Monday, April 20, 2015

Tap N Run 4K Ft Lauderdale - December 6, 2014

On December 6, 2014, Husbeast and I chose to spend the day participating in the Ft. Lauderdale Tap N Run 4K for the second time. We has participated the year before with a run club that I had been quite active with, and although I was no longer a member of that running club, we were looking forward to a nice day being active together.

We got to the event really early, anticipating that the event would be just as crowded (if not more crowded) than the year before, but apparently we really didn't need to give that much preparation time. Instead we took the time to get a wonderful lunch together at the Himmarshee Public House. Unfortunately, our lunch was so awesome, that when it came time to actually start this race, we were both so stuffed that we felt like we had lead in our bellies. Running just wasn't happening.

So we walked. And we laughed. And we enjoyed the gorgeous weather. And took joy in watching the other participants engage in all sorts of costumed shenanigans.

At each kilometer we were treated to a glass of local craft beer, which was nice.... particularly when races usually serve flavored water that is marketed as beer but more closely resembles horse urine...

By the second kilometer, my stomach couldn't handle any more carbonation or hops, so we just continued through the event.

I don't really have much to say about this event, actually.

It was an untimed fun run event that we had done before. It was more fun with a larger field of participants, and certainly more fun when we were part of a large group of friends participating. We got decent beer and a decent lunch, but the course is the exact same course that all 5k races in Ft. Lauderdale follow, and was the exact same as last year.

We both feel like we've grown out of the party scene in South Florida, so we begged out of the afterparty before we even got a drink at the bar.

I think for a one time event, this was great (see the report from last year), but not really a repeat event for us. We wont be back next year.

But we did have fun together, we got a couple of great photos, and we spent the day enjoying the outdoors, so all wasn't for naught.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Run Til You're Boared 50K Ultra Marathon- April 5, 2015

I know that I am still really far behind in blogging about races from this year... 9 races behind to be exact, but I had to jump forward to talk about my most recent race. Look at the title of this post... that's not a typo. It *is* supposed to say 50K... also known as just over 31 miles... also known as absolutely insane! I wanted to blog about it while the memories are still fresh, so here goes...

If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I would be an ultra marathoner, I would have accused them of being into some fairly serious drugs. I've only been running for 4 years, and my first half marathon was in January of 2012. I attempted to train for my first marathon which was scheduled for January 2013, but I gave up after chronic injuries left me in constant pain.

When I backed out of my marathon experience, I realized that I really wasn't all that sad. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that I didn't really want to be a marathoner. Sure, it would have been nice to put in the training and get it done, but I wasn't doing it because I wanted to do it, but rather because it felt like the only logical step after completing countless half marathons already.

I'm a back of the packer.  I have asthma. I'm overweight. I struggle with foot issues. Sure, I wanted to take my running to the next level while overcoming great obstacles, but deep down, I knew that marathoning wasn't for me. Friends would ask me all the time when I planned to take that leap, but after that failed attempt at training for a marathon, the answer was always the same: I just don't want to. Maybe you want to, but I don't.

And then something crazy happened.

I spent the weekend at a race with my dear friend Mel, and he paced me through a 15k, a 5k and a half marathon. And he kept talking about this crazy event he would be doing on Easter Sunday in Jacksonville: a 50K Ultra Trail race calledthe Run Til You're Boared. I thought he was insane, but I wanted to check out the website. He told me repeatedly that this was the perfect race for me to take my running up a notch without the pressure that is normally associated with a full marathon.

But I was so untrained...

By the time my interest was piqued enough to pull the trigger on registration and get airfare to Jacksonville, I only had 5 weeks to train. And training wouldn't be easy. I had never logged over 14 miles at a time, and never logged over 18 miles in a day... somehow I had to get my head around how this was all going to work. I messaged Bobby Green (the race director) a few times to ask about terrain, I talked to a couple of established ultra runners for their advice, and I told a couple of very select friends. I was afraid that if I told everyone before the event, that they would think I was a failure if I didn't cross the finish-line.

On the day of the race, crossing the finish-line seemed like the easiest thing in the world. The real struggle for me was crossing the start-line. From the moment we pulled into the park, I was nauseous and overcome with an intense feeling of dread. 10 seconds before the start of the race I burst into tears and started to hyperventilate. But my friend Mel was right there by my side, as were other veteran ultra runners who turned to me and gave me encouraging smiles and words.

Even after the gun went off and we started our VERY long day of running, the attitude of other runners never changed. People were absolutely exhausted, some were downright miserable in their own socks and shoes, but they were each out there doing their own version of epicness... and they were supportive of each and everyone else on the course.

