Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day ? - I Lost Count

Well faithful readers, I'm afraid bald girl running is coming to a rather abrupt end, sans marathon medal. After a visit to the doctor to follow up on the leg pain I mentioned briefly in a previous post, I've been ordered to rest for two weeks, at least. I'm still waiting on x-rays to be read, though stress fractures rarely show up until the bone is actually starting to heal, or so I'm told. Once my two weeks of no running is up, the doctor will reassess to decide whether or not I need to be in a walking boot.

Of course I am disappointed. I've been training since October, and I'm so close, only 3.5 weeks out from the race. I worked really hard, juggled a lot of scheduling, woke up really early and went to bed really late, picked running over hanging out with friends and eating food that actually had flavor, and spent countless hours trying to stay out of my own head in order to finish long runs. I also ate GU, which you clearly do not do for fun. (To chew or not to chew?) It's disheartening to make it to a long run of 21 miles only to then be injured and have to mentally prepare to not run the race. So much planning and discipline, and for what now?

After my 21-mile run two weeks ago, I said a few times, "Even if I couldn't run the race, I'd be satisfied because I trained this much." When I didn't know better, that was true. Now? Not so much. It's really sad, and it feels wasted. I know in my head that it wasn't wasted, but my heart is trying to catch up to believe my brain. Give me some time for that one.

I'm already looking at other races, but I was so excited by the prospect of running this race - the only marathon to have all 26.2 miles in the District of Columbia. I love DC, and I love running in DC. The first "replacement" race that came to mind was the Marine Corps Marathon, but I'm waiting on a friend to have a schedule that would allow training and running together, so I'll reserve that for another year. The Baltimore Running Festival is another option, especially since I ran a leg of it last year and could easily train in the city. Financially, I'll have to wait. (Did I mention that I lost a nearly-$100 race fee here? Yeah... about that.)

For now, I guess I'll be swimming and cycling. I'm going to miss running. I think I'll start praying we get a massive snowstorm the weekend of the race. How selfish is that? If you know me, you also know that is drastic, because I hate winter and all things winter-related. Fine, I won't pray for a snowstorm...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 94 - Blerg, Nertz, Shark Farts, and Other Liz Lemon Expressions of Discontent

The view from here - RICE (rest, ice,
compress, and elevate)

Today I ran a total of .68 miles before I knew I was being foolish. Actually, I knew I was making a foolish decision as soon as I set out, but I've been ignoring that voice for a while. My stubbornness is astounding. I have handled this potential arch/calf pain with as little seriousness as possible, hoping it would just go away and ignoring it when it didn't. After all, nothing hurt during my runs, only after. And inconsistently throughout the day. I tried to elevate and ice it away, to no avail.

About 10 steps into today's planned 8-miler, I knew running was a bad idea. I can taste the marathon, which is a month away now. I keep thinking, "I'll just finish training and run the race, and then I'll tend to this pain." Today I even told a friend, out loud, that though my leg was hurting I was going to stick it out until the race and then probably be in a boot. That's dramatic, especially since I have no medical proof of what's wrong or that it would lead to a boot; but the sentiment behind that statement is so Leslie of me. I'll just push myself until I run into the ground, and I'll stop when I literally have no other choice.

So I'm stopping, which actually now takes more discipline than running 40 miles each week. That's weird. I'll rest for the next few days and see how I feel before starting again. In the words of 30 Rock's Liz Lemon: "Nertz! ... Shark Farts!"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 93 - I'm Going to Run a Marathon

Assuming my legs don't fall off between now and March 17, I'm going to run a marathon. Researchers currently are calculating the probability of my legs falling off; I'll get back to you when I know. But seriously... This just hit me tonight, as I was counting miles -- miles completed during training (397) and miles to go (112). By Friday, my miles-to-go will be in the double digits. Crazy! It feels as though I've been anticipating this for so long, and now it's almost here and yet still 31 days away.

31 days is not very many, though, especially when you have a busy schedule. It has already been a bit harder to juggle schedules to get runs in this semester. I've done a bit of shuffling, woken up super early some mornings, and passed on quite a bit of sleep. That's not ideal, but I'm getting the miles in. I'm already working on a post explaining why your first year of graduate school is both the best and worst time to train for a marathon.

After my internship today I hit the streets for 6 miles at an average 8:34 pace, which was created mostly by a very fast last mile in the 7's. I was scheduled for 5, but I felt pretty good and the route I chose mid-run was going to take me over the limit. As I approached my last intersection, I saw I'd reach my normal stopping point at about 5.75. I'm a stickler for all things even, straight lines and symmetry, so I knew I could get 6. (Further evidence of this neurosis is that, when gas did not cost $1 million per gallon, I used to top off such that the total cost was rounded to a tenth, rather than one-hundredth. Yup. I'm over that now, though.)

