musings on running, life, and everything in between

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It’s been a bit, right? There are some things going on in life that are taking a lot of energy out of me. It leaves little room or desire to write about running. Part of this might be combined with the fact that I turned my ankle two weekends ago on the trail.

I was about 4 miles into an 8-11 mile run with some friends at Bull Frog in Palos. Ironically, I had stopped to re-tie a shoe tighter because it felt like it wasn’t support enough. As I got up to start running, I hit a big rock in the path and turned my ankle. I wasn’t in horrible pain, but I felt a momentary flash of panic. Ok, maybe not momentary. Just panic. The worst part was that we were just before the turnaround point. And this is trail. Which means, short of getting back to a road and waiting for someone else to run back and get the car, I’d have to run back. It wasn’t great, but I found I could bear weight on it without screaming in pain. So I ran back 3 miles–Kelly was able to configure a slightly shorter route back. Gorgeous picture of the lake from the BEGINNING of the run. Sigh.

I saw Craig that day and had him work on it. He actually didn’t think it was too bad, and I babied the heck out of it, wrapping it tight and wearing an ankle brace. I think that all helped. I can run on it, but 50k on it is a different thing…The amount of mental self-abuse I’ve been doing is outrageous. I just checked the cutoff time, though, and I’ll have almost 10 hours to finish the 50k. Hopefully I won’t need all that.

It just continues to remind me, on multiple levels, that our weaknesses–physical and otherwise–need constant monitoring and intervention. I had stopped doing my one-legged squats while brushing teeth awhile back, filled with false confidence in my ankles. And this is what happened. It reminds me of the same character defects I have, my willfulness, anger, etc. also need to constantly be worked on as well. They never really go away, just wait for an opportune moment. Seems exhausting thinking about it. But that is how we become stronger.

And one thing I’ve learned over the years is when I get stuck in self-pity, get outside yourself and go do something for someone else. So I did. A slew of my girls were running the Wisconsin Marathon in Kenosha, including Jenny’s first comeback race after over a year of injury. It didn’t occur to me, until really late in the game, that it would be great to go cheer for them. I found out two other friends–Jen H and Doreen–who also came to Boston were heading up, so I hitched a ride.

Andrea, Emily, Michelle, Jenny, Michelle

I am SO glad I went. The course was windy as HECK. It ran alongside the lakefront, which sounds great, until the wind picks up sand and scours you with it. The temperature was perfect, and it was somewhat cloudy at moments, but the wind was probably upwards of 30mph at times. The course was also really desolate. There were almost no spectators, and even the most “crowded” sections had just over a dozen. And they were QUIET. There was almost no cheering. So this made the 3 of us cheer even louder and act even nuttier. Two women even came up to us after the race to thank us for cheering. It was also weird because there were parts of the course that weren’t really closed off so people were driving ON BOTH SIDES of the road. Someone even pulled a boat down the middle of the course. I think based on the crowd support (or lack thereof) and the weird course stuff, I would not run this marathon. Jenny did say, though, that it was well run and the aid stations were great.

The girls had a really hard time, but the Michelle’s stuck together for most of it. Although Michelle R (left) pulled a Jen and finished about 20 second ahead of Michelle N. Ha.


Despite all these brutal conditions, most of them finished ahead of my Boston time. Sigh. It was awesome, though, to go root for someone and not just be on the receiving end. I swear my “cheering high” carried me all day through rooting for my oldest’s tball game. Haha.

Andrea, Jenny, Emily


Alright, that’s all for now. I’m gearing up for the 50k. It feels really weird because I’ve essentially been in a 6 week taper now. I’ve been actually weightlifting to try and do some less impact stuff that should help me with the hills and such.

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Why I won’t be trail running for a little while

I got the question, “Do you want to run Boston or do you want to run trails?”


I have now had my two main men (other my family, duh)–my magical myofascial trigger point massage guy, Craig, and my awesome running coach/massage guy, Bill–tell me that trail running was my downfall and I need to quit that sh*t out. For now anyway. Um, let’s not talk about the fact that I signed up for a 50k TRAIL ultramarathon one month after Boston, mmkay? I just need to focus on Boston right now. At least with ultras, you can run slower than molasses and no one will disrespect you (meaning, worst case scenario, I’ll just turtle it along). At Boston, however, my friend who ran it years ago told me that people seem to not cheer as loudly for you at the back of the pack. They assume you are a charity runner and didn’t really earn your way in. She had gotten pregnant after she qualified (and this was the good ol’ days where you could postpone your race entry a year) so she was running several months post-partum the following year.