We were taking liberal bathroom breaks, breaks to change and refuel, and enjoying the opportunity to be in such a gorgeous setting, and this reflected in our time. For the most part, the course was fairly straightforward. 5 loops of 6.2 miles, all relatively flat, mostly in dirt roads through the wildlife preserve. But there were a few tricky areas of the course where we were routed through burn-breaks (where the course significantly narrowed and the footing was through deep loosely packed dirt and sand).

But although the course was tricky at times, the support more than made up for it. There were 3 aid stations on the course, and the race director did an excellent job of anticipating everyone's needs. My stomach was so upset during the race that I had to survive almost entirely off of pepsi (for sugar) and pickle juice (for salt), but there were options for both vegetarians and carnivores alike... with food ranging from gummy bears and marshmallow peeps, to bananas and oranges, to pb&j and bacon. Because the field of runners was so small, the volunteers at the aid station quickly learned what each runner preferred and made certain that it was immediately available to them when they came through. In retrospect, the only thing that I think the aid stations should have had at the very front of their tables was sunscreen... the weather was perfect, but it was overcast... so although I applied sunscreen, it clearly wasn't enough... note to self: next time be more careful.

Anyway, There were a few moments where I worried that I wouldn't be able to finish the race in the prescribed 10 hour time limit, but not once did I allow my mind to go to the negative side of questioning whether a finish was possible or not. Which I think leads me to the most important revelation of the day...

Anything is possible with the right attitude and mindset.

With an eye on the finish, you can do anything you put your mind to... as long as you really put your mind to it, failure is not an option. Barring any unforeseen injuries (which are always possible), your mind gives out long before your body ever will. If you enter a situation with the right attitude, the power of positive thinking will get you far. This is obviously not just a lesson for running, but sometimes it takes a crazy experience like an ultra to bring something like this into perspective.

At the end of the day, I was the last finisher with a time of 9:44:16. Not bad, all things considered. Age awards are 5 deep in ultras, and my time also qualified me as having achieved 4th place in my age division. I still can't believe that I did it! 

My name is Amy, and I'm an ultra runner!

I think the best way to really understand what this event was all about is to watch a video or two. Here are a couple of videos that my friend Mel took while we were out there... if you had to watch just one, I might suggest the last video which shows us coming into the finish line and all the excitement that went into it:

RTYB 50k 3rd loop video
Posted by Mel Abando on Monday, April 6, 2015

RTYB 50K 4th loop video
Posted by Mel Abando on Monday, April 6, 2015

RTYB 50k 5th and last loop video 2 - Finish line
Posted by Mel Abando on Monday, April 6, 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Space Coast Half Marathon - November 30, 2014

I can't believe that I'm so far behind in my blogging about races. I can partially attribute this to a crazy schedule with my teaching job, or perhaps it was from the stress of having finished my ph.d. Regardless, I'm really far behind. I have a long list of 10 different races that I still want to write about, and the only way that I can seem to focus is if I plan to do them chronologically. Unfortunately, this means digging into memories that are over 4 months old at this point. And being not-so-fresh, I can't imagine that I will remember the same things that I would have had I taken the opportunity to write back then. This always seems to happen when I write in a journal, which I have been doing since I was a very little girl.

So where do I begin talking about the Space Coast Half Marathon from November 30, 2014? I guess I should start by saying that this was my second time participating in this half marathon. They are doing this really neat series where if you complete 3 of the 5 annual races, you get an additional medal for the challenge, and if you complete all 5 of the races in the series, you get another medal on top of that. I like the course, I like challenges, I like half marathons, and I really like this event, so it seemed like a no brainer for me to return to this race for a second year in a row. Plus, it meant getting to see some really awesome old friends.

I was super stressed out that weekend as it was only days  before I was scheduled to defend my doctoral dissertation. My phone died on the 4+ hour drive to Cocoa Beach, and because it was the weekend after Thanksgiving, this threw a wrench in the works for me and made me even more stressed than I normally would have been. I still wasn't fully up to speed after the injuries to my feet, and I felt like I had caught some kind of respiratory/sinus thing while at Disney a couple weeks before. I was NOT in my optimal performance. The weekend weather was much cooler than I would normally prefer as well, but ultimately that wasn't really a problem.

When we arrived at the pre-race check in, it was a huge to-do, one that I am familiar with at the Space Coast event. many of the national and international running groups like Half Fanatics, Marathon Maniacs, 50 State Half Marathon Club, Mom's Run this Town, and Black Girls Run set up big group photos to take place before the race. It is like a mini-reunion of runners that I have met all over the country, and I love this opportunity. This is the photo from the half fanatics group

But before I knew it, it was time to go to the start line. We listened to the national anthem, and the race began. Husbeast was running the event with me, but he was seriously undertrained. When he quit running almost 2 years ago, he said he would only do one half marathon with me per year, and this is the one he chose. But he didn't ever want to do the maintenance runs or the training. So while I knew he would complete the race, I wasn't sure what shape he would be in at the finish. We decided that if we split up, that was ok. Around a mile into the race, he came trotting up beside me, barely winded. And I got angry.

