I received an e-mail from a reader all the way in the UK about how I stay injury free and if I could write a post about injury prevention. Great topic! I wrote a similar article about How to Recover Faster and Run Longer.
I actually used to get injured a lot when I first started running. It was all on road and I had no clue how to increase mileage. My first run with the L.A. Leggers was 15 miles (having never run more than 6 before)! Clearly, I didn’t (and still don’t) understand the word moderation and increasing mileage slowly. So it wasn’t a surprise I kept getting runner’s knee. I had no idea what stretches I should be doing, what the heck a foam roller was, how much I should really be running etc.
Increase mileage slowly
For a beginner, this is KEY to injury prevention. Do not jump from 6 miles to 15 miles. There is a reason why marathon training plans build out the weeks slowly, also why they are usually 16 weeks long. Here is a sample of a marathon training plan for a beginner runner from Hal Higdon.
I eat as simply as I can, unprocessed, real, nutritious food. Your performance/recovery depends heavily on what you put in your body. I cut out artificial sugar a couple months ago which has played a huge part in my training and recovery. As much as I love my Diet Coke after long runs, it just isn’t worth it. I’ve been drinking a lot of natural teas, juices and coconut water instead. Which isn’t to say I don’t splurge once in a while, but when you’re eating good clean and delicious food that isn’t labeled “diet food”, you don’t really have to urge to pig out on junk anymore.
I wrote about how important sleep is to me in this article. You can ask any of my friends or Brennan how much I value sleep. I will be the first in bed when we go on running trips (and the first one up!). I’m not embarrassed to say I get an average of 8-9 hours each night, which means making it a priority. Not watching another episode of trashy reality T.V. or surfing the web, it means getting 9 hours of undisturbed shut eye. When your body is resting, all your muscles are recovering too.
10 months ago, I made one of the best decisions in my running career, and that was to purchase a package of Pilates classes from a local studio. It’s no secret how obsessed I’ve become with Pilates (specifically the SPX workout) and how much it has benefited my running (post later to come about the specific workout). Whether it’s pilates, TRX, Crossfit, strength training is a must for all runners. I’ve been taking body composition tests for a couple years now, even before I started running. It is amazing how unbalanced your body can be from all the pounding. My legs were completely uneven (I favored my right leg more since I had a bad left knee) and my core and arms were weak. I recently took another test after having introduced pilates to my workout routine. Even though my legs decreased strength a little with less mileage, they were completely balanced for the first time. My core actually outweighed my legs and both my arms were stronger. This balanced symmetry is important in injury prevention because when you favor one leg over the other, it creates a lot more stress on the leg you are favoring. Core work is key!
This is something I definitely need to do more. I have every foam rolling device you can name sitting in a pile in my house. When something feels off, I get on the foam roller or tennis ball and roll it out for a few minutes a night. I also like to get a massage once in a while to work out the kinks. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for a year now every week and he helps with my back alignment and adjusts me when needed. There is a misconception that chiros crack your bones/back, which is completely untrue. They are cracking your back/neck to release the gas that is causing tension in the area, the sound of the gas releasing sounds like the cracking of your knuckles. I was scared at first, but I’ve been doing it every week now for a year and it feels really good to get adjusted.
Resting is also part of training and is something I tend to forget sometimes. You can have an active rest day by going on a walk or taking a yoga class or doing absolutely nothing.
Change the terrain
A big part of staying injury free for me was switching from the road to the trails. I do almost all of my long runs on the trails now and try to run on the trail as much as I can. The trails are more forgiving for your knees, provides a softer terrain and the constant climbing and descending keeps your body guessing. Sure you might not be going as fast as you would on the road, but speed is all relative on the trails. It is hard to compare one trail to another since no trail is the same. Trail running gives me a equally good workout as running on the road. When you’re running on the road, the motion can be very monotonous, unlike the trails, where you are going from left to right, jumping over creeks, rocks, climbing the hills and pounding the downs. Running on uneven/rocky terrain can help strengthen your ankles and overall balance.
Here’s a simple spring side dish to go along with any main meal. I’ve been really into chorizo lately. Like ordering it everywhere I go and making a ton of stuff with it (B approves). Its spiciness complements the vegetable’s earthy flavor.You can add in Isaraeli couscous for more bulk like this recipe and take out the pancetta, or leave it in for that crunch. There’s regular beef chorizo, pork chorizo and soyrizo, use whatever suits your tastes. I love charring the brussels sprouts in the pan for that extra crispy texture and flavor. Be on the lookout for my Chorizo and Sun Dried Tomato Pizza recipe soon!
Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo
- 1 lb of brussels sprouts, cored and shreddd
- 1 pound fresh link chorizo sausage, casings removed
- 1 TBS of olive oil
- salt to taste
1. Finely shred brussels sprouts
2. Heat a medium sized pan with olive oil and saute brussels sprouts until leaves begin to char
3. Mix in crumbled chorizo
4. Season with salt and serve immediately
“The uncertainty of certain feelings is the best way to break them.”
A couple of things from the OC Marathon this past weekend:
1. For the first time in 4 years since I’ve been running races, I was able to stay in tune with my body every step of the way and ran based on how I felt, not time. My training already determined the time I was going to run, the actual race was just the final piece to tie it all together.
2. I don’t know how to run the tangents well.
3. I ran a personal best by 10 minutes.
4. Competition makes for great motivation
5. Don’t wear a “HAWAII” shirt and not expect to be called Hawaii from every spectator
6. Cheaters never win
If you’ve been following along, I decided to run the OC marathon kind of last minute. I wanted a spring road marathon to see where my running level is currently at, so I created my own 1 month to a marathon PR training schedule (do as I say not as I do). Since I only run one road marathon a year, I wanted to really go for something big. My last marathon PR of 3:29 was at Santa Barbara in 2011, I was a couple seconds off that PR in Eugene last year.
Here are my weekly training recaps:
Going into the race, I didn’t have much of a strategy. I randomly picked 3:15 because it sounded good, but knew in the back of my mind that I haven’t been training at 3:15 pace on my long runs. It was a lofty goal and I was never able to fully execute that pace during my training. My only plan was to go out slow, take the first 3-5 miles to warm-up then try to negative split the course. Matt would jump in at Mile 12 to pace me to the finish. If all the stars aligned that day, I would come out with a PR, hopefully a significant one.
The race started at an ungodly hour of 5:30AM. The only races I have done that started that early are the Disney World races and Northface 50 miles. Matt dropped me off at the start, Fashion Island, where I warmed up a bit, got situated near the 3:15 pacer and tried to relax. I had been a nervous wreck going into the race. There is something about road races that are so much more intimidating than trail races. The size of the field, having my friend’s track me, the pace that I would have to maintain, the “no walking” rule and the high expectations I was placing on myself all contributed to my anxiety lining up at the start. I met up with my friend Neil and saw Matt again who found parking and came to watch us start. I had asked him what a 3:20 pace would be and thinking that pace was more realistic for me, but I would still try for that 3:15 if a miracle happened (which they never do on race day). I wore a 3:15 pace bracelet that I had made the night before to remind myself of splits I needed to hit throughout the race.
I asked the 3:15 pacer if he planned on running even splits from the beginning and since he was, I would start out behind him. There was no 3:20 group, only 3:25 so it was nice to run alone and not part of a big group. I needed those first few miles to warm-up and was fairly confidant I could make up that time later on in the race.
The first six miles were very fast, making it hard to start slow and not let my adrenaline take over. I kept the 3:15 pacer in sight, but didn’t worry too much when I couldn’t see him. I knew I needed 3-5 miles to warm up so when my watch clicked off 7:35 splits instead of the 7:26 I was supposed to be running, I wasn’t worried at all. My shins from the get-go started feeling sore which was strange. I had a flashback to my last short run on Friday where I had a similar problem, yet I couldn’t figure out why it was happening as I was wearing my favorite shoes and had been tapering all week long. I pushed the negativity out of my mind and figured if need be, I can push through shin pain, though it wouldn’t be pretty.
5K-23:37 Pace: 7:37
I enjoyed the scenery, took note of any female runners around me (there weren’t many), and focused on warming up. I would give myself 5 miles before I would start picking up the pace. We were greeted with breathtaking panorama views of the Pacific Ocean, winding through the seaside village of Corona del Mar and cliff side views of the beach.
After Mile 4, my shin pain went away and I was starting to have fun, never glancing at my watch or my 3:15 pace bracelet from then on. I was determined to run this race based on how I felt at that moment. As we winded into the nature preserve, I overhead an older runner with another women discussing their pace behind me. The women ended up ducking into a porta potty and I ended up running with the guy. He was steady and running practically the same pace as me. We were running so close together we were almost rubbing elbows. I finally told him what a great pace he was holding and asked what he was shooting for. He didn’t seem to speak much English and grunted out a 3:20. I figured since he was running so steady, I would stick with him until Matt jumped in.
