Weeks in Review 10.23.18 to 11.4.18

Last two weeks going into Savannah…

10/23: Fartlek workout. 5 by 2 minutes on, 2 minutes off plus stabilizer legs. 7 miles total.

10/24: Early AM 3 mile recovery run.

10/25: 5-mile regular run plus PT.

10/26: AM tempo run with 2 miles continuous at tempo effort. 6 miles total.

10/27: No run, romping around the State Meet.

10/28: Last long run on the Thermal Rail Trail. 65 minutes. Very excited to find this resource. It will definitely feature prominently in my build-up for Grandma’s!

10/29: 2 miles easy with core.

10/30: Last workout. 1 mile at half marathon pace then 5 by 1 minute on, 1 minute off. 4 miles total.

10/31: Off day.

11/1: 2 miles in the pouring rain with striders built in.

11/2: 2.5 mile run through Savannah with KC.

11/3: RockNRoll Savannah Half Marathon. Full race report coming, but Gun 1:33:00, Chip 1:32:56 good enough for 10th overall.

11/4: Core and stretching only.

Training definitely kicked up over the last couple of weeks and in the week before my mini-taper, I was starting to feel like my old self. Now that I see what my race effort came out to be and the equivalent VDot (49), I have some paces to aim for as I move forward through my transition season and onto the San Diego Half.


Week in Review 10.15.18 to 10.21.18

Monday: 4 early am recovery miles plus back strength training.

Tuesday: Interval workout in the rain (for which I was totally unprepared). 10 by 1 on, 1 off for 5.25 miles total.

Wednesday: 5 miles easy plus PT.

Thursday: Much needed rest day with some core.

Friday: Early am tempo run. 4 by 5 minutes at tempo pace. 6-mile tempo. Arms strength training.

Saturday: Easy 5 miles run plus core.

Sunday: 11-mile long run in absolutely perfect running weather.

Total Miles: 36.3

Grateful to have another good week of running in the bank. Both of my workouts and long run went well and I did a reasonable job of getting my strength workouts in. Best of all, I’m starting to feel a tiny bit like my old self when I’m running. The beginning of this next week will be the same volume and intensity and then it’s on to taper for the ten days before RockNRoll Savannah.

Filling the Balloon

I saw an Instagram post by Kyle Merber the other day that talked about regaining fitness being akin to blowing up a balloon. The first time you do it, it’s extremely difficult but after a balloon has been inflated the first time, the subsequent efforts aren’t as hard. His point was that if you’ve been fit once, getting back there the second, third and tenth times aren’t as bad.

While I don’t entirely agree (aging, for example, makes for a worn out balloon more prone to pop than expand), I found his analogy comforting. It has been extremely humbling over the past couple of years to find myself considerably slower than before. Thinking of this as a temporary situation rather than a new normal has helped enormously. Overall, I would say that my acceptance of this setback has been way better than in years past. I have been generally positive and although I’ve had runs where I’ve wished to be back at my normal fitness level, I haven’t really given into beating myself up for slower paces. For this, I am incredibly proud. I don’t know if it’s age or experience, but I’ll take it!

Continuing with the balloon imagery, I feel like the last few weeks have been a proverbial exhale and expansion of the balloon. I’ve had workouts that, although slow, have been smooth and strong. This morning, for example, I floated through 4 by 5 minutes at tempo with 1 minute rest at paces that were difficult two weeks ago.

What do you think about the balloon analogy? How else do you conceptualize the return to fitness?

Gulp. I Chose a Spring Marathon.

I know I’m getting back in shape anytime I find myself daydreaming about my next big race on a run. For a couple of weeks, I’ve been toying with the idea of a spring marathon. There are a couple of reasons for this crazy line of thinking. First, I don’t want to have all my eggs in one basket for a fall marathon when I essentially took a year off from racing. Second, I need to have a realistic fitness check before setting fall goals. Finally, scheduling in residency is bananas. We plan 6 months to a year ahead for even a weekend off, so if I was going to run a spring marathon, I needed to commit now.

Choosing a spring marathon was a whole other ordeal. At this point, there is no “safe” time of year for good weather but I could pretty much guarantee that anything after April in the South was a bad idea. Furthermore, I doubted by ability to be ready for an early spring marathon, so needed something in late May or June. Finally, I wanted a reasonably fast course. After much searching around, I settled on Grandma’s Marathon in late June in Duluth.

