Monday, December 13, 2010

February 27th, 2011

I've come full circle and am now registered for the Hyannis Half Marathon on February 27th, 2011.  Last February, I ran this half marathon as my first, and was hooked.  But more importantly, one year ago, I began training for my first long distance race.

I've had several people ask me why (seriously--there's no follow up, it's just the single word).  Usually, they will continue to say they ran a mile about a month ago and almost died.  There's an unasked question of "how" that is implied in the "why" and I'd like to try to answer that.

Training is an interesting thing.  For me, it is the reason I became a long distance runner.  I did not run so that I could run, I ran so that I could do a half marathon.  The 13.1 miles looming in my future provided the fuel for running, and running most days out of the week made it a habit. 

A year and some months ago, I was one of the incredulous "why" asking people with an implied "how."  For a quite literal answer to that, here is how:  Sign up for a race.  Make it a hard one (like, say, a half marathon).  Then follow this schedule:

Courtesy of Hal Higdon (www.halhigdon.com)
The other "how," the less literal and more, I don't know, inspirational, is just get out there and start running.  Hate it if you want, detest it.  Let yourself feel those feelings.  It doesn't matter, though, you just have to do it.  There's a reason Nike's motto is what it is.  No one likes sweating and hurting.  But trust me, eventually, the hurting goes away.  You should probably learn to like sweating.

Eventually, it also gets easy.  After awhile, you're going to start to look forward to running.  Trust me, it's worth the effort in the beginning. 

After taking a small break from serious running, I'm also having to put in the work to get out there and run.  It's tough to make a priority sometimes, especially in this busy season.  Fortunately, I've graduated from the above schedule, which is "novice," and am now working on the intermediate one.  It's a small victory, but totally worth it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Heavier Things

If running has brought anything unquantifiable and worthwhile to my life, it has brought the knowledge of what it feels like to push through difficulties to reach something that I know I want.

There are several parts to that, the first being the end: something that I know I want.  When I ran near the finish line of the marathon around mile 16 (because of the race's strange set up over the last half), I had zero desire to turn in a half marathon time instead of a full because I wanted the full marathon.  I wanted to run and finish it so badly that I gleefully kept going.  The second part of it is that I had never really before felt the satisfaction of pushing through something to get somewhere I knew I wanted to be.  As proud of myself as I was to graduate from college, it was (almost) a given.  I did struggle with things during those four years, and there were challenges to face, but somehow it was different.  

This is one of the reasons that has kept me running.  I want to keep that feeling alive, I want to keep building my mileage, although at this point it is rebuilding, and I want to keep reaching those goals.

Now, though, I want more.  I want to have that feeling in my life.  I want to discover a goal, go and do the work to achieve it, and then achieve it.  Whether this needs to happen in my work or in some outside activity, I'm not sure.

Where does running fit into this heavy question of what to do?  It is, hopefully, a catalyst that will place the big picture into perspective.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Good Life Ain't Half Bad

It's been one month since I ran the marathon.  The days don't seem quite as long now.  I can almost feel the breeze, whipping past my aching legs...almost.  But then it goes away...and I wonder, will I ever, ever feel that way again?

Sike! This has been a great month.  I've really taken advantage of my new found free time and have gotten back in touch with friends, including the better-rested, less-stressed version of myself that I'm quite fond of.  The things that needed attention, like say, what I'm doing with my life, have also been getting the attention they deserve, and I'm finding that things are going in a direction.

Not to say that I didn't love training for the marathon and then running it.  If you've read any of my posts, you know that I did. Satisfaction doesn't even begin to describe the feeling that I would get after a run.  Athletics have never really been my thing, so it was a new and very appreciated experience.

But now I find myself here, one month later, asking what's next.  Since I'm the type A person that I am (sorta), I can actually tell you what's next!

1) the Hyannis Half Marathon--this one will probably be on my schedule every year as long as I am in the area.
2) Massachusetts Reach The Beach Relay in May--it's the inaugural year for this springtime race, and team Too Late to Turn Back (from Vermont!) is at it again

I've realized a couple of things that I wish I had done differently in my training the past year.  I really wish I had done more speedwork.  Speed was not my goal when I did those races, I really just wanted to finish, but now that I've done the races, I think it's okay to let my competitive side out a bit.  No more running just for the hell of it.  Well that's not true...but more speed workouts.  We'll just go with that....

And in case you were wondering, the number of times I've run since the marathon?  5 times.  5 glorious, wonderful times.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Marathon, Or, My Tour of San Francisco

My plane wasn't delayed, the weather was good, and I found myself in San Francisco three weeks ago, doing anything BUT thinking about the marathon I was to run the next day.  We walked around Union Square, registered for the race, got some free stuff, went to brunch, and had a generally relaxing day.  When Jenny, my friend who went with me, asked if I was nervous, I could honestly say no.  That's because I just wasn't thinking about it.

The next morning, however, was different.  I was bounding down the stairs in the hotel to use the restroom, I was bounding back up them to meet up with people, I was awake, I was excited, and I just wanted to run.

The night before the race was the Team in Training Inspiration Dinner.  There were 3800 TNTers there.  3800!  That's a lot of people raising a lot of money for LLS.  Joan Benoit spoke at the beginning and gave us some inspiration for the run the next day.   "The Penguin" of Runner's World magazine was the host and told some funny jokes and kept us entertained.  Then the honored hero of the night came up and spoke about her sister passing away a year ago and how she and her other 5 sisters were running in the race in memory of her.  It was a great way to remind everyone that there are bigger things in the world.  Nerves just don't stack up when it comes to things like that.

The best part about the whole event--the 3800 of us managed to raise $13 million for LLS for this race.  The Massachusetts Chapters raised $106,000 of that.  I've never been moved by people's generosity so much before.  Thank you all.

On to the race.

