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.