Post Race Recovery-Avoid Injury And Sedentary Craziness

Many runners just completed some major races this last weekend.  Others are getting ready to complete their final big races for the year.  What do you do after the race?  When do you come back?  How do you properly recover?  Remember that old rule that said you should take a day off for every mile you ran?  That is now a thing of the past and for many runners that is great news.  Can you imagine taking 26 days off after a marathon? Then again, maybe you can!

While there is quite a bit of science to running, there isn’t a set plan for recovery after an event.  There are several important factors to consider with your recovery:

How Long Was Your Race and Training Cycle:

Did you just complete an 18 week training cycle leading up to your marathon?  Were you running 50-60 miles per week during your plan?  You will likely require more rest than a runner who did a 12 week plan for a 10K.  The longer your training plan and the more miles completed might take a harder toll on your body and mind than a shorter race and mileage.

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How About a 5K to Couch Plan!

How Do You Feel?

This is a two part question.  While you need to consider how your legs and muscles are responding, you also need to assess how you are feeling mentally.  If you are experiencing tiredness and a loss of interest in running, go ahead and give yourself some time to fall back in love.  What is the point of hitting the pavement if it is no longer enjoyable?  This can be a normal feeling as you come off of training and the excitement of your event.  All runners go through this.  We need a break at times from all things we love and running is no different.

Some of the mental symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome are feeling sluggish, emotional, overly tried, sad, and just plain down in the dumps.  We all know that running is 90% mental, so it makes sense that we might need a break in this arena as well.

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Are You Dealing With Any Injuries?:

One of the hardest parts of any training cycle is avoiding injuries.  They are almost inevitable.  Most often, we train through these injuries.  Or perhaps you sustained an injury during the race.  It goes without saying that you need to give your body time to fully heal.  Sure, you can push through an injury to some extent to get through training.  But after the race is over, it would be unwise to continue with this approach.  Now is the time to rest and recover before you return.

There are so many different ways to approach injuries and I recommend you find what is most helpful for you and your needs.  Options range from traditional doctors and physical therapists to massage, acupuncture, yoga, and cupping.  Many facilities offer an array of different recovery techniques.  When you find an approach that you feel most comfortable and confident with, you are more likely to stick to a prescribed plan.

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Take Some Time To Reflect:

How do you feel your training went?  Are there things you would change?  What about the race?  Was it enjoyable?  Did the experience ignite a fire or inspire you to do something else?  Do you feel like this was a negative experience?

All of these questions are important to consider for your future.  Maybe you need a revenge race.  If that is the case you need to consider what went wrong and how you will change things moving forward.  Perhaps something went wrong in training.  The actual race might not have been the right one for you.

If you had a great experience and are ready to repeat or up the ante, you need to think about what went right in your training and how you can repeat that or make it even better.  Will you repeat the race or find another one that is similar?

Is is time to put racing to the side and just run for fun?  That is okay.  Some people love running for the sake of running and don’t need races or events to keep them content.  Think of different ways to help keep things exciting and motivating.

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Races and endurance events can be a great experience.  It can also take a mental and physical toll.  Your first goal should be to take care of you.  Rest and recovery are important.  This doesn’t mean you need to become a couch potato.  Active rest can be a perfect way to get back in the game healthy and happy.  Go for a walk, bike ride, swim, or play with the family.  Keep moving and take care of you!

Did you race this past weekend?  How was your experience?

Criteria For A Great/Bad Race Experience

What is your criteria for a great or a horrible race experience?  I’m not talking about your performance, getting a PR, or crashing at an event.  Today I want to discuss what factors about a race make for a good experience or a terrible one.  This topic came up the other day as we were figuring out our Turkey Trot plans and I thought it was worth a post and wanted to hear your thoughts.

Great Experiences:

Aid Stations:  One of the best races, in my opinion, is the Chicago Marathon.  Race Director Carey Pinkowski has worked to cover all of his bases to ensure that every runner has a great time on the course.  Several years ago the weather was terribly hot and as the race went on, they ran out of water.  They also had a shortage of port-a-potties on the course one year.  Now he makes certain they have more than enough water and there is an abundance of facilities throughout the course.

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Chicago has so many aid stations and so many options that you almost feel like they are the cheerleaders of the course.  Even if there wasn’t a single spectator along those 26.2 miles, the amenities alone would have you covered.

Swag:  A great way to start a good experience is to hand out sweet swag at packet pickup.  Grandma’s Marathon had custom socks.  The Cherry Festival Half Marathon handed out wine glasses.  Give me something sweet before I even get to run and you win my heart over.

