Oct 12, 2011

Once upon a time I ran fast. But just that once.

 took the last two weeks off to assess and tweak my training schedule. After my ½ marathon over Labor Day, I spent the next few weeks in a perpetual cycle of fatigue. I eased up on daily workouts and slept in more than I should. I thought *ding* over training. The killer was not that I was tired, it was that I wasn’t improving; I was covering the same distances and running at my same slow-ass pace. (Seriously, I’m an embarrassingly slow runner.) Along with that came an extra few pounds despite the same calorie intake. *Ding*Ding* ineffective over training confirmed. (I’m not complaining, that’s what girlfriends are for.) So I took the last two weeks off, broken off a few pieces of that Kit Kat bar (then a few more) and did Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30. (You laugh, but it's fucking hard.)

I also read the book Run Faster by Brad Hudson to find a new training schedule. Though his thoughts are scattered (I had to make cliff notes  to get the full picture) the book is a terrific guide to becoming your own coach and understanding what the hell “run 3 x 800 meter progression faster than marathon pace but not all out sprinting with 400 meters at v02 max pace and 400 meters recovery” means.  My new plan is to incorporate more progression runs, speed work and hill sprints so I can hopefully run farther or at least move faster than a woman in heels on cobbled sidewalks. I’ll begin next week; this week is purely for remembering how to run. Given my performance this morning, it may not be easy.

During my sabbatical I realized that once upon a time I ran fast. Once meaning a one time singular event.
At the end of August I was deep in the woods of Rock Creek Park trails with Cricket, on dirt trails where she runs free. As per my being a woman... in the woods... virtually alone, my senses were alert despite having Cricket with me (who I still doubt would actually save my life). When I’m on these trails in RCP I regularly look back to make sure I'm not being hunted and I have an unconscious tendency to grip Cricket’s leash in such a way as to lasso and strangle. So, with my defense on the ready, about 30 feet from the trail Cricket and I screeched to a halt and she started barking, hair up in the air, at something large and moving noisily in a tree. First thought- cougar. Second though- ninja monkeys. But no, it was the well-known species of “WTF”. WTF!? Who does pull ups on a bent tree in the middle of the woods while wearing brown shorts and a dark t-shirt that makes you blend in? I tried to breathe and said “you scared me!" The young monkey boy looked at me like I was nuts then blew me off. I continued.

Cricket cooling down with her little red "here I am" light.
A mile later, I turned a sharp corner and came to another gasping halt. Not 20 feet off the trail was the same guy carrying an over sized branch over his shoulders while balancing on a log. Another terrifying sighting of the legendary WTF. That was enough. My irregular heart beat wasn't conducive to running so I went deeper into the woods to escape this guy's weird tree workout shenanigans.

Later on I was all tra-la-la until a storm rolled in and 8:00pm approached. Darkness was coming after me fast. (Yes, coming after me. Dark can be so scary sometimes.) So I picked up the pace to escape my fear of tripping on rocks and logs, stumbling into water, and kicking raccoons in the pitch blackness of the woods within a city. (For the record, I did kick a raccoon once on a dark street in Boulder, CO. Talk about scared shitless. I don't know who was more stunned, the coon or me!) OK, back to the story: As I was running, I realized I wasn't running from darkness. No sir, I was running to escape none other than the Blair Witch; not the tree monkey-man, not the horrible fate of Chaundra Levy, but the Blair Witch. As my rational mind and fear wrestled, I saw sticks along the path laid like the Blair Witch stick man and realized fear won, and that I was running at a personal record pace of 7:30 min/mile. SO FAST!  I was sprinting with long strides up steep hills as I repeated my mantra, “Blair Witch, Blair Witch, run, oh my god, faster." I ran past Then, as I imagined being dragged into a cave full of children's hand prints, I threw myself down the hill and out of the woods. Safe! But not two deep breaths later something large came barreling after me with a loud scattering of rocks and bushes and almost knocked me over.  I was already on edge and I screamed a legit someone save me scream. I turned around to confront the Blair Witch but it was another (a different) young man out for a run. “Wow, it got dark real fast didn't it?" "You scared me!" "Oh. Have a good night!” Then he waved and trotted off carefree on his twinkle toes.

