Race Recap: Muddy Monk 10K

The race on Sunday wasn’t quite what I expected. The Muddy Monk 10k was less of a trail run and more of a mud run. Although I was not really ready for that, I still had a ton of fun. Did I hit my goal time? Nope. I ran it in 1:01:20, so I guess if I had done one of the six river crossings a bit faster and maybe didn’t get my shoe stuck in the mud so many times, I would have hit my time. Oh well though. It was pretty freaking fun, regardless.

The day was beautiful with blue skies and crisp 40 F air. We got there quite a bit early to pick up our bibs and chill out a bit before the race. People were dressed in tutus and santa gear, which gave the race a bit of a relaxed feel. I had a cup of coffee and a Luna energy bar for breakfast and was ready to go. My stomach felt good. I was pumped. I was ready. I figured I finally got my race day meal right and might not have to deal with mid-run stomach problems. However, as we were standing at the starting corral, the announcer warned us of river crossings and climbs where we would need to use our hands. My stomach started to flip and I had trouble until about mile 4.

Kelly and I before the race. We were ready for some serious trails to run and boy did we get it. We were pretty covered in mud by the end.
Kelly and I before the race. We were ready for some serious trails to run and boy did we get it. We were pretty covered in mud by the end.

After the race had begun, it didn’t take me more than two minutes to realize that my stomach cramps would plague me in this race too. So far, in every race I have run, my stomach has cramped up on me and I can’t quite take full breaths. It slows me down a lot, and I race about a minute slower per mile than I expect to run based on my training. My intention for this race was to finally beat it so I could confidently go into the A1A Half Marathon, knowing that I could get through a race without the cramps. I guess I’ll just have to wing it and hope it doesn’t happen again.

The race was pretty muddy from the start. My shoes were covered and I had quite a few river crossings (six total, I think) to contend with. The course was an out and back, so as I ran through the mud on the way out, I knew I would be seeing a worse version of it on the way back. For the first few rivers, people hesitantly jumped across. By the end of the race, people were just running through, full blast. It was pretty great to see people getting so dirty. Some seemed to be enjoying it and others… well not so much.

Rivers and downed trees were no strangers to this course.
Rivers and downed trees were no strangers to this course.

The course eventually lead to a long paved path out into a field. I was starting to see the fastest runners coming back, so I figured the turn around was close. At the end there was just a single dude standing there with a beer telling people to turn around. Like I said before, the race was pretty chill. The way back was nice, and I was hoping to run negative splits, but my stomach wouldn’t really give me a break. The course was muddier, just as I had suspected, but I cared much less about mud and water, since I knew the end was near.

There I am, jumping across a river like a real champ. This part was probably the most fun.
There I am, jumping across a river like a real champ. This part was probably the most fun.

This was my trail run before the A1A Half in February and it didn’t quite go to plan. I was pretty disappointed about my stomach problems and time. I had not followed through on either goal, but that’s ok. I am going to continue to train after eating what I plan to at the A1A Half Marathon, in hopes that I can figure it out before then. After the race, I got my vegan hotdog (what do you think is in a vegan hotdog? I have no idea.) and we took off to hike a bit and get some more food. Overall, I had a great day and a fun race, even if things didn’t really go as planned.

Post race vegan hotdog!
Post race vegan hotdog!

Reflections for Intensions

The end of the year is a perfect time to reflect on our accomplishments and growth over the past 12 months. As runners, we always try to compete with ourselves for that better time and longer distance and sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Resolutions come in many forms, and may (or may not) be reachable in just a single year. Sometimes our goals can take an entire lifetime to achieve and those, quite honestly, are the best ones. It’s important that as we approach the end of the year, that our reflections lead to positive thoughts and actions towards ourselves and others.

One year ago, I was still recovering from my ankle injury (a full tear to my ATFL), which meant no running for me. I had always considered myself a runner, but I hadn’t even laced up the running shoes in over 6 months. My injury had sidelined my passion and I knew my fitness was suffering for it. My husband and I would go hiking and I would be struggling to keep up (to my defense, he goes really really fast!). I decided that I needed to get back to the trails and begin running again. I hadn’t raced in well over a year, but I felt confident that I could work my way back. My intention for 2014 was to run again, and in the process work up to a half marathon. Did I do it? …Well, kind of. I ran again. I raced again. But I didn’t run that half. In October, when I had intended to run a half, I felt an old injury resurface, and in great wisdom (and a whole lot of frustration), I decided to back off and push the half distance until 2015. So, here I am. I am training for that half and it feels right this time. No pains, no hickups. Maybe 2014 wasn’t the year of the half marathon for me, but it sure seems like 2015 will be.