Tomorrow I'm scheduled for 8. I don't know where it's going to fit, but it'll go somewhere.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 93 - Womp Womp

I woke with some pretty serious calf pain this morning. This was strange, because the calf pain I initially had on Saturday dissipated after my short recovery run/walk and stretching. It returned with a vengeance today and continued on-and-off. I'm trying to be wise about training, because I don't want to be injured, so I decided to get a quick 5 miles on the trainer in, instead of running. It actually works out alright since I'm pushing my long run back to Sunday this weekend in order to run with a friend, so I can resume the 5-8-5 miles pattern starting tomorrow, assuming all is well with the leg.

Nothing else exciting to report. Things are busy here; time is simultaneously flying and dragging. That's such a weird phenomenon.

Until tomorrow...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 92 - Olympic Race Walking

There are enough blog posts circulating the Internet in honor of Valentine's Day about how running is like a dating relationship; I'm not going to add to that pile. Instead, I'll move from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Olympic Race Walking.

Now, I've never claimed to be a particularly fast runner, but I am somewhat distraught (not really) that these athletes can walk faster than I can run sprint. Still, their disjointed style of walking kind of makes my hips hurt. I'm just waiting for something to dislocate. The women are especially disconcerting, as most of them look incredibly unhealthy. And also ridiculous. And like they are making their joints do things they absolutely should not do, as evidenced by the lead contender's demise.

I'll stick to running, thanks.

[Thanks for sticking with me for this ridiculous post. This summer, I plan to watch this event, even though it's probably one that is shown at 3 am.]

Tomorrow: back to running!

Day 91 - Yummies

Don't tell running, but there are a lot of things I enjoy more than running. One of those things happens to be eating good food. More specifically -- eating good Mexican food. Surely I've mentioned my "recovery burritos," in which I often indulge after a long run. Or a short run. Or no run at all.

The truth is plain and simple: I love Mexican food.

Today, after church, I headed over to Tortilleria Sinaloa with a friend. I went there for the first time about a month ago and spoke briefly with the owner. Today, she recognized us when we walked in (+3 points). We arrived at the same time as about 10 other people, and the place is pretty small, so I was a little unsure as to where we would sit (-1 point). However, as soon as our food came out, Melissa, the aforementioned owner, went out of her way to clear us a place to stand by moving a big basket of chips and some other things (+4 points). She then proceeded to talk with us for about 5 minutes, which was so delightful (+5 points), before a spot cleared for us to sit (+1 point). Melissa was super attentive, even though it's basically self-serve once you've gotten your food (+2), and the food was fabulous, as expected (+2 points).

There's nothing scientific about my scoring system, but Tortilleria Sinaloa is clearly in the positive for dining experience. The food is excellent, the prices are great, and everything feels special. Plus, I feel like I'm supporting the "little guy," even though the place is hardly unknown; it has about a bazillion accolades from various sources. If you're ever in Baltimore, go here. And call me, because I want to go with you.

Moving on to my other most frequently discussed topic... after getting a bit of work done this afternoon, I got in 10 miles on the trainer for my Sunday cross-training. It's been a while since my last ride, and since my last real cross-training in general, so it was nice to get the miles in. Also convenient was the fact that I strapped my iPhone to the handlebars and watched an episode of Law and Order: SVU on Netflix. I can't hear my computer over the hum of the trainer, so the iPhone was the perfect solution because I could have it close enough to use headphones. What a nerd!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 90 - A Little Yog and Some Crafting

Let's be real: saying yog instead of jog is so much cooler. Moving on...

My very stiff muscles this morning required a little jog/yog. Well, I suppose they didn't require it, per se, but it was necessary if I planned to use my legs today. Coincidentally, I did. Even though I'd eaten breakfast, I discovered 1.5 miles in that I didn't have enough fuel for the machine. I quickly grew weak and nauseous and power-walked the 1.5 miles back home, which was actually fine, as it gave me enough additional blood flow to do some good stretching. Then, I stuffed my face with about two meals worth of food. I think I've recovered all the calories/carbs/etc. burned during the 21-miler. Just to be safe, I've continued stuffing my face all day. :)

I also did some crafting today -- a pretty easy and fun project from Pinterest that required only tiles from Home Depot, mini-felt pads, modgepodge, and some maps (which you can get from AAA for free if you're a card-carrying member). And voila! You have these great coasters. I've also seen people do these with race bibs; it's the same idea.
I did DC, B-more, NYC and SF.
By now, I'm certain you've heard of Whitney Houston's passing. It's sad -- an incredible voice and a gifted performer, but such a tragic off-stage life. I'd like to remember her like this (a great song to run to, by the way):

Friday, February 10, 2012

Day 89 - 21


Today I ran 21 miles. By myself. On the same trail (BWI Loop) that nearly killed me two weeks ago. Remember? The one where I was despondent and unable to finish 20 miles. Yeah; that one. Today, I killed it; twice.

