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. 

foot part deux

Last I wrote, I talked about the development of an issue in my left foot and what we thought was a sprain to the 4th metatarsel. Believe it or not, I've been compliant, wearing the boot as directed, and also wearing shows on my right foot whenever possible. Have I mentioned before that I absolutely hate wearing shoes in general? so I guess you can see why I am proud to not only be in compliance with the boot, but I've also been really good about cutting down on barefoot time.

I went for my 4 week follow up yesterday with 2 main issues on my mind:

  1. Although I've been wearing the boot on my LEFT foot, the pain is not any better... AT ALL. thankfully its not worse, but its not better. 
  2. All this time in the boot on my LEFT foot has me once again facing issues of overcompensation (which we believe led to this LEFT foot in the first place), and I am having some pretty significant pain in my RIGHT heel again. As a recap, it was the RIGHT foot that got me into this mess in the first place. 

Unfortunately, it is clear that this cycle is vicious and something has to change. The Dr. Suspects that the first problem is actually due to a 4th metatarsal stress fracture that is hiding between the bones at the joint in the center of my foot. He wants an MRI to see if there is anything he can do... but the prognosis remains somewhat the same either way. 4-6 weeks in a boot religiously. maybe some injections if there is no break.

The problem in my right foot can be alleviated temporarily with cortisone shots... which I had, and holy mother of monkeys was that worse than I remembered. Because the needle goes into the sheath around a tendon and nerves, its enough to make me cringe and see sound vibrations from the needle straight up into my eyes. I don't know if that even makes sense, but think of the movie 127 hours:

So yeah... that sound that he was hearing and color, that's all I can think of when trying to explain what that needle going into my heel feels like.

So anyway, there you have it. We will know more after my MRI monday.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What? Another state?

OK. So here's the thing. I've accepted that I'm injured. And we all know that I'm a little stubborn. I was told to be in the boot for 2 weeks before my follow up, and I admit, I was only half in compliance.

I work a couple of part time jobs, but for the most part not only do I work them from home, but I also have the full time job of finishing my doctoral dissertation (also from home). And I couldn't justify waking up, putting the boot on to walk 10 feet to my office and sitting for a couple of hours, then walking the distance to the fridge and back, then sitting for some more hours... etc. Because short distances didn't hurt. But the evening would eventually roll around and my foot would hurt again. And stupid me, I was unwilling to accept that it wasn't getting better because when I was at home in my house I was not entirely in compliance.

I went for the followup, and he joked that after hearing that, he couldn't understand why I wasn't getting better either. So he ordered another 2 weeks in the boot. I felt like I was getting better until Saturday when I went to a concert and some drunk girl both tripped over my foot, then kicked it out of the way when she couldn't figure out what she had tripped over. And of course, I am seriously hurting now. But I have hope. The followup is just under 2 weeks from now, and I am not taking that dang boot off until then. I should be better exponentially by then.

But here's the thing. I'm going stir crazy. I have found that one of the only ways that I can alleviate stress is through running. Sorry folks, the gym just doesn't cut it. And obviously I can't do zumba right now. So the stress builds... and trust me, right now I have a TON of stress (to be measured in metric F-tons).

I'm in another kind of race these days. I'm in the race to meet deadlines with my dissertation. If I can get my first draft completed by September, I could be defended by the end of the calendar year, which means I could have my ph.d. conferred as early as January or February. I need to meet this timeline so that I don't have to pay more tuition. And I really don't want to pay any more tuition. So there you have it. I'm brain fried and content overloaded. I'm working all day, and up half the night pondering my research questions and the shape that my final document will take. I'm overloaded by the hot political mess that is going on in Israel and Palestine as this tangentially affects the topic of my expertise. I'm needing to reduce stress in meaningful ways.

And of course that brings me back to the foot problem. So I thought about a mini-break to visit my good friend Sarah in Utah. Sarah and I have been working together to keep motivated through our ph.d. journeys, and we are both aiming for the same timeline to finish. Plus we are both peace workers, so we share a lot of the same emotional hardships. Did I mention that she is also a runner? And wouldn't you know it, she will be running her 3rd and qualifying race for half fanatics while I am visiting her. Coincidence? I think not.

I plead my fifth amendment rights as to the logistics of how this happened, but Sarah registered me for the race with her. I admit to no blame in the registration for this race, because registering for a race when I am not sure I will fully be healed wouldn't be very compliant of me, now would it? I think I'll be healed at that point, but even if, I can wear a brace to help alleviate the pressure. It will be fun. And hey, not only do I get to relieve stress by seeing one of my closest friends in a place that I've never been before, but I will also be able to share this amazing opportunity with her.

Porter's Half Marathon, here I come!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Seriously? Injured again?

Seriously, This is not how I envisioned starting out my summer.
now I have a matching set

At this point last year I was in excruciating pain my right foot. I was nursing a horrible injury and refusing to admit there was a problem. I finally brought myself to the doctor some time in August, and wound up in my first round of treatments and boots. The treatments lasted until March of this year.

I was looking forward to having a little recovery time in May and June. And after that recovery period, I felt strong. I kept focusing my attention on the strengthening of my right foot and how the pain seemed to disappear more and more each day.

Which I guess is why when I started to get a little nagging feeling in the center of my left foot, I brushed it off. It didn't hurt too bad. It was just a strange nagging sensation. It didn't hurt when I ran, for the most part, it only hurt when I flexed my foot just so, all in all, I could overlook it.

