Friday, August 24, 2012

Checking in

Runnergirlknits who? Yeah, I'm still around. Still running, still cross training, still knitting, still whining. Quite a bit of each, actually.

I've slowly built my running mileage back up to close to where it should be. I'd like to say I've closely followed the running schedule produced by my Team in Training coach but ... it would be a lie. I've mostly been following my own schedule to suit my own needs and desires. My normal, perfect-training week would look something like this:

Monday before work: Train with Super-Trainer Katie; mostly core and upper body with some legs thrown in to torture me.

Monday after work: Hike the Rim Trail at Lafayette Reservoir, 5 miles. Try not to fall too often.

Tuesday before work: Train with S-TK. Run a few miles on the treadmill, throwing in some speed work.

Wednesday after work: Hike the Rim Trail at Lafayette Reservoir, 5 miles. Again try not to fall.

Thursday before work: Train with S-TK.
Thursday after work: Buddy run with Team in Training, usually about 45 minutes.

Friday: nothing at all.

Saturday: Run with the Team, slowly building mileage. May include trails and/or hills.

Sunday: Run easy at somewhere like the Lafayette-Moraga Trail.

Looks good, doesn't it? But that's a perfect week which has only been realized a few times this summer. We need to take into consideration high heat conditions and gross smog conditions which cause afternoon runs/hikes to become shorter. We need to think about breathing issues. We need to think about socializing outside of workouts. We need to consider family and exhaustion. But the ambitious scheduling has made me much stronger.

I'm slowly learning to love dirt, although single track still scares the crap out of me. I'm just too uncoordinated for that, either walking or running. But I think running and walking on fire trails has helped that. It's also helped me fall down more often than I'd like. After 11 years of running on local asphalt trails, it's been fun discovering the entirely different East Bay dirt trails. The beauty and changing seasonal scenery will keep me returning to dirt.

My previous ailments are sorta kinda almost better. At the risk of highly jinxing myself, I'll state that I haven't had much problem with my knees or feet recently. Yeah, things hurt after long runs but nothing more than expected. My lungs are very slowly rebuilding after spring's pneumonia, but they're still not where I'd like them. I'm able to run a few consecutive miles at my old pace, before having to slow back down.

I'm excited about my very ambitious race schedule for the fall/winter. I'm hoping to run 3-4 full marathons with a couple of half marathons thrown in for good measure. I honestly have no idea how my body will react to a marathon a month (let alone 2 in 2 days) but it should be fun running in 3 new states.

How is your running summer going? Are you making big plans? Has the latest version of Bejeweled (available for PC, iPhone and iPad, dammit) taken over your life and spare time as it has mine?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Changes and celebrations

To celebrate my birthday last year, I ran a marathon. I didn't do as much this year but I was still active enough to not regret the cake I ate for breakfast. My day started way too early with a screaming 5:00 am alarm. I dragged my sleepy self to the gym and had a great workout with my trainer. Yes, she made it very special. Ow.

I had to work today (... like most days) but the day went quickly. After work Jeanette and I went for a walk around the Lafayette Reservoir. That sounds so -- so -- gentle, doesn't it? That just means you don't know the LR. There is an asphalt trail that surrounds the reservoir, 2.7 miles of uphills and downhills. It's very pretty. But we didn't just walk the asphalt, oh heck no. We took a little detour up a big freakin' hill, then up another hill, along a trail, and then down a hill. These were probably fire trails, muddy and cracked and lumpy and rutted. Our detour had our lungs puffing and our hearts pounding (thanks, pneumonia reminders!) and it felt like we had gone at least a few miles.

Nuh uh. It was a big old 1.3 mile trail detour, a whole .9 miles more than we would have gone if we had stayed on the asphalt. But what a detour! This is definitely the time of year to struggle up there. Glorious spring all around us. 360 degree views of rolling hills with a little suburbia peeking through. Amazing that this is less than 10 minutes from our office. We saw a hawk circling in the sky, a deer hiding in the brush, a turkey waddling through the grasses.

Our goal is to walk the entire Rim Trail, about 4-5 miles of trail up near the sky. With the days getting longer we'll still be able to do that after work before it gets dark and they have to send the tracking dogs after us. I'd tell you how slowly we were going but I don't want you all laughing so hard that you fall over.

Now THAT'S the way to celebrate a birthday!

