Cleared for Take-Off: My Return to Running (or some semblance of it)


One of my favorite movies! (source)

One of my favorite movies! (source)

Last week I finally got cleared by my chiropractor to run again after a long 10+ week hiatus. Back in September I signed up for the Thanksgiving Day 4-Miler in Portland, but I made a wise decision not to run it even though I probably “could” have.

Casey, my chiropractor, said that I could run on a flat surface and no more than 3 miles. Well, obviously the 4 mile, very hilly course on Thanksgiving was out. Fine by me! I secretly hate that race anyway; however, I’m the idiot that continues to sign up for it because all my friends run it…

Between the holiday craziness, the icky cold weather, and work I wasn’t able to run until Saturday morning. I put just about every winter layer of running clothes I had on, since the last time I ran was back in September in shorts and a t-shirt. Apparently, I have become a cold weather wuss… I normally have no problem running in rain, snowstorms, hurricanes, and on ice, but now that the temperatures have dropped below freezing my body has decided that it prefers warm weather. I blame hot yoga…

I’m a veteran of returning to running after an injury. You’d think I would be used to the pain and mental mind-f*** of sheer lack of any aerobic fitness that a person has due to running. I brought my dog, Reagan, with me on the run for motivation (okay, maybe I was hoping that she’d just drag me around the trail…). That dog loves to run (and chase birds and chipmunks).



I felt good the first mile. I was running again! Yippee! I wore my Garmin but didn’t really pay attention to pace or time. I knew I would be slow. I just ran by feel. Around the Mile One mark I looked at my watch to check my pace and heart rate. I was going just a hair-below a 10-minute mile. Not bad for a slow, long run pace! Then I looked at my heart rate… 178bpm. No wonder I was sucking wind and felt like dying. I was running damn near my zone 5 heart rate!

Time to slow down a bit before I succeed to keel over from a running-induced heart attack… the “return to running” pain started to set in a bit during mile two. Argh, this process is going to suck. I was starting to get a small twitch in my right knee again. Please no! I was hoping with my running hiatus that my knee/IT-band issues would start to resolve! It was getting better post Ironman as I was focusing on rebuilding my lack of running fitness in August and September. Grr…

The knee was really starting to bother me after my Garmin beeped at the Mile Two mark. I held out until 2.25 miles and then surrendered and finished with a walk home. Why make the problem worst now?

Over all, it felt good to run again. I miss running. It’s going to take a long while to regain my running fitness, since I never really had any all of 2013 due to the knee/IT-band issues that began fairly early in my season. I’m okay with that. My big “A” race in 2014 isn’t until August, so that gives me some time to really ensure my body is healed enough to begin picking up the intensity and volume of training.

I will continue to run a couple times of week now, but my main focus right now thorough the early winter will be rebuilding my bike power. I’m hoping that we’ll get a lot of snow this year in the Greater Portland area so I can do a lot of cross-country skiing in place of running. And stay tuned for more pathetic stories of my return to running. J

~ Happy Training!

Hill Repeats and Hot Yoga

For the past few weeks I have been enjoying my mini “off-season.” I’ve pretty much done what I wanted when I wanted. However, with the Fall running season approaching I have been slowly building my miles and creating a semblance of a half-marathon training plan. But, more on that later this week.

Wednesday night I got to run with my summer running buddy for the last time before he heads back to London for work. Insert sad face. Wednesday was also like 90 degrees and humid as heck. That seems to be the pattern for our running dates. Last time we ran together it was about 105 with the heat index out at OOB. Apparently Burger secretly cursed me throughout that run. Ha! Wednesday night there was even an ozone alert for the coastal region, but with the pleasant sea breeze I didn’t believe there was an issue.

We began our run on the Eastern Trail and then ran over to the Boulevard. We were moving at a decent pace for the first two miles chatting it up and whatnot. Finally around the 2.5 mile mark I had enough and had to walk. I was having a hard time breathing. I guess there really was some ozone heaviness going on. We walked for a while so I could catch my breath. Then Burger suggested we go run hill repeats. I didn’t really want to because I was in no shape to do so, but because of my competitiveness and my unwillingness to be shown up by a guy I agreed. It’s funny how my pupil turned into the coach.

