Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dances With Dirt - Devil's Lake

Short version: Something more than 13.1 miles, 3:07:18 chip time, 1 sprained ankle, lots of scratches, and a whole lot of fun.

(Extremely) Long version:

This half was my official goal when I signed up for the distance-training group with the local running store, before I decided to run that 25k back in May. It was my first half marathon since Nittany Valley in December of 2007 (2:34ish) and my first trail half since TA 2007 (3:17ish). Training went really well up through Riverbank and I had completed 3 runs over half marathon distance, including that race. Since then, though, my longest run had been 8 miles. My weekly mileage total has been the same, though, and I added hills, so at least there was that. I had no idea what to expect from the course (and they changed it in the last couple weeks, never posting the new elevation profile) so I didn’t have a time goal. So, officially, my goals were: 1) don’t die, 2) don’t break myself, 3) finish, and 4) finish ever wanting to run again. I’m feeling very fit so those goals seemed reasonable…but I left out one important detail…

We left pretty early on Friday morning and made the drive to Wisconsin. Hit some traffic in Chicago, which was expected, and then crawled for about an hour (for no apparent reason) outside of Janesville, WI. Made it to Baraboo around 4 PM and got all checked in. We decided to camp at the start, so we picked out a spot in the field and set up our tent. After that we drove over to Baraboo and explored a little.

The campsite was just an open field right next to the start, filled with runners, relay teams, a few dogs, and porta-potties. There was also a lake right there so I worried about bugs, but never had a problem with them. Kona found a beaver basically the second we arrived, and as we were walking back to our tent that evening a dude in another tent found a frog in his sleeping bag. We were in our tent before 10, but it took me forever to fall asleep on account of the VERY LOUD frogs and other creatures. It was cool though, a great place to camp and a fun atmosphere with everyone else around.

The night was clear, warm, and dry, so we slept without the rainfly on the tent. That meant the light was shining through the mesh top nice and early. I was awake shortly after 4 and up before 5, which allowed me to take my time getting ready. I walked over to the start and saw two friends head out for the 50k at 5:30, and walked up to meet others for very important coffee after that. Then wandered back down, saw Kona and Doug, and watched the relay start at 7. After that it was time for us to line up. Told my friends to have fun, and we were off!

And then we were stopped. The course turns onto single track pretty much immediately. I figured the hills would spread the field out but I was in a long line of people for the entire first 4.2 mile section. The course description said we’d climb for 2 miles straight – I was worried about that, but it reminded me a lot of the TA before you hit Becky’s Bluff. Some steep, but nothing bad. I had decided that I would walk when the hills really felt tough and run when they didn’t, but for a lot of that first section I didn’t have much choice. The trail was super narrow, and a lot of the time the line in front of me was so long it hardly seemed worth it to try to pass people. I looked at it as insurance I wouldn’t go out too fast. After a good bit of climbing we started down an extremely rocky trail. Eventually I made it to the aid station and happily took a break for some Gatorade. Unfortunately it was yellow Gatorade, which still makes me nauseous after drinking a lot of it during chemo.

First section (Road Kill aid station) 4.2 miles: 1:00:40

After the first aid station we headed back into the woods on the other side of the road. This section was very runnable and I FLEW. Somewhere in there I decided that I was less likely to twist an ankle if my feet weren’t on the ground long, so I took off. Kept walking the hills, and noticed I was recovering from them really quickly. Excellent. Somewhere in here my hamstrings started feeling a little tight and I remembered the Gu I had intended to take at the first aid station. This section was only 1.8 miles and finished at a granite overlook at the summit. Once I got over my terror of climbing up granite steps, a huge drop, and slippery rock, it was an incredible view. I’m not sure I’ve ever been up that high, and I’ve certainly never been that near the edge. Couldn’t stay too long, though, or I was going to get dizzy, so I headed back on my way after having a little water.

Second section (South Bluff aid station) 1.8 miles: 0:24:06

As it turns out, I left a very important goal off my list. Right before the start, the Head Goat told us to watch for the ORANGE FLAGS and NOT follow the person in front of us. Well….he gives that warning for a reason.  Between the incredible view and the nice chat I was having with the woman in front of me, I (and the whole group I was with) missed when the orange-flagged-trail turned.  A few minutes after leaving the South Bluff aid station I said “Uh..guys..I only see pink flags.”  We all stopped dead and tried to figure out where we missed the trail.  I had my map (at least I have some intelligence) so we got ourselves straightened out and found the trail again.  I was able to run most of this section (but did not run on any of that granite ledge).  At one point we had to cross a bridge that had apparently gotten washed a bit downstream.  The guy in front of me didn’t step far enough or something and fell right on the corner of that bridge.  He was ok, and we all headed on.

Third section (Steinke Basin) 2.9++ miles: 41:36

When I got back to Road Kill aid station I had some more nausea-inducing yellow Gatorade and a Gu and as I turned around to cross the road, I saw Doug and Kona!  Such a great surprise to see them.  My cumulative time at this point was 2:06 and I had secretly hoped to beat 3h, so I said hi to them briefly, told Doug I was having a blast, and headed off for the last 4.2 mile section (the same trail we’d been on at the start). I ran almost all of this section with the same three women and had a nice time chatting with them, but I think I had a little too much fun with them and didn’t push myself enough.  Then, with something like 2 or 3 miles to go, I broke my concentration to see if the guy behind me wanted to pass, and immediately stepped on a grass-covered rock.  Twisted my ankle hard, felt it pop 4 or 5 times, swore loudly, and thought I was done.  That close to the end.  I stood there for a couple minutes waiting for the nausea to pass, and one of the three women, Pam, waited with me.  She walked right in front of me for a couple minutes after that, and soon I was able to run again.  We ran along pretty gingerly for a while after that, but eventually I felt reasonably decent again.  With about 1.5 miles to go we came across an unmanned aid station, I refilled my bottle, and picked up the pace.  The rest of the race I ran by myself.  Finally, I saw that tractor that had marked the trail head where the race bottlenecked at the beginning.  I told the guy next to me that we’d made it, and headed toward the finish.   I crossed the line, got my medal, shot glass, water, and a banana, and turned around to wait for Pam to finish.  Gave her a hug when she came through and thanked her for hanging with me, and then went off to find Doug and Kona.

