Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Drake Relays....13.1 miles of fun, challenges and lessons learned (again)

Most people who follow running have heard of the Drake Relays, which happen every year at the end of April in Des Moines, Iowa. This attracts athletes at the high school, collegiate and elite levels, and (usually) features a sold-out stadium for all of the events.

It also features events for us "common folk," such as a 5K, 10K, and a half marathon. This was my third year taking part in the running festivities; I ran the 10K in 2013 and ran the half marathon both in 2014 and this past weekend.

In an attempt to cautiously rally back from some annoying aches and pains, I had my mind set on doing "just" the 10K.  That was before I re-evaluated my training plan and the schedule I'm trying to swing in these next three months in preparation for my first ultra, the Christmas in July (50K).  Keep in mind, I'm also doing Grandma's Marathon a mere four weeks prior (in June)...but that race's mileage fits nicely into the training I need for the Ultra, and the four weeks between the two races will allow a (near) perfect taper. In order to stay on track, I needed 13-15 miles this weekend. It made more sense to switch my registration from the 10K to the half marathon and run the 13.1 miles all together, rather than run the 6.2 miles and then run the remaining 7-9 miles upon returning home (a couple hours later). Problem solved.

I was especially looking forward to this race because my friend, Karen, was going to be there. She is from the Chicago area, but was in town attending the RRCA National Convention. Yippee! As we all know, when two runners (from different towns) wind up in the same place (for whatever reason), it's inevitable they will run together. Karen (from Trading In My Heels) and I have known each other for a couple years through social media, but have never had the opportunity to meet face to face.

The weather was in the upper 30's when we left town, and was supposed to reach the mid-60's but not until around noon. Originally, I had planned to wear shorts, a singlet and a long-sleeved top (to take off and tie around my waist when I heated up), but opted to go with capri leggings instead. I also had a pair of gloves to keep my hands warm for the first few miles, and compression calf sleeves.

I do a lot of my training runs and races with a local friend, Barb. We usually carpool together (and occasionally with other local runners) to out-of-town races. We arrived around 6:45AM in Des Moines, and Karen found us a few minutes later. The half marathon started at 7:30AM, so we had plenty of time to talk, get better acquainted, relax and do some pre-race fueling and warming up.

Ready for the start line
Barb has been on a mission to achieve a sub-2-hour half marathon finish time, and she has come very close on several occasions. Eager to give it another attempt, she decided to line up in a faster pace group than  Karen and myself. I, however, had no intention to run this race very aggressively, nor did Karen. We agreed to treat it as a training run, and try to run it very conservatively.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. This race starts out with the first three miles or so going downhill, and upon passing the first mile marker Karen told me we were around an 8:20 pace. Oops. It really didn't seem  that fast. We tried to run the second mile a little slower...and that one showed us around a 9:00 pace....not speedy fast, but definitely faster than either of us wanted. One thing I struggle with is slowing my pace. I am not a sprinter (by any means), but I have long legs and it's a natural instinct to take long strides, resulting in a faster-than-desired pace at the start of a long run or race. Throw in a few downhill miles and that can be a recipe for disaster.

By the third mile, I was already shedding the gloves and top layer. It felt pretty chilly at the start of the race, and I anticipated just keeping the top shirt, so I pinned my race bib to that. Big mistake. Fortunately, it only took a few seconds to unpin the bib and re-pin it to the singlet underneath. But I was already wishing I'd just worn the shorts instead of the capri's.

The first four miles took us from the Drake University campus to downtown Des Moines. We had completely lost Barb, but we were ahead of the 2:15 pace group. The course took us down to the Des Moines River, and we turned to go east along the river for a mile or so before heading towards the Capital Grounds. Iowa has a beautiful state capital, but (like most state capitals) it's situated high atop a rather steep hill....and we were about to run a loop around it.

