USATF Cross Country Specialist Course

I am officially a USA Track and Field Cross Country Specialist!  Even though I don’t coach a cross country team, I found the course incredibly valuable and it was a honor to learn from Dr. Joe Vigil, who coaches two of my favorite runners, Brenda Martinez and Deena Kastor.

The course was spread out over two days, a Friday afternoon-evening session and Saturday morning-afternoon sessions.  There were 129 other coaches there with me, all of whom were equally as excited.  We covered cross countryeverything from team dynamics to hill workouts as well as lab sessions on the track and a short but tough cross country course on the Villanova campus.  Coaches Vigil and Scott Christensen were amazing.  Their combined knowledge was mind boggling and there was certainly no shortage of stories after so many championships, Olympics and runners.

During dinner the first evening I spent time with my phone plugged into one of the classroom’s few outlets.  It also provided me a little bit of bonus time with Coach Vigil.  I was honored by his feedback and surprised to hear him say how much he loved the marathon.  While I’m not sure I share the same sentiment as a runner, I definitely agreed with him as a coach.  To really be successful at the marathon, you must change your life.  It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you give everything you’ve got to training.cross country

I can’t wait to employ some of the training and coaching techniques I learned.  As many of my runners prepare for fall marathons we’ll definitely have some cross country inspired fun.  If you coach, just want to become a better runner or learn from the best, I highly recommend taking this class.  I am definitely a better coach because of it.

Coach Meredith

Have you ever run cross country?  What do you like most about it?

Must Do Post Run Yoga Poses

Not every run is a challenge but the same things always feel good afterwards.  A cold glass of water, even in the winter, taking my sweaty socks off and hitting the floor for a few post run yoga poses.  There are a ton of poses out there but not all of them stretch out those hard working running muscles in my legs and hips.  Here are some of my favorites:

Child’s Poseyoga poses:  This pose gives my whole body a break and lets me hit the ground with a little bit of grace.  It gives my hard working core a chance to relax while releasing my lower back and stretching my feet.

Downward Facing Dog:  After a minute in child’s pose, it’s into down dog.  Even if I just jogged a nice recovery run, lengthening my hamstrings and chronically tight calves always feels great.  It’s also a good pose with lots of room for the lunges to open and close.  It helps me bring my heart and respiratory rates down with big deep breaths.

Pigeon:  This big hip opener is another chance to give my just worked legs a break.  Stretching out my glutes and hip flexors is important for making sure I stay loose for my next workout, whether it’s later that day or 24 hours away.yoga poses

Low Lunge:  Another awesome hip stretch, low lunge might be tops on my list.  I love reaching back to open my hip while taking big belly breaths.

yoga posesLegs on the Wall:  I’m not sure if this really counts as one of my ‘yoga poses’.  My legs are propped up on a wall and I’m totally relaxed.  I’ll use time in this pose to reflect on the workout I just had.

I use a different variety of poses for my morning and pre-run routines.  While my pre-run sessions gets me loose and the blood pumping, these post run yoga poses help me relax and regroup after a workout. 

Meredith

Do you have favorite post run yoga poses?  Which ones and why?

 

Injury Free + Back to Training

I’m finally injury free!  While I never took any total time off, I did back down significantly from hard workouts and specific exercises.  Last week I incorporated some of the things I had been avoiding back into my routine with success.  My glute wasn’t extra sore, my gait was totally normal and everything felt good.

My transition back into real training started Monday with an OK Murph.  For those not familiar it’s a Memorial Day tradition performed in honor of Lt Michael Murphy that includes a one mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and a final one mile run.  Wanting to save my energy for the challenging workout I failed to warm up as much as I should have.  My glute gave me some trouble through the first mile but settled in with the squats.  The second mile was an improvement.injury free

Tuesday my legs were, not surprisingly, beat up.  A few easy miles helped them freshen up and again, I had no pain with a totally normal gait after warming up properly.  Yay!  Wednesday was also a few easy miles but this time in I also had the pleasure of being pouring rained on.  My shoes were finally dry by Sunday.

Thursday it was an attempt at the long run.  The humidity Thursday morning was a doozey but I felt good about getting the run done.  I started easy then picked up the pace as the sun rose to burn it off.  With my last few miles at marathon pace, I finished with negative splits.  It was a great first long run back and I couldn’t have been happier.

