Sunday, December 30, 2012

WARNING!!! Reflective End-Of-Year Wrap-Up Post!!!

So if end-of-the-year wrap-up posts rustle your jimmies (which seems to be the case for a lot of you out there...), you might just want to skip this one. I am wrapping up my year, goddammit. No apologies. Love it or leave it.

(I WILL, however, do my best not to get too mushy & sentimental. Deal?)

At the beginning of the year, I set some goals.

Goal 1: Miles, Miles, Miles. In 2012, I set the goal of running at least 2,000 miles, or ~38.5 / week. Well, according to RunningAhead, I made it to 1,291, which is actually LESS than 2011. Woh-woh-woh. As of early December, 1,300+ was still easily in range, but then tendinitis happened, and four weeks of not being allowed to run happened, & there you are.

While it is not hard to run 38 miles a week, it has been VERY hard for me to do it consistently this year, for a variety of reasons. Some of it I can't do anything about (injuries, work stuff), & some of it I refuse to do anything about (relationship, other hobbies, semblance of a social life). But there are some cases of run-skipping where I can and want to do better.

Goal 2: Strength Training. My goal for this was kind of abstract, mostly just "keep doing it, sometimes, some way." So I guess I kind of met this one. I did keep doing it, sometimes more consistently & sometimes less. But I definitely could've done a little better at this. If nothing else, I could have been more intentional & structured about it. (Pro Tip: Avoid writing goals that include statements like "I haven't decided on any specifics yet, but...")

Goal 3: 1:39:xx Half Marathon. DONE, bitches. And a 1:38:xx one to boot! No qualifiers there.

Windsor Green Half Marathon - May 20, 2012

Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon - Oct 14, 2012

Goal 4: 21:xx 5K. I did run a 21:xx 5K this year, but before that, I ran a highly unexpected 20:44. Done and done.

Goal 5 (maybe): Marathon #2? Can you really call something a goal if you put a question mark by it? What the hell is up with that, January '12 self? Anyway, yes, against all odds, a 2nd marathon finish was accomplished.

(Also, apparently that race report made dear sweet Nelly's "Best Race Report of 2012," which was cool to see. :) )

Goal 6: Eat Better! I don't even want to talk about this. Except maybe to say that, once again, goals should not include phrases like "I'm still thinking through the specifics of what I want to commit to." Freaking commit to something concrete or it's not really a goal. #lifelessons

As long as we're recapping the year, I feel like it's worth mentioning that I also unexpectedly PR'd in the 10K by 22 seconds, which kind of got buried in the craziness of the summer as I was starting a new job & preparing to go on vacation the next day.

Kind of a mixed bag goal-setting wise, but on the other hand, I PR'd five times this year, and in three of the four distances I actually care about, and it's really hard not to be pleased as punch about that (particularly given that I actually ran fewer miles than last year). Yes, I really wanted that marathon PR so I could have the complete set, and I really thought I was going to get it. I guess it just goes to show you that you can never take anything for granted with a marathon.

And that's it! Now that wasn't so bad, was it?

I'm guessing this will officially close the book on 2012. Wishing you a WILD & ROCKIN' / chill & laid back (whichever you prefer) New Year's Eve, & all the best to you & yours in 2013!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

News of the Restless

This is one of those kinda-sort-of-a-post-jk-not-really posts. I don't have much to post about lately that seems terribly interesting to people besides me, but here are some more-and-less random thoughts that you might find entertaining and/or amusing. Or not. It's kind of like "interesting roulette" up in here.

1) Apparently I'd forgotten that one of the reasons I run regularly is because I like to be able to mentally and emotionally function. There hasn't been much running lately. And thus there hasn't been much of what you can really call mental & emotional functioning, either. I like to not think about this & the way to not have to think about it is by running. Being hurt blows.

2) Getting up super early & driving somewhere to do an activity you find unappealing is great & all in theory, but when I stop and think about it it turns out that those are all the things in life I suck at rolled into one. Trying to deal with them in the midst of OMG-crazy-town-holiday-work-travel-prep was pretty much the last nail in that particular coffin. What I'm trying to say here is that the number of times I've been pool running this month = 0.

3) In spite of this, I am apparently so awesome that I can win races without even running the whole distance, or even running the entire distance I did travel. But seriously, considering the recent lack of running, it was a very, very healthy thing for me to a) do some expressly forbidden running b) with awesome people c) on a pretty route that I'm not so sick of looking at that it makes me want to stab my eyes out. Thanks, XLMIC & RoseRunner (& good to briefly see you too, Jen!). :)

While being fast enough to pose a legitimate threat to RoseRunner is a fond pipe dream of mine, it must be noted that she ran *at least* twice as far and nearly twice as fast.

Apparently the camera was not where I thought it was. Don't ask me how this is possible.

4) I have finally joined the 21st century & purchased a smart phone. My device of choice is the HTC One X+. My boyfriend refers to it as "the new sexy," but I would not know since it is the only smart phone I have ever had. The only draw back to it as far as I can tell is that it is the size of a small elephant, but based on all the different phones I looked at it seems like that's just how smart phones these days are made. In a nutshell, I chose it because 1) I get a discount on AT&T, 2) I'm all about open platform, 3) 4G LTE, & 4) 64 MB internal memory. Plus all the reviews I read were spectacular. So far, no complaints. Also I'm totally turning into one of those people who reads Facebook on the BART because I can't bear to be bored for seven minutes.

5) Praise the Lord, Brooks has taken the Launch off the chopping block!! I'd heard rumors to that effect, but they had them on sale at the CIM expo so I asked the reps what the deal was & if I should be stocking up. Their response? Stock up. The Launch is history. LIARS.

I would also like to note that in response to my profession of love for this shoe, one of the guys said, "I keep hearing people say that but I don't see anyone actually doing anything about it. No fan mail, no Twitter campaigns..." In retrospect I have decided that he probably did not actually work at Brooks & stole the shirt off the real guy for cheap thrills.

I'd pretty much decided reviewing the Launch was pointless, but now I clearly need to do one.

6) New Year's Plans? HELL YES.

Pasadena, I will see you & your sexy self in about ten days.

7) It sounds like I may have a black belt test coming up in the not-too-dim-and-misty future. And the answer is yes, I am kind of freaking out about that.

