Monday, December 3, 2012

and it's December, WTF?

Where is the time going?  Days are flying by so fast.  It's a little ridiculous.  Only two more weeks and I'm on vacation for the rest of the year.  Only 40 days until I get Goofy again.  And of course none of that matters if the Mayans were right and we only have 18 days until the end of the world.  A lot has happened since my last post.  I've run a lot, worked a lot, ate a lot for Thanksgiving, did NOT go shopping on Black Friday and did NOT win the powerball.  I really thought I had a chance because I didn't win the big jackpot, but I won $4 and I noticed that the payout for the next drawing was 26.2 million so I thought it was a sign.  It was a sign, that I was about to lose $4.

I made a giant feast for Thanksgiving.  My mom and brother and grandmother came to visit.  It was great to see them even though my grandmother didn't know who I was or where she was.  The meal was good.  I made butternut squash and apple soup, organic free range turkey, organic stuffing, organic potatoes, organic mushroom gravy, organic veggie gratin, organic brussel sprouts, quinoa pilaf (with organic carrots, celery, onions, and fennel), AND TWO organic cheesecakes.  This one was chocolate with peanut butter chips and toffee crumbles:
And then I had to make the Pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap pecan crust and caramel swirl, that one is the best:
The whole meal was amazing.  Thankfully, I ran a 5K in the morning so I was sort of guilt-free feasting.  Not going to lie though I wore my stretchy pants in anticipation of overeating. 

The following weekend was my first really long back to back runs for Goofy training.  I did 10.75 and 16 and both runs went really great.  I'm still not as fast as I was last year, which makes me wonder if there is something going on with my general health whether it's anemia or something else I don't know.  I may go to the doctor if it doesn't improve.  Anyway, I did both runs and felt really good.  I avoided the malls and shopping and stayed inside most of the weekend eating leftovers and making soup.

Last week I did two 5 mile runs in the middle of the week and then my goofy runs on the weekend were 12 miles and 18 miles.  It was a great weekend.  I went to the mall Friday night to try and get into the holiday spirit, but it didn't really work.  Saturday, I did my 12 mile run in the snow, then a little more shopping and dinner with a friend at Life Alive.  Sunday, my 18 miler was weird.  I felt fine, but my heart rate was really low.  I felt like it should have been higher than it was and I felt like I was going a lot faster than my Garmin told me I was going.  I felt great, no pains or tummy troubles or anything, just slow.  After the run, my friend came over and we spent the afternoon watching movies and catching up and then got dinner at Life Alive.  Yup, back to back, it's that good.

I can't believe that there's really just 5 weeks to go til Disney.  It's sneaking up really fast.  I'm so excited!After the 12 and 18 this weekend, I feel ready.  I was able to do both runs without any issues, I was just slower than I was last year.  It's all about having fun so I'm not too concerned.  Now, if I still feel like junk when I start training for Big Sur then I will get frustrated and maybe finally break down and go to a doctor for blood work.  I just populated my 2013 training plan in excel and I didn't realize there is only 14 weeks between Goofy and Big Sur.  I have done it before with Goofy and Boston, but it looks crazy in the training plan.  Maybe after 2013 I'll take a break from marathons, or not.  We'll see.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Holy giblets and gravy Batman!!!!

It's Thanksgiving week already!  Time is going by so fast it's scary.  I've been so busy at work and at home I feel like the world has started to spin faster and the days are shorter and there just isn't enough hours to get everything done.

So, Here is a crazy, super-condensed wrap-up of the past few weeks:
1. Hurricane Sandy swept through New England and spared my neighborhood but destroyed some surrounding areas.  Basically, forced a rest day and some mid-run re-routes due to downed trees and power lines.  Thoughts and prayers with those that were effected more severely.
2. Did a nice 8 mile group run with friends November 3rd over the hills of Tewksbury and Andover, then had to miss a friend's wedding and a 5K I was registered for because I had to travel for work again.  Off to Copenhagen, DK for a week.
3. No downtime to enjoy Copenhagen this time around so, no running tours of the city.  All work and no play, plus not a whole lot of vegetarian food options for me made for a very long week and a weight loss of about 5lbs. due to starvation.
4. Upon return to the States, I went to bed and woke up in the middle of the night hour after hour, not adjusting well to the return during daylight savings time.  Ran another 8 miler with friends the Saturday after I flew back.  Then fell asleep at 3:00 in the afternoon.
5. Sunday November 11th, I ran the Chilly Half marathon in Newton.  Not as great as the Ashland Half a few weeks before.  The course was just as challenging and my body was a wreck from lack of sleep and starving for a week.  I finished in around 2:20 and did not feel good afterwards.
6. Took me the rest of the week to get back to a normal sleep schedule.  I rested Monday and Tuesday, then resumed running Wednesday with an easy 4 miler.  Then Thursday I went to Ayer for a fun run with Kim and Ryann after work.
7. This weekend, I had Goofy back to back long runs planned in between various activities with friends.  First, the Twilight movie Friday night with a friend (not a huge fan, but willing to go so my friend didn't feel weird going alone).  Saturday, I had to clean and do laundry and dishes and squeeze in 7-8 miles and grocery shopping for Thanksgiving.  I went to Trader Joes and Whole foods and still didn't get everything I needed.  Sunday, I had planned to do 14 miles with my Goofy friends that are doing Disney too, then a birthday party in Ayer for Kim, but first more grocery shopping.

Phew, there's a lot more in between all this.  I don't know where to start.  36 days until Christmas, 43 days left in the year, 54 days until I run the Goofy Challenge, 75 days until the Race Up Boston Place for American Lung Association.  I really wish time would slow down just a little bit.  Not just so that I could train for all these upcoming events, but work is getting crazy busy too.  It's that time of year when deadlines approach and metrics reports are due along with self appraisals and performance reviews, benefits enrollment and holiday parties.  UGHHHHH!!!!  I need a vacation, thank GOD I have one coming in the end of December to recharge my batteries.

Normally, I would have been psyched to go to Copenhagen again, but with everything going on and coming due here I really couldn't afford lose an entire week off site, but I had to go.  While I was there, things halted back home and I worked from 7am to 7pm, followed by team dinners late into the evening.  I managed to run in the hotel fitness center twice early in the morning before it was even open, but as the week went by it wore me out and I needed sleep more than running.  So, it's almost like I lost an entire week of work time and training time.  Precious time I will not get back and increased stress and pressure to get things done now that I'm back and time continues to march on.

Saturday morning there was frost on the ground and temperatures were in the 20s slowly warming to above freezing, signs that winter is well on it's way.  I took my time getting motivated to get out and get my run on.  I knew I needed to clean my house a little for Thanksgiving and friends coming over to run Sunday anyway, so I shuffled around the house all morning cleaning and sipping my tea until almost noon and finally got dressed and headed out for my shorter long run of the weekend.  Plan was to do 8 miles, but time crunched and not motivated I cut it to 7 miles.  My foot is feeling good and my pace was OK, I'm just overwhelmed with everything else I need to do over the next few weeks. 

Sunday morning I got up early, got dressed and drove out along the 14 mile loop to place water bottles for my friends.  Got back home and had some tea and breakfast before they showed up.  Andy and Kit arrived right on time around 8:30, ready to run.  Andy taped up his knee and warned that we would have to monitor it as we ran because he was nursing an injury.  They had been doing a walk-run program in preparation for the Goofy Challenge so we planned to run about five minutes and walk one minute.  Not my usual routine, but I'm game to try something new and stick with them so we could chat and catch up a little.
First three miles of my running loops are a real test of friendship, many people will never run with me again after running this route, but true friends come back again.  Kit and Andy made it to the top of "the Hill" to the first water stop like a couple of champs!  We topped off water bottles and continued.  About 5 miles in Andy started to lag behind a little as Kit and I got to know each other better and chatted about various races and the Goofy Challenge.  Around mile six Andy said we may need to cut the run short.  I have a few options to revise the route mid-run cutting the 14 miler to either 12 or a little over 10 miles.  Andy opted for the 10 mile route.  I was fine with that, coming off an injury myself, a recovery week was probably not a bad idea for me.