Fourth section (Road Kill to Start/Finish) 4.2 miles: 1:01:ish (forgot to stop my watch)

Final chip time: 3:07:18

I have to say, I’m thrilled.  I met all of my goals (even though I forgot that important 5th one: don’t get lost) and got really close to my secret time goal.  Considering the slight detour and the bottleneck at the beginning, those 7 min don’t concern me.  So now, it’s time to switch gears and put in some serious training for a road-half PR assault in October.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Changing Focus


Sorry for the slow updates - I haven't had much to say!   Lately I've just been running aimlessly, recovering from Riverbank, finishing the semester, traveling to conferences, and adjusting to the summer temps.  Starting tonight, though, that changes.  (Actually it changed Monday, but tonight's a big one)

A friend of mine has injured his back, meaning the girl he usually trains each summer is in need of a new training buddy.  As it turns out, I'm also looking to get faster.  Mike put the two of us together, and our first run is tonight.  MB needs to run a timed mile in the fall - the cut off is 7 min and her goal is 6:30.  Funny...that's about where I'd like to be, too.   Alrighty then. 

I consulted another friend on workouts and between the two of us I think we can come up with a good plan.  That's still in progress, but tonight's plan is:

800 warm-up
2x800 @ 5k pace (4 min recovery)
1x1 mile @ 8:45-9:00 pace
2x800 @ 5k pace
1 mile cool down

Any bets on how long it takes me to vomit?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cautiously Optimistic


I was feeling restless yesterday evening and decided to try running again before my yoga class. Got Kona all hooked up and headed out for just over 3 pain-free miles! Yoga also went well, not a twinge from my foot, so I'm cautiously optimistic about getting back to normal training.

Also, I'm really enjoying the mystery plants in our front yard so I thought I'd share a couple pictures. We moved in August so while I knew there were things planted out front, they were well beyond blooming by the time we moved in. The flowering plants have now been identified as purple irises and fairy lilies. I also planted some purple glads that should come up later in the season. I bought those before I knew the irises would be purple - what a nice coincidence!

I've also got to call our landlord and ask if we can borrow his tiller. I'm already feeling behind on my garden, even though the average last frost date was just a couple days ago. I'd love to get started this weekend.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A (hopefully) Small Setback

Alright, so my last post was about the Riverbank Run and mentioned this problem I'm having with my left foot. When we walked a mere 6 blocks or so after the race, I was back to being sure it was broken in there somewhere. Sunday was rough as well, and then suddenly Monday my foot felt much better than it had even before the race.

Interesting. But who am I to complain?

Still, I did not run, stepping gingerly and hoping not to anger it again. I attended my normal Monday night exercise class and while I felt a few twinges in the aerobics portion, it wasn't more than a little annoying. Tuesday and Wednesday I decided a few more rest days would be good (and let's face it, data collection wiped me out) and then the weather on Thursday was absolutely horrid. So, I decided Friday would be the day to test it out.

After a week of totally cruddy weather, Friday was gorgeous. I went out with two other runners who are faster than me, so it was a little bit of a challenge. My foot was achey at the start but I wouldn't say it ever actually got worse..it just wasn't good. So, I decided I'd go to the group long run Saturday morning.

The alarm went off that morning and I wiggled in bed. That little wiggle told me my foot was not happy with me for running on Friday and was going to insist on another day off. -Sigh-

The thing is, if you take a habitual runner and tell her she can't run (save for two outings) over a two week period, she's going to lose her mind. She'll lose her mind, and she'll feel like a total slug. But, seeing as how my next goal race is in July and I'd like to actually make it to the start, rest is important. Embracing my time off running, I hit the pool yesterday.

Man. Running fitness definitely does not equal swimming fitness! I did a slow and "easy" 700 yards before calling it quits - partly out of fatigue and partly out of boredom. I may go again today and if I do, it will be with a workout written out. At least then I'll have something to follow and a goal to achieve.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

5/3 Riverbank Run 25K

Short version: 2:39:56, a huge (unofficial) half marathon PR, and my left foot sabotaged me.

Long version:

When I joined this training group this winter, I was intending to draw out the training to make sure I was really well prepared for a trail half in July. After a particularly perfect (yes, particularly perfect) 10-mile run several weeks ago, my friend L talked me into signing up for the Riverbank Run 25k. I'd never done such a long race and it meant training harder than I had intended for the winter, but she said I could stay with her and another friend H and ride over to Grand Rapids with them. I thought for a couple days, and signed up. Training went really well - besides that first 10, I've done one 12, one 14, and one 14.5, and an additional 10. So, I thought I'd be pretty well prepared. Unfortunately, after not having a single twinge all through training, my left foot started bothering me on Monday. I wore Chacos with a toe loop that day, and about half way through the day the extensor tendon for my big toe (extensor hallicus longus, for the nerds in the group) started to hurt. I cursed my sandals and figured it was tendinitis, and basically sat on my butt with ice on my foot all week long.

So, as I was saying. I had a TON of fun with our pre-race activities. Expo, really good dinner, good conversation - just right. H was out right away, L wasn't awake much longer. I, on the other hand, was awake for hours upon hours. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to decide which pace group I was going to run with (and still hadn't decided an hour before the race). And, sometime around 1 AM, convinced myself that my foot pain was a stress fracture, rather than plain old tendinitis. Sometime after 1 I finally managed to fall asleep, only to wake around 3 when the race crew started setting up outside and making a lot of noise doing it (and we were on the 4th floor!) I slept off and on after that, and we finally all woke up at 6.

