The madness, excitement, adventure and musings of a runner who can't get enough of it
Monday, March 30, 2009
Getting to the ART of the Matter
A.R.T. is quite possibly the most heavenly experience, in a 'hurts so good, do it again' sort of way. I know a lot of people view it as a bunch of mumbo jumbo still, but hell, I'll eat that mumbo jumbo any day!
Post-LBL 60k, I noticed a fresh new pain in my right knee. Fresh new=effing miserably painful. Bending and straightening my leg became taxing and downright misery, and standing up after sitting for even just a few minutes is grueling. Me being the running injury hypochondriac that I am, I immediately took to the internet to figure out what the hell was going on. I was icing and foam rolling, stretching, and I took a full week off running to recover from LBL. Then, I ran 10 trail miles because I was feeling better. Oops. My knee was lying to me! So, when I got home (after sitting in the car for 45 minutes to get home) and stepped out of the car, I felt the twinge coming back.
Paranoia set in, officially, and so instead of sitting around sulking (too much) and seeing if I could fix it myself, I decided to try something new. I Googled ART and did a search for a practioner in my area. I called straight away and made an appointment for the next day. Gorgeous! Jeremy swears by it, and the Ultra List has been buzzing with it lately, so why not give it a shot.
Okay, let me start by saying that I have a very high tolerance for physical pain. I knew going into it, from others' experiences, that ART is a relatively painful therapy. Bring. It. On. I usually have to tell the massage therapist to squeeze harder or dig in more. So ART sounded right up my alley.
Stepping into the chiropractor's office is akin to stepping into the pearly gates of heaven, or whatever superbly awesome delight you equate with 'heaven'. I'm immediately sold because David Gray is playing on the loudspeaker, followed by Ben Harper, then some Norah Jones. All I needed was a latte and a scone! The receptionist addressed me by name (and this was my first time in the office), and it smelled really nice. Very relaxing and totally Om. So unlike any doctors office I've ever been in. Dr. Dave came into the waiting room and jubilantly introduced himself (yes, jubilantly, that's the only way I can describe his caliber of upbeat excitement). We walked back to an examination room where we chatted very frankly (but almost as if we were chatting about books over coffee) about why I wanted ART. He's very cool and unassuming, and clearly extremely knowledgable and ridiculously intelligent. I felt instantly comfortable.
After about 15 minutes of poking around on my legs and hips, doing some ROM exercises and walking back and forth, checking flexibility and all that good stuff, he sat me down and checked out my Cascadias to see what the wear of the sole was like. He called me an anamoly. My shoes didn't reflect my gait in any way. I have slight pronation on my right foot, but almost none to speak of on my left. My hips are slightly uneven, and I have some pretty obvious muscle imbalance from my quads to my ham's. Oh, and weak adductors (inner thigh), but very strong abductors (outer thigh) to boot. He was immediately able to list out exactly what I was doing incorrectly, what I needed to work on, and what he could do for me. Um, hello! Can we say, it's about freakin' time! We even went over my diet, which he was happy with (although he'd like to have me eating more red meat), and also the vitamins I take each day. I learned that the calcium +D supplement I've been taking is crap. I need a calcium citrate (not carbonate) in order for it to be absorbed (this I was aware of). But I digress!
I got my first official adjustment on my ankles, back and neck. Felt great! It sounded like a tap dance going up and down my spine when he adjusted it. Then he went right into the ART portion of the appointment. The best way I can describe it is a faster (15 minutes tops) super deep tissue massage while moving joints around simultaneously...hence active release technique (ART). It was downright painful, and I can take a lot! I could have used a leather strap to bite down on when he started digging into the soles of my feet. Holy cow, I had no idea I had any fascia tightness in my feet!! Yowza! He futzed around on my hips and quads, and by the end of it, he confirmed my personal diagnoses: PFPS, only he refers to it more specifically as patellafemoral tracking pain. In other words my patella gets off track due to weak adductors not holding up their end of the bargain, and allowing my strong abductors to do double duty, thus pulling my patella laterally (towards the outside of my leg) and causing the pain I'm feeling. Huh, cool. Cool, as in interesting. Dr. Dave gave me an exercise to strengthen the VMO on both legs (the VMO is the section of the quadriceps that sits towards the inside of your leg), and told me to focus more on my medius and flexibility. Apparently, I have "fake flexibility". I can bend down at my hips and touch my nose to my knees without any problem, but when I'm laying down and he pushed my leg towards my face, I could only make it 90 degrees before there was resistance. So, I have to do some serious stretching now. I'm not 17 anymore, that's fo' sho'!
