Marathon Training Week #6 – It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity…

Marathon Training Week #6
Marathon Training Week #6

So…here is the vicious cycle.  I dislike cold weather runs.  So, during the winter all I do is talk about how I can’t wait for it to get warm again.  Then, in my area, we usually have about three days of spring and then the dog days of summer set in.  Living in the Ohio River Valley makes for some rather intense humidity.  And, wow, has Mother Nature ever been throwing the wet towel on me for every run this past week.

But…there are so many things I have learned in the past two years about running in the heat.  First of all, I do understand that when there are heat advisories…it is best not to push it.  Either take it inside or slow it down.  That’s the next thing…when running in hell-like conditions…slow your pace.  Just do it.  There comes a point where your body will tell you it has had enough…and it won’t be pretty.  Slow it down, make it through the run.

HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE!!

I can’t emphasize that enough.  I’ve been doing a lot of practice with hydrating while out on the run.  Both with water and, yes, with Gatorade.  The Gatorade came as a suggestion from my sports nutritionist, whom I am meeting up with again today.  Why?  Carbs, sugar, and electrolytes.  I tend to sweat salt.  When I get done with a run on a hot, hot day…I’m caked with white.  This means dehydration is a huge risk.  So, I hydrate often and rotate between water and Gatorade.

This coming week, I am praying for a break in this stifling humidity.  There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re breathing through a wet towel on each and every run.  That being said…let’s take a look at this week’s training and see what I have learned…

Sunday is normally my easy run or rest day.  BUT…not this Sunday.  This Sunday was The Boilermaker 15K in Utica, New York.  Race day!  My rest day last week fell on Saturday, as I rearranged the training schedule to fit this race in.  And trust me…this one was brutal.  For one thing, it wasn’t supposed to be as hot as it was that morning.  I woke up and it was already in the high 70s with a very high humidity.  This meant I went running in my company running skirt and a bra top.  The less fabric on me…the better.  Along with the heat and humidity…was hills.  This course was hilly, especially in the first half of the race.  This turned out to be a tough race.  I brought Gatorade and water for the route and there were over 20 aid stations on the 9.3 mile course.  I finished with a new 15K PR…surprisingly, as by Mile 7, I realized I should have been fueling better when the heat started to get me…so I took a GU and kept on trekking.  This was hard.  And afterwards, as my schedule had me set for 10 miles for my long run, I did a slow, easy shake-out run in an alley for the remaining mileage that day.  Then, I had to shower, get in a car, and not move for a very long time…which my legs and body didn’t appreciate.  I was so sore by the time I got back into Columbus, Ohio early Monday morning.  And with fatigue settling in, I didn’t bother to foam roll either.  Live and learn.  More stretch breaks…even if it means more time on the road.

Monday morning I was up just a little past 6:30 a.m., despite my late night/early morning return to Columbus, Ohio.  My training plan still had me on schedule for a 6 mile easy run, and despite very sore legs, I was determined to get it done.  This meant looping Jenn’s neighborhood, which is the route I usually do when I’m in town visiting her.  That particular morning…I felt defeated on the run.  My legs were screaming at me from sitting so long in the car after racing.  The humidity was draining.  I found myself stopping every half mile to catch my breath, hydrate, and at mile 3, fuel.  It was just hard that morning to even get going and I just felt like crying every time my legs told me to stop.  But, I got through it.  And then, after grabbing breakfast…had to climb back in the car for the drive back to Louisville.  Upon arriving back at home, I had to change and get ready to get back into the car and head out to my Monday fun run.  I thought about skipping it, but Cathy told me it would be good to go, especially after being forced to sit in a car that long again.  That was part of the problem…my legs were hurting.  But I went.  And, due to the high humidity and heat, it was decided that we were going to run trails.  Now, I have never run trails before…and the very thought of doing so while I’m in training for a marathon scared the daylights out of me.  But, Cathy encouraged me to just do it and I was told we would go easy.  Natalie, who I run with often, said that if I felt uncomfortable on the trails, we could hop off in Cherokee Park and simply run the loop.  Here’s to good friends looking out for me.  I actually did okay and rocked out just under 3 miles of trail running.  Trails keep the pace slower, which was good in that heat.  And the tree cover meant no hot sun beating down…and there was actually a breeze on the trails.  I’m glad I was convinced to go along.

Tuesday is the usual cross training day.  This week I was scheduled for 40-50 minutes of cross training.  That’s rather normal on Tuesdays now.  So, I got on the Arc Trainer for 45 minutes, using the cardio setting on Level 5, and managed 2.38 with various intervals, resistance, and inclines.  It felt good and I was quite happy with how I felt on there.  I was trying to be very cautious with my legs, which were still not happy with me from the previous two days of sitting in the car.  I then got on the stationary bike for 10 minutes and managed a whopping 3.91 miles.  I guess I was trying to prove to my legs that I was boss and they would just need to shake it off and feel better.  I hit up a few strength machines before calling it a day.  That night…yoga to stretch everything out.

Wednesday is my speed work or pacing day and this week called for a 7 mile Tempo run.  I used the first mile to warm up and then began to turn up the speed to just under my 10K pace.  It was another intensely humid day…the worst one we had all summer.  And it was 4 a.m.  So, I figured I would do the best tempo run I could manage.  It was a little slower than my last 7 mile tempo run from the week before, but you adjust to the conditions.  No sense doing damage to myself by pushing too hard in weather that I shouldn’t be pushing through.  I kept the speed build gradual and really pushed for a strong finish.  This tempo run took a lot to get through, but I did manage, and that was the important part.  The key was hydration and fueling.  It gave me a strong finish and I felt good at the end of it.  Then, that evening while dinner baked in the oven…circuit training.  Working on building up some muscle.

Thursday called for 5 easy miles.  It was another hot, humid, sticky, and gross morning.  I really kept the pace easy because it just felt like I had  a wet towel draped over me.  It was hard to breathe and really hard to convince my legs to keep going.  They were starting to feel better from the days of sitting in the car and more sitting at the office (I wasn’t taking lunches because I was making up time for being off on Monday).  Despite all of that working against me, I managed beautiful negative splits that morning.  And when I saw that…I felt so much better about that run.  I stretched out again that evening with about 20 minutes of yoga.

Friday brought about the dreaded day of rest.  I have such a hard time with the rest day.  But I did vow to respect it and keep it holy each week.  Normally I go for a walk on lunch, but with the time I was making up at the office, I decided to get up at my normal run time and get my walk in early.  Good thing too, as things went crazy at the office with one of my accounts.  Anyway, I managed 2.4 miles in 30 minutes, which got me out and moving without tiring out my legs.  Good thing too…because Saturday was shaping up…

Saturday is long run training day.  Run long at an easy pace.  I was scheduled for 14 miles, but my training partner in crime was scheduled for 18.  I decided I could boost my run up for 4 miles.  After all, only a couple of weeks ago, I managed 15.5…and this was only 2.5 miles more.  I woke up early, got dressed for the stifling humidity and 80 degree morning that awaited.  I drank water.  I ate some cereal.  Then after applying a liberal amount of sunscreen, I got in the car and headed into Louisville to meet up with Matthew at 6:30 a.m.  I downed a banana on the way, which would give it time to settle.  I felt good as I stretched.  And when he arrived, we headed out for 18 miles.  Originally we had hoped to do this at an 8:30 pace…but the weather conditions made this virtually impossible.  We took a few walk breaks to cool down, we stopped for water.  It was hot.  And the heat and humidity was definitely taking its toll.  We made good friends with the manager of Denny’s, who let us cool off in their lobby and gave us free ice water.  YAY!  Then…we had the scary spill.  Matthew’s leg cramped up while we were in our last 3 miles.  His foot hit the sidewalk and he took a tumble.  He fell into me, but I stayed upright.  He hit the ground hard though…and I was so worried about him.  It just looked bad.  He said he was fine…and a lot of drivers and a biker all checked in on him.  He dusted himself up, all scraped and battered…and we pressed on…slow and steady.  But we managed to get our 18 miles in.  It was slower than we would have liked, but given the weather conditions, we ran it smart.  And that was the important thing.  Matthew’s okay, by the way.  And we’ve already got next week’s training run in the works.

This past week brought about some of the hottest conditions in this area this year.  The humidity has been killer, bringing about air quality warnings.  I get out early to run, and even that was hard on most days this past week.  I’m hoping the humidity breaks soon because this sort of weather is so hard to work through.  And it does affect you, as a runner, mentally.  Runners are very number-focused…and on these dog days of summer, you have to worry more about your well-being, your body, making sure you are hydrated and fueled…and focus less on pace and speed.  You still get in your training…it just may not be done as soon as you hoped or wanted.

But…even these hot and humid runs serve as good training and good lessons as far as how weather can affect you.  These fall marathons could have these conditions…or they could be cooler…rained on…or just perfect.  You just don’t know.  Adjusting training to keep yourself safe and healthy is best.  Safety first…always!


Marathon Training Week #5 – Where I learn the value of sleep…

Marathon Training Week #5
Marathon Training Week #5

Another week done.  I know…I know…it’s only Friday, but I’m heading out of town this week for a race on Sunday in Upstate, New York.  And that means that today ended my week of training as tomorrow, the day of the heaviest travel, I am using as my rest day.  In the end, it all balances out.  Really.  I promise.

With that in mind, I had to approach this week keeping in mind that I would have very tired legs by the end of it.  What I didn’t count on was also having new shoes.  Yep.  Just bought a new pair of kicks.  Still not sure how I feel about them…they feel lighter than the Nike’s I was previously in…but…it’s too soon to tell.  Of course, this meant my Friday run was not only being done on tired legs…but fresh shoes.  So, I did my best to keep it easy.  No sense injuring myself before a race…let alone during the middle of my training, right?  Right!

So…this week I learned the valuable lesson of sleep.  And how necessary it is.  Last week with the concert during the week and then the convention over the weekend, I got less sleep than I normally do.  And I already get the very minimal.  Not because I choose to be that way…but I’ve never required eight full hours of sleep.  I function best on 5 hours.  But…I wasn’t getting that the week before.  And this current week has been just as full with activities and getting things ready for the trip to New York.  So…sleep has been rather scarce.  I’ve been up later than usual…then getting up at normal time to hit the roads and get my training runs in.  I’m really feeling the effects.  There are times I’m finding it hard to stay focused on things or maybe even nodding off on the couch.  So…after this trip, there is a break in the schedule and things come back on an even keel…so sleep will be a priority.  I bet my running will improve too.