Our friend R arrived shortly after 7 and M (surprise!) came by sometime after that. We all chatted for a while, and then finally headed outside a few minutes before the start. I've gotta say - staying in the hotel that's literally right at the starting line is fantastic. And it doesn't really matter when you don't get to your corral on time because it takes forever for the whole pack to actually cross the line, so you get a chance to jump in. Considering how type A I am I think I did a pretty good job not stressing over getting into the corral, but then I was freaking out over my foot and running my longest race (and longest run, by 0.5) ever. R and I had discovered we were hoping to run about the same pace, so we agreed to stay together unless one of us was just really suffering.

There was a traffic jam at the start and I think that was a good thing - it kept us from going out so ridiculously fast. We actually had to stop once when the crowd slowed to a walk, but by the first quarter or so we were actually moving. The first two miles I was really worried about my foot. From the very first step it did not feel good. R told me to give it a shot and see if it loosened up and sometime in the second mile it finally did. I went back and forth with this through the whole race, one mile thinking I was fine and then the next thinking I was going to have to drop out. The first 6+ miles were pretty flat, mostly along the riverbank, and pretty scenic when we weren't just staring at the backs of other runners. Things got tougher at the turn around when the hills appeared, and we came out of the trees and were more open to the wind.

I felt awesome until about mile 10. No surprise really because that seems to be where I always start to lose it. At that time my foot was getting progressively worse, maybe because of the hills, and my head started getting me. Sometime before mile 11 (I think) I decided I was absolutely going to have to walk the hill, so I told R she should go ahead if she was feeling good. I kept her in my sights off and on after that, but never caught up to her again. Miles 11-13 just flat out sucked, and then I got sort of a second wind after 13 (and after seeing that I busted my half marathon PR by about 20 minutes). For some unknown reason I got all emotional somewhere before the 14 mile point and had to walk for a block or so because choking back sobs was making it a bit tricky to breathe. I got past that, and did ok for the last couple miles.

Once we got back into the city I was so excited because we had to be almost there, and then I saw the YMCA I had commented on when we got into town and thought I was closer to the finish than I actually was. The last mile or so was the coldest of the entire race - the wind just whipped through the buildings and it started to rain. The strong winds made the rain fall horizontally, and for at least a block the wind was just straight on. I've never been so happy to turn a corner!

I kept splits the whole time but managed to erase them from my watch before I wrote them down, so I don't have that. The first 10 averaged right around a 10 min pace, 11-13 were slower and sucky, and then I got back down around 10:15 or so for the last 2.5 miles. Chip time was 2:39:56 (10:18 pace), only 6 min off my half marathon PR.

Overall I'm really happy with the day. Without the foot pain I really think I could have managed a 10-minute pace for the whole thing, and even with the pain I wasn't too far off. Hopefully my foot just needs some rest and babying, and I can run a good half this summer.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Once Again, Weather Gods

15+ miles in the rain and gusty wind could be pretty miserable. Please don't.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Four Days to the Next One

With four days remaining before my next race, I'm sitting in my home office with my left foot up on my desk, wrapped in an ace bandage, hopefully not continuing to swell. Great, right? I haven't been having any aches or pains leading up to this race, except for a little IT band twinge on Saturday that seems to be gone now. Even so around lunch time yesterday, the big-toe tendon on my left foot started to bother me. A couple hours later, my foot was swollen.

It's definitely the tendon, I feel it most when I flex my big toe. But where did this come from? The only thing I can think of to blame it on is the Chacos I wore yesterday - maybe my foot didn't appreciate the toe loop. Regardless, I've worn those sandals (or others exactly like them) nearly every day of every spring and summer for the past couple years, and this is the first time this has happened. So, who knows. All I know is that my foot hurts!

Off to ice again. Here's hoping that whatever this is, it clears up for Saturday's race.

Monday, April 26, 2010

2010 Race for the Cure Report

Wow, I really don’t know where to begin with this report. There’s not going to be a short version, y’all are just going to have to read.

This past Tuesday, April 20, was the first anniversary of my diagnosis.Seems like a strange day to celebrate to me. Regardless, it’s been a year. A year full of doctor’s appointments, surgeries, scary drugs, fatigue…and stubbornness.I ran through the first 4 rounds of chemo and biked through 6 of the 8. The joint pain from Taxol was too much to keep running and then my hemoglobin and hematocrit tanked so that I couldn’t even bike the two miles to school. That was a sad, sad day. But stubborn as I am, I gave my body two weeks after the last chemo to work out that joint pain, and started running again on Nov 1.

For the past year, I’ve been looking ahead to this race and wanting to make a statement. A lot of that time I didn’t know if they statement would just be finishing at all, or if it would be finishing strong. I hoped for a PR and I hoped to win the survivor division. Anyone who knows anything about setting good goals would tell you that my goal of winning the division was a terrible one, and it was basically entirely out of my hands.

In January, I joined a running group organized by the local running store with the intention of slowly training for a July half marathon. It went much better than expected, and in a moment of weakness after a perfect 10 mile run, L talked me into signing up for the Riverbank Run 25k on 5/8. With that in mind, my long run mileage increased more quickly than I had planned. Talk about competing goals. In February, I ran a snowy, slippery, hilly 5k in 25:59, so I thought maybe I could beat my PR of 24:25, if I got some speed work in and everything went perfectly on race day. I did speed work exactly twice leading up to this race. With every single one of those 400s, I caught myself thinking “Seriously, I’m supposed to keep this up for 3 miles???” Negative self-talk is probably my biggest weakness, and this time around was no different. As a result, I really didn’t know what to expect today.

