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Showing posts from 2011

Diversifying

In an effort to allow my persistent running injuries to heal but not abandon training altogether, I've taken on a couple of new endeavors. The one most outside of my comfort zone is Tampa CrossBoot. This is a type of training that, to quote the website, "embodies the camaraderie and team effort of fitness bootcamps and the strength and conditioning concepts of CrossFit." But since that doesn't tell you much if you're already unfamiliar with those two types of training, here are some highlights from my first class:
I forgot how to jump rope. I paid for this memory lapse with 20 burpees (the penalty for each mess-up was 5 burpees. You do the math). I've since bought a jumprope so I can practice.Mountain-climbers are not meant for Floridians.I kind of liked getting dirty. All of our exercises were done outside at a local park. It felt good to not fear the dirt.I couldn't do everything (or all reps), and that was okay. People really did work at their own pace,…

On Not Training

This morning, as I see the Tough Mudder finishing posts by friends on Facebook, I feel a tinge of guilt and a shred of shame for not having gone through with the race myself. I signed up for the race, and dragged two girlfriends in with me, on the high of another, much smaller, less intense obstacle race that I'd finished many months back. I knew at the time that I'd be running the Chicago Marathon and then the St. Pete Women's Half Marathon in the two months prior to the Tough Mudder event, but I hadn't anticipated feeling as weary and broken down as I did after the initial two races. I've never not run a race I signed up for (except in the case of an inhibiting injury), but the mere thought of struggling across monkey bars, swimming through cold mud-water, and subjecting myself to electrocution--all in the name of fun, mind you--made me feel anything but tough. And if my head wasn't in it, there'd be little hope of convincing my body through it. So I bail…

Race Report: Women's Half Marathon

This past Sunday, I ran for the third consecutive year in the Women's Running Magazine Women's Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Women's Half is the first half-marathon I ever ran, so it is a somewhat sentimental race for me. In the past two years, I'd trained exclusively for this race in the months leading up to it. This year, however, I had trained mainly for the Chicago Marathon, which occurred about six weeks prior to this race. So those six weeks were not terribly focused or dedicated training weeks; they were more like let's-see-what-I-can-pull-out-of-this-body-before-the-race weeks. I did manage to pull out some long runs, and I even improved my pace since the marathon. But having only given my body one week of rest directly after the marathon, I still had some lingering wear and tear that hadn't yet healed. I conversed with a runner-friend about this, and that conversation led me to think that pain is just a fact of running. Something is alw…

Race Report: WHOS Run for 11-11-11

When one of the founders of the nonprofit Women Helping Others Succeed (WHOS) came to the Four Green Fields Running Club a couple of weeks ago to announce their upcoming 5k race, my interest was immediately piqued. Aside from being sponsored by a women's charitable organization, the race proceeds would benefit athletes with certain limitations who needed special equipment to participate in races and the like. I thought it was a fitting event for Veterans Day, which I never really know how to honor, as many of these athletes were no doubt veterans who had lost limbs or mobility as a result of combat. As an added bonus, the race was to be held in Hyde Park Village, just blocks from where I live.

I hadn't run a 5k race since May, and at that race I'd finished with a personal record (PR) of 27 minutes. That was quite an exciting accomplishment for me, as shorter races (read: fast races) were not my forte. All of my training since then had been for distance races, so I'd ha…

New Kicks

I did a daring things last week: I switched running shoe brands. I've worn and sworn by Asics since I began seriously running three years ago (which means for me that I've run down three pairs). But something about my last Asics experience didn't sit right with me. Perhaps it was all of the problems I had during marathon training. Or perhaps it was the inserts I used to help one such problem. Or perhaps it was my fault for believing that a more expensive shoe would lead to a better experience. The shoes I bought at the start of training were an upgrade from what I had successfully worn twice before; the kid at the running store did what he was supposed to do--try to upsell--and it worked. (I'm admittedly a sucker for marketing and sales tactics.) But regardless of where the blame lay, my rosy view of Asics was tarnished.

