Countdown to the Half: 6 Weeks

Guess what, everybody! I’ve been running long enough to kill a pair of shoes!

Glitter and Goat Cheese - New Balance WR1400
Them things are dead.

Technically, my New Balance 1400s are racing flats, which means they wear out faster than regular running shoes, but WHATEVER. SHUT UP. I’m awesome! I’m a runner! Plus, my new ones are really pretty.

Glitter and Goat Cheese - New Balance WR1400
(I swear my ankles aren’t actually crooked. I’m just standing/photographing at a weird angle.)

Want to know another reason why I’m officially calling myself a runner now? A few weeks ago, Brad and I ran a race in Gwinnett called Ella’s Run, and … we actually … WON AWARDS. We both placed second in our respective age groups. Yes, you read that right. I know what you’re thinking – there must have been like, two people in my age group. INCORRECT. THERE WERE 17. You can look here if you don’t believe me. If you do, you’ll also see that my time was not fast. I mean, it was a time that someone like Bianca or Alex could get while, like, wearing flip flops and singing showtunes. But for whatever reason, 15 other women my age were slower than me. It could be because the course was really hard – half rough trail, lots of steep hills – and everyone else was like, “Screw it. It’s 9 a.m. and I’m in Buford. No one’s around to see me blow this race.” Whatever! I’m awesome! I’m a runner!

Glitter and Goat Cheese - Ella's Run 5K
Photo via Right to Hike on Facebook. I’m the one in the yellow shorts, muttering “Get out of my way, fools!” under my breath.

Other than that, training for the half has been going fine. We did a trial run with our coach a couple weeks ago so he could plan our pacing charts, and I ran my fastest mile ever at 9:55. I fully realize that 9:55 is still pretty slow, but considering that I started off running 14:00-minute miles in January, it’s a decent improvement. It’s tough for me not to be hard on myself, though. I asked my coach recently why I’m not faster. I asked him, is it because I’m not trying hard enough? Am I not in good enough shape? He assured me that it’s mostly genes. Some people are built for speed, and some aren’t. I definitely fall in the latter camp, and I have to live with that. I guess I’m lucky to have two legs, or whatever.

Anyway, I can’t believe we’re halfway through our half marathon training already! I have a confession: I haven’t been doing my strength-training to protect my bum knees. This is extremely foolhardy, considering that my physical therapist straight-up told me I’d get injured again if I didn’t keep up with my exercises. It’s just so hard to find time to run as it is, you know? But I have to get back into it. I HAVE to. After all this hard work, if I screw myself over right before the big race … it’ll be bad. Real bad.

Anyone else training right now? How’s it going?

     

Countown to the Half: 12 Weeks

Happy day-after-Labor-Day, everyone! Who’s hungover? Not me. I spent my day off watching Cougar Town and eating chicken pot pie. Holla!

Brad and I officially start our training for the Atlanta Half Marathon this week! I’m hoping to post weekly about our progress – an idea I’m blatantly borrowing from Miss Bianca and her Marathon Mondays series.

It’s going to be a rough 12 weeks. After my success with my running coach before our last big race, Brad decided to get on board for our second half marathon. We both met with Coach Sean on Sunday to run a test mile on the track and gauge our fitness. Despite our very lazy summer, I’ve still managed to shave a minute off since my last test mile in April, so that’s cool. Unfortunately for me, that means my runs are going to get a little tougher. Meanwhile, though, Brad’s test mile clocked in at 7:44. Uh, WHAT?! Brad is really fast. I am really jealous. But I’m not jealous of his training plan, which is going to be hard as heck. My runs are going to seem easy-breezy in comparison.

What that means, sadly, is that Brad and I probably won’t be running together very often. It’s a bummer. I want him to improve and do well, of course – I don’t want to hold him back – but I’ll miss his company while he’s off kicking ass.

This time around, I’m just going to stick to what worked before our last half marathon. I absolutely loved my New Balance 1400s, so I’ll be getting another pair at the end of this month when I hit the 200 mile mark. And just in time – they came out in a new color!

New Balance - WR1400 - Blue

On the agenda this week, I have a three mile run, an interval run, some cross-training, and a four-mile run. An easy week to ease back into the game. I just hope the weather cooperates. I blame the Atlanta heat completely for all the slacking we did this summer. I like running a lot, I really do – but I don’t like anything enough to do it in 90 degree weather. Not even outdoor margarita drinking. And that’s saying a lot. Outdoor margarita drinking might be one of my very favorite things on this here crazy planet.