So, going into the race, my goals were:
A)7:30s, which would get me a very nice PR
B)7:45s, which would still get me a (smaller) PR
C)8:00s, which I decided was respectable and doable

And then of course there was the poor, totally-out-of-my-hands goal of winning the division.

Race day: The race was at 2 PM, a genuinely strange time for a race. I got up a bit before 9 this morning with the intention of working on this paper I’m supposed to be writing. Yeah, right. I practically bounced off the walls all morning. Ate some breakfast, drank some coffee, played some solitaire, and bounced bounced bounced. Finally, we left the house a bit after noon. I wanted to spend some time at the Survivor’s Tent and see if I could find the ladies from my exercise class, and also stop by the cancer center’s tent to see my nurses.

It. Was. Cold. Temps in the low 50s, wind, and threatening to rain the whole time. It was a lot of time to be standing around before the race, but that’s ok, I got to see some of the people I wanted to see. My friend M arrived around 1, and I lined up for the survivor stroll at 1:15. That was rough. Why must they play tear-jerker music for these things? I walked to the Capitol steps with the other 1-year survivors and then stood there at the top of the steps watching so many women in pink shirts walking towards me. There was one 40-year survivor. Freaking incredible. Somehow I didn’t cry, and when it was over I made my way down the steps, checked my bag, and found Doug and M. After a little trip to the porta-potties, M and I headed off for a warm-up, and then the three of us lined up way too far back in the mass of people.

Ok I know, I know. Wrap it up.

The race finally started and we were off. M said she’d follow me, so we started off weaving through an unbelievable number of people. I knew this wasn’t good, but seriously, it’s a great psychological boost to pass people like that when you’re as nervous as I was. The first mile was basically all passing people. I couldn’t focus on anything except not tripping over the curb or running smack into people. Occasionally I saw a pink survivor shirt it front of me and tried to focus on picking those off one by one. I almost ran right over the first mile marker that was right in the middle of the road.

Mile 1: 7:49. PERFECT.

In the second mile we didn’t do as much passing as in the first, and my head started to play mean games with me. M was my personal sports psychologist here – reminding me to relax, breaking the run up into segments, helping me pick people to catch. She was awesome, but I was genuinely hurting.

Mile 2: 7:55. Ugh.

The third mile sucked, that’s really all I can say. This course plays tricks on you because it sends you right behind the Capitol and then you have to turn away from it again. You can see people coming around the block and headed to the finish and you know it’s right on the other side of the building, but you can’t get there. The line of people behind us was insane, too. Just pink and white everywhere. I tried to distract myself here and M kept reminding me of all those things, but it wasn’t working out so well. Oh, if only I were better about speed work.

Mile 3.1: 9:25 (8:34 pace). Yeah….that was painful

At the finish I was sure I was going to throw up. I think that’s the first thing I said when we crossed the line, right before I picked out the spot where I was going to have my heart attack. But I neither threw up nor had a heart attack, and M and I headed off for water and the bag check. Got my bag and my camera, and headed back to cheer Doug in. He came in 2 minutes ahead of his goal and more than 4 minutes faster than last year!

M had to head home and get back to work shortly after the race, but I wanted to stay for the awards, or at least until results were posted. I had caught and passed all the pink survivor shirts I saw ahead of me. While it was possible that there were women out there without pink shirts on, or far enough ahead that I didn’t see them, I figured I had a shot. That was a cold 45 min or so standing out there, but it was worth it. Once they announced that the results were up, Doug and I walked over to check them out. I was hoping for third, knowing that my time was not so fast and would have been good for third last year. Well apparently last year’s fast women didn’t come out today, because I won!!! Take THAT, cancer.

Of course at that point we had to hang around for the awards. They did all of the fundraising awards first, and then the awards for the survivor division. The third place winner turned out to be a woman I had chatted with some before the race – she just got back from a bike tour in WV where she did over 26,000 feet of climbing – she had been hoping to make it in under 30 minutes and instead ran 26 and change for third place! It was so cool to hear them call my name and go up there and get my trophy. About 1,000 flash bulbs went off and I have no idea what the dude said to me. We also had a picture of the top 3 survivors taken.

A friend of mine took first woman overall, so we stayed for that and the two of us had our picture taken together. Then it was straight home for a hot shower and warm clothes!

Thanks for reading!!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dear Weather Gods:

If it must rain tomorrow, I'll understand.  But if you could, would you please make sure it doesn't absolutely pour, and that it isn't completely frigid?  I'd really appreciate it!

Smooches <3


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Looking Back and Daydreaming


I promised I would report back with my March summary and an update of how April has been going.  It's nearly time for my April summary, it seems, but we'll go with it.

There's something else I need to do first, though.  Tuesday, April 20th will mark one year since I was diagnosed with cancer.  My surgeon tells me that they count years of survival from the date of diagnosis, so there we go.  I'm two days shy of being one year out, and 5 days shy of being 6 months out from chemo.  The Race for the Cure is one week from today, and I guess I've decided to wear the pink shirt.  I wasn't sure I would want the attention and recognition...I'm still not sure I want to walk in the "survivor parade"and maybe I won't, but I'm going to run in the pink shirt.  Maybe it will have a positive effect on someone.  Heck, maybe it will have a positive effect on me.

I've got a couple goals in mind for the race, but I'm going to keep them to myself for right now.

So, March:
Week 1:
Run - 15.6 miles (4 runs)
Yoga - zippo (I think?)
I ran a new route from the house over to the bike path that includes a couple good hills.  Important training for the races I have planned, but not something my legs were used to.  That left me sore for quite a bit longer than I expected.  If I remember correctly, this was also the week it started warming up a little and I finally got to wear my new capri tights.  They're every bit as wonderful as I thought they would be ;)

Week 2:
Run - 16.2 miles (4 runs)
Yoga - 1 hr
The snow melt and a good bit of rain finally flooded the river and low-lying areas, meaning that the trails along the river were also flooded and we were re-routed for our group long run.  Two hilly loops through the cemetery meant I ran just 6.2 miles but felt good about it with the added intensity.  Also an hour of power yoga at home, after the time change gave me a good excuse to sleep in on Sunday morning.