Before he let me go, he taped up my arches as he was concerned about how high my arches are and how unsupportive my footwear is. It felt loose, almost as if it wasn't even there, when he wrapped three layers of tape around my arches, but then he had me stand up and give it whirl. It was like having angels on my arches...arch angels, haha! Ok, that was bad :) It felt great! So I took a picture...
I also learned that my toe rings are indian wedding rings. What? I've been wearing them for 12 years, not takin' them off now! Dr. Dave told me to keep the tape on for 4 days, and he would check the adjustment when he saw me in two days to see how it's holding. When I saw him on Friday at the butt crack of dawn before work, he was so excited because my hips and back held the adjustments, and things felt better. He checked my hips, and he was very happy to find that they had evened out dramatically, and when he did another adjustment on my ankles, it actually worked. He managed to loosen them up enough in my first appointment, so he was able to do more work on them this time. It felt so good. There was a loud pop sound when he yanked my ankles, one at a time, but when it was aligned properly the difference was very evident. Very cool stuff. He told me to go ahead and run (it had been two weeks, and I'd only run once in that time) and see how I felt. Nothing long, just an easy 3 mile jog.
Another appointment this evening with his partner, Dr. Anna, and my knee is singing a different tune. No adjustments tonight, but she did some fancy work on my VMO and lower legs. She showed me a simple "no duh" technique to do each time before I run, and whenever I start to feel the pain creep up...tapping my fingers on the VMO to tell it "wake up, I need to use you for a run!" She did it to the muscle while I sat there and it felt pretty cool. How easy is that! So I'll give that a try on my next run, perhaps later this week.
All in all, I am really pleased with my ART experience thus far. I've already learned a lot in just three visits. I have two more planned and I am SO EXCITED. I heart ART. I wish I could do it everyday :) It's nice to have a doc who just gives it to you straight, no BS, no fluff, just honest to goodness "this is what it is, this is what you need to do to fix it, and this is what I'm going to do to make sure it doesn't happen anymore." Love it. I'll be backing off the squats for awhile (those, combined with my increased mileage of late are what ultimately led to this, but biomechanics certainly haven't been helpful in it all), and working on flexibility training, as well as balancing out my ham's and quad's. I love this stuff!
Taking it easy this week, and next, and then...it's McNaughton time!!
Sidenote: I picked up some J-41 Aquarius' over the weekend as I've had my eye on them for awhile, but didn't want to pay $110 for them, but I found them on sale and snagged 'em. The arch support in these shoes is amazing! It feels so much better than my typical non-running shoes. I also added some Dr. Scholl's gel arch supports for extra oomf and it's great. What a difference proper shoes make. Who'd have thought :)
Sunday, March 22, 2009
My favorite, convenient trail around here is:
Super easy to get to, and it's a perfect central meeting point for me and for running partner Gary. I got there a tad before him and got situated. It was tough deciding whether or not I'd wear my Nathan vest, but in the end I went with it so I could carry my camera. It was in that gray area between slightly chilly and slightly warm so I wore my giraffe Moebens to start...they are so comfortable, and silly enough looking that I'm pretty sure I'm smirking the entire time I have them on. I also decided to trail test the CW-X Ventilator tights I got recently. I thought I'd see if they live up to all the hype (and price!), and who knows, maybe they'll make my knees smile a little more :) Oh, and I of course had on my fav short sleeve 4R's Atayne top on, as well as my Cascadia 4's (heaven on feet). Naturally, I was a little sad they didn't make the 4's in neon green, but I think I enjoy the turquoise just as much :)
The day turned out freakin' gorgeous! I would venture almost so far as to say "a tad on the warm side". Not five minutes into the run I peeled off the Moebens and my Buff and stuffed them in my vest (glad I decided to wear it!). The sun was out, no clouds to speak of and there were people galore! Mostly cyclists (who served only to muck up the gravel trail and turn it into a rutted mess), and birdwatchers, but a few other runners here and there. I just can't believe how beautiful it ended up being. Once we got towards the west-most section of the loop, there's a swampy area. We actually stopped to look around because there was this deafening loud chorus of frog chirping (or whatever it is they're doing) coming from the swamp area. It was so cool! I've never heard anything like that before. It sounded as if there were hundreds of frogs all singing together. Love it. Love spring. Love trails.
Then I remembered I had my camera so I snapped some shots. There's an old un-used (I believe) rail bed that runs along parts of the main loop's perimeter, and on the other side is a pond. My favorite section for some reason...
The abandoned rail...
Friday, March 20, 2009
A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To...