Picture #1 of us with the Capital

As we were almost halfway up the hill, we spotted a group of spectators. They were dressed in very vivid colors, holding signs, and cheering on the runners. We asked one of them if they would take our picture with the Capital in the background. That was our first official stop (not including the water stations and my quick unpin/re-pin bib episode). We made it up the hill, around the Capital, and back down the other side without much effort. We decided to attempt a selfie on the other side of the Capital (without the sun behind us, shadowing our faces). Official stop #2.

Picture #2 with the Capital

We were really having a fun time talking, laughing, comparing running strategies and chatting about mutual frustrations and accomplishments. Before we knew it, we were approaching the 10K-split timing mat. I grabbed a gel and a water from the aid station. We were right next to Principal Park, the stadium where the Iowa Cubs play, so we decided to take another picture. Official stop #3.

In front of the Iowa Cubs sign
A short while later, near the seven-mile mark, I needed to use the porta pot. Official stop #4. Back on the trail, this time heading west towards Grays Lake Park, we spotted the group of spectators who had taken our picture near the Capital! Jokingly, Karen asked if they'd take our picture again. By this time, My glutes were feeling a little strained. Around mile eight, Karen needed a porta pot break, so that gave me a few minutes to stretch out some my muscle tightness. Official stop #5.

We made it around the lake, and out of the park, onto Martin Luther King, Jr Parkway. Having run this race last year, I knew what was up ahead. As we approached the nine-mile mark, we decided to walk for a few minutes. My glutes we really feeling achy and angry. I spotted a guy wearing a shirt that looked like it said Grandma's Marathon, so I gave him a big "Woot woot! Go Grandma's!" As I passed him, I noticed his shirt actually said Grandpa's Half Marathon. Oops. No wonder he gave me a strange look.

We turned onto Grand, heading west, with a nice hill just up ahead. Karen asked if this was the famous Bulldog Hill that people in her conference seminars had warned her about. Actually, this was the hill leading to the famous Bulldog Hill (which would appear around mile 11). This hill was several city blocks in length, and although it was a pretty gradual incline, it still was a challenge to climb. We decided to walk for a few steps, and someone asked us if we were going to continue walking...and I told him "until we see a photographer."  Geez, we're not stupid!

It wasn't long, and we turned the corner, and there it was up ahead...Bulldog Hill. UGH!  I love a good challenge, and Bulldog Hill is a true battle of you vs. gravity. It's not super long (3-4 city blocks), but it is steep!  It goes through a residential neighborhood, so there are people along the curb as well as on their porches. Karen and I started climbing, still running. I can't remember how far we made it...maybe 2/3 of the way? Although we were focused on the task at hand, we also were laughing as we encouraged each other (and there may have been a few choice adjectives spoken under breath) as we worked our way north. We decided to run as far as the stop sign up ahead, then we'd walk.

As we were approaching the stop sign, some spectators on the side of the road were cheering us on, and I noticed a guy who was wearing a Boston Marathon jacket (I've seen a few of those on social media recently), so I said,"Hey! A Boston marathoner! Can I shake your hand?" Promptly, Karen asked him, "Can you take our picture?" (Seriously,I am not making that up!)  He laughed, but immediately came over and got our picture by the Bulldog Hill sign. Official stop #6.

 We did it!  We conquered Bulldog Hill (notice the others who are walking?)

 After finishing that hill, the rest of the race was pretty easy, but we were tired! Thankfully, we had a good downhill stretch for a few blocks. As luck would have it, we spotted our picture-taking crew again towards the end of the race! And, again, we asked if they'd take our picture.

It wasn't much longer and we were headed into the stadium, and finished on the famous blue oval. A friend of Karen's (from the RRCA conference) was waiting to get out picture as we crossed the finish line, but didn't get our pic at the precise moment.....so what do we do?  We immediately turned around, back-tracked, and crossed the finish line a second time. Yes, we did. It was much easier the second time, and felt even more victorious.

It's a good thing we're not divas....
We grabbed some water, took a few more pictures (because we had not taken enough yet), and looked for Barb. Suddenly, we heard some commotion behind us, and guess who we found? Our photo crew!  This time, however, we had someone get our picture WITH them.  It had been so much fun seeing them along the course, they felt like friends.

