“Athlete Profiles”

Starting next week, I will be uploading different “Athlete Profiles” of my friends and members of the running and fitness community. If you are interested in being featured as an “Athlete Profile” let me know and I will share the form with you! I really want to show how diverse and supportive the running community is.


Beware of Injuries: Compartment Syndrome

Running is not a high contact sport in terms of bodies colliding and trying to smash each other into the groun
d in order to maintain or gain possession of an object. It is a contact sport in terms of bones and muscles colliding with other bodily stuff that cause pain and discomfort among runners. I am no different in that regard.

My main injury of sport is shin splints. Shin splints are caused by repeated stress to the shinbone and the muscles surrounding it. Generally, the pain runs up and down the shinbone and there may be some notable soreness and perhaps inflammation. For most, rest and ice can help a runner get back on their feet without much else. For me, shin splints are one indication that I am in need of new running shoes.

I suffer from shin splints a couple times a year but there was one time, prior to my running adventures, when I thought I had shin splints and I actually had something more serious. When I was 16 I found out I had compartment syndrome. Now, compartment syndrome is normally found in athletes who are college aged and participate in sports like cross country, not high school softball players.

Compartment syndrome is a problem that can be found in the lower extremities. Basically, there is a thin layer of fascia that surround your muscles. As you exercise, your muscles get warm which causes them to expand. You fascia is supposed to expand as well. When your fascia doesn’t expand, it constricts the muscles and in doing that, constricts the arteries leading to your legs. All of this constricting results in numbness in your legs and feet.

I was working out with the basketball team when I found out that I had compartment syndrome. We were going on 3 mile runs once a week and by the time we got done, I had zero control over my feet. It was like they were flopping around and I had to really focus and watch where my feet were going to make sure they were underneath me. And it was super painful. I talked to the athletic trainer at my school and after checking my legs before and after the pain, he suggested I go see a doctor. I saw my physician who sent me to an orthopedic doctor who sent me to an orthopedic surgeon.

Three minutes in the room with the surgeon and he already knew I would need surgery. We still had to go through the process of checking the pressure in my legs. The procedure to the test went like this:

  • Using two really small needles, they stuck me in two of the four compartments of my legs.
  • We waited for my legs to go numb from the needles.
  • The doctors checked the pressure in my legs by using a larger “knitting needle” (as described by my mom since I refused to watch) in my leg to see what the pressure was.
  • I walked around until I felt the pain and numbness in my legs as I normally did when exercising.
  • They used the large needles again to see what the pressure was.

For those of you who are interested, normally, your legs have an internal pressure of 0-5 (I don’t remember the units) and after you have done exercise, it should be between 5-20. The pressure in my legs was 20 to begin with and after exercise it was around 30. That meant I was headed for surgery.

Being the active person I was, along with the fact that I had never had surgery before, I didn’t know what to expect with recovery or anything. I had already formed the idea that I would be doing something exercise related in college, whether that was physical education or exercise science. This huge life moment made me consider other careers because I didn’t know how this was going to affect me. Would I be able to run still? Would I be able to be pain free while exercising. I thought it would be pointless to be in the fitness spectrum of jobs if I wasn’t actually able to be fit myself. I was very close to becoming an engineer. I didn’t change anything though. I thought I would give it time before I made a big decision like that. And I’m glad I did.

The surgery went very well. I now have four scars on each leg, about 2 inches long. They had to cut the fascia in two of the four compartments of my leg from my knee to my ankle but were able to do it arthroscopically. I spent all of winter break that year on the couch recovering. Although it was surgery on both legs, I only had crutches to get around. My family was very helpful in their attempts to keep me occupied and involved in our holiday adventures, rearranging our traditions so that I could participate. They also played a large role in just helping me get around the house safely.

I came back much stronger and faster than they thought I would. I was blowing my physical therapist away with how much I could handle and how fast I wanted to do things. I was running on a treadmill within 2 months of surgery. My main motivation was that I wanted to get ready for softball season. Missing out on basketball season was one thing but I needed to be back with my softball team. Once softball began, my coach was taking some precautions. I wasn’t on varsity and it wasn’t my senior year so I was fine with my new role as designated hitter. I had a career high 2 home runs that season.

This year is the 10 year anniversary of my surgery. I can’t believe it has been that long. I am proud to say I am fully recovered and am in better shape than I was before surgery (and my scars are still pretty cool looking). I get a little worried each time I start to feel the familiar pain of shin splints, hoping it is just that and nothing worse. After all, there are two other compartments that didn’t get released. This is just one of the few injuries I have sustained during my life and shaped my character of being injury-prone.
Stay tuned for more fun stories on injuries!