Week 3:
Run - 18.1 (4 runs)
Yoga - 1 hr
The week of the perfect 10 mile run.  Ahhh, it was heavenly.  See the post about the run if you really wanna know ;)

Week 4:
Run - 22.8 miles (5 runs)
Yoga - 1 hr
What a difference 5 runs makes.  This week I slept through my long run - woke up at 7:58 and knew I wouldn't make it to the shop by 8, so I went back to sleep.  It was a rough week, or a rough month really, at school and I think my body was just wiped out.  Without running with the group I couldn't wrap my head around a 10-12 mile run alone, so I broke it up into 8.3 on Saturday and 6.0 with Mike on Sunday.  Worked out well.

Week 4.5:  (pesky when months don't work out to be just 4 weeks)
Run - 3.2 miles (1 run on the 31st)

Run - 76 miles (18 runs)
Yoga - 3 hours

A good month!

The Daydreaming:

The semester is coming to an end and while there's a ton of work ahead of me between now and then, and while I'll be spending the summer studying for comps, there are several things I'm looking forward to.  In no particular order:

Camping trips
Pete & Carrie's wedding
Seeing some NC friends
Growing my hair
Dying my hair
Dinners outside
Walks with Kona
ACSM in Baltimore

Come on, Summer!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

They Can't Be Serious

It was 80 degrees today.  80!  Come on, weather gods...don't do this:

Friday Night
Partly cloudy with a slight chance of light rain showers...then mostly cloudy with a slight chance of light rain and snow showers overnight. Lows in the mid 30s. Northwest winds 15 to 25 mph becoming west 10 to 15 mph after midnight. Chance of precipitation 20 percent.

Back this weekend with an update on the running, I promise.  Still have to do my March wrap-up and tell you about how I lost my mind.  But school is wearing me down, so it'll have to wait a few more days.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Some Runs are Perfect

And sometimes, you really don't expect it when you start.

I slept horribly last night.  Awake at 1, 2, 3...you get the idea.  When the alarm went off at 6:30, I was sure it had just been 3:00 five minutes before.  Hit snooze a couple times and then begrudgingly got out of bed.  I moped around while I drank coffee and ate some breakfast, and then headed out.

Of course it's been in the 60s and sunny all week and when I walked out this morning it was cold.  I was wearing capri tights, a short sleeved shirt, and a jacket (because I did know it might rain) but decided to run back in and add a long sleeved shirt and mittens.  Good thinking...should have added long tights, too.  Pulled out of the driveway and noticed little droplets on the windshield.  Fabulous.  Pulled into the parking lot at the running store and noticed....


Did you know today is the first day of spring?  Yeah.

So I went in the store, moping moping moping, and stood around until they sent us off.  Starting out I was right behind a group of women who were going slower than I had intended and I thought about passing them.  Then, Smart Emily appeared and I remembered that I've really been doing my longs runs too fast, so I asked that group if I could join in.  They were aiming for an 11 min pace which was slower than what I thought we were doing, but I decided to hang with them and just enjoy being comfortable.  They were heading out for 13 and I was planning 8, so I knew I'd still have a lot of time to myself.

The four mile mark was drawing near and I felt really good, so I decided to do 10.  Good thing Smart Emily came out today, because Notsosmart Emily had been considering just staying with that group to do 13.  The 5 mile mark came in 53:04 - a 10:37 pace, so I was right that we were going a little faster.  Smart Emily bid the ladies farewell and turned around.

I knew I had a lot left in the tank and figured it was fine to pick it up for the second half.  The first 3 - 3.5 I ran alone, but kept a pretty even gap with the woman in front of me so I figured we were going about the same place.  By the time we hit the aid station with somewhere between 1.5 and 2 miles left to go, I was physically fine but mentally struggling a bit.  I asked if I could run along with her, and we set off for the shop.  We chatted, but the whole time we were running along I kept thinking she was going faster than I thought, really pushing me, and I might have to slow back down.  Later I found out she was thinking the same thing!  Funny how two people can push each other like that without even realizing it.  We were pumped by the time we made it back to the shop - what a way to end a run!  Total time for the second half was 44:47 - an 8:57 pace!  What's best about it is how great I felt.

R, the woman I ran those last couple miles with, kept commenting what a great day it was to run and how she hadn't expected that at all.  I have to agree!  I was so grumpy this morning and then the snow just took the cake.  Through that whole run, I watched the ground get whiter and whiter as my lower legs got colder and colder.  Even so, I ran so strong today.

Just. Perfect.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

February Wrap-up

Howdy, Friends!

I know, I know.  I'm late with the February wrap-up.  I was busy!  And then it was spring break and I was enjoying that, as I should.  So.  Now that break is almost over I have some school work I'd rather not work on, so what better time to update the blog?

February was a decent month, if a busy one.  I was a bit under the weather at the beginning of the month and that slowed me down a bit for a couple weeks but did not stop me from running a good 5k on the 20th.  I also got my long run up to 8 miles, but have since dropped back to 6-7 while I increase my overall weekly mileage.  Skiing was sporadic - sometimes we had snow, sometimes we didn't.