Friday my legs felt like lead and I took the day off.  Saturday was mile repeats that weren’t exactly on my previous pace but solid for coming off an injury.  Sunday I was back in the gym for strength training.  All in all it was a good welcome back week.  My glute held up without any pain or strain and left my feeling positive about how the rest of my summer will go.

My next race is the Allen Stone Memorial 5k.  I’m not expecting a spectacular performance but want to run well.  I have six weeks to prepare and am looking forward to working hard again. 

Meredith

How do you celebrate being injury free?  Sign up for a race?  A long run?

2017 Elizabeth River Run 10k

Well, my first post injury race is in the can and it was definitely a learning experience.  Saturday’s Elizabeth River Run 10k far from one of my next runs but could have been worse. 

Going into race morning I was concerned about how my glute would hold up.  It’s taken me a while to get warmed up lately and I didn’t want to run for 30 minutes before I ‘raced’.  I spent several workouts last week trying to determine the best way to get going as fast as possible and planned on a 2 mile warm up with two longer pick-ups and some hard strides.

That didn’t happen.  Race morning got hot.  Fast.  Because it was so warm and I actually felt pretty good, I cut the warm-up down to 1.5 miles.  I lined up and fought through some light traffic at the start.  Around Mile 2 I noticed the temperature had gone up about 15 degrees and there wasn’t much a breeze as we circled through the city.  There was at least a decent amount of shade in sections.  I walked leisurely through the water stops and took a breather at the 5k mark to rest my glute.  It had been a long time since I ran reasonably hard for three plus miles and didn’t want to irritate it.elizabeth river run 10k

After that rest stop, my glute was doing well and the heat became more of an issue in the race’s second half.  When I was running I wasn’t too far off my warm weather 10k pace and it felt good.  Unfortunately the weather really got to me.  My heart rate was sky high and not enough water stops didn’t help me bring it down.  The stagnant air and humidity were no help either.  Coming into the last mile I wanted to pick things up a bit.

I increased my pace but had some discomfort in my right leg.  Not in the mood to re-injure myself, I slowed things back down.  I crossed the finish line in 48:12 feeling pretty good.  My biggest issue now is getting used to being uncomfortable again.  My glute seems to be 98% healed and my fear of straining it again is unreasonable.  I didn’t strain it running in the first place.  I’ve spent so much time playing it safe that I’m a bit of rut.  It’s time to get comfortable being uncomfortable again.

Meredith

Have you run the Elizabeth River Run 10k?  How do you come back from injury?

 

Long Warm Ups + PT Discharge

I’ve officially been discharged from physical therapy but that doesn’t mean I’m all better.  My right hip and glute are definitely feeling fatigued from all of the concentrated work they’ve been doing.  This has lead to some longer than desired warm ups on more intense efforts and it’s a little bit concerning.  The last thing I want to do before a race is have to run four miles.

Yes, four miles.  It takes me almost four miles (thirty+ minutes) to really feel like I can run hard for more than a mile.  Not only does that mean extra miles, it’s a little bit upsetting.  I usually run a 2-2.5 mile warm up for everything except a long run (shorter) or track work (longer).  It all started last Monday with an ugly run.  I went out for an easy hour and spent the first 30 minutes fighting ankle and shin pain.  I stretched, I squatted, I activated my glute the best way I could.  Then, boom!  The second half was great. 

A similar situation occurred this past weekend when I went out to tackle my first mile repeats since One City.  The first two repeats my right leg felt heavy and I carried a decent amount of tension in that ankle.  The second two?  Great.  I’m hopeful this means my glute and hip are very beat up right now and a little rest will set them straight.warm ups

I really need them to get straightened out, too.  The Elizabeth River Run 10k is coming up next weekend and I want to race.  Am I in PR shape?  No.  I want to get out there, push myself and get a solid idea of where my fitness is heading into summer.  So here’s to a little rest, longer warm ups and a solid race day.

Meredith

How long are your warm ups?  How did you feel after finishing physical therapy?