We jogged over the 295 overpass and up towards Washington Ave. to the grassy East End hill. And by hill I meet a mountain… I suggested Cutter Street, but Burger prefers a grassy or gravel path. He’s got some IT-band issues too. Two broken peas in a pod…

Burger led the way and I followed. Holy heck did my heart feel like it was going to burst out of my chest! The hill itself is really split into two halves. The first half is not a bad grade, then it flattens out for about 5 feet and then turns vertical for another 100+ feet, which was the worst part. Burger ran up rather effortlessly, but I struggled not to puke. Of course, he has the advantage of long legs for the last part of the hill. I averaged about 28 seconds for the first repeat.

Yes,  I know, I'm an awesome artist!

Yes, I know, I’m an awesome artist!

We stopped at the top to rest for a minute or so. I concentrated on not heaving my lunch all over the place and catching my breath. After realizing my lungs weren’t going to bust out of my chest, we jogged back down for another repeat.


My second and third repeats were a few seconds slower than the first. My quads and glutes were starting to burn from working hard to muscle my little legs up the vertical footage. The fourth one was tough, but I managed to finish stronger and faster than the second and third repeats. After cresting the hill for the last time I promptly laid fell down into the grass. Boy did I feel like dying! Burger thought it was a great idea to do 5 repeats. I politely declined the fifth repeat and continued lying in the grass in a daze.


After Burger was done showing off we headed back towards the cars for the next adventure – hot yoga. I’ve been driving around with my yoga bag and mat for the past two weeks meaning to hit up a class, but never could muster up the ambition to actually attend a class. We headed to Greener Postures for an hour-long hot yoga class. My legs were definitely shaky during the class. My body really needed that class even though I wanted to die half way through the class. I was most impressed with the music selection for the class. At one point Dave Matthew’s Mercy Me came on during downward dog and I started to shake my tail feathers a bit. Sorry to the fellow yogis behind me that had to witness that!

I was definitely sore on Thursday morning when I woke up! I couldn’t even wear heels to my job interview because my calves were so sore. It felt good to do some speed/strength work in my running, but for now I’m going to go back to my zone 2 running to further build my endurance for some up coming half marathons this Fall.

~ Happy Training!

USAT Triathlon Coaching Level I Clinic

Ok, so this post is a little late. Like 6 weeks late. But, on the good news… I’m officially a certified USAT Level I Triathlon Coach! Yay!

It's Official!

It’s Official!

Back in April Jen and I took a road trip down to Short Hills, New Jersey for the two-day clinic. I’ll be completely honest, I was dreading the New Jersey location. I was thinking it was going to be in a super sketchy part of NJ and all the people living there were going to be right out of Jersey Shore. My worst nightmare! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Short Hills is an absolutely gorgeous part of NJ! The streets were lined with sidewalks and trees. The houses were cute and nice. And holy heck the town was hilly! I always thought that NJ was pretty flat, but I guess not. Hence the town name of Short Hills. However, those hills were anything but short!

Day one of the clinic included lectures by all three of our presenters: Jesse Kropelnicki of QT2 Systems, John Petrush of Bay Shore Swim, and Shelly O’Brien of Icon One Multisport. The morning started off with two lectures on exercise physiology and nutrition by Jesse. I was super pumped when I first saw that Jesse was going to be a presenter at our clinic. He is one of the top coaches in the country and is someone who I highly look up too. I must admit that I was a wee bit disappointed with his lectures. Not because they were boring or bad, but because both topics were review for me.