In case you've never been to a black belt testing, it's pretty much like this. Just kidding, this is obviously from a recent holiday party. Seriously. It's from a recent holiday party.

8) We went to Symphony Hall last Sunday to see the Count Basie Orchestra. I bring this up so I can post a picture of myself looking relatively normal for once.

Don said I looked like a vampire. I said that was his own fault for dating someone who looks like a vampire.

Hope your December's going well!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wrap-up / Fall-out

So here we are five days post CIM, which has been long enough for me to get some time & distance from the race & trust my ability to think about it rationally, but recent enough that I still feel like a total baddass just for finishing. High five to the rest of y'all, too. In case you'd forgotten, you're still a freaking beast.

First, a foot update. On Wednesday I went to The Orthopedic Institute at UCSF Sports Medicine (conveniently located just a couple of miles from me) & saw a foot / ankle specialist. They did some x-rays, took my history, did some general poking & prodding of the area, & declared me stress fracture free, which was a great relief. (Actually, what they said was that it's technically possible I have one somewhere since MRI & not x-ray is the definitive tool for spotting them, but nothing on the x-rays suggested one & when they poked & prodded my bones none of them were painful or tender.)

The doctor diagnosed me with severe distal peroneal tendonitis, which is caused by chronic overloading of the peroneal tendons (ie, doing stuff like this and this). For the next four weeks I am to avoid weight bearing as much as possible and wear lateral heel lifts in my shoes whenever I can, which is supposed to prevent the supination & take some of the load off the tendons. I'm also back in this guy for every-day walking around:

(Which you may remember from last fall's epic Battle Shin Splints.)

In the mean time, the doctor suggested pool running or elliptical-ing through the end of the year to keep up my cardio until I can run again. There is a deep water running class at UCSF on Tuesday & Thursday mornings, so I'm hoping I can arrange my work schedule to make that. Which will also mean buying a swimsuit at some point I guess. In any case, I am walking fine now in the brace, though I've learned that I can only walk about a quarter mile at a time before it gets achey.

Second, a race inquiry update. I saw on Monday that the unofficial results listed my chip time as being the same as my gun time (3:55:40), & since I knew it took me at least a minute to cross the mat, I filed an inquiry about it. Today, CIM sent me this note:

    "On Sunday Dec 2, at the 2012 CIM start line, one quadrant/mat failed at one hour 35 minutes of successful operation due to the electronic reader box being compromised by wind-driven water - blowing the circuits and shutting it down completely.

    We appreciate your understanding our race philosophy on scoring and apologize if this unfortunate omission of chip start data has caused you any personal disappointment. Again, congratulations on completing the CIM under arguably the most difficult conditions ever experienced in Sacramento running. We look forward to hosting you in future CIM’s."

That was pretty much what I guessed -- some electronic malfunction due to the weather. Eh, no biggie. Though in retrospect, boy, am I glad my gun / Garmin times straddle the 3:54-55 line and not the BQ line. Because that really would have sucked.

Third, some other post-marathon thoughts.

2A) Last year, I couldn't even walk like a normal person until the Thursday after the race. I slept ten hours a day for a solid week, & generally felt sluggish for about two. A month passed before I could even think about running again. This year (with the exception of the busted foot) I felt almost normal by Tuesday evening -- just a little residual soreness in my quads & hamstrings. If not for my foot, I think I could've probably handled a little 20 minute jog on Thursday. So that was kind of cool & bodes well for future marathons.

2B) At CIM '11, my only real investment in the whole thing was getting one race under my belt for the experience and seeing how I felt about it. I had a great time, but it took enough of a mental toll on me that when it was over I couldn't even think about running another. Not that I had decided I didn't want to--I just couldn't think about it one way or the other. I thought that maybe by the time registration for CIM '12 opened, I would be ready to consider it, but I wasn't. Not until July could I even imagine the possibility without my brain shutting off, and it wasn't until August that I was ready to sign up.

This year was totally different. It's unlikely that I'll be able to train for CIM next year due to traveling, so since September I'd been stalking a marathon in Southern California next May called Mountains 2 Beach (formerly the Ojai to Ocean Marathon). It's a pretty small race (1,000 runners) that tends to sell out fairly early, but I held off on signing up because I remembered how burned out I felt last fall towards the end of CIM training & how it took me so long to mentally feel ready to think about marathons again. Towards the end of November I was still feeling really good mentally about running & training, though, & since the first price increase was December 1, I pulled the trigger.

Now, I wouldn't blame anyone who went through what I did on Sunday if they vowed never to run a marathon again. But as it turns out, I am already SUPER stoked for a do-over. (And you know what happens in Southern California in May? NOT FREAKING MONSOONS.)

Fellow CIM peeps, I hope you are recovering well & haven't suffered any long-term damage, physically or psychologically. Happy weekend!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Race Report: California International Marathon 2012

One word: Finished.

Two words: No PR.

Three words: Could've been worse.

CIM 2011 was my first marathon, and with the exception of, y'know, having an asthma attack & not being able to breathe for 24 miles, I really couldn't have asked for a more perfect experience.

This year, not so much. I mentioned in a previous post that the only way I figured I wouldn't beat last year's time was if something catastrophic happened. And boy, was there plenty of catastrophe to go around.

First up:

For details on the weather, I suggest you google things like "atmospheric river" and "Pineapple Express" and "ARkStorm". 'Nuff said.

When it became impossible to any longer deny the fact that yes, we were going to be running in a torrential downpour and yes, there would be gale-force winds to contend with, I knew that I had to let go any notion of a time / pace goal. Many of us (rightly) toyed with the idea of not running, and (smartly) worked out DNF logistics ahead of time. I had no idea how much the winds would slow me down; I did know I had a limit as to how long I was willing to suffer out in the elements before it just wasn't worth it anymore, but I wasn't totally sure what that limit would be. I also knew the only goal worth pursuing anymore was finishing, and that I couldn't worry too much about anything more than that. If conditions magically improved and I was able to run a decent pace, then bonus, but realistically, getting to the chute however I could was now the name of the game.

Courtney, Kristin, me, & Alyssa, ~6 am. Photo by Courtney's dad. Go running hats!!

