Sunday, December 04, 2011

Early Winter (?) Check-in


Here I am, delinquent again.  Things have been insane around here this fall.  Since the marathon I've worked a lot, begun my reconstruction, traveled a lot, and hardly run at all.

The first step of my reconstructive surgery was on 10/25.  Briefly, the doctor placed tissue expanders under the pectoralis major muscle on each side, which also required "releasing" part of the muscle from its attachment to my chest wall.  This was not an overly pleasant process.  Those expanders had 50cc of saline in them, and I've been going back approximately weekly to have 30cc more injected.  Those injections involve finding the metal port in each expander with a magnet, inserting a needle (which I'm sure is scary, but have thus far managed to avoid looking at), and slowly injecting the fluid.  I feel sore for a few days after each fill, kind of like I've done too many pushups, but since about 2 weeks after the initial surgery it hasn't felt bad.  At this point I don't even need Advil after the fills, though I did need vicodin and valium quite regularly after the initial surgery.  Once my expanders are full and my muscles have had time to adapt, I'll have a second surgery to swap out the expanders for permanent implants.  Then it'll be a few more weeks of recovery and I should be back to normal.

Travel has involved trips to NC and PA which left me feeling like I'd been traveling continuously for 2 weeks, and if I have to travel more I might consider setting up a campsite in Chicago O'Hare.  After all, I seem to be delayed for several hours every time I fly through there.

Running has been low by necessity.  After my surgery I was expecting to be off running for about 6 weeks.  Two weeks in, the doctor told me I was healing very well and could try running if I wanted to.  I didn't feel right about it so I waited, but the following weekend stress was taking its toll and I just had to try.  It didn't feel so great...really, you don't realize how much you use a muscle until it's sore.  I waited a bit longer, and then tried again on Thanksgiving day.  This time the only thing that hurt was my stomach from all the food I'd eaten earlier that day.  The next day I ran again....and then there was another week of travel during which I didn't run at all.

So, I'm back to the blog in an attempt to hold myself accountable to something.  Running will still be hit and miss, I think, until I get through this process and start to feel more like myself again. I'll do it some, though.  Really I just need to be more consistent with getting in any exercise at all, so I'm making it a goal to get out for a real walk, not just a stroll, 4 times this week.  I'm also going to try yoga, but to be quite honest I'm not sure if I'll be able to do it yet.  For this week, I'll just make it a goal to try once and see how it goes.

So there we go. This week, 4 walks and 1 attempt at yoga, plus hopefully some running.  And more travel, this time to see Doug's family in Illinois.

Happy running.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chicago Marathon Race Report

Horribly delinquent blogger checking in.  Life's been crazy busy lately and I just haven't gotten around too it.  Plus, with marathon training I haven't been racing, so I haven't felt like there was anything to post (although certainly I could have posted about training).

Anyway, a report for you.

Short version:  I ran really far, never wanted to quit, did manage to hurt my foot in the last mile, and finished in 4:49.  It was awesome and I loved every minute, even when my foot was killing me.

Incredibly long version:

Where to begin?  We'll go all the way back to the beginning, I guess.

In January of 2010 I joined the running group organized by the local running store because I wanted to find friends to run with while I worked my way back up again after chemo.  The first 2 months I ran by myself, naturally.  Then I found a group of women to run with.  They were training for a marathon while I was only training for a 25k, but I figured I could start each run with them and finish on my own, and that worked out well.  After that marathon, we all decided to run a half together last fall (the Great Turtle on Mackinac Island). On the way to Mackinac, the three of us riding together were discussing whether to do a full or half marathon in the spring.  One woman commented that her brother really wanted her to run the Chicago marathon, so genius over here piped up and suggested we run a half in the spring and then springboard from that training to the full in Chicago.

So, February rolled around and I signed up.  For the record, I HATE signing up for things so far in advance - so much can change!

Sure enough, only a month later, things changed and I was offered this new job.  Obviously moving an hour down the road doesn't really, or shouldn't, have much of an effect on training, but one reason I had never signed up for a marathon before was that I was sure I couldn't do the training alone.  Running for a couple hours alone is one thing, but 4?  I trained with the group through July and planned on potentially joining a group in our new city, but I just never did.  So I went out and did each long run by myself.  When I went back and joined the girls for our first 20, I even found out that I prefer running on my own.  Go figure. 

Training basically went ok.  Back when I originally planned on doing this I didn't think I'd do it with such low mileage, but man did life get me this past year.  I followed a loose adaptation of Higdon's intermediate plan with two 20-mile runs, and 8-10 mile mid-week run most weeks, and what I could do on the other days.  For my 18-mile run, nervous about covering the distance, I decided to start doing run-walk with 8 min of running and 2 min of walking.  I did that for everything over an hour and it helped me a lot, mentally.  The only real issue I had was when I was sure I had broken my left foot near the end of the first 20.  I have a neuroma in that foot, and thought I had finally run enough on the lateral side of my foot, trying to avoid neuroma pain, that it finally just broke.  Fortunately, the running store that organizes the training group also has a free injury clinic.  I went there and found out that my cuboid bone was displaced as a result of a whole chain-reaction of events caused by a tight Achilles.  The podiatrist put me back together, scolded me for being inflexible, and sent me on my way with orders to stretch, which I have followed.

We headed to Chicagoland on Friday evening.  Spent the night at Doug's mom's house, left Kona with her, and headed to downtown Chicago mid-morning.  Once we arrived at the condo we were staying in, we took a few minutes to get our bearings and went off to the expo.  Got my packet, spent some money on marathon merchandise like a total newbie, picked up the body glide I forgot to take with me, and explored for a while.  Then we waited in line for a like an hour to catch the shuttle bus back downtown.  From there we walked a while, maybe 2 miles (?) back to the condo, and stopped at a grocery store along the way to buy stuff to make our own dinner.  Making dinner ourselves was a fabulous idea - we spent the evening in the condo watching sports and reading.  I took a shower and got in bed around 9:30, finally putting my book away around 10:30.  I didn't really have trouble sleeping, which was good (and shocking).

Sunday morning I was up at 4:45.  I tried to eat a peanut butter bagel but couldn't stomach it, so all I had before the race was a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee from across the street. My friends hadn't gotten back to me the night before about when they wanted to meet, so I figured I would just be on my own.  About quarter after 5 one finally texted me and said they were meeting at her hotel room at 6:15.  Ok...seemed kind of late as I had planned on being at the start around 6, but ok.  The hotel was right across the street so I figured it would be ok.  Of course two of the women didn't show up until 6:45 and then had to use the bathroom in the room and again when we got to the start, so we waited in line for porta-potties and were scrambling to the start at 7:15.  This resulted in having to hop the fence into the start corral - nice touch.

Once the race started it took about 24 minutes for us to get across the starting line.  I wonder how long it took for the last people to get across, because we were lined up somewhere between the 10 and 11 min pace signs and I know it went all the way back to 15.  It was absolutely packed at the start and for the first, oh....17-18 miles.  Within the first half mile I saw two men running in big straw hats - running sombreros! The first time we ran across an open-grate bridge I almost fell, also within the first mile. 

