Category Archives: Running

Returning to Running

A typical view on my morning run

A typical view on my morning run

The last post I wrote on running was back in December when I said I was taking a break for a bit.

And boy did I ever – longer than I had planned.

After the Big Sur Half Marathon last November I stopped running completely. At Christmas, I ran a few miles here and there when I was out with the dogs, and ran a total of NINE miles in the entire month of December.

When January rolled around I felt ready to start running again, but then I adopted Coco and running took a back seat for a few weeks. Besides being a puppy, and all the attention and care that required, Coco had separation anxiety making it hard for me to leave for even just a few minutes.

For the first time I actually *missed* running. I would see people out running and felt insanely jealous of them. I longed to be out there for even just a few miles.

After a lot of trial and error, training and tears (both hers and mine), Coco started to adjust to being left home alone and I was able to run a total of 29 miles in January.

Gradually things continued to improve and I ran 50 miles in February and a whopping 70 miles in March!

Although my longest run since the Big Sur Half has only been eight miles, I felt like I was on the right track and making progress. My body felt better than it had in years and I was ready to start ramping up for longer runs and more miles.

But When April arrived I got lazy – really lazy. Case in point – as of today, April 19th – I’ve only run 22 miles for the entire month.

There really isn’t any reason why I haven’t run more. While Coco doesn’t love being home alone, she accepts it so I can’t blame her for not running. In fact, not only haven’t I been running, but I haven’t been working out at all. I haven’t been this inactive in about ten years.

I felt so slothful. I needed to get my act together and get some races on my calendar. So I spent the past week researching races, consulting with my running coach and then went on a race registration spree!

In putting together this schedule, I tried to be mindful of my current fitness level and give my body ample time to get back in shape. Compared to the past few years, I feel a little like I’m underachieving here but I think this is a smart schedule to have, especially after the lessons I learned last year about how I ran down my body – and spirit – into exhaustion.

So without further ado, here’s what I have planned for the year:

See Jane Run 5K – June 22

DSE Golden Gate Park 10K – July 6

DSE 6-hour Endurance Run – July 13

Giant Race Half Marathon – Sept 7

Big Sur Half Marathon – Nov 16

and the…

California International Marathon – Dec 7 (which also happens to be my birthday week!)

Taking a running hiatus taught me was that I had been way too hard on myself. What I did never felt good enough for me. Ironically, I would give anything to be back at that fitness level right now! :) Hindsight is everything and now I can appreciate the joys that a simple run brings!

Why I’m Taking A Break From Running

If there is one thing that running has taught me it’s to listen to my body.

For a long time I “listened” for obvious injuries, completely oblivious to other quiet signals it was sending me. In hindsight I realize that my body has been telling me to slow down for the past two to three years.

- There were the many months of insomnia that got so bad that it led me to therapy.
- There were the injuries that came about because of insufficient recovery time.
- There were the days of anxiety and brain fog, not to mention the inability to focus and feeling completely overwhelmed. I distinctly remember telling a friend on multiple occasions that I just “didn’t feel like myself.”
- I felt overly emotional and out-of-control.

And then there was the maddening weight gain in spite of all the running and cross-training, and the meticulous food tracking.

After ignoring those signals for years, my body is now screaming at me to slow down.

When I felt completely wiped out at Mile 2 during Big Sur, I finally understood what my doctor meant when she said that I had Adrenal Fatigue.

Years of overtraining had caught up with me. My body was saying “enough is enough”, and I finally get it.

When I first started seeing my functional medicine doctor back in September, she told me that I needed to cut back. So I stopped training for a full marathon, and trained for a half-marathon instead. I mean, wasn’t that cutting back by 50%?

After I ran Big Sur I emailed my doctor and told her how I crashed so early on in the race and how it scared me.

I wondered if I hadn’t trained hard enough, if I was that much out of shape – what was it that I was doing wrong? She called me and we had a long discussion in which she made me realize that the more I continued to push and train and workout, the more damage I was doing to my body.

I needed to cut back more – as in completely.

It was with great emotion that I realized that I needed to stop running so I can let my body heal and recover. I rarely get emotional but I wept when I came to the realization.

To put a dagger in it, during my last doctors visit I was also told that I have hypothyroidism and reactive hyperglycemia, both associated with Adrenal Fatigue.

So not only am I cutting back on running, I am also overhauling my diet, as if eliminating gluten, dairy, corn and soy wasn’t enough. I was told to eliminate grains, so basically I’m eating a Paleo diet – not by choice, but by necessity.