I've noticed a couple of things this week that sort of stuck with me for some reason. For starters, I was walking down Wabash, heading back to the office after a gym session on Tuesday when a woman coming out of a high-rise crossed in front of me carrying a bunch of bulky boxes. She seemed a bit wobbly and looked to be at least twice my age on first glance. Then I looked down at her shoes (I have a thing for shoes, it's usually one of the first things I notice about a person). Good gracious, the woman had on 4 1/2" heels in shocking red patent leather! No wonder she looked like a complete idiot walking. She was taking bird-like steps and sort of clomping down...very unbecoming, and made it glaringly obvious how uncomfortable she was. I looked down at my cute little Keen flats and smiled. Happy feet :)
Not so long ago, I was a high heel touting femme fatale...haha, not exactly, but you'd have been hard pressed to find me not in high heels. Well, other than when I was running. Then, my sports doc had a good old fashioned "sittin' down" with me when I kept showing up at his office with shin complaints. He told me I really needed to reconsider my current footwear, while glancing down at my beautiful deep red stiletto heels on the floor. "But they're so cute!" Yea, well, cute only does you so much good. Naturally, I was stubborn at first, but all Doc needed to do was tell me that I could run into some serious foot/ankle/knee problems down the line that could really put a wrench in my running if I didn't take better care of my lower extremities. FINE. That was about nine months ago. So, as I finally unpacked all my shoes a couple of weekends ago, I tried on each of my former faves and waltzed around the house for a bit. And you know what? My ankles and knees kinda hurt afterwards! Too bad...I have a pair of hot pink patent leather ones I wore once, on a dare (because they're so ridiculous looking), and a pair of ankle-busting black patent sling-backs that I just look longingly at now. *Sigh* The things we do for the love of running :)
Today, I decided I should go to the bank at lunch and deposit some checks I'd forgotten about, then I thought it was so nice to actually see the sun (even though it's fripping cold out) so I walked up Michigan Avenue to a store I haven't been in since this time last year. I've shrunk in the last year, considerably (due to the running), so none of my dress pants fit me and I decided it was high time to get a pair that actually fits. I walked into the store and was immediately assaulted by the door greeter. For the love! I hate that kind of thing. Yes, I get that they want to give the perception of great customer service, but that in-your-face stuff is so obnoxious. I thought I was done with the greeter dude, but no, there was a flamboyant greeter for every square foot of the store, and it has three floors! I'm one of those customers who prefers to be left alone when shopping, and if I need help, I'll ask for it. I really had to work hard at not being rude, and I succeeded, but their antics were almost enough to walk me right out the door. Except that I found the most perfect pair of black pants.
In the dressing room there was a girl shouting (over the already blaring bollywood music, and yapping customers) about some swimwear deal on the second floor. I was in there all of 5 minutes and she must have said the same damn speal 10 times. No joke. The place was bumpin', too. Packed with people shopping, and young kids toting their own Starbucks drinks. Ah, capitalism.
Needless to say, I considered dropping to the ground and kissing it once I got outside. I just don't enjoy shopping the way I used to. I'm more of the online shopper these days, and I so rarely spend money on things that have nothing to do with running :)
When I got back to the office, there were brownies in the kitchen. What a day, a sweet pair of pants and brownies?! Even better, it's an informal Beer Runner event tonight at a bar I haven't been to before in L Square. Should be fun! And a great way to round out my recovery week. Beer. Sunday I plan to hit the trail for a slow easy one.
ORN: I've been icing my right knee like a madwoman, and have been working on the suggested strengthening exercises for PFPS. Good ol' runner's knee. No hills this weekend, and I've been walking sideways down stairs to avoid aggravating it further. The achilles is much better now, too. I think I'm too the point in my mileage that I need to pay better attention to that area and be more diligent about my stretching of it. Done and done. Oh, and I've been absolutely ravenous this week. My keyboard has begun to look appetizing. I keep having to remind myself that I had a pretty long run last weekend at LBL :) A prelude to what's to come post-McNaughton!
I've been scouring race postings for a trail marathon for this year. It's one of my goals for the year and it's tough deciding on which one. It also depends a lot on what other races I sign up for. Everything is contingent on everything else. Decisions, decisions.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Ultra Mud Wrestling
I distinctly recall Mike mentioning this race to me way back in September when I was contemplating entering into the realm of longer distances. Of course, I scoffed at the idea of traveling "all the way down to Kentucky" for a half marathon. *Sigh* Little did I know it would become my third in the ultra distance :) The 60k became my next goal, and was exactly four weeks after Louisville, and three to four weeks prior to McNaughton Park 50M. Gorgeous. I packed up my running suitcase, made sure I had my AAA with me (!), some tunes for the road and then set out on the longest solo roadtrip I've ever done.
