Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Inside a Paranoid Runner's Mind

Remember Monday morning's triumphant post about overcoming Week 8 with flying colors?

That triumph seems to have been a bit pre-mature.

You see, my foot hurts. No, not that one. The other one. My right foot. In the same place that my left foot hurt when I was on my way to the incident-that-shall-not-be-named. It didn't pain me during Sunday's 14 miler at all. Or Sunday night. On Monday it felt sore... along with a lot of other body parts. Yesterday, it was still rather unhappy, but it didn't feel worse (or better) after my speedwork session.

Then I stupidly crammed it into a pair of mid-height heels for the work day. It protested.

This morning, it is still sore. I swam (a horrible swim, by the way) to minimize any impact, and it is still not happy. Thereofre, my mind has leapt to the unnerving conclusion that I have gone and broken myself again or am on the verge of breaking myself again.

So what do I do first? I play the blame game. What could I have done to make this part of my foot hurt?

Suspect One: Shoes. My favorite thing to blame lately. Sunday was my longest run to date in the Ghosts. Perhaps this is just my feet adjusting to the new shoes, whose toe boxes do seem to be a bit more restrictive than previous pairs. My pinkie and 4th toe didn't hurt during the long run but when I pulled my feet out of my shoes and into flip flops immediately after, both pinkie toes were very red and felt in need of stretching, especially the right one.

Maybe it was just my shoes.

Suspect Two: that bonus run that I gave myself last week. I should not have done it... it was very stupid. In retrospect, I should have first looked at the resulting % increase in mileage that the run would create. But no, I said DAMN THE MAN and ran without care.

Here's why that was a big stupid move: the week before I ran 19 miles. Last week I ran 32.

Yeah. That would be a 70% increase in mileage... or seven times the amount you are supposed to increase by each week.

Hm. I think I have found the culprit.

How could I be so reckless? I have obviously gotten over-confident and forgotten the hard lessons of last September.

Now.. what do I do?

Let me tell a thing that a paranoid runner should not do: read a bunch of articles and online forums about stress fractures. This is only leading me to elevated heart rate and feelings like I'm going to pass out or puke or both.

Do I call Dr. Cutter now and make an appointment? If I go, they will do an x ray. If this is just the start of a stress fracture, it probably won't show up on an x ray. Then I would have to do a bone scan. Bone scan = $$$ and needles. I hate needles. And I hate spending money on doctors.

Do I take a chill pill, scratch tomorrow's tempo run, and attempt Saturday's MTT run with the hope that this is just muscle ache/protest at the dramatic increase in mileage?

Do I just need to stop thinking about it, as 90% of this is likely a mental thing? (See previous freakouts and post-rule-breaking over reactions that turned out to be nothing.)

I am leaning toward option 2 of scratching tomorrow and engaging in cross training instead, hoping that the soreness is gone by Saturday morning, and going out with the team.

And trying to go with a healthy dose of option 3.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 8

I was very nervous about this week. Last year, I broke my foot during training week 8, so that was heavy on my mind.

This year, I've survived and better still, it turned out to be a strong week.

4 runs for 31.7 miles
8.5 miles on the bike
1600 yards in the pool

Running miles logged so far: 165

Training highlights:
  • First 30 mile week since week 8 of last year
  • Only my second time running a true 14 miler and felt great for the duration. Truth be told, this was supposed to be only a 13 miler, but whoever made the route for our MTT run went a bit over. When I got back to the stadium, my Garmin read 13.8 miles, so I kept running to round it out to 14 because why the heck not?
  • Beautiful weather on Friday was too tempting so I threw caution to the wind and snuck in 5 unscheduled miles 
  • I'm officially 1/3 of the way through MTT training season!

Training lowlights:
  • On Tuesday my body went into rebellion. I had episodes of room-spinning-dizziness all day for no apparent reason. I had to take the day off from work and ended up sleeping for hours upon hours. 

  • I missed Saturday's Team Navy run but luckily had the option of going out with Team Cocoa on Sunday instead, where I made a new friend (Becky) and ended up being the first person to finish the run (likely my first and last ever "first place finish" ha!). It was a very interesting shift in dynamics for me; when I'm with Team Navy I also often run in the front of the pack which is a group of about 8 guys and one other woman, Lauren. With Team Cocoa, things were a lot more femme-centric. For the first half of the run we had a front pack of 4 women, then Becky, myself, and her husband pulled away after a SAG. I ended up finishing first because I did not stop at the last SAG.
  • I bought new d-bag glasses on Friday which are cosiderably less d-bag than my previous pair. In fact they are nearly non-reflective but still polarized. On Saturday, I found my original d-bag glasses. Figures.