As for workouts, I was strongly encouraged to practice yoga, Pilates and swim. Spinning and strength training (with no weights) are also approved workouts, with a very short run mixed in from time-to-time (mostly for sanity’s sake).

All this change has been overwhelming. I’ve gone through the four stages of grief, and am feeling like I’m slowly moving into the acceptance and hope stage.

So why am I sharing all of this?

Because I’ve done countless Google searches looking for athletes who’ve had similar experiences and the only running-related one that came up in my search came from Jen’s Fit Playground. Jen is a marathoner who also experienced Adrenal Fatigue. As I read what she experienced, I felt like I was reading my own story.

She wrote about this over a year ago so I emailed her to ask how she managed to get through it. She quickly responded with these words of advice:

More than anything right now your body needs rest and lots of it.

If you can take a nap, take one. If you can sleep in for an hour, do it. If you can get to bed an hour earlier, do it.

Cut back on stimulants – whether it be coffee, soda, chocolate, caffeine pills, preworkouts, fat burners, or other stimulants.

Relax more. Do anything that will help you de-stress.

This is a time my doctor told me to practice new Zen like activities. He told me to take a vacation. ha ha. Your body needs to heal and catch up.

The best advice my doctor told me when I kept comparing my body now to how it used to work when it was in top condition was this, “That was your body then. This is your body now.” Work with what you have and be patient.

It might only take a couple of months, or it could take a year. There’s no hard fast rule. Just listen to your body, and if it’s tired or aches, let it rest. :)

“That was your body then. This is your body now.”

Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been going back to old photos from 2006-2009, when I felt like I was in the best physical shape I’d ever been in. I had been kicking myself for not blogging more about my fitness habits from those years that I could refer back to. I was wracking my brain trying to recall what habits I had so I could get myself back to that shape again. I was beating myself up for letting myself “get so out of shape” not realizing that the harder I worked, the more I was hurting myself.

Comparing me now to me then was killing my joy.

Somehow reading those words from Jen suddenly made me have peace with where I am now.

As I read more of Jen’s blog I saw that she was able to run the Boston Marathon this past April. It gives me hope that I can recover and run again someday, hopefully soon, but I’m not putting a deadline on it. (Note: my doctor has told me I can fully recover from this, but you never know…)

So what am I doing to rest?

- I’m getting more sleep – at least 8-9 hours a night.
- I’m going to yoga more often, especially restorative yoga classes.
- I’m trying not to push very hard in the workouts that I do.
- I’m taking baths infused with essential oils.
- I’m trying to let go of the things I can’t control.

It’s a constant battle and work in progress.

I suspect there are many other runners and athletes who are on a path similar to mine so I will write and share, not only to document my journey for myself, but to also share my experiences in hopes of raising awareness, and/or to give hope to someone who is already experiencing this.

Adrenal Fatigue is a real thing. It’s not something that you are imagining.

If you think you may be on the path towards it, pay closer attention to your symptoms and log them to notice patterns and triggers. Don’t ignore them like I did. Do what you need to do to rest and fully recover from your workouts. It’s so easy to get caught up in signing up for races because of social media hype and fear of missing out.

But be true to yourself, your health and your current capabilities.

Most importantly, be well.

Photo taken on this morning's walk (not run). I stopped here for a few moments to enjoy the stillness of the morning.

Photo taken on this morning’s walk (not run). I stopped here for a few moments to enjoy the stillness of the morning.

2013 Big Sur Half-Marathon

I have such mixed feelings about this race that its taken me over a week to write this post on it..

Being that this race was the first one I ever ran, it holds a special place in my heart. That first race five years ago was such a great experience and I so wanted this year’s race day to live up to it.

Pre Race

The beauty of staying at the Portola Hotel is that it is literally two blocks away from the Start Line and mere steps from the Finish Line.

With the race starting at 7 am, I set my alarm for 5:30 am so that I could have time to eat a {gluten-free} bagel and let it digest. I lounged around for 45-min, got dressed in five minutes and headed downstairs to the lobby at about 6:30 am to check out the scene. As expected, it was packed with happy runners of all age, shapes and sizes. I took a step outside to gauge the temps. It was chilly, but not cold enough for gloves, so I went back up to my room to drop them off but decided to keep my arm sleeves on.

go_prerace

When I got to the Start area there were rows and rows of port-a-potties and no lines. I easily found my corral. There were people checking bibs to make sure you entered the right corral – if I recall correctly, this was something different from 2008. As we got closer to the start time, the corrals began filling and I stood there taking it all in, listening to the conversations going on around me. I deduced that names printed in red on bibs indicated it was the runners first half marathon. And there were a lot of those – about 1700 of the registered 7000 runners – in other words, its a great course for first-timers. :)

Race

The first couple corrals started 3-min apart, and corrals after that started 30-seconds apart so my corral didn’t start running until about 10-min after the gun time. I make note of this because I ran without my Garmin.

