Cross training

As I wrap up my year, I can say that it’s been one of my absolute best.

While I was recuperating from my fourth shoulder surgery just over a year before, I got several very-long runs and races in this calendar year, including my fourth 50K ultramarathon in September that had me PR by 37 minutes from my previous fastest 50K in 2017It's me, immediately after I finished the 50K. I'm smiling. Wearing my water vest and a pair of dorky glasses

Looking back, there were some key things that helped me get such a big personal best:

  • I set a SMART goal. That’s one that is specific, meaningful, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Not only did I decide that I would sign up for — and run — Woodstock again, but I decided that this was the year when I would get a personal record.
  • I cross-trained, even when I didn’t want to. I’m not a big biking fan, but I rode our Peloton stationary bike at least once a week, often for 45 minutes or an hour. I also did yoga at home once a week, took at least one rest day every week, and got between seven and eight hours of sleep most nights.
  • I followed Dr. Awesome’s orders. I see a manipulative-medicine doc about every other month. He’s awesome. And he’s given me excellent advice through the years. He fully supports my running, but he’s pushed me to really take care of myself, including the aforementioned cross training and resting. He also only cleared me to get back on the trails if I do my run/walk intervals. Just a good mix for my piriformis/butt/knee pain. It works for me.

As for the actual race, my friends and I arrived late afternoon on Friday, set up my motorhome at the nearby state campground and went to packet pickup for Run Woodstock at Hell Creek Campground.

the Hell Creek Campground map, showing the important spots for the race

Packet pickup was super easy and, thankfully, very close to the entrance. We could have just left, but we were hoping to see friends there, including two who had started their 100K race at 4 p.m. (We can’t math, so we were too early to see them.)

We still lingered for a while, checking out the pre-race festivities, and cheering the faster runners who were already coming through from their first loop.

The evening was uneventful (unlike the buckets of rain and the storms the night before my first ultra) and we made it to the race with enough time to take care of our drop bags and make a pit stop.

Picture of most of the members of our group, in the dark, but wearing headlamps. We're all smiling.

Because we’re the Mullet Crew (we’re the party in the back!), the going was very slow for the first half hour or so. The first bit is hilly, the trail is narrow, and there are literally dozens and dozens of people in front of you, plus you’re in the dark and not quite sure where you’re going.

The person in front of me; can only see them because I'm wearing a headlamp.

I was particularly grateful for my nice headlamp, which I wore for the first hour, until we got to a section that has fewer trees, the trail widens and the sun is starting to come up.

As with previous years, we brought fuel and hydration vests, but relied on the amazing aid stations, conveniently spaced about 4 miles apart. The food — and the volunteers — were as awesome as always. I followed my running coaches’ advice and made sure to eat and drink more than in previous years — especially after last year’s blood-in-the-urine fiasco.

Because I run with amazing people, my friends fully supported my goal of beating my best previous time. A couple of us stuck together for the first loop and, later, I ended up with my friend Walisa, who was running strong and made for great company — even during some miserable hills.

A selfie with Walisa in the background, with her hands up in the air, smiling.

About a quarter of the way into our second of two loops, Walisa was slowing down and I kept getting ahead of her. I went back a few times to make sure she was feeling well and she encouraged me to keep going, knowing of my year-long goal.

After a significant internal struggle, I trusted her judgment and ran ahead, alone.

The rest of the trail was particularly challenging because there are at least a gazillion (OK, more like five) very steep and looooong hills at a time when you’re just spent.

a photo of a particularly steep hill

Because I was by myself for quite a while, I dug deep and used self talk, including my mantra of “trust the plan,” to power through. As with other trail races, I encountered dozens of 100K and 100-mile runners who took the time to encourage *me.* It’s just an amazing feeling to know how far they’ve gone and that they’re thinking of others, despite what I’m sure is a ridiculously tough time.

I did stop to check on a few 100 milers who looked pretty rough, just to make sure they had enough fuel and to share words of encouragement. One told me he planned to quit as soon as he got to the next aid station. He was leaning heavily to the side (a tell-tale sign of exhaustion), but kept shuffling because that’s just what you do. He declined any help, but I made sure I told the volunteers about him so they could send someone out.

Another time, I stopped a few men for a moment to give a 100-miler a few seconds of privacy as she finished peeing while leaning on a tree, right on the side of the trail. They were incredibly understanding and went along, taking advantage of the very short break to fuel and check their gear.

It was these experiences, coupled with a strong training season and my Hamilton soundtrack, that gave me the second wind I needed to keep up with my run/walk intervals.

In the end, I was pretty sure I had made good time, but didn’t realize just how much faster until later that evening, while I sat, eating yummy Spanish food while waiting for our friend Shannon to finish her first 100K race. Watching her run in was one of the most-satisfying memories in my seven years of running.