Because it wasn't actually supposed to be all that cold, I ended up wearing the same outfit I'd planned on all along, with a thrift store hoodie and a disposable poncho over it for pre-race. I think we had several moments of shock over the course of the morning, the first being when we opened the front door to pouring rain & crazy wind. The second was probably when we saw the size of the tree that had blown down in Courtney's neighborhood, completely blocking off the quickest route to the start--I think the trunk must have been 3-4 feet in diameter. The third was probably getting out of the car at the runner drop-off area. We huddled behind a building for as long as we dared in an attempt to stay warm & dry, which was sort of a losing proposition from the beginning.

(Also, a word of advice -- if you ever find yourself racing in a torrential downpour, just step ankle-deep in the first puddle you see & get it over with. It's going to happen anyway, and that way you won't have to worry about it anymore.)

It was so crazy & chaotic that we never managed to meet up with our other friends, but we did make it to the start on time and I managed to fight my way up into the mid-three's just in time for the gun. (I really wanted to try to run with Cate, but just couldn't find her in time.)

Just to give you a sense of what the starting area was like, here are some shots from the Sacramento Bee:

I couldn't talk myself into stripping out of my hoodie & poncho before the gun, so for the first half mile or so (which was a minefield of slick discarded garbage bags and ponchos) I ran with them on & hoped no one would get too mad at me for my bib not showing. After that, though, I started to warm up, & since I knew I'd end up soaked one way or another, I burrowed my way out of the extra layers and tossed them on the side of the road within a mile & was completely comfortable temperature-wise the whole race.

Body-wise, though, I just never really felt good. Even in the first 7-8 miles when I was hitting sub-8:10 miles consistently with what felt like a pretty moderate effort, my legs and brain just felt tired. Not the type that comes from running too fast too soon; this was more of an all-over weariness, just an out-of-phase, out-of-gas feeling that I couldn't shake, as if I'd run 40 or 50 miles already this week rather than 10. Still, I was holding the pace I wanted and even forcing myself to slow down at times, especially on the up hills, so Hey, I thought, maybe this will end up being a good race for me after all!

But it was not to be. Around mile 7 or 8 or so we turned south, and I was stunned by the force of the headwind. As luck would have it, that was also where the first real hills started. I knew I couldn't afford to fight for my pace this early uphill and into the wind, so I just tried not to watch as it gradually climbed from 8:10 to 8:40 to 9:15 to 9:45. Eventually I was able to pick it up a little, but I never got back down to my goal pace in any sustained way again.

Soon after came the next catastrophe. After my fantastic 21 mile run a few weeks ago, I had some pain in the outside of my left foot that had me limping for a day or so, but then went away. Nothing like that had ever happened before and hadn't happened since, but getting into mile 9-10ish, that same spot on my left foot start to feel worse and worse. At first it was just achey; then it got annoying. By the half, it was sending sharp shooting pains along my foot every time I took a step. If this had been a training run, I definitely would've called it quits.

Also around the half I started to feel some tightness in my right hip flexor / quad / IT band area that gradually turned into significant pain and worked its way down into my knee. I don't generally have problems in that area & at the time I was completely baffled by it, but in retrospect I think I must have been compensating for the pain in my left foot with the muscles in my upper right leg. As I've been limping around and favoring my left foot these past few days, I notice that it's straining those same muscles.

I'd say this shot from Giraffy at 365 Days of Awesome does a nice job of summing it up. There were also apparently falling trees & downed power lines. At a couple of points the police declared parts of the course unsafe & taped them off, & CIM officials had to re-route everyone on the spot.

By 14, I felt really, REALLY bad. I was in so much pain and barely able to keep my legs moving forward through it, let alone keep up a decent pace, and I just couldn't see how I could possibly run 12 more miles like this. That was probably the lowest point for me in the race emotionally. Occasionally I would look at my watch and see paces in the 8:00-8:20 range, but at others it would be 10:00+.

From then on, things just sort of spiraled. When my form is no good I tend to overuse my calf muscles, which is exactly what started to happen. I knew then that I had to stop and stretch. Had to. Yes, the current situation sucked, but I knew that if I ended up with calf cramps there would be no running through it & it would be game over right there.

My hardcore, super-competitive perfectionist side did not take this well at all, and at that point, the part of me that was still rational had to have a little talk with the part that was falling apart emotionally.

Listen. It's okay that you feel bad. It's okay that you want to stop. It's okay that you can't run 8:0X miles anymore. It really, really is. None of this makes you a weak person or a bad person or a bad runner. Don't worry about finishing or about all the miles that are left. Put it out of your mind. All you have to do is get to the next mile marker. Let's get that far, and go from there. Can you do that?

I wasn't sure that the answer was yes, but I wasn't sure that it was no, either, so I decided I had nothing to lose by giving it a shot.

I've heard people say sometimes that running a marathon is just running one mile 26 times (plus a little more); after mile 14, that is exactly what that race became for me. Grit my teeth & do whatever I have to to get to the next mark. Stop. Stretch. Fight cramps. Psyche myself up to start running again. Grit teeth. Fight to the next marker. Stop. Stretch. Fight cramps. Get psyched. Run. Grit teeth. Fight. Stop. Stretch. Fight. Pysche. Grit. Run. Fight. Stop. Stretch. Fight.

Around mile 17 or so I heard Kristen's voice & was so glad to see her coming up beside me, looking strong & doing great. I did everything I could to stick with her at an 8:30ish pace, but it wasn't too long before I needed another stretch break & had to wave goodbye to her.

For the most part, I really hate the signs people hold up at marathons, but soon after that I spotted this one.

    "Pain fades.

    Rain dries.

    Scars heal.

    Not quitting is forever."

I am not a super emotional person in general and in particular don't often have a lot of emotional energy to spare for running, good or bad, but when I read this sign I actually thought for a minute that I might lose it right there in the middle of the street and the pouring rain, because it got right at the heart of what I was trying so hard to be clinical and objective and analytical about.

It's no secret that the physical demands often keep people who are otherwise interested from attempting a marathon. But I wonder if sometimes people also hesitate to try because it's one of those experiences that has the potential to show you things about who you really are, to tell you the truth about yourself in certain ways, and I wonder if sometimes people are a little afraid of what that truth will turn out to be. At that point in the race, the only thing that mattered to me--and mattered deeply and desperately--was not quitting. Not because of a medal, or having to tell my friends, or feeling like a DNF would soil my record somehow. It mattered because I knew that whether or not I finished this race (barring dangerous situations or acute injury or risk thereof) would reveal to me something about my character. Am I the type of person who keeps going for as long as possible, even when things are hard and I'm exhausted and miserable and hurting, or am I the type of person who gives up? I knew what I wanted the answer to be, what I was pretty sure it would be, but there are a lot of situations in life where you can't predict what you'll actually do until you're in it. This was one I'd never been in before.