At the expo I had inquired about clocks on the race course and was told there wouldn’t be any. I debated if I should wear my Garmin, but decided against it. I knew I wasn’t in PR condition (this was my longest run since SFM) and really wanted to enjoy the race. I didn’t want to get sucked into watching time so left it behind.

But right from the start, things didn’t go well.

Just a few steps after we started running a guy in front of me stepped on a gel packet and it splattered ALL OVER me. There I was, not even two minutes into the race and was covered in an apple-flavored gel.

Terrible shin splints and GI distress also showed up early too. But I fell into a pretty good rhythm and hoped that things would work itself out. But by Mile 2 I was already stopping for my first of three potty breaks. I thought after that first bathroom stop I would feel better, but I really didn’t. My body felt like it was at Mile 22 instead of Mile 2. It scared me – I had never felt that fatigued that early on in a race before.

For the first time ever, my local aunt, cousin and Jasmine were cheering me on at a race. I was so excited to see them at Mile 3 that it took my mind of how lousy I felt.

The great thing about this race is that it is very spectator-friendly. So much so that all my family had to do was stand outside their hotel, the Intercontinental Hotel on Cannery Row, to watch the race. They had packed soccer-mom (i.e. folding) chairs and were bundled up holding signs and ringing cowbells, cheering for everyone. I knew exactly where they would be so I ran on the side of the street where we could see each other from “a mile” (not really) away.

go_canneryrow

I ran up and threw them my arm-sleeves {because it was so warm by then} at them, stopped for a pic and yelled, “Things aren’t going well” and then continued running.

go_fam

Confession: it briefly crossed my mind to drop out from the race right then and there (how much more convenient could it get?) but this was one race I wasn’t going to DNF. Not even if I was dying – which I would soon think that I was.

I don’t know why but in my head I always thought that this race was flat. Well I wouldn’t call it hilly, but I its definitely NOT flat. There are modest inclines throughout the entire course.

go_feetofftheground

By Mile 5 my shin splints disappeared but at Mile 7 my L hamstring decided to remind me that I had pulled it two weeks earlier. That combined with my continued GI distress and heavy fatigue just wasn’t fun. I ran when I could but walked most of the course. Its a good thing we ran with views like this, otherwise it would have been downright miserable.

go_oceanside

And although I flirted with going to a dark place a few times, I ran mostly feeling so grateful to live and run in such a beautiful area of the world.

When I hit the turnaround at Mile 8 I was convinced that I was looking at a personal worst time and thought it would be around the 3-hour mark.

So you can imagine how utterly shocked I was when the 2:10 pace group passed me at Mile 10. With the amount of limping I had done I wondered how was this even possible?! I made an attempt to run with them but it was so crowded, and the pacer kept talking (a pet-peeve of mine), that I couldn’t take it. I dropped back and let them go.

I continued my shuffle, and watched the 2:15 pace group pass. I felt sad because that meant I wouldn’t beat my original time of 2:15, but yet I also felt good because I wasn’t going to finish near 3 hours.

go_peace

The last few miles are on the recreational path along the water. I ran on the dirt on the side of the path which helped my hammy a bit. The crowds were gathered along both sides of the course for the last mile (even impeding the course on the last half mile). Hearing people yell my name and cheer me on was a nice push to the finish, with my finishing time being 2:22:35.

Nowhere close to my PR or my course PR, but definitely not a personal worst.

go_finish

Post-Race Thoughts

While I am disappointed in how this race turned out for me, I can’t help but be grateful for all that it has given me.

If this beautiful race course had not been my first race ever, would there have been a second race?

go_course

Despite the fact that I wasn’t able to run this race the way I wanted to I appreciate the fact that it was this race introduced me to something that I now love to do. I’m proud that five years after running my first half-marathon, I finished my 21st half-marathon, with four marathons in-between.

And I was thrilled to have my family there cheering me on. It meant the world to me to see them there and I love these signs that Jas made for me.

go_goomi

go_goodluck

I’m not sure why I waited five years to return to Big Sur, but I plan to make it a regular part of my race schedule from now on.

go_medal