I’m still feeling the sting of hurtful things said by people to me about how I look.  But…whatever.  I’m going to brush it off and know that I am happy and healthy and I don’t need them to drag me down and make me feel ugly.  Rise above it, right?  Right.

So…with that in mind…here’s how this weeks marathon training went…

Sunday is my easy run or rest day.  I was still at the convention, so I went and hit the treadmill at the fitness center of the hotel I where I was staying.  I rocked out some intervals, doing one mile at an easy warm-up pace, then rocking out 7 x 800 meters with 6 x 400 meters recovery in between each one.  Then, I polished it off with a 1 mile cool down at an easy pace.  It was just the start I needed to the day.  The gluten-free veggie burger with fries at Cheeseburger in Paradise for lunch was a nice bonus for the day.

Monday morning came way too quickly…and had me back to running in the dark.  The 4-H Fairgrounds are close to my apartment and Monday was marking the start of the fair.  With that in mind, I decided to stick close to home this week, just to be safe.  Safety is always first.  I was scheduled for an easy 6 mile run, and that’s what I did.  It felt good, despite the 92% humidity that morning.  I survived.  I think I just needed to get out there and run it all out.  I did just that.  And, of cousre, Monday marks my Fun Run night, so the Monday Daily Double continued in full swing.  I once again went running with Natalie and Harry, up near Cave Hill Cemetery.  We didn’t turn this time, we ran around a statue and continued on.  And Natalie, as we neared the end, pushed me to have a good finishing kick.  She promised to work with me on that finishing kick if I could help her down the road with marathon training.  That seems like a fair deal.  And she made me work for it.  I kicked it and we finished a great 3 mile run.  It was hot and humid out and we walked a little.  Keep in mind, this lady is running in a cast.  She’s hardcore!  It was another run that I needed today,with two of my favorite people!  I was so tired though…and it was starting to show.  Went home, showered, and had to finish getting things ready for work the following day.  Later than usual night. Ugh.

Tuesday is the usual cross training day.  This week I was scheduled for 40-50 minutes of cross training.  No problem.  I hit up the gym and did 45 minutes on the Arc Trainer on the Pike’s Peak setting once again, keeping it with the Level 5 setting as well.  It’s comfortable, yet challenging, and that was what I wanted.  I didn’t want to push too hard due to  The Boilermaker this weekend, but I needed some hill work somehow.  And this was how I was going to accomplish it.  After 45 minutes, I managed 2.38 miles of hills.  It was tough…but I pushed on through.  Then I moved onto the Cardio Wave machine, which is similar to an elliptical, but your feet move from side-to-side instead of front and back, changing it up a little on the legs.  I got in 3.9 miles on there.  Felt happy with both of those performances.  I capped off my gym day with some strength training.  Then headed to work.

Wednesday is my speed work or pacing day and this week called for a 7 mile Tempo run.  I used the first mile to warm up and then began to turn up the speed to just under my 10K pace.  It was a gradual thing because it was so humid that day.  The rain was supposed to be coming down, but it was pushed back to later in the afternoon.  That level of humidity at 4 a.m. is intense.  The sun isn’t even up yet, and I felt so drained with each mile I pushed through.  I did get the Tempo run accomplished with success, I just turned down the speed to train smart.  And I hydrated, hydrated, hydrated!

Thursday called for 6 easy miles.  So, out I went to get that done.  With the rain that had come through, I had hoped that the humidity broke, but sadly…it hadn’t.  The teperature was 77 degrees that morning with 93% humidity and a high dew point as well.  So, I struggled through these six miles, taking them easy because I didn’t want to do damage to myself.  Humidity sucks and it can really just drain every bit of energy out of you.  I felt like I was breathing through a wet towel for much of this run.  But I got through it, and went inside to have breakfast and head to the gym.  I rocked out 9.2 miles on the elliptical in 49 minutes, which made me feel good about life.  So did the cool gym environment and the fan that was blowing toward me.  Ahhh…relief.  Then I hit the rowing machine to get every muscle in my body working.  I managed 1.19 miles in 10 minutes.  Some strength training followed.  Then, on this particular Thursday, I was registered to run in the third BlueMile Brew Mile.  This was so much fun, but my legs were just…tired.  So tired.  I went ahead and tried on the Nike Free shoes that they had for runners to test out at the run.  I hated them.  I want to move toward minimalist shoes…but those were definitely not for me.  The mile went well.  It had slight hills and we rounded a sapling at the halfway point, which took some of the momentum away, but I finished in 7:12.  My slowest Brew Mile to date.  Much water followed.  And hanging out with Harry and Laura from my running group.  It was a good time.  After that, I went to BlueMile and shopped for new shoes.  I walked out with a new pair of kicks – Pearl Izumi EM ROAD M 3’s.  They are 2 ounces lighter than my Nike’s.  I was going to test drive them Friday morning…

Friday…is usually my rest day.  But not today.  Nope.  Not today.  With the race being on Sunday and with Saturday being a major travel day, I moved my rest day to Saturday and my normal run I would do on Sunday got bumped to Friday.  Sunday I am racing, so I still get a run in.  I’m just a bit late on my long run.  Anyway, the humidity finally broke and this morning’s run felt amazing.  So did the shoes.  Although, I can tell they need more breaking in.  This will make the Boilermaker 15K interesting…new shoes not quite broken in.  Oh boy, oh boy!  At least they aren’t giving me blisters.  That’s the important part.  The lift in humidity made such a difference.  I felt so much better during the run.  No stopping to cool down.  Nope.  I think I might have smiled again on this run.  It felt great.  The shoes are going to take some getting used to…but I think they’ll do good.  Next time, I’m getting my Adidas Boosts.

Saturday I should be running 14 miles.  But I changed it up with my following week due to the race on Sunday.  Next week was supposed to be 10 miles.  My 15K is 9.3 miles, so I figure on Sunday I’ll cool off with a short 0.7 mile run after I finish up the race.  But Saturday is a lot of time in the car, a race expo, and my rest day this week.  We’ll leave it at that.

Another week in the books.  Meeting with my sports nutritionist again as the mileage increases and making some adjustments to my regimen.  Looking forward to learning more, doing more, and putting the time in to make my first marathon a success.  I guess that means getting my sleep pattern back under control as well.  But that will have to wait until I get back from Utica.


Marathon Training Week #4 – Running away from the pain…

Marathon Training Week #4
Marathon Training Week #4

UGH…what a week.  What a terrible, draining, awful week.  Lack of sleep, a lot of tears, and…my relaxing weekend was anything but relaxing.  In fact, it only served to make me more self-conscious of myself.  And that’s what sucks.  I wanted to be able to escape everything that was weighing down on me this week…and instead I caught it once again.  Seems the only place I feel like myself these days is when I’m out running.  And that bothers me.

That being said, my first month of Marathon training is in the books.  I am so proud of myself and everything I have accomplished these past four weeks.  I’m already anticipating the next month…all the miles, the speed work, the pacing, every easy run, and every hard one as well.  I’m going to earn these 26.2 miles…while I am running a couple of other races, I’m treating them as training…not as races.  My main focus is that big 26.2.

As many of you might have previously read, I had some very hurtful things said to me this past week by someone I considered a good friend.  It stung.  It hurt.  And, wow, did it every set my self-confidence back, especially on body image.  I was heading into a weekend at a sci-fi convention, and I normally never worry about this sort of thing, but it was still weighing (no pun intended) heavy on my heart and in my mind.  And then…while at the convention I caught crap from people as well.  I am SO tired of feeling as though I am the ugliest person because of my size, build, and the fact that I RUN!

YES!!  I run.  I’m in training…so I am running a lot.  But my body is strong, my heart is strong, and my willpower is stronger.  I am no stranger to hurtful words about appearance…I got that a lot growing up.  Always picked on.  But, we’re all adults here.  I don’t want to be told that should I ever get cancer I would never survive.  WTF?!  I run my body…and my body, in return, runs perfectly.  I take care of myself.  I eat plenty.  I exercise to stay healthy.  When I’m in a place I am hoping to escape my problems, I don’t need them thrown at me, loudly.

And…for the record…RUNNING WILL NOT KILL ME!

That being said…my marathon training this week started off fantastic, and then…began to suffer.  Mostly because I let things get to me.  I let words cut me down and scar me.  In fact…I lost my spirit this week…the run just felt so hard.  It might have been the humidity.  It might have been the hurtful words of friends running through my head.  Maybe it was both.

In the end, more nice things by true friends were said to lift  me up and help me find my center again.  And that…is what got me through.

Sunday is my easy run or rest day.  As is usual with me, I took my feet out for a spin on the pavement that morning.  It was humid, humid, humid out there on Sunday, so I kept it close to home and headed out before the sun was up.  I finished up just as it was cresting over some of the hills.  It was a relaxing run and while the humidity was a drag, I managed to press on through.  And that was after running an accidental 15.5 miles the day before.  I was feeling good.

Monday means it’s back to running in the dark.  That’s fine, except the added challenge on this particular Monday was that I was out until about 2:00 a.m. at a concert in Cincinnati.  The concert was The Goo Goo Dolls with Matchbox Twenty…and it was wonderful…but the 5 easy miles called for in my training was quite hard on weekend-weary and concert-weary legs and total sleep deprivation.  I actually went out running an hour later than usual, because I felt sleep was more important…but I was still just tired at the end of it all.  Of course, Monday also means it’s Fun Run night, so the Monday Daily Double was still on.  I really just wanted to take an easy run, so Harry and Natalie took me on a great run that went by Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, then through some of the neighborhoods in the Highlands before ending 3 miles later back at the store.  We let Natalie set the pace…and, wow, she has a kick there at the end.  She promised she’d teach me all about finding that strength at the end of a run.  That’s good, because I need it.  Monday…was a tiring, but good day.  Got in late after running some errands, trying to prep for this weekend.

Tuesday is the usual cross training day.  This week I was scheduled for 40-50 minutes of cross training.  No problem.  I hit up the gym and did 45 minutes on the Arc Trainer on the Pike’s Peak setting.  The Boilermaker is this coming weekend in Utica, New York, so hill work is important.  I haven’t been taking on hills as often as I should be so I’m feeling a little unprepared for this course.  But, as I sad, I’m to be treating these races as training runs, not races, per my sports nutritionist.  So…I’ll just do what I can and leave the rest up to how I feel.  I set the Arc Trainer for Level 5 so I could have some more resistance and steeper inclines.  It was a challenge and one I met.  Felt good.  The rowing machine was next.  UGH.  Rowing.  It’s a great core workout, working a lot of your upper body, legs, back, arms, and core, but it can be very boring and very, very difficult.  I struggled, but managed 1.2 miles on the machine in 10 minutes.  Not too shabby.  I capped off my gym day with some strength training.  Then headed to work.

