Monday, April 7, 2014

Race for Women's Wellness, Coral Springs Half - 3/29/2014

I'd run the Coral Springs half before. And absolutely loved every moment of it. Granted, the last time I ran it, I had Brina with me, and we chattered the whole way through the course so I didn't really have much time to love it... but never-the-less... when the registration for this year's Race for Women's Wellness half marathon opened, I was quick to register to secure my spot, eventhough I knew I would be running solo.

Organizationally, I think they worked out some kinks since last year's innaugural half marathon. Instead of having the packet pickup at the local recplex field, they held it at the nearby runner's depot. This allowed folks an escape from the sun and oppressive heat that can become South Florida's afternoon standard. This also allowed the participants to pick up the few extras that they may need in preparation for the race. So well done there, folks, kudos!

The morning of the race, because it was a straight 20 minute shot from my house, I was able to sleep in a little. Unfortunately, when I woke up, I was feeling like a 10 ton mammoth and needed to try on everything in my running wardrobe (despite laying out clothes the night before), so I still wound up getting a later start than planned. But I still got there, with a little time to burn before the start. I even remembered my to tape up the feet and ankles really well and put on my calf sleeves. Sadly, all this remembering of things before hand left me forgetting my trusty handana during the event, and I spent 13.1 miles trying to blink salt out of my eyes. Oops, you win some, you lose some.

In my pre-race de-stressing, I finally caught up with some folks that I had known from previous South Florida races who I had been meaning to catch up with for some time. Mark Lewin, is somewhat of a local running legend (pictured bare-chested here), as he has been running his whole life, despite what should be debilitating scoliosis which has gotten worse in his later years. He does walk/run/walk intervals, and boy can that man move. He said he was a real "back of the packer" and wanted to start from the very last spot. we parted ways, and I moved a little further into the corral to get a little more of a boost from the crowd.

The anthem played (at least I think it played, though the sound system was bad so I could barely hear anything), and the race started. No gun, no loud noises to get us going. Just suddenly the corral started moving, and we were off.

The first mile of the course isn't that well lit and goes along the access road to the recplex. It feels like it takes forever just to get to the main road entry. The pavement is nice, but I forgot about those speed humps. For people in other parts of the country, I am sure you would balk at the idea of this, but speed humps are torture for this flat lander! I was doing my regular intervals, but those humps were killing me! And there were like a bajillion... ok, that was an exaggeration... there were maybe 5 spread out through the first mile. but it felt like a bajillion.

I took strength thinking of fellow half fanatic Bobby Praythor who died of an undiagnosed heart issue shortly after the Coral Springs Half last year, and who I had shared a lot of race laughter with during my first race season. Thinking of him brought a smile to my face, but did little to mask the pain. At approximately .58 mile into the event, I realized that I was having some pain in my right foot again. Not the same pesky pain I was battling all year last year, but rather a sharp pain whenever I kicked off my right and my foot was flexing against the ground.

With Riverboat series coming up in 2 weeks (at the time), I knew I had a decision to make. I didn't want to take any unneccessary risks, and resigned myself to walking. I stopped at the water stop at mile marker 1, stretched out my calves and waited for my new friend Isabella to catch up. Isabella had been battling her own injury and was taking it slowly. There was one woman behind her, and the SAG wagon was already picking her up. Mark (the self-proclaimed snail, was already long gone by this point). This would be a LONG race if people were already getting picked up by the SAG wagon.

I talked to Isabella for a little while, and then realizing that I was walking at a faster clip than she, I carried along without her. Around mile marker 2, I picked my "people" that I was going to beat. If I couldn't beat them, I would at least catch up with them. They were also walking and were probably about 1-2 tenths of a mile in front of me. I picked up my pace.

When I felt like slowing down, I thought of my friend Eleanor who died a couple of weeks ago after a years long battle with various cancers. She was such a fighter, and was determined to be strong and independent. And I thought of the fact that the proceeds from the race would be benefitting one of the local breast cancer programs. I felt that I was pushing through for her, and It really helped me keep the pace.

Wouldn't you know, I didn't catch up to my "people" until mile marker 7. I looked at my garmin, and I was walking at a fairly fast (for me) clip, somewhere around 15:50 per mile. As we rounded the corner for mile marker 7, and I passed them, the SAG wagon pulled up next to us. Panicky, I looked at the passenger and said "you aren't here for me, are you?!?!?!" I didn't wait for her response. But then the SAG wagon did something different. they pulled in front of me about a tenth of a mile, and they LET PEOPLE OFF.


First I saw the woman in pink get off. She was the woman who was picked up before mile marker 1. Then I saw Isabella. She had tears in her eyes. She was shaking her head and gritting her teeth. She told me she had been picked up about a quarter of a mile back, despite being well within the 18 minute/mile time limit. I tried to cheer her up, but I think her pride was a little hurt, so I gave her some space. Besides, on fresh legs was the woman in pink, IN FRONT OF ME. I would be damned if she stayed in front of me for long.

Between mile 8 and 9, the course veers off the main streets and snakes through a school parking lot for about a half a mile. I got in front of the woman in pink right before turning into the parking lot, and walked as fast as my aching legs would carry me. I passed 3 other groups of walkers at that point. I felt good about myself. Though I was walking the event, I knew I would be finishing strong.

Coming out of the school, I looked ahead to see who the next goal people to pass would be, and that damn woman in pink! wouldn't you know, she was in front of me again. She had skipped the school parking lot, cutting the course by half a mile, and was now half a mile in front of me. I WAS LIVID.

Understand, while I go out and do a lot of "races," I am not actually racing against anyone other than myself. I am not delusional enough to think that my times matter in the larger scheme of the racing world. I know I will never place. I will never place anything but the bottom 30th percentile. I will never be considered a "real" athlete by many. But course cutters really get to me. No, it doesn't matter to me if someone wants to cut the course and say they did a half marathon distance when they rode a van for 6 miles and cut out an additional half mile. Really, there isn't much impact on me. But I *do* want my earned place in the standings. And if that means that I come in 266/273 instead of 267/273, then I want what I *earned.* Someone who cuts the course, shouldn't take my spot.

