These annoyances thwarted big plans for any long races, marathon or not. Instead, I found myself hobbling along my local trails silently singing and empathizing with Green Day's 'Wake Me Up When September Comes.' In other words, could this heat and humidity get out of my life, and out of my joints and tendons, as quickly as possible?!
This less-than-ideal inflammation came as no big surprise, though, because, to put it simply, according to the ancient Indian science of Ayurveda, during the hottest time of the year, we need cooling activities, i.e., in my case, no vigorous running.
Further, it seemed appropriate that my muscles, joints, tendons and fascia were acting out - it was my body's way of telling me that I needed more post-race rest and recovery after pushing myself to the limit in two springtime races and winning second overall female in both, first in the 3.5-mile, 1,200-foot elevation gain, uphill race called the Mount Summit Challenge in April and eight weeks later in the 15.5-mile trail race with about 2,200 feet in elevation gain in the Pyle Run & Ride Festival, which I recount in Spring Race Recap: How Injury, Childbirth & Death Made Me a Better Runner.
Beginning in July, I took these factors into account and significantly reduced the frequency of my runs (from six times a week down to three), the intensity (no hill repeats or speed work) and the mileage (down from my average of 25-35 with a peak of 42 per week to about 14). Instead, I found refuge in some of my other favorite outdoor activities such as white water kayaking (very cooling!), hiking, biking and bouldering. Then, just when I was feeling ready to build up my running again, I got hit with a case of bronchitis! Adios, running! I took 16 days off.
When I returned to the trails with healed lungs at the end of August, the fire in my IT bands, knees, ankles and feet had dissipated - all signs of inflammation were gone. I felt refreshed and renewed! Obviously, I attribute the recovery to a long rest period, but other factors played a role, too.
To explain, while I was changing my running routine to suit the season, I was also changing my yoga routine, which serves as my primary form of strength training. I replaced a typical six-day-a-week, 90-minute, vinyasa flowing, power yoga practice filled to the brim with chaturanga push-ups, core work and handstands with something gentler, something that cooled me off rather than heated me up. I included more yin, kundalini, pranayama, mudra, mantra and meditation in the wee hours of the morning, a time when I can (mostly) practice uninterrupted before my son, now 28 months, wakes up and requires full focus and attention. Now, don't get me wrong, my strong, power yoga routine still reins supreme, but these days I'm approaching it from a more balanced standpoint with the intention of training my mind, emotions and spirit for competitive running.
As one can see, it's clear that as the seasons change, so do our bodies, and thus our yoga and running... or mine, anyway. The cold winter days allowed me to build a solid aerobic base with power yoga, intense speed work, long runs and hill climbs that planted me at the start line of my two springtime races with a self-assured ability and a knowingness and confidence that I was fully prepared to run my hardest, and after that was all said and done, the summer allowed me to seek restoration.
Now, here we are, in the full swing of autumn. Rejoice, September finally came! I feel a reawakening, rejuvenated and ready to race again! I've had three weeks of healthy, strong runs, and just in time, because in less than a week, I will be competing in a 10K trail race on the Ice Age Trail in Kettle Moraine State Park as part of the North Face Endurance Challenge Series in Eagle, Wisconsin. The 10K (6.2 miles) is my favorite distance to run on a daily basis (it's something that I can do quickly, yet is longer than a 5K sprint, but not so long that I need to refuel or carry anything with me). Plus, this race will take place on what sounds like relaxing, flowing terrain - a single tack trail that is ranked four stars out of five for scenery and only two stars for technical terrain, overall difficulty and elevation change. This will be a welcome change from the Mount Summit Challenge and the trails that made up the Pyle Run & Ride Festival.
As the race nears, my mind wonders to thoughts about my bib number, and consequently, my biggest running fan, my dad, who died June 1, 2013. Why does the bib number, something that we as racers do not select, conjure up thoughts of my father? Because in the Mount Summit Challenge, my first race since my dad died, my bib number happened to be 52, his birth year, and in the Pyle Run & Ride, my bib number was, by chance, 252, my dad's birth month (February) and birth year. What will it be this Sunday, October 4? Could another moment of serendipity occur the morning I pick up my race packet? Perhaps. If not, I declare the number 52 as my lucky charm - it is branded on my heart. If for some reason in the future I must wear a jersey, I would undoubtedly select the number 52. Until then, for this race, I'm bringing it along with me through my music.
Running with an iPod is something I rarely do. I save it for long runs, or straight, flat runs or days when I need something, anything to motivate me. I especially do not prefer to listen to music in the woods or on a narrow trail - doing so materializes a deep-seeded claustrophobia faster than Usain Bolt in the 100 meter dash! However, I've been reading about how music is scientifically proven to increase speed in runners. It's an interesting concept, and, with curiosity getting the better of me, I may just experiment with it on race day.
Will listening to music really make my feet move faster? Almost better yet, will it suppress the nervous chatter in my head while simultaneously keeping me from nervously chattering to other racers mid-race (a terrible habit!)? Or will it bring on such a bout of claustrophobia that I end up ripping the headphones from my ears and throwing the iPod far into the woods, never to be seen again? And even worse, will I annoy other runners in the same way I have been annoyed when I've politely announced 'passing on the left,' only NOT to be heard because earphones are impairing the ability to recognize my way of saying, 'please move over, I am overtaking your stride!' I suppose the answer to the last question is simple - I need to remain the one who does the passing while avoiding being passed, a feat in itself!
With all that said, I've prepared a playlist for the occasion. As I've worked on the order of songs and researched beats per minute to match my pace, I have been contemplating how long it should be. My thoughts have gone something like this:
Should it be 48 minutes to push myself to run really fast and surely secure top overall female? Should I give myself ample time and make it 55 minutes in case the single-track trail is crowded and challenging to safely pass, thus slowing me down? Should it be 57 minutes, because I've never raced a 10K on trail, and trail times are slower than road times, and maybe I will just be in the mood to take it easy? Ha! Very unlikely!
Last night it occurred to me that, of course, the playlist should be 52 minutes. 52 is mine. Then, in the midst of smiling and excitedly rearranging my playlist to meet my chosen time, I remembered that 52 and some seconds is also my 10K personal record, set in the Coronado Valentine's Day 10K, a road race held on Coronado Island, California. I signed up for this 10K, my second ever, on a whim the night before with no serious training, and I cannot even tell you whether it was 2010 or 2011. But I do know I finished in 52 minutes.
There you have it. If my bib number on Sunday does not surprise me with some sort of sign from the heavens that my dad is with me, racing next to me, pinned to my running shorts and with me every step of the way, then these are the 52 minutes of songs that will give me that serendipitous feeling, carrying me through as if I'm effortlessly floating upon my feet, in this particular order:
- Beautiful Day by U2
- Viva la Vida by Coldplay
- Dog Days Are Over by Florence + The Machine
- Send Me on My Way by Rusted Root
- I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons
- Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People
- I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas
- Paper Planes (Remix featuring Bun B and Rich Boy) by M.I.A.
- She's a Rebel by Green Day
- Rolling in the Deep by Adele
- Lose Yourself by Eminem
- C'mon Now by The John Butler Trio
- Amazing Grace by Dropkick Murphys