Friday, August 15, 2014

Recovery Mode

I can run again!  After spending six weeks of Missoula's painfully short summer in one of those ugly walking shoe things (does anyone know what they're actually called?), my shoes match again.

So, this is how it played out: in mid-June, I hurt my foot.  I went to the doctor and they told me it was a stress fracture.  Sweet!  So, while I could kayak and take short walks, hiking, running, and pretty much anything that required the use of two working feet were out of the question.

After six weeks of not running, I went back to the doctor and he told me I could start again, but only for 15 minutes at a time and only if I alternated running and walking.  My last good long run was 22 miles and took a lot longer than 15 minutes.  But whatever, I no longer had to say, "Hey Sam, have you seen my left ballet flat?  No, I don't need the right one."

I ran one mile for the first time and felt completely out of shape.  A few days later, I did two miles.  It took almost twice as long as normal, but I was grateful.

A few days after that, I pinched a nerve in my right hip.  It sort of feels like being electrocuted, but with fire, if that makes sense.  And then I got food poisoning.  So, for a solid week, I laid on an ice pack, took pills for the inflammation, and got sick a lot.  I have this theory that my body was rebelling against its impending jump into the next decade by falling apart.

Now that we're midway through August, I'm feeling like a person again.  Despite a sometimes shaky summer, it was a good one.  My best friend in the whole world, Tami, came to visit.  I learned how to paddleboard and kayak, I found a beer I actually like, and I learned that I really truly love running.  It's my outlet and I was a mess without it.

I have physical therapy to do and I'm taking it slow.  I can run/walk two miles and I'm working up to doing that three days a week.  I've also added in cross training because I've read that it can help with injury prevention.  And, much more slowly, I'm working on nutrition.

I have no races on the horizon and I'm looking forward to some nice autumn running.  But come spring, I'll have my racing shoes on.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A PR and a Fractured Foot

I ran the Pengelly Single Dip last year and it reminded me to be grateful to this sport I love so much and for my ability to participate and endure it.  I remember getting to the race and thinking I didn't quite fit in with the other athletes.  It was like when I first started running and felt like an imposter.  But I found my zone and it became my favorite race of 2013.

This year I was excited rather than nervous for the race.  I'd made the route one of my regulars and I knew I could run it strong.

We started off for the base of Mt. Sentinel and slogged up the side of the mountain, already feeling the heat of the day (my nemesis).  I took it slow until I made it down the fire road.  Remember running around as a kid, those times when you just went as fast as you could?  As I came around a turn, I decided to do that.  I just wanted to have fun, so I stopped pacing and ran as fast as I could down the trail.

I passed people, jumped over the dips in the trail, and had a blast.  I let go of all the training and seriousness of trying to maintain X minutes per mile.  I slowed down again once I reached the road, but for those few minutes on the mountain I felt free.

Sam met me at the finish and we watched the Douple Dip finishers and sat in the grass.  I checked my time and saw that I had PRd.  It felt pretty damn good.

Pengelly Single Dip 2014

A little over a week later, I fractured my foot.

I woke up that morning and my foot felt sore, but it felt like the regular soreness of marathon training.  I figured it would fade like the other various kinks do once you start your day.

When Sam and I started, it was drizzling, which was a good thing.  Without having to deal with the heat, the run should have gone mostly smoothly.  A few miles in, I told Sam I was uncomfortable.  I adjusted my stride and tried to take it slow and steady.  It started to rain harder, but I like running in the rain.  My foot still hurt.

At 16 miles in, I had to stop.  I stretched my foot out and tried to put on a brave face.  I told Sam it felt like if I were to take off my shoe and sock, my foot would be black and blue.  But, yes I was fine and yes I wanted to keep going. 

At 17 miles in, I had to stop again.  I'm not a person that cries when I get hurt, I'm more of a suck it up type.  So, I stood there with Sam in the rain and held back tears.  He asked me what I wanted to do and I said that I didn't know, that I wanted to keep going, maybe.  I told him I didn't feel rational.  Could he just decide and I'd do what he said?  He said let's quit and I said two more miles.  Like it would resolve itself in that distance.

