Coming Back and Running Cadence (also, a trick to staying sane on the treadmill)

I’m slowly growing my mileage and slowly growing my hair out. Which would you like to hear about?

Running? Ok fine. Operation awkward pixie grow-out will have to wait for a rainy day.

photo 3 (1)a

ironic bandana and heavily-filtered on purpose

It’s been five weeks since my visit to Dr AJ and my diagnosis with high hamstring tendinosis, which in laymen’s terms is: chronic pain in the butt crease caused by effed up tendons that connect the hamstring to the hip bone. A little more eloquently explained by a smart doctor runner from the “for running clarity” article AJ sent me:

The hamstring is made up of 3 muscles which all attach to your ischial tuberosity – the bone in your bottom. The hamstring tendon is vulnerable to compression against the ischial tuberosity when the hip is flexed and also has to deal with high loads during running. This combination of compressive and tensile load can make it vulnerable to developing tendinopathy. So, baring this in mind, what 3 activities are likely to cause high load on the tendon; Running uphill, running carrying a heavy load and doing prolonged speed work.

source, Running-Physio

post-script self memo: hurry up and get the eff back to healthy so everyone can stop reading “high hamstring tendinosis” every time they come here and want to take you out back and saw your stupid leg off to put you (and them) out of your laymen misery.

So somewhere back in like, August I did something like that. And kept running through it like a moron because it never felt like a “big enough deal” to really address it. I’m lucky it didn’t turn into a more serious issue, but if I wanted to finally straighten out those tendons and get back to running pain-free I had to do a few things:

  • Treatment. ART and deep-tissue massage recommended to break up all the junk build up, but for a girl on a budget I was assured extensive foam rolling (this plus lateral side-to-side rolling) and softball-sitting would suffice.
  • PT exercises to strengthen and prevent re-injury. I keep saying I’m going to do a post on these, and I probablymaybesomeday will. Hips, glutes, obliques primarily.
  • Run. Smartly.

The last part was going to be the tricky one. I mean, I’m sure you’ve dealt with some degree of injury at some point, and that “I’d kill a stranger’s baby just for a few good miles” urge to run when we shouldn’t is a real bitch to fight. And then on top of that, getting brainwashed by endorphins and “woopsies ran twice as far/twice as fast as I should have” is a greedy threat every time you do make it into your sneakers. Knowing how far to push, and having the clarity and discipline to rein it in when needed, is probably the toughest of all.

My guidelines for comeback are simple on paper, but knowing the evil runner brain hiding ready to sabotage them, I approached them with overt caution and a side of “quit being a baby, seriously?” Scaredy cat, safety first when there’s nothing to rush back for. The guidelines were as follows:

Run one mile. If no residual pain or stiffness the next day, run a little further. Then a little further.

Never let the 10-point pain scale tip past a 2-3. Step back when needed. Repeat.

No hills, sprints, or friends until 100% pain and niggle-free.

I’ve slowly built my way up over the last month+, and last night I ran 5 whole miles. It felt like my early runner days, bragging to my college roommates about running two miles “straight! no stopping!” when I came in the door and beamed at Bri, still sweating, earbuds still blaring. Sure have missed those little victories.

strava 5m

are you on Strava? I’m still deciding whether it’s worth the homescreen space on my phone or not.

Something I’ve been focusing on which has helped make the short barely-worth-it runs seem more worthwhile is cadence. I’ve mentioned it on a twitter a few times which piqued a few interests, but I avoided elaborating because it seems so silly and dumb spelled out. Like, sorry if I let you think I had a brilliant miracle training secret or something – you’re going to be pretty let down.

Once upon a time, somebody decided 180 strides per minute was the “ideal” cadence for runners. Like everything else on the planet, there are dozens of variables that could sway that high or low for personalization, but in general, let’s go with it.

I hopped on the treadmill for one of my short (<2 miles) runs, and once I was warmed up counted out steps for 10 seconds. I got 26, or 156/min, at my usual lollygag pace. Not awful, but pretty lopey and la-dee-da. Curiosity (and the challenge, let’s be honest) got the best of me and I spent the rest of the run randomly counting out steps to see how closer I could get to 30 (=180) without employing some ridiculous looking stride. Those horrifying mirrored walls apparently have a use, after all.


useful for more than just gym selfies!

Picking up my knees, kicking my heels a little higher, and really focusing on midfoot strike has gotten me up to 168/min comfortably, and I’m hoping once my overall speed quickens it’ll be even easier to sneak up to that goal of 180. While that number is pretty arbitrary, reaching for it has gotten me to focus on my form and running more like an athlete, which I can’t deny is something my marathon shuffle desperately needed. Not only is a shorter, quicker stride more efficient, but it leaves less room for error while feet and legs are airborne. A whole lot of goofy crap can happen between toe-off and foot-strike, and getting from here to there the quickest and shortest way possible just seems like common sense.