I’m sure I had nightmares that night. I also haven't run in the woods since then. Thank you Blair Witch for your motivation. It’s been 12 years and you can still scare the crap out of me.

Sep 8, 2011

Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Half Marathon!

Me and Sarah with bling.
My friend Sarah and I traveled to Virginia Beach with our beaus this past Labor Day weekend to camp out and run the Rock and Roll Virginia Beach ½ Marathon. (Here's some pictures.) It was the first time either of us had run a continuous 13.1 miles and we finished with enough energy that we were able to lie on the beach, gorge on s’mores and drink beer till 10 that night. Totally epic if you ask me. And I don't want to brag, but we walked away with a super sweet medal of a gold glittered sea shell… so did the 11,219 other people in the race but that doesn’t discredit our triumph over B.O., sticky GU hands and, of course, 13.1 miles of road. To me, the medal is still sweet. You can engrave it with your name and time but I'm fairly certain that’s not something I want to do.

The course was flat with lots of shade, making it bearable, the weather was gorgeous and the bands that lined the course about every mile kept us going with rock classics and a punch of adrenaline (I mastered the running hip gyration jump. Close your eyes and imagine.) Also along the street were people spraying hoses, a lady with a bowl of cantaloupe (which I think Sarah was lucky enough to get a bite of) and, at one point, the remains of what was once a High Flyer Wagon full of freezie pops. There were loads of local cheerleading teams, an Elvis, some cowgirls, spectators dressed in their finest rock star costumes and a guy who juggled the whole race. Sadly, he started with 5 and ended with 4. The most amazing though was an amputee who did the whole race on crutches (holy freakin’ wowzers!). Several people were pushing disabled family members in strollers, including what appeared to be a 70 year old man and his wife which nearly brought a tear to my eye. Ryan Hall and several all-star runners were there and it was absolutely nuts when we were on our second mile and they had looped around back toward us on one of their last. The winner finished in an hour and two minutes. That's under a 5 minute mile!

As expected, there were two hurdles, which are also lessons:
There were more bands than toilets along the route in a crowd of 11,000 people. Not cool. Since there were no bushes in sight, I had to wait 7-10 minutes at mile 8. Afterward, I maintained a 9:45 pace until about mile 12 when my left leg started to feel sore. By mile 12.5 it had seized up and I found myself bounding on my right leg because I could hardly bend my left. But, determined as hell, I hopped across the finish line with my worthless leg and put on a celebratory cheer for the camera. I hoped for a photo where I was as mildly attractive as you can expect to be after 13.1 miles and got this:
Rock this!
Which is better than this:
Breathing through the pain. So hardcore.

Immediately over the finish line I rolled into the medical tent where my leg as wrapped in ice, I ate a mini salt packet and they kicked me out to retrieve my medal, find Sarah and get arm loads of food handouts. Within a few minutes the salt took action and my leg cramp weakened so ate another for good measure. I found Sarah and my second medic – my boyfriend Will, who stood there with two miraculous Dunkin’ Donuts bagel sandwiches. Sans potty break, my time was in the 2:25 zone. Not bad for a first.

Need noms now!
I am quite proud of myself and I am extremely proud of Sarah who hardly trained but ran the distance without stopping. I've known her for nearly 15 years and she's pretty rad like that. I loved the race and think it was the perfect first 1/2. There is another R&R in DC in the spring that I plan on running and I'm hoping to recruit a few of you to run with me. If you don't live in the area and want to run your first, I suggest this one because of the lively atmosphere. True I have nothing to compare it to but it was a great experience which says a lot.

As far as my future running plans, I unfortunately can’t run the full Richmond Marathon in November that I planned on doing. The summer heat put me back about three weeks in my training and I don't want to push it. But I am signing up and setting time goals up for two more halvsies this fall, finding spring marathons and I continuing my ultra training.

See us in the front? Sarah leaping in yellow with other friend Sarah and me.
Let the rainy fall training begin!