Wednesday is my speed work or pacing day and this week called for a 7 mile Fartlek run.  I used the first mile to warm up and then hit the pavement for some intermittent bursts of speed with some recovery in between each part.  I felt good coming in from this run.  My legs felt up to the challenge, though they were screaming at me toward the end.  I pushed through the morning humidity, and just felt like I had really accomplished a great run.  Speed work is something I’m trying to focus more on, but it’s not always easy to do around here.  So, this felt like a victory.  Then, as I was sitting down on my computer with some water and some time to relax, I got hit up by a friend with some very hurtful words.  My legs were taken out from under me.  And after I lengthy blog on the subject, I felt I could put it behind me.  Wow…was I ever wrong.

Thursday called for 5 easy miles.  I really just wanted to get out there and run this day.  There was still a lot on my mind.  The words that were said to me were still lingering in my brain, and still breaking my heart.  I thought I could run it off…but my body had other ideas.  I pretty much kept stopping after each mile or less, finding the need to catch my breath or just take a moment.  The humidity was awful and stifling.  Then, the rain started to come down soon after I came in from my run, because when I left for  the gym, it was non-stop rain.  And it never really let up that day.  My gym workout was awful and disappointing as well.  My elliptical effort was not there.  I tried to push it…but it wasn’t happening.  I felt defeated and deflated.  Nothing was going right.  The stationary bike was my 10 minute effort that day.  And as much as I hate the stationary bike, it was the only part of my workout where I felt I accomplished something amazing.  My legs just needed to go fast…and they finally did.  I 3.85 miles that morning in 10 minutes.  And it made me feel a little better about life.  Some strength training followed.

Friday…the rest day.  I spent the morning wanting nothing more than to just go out for a short run.  Two miles wouldn’t hurt, right?  I just felt like I needed to prove to myself I still had my passion for the run.  But…it is the day of rest and I vowed to respect and honor that day, so, in the end, I finished packing my suitcase and getting everything ready for the convention I was attending this weekend.  I prepared breakfast, went to work, and went for a walk at lunch.  I need to just let these rest days do their job.  Letting my muscles and body recover from a week of a very draining and hard week just needed to happen.  I didn’t want to rest…but I made myself rest.

Saturday was my Long Slow Distance (LSD) pace long run for a scheduled 10 miles, per my marathon training.  The trick here was…I was in Indianapolis for a convention.  What to do?  Well, I knew BlueMile (my favorite running store in Louisville) had two locations in Indianapolis, so I contacted them to see if they had any running groups heading out on Saturday morning for training runs.  Both the Broad Ripple and Carmel stores did, but Broad Ripple was closer to where I was staying.  So, after a night of being up past midnight, not being able to sleep, and general…BLAH…I hauled myself out of bed at 5:50 a.m. to get ready to head out to Broad Ripple.  I got dressed, put on sunscreen, ate half of a granola bar, giving the other half to my roomie.  We headed out of the hotel a little later than planned…and discovered that it was raining.  Great.  Joy.  Ah well…I need new shoes anyway.  On the way to the store, I ate my banana I had brought with me.  We arrived and went into the store.  I stretched and soon they were making announcements and telling which races had to run for how long that day.  I don’t run by time, I run by miles, so I figured I would head out with them and then just go to the 5 miles, turn around, and head back.  I basically did that.  There was 95% humidity that morning and a steady misting of rain for most of the run.  But we headed out on the beautiful Monan Trail and ran it for 3 miles.  At the 3 mile point, there was a water/Gatorade stop and everyone turned around.  I did as well, running two miles back down, then turning back around, heading back toward the Kroger water stop to get me to 7 miles.  Then, it was three miles back to the store.  In the end, I ended up going 10.25 miles that morning…in the humidity and the rain.  And I felt good at the end of it.  My effort was kept easy due to that humidity, but I was loving my run that morning.  New scenery, new people, and just a new experience.  Then it was back to the convention and a very late night…er…early morning.

And that was the round-up for my first month of training.  In the end, what I’m finding out is…there are so many misconceptions about this sport out there.  There are also a lot of people who don’t understand the mechanics of a distance runner.  And…they probably never will.  I feel rattled and scarred from the hurtful words that were said, and I’m trying so hard not to continue to dwell on it.  I have a 15K race coming up this weekend and the best part is…I get to see a lot of friends from high school who I haven’t seen since…well…high school.  And that is going to be a fun and amazing time and I really just can’t wait to make it happen.

Here’s hoping I learn to soar again this coming week…


The WEIGHT of the world, the HEART of the matter, and the SPIRIT of the marathoner

Quote from Kristin Armstrong
Quote from Kristin Armstrong

This is a difficult blog to write, but after receiving a very hurtful message from a friend via a social network site…I really felt there were a few things I needed to address.  I’m sure others have been thinking it.  I’m certain some may have even said things behind my back.  But…before I even get to it, I want to emphasize to everyone reading this…

Words hurt.  Words hurt more than anything else can because they can last forever.  Choose them wisely.

With that in mind, please proceed with the rest of this blog keeping an open mind.

WEIGHT

Let’s face it…society has put a face on what it perceives as beautiful and perfect.  There is one word that haunts women every single day of their lives.  DIET.  I hate the word.  Yet, there is no escaping it.  You see, society has put this standard of what women and men should look like.  And if you don’t fit into these standards, well, then you should do something about it.  After all…you aren’t beautiful unless you’re 100 pounds soaking wet, right?

WRONG!!

Before I start to dissect the word diet…and incorporate it with my life on the run (literally), I think I need to get one thing across about being gluten-free.

I did not choose to go gluten-free because it’s one of the latest fad diets out there.  For an entire year I suffered, silently, from a diet that was literally killing me.  I had turned 30 and life was good.  I had become a vegetarian a year before, feeling good about my food choices…and then something happened.  The food I loved no longer loved me back.  I would eat a meal, and get struck with intense pain in my stomach and side.  I’d feel sick.  My body felt weak and tired all the time.  There were nights I would sit down to watch something and literally fall asleep on the couch.  I had no energy.  I had no idea what was going on.  And, with all of that going on, I was dropping weight drastically…for no reason that I could fathom.  I was still eating like I normally was.  I just never felt good after doing so.  Confused…and, yes…scared…I headed in to see my doctor.  Numerous tests were run with results being inconclusive.  Then…my best friend growing up, Heather, told me to talk to my doctor about the possibility of gluten being an issue.  After the unfathomable money that I poured into hospital tests and blood tests and scans that came back with no answers, this seemed simple enough.

Heather hit the nail on the head.  My body was not absorbing nutrients properly.  I was a Celiac and didn’t even know it.  My body was trying to tell me something…and I couldn’t figure out what it was.  I was just desperately trying to put weight back in, and inadvertently, doing further damage to my system.  The gluten-free diet is not a way for me to quickly shed some pounds.  I have to be gluten-free.  Trust me…I wouldn’t choose to eat like this if I didn’t absolutely have to.  Even a slight spec of gluten in my food can cause a horrible reaction.  And that’s not something I am okay with.  So, when I say I am gluten-free…it is a medical diagnosis…not me leaping onto the bandwagon of the latest diet craze.

But…let’s talk diet crazes…

Women literally spend hundreds of dollars on the latest diet craze to hit the bookshelves, internet, and talk show circuit.  From Atkins to South Beach to Weight Watchers to Jenny Craig to Paleo and everything in between.  Every diet is created to sell you something or on the idea of something.  But, let me also emphasize this…especially to the ladies who are reading this blog…

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!

I know that sometimes it’s hard to look past that reflection in the mirror, but, we are better than what society deems as perfect.  We are perfection.  Every one of us.  We are perfect because we are so different.  We are perfect with our flaws and our scars.  And we don’t need to and shouldn’t punish ourselves for not living up to an unrealistic standard that is pushed on us by the world around us.  Love your flaws.  Love your body, even if it isn’t perfect.  Nothing is perfect…get used to imperfection.

I had a lot of hurtful things said to me when I was dropping weight and couldn’t figure out why.  I did not like being called a skeleton.  I didn’t like the whispers behind my back or the all-out hurtful things that were being said about me.  The smallest derogative comment about being just “skin and bones” would send me into a breakdown of crippling tears.  I couldn’t explain the situation…because I didn’t even know what to make of it.  All I knew was people would say very hurtful things about my body…and it would get back to me.  I’d put on the brave face in public, but if I could find a bathroom, or the safe haven of my car, I’d let the tears flow.  Weight problems work both ways…and the overweight aren’t the only ones who get chided for looking a certain way.

With that in mind, let me turn to one of my least favorite words in the English language…and beyond: DIET.

Why do I have such disdain for this word?  Because it honestly makes people crazy!!

The difference...
The difference…

I’ve witnessed it.  I see it almost every day with the women in my office.  They fuss over points, and what they eat and if they eat this then they can’t have this…and OH MY GOD…I put on ONE POUND!!  Diet’s bring out the worst in people, rather than the best.  I’ve seen some of the nicest people fall into the diet trap…and they change…and not for the better.  Sure, at first the weight drops off…but then what?  The foods they were restricting begin to be consumed again…and the weight comes back.  And then the diet happens again.  Yo-yo dieting is not healthy.  Not for your body, your mind, or your soul.  Trust me.  We’ve all been there.  Even me.

As I am training for my first marathon, I enlisted the help of a sports nutritionist.  After getting the okay from my doctor to proceed with training, I wanted to be sure that I was doing everything…and I mean…EVERYTHING right to get myself from that start line to 26.2 miles down the road where the finish line waited.  I wanted to make sure I was not only working out right, but I wanted to make certain that I was feeding my body right, treating it right, giving it proper nutrition and proper fuel to function.  I wanted my body to come out of my marathon in the best shape possible.  And I wanted to do it the healthy, correct way.  Which is why I sought the help of a professional.

And already I have learned so much about food.  I already thought I knew a lot…but she has been a huge help to me and has definitely changed the way I view food.  Food is not the enemy.  Say it with me…

FOOD IS NOT THE ENEMY!