Karen, myself, and our "crew." Bruce is the gal behind us, this was her second half marathon.
 A few minutes later we found Barb. It turns out she finished almost 30 minutes ahead of us....and not only had a major PR, but she claimed her sub-2-hour finish time. Can you say 1:56?  Yowza!

I was so excited to hear Barb had claimed her sub-2-hour finish!

 This was one of the funnest races I've done. True, Karen and I both ran our slowest 13.1 ever (official finish time was 2:23:27...yes, I'm keeping it real and admitting that), but we had a lot of fun in doing so. We both agreed, prior to race day, that we were going to run this race for fun and run it together. Both of us are training for an ultra (actually, the same ultra), and a race of that distance demands more of a commitment to time (than speed) in training.  Also, this course is not a "fast and flat" event, especially with those two major hills in the last two miles.

I did feel some fatigue during the final miles, and Karen noticed our labored breathing (around mile 7) and thought it was a probably sign of early dehydration. We stopped at every water station, but I tend to grab a single cup and take a couple of short sips (and dump & toss the remainder) and I should be drinking the entire contents. Also, having done so many half marathons/20K's (this was my 23rd), I find myself kind of not respecting the distance as much as I used to. I should be carb-loading more (like I used to do when I took these races more seriously) and I definitely need to be more aware of my hydration in the days prior as well as on the course. Another factor (at least for me) was the fact that our high school's prom was the night before...so my sleep was not exactly sound or restful. My husband volunteered at the after-hour party at the school, so I heard him come home after his shift at 2:30, then I woke up (again) when our son came home about an hour later.

Hy-Vee is the major corporate sponsor of the Road Races, and since our son is an employe there, I received the additional red race shirt at the expo! Sweet! The blue shirt is the race shirt the half marathoners received.
Am I disappointed with my finish time? Not at all. I had so much fun running with Karen, I am completely fine with everything. It was a beautiful day. The event was well-attended and had awesome crowd support. And Barb got her PR! I have said it before, but I believe running should be fun, more fun than serious. Not every event needs to be an "all-out race" or a quest for a PR. Some times, the spirit of the run is enough.

How about you?  Do you treat each race as an opportunity to PR? Have you ever done a real "race" as a training run? Have you ever been "one of those people" who stopped and took pics along the way?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fuel belts and hand-helds and water....Oh My!

We've all been there.

Maybe it's a long training run, or a distance race with limited course support. We have fuel to carry with us, and may need hydration along the route. Or, we may need a place to stash the phone, car keys, or chap stick. What's a runner to do?

Most of us aren't too eager to strap on a drawstring backpack (though more and more races are providing  them as event swag bags at packet pickup). Some of our shorts and skirts have tiny pockets, big enough for maybe one gel pack, but too small for anything else. Granted, most of us have two able hands, but most of us probably don't wish to have them holding stuff for the duration of a run (several years ago, upon a miscommunication with the husband, I brought along my cell phone to a 20K race....and had nowhere to stash it other than in my hand...for the entire 12.4 miles. NOT fun).

Fortunately, we have many options to serve this purpose. Having been actively training and racing for almost 10 years,  my needs have changed and so have the products available on the market geared towards athletes. Here's what I have in my collection of gear, and how I make each item work for me (depending on the circumstance).

First off, there's the very basic belt. Mine is made by FuelBelt (more information here). Most belts like this are advertised as "will stay in place, will not ride up." Not true, at least for me. A lot of them also say they are "non-bouncing," also not the case for me. It may be my body shape - I'm tall, thin, and have the "hour glass" shape....so my waist is pretty small (in comparison to my hips). Most accessories (running related or otherwise) will not stay on my hips, they all ride up and gravitate to my waist. It's a given that a running belt would do the same (and it does).