I hung with two of my friends (there were 5 of us total - we lost the other two somewhere in the fence-hopping fiasco) for just less than 3 miles.  Our pace for the first two miles was just under 11 min which was fine, because I didn't want to go out too fast, but I wanted to start my run/walk thing from my long runs.  Also, I really wanted to run my own race.  So I left them maybe 200m before the third mile marker.

Once I was on my own I started my run 8/walk 2 intervals, but also walked for 15-30 sec at each aid station so I could successfully drink my water.  The fourth mile just clicked on by in 10:17, and then I saw Doug standing up on a median at the 4-mile marker - hooray!  I gave him my arm panties and he wished me luck and I headed off again, all happy from having seen him and feeling good. Miles 5 and 6 were about the same pace.  I did a little jig at the 10k mark.  Back when I was nervous about my 18-miler, the longest run I'd ever done, someone suggested that I run the two "new" miles first and then after that I'd be in familiar territory.  That sounded like a fabulous idea and I employed it for the marathon.  Let me tell you - it worked like a charm!  Instead of running an extra 10k at the end I "ran it at the beginning" and then I had 20 miles - something I knew I could do - ahead of me instead of this unknown distance. 

Mile 7 dropped down to 9:55.  I was feeling great at this point, but didn't want to go all overboard and pay for it later.  My only goal was to finish (without hating running by the end) and I had no desire to be miserable.  Over and over I reminded myself that by holding back at the beginning I was saving myself for later.  Miles 8 and 9 were good, but somewhere around 8.5 I started feeling like maybe something was amiss, so when I hit a line of porta-potties just after the 15k mark I stopped...and waited in line for 6 min!  Everything turned out to be fine and I was on my way again.

The miles from here on out are kind of a blur.  I knew Doug was going to be around mile 11 somewhere but I never saw him there.  Somewhere between 10 and the halfway mark a woman was down in the middle of the road with a few people tending to her and a few more keeping runners out of the way.  I think it was also in this area that I saw a woman holding a sign and wearing a t-shirt that both said "Do Epic S#@*" - I got a little chuckle out of that.  According to the results I was through the half in 2:22 - so much slower than my PR but hey - my first half marathon (TA '06) took almost 4 hours.

J had said that her brother told her the race would be super crowded for the first 10 miles or so.  I'm not sure if he and I just have a different tolerance for "crowded" but by mile 16 I was pretty damn tired of colliding with people every few minutes.  I was also starting to want to walk more around that time.  Prior to this I had been running through aid stations until near the end, where I would grab a cup of water and then walk just long enough to drink it.  Starting in mile 17 or so (guessing by splits) I started walking as soon as we hit the aid station, partly because I wanted to and partly because they were downright treacherous - so slippery and there were crushed cups and careening people everywhere. 

I was still feeling good when we passed the 20 mile mark, even though my splits had slowed since I was now sticking with my original run/walk plan plus walking most of the way through the aid stations.  In mile 21 I took another short porta-potty break but only lost about 1:30 or so that time.  During mile 22 or 23 I started getting all verklempt because I knew I was really going to do it. I was tired and my hips (psoas I'm pretty sure) were screaming but overall I really felt good.  Never once did I feel miserable, I never felt like quitting, I never doubted that I could do it.  When we hit the 23-mile mark and I knew I only had a little over 5k to go I was downright giddy.

Then, in mile 25, it happened.  My right foot did the same thing my left foot had done at the end of that first 20.  I was reduced to running/walking block-by-block and I slowed all the way to 13:19 for that mile.  The spectators and announcers all made me want to run, but every time I tried I would make it that block and then have to walk because of the pain again.  That darn hill going into the finish that friends had warned me about totally sucked, mostly because it really hurt my foot, and I had to walk that whole thing.  But at the top I started running again and was able to run all the way in to the finish.

Final time: 4:49:39

Oh what a feeling that was!  I'd been trying not to cry for miles by that point, and finally let it go after I crossed the line.  It only lasted about 30 seconds but man, it was just such an overwhelming feeling to have done it. I walked through the finish area picking up all the stuff they had to give us - space blanket, medal, water, banana, snack back, Gatorade 03 (recover - GROSS), and BEER (Goose Island 312 - yum) and went off to find Doug.  Finally we found each other and sat on the steps in front of Abe Lincoln catching up and reveling in being done before walking back to the hotel my friends were staying in to see how they had done.
Turns out I was first in our group which I really had not expected, considering that all had run marathons before and 2 had PR's somewhere around 4:40.  One wound up getting out of her head and finishing in nearly 6 hours, the others were right around 5 (two just under, one just over).  I'm really glad I split off and ran my own race.  After my 18-mile run, a friend told me that long runs should be done alone. I thought he was crazy but after doing this training and running this race on my own I actually think I agree.  For me, they should be done alone.  Maybe one day I'll find new running buddies and feel differently but for right now, I'm ok being my own buddy.

I'll run another marathon one day, but I seriously doubt I'll do another big one.  I did not like literally running into people for most of the race, getting cut off at every aid station, and getting caught behind people going a lot slower than I wanted to be going.  I did enjoy having spectators along literally the whole course and it really did help spur me along in that last mile when my foot hurt so stinkin' bad.  Guess I'm heading off to the injury clinic again on Wednesday night, getting my foot all put back together, and then I'm really going to focus on flexibility.  I'm ready to take a break from running (not quit, just take a break) so I'm going to cross-train for a few months and come back to it in winter/spring feeling refreshed.

If you stuck with me this long, thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How the Runner Crumbles

The Bayshore half marathon was supposed to be my goal event for the spring.  To really have a goal event I think it’s necessary to train like one is actually aiming for a real, solid goal.  I didn’t do this.  I stumbled through an academic year that left my head spinning.  Throughout training cycles for Bayshore and for the Great Turtle in the fall, I made long runs bust little else in my training plan.  It’s not right to have a “reach” goal when training looks like that.

Nevertheless, I’ve been wanted to run a half in under two hours for basically as long as I’ve been running.  It seems like if I make this goal I’ll finally be a legitimate runner, like I’m not successful until I reach it.  After running 2:04 in K’zoo a few weeks ago I thought I had it in the bag – I’ve been told the Bayshore course is flat and much easier than K’zoo and that I shouldn’t have any problem knocking off those last 4 minutes – or more!

We headed up to Traverse City on Friday afternoon.  We’ll have to go again and actually enjoy the area, because Friday we just went straight to the campground, set ourselves up, ate dinner, socialized, and went to bed.  The best part of the weekend was that I anticipated having good hammock trees and took my new ENO hammock up to try it out.  Let me tell you – that’s heaven in a little nylon sack.  I might spend my summer seeking out hammock trees at all the parks around here.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Runners would come down the trail and see my head pop up out of the hammock – “Hi!!!”