I had to catch that woman. I was seething. Teeth gritting, arms pumping, feet stomping much harder on the ground than they should, determination strethening, SEETHING.

And instead of plowing my seething, heaving self past her, I slowed to her pace for a moment, and offered a kind word. What's wrong with me that I am so nice sometimes?

Her walk intervals were faster than her run intervals, she was too tense, she was risking injury. I gently let her know that its ok to have an off day, and that she should be gentle with herself, and forgo the run intervals for the duration of the race because they weren't doing her any good. She thanked me, and then I was off again.

I dislike the last couple of miles of this course, so I think I block that from my memory,  I was soon at the finishline. The awards ceremony was going on in another area, and the crowds had already dissipated, leaving only a few straggling spectators (which there really were not many of on the course, much to my sadness). A man came out into the chute and chivalrously offered me his arm to "escort me to the finish line" as he joyfully told me, and I finished. Rumor has it that the man who waltzed me to the finish line was the mayor of Coral Springs, and while being a small city politician is not a huge prestigeous position in the larger reality, I think its pretty dang cool that the mayor would come out and do that for participants!

NET 3:34:45.277
Pace 16:23 (I really slowed down that last 2 miles, no wonder I was trying to block it from my memory)
OA 403/411
Gen 266/273
Cat 32/34

As I was recovering, I saw Isabella rounding the corner and went to bring her a cold water and walk her in until the mayor took over. We rested and laughed together, and then I saw the woman in pink come in. With all the fanfare of being the last "finisher." She had the cruisers and the motorcade, the excitement, the announcement, and the look of exhaustion after having completed (not her first) half marathon. Except she didn't really do the distance. And I just felt sorry for her.

She went through the chute and thanked me for the encouragement and bringing her to a "strong finish of today's half marathon." She had the half marathon medal around her neck (which as an aside, i was NOT impressed with this year as it is about 3/4 inches by 2 inches wide, and at least half the size of the medals they were hanging out for the 5k race which does 3/4 less distance). She was proud of herself. And while I am proud of her for doing what she could do (like I would be for anyone going out there and doing something healthy for themself), it just made me sad.

She started the race, she finished it, but she definitely didn't do all the miles in the middle. Does it make me a bad person for being so sad for her?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

a race of endurance, not of speed and fancy footwork.

As some of you may already know... I had a followup with my orthopedic. He has officially cleared me to return to normal running activities. He had a little hiccup when he said normal, and had to reiterate that it was running activities of normal people, not my own personal version of normal running activities. He said that the residual pain that I am having in my knee from the booted half marathon is from a pull in the connective tissue for the hamstrings, not the dreaded and much feared IT band issue that I have heard many runners complaining about. He smiled and agreed that I can run this coming weekend's Race for Women's Wellness half marathon.

And he laughed when I asked him about my upcoming 5 in 5 series (Riverboat by mainly marathons). He said of course, this is exactly why I said normal running activities. He cleared me, with the one caveat that I have to listen to my body.

That being said, I am under strict orders to do one of three things should I experience pain during my big trip. I must either put the boot on, sit out entirely, or go through the pain. I'll admit that going through the pain is not a viable option... and one that will get thrown off the table immediately under the orders to listen to my body. Because I know what kind of pain it can cause, I doubt I would ever jump to do another half marathon in a boot either. So, really, if I am experiencing pain on that trip, I am left with the only option to take a DNF.

After last month's booted half marathon where I almost got swept and then outright refused, I dont think the thought of a DNF scares me so much. particularly if it is by choice. I need to make the best decisions for my body. And one or two DNFs is better than another year of going through this foot fiasco. I don't want to think about DNFs though, I'm not planning for them, I don't think that I will need to take them, but it most certainly wont be the end of me if i have to take them.

Other than that, I've been busy lately. REALLY REALLY busy. If I haven't mentioned it yet before, I am in the dissertation stage of a Ph.D. program. I've been a busy little bee trying to make headway on that. I've experienced some setbacks there, but I use my running history as inspiration. I just remind myself that (although I wish it was) the dissertation is not a sprint to the finish, but rather an endurance race. And this endurance race has been akin to some of the really awful half marathons that I have barely been able to complete (see Albion MT and Singer Island). Sometimes it is too hard and I kick myself for ever taking this on. but I see the "medal" at the end of the road, and I know I have to put in the time and energy to get to where I want to be.

To blow off some steam, we got me a gym membership. If you recall, the membership process didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked, but after another incident and speaking to the manager directly about my unhappiness with the way I was being treated by staff (as if my only goal is to lose weight, and being told that to do so I had to give up running altogether), it has been fairly painless emotionally ever since. I'd like to say that I am using the membership as much as I had intended, but work responsibilities and my dissertation work have interfered. I've used some of the cardio equipment like the treadmill (which I can't seem to overcome my fear of falling off the back of so I really try to avoid), the bikes and elliptical (which I love but find myself bored while using) and the rowing machine (how have I never used one before? these things are AWESOME)... but my real love at the gym is the organized classes like Zumba and Latin Heat. I can't seem to get as many classes in as I would like because my sleep cycle is off kilter again which makes it hard to make the early morning classes and my schedule has been crazy in the evenings with meetings. But I have somewhat managed to dovetail the missed classes with days that I am out there pounding the pavement.

Which brings me to my final thought of the day. I have new shoes. After completely wearing through the blown rubber treads on my hokas, I had to replace them. I bought 2 new pair and am breaking them in. But they feel funny. they are new, so obviously they have more bounce. they also have more traction and I find myself picking my feet up more (without tread, It was like i was trying to slide my feet along the ground to keep traction. is this possible?). Anyway, these seem to make my gait feel off a little. I've definitely got more spring in my step, which increases my pace during my run intervals.... but I am coping with not having the same kind of endurance I had before. Instead of 5 mile runs, I find myself to be cutting them shorter to 3. Granted, 3 miles on a run is far more than most American's will do, but still. I expect more from myself.