I don't always get sappy about running, but when I do, I quote Vince Lombardi:

    "The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That's real glory. That's the essence of it."

    "It's easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you're a winner, when you're number one. What you got to have is faith and discipline when you're not a winner."

    "The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything. It's your mind you have to convince."

    "No one is ever hurt. Hurt is in your mind."

And some Patton:

    "Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up." ~General George S. Patton

And maybe a little Short for good measure:

    "What counts in battle is what you do when the pain sets in." ~John Short

Mile 19ish. As miserable as I was, I still managed to smile & wave at my hardcore spectating friends & shout something to them about how this was the hardest run of my life. Thanks XLMIC for the pic!
I knew I could choose to be miserable about the situation, or I could choose to be positive. And since being miserable for an hour is a hell of a lot more work than being positive, I decided to go with that, no matter what I had to tell myself. Miraculously, the rational part of my brain still had it together enough to keep the emotional part soldiering on. "Yes, there are still 7 miles left, but 19 is bigger than 18, and the numbers are only getting bigger. Sooner or later, they have no choice but to reach 26. Then it's just a lap on the track."

I couldn't comprehend dealing with the pain all the way to 26.2 miles, but I could comprehend it for one more. And one more. And one more. In that way, I felt reasonably sure that mentally I could make it. What I was not sure about were my injuries. I felt certain that sooner or later I would no longer be able to put weight on my left foot, and that my right IT band / quad / whatever or one of my calves would cramp up and become unusable; I just wasn't sure whether that point would come before or after mile 26.

The good news, on the other hand, was that in those last few miles the wind and rain finally started to die down. In spite of stopping for around a minute every mile I was able to manage around an 8:30 pace otherwise which, under the circumstances, I felt was not too shabby. So it's nice to think that if not for my self-destructing body I most likely still could have had a PR (and I mean that in a positive way, not a shaking-my-fist-at-the-sky kind of way).

It was not until I saw the sign pointing for women to turn left, when I could actually see the finish line, that I knew for absolute certain that I would finish. I think I really did almost cry, I was so happy to have made it, to have kept going & not given up.

I've written before about my ambivalence toward finisher medals--I think they can be meaningful and special when they truly represent a significant accomplishment, like completing a new distance for the first time or taking on a new type of challenge that's made you ask more of yourself than usual (ie, your first triathlon / trail race / etc.). I get a little irked, though, when people talk about "earning" a medal for doing something that isn't a real challenge for them any more--ie, if I enter a half marathon & jog it as an easy training run that I would've done anyway, I don't think I can really say I've earned anything. Paid for, yes. Earned, not so sure.

Usually I just can't get too worked up about finisher medals either way, but this one feels a little different. Even though it was for a slower time, I think it's more meaningful to me than the one I got last year for finishing my 1st 26.2 because I worked SO. MUCH. Harder for it. Even running with asthma last year, I never really doubted that I would finish. This year, I was never sure. Not at 23 or 24 or 25 or 25.5. Not until I could actually see the chute.

Recently a friend of mine (who is a veteran of more marathons than I am sure I will ever run in my lifetime) ran a marathon at altitude that ended up being her toughest ever. She felt terrible and had to stop and seriously considered dropping out, but ultimately still got it done. Her post made me think about how pushing through tough circumstances for an inglorious finish can sometimes mean more than having an easy time and a fantastic finish, because you have to fight so much harder for it. This was definitely, by far, the hardest I have ever ever had to fight for an athletic accomplishment, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And because of that, this medal has special meaning for me.

    Tom Landry: "I've learned that something constructive comes from every defeat."

In a certain sense, I suppose we never really want to have to learn what our limits are, but sometimes it's pretty cool to find out what they're not.

I got to catch up with a few folks afterward, and was so glad to hear that overwhelmingly most of them were able to power through and finish, and some even set PRs, including Kristen! XLMIC also managed to capture my post-hardest-run-of-my-life delirium (right), which I think was kind of priceless.

Currently, I don't know what my official chip time or place were. The unofficial results list my gun & chip times as being the same (3:55:40), even though it took me around a minute to cross the starting line. I clocked 26.28 miles & 3:54:32 on my Garmin, which puts me at ~8:55/mile pace -- considerably better than I was expecting considering my twelve stretch breaks. For the first time ever I filed an inquiry about the discrepancy, though to be honest I don't really care that much & only did it because I felt like I should.

I am happy to report that in these first days post I've felt much, MUCH better physically than I did this time last year in a general sense. I have a little soreness in places, but nothing like the full-body misery that I suffered in 2012. For the most part my anti-chafing measures worked (Body Glide + Ride Glide + water proof bandages in strategic spots) and if it hadn't been for the rain I might have finished 100% chafe-free. Miraculously, I also got away without a single blister (?!?!).

By far, the worst of it is my left foot. It's gotten progressively worse since the race, and at this point I can't put any weight on it at all without serious pain. Fortunately, I was able to get an appointment at UCSF for Wednesday afternoon, so they're planning to do some x-rays & determine whether it's just soft tissue damage that needs time & rest or something more serious.

For logistical / event information about CIM, I refer you to this post from last year -- I think it's all pretty much still the same. Under the circumstances, you couldn't really ask for much more from CIM as an organization. Logistically, the race was still a huge success, and they really went out of their way to try to make things as easy as possible for us in a sucky situation.

Something I did learn this year is that if you're a chick, you can request a dude-colored shirt, and vice versa. (Don't ask me why they differentiate the shirt colors by gender.) The women's version was bright green this year, and I have this thing about bright green tech shirts, so I asked to switch my women's long sleeve medium for a men's small. They only had short sleeve ones left, but that was fine by me.

Also, since it was the race's 30th anniversary, we got a pair of cotton logo gloves and a neck gaiter:

(Thanks to Courtney for explaining to me what a neck gaiter is, though this one looks to me more like a tube of thin fabric than anything else.)

What next, you ask?