We made our way back towards my house and continued the walk breaks.  Andy was a trooper, pushed through what looked like intense pain to keep on moving forward.  Kit and I detoured down every side street on the way back for a little extra mileage and to let Andy catch up.  We made it to about a mile away from my house and Andy's knee said stop.  I ran ahead and got my car and picked them up not far from my house.  Gave Andy some ice and ibuprofen and went back to my house for some pumpkin pancakes.  Overall, I'd say we all did an awesome run each accomplishing slightly different mileage with slightly different outcomes, but all in pretty good spirits at the end.

I felt really good and could have easily done 2 more miles so I'm not too worried.  Next weekend I will do 10 and 16.  The 16s and 18s are where I really start to find my happy place and they will let me know if the training is going well or not and if the race will go great or not so great.  I look forward to testing my body once again and seeing my limits and crushing them as I go past where I never thought I could or would go.

This week is going to be crazy busy, meetings at work, metrics and memos.  Plan for running is 5 on Wednesday, then a 5K Thursday morning, 10 Saturday and 16 Sunday.  In between that, I have to bake two cheesecakes, cook a few veggies sides, then roast a turkey and prepare the rest of the fixins, do dishes and laundry and clean my house.  And then Thursday afternoon I totally plan to enjoy and feast followed by full on food induced coma.  No plans for Black Friday, although it might be fun to get up early just to mess with the crazy shoppers and watch the mayhem for pure entertainment value.  For mental and physical preparation for the week, I am getting a 90 minute massage this afternoon.  It is LONG overdue and I CANNOT wait for it.  Words can't describe how much I need to relax and how excited I am to get some much needed 'me time' before gearing up for the end of the year crunch time plus ramping up my miles for Goofy.  It's going to be AWESOME.

Friday, November 2, 2012

How did it get to be November?

Where did the time go?  This year is flying by.  So much is happening so fast.  It's crazy.  Out of control crazy!  I seriously can't believe it's November already and it will be the holidays soon and then a New year!  Or maybe not......I fell asleep on the couch last night watching a bunch of 2012 end of the world scenario shows.  Really scary and hard not to pay attention to.  If the Mayans are right we only have 49 days left.  I'm praying that they are wrong because I still have a lot of things left on my "to-do" list.

Anyway, last weekend was my first goofy training weekend.  I ran 8 miles on Saturday in Ayer with Shannon, Kim, and Ryann.  Felt great and could have kept going.  My foot is really getting a lot better.  It doesn't hurt at all anymore aside from occasional random soreness.  I'm still taping it when I run and sleeping with the foot brace on and wearing special shoe inserts and more supportive shoes at work.  I think I'm almost back to normal.  It's rough, I'm teetering on the edge of going right back to doing too much and falling back into the sedentary lifestyle of resting all the time and not running at all.

Sunday, I ran the inaugural Ashland Half Marathon.  It was cool and cloudy and felt like we might even get a little rain.  The race started at 10:30 on the original start line of the Boston Marathon.  Before the race, I got there early and decided to hand out flyers for the stair climb.  I walked around the parking lot and put flyers under windsheild wipers and gave them to people sitting in their cars to stay warm.  I think I may have convinced a few people to try it out.  I hope so.

The race started and right away I knew it was going to be a challenging course.  I heard someone talking about hills before the race even started and sort of shrugged it off.  They weren't kidding.  The hills seemed never ending.  I felt really good though.  I was keeping a pretty consistant pace despite the terain.  My first 3 miles were all under 10:00, then I got to the first big hill.  Even on that hill I ran a 10:10 mile, faster than my pace in Chicago without any hills.  I stayed right around 10:00 miles plus or minus 10 seconds for the first half.  It started to rain a little, but it felt refreshing and nice because it was sort of warm out to begin with.  Almost tropical.....a little foreshadowing for the hurricane headed to the northeast perhaps.

When I passed the halfway point and still felt amazing I decided to push a little harder and see if I could get a negative split.  I started doing 9:00 miles.  Then I got to mile 10 and another monster hill.  Slowed to 10:13, recovered with a 9:47 in the next mile and then picked it up to an 8:58 for the last mile.  Seriously though, that was a very challenging course, but really fun and beautiful area.  Got to run along some of the Boston Marathon course for a little while (I noticed the mile markers and paint in the street for water stops).  Ashland goes by in a blur during the marathon so it was nice to take in the scenery and enjoy the area a little.  I finished the race in 2:08:29, not a PR but faster than the half I ran before Chicago and considering the hills I was VERY happy with that time.  Here's the course map with elevation:

Monday, the weather forecast was calling for a 'Frankenstorm', Hurricane Sandy plus a Nor'easter hitting the coast at some point during the day.  I went to work and almost as soon as I got there I got an email from my boss saying "go home".  I worked a half day and then headed home.  It was just raining lightly and a little windy out.  I walked over to the grocery store next to work before I left though and the winds were definitely picking up.  It was difficult to walk.  Probably wise to go home.

I got home around noon and started making cookies with the intention to deliver them to the emergency workers in Lowell to help fuel them for the busy day/night ahead of them.  Unfortunately, by the time I finished the cookies the storm had really intensified and the news stations were telling people to stay indoors and DO NOT leave your house.  The idea of walking almost a mile to the central police and fire station seemed like it was not very smart.  All the emergency personnel interviewed on the news were saying their biggest problem was saving stupid people that put themselves in danger and I didn't want to be one of THOSE people.  I'll make cookies another time during better weather for them.

The storm was really scary.  Over 1000 miles wide!!! I didn't lose power, but I wonder if watching the destruction on TV the entire time was worse than not knowing.  My area wasn't hit very hard, I'm on top of a hill so flooding wasn't an issue and most of the trees were thinned last year after Hurricane Irene.  Winds were really whipping around and rain did come down hard for a little while but for the most part it wasn't bad near me.  I can't say the same for some friends.  Patty, who ran Chicago with me, lives and works in NYC and the photos she posted of her neighborhood and having to WALK from Queens to Manhattan to get to work on Tuesday were pretty crazy.

Needless to say I did not run on Monday.  Tuesday, the weather passed and was actually really nice, almost 70 degrees and sunny.  I went to Ayer after work to run with Kim.  We planned to do 6 miles on a hilly loop we have run many times before.  I was not totally thrilled about running more hills after the half I did on Sunday, but whatever. I'm always up for a challenge.  My legs, not so much.  Hamstrings screamed in agony.  I was slower than Kim, but managed to keep up.  We ended up having to cut the run short anyway because the loop we were running was closed due to storm damage.  We ended up only doing 5 miles, but my hamstrings were ok with that.  As soon as we finished the sky opened up and it started pouring rain, so its good we didn't do another mile.

Wednesday, I was going to run after work, but decided not to because I'm trying to resist the urge to do too much too soon and because it was Halloween and I didn't have any candy to hand out.  I bought some and then no one showed up.  I should have just gone for a run.

Yesterday, I brought my running gear to work and changed after work. I like running along the Charles on Thursdays because some school's ROTC program has "lab" on Thursdays so there are guys in uniform with fake guns and stuff playing in one of the parks.  It's pretty entertaining to run past.  But for some reason, when I got to my car to put my things away and head out to run, I really really didn't feel like running.  I got in my car and drove home instead.  I fell asleep on my couch around 5:30!!!!  I don't know what is up.  I really need to figure out what is going on.  Not sure if it's physical or mental.  I'm really struggling.  My motivation is just not there, I feel like junk, and I'm wicked tired.  I gotta snap out of this and get back on track.  Only 71 days til Goofy 2013.

Oh and I guess next week is kind of a big deal, there's some sort of event happening on Tuesday that has been in the news for what seems like FOREVER.  Lucky for me, I will be out of the country and I have already voted by absentee ballot.  Will be nice to stop receiving junk mail from candidates and to see normal commercials again.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Learning to listen to my body

Best Halloween Costume EVER! 