It drives me crazy that I can work so hard to keep my maintenance levels up, that I can be out there putting in the training miles, and it doesn't seem to get any easier. I still get winded, I still feel exhausted, I still have moments when I question WTF I am doing to myself and my body. And it drives me batty that he doesn't put in the same amount of energy toward training and he still does better than me.

I didn't want him running next to me. I kept envisioning myself sticking a leg out and tripping him. I know he's my husband, but I was frustrated. I tried to speed up and he matched my cadence. I tried to slow down to force him to go around me, and he slowed down. I don't even know that he was conscientiously trying to match me, but he was driving me bonkers! Finally, around mile 5, I told him that enough was enough and that he needed to speed up or let me go on without him.

Sometimes I like to have someone to pace with. But I don't like it when that someone is my husband. I don't think its healthy for either of us.

So anyway, I was on my own from there on out. Lately, I had been feeling like I was missing some of my running mojo, so it was nice to just be out there and connect with an activity that I enjoyed so much. But soon, the weather started to get to me. It was in the low 60s for the previous two days, but during the race it was heating up into the 80s. This is a never fail trigger for my asthma. Plus having been sick recently, and with such a big day coming up for my doctoral program at school, I knew that I needed to be gentle with myself and not push it.

I felt myself slowing down around mile 7. I fought my asthma for the last 6 miles. Someday, I would be able to run a half marathon and break my PR, but that wasn't the day. And I was smart enough to know it. I slowed to a walk at mile 8 and vowed that although I was experiencing shortness of breath and wheezing, I would take advantage of every moment that I had out there on the gorgeous course. I chatted with some other folks who had also slowed to a walk. We told stories, we enjoyed the beauty of the day. And we finished.

Some days you run to beat a record or a time, other days, you slow down to get your money's worth out of a race. No regrets.

But you can bet that I will be back in November 2015 to race that course and shoot for a personal record!

Chip: 3:39:47
OA: 2986/3306
Sex: 2067/2330
Category: 266/310

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Disney Wine and Dine- November 8, 2014

By now, I am sure that I am the only one under the sun who blogs and who hasn't yet done a recap from the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon on November 8, 2014.

Or as some people affectionately call it: Splash and Dash, 2014.

Or as I lovingly refer to it: that character building half marathon where I almost got hypothermia.

Regardless of what I call it, it was a fabulous race... despite the rain, despite the cold, despite the illness that followed it, and despite the fact that it was a race put on by Disney.

Yes, you heard that right. I am probably one of the few people that I know that actually hates, loathes and abhors races put on by Disney. Yeah, I am probably going to get banned from Disney for life for saying that, but whatever, it is what it is.

I started my running journey with Disney. I did the Expedition Everest race twice. I did my first half marathon during marathon weekend at Disney, and I did the Glass Slipper Challenge there last year. But after that, I said I would never do it again. The cost is the biggest issue for me. I'm not made of money, and I have been finding that the prices just skyrocket for anything having to do with The Mouse. Usually the support at Disney races is superb, and the energy from the crowd really helps to motivate, but there are TOO many participants. The courses tend to bottleneck, the people are irritable, and I almost feel like there is a sense of entitlement emanating off of the participants: an entitlement that really seems to have no place at "The Happiest Place on Earth."

To be fair, not all of the participants are like that. And in the defense of many, I would say that people deserve to feel entitled after paying the equivalent of the college education for their first born child in order to participate in the race. Further, many people choose Disney as their first race, and they may not fully understand race ettiquette, or they may be just doing the race for fun because MICKEY... thus they don't really respect the mileage, but whatever.

All of these things combined are what contributed to my swearing off of Disney races altogether last February.

But then my dear friend Sarah said that she wanted to train to run a half marathon. And if I did Wine and Dine with her, it would hopefully coincide with the upcoming defense of our doctoral dissertations (which it did, sort of). So my friend from out of state wanted to go, and not wanting to pass up an opportunity to spend time with her, I gritted my teeth and we planned a 5 day trip: complete with special meals at restaurants that we had always wanted to go to, character breakfasts, hidden bars, and the wine and dine festival at Epcot. Running a half marathon while I was there seemed like the least I could do was promise my first born to the Disney Debt Collectors and partake in all of the other fun events that my friend planned.

We had planned to dress as the girls from the Celebrate a Dream parade, but once in Orlando for the weekend, we realized that it was going to be too cold. While Sarah sat up late one night editing her dissertation, I slaved over the sewing machine finishing our costumes... which we almost scrapped at the last minute because weather forecasts were predicting very cold temperatures and sporadic rain.