With a half marathon 3 days away, I definitely expect more from myself.

I know in a pinch, I can do it, and I definitely WANT to do it.

Enough rambling, its time to get out there and train.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Phoenix rising

In exactly one month, I will be at Columbus-Belmont State Park in Kentucky, attempting the first half marathon in another 5 half marathons in 5 states, and 5 consecutive days series. Yikes.

When we first started planning this trip, I had come off of the infamous 6 in 6 in 6 race series in the great plains... I was nursing a very badly damaged heel and ankle... I was a bit down on myself for under-performing... and I was looking to do this 5x5x5 as a way to redeem myself.

Looking back on the past 6 months, I still have that desire to redeem myself and run all 5 in the Riverboat series (bringing us through Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana), but I also know more about my body and my injury than I did back then. Looking back, I am once again thinking I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this new series.

In the middle of February, after finishing the Disney Glass Slipper Challenge (a 10k followed by a half marathon the next day), I had a regularly scheduled followup with my podiatrist/foot surgeon, and I learned that the inflammation had reared its ugly head again. I was hobbling around for about a week, and then I was told that for any longer distances (even walking) I should be wearing my boot again. The Dr. told me that I could walk with the boot on for the 13.1 Miami Beach half marathon, and I did. I thought I would be swept the entire time, I had some serious pain coming in through the inside of my bad ankle, and I started to have some IT band issues with that same leg... probably from hefting my weight and the extra weight of the boot for over 13 miles, combined with a limp.

So now I sit, exactly one month out of what should be me going out there and proving something to myself, and not really sure what kind of training I will be able to complete before hand.

I was supposed to do a half this coming Saturday but I've already cancelled. I've got a few more weeks to really baby myself, but I've also got to get that training in to prepare for this trip. 2 weeks from Sat, I have another half (that I fully plan to participate in)... but it looks like I'll be spending a lot of time at the gym the next few weeks trying to pretend on the elliptical machines.

Its time to get down to business.

I definitely don't want to do it in a boot.

From the ashes, this phoenix needs to rise.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

13.1 Miami Beach - March 2, 2014

I came back from The Disney Glass Slipper Challenge/Princess half marathon weekend in pain. A lot of foot pain. So I shouldn't have been surprised when I visited my orthopedic surgeon for a follow up on my foot a couple of days later, he would tell me to lay off the running again. He said I could walk any distance as long as I was in the boot for more than just wandering around the house and running short errands... so I had a decision to make.

I already "paid" for my entry into the 13.1 Miami Beach race, it was money already lost (though I work promotions for US Road Sports in exchange for race entries, I still think of it as money). If I stayed home in the comfort of my own bed, I'd be out the money, and out whatever miles I might have otherwise gotten in for my yearly goal. If I strapped the boot on and went, I would surely be swept.

I struggled for days trying to decide what to do. I didn't want to be swept, because really, does anyone want to be swept from a race? I mean, really, its not on my top 10 list of things to want for when thinking about an upcoming race. The more I stewed on it, the more it terrified me.

But what did I really have to lose?

So early on March 2, my friends Tracey and Seth came to the house and picked me up, strapped into my lovely miserable walking boot... and one simple goal.

I would bust my butt to get going as quickly as possible, and I wouldn't be swept until mile 4, because surely getting swept was in my very near future. Tracey joked that she thought I would make it to mile marker 8 before being swept, but I knew better. There was no way in H-E-Double-Hockeysticks I would make it that far. My money was firmly on four miles.

We got to the starting line fairly quickly, and the race started without a hitch. I started a little further up in the corralling system than I had intended, and was hyper aware that I needed to pull to the side a bit to let faster runners past. And then I saw a familiar face around 1/2 mile. I knew Karen from a group on facebook, and she provided me an immediate distraction from my pain, and we quickly started banking miles. Before I knew it, we were giggling our way across the second bridge, approaching mile marker 4, and she was bidding farewell to me.

I took that opportunity to look behind me to see if there were still people there, and it looked like I was still in the clear for awhile before getting swept. Tracy's words rung in my head... Could I make it to 8 miles before being swept? There were still plenty of people behind me... And they didn't seem to be gaining much ground. Then again, I was maintaining a strong 16:30 pace.

But I was also getting my cadence down. I was lugging a bunch of extra weight in the form of my boot. I could feel my booted foot swelling, and my toes starting to go a little numb. I readjusted the air compression in the boot, but that didn't seem to help. At mile 6, I was ready for another readjustment.

I bent down, readjusted, and stood up ready to start hefting my weight forward again. Slow and steady. And suddenly, not 5 steps forward, I got a shooting pain deep into the inside of my bad ankle. It felt like something was stabbing me with a meat cleaver. The pain was so intense, it nearly brought me to my knees. I struggled for breath and tried to stand up straight to maneuver to the curb, but the tears started like waterfalls. A spectator came over and offered me a hand. I ripped the boot off, stretched a little, packed my sweatband into my boot for extra cushioning, and breathed. A couple I had chatted with early in the race passed me at that point, and the woman gave me a sad look and told me that there was "no shame in getting swept."

She was right, there wouldn't be any shame in getting swept today, but it would have to happen after 8 miles. I was determined. I wanted to yell and scream every curse word under the sun at her, but I didn't. I just gave her a sad look and shrugged.

The pain subsided briefly and I decided it was time to get up and moving again. So step by excruciating step, I was once again on my way. From that point forward, every police officer I passed, every spectator, every cheerleader or bandmember I passed, they were all rooting for ME!

The sweatband in my boot wasn't helping much and I stopped to get a stack of gauze padding from the fire rescue truck around mile 7.5. I was losing time. With each and every time I was stopping to readjust, more and more people were passing me, narrowing the gap between me and the sweepers. At mile 7.5, I was dead last. I caught up to the girl in front of me, and we slowly started to bridge the gap between us and the girl in front of us.