I’m a fan of common sense. I wish there was more of it in the world.

Sarah OUaL

More info on cadence from people smarter than me:

Speedwork For Everyone! (seriously even you)

Last week I had a fun/good/hard/however-you-measure-success speed workout that I meant to share, but got all wrapped up talking about the dictatorship my evil brain’s got on taper, so I forgot. So! I’ll share it with you now! Before the big meanie returns and I sulk back to my corner trembling at the thought of running 26.2 miles at low-8 pace and dreaming of beer and sugar.

This was kind of an accidental creation stemming from waking up late and missing my track date with Kristina, my still MIA Garmin charger, and super way-out-of-control ADD that makes running at a steady pace for more than 90 seconds torturous. Enter : intervals! On the road, treadmill, or track, they’re great because each little segment seems so attainable; you don’t get wrapped up in “omg 20 minutes/4 miles/700 light poles longer?!!” Once it starts hurting you’re counting down seconds to the next heavenly recovery, and before you know it you’ve caught your breath and forgotten how bad the last one hurt! Brilliance. And effective.

So as I was warming up, all lonely on the road cursing myself for missing the Track Party, I planned what I was going to do. I figured 40 minutes of 3min on/2min off would simulate the 800s I would’ve done on the track, running the “on” a little easier to account for the active recovery (easy jog vs just standing at the track). Sound logic, right? Gave myself a little pat on the back for being so “roll with the punches” and got to work.

BUUUUUT (there’s always a but) I quickly found myself getting a restless and antsy to turn the legs over quicker, so I decided at the halfway point to mix it up a bit. Here’s how it all played out :


Great mix of longer tempo-ish and jack-up-the-heart-rate effort, with just enough recovery in between to nearly fully catch your breath. And without Garmin beeping numbers at you, that’s a fine way to measure.

If you’re itching for a new workout to mix up your routine, find yourself without a track or GPS on Speed Day, or are new to speed work and want a simplified workout to get started with, give this one a shot. And if you’re a weirdo and love the treadmill, this is perfect for you, too.


Sarah OUaL

Ventura Training–Wk9, The One Where I Quit Booze and Sugar

“How are you feeling?” [about the marathon next week]

”Like I hope I get hit by a bus so I don’t have to race.”

The dramatics are high, energy is low, and my confidence is MIA. It’s been too long to remember if this is normal taper activity or if I’m actually really in bad shape for Sunday.

Physically, honestly, I don’t feel great. Granted I ran double 50 mile weeks and my highest monthly mileage ever (185), but the fatigue and dead legs seem a bit skewed in respect. Plus there have been no redeeming qualities from any of my runs the past two weeks – my long runs have been absolute death marches, speed work feels harder than it should, and I can’t remember the last solid tempo I had.

But I’m healthy! Uninjured! Have not been hit by a bus!

I’m going to give myself a few days to try and put the pieces together, and if nothing forms then fuck it the pieces are all going in the ocean and I’m showing up on Sunday with a hair up my ass and a do-or-die game plan. I’ll need quite a few stars to align (ahem, all of them) in order to reach my BQ goal, but I don’t want to spend the next week analyzing my training log to try and pull some magically arbitrary number I “should” be able to run from the depths between its cells to comfort my nerves. 1) the expectation pressure will make me feel worse and 2) excel doesn’t have a formula for that anyway.

Luckily Super Pacer Dave will be there with me – he’s really smart and wasn’t just handed the nickname, so I’ll give him the reins to gauge my effort and adapt the plan as we go. I don’t even think I’m going to wear Garming (haha, bc it’s still dead)! How’s that for breaking up with one dependence and promptly handing it over to some(one) else?


Anyway, so far my “race strategy” email to SPD looks like this :

“Run me hard but don’t let me actually keel over and die. Be mean to me, but wary of 20+mi Homicidal Sarah.”


Week Nine (8/25-31)

Su – 14 mi, partial with Margot, first ever mid-run puke (not effort-based) Not really so fun.   |||   M – 2mi shakeout + 20min easy bike   |||   Tu – 5ish at Crystal Cove with the new OC Run Club (next meeting 9/10 – come join!)   |||   W – off   |||   Th – 7mi fartlek *   |||   F – 45min hard SUP   |||   Sa – 45min easy dirt path


cred SR, Heather, SR

= 33 total, about 8 fewer than planned

Oh and I suppose I owe a Booze/Sugar Detox update :

The good news is I’ve managed to stay clean the first week. Big win in the discipline department! The bad news is bloat, cravings, and general ickiness have already significantly decreased so this bullshit plan is working and I’m so sad about it. I mean, great for the race but sucks for life in general. Booze and sugar why can’t you just play nicer with my body?

Sarah OUaL