The following is not how you would expect a tour of San Francisco to go:

"First, you will walk through the streets of the financial district, where you will see clothes strewn about on the street.  Don't worry, this is totally normal.   Next, we will be going along the Embarcadero, where you will worry about tripping over the train tracks there.  A few hills and 6 miles later, we're going to climb a doozy of a hill.  But there's more!  At the top will be a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge, where you, in all your sweaty and exhausted glory, can stop and be photographed!..."

Nicole and I gearing up
We're ready to go!

But that is, in fact, how the race started.  The streets were deserted, save for a few dedicated fans and runners strewn-about unneeded 2nd layers.   Nicole and I started the race together and ran these first 6 miles together.  Nike had "Power Song" stations every 4 or 5 miles, and the station for mile 6 was special because at the pre-race expo, we were able to vote for the song that would play.  This was important because it was the start of the largest hill we would encounter.  I may or may not have voted for "Dynamite" three times.  And guess what--it won!  I have to say, I felt incredibly strong going up the hills.  I have no idea why, but it's great that my love for hills has returned and I've temporarily forgotten about Vermont. (oh Vermont...).

Nicole and I became separated on this hill, and so I ran the next 5 miles by myself, and by that I mean with way too many people surrounding me.  It was great that the race was so popular, because you never really were running by yourself, but it was also a source of frustration in the beginning.  On the way down the hill, I ran next to a lady from the Central Ohio Chapter of Team in Training so we sparked up a conversation about Columbus and the Buckeyes.

Just before mile 11, Jenny joined me.  I can't even begin to thank her enough for running with me for the next 7 miles.  I really, truly can't.  With her, I picked up my pace a little bit and we kept ourselves entertained by talking.  Around mile 17, we passed a station playing "Eye of the Tiger" and we belted out our beautiful voices to that song.  At mile 18, she turned around to go back to the finish line to patiently wait for another hour and half for me to finish.  I have no idea exactly how much having her run with me actually helped but I know that she left me with high spirits and confidence.  Thank you Jenny!!
Jenny and I at the end
What also helped with the race were the myriad of Team in Training coaches dotting the course and calling good luck to everyone whose name they could see clearly.  Mine was written on my singlet as well as my right arm, and apparently it was clear enough that I had my name called out a lot.  Towards the end of the race, people started saying to me "Looking strong Kristin," which I was coherent enough to question whether I really did look strong or whether I looked so weak that they were shouting confidence in my direction.  I have no idea...
Teammate Danyell and I at the end

The weather was, in my opinion, perfect for the race. The sky was overcast and there was a light rain that came and went throughout the whole thing.  I know some people said they were cold but for me, it was ideal.  Everything would have been so much more difficult if it had been hot.

Overall, it was a great day and an experience that I won't forget.  I realize how lucky I am that I didn't have any issues or injuries while running it.  I know several people who have had such issues, or who just had a plain old bad day, and while they were all able to finish the race, it wasn't easy.
To the Finish!

I'll definitely run another one of those things.  Not anytime soon, though.  I will be doing several half marathons again next year and I also plan on doing another sprint triathlon.

ALSO I do plan on keeping up with the blog!  My facebook status updates about it will probably cease but feel free to check back every so often!

Thanks so much for everyone's support!  

~Kristin

More Details on the Run (because I didn't want to bore most of you...)

I finished the race faster than I expected.  When I started training in May, my goal was to run it under 4hr 30min.  As I ran through the summer and into Autumn, that adjusted to under 5 hours, with the ultimate goal being 4hr 45min. I started off pretty slow, probably going just over 11 min/mile.  I was passed at some point by the 4hr 45min pacer, and while I tried to keep her in my sights (she had a sign saying 4:45, afterall), I lost her and eventually went back to a comfortable pace.  But with the increase in pace with Jenny, I caught up with her at around mile 19.  Since I become even more social than normal when I run sometimes, I said to her "I'm so glad to see you!" and her response was "well stick with me, the coming miles are uncharted territory."  I thought about that, and assessed how I was feeling, and heeded her advice, but only in making sure I didn't go all out just yet.  I continued on, passing by the group that was sticking to her like glue, and stayed strong through the last 8 miles.  It did get harder, and my legs did get tired, but it was never enough to make me even think about stopping or slowing down.

Around mile 24, I felt confident enough that I'd be able to finish without breaking down that I picked up my pace, with the full intention of slowing down once I hit mile 25.  I slowed a bit, but not much, and I was able to finish with a time of 4hr 38min.

Next marathon goal--break 4:30

Friday, October 15, 2010

Things On My Mind

With only two full days left standing between me and the 26.2 miles I'll be running in California, there are quite a few things that have the potential to keep me awake at night.  So far, sleep hasn't been a problem, knock on wood, but here it is:

1)  Many of the things I've read say that the pre-race week jitters will get to you.  I haven't had much, if any, anxiety about the race, which in itself makes me anxious.  I think this might be what they are talking about...I just remembered, in fact that I need to go pick up Gu and Shot Blocks for the race.  So I think I can say I have the pre-race jitters, which makes me less anxious, but then I have to deal with those nerves.  My mind is not a place you would want to be right now...

2)  A Nor'easter (however it is spelled) is supposed to hit today and high winds are supposed to stick around through Saturday.  My flight leaves from Boston tonight and naturally I'm concerned.  If I can just get myself to San Francisco, which is all the way across the country, and completely in the hands of JetBlue airlines, then I can run those freaking 26.2 miles. 

3)  Will I get enough rest the day before the race?  I will likely worry about getting enough rest, and worrying keeps rest away, and I find myself wishing that I had actually read the book Catch-22.

4)  Blisters?  Leg pain?  Side cramp?  General existence pain?  Probably.  That's okay. If I get those, it means that I made it to the race.  It means that I'm in the race.  It means that, barring any medical condition, I will finish the race.  Because once I start, I'm not stopping unless I pass out, get struck by lightning, get struck by a car (I'll only stop then if it's really bad), etc. etc. 

Thanks so much to everyone who has been following my blog!  The updates have been sporadic, yes, but hopefully they've been entertaining.