At mile 8, we were approaching the last 2 bridges. I was in horrendous pain through the inside of my ankle, and the boot was causing some serious bruising, but there was no SAG wagon in sight. I wasn't about to stop and wait for one, so I soldiered on.

And then, at mile 9.33, what I had been waiting for all day.... I was approached by a police officer who told me that the van was right behind me and would be picking me up. And I had intended to respond with "OK," but what came out instead was a firm "no." I stammered and rephrased more politely "not today, thank you."

He looked at me shocked and asked what I meant by that. And while continuing to walk, I told him calmly but clearly "well, you aren't in the business of kidnapping any more than I'm in the business of being kidnapped. So thanks, but no thanks." he laughed and shook his head before driving to the next person. The bus drove off without stopping to pick me up.

What on earth was I thinking?

The police officer came back at mile 9.9 and pulled right up to me. "i know, i know. you don't want to be kidnapped, BUT move off to the sidewalk and the sweepers can't collect you. I'll let them know at the 10 mile mark that you are still out on the course."

And so it happened. I hit the 10 mile mark and the part of the course that veers off of the streets and through the pier and the park. I struggled with each step, but I knew that I was completely safe from sweepers. I didn't care how long it was going to take, I was going to finish. So what if there was no medal? So what if the finishline was already broken down? So what if there was no more beer or party? I was going to finish with my head held high.

Getting swept? Sure it would happen someday, but today wasn't that day.

The last half a mile brought me down Miami's ocean drive. I was on the sidewalks at this point, and fighting with the beach crowds, and large families out for a Sunday stroll. It was tough going, but they all easily cleared a path for me as I came through. Tears once again welled in my eyes, as I realized the hurdles that I had overcome.

I had done it. I had completed my 20th (lifetime) half marathon.

And I would be a different person because of it.

Chip- 3:50:35
Pace- 17:36/mile

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Disney Princess Weekend, Princess Half Marathon - February 23, 2014

This is post 2 of my recap from Disney's Glass Slipper Challenge of a 10K on day 1 and a half marathon on day 2. Part one can be found here.

I've got to say, this was a tough race, and I wasn't feeling it from the moment that we returned to the hotel room after the 10 K the previous day. I was in a funk. My foot was bothering me, and the humidity from the day before had really gotten to me. I think I had also overdosed on my albuterol during the race which also can lead to a lot of self-loathing. I had been texting with my friend Julia the night before the race, telling her that I wasn't feeling it... and was actually considering not going to the startline the following day.

But of course, I set my alarm anyway, and that 2am wakeup call came, and I was wide awake and ready to give it the good-ole-college-try. I had hoped that if I repeatedly told myself I was going to be ok, and I was going to have a good time... that I actually might start manifesting that as reality. But the minute my feet touched the floor, I knew that there may be trouble brewing. That pesky heel pain was back, though at a very dull achiness, but this was certainly not a good sign. I got myself ready, had a good cry, then woke the other girls up to begin the day.

We arrived at the start line very early, and were all so exhausted that we cat-napped in the car for a little bit. I had made plans to meet up with some people before the race, but we wound up blowing them off to steal the extra relaxation time. Brina and I were in a higher corral than Kelly and Michelle, but Brina really wanted to share the race experience with them, so she moved back. I was concerned that with the foot pain I was already having, I might lose my pace and run the risk of being swept, So I split off from them and headed to my corral alone. I still wasn't feeling it and was considering getting out of the corral altogether, but then I ran into someone I knew in passing from facebook who was running her first half marathon, so I stayed in the corral. I have to say, that I really liked Disney's new corralling system where the corrals are smaller and the gap between them is only 2 minutes... it made the start line process much more bearable, and soon it was our turn for our send off. Unlike the day before where the runners in my corral moseyed through the start at a snails pace causing an intense bottleneck, during the half, there was running from the start, and I had a little more room to maneuver.

Like most halves where I start the race with a few minutes of running before breaking into my run/walk/run intervals, I got 5 full minutes of running in straight out of the gate. I'm used to having some arch pain during my first long run period, but this day was different. Every time my right foot hit the ground, I got not only the shooting pain up through the trigger point in my heel, as well as a sharp pain in the outside of my ankle.

That ankle pain was ultimately the pain that brought me to the doctor last summer because over the course of a run, it had me worrying that I had fractured a bone in my ankle. It turned out not to be broken, and was instead swelling inside one of the bones in my ankle, but was left inappropriately treated for months and we only found out what was wrong with it this past December when I found a new podiatrist/orthopedic surgeon. But I digress. What you need to know here is that the pain I hadn't felt in this intensity for over 5 months was back with a vengeance. Normally the pains that I feel when starting out on a run will subside by the time I hit 10 minutes into a run, but these pains weren't subsiding... and in fact were getting worse the further I went.

At that point, I REALLY wasnt feeling the race. The self-loathing began in earnest. Crowds have a tendency to make me angry, so being in a field of 30,000 racers wasn't making this experience any easier. And on top of this, the fog wasn't lifting (fog also makes me nervous, I can't explain it, so please don't judge), it was really hot, and the humidity was hovering somewhere around 96-98%. This was NOT fun, and I soon made the informed decision to slow myself down to a walking pace. Even walking, I was passing people left and right and getting stuck behind large groups of women who were walking 6 and 7 abreast at a slower clip than I was... again, increasing my frustrations. I tried to put on some soothing music to calm my nerves, and that worked for the most part, at least until I got to the parts of the course where there were extreme bottlenecks, where we had to take the cloverleaf interchanges. These stretches of road do vile things to my feet and ankles because of the extreme camber. But I kept going.

I had hoped to get in some character stops, but every time I passed one, the lines were ridiculously long. Because my pace was already so slow, I didn't want to lose any more precious minutes of the race and add to my risk being swept. I did stop in Magic Kingdom to wait in line for a photo in the alcove in front of the castle, but that ate up at least 5 minutes... and left me feeling more anxious.