Anyway.  That night I slept really poorly.  We got in the tent around 10:30 and I knew I probably wouldn’t fall asleep right then, but did not anticipate lying awake for hours upon hours.  People were talking, babies were crying, planes flew over, sirens went by, someone had a freakin’ blender going…ugh.  I finally fell asleep sometime after 1:00 but distinctly remember the blender going again around 2:30.  Then it was 4:10 and I heard my friend’s alarm go off.  Sigh.

We got up, ate breakfast, and headed out to the road where another friend was going to pick us up.  She arrived and we headed over to the high school to board buses out to the start.  Once on the bus our whole group of training buddies found seats together and chattered about the race.  I sat there with my drop bag putting my bib on my shirt and getting out my iPod – or at least, trying to get out my iPod.  I reached in the bag, grabbed my headphones…and that’s all that was there.  Doug got me this iPod for Christmas two years ago, as a present from Kona. The engraving on the back says “Let’s run! Love, Kona” and it’s very special to me.  I was so afraid I’d lost it and that stuck in the back of my head all morning.

(When the race was over and I got back to the car, I found my iPod in the trunk.  Such a relief.)

We got to the start about 1.5 hours before go time, so we sat under a tent in a field and watched it start to rain.  Sigh.  Then, finally, it was time to line up. 

The race started and I felt great.  Hooray for smaller races that aren’t so packed at the start!  It was a little crowded, but not like bigger races where it’s a constant struggle to find a clear spot for your next footfall.  A few nights ago I dreamt that I had run an awesome race and Doug had missed me at the finish because I came in so much earlier than he expected.  I held onto that dream and for the first few miles, anytime negative thoughts started to creep in I visualized wiping them out of my mind.  That worked for the first several miles.

Mile 1: 9:09 (perfect)
Mile 2: 8:39 (a little fast, but ok)
Mile 3: 8:43
Mile 4: 8:54 (woohoo feeling great and still under pace!)

Somewhere around here I thought I really should slow down, that running a positive split is never a good idea.  The thing is, I kind of think that I might be sabotaging myself in races, thinking that I can’t hold a pace when really I can.  I decided to stay with it.  At the very least, I was banking time to make my goal.

Mile 5: 8:57
Mile 6: 9:28 (extra walking to take my hammer gel here)
Mile 7: 9:05

By now it was starting to get hard but I thought I’d banked enough time that if I could just hang on in the low 9’s, I’d have it.  My left foot was starting to bother me and it felt like my middle toe was bleeding.  I stopped to walk for a minute, and I heard my friend K yell from behind me.  She caught up, and I started running again.  I told her I was glad she was there, that it was becoming mentally difficult, and she said we’d do it together.  But I couldn’t keep up, and I watched her slip away.  Then B caught me, and then she too slipped away.

Then…I crumbled.  Maybe it was the poor training.  Maybe it was the poor sleep the night before.  Maybe I went out too fast. Maybe it was all in my head.  Just before the 9-mile marker I passed my local running club’s tent and considered stopping.  Actually considered quitting with 4+ miles to go.  Mentally I was done and I just unraveled; I never picked myself up again.

Mile 8: 9:48
Mile 9: 10:00
Mile 10: 10:25
Mile 11: 10:06

At the 11 mile marker (1:43) I figured out that I could run fast enough to still make it under 2 hours – I’m physically capable of running 2.1 miles in 17 minutes.  It wasn’t there though.  I don’t know if it was mental or physical at that point.  I’d been light headed since early on in the race and had hoped gels would help, so I took a second one in the 11th mile – neither helped.  On the other hand, I had gotten so down on myself I was really ready to quit.  At the same time that I was figuring out I could still get my goal, I was considering walking the rest of the way. This was also where I realized that I could walk the remaining 2.1 miles and still finish way under my time for my first road half.

Mile 12: 10:55 (yeah.)
Mile 13.1: 10:50

Total: 2:05:05

There was no finishing kick.  I don’t know if I could have picked it up at the end – I do know I didn’t want to.  I watched my goal slip away, watched my PR slip away, and didn’t fight either.  When it all comes down to it, I didn’t want it badly enough. 

When we got back to the campsite and I finally changed, I discovered that my feet were hurting because I had blisters between my toes.  The usual blisters under the callous at my 1st metatarsal joint are there, as I could feel, but only 2 of my toes don’t have blisters somewhere else.  This makes me feel a little better, like there is at least a little bit of a physical reason for feeling so awful, but I can’t blame the whole race on blisters.

So, now I have to do what I didn’t do during that race and pick myself back up again.  Running feels very stale right now, it has for a while, and I have to figure out how to get back into it because I have a marathon coming up in October.  I’m going to build myself a plan that includes cross training (probably cycling) a couple days a week and hope that helps to keep things interesting.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Belated Kalamzoo Half Marathon Report

Short version:  Chip time 2:04:05, a nearly 5-minute PR, and one hell of a fun weekend!

Long version: This race was not on my schedule until a few weeks ago.  I had planned to go watch since so many people I wanted to see were running, but since my "goal race" for the spring is Memorial Day weekend, I was not planning to run a half three weeks before it.  Eventually I decided I didn't want to just watch and just about convinced myself to run the half.  Because of the craziness that is the end of the semester I couldn't commit for sure, but took note of the online registration deadline and decided to make up my mind by then.  The night before the deadline it looked like my grades would be done in time, and I signed up.

Grades were posted Friday afternoon and I took the rest of that day and Saturday morning to just chill and enjoy being done with the semester.  Then, I headed to K'zoo to celebrate!  E and her family were kind enough to host me.  When I got to their house (after spending 45 minutes literally sitting still on a freakin' interchange), we headed off to the expo, picked up our packets, and drove around the course a little.  We took note of two big hills and I commented that the first looked just like the overpass I run here - Sunday I remembered that hills always look smaller in cars.

Normally I sleep ok the night before races but Saturday night I didn't.  Chalk it up to semester-end stress, a strange place, and lots of cats.  At 4:20 I finally called it good and stumbled out to the kitchen to find E and her dad - her dad making coffee.  Hallelujah.  We all got ready and headed out to the race around 5:45.

Once at the race site E and I headed inside to find bathrooms. We waited too long to jump in line, I guess.  I left E somewhere near the 2:30 pacer and tried to get up between the 2:15 and 2:00 pacer but gave up when I wasn't even close to the 2:15.  Whatever.  The guy next to me was also trying to get to the 2:00 group and we decided it would be fun to pass a few hundred people in the first mile.  I quietly worried that it meant I would go out way too fast.

Finally the race started and we walked...and walked...toward the starting line.   Then, we were off!  The first mile was pretty flat, maybe a slight downhill and I probably did pass a few hundred people. The second mile featured a very nice downhill, which I tried to enjoy to the fullest while being careful not to stumble over people as the field was still pretty thick here.  Near the bottom of that hill I blew past the 2:15 pacer and started to worry that maybe I was getting a little ahead of myself.

Mile 1: 9:10 (hmmm.  That was nice)
Mile 2: 8:34  (uh oh.)
Mile 3: 9:00 (geez.  Slow the eff down already!)