But then last week I tried to ramp up my mileage. I wound up succeeding in upping my mileage, though I barely made it halfway to my goal mileage before my back started to cause problems.

Which is strange in itself. I didn't even feel much pain in my back. I was just always short of breath when I stood up or I moved the wrong way. I was exhausted all the time and found that laying motionless helped. I actually thought it was asthma at first. Then I realized that the shortness of breath wasn't responding to medication, and it was only happening if I moved certain ways or if I was sitting up for long periods of time.  I have a back problem, and have for a long time. I have a high thresh-hold for pain in my back, I guess it just took me a little while to realize what was going on.

And once I did, I chalked it up to repetitive impact from running on sidewalks (instead of on the paved streets like I prefer). I mean, that's plausible, right? But then I realized that the shortness of breath was only coming when I was trying to stand up straight or put weight on my right foot. Well that didn't make any sense. I thought that maybe my muscles were spasming so much on my lower left side that it was just making it difficult to stand straight.

I NEVER once thought there might be something else going on.

Until I realized that the nagging sensation in my foot had gotten worse. It was throbbing all the time and felt like there was some crepitation seeping in. I couldn't hear anything, but it certainly felt like a whole bunch of crackling.

So I made an appt with the foot dr again. I knew even before the appt was made what the solution was going to be, although I didn't know what the diagnosis was. I thought it might be extensor tendonitis, but there was no swelling whatsoever. Trust me, after over a year of dealing with problems with my left foot, I am highly attuned to swelling, and there was none.

So I go to the appt, do some xrays. Nothing is broken, but he did find evidence of an acute sprain deep inside the center of my left foot. How the heck?

Wearing another boot for at least 2 more weeks was not how I envisioned this summer starting off. The temporary solution is to stay off of it completely until at least the followup and let it heal.

But now I am starting to be filled with the not-good-enoughs. Man, I didn't realize that even writing that last sentence would bring tears to my eyes. But its time that I finally admit it, maybe I'm just not good enough for this running thing. Maybe I'm not strong enough to run, I'm not fit enough, I'm too heavy, I'm too slow, I'm just not enough.

But I love to do it. I don't know where this leaves me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hey Amy, how did that challenge go?

Last week, I excitedly wrote about a 1 week challenge where I allowed my friends on facebook to like my post and the total number of likes would determine my weekly mileage.

It was foolish, I know. But at the same time, I was excited to have a challenge to really push for, a reason to go out there and push my limits and really do something that would remind me of how far I've come and how strong I have gotten over the past 2 years.

I don't want to say that I wasn't entirely freaked out by the idea of logging 64 miles, but I made a commitment to go out there and give it the old college try. For me that included the senior year, the 4 years of undergraduate, the 2 years of graduate, and the almost 3 years (so far) of ph.d. work. That's a lot of college try. And that's what I wanted to put into this challenge.

But I came up short. Really, really ridiculously short.

I managed 6.77 miles on day 1 but then had to call it quits due to a severe electrical storm that came through.

On day 2, I broke it up and put in 6.5 miles in the morning. Then in the evening I did another 5.11 miles.

And that's where it all kind of fell apart. About 3 miles into the second workout on day 2, I started having the most horrid back spasms that I have had in about 10 years. These were leaving me barely able to catch my breath, and unable to stand up straight.

I took the next day off, and on day 4, I managed another 7.38 miles. I kept feeling like I was winded and out of breath. I blamed it on the heat and humidity, I soldiered on, but I couldn't keep going. The following day, the spasms were back in full force.

It was the 4th of July and I couldn't get out of bed. I spent the entire 3 day weekend either on the bed or the couch, alternating between barely able to catch my breath, staving off dizzy spells, and melting into a sobbing mess from tweaks here and there in my back.

And before I knew it, the 7 day challenge was done. I spent most of the week in pain and laid up. I managed to get in 25.76 miles, and I should feel proud of that. Unfortunately I'm still trying to convince myself that 25.76 miles in a week is nothing to turn my nose up at. Instead of being proud of what I accomplished, I keep thinking about the 38.24 miles that I didn't manage to log during the week.

It leaves me feeling like a failure.

What is wrong with me?

Monday, June 30, 2014

HTFU* and a one week challenge

What on earth have I gotten myself into?

A couple of my friends posted a challenge to facebook this weekend that basically their facebook friends would get to dictate what their running mileage would be for the week. In essence, they pledged to (in a 7 day time period) run the number of miles equivalent to the number of "likes" that they received to the post.

Thinking that I rarely have people like or comment on my posts, and thinking it would be fun, I bravely accepted the gauntlet that had been thrown down, and posted the following to my wall:

OK, my run buds Jennifer Hatcher and Edna Montoya threw down the gauntlet with their challenges. here's the thing, I need to get off my butt and get caught up to the mileage.


For every LIKE I receive to this post, I will do1 mile this week. LIKES on this post end at midnight tonight! (I had a cap on this but Jennifer told me to HTFU.) the week will start tomorrow.

I thought this could be fun. And while I was panicky at first thinking I needed to cap it at 40 miles at absolute max for the week, my friend reminded me that if I capped it at 40, then I might as well have just posted to my wall that I was going to run 40 miles for the week and not leave the option for anyone else to dictate my mileage.

I was scared, but she was right, and I needed to HTFU*. I removed the note about capping out at 40 miles, and bit my nails while watching the likes on my post rise and rise and rise. 