Wish me luck and send energetic, caffeinated and carb-loaded thoughts my way on Sunday morning!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

17.6

The schedule is pinned to my bulletin board on my desk, behind my computer.  The daily running, cross training, and weekly mileage is marked, telling us when we should be training the hardest and when we should be taking a recovery run.  On Saturday, September 25th, the chart said I was to run 20 miles, or 2.5 hours, whichever came first.  20 miles would be the longest distance I would run prior to the marathon, and with the pace that I run, it was more likely that I wouldn't even hit that.

I ran for 3 hours alongside my Team in Training teammate Nicole and a few of our mentors.  There was no lull in attention, or intensity, and I didn't get at all bored.  A really bad pop song was stuck in my head almost the whole time, but that didn't bother me.  In those 3 hours, I ran 17.6 miles, and guess what--I felt great. Sure, my legs weren't the most comfortable they had ever been, but I had energy left and I could have gone further, had it not been for the time limit.

After that, I began to taper.  I've been on taper mode for a little over a week now, and I gotta say, it's been nice to not have to worry about the upcoming long run.  I ran a half marathon this past Sunday, as the end of a trilogy of half marathons I have done throughout the year, and dare I say, it felt easy.  Of course this is in comparison to the 17.6 miles I ran the week before, and all that shows is that everything is relative.  

The marathon is a little less than 2 weeks away, and I'm beyond excited to run 26.2 miles.  It's going to be hard, especially if I have the bad luck of having a bad day.  But I feel like I'm ready for the mental and physical challenge of the race.

At some point during the race, I know I will hit a point where I just don't want to run anymore.  This happened during the 100 mile relay race, on my last leg, and it took 3 miles to deal with it and get over myself.  I'm hoping that since I've experienced the fatigue and lethargy of exhaustion, I will know how to better handle myself when I hit this point.  I have a race mantra in my head, and I'm anxious to see if it will help me get through the miles.

Until then, I just have to wait.  Oh, and run approximately 20 more miles between now and then.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

UpRace Blog

I recently wrote a post for UpRace Blog.  Check it out, and read the other posts while you're there, they're great!

Pumpkins are healthy, right?

Fall makes me sappy, and the weather we've been having this week in Boston has inspired the following sentence: It's that time of year again, where the summer heat begins to drift to the cooler spectrum, long sleeve shirts and jackets emerge from the bottom drawer, and the leaves are succumbing to the temptation to change colors.

Ok, that's out of my system.  Really, it's all about the pumpkin flavored pastries.  I mean, have you have Dunkin Donut's pumpkin muffin?  It's show-, work-, track-stopping, what have you.

I'd like to think that we're meant to build up a layer of pumpkin pastries for the winter cold, and I've already had a pretty good start to it.  But that brings up another issue, one that I've been thinking about for the past few months, and that is nutrition for long distance runners.

Back in June, when it started getting really warm and the fact of not having air conditioning was just starting to hit me, I lost my appetite at night.  I would get home and be so hot that food just sounded gross.  The problem with this is, not only was I skipping a meal, I was skipping a meal right after working out.  I would go for a run of between 4-6 miles, or go to the gym for a class, and get home and not eat anything.  Now before you start calling hotlines on my behalf, I should tell you that I have been making a concerted effort over the past few months to not skip meals and to replenish my body with nutrients lost while working out.

Finding what I need to eat, nutrient wise and calorie wise, has been a struggle for a few reasons.  One is that I simply don't have time to cook a well-balanced, healthy and nutritious meal for myself.  I'm not sure that frozen dinners really cut it, and my go-to bowl of cereal, for when nothing else sounds good, doesn't do me any good after I've burned 700 calories.  Neither does chocolate cake, which always sounds good, and has plenty of calories.  I've had some problems that I think proper nutrition could have helped: I was getting headaches after I did my long runs, and I strained my left shin muscle.  Nutrition isn't the only culprit for both of these issues, but I'm betting that it would have helped.  I wasn't getting enough carbs, and now that I'm conscious of that, I eat bread like it's my job and my headaches have been getting better.

There's a fine balance in eating right, staying healthy, and also staying lean.  For every pound that you lose, supposedly you can shave 2 seconds off of your pace.  So, exactly how many calories is enough to intake after a 10 mile run?  What types of calories am I supposed to have?  I know I need a ration of 4:1 carbs to protein.  But what about veggies?

I've heard people say that after you've been a serious distance runner for a little bit, your body begins to crave fruits and vegetables so a more natural diet is almost automatic.  That hasn't exactly happened for me, and I go straight for the cookies once I'm home.

I haven't figured all of this out yet.  There are still days where I don't eat enough, and it doesn't occur to me until the next day when I'm trying to figure out why I am tired, grumpy and sore.  One thing I've tried to do is eat a substantial lunch on days I know I have to run.  On my long run days, I get home and immediately make pasta and try to take in some protein.  I also have about 5-6 glasses of water or Gatorade.  After that, there isn't room in my stomach for anything else.

I am buying vegetables and fixing them when I have time, and I eat about two pieces of fruit a day.  I try to make sure at least one of my meals each day is a full one, with protein, carbs and veggies.  It's gotten easier, but it's definitely a problem I did not anticipate having when I signed up for the marathon.

Friday, September 17, 2010

W-w-w-wipeout!

Sooner or later in your running "career," you will realize the hazards of your choice to tie up your laces and get out the door on the pavement.  You may find yourself in a crosswalk, in the direct path of a treacherously driven vehicle (and you thought the white lines meant pedestrian right-of-way).  Or you'll run a little bit too close to dusk and end up running home in the dark, without reflective gear or pepper spray.  Perhaps you'll even find yourself running past/near/into an ex, looking exactly like you feel--hell--when in your head you had pictured this awkward encounter as having a smidge more glamour and smelling better.

While these are the more serious hazards (except the last one--let's face it, while it is embarrassing, it's not life threatening), there are some other hazards, like tripping and falling, that are important to keep in mind.