EquiKids 5k + Still Not There

I raced one of my favorite events of the year last weekend, the EquiKids 5k.  Not only do I love volunteering at the farm, racing through the trails each year is always fun.  The cross country 5k is preceded by a 1 Mile Run with the Hounds that Jordy was more than happy to participate in before hamming it up for the camera.equikids 5k

It’s the only cross country course I’m guaranteed to run every time it comes around and I usually don’t perform well.  Maybe it’s because I don’t train on trails very much if at all or because I get too distracted by all of the adorable kids, dogs and horses.  Any way you slice it, I was looking to turn my history of EquiKids 5k performances around this year.  I didn’t.

In spite of finishing as third overall female, it wasn’t a good race or even the race I wanted to run.  Due to some serious rain my schedule got a little screwy in the days before the race.  My final workout was hours later than it should have been.  I definitely could have been fresher at the start line but I also could have been less injured.

My glute injury is feeling much better.  It has had some unexpected side effects, however.  The different, more powerful, movement in my right leg has been leading to extra work for my right Achilles.  That has caused some definite stress on the tendon as it strengthens.  I ran a one mile warm up before toeing the starting line but failed to warm up as completely as I usually do because I was feeling fatigued.  Little did I know I’d pay for it.  About halfway through the race that right side felt like it was about to snap.  No, thanks.  I paused to rub it for five seconds then continued on.  It was a scary moment but felt fine the last 3k.

It was disappointing to realize I’m not where I thought I was in terms of bouncing back.  I understand the lumpy, muddy, ankle working course probably made things a little bit worse in that ankle.  That doesn’t make it feel any better.  The EquiKids 5k curse continues and I’m looking toward next year already.

Meredith

How often do you race on trails?  Love it or hate it?

Slowly Coming Back+ Time to Adjust

Training rolled on last week after another round of physical therapy.  I’m definitely feeling better and can tell a difference in my gait.  A solid, positive one.  Of course, if hopping right into race shape for this Saturday’s EquiKids Cross Country 5k was that easy, none of us would be very concerned about injuries in the first place.  But it’s not.  And nature has it out for me.  It’s like coming back from an injury wasn’t bad enough, so the heat got turned on last week.

I really want to race well this weekend.  It’s one of my favorite events and I usually don’t put in a great performance on the dirt trail course.  There’s something to be said for actually practicing.  I do 95% of my running on roads since that’s where I race, except for once a year but maybe one of these times I’ll get it together.  My biggest concern, however, isn’t the race’s surface.  It’s my grumpy right glute and staying calm (easy pace) enough to not get re-injured.coming back

I did some speed work last week, keeping myself in check and staying within 30 seconds of half marathon pace for anything over 800M.  I definitely feel more out of shape than I am and don’t expect coming back to take too long.  Except that it’s 90 degrees out with 90% humidity and barely a breeze.  Talk about a double whammy!

It could be worse.  I could be 100% healthy and trying to prep for a fast 5k in rough training weather.  Luckily coming back from injury is helping me keep things slower and safer in the warmth.  Eventually I’m going to have to adjust to the summer’s heat and humidity.  It might as well be right now. 

Meredith

How do you handle coming back after an injury?

Physical Therapy + Feeling Crummy

My training lately has been a mess.  I took downtime then dove back in only to strain my glute and get pushed right back to the sidelines.  After my DNF at the Big Blue 5k I decided to get some help.  Even though I wasn’t in a ton of pain and most of my regular activities weren’t in danger, I definitely could not run through it.  And that’s pretty much all I wanted to do.

When I knew I couldn’t run I got a little bit lost.  I wasn’t sure the best way to heal my type of muscle pull or even if it was the muscle I thought it was.  So, off I went to physical therapy.  I had no idea what to expect since my injury wasn’t very severe.  After a few hip strength tests my therapist started going through a variety of exercises designed to balance out my right and left sides.  Here I am doing my ‘homework’!  After five days of not running I eased back at the end of last week with an easy 30 minute jog.  My glute felt good physical therapyand it seems the physical therapy is paying off.

Surprisingly, I actually enjoy it.  It’s supposed to be tough, and it is, but my therapist is awesome.  We do exercises that really challenge my balance and hip stability.  It’s fun to do something totally out of my regular routine. But even though my injury is feeling much better I’m still on the sidelines.