Here are my 5 goals and intentions for the upcoming year:

1. Run a half marathon (actually, run like 3 or 4…but let’s start with 1)

2. Train in the mornings more often..for real this time

3. Confidently do forearm stands away from the wall (in class, while instructing people through it…haha!)

4. Practice gratitude and appreciation for what is here…always. No matter what life throws.

5. Clean my room once a month (this is a vast improvement over never…which is how often I clean it now)

This is me practicing forearm stand, confidently, in my running shoes, when I thought no one was watching.
This is me practicing forearm stand, confidently, in my running shoes, when I thought no one was watching. This is a rare occurrence for me. 

So as you approach the new year, what is it that you intend? Will you approach these goals with positivity even if they fall short? Take the new year as an opportunity. Be positive.

I’ll leave you with an affirmation as you reflect. 

Lead me from the unreal to the Real
Lead me from the darkness to the Light
Lead me from the temporary to the Eternal 

– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 

Happy Holidays, everyone! Namaste. 🙂

Bring some balance to your day

A little over a year ago, I tore the anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL) in my ankle. This is the most commonly torn ligament in the body and is the main place people have injuries from an ankle sprain. One of the major problems associated with this kind of injury is balance instability. I went to physical therapy and it was to my therapist’s surprise that even with my full tear to the ATFL, I was still able to balance on the injured foot with relative ease. She attributed this to my history of a vigorous yoga practice, and I think she was right. Yoga is great for building muscles around joints, so that when you do get injured, you have a backup system to rely on. Although my ankle still had a great deal of pain, I could balance without trouble, which helped me heal from my injury even quicker.

The ankle has many ligaments and tendons that can be stretched or torn when you roll the foot a little too far. Practice with balance can help strengthen your stabilizing muscles and potentially prevent injuries to this area of the body.
The ankle has many ligaments and tendons that can be stretched or torn when you roll the foot a little too far. Practice with balance can help strengthen your stabilizing muscles and potentially prevent injuries to this area of the body.

This week I’m going to touch on three cool (and helpful!) balance postures. There are 26 bones in the foot and ankle alone, making this a very complex area of the body, especially for injury prevention. Because of this, we always need to keep ankles (and knees) healthy, and one way to do that is by building the stabilizing muscles in your legs. Balance doesn’t have to be restricted to that, though. We can also stretch and open our bodies while we build the muscles necessary to keep us healthy while we run.

Tree Pose

Tree pose is often considered one of the classic yoga asanas. In almost any class you attend, you will be doing this posture, or some variation on it. But tree pose is not solely a balance posture. It is also a hip opener. To harness it’s hip opening powers, remember to draw the knee of the lifted leg back and down. You should feel a stretch in the inner thigh and outer hip.

Come into this posture by shifting your weight to one side and lifting the opposite leg. You can test the waters a little by keeping the toes on the ground and the heal of your lifted foot on your ankle. If you would like to go deeper, place the lifted foot on your calf or draw it all the way up above the knee. The only rule to tree pose is to make sure your lifted foot is not on the knee. We don’t need any extra pressure there.

Tree Pose: Place the lifted foot on the standing leg. Make sure that the foot stays above or below the knee.
Tree Pose: Place the lifted foot on the standing leg. Make sure that the foot stays above or below the knee.

Standing Pigeon Pose

Standing pigeon pose is a staple among runners. Before almost any race I go to, I see at least one person in this posture. Standing pigeon has a lot of fun variations including a forward fold, a few twists and an arm balance. Today I’ll be going over two of these variations. I’ll hit on this posture a little more in depth another time.

Start by shifting your weight on to one foot and lift the opposite leg while keeping the lifted leg’s knee bent. Begin to bend your standing leg and take the ankle of the lifted leg on to the knee of the standing leg. You’ll notice that as you bend your standing leg deeper, the hip opening of the stretch becomes deeper.

Standing pigeon: Take the ankle of the lifted leg on to the knee of the standing leg. Bend the standing leg. The deeper you bend the standing leg, the deeper you will be in the pose.
Standing pigeon: Take the ankle of the lifted leg on to the knee of the standing leg. Bend the standing leg. The deeper you bend the standing leg, the deeper you will be in the pose.

From here, begin to fold forward over your legs. If you know your hips are tight, have a block or some stacked books in front of your standing leg. As you fold forward, the stretch will become more intense. Place your fingers on the ground or on your block for stability.