So I took a picture of it :) Naturally. I made it in 7.5 hours, and I only stopped twice the whole time. A miracle considering I'm a gal and I have a teeny weeny bladder, lol. I checked into the lovely Kentucky Barkley Lakes Inn just off Hwy. 24, and a mere 3 miles from the start line. Since I had 3 hours to burn until dinner, I took a nap, walked some laps around the hotel grounds, made some decaf, watched some TV, took another nap, then decided I should use my time a little wiser and get everything ready for the morning.
Since I was making record time getting ready, and still had an hour until dinner, I made my way into town to pick up my packet and check out the area.
Dinner was delicious! I had such a great time getting to know the Yarger duo and their running adventures, and along with Meg they all had a number of very cool stories and tons of ultra experience. I was in heaven! Norm has got to be one of the sweetest and most adorably funny guys I've met in my adventures thus far. Thanks for hangin' with a newbie, Norm! After dinner, I headed back to the hotel, double-checked my stuff and then hit the hay. Start time was going to be 7:00a.m.
I slept great! Grabbed a bowl of oatmeal, a biscuit, banana, and some decaf from the hotel lobby, and then headed out. Somehow I managed to drag ass in all this (not sure where I did that), and when I hopped up on the Community Center steps to drop off my drop bag, I only had two minutes until start. Whoa! No potty break for me, and I didn't even have any water in my handheld yet! It was raining, as it had been since late the night before. It was one of those annoying heavy drizzle rains, but thankfully not a downpour. It was a tad chilly, but I knew it wouldn't be all that bad once we got moving. I decided to wear shorts this time since I figured the mud might be an issue and I didn't want muddy wet tights suctioning on my legs all day. I am so glad I went with the shorts :) I also had a hat on to keep the rain off my glasses, this came in super handy.
I ran into Ed at the start, and recognized a few other peeps, but everyone was pretty much in their zone, so I kept to myself and instead agonized over my need to pee really badly, and that I had an empty water bottle. "3-2-1 (BANG!) GO!" The first 1.75 miles were on paved road, leading up to the trailhead. I went out fast with the front of the pack, but it felt pretty good. One guy caught up to me and said hello, and asked how I was doing. I didn't look at him at first because I was concentrating on my feet, but as he kept talking I looked over and recognized him as my rabbit from LLTH. Ha, duh, that's why he was talking to me like he knew me :) I told him I had no water and he said the main aid station is at the trailhead and the water is probably set up already. It was! So I said good luck as he went on and I stopped to fill up my handheld.
As expected, the trail was muddy, only to get muddier as the day went on and as almost 400 pairs of feet pounded it for 1-2-3-4 loops. It was going to get interesting! The first loop wasn't as congested as I thought it might be, but maybe that's because I kept to the front at first. An older man dressed (literally) in a body-length garbage bag caught up to me. I recognized the LLTH Buff he had on as he passed by on a downhill section. When we got to an uphill, he began walking and I zipped by him. About halfway around the first loop (11.3 miles/loop) he caught me again and then stayed with me up to the North Welcome Station AS. He complimented me on my form and kept saying I was doing so great on uphill sections (which, to be honest, were nothing compared to LLTH or Stone Steps...mere bumps). He asked me for my "secret", and I said, "training on flat pavement!" He thought that was funny. We swapped running stories for a short bit, then he thanked me for forcing him to pick up the pace so that we could chat and then said he needed a breather. He was running the marathon distance so I knew I wouldn't see him again, so I said goodbye and headed on my way. Sweet old feller, I tell ya!
So basically, the first two loops (of three, for the 60k) went by in a flash. I ran a lot more than I anticipated and felt pretty good. I had a few flashes of really bad stomach pains after eating a bean and cheese burrito at an aid station...yea, won't do that again. So I stuck to my Nuun and three Clif Shot Bloks/hour, and twice I had a Gu instead of the Bloks. I also had some peanut M&M's and peanut butter pretzels since I knew I could handle those just fine. I had thrown a pack of cola flavored Bloks in my vest, and decided to give them a try on my second loop. I usually only have the cran razz Bloks, but I went out on a limb and gave the cola flavor a shot. BAD IDEA. If there's one thing to remember in distance racing nutrition, it's that consistency is key. Truly, don't try something new on race day. The cola flavor was awful. I took one and thought, "hmm, that tasted funny, maybe I need a drink." So I gulped some Nuun, and tossed another Blok in my mouth. "Hmmm, it still tastes like throw-up." Now, I had put just enough Bloks in to cover me for 8 hours, so I couldn't just toss something based on flavor. I needed the electrolytes, bad! So I put the third one in my mouth, the second one was still only half chewed in my mouth and I held them in there like a two-year old holds their vegetables in their mouth because they're too grossed out to swallow them. Ugh! I wanted to spit them out, but couldn't in my right mind waste them. So I used the old "no taste" technique and held my nose as I choked them down. Blech! I let the guy behind me know how awful they were as he was there through the whole ordeal. He laughed and agreed, said he did the same thing when he tried that flavor.
