When do you pray? Maybe it’s because I wasn’t raised in a church I never developed a set prayer time. For many years I would end my day with prayer, lying in bed and thanking God for the day. I still do this on occasion. Since I began running, much of my prayer practice has been a “while running” prayer time. I didn’t start running with this spiritual practice. I actually started running in an attempt to lose weight, but along the way things changed. This was quite the sup-rise and I am grateful.
Do you know the conventional wisdom about running with a cold? It’s pretty simple.
If you have a fever, body aches, or symptoms below your neck then DON’T RUN.
If you only have symptoms above the neck, like a stuffy nose you’re good to go.
This is what you will discover with a simple google search. Here is my screen grab from just such a search from this morning:
What is not emphasized in much of the online advice is that running when you have a cold takes precious recovery resources away from your body and diverts them to run recovery. When you do this, you are not able to adequately recover from your cold. This should be common sense, but I failed to follow it. I will chalk it up to a lesson that will make me a better coach. Here’s my story.
Lot’s of people are suffering from head colds this time of year. It’s common…almost inevitable. I started to feel the symptoms the Friday before Christmas with a bit of a scratchy throat. My reaction was, “oh no! I don’t have time for this!” For the coming days I had a long run, family event, church, and church again for Christmas Eve. I didn’t have time to be sick and so I effectively willed it away for a few days.
The long run on the 22nd was 15 miles with 8 at goal marathon race pace (9:08) for me. I went 4 easy, 8 at goal and 3 easy. It was a wonderful run and I hit my goal pace while feeling good.
After the run, I still felt good and our family Christmas party was fun. I felt fine and made it through worship on Christmas Eve thus ending a very busy time in my role as pastor. At 2am on Christmas Day I woke with post-nasal drip hurting my throat. Dang! I only was able to hold it off until I mentally relaxed.
I did take it a bit easy the next couple of days. Instead of joining my run club for a Christmas morning run, I went out with them and walked. I took a couple days off and ran again on Friday. The bad news, I still had chest congestion. The good news, running helped to open up my sinuses…but it was ugly. This run was only 6 miles and felt fine.
I usually run long on Saturday, but had a funeral, so I moved it to Sunday. This meant that my week would have 2 long runs – Sunday and the following Saturday. It also included a New Year’s Day trail run which was (except for blowing my nose so much) one of my best trail runs ever.
Interestingly every run this still felt ok. I had to blow my nose over and over again while I ran, but strangely this was ok, because I was “clearing out my sinuses.” My cold stubbornly persisted throughout the week. The run at the end of the week was 16 miles easy. My son ran with me on a cold (for SoCal) day. I was a bit worried about how I’d feel because I hadn’t shaken the cold, but it ended up being a very pleasurable run. I even felt as if I could keep going when we finished. I successfully ran 49.6 miles that week.
In retrospect, what this week of running while trying to shake a cold did was prolong the cold, while tiring my body. Enough so that Monday’s run was not bad, but not good either. Then Tuesday’s run made me so tired that I skipped strength training. For Wednesday track I was tired, so I skipped it. I ran on Thursday, which I don’t usually do, and felt ok for the first half, but then cratered for the 2nd half and had to skip strength training again.
Here’s the lesson for me: if anyone that I coach had asked me about running their regular schedule while sick, I would have advised against it. But I did it myself because “those runs felt ok…and all the symptoms were above my neck.” Yesterday, I contacted my own coach (who hasn’t been doing my schedule though) and told him that while I want to coach others I still need a coach! He told me to take three days rest.
And here we are…resting. Hopefully I haven’t set myself back too far. And I have learned a valuable coaching lesson…
Here is some better advice from Coach Jay Johnson: “Should you run with a cold?”
I am continually impressed by the way our bodies are capable of healing themselves. We overwork them to the point of pain, such as in running a marathon. Immediately after the race the pain starts…or weakness as your legs feel more like jello than anything else.