Reflecting to Improve Running

Many runners spend time during their run just thinking. I’m sure topics in their heads range from their to-do list when their run is over to day dreaming about taking a nap to what it would be like if trees had legs and could move around. I spend a lot of time just thinking about myself and my goals.

Throughout my college career,IMG_2244 as I made my way to becoming a teacher, one thing that every and all my professors stressed to me and my classmates was the importance of reflecting. Reflect on what you are teaching. Reflect on how you are teaching. Reflect on how you handle disruptive behavior. Reflect on how you think your students are learning. Reflection on these topics can help improve your teaching because it causes you to think critically of what you are doing and how you can do it better.

As a teacher I know that one of my strengths is reflecting. I am constantly criticizing my lessons and my delivery of content. I am my biggest critic and I consider myself to be extremely hard on myself. If a lesson doesn’t work the way I thought it should, I change it immediately for the next class. I am constantly trying to make myself a better teacher.

My natural need to reflect on what I am doing has rolled over from my teaching career to my running career. I find myself often thinking about how I can improve my health and fitness. A lot of my thoughts are centered around running. How can I improve my current running routines? Should I try some different routes? What else can I do to help motivate myself to train hard?  All of this is because want to become a better athlete.

Some of the questions I find myself asking a lot, especially during training, is “Am I training like I know I should be?”  or “Am I putting in the effort and doing all the things I am supposed to be doing in order to improve?” Those might seem vague but to me they can be motivating factors. When I am supposed to be cross training on Saturdays but instead, I skip the workout (because I despise cross training), I know I am not putting in the effort and I am not training like I know I should be. When I snooze my alarm clock and tell myself, “I’ll just run after school instead,” I know I’m not training like I should be. These are the times when I might need to find new motivation in order to renew my enthusiasm for training.

That being said, this week has been deemed an “Off Week” for me from running as I recover from the half marathon. Next week will begin a two week period of “fun runs” before my training begins again for the Griffith Park Half Marathon in Los Angeles. Always being critical of myself, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my progress since June and brainstorming ways that I can continue this improvement when I begin the process of training again next month. The essential questions I’ve been asking:

  • What are my goals for the upcoming half marathon?
    • My goals for the upcoming half marathon in January is to beat my previous two times of 2:20:32 and 2:10:56. I also want to run the entire race without having to walk any part of it.
  • What is my motivation for this half?
    • I am running this half with my brother and his girlfriend. I would like to be able to keep up with them as I am almost positive that they have a faster pace than I do currently. My other motivation is that this is going to be checking off a small portion of my overall running goal to run a race in every state!
  • What can I change about my training for this half that I may not have done for the last half?
    • I know that I need to stick to my training plan more so than I have been. That means I need to do the cross training and take it seriously, no matter how much it pains me to be on a stationary bike or elliptical.
    • I also need to change my eating habits. If I can eat a healthier diet than I currently am, my body will feel better and I will sleep better which would help me get up on mornings when I am running before school.
    • I would like to implement more routes as I train because I get bored of the same ones which has caused disinterest in running.
    • Along with Lori, I should try to find some other training buddies. Perhaps motivating other people to run will motivate me to run.
    • Now that volleyball season is coming to a close, I will have time to do some training after school and should take advantage of that some days.

There are a lot of other aspects of my running and training that I know I need to change (like my shoes) but the list above can give you a general view as to how I reflect. Taking the time to reflect on any part of your life can help you find clarity and direction and can renew your enthusiasm for it, it doesn’t have to be running, fitness, or teaching. It can be about anything. You just have to ask yourself, “What am I doing and what do I want to be doing?”, “What changes do I want to make?”, and “How can I make those changes?”.

Perhaps after reading this, some runners who may not have done it before will begin reflecting on how to improve while or after they run. That’s great. But for those of you who would still prefer to think about you to-do lists and walking trees, that’s not a bad way to spend your time running either.

Sunday Run Day: 10/4/15

Today was the big day! Twelve weeks in the making.

Going into today, I wasn’t that excited. Let’s remember, last week I couldn’t even make it through my 10 mile run without walk/jogging parts of it. I was also fearful that today’s weather would be similar to yesterday’s (rainy, windy, and chilly which is definitely not running-friendly weather) but I was pleasantly surprised that today turned out to be warm-ish and sunny.