Hydration belt status:
  • Virginal

This week I officially start the very regimented Run Less, Run Faster program of speed work, tempo run, and long run. Because I did my long run on Sunday, my week is thrown off from it's usually Monday/Wednesday runs schedule so I'll be doing my first speed work session tomorrow morning. 

But first, I feel like I need to study up tonight on exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. RLRF speed work sessions look overly-complicated and in the past when I tried to wrap my brain around them, I basically glazed over and shut down. Seeing as how I'm supposed to complete one tomorrow, I cannot procrastinate any longer and will have to figure it out. 

Right now my plan is to go to a local high school track that I have heard  is open to the public during the summer and do the work out there. If I get there at 6:45 am and it's not open I'm not quite sure what I will do instead, so cross your fingers that the intelligence I have gathered is correct. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Treat

This morning, I gave myself a treat.

Yeah, I know. Weird, right? What kind of person treatss themselves with running?

I wasn't supposed to run today. In fact, doing this was officially breaking the rules. But I could just not let this weather happen without me taking the opportunity to take a run that didn't feel like sweaty death.

Central Virginia in July - unheard of!!

I decided to say "Damn the rules!" and head out this morning. I just wanted to run and enjoy it. No real plan or objective, just do what felt good. It turned out to be lovely and fast, and I spent the time meditating on the question of why I engage in this particular activity. I got started on this train of thought when it dawned on me that waking up at 5:30 am on my Friday to go on a run was something that I wanted to do today. It wasn't something I had to do. It wasn't part of my training plan and will in fact, put me over my prescribed tally this week for running miles.

So why why WHY on Earth did I do this? What compelled me to get up extra early and put in extra time on the pavement, especially on a Friday? 

The usual parade of reasons came to mind first: because I can; because I want to eat a Quarter Pounder tonight on my way to my twelfth Dave Matthews Band concert and not feel guilty about it (don't judge); because the weather is nice and I would be stupid to not take advantage; because running is good for my health; because if I don't work out I'm just not going to feel good today.

All of that stuff is true, but I was searching for one reason. How do I wrap up all that stuff and make sense of this crazy runner person that I've become?

What I eventually came up with (during mile 5) is that running has become a habit.

I was going to call it a vice, but then I looked up the meaning of the word "vice": immoral or wicked behavior. Synonyms for vice include fault, depravity, sin, iniquity, wickedness, and corruption.

Yeah... not really a vice. Is it just me or is that word misused and overused these days?

But a habit (definition: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up), yes. These days, it's just something that I do because it's, well... what I do. It's very odd for me to think of it that way, but I think it has become the truth. It's just something that I want to do; that I need to do in order to feel like myself.

Now that I've said it out loud, it doesn't really make any more sense to me than when I started this entry. 

Talk about a head-scratcher.

Maybe I should stop trying to figure out why I do things and just enjoy them instead. Why do we always seem to have to justify our every action and identify motivation for what we do in life? 

Over analysis takes the joy out of everything. So I'm going to stop wondering why I did what I did this morning. I did it because I wanted to and had a great morning; isn't that enough?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Marathon Training = Munchies

I've noticed that lately Run, Eat, Play RVA has been more like Run, Run, Run RVA. I apologize to all of you non-runners out there for my endless prattling about boring topics like marathon training, hydration belts, bonks, and shoes. If you can't already tell, the thing about marathon training is that it pretty much takes over a person's life.

This is not to say that I haven't squeezed in some "playing" and I certainly have been doing more than my fair share of "eating" lately too. 

Especially the eating. 

As I alluded to in past posts, being in marathon training mode has caused me to have an insatiable appetite and brought on some intense food obsessions. Strangely enough, most of these obsessions are with foods that I would not have touched with a 10-foot pole in the past.   

Example 1 - Key Lime. Prior to last August's trip to Key West, I wasn't that big a fan of Key Lime flavored items. Probably because pretty much the only thing I'd come into contact with before then was fake, neon green "key lime" pie. But once I got a taste of the real thing, I was hooked. Luckily (?) for my waist line, I discovered Key Lime near the end of the season last year. 

This summer, my newfound love of Key Lime has turned into a complete obsession. Wherever we go, if there is a Key Lime flavored item, I must obtain it. It's gotten to the point where local cupcake shop Carytown Cupcakes actually Tweeted me to let me know that Key Lime was included in this week's featured flavor list.

I'm not a big fan of baking, but in June I unfortunately discovered how easy it is to make Key Lime Pie. Since then, I've somehow restrained myself and baked only two. At Broad Appetite back in June, I nearly fell over myself to get to the King of Pops cart to get a Key Lime Pie Popsicle, which I then raved about non-stop for the rest of the day. Oh, and have you had Oikos Key Lime Greek Yogurt? That stuff is (forgive the 90's slang) DA BOMB. Especially if you stick it in the freezer and then enjoy. 

