Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 wrap up

Another long hiatus from posting. Juggling grad school and two jobs got the best of me there for a while, but the semester is over so I finally have time to breathe and post. Since my last post I have run three races and have one more on the docket before 2012 comes to a close.

In early November I ran the Richmond 8k, dropping down from the marathon due to lack of training and my bum hip. It was nowhere near an ideal race and I'm pretty sure the time was a personal worst. The silver lining of that weekend was finally meeting up with R in person for a long overdue dinner. She's such an amazing person and a huge support in my life. She was in town to race the half, and did a killer job.

Later in the month D and I raced the Arlington Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day. I still hadn't been running much and my hip was still giving me trouble but we were both hoping to beat our previous 5k time from the September race. It was a brisk morning and neither of us were fully awake when the race started. It was hillier than we expected but were able to duck under the September time with a few seconds to spare. I ended up running the last half mile with my shoe untied but there was no way I was going to stop. Glad I didn't trip and fall on my face...

About ten days later a group of employees from PR got together and raced the Jingle All The Way 8k. In costume. This was my third 8k of the year. For some strange reason it was a regular fixture in my racing season. Dressed up in various holiday garb, we hit the streets and tried our best to place strongly in the team competition. It was another weak showing for me and just added to the anxiety I had about marathon training. My time, slowest of all, didn't go towards the group total. Thank goodness. The rest of my team did great and we placed ninth out of fifty teams. Consensus was that had we raced sans costumes we would have gotten sixth place. A lesson for next year I guess.

Once I got home I pulled up my previous 8k times out of curiosity. Until this year I hadn't run once since 2007 and it was my fastest of the lot. As this year went on I got slower and slower. Strangely enough the fastest of this year was in the heat of July on the day I'd run 12 miles earlier in the morning. I guess I was just in better overall shape. Either way, I am not eager to run this distance again any time soon. Similar to the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, I feel like this might be one that requires redemption.

Next up is the Fairfax Four Miler on New Years Eve. This will be my third time running this race but it will also probably be my slowest. I had a great PR last year but I am nowhere near the same condition. I've also registered to run the New Years Day 5k at 10 am the following morning, so I need to be smart with my racing strategy. It might be a little crazy but I'm looking forward to it. I don't particularly like New Years but this gives me something fun to do and a great excuse to go to bed early.

Santa brought me an awesome race bib holder that I'd had my eye on for a while now. I loaded it up with all the bibs I could find, going as far back as 2005. I am definitely missing a few but I pretty much filled the dang thing up already. If my counting is correct, by the end of the year I will have raced 14 times in 2012. Not all were planned and not all that were planned came to pass. Either way, I'm happy with that number.
As 2012 comes to a close, I'm in the midst of marathon training for the Shamrock Marathon in March 2013. Between my hip and a complete lack of motivation I am way behind where I should be. I do not have a base built up yet so my long runs are falling short of the schedule. I did go out last week for my first track workout in months and it was a pretty positive experience. I like 800 repeats, even though I was struggling to get through the required amount. I had planned on attending last night's track workout in the inclimate weather but the drive home from NY took 9.5 hours instead of 5 and I was still an hour away when the workout started.

Grr. I'm also missing the group long run on Saturday morning so that I can drive to West Virginia for my sister's baby shower. The goal was to get in three runs this week and build from there, but at this rate it is not going to happen. I ran Monday with my Dad while I was home and that was it. Tuesday was Christmas Day and yesterday was the epic drive. I don't have a good reason for not running today, aside from the 50 mph wind gusts. If I can get a ride home from work tonight, I could run there. I plan on attempting my long run tomorrow so that I don't fall farther behind. The hope is to do 10 miles but each run has been unpredictable lately so who knows what it will turn out to be.

I'm going to scale back expectations for 2013, compared to what I had laid out for 2012. I only have 2 solid races on my calendar and I'm leaving it at that. The first being Shamrock in March, the second being the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in June. Not exactly small potatoes, eh? I love signing up for races and I love racing. I have, however, discovered that I hate training. It just isn't fun. But nothing worth something is easy, so I'll keep on pushing through. The 50k is both terrifying and exciting. I can't spend too much time thinking about it yet, as my full attention needs to be on Shamrock. I convinced R to race the full, my brother in law to race the full, and for D to race the half. We've already got hotel reservations squared away and it looks to be a great weekend.

I think I've covered the last two months pretty thoroughly. Thanks for staying with me this far. I'll be back in a few days with a recap of my New Years double. I hope everyone is staying warm!  Happy Holidays, and thank you for getting me through the intensity that was 2012.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

MCM 10k and a diagnosis

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I hope you have a day full of treats. If you're anything like me, you never get trick or treaters at your apartment but still buy three bags of candy "just in case." Don't judge me.

As promised, here is a recap of the MCM 10k. The weather, despite all the doomsday predictions, was fine. A little chilly at the start, but perfect for running.  I got to the starting area about 45 minutes early, so I had the pleasure of watching the sun rise over the Capital building. I was with A and we had planned to warm up, but she was adamant that she hit up the porta-potty before the race started, despite how long the lines were. We waited up until and after the race started, much to my annoyance. When A was finally ready to go, the last group of runners were edging their way over the start line.

This meant that we'd be dodging slower walkers and runners for at least the first mile, if not more, trying to make up ground and get to the pack we should have started with. I was definitely not happy. A and I spent the first 2 miles together but split shortly after, which was fine with me. We had difference races to run. I spent all 6.2 miles passing people. On one hand it was a nice ego boost, but on the other I never caught up with anyone that would challenge me to run faster. I had to get all my motivation internally, which isn't exactly my strong suit.

The 14th street bridge was just as long as I'd remembered. Ugh. The entirety of the course was familiar to me, thanks to training runs and last year's marathon. I just needed to pay attention to my hip and adjust accordingly. My longest run in the past month had been 3 miles, so I wasn't entirely prepared. The loop through Crystal City was fine, which left the stretch of 110 to Iwo Jima. I knew going into this that a PR was not possible, similar to the 5k from the week before. It was a disappointment but I'm learning to let things like that go.

I picked up the pace for the last mile, as best I could, and stormed the hill leading up to the finish line. For once I got a race photo that wasn't showing me shuffling or grimacing. If it didn't cost an arm and a leg, I'd buy it. I really like the determination on my face and the fact that I'm mid-stride.

I finished in 1:05 and change, which is about 7 minutes off my PR. I was relieved to be done and glad that I can muscle out a distance over 3 when the occasion calls for it.  Richmond is 10 days away and I'm feeling better about the 8k now that the 10k is done. I haven't run since Sunday, thanks in part to the weather, but will be running to work tomorrow for certain. I set a running goal for November and I'm looking forward to taking it on. Here's one last picture, courtesy of a Ragnar buddy I ran into at the finish line.
Now, my hip. I saw my favorite chiropractor on Monday morning and after a quick discussion of symptoms and some manipulation of the area, he pronounced it a case of bursitis. The bursa, I've learned, is a small jelly-like sac that acts as a cushion between bones and soft tissue and helps reduce friction between gliding muscles and bone. There are a number of causes, but in my case it appears to be from overuse. I started experiencing symptoms after Ragnar, which makes perfect sense.

Treatment is non-surgical and pretty straightforward. Option 1 involves avoiding activities that exacerbate the condition. Hmm. Yeah. Running is the least painful activity, surprisingly. Walking, using stairs, and moving from a sitting to standing position are what hurts the most. Slightly harder to avoid. Option 2 involves taking anti-inflammatories, which I was already doing. Right now 4 ibuprofen gelcaps take the edge off, but I need to start taking less because of the possibility of liver damage.

What Mr. Chiro suggested, in the short term (pre-Richmond), is two more appointments with him for adjustment and manipulation. In addition, I need to be using the foam roller at home for a few minutes a day, targeting the hip flexor, hip joint, and periformis on the afflicted leg. I can continue to take pain meds but need to cut it down to 2-3 at a time. I'm not sure how long it will take for this to heal but sooner would be better.

As far as prevention goes it appears that I need to avoid repetitive activity that puts stress on the hips, lose weight (gee, thanks), and maintain/build the strength and flexibility of the hip area. I'm the first to admit that I am terrible at doing exercises/stretches/etc. When I was rehabbing my hamstring, I didn't do the PT exercises as directed and it took twice as long to heal. Dummy. So, what I'm trying to say is that I'd love advice from anyone who has experienced this. I can do the foam roller business, no problem. Beyond that, I'm not sure. All suggestions are welcome, and I can probably get D to nag me to death until I do the requisite exercises. I do want to feel better and come out stronger.

Well, that's that. I have four more short races planned between now and December 31st. I have not looked at 2013 yet; I'm waiting for details on a few races slated for early 2013 before committing to anything. One thing I've learned from my ambitious 2012 plan is that you cannot control what happens. You can register for races until the cows come home but the body will do what it wants to do and you just need to roll with it. This year was nothing like what I'd planned. I don't have regrets but I do have "what ifs" kicking around. I'm guessing most of us do.

I hope everyone who raced this past weekend did well, and I am super proud of all my friends and co-workers that raced a strong Marine Corps Marathon. You're an inspiration to me and I can't wait to get out on the road with you all again soon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Since you've been gone...