So when I went to my local running store a couple weeks after the marathon--a finishing treat I'd goaded myself with throughout training--I stood …

Back to the (Power) Yoga Mat

Yesterday I did something I hadn't done in many, many months: power yoga. I was once a regular of these classes, but I'd made a decision prior to my marathon training to keep only one yoga class per week, and that was my ashtanga yoga class. While ashtanga is essentially a power practice, it is a set series of poses, and it incorporates more flexibility (much to my liking) than most power classes do.

Since completing my marathon, I've been thinking of ways to improve my training regimen. The last plan got me through, but I feel like it barely got me through. I knew all along that I was not doing enough strength training, but I was so focused on making my running goals that all else fell by the wayside. In retrospect, I think many of my injuries and near injuries could have been prevented or helped if I had just done the dang strength training. Also, in my 20/20 hindsight, I realized that my injuries--while never severe--were all from repetitive movements that created stres…

Reflections on My First Marathon

I've been waiting for my feelings to settle before posting, as they seem to be changing each day that passes after the marathon. But I don't want to wait so long that I forget the important things. (The fact that I'm not concise enough to make a top-ten list is bothersome to me, too, but all eleven points felt important enough to include).

Above all, I am proud of myself. I set a goal--a very challenging one--and I met it.I didn't get injured. While I was hurting in many and varied ways throughout the process, I remained intact and stayed healthy until the very end.It was difficult. As much as I'd hoped I would feel happy and relaxed during the marathon, I didn't. It was a grueling race, and I struggled through most miles.I could have pushed harder. This is a tough thing to admit. I did take some walk breaks when pain/stiffness/nausea felt unbearable, and in retrospect, I think I could have pushed past that. I abused the aid stations. I know this. The race cours…

Going to Chicago

I'm en route to Chicago, floating among the puffs of clouds and just a hand reach away from the bright, burning sun. Other runners are on my flight. I know this by their promotional garb, worn proudly, and I realize that I forgot my own t-shirt that my mom and her sisters sent me as a gift of support and encouragement. I kick myself for forgetting the shirt, but I'm soon reminded of the many different people in my life who helped get me here.

There is my running group, who by their mere presence and their own achievements have encouraged and enhanced my training for the past several months; my family, who has offered support and comfort in uncountable ways throughout this process; my coworkers, who have cheered me on for each weekend's long run and cared enough to inquire about my progress along the way; and my friends, who have at times trained with me, commiserated with me, and offered their hospitality during my stay in the Windy City. While I'm going to this race …

Drained

Of energy, of will, of belief . . . you name it, and it's been drained from me. I thought these last two weeks before the marathon would be a breeze. Instead, I've either bailed on or walked through several runs, having felt like my body was revolting against me, unwilling to push forward in the most defiant manner. This makes me concerned. If I can't get through five miles, how will I get through twenty-six? I began thinking that it might not happen--I might have to pull out of the race. I imagined myself getting all the way to Chicago, standing in line among thousands of runners on race morning, only to find that my body would quit on me a couple of miles in. What then? Would I duck out in shame, try to continue on, walking? This isn't a walking race. Everyone would be disappointed. I've made a huge deal about it. For months. I made sure everyone I cared about knew I was doing this. And they'd be expecting great things of me--great things I wouldn't be ab…

Chicago Marathon Training -- Part 2: Survival

That's the best way I can describe my current training status for this marathon. I've survived it, or at least most of it. What remains is a roughly two-week tapering down program in which I run shorter distances and rest my body for the big race day.

These past few months were not without several injuries (which were mostly minor, but felt on the verge of becoming major), nor were they without days of utter doubt--physical, mental, and emotional. At different times the sun beat me down, exhaustion got the best of me, and pain overtook my body. But what prevailed throughout this most rigorous challenge I've ever willingly undertaken was an almost overwhelming desire to achieve something big in my life. All around me people were getting married, having babies, and--well, mostly having babies. So I made this experience my baby. I took great care in planning it, I nurtured it, and I tried to be patient with it in difficult times.  Perhaps that's as far as I can reasonably…