Now…stop treating it as such.  Food, to any athlete, is fuel.  It’s what gives our body calories…and those calories give us energy…which we burn…and then we need to refuel.  The problem with such restrictive diets is that, so often, we (I’m included) stay so focused on the number on the scale.  My nutritionist offered me this advice…

DO NOT WEIGH YOURSELF EVERY DAY…AND THROW AWAY THE SCALE!

We are more than numbers.  We are so much more.  And as you train for a long distance event, such as a half marathon or a marathon, your focus needs to switch from your weight…to how you are treating your body.  And this attitude should carry over into every day…whether you are in training or not.

Ever wonder why fad diets don’t work?  It’s all in the math.  If you usually eat proteins, fats, and carbohydrates (as you should) and you remove one of those food groups from your eating plan, you’ll lose weight…but only while you’re on the plan.  The moment you reintroduce those foods you  haven’t been eating…BAM…you gain weight and sometimes it’s more than you lost in the first place.  Yo-yo dieting and fad diets only serve to tax the body because it sends it into “starvation” mode.  The metabolism goes into hibernation, preparing for scant food supplies.  Food is necessary for energy…so this is definitely not what the aspiring athletes should be aiming for.  The body is like a computer and it prefers to burn energy from carbohydrates rather than fat, since carbs are more readily utilized.  Nourishment is key…and to do that you need to keep your body maintained with high-quality food, especially lean protein and complex carbohydrates, otherwise you end up depleting your muscle tissue and your energy in the process.

This was the first thing I learned from my nutritionist.  I used to go out running for miles without putting anything…anything in my stomach.  Mistake number one.  Because I was running, literally, on empty.  My body had no fuel…so instead of burning the calories from having something in my stomach, instead it was leaching off my muscles, which is draining.  She recommended I eat something before heading out…and drink 16 ounces of water.  I run in the eearly morning hours, so this seemed daunting at first.  But, I grabbed a handful of gluten-free trail mix or cereal when I get up…grab my water bottle I fill the night before, and as I dress, I make sure I get food and water into my system.  I pack a fuel belt with GU or Sports Beans, per her recommendation, as well as put Gatorade in one water bottle and water in the other. Every 3-4 miles, I am to fuel.  I am to make sure I hydrate while I run.  Despite wearing a fuel belt, I rarely ever touched the water I was hauling with me.  That’s changed.

And in the month I have been doing this…guess what?  I’ve become a stronger, better, faster runner.  I’m finally getting the hang of treating my body with the respect of an athlete.  Food…is fuel.  So, after going over that, I learned more about glycogen…which is the carbohydrates that are stored in the muscles and liver…and when they are not fueled or topped off during long workouts and runs, they become depleted.  The result…hitting the wall.  I needed to balance some nutrition out…making sure my carbohydrate to protein ratio was around 2:1 or 3:1.  And she (as a gluten-free, vegan, distance runner) even gave me fantastic sources of vegetarian protein and recommended a few recipes and snack ideas.

I have grown into a lean…mean…running machine.  And since figuring out what was wrong with my body 2 years ago…and moving forward to properly hydrating, fueling, and recovering after running and workout sessions, my body has only become better, stronger, and more efficient.

Yes…I am petite…but I come from a family of petite women.  Judging me based on what you perceive to be “the norm” is hurtful and harmful.  Calling me a “skeleton with skin” or other such hurtful words is not helping me any.  And when you have no idea what I’ve been through or am dealing with, it is unfair to even make the assumption that I am not taking care of myself.  Thank you for your concern…but I am taking care of me.  It’s been a long road.  It still is a long road.  And I’m not 100% happy with my body.  My self-image is not good.  And every time someone says something about me that is that hurtful…it only sets me back.

WORDS HURT!  And you can’t take them back.  You can apologize…but it doesn’t erase what was said.  That’s the horrible truth.

Athletes…both men and women…treat your body with respect, treat it well, and fuel it right…and the results will be far more than you could even imagine on any sort of diet.  Trust me.

HEART

Dean Karnazes Quote
Quote from Dean Karnazes

A common misconception that runners hear all the time is that we are destroying our bodies.  The constant pounding on the pavement is wearing down our joints, we’re destroying our bodies, and that so-and-so died from running a marathon.

Do people die after long distance races.  Yes.  Was it the race that killed them?  Nope.  It’s normally a pre-existing condition that perhaps they didn’t even know about.

Runners are not only the nicest people I have come into contact with, they are also some of the healthiest.  But, it is inevitable, we all get hurt at some point.  But this is no different than any other sport?  So, why do runners take such a hit when it comes to injuries?

I wish I knew.

I’ve been injured twice.  The first injury came when I boosted my race mileage from a 5K to a 5 Miler.  My foot suffered a stress fracture and I developed runners knee from trying to land differently and alter my gait.  This was back in 2011 when I first started running.  I recovered, but it took a couple of months to heal.  With the permission of my orthopedic doctor, I was still allowed to run in the Chicago Half Marathon (my first half marathon) on September 11, 2011, because he knew I’d do it anyway…but also because he was giving me exercises to do to get my leg back into working order.  It worked.  I had to tape my knee up…but I ran my first half marathon without ever having run over 5 miles on the road.  I was determined…and even though I was unprepared, nothing felt as good as crossing that finish line and meeting up with my friends Heather and Cathy at the end of it.  AMAZING.  I couldn’t wait to do it again.

My second injury happened because I was running injured.  I was at a 4 mile race almost a year ago.  And after hobbling through to the finish line, I ended up stepping off a curb and tearing my plantar fascia.  This was extremely painful.  I couldn’t even walk.  I had my first DNS (Did Not Start) on two races.  I was on crutches for 2 weeks.  And then…I got in to see my doctor who got me in to see a podiatrist…and the situation improved.  I was in the midst of training for the Indianapolis Women’s Half Marathon…and I told my podiatrist this exact thing.  And he told me as long as I took it easy…I could still run it.  He taught me the Low Dye tape job, and that took me off my crutches.  And soon, I was out running very slow 2 mile runs…easing into more mileage as he allowed…until I made it to half marathon weekend.  That race was a hot mess.  With 90% humidity, it was red flagged from the start…but I made it through better than expected…and that was that.

You see…the heart of a runner is nothing to mess with.  Runners are very passionate about their sport.  And you can tell when someone truly loves running simply by the way they talk about it…or the way they interact with others who share that same passion.  I have been welcomed into so many running groups.  I feel so blessed to have these people in my life.  It means I don’t ever have to run alone.  I can talk about anything and everything to these people because…they get it.  They know.  They understand.  Because they have the heart of a runner too.

Look at what happened at the Boston Marathon.  I wasn’t even there.  I knew people who were.  They were all safe.  But the impact of that event affected me so deeply.  I found myself depressed.  I’d run through my thoughts and fears and the “what-if” scenarios every time I hit the pavement.  I’d just run it out…for those who couldn’t.  I donated money to the One Fund…more than I can even count anymore.  That attack just tore my legs out from under me…it affected me on such a deep and emotional level.  And that’s what it means to have the heart of a runner.

And when someone indicates that this passion you have is destroying you…it’s not only insulting…it’s inaccurate.  And, dammit, it hurts like hell to be told all the time that running is bad.  Running is not bad.  Running is my freedom.  Running is my “me-time.”  Running has brought so many amazing people into my life.  Running has taken me places I never dreamed.  Running has helped me improve myself continuously, push a little harder, and to just remember to have fun.  Running is fun.  And, hopefully, I’ll keep chasing down my dreams.

My body has never been stronger…my heart has never been prouder.  I am a runner.  And I’m not going to stop.

SPIRIT

Runners train tirelessly and sometimes endlessly for one thing…and that’s to meet a goal.  They may not reach it the first time, but they keep trying.  If they fall down, they pick themselves up.  If they fail, they try again.  When others crumble before the finish line, they turn around, help that person up, and carry them across.  This is the spirit of running.

And, let me tell you, I have spirit.  Yes…I let the careless and thoughtless words of someone hurt me and tear me down today.  But I’ve had countless people pick me up, lift me up, and guide me back onto the path I am taking.

Knock me down…I’ll get back up.  I’m not perfect.  But I don’t have to be.

What I am is a human being…with feelings and emotions and expectations.  And, unfortunately…I do have self-image issues.  And I do lack confidence at time.  And yes…sometimes I even doubt my abilities.  Sometimes I hear that voice in my head telling me I can’t…and I silence it, push a little harder, and prove to myself that I CAN.  Life isn’t easy.  And it does have it’s bumps and roadblocks.  But…if you have a strong spirit…you can accomplish great things.

Osho Quote
Quote from Osho

I know that I am doing everything right when it comes to my training and my body.  I have gotten a physical check-up and an okay to start marathon training from my doctor.  I am consulting with a sports nutritionist.  I am following all the guidelines she laid out.  I’m discovering how important it is to fuel, hydrate, and…REST.  Rest is essential to the body and although I hate rest days…I respect them…I take them…and I come back stronger thanks to them.  If that’s not spirit…I don’t know what is.

You want to see what the human spirit is capable of…then go watch a marathon.  Be inspired.

Me…I think the events of this morning have only gone to make me more determined to do great things and to prove to myself and all naysayers just what I am capable of.  I am going to focus on the positive and prove that I am a bigger and better person.  I will take the high road.  That’s not to say I still don’t get upset and cry when I think of what was said to me…I will allow myself that.  But I won’t let them take away what means so much to me.  Never.

As someone in a running group said to me this morning…sometimes it is best to take a moment and reflect on all the amazing things your body has done- the finish lines crossed and the ones yet to cross- then take a moment to look in the mirror and yell yourself you are a beautiful work in progress.

I AM A BEAUTIFUL WORK IN PROGRESS!

And so are all of you!


Marathon Training Week #3 – Going the extra mile…or 2.5…

Marathon Training Week #3
Marathon Training Week #3

It was a rather trying week this past week.  I went in for my procedure for my skin cancer and came out of that feeling good, but drained.  I was given the okay by the doctor to start running again the day after I went in for it, so that was at least uplifting.  I don’t like being down for the count and I wasn’t going to let anything slow me down.  Not even a little pain in my head.