It is a pretty safe assumption that if I am not posting here, I am not running. Post-Ragnar I started to experience significant pain in my left hip. It was painful to walk, so running just seemed like a bad idea. Normally, I'd just run on it, but I'm trying to be more responsible. Sort of. Because of my current work/school situation, I am unable to afford the cost of an evaluation at my doctor. That being said, I've been playing doctor myself and trying to assess and treat it accordingly.

The no-running plan didn't seem to be helping at all and the MCM 10k was approaching very quickly. I hate losing money on registration fees, not to mention kicking myself for being unable to partake of the race experience. Giving up my bib to someone else was just not an option. I've already had to shelve the marathon this year because of injury, I'm not about to miss more. So...I decided to run on it. And surprisingly, it hurts less then when I walk or sit. I'll call that a win. I've been getting out a couple of times a week for 2-3 miles at a time.

It hasn't been pretty, as my fitness level is almost back to square one. But I'm trying. Twice a week I run to work, since it is exactly 3 miles from the apartment and a very safe route. I get in another run around the neighborhood, and that is my week. I'm not pushing the distance and just focusing on being comfortable on my feet. As long as the pain doesn't get worse, I'm going to keep on doing what I'm doing.

In fact, to keep myself motivated and reward D for his hard work, we signed up for a small (read: 80 people) 5k in Alexandria last weekend. It was D's first race and he was pretty excited.  I just hoped I could hang in there and make it a good experience for him.  He put me in charge of setting the pace and I had doubts that I could handle it. I wasn't feeling strong at all but it wasn't about my race experience this time. At the gun we headed out and I tried to settle into a pace that I hoped was sub-10.

When we got to the first mile marker, I was on track. We were in the 9 range. I tried to maintain that pace for the second mile and it seemed to be working. Once we passed that marker I decided to see if I could push it at all. It felt harder but I honestly wasn't sure if I was running faster or if I was just getting tired. My watch said we'd probably make it in under 30 minutes, which was my hope. I know that isn't a particularly grand accomplishment, but it meant something to us.

As we round the corner of the course that led onto a high school track, we had 300 meters to go and it was time to see what we had left. D told me earlier in the race not to push it at the end because I was experiencing some pain but I didn't want my discomfort to effect his race so I pushed. We crossed the line in 28:35, 4 minutes off my PR but a victory for both of us. The overall pace was 9:13, and I'm pleased with that. Most of my runs this month have hovered between 10 and 11, aka slug pace.

Due to the size of the event I was able to get 5th in my age group. I won't tell you how many were in that age group, (more than 5) but I was pleased. The age group winner ran close to my PR time, so if I'd been in better condition I could have challenged her. There will always be another race, so I'm not going to sweat it. In fact, I have two more races in the next 2 weeks and 2 more in the month after. Nothing longer than a 10k and enough to keep me on my feet into December.

I am going to run the MCM 10k on Sunday morning. I'm going to cross that finish line and I don't particularly care how I get there, (run, walk, crawl). I know my time is probably going to be a PW, but I did set a 10k PR already this year so I can't be greedy. I'm in very different shape, so I need to adjust my race plan accordingly. I've been reminded by a trusted running friend that I just need to have fun and enjoy the experience. I generally have a hard time doing that, but I'll give it a shot.

I won't be able to run with my usual training partner because of our difference in ability right now, but we're heading in together and we'll meet at the end. I also have the pleasure of meeting up with K at the start, whom I haven't seen in several months. I'm ignoring the weather forecast for the moment. Aside from impacting my wardrobe choices, it isn't going to change anything for me. I'm still racing. I'm not a fair weather runner. Hurricane, schmurricane.

For those of you that are curious, post-MCM racing will be the Richmond 8k (boo), the Arlington Turkey Trot 5k, and the YCF Jingle Bell Jog 5k. That puts me into December and I'm hesitant to plan beyond that. I like doing the Fairfax Four Miler on NYE, but I need to wait and see.

So...that's where I've been and what I've been up to. Before you just to scold me re: the hip, I'll tell you that because of someone's generosity, I will be having an assessment at the chiropractor on Monday morning. I won't be able to pursue an in-office course of treatment at this time, but I will get some answers and some advice. A 10k race report and the results of that visit will be my next post, so fear not. I know you missed me. All 2 of you still reading.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ragnar 2012, 197 miles, MD to DC

A week later and I've regained full use of my legs!  The details aren't as fresh in my mind anymore, but this was the first spare minute I could find to give everyone an update on how my Ragnar experience went. Before I dive in, feel free to go HERE for the full selection of photos. We were lucky enough to have multiple people snapping pics along the way.

I overslept a bit Friday morning, so ended up a bit rushed to finish packing and then go pick up one of my teammates, Garry. Made it to Takoma on time and met up with the rest of my van-mates. We tossed all the gear and people into the van and were on the road to the first major exchange. I hadn't met two of my van-mates until that morning, as we'd suffered some injuries in the final weeks before the race and  were forced to find last minute replacements. Everyone seemed to hit it off right away and we were all excited and nervous that the day had finally come.

None of us had done a Ragnar Relay before, and had no idea what to expect. Arriving at the first major exchange, there were vans as far as the eye could see. We weren't sure how many teams were participating but found out it was close to 300. We checked in with Ragnar staff, sat through an obligatory safety briefing, and then began the wait for our Van 1 friends to arrive. We snapped a quick group photo of Van 2, ready to go.
Van 1 was burning up the miles, blowing our projections out of the water. We got word that they were minutes away and Laura lined up in the chute to start Van 2's journey back to DC. We couldn't have asked for better weather, but the course itself was pretty unforgiving. Laura and Christine in particular battled some serious hills.  Van 2 chugged right along, also ahead of schedule.  We leap-frogged our runners, making frequent stops to cheer them on and provide any fuel they needed. It was really cool to see how many other teams were out there with us, working towards the same goal and having a blast doing it. Everyone we met along the way was incredibly friendly.

With Laura, Christine, and Garry done, it was my turn to go. Leg 1 for me was 5.7 miles, my longest of the 3. Because of the time of day I'd be running, I was required to wear a blinking tail light, headlight, and reflective vest. How hot do I look?
The leg was very flat, for which I was grateful, but it was one of several legs that was unsupported by the van. That means no cheering, no fuel, nothing. The leg took place almost entirely on a paved trail similar to the W&OD. It ran along the highway, which made the air a bit clogged with exhaust. There were very few runners out on the trail and I felt pretty lonely. I could see a long ways down the trail but the end didn't seem to be getting any closer. I wasn't hitting the pace I'd hope for and was becoming discouraged. Typical me.

I closed in on the exchange point with all the energy I could muster and handed off to Mike, my first leg complete. My van-mates were there with high fives and lots of positive reinforcement but that didn't stop me from having a cry about how slow I was. There wasn't anything I could do about it, but hoped I could make up for it in some way on my second leg.

We cycled through all of Van 2's runners and handed off to Van 1, some time around 10 or 11 pm. We had around 3 hours before our next legs began and grabbed a quick bite at a local spaghetti dinner before heading to the next major exchange. By the time we arrived and parked with the throng of vans we were all desperate for a nap. I sprawled out on one of the van seats and tried to rest. It felt like I had just closed my eyes when it was already time for us to run again. At this point it was around 1:30 am.

Laura took the road and we were off again. As best as I can recall, my second leg started around 4 am. The temperature had dropped significantly and a gentle fog had rolled in.  This leg was 3.6 miles and had van support, hooray! The first mile wove through a small housing development before going back onto the main road. There was nothing out there besides cornfields and the sound of my footfalls. The headlamp provided the only source of light, but it wasn't scary. In fact, it was quite peaceful. The landscape was beautiful, the moon was bright, and I was feeling strong. I passed several runners along the way, putting our team further ahead. Rolling into the exchange, leg 1 was no longer weighing on me and I handed off to Mike and hopped back into the van, all smiles.

Fueling during the course of this relay is one of the biggest hurdles. What to eat, how much, and at what time felt like a total crapshoot. I needed to give myself time to digest before the next leg and therefore not eat too much, but at the same time consume enough calories to stay energized. We had a decent selection of food in the van, but by the time we were done I was so sick of peanut butter, bagels, Luna bars, and gels. All running food in general, honestly.

Once Van 2 cycled through its runners again and handed off to Van 1, we drove to a teammate's house for breakfast and another nap.  An hour or so later it was time to wake up and prepare to race our final legs. The sun was out and it was heating up fast. We were all limping around, feeling the effects of not being able to stretch our legs out at all in the van. Run, sit, repeat. I was a little nervous about my final leg, 4.4 miles on the Mt Vernon trail. I've run this section of trail countless times but my body was not in great condition. Garry flew into the exchange in Rosslyn and I was off for the final time.

My quads were screaming from the first step and I knew this leg was going to be rough. The trail is pretty flat but lacked shade. There was also no van support, so I was on my own again.  Running into a headwind as the sun beat down, my pace quickly faltered. There were countless runners and bikers on the trail, but very few were relay participants so I felt pretty isolated. I had a full handheld of water with me but it didn't last long. Surprisingly, Ragnar did not have a water station along the route and I began to get anxious. At this point, walk breaks were very frequent.

