Do you remember my knee injury? The one that started in Barcelona, persisted at the Milan Marathon and gave me grief during the marathon portion of Ironman Zurich? You’ll be happy to know that I finally figured it out and am now completely healed.
I would like to say that it’s been an interesting journey, but what I probably mean is… “Holy f***! How did I not see what I was doing??!?!”
Let me back up here and give you a little background. Every time I’ve seen my osteopath over the last 15 years, he always has to adjust my left ankle. It gets blocked and seized up, which misaligns with my tibia and then I have problems there too.
The first time he looked at it he asked, “Have you ever had an accident or been in a traumatic situation? Car accident? Bike accident?”.
My answer was always no. No accidents. No falls or spills.
After Ironamn Zurich I stopped running altogether while I tried to find a solution for my aching knee. I maintained my aerobic fitness with cycling and swimming. I restarted weekly yoga classes to realign my body. Whenever I did downward dog or an asana that pulled my leg muscles I’d feel a little twinge on my ankle, right where the fibula ends.
I remembered that I’d always had problems with my left ankle and that most likely my actual problem was not my knee, but rather my ankle.
So I started paying more attention to it and how it functioned (for me). I doubled my Storking sessions in front of the television. I bought a balance board to work my ankles in a different way. I paid attention to how I placed my feet in different situations.
Then just the other day I went and sat down to write at my desk and BAM! I got it. I made the connection. And I have to tell you… I’ve never felt so stupid in my entire life.
First, let me show you how I sit at my desk. I use an adjustable stool (it’s for my back) which is super comfortable.
Yes, I sit on my ankle. All the time.
When I made the connection I got up and tried sitting on my right ankle. Nope, not comfortable at all and not the same thing.
Then I had a flashback… whoa… all the way back to elementary school. We had school desks that were melded with the chair, like this…
I remember sticking my foot under my leg. My foot would fall asleep but I really loved that strange position. So much that I’ve kept it up for fifty years!
From January to June I was working on the Up & Running book (more about this very soon!) so my writing time tripled and my anxiety most likely drove me to find comfort sticking my left foot underneath me. Now that I’m aware of it I see how often I was doing it. I probably sat on my left ankle at least ten times a day.
My knee is now healed and I’m rehabilitating the ankle with the aforementioned exercises. I can now run a painless 5K so it’s time to gradually work up my distance.
This week at Up & Running headquarters we wrap up another awesome season with our 5K and 10K courses. I know we say this each and every season, but we had such a great group this fall! We loved reading their online diaries as they followed the training plans and wrote about their difficulties, triumphs and surroundings.
We had a truly international group of women this time, from almost every continent, even Africa! At the end of the eight weeks some stick around for our exclusive Alumni Forum which has members from four years back. The Forum is a rockin’ place with everybody giving each other support, no matter what running adventure they’re on or what level they’re at.
Others will say goodbye and (virtually) run off on their own. I’m always sad to see them go but as a coach I know it’s a natural process. I wish them well but in my head and heart I always hope that they’ll remember and take with them some of the running basics that we try and convey during our courses.
If you want to maintain your running you need to keep up the thrice a week running schedule. If you just want to keep “in shape” you can mix it up a bit with other activities. But if you want your running to maintain or progress you really do need to get out there three times a week, minimum.
I get loads of letters from runners that trained with us but then lost their speed, endurance or “oomph”. When I ask what their training schedule looked like from the previous weeks the answer is always running, running, running. I know you felt silly skipping in the park or doing half squats near a bench but drills really do make a difference. Remember that!
You need to keep those feet active! We know, we know… if Shauna or I are not hounding you on the Forum it’s hard to remember to Stork. Set a daily reminder or visual trigger, like when you brush your teeth or during television commercials. Again, it’s the little things that make a big difference in your running.
If you completed one of our running courses in the past four years and you’re still running, remember you’re eligible to become an Alumni Forum subscriber – just get in touch for more information. If you need some inspiration or help with motivation it’s a good place to be. Or otherwise please do drop us a note anytime and let us know how you’re getting along. We already miss you!
Knock on wood, knock on wood, knock on wood… I haven’t been sick in over a year. I’m sort of scared to say that out loud because then a new strain of flu could develop in the Orient, swoop in on my body and everybody would say, “Ha! So you’re not immune!”. But I’ll knock on wood once more time and tell you about my year.
I didn’t catch any of the flus going around. There was in January that had everybody in bed with a high fever for several days. I kept training outdoors in rain and snow and felt fine. There was a crazy intestinal virus passed around in June. Lots of visits to the restroom, several times a day, if you get my drift. Plus, who wants to get the sick in the middle of summer? Depressing. Anyway, didn’t get that one either.
Even though I jumped into the Ionian sea on New Year’s Day, ran and biked for miles and miles, trained for and completed two marathons, raced two half Ironmans (Ironmen?) and then the full one in July, I did not have one sniffle, stuffed nose or scratchy throat.
I don’t do anything special to keep my immune system intact. I don’t take supplements on a regular basis or drink green smoothies. But if I examine a few of my habits I’m absolutely positive that they boost my immune system and allow me to stay healthy all year long.