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Post Race Goodies:  Hand me just a water bottle at the end of a race and unless I got to run for a very low registration fee, I am going to be super disappointed.  One of the first races that my husband and I did together was the Hudson Valley 15k in Upstate New York.  The race finished in the parking lot of a restaurant.  There was an awesome spread of eggs, pasta, sausage, and garlic bread.  Feed a hungry runner and they will definitely leave happy.

Beautiful Courses:  Even if there isn’t a lot of support along a course, if the scenery is great, I will definitely enjoy myself.  Both the Charlevoix Marathon and Run For The Red Pocono Marathon are smaller and head into quiet areas where there are very few crowds.  However both races have gorgeous and very different views.  One rolls through the mountains and the other along Lake Michigan.

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Show Your Racers Some Love: The Chicago Spring Half Marathon has first aid support via bikes along the race course.  While coaching one year, I had multiple people ride by and ask how I was doing because I was 20+ weeks pregnant.  The Pocono Marathon had age group awards and I had to leave before they were handed out.  Within days, my award arrived at my door and was big and beautiful.

Bad Experiences:  

Where Did The Facilities Go?:  Runners have one thing in common.  We all have to go and we all want to hurry up and go.  Nothing is more infuriating than waiting in line for an hour and nearly missing your race because there aren’t enough restrooms.  Grandma’s Marathon in 2016 was one giant hot mess.  They actually had plenty of facilities but placed them in such a manner that half of them were unreachable.  It also happened the year before too!

Congestion:  You are going to see a theme here in the next few bullet points.  Several years ago I ran the Hot Chocolate 15k in Chicago.  When a race has almost as many participants as the Chicago Marathon, zero corrals, and 5k and 15k participants running the first two miles together, you are going to end up with some very pissed off runners.  I love the 15k distance, but don’t expect a PR at this event unless you shimmy yourself up to the front of the line.  The finish was slightly redeeming with chocolate everything.

Painful Packet Pickup:  While I lucked out and did’t have this experience, many of my runners had a horrible experience at the Hot Chocolate packet pickup one year when the computers went down and people were waiting in line for hours for their packets.  The Chicago Marathon again takes the cake for this one when you walk in and out of there in 5 minutes with your packet and shirt at the giant expo.  No one needs to be on their feet all day before they run.

Annoying Crew On The Course:  My first experience was actually at the Charlevoix Marathon when a volunteer nearly tripped me running across the course to hand someone water.  Next, it happened at the Hot Chocolate 15k when the aid stations created narrow tunnels to hand out marshmallows and other goodies.  Stand to the side and give people space.  If we want sugar on the course, we will come up to you!

Not Taking Care Of Your Runners:  Look out for a huge rant here.  Ram Racing (the same company that does the Hot Chocolate races) hosts the North Shore Turkey Trot 10k on Thanksgiving and it has become a family tradition.  Every year a large group friends and family meet to do this event.  I love to eat and this is the perfect way for me to break a sweat and feel a tad less guilty about my overindulgence later in the day.

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This is a pricey race for a 10k ($50+)  and you don’t get a whole lot in exchange.  As their signature, they do give you something cool at packet pick up.  In years past it has been a bright yellow fleece hoodie, turkey flannel pants, a crazy furry hat, and last year a black pullover.  I will hand them this.

However, amenities on the course have become sparse.  The first year there was coffee and hot chocolate before the event.  Runner’s World raved that you receive a small individual pie at the finish.

Last year there were no pies, no coffee, and no hot chocolate.  There are no medals at the end  and the only thing you can look forward to is someone handing you a bottle of water as you walk to your car.  (Note that I am okay with no medals at the finish of a 10k).

I personally am pretty bitter because two years ago I placed 2nd in my age group and was sent a great medal in the mail.  Last year I PR’ed the 10k and placed 3rd in my age group.  After I inquired about my age group award, I was told to wait a few weeks and it would arrive.  After a few months I e-mailed and was told there was a hold up in China with their medal distributor and to please be patient and not e-mail again.  Finally, I e-mailed 10 months after the race and never received a reply.  For a pricey 10k with sparse amenities, one nice piece of swag, and no age group award, I can’t justify doing another Ram Racing event.

This year we will be doing a much smaller event with our family and friends and keeping it chill.  But I am still going to be bitter about that age group award!

What are your criteria for a great/bad race experience?  Care to share your best and worst race experiences?

Chicago Marathon: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Yesterday I mentioned that I ended up running the entire course of the marathon.  It was an awesome day, albeit hot for an October marathon.  As you can imagine, there was a lot to soak in during those slow 26.2 miles.  On our 12+ hour car ride the following day, Rock and I discussed the race and compiled a good, bad, and ugly list.