As I was passing Gravely Point I caught a break when a course martial on a bike rode past and asked how I was doing. I told her I was out of water and she pulled a fresh bottle out of her pack and filled my handheld. Lifesaver! I had one mile to go and I felt determined to dig deep and finish strong. I was significantly off pace and keeping my team waiting, for which I felt really bad. With about 400 meters to go I was surprised by our van driver on the trail. He'd come out to meet me, bright me water, and run me in to the exchange. I was really grateful for the company and he kept me at a good pace as I closed in on my final handoff.

Being done felt so good. Our van still had 2 legs left before we reached the finish line at National Harbor, but I was done. AMEN. We piled into the van once more and headed for one more exchange and then the finish line. Our Van 1 teammates were waiting for us about 100 yards from the finish line and we were surrounded by cheering spectators and other teams waiting for their last runner to being it home. We threw on our matching team shirts as our final runner approached and ran together as a team to the finish line.  Everyone was so hyped up! Crossing the line as a team was perfect, as was knowing we'd blown our projected finish time out of the water. Thanks to the collective efforts of some seriously fast teammates, we were done almost two hours early.

After several team photos with our awesome medals, it was time to grab a place to sit and take it all in. Each van was provided with a free pizza and every runner got a free beer. The pizza was gone in seconds, nothing had tasted as good for over a day now. After sitting for about 20 minutes, the real effects of the relay began to sink in. A collective decision was quickly made to hightail it back to the van and go home. We had to drive back to Takoma to empty the van and claim our cars from the driver's house. I was not looking forward to the drive back to Arlington.

As expected, traffic downtown was miserable and it took over 45 minutes before I pulled in to my apartment parking lot. Exhaustion was in full effect and I dropped all my gear just inside the front door and made a beeline for the couch. Luckily, dinner was ready and waiting for me, as was a hot shower. Friday seemed so long ago, time was incredibly distorted thanks to lack of sleep. I was out cold by 9:30 pm (thank you Advil PM) and slept for 14 hours. Getting out of bed and moving around on Sunday was very difficult but totally worth it.

I had an incredible time and would absolutely do it again. My van mates and I started as acquiantances and finished as friends. Talk of future runs together were suggested over email in the days following and I don't doubt that something will come together.  To bring this long post to a close, I'll give you our final results. We came in 42 out of almost 300 teams overall, and claimed 2nd in our division, a huge surprise! Our total time was 28:50:43, with an 8:44 pace. I am incredibly proud of how well we performed, even if I was the slowest one on the team.

I've rested the entire week, and now it is time to refocus. There are still at least 2 more races in the next two months and I want to capitalize on my seemingly healthy legs. I have more to say on the subject, but I'll save it for another post. If you hung in this long, thank you! Ragnar 2013, anybody???

Thursday, September 20, 2012


The post I wanted to have here didn't come together in time, so what I'm doing instead is letting you all know that the Ragnar Relay starts tomorrow in Cumberland, Maryland. I'm on team Shoe Believers and we are so pumped to rock this race.  I'll be tweeting along the way, so if you don't follow me already please do @ImTheMarigold.

Wish us all luck, see you on the other side!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rolling with the punches

Just over a week ago I was out on a long run with my group, putting along and hoping that my legs were going to cooperate for the 10 or so miles I had planned. Silly me. Here comes mile 4, with its sharp and sudden pain. It wasn't in the usual spot on my calf, rather it was just below it and went down the inside of my leg to my ankle. My MD degree makes me think it was my soleus. It was enough that I came up short and limped along for a bit before slowly easing back into a manageable pace. I made it to the water station at mile 6 and decided to keep going, mostly out of sheer stupidity.

I made it back to home base, and then to the apartment, where I applied ice and lay down. I should have stopped my run sooner, considering I spent the rest of the day hobbling. I couldn't even walk down stairs without considerable pain.  I rested and iced for the next few days and the pain really abated. By Tuesday I thought a short test run was in order, as all regular activities were now pain free. I made it halfway up the block before the pain started coming back. This time I decided to bag it and just go home. It wasn't worth it. Clearly something isn't right.  Normally I would call my trusty chiro and take it from there.

Unfortunately, my transition back to graduate school means that I am currently without health insurance. Until further notice.  I don't have the funds to pay for the consult fee, and I've called around to a few other places to get similar quotes. In the meantime, I've had to make some hard decisions around my racing schedule. In the short term, I backed out of the VHTRC Women's Half Marathon that is in two weeks. I got my money back, but I'm still pretty disappointed. I had a great time last year and was looking forward to beating my time.

Next up is Ragnar, which I am still committed to doing. It isn't as simple as backing out of a race because 11 other people are depending on me to show up. Finding a replacement this late in the game would not be easy. I have one of the easier assignments on the race course, so I am not that worried. I just hope that my combination of rest, prayer, yoga, and junk food will heal my leg in time. I'm ignoring the MCM 10k in October for the moment, which means the big kahuna is next on the chopping block. Richmond.

Hotels are booked. Race fees are paid. More than anything else, my pride is what is keeping me from officially withdrawing. My longest successful run is 12 miles. I've missed several long runs in the last month due to injury and vacation, most recently an 18 miler this past weekend. At one point I was going to modify the long run schedule so that I'd be doing less now but eventually catching up with my group by late October. That was before the calf strain, which as of Saturday will have cost me two more weeks.

I have three options at this point. I can withdraw completely, lose $55 or so spent on the race fee, and mope indefinitely. I can drop to the 1/2, which will cost me an additional $35 in transfer fees and is a bit of a gamble considering the mileage I've covered thus far in the season. Lastly, I can drop to the 8k, which will cost me $10 and all my pride. 8k? Really? I think I might rather spectate, honestly. This marathon has been planned for 10 months, I'm travelling with a bunch of badass runners to do it, and dropping to the 8k just reeks of failure.

Sure, I can look on the bright side and just try to be the best little 8k-er there ever was. That just isn't my style at the moment. I don't need to make this decision today, but it does need to be made soon. This "woe is me" attitude sucks and I need to change it. I'm tired of being pissed off but I'm also tired of a body that continues to betray me. Are there other options I'm not considering at the moment? I tend to have blinders on when I get this worked up.

I'm hoping to have health insurance again soon, and when I do my first stop will be to one of the many professionals that have been recommended to me in the last two weeks. If I can get my work and school schedules to coordinate, I also plan to do another test run in the next few days. I can't help it. All this inactivity has me climbing the walls. My bike is set up in the living room but I haven't been able to get myself on it yet. I'm incorporating yoga for the moment, just to feel like I can still move my body and sweat. Not to mention the mental benefits I get out of it. I just......I'm a runner, dammit. I want to run. It shouldn't be this complicated.

So, that is the state of things here. I'm leaning on friends right now to give advice and perk me up. It isn't the end of the world. I just got really lucky last year with the way my training and racing went for MCM. I was foolish to think it would go as well the second time around.  Alright, vent over. Must...end...pity party. Aside from telling me to suck it up and get my head out of my ass, I'd really appreciate some practical advice as to what my next steps should be. I always feel better once I have a plan in place. Control freak, much? 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Vacation and Motivation

Back from the Bahamas!  :)

Ok, so I've been back over a week now and am just now updating. Sue me. I had an amazing time on vacation. Mom and I got along really well and I'm so glad I had her company for the trip. Three days at the yoga ashram at Paradise Island to rebalance and recenter, then another three days in Nassau. Despite having permission from my chiro to do light running (barefoot only, on the beach), I chose not to. The yoga classes and all the walking/swimming/snorkeling we did was more than enough movement for me.  I really just wanted to let my legs calm down.

I have a laundry list of corrective exercises to do but I can't say as I'm doing a good job remembering. I was the same way when I went through physical therapy for my hamstring. Makes for a waste of time and money when I don't follow through on the things that will keep me healthy and make me a better runner. I was supposed to go back to the chiro this week for follow up and clearance to run, but when I arrived home from vacation I found out that my insurance was cancelled. Awesome. I called to cancel my future appts and spoke with my chiro for a few minutes to get his advice on what I should do next.

He gave me the go ahead to try and run, seeing as I'm not experiencing any pain. He also reminded me that I need to keep up with the exercises, as those are what will, in theory, solve my problem and prevent future issues. I admit that I cheated and ran once over the past weekend, but I'd already committed to running this virtual race in memory of murdered runner Sarah Hart and didn't think I had a good enough reason not to participate. It was an incredibly slow 4 miles with D, but I finished and felt nothing beyond the normal discomfort from not running in a while.

Once I was officially good to go, I decided to join the PR Thursday night run. I was there working anyways, and we're allowed to participate in the runs, so I gave it a shot. The route was 5.2 miles and the group going was mostly male and mostly fast. I had a feeling I'd be on my own and bringing up the rear, but I didn't want that to discourage me. I'm tired of giving myself reasons not to run. An added bonus was being given the opportunity to test drive shoes from Adidas.  The rep was at the store for the night and all the run participants had the chance to run in a selection of their product line.