The negative effects will go away. When you make recovery a priority, they go away faster allowing you to begin working towards that next goal.
Last week was my recovery week for the Ventura Marathon. It was also a week to attend a conference. Because I was out of my normal routine I was able to be more intentional and I had a fun way to gauge recovery…the stairs. Here is recovery by day.
Day 1 (Sunday – Race Day)
Immediately after the race. Eat well. Rest. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you didn’t meet your goals. I had to remind myself o this because I didn’t do as well as I’d planned. Immediately after the race a friend gave me a quick massage. I recommend this for everyone! After lunch activities included a shower, compression tights, and a nap.
Day 2 (Monday)
Eat well and rest! This a the day to travel to my conference, meaning a 3-1/2 hour drive out to the desert. Sitting that long was not fun! Thankfully we always have the option to stop the car and walk. Before the long drive, I decided to visit my chiropractor for some active release and adjustments. I also borrowed a set of Elevated Legs from my coach. Both good decisions.
When I arrived at the hotel I learned that my room was on the third floor. Carrying all my luggage, of course I took the elevator. Once at my room I noticed a set of stairs almost directly in front of my room. It would be very hard not to use them. This was an outside stairwell at a resort. Thankfully they weren’t too wide because my first time down the stairs I had to hold the rails. Rather than walking I was using my arms to support those oh so sore quads with each step. Walking back up was painful but doable. I ended the day with 30 minutes of Elevate Legs.
Day 3 (Tuesday)
The most painful post-race day! Up and down the stairs…ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch. I can say I got in some good upper body work as my arms bore most of my weight. Elevated Legs first thing in the morning and right before bed – this time with the little ice packs (thankfully my room had a small refrigerator/freezer).
Day 4 (Wednesday)
Started the day with a slow and easy 1 mile run. I walked down the stairs with noticeably less pain and thought that I could maybe go a bit farther than the assigned 1 mile. Once I started running I immediately thought, “no, I’ll stick to a mile.” Elevated Legs post run. With some free time in the afternoon, I visited the pool. It felt nice to walk around in the water. I had planned to swim some laps but left my goggles at home and didn’t want to buy another pair. I finished the day with Elevated Legs and a glass of wine.
Day 5 (Thursday)
No pain on the stairs! Our bodies are so amazing in their ability to heal.
Day 6 (Friday)
Another 1 mile easy run that felt much better than Wednesday. One last use of the Elevated Legs post-run. Not only were the stairs not painful I was able to move rapidly up and down! I ended the day with the long drive home.
Day 7 (Saturday)
My husband and I did an easy 5 mile trail run. I was amazed at how fresh my legs felt. Then when I was done, my legs told me they were still a bit tire. At this point it’s easy to think that recovery is done. It’s not! Recovery efforts will continue into the next week as I continue with a reverse taper (increasing mileage and strength training).
Thankfully this has all gone well because I have less than 5 weeks before my second 50k. This trail race will be an “easy” effort.
If you haven’t read this important article by Erin Strout, Why We Need More Female Coaches, I recommend you take a few moments to check it out. Before reading it, I hadn’t been aware that we had such a dearth of female running coaches. My ignorance, was solely due to my relative newness to the sport.
Well, I don’t think I’ll make it to the elite level and I know I won’t be at any college, but I’m excited to announce that, officially, I am a certified running coach.
Currently, I’m helping to coach a group to the Ventura Marathon. I’m doing a little bit of personal coaching for friends and family…and am setting my sites on more. Pastor Coach…
I shared my own race recap yesterday for The San Francisco Marathon (The Mental Game – The San Francisco Marathon Race Recap). It wasn’t my best race, but it wasn’t without merit. Personally it was a learning experience and the course was so scenic, even if it was challenging. I ended that post by saying that something pretty awesome did happen at that race. What could be so awesome on such a hard day?
The fact that my husband, son, and daughter were there running also. I am continually grateful that we’ve become a family that runs together.
So what can add to this?