Run Day started off with a hiccup. Although Kait and I had made a checklist, packed everything I needed and packed other things I might need just to be on the safe side, I forgot an important piece of my running equipment; my phone. There was no way that I would be able to run 13.1 miles without music to listen to or my trusty RunKeeper app telling me my pace every half mile. Kait was kind enough to go back to my house to get my phone so I wouldn’t have to run without my motivation. She is wonderful.

Once the race started, I wasn’t feeling great. My joints felt stiff. My first mile was 10:49 which is ridiculously slow for me when I usually run at a 9:30 pace. I didn’t want to rush myself though. This was a big deal and one of the goals I set for myself prior to the race was that I wanted to run the entire race and not have to walk/jog it like the one in June. I also set the goal for myself that I wanted to beat my previous time of 2:20:32. It wasn’t until about mile four that I started falling into my rhythm. In regards to time, my miles were staying pretty consistent, between 9:44 and 10:06. At mile 7, I got to see my cheering squad. They were there taking pictures and yelling for me as we entered one of the MetroParks. 

 About every two miles, there was a water stop but because I was feeling so good, I never took any. I have always had a problem drinking while running, or even walking. I must not be that coordinated. I knew that if I stopped to drink, I would loose my groove and would most likely walk/jog the rest of the race. I really didn’t want to do that. I just kept chugging along. The views during this race were great and I wish I had taken pictures as I went. We ran on this path along the lake, we also ran near the marina and the lagoons.

Today, I finished the race in 2:10:56. I cut nine minutes off of my previous time and I am really proud of myself. My next step is to set some new goals because in just three short weeks training will start again. Griffith Park Half Marathon in Los Angeles, here I come! 



Sunday Run Day: 9/27/15

Sunday Run Day actually happened on Saturday this week. I was originally supposed to run a relay in the Akron Marathon on Saturday but after some deliberation with my friends, none of us were able to keep the commitment we made in June. In all fairness, I was volunteered to do the race, it wasn’t necessarily my choice. It turned out to be a good running day though.

It was the last long run before my half marathon (it’s next week, and I am super nervous and excited at the same time!). I set out to do 10 miles. I decided to choose a route that took me through a couple areas with some hills. Nothing crazy, but more of a challenge than last weekend.

As usual, I wasn’t feeling it when I started out. Around mile two I started to fall into a rhythm and was becoming more positive about the 8 miles I had left to complete. Now, I am the kind of runner that once my “groove” gets shaken for any reason, I am a mess for the rest of the run. Just like the emperor, there are a couple things that throw off my groove. I am the kind of runner that doesn’t like to pass the same landmarks twice so out and back races are not my friend. I love big loops and I love long straight aways. There is something about curvy roads or sidewalks that just tire me out more that straight roads. Does any one else have that issue?

This week, there was a first in my running career. I was stopped by a train. IMG_2278

I have run down this particular road SO MANY TIMES and have never once been stopped by a train. I’ve learned that trains can be added to my list of things that throw off my running groove. Having to wait and watch it go by is boring and once I stop running, it is hard to get going again. The main problem was that this was only mile 3 when it happened. I had a problem the rest of the 7 miles. I alternated between walking and running. My time wasn’t as stellar as I was hoping it would be but I just keep telling myself that it wasn’t race day. It was a lead up. I can’t beat myself up over one mediocre run. I have three more short runs to get myself together.

I’m ready for race day.

Sunday Run Day: 9/20/15

After today, there is only one more long run day before my half marathon. I kept it simple and ran in my town. It was fairly flat which was nice considering I was doing 9 miles today and it was a nice change of pace from the hills Lori and I ran last week. The weather was BEAUTIFUL. It was just under 60 degrees with the sun shining and a slight breeze making a t-shirt and shorts the best option for today. I pulled myself out of bed somewhat earlier than I normally would on a Sunday and wasn’t really feeling a run. I would have rather kept sleeping. With some motivating words from Kait via text, I hit the road.

One of the best/worst feelings I get when I am running are actually two feelings. The first happens within the first 3 miles of a run. It’s the feelings and thoughts where I am just not into running. These thoughts roll over from my thoughts when I first wake up for a long run. My knees might be bothering me, maybe I don’t like the playlist I put together, maybe I’m already dreading the route that I’m on. I really want to just stop, walk a little, and catch my breath.

But I don’t.

Usually about the 5-6 mile mark, I begin to have a new feeling, a much better feeling. It is this sudden sense of dominating confidence where the pain I was feeling, the frustration, the boredom, and someimage1times the nausea associated with running, just disappears. I feel like I can keep going and going and going. Due to this feeling, sometimes I am able to extend a run by a mile or maybe two. Other times, I just pick up the pace and try to finish the la
st few miles faster than I normally would. Either way, I am happy to have feelings like that. I know it is the adrenaline and the “runner’s high”. I know if other people tried running, once they feel the high, they would want to make it a routine in their life. The sense of accomplishment that comes along with running further or faster or with fewer breaks than you did the week prior, makes everything worth it while you are training.