That being said, the procedure went well, and despite the weather’s best efforts, I was able to modify my training program to fit in between storms, life, and just an overall hectic schedule.  And, my favorite moment of the week was my Saturday run, which I did with my group in Louisville.  A good friend of mine, Matthew, ran with me for the entire way.  We are both pretty directionally challenged, and we took what we call the “scenic route” on our run to the pedestrian bridge in Louisville.  My long run turned into an even longer run…taking me above and beyond the furthest distance I have ever run in my entire 2 year running career.  SO proud of myself.   It was accidental, but I was still feeling good at the end of it.  Just really hungry…but that was easily remedied.

Week three in the books…still going strong.

Sunday is my easy run or rest day.  As I knew I was having my skin cancer procedure on Wednesday, the day of my 7 mile run with negative splits, I opted to do this on Sunday, where I didn’t have to add any stress to an already stressful day on Wednesday.  It was a very humid morning, despite setting out just as the sun was coming out.  I made sure I hydrated and fueled and what happened was I totally nailed my negative splits.  Just the confidence boost I needed at the beginning of a draining and tiring week.

Monday, as always, takes me back to running in the wee hours of the morning when it is still dark.  Despite the sun not being up at that point, it is always muggy and humid these days.  So, I always have my water with me, even on shorter runs.  This Monday was six miles easy, which I did.  Oddest thing though…when I finished up the two miles I did on the street, a runner wearing no reflective gear came tearing out of the 4-H Fairgrounds and heading up ahead of where I run to turn around and head back.  Not sure what to make of it, and being a little bit paranoid about that sort of stuff happening, I unhooked my pepper spray from my fuel belt and held onto it as I made my way up to my turn around point.  He had stopped at the sidewalk and I turned around faster than usual.  I thought he was behind me…but when I turned into my apartment complex and ducked around the parking lot to pause my Garmin and wait it out…nothing came of it.  Thank goodness.  Call me paranoid, but I just wanted to make sure I was taking every precaution to keep safe out there in the dark.  I finished up my remaining 2 miles and headed inside to get clean, make breakfast, and get ready for the day.  Monday also means that it’s fun run day, so I went that evening out to my running store and hit the hills of Cherokee Park with no time goal in mind.  Just having a fun run, as is the entire point.  As it was my second run of the day, I made sure I slowed it down and took it easy on the hills, as much as I wanted to push up them.  No time for injuries while training for something as important as a marathon.  My Monday daily double ended with me, my roommate, and two of my good friends from the running group going out for frozen yogurt to cool down after a warm afternoon run.

Tuesday is the usual cross training day.  This week I was scheduled for 40-50 minutes of cross training.  No problem.  I hit up the gym and did 45 minutes on the Arc Trainer on the Pike’s Peak setting.  Training for the hills I’m encountering in my upcoming 15K in Upstate New York.  I had it set for Level 5 and totally rocked it out.  I was so pleased when that cardio session came to an end.  I was still feeling good.  Then it was on to 10 minutes on the stationary bike.  I absolutely HATE the stationary bike.  HATE.  I hate it more than I hate the treadmill.  Seriously.  But I rocked it out, then went down to the weight room for a little bit and got in a bit of strength training as well.

Wednesday normally would be my speed work and pacing day…but not this time.  As I stated, I did my speed work on Sunday and it was a good thing too.  I woke up to thunderstorms.  Lightning, wind, rain, the works.  I got up and got dressed to go out to run and as I was opening the door, lightning flashed and reality came back to me.  Running in rain is fine.  Running in lightning…not so fine.  Not safe.  So, I took off my gear, kept on my workout clothes, and headed to the gym.  I had my skin cancer procedure this morning at 7 a.m., so I didn’t have long to get my run done.  I managed 5 minutes on the treadmill at the gym, hating every single moment of it.  Finished it up, made it home in enough time to eat breakfast and then get to my dermatologist’s office for my appointment.  It was not a good morning.  But the procedure went fine and that’s the important part.

Thursday called for another easy run.  This one was supposed to be for 5 miles.  Easy pace.  I ended up going for 7 miles.  I think, for me, it was my way of taking back my body from the skin cancer.  It was me showing that I run my body, nothing else does.  It was liberating.  And it was just what I needed that morning.  I even ran it with negative splits, without even trying or needing to focus on pace or anything.  I was out there because I could be and it really just made all the difference.  Afterwards, I hit up the gym for another cardio and strength training session.  I had a great workout there, hitting up the elliptical and then the Cardio Wave machine.  Later that night, it was the second BlueMile Brew Mile, so I went out for that and rocked out a mile for charity.  No free beer for me.  This girl wanted water.  I got to hang out two of my favorite running peeps who turned out for the mile run as well.  Just an overall good day…feeling strong.  During the mile run, I also tried on some Saucony Kinvara 4 shoes.  They were very light.  Not sure if I liked them or not, but I could totally tell the 3 ounce difference between those and my Nike’s.  Hmmm…

Friday…the rest day.  Also known as the day that drives me crazy.  I hate not being able to even clock a few miles.  As I said before, I get antsy and fidgety.  But, I do continue to remind myself that these days are built into training plans for a reason.  The body needs to heal itself from the hard, strenuous activity that I inflict on it during the week.  In doing so, my body also gets stronger.  Stronger means…I get faster.  I’m fitter.  I’m doing it.  So, I went on a walk at lunch, kept it easy, just getting out and being active.  And that was that.  I was ready for my long run on Saturday now.

Saturday was my Long Slow Distance (LSD) pace long run for a scheduled 13 miles, per my marathon training.  I met up with my group of runners, and there were some faces I hadn’t seen yet.  So that was good.  I promised them as we were planning out when to meet that I would bring goodies.  I did.  Gluten-free zucchini muffins, which I baked the night before using fresh zucchini from my CSA bin.  Loving it.  Anyway, the route was planned and we headed out at 6:30 a.m. to get the run in before the heat of the day.  I ran all of this run with Matthew, who is a super-speedy, super great runner, and one that I met (and ran with) during the Mile 2 Mile run I did back in December.  We talked the entire time, detoured through U of L’s campus when he and I failed to notice the Sidewalk Closed signs, got lost on our way to the pedestrian bridge, found the pedestrian bridge.  Ran to the end.  Hung out there, ran back across, spotted more of our group, so we turned around and ran back across the bridge.  Then, headed back with two other runners, Harry and John, who were showing us a new route.  Another sidewalk closure was ahead, but we hopped into the grass.  I tripped on a piece of concrete, but caught myself.  Matthew kept asking me if I was okay and if I had twisted an ankle…but I was fine.  Didn’t slow me down any.  We continued on down the waterfront to an area I had never been through, then we hit up a trail I ran part of one Monday with my fun run group.  I powered through that trail and waited for everyone at the end of it.  Harry sent Matthew and I on after we stood around for a moment.  He was going to make it back with John.  Matthew and I struck out to get back to the store.  I was leading and missed the turn, so we turned off somewhere else, went up a hill, and hoped we’d end up where we needed to be.  We just kept going straight until he noticed that we were near where he used to live while he was in college.  YAY!  We now knew where we were.  We ran through the neighborhood and finally ended up on Bardstown Road.  The humidity was really starting to suck, so we decided to hit the afterburners at the end and make an all-out sprint toward the “finish,” at the coffee shop.  We made it.  15.5 miles in the books.  It was the furthest distance I have run to date.  And I was on cloud nine because I felt good.  I felt great.  That’s how I want to feel at that point, honestly.  I think running with people can really just make all the difference.  Anyway…strong finish in the humidity.  I went to meet up with Cathy and went out for breakfast because, despite fueling along the way, I was starving and actually ready for food.

Not a bad week for my training.  This week tapers back the miles a bit, which is fine.  It’s also a holiday weekend, so that actually works out really well.  I’ll be out of town and intend to meet up with a group of people so I can get my scheduled Saturday long run in.  I just need to get the details on where to meet everyone.  I’ll be sure to do that very soon.

So, despite having gone extra miles 2 days in a row…this week really made me feel strong and good as a runner.  I feel my running is improving.  And next week I am definitely getting back into my cardio circuits and my yoga.  I slacked this past week on them due to my procedure, but no excuses this coming week.  None.

Getting stronger…getting better…

And I’m healing up perfectly too.  Loving it still!


Running a marathon for a cause…an important cause…

Action For Healthy Kids - Chicago Marathon
Action For Healthy Kids – Chicago Marathon

Back when the Chicago Marathon first opened up for people to register, I got in with no problem.  In and out.  All before the Active.com collapse happened and many people were left to the mercy of the Chicago Marathon’s first ever lottery system.  But…I got to thinking.  Sure, it’s great that I felt compelled to take on a longer distance and really test my endurance, my stamina, my body, my mind, my entire soul for that matter.  But why just run for myself?  Why not run for a cause?

So…I chose to join a charity team.

My chosen charity – Action For Healthy Kids.

Never heard of it?  Well, let me tell you, this is a cause that is near and dear to my heart.  And I am proud to be a member of Team Healthy Kids.

Simply put, the childhood obesity epidemic has sparked alarm among parents, educators, health professionals and others in recent years.  More than 30% of American children are obese or overweight.  This is triple the number than in 1980.  Believe it or not, only 8% of elementary school students and 6% of middle school and high school students have daily PE at school.  My gym class used to be a requirement when I was in school.  This statistic is shocking.

Are you aware that 35% of school-age children watch an average of 5 or more hours of TV on a school day?  My parents wouldn’t let us watch television on school nights unless it was PBS, and only after homework was complete.

And, the kicker in all this is that overweight kids miss school 4 times as much as normal weight kids.  The result is that if children are not in school, they can’t learn.

Childhood obesity is a scary thing, and in this age of technology, video games, television shows, movies, and computer time keep kids sedentary more than ever.  But there are so many risks that come with childhood obesity.

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Asthma
  • Sleep apnea
  • Type 2 diabetes

So what does Action for Healthy Kids do to help prevent the growing number of children who are considered obese in America?  Simply put…they educate them and and help teach them the importance of activity, exercise, and nutrition.  Action for Healthy Kids was founded in 2002 by the 16th US Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D, with the goal to address the childhood obesity epidemic by transforming schools into healthier places.  By working with schools, this organization is giving kids the keys to health and academic success by providing them with fun physical activity and nutrition programs that make it possible for them to eat nutritiously and play every day.

Action for Healthy Kids educates school leaders, public health officials, parents, students and other network members to increase their knowledge of nutrition and wellness in schools.  They work to mobilize schools, parents, and volunteers to install programs and services which will promote a healthy lifestyle and wellness policies for children in schools.  And they help transform schools to provide healthy foods, quality healthy, physical education and comprehensive physical activity for all students.