Other favorites have been Bev's Key Lime Pie ice cream:

...with graham cracker crust crumbles, natch.

And Dixie Donuts' Key Lime donut:

Even my wardrobe is Key Lime inspired.
Peanut butter has also become a food that I just can't resist. This is something that I go in phases with; I can remember times in my childhood when I absolutely hated peanut butter, but then I went through a major peanut butter sandwich phase in high school. I haven't really eaten much as an adult, but since "becoming a runner" it has become a staple in my "running nutrition" palette (a term I use incredibly loosely because let's get real... I don't really do running nutrition in any way, shape or form). 

My traditional pre-race food item is half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread, but these days, I find myself reaching into the cupboard, opening the peanut butter jar, and just eating a spoonful. I have never ever done that before. I have also started to eat half a peanut butter sandwich at random times (like at 8:30 at night as a before bed snack) and go for the peanut butter flavored ice cream, milkshakes, and chocolate bars. 

Drug  Protein of choice

You know what else I love? I LOVE EGGS.

Yes, from my head down to my legs.

Omelets, scrambled, over easy, over hard, eggs in a frame, in purgatory, deviled, hard boiled, on a salad, on a sandwich, on a burger, in my pasta, in a breakfast skillet - I don't care, just give 'em to me. 

Dinamo's Eggs in Purgatory are more like HEAVEN.

And then there is avocado. Like Key Lime, I would not come near avocado until fairly recently. But now, if it's included in a dish, it's a given that I am going to be ordering said item or making said item. Guacamole is my absolute favorite form of avocado consumption; I made a huge bowl of it this past weekend for a picnic gathering and I swear I ate more than half of it on my own. Nevermind the fact that I had eaten a big old bowl of it the day before during a quick trip to D.C. with my good buddy Shannon. 

I also love it in a salad or on a sandwich, but the major coup in my culinary world is getting a burger with guacamole AND a fried egg on it. Talk about heaven!

Then there are the snacks. I can't stop eating Mi-Del Ginger Snaps or Quaker Popped Mini Rice Cakes in the Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper flavor (use of the word "crack" is totally appropriate there!). I can't keep tins of mixed nuts around the house because every time I come into eye contact with a nut of any variety, I can't resist the urge to eat a handful. Or two. Same goes for ice cream. A few weeks ago, I bought Turkey Hill's new Natural Vanilla with Sea Salted Caramel Swirl. Eating one serving at a time was out of the question. It was just too delicious. One day I just decided to sit down with the container and finish off the entire thing just so I could get it out of my house. 

With all of these addictions, it is no wonder that I've gained a solid 5 lbs since marathon training began. I never thought that I'd be a victim of marathon weight gain, especially since running has done nothing but help me slim down since I started three years ago. But it's real and I don't like it. Even though I love avocados and key lime and eggs and peanut butter, I'm going to have to reduce my consumption of these items before things get away from me...

but first, I just have to have one more Key Lime cupcake...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Things They Don't Tell You Part 1

You know how women shield each other from the truly ugly side of pregnancy and childbirth? I feel like the same thing happens with runners: there are definitely things that veterans don't share about their sport - and more specifically, marathon training and running - because sometimes it's probably just better for us newbies to not know.

There are, of course, the things that it seems everybody knows. Missing and/or black toenails, lack of social life, eating everything in sight, carb loading, etc.

Then there are those things that you never imagined. Thus far, I've observed the following:
  1. You will start to pay attention to the color of your pee... and this becomes a relevant/normal topic of discussion with other runners.
  2. The words "it's only eight miles" will come out of your mouth in reference to a training run. Then you will realize that what you just said is totally crazy - running 8 miles is still running eight miles and an accomplishment in and of itself. Try to remind yourself of that.
  3. The slightest abnormal ache or pain in your lower extreminities will cause extreme anxiety and grouchiness. You will obsess over said ache or pain, immediately jumping to worst case scenarios, until it goes away. Same goes for the slightest feeling of a cold, stomach flu, or general illness.
  4. The boost to your metabolism means you are hungry all the time (expected) and that you have insane/intense cravings (not expected). The other day I found myself eating peanut butter out of the jar. I used to hate peanut butter. Expect an entry further detailing my training-induced face stuffing in the near future.
I'm sure as I progress into the more intense part of training, I will discover lots more fun things that they never tell you about this crazy sport.

For the record, I have yet to get a wonky toenail or have one fall off, which is one of my biggest (and most irrational) fears about running. Don't ask me why - there are plenty of worse things that can happen to you, but for some reason, the thought of losing a toenail really freaks me out.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 7

This morning, it dawned on me that a marathon training plan is only effective if you actually pay attention to it.