As to the changes: good bye Utah Valley Marathon, hello Coeur d'Alene Marathon! After a very tough 15 mile run on Saturday I realized there was no way I'd be able to run a marathon, at altitude, with a 6 hour cut-off. That would give me no lee-way if my lungs gave out, or if I had a bad day. CdA is a much flatter marathon, at only 2500 elevation. Still higher than our sea level, but breathable. They offer an early start for walkers so I'll start then. While I hope to break 6 hours, I won't be frantic if I can't do it.

The biggest difference is I'll miss one of my scheduled/planned 20 mile runs, only getting in one 18 miler and one 20 miler. I don't really need that extra one, it's just something that I'd done for piece of mind, a mental thing. It also means I'll miss the first team training, but I've done that before too. There's an immense sense of relief with this change so I know it's a good decision. And hey, there's always the rest of the summer if I need to run another marathon!

How do you celebrate birthdays? Cake and champagne? An endurance run? Three weeks of party/run/party/run? Call in sick and cover your head with a blanket? Ignore the whole thing and beat up anyone who mentions it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fuck Cancer!

I haven't been a member of Team in Training since 2009 when I rode the Solvang Century with the cycling team. The year before I raced The Triathlon at Pacific Grove with the tri team. The last marathon team I was part of was in 2007 (the first was in 2001). Since that time I've run numerous full and half marathons on my own, and even became a Marathon Maniac and Half Fanatic. So why did I rejoin the Team now?

We haven't cured cancer. We haven't prevented cancer. Although there are wonderful new treatment tools and many more people live long lives after diagnosis, cancer remains an evil disease that strikes anyone and anywhere, at any time. Rejoining the Team and raising money for research into causes and treatments is my little way of saying "Fuck Cancer!"

On October 14, 2012 I will run the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco with thousands of other women who are raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Team in Training. I have pledged to raise at least $2,000 in memory of my dad and all those who didn't live long enough for us to find a cure. I hope you'll help me in this quest and donate generously!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Long run Sunday

We're just going to pretend I didn't disappear from this blog for 3 months, 'k?

I haven't been running too much lately. A combination of leftover trauma to my lungs from February's pneumonia, lack of a running buddy and good old sloth had me going 2 weeks, after the Oakland Half Marathon, without running a step. So of course to make up for it I jumped right in with both feet (because otherwise I'd have fallen over on my face) and decided to run 11 miles this morning.

That was made a little more challenging by my somewhat excessive consumption of alcohol and food yesterday. Not only was it the monthly knitting Saturday at Walnut Creek Yacht Club (including some truly excellent blush wine of which I did not drink an entire bottle, despite having been accused of such), but afterward I met my family for another very merry unbirthday party. A fabulous meal and a couple of dangerous The Fourth Regiment cocktails later and I was feeling just fine.

I didn't sleep well last night, thanks to the celebration, but I knew I was getting up to run. It was a beautiful morning; crisp and clear. I met Anita for the anticipated 11 mile trek to Moraga Commons and back and something happened. I felt, dare I say it, great. I was running very slowly but steadily, breathing well, feeling loose. Everything around us was spring; the trees were blooming or leafing out, the grasses and weeds were that delightful shade of green, poppies were waving their bright orange heads in the sun.

So I decided that I wanted to run to the top of the hill, just to see the area while it was still the gorgeous green. Of course, that meant adding a few miles. We decided we'd walk up the biggest hills and run the rest and we headed onward.

The waterfall was still pouring down and we paused to admire the water-bred rainbow. We ran to the Commons and continued past. As we started going up the big hill we saw it: the Easter Bunny! Well, maybe he wasn't the official EB, he was very small and fluffy looking, and didn't seem to have a basket filled with eggs. But he was our first bunny sighting of spring. Right afterward we saw our first butterfly of spring too.

The view from the top of the hill was as spectacular as we thought it would be. Everywhere were shades of spring green, one of the loveliest spectrum of colors around. Since we were there already, we ran to the end of the trail. At that point we knew we had 7 miles left to go.

We ran along, yelling at the cows grazing on the hills, pointing out the red tail hawks circling in the sky (be careful, little bunny!) guessing names of the flowers and trees. Yeah, we got tired. But we kept running, keeping mostly to our original 9:1 run:walk. Maybe by mile 12 it was getting to more like 8:2. But we kept running. And continued running past our cars because I like round numbers. Sure, we could have rounded up from 14.68 miles. But we'd feel much better to have that true 15 miles under our belts.