Please join me in supporting Action for Healthy Kids to provide even more of these programs in schools throughout the United States next year.  With your help, Action for Healthy Kids will provide necessary resources, programs, and volunteers to help schools build wellness programs that succeed.  Childhood obesity can end…and it starts with your support.

Please take a moment to visit my First Giving donation page and donate today.  A gift of any size will make a difference.

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/KarenBrady/2013-bank-of-america-chicago-marathon

And if you want to know more about Action for Healthy Kids, visit their Web site: http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/

Thank you so much for your support and all you do to make our youth healthy and active.

Love,
Karen J. Brady


Marathon Training Week #2 – From speed work to slowing down…

Chicago Marathon Training Week #2
Chicago Marathon Training Week #2

It’s amazing the lessons you learn through life.  Every day brings a new discovery, a new chance to improve on something, a lesson that needed to be learned, and everything in between.

Last week, I revealed that I was diagnosed with (granted) the most common form of skin cancer.  And while it is “common”…the fact that I had a nurse tell me I had any form of cancer broke my spirit.  It hurt.  It bothered me.  I didn’t let on…but when the reality of it struck…it really threw me off my game.  I no longer felt centered.  I was no longer focused.

What I had to do was strive to regain my equilibrium.  And I worked on doing that, staying positive, and focusing on something that truly made me happy.  My running.  Thank goodness for my training plan because it is keeping me accountable and keeping my mind off of things.

This was my second official week of marathon training and I was already looking forward to some of the scheduled days I had in front of me.

Sunday I went out for an easy run.  It was Father’s Day, so I dedicated 7 miles to my dad.  I called him later to tell him that, and that, ironically, I managed my fastest 7 miles to date without even trying.  And that the last mile of it was spent carrying a bag that had some almonds and an avocado in it, as I stopped by the grocery store while I was out.  Yes…I am that runner.

Monday morning meant I was back to the running in the dark.  I am continuing to fuel and hydrate according to the instructions that my sports nutritionist laid out for me and have been quite successful with that.  I have, however, discovered that I hate my hand-held water bottle.  I carried it with me on the shorter runs and just found it annoying.  But I don’t feel like wearing my fuel belt with water bottles on the shorter distances either.  But I need the hydration in order to follow the plan that she has laid out for me to guarantee my body will function right and properly under race conditions when I get to my marathon.  So…I carry the handheld bottle.  And hate it.  Monday morning was a scheduled 5 miles at an easy pace.  I keep reminding myself that I don’t have to race every run I do, which is a huge problem for me.  So, I often have to remind myself to slow down and take it easy.  It really is important.  So, I did the scheduled miles…then later that evening did an even easier run through the hills of Cherokee Park with my Monday fun run group.  It was good.  And I had a great conversation about my marathon from someone who has run it 6 times as well as other marathons I might want to look at in the future.  It was a good Monday.

Tuesday was the scheduled cross training day.  I’m so not used to waking up without going running, so this day usually throws me off.  I did 45 minutes on the Arc Trainer with hill intervals and on Level 5 and really rocked it out.  I was proud of myself.  Then I hit up the Cardio Wave machine for 10 minutes, which is like an elliptical machine, except that your feet move from side-to-side and instead of moving forward and back.  It is a welcome change for the legs.  While it is only 10 minutes, I worked it hard, upping my resistance and speed every minute.  It really works up a sweat.

Wednesday is the speed work and pacing day.  And this week was fartlek week.  Five miles worth.  Now, I attempted fartleks once before…but didn’t properly warm up and ended up with a nagging pain in my ankle/calf muscle for about 2 weeks.  This time, I used my first mile as a warm up and ran the fartleks the remaining 4 miles.  For those of you not familiar with the term, fartleks are where you alternate irregular fast and slow intervals, either by time or by markers on the course you choose to run.  As I run in the early morning when it is dark out, I couldn’t really keep track on my watch, so I chose different places to speed up and run through and then other places to ease back into an easy pace.  I ended up breaking a 5 mile PR by an entire minute.  Maybe there is something to this speed play stuff.  I had a great and fun run that morning.  It was nice to change things up.

Thursday rolled around and that was another easy run day.  This time it called for 6 miles.  So, I went out and logged those, once again reminding myself that I don’t need to race on these runs.  I took it easy, and ran at a decent pace for me…and finished strong.  I’m trying to work on that finishing kick…but I still usually don’t have the ooomph at the end of a run, no matter the distance, to really kick it into high gear.  I’m hoping my speed work days will help with that in the end.  After that, I hit up the gym for some cardio and strength training.  I felt strong that morning.  It was a good feeling.

Friday…the day of rest.  I dread Friday for this reason.  It is not easy for me to take a day off of running.  I get antsy and fidgety.  But, rest days are important for the muslces, the body, and the soul.  Honestly, it gives the body a chance to repair itself.  These days are vital when in training because these days help the muscles build up strength.  I know that sounds weird, but with each workout you fatigue your muscles and giving them a day off means they repair themselves and grow stronger.  And I definitely want to be a stronger runner.  So, once again, I respected the rest day and kept it holy.  I did opt for an easy walk at the gym on my lunch hour.  Nothing strenuous.

Saturday is the day of the long run at the Long Slow Distance (LSD) pace.  I am so lucky to have fallen in with a group of runners who have taken me in and are able to take me on new routes and new runs on these longer running days.  I was really getting tired of looping my neighborhood.  BORING!  I met up with a great group of people on Saturday morning and we logged my 11 mile training run in 1:36:10.  I was talking with one of the runners, someone who has just logged his 32nd marathon in his life, and he was telling me the importance of these runs being taken at a slower, easier pace.  It does help build up strength and speed in the end.  Just like rest days.  There will be those days where my training calls for Marathon Pace…but on these LSD days…I try to honor that longer slower distance.  I was so happy to have the company and the conversation on the long run.  It made the time fly by and the effort feel effortless.  Loving it.  I finished strong too.  Already looking forward to doing it again next weekend.

So, overall, not a bad training week at all.  I already see in the next few weeks, due to events and appointments, where I will need to tweak my training schedule, but I’m so happy with how this week went.  I am definitely focusing more on feel and my body.  I used to put so much emphasis on time, and a part of me still does, but through the training and through learning from other seasoned runners, I am discovering that the pace will find you at the race itself…you train right, and you’ll be ready to run one of the best races of your life.  Train too hard…and you get burnt out or injured.  And that is the last thing I want to have happen.  So, training smart and keeping my mileage and my pace in proper check.

Loving every run.  So that means I must be doing something right.

I am not sure if or how my procedure will affect my program, but I will find out on Wednesday when I go in.  The most important thing right now is to remain positive and do what is right for me and my body.  And right now…it’s getting rid of the basal cell carcinoma, healing, and having that weight lifted off my shoulders.  I’m going to keep on smiling.


Marathon Training Week #1 – In the beginning…

Chicago Marathon Training Week #1
Chicago Marathon Training Week #1

It has been a long, crazy, hectic, and draining week for me as I started my official training program for the Chicago Marathon.  But I was totally excited to get it underway.  It officially started last week…exactly…on Sunday, June 9th.  It was…a rest day.  Naturally.  But I used that time wisely and started taking some steps that I hope will only better my training and my running in the long run.

That morning, I met up with a sports nutritionist.  After getting a good physical report back from my check-up at the doctor and the okay to start marathon training as I was in very good health…I had inquired about talking with a sports nutritionist because…well…I am horrible when it comes to fueling and hydrating while on the run.  And I wanted to go into this training doing everything possible to do right by my body.  And that meant learning to fuel it properly before, during, and after running.

The problem was…we couldn’t find a sports nutritionist in this area.  Strange, as we have the University of Louisville, which has a great sports program, right here.  But…nope.  Nothing.  On a whim, I contacted Ken Combs Running Store and they put me in touch with one.  Her name is Donna…and she’s awesome.  She’s just like me – a gluten-free, vegetarian, long distance runner.  She said she wasn’t taking on new clients at the time, but given my circumstances, she would definitely take me on.

In our first meeting she spoke to me about the importance of fueling my body correctly…not just on race day, but during the entire time I’m in training.  This meant changing the way I looked at food…nutrition info…and changing up how I ate.  We laid out a plan, which involved me drinking 16 ounces of water before heading out for a run, and getting something in my stomach.  Prior to that, I would run my mornings on an empty stomach and not even bring water with me.  I’d just go run.  Worry about the rest when I got back.  She emphasized how important it was to get something in my stomach so that my body is feeding off of the fuel rather than taking away from my muscle strength.  It made sense.  She’s moving me more towards a clean eating diet as well, which means less processed foods (aka: bad carbs) and more natural foods (aka: good carbs).  And she is having me hydrate and fuel while out on every training run.  This means not just water…but Gatorade to with giving my body electrolytes, sodium, and potassium that is lost while running…and giving an energy boost to the muscles with the carbohydrates it offers too.  Fuel.  I am also to take a GU or Sports Beans packet every 3-4 miles (about every 30 minutes) to really train my body to take in fuel while I’m on the run.  It all made sense…so I vowed to start doing it.

I learned a lot from her and we’ll be meeting up again in a couple of months to see how I am progressing.

My charity group that I am running the Chicago Marathon with, Team Healthy Kids – part of Action For Healthy Kids, sent me a training program for my marathon training.  I had one originally, but after looking at it, I felt that the mileage was too low.  I’d been running 35-40 miles a week, and was being dropped down to half that.  I contacted them to see about getting it changed up.  They said that since this was my first marathon, they put me on the beginner plan, but they saw my point and moved me to the intermediate one.  That being said, my first run happened on Monday morning.

Five miles…and it was raining.  I heard the rain when I woke up that morning.  But I didn’t make plans to head to the gym to hit the treadmill.  I got dressed, laced up my shoes, grabbed my reflective gear and headed out the door.  Marathons happen in all sorts of weather and as long as there was no lightning…I was hitting the roads.  I noticed that Cathy had placed a sign up on the door.  It had words of encouragement on it.  And in marker she wrote me a message.  I love that she is so supportive of my running and really is making sure I do my training as well.  It means less time to do other things, but she seems willing to take on the sacrifice as well at times.  The sign was the encouragement I needed.  Monday morning…5 miles at an easy pace completed…in the rain.  I felt really badass!  I hated my time, but as the run specifically was meant to be done at an easy pace, I focused more on the pacing than the time.