Just before the 3 mile marker, I caught the 4:15 marathon pace group.  Their pacers started calling out mile times in the 9:30 range and when I saw the 9:00 on my watch, I decided to hang with them for a while.  I've never run a negative split in a half but I HAVE burned out in the last few miles, and I really didn't want to use all I had in the first few miles.  I'm absolutely horrible at maintaining a constant pace and I always get all swept up in the excitement.

Unfortunately, the half split off from the marathon around the 4-mile mark.

Mile 4: 9:07 (hmm.  Ok)
Mile 5: 9:19 (That's better)
Mile 6: 8:05 (shiiiiiiit)

Up through this point I was feeling really good.  I think it was somewhere during the 6th mile (when I was apparently running far too fast) that I decided to get out of my head and just run.  What if I really was capable of running that pace and was just holding myself back?

Mile 7: 9:29 (baby hill here)
Mile 8: 9:28 (hey, this is going ok!)

Around mile 8.5 we hit the first of the two big hills.  This is the one I thought was similar to my overpass. Let me tell you.  It was not.   It was steep.  And long.  And it sucked.

Mile 9: 10:35 (yeah)

By this point I had blisters on both feet.  I spent the majority of the 10th mile trying to decide if it would hurt more to run the rest in bare feet (never having run barefoot) or to continue running in my shoes.  Naturally, I stuck with my shoes.  It did hurt though.

Mile 10: 10:19 (sigh)

Around this point I finally did the math and realized that once again, I would not get the elusive 2-hour barrier (clearly - did you see those splits?) but I knew that I could still PR and had quite the time cushion with which to do it.

Mile 11: 9:56 (Hey!  That's a little better!)

The rest is kind of a blur.  Just after the 12-mile mark we turned a corner and climbed another big hill, which also sucked.  Not long after the top of that hill I could actually hear cheering from the finish - or at least I decided it was from the finish - and that helped me get through.  Much to my dismay we sort of ran around the block (I think) so we weren't quite as close as I thought, but whatever.  I clicked through my playlist to find a high-energy song to finish with and did my best to kick into the finish.  My pictures will probably be terrible - I had the side stitch from hell there at the end.  When I turned the corner into the final stretch I saw the time and felt a little pang - I'd gotten so close to that darn 2-hour mark!  But I did get the PR that I had no right to run, based on my piss-poor training this last semester, so I'm very happy with the day.

Miles 12-13.2: 21:00

Final (watch) time: 2:04:07
Chip time: 2:04:05

Good for an almost 5-min PR (old one was 2:08:58, set in October)

In closing, I have to recommend this race.  It was really well organized and it was clear that the town was really excited.  The half has been going on for a few years now (not sure how many) but this was the inaugural year for the marathon - people were clearly pumped.  There was great crowd support throughout - not constant, but frequent enough.  The course was well-marked, start and finish were well-organized, shuttles ran really well....all around it was just great!  We also had a fantastic weather day, which we've been starved for around here.

Next up, Bayshore Half Marathon on Saturday :)

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dear Michigan:

Please stop.  I'm begging you.  I can't take anymore rain.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

2011 Race for the Cure

This was my third Race for the Cure since being diagnosed 2 years ago (on 4/20/09).  The first year I was only 6 days post-diagnosis and I was a mental wreck.  Last year, a few days past my one-year anniversary, I went out with the intention of running a PR and winning the Survivor division.  I met one of the goals – to win the division – and ran about 50 seconds off my PR. Not bad really, for just being a few months back into running, and running in such an emotional race.

This year, for a while, I had hoped to maybe finally get that new PR.  My current one is from 11/08 and has been begging for a shellacking for a while now.  I did great training all summer – 400m repeats at <6:30 pace, regular daily runs around 8 min...

And then life hit.  Comprehensive exams, teaching two classes a semester (and taking my own), trying to write a dissertation.  Running all but came to a screeching halt – now I’m doing well if I run a 20-mile week.  So, my PR goal went out the window.

Until last week when I ran 3.3 at a 7:45 pace (a few seconds/mile faster than my PR).

So then, this little voice in the back of my head started saying I could do it. I finally registered for the darn thing on Tuesday but spent the whole week waffling between having and not having a time goal.  Somewhere in there I even considered running slowly on purpose.  By the end of the week I had decided to just try my best and see what happened.  If my Zen approach didn’t work, I figured I’d recruit one of my sports psych friends to do an intervention.

Fast forward to this morning.  I woke up, looked up through the blinds, and saw that the sun was actually out!  Then I heard the wind howling.  When I took Kona out, I found it was snowing.  The wind gusts were strong enough to push my skinny butt all over the sidewalk.  Kona wobbled when she squatted to pee.  That couldn’t be a good sign.

The race was at 2:00 so I tried to spend the morning doing schoolwork. Yeah, right.  Finally it was time to get ready and Doug and I headed downtown, all bundled up.  We got to the race a few minutes before the survivor stroll, but then at the last minute I decided I didn’t want to do it – it’s just too emotional.  I warmed up a bit on my own then ran into a friend and warmed up some with her.  Finally I made my way back to Doug, took off all my warm-ups (which made me feel very serious), and got in line.  Once in line I found one of the coaches from my running club, who is also an oncology nurse, and she gave me a hug and a little pep talk.  Then finally, we were off.

As with any big fundraising event, this was a crowded race.   It felt like it took forever to cross the line but according to the official results it was only 15 seconds or so.  For the first three blocks it was windy, but not bad.  Then we turned right. 

A huge gust kicked up and I actually saw everyone around me shift to the left.  This continued for the whole race and even though it’s run downtown, most of the race is not between tall buildings so a lot of the time there wasn’t any shelter at all.  I’d be following along behind someone, a big gust would come up, and one or both of us would get blown so we’d run into each other.

Mile 1: 7:52

At one point during the second mile I was feeling particularly bad for myself when a strong headwind came along and I decided to stop and walk.  It was so much harder to walk that I only lasted a couple seconds before deciding anything was better than being out in that and the sooner I finished, the sooner I could put clothes back on.  Shortly after that I considered quitting (we were only about a block from the start at that point) but decided I would really feel bad about myself if I dropped out of a 5k – especially THAT 5k.  So I continued on.

Mile 2: 8:17

Please, someone, for the love of all that is holy, TURN OFF THE WIND!

Mile 3.1: 9:14 (8:23 pace)
Final time: 25:24

The first mile felt awesome – I could have kept up that pace forever if it hadn’t been for the wind.  My current 5k PR was at a 7:52 pace.  I have it.  I freaking HAD it.  Michigan in spring…


After the race I found Doug, put my warm-ups back on again (initially putting my pants on backwards), and got water and a banana.  We wandered over to where the results were being posted and found that I’d gotten third in the survivor division.  I decided that was good enough – esp. since the winner got me by about 3 min.  Just then, another woman who had been standing there turned around and exclaimed, “You were here last year!”  It was A, my once-a-year friend. She was diagnosed about 6 months before me and we chatted some before the race last year.  Then she wound up coming in second, about a minute behind me, so we chatted some more.  This year she was right behind me again and bummed that she’d just missed placing.

