From Training in Paradise to Back to Reality

It’s been a whole month since I wrote last, and my, what a month it was! February was my lowest mileage month in almost a year at just under 34 miles, but I suppose that’s with some good reason.

I kicked off February with a fabulous Thursday morning 10-miler with Kelly that was just what I needed to start the month. We got up crazy early while it was still dark, met at Wash Park, and ran up to Cheeseman and back down for an extra loop of the park. On our final stretch of the park, as we were high-fiving and patting ourselves on the back, we even saw a bald eagle! It was a gorgeous morning – one of those winter mornings where snow is on the grounds and on the mountain peaks in the distance but not on the trail, where we were quickly warming up by mile 5, and where once the sun was up, the entire city looked spectacular.

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After our run, I rushed off to work to finalize my out-of-office information and then came home to pack my bags for vacation. As I told Kelly, you know you’re training for a marathon when you leave for a 2-week cruise with Cytomax packets, protein bars, Shot Bloks, and multiple pairs of running shoes in your carry-on.

The following day, I got on a plane from Denver to Singapore. It felt great to have gotten a long run down right before I had to sit on a plane or in airports for 24 hours straight!

My vacation kicked off in Singapore on February 8th, boarding the Celebrity Century for a 2-week cruise visiting Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia. This isn’t a travel blog, so I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say the trip was fantastic! I ate to my heart’s content in Singapore, got a Thai massage in Phuket, saw one of the world’s largest and oldest Buddhist temples in Myanmar, and hiked a 10K jungle trek complete with monkeys and hilarious commentary by my mother in Malaysia. The weather was warm, the food was amazing, and I finally had the free time to exercise and read all day!

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I was feeling refreshed and inspired on this trip, excited about all of the big things coming this Spring, particularly the marathon. During the second week of the cruise, after feeling like my IT band was a little strained and focusing on cross-training, I finally worked myself up to getting a long run in on the dreadmill. With pain in my left knee reemerging, I managed to get in 12 miles on the machine, but not without some setbacks along the way.

Here’s how the workout shook out:

.25 miles walking warm up

3.25 miles @ 5.4 mph (shot blok)

1 mile @ 5.6 mph

1 mile @ 5.8 mph

Break to stretch my knee, take a shot blok, refill water

2 miles @ 5.6 mph

0.78 miles @ 5.7-5.9 mph

Break to stretch my knee, take a shot blok

1 mile @ 5.3 mph

1 mile @ 5.4-5.6 mph

Break to stretch my knee

3 mile cooldown @ 5.3mph

This run was a frustrating one! Particularly with the lack of altitude, my lungs felt like I could’ve kept going for days! I had a great playlist going on my iPod, I’d picked a prime treadmill with ocean views, and I was rested and motivated. But with the burning in my knee, I stopped at 12 and went to ice and rest.

As though I wasn’t frustrated enough by the issue with knee, I spent the rest of vacation fighting off a rough case of strep throat. Don’t worry – I still managed to have a blast and keep active as we did our sightseeing in Malaysia and Singapore. I slept as much as I could on the flight home, and by the time I got back to Denver, it was a full-blown sinus infection.

Now, I know, this all sounds extraordinarily whiney. At least for me, it does. But all of this trial & tribulation ended with a lesson in overcoming, I promise.

In the fall, Kelly & I registered for the Run Denver Series, a series of 4 5K’s in Wash Park & City Park followed by a half marathon over the Dam Road near our high school. If any of you Denverites are looking for a fun winter race series next season, I’d highly recommend this one – the races are fun, well-organized, fast, and flat, and the swag is pretty legit. For running 3/5 races, you get a Run Denver ½ zip and a medal on top of the shirts & medal you’d receive for the races regularly.

We signed up for this race series long before my parents invited me on our vacation to Asia, so once I booked the trip, I figured I already had a good base built up for the half, so I’d be fine. Little did I know I’d spend the entire week leading up to the race in bed!

I got back from my trip craving a run, fresh air, the open road. But I also came home feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. Sick in bed and sucking down DayQuil, all I wanted to do was go for a damn run! Or THAT Dam Run!

After days of sleeping, eating chicken soup, and cold medications, I woke up Sunday morning feel completely renewed. I was so determined to run this race that part of me feels like I willed away the sinus infection just so I could run.

It was a frigid cold morning for a run – the sun only came out a handful of times, we were expecting snow, and it got no warmer than 20 degrees for the majority of the run. Kelly and I got to the start line and were a little baffled by the small field for the race – about 250 people came out for the half, and it makes sense in light of how cold the weather has been the last few weeks! Based on my complications the last few weeks – not being at altitude, having a grouchy IT band/knee, and spending the week sick in bed – we decided to treat this race as what we now refer to as “a training run with a medal at the end.” Essentially, we were in it to finish and to get a good run in, not to PR or get a great time.

It’s a good thing we set that precedent early in the day because the two of us, stubborn and competitive as we are, would not have been thrilled with our finish any other way. This race was definitely a tough one! The field of runners who came out seemed mostly like serious runners (I think the average time for the course was somewhere around 2:09, so not a crazy fast course, but certainly a good set of times). It was cold, and I had some trouble because of my knee starting early on in the race, so we took it easy and used the time to catch up, enjoy the (beautiful!) scenery, and just get our mojo back.

Probably my favorite point in the race came at about 12.75 miles in. I was dying… my knee was throbbing, I was coughing, and I could feel the lactic acid building up in my legs. I was feeling it. Kelly was amazing, and she reassured me that this was just a training run – with a medal. We could take it easy, our goal was to finish. I remember looking to my left and seeing a man and a woman about to pass us, and saying, “What I want is to beat these guys!” I knew I couldn’t really go much faster, but the competitor in me did not want these jerks to finish first! As we got closer to the finish and saw our cheerleading squad, I couldn’t help myself. I had to beat these guys. Kelly & I looked at pictures later and laughed because I really wasn’t finishing the race behind those guys no matter what. At minimum, we tied them.

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The time wasn’t great – 2:27 and change, the slowest half we’ve run together and my second slowest ever – but it was a great time, a beautiful run, and a fun day with friends. And if I look at it from a different frame, it was a great training run that came with a medal!  This race proved to me that sometimes it really is necessary to relax and listen to your body – if we’d tried to push it much harder, I could’ve ended up much sicker than I was or in worse shape with my knee.  Because we had the discipline to keep our pace slow and steady, we finished – and we finished happy, feeling good, and ready to keep moving forward with our training.

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Coming up, I’m taking a week off from running while I wait on results from an MRI on my knee. Don’t worry – it’s just precautionary, and my doc seems to be encouraging that it can be fixed with a quick injection and some time off. Once I get back to it, Kelly and I dive into marathon mode full-on by upping our mileage and getting focused! Maybe Kelly can even guest post here to talk about how much she hates me for getting her into this mess after we do our 18 miler.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Get out there and run!

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