Tuesday was my Cross Training day.  I hit up the gym for a 45 minute session on the Arc Trainer, set to the hill setting.  That was tough, but I got through it.  Then I put myself through 10 minutes on the rowing machine.  My arms were tired and sore from doing a yoga DVD on Sunday night…but I got through it and moved down to the weight room for some strength training.

Wednesday was supposed to be my 6 mile run in the morning, but…I was running a 10K on Saturday…when I was supposed to be running 9 miles long.  So, I flip-flopped those days.  On Wednesday, I spent my wee morning hours knocking out 9 miles in some pretty crazy humidity.  I fueled every three miles and took Gatorade for hydration for the first time…since the Chicago Half Marathon.  It all settled fine in my stomach and I finished the run feeling good.  I was proud of myself.

Thursday meant it was Speed/Pacing day.  And the schedule called for a 4 mile tempo run.  A tempo run, for those of you who might not be familiar with the term, is simply running at a quicker pace than the easy pace, but at about 15 seconds slower than your 10K time.  I managed to actually hold a rather steady tempo on my run, despite throwing in some hills to make it a bit tougher.  I came out of that one surprised.  Especially since I was also dealing with 15 mph winds that morning as well.

Friday…was the day of rest.  I respected it and kept it holy.

Saturday was race day.  I was participating in the Capital City Stampede 10K…which is why I moved my 6 mile run to Saturday.  It just sort of…worked out that way.  I went to the race, knocked it out with a new PR, and had a great time running.  Races make me happy…but they are about to take a back seat to my training sessions.

And that rounded out my first official week of training for the Chicago Marathon.  At the end of it…I feel good.  I’m ready for this coming week where I work on my fueling, rehydration, and pace/speed as well.  I have a goal…and I’m working hard to reach it.  And…I have to say, I am very proud of myself for going out there on my first official day of training in the rain.

All-in-all…a draining, but very exciting week for me.  On to the next…


Tri-At-The-Y Super Sprint Triathlon – New Albany, IN (April 21, 2013)

Me starting off on the 8 mile bike portion of the Floyd County YMCA Tri-At-The-Y Super Sprint Triathlon
Me starting off on the 8 mile bike portion of the Floyd County YMCA Tri-At-The-Y Super Sprint Triathlon

Race: Tri-at-the-Y Super Sprint Triathlon

Place: Floyd County YMCA, New Albany, Indiana

Date: April 21, 2013

Overall Time: 1:04:03

I can now officially call myself a triathlete.  For real.  No indoor triathlon this time.  Nope.  The triathlon that I participated in two weekends ago was an official Super Sprint Triathlon, which did not happen indoors on gym equipment this time.  If you recall, my last triathlon was an Indoor Triathlon, and I wasn’t too keen on it.  Besides, it wasn’t a true triathlon.  No measured distance to run or pedal, just set times on a treadmill and stationary bike.  Then a certain time in the pool.  Done.

NOT. THIS. TIME.

And I couldn’t have been happier about it either.

Granted, when I signed up for this, I had no clue what I was getting myself into.  I’m just going to be honest.  I am a good swimmer, but I’m not a fast swimmer.  I can bike, but I’ve never done so in competition form.  And the weather had been so cold leading into this race, that the only practice I was getting on the bike was on the stationary bike at the gym.  Definitely not the same as getting out onto the road and tackling some real hills.  But, you make do with what you’ve got, yes?

As a runner, I knew I would have that part down.  It was the bike and swim that were making me nervous.  As I got on the stationary bike on every gym day leading up to the triathlon, I was feeling a bit better about the bike portion…but that swim portion still seemed a bit daunting.  Granted, it was a simple 300 meters in the pool, but that was six laps (down and back) in each lane of the pool at the YMCA.  I got in one morning of swimming in the pool prior to this event…and it took me 20 minutes to do the required 6 down and back laps.  I was not feeling confident at all about that part of this triathlon.

Running is my passion.  I have yet to find that same passion in any other sport.  I run a lot, I run often, I run without forcing myself to do so.  It’s just something I love to do.  Early, late, it doesn’t matter.  I’ll lace up those shoes and just go, go, go whenever I want.  I run slow, I run fast, I run long.  I run…pretty much every day.  At most 6 out of 7 days a week…runs of varying lengths.  But, I know that cross training is also important to building up better skills as a runner.  A triathlon is a great way to get a sample of cross training with two very different sports from running – biking and swimming.  Throwing in two consecutive and challenging sports with a run was a good introduction to other options out there, that’s for sure.

A Super Sprint Triathlon is a great introduction to triathlons.  I’m so glad I did it, although I had a nervous respect for what I was getting myself into.  I didn’t mention it to anyone because I wasn’t completely sure I could do it.  Or do it well.  And that just means…to my own high standards I place on myself when I compete.

A Super Sprint Triathlon consists of an 8 mile bike, a 2 mile run, and a 300 meter swim.

Small…but daunting to someone who really just runs.  I think I took it on like a champ though.

The day before the triathlon, I had gone out for a quick 5 mile run, and then later met up with my friend Nikky for her last long run (10 miles) to pace her as she prepped for her mini marathon the following Saturday.  So, I was going into this with some tired legs as it was.  But…I’ve never really let that slow me down (much) when it comes to races.  What I didn’t know was what to expect when the triathlon kicked off.  I was…really clueless going in.  That was evident by the fact that I was going to be doing the biking portion of the race on a mountain bike…not a road bike.  Even better…the bike didn’t quite fit into the trunk of my Toyota Corolla, despite lowering the seats.  So, much of the drive to the YMCA was cautious, hoping that the trunk didn’t pop open in the process as it couldn’t be shut.

I also had to think about what I was going to wear.  It was required that all participants wear their bathing suits under their clothes for the triathlon.  I had to do that with the indoor triathlon I did last March, so that wasn’t an issue.  The issue was…it was flippin’ cold that morning.  For real.  Like 40 degrees cold.  So, I had some decisions to make when it came to wardrobe.  When I got up that morning, the bathing suit went on…because I knew that much was a given.  I finally decided to just brave it and wear the swim suit bottoms as my shorts throughout the entire triathlon.  I put on some compression socks and my running shoes.  My original thought was to just throw on arm warmers and do the entire thing in my bathing suit, but the weather deterred me from that line of thinking.  I ended up throwing on my Earth Fare Athlete Ambassador shirt with the arm warmers and calling it done.  One BondiBand later and one ponytail (no pigtails as I had to wear a helmet for the bike portion) later, I was ready to get to the Floyd County YMCA (also known as…my gym).

So, with my bike wedged into my little Toyota Corolla, my roommate dropped me off with my bike and then headed back to the apartment as her mom was coming over.  She was going to cheer me on too and then we were all heading out for her belated birthday lunch at North End Café in Louisville, Kentucky.  So…I knew a delicious gluten-free pancake was in my future…I just had to get through the triathlon first.  As she drove off, I started to walk my bike toward the YMCA, and was told by a fellow triathlete that I might as well just take it up and over the flood wall and get it racked before checking in.  I glanced over a the stairs leading up and over the train tracks, then the flood wall, and thanked him.  So, I rolled my bike that way, then picked it up and carried it all the way up the steps, resting at the top, before carrying it down the steps toward the amphitheater, and over to the bike racks.  As mine was a mountain bike, among a sea of racing road bikes), I didn’t hang mine up by the seat.  I just kicked it into place with the kickstand and left it there while I hauled myself back up the steps, over the flood wall, and back toward the YMCA to get checked in.  This involved getting my t-shirt, my race number, my timing chip (which fit around my ankle), and had to strip out of my hoodie, roll down my arm warmers, and roll up my sleeves to get the required triathlete bib number scrawled on my upper right in Sharpie marker.  I felt pretty official after that.

Then it was the waiting game.  I was waiting on Cathy to return with her mom.  I needed to eat my pre-race fuel of a banana in enough time to let it digest.  When she did arrive…she had forgotten the banana.  I was afraid no fuel since my cereal at breakfast and my Lärabar I ate with it would mean I would be starving during the triathlon.  A hungry athlete is an unhappy athlete.  Trust me.  So, she ditched her belongings and took off to the local gas station, knowing they usually have some bananas in a basket.  She succeeded, and returned, and I devoured the banana on the walk toward the bike rack area.  We had about 30 minutes to the start of the triathlon and a mandatory meeting in the bike area was about to start.

The mandatory meeting basically went over the course and how the triathlon would work.  They told us where we would be biking, and how many loops we’d have to do for the required miles.  They told us about transitioning from bike to running, and where we needed to run, turn around, and head up the hill, down some stairs (YIKES) and into the back of the YMCA to transition to the swim.  Then…the dreaded swim would take place.  They also went on to say that our participation in the event that morning was sending a message to people like the Boston Marathon bombers that we, as athletes, would not be bullied.  It was a touching speech and I nearly cried.  And then, we were told to get our bikes, put the more experienced up front, and get ready to start.

I decided to follow instructions and lined up with my bike toward the back.  After all, the fewer people passing me meant the better I would feel about myself, right?  Except…this was a loop, so those who started ahead of me were going to whip by me regardless.  Ah well…being that I don’t bike much outside (this needs to change!), I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Nor was I completely familiar with my bike…especially on really steep hills and the like, which I didn’t know I’d have to tackle until I was peddling up one.  The bikers were sent off one at a time.  And after about 10 minutes, it was my turn at the starting line.  I was told to go whenever I was ready.  Putting my feet on the pedals…I was off.

8 Mile Bike Time: 34:21

Biking 8 miles on a stationary bike, even with varying resistances, didn’t come close to preparing me for the bike portion of the triathlon.  I started, as instructed, with my bike in the lowest gear, which would ensure a quick start.  That was pretty much all I had right at the start.  From there it was a matter of learning when I needed to be in a higher gear, when I needed to shift back down to an easier one, navigating pot holes, standing up so my bootie didn’t get bruised as I cruised over a makeshift bridge that covered a large hole in the course.  The bike was HARD!

No joke.  I thought, when I signed up, that because I could manage higher resistance on the stationary bike going 8 miles in 25 minutes would be simple.  HAHAHA!!  WRONG.  I didn’t account for fatigue…or hills…or just…not knowing what I was doing.  It’s not as easy as jumping on a bike and peddling.  You have to put a lot of work into your legs to get that bike going and up to speed.  And when I hit that steep incline the first time, I faltered more than a little.  I slowed to a crawl.  But I got up it…and learned a few lessons about my bike in the process.