So we did two more miles and went home.  When I took off my shoe, my foot was red and swollen.  I couldn't even touch it to the ground, it hurt so bad.  We iced it and I felt stupid, but I cried.

I hoped it was minor and would heal on it's own, but after two weeks of limping around, it didn't.  I went to a specialist, they took x-rays, and told me that it was a stress fracture.  Goodbye first marathon, hello ugly black shoe.

My new nemesis

At the moment, I'm mid-way through the healing process.  I haven't run in almost a month and I'm ready to pull my hair out.  My foot doesn't hurt anymore, but I know it's still healing.  And the fear of re-injuring it worse is enough to keep me out of my running shoes.  Sam and I go on short walks and we kayak and try to stay active, but it's not the same. 

It made me realize something - I'm not, and never was, an imposter.  My race times never mattered.  I woke up before dawn, ate the bagels, and put in the miles just like other runners.  And I miss it.

But watch for the neon shoes, I'll be back soon. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

One Month, Three Races, and Jay-Z

I ran six races last year and by August, I was feeling the burn out.  So, I decided to take it easy this year and register for four, including two I'd never run.  What I didn't realize at the time was that three of the four happened in a one month timespan. 

This year's winter was the hardest I'd been through in the years I've lived in Missoula.  It snowed every single day in February and there was an avalanche in town that took the life of a Missoula resident.  It was a difficult time.

By the time March rolled around, I had been hermiting indoors for weeks.  I nixed Run for the Luck of It that month because I knew I wouldn't run well and that it would just depress me.  Instead, I ran the YMCA Riverbank Run in mid-May.  I wasn't sick (like I was last year), so that was a plus.  I ran it faster than my fastest 5K last year, which meant things were moving in the right direction.

YMCA Riverbank Run 2014

One week later, I ran 11 Miles to Paradise and faced that whole getting lost in the woods issue I have.  I started (after four nervous pees and VERY reluctantly taking off my jacket) in the second wave of runners.  We ran the first mile on a fire road before making a sharp left onto the trail.  This is what I've been waiting for, I thought to myself.

Quinn's Hot Springs, home of 11 Miles to Paradise

The announcer told us before we started, "Stay on the trail.  If you step left, you'll fall down the mountain and into the river.  If you go right, you'll be scrambling up the mountain."  Solid advice.

I ran that race for the enjoyment of it.  I had embarrassing thoughts about bounding around the forest like a deer and being one with nature.  I'd never run a race so happy.  I hiked up steep inclines and hopped over rocks, listened to the river below me and the sound of my own breathing.  It was a kind of solitude I'd never felt in a road race.

And then I heard it...

"We doin', big pimpin', we spendin' G's
Check 'em out now, big pimpin', on B L A D's"

Another racer's motivational music.  Solitude is overrated anyway.

The last turn in the race was under water because of flooding, so I scrambled over and around some rocks to get to the finish line.

I knew, right then and there, that I'd be running this race again.  Jay-Z or no Jay-Z.

11 Miles to Paradise 2014

Next up is the race that made me want to run trail races, the Pengelly Single Dip. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boston Strong - One Year Later

A year ago today, I got a text from Sam that told me two bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon.  I jumped online and spent the rest of my work day (and several days after) in a state of worry and anger.  How dare someone hurt my tribe?  And the bigger question, why?

The answer was simple - to hurt and to cause fear to the biggest group possible.

It made me think about the crowd that marathons, Boston in particular, draw.  I couldn't think of anything else that has this kind of support.  It made me remember that I loved running, and runners, and the countless people that support us.  So, in an effort at positivity, I wrote a blog entry called "For the Love of Running." 

One year later, I made a new list because I do love running and because the people that hurt us don't deserve one more second of our fear.

For the Love of Running, Part Two

1. The spirit.

I went on my first run a few days after Boston and I'd never seen so many people on the trail.  A man approached me in the brightest running tights I'd ever seen.  He nodded just slightly and stuck his hand out for a high five as we passed each other.  I smiled, high fived him, and kept going.