As if an injury and a lack of miles weren’t already enough to put my training back a few weeks, I’ve come down with some kind of junk in my chest.  It’s not only giving my abs an extra workout with all the coughing but sucking my motivation away, too.  I’m getting lots of sleep and taking it easy while it works itself out.  One of my favorite races, the EquiKids Cross Country 5k, is in less than two weeks.  I never perform well at it and was really looking forward to improving this year.  Unfortunately, that might not be the case.  Either way, I”ll head into race day as healthy as I can be.

Meredith

Have you ever gone to physical therapy?  What for?

Blog Spring Break + A DNF

I took a little spring break from blogging after Run the Bluegrass but now I’m back!  Not much has been going on training wise the last week as I fought through a small injury.  I did manage to catch up on some reading and make my first batch of beer cheese mac and chicken, though (recipe coming).  Also included in my spring break were a 5k DNF and a trip to the physical therapist for a little help.

I noticed some difficulties when I started having right shin pain running.  It’s a big sign my gait is funky when my otherwise OK right side starts acting up.  Shin pain is specifically something I never have to deal with.  Knowing that the real root of my pain wasn’t my shin or ankle, I went DNFsearching.  Yes, I had blown out my glutes and quads doing a bunch of pistols but I couldn’t imagine that making that much of a difference.  I’ve run sore before.

Wrong.  My weaker right side was really suffering and that glute wasn’t firing at all.  I could run about 800M without pain.  Trying different shoes got me nowhere.  I most definitely had a strained right glue.  Not wanting to hurt myself more, I took it easy the next few days, deciding to fight through Saturday’s Big Blue 5k then re-evaluate.

Race morning dawned and I steeled myself for a crummy 5k.  There would be no racing.  I’d give it all I could but wasn’t expecting much.  The truth is race morning I could not have been less excited.  The late start, 10:30, meant it would be warm and humid, neither of which I had seen in quite some time.  I had been low on energy for a few days fighting something that never came to fruition and stressing over what my leg was going to do all morning didn’t help.

I quit at the one mile mark with pain shooting up my right ankle and shin.  Not worth hurting myself.  Yes, it was frustrating and disappointing.  I haven’t run since.  I’m letting that strained muscle heal and focusing on evening out some muscle imbalances in my hips.  There’s another race, another day and I’ll be there in tip top shape in a few weeks.

Meredith

Have you ever had a DNF?  How did you deal with it?

Run the Bluegrass + April Plans

March was a great running month and April kicked off in a similar fashion.  I tackled state number 24, Kentucky, with Run the Bluegrass on 1 April.  I hadn’t been doing much training for it after One City on 11 March but headed to the Start with plans to just have fun.

After a shorter than usual warm-up, I was ready to tackle the very hilly course.  My legs were fresh but I could tell I wasn’t in peak performance shape.  My goal was to run around a 1:48, taking things easy and enjoying the scenery.  Things started with an almost immediate climb and I knew I was in for a tough workout.  The hills kept on coming, up-down-up-down, without any flat stretches in sight.  I stuck with the 1:45 pacers until walking leisurely through a water stop around Mile 5.

After falling back from the 1:45 pacers, I decided to take things easy.  I actually looked around at the beautiful scenery and enjoyed the beat down I was getting.  It’s clear I don’t live somewhere that can adequately prepare you for big, hilly courses.  By Mile 8 my hamstrings and glutes were grumpy which was great since Mile 9 is the course’s toughest.  I took a walk breaks at all second half water stops and slowed down to check to out a few overlooks. 

I powered up and down more hills in the last 5k.  Aside from a little moaning and groaning from my glutes and hamstrings my body felt great as I run the bluegrasscollected my big medal.  It was by far my inconsistent half marathon ever but I had a great time and felt good crossing the finish in 1:47.11, 12 in my age group.  I was really happy with my performance on out of race shape legs on a very challenging course.

The rest of April is full of training.  I have one more race, the ODU Big Blue 5k, on the 15th but otherwise I’ll just be grinding away.  With lots of time before my next goal race, Smuttynose Half, I’m looking forward to a few weeks of 30-35 miles with loads of play time.

Meredith

Is Run the Bluegrass on your list?  What’s on tap for April?