Anywho! I digress. I zipped through those first two loops, a few stomach probs here and there, but nothing that would stop me. I had some trouble letting myself relax into the race, but I'm thinking it was mostly because of the weather. I knew I needed to walk more, so I told myself my third loop would be my lolly-gagging loop, and then I'd take some pictures. I checked my GPS at the 50k mark, and I did a blazing (for me) 50k split of 6:28...whoa! I wasn't expecting that. That gave me the mental boost that I needed for the final loop. In this race, I learned why it is that loop courses tend to have such high drop rates. Wow, it was realllllllly tempting to just take a right at the main AS, at the trailhead, and just head for the car, especially since the course was so horrifically muddy and I was starting to feel every single muscle ache and scream at me. But, luckily, I was really good and never hung around any of the aid stations, especially the main one. I filled up water and that was about it.
On the final loop, I pulled my camera out and snapped a few pics. I knew there wasn't going to be a way for me to put into words how muddy it was, so I needed to document it. Here's a pic of the trail...
And, of course a pic of my shoes which are actually neon green but you can't tell that here...they match the mud!
I was starting to get a little anxious as I was over 25 miles into the race and I still hadn't fallen, but I did run into a briar that cut my left knee up a bit when I went to pass someone on the narrow trail. I was wondering when the ball was going to drop. There were so many muddy bodies throughout the day, people who had bitten it early on and were just caked in the stuff. And this was no ordinary, whatevs mud. This was some hardcore, clay mixture that when wet turned a funky orange/yellow/mud color and it was THICK. We're talking shoe-sucking! The sound of my feet squishing in the stuff cracked me up and I caught myself laughing outloud at it more than once :) There were a couple of close calls, but not enough that I lost count: I stubbed my toe three times (thank goodness for toe guards!), and rolled each ankle once, but even those weren't bad because I didn't even cuss :)
At about mile 28, I began to notice aching in my arches that was beginning to feel more painful than achy, so I switched up my gait a little. Then, I got that old sensation back...my right shin was dropping in to say, "Hi!" How nice. So I reduced movement to a brisk walk. Wow, that felt great! I guess I'll take some more pictures...
A Marine-looking dude who I had been going back and forth with on the trail most of the day, along with two chicks in tow, came by at this point and he said hey and asked if I was okay. I said I was just going to lolly-gag for a bit and shake out the legs...I didn't want my wheels coming off so close to the end of a race :)
At about mile 32, I saw Marine-looking dude up ahead and he was walking, looking pretty beat. I slowed up as I came upon and asked him how he was doing, he said, "My wheels came off at mile 29. I have nothin' left!" I said I didn't want to say I told you so and he just laughed at me and said, "Ponytail, I'll see ya at the finish!" And I took off, feeling really good again. Ponytail is what people started calling me throughout the day. It was actually pretty amusing.
Cara, that I ran with for awhile at LLTH, caught up to me towards the end and we chatted for a bit and finally introduced ourselves (I never did get her name at LLTH). Tanya also caught me somewhere near the end, so that was cool to finally meet her in person! I thought she was Juli at first. Tanya was truckin' along and she shot up ahead of me. What a trooper! When I finally reached the main aid station and was steered to the right to head towards the finish line, I wanted to drop to the pavement and kiss it. Only 1.75 miles left to go!! Since my drop bag was still there, and I didn't want to worry about finding it later, I went ahead and grabbed it and threw it on my back. I thanked the volunteers and then hit the road. This final section was all pavement and a lot of it was uphill which my legs hated at this point. I was so tired, every muscle in me ached, and my piriformis (of all things) was screaming at me to stop, but I didn't. I was so happy to be almost done that I took a pic...it even hurt to smile, lol...
I saw one dude up ahead of me, well way ahead of me, and I knew there was no way I was going to catch up to, let alone pass him. So I thought this was funny and quite apropos...