I have tried wearing it very tight on my hips, but within 20-30 steps, it starts bouncing as it begins its journey upwards. That's my situation, and I have accepted it. Now days, I just strap it around my natural waist, and I strap it tight. Also, for me, it seems to bounce less if I wear it with the pouch against my back instead of in front. Since I can't utilize the bib clip-ons with the pack facing backwards, I just pin my race bibs onto the belt itself. Sometimes, depending on the weather (and how many layers I'm sporting), I'll simply just wear the belt under all my layers and pin the race bib to my shirt (I know. Pinning the race bib to a shirt, what a concept!).  The pouch is not very big, so I use this when I need to have the absolute minimum stuff with me. My phone and ID fit in the pouch, and I can put my gels on the outside (with rubber bands) if needed (there are elastic slots meant for gels, but they are so tight I have never been able to successfully get a gel pack inside one....and fear the gel would either explode or get stuck and not slide back out).

Last summer, I won a HipS-sister (more information here) via a contest on the company's Facebook page. This works like a fuel belt, but with a lot more storage space. Again, due to the shape of my body, it does not stay on my hips, but gradually works its way to my waist as well. Since I'm familiar with this  predicament, I'm not annoyed by it (much). I usually wear this under my shirt as well, and use it when I have a lot of stuff I need to have with me....like my phone (which does not take pictures), my I-Touch (which does), tissues, gels, etc. This fits pretty snug (which, I believe, is the design concept), so I don't notice it or its contents bouncing at all.

I have another FuelBelt, which came with its own water bottle (and special diagonal pouch for the bottle) as well as two good-size pockets on either side of the bottle pouch. This belt straps on tight, but (depending on how much water is in the bottle) it can feel very heavy to me. I have never used it in a race because I know there will be water on most courses. Instead, I use it for those rare occasions when my training runs take me on routes that do not loop back intermittently to my house. On occasion, I use it for fairly short runs (less than an hour) on really hot days when I know I'll need some water with me.

I also have a hand-held bottle, made by Flexr (more information here). This has an ergonomic design, so it is easy to hold. It utilizes disposable bottle liners (much like those used for baby bottles), which collapse as the water is consumed. Even with the collapsible liners, though, the remaining water still does slosh around somewhat. I use this bottle for very short runs on very hot days (less than 30 minutes).

Another item I have used occasionally is the RooSport (more information here). This has a large pocket that closes with velcro and a smaller pocket that zips shut. What is really cool is the magnetic closure under the flap, which allows you to tuck it under your shorts or skirt and the magnet holds the flap secure. I have carried my phone or my I-Touch in it without any problems. I prefer to attach it across the back of my waistband, but it can go anywhere you feel comfortable putting it.

So, those are some of the available options for carrying not only water, but also fuel (gels, chews, salt packets, etc.), ID's or credit/debit cards (or good old-fashioned cash), as well as a cell phone or emergency items (inhalers, EpiPens, etc.).

How about you?  Do you have a tried and true method of carrying your goods on race day?

*****Please note, I have not been compensated in any way by any of these manufacturers. All statements and comments are my own, and are based on my personal use of these products.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Laughing at Life...and moving on

Well, this was a first-time life experience.

I have blogged (repeatedly) about my less-than-stellar speed. I'm not slow, by any means, but I'm never towards the front of the herd. That's all fine and dandy. What my body lacks in speed, it more than makes up for with endurance. And I'm quite happy with that.

Like most runners, I started out doing 5K races. The distance was perfect...not too short, and definitely not too long. As I became more "seasoned" in my running shoes, I started running farther and doing longer races.

Consequently, as I was trained for longer distances, I noticed my speed (for lack of a better word) had suffered. I have read that it's common for endurance athletes to eventually lose some speed as their bodies adjust to the slower pace needed to run long distances. Having never been super speedy (nor super agile or athletic), I was completely fine with that.

And let's not forget about the piriformis demons that have been plaguing me for a few years. With on-going aches & pains, stiffness, and limited range of motion, it was a given my speed would be less than desirable. I learned to accept my situation and make the best of it. Even though I wasn't as fast as I think I coulda/shoulda/woulda been, I still was doing alright in races. Not leading the pack, but usually towards the front of the "middle-of-the pack" runners. I was completely fine with that, too.

