Friday, October 24, 2008

Slightly better adjusted

One of the other runners in DC Fit has been going to a chiropractor for a long time, and absolutely loves this guy. Over the course of training, she recommended him to anyone with problems, and the handful of people that went to see him all spoke very highly of him. About a month ago, he told the original patient to extend an offer to everyone in the group for a free foot scan for custom orthotics.

After the knee pain I developed during the last month of training, I figured orthotics were probably going to be a good idea, so I called up on Tuesday and made an appointment for this afternoon. I went in, had the scan, and chatted with the doc for a while. I decided to ask him to take a look at my lower back, as I wondered if my somewhat severe supination (and unevenness in pressure, where I put more on my left foot than right, due to the extreme dominance of my left side, both left-handed and left-footed) stemmed from some minor issues I have with my back (a couple slightly bulging disks). He poked a little and found that one hip slightly higher than the other. He suggested that in about 6 sessions, he'd be able to straighten me out so I wouldn't have problems anymore, and between that and the orthotics, I'd feel a hundred times better, like a new person when running.

I had my first adjustment right then in the office, and my second coming up early next week. I felt a difference after the session, and he said by the 3rd or 4th, it would feel really different. I'm excited, I think this is going to be a Very Good Thing (tm).

I haven't started running again since Chicago. My knee feels better every day, but I didn't want to come back too fast, as it was still a little sore on Wednesday. My plan is to get on my bike starting early next week, and if my knee is feeling good, start running in a week or two. The chiropractor approved of this plan, telling me he recommended I not run for at least another week yet. I'm so itching to get back out there, especially so I can be ready to school Danielle in whatever race we end up running in the winter/spring. You're going down, D!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


It was waaaaaaaaaay back in April that teammate Lauren asked me to run the Chicago marathon with her. It's been a long road from then to now. So, here are some of the thoughts on the whole experience, in no particular order or with no particular significance...
  • DC Fit: Good idea in theory. In practice, implementation is everything. In this case, the other runners and the assistant coaches couldn't, in my mind, make up for the jackassedness of the lead coach. His lack of guidance, planning, and general enthusiasm leaked down throughout the ranks of the group, both staff and runners. In the end, I think we got enough out of it to complete our respective races, but I can see how much better it could have been, and that's too bad.
  • Injuries: I learned a lot about how to distinguish aches versus injuries. Along this journey, there were a few aches I mistook for injuries, and an injury that I mistook for an ache. I think this is one of the most improtant lessons I learned this year.
  • Walking in races: In three of my races this year, I had to walk what I would consider significant chunks (the last leg of MC200, the Philly Distance Run, and the Chicago Marathon). While I still don't like the idea of walking for any significant amount of time in a race, none were for lack of training, and I'm starting to learn how to deal with the fact that sometimes, your body doesn't cooperate. I've never done anything of the level of endurance as distance running before. This year, I ran three half marathons, the relay, and the marathon. I put a lot of miles on my legs, seeing as how Phoenix, back in January, was my very first half marathon.
  • Training: I hit a point in my training for Chicago where running wasn't fun anymore. It was an obligation, something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. I found that I was actually most frustrated with the fact that I didn't like it anymore, and I really wanted to. Running is my outlet for all the crap in my life. I have some of my best runs at the end of my worst days, and if I run in the morning, it's like I'm coated in teflon for the rest of the day, everything just slides off.
  • Running partners vs running alone: I have found that I like running with people and also running alone. I can think of two specific runs with people that stood out in my mind as being really good this summer. One was with a friend from my old job, Kelly, who was in DC Fit training for Marine Corps. We ran a 10 mile training run during a taper, and we just cruised. It was awesome. The other was with Sarah, another DC Fit member. We ran a 10 miler in the rain on July 5th at 7 a.m., and it would have been terrible to do that alone. We really kept each other going and kept our spirits up as much as possible during that pretty crappy run. On the flip side, though, I did my 18 miler by myself at 5 a.m. on a Monday morning, and it was so great. That was perhaps the most fun run I had during the entire marathon training.
  • Why I run: I flew back from Chicago the Tuesday after the race. I landed, took the Metro home, dropped my bags, and jumped in my car to go to a workshop for work Tuesday night. On my way to the workshop, I drove past one of my regular running routes, and there were tons of people out. My first thought was, "I so wish I was out there right now." All the stress of training, all the "have to" versus "want to" crap about running mentioned above, it all left my mind about a week before Chicago. I remembered I run because I love it. I like that it's hard. I like that sometimes it hurts.
  • Race locations: One of our regular readers, Glaven, has mentioned that he likes how I tend to include a description of the city and my impressions of it as part of my race reports. I have found that the location of a race is a big part of my decision making process when looking for which race is next. There's a half marathon in DC in March, but I ran in Nashville in April because I'd never been there and I'd heard it was nice. The Marine Corps Marathon is three weeks after the Chicago Marathon, but I've run almost the entire MCM course during my regular running, so something new seemed like it'd be more fun. I am lucky that I have a job that affords me more disposable income than I need, and I can travel to races throughout the year.
  • Running friends: Of the five big races I ran this year, all of them were with friends who live in other parts of the country. Danielle lives in Iowa, teammate Lauren and her husband live in Chicago, the relay team is always made up of members scattered across the country. Running races with them is a fun excuse to see people I don't get to spend nearly as much time with as I'd like.
  • What's next: After this year, I am hooked. My goal is another marathon next summer. I'd like to do one healthy to see what I can really do. I've already started kicking around ideas with a few people, and we'll probably make a decision in January/February if we go through with the tentative plan to run a spring/summer race. In the meantime, there are a few half marathons in the spring that I'm considering. Hopefully there will be another relay next year, and I'd like to go back to Philly, as that was a really awesome race.
So, that's pretty much a brain dump of everything that's been rattling around in my head for the last few weeks or so. I consider 2008 my introduction to distance running, and overall, it was a pretty good year. I leave you with a pile o' memories of this past year.