I didn’t take pictures today during my run but you can check out my route via RunKeeper and my times for each mile. Love starting my Sunday’s with a good run!

Running Bucket List

I’ve eluded to my goals and aspirations when it comes to running pretty regularly on here but I am beginning to feel as though my goals are pretty vague. Asics recently tweeted out the question, “Do you have a running bucket list?” and it got me to thinking about what I really want to get out of my training and this running adventure. Where do I want to go with my running? What can I do to get more out of my running?

I have goals in mind as far as distances I want to run that I set for myself pretty recently; I am going to run a full marathon within the next three years. The reason for the three year limit is because I think it would be more beneficial for me to get a few more half marathons under my belt before I up my training to that degree. As far as running a distance that is longer than a marathon, I haven’t set goals for that yet (but I’m sure I will, so stay tuned).

Thinking about my bucket list, I started to create a list in my head of places that would like to run a competitive race. My brain immediately chose Los Angeles, California because I would love to visit my brother who lives and works out there. He is a runner, along with his girlfriend, so I think it would be a great experience to do a race with him since I have never done that and he has never been to one of my races. Earlier this year, I ran a 10k race in New Orleans, Louisiana while visiting my sister there during Spring Break. I had the opportunity to run through downtown NOLA, through the French Quarter, near Bourbon Street and through the park in front of the art museum. New Orleans is definitely a place I would love to take part in a longer race.

But why stop at these two locations? There are plenty of races all over the United States that would allow me to explore my country, all while challenging myself and helping me reach my training goals and aspirations.

Run a race in all 50 states. That’s my new goal.

And I’ve already started some planning. Next month, I will be running a half marathon in Ohio. Last week, I signed up for a half marathon in Los Angeles that I will be doing with my brother and his girlfriend. It might not seem like a lot, but it’s a start to accomplishing my goal. All I can think about is my high school English class where we talked about self-fulfilling prophecies. Basically, if you think positive thoughts and believe about something, it will effect your behavior and can cause it to become true. That’s what my mindset needs to be.

Anytime I think either of my goals are a little lofty I just have to remind myself, “Why not?” I shouldn’t have to put limitations on myself. If I want to run a marathon by the time I’m 28, I’m going to do it. If running in every state is what I want to do, I’m going to make it happen. I would rather have goals that require a lot of work and dedication than goals that don’t push me to my fullest potential. Even if I don’t reach my goals, at least I can feel satisfied knowing I worked as hard as possible and came close.

Sunday Run Day: 9/13/15

Sunday’s are my long run days. I have a love-hate relationship with these days.

Today, Lori took me out on a six mile loop that had some decent sized hills in it, more than she thought there were. We got to run past a golf course (found some golf balls for Nate on the side of the road) and past an Equestrian Center for the local college. There are a lot of pretty big house back there that are really awesome looking and secluded. You almost forget you are in northeast Ohio. The weather was drizzly but cool which made the run go much faster. Running with Lori is one of the few times I can run with no music. I enjoy chatting with her as we go. I definitely liked the back half of this route more (it was pretty much downhill). I accidentally closed out of my RunKeeper app and forgot to restart it so my whole run wasn’t tracked. Something to keep in mind for next week.

All in all I felt great afterwards and we rewarded ourselves with bagels and chocolate milk. Here is a photo from our run. I wish I could have taken more but I was a little preoccupied with the inclines. You can actually see the lake way off in the distance.

Game Changer: RunKeeper

“How many miles do I run a month? How many minutes do I spend running a week? What is my average pace?” These are all questions I used to ask myself when I began running. Based on these inquiries, I began to track some of this information (mostly the total miles run) using very primitive ways.

Implementing a whiteboard technique, I was able to track how many miles I was running weekly. That, linked with “MapMyRun”, an app that you can use to plot out a route and know the distance, I was doing pretty good. I set goals for myself at the beginning of the month and strived to hit the number of miles or days indicated. For the few months I was doing that, I was hitting all of my marks. It was great.

My whole running adventure changed when my sister suggested I try an app called “RunKeeper”.