Sporadic my butt. It felt like It stopped raining a for a little while at the staging area before the corrals, but once we got to the corrals (with ponchos on over our costumes which were over some warm weather gear we had purchased at WalMart at the last minute), it was a monsoon. We sat in the corrals and shivered as we waited for our wave to be released.

The race itself was a blur. The crowds of spectators weren't as big as they were for other races, but I think that had to do with the monsoon dumping Gallons of water on us. The support from volunteers was (like expected) spectacular. What surprised me was that the course wasn't as packed with participants as other events. Instead of 35K participants, it was closer to 14K. And that made a huge difference in maneuverability (although there was still some bottlenecking in Animal Kingdom). I absolutely loved that the race happened at night. I loved running though the Osborne Spectacle of Lights. And I am sure the after party at Epcot would have been wonderful had we gone, but our lips were already turning blue (no joke!).

On the other hand, the cold was a problem, but the rain was worse. I heard someone (I don't remember who) say that the only thing you could compare it to would be standing in your shower in your running clothes with the water on full blast on COLD for 3 hours and trying to run... and I think that's fairly accurate. With that much water, the roads were oily and slick, I was worried about my footing for miles at a time, and it was hard to keep up morale. I was lucky to have one of my best friends by my side, otherwise I might have gotten on the but with other people as we reached mile 6... people that were holding up fairly well pace wise, but who were so down-trodden from the weather.

Strangely, despite finishing well over our intended finishtime, and despite being so cold that we shivered for days afterward and had other symptoms of early onset hypothermia for the next 24 hours, Sarah and I agreed that this is a race that we would definitely be down for trying again.

And this is coming from the girl who said she would never do another Disney race again.*

I don't have any finishline photos because we were so sick we had to rush back to the hotel, so I'll just leave you with this blue-lipped one from right underneath the Peace On Earth sign... fitting for 2 girls who met while on a journey to become Doctors of Peace, right?

Clock 4:15:55
Net 3:43:53
Place 11334
Div 1351
Gender 7437
5K 46:58
10K 1:38:51
15K 2:34:16
Character Building: Priceless.

*I have also now committed to running the Disneyland Tinkerbell Challenge with Team Muscle Makers as a charity entrant. I swear, my opinion of Disney races may have been seriously altered.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Flannigan's Rock'n Rib 10K- October 26, 2014

It has been so long since I have written. I am sitting at the computer, preparing to write, feeling overwhelmed by the laundry list of races that I still want to recap for my blog, and wondering where I will ever find the time (let alone the energy). Because of this, and in an effort to catch up a bit, this post will be somewhat short and (hopefully) sweet.

I hadn't originally planned to run the Flannigan's Rock'n Rib 10k, but my dear friend Vikki convinced me that she wanted to run a 10k the day immediately following her first half marathon (the Halloween Half Marathon in Miami Beach). She insisted that she wanted to do it, and I thought it would be nice to log some extra mileage... I certainly wouldn't be racing a 10k the day immediately following one of my first half marathons after the great foot fiasco of 2013- 2014, but going out there and enjoying a nice run with a friend would be nice.

But then Vikki realized that she didn't really want to run a 10k the day after her first half. I was sad at first, but then I invited my good friend Seth to join me. This race was only about 20 minutes from my house and had a later start time than I am used to, so that meant that I was able to sleep in a little while waiting for Seth to pick me up at my house.

One thing that you should know is that prior to this race, I had only once ran a 10k. While I really enjoy the half marathon distance, 10ks and I have a love hate relationship that is mostly just hate-filled. I hate 10k races almost as much as I hate 5k races, and the reasoning behind it might surprise some. I can only explain it like this: the 5k and the 10k feel much longer than half marathons.

Logically, I know that this isn't the case, but they just feel like they last forever. Whereas with a half marathon, I can really zone out and turn in toward my own thoughts and mental processing, in a 5k or a 10k, I feel like I always have to be focused, and because of that, I feel each and every step... and the race feels like it drags on forever.

So knowing that about this race, I didn't really have high expectations. It was an out and back course starting at a local park. You ran 5k north on main city roads, then turned around and ran the 5k back. The race started later than I would have liked, so it was already fairly warm in the hot Florida sun by the time I was even 2 miles into the course. I had really pushed it the day before at the disaster of Miami Beach Halloween Half (which I had to walk the majority of because I was so under-trained from Foot-mageddon), so I didn't have high hopes. But I wanted to go out there and give it my all.

I started slow, and found myself quickly limbering up and increasing pace as I ran each run intervals with the Galloway style 30seconds run/30seconds walk plan. It was tedious, and I was bored, but it was a 10k, I was expecting that.