5 hours later, the polls closed, and I wound up with a total of 63 likes, equaling 63 miles to be completed in 7 days. Plus a dear friend informed me that hers would count for 2 likes. I figure, I'm already going to do 63 miles, why not add another?

64/7= 9.14 miles per day.

or I could break it into 2 times per day and get 4.57 miles per time out. and that seems really manageable... less than a year ago I managed 78.6 miles in 6 days, 2 months ago I managed 65.5 miles in 5 days... if I could do that, I can most certainly do this. 

But still, its a daunting task. Ok, enough jabbering, lets get this show on the road.  

This journey of 64 miles begins with one step.

*HTFU is one of my loving mantras, taught to me by my friend Jennifer on my 6 in 6 day fiasco, and it stands for Harden The F*** UP

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Beach Beast - June 14, 2014

I've been dragging my feet on writing this race recap. I really like to find the silver lining in events and give people the benefit of the doubt, but no matter how I cut it, this event was a flop.

Here's the thing, when Beach Beast did their first event out in Tampa last summer, I had some friends who participated in it and absolutely loved it. They were not big into OCRs or Mudruns, they were more Crossfit type of people. They enjoyed the run, they gave the event and the promoter rave reviews, and all was fine and dandy. So we signed up for it last year.

If you recall, last years event was not so great. I was very generous in my race recap from that event but the reality was that all of the obstacles were cramped into the very beginning of the event or the very end of the course, there was no water to be found despite being on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale in early April, the obstacles were falling apart and posed a hazard to many people as they broke down from all the foot traffic, and it was just kind of a hot mess. Trying to find a silver lining, I believed the promoter when he claimed that a number of the problems came from a concert that was about to be set up at the same location which had their equipment delivered ahead of time. I had no reason to not believe them.

That being said, I hadn't planned to run another one of their events. And I wouldn't have, except that husbeast made a charitable donation to an organization late last summer and in return we got two complementary entries to this years Miami Beach Beast Event. I knew not to expect much, but my hopes were a little higher than they should have been because we were reassured that this year's event would be in a better location meaning we would have better support.

And of course, although my hopes weren't all that high, the let down was still immense. After last year's mess up, I would have thought that they had learned some lessons and would right some of their wrongs. But wishful thinking, I guess. Afterall, eventhough last year neither mine nor my husband's timing chips worked, at least this year, we would have the ability to be timed on a course, right?

Wrong. No timing chips this year, essentially making it a 5K fun run (except it wasn't really 5K either, but I'm getting ahead of myself) But that's ok, it could have still been a gorgeous event at the beach, in an absolutely gorgeous location.

Wrong again. The new venue was the Historic Virginia Key Park, which is an absolutely gorgeous location that many runners, bikers, and triathletes adore so I had high hopes for at least that component of the event. Yet the event was held primarily in dirt parking lots and along an area of the bay which had less beach and more seaweed than anyone could ever imagine. For an event that claims to be a "beach run" It would have been nice to be on a beach area for more than maybe a 10th of a mile. This area of coastline was also about a "beach-ish" strip that was probably no more than 5 feet wide and covered with seaweed and other debris, so not much for beach. I have to say that I got far more sand on me while weaving back and forth through a dirt parking lot. Yes, you read that right... But once more for good measure:

Weaving. Back. And. Forth. Through. A. Dirt. Parking. Lot.

Seriously, you have a beautiful park that you could run the course through yet you put flags out on a dirt lot to weave back and forth through to increase the overall distance to a 5K? Well nice try, but the distance wasn't even close to a 5K. But I guess that can be overlooked, because there were obstacles right? Yeah, lets talk about that.

They used a different builder for the obstacles this year than last year, so they were slightly different. I found the obstacles last year to be far more challenging, though a few of them managed to break from the weight of people jumping on them repeatedly. There were less obstacles, and because I am not a huge fan of getting splinters in my butt, I am not about to climb a wall and slide down a large piece of plywood to get to the other side. I guess that could have been easily done by other people, but being the Klutz that I am, I just went around. So that left me with a sand crawl that was less than 15 feet long, a knee-up area which barely required me to pick my feet up off the ground, a large laddered wall that I actually liked but didn't find challenging at all (other than the fact that it was fairly tall and I feared falling), and a couple other obstacles that clearly made a lasting impression because I can't remember them to save my life.

I walked the whole event, which I hadn't planned on doing, but decided was in my best interest after we arrived to find out that there was not only no water anywhere on the course, but no water at the finish line either. Sure they had Celsius as a sponsor and they were out there giving away free energy fizzy drinks, but this is NOT a replacement for water. HELLO, this is JUNE in SOUTH FLORIDA. the temperature was hovering well over 90 degrees, and the humidity was up in the high 80s percentage wise.


You know what else isn't safe?

Doing a race in the sun and the heat of South Florida without providing water, and NOT having a medical team on site. I'm always super attuned to where medical is at events, that's just the safe practice... and not once did I see a medical tent, an ambulance or any representative from the Miami Dade Fire Rescue.

No excuse.

Not impressed. And wont be making the same mistake again. Promise. NEVER AGAIN.

The promoter Eric F. Peer has not been available for comment through the facebook event for this race. Maybe he's still hanging out with the medical team and the water?

But I did get this great picture with my friends Meredith and Khalimah, so that's a plus, right?