10K-45:50 Pace: 7:23
The next 6 miles I stayed steady with the runner. He saw that I was clinging onto him and instead of trying to shoo me away, he took me in and basically told me I had no clue how to run tangents. I never realized it until he started pointing how many extra steps I was taking. He didn’t speak much, just made hand signals at me to follow him or run closer to the side to cut any corners we could and run the most direct way possible. It was nice having someone literally right next to you, matching your every footstep. We passed runners left and right, clocked the miles off one by one and not once did I worry about my pace. I knew we were running good splits and I wanted to make it to Mile 20 with enough gas left in the tank. We traversed down Bayside Drive, past the yacht clubs and big homes and boats of Newport Harbor. It was surprisingly calm and beautiful. I didn’t mind not having many spectators, I’m used to it on the trails and prefer it that way. We ran along the bluffs overlooking the Upper Newport bay Estuary Reserve which was probably my favorite part of the course.
11 Mi: 1:22:26 Pace: 7:30
Matt jumped in at Mile 12 and all three of us ran together for a little bit before Matt and I broke off on our own. I knew the second half of the course wouldn’t be a scenic as the first so I saved turning on my music until I really needed it. The scenery changed from cliff side views of the ocean to industrial buildings and freeways. I was feeling great and it felt like one of our regular weekday runs. Stay focused, be present, pay attention to your nutrition and constantly ask yourself what you could do to make yourself feel better (ultra mentality).
Half: 1:37:52 Pace: 7:28
There were a couple boring straightaways where I could see for miles, so I just kept my head down and stared at the backs of other runners. There was a significant 45′ incline at mile 14.5 over the 405 overpass. Matt told me to take quick small steps which stayed in my mind every time we hit a hill. At mile 15 we had a short out and back and for the first time, I saw that the 3:15 group wasn’t that far ahead of me. Seeing them gave me confidence that my legs will run their own natural pace.
15.25 Mi: 1:54:26 Pace: 7:31
Miles 16-20 I started to feel myself lose focus and unravel. Even though I was diligently taking a salt pill every hour, eating a GU every 6 miles & hydrating, my hamstrings were on the verge of cramping and my legs felt like lead. Matt kept looking at his watch and looking back at me. More than disappointing myself, I didn’t want to disappoint him. I know it’s a tough job as a pacer when the person you are pacing totally falls apart and there’s nothing you can do.We run together so much that I hate it when my bad days slow us down and he patiently waits for me. I knew he wanted to push the pace so we could catch the 3:15 group but I kept telling him I wasn’t ready yet.
We ran through the Segerstrom Center for Arts which was interesting before going around the South Coast Plaza parking lot (flashbacks to the New Years half around the Dodger stadium lot). As much as I felt myself fading physically, I tried to stay mentally focused. I knew I wasn’t running as fast as I should be, but I also didn’t want to blow it right then and not be able to finish strong. I was running the best as I could and that was all that mattered to me right then. I kept telling him it was okay if I didn’t do it today and as long as I tried my best, I would be happy. I really needed that second wind to pick me up again. Somewhere along this stretch we ended up passing the 3:15 pacer who looked like hell and was all by himself because his group had left him.
18.6 Mi: 2:19:14 Pace: 7:30
A little bit before Mile 20, we hit the Santa Ana River Trail which we would run on for 1.5 miles. From Ragnar SoCal last year, I remember dreading this section because it was so exposed, hot and boring. Fortunately the day stayed overcast and it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Matt picked off guys in front of us which gave me a target to catch them one by one and kept my mind off the remaining miles. I had heard from different people along the course that I was 4th female so that became my new motivation to keep my place. I was starting to feel better and instead of worrying about my time, I kept focused on chasing down the person in front of me.
24 Mi: 3:02:44 Pace: 7:37
We ran around a golf course through the Mesa Verde neighborhood towards the home stretch at the OC Fairgrounds. At Mile 25 Matt told me that I would PR today but depending on how I ran this last mile it would determine how big of a PR I was going to get. That last mile seemed to drag on and on since there were so many turns, at one point towards the finish I yelled out “where the F&*K is the finish???”. I saw my watch hit 3:15 but knew I was fairly close to finishing.
I had a hard time deciding when to start sprinting because I was worried about collapsing right before the finish and something seizing up so I kept chugging along the best I could until I literally saw the finish line and gunned it. I saw the clock ticking closer and closer to 3:20 and right then I was so determined to get in under 3:20. The clock went past 3:20 but since I was a few seconds off from the gun time, I ended up coming in at 3:19:57, 4th place woman and 1st in age group. No picture of me almost passing out at the finish line. I didn’t hit that magical 3:15, but I ran the best I could to get there.