Shortly before they were going to do the awards ceremony, the announcer called out the name of the person who had placed second in our division. Announcer-man said they needed to verify information about one of the finishers (that person) and would have to delay the awards for a few minutes.  Great because you know, it wasn’t cold at all.  Fortunately A heard that announcement and decided to stick around a little while longer to see if she would get bumped up. Eventually they were ready, and called out the first place woman. I got bumped to second, and A got bumped to third! 

I’ll be two years out on Wednesday and I’d like to say I feel fortunate to be here and able to run and all that, but honestly I’m still grumpy about the whole thing.  It’s not that I think I’m NOT fortunate, I know I am…but I’m not grateful for cancer.  One of my best friends says that she is, now.  She’s a year ahead of me…maybe I’ll get there. But I’m not there yet.

Even so, it’s nice to kick its ass a little now and then.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Absolute Torture


A hazard inherent in my work is that I know far too much about my body, have been tested far too many times in far too many ways, and am never happy with the results.

A few weeks ago I underwent yet another treadmill VO2max test - I think this was probably my 10th. The last time I did this, I fell above the 95th percentile for age and sex and was (mostly) happy with those results. More than the max, I was happy with the fact that my ventilatory threshold occurred at more than 80% of my VO2max. It's important to remember that the last time I was tested was two years ago, before the cancer diagnosis and beating my body into the ground with chemo. Even so...I was hugely disappointed to see that my max had dropped about 6 points compared to last time and with it, my ventilatory threshold.

None of this REALLY matters, mind you, because I'm running faster over long distances than I was back before chemo. Whether my short distance speed is still around remains to be seen (possibly next weekend), but at least in some ways I'm performing better than I used to. And apparently I'm quite the economical runner, which helps in putting more of that oxygen to good use.

Exhibit B is in progress right now. The current project for the (one!) class I'm taking this semester concerns measurement of physical activity. Easy - we're all wearing pedometers for about a week and completing 24-hour physical activity recalls every morning, for the previous day.

Now, I knew I spent a lot of time sitting. I mean, I'm a PhD student. My fingers may as well be glued to my keyboard and my rear to my desk chair. I work a full day on campus, followed often by an equivalent number of hours at home in the evening. But to actually quantify it - ugh. The torture. A sampling (the numbers in columns B-G are daily totals of time spent in each intensity, in hours):

Interesting how all the step counts end in 504, huh?

All I can say is, thank heavens I run.  Friday I didn't, clearly.  Today I ran 10 miles and I'm sitting around 20,000 steps right now.  If you estimate 2,000 steps per mile, can see how much I did the rest of the day.

There's a new area of research that has been getting a lot of attention lately - sedentary time.  Turns out that it looks like sedentary time is an independent risk factor for all the diseases we usually associate with physical activity - cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.  Previously it was thought that if we could just increase the amount of time people spend being active in the moderate- to vigorous- intensity ranges, we'd reduce the prevalence of those diseases.  That does work.  However, now it looks like it's not enough to meet physical activity recommendations - we also need to sit less.  So even though I meet the recommendations for weekly physical activity (far exceed, in fact), I may still be at relatively high risk of a whole host of chronic diseases precisely because I spend upwards of 10 hours a day, sitting at a desk, studying the development of these diseases.

Oh the cruel, cruel irony.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Old Habits


Last week was spring break - a much needed break from my crazy daily routine and a chance to get out of dodge and visit my parents for a week. Not the glamorous beach vacation so many of my students had planned, but man was I looking forward to it. You see, I had felt that I couldn't take a trip for break because there was just too much work I needed to get done, but a couple weeks before break my mom called and suggested that I head home. It was perfect - my parents would still have to work, so I could just work during the day as if I had not, in fact, taken a vacation, but then I could relax with them in the evenings. Mom planned to take a couple days off at the end of the week, and I planned to take those days off as well.

And so, I packed my suitcase with clothes (which were far too warm), 70 exams, 70 homework assignments, and dissertation materials, and headed off on my grand spring break adventure.

Rather than sit at the house and work while my parents were at their offices (because let's face it, I would have snoozed and watched TV all day, since we don't have cable at our house), I went to work with my mom that Monday. I spent a few hours in her office that morning, and in the afternoon I headed up to my dad's office to have a grading party. It took no time at all to notice I'd fallen back into my old habits.

I did an internship in my mom's building when I was finishing my BS. This seems like a weird thing to remember, but bear with me - I had a favorite bathroom stall when I worked there. You all probably do too. I bet 9 times out of 10, if you walk into a bathroom you use regularly, you go to the same stall. Well..that Monday morning, I realized I had chosen the same stall all over again.

When I walked up to Dad's office, I went to cross the quad in the same spot I always used to...except the sidewalk wasn't there anymore! I went around but I swear to you, it made me twitchy. The next day, I walked across the grass where the sidewalk should have been.

The first time I walked into Dad's building, I walked in the same door I always used to, up the stairs to the second floor...and when I opened that door, I smelled the same old smell. I marched myself right to his office, knocked on the door, and expected the squeak of his old desk chair. Turns out he has a new chair, and I was a little sad not to hear the squeak. Anyway - I walked into his office and told him the smell was still the same. Of course he asked what the smell is and I honestly haven't the slightest idea. Books maybe? No other floor in that building has that smell, it's only his floor.

When we walked home from campus that day it wasn't my habits I noticed, but my dad's. He walks the same route (don't we all?), crosses the street in the same spot every time. It made me think of the neighborhood I used to live in, during Grad School - Part I. I always got off the bus and headed home, crossing the street in the same spot (and not at an intersection) each time. Once, when D and I hadn't been together long, I tried explaining to him why I do it. He laughed at me then...but he does it now too.

The last one isn't related to spring break stuff, but I thought of it while thinking about the rest of this stuff. My hair is now officially long enough for a pony tail. Upon coming to that realization, it took me about half a second to fall into the old habit of wearing hair bands on my wrist and pulling my hair back most of the time.

We're all slaves to all those old habits...

Stay tuned for another post soon. No time to write it now (sleeping would really be smart), but I had some wonderful therapy time in the forest yesterday. Coming soon!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I came across Lisa's blog today, thanks to a new connection on The Daily Mile. Since I just finished grading 70 exams I thought I'd take a little break from work, and what better way to procrastinate than filling out random, useless surveys?

That's what I thought. So:

A) Age: 30 (gah!)

B) Bed Size: Queen, but the dog gets at least 2/3 of it.

C) Chore You Really Dislike: Cleaning the bathroom. There's nothing I hate more..especially such a small bathroom. You'd think it would be nice because there's less to clean but NO! It's harder.

D) Dogs? Kona. She's my best buddy and gets most of the credit for my fitness level - border collies and pointers make for high-energy puppers.

E) Essential Start Your Day Item:
Coffee. Is there anything else?