Monday, June 16, 2014

26th Annual Memorial Day Classic Weston- May 25, 2014

Last year, I didn't get to participate in the Memorial Day Classic 5K in Weston. I was working doing promotions for USRS that day at two different events, and that could have been the reason, but I suspect that the real reason for skipping it last year was my aversion to the 5K distance.

I know it sounds crazy with all of the ridiculous mileage that I log all the time, but for me, the 5K just feels crazy long. In a half marathon, it usually takes me about a mile to get into the swing of things, but for a 5K, I feel like I spend the majority of my time trying to convince myself that I want to be out there running, then find that I am ok with running around the time that the distance is nearly over. Doesn't seem like much reward to cost benefit to me. So I avoid 5Ks. Even in training, while I might cut short to a 5K due to pain, or being overwhelmed by heat or humidity, I rarely say to myself that I am going to do a 5K when I leave the house. It is usually more like a plan to do 4 or 5 miles (at least).

But when I came back from the Riverboat Series, I felt like a part of myself was missing. I needed to take a little break to finally recover and let that pesky foot heal, but I also needed the mental break to remind myself why I ran in the first place. And with that break, I remembered that I run for the mental alignment that it provides, for the sense of self accomplishment that translates to heightened self-esteem, for the rush of endorphins and the increase of dopamine. I ran for me, and somewhere along the line (most likely with the intensification of that foot injury) I had forgotten what it was all about. I had somewhere along the line become too goal oriented, and too focused on being better than I had been previously, on more more more.

And so, after a brief hiatus from running, and a whole lot of introspection, I decided that it might be nice to register for a couple of 5K races to end out the season.I was ready to tackle it. I'd technically been on a break from running, but had kept up my training during the week with walking on the treadmill at the gym... and having done a couple of shorter road races on the weekends in between, so when the morning of the race rolled around, I felt prepared. I wasn't necessarily prepared for how brutally hot it was out there, or how little shade there was, but I was ready to run.

I was also able to rope husbeast into joining me for support. He is the one that really motivated me on this running journey, and while he did 3 half marathons throughout 2013, he's just not that into it anymore. I'd love him to run more, and I thought that maybe coming out there just to support me might spark some jealousy and get him motivated to start running again, but the verdict is still out on that one.

The race was fairly straightforward. It was really crowded, was disgustingly hot and there was very little shade, but the race support was awesome. No electrolyte drink, but I've noticed that while running, sports drinks make me sick to my stomach, so its not like that really bothered me. It might have been nice to have some at the finishline, but that's neither here nor there. I was left feeling really impressed with the organization of the event, and the crowd was super supportive as well. I always like a race like that.

I'm not going to say it wasnt a tough race. the no shade thing was a big turnoff, but I plodded along. and when I felt like I needed the extra support, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the coin that my friend Scott gave me as he was running to honor the fallen heroes. It was memorial day afterall, so why not take some strength from Scott's coin that is designed in memory of some brave men who gave their lives serving in the US Military? that seemed to bring me the extra boost of strength that I needed to fight the heat. And I soon found myself smiling.

Actually, after the first mile,

I found myself smiling a lot. I was really enjoying myself out there, despite the crazy heat index. I knew a lot of the other runners there too, so although I was struggling from the heat and humidity, emotionally I was also really well supported. When I got to about 2.5 miles, a group who I knew from other events and who had already finished came back for me and ran me for about a quarter of a mile until I told  them that people behind me needed them more. I came into the finishing chute and saw my husband and some of my friends cheering me on from the sidelines.

I don't know if I've said this before, but I can't emphasize this enough. It is SO important to get support from your friends at the finishline. I will be writing another post about this in the very near future, but it is worth mentioning here. I've run in a lot of races in my 2.5 years of running, and when my faster paced friends wait at the finishline for me and are there to cheer me on, it feels awesome. It feels like they respect me and my finish time, regardless of how slow it happens to be. But again, not the point of this post, that will come later.

anyway, I finished the race, drank a bottle of water, then headed back out onto the course to find one of my other friends and support her in a nice strong finish too.

Gun 48:04
Chip 47:55
Pace 15:26
Cat 58/58
OA 887

Believe it or not, I am ok with that time, and being last in my category. I've accepted my place at the back of the pack, and with the heat and humidity, I could have just as easily stayed at home in the air conditioning.

What's more, I was reminded of why I do this, and where the joy in running actually is. And if it takes a 5K race to be reminded of that joy, eventhough they are "ridiculously long" in this twisted brain of mine, I'll do another one any time you invite me.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

LaCroix Mother's Day 5K- May 11, 2014

It was really nice to feel like I was getting my running mojo back, but it was still hard to push myself into training mode. I wanted to go out there and run to my heart's content, but I knew that I never really let myself completely rest and recover through the 12/13 and 13/14 running season. 

Now was my time for a real break from running and letting myself enjoy the journey instead of focusing on the end goal. I found myself at the gym more and more, and on the pavement outside less and less. I would get on the treadmill at a decent walking pace, and go for about an hour. Long enough to feel like I was accomplishing something, short enough to not mess up my plans for the entire day. 

I was happy with my schedule, and though not entirely happy about seeing no downward momentum on the scale, satisfied that the numbers weren't creeping higher and higher. I never started any of this running insanity with the hopes of losing weight (it was just a happy and much-welcomed by- product), but to see that the weight was not going anywhere after seeing it on a steady downward slope, that was kind of sad. But it's not about losing weight. It's about recuperating from my first 2 VERY hectic race seasons, and finding the love in the sport again.