There was a discrepancy with the race result and overall women’s leaderboard. After some investigating and working with the race director and timing company, they honored my 4th place and took out the woman who had suspicious times. Long story short, cheaters never win and in this sport, it isn’t fair to the rest of us who work and train hard to run the entire race. Most of us run for personal satisfaction and enjoyment and taking that away from other runners is wrong.
Also, running a marathon on Cinco de Mayo and celebrating with $5 margaritas at a restaurant called CINCO is pretty awesome.
I usually despise this word, but seeing ‘taper week’ on my training plan was more than welcomed after the past 4 weeks. It helps that I’m busy this week with non-running stuff (surprise surprise) and takes my mind off not being able to run. One thing that has been on my mind lately is self-doubt. We’ve all been there, before something big is about to happen. I’ve had a couple moments this week where I’ve been stressing myself out more than I need to, not all related to the marathon. Am I good enough? Did I train hard enough? What did I get myself into?
Trust in your training. I am a huge believer of recording all my workouts because of this. My training log dates back to when I first started running 5 years ago! It’s fun to go back and see what I did before a big race, especially if it was a good one and what I shouldn’t do (i.e. pilates). When in doubt, I sit down and look over my training and it gives me confidence that I’ve done all the hard work. The race is the celebration, after all.
Write it down. Jotting down my thoughts keeps me focused on my end goal and helps me stay calm. As business school as this sounds, I do a SWOT analysis on myself (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats). I focus on the strengths and opportunities and turn the weaknesses and threats into challenges. It helps me see the bigger picture instead of micro-managing every little detail.
Taper week workouts
I’ve been scaling back my workouts and mileage this week and going easy on my runs. Friday and Saturday will mainly be rest and recovery from all the running and pilates. I’m looking forward to seeing what Sunday brings! See you on the other side.
If you want to track me at O.C. this weekend I’m Bib #2166 (race starts at 5:30AM)
Last week of training before I head into taper week! As much as I’ve been running for the past four years, following some sort of formal marathon plan is very new to me. What can I say, I hate being told what to do. Fact, I recently Googled ‘marathon taper week’ to get a sense of what kind of mileage I should be doing the week leading up to the marathon. I learned that taper weeks are different for everyone, it’s about reducing your average weekly mileage by a certain percent. So someone who runs 40mpw will have a lower taper week than someone who typically runs 60mpw. I’ve learned to go with my gut instinct and do what feels right for my body. In the end, it’s your race.
After a not so great 20 miler the day before, my legs were more than ready to work on the trails. Matt and I hit up Los Liones for a quick run up to Parker Mesa and back. Love flying down that trail, the steeper the better.
Wore the devil shoes for a quick jaunt, called it quits after 3 miles and went home. You’re probably wondering as much as I am why I still continued to wear those shoes…
Usual early morning tempo run in Santa Monica with Matt, still wearing those damn shoes. Felt crappy first few miles, major shin splints, and just sucked it up on the way back with pick up miles from 8-10. Despite the slow beginning miles and all the stopping, managed to average a 7:30 for the entire run.
First “track” workout of the training season. A little too late. Since I was too lazy to drive to an actual track, I just ran on the Ballona Creek bike path which is somewhat flat. Funny how when you’re doing speed intervals you realize how NOT flat the path is and notice every bump and crack in the road. This was NOT fun, I set out to run 8 Yasso’s (800s) for a total of 4 miles + 1 mile warm-up. My beginning splits are a little off because I was still trying to figure out how to work the interval training on my watch. Also ran my first 800 only to realize at the very end that it didn’t even count because I forgot to press Start. I definitely needed more than a mile warm-up (maybe 3 next time) and more than a minute of rest in between (more like 3-4 minutes). I ended up pausing the watch towards the later intervals so I could rest more.
3:29, 3:24, 3:27, 3:20, 3:17, 3:18, 3:12, 3:15
Sadly only two of those 800′s are actually within my goal marathon time range.
Sweet rest!! Unplanned rest day, but legs and body just did not feel like moving. I never feel guilty about these days because rest is part of training too.
Legs were itching to run after taking a complete rest day on Thursday so banged out a quick 10 miler knowing I probably wasn’t going to run as much this weekend.
Since this post is lacking in the picture department, I’ll show you what we ate instead. If you haven’t been to Mo-Chica, go! Really great Peruvian food in the heart of Downtown LA.