I spent 3 hours and 8 minutes with myself. (That works out to about an 8:57 pace, in case you were wondering.) 3+ hours in my own head, all the while telling my legs they had to keep moving. And I made it out alive -- an impressive feat given the way my mind wanders. :) But seriously, I actually enjoyed this run. There were some miles in the middle where I felt so strong. I wasn't running super fast, but I was steady and sure. For parts, I ran at a very controlled pace without really focusing on my Garmin too much. I found my groove, and I stayed in it. That was so encouraging.

That's not to say this run was without trials. Miles 10 and 16, both miles in which I took a GU, were slow. They both happened to begin with an uphill, just as I was focusing on opening a GU and getting it down. This slowed me significantly for those miles. Apparently I have not perfected the art of keeping pace, opening and eating GU, and running uphill. Something to aspire to... The last three miles were touch-and-go, too. I finally started to get bored, but I knew I could make it. My legs were tired, though. I was out of GU, because my fourth packet had fallen out of my hydration belt somewhere along the way; I was also out of fluids, and I was pretty thirsty. I counted by tenths-of-a-mile and watched the seconds tick by, which only made things worse.

About two miles from the finish I got caught at one of the few intersections the trail crosses that actually has enough traffic to require obeying the crossing signal. Of course, I had the hand. I slowed and tried to bounce around at the intersection while waiting for it to change. When I started running again, I thought my legs might actually give out. I'd lost so much momentum just from that one stop. It was killer, but I pressed on, chanting to myself, "You are a powerhouse. You will do this." And I did! I even ran 21.05, because I set the goal of a particular fence post that I knew would take me through to 21. At that point, I needed a landmark, not an obscure distance.

Post-run, I hobbled to my car to take off my hydration belt and get my phone. I called my dad to tell him what I'd accomplished and that I'd worn my RoadID for the first time while doing it. (It was my Valentine's Day present. Best dad ever.) Thankfully, no one needed the information on it! I hobbled back over to a bench, laid down on the ground, and elevated my legs while watching the planes come in to land. (The loop I ran circles BWI airport, and the small park where I parked my car is basically at the end of some of the runways.) I stretched and then came home. My legs were hurting like crazy for the rest of the afternoon/evening. I think they just wanted to know what I'd put them through. Understandably so.

Still, I had plans tonight, and sore legs weren't going to stop me. A bunch of people from school got together to celebrate a friend's birthday by going duckpin bowling. That's a Maryland thing, through and through; so if you aren't familiar with it, go Google it. I had a blast, of course. Also, last week my dad bequeathed my grandmother's bowling balls to me, bag included. It was so fun to use them. She and my grandfather bowled in a league for a number of years. As it turned out, everyone seemed to think those two balls were good luck, because we all bowled significantly better while using them. Good fun!

I'm now resting and icing, reflecting on a really successful run day and reminding myself to be thankful. Before I ran, I prayed God would give me the grace to accept defeat, or the grace to give Him credit for a good run. Either way, I'd need grace. He was generous, giving me both a good run and the knowledge that He enabled every step.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 88 - I Make Running Fit My Life

Not the other way around.

I've rearranged by weekend training schedule... again. I will run my 21-miler tomorrow, instead of Saturday.

There are several reasons:
1. My right leg has been hurting something fierce since last night, though it seems to have subsided earlier this evening. A rest day did me some good.
2. It's supposed to rain and snow on Saturday but be sunny and 52 tomorrow. Duh.
3. I have a birthday party tomorrow night. It would be hard to not eat birthday party-esque foods, which would undoubtedly bode poorly for a run the next day.
4. Because I want to.

See you on the other side of 21 miles... I hope!

Day 87 - Dad Knows Best

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5 miles
Pace: 8:27 avg

Today was perhaps the most yucktastic of my training days thus far. That's pretty good, considering I've been training all winter. I suppose the weekend it snowed was the worst, but I'd already gotten my long run in, so I didn't have to do anything in it. Today I had five miles to complete and was ready to hit the treadmill. Ready, I said; not excited. As I was preparing to head out, I heard my dad's voice in my head: "You have to train in anything, because you never know what it will be doing on race day." (Or something like that.)