I've been on runs where after a number of miles, it's difficult to pick up my feet.  Moving my legs forward isn't difficult, but getting the toes to lift more than 1 centimeter off the ground is.  This isn't a problem, unless there are things that get in your toes' way, like branches, rocks, uneven pavement, your other toes...

On Monday night, I went for a run along the Charles River, this time going from my new apartment in Brighton towards the city.  While there is a paved walkway there, I usually choose to run on the grass or on the trodden-down grass turned path that sometimes appears right next to the walkway, where many other runners have also decided to forego the pavement for softer running ground.  After crossing the JFK Bridge at Harvard, I ran along a bumpier version of this same path, one that was a down a slope from the real path.  I've tripped before, but I've always caught myself.  Monday wasn't so lucky, and I tripped on something--a rock, a root, who knows, and fell forward onto my left side.  I came away fairly unscathed, considering: my left knee was skinned and there was a rock that I had apparently slid across, creating a scratch a few inches long.  My iPod has a tiny scratch on its face, but it still works.  No one saw me, which I'm thankful for.  I did have to run the 3 miles home with my bleeding knees and in a thunderstorm, but perhaps it's a small price to pay for my social pride.

You can't prepare for falling, except to be conscious of your dragging feet.  You also can't prepare for the other atrocities mentioned above, except be aware of your surroundings, time of day, and your deodorant usage.

Monday, September 6, 2010

$1000

I've reached 33% of my goal, or $1000!!!

This is exciting for several reasons.  First, that's $1000 that is going towards cancer research, education and patient services.  Wow.  Second, I've never fundraised before and I can't believe that the $1000 mark has been reached!  People are so generous, it's amazing.  Third, that means that I'm, well, 1/3 of my way to raising $3000.

*stops and does happy dance*

We can do so much more, though!  If you haven't donated yet and would like to, please visit the link on the right side of this page!

Happy labor day, everybody!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some Hills Don't End

From a post on June 24...

"I learned that I love hills (yes, this IS a positive). By the end of the run, I was almost begging for more hills. That's less because I'm good at them and more because you use slightly different muscles when you climb them. But still, they were fun! And they come with a built in "instant gratification" (instant compared with the 2.5 hours it takes to finish a half marathon) --at the top of them, there is relief. "

The hills I was referring to in this post I have demoted from hill status to anthills.  Small anthills, for small ants.  Real hills can be found in Vermont, along Route 100 between Stowe and Okemo Mountain.  

This past weekend, I ran the 100 on 100 Relay Race in Vermont with five of some of my now-closest friends.  We began running at 7am and finished running at 9:32pm, clocking in at 14:32.  Each of us ran three times for distances ranging from 2.5 miles to 8.7 miles (these are the extremes).  All in all, I ran 15.9 miles, 10 of those being uphill.

In case you didn't catch that, 10 of those miles were uphill.  

My last leg, no pun intended, where I ran uphill for 6.7 miles.

Since I made a big deal about my shin problems in my last two posts, I'll go ahead and say that my shin gave me no problems in this race.  I was very worried about it, and while my physical therapist said I would be okay, she didn't have high hopes that I would be able to run for about a week afterward.  Haven't tried to run yet, but walking has not posed any problems so far.

So hills are hills, and they are hard to run up, and they are even harder to run up when you're tired.  I think I did these 6.7 miles in about 1hr 15min.  

We all had hills, though.  You should see the elevation map for Jenny's, our runner 6, first leg of the race, or Arthur's, our runner 2, last leg of the race.  We all had hills.  That's Vermont for you!  
The start of the race, 7am!
So a bit more about this race.  The 100 on 100 is a bit unusual, because it is a 100 mile relay race and most relay races are 200 miles.  The great thing about that is that you get it done in one day, whereas the 200 mile ones last at least 24 hours.  Also, we only had 6 people on our team whereas the 200 mile ones have 12.  

There were 130 teams competing this year, and for a race that is only in it's 5th year of existence, that's pretty awesome.  What's cool about this one is that they have various start times for different teams, depending on your average team pace, and they try to make it so that everyone finishes between 9 and 10pm.  It turns into a "party" for the last few legs since there are so many teams running at the same time.  

I recommend that everyone do a relay race for the following reasons:
At the end of the race!
1) You will get to know the people in your van very well.  This is because you get to see their extremely excited, high-endorphin side post-running, and their groggy, grumpy low-energy side as the fatigue starts to hit before they run again. I think that my team saw a little bit more of the latter than the former from me (sorry team!).

2) You'll kick butt.  There's no way not to kick butt in this.  Chris, our runner 3, had never run more than 6 miles before she did this race, and she ran a total of 15 miles.  15 miles!!  And she was amazing!  Even on her last leg when she had some unexpected hills.  Seriously, you can't not rock this, your adrenaline will be so high with all the cheering from your team and other teams, from the sugar cookies you've been eating the whole day, and from your desire to just be done with running.  In all honesty, if you're even a little bit of a runner, you'll love this kind of race.  When else will running be a team sport?
See? It's pretty.
3) Most relay races that I've read about are set in beautiful areas of the country.  There's one in New Hampshire called Reach the Beach, that goes along the southern end of the state and ends at the coast.  There's also a Reach the Beach in the west, I'm not sure in which state.  There are also several in Colorado.  If you want to find out more, just google "running relay race" and you'll find them.

4) You meet such inspiring people from the area and from around the country.  There was a woman who was running my legs and helped me with the hills by tell me to "go slow and steady, with small baby steps" to get through them.  There was also a 12-person team there called "Cody's Crew" (2 people ran at a time) and they all met on a running website.  The team captain's son Cody died of Neoroblastoma a year and a half ago at the age of 6 1/2 and they have been raising money to go towards research for a cure.  While their mission is serious and the story sad, they are so enthusiastic about the race and so willing to share the story with curious onlookers.  They have a pirate theme and run with a personalized "Cody's Crew" pirate flag.  