F) Favorite color: You can't ask me to or purple. I won't choose between them.

G) Gold or silver? Silver

H) Height: 5’10"

I) Instruments you play: Used to play: flute, mallets, oboe, trumpet, alto sax, random percussion, and I fumbled around with guitar and piano. Now I play guitar, or will if I can ever find the time to sit down with it again.

J) Job title: Officially I think it's Graduate Teaching Assistant. There are many other unofficial words for it.

K) Kids: Eventually.

L) Live: In a cute old (built 1920) bungalow that I a neighborhood that's declining fast. We're moving again in August...sigh.

M) Mom’s Name: We'll skip this one...

N) Nicknames: None I'm willing to share...

O) Overnight hospital stays: One. My blood pressure and heart rate were really low and the alarm kept waking me up. The nurse finally turned it off somewhere around 3 in the morning.

P) Pet peeve: Since I'm teaching, people who make lecture slides with improper notation (that "2" on "O2" is supposed to be a subscript!), too many words, or mixed up fonts.

Q) Quote from a movie: Uh....

R) Right or left handed? Left. The cooler one.

S) Siblings? Two younger brothers.

T) Time you wake up? Too effing early.

U) Underwear: How can this be a question? Yes, always...except running in the summer.

V) Vegetable you dislike: Mushrooms. What disgusting texture.

W) What makes you run late? The darn snooze button.

X) X-rays: I'm practically a professional.

Y) Yummy food you make: Black bean and corn enchiladas, lentil tacos, and chocolate chess pie!

Z) Zoo, favorite animal: Oryx. You should hear the sound they make.

And now off to enjoy more spring break!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Struggle Bus

Friends just recently introduced me to this term, and I heard a few students use it yesterday also. Right now, there's nothing that better describes where I am so I've adopted it for my own use.

Being sick the past week has really knocked me down a notch or two. Everything's a struggle this week - I'm sure part of that is left-over fatigue but I think a lot of it is just that I'm ready for a break. So very ready for a break. Fortunately spring break is coming, but it's still a week and a half away.

(Not that I'm counting, oh no. And certainly I haven't considered making a paper chain.)

If anyone happens to find my mojo - running, work, or otherwise - would you please send it back home?

Monday, February 21, 2011

At Least I'm Consistent

Looks like it was about this time last year that I came down with the chest cold from hell. Or at least, I thought that was the chest cold from hell.

Let me tell you, it had NOTHING on this year's version. Goodness.

Backing up, I'm still struggling with my running mojo but things have gone reasonably well the last couple weeks, considering. Two Fridays ago I got in a fast 7 miles (as in 58 minutes fast!) with some other PhD students, followed by two GREAT days of skiing in almost spring-like weather. Monday and Tuesday were busy as usual (and my legs were fried Monday, anyway) but I was looking forward to getting in some running during our February thaw. Ha! Wednesday I went out with 2 of the 3 fast PhD students for 3.5 miles in under 30 minutes and then Thursday, it happened.

The disease hit.

It started innocently enough. I woke with a cough on Thursday morning and knew I was in for a long day. It was forecast to be in the 50s but I knew I'd better dress a little warmer since I was clearly coming down with something. I sent a whiny "I'm sick" text to my mom that morning, but expected to make it through the day.

On my way into campus, I stopped for a cup of coffee. I couldn't stop coughing in the coffeehouse - don't you just hate that? I always feel like everyone around me thinks I have the Plague and I always want to explain that it's the transition from the outside to inside air that makes me do that. Anyway. Got my coffee, arrived at my office, sat down to work...and didn't even want to drink that coffee.

That's bad news, I'm telling you. I finally poured the cup out this morning - I don't think I even drank 1/4 of it.

By 10 AM I was freezing, shivering uncontrollably, and knew I wouldn't make it through the day. I found someone to teach my evening class, finished my grading, canceled office hours, and tried to last until my scheduled noon meeting. The second that meeting was over I headed home and hit the couch.

I stayed on the couch until about 10 PM, at which time I moved to the bed. Stayed there until, oh....Saturday. Basically. Friday morning I did get up to go to the doctor. My hips, glutes, and legs were hurting so badly you would have thought I ran 100 miles the day before. Clearly, however, I did not. I was sure this was the flu. The doctor, on the other hand, was not. She sent me home saying it was "justavirus" of the upper respiratory variety, and I just needed to rest and drink fluids.

And so I did, all weekend long.

Today I can finally stand for extended periods of time. I've stopped drinking Gatorade, actually eaten a couple meals, and coffee is (mostly) appealing this morning. I think I'll probably be able to stand for 80 minutes to teach my class..but I'm not entirely convinced yet. I know I'll have to go straight to bed when I finally get home.

But you know what? I missed some of the grossest conditions of the year so far. I mean yeah it was warm and that would have been nice, but everything was so soggy and ugly. That first thaw of the year there's litter everywhere (that had been hidden under the snow) and the only snow left is the piles along the road that are crusted in nasty black road disgustingness. Yesterday we got a fresh blanket a new snow - about 10" worth! Today we're forecast to get up to 3 more inches.

And so I'd like to thank the Justavirus of Death for choosing a weekend of no skiing and ask it to please leave me healthy enough to enjoy this new, fresh snow.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Did I Say I was a Runner?


Lately I haven't been interested in running at all. I thought it was a rut brought on by school stress that would just pass. hasn't. Not that the school stress has passed either, but I thought I just needed to get into a routine or something.

The thing is, even when I have an opportunity to run (now, for instance), I don't really want to. Now I believe the windchill is still well under zero and that's a good part of the reason I'm not interested but....just blah. This is NOT GOOD seeing as how I am actually registered for both a half marathon and a marathon and talking about running at least one additional half.

Good thing I've been skiing...sort of.

I just don't want to push the running now, when I'm not interested, knowing that before long I'm going to HAVE to do it if I want to get through those races. I'm already thinking of blowing off any time goal for the May half and have proclaimed that I'm not even allowed to have a goal time for the marathon in October.

Sigh. If I keep going on like this it's going to be hard to run a 5k, even.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Happy belated birthday to me?

A chance of light snow in the evening...then light snow after midnight. Snow accumulation 1 to 2 inches. Lows 10 to 15. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 80 percent.

Light snow likely. Areas of blowing snow in the afternoon. Snow may be heavy at times in the afternoon. Snow accumulation an inch or less. Highs in the lower 20s. Northeast winds 15 to 20 mph with gusts to around 30 mph. Chance of snow 60 percent.

Tuesday Night
Blustery...snow. Areas of blowing snow. Snow may be heavy at times. Snow accumulation 7 to 11 inches. Lows 15 to 20. Northeast winds 20 to 30 mph. Gusts up to 35 mph increasing to 40 mph toward daybreak. Chance of snow near 100 percent.

Snow. Areas of blowing snow. Windy. Accumulations possible. Highs in the lower 20s. North winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts to around 40 mph. Chance of snow near 100 percent.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Blog or Dissertate?