I think maybe the only one that can top this is a costume I have not seen, but only heard about.  A friend told me he once dressed as Forrest Gump complete with Nikes, full beard, and bubba gump shrimp hat.

Anyway, I'm slowly starting to increase my miles again and cautiously getting back to 'normal'.  I'm trying really hard not to over do it.  Resisting the urge to jump right back into doing too much causing me to re-injure my foot.  It feels pretty good and I'm itching to run and feel like myself again, but learning to listen to that little voice in my head that says, "hey stupid, remember when you said you were going to ease back into training, running every day and not resting IS NOT easing in".  I'm catching on and starting to actually listen.

Last week I ran 5 miles on Monday after work.  I felt really good, stretched and iced afterwards.  Tuesday I brought my running gear to work with me with the intention of running again after work, but felt this nagging sense within me telling me that I should not run two days back to back just yet and I should probably take a rest day just to be sure my foot would be OK.  So, I listened and took my gym bag fully packed and prepared right back home and put it on the floor for the next day.

Wednesday, Kim came over after work to run in Lowell.  We did a new-ish 5 mile loop that we have been trying lately that goes partly downtown and then through the hills of the Belvidere neighborhood in Lowell.  It's nice to get this weekly tradition started back up again after the marathon and coming back from my foot injury.  We did pretty good, chatting the whole way except in the last mile, we both picked up the pace and finished the run strong.  I stretched a little more and iced again.  So far so good.

Thursday I decided to test out my foot with another run.  It wasn't as fast as the previous runs in the week and I was a little sore to start, but eventually loosened up and felt OK.  Not sure based on that if I'm ready to start back to back weekend runs for Goofy.  I didn't have any pain and my foot felt OK the following day, but I was a little anxious and worried that it would hurt.  I think my body is ready, but my brain is holding me back a little.  Not necessarily a bad thing.  I do need to proceed with caution, but at the same time, I think I'm ready to start pushing it a little.

Friday I rested and I had planned on running Saturday morning, but it was drizzling and muggy when I woke up and I felt more like staying in my PJs and relaxing than running so I caved to that urge and skipped the run.  I had a couple of birthday parties to go to later in the day and just really didn't have much motivation to do anything.  I chilled on my couch most of the day with the windows open and a hot cup of tea in hand.  Didn't get a lot accomplished but still felt like I made the best choice for my body. 

Sunday morning was one of my favorite races all year, the Boston Fire 10K.  Great course, fast and flat with tons of volunteer support.  Awesome live music after the race, unlimited free beers until the kegs are kicked or until everyone leaves for the Patriots kick off, and raffles for really amazing prizes like $100 gift cards to the North End and weekend get aways to area ski resorts.  And with the exception of the first year that I ran the race in freezing clod and raining conditions, it is usually a gorgeous fall day, cool and sunny.

Yesterday was absolutely perfect.  Temperature was about 50 degrees when we started and the sun was out.  It was a little windy and I was shivering standing around waiting for the start, but as soon as we started running it felt awesome.  It was actually kind of warm.  With the sun shinning brightly on us it felt more like summer than Mid-October.  Last year I remembered getting passed in the last quarter mile by a friend on Boston Fire so I was looking for him this year and I caught him in the last 0.2 of the 10K and passed him on the corner going to the finish line.  I thought redemption was mine, but after checking the results, he must have started after me because he still beat me by several seconds. 

I crossed the finish in about 57 minutes, but didn't stop my watch, I wanted to run back along the course to find my friend Ann and see if I could run her into the finish and get her a new PR.  She was aiming for 1:03.  About half a mile out from the finish I found her and my watch said 1:00:and change.  PR was within reach.  I told her to keep pushing and finish strong.  She could totally do it.  I got her to the last corner and cheered her on the entire way, then stepped off the side of the course and watched her cross the finish mat stopping my watch precisely at that moment.  1:02:59!!!!  She got it.

This week, I will continue with short easy runs during the week and I plan to attempt my first back to back 'long' training runs this weekend.  8 miles Saturday and a half marathon Sunday.  Gotta get Goofy and see how my foot reacts.  Then I can adjust my training plan if needed.  I feel pretty confident based on my recovery from the marathon and runs so far.  It may be time for some new shoes though.  I didn't put much mileage on them before the marathon, but they are about 3 months old and they are the shoes that have really aggravated the Plantar faciitis, so perhaps they were a bad fit from the beginning.  82 days to go til Goofy and marathon #12.  Crazy!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicago recap

Ok where to begin.......well, it didn't go exactly as planned, but it was still a great trip and another 26.2 miles conquered. 

The week leading up to the marathon was the longest week ever!  Time seemed to go by in slow motion and sometimes even felt like it had stopped completely.  I was unable to focus at work and as the days passed my anxiety increased and the hours of sleep I got decreased.  I was worried about my foot even though it had been ok for the past few weeks and I was concerned that the lack of training in the 6 weeks before the marathon would make this race particularly challenging.  I went to one last acupuncture appointment on Tuesday to make sure I was in the best shape I could be in when I got to the start.  Wednesday night I did a short easy run with Kim and Erin, just 4 miles.  Felt pretty good and got a few of the nerves out.

Thursday at work I was freaking out.  I tried to check into my flight online and got an error message that my confirmation code was invalid.  I had to try 3 different websites and then called travelocity and got transferred to the airline and had to check in over the phone.  Extra stress I did not need before leaving.  I hadn't packed yet and I still had the plumber coming at some point before I left to fix a busted radiator pipe in my house.  I got a text message from the plumber saying he was free all day so I took a half day to get the pipe fixed and to pack and try to relax a little.  I got home around noon and the plumber showed up shortly after.  I started packing and laid out everything on my couch checking and double checking that I had two of everything I needed just in case.  I don't know why I might need two pairs of arm warmers and two pairs of throw away gloves and two pairs of running capris, but I might change my mind the morning of the race and decide I want a different color of something.  It's crazy I know.  This is why it was good I took a half day to pack.

The plumber was able to fix the pipe and it cost me less than his original estimate so I was pleasantly surprised.  I managed to jam everything into a carry-on bag and a 'personal item' bag so I didn't have to check anything.  I finished packing in the early afternoon and could finally relax and breath a little easier knowing I was as ready as I could be for my trip.  I even had time to bake some cookies for Kim's father in-law to thank him for the ride to the airport.

Friday morning, bright and early, I got up and drove to Kim and Bill's house to hitch a ride to the airport.  We made it to the airport with a littel time to spare, made it through security and got some coffee before boarding the flight.  I got a window seat, which is my favorite because I can squish and contort myself into a little ball in the corner and fall asleep.  As I got comfy in my seat I looked down and remembered the days that my hips didn't even fit comfortably between the two arm rests.  A guy sat down next to me that looked like a runner, in running shoes and a nice new balance jacket.  I remembered hating fully booked flights because I was so big it was always awkward being that fat person no one wants seated next to them.  I'm not that person anymore and now I really only fly to run marathons, crazy how things change.

Anyway, I asked the guy if he was going to Chicago for the marathon and he said he worked for New Balance and was the race director for the Rotterdam marathon.  He wasn't running, just going for 'business'.  That's a business I'd like to be in. Maybe someday.  We chatted about Rotterdam and he convinced me to add it to my 'to-do' list.  It sounds like a really great race that is growing in popularity.  And why not?  I've never been to Rotterdam, I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't even know where it was.  I had to google it after the plane landed.  I told him I was on the race committee for a stair climb event and gave him some info and my email.  He said he actually has a cousin that is a fire fighter in Connecticut and he would pass the info along.  I hope they both climb, that would be so cool.

Before I knew it, after a little snooze, we landed in the windy city and met everyone at the baggage claim area and headed to the hotel.  Almost all of our flights arrived at the same time so it was incredible.  There was at least 10 of us out of a total of over 20 people running together.  Pretty good planning and scheduling on everyone's part.  We got to the hotel and only about half of the rooms were ready.  People that didn't have rooms yet store their stuff in other people's rooms.  My room, which I shared with my friend Patty from NYC, was ready so we went to the room and dumped our stuff before going to the expo.  The rooms were really nice.  I highly recommend the La Quinta downtown Chicago.  It was actually really really nice.