Let me back up, though.

As you may recall, I took last week off to let my plantars be less angry. I ran 5 slow and easy on Jenny’s treadmill while watching a gnarly bear attack movie (Backcountry). It felt ok during and after. Although, I will admit that it felt like I had taken longer than a 5 day break. This led me to believe that I could try my long run, or at least attempt 9-10 of the 14-15 planned. I made plans to run Waterfall Glen with a friend, but she messaged me late Friday night saying she was coming down with whatever her kid had earlier in the week.

Admittedly, while I was disheartened to think of running a couple hours alone, I ultimately was glad to run alone. I got to stop and stretch and curse myself without anyone witnessing. Ironically, I did see a fellow BFF’er running by at one point. My calves both felt super tight, but my heel didn’t hurt during the run. I eked out a painfully slow and never-ending 10 miles. The thought of running anything more than that made me want to tear my hair out AND I was on a tight schedule.

I thought I had “gotten away” with my long run, but my heel and calves got steadily tighter during the day. I stretched and rolled and prodded, but I still had some twinge-ing Sunday morning. I opted for an hour of yoga at home, wherein I almost broke myself further in attempting a supported headstand in the middle of my bedroom. I discovered that I could get up but toppled over immediately, and belatedly realize I should probably have done it against a wall as I twisted to avoid landing on various furniture in my bedroom. Yeah, I’m definitely not the most astute person at times. The rest of the day was spent rolling, poking, and pinching my calves every opportunity I got. I began to wonder if my soreness was actually from my run or my obsessive jabbing.

Monday morning still tight. Since it was below freezing BEFORE windchill, I decided to forego the pain of running outside and ran again on Jenny’s treadmill. This time opting for Walking Dead, which about described the way I felt after running 2.5 miles. I had to stop because the pain was bad enough that I knew I was doing more damage than good. Thankfully, I had had enough sense to decide to call Craig and set up an appointment for later that day.

I saw Craig and the doctor he works with in the office. It was my first time meeting her and she was great. She assessed me and remarked that my “weak ankles” were not that, but my tendency to collapse my ankles in. She called it something, but I didn’t catch it. Essentially, it’s overpronation, your feet and ankle rolling excessively in. While some pronation is good and normal, too much causes your calves and lower muscles to work too hard and get irritated. Sound familiar? She had me stand up straight and pointed to my ankles sticking out further (ankle and leg should be in a straight line), as well as my calluses (on the outer part of the balls of my feet) and my baby bunion. The trail running probably exacerbated the issue exponentially. So I have orthotics to immediately correct the issue.

I do not like orthotics. In fact, since reading Born to Run, I’ve worked really hard to get away from the stability shoes I’ve worn and move towards more neutral, and partially minimal shoes. With great success I thought. But perhaps it was just luck. I was remarking to Craig earlier that it was hubris, noting how so many runners I knew dealt with plantar fasciitis and thinking how great it was that I was so amazing to not get it. HUBRIS. Anyhow, I got the orthotics to wear for now. I have already started Googling away exercises to fix the issue in the long view. I don’t want to rely on orthotics to compensate for an issue I’d prefer to correct. I get that my current foot/ankle/leg stuff is creating this issue, but I also feel that unless it’s something structural I can correct it…There is a good information page on the BOSU website with exercises. I have to confess, though, that the mere fact that they used the WRONG FORM OF BREAKING–your big toe breaking is very different than it BRAKING–is physically keeping me from linking the page for you. I have standards you know.

Craig went through his usual repertoire of torture techniques. One major difference between him and Bill is that Craig uses a full gauntlet of tools to make you acquiesce. He will be using his crazy sound machine on me probably Wednesday, but today I only got the manual knobs and jabbers. In all seriousness, Craig doesn’t want me writhing in pain. Just a little uncomfortable. I’m the one that tries to gut it out. Cuz I’m sick and I think that more pain equals more bang for my buck. Sick.