Aug 24, 2011

I fell- And I heart Dunkin' Donuts

Again, I'm a slacker. I have my GRE on Saturday so maybe I won't be anymore? Yes, that's a question. The good news, however, is that I have not been slacking on running. Here is a first update, which is what this blog was supposed to be about in the first place.
I fell. I tripped on the sidewalk and my dog didn’t help me get up. I swear she was getting back at me for making her run when she didn’t want to.
Right after: Bleeding gouge
A nurse I am not
One week later: I felt like King Henry VIII and thought my leg sore was going to kill me.
Two weeks later: Itch's like diaper rash but apparently I'm a super healer!
I did my longest distance to date this past Sunday, I made it 11 miles in under two hours, which I think is pretty good considering I walked about 10 minutes. I even scampered into the trees to piddle. But here is the most BESTEST news:
This poor woman drew it
Typically after a run of 9 miles or more I get migraines so debilitating I can't see, can't, can't move, can't think, can't sleep... nutin' doin' for 24 - 36 hours. The migraines have gotten to the point where I took Valium to reduce muscle tension and Hydrocodone leftover from my shoulder surgery to make the pain go away, but my migraine wasn't phased. Yep, I'm overlapping prescription drugs and am potentially a bad role model. Hopefully I won't pull an Anna Nicole Smith. (Measuring caps on the tops of Nyquil or Pepto-Bismol? It's for sissies who can't handle a swig. I learned how to swig in college.)
So what was the deal!? Not enough electrolytes? More water? More food? I read that migraines are not uncommon but most people are clueless as to why; it's an undiscovered individual battle, like bad breath. So, one day I feared the worst on a nice little 8 mile run from one end of a trail head to the REI attic sale (probably why I ran so fast.) At the finish line I had a Dunkin' Donuts bagel sandwich with egg, cheese and bacon. Holy mother of Hell Yeah! I didn't get a headache at all. In fact, I powered through the whole day and even ended up going to the coast to eat crabs and drink beer in the sun.
This Sunday I felt a slight headache when I was driving to home from my 11 miles but scarfed a bagel sandwich. It was better than a fistful of Advil. I don't know what it is but some people have to have pancakes, others drink Ensure, and this one famous runner has a Hawaiian pizza delivered to him halfway through a race. He rolls it up like a burrito and eats while running. (Ham while running? Bacon would be ruined for life.)

So a bagel sandwich with a coconut or peanut donut (or both, or two of both)? I'm not complaining. I'm picturing sponsor material here.

I took a 20 minutes bath with two bags of ice afterward too. My legs felt terrific.

I <3 you Dunkin' Donuts.

(This would make me hate donuts. Run 2 miles, down a whole box of Krispy Kremes and run back two miles in under an hour: http://krispykremechallenge.com/. You’d have to run another 25 miles to burn off what you ate.)

Aug 2, 2011

Heat, Swass and Swoob

I haven't posted as often as I'd like and admittedly I've been very irresponsible in managing my time. However, I’m flippin’ a boulder and replacing my nightly "space out to Curb Your Enthusiasm” (I’m starting at season 1) with reflective and insightful blogging. At least until I get my hands on season 2.

On to the blog part. There’s heaps below but know that it I’m trying to save your life here. So really, how much you read depends on how much you love yourself.

The weather has been hotter than two rats doing the horizontal boogie in a wool sock. DC is literally built on a swamp and as a runner the “swamp effect” (including the devious "swamp ass" (also known as "swass"), "swoob" and chaffing) is impossible to ignore. Running without understanding the effects of heat is bold (in the Britney-Spears-no-panties kind of way) and unsafe (see previous comment). Heat and humidity are enemies of the runner, as are bloody nipples, which we visited gruesomely in the last posting, uni-boob sports bras and dog poop.

Overheating is when the body cannot properly cool itself. Sweat is a cooling agent and is produced when body temperature, and thus blood temperature, rises. When that happens, blood is sent to the surface where the sweaty, cooler skin lowers its temperature. But when running in the heat, the body’s internal temperature is higher than it normally handles and blood is sent to the skin at an increased rate as the body frantically tries to cool. However, oxygen and blood are also being fed to the working muscles so there isn’t enough blood traveling to the skin’s surface to cool the body properly. The result, in a sense, your blood boils you from the inside. Or what can happen is blood is diverted away from the muscles to the skin’s surface which means your muscles can't function, causing you to dramatically slow down or stop all together. In the humidity, the sweat does not wick away and heats up from both your body temperature and the sun, further hindering the blood's ability to cool. Este no es bueno.