2. Boston Strong - Missoula.

On just a few days notice, Run Wild Missoula and The Runner's Edge coordinated a two and four mile run to benefit One Fund Boston.  I can only speak for myself, but at that time, I wanted to do something and felt helpless.  This run was our chance to do something good and stand united.  Seeing the crowd of supporters from this little town was one of my proudest moments as a runner.

Boston Strong - Missoula

3. The motivation.

I've always thought of the Boston Marathon as something like the Super Bowl.  I'll admit, I'm not the fastest runner.  After last year I thought that I may not ever have the privilege of running Boston, but I can run a marathon.  I'll be running the Missoula Marathon, my first, this summer.

4. The gear.

I need, not want, compression calf sleeves, a watch, a foam roller, new running bras, a couple more shirts, shorts, and tights, Unbreakable: The Western States 100, and as always, more gels.

5. The crazy.

Runners tend to get the same responses from people when we say that we run.  "What about your knees?," and "I hate running, it's so boring," and my favorite, "you're crazy."  Yeah, I wake up before dawn on my day off for a long run and I plan race day meals like I'm going to storm the beach at Normandy.  My toes have bled, I've pulled muscles, I've gotten side stitches that take my breath away, I've cried, and I've pushed until my tank was way past empty. 

In the beginning, runners have to motivate themselves.  In the end, we motivate each other.  We pick each other up when we fall.  And we don't let anything stop us. 

So, one year later, we've lifted each other up.  We're stronger.  And yes, we're still that kind of crazy.

Friday, February 14, 2014

For My Valentine

When you do a lot of races, it's sometimes easy to forget the people around you that are always at the finish line.  They put up with our pre-race anxiety, they listen to us talk about injuries and nutrition, they wake up early with us, and they always cheer us on.  So, this is for Sam who has always been at the start and finish line for me.

It was 4 a.m. the morning of the Big Sur Half Marathon and I was having a small panic attack because I couldn't find Band-Aids anywhere.  Instead of saying something like "that sucks," Sam went out in the pre-dawn coldness and found a place that was open and sold them because they didn't have the right kind at the hotel front desk.

Big Sur Half Marathon

A few minutes before the Pengelly Single Dip, I realized I'd forgotten to put my timing chip on my shoe.  Sam knelt down and fixed it for me, and then again when I didn't think it was right, and then again when I was still afraid it would fall off.

Pengelly Single Dip

After the Run for the Luck of It last year, I was bummed over a disappointing finish time.  Sam took me on a hike and got my mind off it.  He's driven back to race finish areas when I've forgotten to print off my results, and peanut buttered countless bagels.  He's gone to all the expos, events, and film festivals.  He's pinned on my bib, fixed my timing chip, and taken a metric you-know-what-ton of pictures.  And he's always there cheering at the finish, race after race. 

Thanks to Sam, my Valentine and biggest supporter.  Love you to the moon.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Forward Movement

When I started running, I had no base times and no idea what I was doing.  I ran because it was free and I already had the shoes.  I ran for the freedom of it and after disappointing race times in 2013, it may be time to get back to that idea.  So, my running shoes and I are forging ahead into new races and my first full marathon.

First up is Run for the Luck of It, a St. Patrick's Day themed 5K that I've done for the last three years.  You can read about my experience with that here.  It's my primer race for a long few months of spring training.  Also, costumes and free beer.

Run for the Luck of It 2013

Next is a race that's completely new to me, 11 Miles to Paradise.  It runs through Lolo National Forest near Paradise, MT.  It will be my first technical trail run, so I'll be facing that old fear of getting lost head on here.  In a national forest.

In June, assuming I make it out of the woods, I'll be doing the Pengelly Single Dip which I ran for the first time in 2013.  You can read more about that here.  It's my current favorite and the reason why I wanted to give trail racing a try.

Pengelly Single Dip 2013, done!

Last is the Missoula Marathon in July.  What I like best about this race is that I've never done it before.  I have no base time and my only goal is to finish.  The time doesn't matter because whatever it is, it'll be the fastest I've ever run a marathon.

The goal for all these races is to run them with heart.  It's what I learned before I ever completed a race and it's the only lesson that really matters.