Week 1: (two days out of town at a conference)
Run - 13.6 miles (3 runs)
Ski - 6.5 miles (2 outings)
Yoga - 1 hr

Week 2: the week of the winter crud
Run - 11.0 miles (3 runs)
Ski - 13.2 miles (3 outings)
Shortened my long run to 5 miles and skipped yoga

Week 3: race week
Run - 9.5 miles (3 runs)
Ski - zippo
Raced a 5k that Saturday, watch time was 25:59.  We never got official times due to a timing system malfunction.  Incidentally, in March of 2008 I ran my first sub-30 5k, at 25:53.  It's a nice feeling to be "back there" only 4 months after finishing chemotherapy.  Travel at the end of the week and sickness at the beginning shot my mileage and kept me from skiing.

Week 4:
Run - 15.2 miles (4 runs)
Ski - somewhere between 6-8 miles (1 outing)
Yoga - 1 hr
Felt much better and bumped up the running mileage since I didn't ski as much.

Run - 49.2 miles
Ski - 26ish miles
Yoga - 2 hrs (hmm.  seemed like more than that)

This month my weekly mileage is inching up now that the snow is all gone.  The sun this week has been nice, but I have to admit that I'll be sad if I don't get to ski again this winter.  After all, I just got racing skis!  Stay tuned til next winter for adventures in XC ski racing...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Frosty 5k - Madison, WI

Short version:  Been sick for two weeks, ran hard, sounded all wheezy, slid around on slushy snow, got my ass kicked by some hills.  Had a tentative time goal but threw it out the window when I saw the hills.  Watch time was 25:59 (8:22 pace).  I’m reasonably happy.
Extremely Long version:
So, everyone knows what the last year has been like for me.  Through chemo my only zero-mile month was October, but I only ran two miles each in August and September, and started back to running on 11/1.  I was really conservative for the first couple months, starting with 1 min run/1 min walk and building up the run 30 sec at a time for several weeks.   I’ve been running 30+ min continuously since near the end of December and am now up to a 7-mile long run, averaging 10-15 mpw in 2010.  I’ve also been doing quite a bit of cross-country skiing, some weeks 15 miles in addition to running.  My fitness has improved by leaps and bounds this winter, and I think most of that credit goes to skiing – there’s no way I’d be able to do the volume I’ve been doing if I was only running, my bones and joints aren’t ready for that yet.
My tentative time goal was mostly a curiosity thing.  Training runs have been going really well – easy effort well under a 9 min pace for short runs, easy long runs around 9:30.  Depending on how things go I’d like to try for a fairly significant PR this spring/early summer, but it’s very difficult for me to mentally commit to a tough goal right now.  Mike and I have talked about it some, and decided it would be reasonable to try for 8 min miles for this race.  And you know, I knew Wisconsin was hillier than Michigan. Somehow I forgot that.  We drove into town and I decided 8 min miles were not in the cards – some of you wouldn’t think much of those hills, but it looked like a lot to me!
By the time the 5k started I was totally frozen and it was snowing hard.  The roads were randomly clear, then snow-covered, then incredibly slushy.  I was pretty cautious for the first mile, dodging people and running gingerly through the slushy spots, down hills (a lot of down, oh was that depressing), and around corners.  It was discouraging to feel as tired as I did from the very first step and my head was kind of out of it during the first mile.
Mile 1 split: 8:35
The second mile was definitely the flattest of the three.  By this time I was a little surer of my footing and we were back on roads that were open to traffic, so they were a little clearer.  I picked women ahead of me in the pack and picked them off one at a time, wheezing all the way and working hard but feeling pretty confident in my ability to maintain the pace for a while.

Mile 2 split: 7:26  Yeeeeeeehaw.
I was hurting at the end of that second mile but it was a manageable kind of hurt until I rounded a corner and suddenly remember all that time we spent running downhill, as a monster of a hill loomed up ahead of me.  I counted 3 blocks of utter hell, Doug said he heard someone say it was 6 blocks long.  We might have had a block or two of gradual hill before the wall, but I was too busy trying to talk myself into pushing up that thing to notice.  It sucked, that’s all I can say.  Now of course I wish I had gutted it out more, but man did it hurt at the time.  I think the only hill I’ve been more relieved to have behind me was Becky’s Bluff at TA.  My saving grace was that I could see the capitol dome at the top of the hill, so I knew I had to be almost there.  This is where it’s tough not knowing the town – we (finally) reached the top of the hill, and I figured I had to round two corners and then the finish would be in the middle of the next block.  Rounded corner one, slid, regained my balance, and tried to pick up the pace.  Rounded corner two, looked ahead….no finish.  Cursed the race directors for moving the finish line. Rounded corner three, finally saw the finish line, ran as hard as my little legs could go, and finally crossed the finish line.
Mile 3.1 split: 9:56 (9:05 pace) Booooo
I stood there wheezing with my hands on my knees while a volunteer cut my chip off my shoe, and then made my way over to where Doug was waiting.  I leaned against him for 30 seconds or so, finally stopped wheezing, stood up, and said “They moved the fu…”  And then I looked around and realized no, they didn’t move the finish line.  We came up the hill on a different side of the square, 3 blocks away from the finish.  Oops. 

Doug and Kona also did the dog jog that took place before the 5k.  Not technically a race since it wasn’t timed, but we told Kona it was her racing debut.  They secured a top 10 finish!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bad Timing, Chest Cold!

We finally have some worthwhile snow up here in the Great (White) North, after I've been watching all of you in NC and PA steal it all.  While Philly and nearby areas got huge amounts of snow causing week-long shut downs, water damage to houses, and power outages, we got just the right amount!  Enough to ski, enough to pretty it up around here, and enough for Kona to frolic through the drifts much to my amusement.