Dehydration is the sidekick of overheating, the Robin if I may. A high sweat rate depletes the fluids and electrolytes necessary for muscle function. If you get thirsty on a run, you are already in the first stages of dehydration and need to intake a balance of fluids and electrolytes. If your pee is dark, you need more water. If you’re skin is especially salty, you need electrolytes. (More info scattered below.)
Immediately after a humid evening run. Clouds of bugs, like the ones on my neck
(there's about 10 although you can't tell) and the ones I choked on, are a hazard.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ON HOW TO HANDLE THE HEAT, pulled from the power of my mind

1) Stalk the weather. Compare hour to hour the best times to run for the week. Look at heat and humidity levels, heat index and if it will be overcast, raining or direct, glaring, cancer causing sunny. Be conscious of heat advisories and when people are dropping dead in their homes because they lack air conditioning. Keep in mind that, at least in DC, humidity is significantly higher in the morning with lower temperatures, and temperature significantly higher at night with lower humidity. Pick your poison.

2) Get acclimatized to the heat. This is very important so your body becomes more tolerant and efficient in managing temperature and so you can learn your specific food, water and electrolyte needs. Getting acclimatized takes about two weeks of regularly scheduled, low mileage, slow paced runs. The body is an adaptable and finely tuned machine, unlike my three prong electronics in a two prong house, and eventually you’ll feel a difference in your ability to handle heat and be able to safely increase distance and speed. (FYI: acclimation happens in the laboratory, acclimatization in the natural environment; in case you were questioning my use of the word, as I was.)

3) Be flexible with your schedule and break up your runs. When training, long runs are necessary for improving endurance, and reaching weekly mile goals is important so you don’t poop out on race day. But no matter how hell bent you are on getting in those 15 miles on Saturday, foaming at the mouth and passing out unnoticed in the bushes can do significant damage to your body and means you won’t even complete the 15 miles you were so convinced you could handle. Most importantly though, you’ll look like shit for at least the next 24 hours. So after checking the weather, move the long run a day earlier or put it on hold temporarily. The other option is to pick weather that’s the best of the worst and break the run up (morning and night). Obviously you will have to do a long run at some point to practice putting your body through that kind of stress but when it’s totally unbearable, breaking up your run is better than heat stroke and better than nothing; this way you aren’t significantly cutting back on your weekly mileage. With some planning, it may be possible to cram that long run in there somewhere too, even if it means getting up an hour earlier Monday morning. Hey, at least you won’t feel like an excuse maker.

4) Hydrate, especially with cold fluids. (Margaritas don’t count but someday, I hope, they will.) Drink morning, noon and night (especially before a hard morning run), in a house with a mouse or in a box with a fox, here, there or anywhere. But don’t over hydrate or you’ll throw off your fluid-electrolyte balance and risk hyponatremia. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001431/)

News flash: Ice melts in heat. Pre-mix electrolyte powder in water bottles and freeze. You’ll have cold drinking water in a mile, unless you dig hot water that tastes like plastic. If you wear a hydration hip belt, the frozen bottles feel nice on your lower back. Take in cold fluids pre run, like a slushie, and post run, like iced chocolate milk (which is also an all-star recovery food.) To continue that thought…

5) Consume salty foods and drink electrolyte replacements. Increased sweat equals increased fluid and electrolyte loss. You can’t simply replace them willy-nilly. There is a balance between fluid and electrolyte intake that you must discover for yourself through trial and error, depending on environmental conditions and the intensity of your run. It takes time to figure out what you need before, during and after a run, which is one reason why acclimatization is important. Too much of one and not enough of the other will have negative affects. (I think I’ve found that raging headaches mean I don’t get enough electrolytes in my system during a run, but I’m still fine tuning this theory.) You have to learn to predict and recognize your needs as well as admit your limits. (See above “Classification of Heat Illness.”)

6) Learn your sweat rate. This is how much fluid you need during a run. Before a run, get naked (butt naked!) and weigh yourself with an empty bladder. After an hour of paced running, peel your sweaty clothes off and weigh yourself again. Convert your weight loss to ounces and add the number of ounces you drank during the run. Divide your total by 4 or 6 to determine how many ounces you need to drink every 15 or 10 minutes. Do this for different environmental conditions and as you become more fit because your sweat rate will change. If you’re drinking your calculated ounces and feel crappier, you need more electrolytes, which increase the rate of fluid absorption into your blood stream, keep your muscles functioning properly and stave off hyponatremia.