5)  It's just fun.  You run, you stretch, you drive, you wait, you cheer your team on, you eat, etc. etc. and then repeat that three times.  Ok, I'll admit it, unless you're a runner that probably doesn't sound like much fun, but just trust me on this one.

Now I'm not saying you should all go out and sign up for a relay now.  I am saying that you should go and visit Vermont because wow it's beautiful this time of the year.  

Thanks to all of the towns along Route 100 that let the race happen, and for the transition space.  Thanks also to the volunteers who made this day run so smoothly.

The race came at the perfect time for me.  I was feeling overwhelmed by the looming marathon date and the loads of training that need to happen and the race helped me to feel ready to tackle the coming month and a half.  

Thank you Jenny, Chris, Arthur, Liz and Carl for running an awesome race this weekend!
---------



What's next for me?  
The Harwich Cranberry Festival half marathon on October 3, 2010.  My Mom will be in town for this so I'll have my first half marathon spectator!!  I'm very excited for this.  
The big day, however, is October 17th, when I will run my first marathon in San Francisco!  I'm still fundraising away and training like it's my job.  

Monday, August 23, 2010

Update: Just Keep Swimming

I decided to keep an email based pain diary, because I know this helps doctors to diagnose properly.  There are a total of three entries.

3:59PM: Ankle; Lower Outside muscle
4:14PM: Lower Calf
4:49PM: Pretty much all over.

Solves that issue!

Just Keep Swimming

My left calf is still one unhappy part of my leg.  Despite my efforts to ice as much as possible, which admittedly could be more, and the painkillers I'm on, the darn thing just won't get better!  I have an appointment with a physical therapist this Wednesday so hopefully they will have some good news for me and will still let me do the relay race this Saturday. 

But on a slightly happier note, I swam on Saturday and not only did my calf not hurt but it felt better afterward.  I have a 3-day pass to a gym that has a pool, and am going today during lunch to swim some laps.  If you've read any of my previous posts, you'll know that I'm not a great swimmer.  But after two weeks of inactivity, I'm exhausted from all the rest and want to get moving. 

I'm currently reading/have read recently the following:
How to Start Swim Training Without Embarrassing Yourself: this was posted today and the fortuitous timing could not have been better. 
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murukami.  This is a memoir by novelist Haruki Murukami, and as it sounds, he talks about running.  He also talks about writing, but so far, it's mostly running.  Like me, he is not a fast runner, and focuses more on the metaphysical benefits of the activity.
This book has made it that much harder for me to be idle in these past weeks, but has helped with the necessary reevaluation of what running means to me.  I want to be able to do it for the rest of my life and therefore need to take my body seriously now.  I don't want to run myself into the ground (no pun intended).  Swimming will hopefully help with this and give me one more activity, on top of running and spinning, that I enjoy doing.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tendonitis, Muscle Strains, and Fractures, Oh My!

Whoever said that running was pretty was wrong.  Oh wait, no one ever said that.


I've heard it said that it is difficult to get through marathon training injury free, that somewhere along the way you are very likely to do something to yourself to cause some kind of break in training.  That can be anywhere from your average over training muscle strain to full on stress fracture of the foot, the tibia, the hip, what have you. 

Several of my running acquaintances have had said problems.  A former coworker suffered from something with her hip, and forgive me because the details are vague, but I think it was something along the lines of a stress fracture of the hip.  It put her out of running for months on end.  It also caused her to limit her runs to no more than 6 miles every other day.  Her words of the wise were to not run through the pain, to listen to how it feels and stop when you think you need to stop.  This is true for fractures--if you push through the pain, the fracture gets worse and worse. 

I've tried to take the stance that I should learn from others' mistakes as much as I learn from my own and therefore I've been fairly cautious when it comes to my training.  In early April, we had a gorgeous weekend here in Boston for which I had nothing planned, so I did three difficult runs three days in a row.  On the 3rd day, I felt a pain in my outer left calf that didn't go away and made me stop my run and take a week off.  It was clear to me what had happened--I had pushed too hard for too many days without taking a break.  Lesson learned.

Sort of.

Two weekends ago, I had a similar kind of weekend.  I ran 8 miles on Saturday, did a fast 6 miles on Sunday, biked to and from work on Monday and then ran another 5 miles.  On Tuesday, I started to feel a pain in that same spot on my calf, and after it worsened from a spin class on Wednesday, I went to the doctor on Thursday.  To make a long and boring story short yet equally as boring, I'm out of running until next Wednesday.  They don't think it's a fracture and they're not sure that it's not tendonitis, but it is likely that it is a muscle strain. 

To anyone who doesn't run regularly, this might be a relief, a nice excuse to take it easy.  I used to feel that way.  An injury would be the best excuse to be lazy!  But once you get bitten by the running bug, the same one that causes you to lose a bit of your mental capacity and decide that you're going to run over 80 miles in racing in one year, taking a week off from running is awful.

Now there are way worse things in this world and I understand that.  I mean, imagine those places that don't even have a Marathon Sports store at their disposal!  Atrocious. 

A week from tomorrow, I am competing in the 100 on 100 relay race in Vermont.  There are 6 of us on the team and 2 of us are suffering from injuries of some kind.  We've both put ourselves on running leave until the race and I can only hope that any damage done by the race won't be permanent.  My doctor said there was no physical, scientific reason to not run the race so I might as well.  With this half-assed go ahead, I'm prepared with an ice pack, painkillers, icyhot, and a mental rein put on myself to keep from acting on the urge to push myself harder than my poor calf can handle.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On Not Drowning


That's right, guys, I survived the triathlon.  In fact, I won it!  Nah, just kidding. But I did finish each section, I didn't get kicked in the face by over eager swimmers, I didn't fall off my bike, I only ate one bug while riding the bike (I forgot to not open my mouth), and I ran the running portion a lot faster than I expected and reached a personal best!