2008's medals, shirts, and bibs

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hello pervy internet world!

I would like to thank Joe for having such an intriguing race report title and for linking to the Gmail blog entry on Mail Goggles.

Our readership has shot up approximately 10 billion percent from people clicking on the TrackBack link "Losing My Virginity, The Report" on the Gmail blog entry.

I think this may have trumped Audrey's post on naked triathletes for bringing new traffic to the blog.

In both cases, I am sure there were some sorely disappointed web surfers...

And in other news, not to disparage Joe's accomplishments, but my long runs are up to two miles these days. I mean, anyone can run a marathon. Now getting back into running after a month off? Now that is some hard stuff. I sometimes spend a whole 20 minutes running!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Losing My Virginity, The Report

I flew to Chicago on Thursday, first class, of course, because, as discussed, that's how I roll. Unfortunately, American Airlines sucks so hard, first class is a cup of warm nuts and an Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate chip cookie (and unlimited alcohol I guess, which I did not partake in, but the guy next to me did. It was amusing to me because he spent 2/3 of the flight responding to work email while drinking heavily, then spent the last 1/3 watching stupid movie on his laptop, presumably when he was too drunk to safely work. He may be a target candidate for this).

Anyway, got to Chicago, chilled with Lauren and Kyle Thursday night and Friday. During the day Friday, Kyle and I went into the city for lunch and to wander around. I was struck by how tall the buildings are. DC is a nice city, but it's so short. All the tall buildings are weird to me, but very cool. Also, I had a moment where I felt like I was in the Matrix -- remember the scene from the first movie where Morpheus is leading Neo through the Agent Training simulation (the girl in the red dress scene)? They're walking upstream against a huge crowd of people. We crossed a street at a stoplight and people just swarmed around me for a second and it reminded me distinctly of that.

tall city

Saturday Lauren and I went to what was clearly the best race expo I have ever been to and met up with her cousin. The shirts they gave us were nice, but mine is about 4 sizes too large (it's a large, but I was wearing two shirts when I tried it on last night and it was still big enough for two of me). The expo's awesomeness can be explained by these examples of things we saw:
  • A giant liver (approx 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide, walking around with a sign that said "Go Liver!" scaring little kids and posing for pictures with runners)
  • An approx 60 year old woman with a mohawk, and both sides of her head totally shaved. The mohawk was about 8" tall, and highlighter pink. She had tons of tattoos, including a full necklace tattoo.
  • A goth clown (if you aren't sure what I mean by this, imagine a clown stepping straight out of a Panic At the Disco music video and going to work in the Little Rock Marathon booth -- it was awesome, but apparently Lauren's cousin is afraid of clowns, so when we showed her this, she almost jumped out of her skin).
  • Antarctica Marathon booth
  • Big soft squishy pretzels and fresh lemonade, which was a great lunch.
So, Sunday was the race. Lauren and I took the L downtown. We got to the stop at 6:30, and a train was coming the other way. There were like 5 people on the whole train. Then, our train pulled in like 30 seconds later, and it was completely full of runners, standing room only. When we got off at our stop, we're riding up the escalator, and the guy standing behind us, definitely not a runner, asks me, "Hey, where are you all going?" "Um, the Marathon." "Oh, I was wondering why everyone was dressed alike." Yeah...