I chose the Aegis, mostly because it was the prettiest. I can't lie. The model we carry in the store is a different color and pretty bland, so rocking the hot pink version was cool.  It isn't the shoe for me, but it was fun to test it out. The run itself was fine as far as the course went, nothing I haven't trained on before. The familiarity definitely helped me keep going, as I was tired early on but wanted to keep going.  I finished second to last, but I finished and I'm glad I made myself go. I am surprisingly sore today and that makes me even more nervous about my long run tomorrow.

The last long run I finished was 12 miles, the day of my double. The long run the week after that was a 16 miler, of which I completed one mile before I had to stop because of pain. The next weekend was vacation and the Saturday after that was the short virtual run. In other words, it has been a while since I've gone long and I'm not sure how best to approach it. Slowly, of course. But do I commit to the full 14? Nevermind that it includes the loop of Haines Point. The first time we did this run, I had to cut it short and do 10. I emailed Tuan for advice, and I'm expecting to be told to suck it up any second now.

So, that is where things are.  I'm having a really hard time being motivated to run and time is ticking by. The idea of dropping down to the half in Richmond has crossed my mind, but I'm waiting for advice from others before I make a final decision. I have a trail half in 4 weeks, and Ragnar 2 weeks after that, so I need to get back into a groove and fast. I'm just scared that it will be painful and that I'll be slower than I'm used to (which really discourages me), so instead of trying I just don't bother. I know it is the wrong way to approach the situation and that makes me more depressed, and I cycle on from there.

If you made it this far, thanks. This training cycle is so different from MCM last year. Not that it was easy, but I feel like I sailed through it in comparison to what it feels like this time around. Has anyone had a similar experience? I need a swift kick in the butt and some really good luck. Send any good vibes you can spare my way, and I'll let you know how tomorrow pans out. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dealing with disappointment

Or, how to stress-eat and make a permanent ass-print on your couch.

Yes, I am double posting today, thank you for noticing.  It happens when my depressed ass puts it off all week long. This one picks up where the time trial post left off, with me fully rested and ready to take on 16 on Saturday morning.

Not surprisingly, I overslept. That meant that I rushed to get out of the house, ate breakfast in the car, and left several pieces of preferred gear at home. I made it to the marina in the knick of time but immediately noticed a small problem. My girls weren't there. In fact, everyone in the group who runs at my pace weren't there. I was a little unnerved but I didn't have time to really process that as we promptly took off.

A few weeks earlier I tanked on my 14 miler, turning it into 10 and letting Hains Point get the better of me. Last week I nailed my 12 and another 5 later in the day. Then came two days of solid short runs followed by the mile debacle. I couldn't have been more rested for this 16, and I wanted some Hains Point redemption. As it turned out, I would get nothing. I felt off from the first step.

The rest of the group quickly disappeared while I struggled to find a comfortable pace. This isn't unusual for the first mile or so, but the pace wasn't the problem. My calves were screaming. For reasons beyond my comprehension my calves completely seized up and I was walking by the time I reached Arlington Cemetery. I immediately started bargaining with myself, shortening the run faster and faster and thinking that perhaps I could gut out 6 and make it to the water stop before quitting. A handful of painful steps later, 6 miles was out of the question.

The shin that had plagued me earlier in the week was like new, but my calves were completely betraying me. I swallowed a sob, turned around, and started the walk back to my car.  It felt like the longest mile, as I got more upset with every step. I reached my car, texted Tuan to tell him I was done for the day, and went home. It was still incredibly early and I didn't see the point in staying awake. Several hours later I dragged my sorry ass to the couch and stayed there for the duration. It was there that many a snack met its unseemly end.

I don't feel that much better today, honestly. I know it was only one run and there is plenty of time before Richmond. I know what all the right thoughts and feelings are, I'm just not embracing them.  I'm frustrated that my body refused to cooperate. I can't get into a consistent routine and my base building is suffering for it. I briefly entertained the idea of running this morning just to check things out but I didn't have it in me. I'm also cancelling my regular Monday run with A until I can see my chiropractor tomorrow afternoon. 

I'm glad that I have a health professional that is caring and committed to getting me on the road. I have no doubt that he'll provide relief, however temporary, tomorrow and we'll begin to game plan what next steps should be. Corrective exercises are number one on the list. I'm not the best at doing such things on my own, but I think I'm just pissed off enough to do them this time around.

I leave for vacation on Thursday morning and will be gone for a week. I don't have specific plans to run but will be packing the necessary gear regardless. If tomorrow goes well I plan to get in two runs before I go. Missing another long run does not thrill me, but it's only a 10 miler, not something more substantial. I can only hope that this week of yoga, sun, and sand will be the physical and mental break that I need. When I get back I want to feel focused and confident, two things which are currently alluding me.

I hope that your running experiences this past week have been more positive than mine. Tomorrow is another day, right?

One Mile Timed Trial

Or, what happens when you have no base and then run as fast as you can.

Running in the timed trial Wednesday morning was a last minute decision on Tuesday night.  I'd already had two really good runs during the week thus far and after a mild guilt trip from a running partner I decided to give the mile a shot the next morning. Lesson one, be the boss of your own training. Don't let the opinions of others sway you to do something your body isn't ready for. It never ends well.

My legs were not at all rested going into this mile.  I ran hard the night before and did not feel at all fresh when I warmed up the following morning. Two laps around the track, a few drills, and some strides were the precursor to this silly mile that had most of the group pysched out. The idea that it was only a mile didn't matter.  I don't think I've had to do a timed mile since high school, I kid you not. All my other track experiences have been repeats and tempos.

Everyone moaned and groaned their way to the start, and off we went. A and I were bringing up the rear. I wish I could say that I didn't have a goal for this but I'd be lying.  All I kept thinking about was my 5k PR from last November and how fast that first mile was. I know that I can't sustain that pace right now, but I thought there might be a small chance that I could eke out one mile around 8 minutes.  I'd also be lying if I said pride wasn't a factor in this as well. A and I have been doing weekly runs together but her base is solid and she's been leaving me behind on a regular basis.

There was a time when I was the stronger runner and I missed that. With lap one under way, I was ahead and aiming for something between 1:50 and 2:00, which I got. The second lap was similar and I continued to keep an eye on my watch. The third lap is where the wheels began to come off the wagon.  It was definitely my slowest lap and George told me it looked like I took a break or something. It was during this lap that A passed me and I was not a happy camper.

The final lap was my fastest, as it should be, but mostly because I was trying so hard to make up for the prior lap. I was somewhere past 6:00 when I started the lap so a fast 400 was the only way I'd get my 8:00 mark. My best 400 repeat is 1:37, but that was done independently and with adequate recovery. As I rounded the first turn and headed into the straightaway, I came up on A. We were side by side briefly, but I was able to find another gear and pull ahead. As soon as that happened an expletive came out of her mouth and I'm pretty sure it wasn't because she was struggling. It was because I passed her. That did not feel good.

I hit the final 200 and saw on the watch that 8:00 or close to it was a possibility if I turned and burned as hard as I could. I can honestly say that when I crossed the line, I had nothing left. I finished in 7:48, which should have made me happy, but it didn't.  I was tired, in pain, feeling emotionally hurt, and frustrated. A came in 10 seconds behind me, a really solid time for her and well beyond the goal she'd set for herself. We congratulated each other but separated to cool down and stretch.

I made it one lap around before the pain in my left shin became unbearable. I bagged the second lap and started stretching, but all I wanted to do was go home and apply ice so I grabbed my things and headed out. I got the result that I wanted but at what cost?  My ego and my tendency to be easily influenced by others won out over rational thought. As far as running went, I was useless for the rest of the week.  All I did was ice and rest, on repeat. I wanted to test things out on Friday but decided against it. I'd head into my 16 miler rested, but blind as to what my leg could handle.

That is the long-winded story of my timed trial. I have learned my lesson. Several lessons, in fact. I'm going to keep building my base and leave the track for another time. There are plenty of weeks left before the marathon and the speedwork will fit in there somewhere. I have an appointment with my favorite chiropractor tomorrow afternoon and that will provide both answers and relief.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Runs, races, and my first double

This past week has been quite the ride! I bumped up my mileage a bit, which was long overdue.  It was not an auspicious start, as the first couple runs of my week maxed out around 2 miles and sent me running to the chiropractor.  After cutting short last week's 14 I was hoping to break the bad luck. I hadn't gone for ART since May and my body was telling me that was a mistake. I had two sessions this week and I believe that it made all the difference.  This was especially the case on Saturday, where I was slated to run 12 miles in the morning for marathon training and another 5 at night at a race in Rockville.

I've never done a double before, and quite frankly been intimidated by the thought. Regardless, it was time to put on my big girl panties and give it a go. This is all part of the Ragnar experience and I don't want to look back on it and think I wasn't pulling my weight. Saturday morning didn't have the best start, as I was up at 4 to drive a friend to the airport and then over to the marina by 6 for the first run of the day. I was absolutely nervous but once the run began I had a pretty good feeling that it would go smoothly.

The ache that I usually experience in my calves and shins did not make its regular appearance. I even felt like we were moving at a pretty decent clip for a change, which I attribute to the new company I had. K was with the group last year but we didn't get to know each other much because she was coming off injury and therefore at a slower pace. I wasn't sure how we'd hit it off but it was good and made the miles pass nicely. I was pleasantly surprised and look forward to future runs with her.