Not anxious enough to not stop and make a pressed penny later in the park or take a picture of myself in the stockades near the Haunted Mansion, though. I also stopped to take picture of me pulling the sword out of the stone, but I accidentally jumped the very short line here, and felt awful about it for the rest of the race. Oops. Sorry.

The rest of my time out there passed in a flurry. I kept moving. One painful step in front of another. Zoning out. I was emotional and wanted to cry. I found myself asking why I do this at all. I was sad and hurting physically and mentally. By mile 9, it was taking every fiber of my being to keep going because I just didn't care anymore. Only twice have I ever thought about taking a DNF at a race... once last year at my terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad race at Singer Island which was brutally hot, and once at the brutally cold race in Albion, Montana.... but this would be number 3. And this time, the desire to just give up was worse than those two events. This time I found myself saying that after this race not only would I be done with running Disney, but I would probably be done with running altogether. I found myself realizing that this wasn't fun. And if I'm not having fun, why even bother?

I told myself I could revisit the idea of quitting in another half mile, and kept going. Somehow a half mile later, when still questioning quitting, I gave myself another half mile. and from there, it was half mile to half mile. I could make the decision later. And somehow I found myself rounding the corner and seeing my favorite sight ever.

The gospel choir.

There is something to be said about that gospel choir. During my first half marathon, I saw that gospel choir. Being Jewish, I am not sure that I believe in the idea of heaven the way that many Americans do... but seeing that choir was the closest thing to heaven I had ever felt.... and during this race, it was no different. I knew that the finish was right around the corner, but these singers took away much of the self-hatred that I had been simmering in for the previous 13 miles. If asked, I'd probably tell people that my absolute favorite part of the Disney race experience is this choir, and that experiencing the crowds and bottlenecking on the course is ALL worth seeing and hearing this choir. It gave me the strength that I needed to push myself forward through the finishline.

And hug Mickey Mouse when I got there.

Net- 3:51:51
Pace 17:42/mile

Definitely not the greatest, but even with all the stops for photos on the course, also not the worst.

Half #19 done!

Now to get that swelling under control before deciding whether I will participate in half #20.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Disney Princess Weekend, Enchanted 10K - February 22, 2014

It was going to be a long weekend. I'd run back to back (x6) races before, but struggling with Bronchitis last week, and still feeling iffy on my foot at times, I knew that the dreaded 2am wakeup call for the first race in the Disney Glass Slipper Challenge would come too early.

It was a girls weekend with my friend Brina, Michelle (her best friend growing up), and Michelle's cousin Kelly (who believe it or not, is a legitimate reigning beauty queen formerly holding the title of "Mrs. Arkansas Woman" and currently holding the title of "Ms. Woman World Elite Grand Champion"). I've got to say, these were absolutely amazing women, with such amazing stories to hear, and though we probably stayed up way too late each night (considering we had 2am wakeup calls), I wouldn't have had it any other way. But still, it was hard to raise myself up out of that bed in the morning. Anyway, I digress.

We got up early, got dressed and headed off to the start line. Like always with the Disney races I have experienced, the crowds were monstrous. We stopped for a quick photo standing in front of the start line, and then trekked over to the start line party where we waited. And waited. And waited some more.

By the time we were allowed into the corrals, my feet were already on fire from standing around so much! Brina and I were in a different corral than Michelle and Kelly. The plan was for Michelle and Kelly to run separate, but for Brina and I to run together. You know what they say about the best laid plans, right?

I had never run a 10k before. Going into this event, I knew that I severely disliked the 5k distance (because believe it or not, it always feels so God-awful long), but I didn't know what to expect for a 10k. I know, I know, the next day would be my 19th half marathon, and half marathons are considerably longer than 5ks, but still... there is something about the shorter distances that gets to me... perhaps that it really takes me a few miles to feel like I even want to be out there, I don't know.

Getting ready to start, I was feeling jittery, yet excited from the pre-race atmosphere. As our corral was moving up to the start line, I realized I had to use the bathroom. I always have to use the bathroom right before a race, but have learned that this is just nerves and I quickly lose the urge once I get moving, so I thought little of it. I reminded myself to calm down, took my inhaler and before I knew it, the fireworks signifying our start were going off.

As soon as Brina and I crossed the start line, we were shocked. It didn't feel like a race start. People were just moseying across the start line like a herd of cattle, slower than anything I had ever seen or experienced before. And this herd never seemed to break up and actually pick up speed. We darted and weaved. Brina would bounce through a group of people and I would do my best to follow, or at least keep her within a couple arm's distances away. At multiple points we were grabbing one another to steer through this crowd. Not only was it annoying, it was downright dangerous. Not even 10 feet into the race, we watched 2 people who were immediately in front of us collide and fall down, leaving us to jump around them lest we be taken out with them. Yikes! I knew the field for the race was ridiculously large and that the course would be packed, but this was something else entirely.

We had started near the back of our corral, and passed probably 3/4 of the people we started with before we even got to 3/4 of a mile... but the crowds never seemed to let up. And on top of the super slow pace, people were stopping in the middle of the right-of-way to take photos and ooh and aah over the Disney eye-candy. By mile 2, the pack had spread out enough for me to get a decent run/walk/run interval going and I was at my pre-injury pace, albeit wheezing very loudly, and coughing up a lot of gunk. I could tell that Brina was getting impatient with me for not being able to keep up, and for continually losing her in the crowd, so I asked her to go along without me, which she did.

And then something amazing happened. We hit a very dark area of the course and over the sound of my music, I started to hear something. It was the strangest sound, so I pulled my earbuds out, to take it all in. It was silence. People had stopped talking, and the course was almost silent except for the sound of sneakers hitting the pavement all around me. I had never heard anything like this before, and it was totally surreal. Unfortunately it didn't last long because we were soon at a water station and the chatter began, but I would have dealt with the insane crowds again and again in order to just experience this sound again. It's funny. I paid all this money for a Disney race, and the one experience from this event that will probably stick with me forever is that moment on an access road without music or entertainment, and just the sound of feet.