As always, I am forever grateful to running for bringing these — and many other — people into my life. Because runners make the best friends ever.

A bunch of our ultramarathon-running friends, sporting our medals

Have you PR’d a race before? What did you do to get that personal best? Have you run an ultra? Do you want to? What’s your favorite thing about running? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

A year ago, I write about what to consider before getting a Peloton stationary bike. A few friends have since asked me if I was still using the Peloton as much, and whether I thought it was worth the rather-large investment.

The short answer is yes and yes. Here’s a bit more detail if you’re still on the fence about getting a Peloton:

  • Peloton resources. I have watched a couple of the set-up videos again, especially about the height of the bike to accommodate my height (5-foot-5). But it’s been quite a while and I now automatically just know which settings to use without even thinking about it. As for the Peloton Facebook group, I genuinely couldn’t handle it after a month or two. Those people are nuts about their bikes. Lesson learned: You may fall in love with the bike and may want to wax poetic about each and every one of your rides. That’s just not for me.
  • Comfort. Once I got padded shorts and learned how to properly sit with my bum in the very back of the seat, I haven’t had any problems with pain or discomfort. Lesson learned: Invest in a few basics like proper shorts and shoes. Just like with other sports, it’s always worth spending a little bit of money for the gear.
  • Difficulty. It took a few months, but I can now easily handle an hour-long class. I found it very important to test out  a few coaches before settling on someone whose personality, music and difficulty fit my needs. I’m currently partial to my boo Cosby Rigsby, in large part because he’s encouraging and positive, and plays Latin music. Oh, you noticed he’s good looking? Yeah, there’s that. Lesson learned: There are literally dozens of potential combinations of coaches, music, length and difficulty. Try a few things, then try a few more. You will find the right fit and will enjoy the variety.
  • Shoes. I found my shoes to be a bit uncomfortable and almost gave up on them. Instead, I now wear slightly thicker socks and my feet feel great. I still can’t clip and un-clip with ease, so I just leave my shoes in all the time. El husbando takes them off when he uses the bike and has yet to complain. It works for us. Lesson learned: Some of the classes involve a lot of getting up from the seat and — if you’re dancing with Cody — sometimes even some dancing. I don’t think I could do half what I do on the bike without the stability that comes from the cycling shoes.
  • It’s still biking. Yes, but this klutz also feel a whole lot safer. Since I’ve since had my fourth shoulder surgery, I appreciate that I don’t have to worry about falling. Or being chased by dogs. Or swallowing bugs. Lesson learned: I thought the experience would encourage me to get a real bike. Meh. I don’t see a reason to at this point.
  • Consistency. Absolutely my most-favorite thing about the Peloton is that I can ride it any time of day year-round. I’ve used it before the sun came up and just before bedtime. The bike helped me stay active right after my shoulder surgery and during periods when I’ve been injured and benched from running. And I got a ride in earlier this week when the temperatures were double-digits…below zero. Lesson learned. The Peloton bike has been one of the best things I’ve done for my running. It’s great cross-training that I can easily squeeze in, even on the busiest of days.

So is a Peloton bike for you? Considering the bike with all of the gear and a year’s worth of classes cost more than my first car, you would think that I might hesitate before answering that question.

Given how much use el husbando and I have gotten out of it, it certainly has been a great investment for us. Going in, I wasn’t really sure whether I would either enjoy using it or whether I would really include it as part of my training plan. But I’m pleased to look back and see how it’s become an integral part of my weekly training plan — a plan that my sports medicine and manipulative medicine doctors both agree is the right one for me.

So, have you gotten a Peloton? Still planning on getting one? Why or why not? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

It’s been two-and-a-half-months since Dr. Awesome benched me because he (and since then, another doc) diagnosed me with micro tears on my calf muscle, yet I’m still working out four or five times per week and sweating as much as ever.

I had to take some time off in the beginning, but I’ve been cleared to increase my activity, using pain as my guide. Translation: any pain = stop. So far, so good.

Since I’m not spending a chunk of my weekend mornings running double-digits, I seem to have a little more time on my hands. I’ve invested that time painting most of the inside of our house, including our loft, which we’ve been wanting to turn into our gym.

So el husbando and our favorite 21-year-old moved the treadmill and our bike around so I can be right by the window, under the ceiling fan, and still have enough room to spread out my yoga mat. It’s awesome and long overdue!

Here’s what else I’ve been up to:

Swimming

Never, ever, ever thought I would try swimming, nor that I would enjoy it. It is HARD work and I’m easily winded by even the shortest swim. But I’m doing it once a week, and loving it.

A local gym offers a skills-and-drills class as part of its triathlon team, so I’m re-learning how to swim properly, including how to be more efficient, so that I can spend less energy on what is typically the first leg in a tri. Our coach has been incredibly patient with this newbie swimmer, and I’ve only had to buy a couple of things, including proper goggles.