Everyone met back up in the lobby after a few minutes to store bags and whatnot.  And we headed to the famous "L" train to go to the expo.  We got a little lost and ended up on the wrong train platform and then almost went on the right train headed in the wrong direction.  We eventually got on the right train and got to the stop in Chinatown closest to the expo, but still several blocks away.  We walked a few blocks, checked the map, recalculated our route like a GPS and walked a little more.  We found the building that the expo was in, but approached it from the wrong side so we had to go through the garage in the basement of the building and then to a random set of double doors and finally we found it!

Patty and I got our bib numbers and we lost track of the rest of the group.  We walked around and checked out the expo.  Took a bunch of photos.  Photos of the entrance, then Patty getting her number, and then re-took the one of Patty getting her number because it didn't come out great, then a photo with the official course map and almost everything that said Bank of America Chicago Marathon on it.  It was pretty funny.  Thankfully I was in no hurry and kind of enjoyed the excitement and enthusiasm Patty had for the marathon.  I think somewhere along the way to number eleven I lost that.  For me it's just another long long run and it's lost some of that magic.  Patty helped me find it again.  

As we were walking around we noticed a line around one of the vendor areas and I looked and it was DEAN KARNAZES signing autographs!!!!  Holy crap, I am so glad we took our time and didn't rush through the expo.  We got in line and I MET HIM!  He was so cool.  I showed him a picture of a sign I made for Boston this year using one of his quotes and told him I got a lot of thumbs up from people running.  He was so nice and wished me luck in the race.  I still can't believe I met him.

We checked out all the running gear for sale and all the cool freebies.  The official Nike gear was kind of lame, the graphics sucked and the colors were weird so we skipped buying any of it and found a much cooler shirt totally by accident.  Walking past the 312 beer tent towards the wall of names, they were selling t-shirts for $10 and it was the coolest design in the whole place!  Best shirt ever!  Then I found my name:
We went back to the hotel and tried to see what everyone was planning for dinner, but it seemed like everyone sort of decided to do their own thing so Patty had a friend that lived in Chicago and he happened to live only a few blocks from our hotel so we met him for dinner and went to the famous "Gino's East" for deep dish pizza.  I'm more of a thin crust person, but I figured "when in Rome...."  It was pretty good, but really too much food and too much cheese and crust, just heavy and overloaded with stuff, so much that you couldn't really enjoy the flavors of the individual ingredients.  Not my style, but I tried it.

Saturday, again, it seemed like everyone just wanted to do their own things.  Patty and I got up and got dressed, got the amazing free breakfast at La Quinta and went to the Willis (aka SEARS) Tower skydeck.  It was the one thing I didn't get to do last year and I really wanted to check it out.  We got there early enough that there was no line and we went right to the top.  Man, they're not kidding when they say it's really really tall.  I was a little dizzy at the top.  The views were amazing and then we stood out on one of the glass ledges.  My legs were shaking and I had to back out onto the ledge because I'm terrified of heights and I didn't want to look down.  I get queazy just thinking about it now.  So glad I did it though, it was really cool.  Here's the view (I pointed my camera down, but didn't actually look, came out really good considering):
After the tower, we got lunch and walked to the river boat tours.  Met up with my friend Steve from DFMC and took the river and lake tour.  I had done the river tour last year so it was cool to see the lake part this time.  Unfortunately, it was a little chilly and when the wind picked up it got really cold.  When it wasn't windy it was a perfect sunny fall day, but dang, that wind really goes right through you.  After the boat tour ended we headed back to the hotel then realized it would be better if we just went straight to the restaurant that we were all eating dinner at.  Maggiano's.  Perfect pre-race carbo loading.
After dinner we took cabs back to the hotel and tried to get to sleep.  I could have fallen asleep immediately from food coma.  Patty on the other hand must have been nervous or is just a busy body in general.  She was up and shuffling around for a while after we got back.  I tried really hard to fall asleep but didn't have much luck.  Before I knew it I rolled over to check the clock and it was time to get up.  We both woke up about five minutes before the alarm was set to go off.  We got dressed and went downstairs to grab a quick breakfast before walking to the start. 

As we got closer to the start our group split up because we were all in different corrals.  Patty and I were in the same one and we started walking towards the gate to get into the runner only area and just by chance we walked right past Steve!  So, we all went to bag check together.  As the clock ticked and start time got closer I was excited and overwhelmed.  Exactly 5 years ago to the day I ran the BAA Half Marathon (my first half marathon).  Now I was getting ready to run my 11th full marathon in less than 4 years.  It is so hard to believe I have come so far and accomplished so much.  It blows my mind every time I think about it.  Getting choked up at the start:

Ok, so enough of the build up.  The gun went off and I was running my eleventh marathon.  I ran my own race.  Focused on how far I had come and celebrated with every step.  I reminded myself that I needed to start slow and see how I felt and I could always pick up the pace later on if I felt good.  I felt really good from the start.  I smiled ear to ear and took in all the sights and tried really hard to look around and appreciate every mile.  The miles early on in a marathon seem to go by really fast.  Marker after marker you can't believe you're really doing it and you mentally check off each one as you get closer and closer to your goal.  My pace was ok, comfortable, not fast, but not slow either.  I was consistant as usual.  Then around mile 9 my tummy rumbled.  It was MCM 2009 all over again.  Stomach issues.  I had to stop.  I found a port-o-potty and waited in line watching the time tick on my Garmin and doing the math, I could still hit my goal time.

I started running again and felt pretty good.  My foot was fine and I was making progress, not as fast as I wanted to, but I felt good and I was running strong.  I wasn't stopping and it was an ideal day for a marathon.  Cool at the start, then about 50 degrees as we ran.  Partly sunny with little to no wind.  I was so happy.  I thought about all the people that helped me get to this point and all the people that had told me at some point that I couldn't do something or that I wasn't strong enough or I wasn't good enough.  With every stride I was proving them wrong and I was making my supporters proud.  My mantra for the day was - "I am strong, I am powerful, I am beautiful, and I can do this!"

At mile 20, I felt my tummy rumble a little more and I decided to stop so that I could finish the last 10K strong without any worries.  I watched the time pass again and knew my original goal was impossible, but I could still get under 5 hours if I kept the same pace I was running up til then.  I continued on past Chinatown and the bank clock that broke my heart last year with a temperature in the 80s.  This year it said 51 degrees and I smiled passing it feeling pretty good and not dying from heat exhaustion.

Somewhere around mile 22 I felt a stabbing pain I was hoping to avoid.  MY FOOT!!!!  I'm pretty sure I might have said a not so nice word out loud.  I was so close and NOW it was starting to hurt.  WHY NOW???  I pushed through and tried to adjust my stride and my foot fall to avoid overpronating and heel striking.  It didn't matter much.  It hurt, A LOT.  I kept going.  Nothing was going to stop me.  I looked at my Garmin and tried to do the math, could I still get under 5 hours.  Yes, maybe, I don't know, I don't think so.  Readjusted goal to "just finish".  You can see the pain in my face in one of the best pro photos ever captured of me running:

Running strong and finishing despite incredible pain in my heel.  After I crossed the line and stopped my watch, I hit reset and didn't even look at the time because I saw a 5 and I knew I was OVER 5 hours.  I didn't care by how much.  I just knew it was more than 5 hours and I was disappointed and really upset that my body failed me not once but twice in the race.  First with the stomach issues and then with the foot pain in the last few excruciating miles of the race.  It didn't matter to me that I had overcome both obstacles and finished another marathon.  In my mind I failed and I felt no post-race high and no joy and no sense of accomplishment.  I only felt despair and depression because in the best conditions possible (flat course, perfect weather) I had a really rough race day.
I made it through the finish area and got my checked bag and put on dry clothes and layed on the ground drinking my free beer waiting for Patty to find me.  My foot throbbed with pain and my heart ached from the perceived failure.  I wanted to crawl under a rock and never come out.  Patty found me and tried to cheer me up.  She had run a new PR by A LOT.  The favorable conditions definitely worked well for her.  She helped me up and we went to the post-race party area for more free beer.  I could barely walk.  Putting any weight on my foot hurt and the emotional pain of not performing as well as expected didn't help either.