3 runs for 19 miles
11 miles on the bike
1600 yard swim on Tuesday; 1650 yard swim on Thursday

Running miles logged so far: 133.3

Looks like a pretty impressive week of training, right? It was... except that when I opened up my training plan spreadsheet this morning to officially book my running miles, I noticed that I was supposed to increase my Monday run to 6 miles started in Week 7. I didn't. And because I didn't look at the training plan until this morning after my run, I am also 1 mile behind for Week 8 as I did the usual 5 miles.

Whoops. Guess I should really start confirming what I'm supposed to be doing before I head out. The good news is that because I ran an extra mile a few weeks ago, I am still on track for total miles for now.

Training highlights:

  • Swimming felt great this week. 
  • The Brooks Ghost 6s are tolerable. I don't love them as much as my Pinks, but my joints definitely hurt less after a week spent in the Ghosts.
  • Pulling out an average pace of 8:30 during the MTT run this week, which was incredibly warm (78), incredibly humid (89%), and sunny. I keep telling myself that the more I suffer in the heat and humidity now, the easier it will be to run in November.
  • I'm pretty proud of myself for getting up early and going to work out (except Sunday).

Training lowlights:

  • I wussed out on Wednesday and retreated to the treadmill for my morning run. I just didn't feel like going out there in the 80 degree-100% humidity-even at 6:45 am- weather.
  • I LOST MY D-BAG RUNNING SUNGLASSES. This is tragic and upsetting for a number of reasons. First, I don't lose things. Ever. So for me to have lost something is very unusual and puts me into a tailspin. Second, now I have to drive to a Dick's (none of which are "on the way" or close to anything that I do on a daily basis) to obtain a new pair. Third, when I go to Dick's, I will probably end up spending more $ on running gear that I don't need.

Hydration belt status: 
  • Tags still on, hanging out in my dresser drawer unused.

Week 8 is the last week of my frankenstein plan combining Run Less Run Faster with the SportsBackers team plan. Then the real fun starts with insane speedwork on Mondays, real mid-length tempo runs on Wednesdays, and all-double-digit-from-here-on-out MTT long runs on Saturdays. 

In other words: real training. 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Things We Carry

As I have evolved from a newbie to a recreational runner to a full on crazy run addict, a lot of things have changed from my shoes to my clothing to when I run to how I run. I've also noticed that the longer I have been doing it, the less inclined I am to carry crap along with me on a run.

When I first started, my iPod was a crutch. If I did not have my iPod or it died during a run, I would melt down and then really have to convince myself that I could in fact go out/finish without the music piping constantly in my ears. Now, the only time I run with music is if I am stuck on the dreadmill. I don't even use it when I'm running by myself or during races. The jury is out on whether I will take it along for the marathon, but right now I'm thinking no.

I've also shedded clothing. At first I wore tee shirts, big floofy shorts, and layers. These days, I try to run in as little clothing as possible and I'm even considering running in only a sports bra and compression shorts once it gets super hot this summer. I haven't decided whether I can pull that off or not, so it hasn't happened yet, but I think it probably will. Even during the winter, I'd rather be cold for the first few miles than wear a jacket or long sleeve that will end up tied around my waist (and drive me nuts). I also hate wearing hats, which just feel like way too much material on my head.

While training for my first half, I became convinced that I needed to carry water with me for my long runs. I bought a hand held camel bak and took it out for anything over 6 miles. I carried the handheld during the Shamrock Half because I didn't want to have to deal with water stops... but it really got on my nerves and in the end, I'm pretty sure that the imbalance of carrying the water in my left hand threw off my gait and made my left quad/hip cramp. I haven't carried it since, instead dealing with water stops at Cherry Blossom and the 10k without it really impacting my performance.

My shoes have gotten lighter too. I ran my first 10k in random New Balance sneakers, then got analyzed/fitted and moved on to Brooks Ravennas. A year later I was jumping on the minimal bandwagon at the recommendation of Steve, and now run in PureCadence which get lighter with every new model. When I run in my Ravennas now (I use them for trails), they feel like bricks.

And then there is the cell phone. I know it's impossible to fathom, but I do not carry my phone with me when I run. It doesn't fit into any of my pockets and I find it annoying to wear a gear belt  (I can barely stand wearing one during races). I have also tried the arm band things, which I found to be insanely irritating.

But beyond all that, I don't neeeeeeeeeed to have the phone with me. Not having it and being unreachable for a few hours is actually quite wonderful. Like most, I am far too addicted to my smart phone and find myself reaching for it every time I might be bored for 5 minutes or less (at stop lights, waiting for an  appointment or meeting to start, waiting for a server to show up in a restaurant, etc). To me, this is a dismaying habit and separating myself from the iPhone for a few hours a week is a great thing.

