Monday, June 29, 2015

Coping With Injury

Sitting still is not my thing.

So what's a girl to do when told "No running. No jumping. No high impact exercise."?

Such was the sentence delivered by my physiatrist upon examination of my post-race shin injury (and subsequent reading of an MRI of my low back...sigh). I know it could be so very much worse. On the scale of injuries, mine is a very minor one. My every day life is not affected. I am not limited from work. I am expected to recover, and soon. And yet, hearing the words "no running" still sent a wave of anxiety pulsing through my body.

Here's how I've been coping these past few weeks:

1. Relax and take a few deep breaths.
This is easier said than done. Running and exercise make me feel good, and I take a lot of pleasure and pride in tackling physical challenges. But restoration and balance are of even greater importance. This injury served as a wake up call that longevity outweighs intensity when it comes to my goals for health and well-being. Training smart and training hard are not necessarily synonymous. This, too, shall pass, but in the meantime I can enjoy some R&R. I've read two books for pleasure and even took a nap.

2. Explore new and different modes of exercise.
As a creature of habit, it was easy to get settled into a rigid exercise routine. It's been nice to step outside my comfort zone.

I've reconnected with yoga practice and have found it to be both challenging and refreshing. I still suck at headstands and all balance poses, but hey, something to work toward!

I tried out a cycle class at a trendy high-end cultish local studio. Have you seen Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? It's a hilarious Netflix series and you should go watch it if you haven't already. They parodied SoulCycle. This is exactly what my class was like:

It was, without a doubt, the most ridiculous group workout I've ever taken part in. Dim lights. Flashing giant bicycle wheel behind instructor on a pedestal. Throbbing bass. Instructor moaning "This is your Passion Track! Close your eyes and let it all go!" Women in the front row literally hooting in ecstasy at the end of each song. I stifled guffaws, but will be the first to admit that I had so much fun and got a great sweat on.

Barred from hiking my favorite trail with friends on a camping trip, I turned instead to the Saco River, where Chris, Duncan and I spent a lovely day in a canoe.

3. Get distracted by the Women's World Cup.
It was fortuitous that my injury was timed to occur after my marathon and perfectly aligned with the Women's World Cup schedule. I've had a legitimate excuse to spend my afternoons/evenings crowded into a bar screaming at the TV instead of working out. I have developed a tremendous crush on USWNT center back Julie Johnston. She's a badass.

4. Clean my house.
Nothing relieves stress quite like mopping floors and organizing cabinets. My house has never looked better.

5. Cook food.
I've done lots of grilling and experimenting these past few weeks! Here are some highlights.

Grilled Cobb Salad a la Bon Appetit magazine's June issue.

Grilled barbecue tofu for a Revs tailgate.

And pineapple strawberry skewers for dessert.

I tried my hand at homemade veggie dogs. Believe it or not, they tasted delicious (says the vegetarian who has not tasted a real hot dog in 8 years). Recipe coming soon.

How do you cope when you're injured? What's your favorite low impact or "alternative" form of exercise? Any suggestions for my next cooking adventure?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Race Recap: Cambridge 5k Freedom Run 2015

After many long, slow miles logged during marathon training, I've been itching to get back to some short, fast races. I was pumped when I found out the Cambridge 5K Freedom Run would be taking place right down the street from my house two weeks after the Vermont City Marathon.

(can you find me?)
I've run more than a dozen races in and around Cambridge. Without question, the folks at Cambridge 5K Race Series put on the best races in town. This race was no exception. It was well organized, started exactly time, had helpful volunteers, a clearly marked course, quickly posted results, free race photos on Facebook (I used some of them here in this post), and the proceeds supported great local causes (Glen Doherty Foundation and East Cambridge Business Association). On top of all that, it was followed immediately by a super fun post-race party with plentiful free beer (sponsored by Slumbrew, Notch Brewing, Night Shift Brewing, and Downeast Cider House).

I woke up too early and went through my typical pre-race morning routine, but enjoyed the added luxury that this race was starting just a mile from my house at the Cambridgeside Galleria. Perfect distance for a nice slow warm-up jog to loosen up my legs before the race. Instead of putting on the Brooks Ghost 7s that carried me through the marathon, I selected an older pair of lightweight, minimal style running shoes since this was a short, fast race. I jogged over and met up with teammates, dropped my bag, and got wrist-banded for the post-race beer.

The course looped from the Cambridgeside Galleria to Inman Square and back. It's a fast, flat course on the same roads I run every week. This included running past my house, where I knew Chris and Duncan would be waiting to cheer my team on.

My goal for this race was to feel strong and prove to myself that my legs still had speed in them. I told myself I'd be perfectly happy with 7 minute miles. It was cool and clear at the start line. When the horn sounded at 9:30 sharp, my brain switched off and my legs switched on. When I race 5Ks, I never, ever, ever run negative splits. It's not an intentional strategy, but my autopilot seems to be set to go out as hard as possible and just hold on for dear life at the end. This is probably not a wise approach.  