In recent years, I have started shunning 5K events. Most 5K's are charity events, raising funds for a worthwhile cause or recipient. Although I am all for supporting a great fundraiser, the frustration with my diminished speed kept me from participating. Besides, having done so many distance races, a 5K race is over and done so quickly it hardly seemed worth my time or effort. I know, bad attitude!

This says it all...from Fellow Flowers
Recently, though, I have had a revelation. Every race (and every distance) has its advantages and challenges. Even a simple 5K, for a distance runner such as myself, can be a challenge. The distance is minimal, but try running that "short" distance at a faster-than-what-feels-comfortable pace and you have a race that is not so easy after all.

Case in point, The Live Healthy Iowa 5K (more info here). This was an event that took place in 14 different towns within the state of Iowa, culminating a 10-week challenge for its participants. The Live Healthy Iowa initiative is geared towards promoting a healthy lifestyle, and encouraging people to get out and get moving. For many participants (I went to the Bondurant location), this was their first time pinning on a race bib. There were a lot of runners, but I would guess about 2/3 of the participants were walkers (there also was a 1K for children).

I registered for this event for a chance to step out of my comfort zone and test my speed.  I have felt a gradual transition to (almost) pain-free running recently, due to more consistent yoga, stretching and daily foam-rolling. I have had several "effort-less" training runs, most of which have been at a faster pace than usual for me. I have kept my weekly mileage to a minimum, and  have really focused on going for quality (rather than quantity) miles instead.

hanging out in the car....trying to stay warm for as long as possible

My always eager-and-willing-to-run-with-me friend, Barb, came along with me. We arrived early, got our packets and hung out in the car to stay warm. It was in the upper 40's, bright and sunny, but crazy windy!

The race started with a short zumba warm-up. Ha!  It was almost like church....Barb and I headed over to take part, and everyone kept filtering in behind us...no one wanted to be in the front row. I have learned to laugh at my awkwardness, lack of grace and limited coordination (I trust some of the gals behind me were laughing at me as well). The instructor made it fun, and I could feel my legs and core getting warmed up...but every time she turned to go right, I seemed to want to (naturally) go left.

We lined up for the race and were told to, "GO!" The route basically was an out & back, with a loop around a small lake in the middle of the course. There was a pretty strong south wind. We ran a couple blocks north before turning to go east towards the lake, and the cross wind was brutal! I was hoping to maybe hit a 5K PR (it's been awhile...), but with the wind and my cautious recovery, I knew it best to run based on how my body felt. I didn't have my fancy GPS watch (this was "just a 5K," don't forget), but I had my basic stop watch. Since there were only three miles involved, I figured I could do the simple math in my head to monitor my pace.

I didn't feel like I was going unusually fast (probably due to the wind), but I was able to hang with the front of the pack for the first mile or so. There were maybe a dozen other runners in front of me, and we were pretty well spread out by the time we made it to the lake. My watch said 8:11 as I passed the Mile 1 sign, which seemed fast. It wasn't until I was part way around the lake (and noticed my watch said 8:15) that I realized  I still had it set on regular time. Duh! I switched it over to the stop watch mode, and the 12:XX meant nothing to me at that point. Oh well!

There was a brief reprieve from the wind as the route curved around the northeast corner of the lake. I chose to not bring gloves because I usually peel them off after the first half-mile, so my fingers were freezing! I was starting to feel a weird something down the back of my left leg...not sure what that was, but I assumed it was probably related to my on-going piriformis and hamstring issues. It was not painful, but it definitely felt a little strained.

As I made my way around the final curve of the lake, I could see the Mile 2 sign. I was running straight into the wind and was ever thankful for the sunshine. As I passed the sign, my watch said 17:XX...which meant I was (currently) at an approximate 8:30 pace. What? That was pretty fast for me, especially at the second mile of a race. I usually need 3-4 miles to get loosened up and find a comfortable groove.

Back on the final straight-away, going due west, I had the cross wind again. I could feel my body starting to slow down somewhat, and I was really looking forward to getting finished and out of the wind. By this time, the same dozen or so people remained in front of me, and there were several walkers approaching their first mile (coming from the other direction). I had passed a few people, and had also been passed by a few others.