The beer tent closed so we started the long walk back to the hotel.  I got to see another Chicago landmark I missed the year before - The Bean!:

Walking wasn't going well so I talked Patty into a cab even though we were only 4 or 5 blocks from the hotel.  After showering and changing we met up with the rest of the group and went out for drinks.  Almost everyone in the group PR'd by huge chunks of time.  It made my poor performance even harder to take.  I wanted to be happy for my friends and I wanted to celebrate a great race, but I felt like garbage and I felt like I didn't even belong in the group.  I felt like the odd man out.  The one thing in the group not like the others.  Everyone was talking about how awesome the day was and asking, "How did you do?" I wanted so bad to be able to say I did awesome too and I felt great and it was amazing, but none of that was true.  I felt horrible, I was in pain, and I failed to meet every pre-race and adjusted during race goal I had set for myself.  I wished they would stop asking and I didn't want to hear about how great everyone felt. 

We left the bar and people went back to the hotel or off in various directions to find food.  Patty and I went to one more bar to get another post-race drink.  Patty was determined to make me realize that despite all the things that went wrong I still made it and I did something incredible.  I appreciated the effort, but walking around in search of a drink, hobbling on my foot that throbbed with every step was only a painful reminder with every step that things didn't go as planned and I didn't do as well as I had hoped.  We got one more drink and went back to the hotel.

I didn't sleep at all.  I cried from the pain in my foot and the pain in my heart feeling like such a failure and not part of the group that had all run so strong and so successfully.  I got up part way through the night took a handful of advil and filled a bag of ice to put on my foot.  Eventually, I got a little sleep but not restful and definitely not on cloud nine like the rest of the group.

In the morning we woke up early and packed our bags.  We went to the Nike store to get Patty's medal engraved.  I refused to get mine done because I was so disappointed with my time I was not going to get that put on a medal.  Kim and Bill came shortly after us.  We got there first and started a line outside the store before it opened.  It was a bit of a cluster-f*%& because after waiting outside in the cold for an hour a few people showed up right before the doors opened and walked right in a separate set of doors that the idiot security guards opened before the door we stood in front of for an hour.  We talked to the manager and sorted it out, but seriously, NIKE, get that crap organized next time.  Patty talked me into getting my medal engraved.  I refused to put my time and decided to put a different milestone on it instead:
I'm glad she made me do it.  Now that some time has passed and I have had days to reflect on it, it doesn't matter what the clock said when I crossed the finish line - I DID IT!  5 years ago I didn't think any of this was possible.  I didn't think I could run a half marathon and I thought my friend Jenine was insane for suggesting it and now I have completed 11 FULL marathons in just under 4 years.  That is an amazing accomplishment!  26.2 miles is a marathon no matter how long it takes to finish it and I did it.  I need to be proud of myself.  For too long in my life I have felt like I am not good enough at one thing or another and I have beat myself up for what I thought of as personal failures.  I finished the 2012 Chicago marathon in 5:05:28!  I thought that 5 minutes and 28 seconds made me a failure and I thought that meant I wasn't good enough.  Well, it's time I change my thinking.  I RAN A MARATHON!  That is not just good enough, that is AWESOME!

So, the journey continues.  My foot is feeling better.  I've run twice since the marathon without issues.  And there are 89 days until I get to do it all over again in Disney!  I will approach the training for Goofy with caution and watch to see how my foot feels.  I am icing and taping and stretching and sleeping with a brace on to keep my foot flexed.  I am determined to keep going and I will not let a little disappointment stop me from dusting myself off, getting up, and trying again.  Not every race and not every run is a good one, but the same can be said for life - not every day is awesome and filled with sunshine and rainbows.  I'm stealing this from a great motivational movie character that knows better than anyone how to get beaten down and keep getting up and fighting.
I AM BETTER THAN THAT!  I can take a lot of hits and keep moving forward.  That IS how winning is done!  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Waiting is the hardest part

6 days to go until marathon #11, 4 days of work, one or two more short easy runs, one more acupuncture treatment, a few hours on a plane and the fun begins Friday morning in Chicago with a huge group of all my running friends.  The anticipation is building, anxiety and excitement.  I've been here before I know what to expect, but it never makes it easier.  As my brother said to me two years ago as we drove the course of the Portland Marathon, "26.2 miles IS FAR!"  Nothing left to do now, but menatlly prepare for the journey ahead.  Training is done.  Good or bad, I can't change anything now.  I can go over it a thousand times in my head - I wish I would have done something different and I wish that run felt better or I wish I pushed harder or I wish I did more cross training and strength training and I wish I didn't eat so much ice cream this summer.  It's all behind me now and the only thing to do now is rest, try to relax, and hope for good weather.

Before I get there, I have done a little preparation leading up to this week.  Two weekends ago, I ran the Wicked Half Marathon in Salem, MA.  It's a nice challenging course with rolling hills.  I'm still a little nervous that my foot will bother me during the marathon so the half was a good test.  And since I've basically taken the last month and a half off to rest and treat the injury and pray for the best possible body to make it to the start line on October 7th, I am not really sure how my pace will be and if it will be a good race or a complete shit show.  I used the half as a barometer to gauge how my body would react to the miles and to predict my potential performance in the marathon.

I got to the race really early, it was still dark out.  I was able to park right across the street from the school where the packet pick up was and where the start/finish was.  I had time to use the bathroom in the back of the gym that no one had discovered yet.  Only part about getting there early that sucks is waiting.  I walked around and chatted with a few other runners.  Dropped off my warm layers in my car and went to the bathroom one more time, by that time the secret was out and there was a line.  Anyway, ready or not, the race started and I was off and running.

I started the race conservatively and just wanted to feel it out and see how my foot felt.  It was a little sore to start, but within a mile or so it loosened up and felt ok.  I still tried to tread lightly and din't really push the pace.  I had passed these two girls talking and they noticed a younger girl in front of us wearing fitted capri running pants that hugged her curves in all the right ways.  They said something like, "I wish my ass looked like that."  I looked and briefly thought the same thing, then I thought, screw that!  I have a nice ass too and it's running just as fast as that girl.  So, my mantra for the race became "I am beautiful, I am Strong, and I am powerful!" (and I'm running just as fast as that skinny bitch, hahaha)

By the time I passed the water stop 5 miles into the race and took my first gel, I felt awesome and decided to pick up the pace a little and see what I could get for a time.  The course wrapped around the neck of Marblehead and the hills out there are brutal, but before I knew it I was passing mile 7 and headed back towards Salem and I was feeling amazing.  The perfect ass was still just ahead of me, but I kept her in my sights and after mile 8 I was feeling really strong and powerful so I passed her and her perfect ass.  Only 5 miles to go!

I held onto that pace and continued to pass people.  With just a few miles to go I couldn't believe it.  I felt great.  I was thinking to myself, my acupuncturist is a friggin magician!  My foot was totally better.  I noticed a little soreness in my legs, but that might be because this was the longest I had run since I did 13.1 in my half ironman a few weeks before.  I didn't care because my main concern, my foot, felt fine.  I passed the last mile marker and wanted to cry I was so happy.  I was passing people left and right and still picking up my pace and about to finish really strong.  I wasn't even pushing as hard as I could because I could talk, I passed a girl wearing a really cute Lululemon top and asked her how recently she bought it and if they still had that color in stock.