Freaking revenge, bitches. Already in the works.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Five Days & Counting...

This blog post is brought to you by the Fairfield Marriot, which you may remember from this post.

And when you're alone in a hotel room with nothing much to do except wait for tomorrow, you might as well write a blog post.

First, some good news. This evening, I did my first *real* run since the 13th on the treadmill here in the hotel. The fitness center was empty so I eschewed the Rickety-est Treadmill Ever for what in my limited experience I can only assume must be the Swankiest Treadmill Ever. (Seriously, when did exercise equipment get built-in HDTV / ipod docks / DVD players??) It wasn't a long one, really--just a warm up, cool down, & two fast-ish 1200's in between--but it did give me an opportunity to give this stuff a whirl:

Which, to quote Kimra, "is not just for the ride, nor is it just for the hoo ha." Honestly, I can't face another post-CIM December with great swaths of missing skin on my inner biceps & thighs, so I'm hoping that some wardrobe adjustments & a good coating of body glide + ride glide will be enough to prevent the worst of what I had to deal with last year.

Post treadmill run, I've been vegging out with a lovely little bottle of chard I picked up at the nearby Safeway. Given that I had precious little to go on & was limited to screw tops (as I don't routinely travel with a bottle opener), I feel like I did surprisingly well for my $7. Talbott Vineyards Kali Hart Chard is malo-free & incredibly French on the nose -- barnyard funk & whatnot -- with just enough oak to balance out the other strong flavors. Win!

Finally, there's this:

Phhhhbbbbtt. That's all I have to say about that. :P

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quick Update

It's been a busy week, so just a quick update as we hurtle towards marathon day.

I did as I was told & didn't run or otherwise exert myself over the weekend. Most of the time that's enough to take care of sore shin splints, but these guys continued to give me trouble, even walking, all weekend. There was some improvement, though, so I attempted an easy 20 minute jog on Monday as instructed. By then, the left side felt almost normal, but the right side was still in a lot of pain and I was quite happy to be done when my 20 minutes were up.

On Tuesday my assignment was 40 minutes. I wasn't feeling super-confident about this, but I decided that I'd give it a shot, and worst case, I could always stop after 20 or 30. I made it all the way through and with noticeably less pain than Monday, though I still would have described things as a bit touch-and-go.

Wednesday morning we flew out to Spokane, and because I am just that lucky/coordinated, I managed to roll my right ankle walking to the BART station and spent much of the rest of the day half-limping. It was a good thing I hadn't planned on running over Thanksgiving, because if there had been any chance of it before, there was absolutely *no* way it was happening now.

You know what's good for messed-up joints, though? FEASTING.

And there has been a lot of excellent feasting.

Thankfully, after a couple of days, it's just kind of sore and I can walk on it normally with no trouble. The shin splints seem more or less healed, but I'm reserving judgment until I have a chance to run on them on Tuesday.

This is the part where I wish I had a stronger background in biology & kinesiology & all that. On November 13, I felt like I was ready to crush this race. By the time I'm next able to get a run in, two weeks will have passed during which I've run a grand total of 12.6 miles. Yes, my lower legs will be healthy and rested, but I don't have much sense of how long "peak" marathon shape cardiovascular-wise holds up with basically no running or what the real purpose of these last race week workouts will be.

I've been distracting myself from these thoughts by looking at the weather report. A couple of days ago, the Dec. 2 forecast was 40 degrees in the morning with a 50% chance of thunderstorms. I like today's better:

Yep; I vote we just hold onto that one for the next week.

Friday, November 16, 2012

CIM Week 12 of 14: Two Steps Forward...

I am sitting on the couch right now (Friday evening) in a not insignificant amount of pain. Half an hour ago I was mentally drafting a post about the unreasonable, horrific, debilitating nature of my pain, but it has abated somewhat now so I will just say that I am very, very uncomfortable. It's nothing catastrophic--just some of the same old medial tibial shin splints that I've dealt with more or less my whole life. With a few days of rest I should be fine. Still, I'm powerful annoyed.

(In case it's not clear, those are ice packs stuffed under there.)

Here's how the week went down:

Last Sunday, I had a fantastic 21 miler except for 1) running it a little too fast, & 2) some cramping & tenderness in the outside edge of my left foot. I have a feeling that it's not completely unrelated to this and this. It got worse over the course of the course of the evening, & by Sunday night I could barely put weight on it, which was concerning. I limped around on it on Monday & took it easy at karate, but by Tuesday morning it felt pretty much normal. #winning

Tuesday: 2 wu + 1600m @ 7:00, 1:30 jog + 2 x (800m @ 6:45, 1:00 jog) + 1600m @ 7:00 + 1.5 cd. I figured I would jog a couple of warm-up miles, then decide based on how my foot felt how much I thought I could do & how fast. My legs felt tired, but my foot was pain-free so I did the whole thing, hit all my paces, & felt totally fine. Plus I had Kimra there to keep my spirits up, which was a great help. :) #winning

This is where medial tibial shin splints show up. The bizarro toe is not part of the condition.
Thursday: 4 "easy." I had six easy miles scheduled, but within a mile and a half I could tell it was going to be one of those runs. No matter how I tried to modify my gait (never a good sign), the medial tibial part of my shins were absolutely throbbing with pain. By 1.75 miles, it was really bad--like someone slicing the soft tissue away from the bone behind my tibias with a paring knife. Very briefly part of me went "Five, we are HARD CORE and we can make it to five!" (as in 2.5 out & back), but the rational part of me shut that down pretty quickly. "We're hard core, not stupid," it insisted. "Let's try not to confuse the two." Nope; I was turning around at two and that was all there was to it. Even so, I more or less hobbled through the last mile, sick at my stomach over the pain. Cue wrapping & icing. #notwinning

Friday: 2 wu + 4 @ 7:25 + 10 x (100m @ 6:00) + 1.5 cd. 2 "easy." My shins were still feeling tender Friday afternoon and I wasn't at all confident that I would be able to get much running done. Lately, though, when I'm not feeling so hot, I've been telling myself that I have to at least try. That it's okay if I can't do my whole workout or can't do it as fast, but what is not negotiable is putting on running clothes & going out there to at least confirm that I'm not up to whatever it is rather than just assuming (because 9 times out of 10 I'm wrong).