The Good:

First on this list is Rock.  Ever since I got pregnant my pace slowed down for a bit and I asked Rock to run on his own because I felt guilty for slowing him down.  Then when Mary arrived we had to start coordinating our runs so that we could each fit one in.  What you might not know is that Rock is also an RRCA certified running coach and this year MDA Team Momentum grew so much that we shared head coaching duties.  On race day we started off together and took turns along the course bouncing around to help people.  It was so fun running with him again for those 26.2 miles and I feel we really make an awesome coaching team.  It is something that makes me really proud.

The course itself is the best!  Chicago does things topnotch and Carey Pinkowski is an incredible race director.  Over the years he has learned from the race’s mistakes and now he has it down to a science.  Despite having 45,000 athletes to take care of, the expo is seamless and the course itself is one in a million.  Imagine 45,000 runners and 1.7 million spectators and a beautiful flow between everyone.  The volunteers are amazing and the cheer stations are remarkable.

Boystown.  This is one of my favorite spots on the course.  Last year there was a drag drill squad and this year there were some awesome drag queens along the course.  The music is pumping and the vibe is spectacular.  I looked forward to that stretch for a good while.

Charity Mile.  Chicago really embraces charity participation.  This past year 195 charities raised over $17.7 million.  Take a look around the course and you will see charity bibs everywhere.  When you come up to mile 14 on the course, all of the charities have their tents set up and the cheering is wild.  If you run for a charity, this is a mile you look forward to.  You get to see your team and have them shout for you.  It really provides a mental boost for anyone who is struggling near the half way point.

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The Bad:

Selfies.  I can’t believe I even have to type this.  But can we talk about how many times we almost ran into someone because they would stop short and pull out their phones to take a selfie?  This seriously shouldn’t be happening on a race course.  And if it does happen, you need to have some common courtesy and carefully pull of to the side.  Don’t stop in the middle of the pack to snap a pic of yourself with the United Center in the background.

Texting.  Oh I sense a social media trend here.  Seriously though, pulling your phone out and having your head down as you run with 45,000 others causes some major problems.  Again, pull off to the side, just as you (hopefully) do when driving or walking.

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Ignoring traffic patterns.  Just as you would not pull your car across several lanes to make a left turn to the bathroom without looking, you shouldn’t do it on a race course either.  There were so many collisions and near collisions because people forgot to play it safe.

The Ugly:

Bloody nipples.  Boys, you gotta nip up.  I sometimes wonder if they just forgot with the 3:30am wake up call or if it was just never an issue during long training runs.  Nip it up!

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Cramping.  Oh man, everyone was cramping during this race.  I’m going to blame it on the heat.  But I would definitely recommend hydrating a lot during the entire week before the race.  And if your race day calls for heat and humidity, consider having something salty like chicken noodle soup the night before.  It will help you retain water and ease potential cramping.

Puking.  We found a buddy puking on the sidelines at the 26.1 mile marker.  It was pretty nasty.  But he jumped back in and shrugged it off, “I started off a bit too hard, but I’ve got room for beer now.”  So this actually was less ugly and more funny with the positive twist he added to it.

What are the best, worst, and ugliest things you’ve seen along a race course?

Chicago Marathon in a Nutshell

What a weekend.  And yes, I know that the weekend was days ago.  But a lot has happened and we were exhausted.  It has taken me until now to be able to sit down and do a quick recap.  I didn’t do this race as a runner, but instead as a coach for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Team Momentum for the second year in a row.  This year we had 185 runners.  Pretty impressive considering that MDA Team Momentum’s second birthday is coming up this winter!

My parents came in on Thursday to help out with little Mary.  I had asked them months ago when I thought my due date was going to be August 30th.  My plan at the time had been to be on the course to assist runners.  As you may remember, Mary arrived three and a half weeks early.  I was still planning on just being on the course for the athletes but at some point the week before the race, I decided that since I had a bib, I would go ahead and run the race alongside the athletes.

Friday, we went to the expo.  This place is a running nerd’s mecca; a dream!  There are free samples of just about any gel or product you can want and you seriously could buy just about the coolest running gear ever there.  I held out, because I had to head over to Fleet Feet later that day.  Wouldn’t you know that my Garmin would die on Thursday?!

Friday evening we hosted dinner for a good friend I had met online awhile ago.  Mother Racer has become one of my favorite bloggers and a good friend over the years.  I admire her as a runner, a mom, a coach, and a woman who is deeply rooted in her faith.  It was so nice to meet her and her husband.  And to be honest, it felt like we had been friends for years.  This woman is an awesome runner by the way!