What’s great about this app is that it offers you a multitude of options and information to help you improve your running. Although there is a free version of the app, I prefer the upgraded version, “RunKeeper Go” (formerly “Elite”) because I have access to more insights to my running. Some of the information this app offers:

  • GPS tracking of your run, along with audio cues at your specified distance or time.
  • Tracking of total miles for the week as well as for the month that even compares your previous week or month to the current.
  • Archiving of all previous runs.
  • Insights including total miles since using the app, average pace over time, mileage per month, and average run distance.
  • Tracking of calories burned per month as well as weekly.
  • Comparison of number of activities completed weekly or monthly.
  • Elevation climbed weekly or monthly.
  • Optional tracking of weight over time.
  • Goal setting capabilities in several different fitness areas (weight, longest distance, finishing a race, or total distance).
  • Challenges set forth by “RunKeeper” to earn prizes or discounts.
  • Tracking of Personal Records

IMG_2168 IMG_2172 IMG_2171IMG_2173

The aspect of this app that I think has helped me the most is the audio cues. I have cues set at every 5 minute interval and every .5 mile interval although there are several different options to choose from. These cues of the person telling me, “Time: 4 minutes 45 seconds. Distance: 0.5 miles. Average pace, 9 minutes, 36 seconds per mile,” really helps me keep my pace, especially during races. I am the kind of runner who likes to know how far I am fairly often.

Other great options that “RunKeeper” offers is that it will play the music from your phone or iPod. You can select a playlist you have already created or you can use a new feature, “RunKeeper DJ” where you select your intensity level and “RunKeeper” will take music from your phone that matches that intensity. And just like any great and fun to use app, RunKeeper allows you to “friend” people and follow their progress and running adventures as well.

IMG_2170 IMG_2167 IMG_2166  IMG_2169

The only issue I have ever run into with using this app is that sometimes when I am tracking a run using the GPS, it will start to glitch and the person will tell me I have just run 5 miles in 12 minutes (and I don’t know about other people but that is nowhere close to my average 5 mile time). I have been able to fix that problem every time by deleting the app and re-downloading it.

Overall, “RunKeeper” has been a definite game changer when it comes to my running. It provides motivation in its initiative to provide challenges for it’s users, as well as reminders to run. Being able to see your progress and keep track of every run or activity you do is beneficial when you are training or a half marathon or just a 5k. “RunKeeper” even offers training options and plans for people who need the direction and coaching. I highly suggest runners use this app in order to help themselves improve and archive the progression of their running careers. I know I have benefited greatly from it.

Mayberry Run

For most runners, there are no vacations from running, even when you are on vacation. Not only is it a great way to stretch your legs after being in a car or on a plane for several hours, running gives you the perfect opportunity to explore your surroundings and can help you plot out fun places to visit that you might not have noticed while making the drive in your car.

IMG_1137My dad recently moved from Cleveland, Ohio to the small town of Mount Airy, North Carolina. Never heard of Mount Airy? Most haven’t. Ever heard of Mayberry? I bet you are whistling the theme song to ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ right now, aren’t you? Mount Airy is the real life Mayberry. This is the place where Andy Griffith was born and the place that inspired the quaint and quirky town from the show.

Currently in the midst of training for a half marathon, I needed to get an 8 mile run in while visiting my dad during Labor Day weekend. I love running in new places especially since I have better runs when I’m not sure how long or far things are. I left my dad’s house and headed towards town, feeling confident and strong. Eight miles is a pretty average run for me these days so I wasn’t at all intimidated by the streets of Mayberry.

If ever there has been a place that made me feel like an inadequate runner, it is Mount Airy. No matter which way you go, what streets you take, or if you double back, you will be going uphill. Or at least that is how it feels. And not just steady incline hills, but long, steep hills that look daunting from the bottom, are exhausting half way up, and once you get to the top, guess what? You’re not at the top. I trudged along for four miles before I ended up back at the place where I began and decided to call it quits.

My route had taken me down Main Street past the tourist shops selling Mayberry gear, the Mount Airy Museum of IMG_1138Regional History, and other attractions featuring names of places and characters in the show including Emmett’s Fix It Shop, Wally’s Filling Station, the Courthouse, and the Andy Griffith Homestead.  Not many people were out and about that morning and I enjoyed the alone time. Mount Airy seems to be pretty “runner friendly” (minus the hills). On the sidewalks you will see indicators or different routes and loops you can take, some of which have the approximate distance of the loops on them.

My sister Carolyn and I outside the mock Courthouse.
My sister Carolyn and I outside the mock Courthouse.

Although I didn’t get my designated amount of miles in, I still considered it to be a great run for a vacation. Will I ever run Mount Airy again? Absolutely. I’m all about conquering runs that in the past had me gasping for breath or had me walking up hills and taking breaks every so often.