I went to the track to do this one because of the softer surface in case it helped (and also because there is no way in hell I'm doing 6:00 100's anywhere else), but I wasn't even one warm-up lap in before things started going downhill. At first it was just a mild achey-ness, but by 1.5 the slicey-stabby feeling from Thursday was back. Also, I just felt completely exhausted & out of gas. I experimented a little with how fast I could even run, but 7:45 was the best I could do, and after one or two hundred yards of that I felt like I was about to collapse. Nope; 7:25s were definitely off the table. I finished the 2 warm up miles, packed it in, & spent another hour on the couch wrapped & icing. #REALLYnotwinning

I also shot an email to Coach Tom, who I have been working with some this cycle, outlining all this. ("Coaching" is probably too strong a word, but he is responsible for my training plan & lets me email him questions from time to time.)

"Does this make any kind of sense to you? Is it possible that the long run was too fast enough to screw me up this badly for the rest of the week, or that the issue with my left foot is related to the shin splints?"

To which he responded in part:

"I think it is probably related to the LR but that wasn't such a crazy run that it is independently responsible. More likely it is the combination of all the training and you reaching the end of a tough cycle.

The MT stuff can get bad in a hurry. The best thing to do is take the weekend off. It is tough to do but the risk/reward proposition is much better (ie. If you run and get injured then you risk missing the 'thon). You're in very good shape and right now we have to focus on getting you to the line."

Done. If there is one thing I can do, it's follow instructions. No heroes up in here.

He also suggested that I try 20 minutes of easy running on Monday, & if that went well, another 40 minutes on Tuesday. I'll be out of town without anywhere to run until the Monday after Thanksgiving, so I'm trying to stay positive & look at that as a big chunk of rest / recovery time rather than big fat zeros in the training log.

I'm also trying to remind myself that nothing much of consequence happens during the last three weeks of marathon training fitness-wise -- that while you can't do a whole lot to get faster during that time, it's sure as hell PLENTY of time to get hurt or over-train or otherwise screw yourself over. So my plan is to do as Coach Tom has instructed and use this weekend to let my legs heal themselves.

Aaaaaaand, what does Angela do when she can't run for some reason?

Have a pumpkin spice muffin, darlings. By which I mean, go to this site & make them. Heaven, I tell you.

So...that's that. If anyone needs me, I'll be on the couch like a good girl, stuffing my face with seasonal baked goods. #nevertooearlytocarbload

Monday, November 12, 2012

CIM Week 11 of 14: Lies, Lies, Lies...

Lies, I tell you, are totally underrated.

Don: "You didn't lick the spoon & stick it back in the batter, did you?"
Me: "Um, NO. Because I am IN NO WAY gross & disgusting like that."

Some horrible gift giver: "Do you like it?"
Me: "OF COURSE I DO! It is absolutely the best _____ I have ever received and I LOVE IT."

Me: "Aren't I the hottest chick you have ever seen ever in your life?"
Don: "Well DUH, by like A TON."

Runner Brain: "Ugh, I soooo don't feel like running 10 miles today..."
Rational Brain: "Well, it's you're lukcy day, then! We're only going to run, like, 3 or so."

Runner Brain: "Ugh, that hill looks REALLY steep...and as I recall, it goes on for a while...
Rational Brain: "Good thing you're BADDASSEST RUNNER on the ENTIRE PLANET EARTH, then!"
Runner Brain: "Flattery will get you EVERYWHERE."

(She is a sucker for that shit, let me tell you.)

I am not saying that lying is a great idea in every situation, obviously. But I AM saying that lying to myself and others, and knowing full well that I am lied to by others at times, is a key part of what gets me through life, the universe, and whatever training cycle I happen to be in the middle of.

A and I ended up not going to Clarksburg; she has been having an unhappy hip, and I decided I wasn't excited enough about getting up at 4:30 in the morning & driving two hours each way by myself, so I decided to sleep in & do my 20ish here in SF. I had no real plan for it, except to park my car somewhere in Golden Gate Park & run for at least twenty miles.

Here is the nice thing about not really thinking of myself as a marathoner: I just cannot muster any real sense of worrying about or feeling pressured by this race in any way. There was some pressure last year, just because it was my first marathon and there were a lot of "what ifs" running through my head (what if I get hurt, what if I can't finish, what if I haven't trained well enough, etc.). But this time there's no doubt in my mind that I'll finish. Plus I know the course, I seem to be in better shape (in spite of running quite a bit fewer miles), and barring catastrophic injury or illness, beating last year's time is a foregone conclusion.

Likewise, I can't muster much enthusiasm for any particular time goal. I've been given an average pace to shoot for, but after three months of trying to "own it" the way I did 7:38 when I was shooting for a sub-1:40 half, I still don't feel that attached to it. I also feel like it's a magical-day, best-case-scenario, all-the-stars-align kind of pace, and part of me feels like the race will be a lot less fun if I set the bar that high.

Can I tell you a secret? I just don't care that much. The only loose goal that carries much meaning for me is qualifying for Boston, which is certainly within the realm of possibility but far from guaranteed. And even with that, I'm very much of the if-it-happens-great-if-not-let's-eat-pancakes kind of mindset.

For me, this second marathon feels much more like one piece in the giant puzzle that is developing some level of skill around marathoning. It took me way more than two 5Ks or 10Ks or half marathons to feel like I had a good handle on how to run those distances well strategy-wise, so it's kind of unreasonable to expect I'd be running a really good, "best case" marathon on my second attempt. Mostly I just want to finish and go, "Hey, that felt better than last time!"

So I parked my car by Kezar Stadium & set out to loop the Park. One thing I knew I did want to practice was really using the downhills as much as possible, something I think helped me a lot in Healdsburg. You know that lesson about not trying to stick religiously to your goal pace at every moment? That is particularly important in hilly races. In the past, on downhills, I've sometimes seen really low numbers & gotten freaked out & tried to slow down, but in the past year or so I've really embraced the art of "controlled falling" -- basically letting myself slide down a hill at whatever pace gravity dictates & only using my legs to keep from eating pavement. This does take a) some skill / practice and b) serious core / quad strength, but if you can manage it, it's a GREAT way to compensate some for the time you lose on the uphills. On those downhills going west through the Park, I kept reminding myself that while averaging 7:30/mile for 26 miles is out of my reach for now, it was just fine to "fall" down a hill at that pace.