It’s November and I still haven’t turned the heat on. We use a dehumidifier to take the humidity out of the air but for the last month our home temperature has been about 65°f. We’re not cold but we do wear thick socks at night. As soon as the temperatures drop again I’ll be turning on the gas to take the edge off, but this is actually a comfortable temperature for all of us. I haven’t seen any articles proving that this is good for the immune system, but I believe that by not having a drastic indoor/outdoor temperature difference forces my body to adapt and keep my metabolism working properly.
It’s not perfect and we could even improve on it, but on most days I cook everything fresh from scratch and serve raw vegetables with family meals. Even my kids have latched on to the Once A Week Treat idea so there’s less sugar in the house.
“Early” in Italy is 8:30PM, considering that’s the time most Italians sit down to dinner. Every Wednesday we dine an hour earlier, leave the television off and get into bed with a book. It usually not long before I feel sleepy and turn the lights out to a dreamy state for the night.
By “nap” I mean a quick snooze, no longer than thirty minutes. Even twenty minutes can do the trick. I have a precise method of taking my right arm and lying it across my eyes so it blocks out all the light. I set a countdown alarm on my iPhone for the desired time (depending on how much time I have and how much rest I need). If I really need the rest, as I close my eyes I’ll feel my head get slightly dizzy while I fall into a black space. I’ve gotten good at doing this anywhere. Home is of course the easiest place but I’ve been known to stop my car, pull over to a safe spot and lock myself in for a quick twenty minutes. I wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the afternoon.
I’m pretty in tune with my body so I can feel when I’m a little tired or not eating properly, as opposed to something being off-kilter in my body. When I have that, “something is happening here…” feeling the first thing I do is take any planned physical activities off my calendar for the next few days. Most athletes plod through a workout no matter what, especially when they have an important event coming up. Instead I’ve found that it’s better for me to show up healthy to an event with missed workouts, rather than sick but having done them all. Then I go to bed early for a few nights in a row to rest my body and my help immune system to deal with whatever is circulating.
I’ve been working for Venicemarathon since 1998. The yearly trek to the laguna is a mix of excitement for the marathon adrenaline along with a pinch of nostalgia for the various years and marathons editions that come and go.
Venicemarathon is definitely one of the most well organised events on the Italian running scene. Every volunteer knows their role and most of them keep the same one year in and year out. On marathon morning when I go about my routine of bringing the pacers to the start and then making my way back to the finish I see the same faces in their places. I love it.
I work with Stefano and Miky at the expo on Friday and Saturday, presenting the race course and doing various interviews. I love working with them because after five years together we have our routine down and only need a few small adjustments each year. Plus, they both have easygoing personalities and there are never any problems, just solutions.
This year I added in a few interviews with our marathon pacers. One of them was Stefano Nalesso, an ultra-marathon and trail runner who does crazy events like the Spartathlon in Greece. He said his secret to running so many miles is that his body has instant recovery. Wish I had that too, but sadly I need loads of recovery… as do most marathon mortals!
The day before the marathon I have a group meeting with the pacers. They all have plenty of experience but it’s important to really become a group and the only way to do that is to get together in one space and communicate. I have to say that this was one of the best groups I’ve ever had. Some were “new” to me while others were runners that had already paced for me and I knew I could count on. When there’s good communication it’s really easy to work.
If you ran Venicemarathon on Sunday you’ll know that you had perfect weather conditions. Not too cold, not too hot with low humidity and clear blue skies. Every photo taken was gorgeous and “picture perfect”. Villa Pisani at the start was beautiful with hint of sunrise on the facade.
The pacers know their job so there’s no shouting or last minute instructions. Just lots of smiles and making sure they have the right coloured balloons! We took this photo in the preparatory tent because once they get outside all the nervous marathoners start following them around and it’s too difficult to get another group photo. I love this one because they’re coated in rainbow colours.
From the start I make my way back to the finish line within an hour by crossing the Brenta river by a little boat, getting in one of the organisation’s bus to Piazzale Roma and then a taxi-boat to the finish line. I watch the race on the big screen then wait for the first runner to come in.
That first place runner was Mamo Ketema Behailu from Ethiopia. He ran most of the race out front by himself so a well deserved win.
The first Venicemarathon pacers came in at 2:50, right on time. All the other eleven groups were smack on time too.
In the three hour group along with the pacer was Stefano Benatti (bib nr.100) so the dude not only worked the expo for two days but then he went and cranked out a sub three hour marathon!
Along with my work with the organisation I’d also trained runners for the race. I can’t put all of them up but I wanted to mention a few of them that I’m so proud of. I consider “fast” and “slower” runners to be exactly the same. They have different needs, both in training and mental preparation, but it takes just as much energy to train. Gianluca (on the left) ran his first marathon after a few years of me training him for half marathons. He ran with the first women and arrived at the finish line in 2:39:57. He his the sweetest most gracious guy you’ll ever meet and he had the biggest smile at the finish line.
The ladies on the right were also running their first marathon. They all came in between 4:37 and 5:20. They’re from my women’s group that I coach here in Modena and even though they felt like they weren’t ready for the marathon I knew they were. I gave them a slight kick in the rear to sign up and I think you can tell from those smiles that they had an awesome race.
Inspired to get out and run? I know I am. If you are at all thinking about running a marathon in Italy, Venicemarathon is having their 30th anniversary next October. Go. Sign. Up. Now!