, I felt loose and relaxed. And then the runner’s high snuck up on me, like I did on the poor couple taking each other’s pictures and who jumped when I got closer (sorry!).

Runner’s high is strong with this one.

The trail was relatively smooth, with little to trip me. I was in the zone.

Until a couple of dogs darted toward me, barking but with tails wagging, their owners close behind. They warned me about upcoming flooding, but encouraged me to go forward, even offering up a long branch one of them was using as a walking stick.

Declining with a smile, I set off again, grateful that others were also enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Soon, I saw the water-covered trail the women warmed me about.

There’s always a way.

I easily walked over the logs someone had gathered over the big puddle and kept on going. Hmmm. Someone else had seen this obstruction and done something about it.

Things got wetter and wetter on the trail today.

And then, well, I just couldn’t get around. There just was no way to avoid the lake-like puddle on the trail.

No way around this one.

Sure, I could have run through (I see you, Corey Baker) and gotten my feet soaked, but I instead backtracked and re-read the trail sign, which showed another way.

Trail maps, love ’em.

Thankfully, the new route was flat and soft, covered with either dead leaves or pine needles.

Like with our running journey, sometimes the trail is smooth.

And then it hit me: the day’s trail run was an allegory for my running journey.

Sometimes, it’s perfect (runner’s high), but it’s often full of surprises (sorry again, surprised couple!) and detours (did I mention I’m injury prone?), but I always manage to get to the other side.

And then, wham, a fallen tree (or an injury) tries to stop you again.

A giant tree blocked my path during today’s trail run.

I could see that there was already a narrow area of trampled grass where others had obviously been running or walking. They’d created a new path around the fallen tree.

Just like I’m not the first person to ever get a runner’s knee diagnosis. Others have been there before and found a way to get back on track. There’s always a way, even if it means taking a step back or making your way around.

I’m not alone. I just have to follow the trail set by others to get to the other side.

With that comforting realization, I picked up my pace, running faster than I ever have on the trails before. My heart lighter than it’s been since the diagnosis. A smile on my lips.

Have you ever been injured and worried you’d never get better? What helped? Also, do you run through or around a big lake-size puddle on a trail? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

The neighbors may not have thought so, but the portable karaoke machine was brilliant.

The dancing? Spectacular.

Brandess showcasing her dance moves.

And that’s what set the tone for today’s volunteering at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Boy, we were exhausted. This gig sure tired us out.

Despite the hard work, we were all smiles today.

This chica, hard at work.

Both Brandess and I were waylaid by injuries and couldn’t pace the race as we’d planned. So we signed up as course marshals and were blessed with a blue, cloudless sky and relatively warm temperatures when we set up at 7:30 a.m. after dropping our other friends, Mira and Shannon, near the starting line. Our friend Janet spent the night in Grand Rapids, but we caught up with her later.

While I had volunteered at one previous race where I smeared Vaseline on a random guy’s nipple, this was my first as a marshal. Thankfully, I was with a pro, so we were all ready for the day.

Our well-appointed spot at near miles 3 and 10

Here are some tips, should you find yourself being volunteered volunteering at a race:

  • Check the forecast. We knew we’d have cold temperatures, so we dressed in layers (guess which one of us looked like the Michelin Man) and stripped as the morning got warmer. Remember a poncho, sunscreen and bug spray, if the day calls for any of it.
  • Get there early. We had all been to Grand Rapids many times before, but a couple of wrong turns had us arriving just in time to our location. Had we cut it too close, we would have had trouble even getting to the spot because so many streets are closed off for the race.
  • Park as close as you can. We were just a few feet from my car, so we could have easy access to the aforementioned gear, plus we didn’t have to walk through half of Grand Rapids with a bunch of stuff.
  • Bring stuff. As in camp chairs, blankets, snacks and drinks. I even brought a small, collapsible camp table. This was especially convenient because we got to park so close.
  • Have clarity. Even if you have a map or have done the race in previous years, talk to the race organizers about your role, including where runners will come from and about what time, and where you should direct them.
  • Be loud. While we did help many runners stay on the course, we also got to cheer them on. Plain old poster board signs wouldn’t do. Instead, Brandess lugged a cowbell and karaoke system, which was conveniently paired with her cell phone’s Bluetooth connection.
  • Bring a camera. Your friends and their friends will love seeing the photos you shot in between the dancing, yelling and high-fiving.
  • Remember why you’re really there. Most runners were all smiles when we saw them on their way out, a little bit after mile three. On the way back at mile 10? A few were struggling, shuffling or just plain done. We saved a lot of our energy (who are we kidding — we’re both Energizer bunnies!) for those runners. We got a few to smile, a handful to pretend we were the Soul Train Line, and even got some fluids into the race’s last runner.