Reward beer. This stuff is amazing.
I've been pretty laissez-fare about pace in my previous long runs, so for this one, I decided to push it just a little. I let myself "fall" down the downhills in the 7:30-7:45 range, with my goal on the long uphill stretches to just stay below 9:00. Surprisingly, I found my legs really wanting to go faster than that, and legitimately able to do it without feeling like I was expending much effort. Also, the uphill stretch on the second loop felt even better than the first (?!?) and I kept looking at my watch & seeing low eights when I really felt like I shouldn't be.

Since I'm not a complete marathon rookie anymore, I did rein things in some. Pushing the pace some & experimenting with theoretical best-case race pace? Fine. Basically racing 20 miles three weeks before a marathon? Not so great.

I got back to my car with about 18.6 miles down & decided on a whim to go to 21, in order to make it a nice round 40 for the week. I did the last 2.4 on the track, and since it's just so easy to go fast there, I let my body do what it wanted & cruise them at an 8:00 pace.

Now for the really amazing part. Friends, at no point did any of that run feel hard. Yes, it was a fast pace for me for a long run, but it felt completely comfortable. I never felt desperate for it to be over. No aches / pains / cramps / etc. Just cruising along for two hours and fifty-three minutes, until I was done.

Grand Total: 40 miles

* 33.4 easy
* 2 speed / intervals
* 4.6 tempo

Monday: 5 easy (sort of). This was the day I ran from home to the train, then from the train to work because I'd left my car there the previous Friday. I started a post about that last week & never finished it. :/

Tuesday: 2 wu + 2[3 x (300m @ 7:05 + 100m jog) + 400 jog] + 2 cd. Order of operations track workout. Which I managed to decipher because I have hella math skillz. This felt harder than it really should have, but you can only expect to feel so fresh after 11 weeks of marathon training.

Wednesday: Karate + strength.

Thursday: 2 wu + 4 x (1 mile @ 7:20 + 1:00 jog) + 1.4 cd. I can now add to my list of "Things I Cannot Recommend" running mile repeats on the sidewalk in the dark. It's just really, really, REALLY no bueno. I was afraid that if I drove to the track at dinner time, though, I might never find parking in my neighborhood ever again. So that was that. Again, these felt suspiciously hard, but week 11 & all that.

Friday: 4 easy. Baby shin splints & feet. They were both acting up & feeling sore & achey.

Saturday: 6 easy. My lower legs & feet were still feelign complain-ey so I was already 50/50 on this run when I got up. When we got back from the Stanford game around seven I was wiped out & decided another rest day was not the worst thing in the world. (On a somewhat related note: GO CARD!!!)

Sunday: 21 long.

Part of me still feels a little sketchy about the fact that I've run so little mileage this cycle (ie, this is only my second week that starts with a 4), but in spite of that, things seem to be falling into place fitness-wise, which is the whole point, right? The only thing left is to make sure I rest & taper well, and if I've mastered any part of this by now, it's definitely sitting around not running. :)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Apparently I Have Not Gushed About the Track in a Few Weeks

So y'know. I'm due.

Seriously. I could do track workouts every day of the week if it made any kind of sense as far as distance running goes. For mysterious reasons I can only guess at, it is also WAY easier on my body than the same number of miles on concrete at an "easy" pace. Go figure.

Kezar Stadium can get a little nutso this time of year if you're there too late in the evening. When I worked from home it was no problem for me to go during the day when there at most four or five other people there, but these days the best I can do is going straight from work, which usually puts me on the track at about 5:30.


On a normal day I can whip out a 6-7 mile session in about an hour & be home by 7:00. This past Tuesday I was stalling, though, because emotionally speaking I felt certain that the less time I spent watching election returns & biting my fingernails, the better off all of us would be. I was probably actually out there until a little past seven, and by the time I left I swear there must have been fifty people out there. Or maybe a hundred. Hell, I don't know; I'm kind of like a bird in that after a certain point it's just, y'know, a lot.

I tried to take a photograph to document the insanity, but it turns out that dark doesn't photograph that well at night.

Seriously. It was like a million billion people.

There are like nine running groups that work out there on Tuesday nights, from a kids' track & field group to the SF Road Runners Club to a group of speedy, sinewy old dudes in short shorts to the nigh immortal Impalas. A few are always there when I arrive, and the rest usually seem to trickle in around six. At that point things are still pretty manageable, though I occasionally have to get creative about which lanes I'm in at different points on the track. By seven, doing my easy cool down laps kind of felt like being on the freeway with people who don't know how to drive.

But still! Running at the track is AWESOME and you should totally try it some time if you haven't. The surface is a nice break from the impact of pavement, there are no lights / dogs / pedestrians (besides other runners) to deal with, and you can go fast without worrying about tripping on or running into something.

I understand that you may still have some questions / reservations about track running. I will now put them to rest.

Isn't the track for speedy people? I don't think I'm fast enough to run on the track.

The track is indeed a great place to run fast without worrying about footing or unpredictable pedestrians. BUT, there are also plenty of people who go to the track to walk or just do some easy jogging. Heck, some people don't even run! They just do lazy crunches and get yelled at by their trainer on the infield. Not that it matters, but is HIGHLY unlikely that you will be the slowest person out there.

Aren't there a bunch of secret customs and rituals about track running? I am afraid I will make some kind of horrible track faux pas & someone will yell at me / laugh me off the track.

Probably not as many as you think. If it's fairly empty, you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you look out for other runners. But here are a few general guidelines:

  • It's traditional to run counter-clockwise, but if it's not too crowded & you take care to make sure you're not barreling straight at another runner, running clockwise is totally acceptable (and can help prevent overuse injuries on the inside leg, according to some). If it's crowded, it's simplest & safest to stick to counter-clockwise.
  • Track lanes are like freeway lanes -- if you want to go fast, stick to the inside lanes, and if you want to take it easy or walk, stick to the outside lanes. This helps make sure that no one gets run over or has to suddenly dart into other lanes to avoid a collision.
  • As with a busy street, it's important to pay attention & be aware of other bodies around you. If you need to cross the track, don't run out in front of people, even if you think you can beat them; wait until you have plenty of time & space. Look around you before you jump into another lane, and avoid sudden stops. If you need to stop for some reason, step off the track to give others space.
  • On a similar note, keep the track itself clear for walking and running. Keep standing / chatting / stretching on the grass or sidelines.