I rounded the last corner and now there was just about half a mile between me and the finish line.  I looked at my watch, not a PR, but right on target to finish where I wanted to be before the marathon.  I kicked a little harder and pushed giving it all I had to get to the finish line and stop the clock.  I crossed in 2:11 averaged a 10:05 pace.  A lot faster than my half ironman run and a lot faster than I expected.  Confident and really happy, I am totally ready for the marathon.  Most of my fear about my foot vanished and the fear that I wouldn't be able to run the marathon was gone completely. 
I was a little sore after the race and I walked around a bit and stretched.  The runner's high began to wear off just as I met my friend for a smoothie and a cup of tea at the Salem Life Alive.  My foot was a little achey, but not so bad that I couldn't walk on it like it was after my 20miler.  Nothing that a few more acupuncture appointments and some rest couldn't fix.  After catching up and chatting over some tea, I headed home and celebrated the run with some treats from Trader Joes.
The following week was crazy busy at work and I had another acupuncture appointment Tuesday, then a short easy run with Kim Wednesday.  Thursday I had a plumber come over to look at the broken radiator pipe in my living room.  I was stressing out about the estimate because I have no concept of what it should cost and what's involved to fix it.  It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought.  He said he could order the part the next day and fix it sometime next week in about two hours for a total of about $180.  I mean I would rather not have to spend that money, but I'm extremely excited it's just $180 and not another zero on the end. 

I hadn't been sleeping great so I decided to go home and relax Friday night.  Saturday morning was a group run with a few of the people going to Chicago so I wanted to be well rested.  It worked, I went to bed early and woke up in a puddle of my own drool feeling so rested that I was a little woozy and dreaming that I was drunk.  The weather was cool and rainy, so a few people bailed on the run and not as many people as expected showed up.  I was bummed for two reasons, I wanted to meet some of the people I didn't know and I knew the people that did show up were a lot faster than me.  I ended up just doing 5 miles out and back.

I got home afterwards, showered and put on some warmer clothes and made some soup.  It was a perfect day for soup.  Totally yucky out.  Passed out on my couch watching TV and went to bed early again because Sunday I had a 5 mile race to go to.  My friend Sarah was the race director and it was her first event so I signed up and told her I'd be there to support her.  When I woke up I had to take my resting heart rate 3 times because I didn't believe how low it was - 44beats per minute.  Amazing what a good night sleep will do for you.

The weather had gotten worse from the day before.  I was hoping that it would clear up, but when I drove to the race the rain started coming down even harder.  The urge to bail was really strong.  I didn't want ot get sick before Chicago, but I told Sarah I'd run so I got my number and sat in my car to stay warm and dry.  It was only 5 miles, I could do that in my sleep.  With half an hour to go before the start I decided maybe if I ran a little first to warm up it wouldn't suck so much.  My ankle was kind of bothering me and it felt better to run than to walk so I jogged around and did about a mile before the start.  I saw a friend from my old job and stopped to chat with her and in the distance people were starting to run, I said "is that the start?" and she said, "yeah but it's the 5 miler, we're running the 5K", to which I responded, "crap I gotta go I'm doing the 5 miler!"

I ran past Sarah at the start and she said don't worry you'll catch up.  The course was hilly.  Nothing ginormous, but a few long inclines that slowed me down a bit.  I thought to myself and smiled, "Chicago is flat."  It was a very pretty area and they had the roads completely closed which is nice.  It went by pretty fast and I finished in about 46 minutes.  I'll take it!  9:20 pace a week before the marathon and feeling good.  I'd say I'm ready.  Great race and good to see a few friends too.  Wish I could have hung out a little longer, but I needed to go grocery shopping and get some dry clothes on.  Apple Harvest 5miler - definitely a race I will run again.

So, the countdown is on.....6 days to go!  This week will go by painfully slow and I will just want to go and then the weekend will go by way faster than I want it to.  I know the drill at this point, but have to remember to take it all in and enjoy every minute of it.  Sunday will be exactly 5 years from the day I ran my first half marathon.  Hard to believe that back then I laughed at the idea of running 13.1 miles and thought my friend Jenine was insane for suggesting it and now I am about to run my 11th FULL marathon.  I have run 25 half marathons since then not including the two 13.1 mile runs in the half ironmans I've completed.  CRAZY!!!!! 

I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!!  The next few days will not go by fast enough.  And then it will be time to RUN!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On the Mend

After 4 weeks of acupuncture, resting, icing, stretching, taping, and resting some more I'm finally starting to feel like myself again.  This past weekend I ran a 5K on Saturday for American Cancer Society.  It was at Boston College.  Driving there took me down a familiar road through Newton and over my favorite hills in the world.  I drove over the 30K painted on the pavement and smiled.  Found the race and parked.  I got there early, got my number and shirt and brought my bag back to my car.  It was overcast and cool, a perfect morning for a run.  I kind of didn't feel like running and the waiting around before the race was annoying.  I was kind of wishing I had just done a short run at home instead, but I was there I might as well run.  The urge to bail and get in my car and go home was strong, but I lined up and the gun went off and I ran.
The course was pretty flat.  It went through a few streets on the BC campus and around the reservoir.  I was a little hesitant to push myself at first because I wasn't sure how my foot would react.  The first mile was on pavement, but the pavement ran out and around the reservoir was crushed stone and sand, ideal for most runners, but it made me nervous because uneven surfaces are exactly what bothers my foot the most.  I felt ok.  My foot was fine, I just had a little tightness in my calves and hamstrings, but that faded as I passed the 2nd mile marker and then I decided to push a little for the last mile.  It wasn't my fastest 5K ever, but it was probably the fastest I have run recently.  I averaged just over a 9:00 pace and paced it perfectly.  I think I had about a 9:30 in the first mile, then a 9:15 and just under 9:00 for the last mile.  I'll take it.

I finished and tried to get to the water and refreshments, but there was a ridiculous line and it was not really well set up.  It was crammed in a corner that was not easy to see or get to so I remembered I had water in my car and said, "eff this" and left.  Turns out I should have hung around because I got 3rd place in my age group.  Not because I was really fast but because there weren't that many 30-39 female runners.  I think the majority of the field was under 25.  Oh and I passed some of them walking about a mile into the race, by the look of their build/physique I'd guess they were basketball players.  Good at short bursts of energy, but not so much with the longer distances.  I wanted to yell at them as I passed that I was at least 10 years older than them, had just completed a half ironman and I was kicking their butts, but I figured they were ashamed enough.

I made a quick pitstop at Trader Joes on my way home, just to pick up a few things.  First mistake - I didn't have a list or anything in particular in mind.  Second mistake - I hadn't eaten breakfast and after running the race it was now almost lunchtime and I was starving.  I tried my usual technique of only using a basket and not a shopping cart because it limits the amount of stuff I can buy to how much I can carry.  Well, that didn't really help that much.  I still ended up buying a ton of stuff I didn't need and lots of not really healthy "snacks" and various chocolate covered treats.  When everythign was rung up and bagged the total came to just under $100.  So much for a quick pitstop for a few small things.

Sunday I was registered for the Nahant 30K, but I decided to skip it and do a shorter long run near home.  There really was no good reason to do 18.6 miles.  I know based on finishing the half ironman that my endurance will be fine for the marathon and putting that much distance on my foot at this point only risks doing more damage than good.  I don't need any more race shirts and don't really need another medal.  Registtration was only $30 so I wasn't really losing much money by skipping it so I felt good with my decision.

I got dressed and ate some breakfast and loaded up my fuel belt for 10-12 miles.  I have a lollipop loop that goes out up a big hill into the back roads of Andover and through relatively flat neighborhoods around a loop that I can do multiple times to add on 2 miles per loop depending on how I'm feeling so I figured that was a good plan.  I could do 8 or 10 if I wasn't feeling great and could make it 12 or 14 if I felt great.  I started out and within the first mile I was feeling great.  I had some speed back and with that my confidence.  I passed the stop sign at the end of my street that is sort of my litmus test for how a run is going to go based on what my watch says when I pass it and it was really good.

