Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Miracle Maybe?

I had my sports massage yesterday for my brand-new, screaming IT band issue, and it was worth the time and money for sure.  The massage therapist was knowledgeable and had lots of experience working on endurance athletes.  She worked out a lot of kinks in my lower back, glutes, and hip flexors (which were particularly vile!).  Told me where and how to tape up my hips.  Told me to listen to my body, don't be afraid to walk, pay attention to my breathing, and I just may be able to go the full 26.2 miles on Sunday.  That made me feel a little better.

Following the massage, I went to the local running store to pick up more tape.  The owner told me she is running Pensacola Marathon on Sunday as well, and that she has been having IT band issues.  She felt confident that foam rolling, taping, rest and a little ibuprofen would do the trick for her.  That made me feel a little better too.

This morning, freshly taped in bright pink and blue from my waist to my knee, I set off for a slow mile around my neighborhood to get a status check.  Other than some mild achiness in my left hip, things felt okay.  That made me feel a little better, but one mile isn't 26.2. 

At lunchtime today, I'm still a little achy.  An ibuprofen would feel good right now.  More than anything, I am scared.  This race was supposed to be the big test of my ability, the first marathon I have run on my own.  My family is supposed to be there, and that's a lot of pressure.  I would not want my children to see me hobbling in pain, and I wouldn't want them to see me quit either.  I think it's entirely possible for me to have a good run, and even a mediocre run could give me a PR.  I may be able to switch my registration and run the half instead, but I'm not sure I want to do that.  I want a good marathon.  I want to overcome something.  I want to push my mind's limits as well as my body's.  I want to do all this without intense pain.  I'll have to make a decision soon.


Monday, November 5, 2012

A Real Pain in the Knee

About two weeks ago, I came home from an 8-mile run and shortly thereafter my left knee started to ache.  Nothing major: a little ibuprofen did the trick and I was fine to run the next day.  Since then, it's appeared after some of my runs, but not all.  No correlation with distance or speed, just a random ache that goes away within 24 hours. My left hip has also been feeling tighter than usual, which I suspected as the root of it.

Yesterday, I had an easy 10 scheduled as my last double-digit run before the Pensacola Marathon this coming Sunday.  I made it about four miles into the run, and my left knee started to ache.  It had never bothered me DURING a run before. Hmm.  Stopped, walked, assessed:  all better.  Within a quarter mile, it started to hurt again.  Worse this time.  I alternated walking and running, then took a good long stretch break at mile five.  My left hip was exceptionally tight by this time.

For the next couple of miles, I hobbled along.  I'd run for a few minutes, then I'd feel my hip starting to clinch.  I could feel the tightness moving down the outside of my thigh until -- SHAZAM! HOLY PAIN! --it hit the knee.  There was no running on that.  I'd stop and walk, and the muscles would immediately relax and the pain would disappear.  So I'd give it a go again, and sure enough, excruciating debilitating pain would hit me square in the knee.  Strangely, walking was perfectly comfortable.  I had to walk the last 3.5 miles, which was pretty humbling.

Maybe I sensed something was wrong before, because I had already scheduled an appointment with a sports massage therapist for today to deal with the tight muscles.  I've had far too much time on my hands since yesterday morning to search the internet and self-diagnose.  I'm pretty sure it is my IT band, which may or may not be treatable in time for Sunday's marathon.  I can't imagine, nor would I even want to attempt, 26.2 miles on this leg right now.  I don't think I could run one mile today.  I am praying that my massage therapist can work a miracle.  I don't need to run a marathon on Sunday, I just need to run.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chicago Marathon 2012

Three weeks after the marathon, I am finally getting around to posting about it!  I remember looking at my calendar about 6 weeks ago and realizing that once my Chicago trip hit, my schedule was going to be non-stop for the rest of the year.  That has certainly been the case.  I had post-work activities every night last week except for Thursday.  But I digress.

