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In terms of running, hiking, wearing headbands that glitter and guzzling wine, the last few weeks have been fun!

Not fun like, I ran to dumplings and donuts fun

…and not fun like, I had the most awesome 12-miler on a random weekend morning fun. What I mean by fun in this very rare and special instance is that I haven’t really, truly, wholeheartedly cared about how far, fast or much I’ve run. Weird, right?

Note, this does not mean I have been careless. I’ve ran, because that’s just what I do. But I’ve also done yoga, I’ve rested (mainly because of piriformis pain, but whatever), and I’ve eaten like a champion.

These lulls between intensive training aren’t just restorative – they’re absolutely and completely necessary. Without downtime, those weeks when the running really amps up would be tedious and tiresome rather than a physical and mental test of endurance, strength and drive.

Way back in June, before summer was already over (because that happens after July 4th, amiright?), I convinced my cousin and weekend Central Park Reservoir running buddy, to sign up for the Philadelphia Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon with me. At the time, all I had in the race queue was a 10k on Governor’s Island, and I was craving a longer distance race—after the summer, that is. I learned my lesson the hard way last July by running my first half in 80-something degree heat. In Queens. Not – I repeat not – fun at all.

I was fortunate enough to get over the horror that was the Queens race without too much effort, and with a pretty respectable first half marathon time under my belt at that. Less than a year later, I’ve run 3, and now that I’m approaching my 1 year anniversary of my very first “real” race (translation: not the Chase Corporate Challenge), I’m getting especially excited that I have one in my future with this girl.

One of my biggest concerns as I begin to approach “training” and building up my weekly mileage once again is that I’ve been struggling with piriformis syndrome a lot as of late. The signs are all there: achy lower back, occasional twinge in my leg, discomfort while sitting in my desk chair. It’s the same issue I came face to face with last year right before training began as well. 365 days ago, I was just stupid enough to think that it was okay to run through the pain (since piriformis syndrome doesn’t really produce any noticeable discomfort while hitting the pavement). In conclusion, I set myself back a full month.

Older and wiser, I’ve learned how to manage the symptoms of piriformis syndrome, but I can’t exactly say I’m a pro. Last week, in anticipation of my trip to San Francisco and my 9-mile run through Golden Gate Park, I really put the brakes on my routine in order to preserve my muscles and health. 9 miles followed by a 6 mile holy-crap-vertical hike really did nothing positive for the discomfort, however, sending me spiraling into pain-land in the days that followed.

Again, I took immediate action. I rested. I stretched. I found the first yoga studio I could near my hotel in order to squeeze in a session before heading out to the Sonoma Valley. Saturday’s wine tour served as the perfect excuse for a full “rest day” (albeit, not so much for my liver).

By Monday, I was ready to get back out there, step by step, covering a short 3-mile path along the East River and forcing myself not to push it. Moving my run to the evening (jet lag was a real bitch this time around) turned out to be the only way I could get out there, but the views alone was inspiration enough to keep me going along the promenade and back home. It is amazing how different and beautiful the light is just before the sun sets in New York City.

When it comes down to it, there’s no reason to run like a maniac right now — even if I wouldn’t mind working off that bottle of bordeaux or 10 from last week. My unofficial training program (it’s all up in my noggin, I’m not a very technical person) for the Philly half doesn’t need to begin until mid July, and so this gives me another solid week to rest and build up my physical health reserves now.

This is, what I like to think of, as the calm before the storm. I will have plenty of mornings in the coming months when I crave a 5-miler around the lower loop of Central Park, a 6-miler across the Queensboro Bridge, or a 7-miler around the reservoir. This week, however, is dedicated to shorter runs, longer stretches, and an exciting yoga gathering I’m really looking forward to tomorrow evening.

So that’s what I’ll do. Because there is bound to be plenty of thunder in my near future anyway.

  • What will you run for this week?
  • Do you typically take a breather before training for a race?