Three miles out and heading into the loop of the lollipop I felt amazing.  I was averaging right around my goal marathon pace and my foot didn't hurt, my muscles were loosening up and I settled into a great rhythm.  I did the first loop and felt awesome so I added another loop.  I had enough fuel and water with me to go further, but I decided to err on the side of caution and end on a good note.  I headed back towards home with a great big smile on my face - I'M BACK!  In the last two miles I did start to slow a little and I got a little chaffing that started to irritate me and ruin the great run, but I still finished strong and ended up with 12.75 miles done.
I showered and ate some lunch and jumped in my car to go to my friend Jenine's Fitness Studio open house. I was bringing flyers to promote the stair climb and hoping that some of the clients that did the Fire Fighter bootcamp would sign up.  There was a lot going on and a ton of people trickling through all afternoon.  It was hard to get people to notice the stair climb flyers on the table buried under all the other information that was there so I grabbed a stack and worked the crowd.  I hope that she gets a giant team together this year.  The biggest attraction at the open house was a lemonade stand that Jenine's girls set up.  They made a killing selling 'fresh' (from trader joes) organic lemonade and produce from their garden. 

I was there for about 5 hours just walking around talking to people and promoting the stair climb so by the time I got home I was exhausted.  BUT my foot felt fine!  The only thing I noticed was something I haven't felt in a while, my legs were actually a little sore from the run.  Guess I should have done an ice bath.  I welcomed the soreness though because even though my body ached my heart was happy knowing that I had gotten over a big obstacle and continued my journey.  I am on the road to recovery from this little hurdle and confident that things will go well in only 18 days when I run my 11th marathon in Chicago.

Tough part now is the taper and the struggle once again to find things to do with my downtime.  Lucky for my co-workers it probably means I will do some baking and bring in cookies and banana bread and other yumminess for them to enjoy.  It's fall finally too so I'll be making some hearty soups and stews.  Maybe go apple picking and carve a pumpkin.  I LOVE this time of year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Deep thoughts and reflections

Wow, so it's been a while since my last post.  I've been trying to compose something with all the thoughts bouncing around in my head for a while. Putting all my fears, stresses, worries, anxieties, and issues into clear concise sentences is not easy.  I usually do most of my deep thinking while I'm running, but since I took about three weeks off to let my foot heal I've been stuck sitting around struggling with everything and overwhelmed.  It's been really, really rough. 

I found myself asking a question I thought I knew the answer to - WHO AM I?  I thought the answer was easy: I am a runner. But there's a lot more to me than running, I run marathons, it's WHAT I like to do, but it's not WHO I am.  Or is it?  I don't know anymore.  It is definitely a passion of mine and a HUGE part of my life.  Three weeks without running left me lost and questioning my life and the depth and meaning and substance and things that define ME. 

What ELSE is there to me?  Running removed from the equation, what's left?  What makes me tick?  What else do I enjoy?  At first glance and the first few days of not running, all the answers were still running related.  Revising my training plan, re-evaluating upcoming races, re-focusing efforts to give me the best possible chance of getting to the start line of key events.  I like hanging out with my running friends, I like looking up new fun races to run.  Even volunteering at races or helping plan upcoming events and donating to friends that are running for charity.  But those are all still RUNNING things.

REALLY, WHAT ELSE IS THERE????? Two weeks into my hiatis this question was eating away at my soul and forcing me to take a tough and painful look in the mirror and think about it.  WHO AM I?  I started to answer the question by brainstorming and listing out things I enjoy - trying new things, challenging myself, learning something new, cooking and eating new foods, exploring, laughing. I love movies and music and reading books.  I like making things with my own two hands.  I've taught myself to do a lot of things, sometimes out of curiousity and sometimes out of boredom.  I can knit, quilt, scrapbook, draw, paint, sculpt, and lots of other random things.  I tried to learn guitar once, but only got to Jingle Bells.

I'm incredibley independent and self sufficient, almost to a fault.  I've had to be for most of my life.  I find it very hard to ask people for help when I need it and will usually suffer in silence long before reaching out.  In recent years I've had to learn to overcome this obstacle because I've ended up in the emergency room stranded by some sort of accident with no way out but to ask for help.  It's not fun, but it has helped me open up and realize it's ok.  I don't always have to do everything myself.  That's what friends are for.  I'm always there for my friends, it only makes sense that they are there for me too.  I'm just always too stubborn or proud to ask for help.  

Still a work in progress.  Afterall, life is a journey and mine is far from over.  I learn more everyday about myself and what makes me tick.  I've learned a lot in the last few weeks and the biggest lesson is that I have a lot more growing and self-discovery to do.  I can't just run away from everything.  I need to figure out who I am and what makes me happy (other than running).  I also need to find more non-running related hobbies because I was bored out of my mind.  I actually put together a 1000 piece puzzle over Labor Day weekend because I wasn't running and was trying really hard to stay off my feet.

Thankfully, I have started running again and the rest and acupuncture has done wonders for my foot.  I'm almost back to 100% and feeling confident for Chicago in about 25 days.  Last week I did a short easy 4 mile test run with Kim to see how I felt because I had my half ironman race on deck for the weekend.  I was really tight in the first mile of our run and definitely not fast, but I felt ok and most importantly, my foot felt ok.  I think we only averaged 10:30s which for a shorter run was pretty slow, but I wanted to take it easy.  By the time we finished the run I was loosened up and feeling alright.  I stretched and iced as a precaution, but overall I was very optimistic about the healing and progrosis for upcoming races.

So, this past weekend I had the Pumkinman Half Ironman triathlon on Sunday.  I hadn't really trained as much for it as I did last year and coming back from the injury I was a little nervous about it.  SO.....Saturday I thought it would be a good idea to go for a little bike ride and easy jog to make sure I felt ok.  I biked about 20 miles to Fire Fighter Bootcamp in Melrose and then DID bootcamp and biked 20 miles home.  Probably not a great idea, but I felt really good and my foot was still ok so I was happy.  I packed up all my tri-gear, set my alarm clock, and went to bed early.

Sunday I got up and got dressed, threw my stuff in the car and headed to South Berwick for the race.  Super anxious and a little excited.  I got there, got my stuff, set up in transition and then had about an hour to kill before the race started.  I tried to mentally prepare for what I knew would be a long day.  I tried to relax and visualize a great race.  Before I knew it I had to squish into my wetsuit and head down to the water.  It was super warm.  I swam around a little before they called all the athletes out of the water for the pre-race announcements.  National Anthem and some instructions and with the boom of a cannon the elite wave went off into the water.  8 minutes later it was my turn to start.

I stayed towards the back of the wave and just tried to pace myself knowing I would be swimming for about 45 minutes based on last year's time.  I felt horrible right from the start.  I stopped a few times and tried to relax.  I couldn't breathe.  I felt really hot despite the fact that I was under water.  I felt like I was sinking even though I had a wet suit on and was doing fine.  I watched wave after wave of different colored swim caps pass me in the water and I looked around and saw only one other blue swim cap a little ways in front of me in the water.  I know I am not a fast swimmer, but I can usually do ok.  This felt different.  I was really struggling.

I made it out of the water and looked at my watch, 51 minutes!  And I was spent.  Now I had to climb a huge hill and get on my bike.  I got up the hill and into the transistion area and I couldn't get my wetsuit off.  I finally managed to make my way out of the transition area hopped on my bike to begin the 56 mile ride.  I felt ok.  I was cold and wet but at the same time I still felt really hot.  I was sluggish and although I felt like I was going as hard as I could whenever I looked at my bike computer it told a different story.  I was barely averaging 14-15mph.  I can normally do 18-20mph pretty comfortably and this was a relatively flat fast course.

I tried not to worry about it and didn't want to focus on the time because I knew it wasn't going to be a great day and I wasn't expecting anything amazing, but I also didn't expect it to feel so difficult.  I still couldn't really breathe and my all out effort was slower than a relaxing joyride.  The first lap of the two lap course took me a lot longer than it did the year before and by my calculation in my head I was on target to finish about an hour slower.  It was frustrating, but I pushed on and figured maybe by the time I got to the run I would feel better because I did the year before.  I was a little worried about my foot, but ready to test it out.