So it was on that treadmill, putting in a quick 3.5 mile walk when I realized that I really enjoy being out there at races with other people. There is such a social aspect to the sport that I don't normally get to experience when I am training on my own. I have frequently shyed away from 5K races because I don't like the distance, but with my amount of training limited due to my self-imposed recovery training schedule, in order to get that experience that I love... it might make sense to enter into some local upcoming 5K races.

I think what was most appealing about the LaCroix Mother's Day 5K was that besides being local and it having a good reputation was that it was affordable. affordable is always good, right? On top of that, I got an email offering $25 entry to the race PLUS entry into the upcoming Weston Classic 5K on Memorial day for just $5 more. How can you beat 2 5K races (including race support, participants t-shirts, and finishers medals for all finishers) for a total of $30. SOLD AMERICAN.

The race itself was nice. It began in the Huizenga Park off of Las Olas in Downtown Ft. Lauderdale at 8am. Being a shorter distance, it made sense to justify starting a little later allowing people to sleep in while still beating the mid morning heat... but in practicality, it made no sense. We arrived at the venue and were soaked within minutes from all of the heat and humidity.

While I couldn't rope Husbeast into participating with me, I was able to rope him into coming out to support my endeavors (who doesn't love a good athletic supporter???). We spent some time wandering around, linking up with some friends from Karma Athletes before the race, and  enjoying the complementary beverages and music. Before long, it was time to line up at the starting corral and get the show on the road. 

It took a little while to ease into a comfortable pace. I was doing my intervals of 1 minute running followed by 1 minute walking, and at first, it really was more difficult than I remembered. I was having a log of pain in both the insides and the outsides of my ankles, more so in my bad foot that my good one, and this caused me to be a little nervous and hold back on my pace. But over time, as the pain slowly subsided, I found myself picking up the pace. And I soon found myself playing my pacing game where I pick random people and challenge myself to catch up to and/or pass them. It served as a great distraction.

And then I realized that there was another member of Karma Athletes right in front of me. As a back of the packer, I realize that most of the folks from Karma run a far faster pace than me. Usually I only see other Karma members at the start line and they either are ready to leave by the time I finish, or they have already gone home. And here, for the first time, I saw a member of Karma... and I had to catch up to her. I did manage to catch and pass her which she later did to me in return, but it was still a neat experience.

As I rounded the corner and headed into the finishing chute, I saw my husband in the crowd taking pictures and cheering me on. Then I saw the other folks from Karma cheering me on as well. It was neat to feel as if I had my own cheering section and people believed in me and supported me. 

I crossed the finish-line and turned off my garmin. It definitely wasn't PR material, but I wasn't that far off. I collected, my medal, my rose, my chocolate covered strawberries, a few bottles of water. and a few more miles toward my yearly mileage goal. All in all, it was a great day!

Gun 48:14
Chip 47:16
Pace 15:10
OA 483/594

Monday, May 19, 2014

Heroes in Recovery 6k- May 3, 2014

I was wiped after my last race series that brought me through 5 states in 5 days to do 5 half marathons. I wound up walking them, which though I insisted that I was ok with, I was still kind of kicking myself for.

The course at Tradewinds park
It took me a lot of hard work to be able to say that I could run a half marathon. It took a long time and a lot of hard work for me to get to a point where I considered myself a runner, but I over did it. And I was left paying a very high price. Being sidelined, particularly when there is such a negative stigma that follows around those who walk at races can do a number on the psyche. Being called "just a walker" really can take a toll on a person, but even worse, when so many people say it in a negative way, those of us who walk races find ourselves internalizing this sometimes, at least I know that I do. I do the mileage. I go out there for hours and hours on end, putting one foot in front of another, racking up a ridiculous about of mileage, but walking it leaves me feeling inferior. I'm sure that a lot of that is my own conditioning of feeling like I am not good enough, feeling like an imposter in the running community, and just having poor self-esteem. Regardless, that's not really the point of this post, and I am quickly digressing. So back to the topic at hand.

I was wiped after my last race series that had me walking for a grand total of 65.5 miles through the Mississippi delta.

I knew that what my brain and my body needed more than anything was a break. I'd been constantly on the go for so long, racking up miles upon miles of race mileage, and that's not even considering all those hours out there that I plugged away at training runs. I was exhausted. My body was hurting, my brain was hurting.  It was time for a real break, one where I focused on other activities... Like zumba. And the gym. But I found that I kept putting myself up on that treadmill to walk just a few miles to keep my mileage up. And slowly the pain started to subside. And I felt like my ankles and feet were getting stronger. and I was remembering why I did all of this in the first place. Because it certainly sucks when I am doing it, it was nice to feel good again after putting in a little mileage.

And so that's why, even though I had been on a kick to resist entering into any more races until the fall when I know my body has had a bit more time to recover, I found a couple smaller races to enter which would (hopefully) allow me to rebuild some confidence and keep my endurance up. I had wanted to do the Heroes in Recovery 6K last year, but I had something else scheduled for that weekend. So when I found this year, when I found out that it was coming to town again, I signed up at the very last minute. I had hoped Husbeast might want to join me and get some of his running mojo back, but alas, it didn't happen. Not only was it a shorter distance than I normally do, but it is a cause that is near and dear to my heart, promoting healing from drug and alcohol addiction and the reclamation of life. How can one not support something like that?