One big thing I learned today was about how to use self-massage. I have vague ideas and many tools for doing home treatment. What I DIDN’T know, though, was when to use just pressure and when to roll. I should use both, but I use prolonged (at least 30 seconds) pressure first on a spot that seems too painful to roll. I need to actually get the muscle to release a little bit to maximize the benefits of rolling. So my random, haphazard jabbing and rolling this weekend wasn’t as effective because I wasn’t giving my muscles a real chance to release. Oh, another tidbit I learned. When your muscles get all tight and irritated, he called it “armoring.” I kind of liked the visual of my muscles getting all suited up. Haha. Oh wait, that’s a bad thing.

Long story short, I’m out of any cardio exercising until Wednesday, when I’ll see Craig again. Patty pointed out to me that I could still do core work to do SOMETHING. She’s so wise. I have a half marathon race this Saturday. Not sure what’s in the cards for that. I wasn’t really concerned about racing it per se, but it would help my mental state to be able to do a long run. Feel free to chime in with thoughts, resources, corrections (ahem, Craig), etc. And wish me luck…



Urban Suburban Trail

Yesterday, I got to explore a new trail (for me) that’s super-close. The trailhead we started at is probably 2 miles from my house, but I’ve been nervous about trying it and didn’t know many people who ran it…so I’ve driven to other running paths, but I realize now how much I’ve been missing out! I’ve run the Des Plaines River Trail Races (marathon last year), but that was picking up the trail way north. Years ago, I biked the trail closer to home but found it poorly maintained and a bit rough. More recently, people implied that it was a bit sketchy (as a woman) to run it alone so I never ventured and didn’t want to waste a long run opportunity on a potentially dubious route. While I don’t think I would do my 20 miler on it, it was a great experience overall!

For local folks, the trailhead and parking lot are across from the Menard’s on North Ave, just east of the store, Sunset Ridge Meadow. I met my friend Amy, who is going to do the 50k, and Ayesha of Run Ayesha. Amy and I have been wanting to tackle some trails together, and Ayesha had run the trail before and offered to take us. I know I’m making myself sound like the biggest wimp ever. Anyhow, it was mostly crushed limestone with some bits of gravel, concrete, and dirt path. There was one section with a downed tree that we had to walk over, but it was pretty decent otherwise. Not alot of roots. The gravel got a little scrabble-ish in parts, and I can see how if it were raining the dirt would be a total mudfest. I was pleasantly surprised, though, by how runnable it was. Ha, one thing about the “urban suburban” nature of such a trail is that you will see natural beauty. Alongside an abandoned shopping cart. This was just shy of 3 miles into the run.
We did about 7 miles total, and this was the other side of the bridge coming back. I liked the “True Love Waits” graffiti on the trestle. I’m not sure if it’s a no sex before marriage message or if they meant to write a message of hope, in which case, the grammarian in me would have suggested “True Love Awaits.” Yeah, you can’t take the English teacher anywhere…Ayesha took some better photos than I, which included an action shot! Do you like the matching hydration vests Amy and I are wearing. Another friend of ours, Bianca, had posted it on super-sale on Backcountry’s website, so 4 of us in BFF got it. Sadly, only one color was on sale so we will be super matchy. It was both of our first times running with a vest. I found it okay. I had a bladder in the pack. I liked the ease of drinking from a bladder, but I felt like my back was getting warm where the bladder was pressing on it. Bianca actually suggested not using the bladder and sticking with bottles in the front pockets (because of the weight and difficulty of refilling a bladder). I didn’t see that until after the run, though…
I always like it when road/sidewalks/paths meander around a tree.
It was in the 70s, so perfect weather for a fall run in the woods. It’s always good to escape the traffic, concrete, and urban life. It’s good for strengthening my legs to deal with different conditions. I worry a little bit because I tend to have weaker ankles, but I feel like they need some conditioning on milder trails to build up their strength. Well, that and I really should start doing some more home exercises. I even bought a wobble board forever ago that I should use. Bianca also suggested some ladder drills or footwork…too lazy to Google it yet, so I would gladly take suggestions 🙂

I definitely felt the trail in my legs, or maybe it’s post-marathon tiredness still? While it was beautiful and great chatting with Amy and Ayesha, it did make think about whether the ultra really IS a good idea. I’m going to try a longer run this weekend and see how it feels. I’m not planning on registering for a bit anyway so I have time (and I am monitoring registration to make sure it doesn’t sell out).

Got any footwork or ladder drills I can do?

Do you ever run with a hydration pack (and with or without bladder)? How do you like it compared to the waist belt?