I can already hear the chorus of concerns about safety. Here's the thing: I always run in well populated areas during daylight hours. We're talking city streets lined with houses, businesses, traffic, and other pedestrians/bikers/runners/walkers. Most of the time I am running with at least one other person. If I am not running city streets (the flood wall or James River Trails, for instance) I am always with another person.

I'm not very concerned about being abducted, though of course I am always sure to make myself as aware of my surroundings as possible and be on the lookout for suspicious characters or situations that make me feel uneasy.

If I were to fall or get hurt (which I have been known to do), I'm confident that my running partner - or in the case of solo running, a passerby - would be able to assist me. If my injury were such that I needed instant attention, odds are that I probably wouldn't be able to be making a phone call anyway (I'm thinking hit by a car/knocked out/broken limb and excruciating pain) or that my phone would be effed up by the fall or impact. For instance, had I been carrying my phone in a front pocket a few weeks ago when I fell at MTT training, it's likely would have been the biggest casualty since I landed face down on the pavement. Worse still if it had been in my hand. And I would have been 100 times more PO'd about my fall.

Also, don't worry - I do wear a Road ID so that at least if I were found passed out on the pavement, people would be able to figure out who to call.

For me, the benefits just outweigh the risks. Maybe someday I will eat my words but for now even carrying my car key feels like a hassle.

This has been a rather long-winded introduction to the real reason for this post -

After three years of minimalizing the number of things that I carry on a run, I have come to accept the fact that it is probably going to be wise for me to suck it up and invest in ::gulp:: a hydration/fuel belt. This has been something that I avoided for a long time. To me there is no piece of running equipment that is dorkier than a fuel belt.


Not even reflective vests or visors with headlamps.

Aside from that, as I mentioned above, I hate running with a belt. Previously I have used the Amphipod race belt to hold my race number and my phone. Yes, I begrudgingly do take it with me when racing but only to facilitate meeting up with people after the finish. When the Amphipod belt is not bouncing like crazy (which is hardly ever), it's riding up and I spend half the race shoving it from my ribcage back down to its proper place at my hips. I despise the thing, but I despise safety pin holes in my clothes more (OCD alert), so I deal with it.

Last year it became apparent to me that for the sake of my sanity, I was going to have to invest in a new non-bouncy belt for the marathon. I also realized that a fuel belt and hydration plan are massively important to the successful completion of a marathon and that getting those ducks in order as soon as possible would be a good idea. I had done some preliminary nosing around but had never gotten around to ordering one - my foot broke first.

This year, I still had been putting off commiting to a belt. After lots of research and reading of reviews, I finally elected to order the iFitness Hydration Belt. To illustrate my level of reluctance: I researched and selected the belt on a Saturday morning, then located the best deal from an online retailer, then proceeded to put the item in my shopping cart and leave it there... for more than a week. Finally, I ordered it. I received the belt in the mail on June 15 and have yet to use it. Every week I delay the inevitable with some excuse: "I'm waiting for double digit runs" or "Once it hits 80 degrees in the morning" or the simple, "Maybe next week."

Next week hasn't come yet, but one of these days I really will have to put the darn thing on and take it out with me so I can start practicing this whole "hydrate while running" thing.

I've been meditating on why I hate carrying stuff with me lately and come to the conclusion that I just hate having to rely on anything but myself while I'm on a run. Whether a cell phone, iPod, or a bottle of water, it just takes something away from the experience for me. I feel invincible when it's just me getting it done and that is why I loathe the idea of a hydration belt.

Well, that and the fact that there is no way to make a hydration belt look cool.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 6

Guess what?

It didn't rain this morning and another week of training is already over.

3 runs for 22 miles (1 mile over thanks to unintentional 6 miler on Wednesday)
23 miles on the bike

Running miles logged so far: 114.3

Training highlights:

  • ...ummmmmmmmmmm... 
  • ... we got our official MTT Shirts on Saturday... 
They're pretty snazzy this year!
  • ... ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...
  • Chili cheese omelet, homefries, and big old biscuit at Dairy Bar after 11 miles with Team Navy on Saturday.

Training lowlights:

  • Once again stuck on the treadmill on Monday thanks to RAIN.
  • Wednesday's run was just positively awful. 
  • I think a serious case of marathon training munchies has officially led to a 5 lb weight gain.
  • For the first time, I absolutely dreaded  Saturday's long run. I was anything but enthusiastic when I showed up at 6:30 am. The run was 11 miles and included going across the Nickel Bridge and then Riverside Drive, both of which can only be described as hilly. I'd never run Riverside but it has a 'reputation' so I was nervous about it. I wish I had copied the elevation chart from my Garmin but I didn't, so I'm going to be lazy and link to RunJillyBean's chart. Did I mention that the run also featured 89% humidity? And that I was still achy? Even though I wasn't Mary Sunshine, it didn't turn out to be as bad as I had anticipated, but I was still really happy when it was over, as evidenced by my "home stretch" photo below.
Photo courtesy of MTT Photos/Mark Buckland
Mile 2 or 3, running with one of our coaches, Ed, and Greg
I think at this point I was saying, "We should smile guys, we are supposed to be
looking like we're having fun right now."