So bright and early on May 3, I drove up to Tradewinds park in Coconut Creek, well prepared for a nice leisurely, no stress, shorter race. I wasn't aiming for any specific goal time, I just wanted to be out there and support a good cause, and try my hand (ahem, my feet) at running again. Would my weak ankles and feet let me do it? I really like my interval timer on my garmin, but I really only wanted it for the interval beeping, not to keep myself on any specific pace or to force myself to go faster. I just wanted to go out there and do my thing.

And I did. The course was gorgeous, we passed the lakes and stables. Of course the smell of the stables made it a little difficult for me to breathe, but I was out there having a good time. And I was smiling. There were a lot of walkers out there too. And by walkers, I don't mean veterans to racers who just happen to be walking. Because this event benefited various rehabilitation centers, there were a LOT of people who were bussed in from local programs to participate. Many of whom, it was clear by the way that they were dressed and by their etiquette on the course, were out doing their first event like this. This made the first mile or so difficult because there were walls of people in denim shorts who were walking at no more than a 22 minute mile who I needed to dodge and weave around. But with a little time, the herd thinned out, and I found myself pacing and leapfrogging with a couple of women who were also really enjoying themselves.

Before I knew it, I was already hitting the 5K mark and just had a little more to go till the finish line. I was tired. The humidity was getting to me, the heat was oppressive, and the hot dusty breeze from the pastures and stables made it feel awful to try to get a full deep breath. But the finish line was in sight. I ran in, and was shocked to see that my garmin said that I had made a PR!

Unfortunately, all that meandering to get around groups early on in the event made my mileage go over, which slowed me down overall by 8 seconds per mile. Yikes. Still, it felt pretty dang good to go out there and enjoy running so much once again. The additional excitement from a near PR was just icing on the cake.

Gun 56:33.8
Chip 56:11.2
Pace 15:06/ mile
Time back 24:02.8 (Negative Splits!)
OA 230/397

Monday, May 12, 2014

Riverboat Series Day 5, Winnsboro LA (Citivan Park) - April 15, 2014

This is part 4 of a 5 part series about the 5 half marathons in 5 consecutive days in 5 states trip that I recently took which was hosted by Mainly Marathons.

Part 1, and Kentucky, can be found here.
Part 2, and Tennessee, can be found here. 
Part 3, and Arkansas, can be found here.
Part 4, and Mississippi, can be found here. 

Finally getting to this last post has me feeling mixed emotions. Great sadness to be putting this who experience behind me, and happiness to have once again spent a week with such amazing people who I am honored to call "friends" for a lifetime. And happiness to actually be finished writing about this.... for some reason, writing about series like these fill me with dread. I mean, I am usually one who writing comes naturally to... yet these posts leave me feeling like I will never be able to say everything that I need to say, and feeling kind of like a failure for not doing these experiences justice. I don't even know if that makes any sense. I think I might just be rambling.

Anyway, Day 5 brought us to Winnsboro Louisiana to the Citivan Park, and the searching that I have done about this park has brought little info. Essentially it is a smaller municipal park in Winnsboro Louisiana, but the modesty of the size really didn't mean much. This course was spectacular, running along a beautiful little creek, the sweeping trees and Spanish moss provided a great deal of cover and there was never a want for anything interesting to look at.

I actually thoroughly enjoyed this course, though the day got off to a rocky start. The night before had been once again plagued by no sleep on my part as my roommates were tossing and turning all night and in order to be as alert as possible the following day, I had skipped my sleeping medications (so as not to be drug-hungover during the race). We had been having some tension between ourselves and the night before I had seriously considered skipping day 5 of the race series altogether, and jumping on the next flight home from Shreveport, LA, in order to alleviate those tensions. In the end, I am happy that I didn't leave the trip early, but on the other hand, the emotional stress combined with the overall lack of sleep from the trip, and the exertion of already having completed 4 back to back half marathons was getting to me.

Getting dressed that morning, I managed to put a huge hole in the pants that I put on. Seriously, could this day start any better?

By the time we got to Citivan Park, I was spent. The lack of sleep and stress was really getting to me, though I had been avoiding the sleeping medications to stave off the drug-hangover, I was so exhausted I felt like I was sleepwalking, I felt fat from having torn my pants trying to put them on that morning, I just wanted to go to bed. Then, in getting ready to leave the car, I managed to forget things in my bag requiring a return trip to the car 3 times. And then when the race finally started, one of my fellow runners leaned over to me and told me that we had left the dome light on inside the car meaning that I would have to return to it during the middle of the race, lest the battery die.

NOT how I wanted to start my day.

After returning to the car again, I jumped back onto the course and started trudging along. I was still somewhat chilled from our foray in rain 2 days prior, so I felt myself snuggling into my jacket for warmth as I got my body moving. I wanted desperately to do well on this final day, but I soon realized I was having problems with my right calf. It seemed that I had a charley horse in my right calf that wouldn't subside. I took longer steps, I took shorter steps. I stopped to stretch, and felt good, but then I would take another couple steps and the pain would return.

Other runners might say that this was my "least friendly" of days, and they are undoubtedly right. I would briefly encourage other participants when we would pass one another, I would give smiles, but my mind wasn't there. I knew the only way I would make the distance would be to disappear deep within my own thoughts, so as not to think about the pain. As long as I didn't think about the pain, I knew I could just keep putting one foot in front of the other and meet my distance goal.

Forward momentum doing the work here. I was so out of it.
I found a song on my ipod that had a really good beat, and I put it on... on repeat. And I kept going. One foot in front of another. left, right, left, right.