Life's a Beach

At least, it was this morning for about two hours. I decided I needed to take some restorative time out for me. I've worked hard all summer with training, work, and school, and I always lament the fact that I live so close to the beach and rarely visit it. What I actually wanted to do was get up before dawn and arrive at the beach in time for the sun to rise. My Saturday morning pre-dawn run inspired the idea. I had reached my halfway point--right about when the sun was peaking above the horizon--and headed back toward home. Now that I have my Garmin watch, I don't carry my phone with me, so if I see something particularly photo-worthy, I can't take a picture. I was bothered by this on my run as I saw a vibrant rainbow shooting out from behind some condos and disappearing into the clouds. I thought, one morning I should just wake up early and come out to Bayshore with my camera. And then I took it further and decided the beach would be even more picturesque. And then, my f…

The Big 2-0

I did it. For the second time in my life, I completed a 20-mile run. Not only does this number mark the height of many marathon training schedules, but for me it is also significant in that I've been here once before, and I broke down. My body suddenly decided it had been pushed too much and would not finish the training or run the marathon. So here I am in my post-20-miler week, hoping to make it through. After all, it was on an "easy" five-mile run that my injury occurred. And it was on a Thursday--tomorrow. I am admittedly somewhat superstitious, so my real feat will be getting past tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day--until I actually make it to Chicago on race day. In fact, I was talking to a run-club friend last night, who is also running Chicago, about our sudden fear of incurring a non-running injury in our daily lives--falling down some stairs, tripping on curb, or some other injury of klutz--that would prohibit us from making it to race day. I suddenly…

Rebel with a Cause?

That was me, last weekend. Or perhaps more accurately, that was my body, rebelling against my will. After coming off of a--dare I say--good 18-miler in the previous weekend, I had only to complete a 12-mile long run. I did my normal Friday night prepping and set four alarms for early Saturday morning. When those alarms went off, I heard them, but I chose to ignore them. I can't tell you what I thought in that moment, except that I wanted to sleep more than I wanted to run. But it's never about wanting to run for me; it's about having the strength and will to do something important for myself. So the fact that I ignored all four alarms that morning was, frankly, alarming to me. But I carried on with my Saturday with a plan to do the run in the evening.

I set out at about 7:45pm, when the sun was nearly set, and I began my journey. I was feeling fine until about 1.5 miles in, when the humidity started to get to me, and my legs started hurting. I had experienced this before--…

Breaking Me Down

It's 2:30am. I cannot sleep. I cannot sleep because I decided to do my long run at 8:00pm, which, after all of the several-minute water breaks were factored in, turned into a nearly 3.5-hour run. Two things that I always thought should happen after a long run but still never do: I get hungry, I get tired.

I look at the calorie burn on my RunKeeper app, and I see that I've burned 1,709 calories. That's some people's daily intake of calories. This makes me think I should be hungry. Yet, I'm not. My stomach feels so tight and full from water that food is actually repulsive immediately after a long run. But I eat anyway, for recovery purposes. Tonight I had half of Greek yogurt cup (protein), half of a banana (potassium, carbs), and a large bowl of cereal (just because I love cereal, and I thought it might be good; it was, until my stomach hurt afterward). But I'll rectify this matter by making up the deficiency tomorrow. In case you were worried.

But what's wo…

A Perfect Stranger

Friday night I went on a 12-mile training run along Bayshore Boulevard. I had made it through the toughest part--the halfway turnaround--and I was about three-quarters done with the run when some instinctive calling told me to stop and turn around, observe the sky. It was about 8:20 p.m., and an earlier storm had left behind a sky of cloud that veiled the intensity of the summer sun. And even though the sun does not set over this particular bay, the Hillsborough Bay (the shore of which faces east), the muted sun did a couple of magical things that I had to stop and take pictures of.

The first thing it did was cast a golden gleam onto the buildings of downtown Tampa. From the distance at which I stood, the buildings were not so recognizable that they were familiar; instead, the golden speckles made the downtown area look to me like a gilded city, another place entirely.