I finished the bike and got my running shoes on.  I ran out of the transition like a bat outta hell, just like the previous year.  I felt really great.  I got to the first mile marker and checked my watch, but realized I hadn't looked at it before so I had no idea what my pace was.  I made a mental note to look at the next mile marker.  I just kept running and found a comfortable pace and made it to mile marker 2.  I did the math in my head and I thought I was doing about 10 minute miles.  Not bad, I'd take it.  The course was a little hilly and a double loop out and back.  I had forgotten about it since last year and couldn't remember exactly where it went and the overlapping mile markers were confusing.  You pass 8 and 12 when you only at like mile 4.  It really messes with your head.

I gutted it out and just kept running.  My foot felt ok.  My legs were really hurting (probably from bootcamp the day before) and I was going considerabley slower than I wanted to, but I was running and my foot didn't hurt so I was happy.  I stopped to use the port-o-potty at mile 9 and then tried to finish up the last few miles strong.  The miles did not go by fast and each mile marker felt like an eternity between them, but I counted down and thought to myself just a few more miles and you're done.  I was still struggling to breathe.  I noticed that my breathes were pretty shallow and labored.  I tried to take a few really deep breathes and fill my lungs and couldn't.  That made it really hard to push in the last couple of miles.  I can usually use a few deep breathe to power myself through rough patches in a race, but this time I couldn't get a deep breathe.

Up and over the last hill and it was just a short downhill section of grass to the finish line.  I was terrified because it's that type of uneven surface that really bothers my foot.  I tried to run gingerly down the slope and nearly twisted my ankle a few times, but eventually made it across the finish in just over a total of 7 hours!  I got my medal and turned in my timing chip and made my way out of the finish chute to my brother and mom waiting on the other side to congratulate me.  My brother gave me a hug and asked if I was ok and my legs buckled beneath me.  I fell to the ground and struggled to get the words out as the EMTs approached, "I......... CAN'T............ BREATHE"  They offered me a chair and gatorade.  I was already on the ground with my head between my legs.  I wasn't about to try and stand.  And I wasn't dehydrated, I didn't need gatorade.  I could have used some oxygen, but that wasn't among the list of things they offered me.  I sat for a few minutes trying to catch my breathe and saying "NO" to all their offerings.  I don't want broth.  I don't need the misting tent.  I don't want to lie down with my feet up.

I finally got up and was able to function.  So strange and scary.  The whole time I was worried about my foot and that was totally fine.  It was my lungs that didn't work.  Oh well.  I finished and it was over.  I got some water, a little food and put dry clothes on.  Then I had to drive home.  Man, I really wish I had a boyfriend just to drive me home after I do stupid shit like a half ironman.  It would be really nice to be able to sleep in the car and not have to pay attention to the road and drive.  Whatever.  I decided on my way home that something was up with my body and something wasn't functioning correctly.  I need to re-evaluate things and change something. it comes.....I fell off the veggie wagon and bought a grass fed organic steak to cook myself for dinner.  It was really good.  I didn't feel any better the next day, but I didn't really expect to after racing 70.3 miles.

Not sure if I will continue to add meat back into my diet.  I just know I need to change something because my body is telling me that something isn't working right.  When I compare this year to last year I am a lot slower and I'm getting injuries I never had before.  I don't feel great and I'm gaining weight.  Something needs to change.  Stay tuned.  I have a few smaller tune up races between now and Chicago and who knows maybe I'll pick up a new hobby to fill my time during the taper.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

40 days until Chicago.....

OK so last week was ...... I am not even sure what words to use to decscribe it....difficult, depressing, upsetting, painful, boring, LONG, frustrating..... I'm sure I can think of more, but if I think about it too much I will start crying.  After the painful end to my 20 miler I decided it might be best to back off and listen to my body and REST.  Something that IS NOT easy for me.  I made a commitment to myself and tried to think of the best long term plan to get me to Chicago and my other big races next year.  Unfortunately, the immediate reality that it hurt to run was forcing me to evaluate my training plan and adjust accordingly. 
I decided to rest for the entire week!  The last time I took 5 days off in a row was after Goofy, over 6 months ago.  OK, when I put it that way, I'm overdue for some rest, but I thought I was doing good this summer taking more rest days and running less.  I mean my weekly mileage is a lot lower than it was when I trained for Vermont and for Goofy.  But I also think this foot pain sort of started at the begining of the summer just after Vermont.  It's been slowly bubbling to the surface.  It's been that nagging inner voice saying "Hey Stupid, why don't you take a break?!?!"  10 marathons in 4 years is a LOT.
Last Tuesday, I went to my good friend Peri for some acupuncture to try and help my body repair the damage that has been done.  I have been icing and massaging and sleeping with the annoying special foot sling thing that holds my foot flexed.  I'm trying everything to help speed the recovery of this injury and praying that it is only a minor set back.  Peri did some cool microcurrent things and some needle treatments.  I felt optomistic as the week went on.

The hardest part of the whole week was not running.  I wanted to but I also wanted to let my foot heal.  Everything I read and everyone I talked to said the best thing for Plantar fasciitis is rest.  It's one overuse injury that you can run through and I felt ok during the two sprint triathlons after my 20 miler confirming that I COULD run if I really wanted to, but to give myself the best chance possible of having a good experience in Chicago I knew that rest was the better option.  So, I rested.

Friday I went to REI and got some more supportive casual shoes to wear to work to add to the healing supplies.  If I couldn't run, I would focus my effforts on finding everything I could to fix my foot fast to get me back to running.  I went to bed early Friday night, alarm set for early morning to attempt my long run and see how my efforts had gone so far.

I got up Saturday and go dressed.  My foot felt really good.  No pain at all stepping out of bed.  Maybe all the rest helped.  I left before the sun came up and started out for 18 miles with the knowledge that I could cut it short if I didn't feel good.  I was a little slow when I started out, but that’s normal. Takes me the first 3 miles of a long run to loosen up and find my pace. From mile 4-12 I felt great. I was averaging a good solid pace right on target for my marathon goal pace. Then I started to doubt the distance I set out to do (18 miles). I reached the fork in the road and decided to cut the run short to 16 miles, but the short cut was on horrible uneven sidewalks and THAT is when my foot started to hurt. I wonder if I had just stayed with my original route if it would have been better.

Once I decided to cut the run short I started to feel sluggish and I don’t know if it was because the sun was coming up and it was getting warm or if I was mentally defeated. I felt like gravity increased and it required more effort to lift my legs and turn my feet over. As it got more difficult and my foot started to hurt more I just felt more defeated. It was pretty awful. I just kept thinking what am I going to do, what did I do wrong, what could I have done differently, why now after 5 years of running and training all of the sudden this happens, maybe I need to change my diet again, maybe I need more iron and maybe I should be eating meat, maybe I should see a chiropractor to see if the car accident last year threw me out of balance…… a million questions and no good answers except “STOP RUNNING” and that thought makes me want to cry.
I got to about mile 14 and then I could barely walk.  My last two miles took over 20 minutes each.  I literally wanted to cry, not from the pain in my foot but from the pain in my heart from the thought of not being able to run.  Everything I've done in the past few years completely transforming myself and finding this new love, this passion for something I never thought I would love so much, possibly going away.  It's a crushing thought and I stay away from it.  Saturday was a VERY TOUGH RUN, physically and emotionally.  
It's not so much the thought of being injured that destroyed me.  From that little seed in my brain this horrible negative tumor of emotions grows - without running will I get fat again????  I don't ever want to go back to that person I was before and the idea terrifies me.  It's difficult to admit and really painful to talk about, but the structure of my training and eating healthy and maintaining my weight is a constant battle for me to avoid slipping back into that comfort zone of a sedentary lifestyle eating junk food and then falling into the deep depression that held me in that prison of fat for so long.
I WILL NOT GO BACK!  I am stronger than that!  I fought my way out of that darkness and refuse to be pulled back into it.  I know that this is a minor set back and it will not defeat me.  I will beat this and get better.  I will be strong and I will run Chicago surrounded by my friends and no matter what the clock says when I finish I will be triumphant knowing that I may not win the race, but I have won something much more important and valuable - health and happiness.  I will visualize it for the next 40 days and replay it in my brain over and over and I will make it happen.