Of course, literally, as soon as I snapped this picture, a guy came out of nowhere and passed me. I shouted, "Hey, this is a No Passing Zone!" He turned back to me, laughing, and said he just couldn't resist passing when he saw I took a picture of the sign. Good stuff. I approached the J.H. O'Bryan street sign and saw a volunteer up ahead directing me to turn. And then I could see the FINISH LINE!! I was going to finish, f'real! About 20 yards to the line and someone comes up alongside me and I recognized him...he had been ahead of me most of the race and I didn't even remember passing him. He said he couldn't let "ponytail" beat him, but that he wanted to cross the line with me. So we finished together at exactly 7h:30m! Woohoo! The volunteers at the finish said I didn't look like I had been running in mud all day, "she doesn't even have anything on her hamstrings! And she's got pearls on!" Of course I do, it's pretty much my thing :)
I hobbled to the car to toss my stuff in and before I went to get some hot post-race grub, I snapped a pic of my feet. I guess they don't look that bad here...
I holed up in the Community Center with other finishers, inhaling some absolutely divine veggie lasagna, chili, brownies, soup, fruit salad, and everything else I could fit in my stomach. I wanted to see if I could catch Norm or Ed but after an hour or so I started getting those post-race shivers so I decided I needed to get cleaned up and into some clean, dry clothing. I went back to the Inn and luckily they had rooms left so I had no problem getting another night. Phew! There was just no way I was going to drive 8 hours at this point (in the rain, tired, sore, tired, hungry, sore...). When I finally peeled off my shoes and socks (which were so corroded and crusty that I tossed them in a plastic bag to deal with later) you could really see how muddy it was!
I looks like I have running tights on...made of mud! Gross, that's so unbecoming... Yes, my feet really are that white; this pic was taken without flash :)
So all in all, a freakin' fabulous race! Steve Durbin and company put on a great event and I have every intention of returning. The trails were challenging with all the rain and mud, but that just served to make it even more fun and exhilarating in a very youthful "playing in the mud" kind of way. Plus, all the ultrarunners got a sweet belt buckle for their achievement. It's some serious hardware, too. And you know what I'm most psyched about through all this? I never fell! Not once! This was my first ultra without one of my signature spills. I almost felt...dare I say...that I missed it? I thought, what am I going to report back to Mike...that I had a good race? *Gasp!*
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Two for One Deal
I was sitting at my desk, typing out a document while simultaneously trying to figure out how to squeeze in my 6-miler today, be able to enjoy the glorious weather, and get home at a reasonable hour. The only way: run outside at lunch...no treadmilling today. I gave myself an extra 15 minutes I usually don't get when I go to the gym, and just changed at work and took off from my building. Since I forgot my Garmin, I mapped out my run ahead of time. I would run the mile up from my building to the lakefront path, and then head north until Fullerton, my turnaround. It was slightly more than planned...7.02 to be exact. It was glorious outside!!
Okay, so it wasn't this gorgeous, but it sure felt like it :)
It looked more like this today:
Heading back south towards the Loop, the wind picked up (as it always does on the way to home base). I was actually hot! I wore shorts, a long sleeve shirt with my Atayne 4R's short sleeve top, a light jacket and my new Headsweats hat (which may be elevated to my grouping of Most Favorite Running Gear). After the first mile, I tied my jacket around my waist, and hiked up my long sleeves. The sun felt amazing on my skin. My legs were so happy to see the sun. I rival copier paper for whiteness, and I got so much wonderful vitamin D from the ball o' light that my skin looked splotchy when I got back (almost like I got...gasp...color!).
This was no character building run, it was a fun go-outside-smell-the-roses-and-forget-everything-else run. I'm so glad I went out at lunch, because now it's cloudy and threatening to rain :)
Dialing It In
**Sidenote: the run last night was amazing! We have a three-mile loop everyone runs together, more or less, and then a two-mile loop for us over-achievers to add on for five. Gary was the only other hearty soul in the group last night, so we just ran the three-mile loop once more for six. The first three were at a great clip...easily nearing sub-8's...and I felt incredible. I took two days off after my double this past weekend, and it paid off. The weather was perfect, in the upper 40's, and hardly any wind to speak of.**
I can distinctly recall my very first 5-miler. It was the Nike Run Hit Wonder 5-miler downtown, in August 2006. Up until that point, I had never ventured beyond the 5k. My friend Dave (a seasoned marathoner), his girlfriend and I ventured down to Grant Park on a super-hot and glorious summer evening for the run. I remember not being entirely intimidated by it, but I also remember feeling like five miles was an almost unthinkable distance for one to run. It wound up being the single most exciting short distance race I've run (even though it was sponsored by Nike...). Strobe lights, bands every mile, disco lights and a smoke machine in the McCormick Place tunnel. Plus I got my first ever finisher's medal. I felt great afterwards, but the next day, I was a useless piece of motionless flesh. I could barely move. Ha! However, in the aftermath, I had this feeling of having overcome this insurmountable obstacle...I was now a 5-mile runner!