My friend Michelle was right when she said this would be a good fit for me. The only thing that I’m struggling with is, not surprisingly, the whole wet-hair issue, post-swim. I have to come home to wash and dry my hair, making this quite the production.

biking

Yet another form of exercise I didn’t expect to enjoy remotely, but that is becoming easier and more enjoyable. When el husbando and I first got the Peloton, I was skeptical about how much we would use it, but I’m up to four rides per week — from 30-minutes to a full hour. And today, I added a 10-minute arms workout that left my arms feeling like Jell-O.

Currently considering ordering a second pair of cycling shorts. I should note that, yes, you do eventually learn how to sit properly on the thing so your nether regions don’t hurt.

Yoga-ing

I was just cleared to do yoga less than two weeks ago, but I’ve managed to spend a bit of time on the mat. Surprisingly, both my shoulder and my leg felt just fine afterward.

My cat was especially happy that she could stretch out on the yoga mat.

running

Wait, what?! Yeah, I ran for a whole 10 minutes at physical therapy last week and it felt like Christmas morning.

The therapist hooked me up to the Alter G, an anti-gravity treadmill. First, you wear some super-tight shorts over your clothes, then get zipped into a donut-shaped contraption in the middle of the treadmill.

Once you’re securely in the donut, the machine fills with air, taking off a percentage of your weight off. So, basically, with the machine, you can weigh, say, 40 lbs. less.

It feels like you’re walking or running on air. You feel really light, which is the whole point because your body is taking a whole less pounding than on a regular treadmill. Since I felt so good on the ‘mill, the therapist said that I may be able to start using it for longer periods of time. If she clears me, I may sign up to use the Alter G out-of-pocket for a few weeks until I can run on my own.

This new development has be excited that I might be running — even just a little — by the beginning of the year.

So, how are y’all moving these days? Do you have any running- or non-running-related goals? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

We plan, we train, we sacrifice. For months at a time, we make races our priority, making sure we get our miles — and cross training — in while taking care of our familias, work and other responsibilities.

Reaching that finish line makes all of the trouble worth it.

But what happens when you do all the things…and can’t do the race because you’re injured?

Just three days before the Detroit Free Press Marathon, I got benched. I pouted.

My right calf had felt tight until about a month before when I had to walk quite a bit of one of my runs because it just hurt. The pain subsided and I was able to run the rest of the way and I did the whole rest, ice, compression and anti-inflammatory routine when I got home. I babied the leg for a few days and got back to training.

About three weeks later, the same thing happened the weekend before Detroit, except that the pain got worse and didn’t really go away. I walked a couple of miles back from the day’s long run. I did all the things again, but didn’t get better, so I called Dr. Awesome and he was able to squeeze me in.

Boy, was I relieved. He can fix it, I thought, and then I can run 26.2 miles. After all, I had plans to go to the expo, meet other Bib Rave Pro ambassadors and spend the night in a hotel with my runner friends.

Not so much. Instead, I was diagnosed with a micro-tear in my right calf. A very minor injury — but only if I took a short break and allowed it to heal. Running the marathon, Dr. Awesome assured me, would mean a much-more-serious injury and longer recovery time.

I did the math and sat the race out. Sure, I’ve been injured before and have spent many a week wishing I were running. But this one was extra painful because I have been looking forward to running Detroit for so long. And I had plans, dang it!

In fact, it was my goal race for 2018 and my whole training plan revolved around it. I also got to train with Gatorade Endurance because that’s what was going to be available on course.

What’s a chica to do?

Suck it up, butter cup.

As with all other injuries, I went through the stages of grief and moved on. This time, I listened to the doc right away and did what was best for my body. (I also talked to my sports med doc at Dr. Awesome’s suggestion and he, too, agreed with the protocol: no running or walking; avoiding stairs and anything that makes my calf hurt in the least. If things don’t get better, I’ll have to wear a — gasp! — boot.)

After resting for a week, I’ve been riding the Peloton bike, which helps a bit with my stress levels, tho I am most-definitely noticing that I am more jacked up than normal and I’ve not slept well since I stopped running.

On race day, I made sure to keep myself super busy with chores, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my friends’ accomplishments on social media. So many did their first full or achieved personal records that day.

Now a few days later, I’m still mourning a bit. But I’m moving on. I start physical therapy on Monday and am considering swimming lessons once a week at a local gym to increase my cross-training and, possibly, doing a triathlon next year. Because I may be mourning not being able to run, but I’m also realizing that I’m going to have to take care of my body if I want to keep racking up those miles.

Have you had to forego a race because you got injured at the last minute? What did you do? What type of cross-training do you do? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

I don’t like biking much at all. And yet, el husbando and I recently got a new Peloton bike that is getting quite a bit of use despite my initial misgivings.