Standing Pigeon variation: Bend over until your fingers touch the ground or a block. This will get nice and deep into your IT band and outer hip.
Standing Pigeon variation: Bend over until your fingers touch the ground or a block. This will get nice and deep into your IT band and outer hip.

Eagle Pose

Eagle is one of my favorite balance postures. It is great for stretching the outer hip, shoulders and upper back. I am often surprised how often this posture gets overlooked, since it manages to hit almost every part of the body. I almost always do eagle in my yoga classes. This is a very complex posture, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it the first time.

To start, bring your arms out to a “T” and then wrap the right arm over the left so that your hands touch opposite shoulders. If your shoulders are tight, stop here. To go deeper, lift your hands off your shoulders and see if you can wrap your arms around each again other so that your palms eventually are together. Make sure both of your feet are together and then bend your knees coming into chair pose (a squat with the feet together). Then, lift up your left leg, so you are balancing on your right and place your left leg over your right (the toes of the left leg can come down for stability if needed). See if you wrap your left foot around the back of your right leg so that your arms and legs mirror each other. Continue to draw the shoulders down your back and the elbows against your chest.

Eagle Pose: wrap the right arm over the left and see if you can bring the palms together. Then, bend the knees and wrap the left leg over the right.
Eagle Pose: Wrap the right arm over the left and see if you can bring the palms together. Then, bend the knees and wrap the left leg over the right.

Be sure to even these postures out on both sides. If you know that instability is a problem, use a wall or a chair to help you with balance. Balance can be fun, but it is also humbling. Everyone falls, and that is OK! The strength and flexibility you will build with these postures will not only help you with your running, but also with your daily life. Enjoy some balance!

Namaste! 🙂

Race Week Training Update!

We are now 68 days away from the A1A Half Marathon and I couldn’t feel better about that! Last week was great! I ran my long run (7 miles) with the Fleet Feet Trail Runners, which was awesome and the rest of my runs went pretty well, too. I did my long run on trail in a local county park to prepare me a little for my trail race next Saturday. This next week brings more snow and a busy schedule as the semester ends, so I’ll be squeezing my runs between tons of work.

The trail running group from this morning. We all had an awesome time!
The trail running group from this morning. We all had an awesome time! Photo was taken by one of the other runners named Erin.

In the past, I have had a considerable amount of trouble with my race day routine. My stomach will start to bother me, I don’t sleep well the night before or I feel compelled to drink way too much water (as if aid stations don’t exist). My goals for this race are to nail down a good morning race routine and to (hopefully) break one hour. My plan is to eat a piece of bread, an Luna energy bar, some coffee and some cliff gummies for breakfast. I’ll have to remind myself not to fill up too much on liquids.

Training this week:

Monday: 4 miles (nice and slow)

Tuesday: Yoga

Wednesday: Yoga + 5 miles (3 miles at half marathon pace)

Thursday: Yoga + 4 miles

Friday: Lots and lots of rest!!

Saturday: 6.2 Race!

Sunday: 2-3 mile slow recovery run

Total: 21 miles

So there you have it, another week in the books. Hopefully my training next week goes as well as this past week. Wish me luck on my race saturday, and as always, feel free to give any advice for race day nutrition. I’ll post an update after the race to let you know how I did!

Break it down: Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose: A great posture to undo some of the harm from being seated often and to build hip and core strength
Bridge Pose: A great posture to undo some of the harm from being seated often and to build hip and core strength

Bridge is a great posture to work your hip strength and to release tension in your back muscles. Since most of us spend a significant amount of time on the computer or in seated positions, our backs are usually rounded, causing tightness in our shoulders, back and chest. Here, I will give you some tips for working into bridge along with some fun variations to strengthen your hips, core and to restore your spine.

Sitting like this is terrible, no matter how much you run! Use bridge pose to help undo some of the harm caused from sitting!
Sitting like this is terrible, no matter how much you run! Use bridge pose to help undo some of the harm caused by sitting!

If you have a ponytail, remove it so the back of your head can be flat on the floor. Start laying on your spine with you knees up and your arms down by your sides with your palms down. Your fingers should be able to just barely touch your heels. Keep your feet hip width apart and your knees stacked above the ankles. Consciously make sure your knees do not splay out to the sides. Press into your feet elevating your pelvis off the ground. Now, let go through your glute muscles and allow your knees to remain above the ankles. This is low bridge.

Low Bridge: my feet are hip width apart and I am pressing down into my feet. Lift the pelvis up from the ground and use your core and hip strength to keep you lifted.
Low Bridge: my feet are hip width apart and I am pressing down into my feet. Lift the pelvis up from the ground and use your core and hip strength to keep you lifted.