It finally started to warm up, so I started to strip some layers off. And then I started to get too warm. but stopping to take off more clothes might make me stop altogether. So I just dealt with the heat and continued to put one foot in front of the other.

I don't even remember how many laps we had to take to collect the required number of rubber bands. I just knew I had to collect some, and when I had collected enough, I was done. The only goal was to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And that I did. And I was so caught up in just getting it done, that somewhere along the line, I realized that I was no longer walking (as I had intended to do for the duration). Somewhere along the line, the forward momentum just took over and I found myself with more spring in my step. I was somewhere between walking and jogging, and maybe a little forward falling in there too. My music was turned up loud. I no longer felt as if I was in control of the movement in my legs. I was just sort of along for the ride. I saw friends finishing the race, and trying to get my attention to say goodbye, but I couldn't slow down. The end was in sight and I was going to get there...

And I did. My finish time was still less than stellar,  but it was the fastest I had finished a race in any of this 5 in 5 day series. 3:53:36. and that includes the trek back to the car to turn the dome light off.

I was finally able to sit down with some friends, have a couple of drinks. strip down the last outer layer of clothes and bask in the sun (resulting in another sunburn for this pasty white girl).

In retrospect, I'm happy I did this trip, but at the time, I was exhausted. I can only imagine what Parvaneh Moayedi was feeling.

Parvaneh in yellow here.
For those not in the know, between November 11, 2012 and November 10, 2013 Dear Parvaneh  ran the most marathons in a year, topping out at 168. I knew of Parvaneh from meeting her at the Center of the Nation series last fall, but what I didn't know was that when I saw her during the Riverboat series, she would be well on her way to beating her own personal record, and the Guiness Record that she had set last year. She was able to include all of these races in her new record (still pending verification) of 258 marathons in a year. I am so impressed and excited for her. Congrats Dear Parvaneh!

*Disclaimer: Nearly none of the photos that you will see in the posts about this trip are mine. I chose to not bring my camera with me during the races and instead rely on other people. To the people who have contributed photos to help tell this story, I am thankful.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Riverboat Series Day 4, Leroy Percy State Park (MS) - April 15, 2014

This is part 4 of a 5 part series about the 5 half marathons in 5 consecutive days in 5 states trip that I recently took which was hosted by Mainly Marathons.

Part 1, and Kentucky, can be found here.
Part 2, and Tennessee, can be found here. 
Part 3, and Arkansas, can be found here.

By Day 4, this trip was really getting to me.... Not only Do we constantly move from place to place, never really getting to unpack and let ourselves catch our breath, but sharing hotel rooms with non-family who have different habits can really take its toll. Further, being constantly on the go, using up ridiculous amounts of energy on the race courses and not eating right can really have an affect on someone. And lets not forget that I am such a light sleeper that finding respite from REM sleep was a failure every night.

But once again, on Day 4, we were up bright eyed and bristly tailed... this time with the destination of Leroy Percy Park in Hollandale, MS.  According to the state park website, Leroy Percy is the oldest of Mississippi's state parks, and is characterized by artesian springs, cypress trees and ancient oaks dripping with Spanish moss. Leroy Percy is the only state park featuring a wildlife preserve. The seasonal pursuit of deer, squirrel, turkey, duck and dove beckons to hunters in search of an unspoiled hunting area away from the crowd. Leroy Percy is also known for its alligator population - visitors can safely observe the scaly reptiles from two observation towers over their hot artesian water home.

Our race course was a short loop through the campground areas, but it did  take us by one of the observation towers above the artesian springs... which I was not inclined to be climbing as my legs felt like they were buried in setting cement. The cypress and oaks were beautiful with their draped Spanish moss, but I've been to areas in the south before... it didn't feel like anything I hadn't seen before. I hate to admit it, but this course really left very little impression on me.

I was tired. I was cold (the actual temperature was blustery and there was a windchill, but I still hadn't felt like I had warmed up from the previous day's half marathon swim). I just wanted to do my half marathon and get it over with. Just to check the box.

Seth, Brina and I have talked about check boxes before. Brina and I are both members of Half Fanatics, while Seth is a double agent with Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs. Brina is also a member of the 50 State club (which I actually plan to join). Since joining these clubs (which we all seem to really enjoy being a part of), we have noticed that sometimes it feels like we are off to challenge ourselves to the next big accomplishment. Its always about doing something more and more impressive. Why run a half marathon if you can run a half marathon every weekend? Why run in a few states when you can run in THEM ALL??? With that kind of mentality, its easy to see how sometimes the race can morph from doing the race because we really want to and we really enjoy it, to doing the race just to check off the box saying that we did it.

For me, the Mississippi race was a check box kind of event. I walked it with my dear friend Mildred, and we chatted, and it was good. I really don't have much more to say about it than that. I checked the box.

My finish time reflected as much. 4:30:10.

My slowest race during this series.

Sometimes we just have to check the box.

And then I checked the box next to 25 half marathon's completed.

And then I checked the box next to a celebratory shot of Fireball.

To be continued...

*Disclaimer: Nearly none of the photos that you will see in the posts about this trip are mine. I chose to not bring my camera with me during the races and instead rely on other people. To the people who have contributed photos to help tell this story, I am thankful.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Riverboat Series Day 3, Lake Chicot State Park (AR) - April 14, 2014

This is part 3 of a 5 part series about the 5 half marathons in 5 consecutive days in 5 states trip that I recently took which was hosted by Mainly Marathons.