Finally, I rounded the corner and tried to sprint as best I could (straight into the wind) to the finish line. I crossed the line, and noticed my watch said 25:33:44. Wow. I wasn't certain what my current 5K PR was, but I knew this finish time had potential.

Almost a PR!

Barb finished a few seconds later. Both of us agreed to head to the car and get our jackets. She made the comment that we started pretty fast, but the wind was a little ominous. We also were hopeful to place, given the small number of racers ahead of us (all of whom looked quite younger, by the way). She pulled up the stats from her watch, and said we ran the first mile in 7:55! No wonder my left hamstring was kind of angry with me, that's the hardest it's worked in awhile. That's just under an 8:15 pace!

Whew! That was a tough and windy 5K
We waited around for the awards, and did some post-run stretching. The children had a 1K, and some of the 5K walkers were still filtering in.   They announced the male award recipients first, recognizing the 1st and 2nd place finishers in each age division. As they were going through the female winners, I wasn't recognizing any of the gals. There weren't that many people ahead of me, so I was pretty familiar with who was (and was not) running. They got to my age group, and the two gals who got first and second did not look familiar either, nor did the two gals in Barb's age group. Barb and I exchanged glances, neither wanting to say the obvious.

Although I did hope to get a PR at this race, I certainly was not expecting to win (or even place). I am not an ego-driven racer who assumes a podium moment each time I put on a race bib, especially for a 5K. But I have done enough races that I can tell when the field of competition is pretty slim. And, when you follow the same runners for an entire three miles (all of whom look younger than you) and even they aren't getting awarded...something must be up. Barb was acquainted with the race director, but was at a loss as to what to do. Since we'd already been given finisher medals (which is rare for a 5K, especially in rural Iowa), we decided to let this go.

As we were walking towards our car, we passed by a group of gals who were talking with the director and asking about the results. We paused to hear what was being said. They were questioning the accuracy of the results. This race was not chip-timed, instead it was the traditional rip-off-the-bib-tag-at-the-finish-line method. There were a couple different volunteers helping, so it's possible the tags may have not been in order. The director apologized and said they'd review the results.

Awkward!  I have never been in this kind of a situation before. If it was a big event, with cash prizes or gift cards, I would have been more upset (of course, if it was a big event with elaborate awards, I probably would not have finished so close to the front of the pack). It's comforting to know other participants shared in our frustrations.We did get finisher medals, however, and I have the finish time on my watch (which actually was not quite a PR after all....but will stand as my second fastest 5K). Yes, an additional medal would have been sweet, but not necessary. And, I imagine the people who did receive the 1st and 2nd awards (whether legitimate or by accident) probably got a huge boost of happiness, hopefully a big enough  boost that they'll be inspired to do another race...and another after that.

So, yes, I am laughing at life, and moving on. All is good. Barb and I even celebrated out fast 5K finish times by running seven bonus miles upon returning back to town...all in prep for Grandma's Marathon (happening in 10 weeks!).

Have you ever been in a situation where you questioned the accuracy of the race results? How did you handle it? Or, have you been in the awkward position of receiving an award that really wasn't yours?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

2015 is gonna be eggs-citing

So, here's my situation...

I have a lot of  grandiose ideas, plans, and goals for 2015, the biggest one being running my first (and quite possibly, my one and only) ULTRA!

And this was the year I was going try to scale back on the number of races. And some of the mileage. And try to run more "new" events (rather than returning to so many previous favorites). I was also hoping to do some shorter distance races (for example, 10K's) and do only a select few half marathons....yadda yadda yadda.

I am really excited for what the next several months have in store for me, but it's not going to be easy.
I am (still) dealing with some aches and (mild, though ever-present) pains, probably a result of my crazy racing and training schedule last year. Remember my goal of doing 14 distance events in '14? That ambitious goal was so much fun, but it did involve some serious miles (You can read more about it  here) . It felt like I was constantly in training up until my final "distance" event in early November.