7) If you’re doing the above and feel like utter shit – STOP! Find shade, walk till your heart rate comes down and drink cold water. Don’t stop dead in your tracks though or you may get heat syncope. (There will be a pop quiz on “Classification of Heat Illness.”) I highly suggest getting yourself a double scoop waffle cone afterward too. I hear it's a marvelous recovery food. It'll make you happy too :-)

May the force be with you.

Jun 22, 2011

Bloody Nipples: motivation for the week of June 20th

Original piece by Jessica: $473


If you've taken the time and expended the energy to read about marathon training, create a schedule, stick to the schedule, stay motivated, learn how to hydrate, eat, and stretch, one would think you know about the bloody nipple phenomenon. You've read about running gear and how to keep your man bits from bouncing around too much, presumably gone into a running store and purchased new shoes along the way, but you failed to purchase band-aids to put over your little nip-nips that will be scrapped ruthlessly over 26.2 miles. Up and down, up and down, rub-a-rub-a-rub-rub, nipple versus the world; and it's a cruel world out there for a virginesque nipple.
World, 2
Nipples, annihilated

Model of negligence: This guy was serious, but as you can tell, he is holding back some serious shrills of pain typically reserved for the squealing contestants of RuPaul's Drag Race. The wick away top, Garmin watch and reflective shorts say "let's rock!" (as does his bib # crotch shot) but the red streaks scream " you're a f*cking idiot."

Let's take a moment to ask ourselves why?  This didn't have to happen to you; you were in control of your fate. You had two roads to go down but you said "No, my nipples are warriors. They are righteous nipples, noble nipples, and they will not be struck down by poly-cotton blends. Bunnies are cotton. Bunnies are not warriors. Bunnies cry out and hide at the sight of these nipples for there is no match to their fury. These nipples own you."

This concept is not an enigma. Even The Office depicted the nip rip and the Idiot's Guide book talks about it as well. Clearly idiots aren't reading this book; I think they are marketing to the wrong demographic.

Model of excellence: this guy however, lacking the sweet running gear (and saving $500 in doing so) went all the way. I mean, all (A-L-L) the way. Look at this specimen, his nipples are high on life, leading him down the road to triumph, beckoning his every step forward, chanting a mantra of freedom, breathing sweet, sweet air and radiating motivation, rainbows and pixie dust that will carry his hairy, beefy legs through 26.2 miles.  (I was originally concerned about his uneven tan but it's more of a badge of honor, a display of his genius. Plus it's better than re-sprouting your nipples.)

Let's see some more:

I hate it when my makeup runs

Question: Why didn't you just take off your damn shirt? Did you think that your nipples sobbing streams of red-tears was a better way to keep your honor than your bouncing belly? Please reassess your priorities. Preferably before your next 10K.

WHY THIS IS MOTIVATING: I'm a woman. I wear a sports bra. I don't have this problem. If guys can finish a race with the tips of their nips shredded, I can run 50 miles with happy nipples leading the way like headlights through the fog.
(So I don't get sued: http://www.clipartof.com/portfolio/toons4biz/illustration/bandaid-bandage-mascot-cartoon-character-running-7475.html)

*WARNING: I cannot guarantee the validity of what lies beyond the apparent image of a bloody nipple when doing an image search for "bloody nipple." Click with caution.

Jun 1, 2011

And in the beginning, there was an idea. A really sweet idea.

Goal: Run the 50 mile Glasgow Edinburgh Double Marathon in April 2012. I'm not sure I've thought this idea all the way through but I seem to have done pretty well in life by making decisions based on the theory that difficult things are good even if you get beat down and kicked in the throat. You can always end the day with a bottle of wine and a tub of ice cream, then wake up and try again.

