Thursday, December 31, 2009

Addendum to last post

I failed to mention that after that intense plyo/weight workout a couple weeks ago I could barely walk the next day. Everything hurt - and I mean EVERYTHING!! It took 3-4 days for the soreness to completely go away. To top it all off, I started getting sick the next day. My little head cold quickly turned to a sinus infection that took away all my sense of smell and taste for 5 days. Not fun!! With some antibiotics, I'm much better now. I've even started braving the cold and running outside again. I ran a 5 miles this morning. It was quite chilly, but so much better than treadmill running. Hopefully, this is the start of a more healthy year of running.

See ya next year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Off-season training

It's been a while, yet again. With so much going on this month, I haven't had much down time, let alone time to train. I've just done the bare minimum running the past two weeks while celebrating Christmas with my family and fighting a nasty sinus infection.

My most significant workout this month was a couple weeks ago when I met my friend, Stephanie, at the gym. She agreed to show me some plyometric exercises she does in preparation for her fitness competitions. (Before going on, let me give you some give you some background info.)

I met Stephanie through Runner's Edge about 10 years ago. We ran our first marathon together and trained together for several others after that. A few years ago, she suffered a knee injury that kept her from running long distance. Eventually, she got better and was able to run a little. But, wanting to push her body more, she decided to enter her first fitness competition last year. Since then, she has become one hard little body and has started her own personal training. Check her out on her new website -

So, back to Thursday. We met at the gym early in the morning. When I first got there, I warmed up by jogging on the treadmill for 10 minutes. Then, we got down to business. She decided to mix up some weights with the plyo drills. She started me off with 10 lb. dumbells (20 lbs. total). Let me just say that I never do more than 5 lb. dumbells on my own at home, so this was a stretch for me. Not wanting to give up before I even started, I agreed to the 10 lb. weights. Now, bear with me, I don't know the name for all these exercises, so I'll do my best to explain. We started with raising the dumbells from a squat to the chest, then raising them overhead. I repeated this set 12 times. Next, we moved onto a plyo drill. This was the pattern for the rest of the workout - weights/plyo/weights/plyo.... Weights consisted of bicep curls, tricep body pushups, straight arm lifts (not sure if this is what you call them). Plyos consisted of various jumping exercises - jumping on the weight bench, jumping over the bench, hop skips, and squat jumps. They didn't take long. The goal was to do three sets of these eight exercises. I did 12 reps of the weights alternating with 10 reps of the plyo. Somewhere in the second set, I started feeling light headed. I tried pushing through, but I had to start taking longer breaks in between exercises. Even with the rest and drinking lots of water, the light headedness didn't go away. By the end of the third set, I couldn't finish the final plyo. My heart was racing, the gym was spinning, and I was feeling all out of sorts. I felt the blood rushing from my head and hands and was starting to see stars. Fearing I was going to faint and embarrass myself and my friend in front of all these huge muscle men around us, I sat down and tried to get myself together. We tried heading over to the mats and ab machines on the other side of the gym, but I could only make it halfway across before I felt dizzy again. I sat down a few more minutes and drank some more water. We eventually made it to the mats, but I still couldn't stand. Stephanie showed me how to use one ab machine, then I had to lie back down on the mat. We finally came to the conclusion that I probably needed to eat something since the water alone wasn't helping. Stephanie ran and got me a quick sugary snack. Soon after devouring it, I felt more like myself. My color came back and the world stopped spinning.

I learned a valuable lesson that day - I may be able to run decently, but my other muscles are still weak. I have a long way to go if I want to get in really great shape overall! Stephanie is amazingly strong and fit. I am impressed with her ability to do the workout she showed me with such ease. I should mention she was using heavier weights and continued her workout for another hour after I left. She is one dedicated woman!!

I was curious to learn about these plyo exercises as I've heard they are really good in helping you run faster and preventing injuries. I will definitely use what I learned, but will have to do better at hydrating and eating before I do these exercises AND listening to my body during the workout to adjust if needed. I won't push through like I did before!

Funny how this is supposed to be my "off-season," yet I keep finding ways to push my body to it's limits. I think it must be a way for me to keep preparing myself mentally for the hard marathon training I'll be facing in 2010. I think in a previous post I mentioned that my winter training offically began. Maybe I was a little too intense about that and I should stay focused on just staying healthy and watching my limits. Soon enough, I'll be setting my New Year's resolutions and will be getting serious about my marathon training. Until then, I'll enjoy these final days with family and friends and eating a few more yummy treats as I'm winding down 2009.

Friday, December 18, 2009

'Tis the season...

Welcome back! I haven't posted for a while. I simply haven't had time or energy. Plus, not much new to report on the running front. But, lots to share elsewhere. December has been one crazy, busy month already, and Christmas is still a week away! Most of my time and focus early this month was on preparations for leading the children in our church's Christmas musical. We did "The Christmas County Spelling Bee." I had been rehearsing with the choir since September, but we still had a lot to put together during the last couple of weeks. At times, I wasn't sure we'd be able to pull it all off, but with lots of prayer, it was a success. The kids did amazingly well!