Oddly enough, nothing hurt afterward except for some chafing from my capri seams (and as for that, owie owie). Lungs ok, legs ok, feet ok, back ok, sinuses ok. I was hot and tired, sweaty and stinky, but I felt good. Amazingly good.

So it looks like I have to keep running, and running long runs, whether or not Anita is available. I need to run by myself during the week, whether or not I have company. It just feels too good not to.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Almost next year

I just realized my poor blog is in serious need of updating, but that's not happening right now. This is just catching up. I realized I never posted since I had my foot sliced.

When I went to have the stitches removed the doc told me it turns out that I didn't have a ganglion cyst; I didn't have a cyst at all. I had what the lab called "fibromatosis." Which led to my delight in saying I had fibromatosis on my toesis. It's the little things in life. Anyway, a fibroma is a little benign tumor. Although they are common on feet, they're common on the bottom of the foot, not the top. Usually they're in/on the plantar fascia, not the big toe tendon. My doc told me the chances for it reoccurring are low. Ish.

Since the incision wasn't totally healed he told me I could run when there was no stinging when I swiped the wound with an alcohol wipe. And no cheating or toughing it out, stinging is stinging. As of today, 4 days later than expected, there was no stinging. So I'm good to start running again, yay!

My toeitis on the other foot isn't gone, but it never hurt horribly until I was at about 8 miles so I won't know for a while how healed it is.

I'll have 2 whole weeks to run and then will need to take another short interruption. I had a couple of moles sliced off the same day as the foot surgery (along with freezing a shitload of other moles and freckle-type-things, ouchy). One mole had benign atypical cells, so more has to be removed. It's located high on my thigh, right over the hip flexor. That's going to be a tough one to work around because it's one of the hardest workers in my body.

But when that's healed, I'm back to running. No matter what. I can feel my mood souring from lack of endurance endorphins and lack of sun. Since I can't control the weather I need to get back on the trails, or at least the treadmill.

Have you been running? Can you control the weather? Do you have any good toe jokes?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tis the (Off) Season: Holey Monday

I did TOO spell that correctly. No religiousness or faith involved here, just a scalpel and 5 stitches.

Back in the fall I developed, almost overnight, a big cyst on the top of my right foot. The doc thought it was probably a ganglion cyst and since he's the doc, I figured that was a good enough diagnosis for me. We tried draining it twice and that didn't make any difference. Since excision would involve a few weeks of no running I decided to wait until December to do anything about it. I haven't another paid race on the schedule until the end of January so technically this is my off season.

By this morning the cyst was greatly reduced in size but hadn't disappeared. After considering all the options (one of which was totally ignoring it for the rest of my life) the doc and I decided to go ahead and remove it. The worst part was him sticking a big ass needle in the top of my foot to give me the local anesthesia; he kept saying I was used to more pain than that from running marathons. He had a point (heh heh), but it still hurt oodles.

I'm a big medical weenie. I can have medical things done to me with no problem at all, I just can't watch any of it. From my allergy shots (which I've been getting on and off for 40 years) to major surgery, I'm fine as long as I don't see it. But today I decided what the hell, I'd watch until I felt like puking or fainting. And just to amuse myself, I'd take pictures.

The picture taking amused my doc too. And no, I'm not posting a single one here. Ew. Yuckyuckyucky. I was able to watch most of it although several times I averted my eyes. But I saw him cut open my foot and snippety snip the cyst, saw him squeeze out anything else, saw him sew it up. And it was completely gross, lemme tell ya. And I have pictures to prove it.

So now my foot is all wrapped up in bandages and it's supposed to stay that way for 2 weeks. Yeah, no washing or changing the bandages or anything. I asked him what happens when my feet sweat and get gross and he said they've done this lots of times and don't worry about it. Most importantly, no running or weight bearing exercises for at least 2 weeks. The doc said I could get some good upper body workouts in, even ride an exercycle if it feels ok, but no walking or running. It will even impact some of my TRX workouts because of foot positioning. I have the cutest little orthopedic shoe to wear for 2 weeks.

I asked the doc if I could run a half marathon at the new year and he said no, the skin would be too new and could possibly split. I didn't even bother asking if I could run back-to-back half marathons on 12/31 and 1/1. Sigh. Sounded like a fun way to ring out the old, ring in the new.