Around Around mile 4, I realized I was leap frogging with another girl. Our intervals were not matching up, but she was also doing 30/30 intervals and we kept passing one another. We did this for about 2 miles until we returned back into the park for the final stretch. She was looking like she was gassed, and I offhandedly goaded her on, suggesting that she was going to let me beat her. We both giggled, and continued along. I was in front of her, and I could see the finishline.

I had about 20 yards left before the final timing mat, and I was entering the chute when I saw Seth standing there, cheering me on. I smiled ear to ear, happy to be finishing. Then out of nowhere, the girl I had been leapfrogging with, sprinted by me on the left hand side, daring me to beat her.

I gave chase, pulling out all the stops. I was definitely exhausted, but I took her challenge. Both of us sprinted full-bore to the finish line as the crowds let up whoops and hollers. The crowd was so excited watching us barreling toward the finishline (two overweight back of the packers giving a wild competition), for a moment there, I felt like we were fighting for first place in a marathon!

I wish I could say that I beat her, but I didn't. I was a split second behind her, but that didn't matter... I was still a winner.

I would definitely run this race again, although by the time I finished the beer and the ribs were gone. I'm a vegetarian so not having ribs there for me at the finish wasn't a big deal, but I was sad about no beer.

Gun  1:37:20
Chip  1:33:44
Pace  15:35
Div  80/87
OA  886/930

Monday, January 5, 2015

Wrapping up 2014, ringing in 2015

Happy 2015! As I sit here thinking about all of my accomplishments of 2014 and planning my goals for 2015, I am reminded about how far behind I am with my blogging and my race recaps from the previous year. If you will allow me, I'd like to skip ahead to my yearly wrap up and goal setti
ng for 2015, then return to finish blogging about the last few months of 2014. It will be a little disjointed, but to me, it seems to make sense.

The number one goal that I had in terms of running this year was to have completed 520 miles. For some more experienced runners, this might have seemed like a really lame goal, but it was just slightly higher than the goal of the year prior, and considering that I spent the last half of 2013 injured, setting this nominal goal for 2014 seemed doable. At the end of the day though, I hadn't counted on being sidelined with foot complications, and this goal was just not attainable.

After calculating and recalculating my tally for the year, I finished having traveled 323.11 miles.

In some respects, I am happy that I was able to do this much, and in other respects, I am saddened that I set a goal and wasn't able to meet it. I hate not finishing what I started, and it feels like I have let myself down. Husbeast keeps telling me to open my eyes and see all that I did manage to accomplish this year instead of what I wasn't able to accomplish... so here goes.

This year, (although I haven't finished blogging about all of them), I completed

  • 15 half marathons
  • 2 10K races
  • 1 6K race
  • 2 5K races
  • 1 4K race
  • 1 race that billed itself as a 5K OCR but came up lacking

and the most important distance race of my life...

  • My dissertation was completed and successfully defended, earning me the title of "Doctor."

I also was able to check off another 6 states in my quest for running a half marathon in each state of the United States (KY, TN, MS, AR, LA, UT).

As I think toward next year, I have one goal... and that is to finish what I started last year and reach that number of 520. This year, I will do it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Half Marathon, Miami Beach - October 25, 2014

I spent the entire month of September slacking off in the running department. I told myself that it was to help recover from the nasty feet injuries that I had been dealing with for almost the entire past year, but that's not true. I kind of talked myself into thinking that I couldn't find the time to go out for a run with my hectic new schedule of teaching in the evenings, but that's not true either. I could have gotten up in the morning to run if I had really wanted to. I forced myself to go to the gym to try to keep up my cardio, but in the end, I realize that it was more of just going through the motions, rather than pushing myself. The fact, plain and simple is that I was feeling pretty l-a-z-y during the month of September, and I just didn't wanna.

But then, just as I was emerging from my lazy-funk, I suddenly lost my voice. Normally laryngitis wouldn't be a big deal, but it developed into something more. 3 days later, not only did I no longer have a voice, but I was starting to audibly wheeze from somewhere in my throat. Throat wheezing is nowhere near as scary as bronchial wheezing so I dismissed the symptoms as just some fluke allergy issue.
getting ready

But the next day, I developed a cough. A deep dry cough that was as unproductive as congress is frequently proving to be. I sounded like a child with whooping cough, and I couldn't catch my breath. I rushed to the emergency room, where it was discovered (after a few consecutive albuterol nebulizer treatments) that I was in fact having a horrible acute asthma attack. It took me almost a week and a half to recover and feel that I could breath sufficiently without the help of pharmaceuticals.