Jesse Kropelnicki

Jesse Kropelnicki

After lunch Joe came in and discussed strength training and cycling skills and training with us. Joe is from Long Island and was your stereotypical Long Islander. He was very interesting to listen to. He was funny, but also very opinionated. His lectures were good. However, I disagreed with him on his view of strength training. He told us up front that we were completely welcomed to disagree with him on the topic since strength training for triathletes is still a rather controversial topic. His view was that “if it ain’t broke than don’t fix it.” He generally prefers not doing traditional strength training with his athletes unless they are injured. His approach with strength training is to do it within the swim, bike, run realm. For example, run or bike hill repeats to build leg strength. I can see where he is coming from. I agree that some strength building within each discipline is important, such as running hill repeats. However, I believe that traditional strength training should be part of an triathlete (or any endurance athlete)’s training plan. I don’t mean they need to do traditional body building style training. That would actually not be a favorable way to train. Can you see Arnold doing an Ironman? That poor carbon fiber bike doesn’t have a chance…

Joe Petrush

Joe Petrush

I much prefer functional training with bodyweight and TRX. Anyway, now that I have left on my tangent I will get back on track! The last lecture of the day was on swim skills and training by Shelly. Shelly is an amazing person to listen to and just a wealth of information. She was by far my favorite person to listen to (which is a good thing because she did all the lectures on the second day). Shelly made each lecture more interactive, which was awesome because sitting in a chair for 10+ hours a day is not my thing. I couldn’t sit for much of the time and kept shifting about in my chair. Secretly, I think all that sitting played a role in my IT-band/Knee/Hip issues.

After the first day Jen and I headed back to our hotel. I headed out for a quick 50 minute run. It was a bit drizzly out, but quite humid. The main roads in the area were busy and we found out quickly that New Jersey drivers were crazy so I headed out to run around the neighborhoods. The neighborhoods were cute and situated on some massively steep hills. Holy cow was my pace slow, but it was fun to run, essentially, hill repeats. After my run we hit up the Cheesecake Factory. It was my first time! Yum yum yum! I had the salmon with mashed potatoes and asparagus. And of course, Jen and I split some Cheesecake, cause ya know it was my first time and all…

Shelly O'Brien

Shelly O’Brien

The second day was another very long day of sitting. On the second day we discussed running, sports psychology and mental training, and how to build training plans. Unfortunately, most of the time Shelly ran out of time during each lecture because she just had so much to tell us. She gave us a bunch of awesome drill ideas for running and swimming. Some of which I have been trying on my own since then and also have incorporated some of them into my own clients training plans.

Everyone at the clinic came from various backgrounds and reasons why they were attending. Some were already experienced coaches and some are complete newbies. We had a few sports doctors and physical therapists too. It was fun to talk to different people and hear their thoughts on the sport and training. USAT recently changed their criteria to get into the clinic. It used to be the first 40 people to register would get into the clinic. Now you have to apply. Over 70 people applied for our clinic and they accepted 40 of us. I’m glad I made the cut!

Here are some interesting tidbits I learned while at the clinic from the various presenters:

  • There is generally a 4-16 beat difference in heart rate between running and biking (average is about 10 beats)
  • It usually takes about 20-30 minutes for the heart rate to settle down after the swim
  • Heart rate is important for training and power meters are important for racing
  • Train movements not muscles (aka functional training!)
  • When working with youth athletes (under age 10) work anaerobic first then aerobic capacity
  • Develop speed and endurance together
  • Develop various skill sets in each sport (i.e. drills)
  • There is no such thing as a good bike and a bad run in triathlon, especially long course!

My favorite is the last bullet point. It is the one that I have been learning over the past year with my coach. If you go out too fast and hard on the bike and burn all your matches then your legs and body are toast for the run. Words of wisdom right there kids!

Crossing the GW Bridge in NYC

Crossing the GW Bridge in NYC

~ Happy Training!

PS – If you’re looking for a triathlon coach then I hope you will consider me! 🙂

Holiday Weekend Wrap-up


The weather for the holiday weekend wasn’t the greatest in Maine, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. At least we didn’t get 3 feet of snow like Lake Placid! Saturday was a bit of a wash-out. However, I had an extremely productive day and got a lot of things checked off of my to-do list. Some of those things included changes to this website! 🙂

The biggest part of my Saturday was my first official run in the past couple of weeks. As I mentioned yesterday that I was able to run/walk 3.2 miles relatively pain-free. The first mile was good, but I got a few aches and pains afterwards that caused me to take walk breaks. But… it was a huge improvement from the past couple of weeks so I took it!