Stay cool, everybody!

     

Less Shoe, Less Pain?

If you know me, you’re probably aware that patience is a virtue I just don’t possess. As such, sitting around waiting for my knee to heel has been, well, torturous. Yes, I have my stretching and my icing and my exercises, but basically, my doctor just didn’t give me enough information or treatment advice to satisfy me. There has to be more I can do to make my knees recover faster and function better. I need a plan.

The first thing I did was formulate a recovery/return to running schedule – a loose combination of this plan from InjuredRunner.com and my own adaptation of our half-marathon training plan. It’s pretty intense, and didn’t make me feel very optimistic, so I put my schedule aside and moved onto more research on how to improve my healing process and prevent my runner’s knee from coming back. My first stop was The Vitamin Shoppe for some supplements.

Running Supplements

The Glucosamine & Chrondroitin with MSM is supposed to promote cartilage healing, and has been shown to help knee pain in studies. (See here.) The reviews and anecdotes I’ve found online are pretty encouraging.

The Omega-3 Fish Oil is supposed to be a kind of super-supplement for runners: it reduces joint pain and inflammation, lubricates the joints, and enhances the body’s ability to recover more quickly after runs. (See here.)

The Zyflamend, Vitamin D and Folic Acid are also supposed to help with inflammation, among other things.

We’ll see if any of these make a difference. I’m most hopeful about the Glucosamine & Chrondoitin supplement – I’ve read accounts from runners whose knee pain disappeared for good after taking it for just a few weeks. I won’t expect anything quite that drastic, but I can at least be optimistic, right?

But buying the supplements still didn’t feel like enough. You know how people who have gone through a difficult situation are so desperate to assign blame that they’re really easily influenced by new ideas and ideologies? Well, consider me one of them – I’ve been drinking the minimalist running shoe Kool-Aid. I haven’t read Born to Run yet, but I’m interested. My friend Bianca is reading a book by Dean Karnazes – otherwise known as the guy who can run hundreds of miles without stopping – and he recommended InjuredRunner.com. I read their page about runner’s knee, and it suggested that the “pose method” of running may reduce knee pain. Some quick research enforced the theory – while minimalist running is tough on your feet and calves, it’s been shown to be much easier on the knees. It’s not that I don’t take injuries like plantar fasciitis or stress fractures seriously. It’s just that I’ve had knee issues my whole life, and now here I am with a knee injury. Clearly, my knees are the weakest link in my body. Shouldn’t I look into trying something that might better protect them?

The Vitamin Shoppe is in the same plaza as the New Balance store, so I couldn’t resist checking out my dream shoe – the WR1400.

New Balance WR1400

The store associate explained that the 1400 is a hybrid shoe – it’s on the minimal side, but offers more cushioning and protection than something like their Minimus. I told him about my situation, and he agreed with the newly-common belief that forefoot striking is much easier on the knees than heel striking. He also told me that there are both positives and negatives to the idea of transitioning to a minimal shoe while recovering from an injury.

Pros: Transitioning to a minimal shoe requires easing slowly into higher mileage and faster paces, and I’ll already be doing that, anyway. Plus, since I’m going to attempt to train my muscles to work differently in order to prevent the runner’s knee from coming back, I’ll be more mindful of the way my body is working, and might be in just the right mindset to change my stride. Then, of course, there’s the obvious: I have a knee injury. Forefoot striking puts less pressure on the knees. Duh, right?

Cons: The adjustment and transition period between heel striking in cushioned shoes to forefoot striking in minimal shoes isn’t easy. I’ll experience soreness and stress in new places, and that might be the last thing I need while I’m trying to recover from an injury. Also, if I fail to transition properly to forefoot striking and instead end up heel striking in a shoe with less heel cushioning, there’s going to be a lot less shock absorption, and my legs and knees are going to take an even heavier pounding. And lastly, while I expect to ease back in slowly at first, I’m going to have to pick up the pace as soon as possible if I want to run the half marathon. If I start adding a lot of mileage before my legs have adjusted to running in a minimalist shoe, I might run into new issues.

My thinking is that I could try out the 1400s on the treadmill for shorter distances and see how it goes, and stick to my cushioned shoes for running outside until I feel comfortable. If I tried the 1400s on the treadmill for a little while and it seemed like they weren’t going to work out, I think I could still return them.

So? Good idea or horrible idea? Does anyone have experience with this transition? Any advice?