When this past weekend rolled around, and it was time for the Halloween half marathon in Miami Beach, I knew that I would really have to focus and hold it together just to finish upright, but I also didn't want to take a DNS (did not start) on this race.

with Brina and Seth, my running and travel buds
In some respects, I feel like I really surprised myself, yet in other ways I really felt like I let myself down. For example, I am surprised that I got out there and finished in a decent time considering that I had a fluke respiratory issue in the 2 weeks leading up to the race... and on the other hand, I feel like I let myself down by only being able to run my intervals for the first 6.5 miles and then choosing to walk the rest. In some ways I was surprised that I could make it 6.5 miles doing my intervals in the first place, and then I felt let down that my pace was horrendously slow.

I love having a Garmin to be able to really keep myself in check and ensure that I am staying on pace, but it can be a double edged sword... something that I realized at this race.

My friends Vikki and Richard were completing their first halfs
While its great to keep yourself on track for pace, there is such thing as being too clock and pace obsessed.  I wouldn't say that its a debilitating obsession or anything, but it is definitely something I am concerned about. Whereas earlier in my running half marathons journey I might have been less concerned with the pace if I was having an off day, at the Halloween race, it was clear that not making my interval times (for legitimate reasons like coughing up small children from my injured lungs), was just another reason to get down on myself and start with the negative self-talk.

Gone seem to be the days where I just focused on the running and the journey of it all, rather than the finish.

For this reason, in this post, I wont be including my finish time or my place like I normally would. I'll just say that I finished faster than my first half marathon, but not by much. And that time's not bad considering how under-trained I was... something I am not so proud of.

What I can say about the course is that it was a million times better than the course for the same race as last year. The race started at Jungle Island where the parking was a nightmare. I needed the rest room before the race, and because we had difficulty parking and had to walk to the port-o-lets, we actually arrived back at the start line after the gun had already gone off. The course took us up and over the Macarthur Causeway for approximately 4 miles and into South Miami beach where we ran through South Point Park. From there we traveled approximately 4 miles along Ocean Drive to  Lummus Park and along the boardwalk to a turnaround point where we then looped back to the finish. While It was considerably a better course than last year's with no "hardpacked sand" to run along, we spent the majority of the race running on bricks and concrete. Again, I loved being on the boardwalk but the boards get incredibly slick from the humidity and dew, and I am afraid to fall on my face.

Because most of the race is off of pavement, the jury is still out as to whether I will run this race again next year. But they do have awesome finishers medals, and it is an opportunity to dress up for Halloween and run a race.

What do you think of my lady bug costume?

Half Marathon 28 complete!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Porter's Half Marathon - August 30, 2014

I just returned to South Florida from a whirlwind trip to visit my dear friend Sarah in Utah, where we shared the experience of the Porter's Half Marathon together. She wrote an update of the weekend trip which can be found by clicking this link, but I wanted to share my experiences too. I chose to not carry a camera at the race, so I am borrowing some of her photos to illustrate.

I know Sarah through school. We are both working on our doctoral degrees in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and we have both been navigating the dissertation stage together at the same pace. She has ultimately been one of my closest confidants through the dissertation journey, and because we both recently turned in our respective completed first drafts for review, this was a much needed celebratory trip. I flew out to Utah on Thursday, which gave me a bit of time to both acclimate to the dryness and the altitude, but it also allowed us to go out and explore the Salt Lake area of Utah. Off the bat, I was a little concerned about the altitude and how it would affect me, and I was hyper aware that when doing stairs in her home, I was getting significantly winded.

Sarah had gotten a PR one week prior at a race, and was still a bit sore by the time Saturday morning rolled around so her goal was just to finish the race and qualify for Half Fanatics. That goal worked well with my own goals too. Having just come off an injury, my goal was to simply finish the race upright so that I might rebuild some confidence that was lost over the past year. We arrived at packed pickup early on Saturday morning with plenty of time to spare. The process went smoothly, we got our bibs and shirts, we used the facilities, then we waited for the buses. Sarah recently had joined a group called #Run3rd which was created by Actor Sean Ashton following the idea that you run first for yourself, second for your family and then 3rd you run for those who can't or for those who need uplifting. She had some gorgeous patches sewn for us because we were running 3rd for peace, so we also put those on our backs.

The course was an A to B course, with the start line at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon at approximately 5393 feet above sea level... approximately 844 feet higher in elevation than the start line. My ears were popping like crazy during the drive to the start line, and when we got out of the bus, I was shocked by how mountainous it was. I grew up in the mountains of NH, but this was entirely a different beast. I guess I've never stood in a canyon looking up at the mountains looming above me. It was quite the experience.

The field of participants was really small, and when the race started, I realized that although we were averaging just over 13 minutes per mile, the pack was pulling away from us at a quick clip. We had been told that we had 4 hours to complete the race, so we knew that we weren't in trouble time wise or anything, but it was disconcerting that we quickly found that we were on our own along the roads with a single motorcycle cop giving us a personal escort. Sarah and I were both sore as we began the race, but I was impressed by how well my feet were holding up. I had some standard soreness in my fascia, but no signs of the dreaded foot pains from my injuries of the past year. We were also maintaining a pace that is faster than average for me, and my confidence soared.