Just to bring you down from the elation you are probably experiencing for me right now, this is all after 12 hours of extreme stress and panic about things that could, and did, go wrong.  The night before the race, which is clearly the best time to make sure that your bike is shipshape, I found out that my front tire had a hole in it somewhere and it wasn't keeping air.  This is at about 7:30pm on a Saturday, a time when most bike stores aren't open anymore.  I ended up going to Eastern Mountain Sports in Harvard Square where the nicest man sold me two new relatively inexpensive, light-weight road tires, and then did a quick tune up to my gears. I explained to him that I was so relieved that they were open and able to take some time with me, so close to closing time.  He said that it must be that I'm meant to go to the tri the next day.  I'm not sure that I believe in the whole "meant to be" thing, but after the following morning I'm closer to believing it than ever.


The next morning, after leaving my apartment at 4:45 am and arriving at the race site at 5:45 am, I found out that I was missing a key piece that would keep my front tire on the bike.  Saturday night, I had YouTube'd how to take your front tire off, which I needed to do to fit the bike in my trunk (I'm not a sporting enough cyclist yet to have a bike rack).  There are a surprising number of videos on YouTube on this subject, and I watched a few and felt that I was up to the task.  However, in the process I ended up losing a key piece that would keep my tire on the bike; that is, I was missing the nut that held it all together.


So that morning, after the hour long drive by myself to the race site, during which I had convinced myself that drowning really was a distinct possibility, I arrived to find myself in the above situation.  After talking to several groups of extremely sympathetic but unhelpful ladies who were parked near me, one suggested that I go to the start where there would be a maintenance tent that might have the part.  I bussed it over on the shuttle for onlookers, wheel in one hand and dismembered bike in other, and found the maintenance tent and almost fell to the ground with relief when they said they had the part.  A big thank you goes out to the woman who walked with me to the maintenance tent and carried the wheel while I carried the bike. 


Whew.  And then the work began.


THE SWIM
It starts with getting your bib number written on your thighs.  This is the only way that they can take awful pictures of you and credit the photo to you.  I would have been fine with foregoing this part, but I had no say.




This is a heat of women waiting to start.  Note, this is not my heat.  These ladies look much more put together and calm than I remember feeling when I was standing in the water.  There were at least 20 heats, going at an interval of 3-4 minutes.  Mine went right before this one and I'm pretty sure I was passed by most of these people.  I know for a fact that I was passed by my friend Kendra, the one who had convinced me to do the tri.


On intensity: there were women, though not many, swimming with pool noodles.  I may or may not have been passed by one of them.  I'll leave that for you to ponder.


At the start of my heat, I felt pretty good.  The water was tepid, the feet around me weren't thrashing too dangerously, and I was somewhat enjoying myself, despite the painful suctioning of the goggles on my eyes.  What made me nervous was knowing that 50 people were going to be starting 4 minutes later.  About halfway through the swim, I started getting passed by them.  Once I was finally out of the water, the race photographer managed to get a photo of me looking like a 90-year old woman.  Seriously, I had wrinkles.


TRANSITIONING
I did not take this seriously.  My times for transitions were the worst in my heat.  I just...wasn't concerned about it.  Interesting note about the timing for triathlons: you wear a band around your ankle that has a timing chip in it, which is how they know when you start and finish each section.  It's nice because you get to see your individual times for the different portions as well as your times for the transitions.  

THE BIKE
I would include a photo of this part except that I don't want to have the copyright police come after me.  But I looked okay on the bike, much, much better than the swim.

This part went really really well.  I had not been on my bike at all before the race.  By at all, I mean it had been about a year.  I trained for this portion by going to Ride classes (spin) at Healthworks Fitness Center.  For about two months prior to the race, I went to a class once or twice a week.  Overall, I felt prepared, except for when it came to shifting gears to go up my first hill.  See, in a year's time, you can forget things like you have to be in a low gear to make it up a hill.  I was in the highest gear possible and ended up running up the hill with my bike.  The rest of the hills were fine and I fixed my mistake :)

Best moment of the ride: I hear someone say "Kristin is that you??" and I look and see Kendra!  We had not been able to meet up prior to the race start so I had yet to see the person who was responsible for getting me to do the triathlon and a proper thanks was due.  

THE RUN


Kendra and I starting the run together

Allow me to refer back to a quote from a previous post. 

 "When you first transition from running to triathlon, it’s best to think of a triathlon as an extended workout. The swim is your warmup, the bike is a good way to dry off from the swim, and THEN you jump into the real race."

I hadn't drowned, I hadn't crashed my bike, and my adrenaline was going.  Really, really going.  My legs were hurting. For some reason, I get very social when I do races, and I ended up turning to a random lady beside me and asked if it's normal for your legs to hurt that much and she said yes, but that it gets better after the first mile. 

My time for this portion of the tri made me extremely happy--I ran the 3 miles at a pace of 8:37.  I don't run that fast, especially not after swimming and biking for the previous hour and fifteen minutes.  I just don't.  But I did.  I part of me questioned if they had my time right, but I guess it makes sense.  The energy at this race was amazing.  Every person there was encouraging and positive, from the participants to the volunteers to the race officiators.  Everyone was great and it was hard to not feel excited and energetic about it.  


I would recommend this race to anyone who feels up to the challenge.  In the swim, I finished 58 out of 61 for my heat.  In the biking section, I finished 30 out of 61.  In the run, I finished 15 out of 61.  The only thing I was in any way prepared for was the run, and it shows in my time.  I plan on doing this race again next year, this time with a little bit more practice swimming and some time on an actual bike beforehand.





Thank you Kendra for the encouragement and convincing me to sign up!!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the River

At best, I can qualify my years of running as sporadic.  At young ages, my sister and I were on a track/cross-country team for kids in Portland, OR, coached by a marathon runner who may or may not have been fast or famous within the running community.  I would have remembered, but I was 8 and was less than concerned by posterity.  Track season was my least favorite, as I got easily bored running in circles (to this day I still am), but I loved cross country season.  We would do our runs at the local Gabriel Park and the changing scenery left an impression.  After we moved from Portland, I kept running.  There was even one night that I had to study for a geography/earth sciences test, and I remember recording the notes that I had to memorize onto a tape so that I could listen to my notes while I ran.