Grandma’s is point to point and has a reputation of being flat and fast. They’ve had their share of tough weather in the last few years but by late June, warm weather won’t be a shock to my NC system. Lodging in Duluth proved to be a bit more of a challenge; hotels anywhere near the area were already completely sold out for the weekend. I got very lucky and found an AirBnB in the area with two hosts who often have Grandma’s runners.

Obviously time is on my side for this race, despite still working actively on healing my knee. I’ll essentially train for the San Diego Half and Grandma’s independently, as there are 14 weeks between the two races. This allows me to work on speed through most of the winter and switch to a more endurance/marathon focus for Grandma’s AND have a week off after the San Diego Half.

I’m going into the whole thing with a light heart and my plan FROM Grandma’s to Fall 2019 is an epic “if-then” map. For example, if training doesn’t go well or I’m not able to put together a race faster then 3 hours, then I’ll reconsider my trajectory for fall. As long as my outcome is under 3, I’ll plan to register for Boston (ensuring a Spring 2020 goal race) but still likely plan a fall attempt at the OTQ.

Anyone else run Grandma’s? I keep hearing amazing things!

Week in Review 10.8.18 to 10.14.18

Back at “full” volume for the last few weeks heading into Savannah. This was another great week of training, helped by the arrival (FINALLY) of cooler temperatures. It’s hard not to hammer when the temperatures feel great so I spent some time in the second half of the week reminding myself to go easy on easy days. I also registered for a spring marathon! More on that coming tomorrow…

Monday: Had to do this on a treadmill because of scheduling and unfortunately, there was no wifi so I had to just zone out and run. Did a wave tempo with a one-mile warmup then 3 by (1 mile at T, 1 mile easy). Arms afterward.

Tuesday: Not my intended day off this week but got stuck in the OR until 9 pm so no run this day. Core workout when I got home.

Wednesday: Easy 5 mile recovery run. PT after which left me sore for the remainder of the week.

Thursday: Easy 4 miler. Very sore calf muscles!

Friday: Fartlek workout. Warmup then 3 by (30, 60, 90 at 5K effort with equal recovery). Felt good thanks to cooler weather but decided not to push it for a fourth set. 18 minutes of hard effort is enough right now.

Saturday: 4 recovery miles.

Sunday: 10-mile long run. Happy to get another one of these in but a bit humbled that this still isn’t “easy” by any means.

Total Miles: 36

I’ll take a similar approach to the next two weeks, with a goal of 30 to 35 miles with two workouts and a long run in each. Because of some scheduling conflicts, I am unfortunately on call next weekend as well which makes me a bit anxious about getting in my long run so I’ll just have to keep my eyes open for any opportunity towards the end of the week to do that.

Running Tips: Just Do 10 Minutes

I certainly don’t do everything right when it comes to running but one of my best qualities is my ability to get out the door when I don’t want to or my available time is short. When I am confronted with a day when I am exhausted or when my schedule gets messed up, I make myself a promise: just do 10 minutes. When I’m exhausted, this guarantees me at least a shakeout run, but 95% of the time, I end up doing more than the ten minutes. I recently shared this with a co-resident and she has fallen in love with the approach because it gets her out the door but also lessens the omnipresent guilt of residency to “do more.”

I’ve started to apply my “just 10 minutes” philosophy to other components of my life as well. As a resident, my time is exceedingly limited but I still have tons of commitments in addition to an 80 hour work week. For work, I have research requirements, ABSITE studying (our in-service exam that prepares us for our Boards) and administrative tasks (logging cases and hours). Beyond that, I have a house that can’t totally fall into the earth, two dogs, a husband, a sister, and parents. Needless to say, some days feel a bit thin on time. In general, I keep a regimented calendar and I have a task from each “category” for each day. Sometimes, I nail these things and even get a little bit ahead (we’re talking a load of laundry…) And sometimes, I fall behind. When I do, instead of getting overwhelmed, I apply the same 10-minute rule. 10 minutes of studying or cleaning or a dog walk is better than zero.

What are your tricks for consistent running? Have you ever tried a 10-minute rule or something similar when time is crunched?

Week in Review: 10.1.18 to 10.7.18

First cutback week in a while, which was much needed. Per usual, I spent the first few days of my cutback week feeling awful. This was exacerbated by a flu shot that wiped me out (no regrets, better than the actual flu!). By the end of the week, however, I was feeling rested and ready to tackle a full volume week. Last push towards Savannah!