Pretty soon, I was entering into Epcot's World Showcase near China. I rounded the corner and saw the flaming pillar and got excited. I'd never run through Epcot before, so this was definitely a first. And while the World Showcase was an awesome experience, with 98% humidity, a fog that hadn't yet lifted, and the heat index rising, I was having more and more difficulty catching my breath. What's more, the ground in the World Showcase was damp and slicker than a freshly surfaced ice rink. I knew that I needed to protect my feet, and I my steps became even more tentative. We exited Epcot through the Disney Boardwalk. In all my times going to Disney, I don't think I've ever been to the Disney Boardwalk, and it was a really neat experience. Running on the boards was sweet relief to my feet and bad ankle after the slickness of the World Showcase, but once again, the participants were significantly bottle-necking. I think on my next trip to Orlando that I may want to visit the Boardwalk again to explore a bit... but again, I'm digressing.

Leaving the Boardwalk, I became acutely aware that I had I still had to use the restroom. I was about 5 miles in at this point, and right on pace, so I kept chugging along. The breathing was getting more and more difficult and the pain was amping up in my bad foot, but I kept pushing. I was going to finish strong. The course took us back through Epcot and around Spaceship Earth. And then the cramping started. I had to go to the bathroom so bad I was almost doubled over in pain. I knew I could push it and make it to the finishline, but waves of nausea were threatening. So I made a bee-line to the nearest bathroom...

At something asinine like mile 5.8 or 5.9.

In a 10k race, this is the equivalent of stopping right before the finishline. The entire time I was in the bathroom, I was beating myself up. Obviously, I am my own worst enemy here, because the stop was REQUIRED, but still... I was taking every opportunity to be mean to myself. Personal note to self: be gentler on myself in the future.

I came out of the bathroom and wanted to cry. Disney races are so crowded that most people know not to count on them to get a personal record, but somehow, through it all, I was right on track for one. And I had thrown it all away, in the blink of an eye.

But I finished, and in the end, I guess that's all that really matters. I got the same medal as everyone else. And I also got some personal knowledge to boot. I'm not a big fan of the 10k distance.

Chip - 1:41:57
Pace - 16:27/Mile.

Day one of Glass Slipper Challenge finished. The Half the next day wouldn't be as "easy" on me.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sick little princess

Just a quick little update as I prepare to head off to Orlando for the Walt Disney World Princess Half Marathon weekend and the Glass Slipper challenge (a combination of a 10K on day one, and a half marathon on day 2). I am SUPER STOKED about this much needed girls weekend away, spending time at Disney World's Epcot and Magic Kingdom, and  the actual races.

If you remember, I was supposed to run the Disney Full Marathon back in January, but my foot injury prevented me from participating. I left the weekend happy to have supported my friends, but sad that I wasn't able to enjoy all of the RunDisney festivities.

I feel like this is my time to get my RunDisney fix. a much needed RunDisney fix.

So, I'm all packed and ready to go. But I'm bringing a whole lot more stuff than I had planned.

A whole extra bag.

My bad of drugs.

Lots, and lots of drugs.

Because, yep. I'm sick again.

Turns out that although I felt great for the majority of last week, and although I made it through the Ft. Lauderdale A1A half marathon on Sunday without any problems... I never really kicked the crud that I picked up during marathon weekend as my lovely souvenir.

Apparently it just went into hiding and came back no less than 20 minutes after crossing the finishline at the race. Except now, instead of a sinus infection, it is very clearly bronchitis with asthmatic symptomology. I feel like that PSA about asthmatic children with the fish flopping around out of water.

Which poses an interesting situation for me. Of course I am going to listen to my body... but I am also going to cross my everything that the medications work fast... because if there is one thing that I have tons of experience with... it is asthma and bronchitis.

Up until I started this whole running thing 2 years ago, I let breathing problems dictate what I couldn't do. I really struggled with running and calling myself a runner because my whole life I had been told I couldn't... and now, going into this weekend... I am finding myself in the same old battle of feeling like my breathing will hold me back.

I could use all the positive juju I can get right now. Because I want to be a Disney Princess.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A1A Ft Lauderdale Half Marathon - Feb 16, 2014

Let me just say that there is no doubt that this race is BY FAR, my absolute favorite race, with the flattest fastest course that I have ever seen. I love this race. It was my 3rd race ever last year, the first race that I really felt my body working to PR at when I first started running half marathons, and a race that I really looked forward to this year... despite the ongoing health saga that I seem to have been dealing with the past few months.

I had finally kicked my illness that in retrospect may have actually been the flu, I was breathing great without having any residual coughing or wheezing. My body seemed to be recovered from the Miami half a couple of weeks prior (I was SORE SORE SORE for days after this half as it had been my first back after my awful foot injury), and I wasn't really experiencing any twinges of pain that may be residual from that injury either. I was stoked for this race.

And it didn't let me down.

The night before the race, I had a sleepover at my friend Seth's house, and we stayed up probably a little later than we should have laughing and talking about our races past and our upcoming plans for the future (another 5 in 5 days in April). We finally went to bed around 10pm, and I barely slept. Part of that was being somewhere other than my own house... the other part of that was probably just standard pre-race jitters. Because he lives about 2 miles from the start line, that meant that we got to sleep in a little the next day, but the wake-up call still came a little too early for my liking. We got ready, had a few wardrobe disasters, and headed to the start.

We met up with some friends before the start, and headed off to the start corral. One of the things that I really enjoy about this race is the soft starting corral system. This year, there was a huge group of charity runners from the Hebrew Academy for Special Children, and they all staged at the back of the corral.