I groaned, audibly, even though I was alone, and traded my shorts for my fleece-lined running tights and a waterproof jacket. Weatherwise, I had wintry mix, snow, and plain old rain. The wintry mix/snow portion lasted about a mile, while the steady rain lasted for the remaining four. Ick. I don't like the cold, and I don't like being wet while cold. Does anyone?

Still, I was so glad I ran outside! I also decided not to obsess about pace and let my body decide what it could and couldn't do. I've been watching my Garmin like a hawk these last few runs, which can stress me out. It was really nice to just run for the first four miles (8:51/8:28/8:31/8:45). Hey - I never said I was a consistent pacer; that's typically what I use the Garmin for. As with several of my recent runs, I pushed hard to run the last mile at a sub-8:00. I achieved that goal with a 7:47, which explains the 8:27 average pace for the whole run.

I like ending with a fast mile; it's like I leave everything on the road. Whatever happened in the miles leading up to that last one doesn't matter, because I'm going to run my heart out for the last one and end strong. There's something to be said for ending strong. There's also something to be said for the fact that this post is starting to sound like the commercial designed by Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt's characters in What Women Want. With that in mind, I'll stop while I'm behind. :)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Day 85 & 86 - Oops

Clearly committing to blog once a day may have been a little over the top. Once "real training" is over, I don't think a blog per day will be happening. Day 85 was yesterday -- my normally busy Monday with some other things to make it even busier. It was also a rest day, so I have nothing related to running to report.

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5.17 miles
Pace: 8:37 avg

I wanted to run this morning, before my first class; but going to bed close to 1:00 am rendered me useless in all efforts to get out of bed and get moving. I was a little bummed but planned to run after my second class of the day. Then, wonderful surprise of all surprises -- my 9-12 class got out early, at 11:30, so I was able take advantage of the extra time and run in  some beautiful weather. I thought the wind would make it colder than it really was, so I was overdressed, but it was still a pretty good run. My legs felt a little heavy but nothing too serious. It was a lovely day to run around Baltimore and the Harbor. I think it's supposed to snow tomorrow, so I'm thankful for another day of warm weather in February. Hopefully it comes back!

It's hard to believe I have less than six weeks of training left. I have some pretty big weekend runs planned in there, which makes six weeks seem like a long time; but experience tells me those six weeks will fly. I can hardly believe how far I've come in training, particularly with regard to the mental aspect of running. All that running alone has turned me into a mental machine; I can occupy myself with the best of them.

But I'm still looking for running partners... Anyone?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 84 - I'm Really Bad at Cross Training

And by that title I mean that I did nothing notable in the form of exercise today, and I'm okay with that. I did eat a lot of really good food, though, which was excellent.

I'm gearing up for what I expect to be a busy week, especially after not getting everything done that I wanted to get done this weekend. Story of my life. I think it'll be a week where I retroactively add things to my to-do list, just so I can cross them off for some form of accomplishment. Is that weird?

Today was an up-and-down kind of day, but this weekend was a weekend where I was reminded of how incredible my friends are. I think I had one of these last weekend, too. What can I say? It's a time of having awesome friends who bless me so, so much. I found (and will leave you with) this excellent quote from Katherine Mansfield:
"I always felt that the great high privilege, relief and comfort of friendship was that one had to explain nothing."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 83 - Mt. Vernon and W&OD Trails

Today's scheduled run: 13 miles

Today's completed run: 13 miles
Pace: 9:40 avg

Today held something wonderful: a run with two other people. It was so nice to talk with people while running! We paced in the 10:__s for the first 8 miles before they headed in and I continued on to finish. My last five were strong, making me think I definitely need to come out of the gate slower to warm up. I know this isn't rocket science, but I needed to prove it to myself.

My last two miles were sub-8:00, which I never thought I'd see myself run. Ever. Mile 12 was 7:53, and mile 13 was 7:19 (a PR). This was definitely a mental game. I told myself, "You are going to PR," which meant breaking 7:44. And I did. It's amazing what the brain can make your legs do.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 82 - Running Free

To the left is an icon making its way around Pinterest and other corners of the Internet that is an excellent tie in for what I want to write about today, a non-running rest day. It strikes a bit of a chord because running is something I regularly take for granted. Sometimes I go well beyond taking it for granted and complain about having to do it. I don't expect I'll ever arrive in a place where I gleefully leap out the door every day to head out for a run, but I'd like to practice a bit more intentional gratitude for being able to run. It is a gift to be able to run whenever and wherever I want.