I was able to coach each of my family members for their races. Yes. Coach.
I have been wanting to get into coaching in my spare time. I’ve read numerous books on coaching. I talk to my coach all the time about coaching (and he’s allowing me to assist him with some group training for The Ventura Marathon). I listen to podcasts about coaching. I’ve coached a church member to her first half marathon. And I’ve helped someone to run her first no walk break mile (and we’ve become friends through the process!). I find lots of parallels between coaching and pastoring by the way!
My daughter, Megan, has been getting help from me for about a year…and before that she often piggybacked onto my own program since we run a lot of the same races. Unfortunately she pulled a groin muscle while we were in Boston and was unable to run for a few weeks. In mid-May we decided that the best course for her would be to drop down to the half in San Francisco so as not to re-injure herself. She ran the half and is now training for The Ventura Marathon in October and the Ray Miller 50K in December.
My son, Matt, ran his first marathon in 2016 and vowed that he’d never do another. Over the years, I, as an annoying mom, would ask “when are you gonna run a marathon again?” He always responded with an emphatic “never!” On Christmas Day I asked, “so are you going to do the full in San Francisco?” I expected him to say “no” but he surprised me with a “sure, I’ll do it.” I promptly signed him up for the race. And, coached by his mom, he successfully completed his 2nd marathon at San Francisco.
The most exciting story is that my husband, Scott, was able to complete his first marathon. He came in just behind me, I heard them announce his name, while I was drinking some ice cold chocolate milk!
He was tired, as we all were. His muscles cramped at mile 21 and he was momentarily freaked out by that never before experienced feeling. But he pushed through and finished his first marathon. I am so proud of him! Our wedding anniversary was July 30th and what better way to celebrate 30 years than run a marathon!
I’m grateful that these three loved ones trusted me enough to allow me to be their running coach. It is a bit scary putting together a plan for someone else. It is also gratifying and fun.
Two years ago our family decided to run the 2nd half of The San Francisco Marathon. Then, to receive a special “half it all” medal, my husband and I returned the next year and run the first half. Of course, we had to follow up that effort with the next challenge – 52 Club – for those who run both halves followed by the full in consecutive years.
We knew it was a tough and hilly course. We also were confidant that our experience in already running both halves would help us. Hmmm. It turns out that previous experience didn’t help me much.
I went into this race feeling pretty confident. The weather was forecast to be perfect for racing, and except for the wind on the bridge it was. My running of the first half the previous year was one of my best races (not fastest – there were hills!). My average pace (on my watch) was 9:01 at this race, so I thought that a targeted pace of 9:20 was doable. (I Can Run Hills! A Recap of the The San Francisco (First) Half Marathon)
I came nowhere close to 9:20! Instead I ran one of my slowest marathons in a time of 4:39:05. What happened? Lots of things…here are the one’s I’m contemplating.
- I had a terrible night’s sleep! According to my Garmin, I got six hours of tossing and turning. It felt like less than that and I remember being concerned while I was trying to go will myself to sleep.
Pre-race anxiety can cause lack of sleep and for this reason, I think, many advise us runners to make sure they sleep well two nights before the race. My Friday night sleep was just “OK” in that I slept for a bit more than eight hours but most of it was restless sleep.
For me, this is a problem of menopause and one for which I have yet to find an adequate solution. I continue to try meditation and hopefully it will eventually help.
In the end, this lack of good sleep didn’t help my mental or physical game on race day.
- Bad race strategy. As mentioned earlier I had thought I could average a 9:20 pace. I still think that I could do this but I should have approached it differently. Next time I need to run by effort and ignore the times on my watch. My coach tells me this all the time! I guess I’m a slow learner. Anyway, I think that I was trying so hard to not run too fast up the hills, followed by constantly checking my pace on the downhill, that I wore myself out mentally. Part of my rational for thinking this is that, even with the hills, I had the slowest average heart rate for any race that I have ever run! Would I have had a similarly bad outcome if I’d gone faster? Maybe, but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that I didn’t put it all out there.