Sunday’s weather was much better. Very little rain so I hit the road for my 2:20 ride. It was definitely early spring riding weather. I had to break out the gloves, toe warmers, and knee warmers for the ride and my toes were still frozen when I got home. The skies were overcast and it sprinkled a bit. There was definitely a bit of a headwind, but nothing compared to Monday’s ride! I decided to take one of my normal routes, since I knew it would have me ending around the 2:30 mark. However, with the wind I was a bit slower than predicted. Oh well!

Some interesting things I saw on my ride:

1. A most likely drunk redneck attempting to burnout in his crappy truck in the middle of Route 25 and failing. His drunk redneck friends were in the front yard laughing at him.

2. I saw long-haired, long-horned cows in a pasture. They made me giggle.

3. I saw multiple dead snakes on the side of the road, including a giant water snake. I squealed every time I saw a dead snake even though I knew they were dead.

Funny cows!

Funny cows!

Monday’s weather was a thousand times better! Although I still wore knee warmers, arm warmers, and toe warmers. I was supposed to do a 4-hour ride on Saturday, but decided that there was no way I could sit my ass down for 4-hours on the trainer. Thus, I moved my long ride to Monday so I could ride outside. It was a good decision. Minus the hellish headwind. The wind was pretty nasty. There were times when I was pushing a ton of watts and only moving about 10 miles per hour on the FLATS! It was mentally daunting at times and a few times I considered throwing in the towel. But, I kept moving forward.

I decided to ride up route 113 towards Fryeburg. My goal is to ride all the way to the New Hampshire border as my ride times progress over the next 6 weeks or so. The roads are pretty good for a majority of the way and the traffic is relatively low. The route is similar to Lake Placid although not as nearly as hilly. One of my coworkers lives in the area and told me about a really hilly route from Brownfield to Denmark that I can take to simulate some Lake Placid hills.

Welcome to Western Maine!

Welcome to Western Maine!

The ride went well. My Ironman fueling plan thus far is working well. I’ve been using Ironman Perform for my drink of choice because that’s what is served on the course. I’m not the biggest fan of it, but so far my tummy is handling it well. I’d rather not have to worry about carrying 10 bottles of fuel with me during the race. I was definitely well hydrated for this ride. I stopped twice to find a bush 🙂

I felt good off the bike so I decided to attempt my 25 minute T-run. I was hesitate at first, but wanted to give it a go. Originally I planned just to do 10 minutes. However, my knee felt great. Or as good as off-the-bike run could be. I focused on keeping my strides short and quick. It worked because I had no knee pain! I continued for the full 25 minutes. It was no where a speedy run, but I was a happy girl!

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!

Overall, a good long weekend of training! I got a good 100 miles in over a 24 hours period. My tushy is a bit sore now. Welcome to Ironman training!

~ Happy Training! 

The Plague That Doesn’t End…

Remember this?

Only the lyrics have been changed to this:

This is the plague that never ends.

It just goes on and on my friends.

Some people started getting it not knowing what it was,

And they will continue being infected forever just because…

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about my weekend plague. I thought it was just a cold that would go away after a couple of days. Boy, was I wrong! The ugly thing morphed into a full on head cold/sinus infection that pretty much left me feeling like shit for over two weeks! I finally decided that I needed drugs so yesterday I adventured over to the doctors to demand antibiotics. Of course, I had to call my insurance company to see if my coverage was still good through the end of the month. It was. Thank God! Luckily my doctor was good and gave me some antibiotics. I wasn’t leaving unless she prescribed me something. When reviewing my medical record she noticed that last year at this time I went to see she for the same exact thing. I guess this head cold/sinus infection is an annual occurrence. Lucky me.