Monday: 25 minutes easy plus arms. (Still on the online video train, btw. This was the one I did this week.)

Tuesday: Hill workout. Warmed up for 20 minutes then 6 by 45 second hills hard. Cooldown after for total of 45 minutes. Legs after.

Wednesday: 25 minutes easy plus PT. Moving into the part of PT where I am recovered enough to remember how terrible my balance is…

Thursday: Planned rest day.

Friday: Early, early morning workout. Fridays are always pandemonium and I had a concert on Friday night, so figured 3:15 am was safer than pretending I’d get it in after work. Progression run on the treadmill ending with 10 minutes continuous at tempo pace. Kettlebell legs after with the curtsey lunges that always kill me.

Saturday: 25 minutes easy on sore, sore legs courtesy of above.

Sunday: Easy 60 minute run plus striders and core.

Total Miles: 25 

How DO You Get Back to Running After Injury?

Short Version: Slowly, methodically and with no glamour.

May: Almost no activity besides PT and surviving the day

Early June: Light recumbent biking, PT

Late June: Light elliptical, biking, and PT

July: Elliptical, Walk Jogging, and PT

August: Walk-Jog to Continuous Jog 3 to 4 days a week

September: Building up to 5 days a week, initiation of basic workouts

October: 5 to 6 days a week, building to 35 miles per week, base phase workouts

Longer Version:

Tearing my MCL was my first “surprise” running injury and as result, my recovery from my MCL was different from my fasciotomy and tarsal tunnel release. Because of the extent of damage to my knee and because the MCL is the “gatekeeper” of the knee joint, I was in a big, clunky immobilizer for almost 10 weeks. At first, I had to wear it any time I wasn’t sleeping or laying on the couch. This was because without an MCL, my knee was vulnerable to additional injury with any twisting or extension. After a few weeks, I graduated to only wearing it when I was going to be at work or walking around but could have it off for PT or around the house. Around this time, I started biking again with the immobilizer in place. This was essentially only to get blood flow through the knee. I assure you, there were minimal cardiovascular benefits. By the end of June (6 weeks out), I was on the elliptical for 30 minutes of very easy effort.

On July 3rd, I went for my very first “run.” The rules were strict: no pivoting, flat surface only, no more than a few seconds at a time. As this was my first walk without my brace with the exception of PT, suffice to say, I was very tentative. As I was starting to wean off my brace at work (12+ hours with stairs, elevators, standing and twisting), I took it easy with any additional exercise. Throughout the rest of July, I slowly built up my running with a run-walk approach. When I got to a point where I could run for 5 minutes before a break, I switched a continuous short run instead.

August was where I really started to run regularly again. I was still restricted to no pivoting so spent a huge amount of time on the bike path down by the river. I transitioned to slow, continuous running and built up to 20 minutes 3 to 4 times a week. By the end of August, I started adding drills back in. I started with just stretching drills first and finally added dynamic drills at the end of the month.

September was the first month where I felt like I might actually be able to recover from my injury, a full 4 months later. I built my runs to 30 minutes, added in a long run, started very simple workouts and finally, got back to 5 to 6 days of running a week. My last week in September was as follows:

Monday: Tempo Effort with 2 by mile at Tempo Pace, 5 miles total. Legs after.

Tuesday: 50 minute easy group run

Wednesday: Off day.

Thursday: 32 minute run

Friday: 30 minute run with 6 by 1 on, 1 off.

Saturday: 35 minute easy run

Sunday: 90 minute long run.

As you’ll notice, essentially all of my runs are time based. I did that intentionally to avoid any comparison trap for myself as I come back. Prior to my injury, I certainly wasn’t in peak shape but my mile pace was my usual 8:00 to 8:15 for easy runs. Afterwards, it took me anywhere from 10 to 11 minutes to run a mile and I wanted to avoid the temptation to push myself before I was ready.

I am a long way from where I want/need to be but I am also feeling well and have no knee pain. Even better, I have an endpoint to my MCL which means that things are coming back together. I still can’t pivot or run on other surfaces but I am slowly, slowly making forward progress.


When I finally figured out my password to this site and was trying to figure out a way to start up again, all I could think about was that I feel like a terrible ex who ghosted someone and is coming back 12 months later to see how they are. So, in homage to everyone who has ever been ghosted or done the ghosting, let’s just call this blog post, “Hey.”