That’s Janet, giving a thumbs up while pacing the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon.

Some of our awesome runner friends!

 

While I thought I would be bummed to miss racing Gazelle Girl, spending time with my friends and being surrounded by so many awesome runners made the day special. I still want to run the race again next year, but this volunteering thing? Yeah, I’ve got it down now.

What about you: Did you race this weekend? Have any tips to share for a race volunteer? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Bestest of the week

by lachicaruns on

Fast food swaps

I need to memorize this list from Women’s Running magazine so I can make better choices on the road. I’m not loading up on Whoppers, large fries and a chocolate shake (OK, now I’m hungry), but my decisions could use a little help.

Runners are just the best

And we’re pretty good workers, too. Now to find a way to add these accolades from Amanda Brooks to our resumes…

Advising new converts, I mean, runners

There are few things runners enjoy more than talking about running except for talking about running with a new runner.

Here are some tips from Runner’s World magazine on what to share so you don’t overwhelm him or her as you help them join the cult, I mean, start on their running journey.

Shin, ouch, splints

For many years, I tried to pick up running only to be sidelined immediately by shin splints. Just typing out the words makes me wince.

Sure wish I would have had some running friends back then to give me tips on how to avoid and treat shin splints like those in this Women’s Running piece. Who knows, maybe I would have stuck with it for more than a day or two.

How about you; did you find any great articles this week?

 

 

Bestest finds of the week

by lachicaruns on

There’s the bestest and then there’s better. Balance, that is.

And this Runner’s World piece shows you three quick exercises that take just four minutes. All you need is a band, which I happen to have, to improve your balance, which I happen to lack.

I should do something about that.

Shin splints (she types and shudders)

When I first started running, I got shin splints really bad. I was so new, I didn’t even know what it was or what to do about it.

That’s where Women’s Running comes in. This piece by Dr. Jeffrey Sankoff does a great job explaining what they are and what to do about them. In my case, some rest and proper shoes made a huge difference and I’ve not had that problem since.

We don’t need to stinkin’ reasons to eat cherries

Those of us who live in the Michigan tundra and who look forward to summer all winter long are rewarded with the best cherries you’ve ever tasted. They’re, in a word, perfect.

But those of you who aren’t so fortunate to have had that experience and may benefit from some convincing may want to read this Women’s Running piece touting the virtues of the humble — yet yummy — cherry.

But I needed a reason to order one more thing from Skirt Sports

OK, not really. But I have been eyeballing this visor, which my friend Brandess has encouraged me to try.

Then I came across this Competitor magazine piece that rates visors a bit higher than hats for running in the heat.

Now I have some scientific (sorta, OK one coach’s opinion) proof that I need to order the visor.

Note: I was not compensated for mentioning Skirt Sports in this post, but I am a Skirt Sports ambassador captain. If you want to get 20 percent off your next regular-price purchase (a visor, perhaps), use code SSLCR20.

Did you find any great stuff this week? What was your favorite running-related story or blog post (including your own)?

 

 

 

Although I often stretch after returning home from a run, I rarely take the time to do so beforehand, or properly. I came across this piece in Running Times this week while reading another piece on how to avoid running mistakes.

I’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth getting a reminder, especially for those of us who are injury prone.

Could this BE any funnier?

Best show ever? Someone’s obviously never watched MASH, but this piece showing Friends gifs still made me chuckle.

Safety first

I’m a ninja, so I feel confident and comfortable running by myself, but there were some reports of problem dogs in our neighborhood, so I started carrying pepper spray.

It really concerns me that a woman can’t feel safe running by herself anywhere, but having grown up in a big city, I’m also realistic and practical.

This Women’s Running piece by Natalie Diblasio makes some great points and provides information on two new-to-me types of items to help runners feel — and become — safer.

Advice I could have used, so I’m making sure you have it

I started marathon training way too early for a September race in part so I could run a virtual half marathon with my friend Brandess. But then I didn’t know how to adjust my training, so I repeated about three weeks with no particular plan before getting back on the wagon.

Here’s some advice from a Runner’s World expert on how to adapt your training if you have some additional time before your race.

And we have no winner

I offered up a free Skirt Sports visor for commenting on my previous Bestest Finds of the Week post but, alas, got no bites. I’ll give it another try sometime soon.

In the meantime, feel free to leave me a comment below on why you haven’t commented before. (See what I did there?)

Did you find any good running-related pieces this week? What’s your favorite TV show?