Still smiling from this encounter, I continued on my run. I was about 8.5 miles in when I decided on a whim to look up…

Bloody Toes, Blisters, and Bruises, Oh My!

Okay, so it doesn't exactly conjure images of Dorothy prancing along the yellow-brick road in her pristine ruby slippers, but these are the true signs that I am back in training. In a way, I feel like I never came out of training in the first place. Not since September of last year. But what made it real to me was the blood spot on my sock from one foot and the blister on the fourth toe pad of my other foot after a week of higher-than-usual mileage. Ah, the joys of running. I had forgotten how the feet get battered from the constant pressure and pounding of long runs. Granted, the bloody toe was more a product of my over-grooming habits (i.e., I am a compulsive nail clipper), but there was something almost delightful about the sight of bright red blood on my white sock after I pulled off my running shoe. These are my battle wounds. I've earned them. And while they're uncomfortable, I can handle them.

In fact, I have a bit of a fascination with blisters. I know the common w…

Women Runners Make Strides--in Fashion?

When I received my August 2011 issue of Runner's World magazine in the mail, I glanced down at the cover and my face fell a bit. The cover image features an obviously athletic female runner decked out in bright pink designer running clothes--skirt included--with a link to the article title "Fastinistas: The Flashy New Gear Culture and the Women Who Love It."


Frankly my feelings are split on this matter of fashionable athletic wear. On the one hand, I believe women (and men) should be able to wear whatever they want when they run. On the other hand, I can't imagine a similar cover story about, say, "MetroMilers: Chic New Running Apparel and the Men Who Dig It" (can you?).

One thing that bothers me about the article is that it focuses on women's desire to stand out and get noticed--but treats this as a positive aspect of women's running, as if bright colors and flattering fits demonstrate pride. And while I can't argue with this viewpoint in theor…

My First Adventure Race

At long last, I made it to the local Picnic Island Adventure Run last night, which is actually a series of three adventure races held in Tampa each summer at Picnic Island Park. I had been out of town for the previous two races of the summer, so I was determined to make this one.

Although the race was not set up to be intimidating or particularly brutal (think Tough Mudder), it was the first race I would run that had intentional obstacles--things I typically try to avoid. I knew parts of the race would take place in sand, water, and mud, and that there would be a hurdle to jump over, some tires to run through, and hills to zigzag up and down. For someone who does not typically run on anything but flat pavement, these obstacles caused a bit of concern for me beforehand. But because I was trying to fend off an injury to my right lower leg, I vowed I would not actually race but just run "for fun" (seriously, who really does that?). I've declared this before about previous r…

Chicago Marathon Training -- Part I

So I started training for my first marathon (again) in June. I had a setback almost immediately, hence the NO RUNNING days. After a fairly busy race season over the past fall and winter (three half-marathons), I should have rested before taking on this new endeavor. But I didn't; instead, I joined a running group and intensified my running because I was a newbie and felt I needed to be competitive to prove myself. The result? Unforgiving shin splints and persistent pain in the muscles surrounding my right shin. Out of fear that the pain might turn into a(nother) stress fracture if I kept running, and upon the unsolicited advice of several friends, I grudgingly decided it would be better to rest early on to prevent an injury than to push through and possibly create an injury that may take me out of training completely.

I'm the first to admit that I'm stubborn about training. To get a personalized training schedule, I looked at several different training schedule put togethe…

On Group Running

Two months ago I joined a local running group through the Meetup.com social organizing website. I knew a couple of the guys in the group from the pub run that I'd been attending for a while, and they invited me to go out to the Monday night runs with this group. I'd rejected a couple of previous invitations because I was intimidated by the idea of imposing myself into an already established--and rather serious--running group. But I also had the Chicago Marathon--a race I'd signed up for a bit spontaneously--looming in October, which meant I'd have to do some heavy training throughout the summer. Based on previous experience, I knew I was not likely to tough out the hell-like heat of summer training on my own, so I thought I'd give the group running a go. I should also add the disclaimer that I had a crush on one of the guys who'd invited me to join. (If you see the potential for disaster already, you are smarter than I was.)

My first meet-up with the group was …