As a runner, I’m relatively fit. I still do a bit of yoga and walk as cross training. But with the Detroit Free Press Marathon as my goal race this fall just a few weeks after we run a 50K, I wanted to make sure that my cross training is on point this year. Hence, the torture device. I mean, the bike.

How did I make the switch from non-cyclist to someone who rides an indoor bike several times a week? As with most things, through trial and error.

I was less than thrilled when I first started using our new Peloton bike.

If you’re considering getting a new Peloton bike, I’ll give you the deets you need to decide whether to order your very own or to love it a little more if you find yourself less than enthusiastic with your new equipment.

El husbando did all of the research and ordering, but I can tell you that he found the process to be pretty easy. After he placed our order, a delivery company in a town about an hour away called almost a week later to arrange a date and time. The day-of, we got notification before arrival. Set-up was fast, but because it was so cold outside, we had to wait a while to actually turn the bike on, let alone use it.

Once we did, we found it intuitive and easy to use. For the uninitiated, Peloton has a large monitor/screen that shows your progress and statistics, and features the ability to stream spinning classes. Much like a typical bike, it can be adjusted for each person’s height.

We opted for the whole package, which included a mat for the floor to protect our carpet, small weights that sit on a frame behind the bike, a year’s worth of access to Peloton’s streaming content, and a pair of cycling shoes for el husbando. (More about that later).

A longtime cyclist, he easily got himself set up and was riding the bike right away. Me, on the other hand, took a couple of weeks to really warm up to the bike. Here’s what I learned:

  • Peloton resources. When you first log in, the system shows you a set-up video, which includes tips on how to adjust every one of the bike’s features. There’s a very active Peloton group on Facebook where you can find an eclectic community of riders who share stories and encouragement. Lesson learned: Watch the darn video and actually implement what you learn. Especially the part where they teach you how to clip in and out of the bike (ie, how to get your cycling shoes in and out of the bike pedals).
  • Comfort. Bike seats suck. I adjusted the thing up and down, front and back and nothin’. My nether regions were sore after even the shortest rides. A friend who does triathlons and trains indoor said that you do get used to the seat after a while. Others suggested padded bottoms, which I immediately ordered. Ahhhh. Relief. Lesson learned: It may be happening indoors, but this is still a biking experience. Much of the same gear needs apply here.
  • Difficulty. I started out with a pre-recorded beginner workout featuring an instructor with music so loud, I could barely hear her instructions. What I did catch, however, were her moans and facial expressions that led me to believe she has a very close relationship with her bike. After a couple of tries, I found Nicole Meline who is very newbie friendly, giving lots of encouragement and tips like how to sit, inherently making the ride more comfortable. Lesson learned: give several instructors a try until you find someone who fits your needs.

My favorite 115 lb. Leonberger is not impressed by my new cycling shoes.

  • Shoes. Other than the aforementioned padded bottoms, you’ll need cycling shoes. And if you’re new like me, you need to know that there are two general categories: road and off road/mountain biking. Within those, there are a gazillion features, but you’ll want to get shoes that accommodate a “3-hole arrangement.” Look for descriptions that say they fit a Delta or Look Delta cleat. You can ride the bike with regular shoes, but wearing proper footwear with cleats makes the ride a whole lot smoother. Newbies: you’ll need to order the cleats in addition to the shoes, then install the cleats by screwing them to the bottom of your new shoes (an easy proposition). Lesson learned: just get the shoes (and cleats) in the first place. Because I waited a week to get mine, I had to adjust to riding the bike twice: once with my running shoes and later with the cycling shoes.
  • It’s still biking. Despite watching multiple videos, I assumed riding the indoor cycle would be easier than riding outside. It really isn’t. The Peloton classes call for turning resistance up (by turning a knob) to simulate going up a hill, for example. Some instructors ask you to stand up or to really increase your intensity by riding at a certain (read: hard) level. I certainly sweat a ton and feel my core engaging on each ride. Lesson learned: there is a water bottle holder. Use it. I drink about a full water bottle during each ride.
  • Consistency. I’ve found that I can fit at least two 20-30 minute ride at least twice a week. I’m building up to a third ride in the coming week now that I’m hitting my groove. And because the system tracks your progress, you can see how much you have — or haven’t — done in the past week. Lesson learned: Create a separate account for each person riding the bike so you can see your own statistics.

About a month into our Peloton bike purchase, I’m starting to see myself really adjusting. I automatically reach for my ice water, bike shorts and cycling shoes, which have all made the experience significantly less miserable. And I know that I’m getting stronger and healthier each time I clip on.

Have you done any indoor cycling/spinning? What did you think? Is there anything else I should do to make this more pleasant? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)