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Saturday we had our team dinner for all of the athletes on MDA Team Momentum.  I’m not going to lie.  I woke up sick to my stomach thinking about speaking in front of 300 people.  But as you can see, I survived.  Mary was gifted an awesome Team Momentum outfit from team member Nora when she was born.  I was so excited to have her arrive at the dinner properly dressed for the night, including sneakers (thanks Stephanie!).

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In typical night before the marathon style, I think Rock and I both got about 4 hours of sleep.  And that was miraculous.  Four hours of uninterrupted sleep, thanks to my mom and dad for watching Mary.

The weather on Sunday was a little warm.  Great for a running coach to be on the course for 5+ hours, but very difficult for the athletes.  There was a lot of cramping and other issues, but everyone came up big and made it to the finish.

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Rock and I had a blast on the course, helping athletes along and checking in on everyone.  While it is awesome to be able to run a race for yourself, it is incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to help a group of athletes that you have been interacting with for three months see that finish line.  I am also always amazed by the positive attitudes and desire to push through struggles along the way.  This group of athletes was amazing!

We didn’t arrive home until after 5:00pm that evening.  To be honest, I don’t remember much of what happened the rest of the night.  I was exhausted and my body was pretty darn sore.  That was to be expected since I hadn’t properly trained for a marathon and had a baby nine weeks before.  But it was one  of those, “Hurts so good,” moments.

Again, another major thanks goes out to my parents for watching Mary and our dog that night so that Rock and I got a solid eight hours of sleep.  This was a huge help because the next morning it was out the door and into the car.  We were on our way to NYC for three weeks of work.

We drove 12 hours on Monday and made it to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for the night.  As you can see, we thoroughly enjoyed stopping at gas station for post marathon snacks.  It was also hilarious to see us get out of the car each time.  Between stiff legs from the drive and and sore bodies from the race, we could have been on the set of The Walking Dead.

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By early Tuesday morning we had arrived in Peekskill, New York where we are staying in a cute motel for the next three weeks.  We are right on the Hudson River and enjoying the mountains and fall foliage all around us.  I can’t wait to take Mary into the city and show her all around.  We also have awesome plans to show her our favorite places in Upstate New York.  We really have arrived at the perfect time.

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I have some awesome recaps of amazing things I saw along the race and those will show up in the next few days.  A huge shout out to everyone who ran Chicago and Hartford last weekend.  You are all awesome!

Sweet Home Chicago

Ahhh, I am back in Chicago.  Despite the fact that it is May I was still surprised when the plane was landing and I looked outside the window to see green grass.  It was a looonnng winter!  In fact, my family and friends in Michigan got snow again earlier this week.  So imagine my surprise when I got off the plane and was hit with 70ºF.  Today is supposed to go over 80ºF.

It made me want to go for a run…oh but wait I am supposed to be mending.  Dummy here didn’t heed her own advice and went for a 4 mile run two days ago.  Guess who woke up with a stiff foot the following morning?  In my defense, the pain was almost completely gone.  But that was a pretty rookie mistake on my part.  Whenever you have a bout of mild tendonitis it is better to be safer than sorry and wait it out.

But I pulled the compression sleeves on, rested my legs for the most part and ate lots and lots of healthy food.

I also reintroduced myself to the foam roller all afternoon.  Thanks to Laura for sharing all of her lessons from being injured and getting back to fighting form the right way, I knew just what to do to get out those bumps and bruises.  I spent a painful time rolling around on the floor, and was pleasantly surprised to feel some relief from my foam rolling session.  I get lazy and tend not to  take care of my muscles after I abuse them.  But the foam roller is a great way to break down all those kinks and tears that build up along your muscles.  It’s just another one of those “hurts so good” moments.

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I also swung over to a new grocery store that opened up just a few blocks from our apartment.  I am a bit of a foodie so you can imagine how excited I was to walk in to see a coffee bar, piano player at the wine bar, sushi bar, BBQ joint, oyster bar and way too much more.  I ended up going to the grocery store twice yesterday.  One trip was for groceries and I returned later for dinner.  Grocery shopping makes me happy!  I stocked up on lots of bright red and green fruits and vegetables to pack in the antioxidants and anti-inflammatories to help get me back healthy and fully healed.

Ok, ok I also got some dessert!

Ok, ok I also got some dessert! Notice how I didn’t even have time to take it out of the container before I dug in?