Part 1, and Kentucky, can be found here.
Part 2, and Tennessee, can be found here.

Though each of the days from this series blended together, creating such havoc with my memory and ability to break it down into days, each day had one significant thing that also made it stand out. Day 1 was that horrid hill. Day 2 can be summed up by the word green.

Day 3 can only be described as wet. Wet. Wet. Sopping wet. To the core wet. Feels like swimming wet. And then some more wetness.

Day 3 brought us to Arkansas, to the Lake Chicot State Park in Lake Village, Arkansas. That morning, we woke bright eyed and bushy tailed (albeit we were all exhausted so a bit prickley), got ready, and went to the hotel lobby to see if we could partake in the complimentary continenntal breakfast before it was officially available to guests. Other participants in the series had the same idea, and as we scoped the food and gobbled it down, we saw the news which was calling for severe thunder and lightening storms, and sporatic tornado warnings. It was already rainy and wet outside in the parking lot, but we piled into the car anyway, thinking that if it got bad, we could always choose to skip the event, or perhaps Clint (the race director) would call it due to inclement weather.

Lake Chicot State park is a gorgeous place (or it would be had the weather been nicer) that according to the Arkansas State Park's website sits on Arkansas's largest natural lake, [which] is a scenic setting in the Mississippi Flyway for fishing, boating, and birdwatching. This 20-mile long oxbox lake was once part of the main channel of the Mississippi River. Cut off from the river centuries ago, the lake is the nation's largest, natural oxbow remnant. Outdoor enthusiasts have so many recreational choices at this oasis in the Delta. Included in the programs offered by the park interpreters at Lake Chicot State Park are party barge excursions on the lake.

Unfortunately, because this is an enormous park, there are multiple entrances for the various activities that they offer. Our GPS wasn't so great at finding the location, and we wound up driving through what we believe was a large private farm and their cow pastures... I think we woke a bunch of cows up too, but with the lightening going off all around them... they were probably awake anyway.

We finally got to our destination and learned that everyone had difficulties with people being sent through main streets, random pastures, to closed or no-longer-in-service access roads, and areas that had clearly ONLY been appropriate for vehicles when there wasn't any flooding. (fast forward 12 hours and we heard the news telling us to beware of flash flooding, so that gives an idea of the kind of weather we were facing, but I digress).

We got to the start line, and everyone had their rain gear on... except me. Living in South Florida, I find that the rain is actually more refreshing than a nuisance... particularly when running or walking for exercise... it really shouldn't surprise anyone that I don't even own a raincoat. And a poncho? I should have had one of those... but because I love the rain, I didn't think that I would actually need one. What I had forgotten is that in places other than South Florida, the rain is not only wet, but it is accompanied by a raw cold. Yikes. I quickly found a trashbag and tore some holes into it for my arms and head. Good enough for government work.

Though the park was enormous, the course itself was short. It was just over a mile out and back, meaning that we had to collect either 8 or 9 rubberbands plus do one extra lap for the half marathon distance... These short courses can get monotonous after awhile and having limited visibility because of the storm didn't make it any better. About 4 miles into the race, I stopped at the car to strip off my ipod and my garmin timer... lest they be ruined in the rain. Clint told us that because the storm had stirred up, we could stop in our cars or take cover in the shelters, pausing our timers and have that time subtracted from our finish time if we wanted to. My thought was that unless it was lightening out, I couldn't see any reason to stop. We kept going.

I found myself remembering a moment years ago when I was caught in torrential downpours in La Vega, Dominican Republic. We had been shopping for supplies for the dental clinic, and the skies opened up on us and we couldn't find anywhere to take shelter so my friends Becky, Steve and I kicked off our extra layers of clothing and our shoes and we joined a bunch of school children who were frolicking in the runoff from the roofs. We danced, we laughed, we giggled, we threw water at each other, and what could have been a miserable afternoon turned into something that years later still brings a smile to my face.

It was remembering that afternoon in the Dominican Republic that really transformed this race. The roads were flooding in places as the storm drains couldn't keep up. We were soaked to the core, and going through calf high water in places was enough to really ruin a person's mood. In a split second I realized that feeling miserable was only going to make things worse and adopted a fake it till you make it attitude.

I jumped into the very next puddle that I saw. It was halfway up my calves and the water went everywhere!

And then I jumped into the next, and the next, and the next. And when people started laughing, I started kicking water around like a 3 year old in a puddle instead of a 30 something year old. And I was having the time of my life. I even randomly hugged another guy who was going the opposite direction... just because he looked like a soggy cat. And then I splashed some more.

And when we got to our final lap, and collected our rubber bands, I was ready for that last lap, and I was prepared to make the biggest splashes yet! It was going to be epic.

But not 20 yards into the final lap, my walking partner re-counted her bands and we realized there was a discrepancy. She had one more than I did. I must have lost a rubber band when I stripped a layer off at the car!

We turned around and hauled our butts back to the finishline to report our times. I was having so much fun, I was prepared to do an extra few laps! But alas, it was over.

I had a finish time of 4:11:30, 11 seconds faster than day 2, but who cares? It was 4+ hours of playing in the rain... I'd have blisters for weeks and I wouldn't be able to get warm for the next 3 days, but it was worth it!

To be continued...

*Disclaimer: Nearly none of the photos that you will see in the posts about this trip are mine. I chose to not bring my camera with me during the races and instead rely on other people. To the people who have contributed photos to help tell this story, I am thankful.