The deer was right on the other side of the fence
At mile 4ish, we approached an aid station and the boys that were working it were intently looking off into a field as we approached. I wondered what they were looking at, but I was focused on opening a pack of gu. When I looked up again, there was a young white tailed deer about 2 feet away from me. The boys then pointed out a young male deer that was a little further off. The sun was shining just so, and I would have to say that this experience itself made the whole race worthwhile to me.

At mile 6 I realized I was having some significant trouble breathing. It felt like every time I went to take a breath, I had a 40 lb 2 year old jumping on my chest. I couldn't get a full breath, and forget about talking anymore. I told Sarah that I needed to walk for a little while. I was never able to recover the breathing, and although we tried to run a few more intervals, we gave up. Its strange. I had a lot of concerns about doing this race and being able to complete it within the allotted time, but my concerns always revolved around my feet and my injuries. I never imagined that the altitude would cause me to be so short of breath and be my downfall. I told Sarah she could go along without me, but she was still feeling a lot of aches and pains from her PR race the week prior, so she chose to stay with me.

We had a great time. The scenery was gorgeous the houses were grand, and the backyard decorations had us giggling. We passed a ranch that had a random zebra and some emus, we passed a home with a large sculpture of a dinosaur skeleton, and to celebrate the strict liquor laws in Utah, we had shots of Jack at mile 10. Those shots really picked us up and gave us the sugar we needed to keep going and dulled the aches and pains that we had developed on the course. The aid stations at the last 4 miles or so were already semi packed up and were left unmanned, so these shots really came in handy to boost morale.

The course had been billed as a mostly downhill with "a few rollers to keep us honest," but honestly, I felt that the course was more rollers than anything, and the 844 foot decline was only noticeable when we were approaching the finish line and could see the start line off in the distance well above our heads.

Start just over my left shoulder in mtns
As we approached the finish line, a runner we had met earlier on the course who had done the 10K and who had "doubled back" earlier told us that they were breaking down the finish line and that they knew we were coming. She encouraged us to finish strong, which certainly we did, but it was a little disheartening that we had been told that we had 4 hours on the course and we were at  approximately 3:20 and they were already breaking down the finish line. By the time we got there, the timing mats were already packed away, though the remaining volunteers made a nice finish line for us by loosely lining the course to make an impromptu chute and holding up flags for us to run through to signify our finish.

All said and done, it was a great day with a great friend. In retrospect, I wish that I had been a little more prepared for the altitude and perhaps that could have been accomplished by flying in an extra day or 2 early. I might recommend this race to people who enjoy small races and who really enjoy scenery, but if you are looking for a fast flat, this is not for you.

Half 27 completed. 12th State completed.

Unofficial Finish time: 3:32:13

Not bad for untrained and coming off an injury.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cleared for takeoff!

In the the last post about my foot, we weren't certain of what the prognosis was. I had an MRI done and there was some evidence of swelling in the bones again, but no clear breakage. The doctor had a mixed prognosis. He wanted to have me remain in the boot until the swelling went down, but he also recognized that staying in the boot for much longer was potentially going to come with its own problems. I was already having the heel swelling return to the other foot, I was already limping around from the boot on the left, but couldn't put much pressure on the right either. I was starting to have some soreness in my knees and hips too. We felt that I was either damned if I do, damned if I don't.

In the end, he decided it was actually better to keep my right foot from re-injury, and to come out of the boot altogether. I had another round of cortisone shots in the right foot, to stave off any new injury, but as much as he wanted to keep the left immobilized, it was time to move on.

I was restricted from doing things like Zumba and running long distances, but slowly I started adding some longer distance walks back in.

Last night I did my first run post-injury at the WOBCC Run Club, and I surprised myself. the first 2 miles were about 45 seconds per mile faster than my pre-injury pace last summer. I took a beating on my lower back from the running surface (concrete sidewalks which are not my friends), and sat down around 2 miles to stretch. the last 3/4 of a mile was a bit slower, but all in all I ended the night at about 30 seconds faster per mile than pre-injury pace from last summer.

I was beat, but I did it.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Utah to visit a friend and do my first half marathon back after my injury. I know my body well enough that my goal isn't going to be to run the whole thing, but rather my goal is to just finish it within the time limit. I recognize that I am untrained right now, and that I will more than likely have to walk half the race, but I'm ok with that. I just want to finish and have a good time in a place I've never been before.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Everyone needs a fat friend? Really?

I don't talk about weight much because for me being healthy is less about a number on a scale and more about how strong and active I can be. But I have something to talk about here, and its kind of hard.