While I love charity runners, and while HASC is great because they take kids and teens with disabilities to do something amazing at these events, it was quite difficult to share the course with them. First of all, they notably had WAY more energy than anyone should legally have at that hour. Second, when the race started, a number of these kids plowed their way through the waves of runners who were aiming to improve their times, and who had just as much right to the course as anyone. Again, I want to clarify that they were an amazing group to share the course with and they really inspired me to be the best I could possibly be... but in the end, they were just waves of teenagers who didn't really understand race ettiquette, who ran zigzagging patterns through clumps of runners (running me over in the process more than once), who stepped on the heels of runners (myself included again), and who walked 4-5 people abreast with the strollers and were not aware of runners trying to pass them.

And while I loved that they were so supportive to one another in their endeavors, after 10 miles of having one girl continually screaming and whooping in my left ear, I was ready to put her in her place. Thankfully, I didn't because I reminded myself that they were just as entitled to be excited about their first race as I was excited about mine... but that doesn't mean that I didn't *want* to say something.

And now, I'm sure that I sound like a grumpy old woman who begrudges the neighborhood kids who walk across her yard on the way home from school...  But I swear it wasnt like that. I think these kids just needed a little more training in ettiquette and what to expect during a half marathon and it would have made the experience more pleasant for everyone involved.

The course this year was the same as years past. It started next to the Museum and went down Las Olas, across the drawbridge (that thankfully didn't open!), and out to the beach for a spectacular sunrise.

From there, we traveled about a mile north then west for a quick 3 mile detour through John Hugh Birch State Park. I think the park portion of this race is absolutely my favorite part because the road is narrow, and there are overhanging trees and it is shady and peaceful. By the time I get there, the crowd has thinned out a bit and I am able to get into a good groove. It winds up being a very serene and peaceful time running. At that point, I was well aware that I was on track for a PR.

entry to the park
But the truth is (and I think I was trying to deny it), it wasn't really a PR that I was on track for... it was complete burnout. As a run/walk/runner, I do 60 seconds of running followed by 60 seconds of walking and repeat through the duration. Under normal circumstances, I will average about 15 min per mile for the first half of a race, and then get a bit of burnout at around mile 9 and struggle the rest of the way. I know I fall apart, but there doesn't seem to be much that I can do about that. Finishing up my first 10k, I was averaging 14:33 per mile, which I somewhat feared I couldn't maintain, and would lead to a massive breakdown around mile 9. But I couldn't seem to slow myself down to better pace myself.

I was feeling excellent. I was happy to be out there. I was happy feeling the ache and burn in my muscles. I was happy to be alive. I left the park, and ran past my own personal little cheering section (I have a friend who is a TNT coach and who is super supportive of me). He told me to slow down a little, but I was on fire. And it sounds funny saying that because my "on fire" pace is still comparatively so slow when you consider others... but whatever. Enough self-depreciating talk.

I headed back out to the beach and north until mile marker 8 where the turnaround was. And suddenly, the sun was REALLY hot. it had been chilly when the race started so I wore a jacket. I was overheating but the breeze off the ocean gave me a chill when I unzipped my jacket. I felt my face getting sunburned. Those last 4 miles were bound to catch up to me. I knew with every passing interval, I was about to hit my breaking point and have my never-fail break-down moment where I would fall apart.

But it never really came. Sure my time slowed down as I entered the last 2 mile home stretch. I wound up missing my PR by less than 2 minutes, but I never really broke my stride.

And apparently I didn't break my heel either because there was almost no pain in that pesky injury!

Before I knew it, I was entering the chute and collecting my medal. No PR for me, but I got something way better.

The knowledge that even after such a bad injury and months laid up, I'm back! And I'm just as strong.

Gun- 3:23:07
Net- 3:18:01
Pace- 15:07/mile
10K Split- 1:30:20
OA- 3204
GRP- 266/285

*strangely, about 20 minutes AFTER finishing this race, I once again developed a cough and severe wheezing indicating an asthma attack. I haven't had a legitimate attack in years. not sure why it happened after the race rather than during, but hope it gets gone quick, I've got a big weekend coming up!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Frustrations abound at the gym

I recently joined a Gym. LA Fitness to be exact.

Not necessarily to lose weight (although I should probably lose about 60 lbs), but that would just be a happy byproduct.

I joined to give myself more training possibilities for my running. Right now, the weather is hit or miss, but we are going into the rainy season in South Florida soon, and the temps will also be heating up. And in the past I have learned that as the days get longer, I have less opportunity to run. Because I am totally NOT a morning person, this meant a lot of training runs at night after dark, which cuts into my precious together time with husbeast.

So I joined a gym to have access to things like the dreadmill, and the elliptical, and possibly the stationary bike. I chose LA Fitness because it also has a sauna and a steam room, a pool and a Jacuzzi. All super welcome bonuses for me as we don't have any of that available now that we are homeowners.

But I was also very turned on by the idea that there would be fitness classes. Like spin, and Zumba, aerobics, Latin Heat class, and yoga.

All with one startup fee and a marginal monthly membership, I would have access to a lot of really great opportunities to lead a more active lifestyle.

And of course, they have the dreaded weight machines. While I don't begrudge anyone the use of machines, that just isn't what my goal is. My goal is to make having a more active lifestyle part of my day-to-day. My goal is to supplement my running. My goal is to enjoy exercising. And being on those machines screams BORING. Oh man, I would rather jab myself repeatedly with sharpened and rusty darning needles than spend time on those dang machines!

But of course the startup fees at the gym include a single session with the trainer, in the hopes that they can rope you into a contract for a quite pricy personal training plan... which would be geared toward spending most of my time on those dang weight machines and less time doing the things that I joined this gym specifically for.

I didn't want this intro session with the personal training, but I suppose I wasn't forceful enough to say no. While, professionally, I always counsel people to cut back on their conflict avoidance style, it is easier to coach someone into doing this than it is to follow my own guidance.