When the run came to an end, I finally felt what I'd been wanting to feel for months. It was a combination of pride and relief. I was a runner again. I took that feeling with me to the 7 hour training I sat through for the rest of that morning and into the afternoon. It abated a bit as the evening approached and the second run of the day began.  I'd be lying if I didn't say I was nervous. I met up with a Ragnar teammate, Sue, and then had unexpected company for the warmup.  After quick introductions all around, we hit the pavement.

I have to admit, the warmup was more like race pace to me but there was a perfectly reasonable explanation. Turns out that the two other runners Sue and I ran with were none other than Miss Zippy and Racingtales themselves! I didn't find out until after the fact, of course, but it was still really great to meet these ladies in person and see what incredible runners they are. Warmup over, we split up and headed to our respective places in the hoard of the start line.

I made the amateur mistake of lining up too close to the start but for some reason I didn't want to leave Sue and head back to where I should be. Once the race started, I was passed countless times for well over a mile until I settled into a comfortable pace with the runners I should have started with in the first place.  I don't feel like it effected my race, as I made it to the first mile at my planned time. The course was hilly but great and I would definitely run it again. I caught a break with the weather and aside from the humidity the racing conditions were great.

I'm not saying that this first double was easy by any means. Far from it. My mental strength was definitely tested during those five miles and my ego was taught another lesson in humility. My quads were very vocal after the first mile but I just tried to hold steady through to the end. I wasn't sure I'd have anything in me once I reached the final mile but I was able to pick it up quite a bit, making it the fastest mile of the race. The added bonus of chicking one last guy as we surged for the line helped too.

Again, that pride and relief. I couldn't wait to tell my friends that I'd done it. It gave me back some of the confidence that I'd lost and took away some of the nerves I have about my upcoming 16 miler on Saturday. I took Sunday off, aside from a 2.5 mile walk around the neighborhood.  I did a short recovery run yesterday and will be braving the heat and humidity very shortly for another few miles.

I've been experiencing a lot of stress lately and I'm glad that, at least for now, running can be a pleasant experience. Several of my CAR teammates raced in Rockville this weekend and totally killed it. Congrats to you all!  I'm not ready to show my face back at the track yet and resume the practice of being passed, but I will be soon. How has everyone else been doing? I confess to not being up to date on blogs so a comment here with an update would be lovely. I promise I'll be operating at full capacity again soon.

Time to stop avoiding a sweaty run and get my butt out there. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Compromise vs Quitting

In case the title of this post wasn't clear, I'm grappling with the concept of compromising versus quitting while running.  As luck would have it, I have an example of both from the past few days.

I set out on Saturday morning to do 14 with my group. A mile or two in, I just wasn't feeling it. I couldn't settle into a comfortable pace and old pains in my calves and shins were making their presence known again. I bargained with myself all the way to the water stop at mile 6, decided to do the next 1.5 miles out and back to the water stop and then I needed to make a decision. Was I going to call it a day and take the shameful ride back to homebase with the water station people? Or could I find a way to continue this run in a way that would accomplish my idea of a long run without risking injury by doing the full 14?

After some quick deliberating, I sucked up what pride I had left and decided to run back to homebase, cutting off the section around Hains Point and heading back over the 14th street bridge to the Mt Vernon trail. This is what I would consider a compromise. I managed to get in between 10 and 11 miles, and decided to be satisfied with that. My body is just not ready for 14 yet. I'm still only running 2-3 times a week, averaging 20 miles overall.

This morning, on the other hand, is when I quit. I woke up for my usual morning run, this time hitting the gym to get my $50 monthly treadmill workout. It was just too humid to try and slog through it outside. I hadn't been on the treadmill in a few months but I figured I could knock out 3-4 miles if I took it really easy. Turns out I could barely do one. I don't know if it was the change from road to treadmill, or the problems I was having treated with ART flaring up, but I had to quit. There was no bargaining or middle ground to be had. I was just done.

I left the gym close to tears and so frustrated with myself. Why can't my body just do what I'm asking it to do? Because I was out of commission for a month during May/June, I missed my regular ART sessions with my beloved chiropractor. I called the office as soon as I got home and as luck would have it, they could see me later that afternoon. While slightly painful, the treatment was definitely worth it and we agreed that with marathon training gearing up and me not having the usual base level of fitness that I would need to come in twice a week for a bit.

I'd be lying if I said that this bad set of runs didn't set off other issues in my head. But I'm trying to rationalize with them because they only make things worse. No, I'm not too fat to run. No, I'm not too slow to run. No, I do not need to quit CAR because I'm too scared to go. The reality is that I lost over a month of training time to unplanned illness and I'm starting over again at the beginning. I PRed my half in May, just before I got sick and once I'm stronger I'll PR the next one in September. I am capable and I have potential. I also have these nasty voices in my head that drown out the rest most of the time.

Knowing that other runners have been through and are going through similar rough patches with running does help. It is especially helpful to hear how you came out of that slump and were able to be inspired and motivated again. I still don't know what I want out of running, but I know that I'm not throwing in the towel on this. Nothing worth something comes easy. I just need to believe that. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Armed and dangerous?

If you have been following my blog, reading the local news here in VA, or reading Shut Up And Run, then you know that running alone can be a dangerous choice. Across the country and close to home, women continue to be harassed, abducted, assaulted, and even murdered while out for a run. Before I go any farther, let me make something clear. These cases, near and far, are not up for discussion. Running alone, at night, in the morning, in broad daylight, on trails, along roads, or any combination thereof does not mean that a person is at all responsible for anything bad that happens to them. One hundred percent of the blame rests on the person perpetrating the crime, and no where else.  As runners we do the best we can to protect ourselves and make decisions in our best interests while doing something that we love and have every right to pursue. With that in mind, I'll continue.

I live near two popular running trails, the W&OD and Four Mile Run.  While not well lit by any means, they are well traveled most hours of the day. I've run both at night, sometimes alone but mostly with a friend. These trails, while great for runners and cyclists, are also popular with the criminal element. More specifically, rapists. I have lost count of the number of reports of sexual assaults reported on these two trails in the six years that I've lived here. While I will not let that deter me from living my life and continuing to train there, it is always in the back of my mind. I pay close attention to everyone I pass and everyone who passes me. I remember trail markers as I pass them, should I ever need to report my location to emergency services. But is that enough?

When I read about the most recent attack in Arlington, I got pissed but I filed it away and moved on. In my anger, I mentioned it to a friend of mine who shared my rage. We discussed what I was and was not doing to protect myself and what else, if anything, could be done. I also emailed the story to my running partner, who wrote back to let me know that she is now packing real heat. Legally. While she hasn't brought it with her on our runs (yet), I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me think twice. Turns out I wasn't the only one with the brain wheels turning, as the UPS man just dropped this gem off at my apartment. Male friends, it seems, taken action.

I haven't opened it yet. I know I'd need a holster that clips onto my waistband or fuel belt. But those details aren't why I'm posting about this. I want to know if any of my readers carry something defensive with them on their runs now, have in the past, or are considering doing so in the future. What are your opinions on pepper spray, rape whistles, or even guns? Are the odds of being attacked small enough that carrying something seems excessive to you? Has my friend overreacted? Are there alternatives to weapons such as self-defense classes that I should be considering if I am that concerned about safety?

I am still mulling over yesterday's post, and appreciate the feedback that I have gotten so far. Especially from you, Cris. You've given me a lot to think about. In the mean time, please let me know how you feel about what I've posted today. I'm really curious to hear what everyone has to say. Run safe, friends.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What do I want out of running?

I've been staring at this screen for a few hours now, this question repeating in my mind. What do I want out of running? I suppose this is a discussion I've needed to have with myself for some time now but have been avoiding it. Now that I'm starting my running journey over, again, it seems appropriate that I give this some thought. The question was posed to me earlier this evening by a friend and for some reason it has me spinning my wheels.

At first I wrote down whatever popped into my head:

A new body
Faster race times
Stress release

It wasn't an easy list to come up with, and it seems short and shallow. My brain does not seem interested in generating any other thoughts. The meaning of running in my life has been and continues to be foggy. I would like nothing more than to wake up tomorrow refreshed and fully committed to embracing running as part of who I am. Something that I can't live without. But that is not going to be the case. I'm going to snooze the alarm excessively, think about blowing off the measly three miles I had planned, blow off those planned miles, and then beat myself up about it the rest of the day.

I'm frustrated that I lost over a month of training time. I'm frustrated that getting back into a groove isn't coming easy. I'm frustrated that I'm too scared to try. So what do I do now? If those things I listed above are really what I want from running, why aren't I doing everything I can to get them? If that list just scratches the surface, what can I do to get to the real truth of the matter? I have the time but not the motivation. I have options but lack the resources to utilize them. I love to run. I really do. I just...I don't know. Something is missing. 

This question is going to stay unanswered for now. I'm not satisfied with the superficial things that I've come up with thus far. I need to clear my head and remember what is important to me. This is a really unique time in my life, so much has changed in the last few weeks and so many more changes are on the horizon. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have some sense of control in my life and am becoming an active participant in it. I just need to sort out what stays and what needs to go.