To learn more about these and other Missoula races, you can visit my links page up top.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Run Monterey Bay

Sam told me that the Big Sur Half Marathon might have to be an annual thing I do to give us an excuse to come back to Monterey.  I agree.

All the pretty.
We arrived the Friday prior to the race and went straight to In N' Out.  Carb loading, ya know?  Saturday, we walked around the expo and I picked up my bib and shirt.  We took a drive and learned a little secret about the Central Coast of California: it's most beautiful weather is during the fall.  Shh.

We were there in late July and while it was nice, it was definitely foggier and colder.  That Saturday was the kind of weather that makes you want to quit whatever thankless job you have and move there.

Anyway, that evening we stopped at the market for bagels, peanut butter, and juice.  I went to bed early and slept as well as I ever do before race day.

By 4 a.m. I was up and trying to figure out how to cut open my bagel with no knife.  Sam improvised with a stirring straw and our room key.  We would kick ass on Survivor.  Is that still on?

I got ready and we went down the street to the shuttle stop.  I met a nice woman named Maria and we chatted until it was time to get into our corrals.  I made one more pit stop at the porta-potties and then looked around.

"TWO MINUTES!"  The announcer said.

How do I get into my corral?  I thought.  I'd looked at the map of the starting area, but anyone that knows me knows I have the directional sense of a goldfish.  I couldn't see an entrance on my side so I raced to the end of the corrals and around to the other side.  Still no way in.  I got to my fenced off corral and asked a girl who said she didn't know.  Some helpful guy told me to jump the fence.  Because with my luck, I definitely would not fall and I most certainly would not hurt myself.

At this point, I was fully prepared to run along the outside of the fence and hop in at the last minute.  I jogged up to the front of my corral and asked a married couple how to get in.  The man told me to jump the fence.  I was debating the mechanics of that when the woman told me that the fences snap together.  "Here," she said, and unsnapped the fence.  Success!

My adrenaline was going and I was finally in my corral.  The announcer started our countdown and everyone started clapping.  My nerves evaporated.  Oh, that's right, I do this because I enjoy it!

Cannery Row, pre-race
Sam was at Cannery Row when I got there.  He took pictures and ran alongside me for a few yards.  A woman said we were cute.

For the first five miles, I felt great.  I saw the elites coming BACK when I wasn't even quite halfway.  We cheered for them and everyone around me was having a good time.

Somewhere around mile five, the sun came out.  Unfortunately, when I get hot, I wither.  I made it to the turn around, but enough time had passed that the sun was still in my face going the other way.  I ran by sheer will.

Look at the pretty ocean, don't be a baby, be grateful.  Look at all the people cheering!

I'm hot.  I'm hot.  I'm hot.

I had a blister on my left foot and a side stitch which I was able to mostly ignore.  Keep running, I thought, and you'll finish faster!  That was enough to keep me going.  After that, I didn't think of anything else except being done.  But I was supposed to enjoy the scenery, that was what everyone said.

I'll enjoy it later.  In a car.

I crossed the finish line and a little girl gave me a medal.  I couldn't remember what I'd been complaining about because it didn't matter anymore.

Sam was smiling and taking pictures at the finish line.  A photographer took our picture.  Since we were still separated by a fence, we agreed to meet on one of the piers after I went through the food tent and grabbed my things.

While I was waiting on the pier, a couple with their dog came up to me.  She asked me about the race and said that she was a marathoner.  She was funny and friendly and helped me to remember to enjoy the day. She asked me if I'd ever run that race before and I said no, but that it might become an annual destination race.

I learned a lot from this race for next time.  And there will be a next time!  One, there are uphills.  They were rolling, but I hadn't been prepared for that.  Second, bring sunglasses.  Third, enjoy it.  Monterey is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.  Fourth, figure out how to enter a corral.

Last, I want to give a special thank you to all the organizers and volunteers.  This was one of the most well organized races I've ever done.  Thank you to everyone that made it happen!

Here are a few more pictures from the race:

Runners be crazy

The elites rounding the corner at Cannery Row.  The winner, Jacob Chemtai, is at the front in red.

Crossing the finish line.  Actual finish time: 2:34:21.
Me in a nutshell