I was lucky that this past week was a rest week. And my week was just that – rest. I managed two half-ass workouts before I felt like death. On Sunday I attempted to complete my 2-hour trainer ride. I got to the hour mark and quit because I was getting extremely hot and dizzy. I figured it would be best to hop off my bike before I passed out. My intention was to complete the second hour after I got home from work. However, as my work day went on I started feeling really crappy and as soon as I got home I bee-lined to my bed.

Monday I was able to complete my workouts on my schedule! Yay! The next three weeks my volume is picking up so they are big weeks I don’t want to miss. Monday I was scheduled for a 30 min spin before an 1:35 run. I was surprised how well my body handled the workout. I was a bit nervous when I headed out on my run incase I died half way through it. I left the gym and just explored the area for over 9 miles. I am actually going to be coaching a run group this summer at the gym so I was scouting out the area for potential routes. I definitely found a glute-brutal hill for hillwork! 🙂

Now that the antibiotics have kicked in I’m hoping to hit the pool for a workout tonight. That could be interesting!


~ Happy Training!

Part IV: The Core – Plank Progressions

Personally I believe that the plank is the best core exercise because it engages more than just the abdominal muscles. Often times people think they have to do a million crunches/sit-ups to get those mythical 6-pack abs that we all dream about. Sadly, the development of our 6-packs is based mostly on our diets. You might have those killer 6-pack abs, but they are probably buried under a layer of fat.

The plank is an isometric exercise meaning that the muscle length does not change through contraction and/or is in a static hold. The plank is a great exercise because it focuses on muscle endurance of the abdominal muscles while using solely your bodyweight. You can do a plank anywhere! The planks targets the following muscles:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Transverse abdominis
  • Pelvic floor
  • Erector Spinae
  • Multifidus
  • Quadartus Lumborum
  • Gluteus minimus/medius
  • Gluteus maximus

How to perform a plank:

1. Lie face down on an exercise mat or floor with your elbows at your sides facing towards the floor (you always want to keep a neutral neck/spine position).

2. Lift your body up by engaging your core and gluteals, supporting your weight on your forearms and toes. Think about SUCKING IN THE BELLY BUTTON to engage your core and keep the hips up and inline with your back. Think dinner table flat back!

3. Concentrate on maintaining a straight line through the hips and core. Don’t forget to breathe!

4. Hold to position for about 30 seconds or until failure to start. Over time you can build up to holding the position for more time and/or go through plank progressions.

The Plank
The Plank

Plank on knees - Start higher if you are having a hard time holding a plank on your toes

Plank on knees – Start here if you are having a hard time holding a plank on your toes

Yoga Plank - Make sure you keep arms right under shoulder where you are the most structually strong

Plank Progression #3: Yoga Plank – Make sure you keep arms right under shoulder where you are the most structually strong

Plank Progression #4: Single-leg Plank - Lift one leg up while maintaining the plank position
Plank Progression #4: Single-leg Plank – Lift one leg up while maintaining the plank position

Plank Progression #5 - Single arm plank - Lift one arm up straight and reach out in front of you (keep your butt down lower and a straighter arm!)

Plank Progression #5 – Single arm plank – Lift one arm up straight and reach out in front of you (keep your butt down lower and a straighter arm!)

Plank Progression #6: Opposite arm/opposite leg lift - Lift opposite arm and opposite lift and hold for a set time. Switch arm and leg on next set.
Plank Progression #6: Opposite arm/opposite leg lift – Lift opposite arm and opposite lift and hold for a set time. Switch arm and leg on next set.

Plank Progression#7: Side Plank - Make sure you keep your hips up
Plank Progression#7: Side Plank – Make sure you keep your hips up
Plank Progression #8: Side Plank with Leg Raise - If a normal side plank is too easy then try lifting the top leg!
Plank Progression #8: Side Plank with Leg Raise – If a normal side plank is too easy then try lifting the top leg!

Of course, there are about a hundred more variations of the plank that you can do. Some of my favorite include the TRX plank progressions and using the cable machine and performing a row with the arms while in either a forward plank or side plank.

~ Happy Training!