In retrospect, I find it pretty amusing, but totally rewarding. It was the beginning of a trend of breaking through barriers and just going for it. Oddly enough, when I was at the Nike Human Race 10k this past August, 2008, doing a marketing stunt for Atayne, I was standing at the back of the pack trying to get to the other side of the street and I ran into Dave. I hadn't seen him since a little after that first 5-miler when life just got in the way. Funny that we ran into each other at the "sister" version of that one race. But, I digress.
I have a friend from high school who has asked me about helping her get into a running 'routine', so perhaps she will be my non-runner-turned-runner for the year :)
It's so strange looking back at my running "career". I just kind of jumped in head first in the last 10 months or so. I was going to hang out in the 10k for a while, and then had hopes to finish a half marthon before 2008 was up. A marathon, however, was completely out of the question. Oh, if I only knew! Of course, then I met Mike and we just kind of fed off each other with distance and now I'm just stuck; I love long distance. It doesn't feel like I'm just 'dialing it in' when I run long. I feel accomplished, and tired (and generally bruised because I kind of have a thing for falling when I run).
Dialing it in...
That brings me to another slightly less related thought. As in, not running-related. Ever feel like you're just kinda dialing it in day-to-day? I know I'm not alone :) In an effort to step gingerly out of the vicious cycle, I sold my condo and moved out to the suburbs, GASP! I know, I know. I only owned it for a year, so I'm sure I'll take some sort of slap on the wrist in the form of taxes next year, but at least now I'm free. I'm just glad I am concious enough to see things for what they are and to not be one of those people who sits back and just waits for stuff to happen. I like to make it happen. So I'm living for much cheaper now so that I can save up for phase two. Haha, that sounds so corny, "phase"... In any event, I do have a purpose for making such a drastic decision and essentially committing social suicide. It's been a week since I moved, and so far so good. However, that will have to wait for explaining :)
Prior to the discussion about getting over the 5-mile hurdle, I voiced my worry about taking this leap as I'm not getting the kind of support I need right now. I am, typically, an eternal optimist, but it's hard when everyone around you is a friggin' negative nelly! Hello, shit happens, we'll get through all this economy/unemployment/mortgage mess. Everything can't be perfect all the time; we have to go through these tough times every so often. It's a part of the cycle of being a member of a high-consumption/greedy society. But, again, I digress. I need some positive reinforcement! And, thank goodness, I got it last night. The speech I got was basically that if I wait another 3, 4, 5 years to do what I want to do, perhaps I won't have time anymore and then I'll look back and think, "why didn't I do it back in my 20's when I had nothing holding me back?" Who knows where I'll be in 3-5 years and who knows if I'll ever have another chance. It's scary though, really scary, but in a good way. Good talk, good talk :)
The winds of change these days are more like hurricane force winds, rather than a leisurely breeze on a tropical beach. And nothing changes one at a time, it's always in big clumps. I hate clumps. But, I am dealing with the clumps because I have to.
Today, I plan to do another six miles, outside hopefully since it's already in the mid-50's! It's T minus 9 days until LBL 60k and I am so ready to get out of town.
Monday, March 2, 2009
So basically, I had my first ever "double" planned for this past weekend. My only double planned for my current training. I am now very glad for that. Honestly, my body hates me; it's not really made for recurrent torture. Then again, it wasn't all that bad...but still.
Let's see, I needed to drive into the city on Saturday to return my cable box and internet modem to the cable company, so I decided I'd hit the lakefront path for my long run. I parked along Montrose, outside my old condo (which I miss so much now), and ran what has become my "routine" 12-mile route: down the path to Navy Pier, refill water bottle, use the facilities, stretch, eat 3 Shot Bloks, and then turn around and head back north. It wasn't horrid, as I've run in far less ideal conditions, but my goodness my body did not want to deal with the cold this day! On Friday, the City blocked off the path from Grand (pretty much Navy Pier) up to North Ave. because of high waves crashing on the path, which then froze over to a nice sheet of solid ice the entire stretch. When I got the e-mail about it, I thought it was fake for some reason, so I didn't change my plan...until I got to North Avenue and a Park District fella yelled at me to stop and use Inner Drive the rest of the way. Ugh, fiiiiiiiiiiine. Inner Drive (of Lake Shore Drive) is one ginormous wind tunnel, just in case you've never had the pleasure of running down it. It blows...ha! literally. So I rerouted and ended up tacking on an extra 3/10 of a mile, no biggie, but the wind, oh my God! It was unreal! Navy Pier was a beacon of hope and life; I think it had a halo over it on this day. I was that happy to reach it.