Photo courtesy of MTT Photos/Mark Buckland
Thank you, sweet baby Jesus, there's the END.

I wish I could say I've recovered some of my motivation for the week ahead, but sadly, I haven't. This morning I took the Brooks Ghost 6s out for the first time and they didn't feel amazing  but were definitely more cushioned than my PureCadance 2s. My ankles and knees are still sore and to add insult to injury, I stepped on something in the kitchen on Saturday which lodged itself into the ball of my right foot and will not come out. 

I'm sure the Band Aid doesn't help, but I love the excuse
to use one of my fancy Cynthia Rowley designed Band Aids,
courtesy of HMR.
Oh yeah, and the humidity is sticking around and the heat is getting worse this week, with indeces topping 100 degrees starting tomorrow. I just love summer. ::sarcasm::

At least it's drop back week and we only have 8 miles scheduled for Saturday.

And it didn't rain today.

Yay optimism (?). 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

First Bonk - The Blame Game

This morning's training run can only be described in one word (well... one word that won't make you think that I'm a foul-mouthed pirate... which I am by the way, but for the sake of appearances I will refrain):


Yes, friends, it was so bad that I can't even use a real  word to describe it.

Everything about it was just painful. My legs felt like bricks. It's been a long time since my legs felt this heavy. In addition, all of the joints in my legs were aching: my ankles, my knees, and my hips. It is extremely unusual for my joints to hurt, especially my knees. And I was just exhausted. All that I wanted to do from the second my alarm went off at 5:30 am was go back to bed and I just wasn't able to shake that feeling.

It was supposed to be a tempo run. Instead, it was a completely schizophrenic run.

Oh, and it was also a mile too long. That's what happens when you don't plan adequately and decide to try some new trails on the fly.

I honestly don't know why I was achy and tired this morning. So, I'll do what all runners do and find something to blame. First, I'm going to blame the weather.

I've certainly run in worse conditions (thank goodness it was cloudy), but the humidity was just really getting to me today.

And I'm also going to blame what I believe is the culprit behind my leg pains:

I'm lookin' at YOU, PureCadence 2!
As any runner will tell you, the relationship between a runner and his or her shoes is a deep, abiding love affair. Your shoes are your most important piece of equipment - the wrong pair can wreak havoc and the right pair make you feel like every step is heaven. Getting to that right pair is often a long, annoying, and arduous process and most people cling dearly to their favorite brand and model for as long as possible - much like Rose clung to Jack's frozen but still handsome corpse in the cold North Atlantic.

Image Source
Yes, I did just reference Titanic.
(Come on, you know it's true!)

It took me a while, but last year I discovered my Jack Dawson in the form of the Brooks PureCadence. After I wore out my first pair, Husband bought me my second pair for our anniversary... and literally the day after they arrived, I broke my foot. They sat in my closet until January, when they were baptized on the vita course and became known as "My pinks."

You get the point. I loved these shoes. Correction: LOVE those shoes. My pinks helped me PR all those springtime races and then some. They went to Italy with me, carried me through Pompeii and Positano, then to my favorite gelateria in all of Rome. When I got back, I continued to wear them even though I knew they were on their last legs.



And I didn't realize they were changing them until it was too late to buy 10 pairs at the sale price.

Around the time of the Monument Avenue 10k, I knew I would need to get another pair, but after reading the abysmal reviews of the PureCadence 2 on the Brooks website, I was reluctant. At the 10k Expo, I stopped by the Brooks booth just to try them on and ended up letting the guy talk me into buying a pair. I bought his story that the only thing that had changed about the shoe was the upper.

Over 100 miles later, I don't believe him. These shoes are not my Jack Dawson. They are my Cal Hockley.

I held onto my pinks until Marathon training started. On one of my first outings in the the PureCadence 2 was  the first day of MTT. You know... the day when I body surfed the sidewalk during mile 2. I should have known then that these shoes were bad news.

As the training cycle has progressed, I've almost fallen on my face a few more times (abnormal behavior for me, I swear); my foot has started to feel wonky; my up until now completely fine socks started to slip back into the heel of the shoe (annoying!); and then my knees started to hurt.

I can't attribute any of this to an increase in mileage; in fact, up to this point, my weekly mileage is still below what I was doing back in March and through April. The only thing that has changed is the shoe.

Even before this morning's horrible run, I was seeking out an alternative. Yesterday, I chatted online with a Brooks specialist to get some recommendations for a shoe that was slightly more cushioned than the PureCadence. He recommended the Ghost or the Launch. I was intrigued by the Launch, but it is apparently sold out just about everywhere (I guess because it is THAT good). I filed away the information, thinking I'd wait a little while longer to start the whole trying-to-find-a-new-perfect-shoe-dance.