The best thing about this is it'll give my toeitis on the left foot another 2 weeks to heal. It's improved but not gone, and I don't particularly want to schedule marathons without knowing how much pain will be involved (the best amount, of course, is "none"). I feel odd not having a marathon to plan for, to train for, to obsess over. I know which ones I'd like to run in 2012 but I'm holding myself back right now.

After work today I'm having some moles removed. Although my skin doc thinks they're all fine and dandy and benign, they look iffy to me and so I asked her to cut them off today. Hell, I can't run anyway so I may as well get everything done, right? It's been 2 years since my diagnosis and treatment and these will be the biggest batch of moles being removed since then.

Something tells me this will be an advil and alcohol evening.

Have you had anything removed from your feet? Do you have any suggestions for marathons in 2012? Is this your off season or are you in deep training?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mount Desert Island Marathon Race Report

I loved the Mount Desert Island Marathon. I also disliked the Mount Desert Island Marathon, but simply because I wasn't in prime shape to run a race that had a vertical gain of 17 billion feet (that may be a slight exaggeration). I wasn't even in prime shape to run a race that was dead flat and there was little enough of that.

I don't often go into marathons thinking that this will be my very first DNF. For 4 weeks following the Fox Cities Marathon I had no confidence that I could finish this one. My plantar plate didn't magically heal itself, my cyst didn't magically disappear. Also, between the races I gained a few pounds and my asthma acted up. Almost as if my brain was trying to give my body a reason to sit down in the middle of the race and quit. Well, I ignored that and soldiered on.

Saturday morning there was an optional free fun run (with a $10 breakfast afterward, should you chose to stay). We decided Friday night that we'd all walk this, just to get our legs freshened up from the traveling the day before. Sis, Tracy and I met Sandy downtown at the start. The race club handed out special bib numbers for all the runners and after a few words, we were off! Or rather, they were off and we started walking. Everyone else was running and out of sight within minutes. The route was less than 2 miles, to the Atlantic Oceanside (where the expo was being held). It was a lovely morning for a walk and it was very nice to spend time with Sandy.

We hung around at the hotel so we could go to the expo when it opened. There was more than we were expecting. Packet pick-up went very quickly. The race shirt was a green quarter-zip wind shirt with the race logo on the front. This was a nice change from a typical tech or cotton tee. The expo also had a few booths selling merchandise, including one that had everything -- and I do mean everything -- that you could need to pick up for last minute race prep.

MDI offers an early start option for walkers and slow runners who think they'll take over 6 hours. Since all of my marathons this year have been 6+, I opted for that one extra hour. So did oodles of other people. There were well over 100 of us out there waiting for the sunrise and the gun. Being back-of-the-packers we all kept moving -- well, back. Nobody wanted to stand on the line. We're used to letting the quicker people go ahead of us. Yes, most of us would rather not have people jostling us aside because we're in their way. The race director finally said "This is YOUR START" before any of us moved forward. Since this seemed like my only chance, I stood right at that start line.

You go first. No, you go first. No, I insist. You go first.

The gun went off, and so did we. Relatively slowly, but still. I'm proud to say I led that race. For at least 3 minutes I was the leader on the road. Then someone running about an 11:30 mile passed me. My time in the sun was over (figuratively; it was overcast). Also, that's when the first hill started and I slowed down.

My plan, such as it was, was to run as much as I could since running hurt my foot less than walking. But I also knew that my asthma wasn't going to let me run many of the uphills. I intended to run the flats (I don't think there were any flats), the downhills (there were a couple throughout the day) and the slight inclines, then walk the steeper hills. That actually worked well for a while.

In the early miles there was a lot of fighting for a good position. Yup, I made that up. We were a friendly crew out there, most of us doing some form of run/walk. We had a lot of space, even though we really were just on the wide shoulder of the road. I started running with a woman who was doing her first marathon and we stayed together for over an hour. Then I started dragging while she was obviously holding back for me so I sent her on. (I did see her much later in the race, walking, completely over the whole idea of running a marathon. I saw her again at the end and was so glad I had a little teensy part in helping her finish her first marathon.)

The weather was great, except for the very strong head-wind. It was cool-ish, overcast with short periods of sun. But that cold wind off the water, smack in the face, made running up all those bazillion hills even harder. Luckily the spectacular scenery more than made up for any wind and hills. Otherwise I do think I would have just sat down and pouted for a few hours until someone came to get me.