First of all, my friend Will, who was also doing this (but has done a triathlon before) had those clip-in shoes for his pedals, which he said really do make all the difference.  I sort of laughed it on, but my feet were sliding off my pedals at times.  I could now see his point.  I envied everyone who had those shoes for their bikes.  They would definitely have an easier time.  Secondly, I now knew that higher gears worked better on flat surfaces, and shifting to an easier gear for hills was ideal.  On my second loop of the course, I was starting to get this down.  And by the third and final loop, while my legs were screaming at me because they were tired of peddling the heavy mountain bike up the hill, I did better this time.  And before I knew it, I was peddling into the transition area, hopping off my bike, and running it across the line to stop my timing chip.  This gave me time to rack my bike and start to prep for the run.

Me having just transitioned from the bike to the run at the Floyd County YMCA Tri-At-The-Y Super Sprint Triathlon
Me having just transitioned from the bike to the run at the Floyd County YMCA Tri-At-The-Y Super Sprint Triathlon

2 Mile Run Time: 15:52

No one told me how much my quads would hurt as I transitioned from biking to running.  It took a moment for me to convince them that they needed to move.  And this was the part of the race I felt most confident in.  Here I was, feeling like a complete rookie because now my legs were hurting from pushing it on the bike.  But, I finally got moving and managed to shake it all out the more I ran.  I had walked originally toward the starting line, but Cathy began screaming at me to move it…so I jogged, hit the starting line, and took off.

I immediately passed the person who started running a few moments ahead of me.  I knew that this was my portion and that I could do this well.  I had to look beyond the pain and fatigue in my legs and push…dig deep…find my strong…and conquer the run.  I also knew that at the very end of the run was a hill that would take us up to the flood wall.  So, I was mentally preparing for that too.  The rest of the run was flat, although pock marked with pot holes.  I was just really careful where I planted my feet and kept on moving.  I passed more people.  I saw Will heading the other way.  He waved at me.  And then…I found the turn around point, made my turn and headed back toward the amphitheater.  I passed Will.  I headed up the hill…and I did so with some actual speed.  My legs were feeling good.  I was comfortable.  I was running.  I was doing my thing.

Then…the stairs.

UGH.  Those brought my stride to a stop as running down them was not safe.  I tried…and decided it was not a good idea.  So, I walked them…quickly…and then picked up the run at the bottom, where I followed the path marked by orange cones toward the back of the YMCA.  I passed over the mat that would stop the timing and began the swim transition.  This was the part I wasn’t looking forward to doing.

300 Yard Swim Time: 8:44

How I managed to swim 300 yards in under 9 minutes is still a mystery to me, as it took me 20 minutes when I practiced it the week before.  Go figure.  I’m still perplexed and slightly awed by my finish time for the swim.  Going into this, I knew my legs would be tired, I would be tired, and it was my weakest link in the triathlon as it was.  But, when I sign up for something…I get it done.  Even if I do it slowly.

The transition from running to swimming took me 4 minutes to accomplish.  Why?  Well…I had to peel off my shirt and arm warmers, get rid of my Garmin and Nike Fuel Band.  Then I had to take off my shoes, and strip out of the compression socks.  Compression socks, if they are doing their job properly, are not easy to just peel off and go.  I had to fight a little with them, but I finally managed to get them off so I could make my way over to the pool.  I stepped across the start line, lowered myself into the water, and took off.

I did the crawl stroke for the first few lanes, but decided, as I slowed down and struggled, that the backstroke was going to be necessary if I was going to get through this.  I felt like such a newbie, heading down the lane in a full on backstroke, then coming back in the crawl stroke.  But, you do what you have to do to finish as best you can, right?  I kicked, I flailed my hands and arms, I ripped through the water, up and down each lane, until I made it to the final lane.  I knew I was almost there, and all my energy was fading fast.  But I was so close now.  I backstroked down, flipped over, and made my final swim back in to hoist myself out of the water and get across the finish line, stopping my chip time.

I’m not going to lie…this was difficult for me.  The entire experience, from the weather, to the transitions, to the three sports involved all challenged me in different ways.  They challenged my body.  They made me work hard, push hard, and made me understand that proper training is important.

That being said, my overall finish time was 1:04:03.  I was 81/128 overall.  Not bad for a first triathlon.  I finished 2/5 in my age division.  As for the separate events, I as far as age division went, I was 3/5 on the bike portion; 1/5 on the run portion; and I was 4/5 in the swim portion.  About what I expected.  I didn’t come in last in my age division on anything…but if I had, I figured it would have been the swim.  I was close.  LOL!

Would I do another triathlon?  Maybe a longer one?  Maybe another Super Sprint?  Sure.  I’d love to.  I actually had a really good time, despite the aches and pains I put my body through on the bike and swim.  It was a really good time.  And the YMCA did a fantastic job with enthusiastic volunteers and organization.  This was a great way to be introduced to the endurance events of triathlons.  And if I can ever afford a road bike, I’d like to pursue them further.  But I will never again participate on a heavy mountain bike.  Or, if I must, I’ll at least get out on the roads with it more this spring and fall and get to the gear shirts and using it on hills and flat terrain.  If nothing else, the cross training will only help me improve as a runner, right?

As for swimming, I’m vowing now to be better about hitting the pool at the gym.  Weekends, especially Sunday mornings, might be dedicated to that.  In order to get better, I have to get stronger.  And in order to do that, I have to practice, practice, practice.

But hey…I’m officially a triathlete!

Me having just finished the 300 yard swim and completing the Floyd County Tri-At-The-Y Super Sprint Triathlon
Me having just finished the 300 yard swim and completing the Floyd County Tri-At-The-Y Super Sprint Triathlon


Running to Remember – A Tribute to the Victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing

Me and Nikky pinned up and ready for our run for Boston.
Me and Nikky pinned up and ready for our run for Boston.

Today was a good day.

It feels strange to say that, because good days since Monday, April 15, 2013, have been few and far between.  I’ve had good moments, sure…but my overall attitude, my overall emotional state was rocked…perhaps even shattered when those bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  I wasn’t there.  But my heart and soul was.  And every image burned itself into my heart.  I cried…a lot.  I felt down.  Depressed.  Angry.  Sad.  I felt lost.  I felt hopeless.  I felt helpless.  I’ve witnessed quite a few life-changing events in my life, but this one rocked me hard.  This one…hit me right in the chest.

Why?

Because…I am a runner.

So, when my friend Nikky asked on her Facebook page if someone wanted to pace her while she went on her last long run before she began her taper for the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon coming up in a week…I volunteered.  It’s not often I get to go running with others.  There is my fun run group on Monday, of course, but…most times I’m on my own there too.  So, I jumped on the chance to join her for her 10 mile run.  She was worried that she would be too slow…but I told her it was her job to set the pace…and I would go with it.  I never mind running with people.  And if it means I slow my pace down, I’m more than happy to do it.

So often runners focus on their pace, their time.  I am one of these runners.  I always am looking to better myself.  And so often I forget the joy of just going out for a slow, easy run.  It’s amazing what you see, what you feel, what you notice that you might have missed…

Then, on Thursday, it occurred to me that Nikky and I could do something very special on our 10 miler.  We could run…for Boston.  I pitched the idea at her, and she was totally for it.  Dedicating her long run to a cause…and we’d do it together.  I printed up some race bibs for us to wear, to make it official, and eagerly anticipated our run on Saturday afternoon.

I went out on Saturday morning for an easy 5 miler on my own…a warm-up if you will.  And after grabbing a bite to eat at Jason’s Deli (My pre-race lunch was a gluten-free peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Don’t mock…runners love peanut butter!), I headed to our rendezvous spot, ready to help her do her long run.

We met up at the YMCA and had Cathy get us pinned up (she’s an expert after all).  After that, Cathy went off to grocery shop and Nikky and I headed to the park where we would start our run.  We stretched (she is SO flexible!) and then walked up to the road to get started.  I reassured her that I was more than happy to take her pace and she told me it was okay to push her a little now and then.  So, with that understanding, I let her start us off…up a hill.

We had so much fun.  The miles flew by as we ran around a route she runs often enough.  And we did it wearing our special race bibs, throwing our hands up in the air.  Running for Boston.  It felt good to add a cause to purpose for being out on the roads.  The race bibs just sort of made it feel more official.  It felt good.  We kept our conversations on the light side…speaking of happy things.  We’d talk about Boston…but mostly of the relief that just last night the second suspect was taken into custody…alive.  And how we hoped that justice would be played out.  We talked of races, ones we’ve run, ones that we would like to run.  We talked about our families.  We talked about people we know who run.  We talked about our local running stores.  We would throw our hands up in the air when cars drove by, saying, “We’re running for Boston!”  And we never stopped.  It was refreshing.  It was, honestly, just what I needed.

Ten miles, with hills at the start, hills in the middle, and more hills at the end.  She really had this planned out.  The best part was, she did an amazing job on her run.  We hit 10 miles and I hugged her and congratulated her.  She is amazing and she’s going to do a great job on her run next weekend.  I can tell.  And with crowd support down there, oh…I have a feeling she’ll do better than she even expects.  The important thing is to pace herself.  I am so proud of her.  She rocked it.  She knew when to push and when to let up.  She was determined not to get injured before this race this year…and I am so glad she listened to her body.  Those last two miles, though, she gave it her all.  Yeah…very proud of her.

Proudly wearing our race bibs…we headed to The Comfy Cow for celebratory ice cream.  We talked some more about anything and everything.  And finally, we parted ways.

Today’s run was so cleansing.  It was something we both felt we needed to do.  She had the reason and we both had the time.  Dedicating today’s run to Boston was so heartfelt.  We both were affected by what happened.  Anyone who is a runner or was a runner or even just knows runners was affected by the events in Boston on Monday.  But with every step we took today, we put in miles for the victims of those senseless bombings.  Miles for a good cause.  Miles to remember.  Miles that we shared…with Boston in our hearts and proudly displayed on our tech shirts.  This was Nikky’s run…but she and I made it so much more.

This wasn’t just a training run.  That was what got us out there.  This was a run for remembrance.  This was a run for healing.  We accomplished it.  And we did it together.  One foot in front of the other.  The road rose up to meet us…and we left our heartache and tears behind as we climbed our first hill together…and lifted up Boston.

Thank you, Nikky, for this amazing experience.  We may have only been two people…but we carried the whole of the Boston Marathon with us.  Boston Strong!