So this week, I had my intro training session, which I didn't really want in the first place. I saw down and we talked about goals and why I joined the gym. And I was candid and clear. The gym will be used to supplement my training and encourage cross training, particularly as I come out of this long drawn out foot injury. And he took my measurements, told me that I was a good 60 lbs overweight (which I am aware of because I am not blind and can see the numbers on the scale), and wanted to talk about diet.

And then he dropped his first insult. That I could never lose weight eating a bagel and banana in the morning because that's runners food, and runners food doesn't work.

And then he started talking about how I need to eat chicken and more protein, disregarding the fact that I clearly told him I am a vegetarian.

And then we got to the point of the actual training session which overall went fairly well, although he seemed to ignore the fact that I told him that one of the exercises was causing tremendous heel pain, and I was concerned about the possibility of injury because I have a race coming up this weekend.

To which his response was basically, If you have a goal to lose weight, you shouldn't be running anymore, particularly not running half and full marathons. They aren't healthy, and will cause you to get hurt and destroy your knees, hips, and ankles. Then there was the accusation that my foot injury was caused by running...

Pardon me for a second here as I flip to my big girl language, but NO ASSHOLE, my foot injury is not related to running. My injury happened because I am a KLUTZ and I fell in a freaking hole and tore a tendon and didn't know it, then got bad medical advice. Yes, running was part of the reason that it didn't heal as fast as it should have, but  that doesn't mean it came from running.

AND by the way, just because your charts say I am overweight by 60lbs and at a heightened risk for things like diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity related death...  my doctor has indicated (on multiple occasions) that I am in tip top physical health and that the only reason I should be working to lose the weight right now is for vanity.

But of course, I didn't say any of this, though I definitely wanted to as I envisioned punching him in his muscle bound EYEBALL.

And instead, when he tried to sell me the personal trainer for the affordable cost of $40 per week with a 12 month contract (and a one time initiation fee), I meekly told him that this was not going to be fiscally prudent based on our family budget, but maybe some other time down the line.

To which he told me that he'd still like to get me to sign an agreement with him (personally) to give up a year of running altogether to see how the weight falls off.

Next time, I will shank a bitch. And after he recovers from the initial shock, I'll just run away.

13.1 miles away.

Even at my molasses pace, I'd probably lose him after that first point one of a mile. Afterall, that point one will getcha.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Failing is an option, quitting is not

Erica at Wornout Soles recently wrote a post about 30 life lessons that she has learned in celebration of turning 30 this month. I found her blog through a group on facebook, and while all of her life lessons really seem to be really great lessons to have learned, I struggled over understanding and believing her lesson #15.

Failing is an option, quitting is not.

I am super competitive with myself. I am a loose-ends-tie-r-upper. When I give myself to something, I give 110%. When I take a class or an exam, I cannot stop working until I have given my very best. Everything has to be perfect in order for me to be proud of my accomplishments.

When I compare myself to others doing similar things (like writing a paper for example), a B is a fairly good grade and I would tell others that this is great, but deep inside me, I don't believe it for myself. I've come to realize the past couple of years, its not that I think that I am better than others, or that I need to be better than others, but rather, It is about my own feelings of self worth. I feel like I have to constantly prove to others (and myself) that I am worthy.

Failure is just not an option for me.

Because failing is a sign of weakness. And if I fail, I wont be worthy.

... Because somewhere along the lines, I have taught myself that to be worthy is to get straight As, to be worthy is to complete ridiculous running challenges, that to be worthy isn't just to study karate but to have a black belt, that to be worthy is to not just contribute money to a good cause but to take up the mantle for that cause. I spread myself too thin, because it isn't enough to work part time and work on a doctoral dissertation, but I have to be doing all this other stuff too, and constantly give my free time to helping others with anything and everything (I seem to be the go to person for a lot of people and always feel myself dropping everything that is me-centered to help others out). 

And all of that eventually leads to burnout.... and worse, feeling like a failure. Because, you know, its not enough to be doing one or two things, when I can instead be doing a LOT of other things.

Years ago, while in undergraduate, I was going through a rough spell. And I was with a dear friend and talking about something that was emotional and I excused myself to cry. I NEVER want to let anyone see me cry, because to me, it shows weakness. I'm a super emotional person anyway, but I don't want others to see tears. Anyway, after I was done crying in the bathroom, I came back out and my friend had a come-to talk with me. I don't remember anything of that conversation or the circumstances except this. After a brief pause where he asked if i was ok, he said to me:

Amy, why are you so afraid of crying in front of others? Crying is a natural expression, let yourself be human.

Those words have since stuck with me. And frequently when I have a run, or screw up something, I remind myself that it is ok to be human, and try to let go. And with that, I realize that Erica from Wornout Soles is right... failure is natural. All children who learn to walk fall down. And it hurts and they cry. But they don't quit, and eventually they are able to walk a few more steps without falling down. They learn through perseverance and dedication. Perseverance and a refusal to quit are behaviors that allow us to become better and stronger people. Those are the behaviors that strengthen our souls and decrease the odds of failing the next time.

All that being said, I finally made a leap and got myself a gym membership at LA Fitness. I haven't been to a gym in years, but in South Florida heat, it almost makes sense because running can be so brutal outside sometimes. Plus the Dr. wants me to work more x-training in. I wanted this particular gym because through membership, I would have access to all sorts of classes like spinning, Zumba, Latin heat, etc. I'm terrified of weight machines, but I thought these classes would be a great way to get out there and push my comfort zone. I've now taken 2 classes there, and have learned the following:

1) I am built like an out of shape linebacker.
2) This white girl ain't got no rhythm. 
3) it is entirely impossible to do a class without staring at the amazing asses on the other girls. 
4) I have the grace of Steve Urkel.
5) I look and feel like a fool

But all of those things combined, I am finding that I am really enjoying this new activity. I'm nervous and scared, and I think I just need to keep it in perspective.

I'm fairly sure that at some point, I'm gonna fail (just look at that list above), but I wont be quitting any time soon.

(And maybe this will be just the remedy for not having enough me time.)