I don't think it has even taken me this long to compose a post this brief. It is way past my bedtime but I can't seem to shut my mind off. My words feel inadequate. Should I be giving something so small as running this much time and attention? I suppose it is an indication of what running means to me. But why? And how? Questions for another time. If you made it through this post, thank you. If you have any thoughts you'd like to share with me, I'd be most grateful. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Late to the party...

Hey there! Marathon training season is officially upon us! There were some unforeseen circumstances that have caused me to start training a month later than originally planned but I'm finally starting to log some slow miles.  I'm even remembering that running can be fun. The temperature has not been cooperating by any stretch of the imagination but that is par for the course.  The sooner I adjust to the VA summer, the better I'm going to be.  Suddenly waking up at 5 to run doesn't sound so bad.

I finished my longest run since May this past weekend, ten miles, and actually felt pretty good at the end of it. I didn't think I could finish but Vietnamese #1 told me to go big or go home, so I went big and it paid off. I'm really glad that I didn't give up and being able to finish ten miles makes me feel more confident about the rest of my training.  Right now I'm only getting out twice a week but this is going to change in short order.

Once I stop wandering around with my tail between my legs, I'll also return to the track. I'm missing crucial hill workouts right now but I know I'm in no condition to tackle them and I just need to accept it. If I get into a running groove in the next few weeks I will be brave and go back. I do miss getting my ass handed to me by the CAR kids...

Four sweaty miles this morning with another four planned for Wednesday.  As was the case at this time last summer, hydration is my nemesis.  I'm just not taking in enough fluids over the course of the day and the end results are really poor runs. I can imagine the lecture from George right now. He's really been harping on this and for good reason.  I should have this sorted out soon, but welcome any tips for how to get those crucial fluids in. I love water, but I don't always remember to consistently drink.  Nuun is a nice way to mix it up but again, I just don't remember or feel the urge to drink.

My race plan has been tweaked a bit to accommodate recent events but I'm mostly okay with it. I was forced to miss the Virginia Wine Country 1/2 and the $110 I spent on entry, but I made sure the bib didn't go to waste. Same goes for the Capital Hill Classic 10k. On the upside, Ragnar is still on! I'm in the lottery for the Virginia Happy Trails 1/2 in September and there are several other races in the fall that are a sure thing. I don't have anything set for July or August, but those are crucial marathon training months (aside from the fact that racing in those months is almost intolerable).

What is your favorite way to beat the heat?  I tend to resort to morning runs, although I have a perfectly good gym membership that has been going to waste lately. I've missed updating here and I'll be doing so much more often as I gear up for marathon number 2. All the love and support I received here last year while training for MCM was priceless, so thank you.  Stay cool, run safe, and we'll talk again soon!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Marathon training starts in 23 days!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. Thank you for the kind words and prayers here and on Facebook. My grandfather is at home now, and starting speech and physical therapy. He's getting a little better everyday, and we're all very relieved.

2. The half over the weekend went pretty well. After some thinking about the training I did or did not do leading up to the race, I decided not to run with a watch. I didn't want to put extra pressure on myself to have certain splits in pursuit of a specific time. If at all possible, I wanted to have fun.
I definitely gave myself a few pep talks along the way, but I really just ran my own race and kept chugging along. I passed people and was passed. I hit up every water station and gelled as needed. At mile 10 my sister and I caught up with each other and trucked it the rest of the way together. I'm really surprised to see how similar our form is, spooky!
We stayed together until the last 800 meters or so and I took off to see what I had left in the tank.  Still no concept of time, as the course had no one calling out time after the first mile. I rounded the corner about 100 meters from the finish and that was the first and only time I saw the clock. 
The gun time was just over 2:11 and the race was small enough that I didn't think there would be a significant difference between that and my chip time. I was happy, I'd run 2:13 the year before at this race and it felt really good to beat that time by just running by feel.  My PR, I thought, was still standing at just over 2:10 and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bummed that I didn't get it. However, once results were posted online it turns out that there was just enough of a difference between gun and net time for me to get an 8 second PR. Huzzah!

3. I'm hoping to ride this little wave of good running into my next half on June 2. I've taken the week off thus far, but I'll be back in the mix by this weekend. I'm participating in the Westminster Women's Classic 10k on Sunday where I hope to PR, and then the MAC 1/2 Marathon Relay in Maryland on Saturday the 19th. I have a few more weeks of track workouts ahead of me that I'd really like to nail. The original goal was to go sub-2 in June but that isn't going to happen so I'll just shoot for another close PR and attack sub-2 in September when I have more miles under my belt. Marathon training officially starts June 9. Where has the time gone???

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Semi-wordless Wednesday

Apologies for the lack of a race report, if you were looking for one. Other things are occupying my brain space right now.

This blurry picture of my grandparents is from Thanksgiving 2008, and the most recent photo I have on hand at work. I love my grandpa very much, and he had a stroke on Monday. He's recovering at the hospital now, but it was a bit of a scare for me. Thank you all for your prayers and kind words during this time.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Race goals?

I wasn't sure this was the post that I wanted to write today. As much as I don't want to, I can't stop brooding about this race. My training has been so haphazard this year that I've had to overhaul all my goals and expectations for the races I've scheduled so far. I haven't had to pare down the schedule yet, in fact I've added in a few more, but when it comes down to performance things just aren't where I want them to be. I have no one to blame but myself, as my lack of commitment is the only thing standing between me and progress. Originally this half on Sunday was meant to be a go at a PR, setting myself up for an even bigger PR on June 2. The race in June is still going to be a PR attempt for me, but not the sub 2 I was hoping for. Sigh.

This will be my fifth half, and I seem to be getting progressively slower at the distance. There are a lot of factors at work here (age, training, etc) but it doesn't escape my attention that my first half and standing PR was run when I was 20 lbs lighter. I feel like I'm stuck in a body that isn't mine, very awkward and cumbersome. Faster gears are harder to find during workouts  My legs continue to feel like dead weight. I wish I could pinpoint where the wheels came off the wagon. Is there truth to the idea that turning 30 screws your metabolism? Is weight gain a side effect of one of the many medications and supplements that I'm currently taking? I'd love to get a clearer picture of what is going on. Even at the peak of marathon training last year I still topped out beyond my comfort level.

Taking all these feelings and factors into account, I'm still afraid to make any prognostications about Sunday. Now that the pain in my legs seems to be under control I don't worry about finishing. I suppose I do have those secret time goals in my head (great, okay, and shoot yourself) but I can't admit them here. I think the biggest challenges will be leaving my ego at home and getting out of my own way. I'm at a comparable level of fitness to last year's go at this race, so I could use that time as a predictor. One thing that I am happy to hear is that so far the weather will be almost perfect. Last year it was very cold and rainy for the entire race. This year temps look to start in the mid 40s, getting up to 70 later in the day, no rain in sight. The race starts at 7:30 so getting overheated should not be a concern.

I guess the smart thing to do would be to leave the watch at home and treat this as a regular long run. Let go of the splits in my mind, try to reconnect with why I run in the first place. I had two good runs this week so I am feeling a bit better about my potential. Use that to dig deep for 13.1 miles. As always, I am open to suggestion and advice. I know that a lot of my teammates are racing this weekend and I wish you all the best of luck. I'll be back at the track on Tuesday; no rest for slightly overscheduled chubby runner.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Three Things Thursday

1. One of my favorite girls from my GOTR group had her last practice with us today. She's moving to Michigan, so sad! She's been a real pleasure to coach and has some amazing natural talent. I hope she continues to run. Practice as a whole went really well for a change, even the usual trouble makers were cooperative. I think the "game" we played that got them to run for 20 minutes didn't hurt either. Our practice 5k is next Tuesday and us coaches are really nervous to see how it plays out. Keeping these girls motivated and interested has been no small feat, and we've really tried to drill home how important the practice race will be. We're planning a water table so they can drink and toss the cups like "real runners" and there will be post-race bagels as well. If you have any other fun ideas that we can incorporate into this practice, I 'd love to hear it.

2. I might be hitting the track again tonight. One of my original running partners is slowly coming back from injury and wants to test her legs. Since she's been out of the game for a while, and I've already done a track workout this week, I thought we'd take it easy. At least an 800m warmup and some drills, then maybe 4x400m with 200m recovery and another 800m cool down. The overall mileage is pretty low, but I'm more concerned with my friend having a positive experience than me getting in a workout. If she's feeling good we can add a few more 400s or just lengthen the warmup/cool down. Running experts, does this sound reasonable?

3. I am easily tempted when it comes to signing up for races. Maybe a little too much so. I was reading Runners World last night on the train home from NYC and they had a great article on destination races. Doing one, domestic or international, is definitely on my to do list. If Richmond's entry fee hadn't been so cheap I might be doing one this year. At any rate, they had a great list of solid races and race vacation groups to consider. I am mostly certainly considering one in particular (timing, money, etc be damned). I've bookmarked the website page and need to start scheming on how to pay and train for it. It is so outlandish that it probably won't happen, but at the same time crazy enough for me to want it. Badly. Dying to know where? Go here. Then come back and tell me it is the best idea I've ever had. I'm ready to throw my cap over the wall...