Speaking of which, I recently saw this award and am pretty sure it was meant for me!

Speaking of which, I recently saw this award and am pretty sure it was meant for me!

I even picked up a fresh turmeric and lemon elixir.  It takes some time to get used to it, but turmeric is quite the powerful spice.  This is full of strong antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, making it a natural healer.  It can even improve your brain and heart function and is used for some cancer treatments.  This spice gives curry its color and has a pretty strong flavor.  Try mixing it with a spoonful of honey and a touch of cinnamon and throw it back like cough syrup.

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Thanks again for all of the well wishes.  I am feeling much better and am happy to be in Chicago for awhile and sleep in my own bed and wander around in some warm weather.

If you are interested or even contemplating running a marathon in the near future I will be at Wholefoods in Lakeview this evening at 6pm along with the Team Momentum members.  They will be hosting a social to share all of the exciting information about our endurance program.  If you aren’t ready to commit to a full marathon we still have spots for the awesome Boston 13.1.  We also have spots for the Marine Corps marathon that sold out in minutes.  Come check it out and get some great info and then you can pick up some delicious food for dinner afterwards!

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Happy running.

Chicago Runners Don’t Despair! You Can Still Run and I Will Help You.

So you opened up your e-mail this morning only to find out you were denied entry into the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  That stinks. ChicagMarathon But I have great news.  You can still run Chicago, help a great cause, and I will coach you through to the finish line.  What a deal! I am working with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Team Momentum this year to help their athletes train for the Chicago Marathon.  By running with us you will receive a personal training plan to suit your marathon needs whether you are a first time marathoner or are looking to set a new PR.  If you are in the Chicago area I will also be meeting with runners on Saturday mornings for group long runs and during the week for a midweek training run.  I will also host a few clinics with Team Momentum on various topics that are aimed to help you reach that finish line.  We will discuss fuel and hydration, proper foot wear, proper running clothes and even mental preparation techniques. Perhaps you weren’t even thinking about Chicago but have the itch to complete your first marathon.  This is the perfect time for you.  Our plan will start out with minimal mileage and over the course of our training we will slowly build both our distances and duration.  By the time race day comes along you will be fully prepared to complete 26.2 miles. Team Momentum Even if you aren’t in the Chicago area I will be available at any time to discuss your training needs via e-mail.  This practically makes this a personal training experience. The Muscular Dystrophy Association and Team Momentum are an incredible cause working towards finding an end towards muscle disease.  As runners and athletes ourselves this is a very special cause to run for.  There is reasonable fundraising required to help this awesome cause and you will also receive assistance with your fundraising along with a personalized website to help you reach your goals. If you really wanted to run and were shut out this is really an incredible opportunity for you to still get out there and help a great cause at the same time!  If you have questions you can contact me here on this blog or through my e-mail address.  I would love to chat with you!

This can still be you!

This can still be you!

Click on this link for more info:  http://www2.mda.org/site/TR?fr_id=8474&pg=entry

I Got In! I’m Not Racing. But You Can!

I got this pretty awesome message in my inbox the other day:

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Congratulations! Your guaranteed entry into the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon has been approved. At any time you can view your entry status through the Athlete Center (register.chicagomarathon.com/athletecenter).

Pretty exciting stuff.  But I am even more excited to tell you that I will not be racing in the Chicago Marathon.  Why not you ask?  Because I have been given the most exciting opportunity of being hired as the endurance coach for Team Momentum for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  I am so excited I can barely sleep!  As the endurance coach I will be training charity runners for the Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, and Boston 13.1 as they raise money for muscular diseases.

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Even better I have some exciting news for all my blogging friends and awesome followers.  From now until Friday April 4th you can skip the lottery to get into the Chicago Marathon and secure a spot right now.  Your spot will be secured at a minimum fundraising amount of $1000.  After that date minimum fundraising increases to $1500.  This is an awesome cause and an easily attainable fundraising opportunity for you.

By joining this awesome team you will receive free in-person or virtual training, Team Momentum gear, fundraising guidance and a webpage, a community of support from teammates, and an opportunity to accomplish one huge goal all while helping impact the lives of MDA families.

If you want to register immediately you can go to: http://www2.mda.org/chicagomarathon.

Talk about a chance of a lifetime!  I am so excited to be helping out both the MDA as well as fellow runners and marathoners.  Whether you are an experienced marathoner or you are just starting to think about doing your first one this is the perfect time.  I will be helping to set up training plans for all levels and if you are in the Chicago area we can hang out on some beautiful long training runs.

Give me a shout if you have any questions.  I hope you will be joining the fun!