After I started high school, the running dedication stopped.  That is, until this past October, when I moved into Cambridge.

I began running along the Charles River.  I would run across the Longfellow Bridge, which is one of the bridges that connects Cambridge to Boston, and then along the Esplanade. After that, I would have my choice of bridges to cross back over--if it was an easy run, I would go over the Mass Ave bridge, if it was a longer, harder run, I would run all the way to Harvard and cross at the bridge there.  The path never really leaves the river, though.  Almost ten months later, it is still my favorite place to run in the whole city.

The other great thing about running in Boston is that you're basically never running alone, since there are so many runners.  (Unless you go running on a Sunday afternoon in January after it has just snowed, you will be a little lonely.  Not that I've done that...)

This past Tuesday night run, I took my camera with me...see below for a quick tour of my favorite 4-mile run!
crossing the longfellow bridge

prudential tower

longfellow bridge

prudential tower as a flashlight

view of back bay apartments and prudential tower

me, mid-run, with cambridge in the background

mass ave bridge

view of boston from cambridge

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Looking Awesome


(c) Natalie Dee
http://www.nataliedee.com/082907/lookin-awesome.jpg

It's easy to make fun of runners.  I mean, just look at those socks.

T-minus 5 days...

until the SheROX triathlon at Lake Chaubunagungamaug in Webster, MA!  Yes, that's the real name. It is also called Webster Lake, for those of us who can't pronounce a 20-syllable word.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Full-Blown Panic Attack is a go!

http://www.nomeatathlete.com/runner-to-triathlete/

More specifically,

Thank you, Joanna.  


Ok ok, panic attack aside, I really am excited for the triathlon that is in 10 days (oh god 10 days).  My favorite quote from the article above, besides the snarky, jaw-dropping, pit-in-my-stomach creating ones, is this: 

"When you first transition from running to triathlon, it’s best to think of a triathlon as an extended workout. The swim is your warmup, the bike is a good way to dry off from the swim, and THEN you jump into the real race."

So I can do this, really, I canIf you have words of encouragement you'd like to share, by all means, share away!  I could use it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Limit

"A lot of people run a race to see who's the fastest. I run to see who has the most guts."
Steve Prefontaine

I'm a slow runner. That's not to say that I'm the slowest person out there--I mean, I have been running regularly for about 9 months now (which I just calculated in my head and wow it seems like a lot less time than that), and so my comfortable running pace is about a 10-10:30 minute mile. In half marathons past, my splits, or what my average pace per mile was, were around 10:10.

My background is also not an athletic one. A former band nerd, my experience with pushing through sweat and pain is from August marching band camp, when we would stand and march for hours in the sun without any shade.  But pushing through sweat and pain because I'm running fast?  Not what I'm used to.

Two weekends ago, I ran with my speedy friend Jenny. It was first thing in the morning and we were on a new road, one in New Hampshire by the lake mentioned in the previous post. There were some hills, but they were the nice kind--not too high, not too long. Running with Jenny, I knew that I would be going out of my comfort zone, so I tried to push myself and I also tried to hold my ground with a pace that I'd be able to keep up for the 4.5 mile run we were doing.  When we were finished, I was surprised to find out that we had run about a 9 minute mile the whole time. I was exhausted but it wasn't the kind of exhaustion I would expect from that pace.

Our coach, Adam, taught us about breathing and foot turnover a few weeks ago.  To reach maximum speed and endurance, each foot should hit the ground about 90 times a minute, and we should be breathing on a pattern of 2-steps in and 2-steps out.  If we're breathing more than that, we're working too hard, and if we're breathing less than that, we're not working hard enough.  By the end of my New Hampshire run, I was just short of reaching that pattern, comfortably breathing in a 3-steps in 3-steps out rhythm.

This made me realize something about myself: I'm a wimp!  When it comes to physical pain and exertion, I go the easy route.  Sure, I can run a long ways, and I've enjoyed the long runs I've gone on in training for the past two half marathons, but I do it at a leisurely, comfortable pace (leisure running: grab an ice cold water from the cooler and enjoy yourself). My running mantra for the past 9 months has "run for enjoyment, not for speed."  Formed out of my fear that working hard would make me hate running, I think this mantra is out of date and needs revision.

My goal time for the marathon is 4hr 30min, although I would be satisfied with an under 5hr finish.  I still think that it's more important to finish than it is to finish in a certain time, though.  I do want to get faster, but not so I can finish faster than other people (that's just a perk).  I want to go faster to prove to myself that I can.  I want push myself to meet my limitations and greet them with success.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Thought I'd Tri It

Starting back in May, I got bit by the race bug, and it was bad. I had already signed up for three half marathons over the course of the year and for some reason I found it very hard to resist signing up for more. Here's a list of the races to come:

July 25--SheROX Triathlon in Webster, MA. 0.5 mile swim, 12 mile bike ride, 3 mile run.

August 28--100on100 Relay Race in Vermont. Basically, I'm on a team of 6 people and we each run 3 legs of 5-7 miles each over the course of the day along Route 100 in Vermont. This means we'll each run between 15-18 miles, totaling up to 100 miles. Vermont is hilly, fyi.

October 3--Harwich Cranberry Harvest Half Marathon in Harwich, MA

October 17--THE RACE: Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, CA

Fact: the last time I swam a lap in a pool was during summer gym in high school at the age of 16.
Fact: Over this past weekend, I went to my friend's lake house up in New Hampshire and did some swimming in the lake.
Fact: Swimming in such a vast expanse of open water gives me the heebie jeebies.

You should be scratching your head right about now, wondering why in the world I would sign up to do a triathlon, given that the above three statements that are presented as facts are, actually, facts. Well I'm wondering that too.