Blog, of course! Just a quick break to try to get back in the habit of my weekly updates (at the very least).

It was a reasonably good week, exercise-wise. I did ride my high from last weekend's race a little too long but I figure it's alright. Running races hardly ever leave me feeling that way anymore so it was a nice change.

The three-day weekend was greatly appreciated around here. I spent the majority of the weekend with a friend - having girl-time, watching TV, reading, napping, and generally ignoring schoolwork. Monday I got back into my groove by spending 7 evening hours in the office while Doug worked at the athletic club.

Before getting back to work I took my friend K out to the trails at Burchfield to teach her how to ski. Ski rentals were free for the day and the Place Was Packed. K had never been on any kind of skis before so she had to learn it all from the very beginning. We started with getting up from a fall (which I learned to teach right away after forgetting to teach another friend last winter), moved on to "french fry, pizza pie," and then eventually made it to going forward. Kicking and gliding took some time but she was getting it by the end. We managed about 2 miles with only a few falls - almost all of them at the bottom of hills. She'd make it down looking great and get excited or something at the bottom. Rumor has it she wants to try again, so I'm calling it a successful day.

Tuesdays are not going to be good exercise days for me this semester and this week was no different. The rains that came Monday night left the whole town a sheet of ice Tuesday and it wasn't much better Wednesday, so it didn't take much to talk myself out of trying to run outside. I flirted with the idea of hitting the treadmill but bailed after visiting a friend in the hospital and staying longer than planned. That night I resolved to make it out running every remaining day of the week.

Thursday and Friday both brought good runs, if a bit cold. Saturday morning was F-R-I-G-I-D with wind chills around -10* when I headed out for my morning long run with the training group. About 80 people made it out that morning and I caved to peer-pressure, running 7 miles when the plan only technically called for 4. It was week 1 of half marathon training but 4 would have been a big cut back, since I've been doing 6-8 on weekends lately.

Today, since I ran more than planned on Saturday, I decided to be happy with 14 running miles for the week and try skiing instead. We weren't sure how the trails would be but decided to give them a shot since we did get about 1" of new snow in the past couple days. Burchfield hasn't been renting skis since the weekend and as a result, the trails were great! We parked at the Riverbend trailhead instead of the park, like we usually do, and it was a great decision. The hills between Burchfield and Riverbend were likely to be an icy, root-y, rocky mess and I'm perfectly happy that we skipped them. The few skiers who did get out this weekend left great tracks for us to follow and I was ON today. Got in some good practice with pole-less kicking, double-poling, and running up hills. Three times around a 1-mile loop left us with 3 miles for the day.

Week totals:

Mon: Skied 2 miles nice and easy and worked on technique. Felt good on sore legs.
Tues: Nada
Wed: Does sliding around on ice count?
Thurs: Ran 3.4 miles with dogger.
Fri: Ran 4 miles outside with friend B while the wussy boys ran on the indoor track.
Sat: Ran 7 miles with the training group, different people than usual.
Sun: Skied 3 miles with Doug, lots of technique work.

Total: 14.4 miles run, 5 miles skied. Not bad for high-riding laziness.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Frosty Freestyle - My First Ski Race

As we all know by now, I'm never one to write a short race report. Always have to start with the back-story, yada yada. Today's no different - there's even a moral to this story.

But for those who don't want to read, short version: 5k cross-country ski race, classic technique. Final time 36:18, first in age group, 4th woman, 10th overall. Pint glass trophy. Beaten by someone in a snowman costume.

Long version:

When we moved to Michigan, I was determined to love winter. I had a new set of downhill skis that I'd won in a raffle and I was set to just be on them all the time. Well - downhill skiing is expensive, even when you have all the gear. Cross-country skiing, on the other hand, is pretty cheap (once you have the gear). Doug had done a lot of Nordic skiing in the past (both skate and classic styles) and owned a pair of skate skis. He was always talking it up and finally I really wanted to try. As a bonus, he can get really great deals on equipment through work. I wound up buying a closeout pair of skis online for $60 and getting bindings, boots, and poles all for less than $100 through his work. He wound up getting a pair of classic skis with Christmas money, so we were both all set.

That first year we skied when we had the opportunity and I thought it was great fun, but never looked at it as more than just fun cross training. Last year, a combination of things happened. First, I started getting better and we started making a better effort to get out and ski. Second, the Winter Olympics started. I watched So Much Skiing. I got all wrapped up in the performances of Kikkan Randall and Chandra Crawford, started looking into other stuff they do (hello Fast and Female!) and really excited about the whole culture in general. Also - this is silly - we got a Wii and a super fun biathlon game called Ski and Shoot. This somehow convinced me that I could race. :laugh:

Last winter I started talking about getting serious and trying my hand (or legs, as it may be) at racing this winter. Through his total awesomeness, Doug was able to get me a pair of racing skis at the end of the season. He got them after our snow had melted, so I never got to try them out. By the time he did that, I was committed. The moral is - watch what you commit yourself too - someone's always listening! This fall he also managed to convince me that I had outgrown my $60 closeout skis (Karhu Piqtu - "little snow") and should sell them to a friend. I did, and hiss mom got me the waxless version of my waxable racing skis for Christmas. So now I have two sets of skis, nearly identical to each other, and they're both fast. Fast fast fast. However, there was a learning curve. I still haven't been out on the waxable skis because a) I have to learn to wax, and b) we haven't had much snow.

There's a park about halfway between here and Detroit that is groomed for both skate and classic skiing whenever there's enough snow to do so. They do a great job and a lot of local skiers essentially live there in the winter. There's also a race, the Frosty Freestyle, held in the middle of January. This year they were holding both a 5k and 15k, with classic and skate divisions in each. It's by far the closest race to us and while I was worried about it being so early in the year (and thus not getting much practice), this is the one I set my sights on.

Because those Southern states have been stealing our snow, I wasn't even sure the race would happen. The website said that if there wasn't snow on race day they would postpone the race. If there still wasn't snow, they would hold a running race instead. That struck me as a reasonably good idea (and I felt much more confident about the potential running race!). A week and a half before the race, we didn't have any snow. Then, the groomers at the park had a brilliant idea. They took a golf course aerator to the ice on the lake at the park. The aerator was used to "pulverize" the top 2.5 inches of ice and make snow on a 24ft. wide, 1km long path loop on the lake. They then groomed that path and called it an alternate racecourse. Gulp. We went down to ski it the weekend before the race. At that point I wasn't sure I wanted to race. I had been nervous and felt unprepared to begin with - adding the potential of falling into the lake on top of it was almost too much for me. But we tried it and it wasn't so bad. I was still hesitant for two reasons, though. First, prior to that day I really had no idea how long it would take me to ski 5k. Funnily, I had even been considering doing the 15k. Well...that day it took me 8 minutes to ski 1km and I wasn't sure I'd even be able to keep it up for 5 laps. I was worried. Second, it was windy down there...and that was a relatively still day. If we had our usual Michigan wind on race day that course was going to be damn cold and even slower (for me - everyone else I heard talking seemed to think it was very fast). So, I considered not doing the race at all.