My friend Kimberly and I flew into Chicago on Thursday afternoon, October 4.  I don't fly often, so I forgot about the general maladies that come with it.  Aside from my flight anxiety, the pressure changes did a number on my sinuses, which remained clogged from the time we landed in Chi-Town to the time we got home, as well as my belly, which bloated to the size it was at about 4 months pregnant & stayed that way the entire trip.  The belly bloating was particularly disappointing because Chicago had SO MUCH wonderful food to try, and I could only consume very small portions.  We had dinner twice on Thursday -- an early meal at Kuma's Korner (where I ate about a quarter of the best burger I've had in years) and later at Balena's, a new Italian place in Lincoln Park that had ridiculously good pork ragu and several delicious gelato concoctions. 

We went to the Expo on Friday morning.  I've run Disney and Rock & Roll races before, so I've been to some pretty impressive expos, but this one took the cake.  We were there for several hours and definitely didn't see everything.  I met Deena Kastor, one of my favorite elite marathoners, and I finally got to try on a pair of Altra zero-drop shoes.  I'd been eyeing those shoes online for several months, but I felt much better having a chance to get fitted and to discuss them with a knowledgeable rep.  First non-food purchase of the trip, but certainly not the last.  We followed the expo with shopping at consignment stores in Wicker Park.  $18 cashmere sweater, $20 velvet blazer - score!  Folks in Chicago get rid of much better clothes than folks in my hometown.  Lou Malnati's pizza for dinner was a must.

On Saturday when my sinuses and belly were still acting up, I started to worry.  I spent most of the day resting while Kimberly and her friends shopped some more.  They cooked us a big pasta dinner (still couldn't eat very much) and we hit the sack at a reasonable time.

Conditions:  It was chilly.  Much chillier than predicted.  About a week before the race, they were predicting mid-50's to 60 degrees.  Every day the forecast got chillier and chillier.  We woke up to temps in the upper 30's.  By the time the race started, it was 42 degrees, and was in the upper 40's or maybe 50-ish when we finished.  But it was perfectly overcast -- no need for sunglasses.  And it wasn't all that windy.  We did fine in throwaway sweatshirts and gloves.
Organization:  I have no idea how they managed to keep nearly 40,000 runners so organized.  There were three separate entrances to the park, each with its own gear check, water station, and portalets.  We had to show our race bibs to get into our starting corral -- best organizational tactic EVER and one that RnR should start utilizing.  The corrals kept the race flowing very well.  We had no problem staying at our goal pace in the crowds, until we took a bathroom break midway through the course and re-entered into a slower group of runners.  Finishers chute was brilliantly organized as well.  It was a long chute & it was well-staffed.  There was never any need to actually stop and wait for anything.  Just keep moving, & grab as you go.  Gear check was also well-organized.  I picked up my stuff and was on my way within a minute or two.
My Goal:  It was Kimberly's first marathon, and I told her I'd stick with her the whole way, so I didn't really have a time goal going into the race.  However, Kimberly said she'd like to finish around 4:30 and we were on pace for most of the first half.  Then she had some hip cramps starting around mile 11 and had to take several stops to stretch.  When we hit the halfway at 2:18, that crazy competitive voice in my head started shouting, and I started worrying about our finishing time.  It was really a mental struggle for me to stop focusing on the pace and just enjoy the race, because it WAS a very fun race and worth enjoying.  Somewhere around mile 16 or 18, I had the "a-ha!" moment where I realized that we were well over halfway finished and I didn't hurt at all.  Ultimately, we got separated at mile 22, and when I realized that there was no way to find my running buddy, I picked up the pace.  I ended up finishing in 4:44 and change -- about 20 seconds off my PR.  Kimberly wasn't far behind me.  It turns out she stopped to stretch and thought I was right behind her back at mile 22.  She finished strong as well and was happy with her time. :)
Overall:  Best thing about the Chicago Marathon?  The spectators.  They were amazing.  I don't recall a time on the course where there weren't people cheering with signs and balloons.  Next best thing?  The city itself.  The course took us through so many different neighborhoods , with so many different personalities.  It's a beautiful way to discover the city, and the course is famously flat and fast.  This race was eye-opening for me, because I am always competing with myself and trying to get a PR.  I didn't PR this race, but I had a much better marathon than my first time, because I was better prepared physically and I wasn't constantly checking my watch & worrying about my pace (partly because my watch battery died at mile 21).   I ran for fun and I enjoyed soaking up the city.  Best of all, I was able to walk afterward, which was very good because we stayed in a 3rd-floor walkup.  I would love to run this one again someday.