Fact is, I decided to do the triathlon with my friend Kendra because I thought it would be great motivation to begin cross training for the marathon. Cross training is nearly any form of aerobic exercise that does not involve walking or running. It helps with training and also saves your body from the wear and tear of running every day. Prior to last October 2009, exercise for me consisted of running once or twice every month and attempting to do some core work every so often when I felt like it, so going to the gym and getting on the bike and the elliptical was not my thing, and swimming a lap or two was definitely not my thing. According to our Team in Training coach, Adam, swimming and biking are two of the best ways to cross train.

My plan to force myself into cross training mode by signing up for yet another race that required me to do something besides run worked and at the same time failed.

Here's how it worked: I've been going to spin classes at Healthworks Fitness Center and I absolutely love them. Classes last from 45 minutes to an hour and you get to work at your own pace, despite the fact that it actually is a class. Also, you sweat like you've never sweat before, and although it takes a few minutes to stop being so grossed out by yourself that you want to curl into a tight ball in the corner of a cold shower somewhere, it's a great feeling to have such a physical reaction to hard work. Seriously, it's worse than going running at noon in the middle of July.

Here's how it failed: today was the first day in 10 years that I have gone swimming for more than 10 feet. Luckily for me, I think I'll be okay in both the biking and running portion of the race, so as long as I don't get kicked in the face by the hundreds of other people who will be in the lake racing alongside me, leaving my flailing arms in the dust, er splash, as they zoom by with their "real" strokes like the crawl and backstroke.

 Not drowning, but waving

In the water next to the kayak

 Post swimming
Safely in the kayak

Something I learned as I was swimming in the giant lake that gave me the heebie jeebies is that I do have a natural talent for treading water and moving with the current. Looking at my calendar, I'd say I have about 20 days to give up the idea of buying arm floats and start working on my doggy paddle.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Back in the Saddle

Welcome to my blog! I'm sorry that it has been about a month since my last post. I have to be honest with you--I took a small break from running. On May 30th, I ran a half marathon in the beautiful town of Hyannis, Massachusetts, and after that I just needed to...sit down, figuratively and literally, for awhile. This past week I got back into the swing of things and so now I'm back into the swing of this blog!

For your patience and dedication as a reader of Rude Runnings (thanks Mom!), I am going to give you all the positives and none of the negatives about running the half.

1. I had it in me up until mile 12 to smile and thank the volunteers handing me water. It might have been one of the scariest smiles they've ever seen, but it was a smile.

2. I learned that I love hills (yes, this IS a positive). By the end of the run, I was almost begging for more hills. That's less because I'm good at them and more because you use slightly different muscles when you climb them. But still, they were fun! And they come with a built in "instant gratification" (instant compared with the 2.5 hours it takes to finish a half marathon) --at the top of them, there is relief.

3. I spoke with an old man who was kicking my butt in the endurance and pacing game at around mile 10. He was my pacing mark for about a mile and a half and it was wonderful to see him out there doing that race. It gives me hope that I might be able to continue running the rest of my life.

4. The strip of road along the ocean. Need I say more? Breeze-check. View-check. Distraction from crazy seagulls-check.

5. The following songs: "Down" by Jay Sean, "Break your Heart" by Taio Cruz, and "I believe in a thing called love" by The Darkness. The quality of the songs is arguable (except for The Darkness--that is a fantastic song), but they get me going.

6. The high five that I got from the little girl who had just had her hands wrapped around an ice cold water bottle. Most refreshing high five ever!

7. The nifty medal I received at the end of the race that I wore proudly the rest of the day.

8. The man whose family was waiting at one of the mile markers with slices of watermelon. Seeing that man tell his son that he was going to win it (he was at the back with me--we all knew this was a joke). Then seeing that man share his watermelon slices with a random stranger. Sadly, that random stranger was not me, but it was nice to see charity.

9. And then my day ended, as all good days of hard workouts, easy workouts, and no workouts should end, with brownies.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sleepy 6am

It first happened back in November of 2009. The dreaded, wakeup-roll-out-of-bed and hope you get the right foot in the right shoe and hit the pavement early morning run. Training for a race isn't easy when you also have a busy schedule. What do you do when you can't find an hour in your day to fit in a run? You make it happen at hour zero. Or more accurately, hour 5 minutes too early.

I prefer running after work, so I usually find a way to make that happen, but alas, it isn't always possible. Here's what early morning runs look like for me:

5:40am--The alarm goes off. I hit snooze.
5:45am--The alarm goes off again and I get up and out of bed as quickly as possible before I have time to think about it. Logic is not welcome at this hour.
5:48am--I give myself a pep talk, or more accurately, I try to convince myself that this is going to be good run, it will wake me up, and it's going to be the start of an awesome day. Or something like that.
5:50am--Dressed and in the (hopefully) correct left and right running shoes, I'm out the door.
5:51am--What. the. heck. am. I. doing. Want. sleep.
5:53am--Mental self-cursing stops, and I get into my stride
5:57am--Why don't I remember the last 5 minutes? Was I aslee...
6:00am--Ok, I can do this! The sun is shining, I'm running over the Longfellow Bridge and the breeze off the water feels great...now I'm remembering why I torture myself.
6:10am--Just got passed by the third runner. How do people run so fast in the morning? (answer--they take an extra few minutes to eat something! Just learned this)
6:15am--My legs are finally awake and I can start to push into a faster pace.
6:20am--Crossing over the Mass Ave bridge and I feel great. The sun is already warming things up and there are enough people out that it doesn't feel as early as it is.
6:25am--The realization that I still have a full day ahead just hit me. I find I easily forget things that are fairly important when I'm running in the morning. Probably because if I had more than one train of thought (left right left right left right) then I might fall over.
6:35am--Coming up to my morning stop-and-walk point. I've been awake for nearly an hour now and it seems like it's going to be a great day. Now for coffee...

Hopefully, what you got from that is that I never regret my morning runs. Knowing that I will feel great afterward is the only thing that gets me out in the morning when the last thing I want to do is lose an hour of sleep. It's also the best solution for those days when you just can't seem to find time to fit in a run (just remember to eat something first!)

Happy running, even if it's sleep running!