In honor of our snow, I've virtually ignored running this week in favor of skiing.  It's been (mostly) great fun!  The snow fell all of Tuesday and into Wednesday and of course by the time I got off campus on Wednesday, I couldn't wait to get out there.  I got home from my meeting, quickly changed clothes, threw my skis on the car (after cleaning off 8" of snow), grabbed Kona, and headed off to the Groesbeck golf course to ski until dusk.  That was by far one of the most difficult, physically taxing hours of my life.  The wide-open golf course was at the mercy of some pretty strong winds during the storm and the snow had drifted like crazy.  Not yet very familiar with the course, it was hard for me to tell where the rolling hills were and which areas had been smoothed out by drifts.  Sometimes the skiing was great and others I would sink into drifts up over my knees.  Kona was hillarious, she sunk past her shoulders more than a couple times and it took a big leap to get back out again.  At the end of that hour, I felt like I had run 10 miles, maybe more.  Hard, hard work.

Thursday I didn't have to be on campus, so I worked from home in the morning and Doug and I headed out to Brighton to ski at Huron Meadows in the afternoon.  It. Was. Marvelous.  Just perfect.  Huron Meadows is groomed - combed for skate skiing (which we did not do) and set tracks for classic.  This is a rarity for us - some of the local trails are combed, but the track-setting is really nice to have.  It was a cold day, but we dealt with it by continuing to move and got in a good 10k of skiing.

Friday, I was getting sick.  I seriously considered not going to school but heard my mom's voice in my head saying that if I was too sick to go to school, I was too sick for any fun in the afternoon.  I wanted to go to moonlight skiing at Birchfield, thus I went to school.  Going to school was fine, but going skiing was not one of my more intelligent decisions.  We had a great time and I highly recommend night skiing if you ever get a chance - the trails were lit with lanterns along the way, but they were spaced pretty far apart so it was moonlight most of the time.  We did wear head lamps but left them turned off 90% of the time.  The lamps did come in handy on two hills, though.  There weren't lanterns at the bottom of those hills, I can only speculate that they weren't there to avoid having people fall on them, but the lack of light would have made navigating the hills really tricky without the head lamps.  We skied about 4 miles that night but unfortunately, by the time we finished my lungs were absolutely on fire.  I can't remember the last time they hurt so badly.  When we got home, I went straight to the shower and sat on the shower floor with super hot water running for a good 30 minutes, just breathing in that steam.  It helped a lot, but that cold has definitely settled firmly in my chest.

As a result, this morning's long run was a bust.  Good thing my goal race is in July, not May, and I have plenty of room for adjustment in my schedule.  I went, mostly because I'm going to miss next week's group run, but only did 5 miles with a good mile or two of walking right in the middle.  Since then (and after another very hot shower), I've been chilling on the couch watching the Olympics and reading biochem.  Exciting life, I know...

Saturday, February 06, 2010

On to February!

Well, so far it doesn't look like my updates will be too frequent, but I'll try to get on more than every couple weeks.

January turned out to be a pretty good month, running-wise. As I mentioned in my last post, I've joined a half marathon/marathon training group organized by the local running store. Today was the 4th group run, but I missed last week's since we went to Chicago to celebrate my birthday (last one in my 20s!). So far I'm really enjoying it and I like the weekly accountability and companionship. They also offer yoga classes on Sunday mornings - tomorrow will be my second. The first was great, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Looking back on the month, the thing that sticks out at me the most is how much my pace has dropped - it's quite a bit lower than I was expecting for this point on my comeback tour. I ran about 51 miles in January (not sure of the decimal, my log rounds off and I'm just that lazy) and cross-country skied between 25 and 30. I would have liked to ski more, but there's not much I can do about the utter lack of snow fall. Unfortunately I can't say I've been any better about core work in the past couple weeks, but I do think yoga and skiing are helping in that area, so at least there's that.

Otherwise, not much has changed. I have enough hair to get some really crazy hat head after nice sweaty runs and I'm still having trouble focusing and motivating to get my school work done.

There are a couple things that are still bothering me with my health. When I start to drift off to sleep, I get this feeling that I'm falling but don't jerk back awake like you would normally expect - I just keep falling. It's disturbing and it's starting to cause anxiety and interfere with ever actually falling asleep, so my oncologist referred me to a neurologist. That appointment should be sometime in the next couple weeks. I'm also having pain and tightness in my right arm (cancer side) that seems consistent with Axillary Web Syndrome (though fortunately not as serious as in that picture), so I'll also be setting up a physical therapy appointment. I'm not really sure how that's going to effect yoga tomorrow morning, as it started last week when I didn't attend yoga, so I'll just have to pay close attention to my arm and make sure not to aggravate it. I'm obviously frustrated by both of these things and would really, really love to just move on already, but apparently my body isn't ready for that yet.

And on that note, I read a great NYT Well Blog entry on recuperating vs. recovering - of all the things I've read, this comes closest to describing where I am right now....and will be for a while, I guess:

After surgery and treatment, my 21st-century synapses and neurons wanted to believe that the cancer had been no more than a bump in the road toward a bright future — just a particularly nasty frost heave.
But the deepest analog part of me understood that having cancer was a life-changing event. As much as I thought I wanted to forge ahead, surge into the whirlwind of dailiness, I needed to slow way down.
The scar on my gut might have faded a bit — I had indeed recuperated — but I still needed to recover.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

First Two Weeks

So far the year is getting off to a good start.  As previously mentioned, I've been trying to figure out exactly what I want to aim for this year and what the best way to approach my training is.  After much hemming and hawing over the cost and the training load, I decided to join a training group run by the local running store, Playmakers.  They have two groups: a 5k/10k group and a half marathon/marathon group.  I went back and forth over which group would be better for me and while I was leaning towards the half/marathon group, that wound up being the only option because one of my classes meets during the other group's training time.  I think the longer distance group is a better fit for me, anyway, as my long run was already up to 5 miles before the training sessions began, and I'm not sure that the shorter group would have met my goals.