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Track Tuesdays

After a long absence, I got my butt out of bed and hit the track this morning. I haven't shown up in at least a month so I had some butterflies in my stomach, not knowing how my body was going to perform. It was lightly raining when I left the house and it was coming down harder by the time I got there. Coach George adapted the scheduled workout based on the half I have coming up this weekend and the fact that I haven't been out there in quite a while. After a half mile warm up and some drills, I did 400, 800, 800, 400, 400, 400. The first 400 was kind of crap, around 1:49. The 800s were not much better and I'm glad that I can't recall the times right now. However, the subsequent 400s were much better, with the last one coming in at 1:42. I was pleased that I got faster as they went on and I actually thought I had one or two more in me but George told me to pack it in.

I really needed that workout today. I needed to have a good run under my belt before the half. I know that repeats on a track and 13 miles on the road are vastly different, but knowing that my body isn't as banged up as it seems calms me down a bit. I still won't be able to race the half the way I'd originally planned and a PW is still a real possibility. But if I can remember that I am a capable runner, and that this race is a tune up for several others that are on the horizon, I just might be ok. Bottom line, I want to have fun. And I haven't felt like fun was a possibility in the longest time.

I'm still damp and cold, despite a hot shower and warm clothes, but knowing I hammered it out in bad conditions just makes this morning a little sweeter. It did rain on the half last year, so I need to be prepared for that to be the case again this year.  My sister will be on the course with me this time, and I'm really excited for her because this is her first road half and I think she can really kill it if she wants to. My brother in law is going to smoke both of us but having family out there with me, even if we aren't running together, means a lot.

I have to head back up to NYC this afternoon through tomorrow night for work, and I leave Friday for home so I don't see myself getting out for another run before race morning. CAR does have a tempo run scheduled for Friday morning but I'm not sure that is the wisest thing for me to do. I know how sore I can be after tempo runs and I don't want to be worried about that going into Sunday morning. This is going to be my 5th half, so I shouldn't be a ball of nerves. But...I am. A little bit. At any rate, this morning was what I needed. I'm actually smiling today. Good times.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you've had a great weekend. I've got one more day left to mine, but please don't hate. While I kick back and watch the Yankees on this beautiful afternoon, please enjoy this week's installment of High-Low.

Emotional High:
I am not sure I can pinpoint one moment this week. It was more about a series of choices I made over the course of several days that I can be proud of. There were ample opportunities to let others influence my emotions and to let those emotions control me. What was different, for once, was that I put my foot down. I made the choice not to let someone make me feel like less than what I am. I refused to enter a difficult situation letting someone else's emotions set the stage for the encounter. This is brand new territory for me.  I usually give my emotions free rein and then wallow in the aftermath, wondering what went wrong. Bottom line, I'm tired of feeling terrible. I'm taking small steps to change that, and it doesn't happen overnight. I'll still have rough days, but I think I'll be able to roll with them better.

Workout High:
It wasn't the elusive good run that I'm looking for, but it was decent and I had super new company. Thanks to Team Tough Chik, DC-based Toughie Becky heard my plea on Facebook and agreed to join me for 10 miles on Saturday morning. It was my last long run before the half and I knew I didn't want to do it alone. Never having met before, conversation came easy. We headed out from Columbia Marina, up through Rosslyn, on the Custis Trail to Stafford Street and then back. The time wasn't spectacular but there was no walking and little pain, which made me pretty happy. I'm slowly getting my hydration figured out as well, so there was no panicky water stop like there was on my 12 the weekend before. The weather was beautiful, the company was great, and the hills were the right challenge. Thank you, Becky!

Emotional Low: 
This week's emotional low came while I waited for the 5k to start this morning. There was a 1 mile family fun run first, and I decided to watch everyone cross the finish. Moms and Dads, their little ones in tow, laughing and running towards the finish together. It had me in tears. It just bowled me over in that moment. All I could think about was relationships past, some more recent than others, and things that I probably won't get to have in this life. A little too heavy for a Sunday morning and not the mindset you want heading into a race.  It wasn't anything I could shake off right away, and it definitely weighed on me as I slogged through my own three miles. As soon as I got back to my car I reached out to a friend who would know exactly what I was talking about. Sure enough, she commiserated and tried to hold me up. I'm trying not to let it set the tone for the day, but sometimes you just have to be sad and that is okay too.

Workout Low: 
Today's Vienna "Run for Fun" 5k was anything but. I ran it on legs that were still feeling yesterday's hilly 10 miles. It just wasn't my morning but I knew showing up and running, no matter what, was the right thing to do. I was less than stoked about this before I registered, but did so because a friend really wanted to do it as a post-vacation kick in the butt. I knew I had a long run the day before but...I have trouble saying no and this is a friend that I have a hard time standing up to. Three days before the race she decides, from half-way around the world, to extend her vacation and bail on the race. So I was on my own for something I never wanted to do in the first place. But I made a commitment and paid my $25, so damn it I was going to go. The only good thing I can say is that in the long run it was a good exercise in running on tired legs. Something that I will need to get used to.  Otherwise, I was really unhappy. I started out too fast, sub-9, when I just wanted to crank out easy 10's like a wuss. The course was an out and back, but hilly-ish and my hamstrings were having none of it. I got progressively slower as the race went on, and I even broke my own rule of not walking. I finished in 28:29 and I'm pretty disappointed. I'm still waiting for that one good run to feel like I'm capable. The half is next Sunday and confidence is just plain low.  

Now, I brought you all down with those two lows, and I don't want to end this post like that. I'm already thinking ahead to my week, wondering where my new highs will come from. I get to see family and friends at home next weekend, which always makes me smile. As of this afternoon there are also no last minute trips to NYC on the docket either, which is a relief. I love getting out of the office, but the up and back in one day makes me really tired.

The Yanks just won, so I'm smiling. Time to make some dinner and perhaps treat myself to some froyo. I hope you all had a great weekend, looking forward to reading those race reports!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Random Friday...ahforgetaboutit

Sorry kids, my brain does not currently have the capacity to come up with random facts. This week feels like it has gone on forever and I don't even work a full 5 days anymore. I blame the anticipation of a potentially unpleasant experience for why the week has dragged. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has experienced time-slowing during periods of dread or anxiety. What is that about?  All we ever want is for it to be over with as soon as possible, not this drawn-out gut-wrenching anxiety-filled waiting period. Rude.

At any rate, I survived said experience and the sun rose this morning. Life goes on. I've got 10 miles planned for tomorrow and I'm almost excited. Not so much for the running part but because I'm meeting a new running friend! We're both on the same team and she responded enthusiastically to my Facebook plea for company on Saturday. Sucker. I haven't decided on the route yet, but I'm leaning towards the Custis trail. Not so much because I want a hilly workout but because I know where I can refill my water bottles if I run out.

Sunday is supposed to be a 5k race day. I say supposed because my friend convinced me to sign up with her. She planned on running it two days after her return from a European vacation as a good kick in the butt.  What she didn't tell me was that there was a chance she'd extend her vacation by a few days and back out on me at the last minute. Had I known that was a possibility, I would have waited and risked paying the extra race-day registration fee. Now I'm either out the money or I run alone on tired legs. Neither sounds particularly appealing at the moment. I am going to pick up my packet tonight and try to grab hers at well.  Not so much because I'm that nice but because I'm clinging to the slim hope that someone will step in and run with me.

On a lighter note, it looks like all the big logistical details are coming together for my week in the Bahamas. I am excited but nervous. I always get nervous before I travel, especially if I'm going with other people. I feel somewhat responsible for their good time. It is my vacation, at the end of the day, and I want to make the most of it. But I want my company to be glad they came too. Now I just need to find the money to pay for everything I charged on my credit card. And it wouldn't hurt if August got here sooner rather than later. I might just start a daily countdown in my planner. I'm that desperate for something good to happen in my life. And I know I'll be two months into marathon training at that point, aka ready to run away and never come back.

If you're racing this weekend, best of luck!  Can you relate at all to any of the above? It is nice to hear now and again that I'm slightly less crazy than I thought.  Sending you all warm beachy thoughts.....

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

In 3.5 months, I'll be here. This is what is getting me through today.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Two Things Tuesday

1. I thought the odds of me making it to the track this morning were pretty darn good, actually. I went to bed at a decent hour and I felt comfortable with the workout that was planned. It was all fine and good until my alarm went off this morning and self-doubt came storming in. "You'll be running alone. Getting lapped. As usual." "Your hamstring is still sore from Saturday, you'll probably end up stomping off the track after the first interval." And so on. I am not a reasonable person capable of rational thought at 5:30 in the morning, so self-doubt won out again and I just laid in bed beating myself up until it was time to get up for work. I'm not going to get any better if I don't try, but I'm too scared to try, so I stay the same. Do what you always do and get what you always got.

2. Losing weight while training is a tough thing to do. Losing weight in general is hard enough. But I think as athletes we have a more difficult time doing so. We are constantly walking a fine line between fueling up enough to perform and cutting back enough to lose. One wrong meal decision can tank an entire workout. Eating properly but not logging enough miles gets you nowhere fast. Right now, in addition to taking a ridiculous amount of supplements, my focus is on making sure I get enough protein. Carbs are a non-issue, considering how much and how easily I seem to consume them. I'm keeping a watchful eye on that while upping my protein and trying to see if I notice a difference on the road and on the scale. Has anyone else encountered this problem? I can do the weight loss thing, albeit inappropriately, and I can do the training thing, albeit eating like a fiend. I just can't seem to get the two to work together.