- I wasn’t as ready for the hills as I’d thought. Over the past few months I’ve been doing lots of my long runs inland, where there are some good hilly courses (I live near the coast in CA). In the two months before the race the inland temperatures had climbed to the point that running would be difficult. So those last runs were along the coast where it is mostly flat. In retrospect I should have just move my runs up to the very early morning and kept hitting those hills.
I also hadn’t realized that the true downhill portion wouldn’t commence until about mile 20. I have no excuse for this mistake! The course was changed slightly from previous years so it wasn’t exactly as I’d run it before but the final 10K was the same. I remember thinking at one point, “another @$#&^%$ climb!” I think my brain was more tired of slogging up those hills than my legs were.
- I didn’t have a contingency plan. I honestly thought I would ace this race and when that wasn’t happening I started to mentally check out. I bailed so thoroughly that I even had a little mimosa and a sip of beer when offered somewhere around mile 23!
- I’ve gained some weight since last summer. In fact I was at my lightest when I ran that half marathon last year. Pushing more pounds up those hills is certainly not easy…even if I’ve been having great strength training sessions and awesome runs. (The Never Ending Struggle with Weight is Downright Scary)
As I think about this more, I can see so many analogies to life. Sometimes we are surprised by the difficulties we encounter that we lose momentum and perform badly. At other times we surprise ourselves by how well we can do in the face of adversity. A benefit of endurance sport is that experiences like the San Francisco Marathon teach us about ourselves and thus prepare us to know that we can get through hard times…even if the getting through is not very pretty.
At the end, the race was just a race. One that taught me to better prepare myself mentally and physically.
But there’s more! There was something pretty cool that happened at this race and that story will be my next post. Stay tuned!
As I’m approaching the San Francisco Marathon (the 9th!) I’m thinking about an important element in marathon (or any distance) training. Consistency!
While in the middle of training, or building mileage and fitness we might not notice how much or how hard we are working. But in looking back it’s easy to recognize the rewards of consistent training. It’s not the occasional good workout that will lead to a good race effort. Rather, a good race effort is found in consistently putting in the miles, week after week. It is through this consistent training that our bodies adapt to running.
All runners will have the occasional run they don’t want to do. It may be due to a busy schedule. It may be due to fatigue. It may be due to general soreness. It may even be that you just don’t feel like running. So what should you do? In most cases the answer is to run. How do you know if you should back off?
Here are a few guidelines:
- Feeling too Busy -RUN
Even if you have to make the run shorter, it will help you to get out there. It may even help you get through your tasks in a better frame of mind. That’s a big benefit of running!
- On Vacation – RUN
A wonderful way to explore a vacation spot is to go for a run.
- Experiencing General Soreness – RUN
General soreness and injury are not the same thing. If you have achy and sore legs, a very easy recovery run may make them feel better. Make sure you run easy (as in slow).
If you have very sharp, localized pain, this may be injury. It also may be stiffness. If, after a few steps the pain worsens then stop. If it feels better, then you are good to go. Sometimes we have little aches and pains that come and go and we have to make educated guesses about whether to run or not.
- Injured – DON’T RUN
We need to learn to distinguish between good sore (your muscles are working and improving) and bad sore (injury). A good rule of thumb: if you have soreness that affects your gait (limp for instance) then take time to recover.
- Feeling Crummy – RUN
Although it might not feel comfortable, you can run with a head cold or allergies. The general rule is if the congestion is above your neck then you are good to go.
- Have a Fever or Chest Congestions – DON’T RUN
If your chest is congested, and/or if you have a fever, don’t run. You body needs to use its energy to fight the infection so allow it time to recover.
Sometimes, we’re just not sure. It’s ok to give it a try (unless you have a fever!) and then stop early if you’re not feeling well. You can always check with your coach if you’re not sure.
Happy Consistent Running!
About that tattoo: We Made a Pact!