But after this morning's run, I'd had enough. This afternoon after work, I headed directly to my local running store, Road Runner (not to be confused with Road Runner Sports) in Carytown and asked to try on the Ghost 6 and the Mizuno Wave Rider 16. I've heard lots of people rave about the Wave Rider and figured I have nothing to lose.

Omigod... shoes
I thought that the Ghosts would feel like bricks after running in PureCadence for more than a year, but they were surprisingly light and definitely afforded more cushion than the PureCadence 2. I wanted to love the Mizunos because I feel like all the cool kids wear them, but they felt too narrow in the ankle or something.

So, about five minutes after walking in, I walked out having blown a wad of cash on a shiny new pair of Brooks Ghost 6s.

I'm giving my legs a much needed rest day day tomorrow and won't run again until Saturday's 11 mile MTT run... sooooo I won't be trying them out officially until next Monday. 

Here's to hoping that these Ghosts do the trick, though I must say that they are not nearly as good looking as my pinks. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Race Report: Patriots 5k

I was really excited about doing this race this year because it combines three of my favorite things:

  1. The Fourth of July
  2. Running
  3. Marines
Hosted by the Richmond Marine Corps League (with support from Richmond Road Runners), the event proceeds go to the Wounded Warriors Project. 

Even though the 4th is my favorite holiday, I'm not a particularly patriotic person. But if I do have one weakness, it is Marines - particularly Marine veterans of World War II, who I affectionately refer to as "little old men Marines." I am a SUCKER for any old man in a uniform. At the grocery store, I can walk right past the Boy Scouts selling popcorn, the Girl Scouts shilling cookies, and the Salvation Army bell ringers without a second thought,  but on Veterans Day there is a group of vets who sell little fake poppies and I buy them every time. Whenever a news magazine-type show features a segment about a Marine, I am watching it and crying like a baby. A recent CBS Sunday Morning piece about a WWII vet who volunteers at the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans made me want to jump on a plane so I can go meet the man and hug him before it's too late.

This affinity for Marines is directly attributed to my Grandfather and my Uncle Bud, both of whom proudly served during World War II. I loved both of these men dearly and whenever I see a little old man Marine proudly wearing his uniform, I see them.

Anyway, this is a race recap. Right. SO, I was really excited about participating in this race.

This was an extremely small "club" race held at Robious Landing Park in Midlothian, Virginia. Unfortunately, Robious Landing Park is basically on the other side of the world from where I live, so I had to wake up pretty early to meet Marcey at the appointed rendezvous time of 7:45 am. Knowing that it was a tiny operation, I wasn't expecting there to be any signage pointing the way, but there was and it was simple yet charming:

Got it.

Being me, I ended up getting there early, so I parked and headed to pick up our race numbers and t-shirts. Pick up was located in a shelter just next to the parking lot and was run by -you guessed it- little old men Marines! I'm pretty sure I grinned like an idiot the entire time and had to suppress the urge to request a photo of myself with the Marines.

Marcey arrived shortly thereafter with some special holiday flair to add to our red, white, and blue ensembles:

And then I watched a group of young Marines do THIRTY push ups in the parking lot. I was completely in awe of this... I can barely do 12 girly push ups without my arms turning into noodles. And they did it so quickly, too!

Seriously. Impressive.
Robious Landing Park is right along the James River, so Marcey and I took the opportunity to take some pre-race photos to kill time until the race start at 8:30 am. 

Brown from all the rain, but still pretty(ish)
My red, white, and blue race ensemble

Marcey and I have a habit of showing up late to the starting line for RRRC races, and this was no exception. We made our way into the starting area just in time for the Star Spangled Banner, which was performed by a flute player. Pretty sure this is the first time I've EVER heard a solo flutist play the SSB at a sporting event (or ever), but seeing as how Marcey and I are both flute players, it was kind of awesome.

Even more awesome? She also ran the race.
Up until the race actually started, I wasn't sure whether I was going to actually "race" this one or just kind of bumble along the trails at a comfortable pace. When I woke up the morning of, I told myself I was going to take it easy and not push anything, as I was being risky and running three days in a row. But during the long 45-minute drive to Midlothian, I started to think that I should just all out race it because it was a small field and maybe I would be able to place. 

Even as I was standing near the back of the group of runners in the corral with Marcey, I was unsure of what I was going to do. 

The race started and we were off. I told myself to hang back and just relax... but I just couldn't do it. I normally don't think of myself as a very competitive person, but I was having way too much fun coming from the back and picking people off one by one. 

