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Yay! Just in time to help combat the February grumps.

I’ve been running again for two weeks now, carefully and on short distance routes (ranging from 1.25 to 2.3 miles), and my leg seems to be up to the challenge. There have been some slight twinges and one strange episode of numbness on the other side of the injured calf… but nothing that seems serious. To be on the safe side, though, I’m increasing my distances only very slowly. I’ll have to stick with the 2-3 mile distances for a while yet.

This time around, I’ve started using the Nike+ GPS, since I have an iPhone now. When I was marathon training, I used my old iPod nano with the Nike+ attachment, with the sensor that you attach to your shoelaces. It was perfectly serviceable, and got me to the marathon in fine form, but the sensor wasn’t always very accurate. You could calibrate it to your height and stride, but even so, if you changed pace, it had a hard time tracking your distance accurately. With the iPhone and GPS, there’s no need for a shoe sensor (which also got off-kilter if you bumped it out of place at all). I especially like that you can look at a map of your route at the end and see your pace variations along the way.

Being the impatient soul that I am, I started thinking today about how lovely it will be when I can do 10 miles on Saturdays again. Once I’d worked up to it, 8-12 miles really was a fabulous distance for a weekend: a bit of hard work at the end, but a happy long-distance running zen experience over all, especially in the park where you can share the energy with all the other runners, cyclists, and babies in jogging strollers. Also it’s not so far that I can’t do anything else for the rest of the weekend. (Yes, 15-20 milers, I’m looking at you.) 

In other running news, registration for this year’s Marine Corps Marathon opens in a few weeks. Should I run it again? I want to do another marathon sometime; I’m just not sure whether this year is the most reasonable choice, given the uncertainties of being post-injury and pre-job. 

In the final stages of marathon training last fall, I went and got myself a stress fracture (or two) in my right shin. This is almost entirely self-diagnosed, since I didn’t have money to burn on a doctor’s visit when they can’t detect the fracture without an MRI and they would just tell me to rest until it’s better, anyway. 

It started out as shin splints about 5 weeks out. I don’t know whether to blame it on the new shoes, the increased distances (18 and 20 mile long runs), or my refusal to rest until it was too late. Probably all three. One problem was that it didn’t actually hurt while I was running, so I could get through the long runs quite comfortably and then hobble around the rest of the week.

I don’t know enough about the physiology of how shin splints transition into fractures (I understand that there is a whole range of repetitive stress injuries, anyway) to say when it went over the edge. However, it was already pretty bad when I made the mistake of wearing 4” heels to school 3 days before the marathon (I know, I know. But the shift in balance uses different muscles!) Yeah. It was even worse after that. This is now Brooks’ trump card against high heels: “You BROKE your LEG wearing heels!” 

At the pre-race sports expo, I stopped by the therapeutic taping booth to get some free taping on my “shin splint.” I was about to leave when I happened to remark that it still hurt, supposing this to be normal. But no, they thought someone more experienced could do a better job. 20 minutes later, the most senior physical therapist at the booth was applying more and more elaborate layers of tape from the sole of my foot to my knee and getting frustrated that the pain wasn’t going away. They alleged that if it still hurt with all that clinical-level taping, there was something worse than a shin splint going on. Finally they let me go, with instructions to stay off it as much as possible “if you’re still planning to run.” 

Of course I still ran. I ran the full marathon in 4:36, with my leg encased in four layers of tape. Then I didn’t walk for two weeks, and didn’t run for two months. Lots of ibuprofen, lots of ice, lots of angst about the sudden complete inactivity. I started running in the first place because I don’t like any other forms of exercise. My bike isn’t rideable, swimming is too much hassle, and I hate weight training.

The first month I was in too much pain to care about the time off. The second month I was travelling too much to have time. Finally this month I started running a little bit, and after my third very short run in two weeks, the leg flared up and I’ve had to stop again. I’m too paranoid about fractures that take two years to heal because people over-did it coming back (thanks for that story, Rachel S). 

It’s been really upsetting, because I was in the best shape of my life three months ago and now it’s all gone. I’ve put on a few pounds and I don’t have an outlet for cooped-up grumpy moods. Brooks reminds me to be patient and I’ll be running again in no time, and other friends remind me that the stamina will come back quickly once I can start. So I try not to whine too much, but there’s really no substitute for the fresh air in your lungs while your feet just keep going and your mind smooths itself out. Maybe soon. Sigh.

I’m two weeks away from the 10 mile race, which gives me just enough time to finish coming back from a sloppy training month. I didn’t run at all during spring break, and went three weeks without a long run, so the 8.5 miles I attempted last weekend were the most wretched in a long time. In part I blame the recidivist weather — even though I ran all winter in much colder temperatures, it’s somehow hard to go out in such a cold and gloomy late March. I also have convinced myself that the really intense marathon training will be here soon enough so I ought to enjoy my last few months of relative ease.

This past weekend, I managed 9 miles at a slow 10-minute-mile pace. It made me melancholy to reflect that this is only a little more than a third of the marathon, but then I remembered that a year ago I could only run 2 miles and 6 seemed completely impossible.

In general, I’ve been feeling very sluggish until today, when I ran four and had extra liveliness in the legs for the first time all month. Perhaps the slump is over for the time being? So one more week of good running and another 9-ish on Saturday, and then an easy week, and then the race! I gather that it is a hilly route, although the overall grade is downhill, so it’s a good thing I train in a hilly neighborhood.

My favorite post-long-run snack at present is a peanut butter smoothie:

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 big spoonful peanut butter
  • 1 small spoonful ground flax seed

Drink while stretching!

This is me running in PA farm country, and waving at horse-and-buggy drivers [not pictured].
I registered for the Marine Corps Marathon this week, so it’s official insanity now. My interim goal, however, remains the George Washington Parkway Classic, a 10-miler in early April.
Today I ran my longest distance to date, just over 8 miles. I find myself curiously enjoying the distance runs, and so far the gradual increases over 5 miles have come easily. This surprises me since it was So Hard to build up to 2 miles, and then to 4. I wonder when I will hit the next ceiling.
I need more running music, though, as my long run now goes through the whole playlist and starts again. I’ve got a high-energy rock mix that’s heavy on Muse and Audioslave, but I’m willing to experiment. Any suggestions?

This is me running in PA farm country, and waving at horse-and-buggy drivers [not pictured].

I registered for the Marine Corps Marathon this week, so it’s official insanity now. My interim goal, however, remains the George Washington Parkway Classic, a 10-miler in early April.

Today I ran my longest distance to date, just over 8 miles. I find myself curiously enjoying the distance runs, and so far the gradual increases over 5 miles have come easily. This surprises me since it was So Hard to build up to 2 miles, and then to 4. I wonder when I will hit the next ceiling.

I need more running music, though, as my long run now goes through the whole playlist and starts again. I’ve got a high-energy rock mix that’s heavy on Muse and Audioslave, but I’m willing to experiment. Any suggestions?