I passed the first mile marker, saw 6:15 tick on the clock, and thought to myself, "Oh crap." I had not ever maintained such a pace, and did not expect to today. I checked myself and slowed a little. As I made the right turn onto Hampshire Street, a fellow runner cut the corner and caught my shoe. I stumbled, but managed to stay on my feet. A few blocks later, I grinned and waved like a goon as I passed Chris and Duncan outside our house. Rounded the corner in Inman Square to turn on Cambridge Street. Still hanging on. Definitely slowing. I passed the second mile marker. 12:45. Ciara was waving with poster board signs outside her house, and I grinned and waved like a goon again. There was a slow, steady incline on this part of the course, and I was just hanging in now. Final right turn onto First Street. Finish Line ahead! 

I crossed the line in 20:34, for an overall split of 6:38/mile. This was a PR by 26 seconds. I was more shocked than excited.

I found my Cambridge YMCA teammates at the finish line and snapped a photo.

We made our way to the party, where we balanced out the 20 minutes of running with several beers. 

Our team name was "Cheat To Win". As you can obviously tell from this photo, I am Rosie Ruiz and Steph is Tonya Harding. 

So. About those lightweight shoes and that "sprint out of the gates" strategy...perhaps my body was more worn down than I realized post-marathon. Perhaps I made an unwise shoe choice. Perhaps I just plain overdid it in this race. Whatever the cause, I woke up the next morning with acute, sharp pain running down the front of my left shin. I've never had a running injury. Ever. But I knew right away this was some form of  anterior tibial stress syndrome (commonly known as shin splints), and I should not ignore it. In fact, I couldn't ignore it, because it was screaming at me. Fast forward one week, and I've been sentenced to hiatus from all high-impact activities (including running and all plyometrics) with a follow up next week to determine whether I'm healing, need bone scans for a stress fracture, or something else altogether. I spent two days feeling super bummed and treating myself to self-pity ice cream cones. 

It could be a whole lot worse. I'll take this injury as a warning to take care of my body. There's pushing hard, and then there's pushing yourself until you're hurt. It's pretty important to learn the difference. It sucks that I can't do a lot of the things I love for a little while, but perhaps it will encourage me to embrace a few weeks of self-care and expanding my horizons. I've already made friends with the spin bike and am having fun with strength training. Instead of my long run this weekend, I took a nap and read a book. 

Anyone want to go kayaking? 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Primer

The FIFA Women's World Cup is upon us!

In the summer of 1999, my dad drove a carload of thirteen-year-old girls to a sold-out Giants Stadium to watch opening ceremonies and first matches of the Women's World Cup. With over 78,972 fans, it was the largest crowd ever to attend a women's sporting event. I watched in awe as Mia Hamm scored this goal:

And N*Sync performed the Opening Ceremony in baggy warm up pants and soccer jerseys.

The US earned a 3-0 victory over Denmark.  I was hooked for life.

My grownup household still eats, sleeps, and breathes soccer. Sadly, the six snow days added to the end of the school year in my district mean that we cannot travel to Canada to experience the tournament in person, but you can bet we will be watching. What about you? Need a good reason to watch?

How about the possibility of experiencing a gripping moment like this one, from the quarter finals of the 2011 Women's World Cup:

Still not sure? Get pumped for the 2015 tournament by watching this ad:

And then watch the official TV opener from FIFA:

Excited now? Want to know more about this year's tournament?

Here is a primer to the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup
  • The tournament begins June 6th and concludes on July 5th. It's taking place in Canada, with 52 matches being played in Edmonton, Moncton, Montreal, Ottowa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.
  • For the very first time, 24 teams will compete in the Women's World Cup. 12 teams competed in the tournaments in 1991 and 1995. In 1999, the tournament was increased to 16 teams. The men's tournament features 32 teams.
  • The tournament is made up of 6 groups with 4 teams in each group. The first round, or group stage, is a round robin where each team plays one match against each of the other teams in the same group. The 2 teams with the best record from each group move forward to the knockout stage, along with the 4 third place teams with the best records from the whole tournament. Yes, this is confusing. But 24 teams doesn't whittle down to 16 when you divide it by 2, so the bracket had to be filled out to prevent anyone having a "bye" in the knockout stage. 
  • The US is in Group D, along with Sweden, Australia, and Nigeria. Group D is being referred to as the "Group of Death", a name traditionally bestowed upon the group believed to be most difficult to advance from. Group D includes 3 teams in the FIFA Top Ten rankings. Sweden is coached by former US coach Pia Sundhage. Australia is a strong team and Nigeria is considered the best African team in the tournament. 
  • FOX will be broadcasting each of the US matches in the group stage according to the following schedule: 
USWNT vs. Australia     June 8        7:30 p.m. ET
USWNT vs. Sweden       June 12           8 p.m. ET
USWNT vs. Nigeria       June 16           8 p.m. ET

  • The tournament favorites include reigning champs Japan, top-ranked Germany, France, and the US. Sweden, Brazil, Canada and Norway could be dark horses. 
  • 8 nations are making their Women's World Cup Debut in this tournament: Cameroon, Costa Rica, Ivory Coast, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, and Thailand.
  • There's a really creepy official mascot this year...

Chris and I will be watching matches from Parlor Sports in Somerville. For Boston-dwelling readers, The Boston chapter of the American Outlaws will be hosting official viewing parties at The Banshee in Dorchester

Want to find a viewing party where you live? Chances are, your local American Outlaws chapter is hosting a viewing party somewhere nearby.


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