The course was two loops around a relatively narrow trail through the wooded park - sometimes covered with crushed stones, sometimes with muddy patches, sometimes with puddles of water that runners lept over (or ran through... crazy people if you ask me). It was very humid, but the wooded trail kept us almost entirely in the shade, which was a good thing because for the few minutes that we were in the sun, the temperature suddenly felt much more brutal. 

I was having a great time dodging mud, leaping over water, and enjoying the strange solitary feeling of a trail race. Near the end, I saw a young man wearing a yellow Marine Corps shirt stop to walk in front of me. As I passed him, I gave him an encouraging pat on the shoulder and yelled, "Less than a quarter mile, don't give up now!" He nodded at me and I heard him start to run again. 

The race had a fast ending down a paved hill. I wish someone had been closer to me so I would've had that extra little inspiration to turn up the heat as I crossed the finish line. As it was, I ran across maintaining a similar speed.

As soon as I finished I went to find some water and came up with this, which was being handed out for free:

NOS Energy Drink
I immediately began to guzzle it because I was sweating like crazy and dying of thirst. It was only after I'd drank half of it that I noticed the scary warning label that this drink contained high amounts of caffeine and was not recommended for children, pregnant or breast feeding women, or caffeine sensitive persons. I'm none of these, but I've never had an energy drink in my life so I was kind of freaked out and thinking that having something like that was probably not the best idea after running an incredibly sweaty 3 mile race (doesn't caffeine dehydrate you??).

I walked about 100 yards up the hill from the finish to wait for Marcey and managed to snap this pretty good action shot while screaming inspirational phrases (ha!):

The inspirational phrases were more like "BEAT HER! CATCH HER MARCEY! BEEEEEEEEEEEAT HER!"
Marcey did beat her, at the very last second. 

As for me? I didn't do so badly, placing third in my age group (out of ten) and 44th out of 312 with an RRRC official time of 26:12. I was only six seconds back from second place, and I'm going to blame my third place finish on the fact that I had to stop and tie my stupid sneaker during mile 2. 

Here's what the Almighty Garmin had to say:

You'll also notice that I didn't quite  get 3.1 miles... and I really wish that I had just runa nother .03 to actually get the 5k. Although this wasn't a PR (especially considering that I didn't technically run 5k), I still feel pretty good about my performance. I started in the back of the pack, this was trails and not road, and it was extremely humid. 

Post race shiney and sweaty. Yum.
Once we toweled off a bit, Marcey and I headed to Virginia Diner to celebrate the successful completion of Year of Running Race #8 and America's birthday with crab cakes (for me) and french toast (for her).

All in all, it was a fun little race that I would do again... mainly so I can giggle like a school girl as I pick up my race packet from cute little old men Marines and be inspired by young men Marines doing push ups in the parking lot pre-race.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Richmond Marathon Training Take 2 - Week 5

Last week, I started my training report by whining about how it is always raining on Mondays and ruining my morning run plans. Without fail, it was pouring rain yet again this morning. I didn't even realize it was raining until after  I had slathered myself with sunscreen. Figures.

Also without fail, here is my marathon training report:

4 runs for 23.3 miles
No cross training (bad)

Running miles logged so far: 92.3

This week was a little bit wonky because of the holiday, and as you can see I broke one of my big rules and ended up running not only 2 days back-to-back, but THREE. Cross training just didn't happen, though I did my usual combo of planks, stretches, and crunches every night.

Training highlights:
  • A perfectly executed progressive speed work run completed on Monday.
  • A real tempo run on Wednesday, as opposed to the usual, "Let's just run fast."
  • Placed 3rd in my age group at the Patriots 5k on July 4th.
I placed first in "stupid jumping pictures."
  • Survived the first double-digit run of this training cycle: a solo 10 miler on Friday. No music, no company... just me, my crazy thoughts, and an overall average pace of 8:47.
Ten miles of SWEAT.

Training lowlights:
  • Not exactly a "lowlight", but I really missed running with Team Navy this week. I was out of town on Saturday and had to get the 10 miler in by myself on Friday morning. It made me wonder how in the world I did those weeks of marathon training (take 1) by myself last year.
  • My mind was on my foot this week. It hasn't been hurting but I have been aware of it... and the more I think about it, the more I think it feels funny. During the ten-miler, I opted to run four laps on the dreaded vita course just in case  something went terribly wrong and I needed assistance. Honestly, I think the whole thing is 50% mental and 50% the fact that my foot swells at the drop of a hat these days and I think the discomfort is more from the foot swelling in my shoe than from anything else.
  • Breaking the rules and running three days in a row. It just happened that way, ok? I was scared about it (there's the mental part of my foot discomfort), and luckily it was fine, but I will not be making a habit of it.

This week I vow to add my cross training back in and am looking forward to 11 miles with Team Navy on Saturday!