A gift that is not extended to the estimated 27 million men, women and children who are held in slavery around the world today.

27 million. Let that sink in. Now, let's expand on that outrageous number. 27 million in miles is the equivalent of 192,034 Ironmans; 270,000 100-mile ultras; 384,068 Ironman 70.3s; 540,000 50-mile ultras; 1,030,534 marathons; 2,061,068 half marathons; 2,700,000 10-milers; and 8,709,677 5ks. (This is a running blog, after all.)

IJM - Introduction Video from International Justice Mission on Vimeo.
I could give you piles of data and numbers until your brain explodes, but isn't it enough to know that even one person is enslaved? Isn't it enough to know that somewhere a girl is being sold? Or that a little boy has never known a life apart from enslavement in a brick kiln? Or that an innocent man has been in jail for a majority of this life because of a corrupt system?

The thought of that one girl, one boy, and one man makes me want to cry out for justice. Multiply it by 27 million and you have one loud cry. But my voice alone would be small, so I'm joining the voice of 27,000 others. Will you be one of them?

International Justice Mission is inviting us to do so, calling on 27,000 Americans to urge President Obama to end slavery. They need 5,000 more signatures to reach the goal. That's all it takes from you -- a signature -- to advance the movement to end slavery. Maybe you'll be compelled to do more, too; but won't you at least sign? Go here to do so, or click the banner over in the sidebar.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Day 81 - New Shoes and a Groundhog

Today's scheduled run: 5 miles

Today's completed run: 5 miles
Pace: 8:33 avg

Old pair (L), new pair (R)
Two great parts about today's run: shorts and new shoes. It should be obvious as to why these two things would be a favorite part. Shorts -- because it's February. This time two years ago we were getting ready for 55 inches of snow. I'll take the warm temperatures, thanks. New shoes -- because they're new shoes. Duh. I purchased a second pair of Brooks Adrenaline (11th edition); this new pair is a bit more colorful, eh? This will allow me to swap shoes, something sagely runners suggest you do. I'll wear my already worn-in but still great pair for shorter runs and the new pair for longer runs.

In other news, you probably heard that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today, which means 6 more weeks of winter. The buzz on Twitter this morning was basically this: if temperatures in the 50s and 60s are this year's version of winter, we'll take six more weeks. For sure! I could not have been handed a better "winter" to train for a marathon!

A top-hat man, member of the Inner Circle
A few winters ago, in 2009, I had the distinct honor of waking up well before dawn to walk over to Gobbler's Knob for the Groundhog Day festivities. While other attendees had been out in the cold all night to secure their views of the rodent, my friends and I had VIP passes, courtesy of a friend who's uncle was in the Inner Circle. We were escorted right down to the front for what was one of the weirdest experiences ever. Did you know that Phil's teeth are so sharp his handler wears gloves with chainmail underneath? Me neither, until that day. It was one of those things that you do once in your life and are glad you did it, even though you don't ever plan to do it again.

Anyway, let's hope Phil's right and winter as we've known it these past few days is here to stay for six weeks.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 80 - Morning Run Take 2 and a Review

Today's scheduled run: 8 miles

Today's completed run: 8 miles
Pace: 8:48 avg

Knowing that I wouldn't be able to run at any other time today given my schedule, I rolled out of bed (well, more like tripped because one of my slippers was in the way on the floor) and ran this morning. The run was pretty good, overall. Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard that the weather everywhere on the east coast has been absolutely amazing. It got up to 70 today! If this is the new face of winter, I like it. It was 54 when I ran this morning; I consider that the ideal running temperature. Running along the water to the rising sun was as beautiful as ever, even though one corner of the Harbor boasted a pretty nasty smell. That's beside the point, though.

It was a great way to welcome in February, though I can hardly believe it's already February! 44 days until the big day! I'm excited and a little anxious but looking forward to feeling a great sense of accomplishment. Now if Competitor would just release the course map...

January was a big month of running for me. It was definitely the most running I've ever done in a month, with a total of 126 miles. I also ran my fastest mile ever -- a 7:44, which was mile 7 of an 8-miler. I'm a bit of an accidental runner, i.e. I didn't do anything in particular to get that mile time other than decide I wanted to run fast. It's basically a fluke, but I'll take it. It also is evidence as to how mental running really is.

I'm scheduled for a total of 140 miles in February, and I'll begin tapering (decreasing mileage) at the end of the month. Mileage will be light in the two weeks of March leading up the marathon, and then I plan to sleep for the rest of the month.