We got down to the race, met up with Lauren's cousin, and got into the corral. There were so many people. Holy crap. It took us about 25 minutes to reach the starting line from our place in the corral. Once we got to the front, we were off. Right before the race, I got a text message from Meg telling me she'd be at mile 4 and 11 with a big neon green sign. So as we were about 1/4 mile from mile 4, I looked up, saw a big neon green sign, and said to Lauren, "I bet that's Meg." We ran over to that side of the course, and as we got closer, sure enough, it was. That's when it got funny. When Meg spotted me, she literally screamed, jumped up and down, threw her sign down, jumped down from the wall she was on and ran up and gave me a hug, while still jumping up and down. It was awesome. Then, she realized I stopped to give her the hug, so she starts yelling, "Wait, keep going! Go! Go!" So off I ran. Four people down the wall from where she was all laughed hysterically and gave me high fives as I ran by. They didn't do it for anyone in front of me, and Lauren confirmed they only did this for me, not anyone else behind me. Then the guy running next to me turns to me and says, "Geez. I hope you knew her." This greeting from Meg was absolutely the highlight of the running part of the race.

I ran the first five miles with Lauren and her cousin. At that point, my knee started to remind me it was there, so I started to do a run-9-min-walk-1-min thing. That got me through until mile ten, at which point my knee started to hurt pretty bad. I got into a run-walk routine with longer walks, and that got me through until about mile 18. During this phase of the race, I found that the pain receptors in my knee will completely overload after about 30 seconds of serious pain, and then spend the next 30 seconds slowly dulling until it's mostly numb, at which point i can go until i stop what i'm doing (i.e. stop running to walk), then the pain starts again next time I try to run.

Around mile 18, my calves started cramping pretty badly, and after a few tries and failures, I realized that I was going to have to walk the rest of the race, because anytime I tried to run, I cramped up within 15-20 seconds. I walked 18-22 at approx 15 min/mi pace, and was then able to pick my walking pace up, finishing 22-26 at approx 13 min/mi pace. My sister caught up with me at mile 25 and came out to try to walk with me for a bit, but had to run because she couldn't keep up with my pace. She decided to stop and hang back to wait for Lauren, who was about 3 minutes behind me at this point, while Kyle was waiting at the finish line.

Here are a few of the amusing signs or shirts we saw on the course during the run yesterday:
  • Sign: "What a dumb way to celebrate your 30th birthday!"
  • Sign: "Chuck Norris hasn't run a marathon, but you have!"
  • A girl running the race with a giant ass and booty shorts with the word "ANCHOR" written across them (this was my favorite clothing/costume thing of the entire race)
  • A girl who wrote on the back of her shirt, "I don't run to compete with anyone, I run to silence the voice inside me that wants to quit." This was especially poignant because I saw it around mile 17, when my knee was absolutely on fire, hurt to touch, and my calves were starting to cramp. I knew I could walk, but I was so mad I couldn't really run, this shirt really came right at the right time.
  • It was so hot, this guy just painted his shirt on:
  • Kyle didn't run, but he still kicked assphalt!
It was close to 70 degrees at start time of the race, and when we finished, it was 82. There was not a cloud in the sky, so the sun was just brutal, beating down. My time was 5:25:57. I am happy to have finished. This was a pretty crazy first race, but I'm looking forward to trying another one. This week, though, I'm going to rest and probably eat cupcakes. This is worth mentioning because last week I saw this in the Washington Post and decided I should probably confirm their results after the race, and Marcy commented on getting her cupcake on just this morning now that she popped her marathon cherry, too. Maybe it's the obvious thing to do -- run a marathon, spend a week eating cupcakes...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Not a marathon virgin anymore

There will be a full race report tomorrow or Tuesday, but for the time being, just wanted to let everyone know I finished my first marathon today. It was hot as shit, but a really excellent experience. As I said, race report to follow, but thanks to everyone for the good vibes and well wishes. The support meant a lot and definitely helped me through.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I ain't going down without a fight!

Thursday afternoon, I take to the air to go out to the city of wind to see teammate Lauren and husband Kyle. I'm going out a few days early to chill with them before the marathon. Oh, also, yeah, first class all the way. That's how I roll (with the $10 flight that cost 45,000 frequent flier miles). The happy discovery today was when I looked and found that first class doesn't have to pay for a checked bag. Screw you, all you bastards back in coach!