I couldn’t wait to get on the trails this weekend after spending so much time on the road. Matt and I ran on trails that we haven’t been on in a long time. It was nice being back on the dirt not worrying about pace and splits. We started on the Santa Ynez trail->The hub->Eagle Rock->Musch->Trippet Ranch and back. Short and sweet run enjoying the nice views.
Total miles: 46.5
It’s the final countdown!
You can read more about my previous weeks here:
Last peak week in training, thank goodness.
Random note from this week on WHY ALL MY RUNS HAVE SUCKED:
Decided to run in my semi-new Nike LunarGlide 3 and save the ones I’ve been training in, LunarGlide 4, for the race. I bought these LunarGlides last year in August for Hood 2 Coast, but I haven’t worn them since. For some reason, it didn’t fit right on my feet even though it’s the exact same model and brand, just an updated version, so I stowed them away and bought the 4s. I always attributed the 3s to not fitting right because I still had to break them in, even though the 4s felt like clouds on my feet from Day 1.
So I stupidly ran on the 3s all week even though it was giving me a lot of shin pain, something I have never had before. The shin pain was even messing with my left knee. The toe box was very tight fitting even though I kept trying to loosen up the laces. I wear my shoes VERY loose, almost to the point where it looks like they might slip off my feet, but these shoes were still so tight in the front. Every run with these shoes pretty much sucked and I was losing hope for the marathon next weekend. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with my runs, never thinking ONCE that my shoes might have been the problem!
Anyways, problem solved yesterday when my shins hurt so badly on my normal Tuesday tempo run with Matt that I had to pull off and start running on the grassy medium slowly while stopping to stretch my shins every so often. He then informed me that the 3s got bad reviews and most people didn’t like the update. I felt so relieved that it wasn’t me, but the stupid shoes! I was tempted to chuck the shoes right in the middle of our run and go barefoot but I stuck it out for the rest of our 10 mile run and immediately chucked them once I got home. Farewell!
Long story short: If a new pair of shoes doesn’t feel right after a couple runs, you should seriously evaluate the shoes before sending yourself into a frenzy and wanting to withdraw from every race you signed up for this year.
Felt tired from Saturday’s long run, so took it as a sign to rest and just went to Pilates. Love lazy Sundays.
Boston Marathon morning! I was so excited to track all my friends who were out there running that the miles just flew by. First day of wearing the devil shoes, but completely ignored all pain because I was so excited to get back to my computer and watch the marathon unfold.
Ran around the Marina, sported my Boston shirt in memory of what happened the day before. Beautiful day on a sad morning with the wildflowers blooming all over the trail and bike path.
Read my Remembering Boston post here
A run in parts. Started the run by myself before meeting up with Sharon for a few miles and dropping her off at Peet’s, ran a few more by myself before meeting up with her again and dragging her out to run with me, dropped her off at home before running home myself. Did you catch all that? Uneven pacing but glad to get in some double digit miles on a weekday.
Meg and I ran the Sullivan to Westridge loop which I haven’t done in so long. Met up with Matt close to Westridge before running back to our cars. Really missed the trails after running the majority of my miles on road for the past 2 weeks. First good run all week because I was wearing trail shoes!
Struggled to get in 10, probably should have taken another rest day but I was determined to get my mileage up to 70 for the week and didn’t want to run more than 20 on Saturday. Lunch made up for the uneventful slog of a run.
Started the run with 6ish solo miles before meeting up with the gang to finish off the rest. Since everyone seemed to have different mileage plans for the day we all ended up running different routes. Dave, Matt and I ran up to Will Rogers and noticed this new trail, Rustic Creek, off the side of the park. The trail sign said it was only less than a half mile to the end but we were determined to see if the trail connected to any other parts of the park we’ve never explored. It was this awesome single track trail hugging the side of the mountain and I wished it had gone on forever but sadly it ended at a creek (like it said it would). Still determined to find the continuing trail, we made our way up the creek, across logs, bushwacking every plant and tree branch in the way only to be disappointed that it really did lead to nowhere. Note to self: when the sign says END TRAIL it really is the end.
We made our way up to Inspiration Point before turning around. Dave headed back to the car but I still had a couple more miles to get in before I was done for the day. Luckily I can always convince Matt to run extra miles with me despite him having just run a 2:52 marathon on Monday. We finished up our run by heading to the Palisades, down Temescal and to the beach path and calling it a day.
Total miles for the week: 69.5 (.5!!!) Cue OCD alert.
Here’s hoping this week is much better!