So, long distance group it is.  I won't be running the goal race since it is the same day as the wedding of two good friends, and actually I think that fits very well into my plan for this year.  It's important that I spend a large portion of the year rebuilding my endurance and strength.  As much as I enjoy racing and find that somewhat frequent racing helps keep me motivated, I need to be careful not to stress my body too much and wind up going backwards.  Sometimes it's difficult to remember that I'm not just recovering from an injury - my body was poisoned, repeatedly, for months.  This is going to take some time.  As a result, I'm using this training session as an opportunity to rebuild my base with some built-in support and peer pressure to get out there and get the miles in.  It will also be a great way for me to meet new people in the area and start branching out into new social circles that are not related to school.

This is turning into more of a rambling post than I had intended, so I'll try to rein it in.  Here's a summary of the first couple weeks of January:

Week of 1/4 - 1/10:
Monday: Rest day!
Tuesday: Doug's birthday - we went skiing to celebrate. Skied a total of 4.2 miles and then ran 2 miles with Kona on snowy, slippery sidewalks.  Very tired legs.
Wednesday: Unscheduled rest day.  Wasn't feeling well at all - guess that's still going to happen sometimes.
Thursday: Ran 3.03 with Kona in the middle of the snowstorm.  Ours were the first tracks on the path - perfect.  Also 45 min of strength/core on Wii fit.
Friday: Skied 3.2 miles with Doug
Saturday: Skied 2.4 miles with a friend
Sunday: Skied ~ 5 miles with Kona.  She was a very well-behaved pup!  Only pulled me over once.

5.03 miles running, 14.8 miles skiing.  That's a lot of skiing.


Week of 1/11 - 1/17:

Monday: 30 min/3 miles around town with my friend Mike.  I was sluggish from a full day on campus (that still really wears me out) and it had been snowing all day, which made for some really slick surfaces.
Tuesday: Rest day!
Wednesay: Cross country skied ~ 3 miles with the pup, not great snow but that's ok.  A bit over half way through our loop two deer ran not 15 yards in front of us.  So cool and fortunately, Kona listened to me when I growled at her to stay.  I'll stick a picture of the deer at the bottom of this post.
Thursday: Ran 3.0 with Kona.  A few degrees warmer (no jacket!) and mostly clear sidewalks.
Friday: skied about 7k in Muskegon.  That was interesting.  To say that Muskegon is hillier than Lansing would be an understatement, and the recent warmer weather meant slushy and sometimes icy trails.  Lots of fun regardless.
Saturday: First group long run: 5.0 in 49:10.  That's a 9:50 pace, ladies and gents.
Sunday: A nice, sunny, warm 3.4 with Kona; 9:00 pace.  What a difference clear sidewalks make!

Total:  14.4 miles running and about 12k skiing.  Clearly I totally skipped out on core work, that's something I need to make more of an effort on.

This week has been a mixed bag so far.  My stomach has been just kind of off for about a week now.  I've been able to function fine, but yesterday added a headache and more general ickiness to the mix, so today I stayed home sick and have felt even worse.  I switched today's planned 3 miles with tomorrow's planned rest day, but if I'm not feeling better I'll just have to take an extra rest day this week.  No biggie except that I'm ready to kick whatever this bug is!

And oh yes, school has started.  Boo hiss.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

It's Almost Over

Break, that is.  Huge bummer.  Since I can't seem to focus on much of anything, I thought I'd come here for one more wrap-up/kick-off post before it all gets going again.

Since my previous post summed up the year nicely I suppose I don't need to do that again.  December ended well - a trip to PA threw off my running plans a little, as it always does, and once again I managed to forget how tough those hills are.   We really don't have anything here that even remotely compares.  So, I didn't time a single run while I was there.  I'm base-building anyway so who cares about time, right? RIGHT?  Yeah, I thought so.  I finished the month with 40.33 miles making that my third highest month of the year.  To me, that seems to bode well for 2010 - at least I was headed in the right direction at the end of 2009.  That made a whopping 315 miles for the year - 885 miles short of my goal.  Ha!  Nothing I can do but laugh, that's a huge number.

Of course the end of 2009 and reflection on goals means it's a new year and thus, time for new goals.  It's been tough for me to figure out how to approach this year.  Last year didn't exactly give me a good idea of where I'm headed.  So, basically ignoring 2009, I went back to look at my logs for 2007 and 2008.  Based on those two years I've decided to set a conservative goal of 750 miles for 2010.  Truthfully I think I can exceed that, but I don't want to ask too much of myself in a year when I'm supposed to be recovering.  That, and the fact that I hope my running mileage is going to lose out to SKIING mileage for the next few months.  This week that has been the case - I've run 5 miles and skied 9.8 miles.  It's been a good snow week.

As far as a racing schedule, I don't have one.  I'll do the Race for the Cure again in April (and hopefully have a much better showing) and I'm considering the Dances with Dirt trail half marathon in WI on July 10 (I think).  There local running store organizes a half marathon/marathon training group that I'm 75% sure I'll join.  The kick off meeting is tomorrow and I've decided to go to the meeting and decide then.  I won't be running their goal race because of another commitment that same weekend, but I think training with the group would help me meet my general goal of improving my aerobic base and getting back to decent weekly mileage without pushing me to ramp up too quickly.  I'm a bit bored right now and these runs get lonely, so I'm excited to potentially meet some local people to run with.  We'll see.  This won't be The Year Of The Marathon, but we'll see about 2011.

So, the semester starts on Tuesday.  Considering meetings and just plain needing to buckle down, it basically starts Monday.  All that fatigue last semester left me with a take home final that still needs to get done and is in front of me on my desk as I type.  Holy cats, did I fall out of school mode.  I needed this break and frankly I'm not mentally ready to move on to another semester, so I'm trying not to feel too guilty about not having this done yet.  I do, however, need to finish it before all this new work piles up on me...

Happy running!