After Philadelphia, I took about a week and a half off, as my knee was pretty much in a state of constant pain. I finally decided I couldn't take any more time off, so late last week, I hopped on my bike and felt ok. I rode a couple days, and the pain continued to subside, so on Saturday, I went for a 6 mile run. I made it through, but my knee hurt for the rest of the day. I took Sunday off, and did another 6 miles again on Monday. That time, I didn't feel any real pain after that, which was encouraging, just a little stiffness. I was hoping to run again today, but didn't get a chance, so I'm going to go Thursday morning before my flight. After that, I'm probably just going to rest up until race day.

I'm a little nervous, but the feeling of dread I've had for most of the last two weeks has today slowly been replaced by excitement. I have made my peace with the idea of possibly not finishing. I'm just going to go out, try my best, and if I make it through, sweet, but if not, there's always next year. I'm just out to have fun.

So here's to my first attempt at a marathon! I ain't going down without a fight!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

How far I have fallen...

So I HTFU and started running again. I don't know if I mentioned this before, but my goal since July has been to do all my weekday runs at sub-10 min miles and my long run in my Zone 2 for HR. When I stopped running at the beginning of September, I could do 3.5 mile at sub 10 min pace and my long runs were 7 miles and Zone 2 was about a 10:30 pace.

On Friday, I managed to run one sub-10 minute mile and was dead at the end of my run.

Which was only 1.5 miles.


Then yesterday I went out to do a leisurely 3 mile "long" run in Zone 2.

My average pace? 12 min miles. Really! But to stay in the HR zone I kept having to slow down.

Not that I complained too much about that - I was hurting by the end of a three mile run.


One good thing about my long runs now and having a totally old Garmin and an old HRM which I refuse to wear both of at the same time (unlike some people, ahem Laurie) is that with only my HRM I have no clue how fast I am going, so I don't stress about being slow.

But it's all good. My obsessive compulsiveness is good for something, so that means that once I get going, I usually stay going. Two days in a row with running and I think I'll run again today. I also started going to my weight class at the gym again. Wanna talk about loss of fitness? Yeah, I pretty much had to go down to putting the lightest weights on the bar again. And lunges! Even with a pitiful amount of weight on the bar, I was in pain. So pathetic!

Well, no matter, soon I will be like a centaur* galloping around the streets of Ames!

And when you start so low, you can only go up, right?

In other news, I applied for a second postdoc in Seattle. That one hinges on the oceanographers accepting a limnologist like myself as one of their own. I always crash their parties and steal their money and I am writing a paper dissing their methods, but still! I'm such a catch!

And Lisa and I have been scheming to figure out how we can be running buddies again and we are both contemplating a return to the Hole for postdocy goodness (WTF? Apparently spell check doesn't think"postdocy" is an objectionable word?), where it all started lo these four years ago. We can run along the ocean again and see if the lady who used to run shirtless with nothing but this big white old lady bra that was three cup sizes too big for her is still there. But alas, the Food Buoy is now some posh little grocery store for the yuppies about to catch the ferry to the Vineyard, so that's sad.

*for Nitmos

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Do I really have to start running again?

So September?

Sorta sucked.

I was probably out of town for half the month.

And I have always been really crappy and getting my runs in when I am out of town. The shoes always come with, but they aren't often used.

I haven't run since Philly, and September included a total of three runs, if you include my two two-mile sufferfests in the oxygenless air near Lake Tahoe.

How come it is so hard to start up again? I'm good at being pretty consistent once I'm going, but once things fall apart then it's the end. You would think my body would crave exercise or something, but it sort of thinks "Hey, this not doing anything is sorta nice!"

This is also added to the stress that I won't be able to get my research done:
Do you see all that orange over the last day or so? That is a very bad thing. That means it really is fall and my lake is getting ready to turnover. And once it turns over, it is all the same temperature and then I can't get the awesome internal waves I need (you can see them on 9/29, which is a storm we couldn't sample after because it happened in the middle of the night).

Anyway, can you believe it is October? I can't! It can't be! I turn 31 this month! 31! I was back in Champaign last weekend and talking to my old officemate who I started grad school with 6 years ago and we both laughed at how we thought we might have our PhDs before we were 30. What youthful naivete!

I don't have to travel again until I go home for Christmas, so I am actually looking forward to getting back into a running routine.


I am going to blame my roommate.

She usually sleeps until at least 8am, but recently she has been getting up early, so the little ball of warm cuddly snuggly fluffiness comes up to my room and wiggles under the covers to lie next to me and then it is so hard to get out of bed. Especially now that it is cool in the mornings. Could you kick this out of your bed?