Keep in mind, I do not do crazy nor excessive mileage. I run (at the most) four days a week (one of which is my long run), and my "short" runs actually are short (usually 2-4 miles, but never more than 5-6 miles). I seldom ever run 100+ miles in a month. I'm lucky in that I can keep my miles pretty much to the minimum, and still maintain my distance endurance.

I have talked many times about my piriformis issues, a total pain in the buttocks (that is not a play on words, nor an exaggeration).  Recently, I had an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, in hopes of getting a more thorough diagnosis of my situation.  I met with both the surgeon and also his PA (physician assistant). Both looked over my x-rays, and did some manipulation of my hip region. Both assured me there was no sign of arthritis, but they thought it was hamstring tendonitis that was the culprit...and all of my poking/prodding/foam-rolling/massaging of the piriformis was actually aggravating my problem (instead of helping it). Really? Oops.

Both of them also asked if I was using any pain medication. I sometimes take Aleve, but only on an as-needed basis. Both advised me to continue using Aleve (for its anti-inflammatory properties), but to take it twice a day (two pills for each dose), and to continue for a period of 7-10 days (instead of just once in awhile). Taking it once in awhile (instead of for an on-going extended period) does not give it enough time to really work its magic, thus the inflammation (which is probably what is actually causing the pain) is not being thoroughly treated with just one occasional dose. I'm not much of a pill-popper, but having it explained like that made sense. It's been less than a week that I've been on this regimen, and I could honestly feel substantial relief within the first 24 hours. There is still some tightness, but the pain has pretty much been eliminated.  

It would be ideal for me to take 6-8 weeks off from running. Since I'm not a daily runner (and, instead, do yoga and strength train on my non-running days), I am allowed to proceed with caution. I am working on shortening my stride length, and for a tall gal (I'm 5'9), that is a most difficult challenge. I am disciplining myself to do daily exercises to strengthen my core, glutes, and hips. Warming up prior to a run (and thoroughly stretching AFTER) is an absolute necessity. The doctor also wrote some orders to do a round of physical therapy, to learn more exercises to aid in my recovery. It seems like a lot of details, but honestly, this is the most optimistic I have felt in (maybe) (eventually) (finally) conquering this piriformis syndrome!

So, what do I have on my agenda?

April 11 - Live Healthy Iowa 5K
April 26-Drake Relays/Hy-Vee Road Races 10K
May 8-Market-to-Market relay ( I'm running 3 legs; for a total of 13 miles)
May 30-Dam to Dam Half Marathon
June 12 & 13-Grinnell Games (10K Trail & 10K street race)
June 14-Marion Rotary for Shoes Half Marathon
June 20-Grandma's Marathon
July 17-18 (starts at midnight!) Christmas in July 50K

There are a few small races in July (not yet registered) that may work their way onto the calendar as well. And, there are several races happening after the 50K that are very tentative...races I want to do, but am very mindful that my body may not share in that excitement. After two big races within a month of each other, I may be ready for some down time, physically and mentally.

I have no hopes of racing any of these events aggressively. I love PR's as much as the next person, but my priority is to run based on how I feel. My training is not geared towards a BQ, nor will I be doing much for speed work. I have weekly speed drills (Fartleks, hill sprints, strides, etc.) on my schedule, but all will be done without my watch. I think speed work is an essential part of training and conditioning, but my focus is to enjoy these big races and not obsess over my finish times.

That's my eggs-citing plan of action for this upcoming racing season.....and we had an eggs-ceptional Easter weekend!  This was the first year the Easter Bunny didn't surprise the kids with Easter baskets. Our kids are getting kind of "too old" to appreciate all the frills of Easter morning...but someone (the Bunny himself?) did leave a bunch of eggs in our yard. We haven't had an egg hunt in several years, so this was a fun thing to add to our day.

My pride and joy...the family!

The four "kids"

So, that's my plan of action. It may be a bit ambitious, but I believe it is possible if I stay strong and disciplined not only with my training, but also the TLC I extend to myself.

What do you think? What is the most ambitious goal you've worked towards? Have you had to rally back from injury?