If you would like to go a little deeper, wiggle your shoulders under you and clasp your hands. This will cause you to lift more through the chest and to intensify the backbend. Again, make sure that you are not tensing in your glute muscles in order to keep your knees in line.

Full Bridge: bring your shoulders underneath you a little and interlace the fingers. The higher you go up, the deeper the backbend you will be in.
Full Bridge: bring your shoulders underneath you a little and interlace the fingers. The higher you go up, the deeper the backbend you will be in.

For a little more core challenge, you can shift your weight over to one leg and lift the opposite. Draw the lifted leg close into your chest with the knee bent and then lift the leg and straighten it into the air. Hold for a few breaths (should get hard pretty quick) and then switch sides.

One Legged Bridge: for some fun, lift one leg into the air by bringing the leg into chest and then straightening it out.
One Legged Bridge: for some fun, lift one leg into the air by bringing the leg into chest and then straightening it out.

For a more restorative version of the posture, grab a block or a stack of books (higher the stack, the greater the backbend will be, so be careful). Place the block close so you can grab it while in the posture. Set yourself up the same way you did before with the knees in the air, feet hip width and your hands by your sides. Lift the pelvis up and grab the block. Slowly, slide it under your sacrum (this should be comfortable, if it is not, move the block around. It should NOT be on your spine). You’ll notice immediately that you can let go of your muscles a bit more and just enjoy the backbend. Have fun with this! Maybe lift one leg at a time, or be super adventurous and lift both!

Supported Bridge: Use your block under your sacrum for a more restorative version of the posture. Remember, the higher you place the block, the deeper you will get into your backbend.
Supported Bridge: Use your block under your sacrum for a more restorative version of the posture. Remember, the higher you place the block, the deeper you will get into your backbend.

When you are done, come back down to the ground and straighten out your legs so you are laying flat for a few breaths. Once you feel ready, draw your knees into chest and hug them in. You can sway side to side to massage the spine. This is a great posture to do before or after your run. Try it out! 🙂 Namaste!!!

Happy Late Thanksgiving!!!

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was AWESOME! For the first time in my life, I did a rather untraditional Thanksgiving Day. Instead of eating tons of Turkey (I’m vegetarian, so tofurkey in my case), I spent my day hiking through the backcountry of Great Smokey Mountains National Park with my husband and favorite hiking partner. In total for the holiday weekend, we hiked over 50 miles through rolling hills and difficult terrain. I’m pretty sure my legs were ready to fall off, but you know, that comes with the territory. Our animal count was a live turkey (on Thanksgiving Day), a bobcat, a wolf (we also heard them too while we were hiking back to our car) and an armadillo. Pretty good for late fall.

My view on Thanksgiving Day. Jealous much? :)
My view on Thanksgiving Day. Jealous much? 🙂

So now that I’m back to town, it is back to my training. I am 76 days from the A1A Half Marathon! It sounds like a lot, but that time is going to fly by. I also have a 10k trail run in 2 weeks and I am looking for a 5k in Florida to run when I am home for Christmas.

Training for the week:

Monday: 5 miles slow and easy – yoga afterwards

Tuesday: Yoga

Wednesday: 4 miles with running group + yoga

Thursday: 4 miles + yoga

Friday: REST!

Saturday: 7 mile long run pace (try strawberry cliff energy gel + race day breakfast)

Sunday: yoga

Total: 20 miles

These next few weeks I am going to be trying out my race nutrition strategies. I have a rather sensitive stomach, so I am a little worried about what will happen during my half marathon. I usually have to be careful about what I eat before I run and I am new to energy gels. Honestly, I haven’t really decided if I want to use them for my race. Any thoughts? I’d love to hear what works for you.

Muddy Monk Trail Run! Woohoo!

I just signed up for one more trail race in 2014 and I am super excited! A group of people from the South Bend Adventure Club will be heading out to run either the 5k or the 10k in about two weeks (I’ll be doing the 10k). Although trail races tend to be quite a bit slower than road, they are still tons of fun, if not more fun. However, it is important to adjust expectations to the race you are running. If you know there will be hills and lots of turns, you will run a substantially slower race. A few months ago I ran the crazy hilly Knobstone Trail 10k in 1:07, which is close to 15 minutes slower than my PR on road. So what are my goals for this race? I’m not sure yet, but I think I’ll just go for breaking 1 hour. Here’s to hoping for no snow on the trails! 🙂

Another trail race on the books! Super excited!
Another trail race on the books! Super excited!