Doug thought I was being silly and should just get out and get it over with. I knew he was right but I'm really so good at worrying. I knew that I'd feel better about it if it would just snow and they could have the race on the course. Finally, Tuesday and Wednesday, it did...and I registered for the 5k. Wednesday afternoon we headed out to a local park to ski and I felt much better about it than I had on Saturday. Once I knew we would be on trails and I wasn't likely to be lapped a billion times, the worry melted away to excitement. We also got out to ski on Friday night and by then I was pumped (and still nervous, of course).

The race started at 10:30 so we didn't have to stress too much about getting up early and all that on race day. It had snowed a couple inches over night, though, so the drive was a little hairy at times. We got to the park around 9:30 with plenty of time to get checked in, figure out exactly what I wanted to wear (of course I had taken many options!) and be intimidated by the very serious looking racers. It seemed like nearly everyone was wearing a race suit representing some Michigan Cup team. Where were all the beginners the site had advertised? Finally I started seeing some who didn't look quite as serious. I skied about a mile to warm-up and fretted over my outfit. I had chosen fleece-lined (but not very heavy or wind-resistant) tights, a light long-sleeved baselayer top, mid-weight fleece layer, and windproof jacket. It was windy, cloudy, and still snowing. I had to wear sunglasses to keep the snow out of my eyes - fortunately the brown lenses were ok for the low light.

Just before we all went to line up, the "international guest star" advertised on the race website was announced - a skier dressed as Frosty the Snowman. Great - not only could I come in dead last, I could lose to a snowman. Oh well, there's a first time for everything.

They did a wave start and the women's 5k was the last to start, so I got to stand there in the wind getting more and more nervous. Frosty also started in my wave, so I made it my main goal to get away from "him" as quickly as possible. The race started up a little hill - not steep enough to need to switch to a herringbone motion but enough to trip people up a little. A few people fell there so I was focused on how I was going to get around them when I heard D yell "Frosty's right behind you!!" I picked it up to get away and once we were off the hill, started to get into a groove. I passed a trailing man - who had started 3 min ahead of me - within the first 1/4-1/2 mile and was steadily passing women who had gotten out ahead of me on that hill. My skis are super fast on downhills and I was able to take advantage of that within the first mile. After that it seemed like we did a whole lot of climbing without any compensatory downhill - it all must have been on that first steep descent. Most of the race I felt like I was moving right along. I've spent some time the past week or so practicing skiing without my poles, forcing myself to find my kick zone and actually get power from my legs more than my arms - it's helping a ton. The thing I struggled with during the whole race was having no idea how far we'd gone. I'm not familiar with the trail, everything was blindingly white (even with glasses on), and the course wound around so much I didn't even know which direction I was facing. Eventually I could hear cheers and cowbells so I knew we had to be getting close. Right about then, Frosty passed me. I kept that white suit in my sight the rest of the race, but never caught back up. I think I could have, once we got out of the woods, but by then I really just wanted to finish and didn't care about beating the mascot. I finished probably less than 25yds behind Frosty.

D came over when I finished and said he thought I'd probably won my age group. We tracked Frosty down for a picture and went back to the car to deposit my skis and get my dry clothes. Lunch was served after the race so we hung around for that and then the awards.

Sure enough, I DID win my age group! My final time was 36:18 (almost 5 min ahead of 2nd), good for first in the women's 5k classic 20-29 division, 4th woman, and 10th overall (men and women). Not bad for the first time out!

So that's it! I had a ton of fun and am really excited to do this again. I do need to work on my technique though...might see if I can take some lessons if I can find a coach around here.

Thanks for reading!

Pictures to follow when I have a little more time.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Time to Revive

It's about time I updated this old thing, yes?

That might be code for "I'll do anything other than write my dissertation proposal."

Regardless, here I am with an update and the intention of keeping this up for a while.

Looks like I left off in July after DWD-Devil's Lake. Since then:

July: As I said in my last post, I was really pleased with the way the race went and thought it had been great to have that goal in the middle of the summer to keep me going. After the race, my longest run for the rest of the month was 6 miles. My running buddies were in training mode for an October half and just getting started, so I dropped my long run distance back down and ran with them. I swear, every long race I run I say I'm not going to lose that base...and then I do. Anyway - I also continued the speedwork I had been doing all summer. Outside of running, July was when I really got serious about studying for comprehensive exams...and daily runs got shorter as I started feeling that time crunch. Total: 62 miles

August: With studying in full swing and the semester approaching quickly, I basically head steady in terms of running. Our long runs were increasing in distance and I kept on going with the speedwork I'd been doing. It was HOT. Total: 70 miles

September: School started with a bang. I took comps in the last 2 week of August and orals the second week of September. The semester started on 9/1 and I was slammed, teaching 2 classes, taking one, and trying to keep up with research. My schedule blew - in class (statistics, no less) until 10 PM on Monday evenings, and then teaching until 7 on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Running on Monday was out, I often didn't make it on Wednesday either...and eventually Tuesday. I was tired and grumpy most of the month. Total: 56 miles

October: At this point, I was just trying to hang onto at least a little of the fitness I had over the summer. My tired grumpiness continued (you could even say it got worse...). There were a couple weeks in there when I only ran on the weekend. My fall goal race - the Great Turtle Half Marathon, was at the end of the month. I'll post the report later, but basically I only met my last-ditch goal - to run under a 10 min pace. That's a tough race, even hillier than I expected, and I'm really quite happy with my effort. I managed a 9:51 pace for a final tme of 2:08:58. Total: 55 miles

November: Ha. At this point there's nothing left to do but laugh. Without a goal my motivation just flew the coop entirely. Total: 42 miles

December: The first couple weeks were rough, tying up loose ends on the semester, writing and grading finals, and dealing with disappointed students. I was started to get my motivation back, though, and by the end of the month was back to actually enjoying running and wanting to get out there. A little snow probably helped - I do love snowy running. Total: 64 miles

So, I finished out the year with 753 miles. The goal I set at the beginning of the year was to run 750 and I'm pleased to have met that. It was a big year and I can't overlook the one year anniversary of my diagnosis (April), surgery (May), and last treatment (October 23rd - same day as the Great Turtle). I'm still trying to work through what this all means for me now and to balance my personal life with my professional (school) life in a way that is fulfilling to me. I didn't do a good job with that this fall, so my goal for 2011 is to figure out where everything fits and do what I have to do to keep myself happy. Exactly what that is, I'm not sure...but I know that running will be a big part of it.

Still to come in 2011:

Greater Lansing Race for the Cure (April) - I have a title to defend, after all...
Bayshore Half Marathon (May) - with my girls. It'll be my first trip to that area and hopefully, I'll finally get under 2 hours.
Dances with Dirt Devil's Lake (Wisconsin, July) - this is just a fun race and I hope to get to do it again!
Chicago Marathon - my first. Heaven help me.
And let's not dissertation

Thanks for reading! I'll leave you with pictures...