Yeah, I know that the theme is usually three things for a Tuesday or Thursday, but I couldn't come up with a third that I wanted to post here and the word two pairs well with Tuesday. So there.

Monday, April 23, 2012

High Low

I haven't done a high-low post in a while, so this is overdue.  I know it isn't exactly the end of a week but I'll still review the last 7 days as best I can.

Workout High: Knocking out 12 miles with a new friend on Saturday morning. It wasn't the best long run ever, or even that good in general. It was more about knowing I can still complete that distance. I know I wouldn't have been about to do it on my own and I'm super grateful to my fellow GOTR coach Jessica for joining me.  We knocked out another 4 miles this morning and I think it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Emotional High: Getting an amazing card from my mother in the mail. I won't post what she wrote, it was really personal, but it was something that I needed to hear very badly and I will be reading it often. I'll never take her, or my father, for granted. I'm very blessed.

Workout Low: Bikram yoga was just not in the cards for me yesterday. I went and made it through all of the standing postures but for some reason I was dangerously nauseous as soon as we hit the floor. There was only a half hour left in the 90 minute class but I had to step out. I've opted out of postures before but I've never had to step out of the room. I stayed out about 5 minutes, caught my breath and refilled my water. The break did make all the difference, and I was able to finish out the rest of the class without incident. Still, it was frustrating to not be able to hang the entire time.

Emotional Low: In stark contrast to my emotional high, I had a fight with my parents. Again, I won't get into the details, but it was very hurtful. I didn't speak to them for a few days, which is very out of the ordinary for us. Fences are mended now but it really knocked me for a loop.

There have been more lows than highs lately, both in workouts and in my daily life, but I'm trying to keep putting one foot in front of another. I don't know where I'm headed but I know that staying in place is not an option and only perpetuates any pain I'm experiencing.  This week will be as busy as the rest tend to be, for better or worse. I hope to squeeze in a few runs as well but I never can tell how my week is going to shake out.

Less than 2 weeks until my next half. At this point I plan on making it a training run. I have another half the first weekend of June and I hope I'll be in better shape by then. If not, there are always other races.  I'm racking up PWs this year left and right, so what is one more? I might not always remain positive, but at least I still have some sense of humor.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Random Friday Facts

1. I have to run 12 miles tomorrow and...I'm nervous. The last two 10 milers haven't gone so smoothly so I'm not exactly looking forward to adding on two more.

2. I reduced my work schedule from 5 days a week to 4 and the change has made a big difference in my quality of life. Too bad the quality of my paycheck suffers.

3. Financial aid is a pain in the butt in the best of times. In the worst of times they charge your credit card twice for a deposit and then send you letters saying you aren't accepted into a program and therefore your application is invalid.

4. GOTR coaching hasn't been what I had hoped.

5. I've been averaging 10 hrs of sleep a night lately and it still isn't enough. Sensing a problem...

6. I now take more pills than...well...a lot of people. I hope they start doing something soon.

7. My Friday night is going to involve a washing a load of dirty running clothes and going to bed before nine o'clock. I know, I need to calm down.

8. Have I mentioned that I heart ART? Because I do. It works, people.

9. Cutting down to one cup of coffee per day has been brutal.

10. I just got my vacation time for August approved. Bahamas here I come!

11. Yes, you are welcome to come with me!

12.  I'm thinking of moving when my lease is up in August.

13. I need more close friends. Living in VA has been a pretty lonely experience.

14. I've had Indian food three times this week. It is just too good.

15. I'm trying to be more honest and open with people while building a solid wall to keep myself safe. It is exactly as complicated as it sounds.

16. My goal race for a half PR is no longer June. I'm really bummed, but I just haven't logged the miles and I don't want to set myself up for disappointment.

17. Running and I tread lightly around each other these days, but I think we're moving towards a more positive relationship. It will just take more time than I anticipated.

18. Life coaches rock. Everyone should have one.

19. I don't post nearly enough pictures on here. I never carry a camera on my runs, phone or otherwise, and I think posting what you eat can be a little weird. Although, if you want cat pictures...

20.  Never underestimate the loving capacity of your mom. Ever.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The slow runner

Happy Monday, everyone.  Bah humbug, I say. Just in one of those moods I suppose.  And if you know me, you know they are pretty common. Was up and out the door for a short four miles around 8 this morning and it was a struggle.  Mind you, I threw down a decent 8 miles just two days beforehand. You would think that four would come easy, but it didn't.

My calves, I am happy to report, are doing better. Thank you, Dr Bills. My shins, however, are still barking. My legs cannot seem to get their shit together. If it isn't one thing, it is another. I didn't warm up or stretch at all this morning, just straight into the run, but that isn't unusual. I just couldn't get into a groove and soon enough my running partner was pulling away.

This is becoming more and more common on my runs and it does not make me feel good at all. I tried to tell myself that this was my run, at my pace, but it didn't help. I'm just out of shape and my running friends are not. What bothers me more is that when I wasn't the slow runner, I didn't leave my partner behind when we hit a trail together. I just didn't. It didn't seem right and there were always going to be other runs where I could push the pace. For me, half of running with someone is the company and conversation.

I understand that we are all training for something, I do. And I'll be the first one to admit that when I'm on the track, I'll take off. But to me those seem like different cases. Maybe I'm wrong. I suppose this is something that I need to get used to and my ego needs to take a back seat. Selfishly, I do miss being the faster partner. If I keep working on it, I might get back to where I was. In the meantime I need to get comfortable where I am, bringing up the rear.

Tomorrow is another day, and the chance for a better run. I'll be at the track at 6:15 tomorrow morning, jitters and all. The sooner I can string a few good runs together, the better.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Looking forward

I ran. I walked. I cried. I finished.

That sums up my experience at the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile yesterday. And I honestly don't want to expand upon it further.  My body and I are not speaking to each other right now and while some ART this morning helped, I'm not sure when I plan to run again. The track beckons me tomorrow morning, and with a half marathon just 5 weeks away I can't afford to be missing workouts. Classic impasse.

Having a series of painful runs in a row makes me nervous to put one foot in front of the other. Right now the advice I've been given involves ice and stretching. More ART on Saturday. No specific mention of rest. I wish I had more to say but I'm still in a bit of a funk, running and otherwise.

On a happier note, my sister and brother-in-law both ran Cherry Blossom as well and rocked it! They are also running the same half marathon in May. Even though we don't stick together on race courses, it is good to know that you've got family with you. I definitely think that it has brought us closer and I look forward to more races together.

A big thank you to my Tough Chik team for the words of understanding and encouragement in relation to my race experience. It helps to know I'm not the only one who has had a bad race and that it is possible to learn from it and bounce back even better. I hope to have a happier post for you soon. Keep your fingers crossed for me. 

Lastly, congrats to all all my CAR teammates for their great performances and PRs yesterday!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Q word

Honestly, it was probably inevitable.

The workout started fine. Cold, but fine. 800m warmup, plans for 6-8 800s with 400m recovery. The warm up was fine, and the drills and strides before the first 800 were okay too. By the end of the first 800, however, something wasn't right.  I was three seconds off my target pace, which isn't bad for the first interval. The problem was that I already felt tired. My turnover was poor, I couldn't engage my hamstrings, and my shins were aching.

The second and third repeats were each an additional 2-3 seconds slower then the one before it and the shin pain was worse. I'd had a tough run the morning before but I was trying to convince myself that it was because I'd taken four days off in a row and am struggling to get back into a routine.  And that is part of the truth. But the real culprit, at least for now, is my damn shoes. My beloved Kinvaras. As soon as I put my new pair on last week, they didn't feel right. Not like the prior pair, which I loved and ran MCM in.

These didn't hug my arch and had no cushioning. I had similar calf and shin pain last week when I ran in them but I thought it was a lack of stretching or being out of shape or anything else. I just didn't want to have to return my pretty pretty shoes. It looks like I have no choice, especially once Coach George basically told me they were a piece of crap.  Not that it mattered, because I was already upset about QUITTING on the workout. So I wandered up and down the final 100 meters of track, crying about being fat, slow, and a quitter. Usually I can leave my shit on the track and power through, but not today.

All in all a pretty bad start to my morning. I'm going to return the shoes tonight on my way home, going back to my old Triumphs. I'm not sure what I'll race in on Sunday, my old dead Kinvaras or new Triumphs. I like a little time to get comfortable in a new pair of shoes before I race in them, so it is a tough call. Although to be honest, I won't really be racing this Sunday. I'm in no shape to do more than treat it as a long run and practice for the 1/2 I have coming up in 5 weeks. I just want it to be over with and I hate going into a race with that feeling. Being under-trained sucks, especially when it is no one's fault but your own.

I'm going to go back to eating my feelings now. You may carry on with the rest of your day. Thanks for stopping by. Obviously, advice and words of encouragement are always welcome. Oh! And thanks to Cris and others on the track this morning for their kind words as I trudged along. It was much appreciated.