I want to run an ultra because I have never done it before and it sounds totally insane yet totally (totally?) doable. Doing things “just because” is more or less a habit of mine. I want a life full of experiences, (whatever that means) and challenges, though I draw the line at hot dog eating contests and nude bike riding. I have a desire to learn, push my limits, test my ability to adapt, and cultivate my inner bad ass by exploiting my strengths and recognizing and fixing my weaknesses, all in order to become (what I consider to be) a more rounded, capable person. These challenges range from blood and sweat to self improvement to living in a third world country. A large number of people say they want to do this and that, but they don't try or don’t follow through. Some of the things I’ve done cause people to look at me wide-eyed saying, “I could never do that.” (Like throwing my dog in the car and moving to DC from Colorado all on my lonesome, when the most I knew was that the White House is here. Oh, and I’d seen pictures of it.) But I’m not here to brag so I’ll move on without listing the things I’ve done that make me awesome.
Of course, the end doesn't always turn out the way you envisioned. For an entire year I struggled with the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test). I studied endlessly, sacrificed all things fun, had nervous breakdowns, vomited from stress and took the test a total of three times. It was hell but because I believed I could reach my goal score (which, for the record, wasn't high) I worked my patootie off all the way to the tippy toe edge till there was literally no where to go. Unfortunately, all three scores totally sucked my steam but that did not, and does not, make me a failure. Instead, after sweeping up my broken spirits, I can look back and see a girl who didn’t burn her study books screaming "you're ruining my life!” but a girl who pushed through disappointment, abandoned thoughts of giving up and put in more effort than a dog trying to get peanut butter out of the bottom of a jar. (I'm also a girl with undying support from wonderful, loving peeps.)

Honestly though, doing something comes down to survival and unless I'm running with the bulls or trying to prove skydiving without a parachute is possible, chances are that whatever I put upon myself will still spit me out with a beating heart along with a mind full of new information, stories and motivation. I may have lost an earring along the way but hey, I did it.

In the end, I got accepted to my choice school but decided not to go (surprise!) for several very good reasons, and I don’t regret a thing. The severe LSAT emotional trauma I suffered and survived is what makes me believe I can survive the severe emotional trauma of running a 50 mile marathon; I’m just adding running shoes and a sweet Garmin watch. (LSAT = mental burpies). Psychological endurance, I have read, is the hardest part of running an ultra marathon for ultra hours over ultra distance while sweating ultra hard and grunting ultra loud. You’re body can go on for much longer than your mind allows you to believe [Listen: RadioLab “Limits], you just have to know that it is possible by putting yourself in similar circumstances and surviving, which you will. How are you going to swim with sharks if you won’t get in the kiddy pool?

The farthest I've ever run is 11 miles but I’m young, in great health, and physically able. A number of half-centurions who have never run in their life train for and run a 50 mile race to celebrate, (Seriously! 50, 60, 70... look it up) and I highly doubt they are retired super heroes or Peter Pan. But the greatest reason of all great reasons: Why the hell not? This question confuses me, can you explain?

The idea of running 50 miles could quite possibly nix my belief of survival and all that garbage about summiting challenges, but if I don't try then I'll never know, and as long as I try my damned hardest, I still won’t be failing. Not giving up = learning about yourself, fine tuning your strengths, recognizing and fixing your weaknesses, and coming out with really nifty stories (even if it's not the ending you expected); quitting because you think you can’t = sitting alone in the dark making up lame excuses that even you know are lame (my shoe laces were too tight), eating a whole box of Girl Scout cookies and complaining about how you feel pathetic and lazy and wish you were good at something, for once. I plan on eating the Girl Scout cookies after a hard run shouting, “Go me! I need to carbo load! *nom*nom*.”

You can't escape
But I’m not a total moron. If my body says “no more”, my body has spoken. I won’t destroy the only one I have by blowing out my knees or getting Hyponatremia. I do have limits but I hope it doesn’t come to that. My mind on the other hand, if my mind says “no”, I’ll become one with the road, repeat a mantra and mentally power through. Basically, I'll kick its ass. (This gets me thinking that I’ll have to take up meditation and kick-boxing classes. I tend to fidget when “om”ing and I don’t have a strong upper cut.)

So let it be known that I will run myself to glory or run myself to death. I mean, I don’t actually think I’ll die (questionable statement) but there will be many days I feel like I'm in deaths grip and many more, I'm sure, that I will wish it upon myself.

Lets rock.