After a quick 2-minute stop at the Pier, I headed back. As soon as I stopped I began sweating, which is no fun at all in this weather. I knew I was kind of in for it now. Heading back north, the wind is unrelenting, much worse than heading south for some reason. My hands began to go numb around mile 8 or 9 and I kept switching my bottle between hands so that I could wiggle my fingers and get some blood flowing into them. It got to be incredibly uncomfortable and I really regretted not opting for the second pair of gloves. Once back on the path, I had the sun on my left side which felt amazing, but still not enough to thaw anything out. Other than my hands and face, everything felt pretty good and I was still chugging along. I had only planned on doing 10, but since I really needed the warming station that is Navy Pier I opted for 12. When I got back to my car, I was so cold and my hands so frozen that I couldn't even turn the key in the lock of my trunk to get my bag out. I had to use the lever up front to pop it. I had to look at my hands to make them move, no joke! I changed into dry clothes and had the heat blasting on me for an hour on the drive home and I was still shivering and my fingers were painful. Obviously, not good stuff. But when I got home I was fine. So fine, I went and ate two racks of ribs with my mom and Richard! Yum!!
Lesson learned: wear two pair of gloves when the temp drops below 20 degrees.
Round two: Sunday I met Gary from my running group at Waterfall Glen to do what we had planned on being 14-16 miles, but towards the end of the first loop, we amended that to 10 :) Here's why. It was flipping cold!!
The trail is great: crushed gravel, rolling, more or less deserted at this time of year, and wide open sky. Beautiful. However, it was flipping cold! I was a tad off from my run the day before, but Gary was fresh. We took off and immediately encountered the first of many stretches that were pure solid ice. Hmmm, I should have heeded my own intuition and stuck to the grass on the sides. But I made it through the first few icy patches just fine. Then around mile 4-ish, I was chugging along when suddenly I lost it, BAM! I was down for the count! I fell square on my right knee, then slipped backwards onto my left elbow and was laid out completely. My head banged the ice too, and actually bounced, which really freaked Gary out. I sat up and instantly felt like I just got my ass kicked. Everything hurt. But I was laughing because I know it looked hilarious! I scooted over to the grass so I could get my footing and stand back up. Then we were off again. I knew there was going to be a melon-sized bruise on my knee for sure. I said to let me know if I start slurring or not making any sense (more than usual!) because that could mean some serious stuff. Luckily, all was well.
At about the halfway point we encountered a sign that said something about flooding up ahead, but naturally ignored it. Well, the trail was flooded up ahead. Ha! We approached it slowly and immediately shot up the banks to the railroad tracks alongside the flooded section and ran on the ties until we cleared the area...it was so Stand By Me! I was beginning to feel the effects of my nasty spill and everything was pretty achy, so when we got to just about mile 8 it didn't shock me that I bit it again. This time, I had halted completely and was gingerly negotiating an icy spot to get to the grass and I just went straight down, this time on my right side, but at least I avoided hitting my head again. I sat there, this time not laughing, and huffed and puffed quite a bit. Gary was checking for blood. I smacked the ground like a two-year old and shouted inappropriately. I was pissed! It hurt so much, and now I banged up both knees. Once I finally got up, it was slow going from there. We decided to cut it at 10 miles and call it a day. I probably could have made it another 4-6, but I knew it wouldn't have been a good idea.
My first non-race 22-mile weekend ever! Afterwards, I stopped off in Naperville to check out the prized Naperville Running Company. They always win awards for stuff, so I wanted to see what all the hype was, and I needed to fill up on more Gu, Nuun and Shot Bloks. Really nice people, great selection, but it didn't feel all that different from a Fleet Feet. They had all the stuff I wanted, but none of the flavors, ugh. That meant I needed to be 'open-minded' and try new flavors. Ah well.
Back home, I wrapped four ice packs around my shins and knees, popped some Advil, and continued unpacking. Today, I feel alright, but know that I should take the next couple of days off. My shins feel odd, much in the way they do after a long race. I know I probably won't do another double again for awhile, but I'm glad I tried it out. Even if it was relatively low mileage for a double, it still got the job done. And I built some serious character. Gotta toughen up for the really hard stuff! After weather like this weekend, I may be breaking out the shorts once we hit the 30's!
Lesson(s) learned: Don't run on thick sheets of ice. Two pair of gloves makes all the difference. Monster Trail Mix from Target saves lives. The toliet seats of outhouses, even in sub-20 degree weather, are surprisingly warm. My shins hate doubles.
Recovery the next couple of days/short taper for LBL 60k. Even though I'm a low-mileage-training runner, I still enjoy a good taper :) I might try for a good 12-miler on a trail down in Bloomington this coming weekend, before celebrating my sister's birthday.