See? Simple! (Also, it's worth noting that there are definitely fast & experienced runners who are still somehow incapable of doing these things sometimes, and no one's yelling at them about it.)

Even doing speed work, I am not exactly cheetah-like. Won't all the Impalas and sinewy dudes laugh and make fun of me?

No, because they are too busy doing their own thing. No one at the track gives two shits how fast or slow anyone else is going, as long they're paying attention to others around them & not doing anything dangerous.

Isn't it boring to run on the track? Don't you get sick of going in circles?

I would imagine that running on a track is a little like running on a treadmill in some respects. Yes, making loop after loop at the same pace probably gets kind of mind-numbing after a certain point. (Though this baddass makes it look easy!) Most of what I do at the track is interval work, which breaks it up in such a way that it never gets boring, and actually seems to go by pretty quickly.

So if I have a point in here somewhere, the point is COME TO THE TRACK WITH ME!! RUN HARD WITH ME!! If you are hesitant about the track and/or speed work, I will make you love it (or at least not hate it). Word.

Track face. Or something. I guess what I'm saying here is that no one rocks 300 repeats the way I rock 300 repeats. Or sweaty eyeliner.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

CIM Week 9 of 14: 38 Miles Is Not The Worst I Could Be Doing

Self, meet marginally acceptable marathon mileage. Marginally acceptable marathon mileage, meet self.

Notice that I didn't say exemplary marathon mileage. Or even "pretty good" mileage. In fact, as I recall, last year my podiatrist (who treats Olympic runners & has a lifetime marathon PR of 2:44) opined that anyone attempting to train for a marathon on less than 40 miles a week on average is asking for trouble, and 50 is "probably okay." Sigh.

On Sunday I'd planned to run 20 miles, which was kind of a big deal as my most recent run that started with a '2' was CIM '11. A had gotten her 20 miler in the day before but agreed to meet me about halfway through my run for a few miles, which I really appreciated.

Now, I did not feel as great on this run as I have on my other long runs. I felt slow and tired & my feet & lower legs felt crampy & sore, but it was more of a "Meh, I've had better runs" kind of feeling than a "GAAAAAHH, this SUUUUUUCKS" one. The only down side was that I got a later start than I'd wanted due to lack of planning (did you know you can use gummy bears in place of gels in a pinch? True story), so instead of being halfway done with my 20 when I met A in Golden Gate Park, I was only up to 7.5. Don & I had plans to spend the day wine tasting in Sonoma & wanted to leave by 11, so I only really had until 10 to run, & in the end I only got up to 17 before I had to call it a morning & head home.

Here are some pictures from Sonoma, since there are not many running-related pictures in this post:

But back to running stuff.

A couple of observations on this & previous long runs:

1) Last year when I did my (only) 20 miler, I was terrified. It had been years since I had run that far and even though theoretically I knew I should have no problem getting through it, I was worried about how much it would hurt and how I would feel after & also about potentially blowing up around mile 17 or something. This time, I was so focused on my time limit that I didn't give much thought to how far I was running or how I felt. Instead of "OMG 20 miles soooOOOoo far," my mindset was more, "Let's get this bitch DONE."

2) I would say that after all of my long runs training for CIM '11 (all four of them), I felt pretty broken for the rest of the day & definitely needed the day after completely off. While I have been taking the Monday after these long runs off (except for karate), the way I've been feeling in the minutes and hours afterward has been night and day with how I felt last year. Seriously -- I've felt 95% normal. A little pain in my left calf this time (I think I strained it a little), but otherwise, I came home, jumped in the shower, got dressed, & had a great day in Sonoma feeling as if I'd barely run at all. Sure, it wasn't quite 20, but 17 is still a pretty darn respectable long run. I even considered throwing in 4-5 miles on Monday, but decided keeping with the recovery days was probably smart.

3) I feel like I'm running & racing really well right now, which is blowing my mind considering how little mileage I've been doing. Going into Healdsburg, I felt like my long runs had been going well, but marathon speed & tempo work is not the same as 10K/half speed & tempo work, so I wasn't sure how prepared I was to run fast. If I hadn't had such a good race there, I would've felt nervous about the possibility of having the strength to go the distance but not the speed. But what can you complain about when your long runs are butter and you're running PRs in the half? Obviously I'm going to do my best to get that mileage up in these last few weeks before taper, but still. I'm feeling SOOOO much more confident right now than I was this time last year.

Grand Total: 38 miles

* 35 easy
* 3 speed / intervals

Monday: Work, work, work.

Tuesday: Work, work, work / drive to Fairfield

Wednesday: 2 warm up + 8 x 400m w/ ~200m jog recoveries + 2 cool down. On the (utterly terrifying) hotel treadmill!! This was my first treadmill run since 2006. True story. Plus, it gave me an excuse to get some new (totally neutral!!) shoes. ;)

Saucony Kinvara 3s. I'll have a review for you once
I get some decent miles on them, but so far so good!

Thursday: 7 easy. This run was lovely! Felt great & kept up a nice pace without much effort.

Friday: 7 easy. This run was harder. I kind of wanted to cut it short, but since I wasn't having any actual pain, I pushed through. A bit slower than Thursday, & with more effort.

Saturday: 7 easy Tailgating / football game. I guess technically I could've gotten up early to do this one, but I'd had a long week & am not 100% sure I could've gone without the extra sleep. Also I kind of went back & forth all day about taking a rest day before my long run, which is probably total weak sauce but whatever. By the time we got home from football it was late & we hadn't eaten, & since I knew I'd be getting up SUPER early (for me, for a weekend) for my long run in the morning, there wasn't really time anyway.

Sunday: 17 long.

We'll be in Paso Robles for some more wine tasting this coming weekend, so I'm doing my best to get as many miles in as I can in the next four days. Yes, I need to get the mileage up, but I also need to drink fabulous wine, eat rich food, & wander around autumn vineyards in boots & scarves.

Last fall at Turley Cellars

The vineyards at Wild Horse

Speaking of Miss A, she's talked me into running Clarksburg again on 11/11, but the 20 miler this time, & as a supported training run instead of a race. I really enjoyed the event last year in spite of everything, and also any time you pay money for something you know you're that much more committed to doing it. So I'm looking forward to that.