Seriously, the sheer beauty of the Bar Harbor to Southwest Harbor route cannot be understated. To me, Big Sur International Marathon had all other races beat for scenery, but now I can say it has a rival. Despite my west coast bias I think the 2 races tie for utter beauty. I've seen the BSIM route several times, both during the races and in a car, and spent a lot of time on the MDI route (and drove it both before and after the race) and I think everyone who can should run both of these and make their own decision. I couldn't; I loved them both.

But back to the race. My foot started getting a hot spot very early on and I had seen in previous races that the hot spot turned into pain quickly. I made it to about mile 8 before it hurt and by the halfway point it really hurt. Running hurt, walking hurt more. With the wind in my face I couldn't run as much as I'd like so I just slogged on.

There were aid stations about every 2 or 2-1/2 miles. They were well staffed with very cheerful friendly volunteers, even during our early start. There was water and some sort of -ade and I'm pretty sure that later stations had fruit also. One station at about mile 17 had gu.

Because of the narrow roads and lack of alternative routes around the race, there weren't many spectators except at official spectator spots (there were about 8 of those). There wasn't much traffic until we got to mile 20-ish and then the road got very busy. We were really confined to the road shoulder then and the condition of those shoulders was poor. This was where the 5 hour runners were passing the 6 hour runners so it got crowded. Still, everyone remained polite. I love small races!

Miles 20-25 were uphill, some of it just a middling grade and some of it real hill. It was one road, going in one direction, and I tried to studiously stare at the scenery and ignore how craptastic I was feeling. I was walking as much as running at that point. Mile 25 is the "Top of the Hill" and supposedly it's all downhill from there. Uh, not quite. I'd say it was more downhill-ish, with a couple of uphill grades along the way. Also, the road got very narrow and crowded with all the earlier finishers driving away. For about a half mile we were confined to a sidewalk-path-thing; very narrow with broken asphalt and curbs. Since my agility had departed some 4 hours earlier I wasn't sure I'd make the last half mile without breaking something.

But make it I did, even beating 6:30. Barely. My dear sister and brother-in-law, along with Sandy and her husband, cheered for me as I attempted a finish line sprint. This was my slowest of all marathons but at least I wasn't sitting somewhere on the road by Somes Sound crying my eyes out. I got my medal and my space blanket and waited for my cheerleaders to find me. I was pooped and not about to go looking for them. I had given my all, what little "my all" entailed, and was glad it was behind me.

There was a tent with food for the finishers. Ice cream! Pumpkin and blueberry! Without spoons. I grabbed some of that and told my sis that if she could find a spoon I'd share with her. My very resourceful, ice cream loving sis did indeed find a spoon and I realized that ice cream wasn't what I wanted so I passed her the entire cup. I went back in the tent and saw there were bagels, some with cream cheese and some with peanut butter. I wanted a combination that wasn't pre-spread so the nice volunteer cut a fresh bagel and smeared it for me. There were also lots of little bags of chips (cheese doodles!), baskets of candy, an energy drink and I think other drinks. Somewhere I think there was a beer tent but I never went looking.

I had worn my Marathon Maniac short-sleeve shirt for the race and received many comments both during and after. Every Maniac who passed me (which was most of them) gave me a "good job, Maniac" or "looking good, Maniac." Many people asked about criteria for joining and I think this race probably added to our numbers. It was fun wearing a conversation starter. The weather was perfect for wearing a black shirt, shorts, calf sleeves and my buffs. I pulled the buff over my face a couple of times when the wind got high. I also had gloves which I took off after a couple of hours and tucked into my belt in case it got windy later. I was wearing a MM cap and was initially afraid that it would blow off in the wind. I managed to keep my head tucked during any gusts and it stayed on. Probably because for most of the race my sunglasses were up on my head too.

I'm glad I did this race. I wish I could say I ran this marathon but that's inaccurate; I ran part of this marathon and just pushed forward for the rest. It was a great experience and a wonderful vacation. Maybe I'll write about that next.

Have you ever been to Maine? Do you prefer the East Coast over the West Coast (or are you just happy to see any coast at all)? Have you ever run a race with 17 billion feet of vertical gain? Let me know!

It's a bear in a lobster suit! How cute is this??