Next on the agenda is the Pensacola Marathon on November 11.  During Chicago, I kept thinking "this is the fun marathon, Pensacola is where I'll prove myself".  Despite not being very sore after the race, recovery has taken awhile & I'm still not fully there.  I plan to run faster in Pensacola, but I don't have the same time goals that I originally had.  My husband and kids will be there (which I wasn't originally expecting), and that will make it a very special race in a different way.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A week without running

Last Friday I got in a 7-mile tempo run before my kids went to school & daycare.  It was one of the best runs I have had all summer.  That was 8 days ago, and I haven't run at all since then.
That Friday, my husband and I took a quick overnight trip to go to a concert.  We had a little too much fun, as I expected we would.  I never had any plans of running that Saturday, so that day wasn't a loss.  Sunday was supposed to be 13 miles around 5:30 in the morning.  I was too comfy back in my own bed snuggling with my 3-year-old, so I decided to put it off until Sunday evening.  On Sunday, I got caught up in the ridiculous panic that overcomes our coastal community anytime a tropical storm or hurricane approaches.  I spent the day monitoring weather reports & taking stock of my pantry, battery supply, etc.  It never seemed like a good time to take a break for running.  The rest of the week just got worse.  School was cancelled for 2 days, my husband was out of town, and I still had to go to the office.  It was a downward spiral -- no running made me sleep poorly, so I never had the energy to get out of bed at 5 a.m. to run.  I drank too much coffee and I was a cranky, jittery mess. 
I am so grateful for this 3-day weekend.  I didn't run today, but I have a date with a 20-miler tomorrow morning.  I sure hope I can handle it. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Water, water, everywhere

It seems like my summer running has revolved around water, in its various forms. I've gone through marathon training twice before, but both times I was training through the winter for spring races. This summer, while I am training for the October 7 Chicago Marathon, I have been faced with so many new challenges, and the common factor (for the most part) has been water.

I guess the best place to start is SWEAT. It has been Hot Hot Hot in the Florida Panhandle this summer. Even before the sun comes up, the temps are in the 80's and the humidity -- don't get me started. I can't run a quarter mile without getting drenched. I literally lost a full pound during a 19-minute jog through my neighborhood one morning last week. In the winter, I can go for a short run without having to wash my hair. Now, my hair is not only soaked with sweat after even the shortest run, it also morphs from a straight ponytail to a big lump of tangles that I am sometimes quite tempted to just hack off when I get home rather than attempt to run a brush through it.

The next logical progression in this wet slog of a summer is HYDRATION. With all that sweating going on, water intake is more important than ever. I can tell a huge difference in my long runs when I keep a water bottle on my desk at work. I pretty much fill it up after each visit to the ladies room, so it's a cyclical thing if I can remember to fill it up when I get to the office. On the weeks that I haven't been so prepared, the long runs have been brutal. It is a struggle to continue moving, both mentally and physically. I've gone to some very ugly places when I've been overheated and dehydrated.

Finally, in this part of the country, this summer has been RAINY. Yesterday I overheard someone say that it has rained here 17 out of the past 19 days. As of today, it's 18 out of 20. And I really do love running in the rain. I do not, however, have any desire to run when there is lightning all around me. Unfortunately, a lot of our rain has come in the form of thunderstorms that start around 4 a.m. As a working mom with a husband who works a lot of nights, the only window of opportunity that I have for running is between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. This means that I have had a bitch of a time staying on schedule, even with a training program that only has me running 3 or 4 mornings per week.

I'm going to count my blessings and say that TEARS have not been a part of my water-themed summer training. I've had a few scares with a wonky right knee & left ankle, but nothing that turned into anything serious. I am so grateful that my family & I have stayed healthy and injury-free.

My friend Kimberly and I booked our plane tickets to Chicago last night, and I've got my first 20-miler scheduled for Saturday. This race is starting to feel real! I cannot wait. Hopefully, all these sweaty runs will have left me stronger, wiser, and more prepared than ever.