In many ways, a lot and nothing has happened since I last wrote after RDC. I’m not an intern anymore, I’m not even a brand new PGY2 at this point. I let all my sponsorships go in December of last year. I tore my MCL in May and took most of the summer off (more on that later). I’m just barely back to training semi-normally. So what prompted me to write again? A few things.

First, I tried to break up with running last winter. At the time, I was blaming running for all the stress in my life. So I stopped. Sure, I plodded along a bit and I even ran a decent enough 8K. But I really wasn’t into it and I didn’t even think I missed running. Then I met Dave, who happened to be one of my Attendings, but who also happens to be a runner and talking with him about running and racing made me have the smallest inkling of missing IT. Dave connected me with Ellen, who became my first real running friend here and those miles with her made me admit out loud that I missed it. And then I tore my knee.

May was actually a decent running month for me. I built back up to 30 miles a week, which was a LOT on an intern schedule, and my long runs were moving along. I was starting to daydream about a fall race and even had a great workout on a trip home in May. The purpose of that trip? Seeing one of my dearest friends (and running buddies) from medical school get married. She and her husband are going to have a lot of luck because their wedding day was RAINY. Anyway, flash forward to the reception and me dancing in heels on a rain soaked floor and…twisted knee, instant inability to bear weight, shit. I hobbled back to North Carolina, saw an amazing Orthopedic Surgeon, got an MRI and sure enough, Grade III MCL plus a bonus avulsion of my gastroc. Not optimal. I spent the remainder of May, June and July in an immobilizer and in intensive PT. I was exceedingly lucky to find (through my awesome Orthopedist) a phenomenal physical therapist in Sean, who spent a huge amount of time rehabbing my knee with cool technologies like BFR (blood flow restriction) therapy (which Heather Kampf just used during an injury and came back to win the Navy Mile last week).

Anyway, it was a long, suboptimal summer of training but all of my work with Sean has paid off and not only am I back to running 30 miles a week, my SPARK for training is back. I am day dreaming on runs again when three weeks ago, I was having pity parties. I babbled at Will for 10 miles on Sunday about my hopes and dreams and goals. He and I can both assure you that hasn’t happened in a very long time.

What prompted me to write, however, was the fact that this blog has always been a place to process what running means to me, to think aloud as it were about training, running, and racing. It has captured the heartbreak of bad races (still not over Philly) and celebrated great ones. It has forced me to evaluate my rehabilitation and recovery through two surgeries. It has followed me through the entire process of becoming a physician. So even if, after a year of silence, no one reads it anymore, this blog is the best way I know to figure out who I am as a runner at whatever stage of life I find myself.

So what’s next? Up first is the RockNRoll Savannah Half. I am doing this with friends and quite legitimately, don’t have any big goals besides finish. In my head, I’d like to try to challenge myself to get of sense of my fitness but if I finish and my knee doesn’t hurt, it will be successful. Beyond that, my next big goal is the San Diego Half in March. I’ll be completely honest – I have a lot of hope for this race. If I can get back down into the mid 1:20s for this, then I’ll look at aiming for the Trials Qualifier or at the very least, a marathon PR for the fall of 2019.

Hey. I missed you. Love Sarah.

Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose…Updated

Three and a half years ago (omg…) I shared a blog post right after VCM about what I wanted to accomplish in running. At the time, I structured it into 18 month Goals, Someday Goals and Pie in the Sky Goals. I was about at the end of my first year of medical school and didn’t know that I would pick General Surgery, move to Asheville, have breast surgery etc. That post continues to sit in my mind, however, because it was a vulnerable position to put myself in. What if I never crossed a single thing off?! Did that make me a failure or mean I had poor insight into my abilities? Would I always wonder what if?

It turns out, that list hasn’t changed much in terms of checking things off. I ran a PR in the marathon the fall after I wrote that. And I just won my first marathon last weekend which prompted me to revisit my list. I’m leaving out the 18 month time frame on my new version and just doing To Do and Pie in the Sky. I tried to come up with a combination of goals that are participation based (on me to complete), time based (again, on me to achieve) and competition based (on me AND other athletes).

To Do:

PR in the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon (18:44, 38:33, 1:21, 2:54 respectively)

Run a Trail Marathon

Win a National Championship

Run a Beer Mile

Run the Shut In Trail Race

Pie in the Sky:

Olympic Trials Qualifier in the Marathon

Run a US Running Circuit Race

Earn an Elite Bib at one of the US Majors (Boston, New York or Chicago)

Run for the US on a World’s Team