I read recently that the best way to develop an active and fit lifestyle is to surround yourself with like-minded people. I most certainly have done that over the past couple of years and I have found a great group of friends who are super supportive of my endeavors and encourage me to always be a better version of myself. Most of my friends are really active, but there is one specific group of girlfriends whom I have been spending a lot of time with lately. We've been enjoying all the wonderful things about South Florida in the summer... the training runs (where lately I just go to support because my body is acting like it is made of glass), the social events, the concerts in the local venues, the laughs, and some serious heart to heart talks.

Almost 2 months ago, I got home from spending time with these friends at run club and saw a message on Facebook from another facebook friend (who is somewhat outside of my immediate circle but who I have had good interaction with in the past and who also seems really supportive). She's undergone a significant weight loss transformation and is now a rep for beach body. I truly believe that her message came from the right place, but was just really misguided. out of the blue, she wrote:

I care about you. I want to know if I can help you to lose weight so that we can get you running in good shape?:)

I tried to be ok with it and let it roll off my back, but I must admit that I was really offended. I've maintained my weight loss since my injury last year. Weight has always been an issue with me, and for most women (myself and my social group included) weight is a private thing. We don't talk about what weight we want to lose, we just talk about getting stronger and being better versions of ourselves. And then we do it.

But getting that message was tough. I called in the cavalry, and they all offered their variations of support and I felt better. But inside of me, I still hurt. Shit, I'm getting teary eyed right now. And I haven't even gotten to why I'm writing yet...

The thing is, I know that I'm overweight. I don't need someone to tell me that. I don't talk about my weight much because I have struggled with extended periods of disordered eating, and I don't want to accidentally contribute to a worstening of my own issues, or trigger someone else's issues. In that end, just know that I don't need to be told that I'm overweight out of the blue. Even if you love me, my weight, and what I am doing or not doing to maintain it is not anyone's business but my own.

And I am confident that it is a private affair because my medical workups are fine, indicating that my risk factors have all gone down since I started running 2.5 years ago. The doctor actually says that if I lose weight, that would only benefit me in terms of vanity's sake, medically weight-loss isn't going to affect me much physically and medically.

But the thing is, like many other people, I have a vain streak. I want to be attractive. And so much of our culture says that to be slender is attractive. I don't mean like Renee Zellweger at her normal weight although many people strive for that. Instead, I would love to have a body with weight on it that more resembles that of Renee Zellweger at her +30lbs Bridget Jones weight (ideal on left below, what women seem to strive for on right):

That doesn't mean to say that I think either version of Renee Zellweger is not attractive or less valuable. There is definitely no skinny shaming going on in this post, instead, for my own frame, I would probably prefer the pic on the left.

Again, my vain streak, and my own personal journey with weightloss is very private and personal to me. I wouldn't share it here, and I don't bring it up with my friends ever. They never want to hear me say anything disbarraging about my body. But recently I say this picture from a recent concert where we saw John Legend play: 

And its a great picture, right? I absolutely love this picture of the 6 of us. Except, when I saw the picture, I wasn't thinking that. Instead, the voice of the girl who left me the facebook message was in my head, saying loud and clear:

Well every group of girls needs a fat friend.

I do not talk like that. And I don't make negative comments about my body that way. And I really try to respect my friends and not use the term "fat" ever about myself, but that voice got to me. To clarify, my friend who left the facebook message did NOT say that I'm the fat friend, but this was my internalization of what she said. And it really got to me. And then I realize that the problem is that I am comparing myself to other people, not to myself.

Of course when I am comparing myself to the bodies of these amazing women, I will feel overweight, but they are also much slighter than me in terms of bone structure in the first place. I cannot compare myself to other people, and the only thing that I have to compare myself to IS myself. I'm on this journey for myself, and I recognize that I have my own issues to contend with.

I'm taking this process slowly so that I don't trigger any underlying residuals from my disordered eating in my teens and early 20s. But I'd like to start seeing downward movement. Not because other people want that for me, but because I want that for me.

I read somewhere recently that sometimes people are motivated by the thought of competition, and that if people put their money where their mouths are, they are more likely to reach the goals they set. So I joined Diet Bet. Basically you place a wager (usually between $20-35) to join a specific bet (either a 6 month bet for 10% loss, or a 1 month bet for a 4% loss), and you check in before, occasionally during, and after. If you meet your goal, you get a cut of the pot. I found a challenge that was run by Alex Respess from season 1 of Extreme Makeover Weightloss edition.

I think it should be great motivation to work with him. There are 161 people in the challenge and the entry is $30 for August 11- Sept 07 with a goal of losing 4% of your total body weight in the 28 day period. The pot is already up to $4,830.00. I think it will give me some accountability as I start to get the scale moving again.