This experience reminded me of why I love running so much. While music has been a big part of my life ever since I was a little girl and it was my first passion, there are reasons why I don't enjoy being a musician. I am a born and raised perfectionist and it's very difficult for me to ever feel like anything is really ready. In my mind, I can always do more. I've always been my worst critic before all my musical performances, and working with the choir was no different. I knew I couldn't (and shouldn't) expect it to go perfectly and the kids were adequately prepared, but I still had trouble feeling okay about it all. Since I knew I couldn't control every aspect of the musical, I was going to have to trust and just do the best on my part.

Running is different. It's a solo act. While my husband/coach does all he can to help prepare me for the big day, I take on the responsibility of getting myself ready. If something goes wrong and I mess up in training or on race day, I feel I only have myself to blame. The great thing about running is that I can use the adrenaline from my nerves to get me going. I can prepare myself physically and mentally by getting pumped up with all my favorite music. I can stand on the starting line with my heart pounding and palms sweating and know that somewhere in that first mile, my legs, breathing, and my heart will eventually find a good rhythm. It's physical!!

Yes, you can argue that making music is a physical act too, but all those nervous qualities I so often exhibit (fast breathing, fast heartrate, overactive mind) don't benefit me while I'm performing. They often times get in the way. When I'm singing or playing, I don't want my heart racing. I need to feel the music and get into the rhythm of the piece, not my body and mind. Performing music a mental game for me, not so much physical like running is. I don't know if all this makes sense or if you even care to read about all this, but it was just an observation I had as I was preparing for this musical. I think what really brought it to my attention was Eladio playing "It's a Fight" from Rocky Balboa right before I left the house. He thought it would pump me up in a good way like right before my races. But, I warned him that it was counterproductive and I needed something more calm and soothing. I don't think he got it, but I appreciate his efforts to try to help me. Thankfully, through God's amazing grace, I found the peace and trust I needed right before we stepped out on the stage and everything turned out just fine. Yet, another test of my faith and ability to let go and trust God to do His work. I was reminded that it's not about me, it's not about the kids and a perfect performance, it's about glorifying God and spreading the His Good News to all the people. I pray we were able to accomplish that.

That was last Sunday. This week has been filled with making delicious, decadent, calorie-laden Christmas treats to give away. Sadly, not all of them have made it out of my kitchen, but have been filling my tummy instead. We've had some very cold days here the past couple of weeks and with being so busy and tired, I've not done much running. The little I have done has been trudging along on the the treadmill at the gym. Not my favorite thing to do, but about all I can handle when it's single digits and below zero windchills outside. I'm giving myself a break and not feeling guilty for the lack of running lately. I know there will be time for heavy training and pushing through my tiredness and busy life, but not now. It's still my off-season. Marathon training will be here soon enough (mid-January!). It's time to enjoy this Christmas season and finish up my shopping.

I do have an interesting story to share about my workout yesterday, but I'll save that for my next posting. I'm still recovering and need some time to process my thoughts. Stay warm and stay well! God bless.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving has come and gone! I'm probably at least several pounds heavier from all the delicious food, but it's so worth it. This is my favorite holiday! There's no hustle and bustle of shopping and wrapping gifts, just spending quality time with family and eating some of my favorite foods (unfortunately, I have so many!).

I had so much to be thankful for this year: my fun-loving and hard-working husband, my beautiful children, my parents (the best grandparents in the world!), my health, the best running buddies, and especially for my sister and her family. Our prayers were answered when my brother-in-law got transferred here and their house finally sold (nothing short of a miracle in this economy).

The two-day feast/holiday started early on Thursday morning with Eladio, the kids, and I running the Sprint Thanksgiving day 5K. I had planned to race it while Eladio was going to jog pushing the kids in the stroller. We woke up to temps in the low 30's. Maybe it was going to get in the 40's by mid-morning, but probably not until after the race was over. Start time was 9:00, so to ensure a good warm up and to pick up our stuff, we got there by 8:00. While Eladio and the kids stayed warm in the car, I started my warm up at 8:30. I jogged around the Sprint campus for about 20 minutes, then with 10 minutes to go, I did 5 striders. These were supposed to help prepare my legs and lungs for the faster running I was about to do, but I just wasn't feeling it. Even the short 20 second sprints were making me tired. I was really doubting my ability to race hard that morning. I saw Eladio waiting on the sidelines near the start right before I got ready to line up. I took one last drink of water, bid my kids and husband a farewell, and took my place at the start. Taking Eladio's advice, I lined up at the 7 minute mile pace sign. I expected I would run somewhere in the 7 minute range for my first mile and I didn't want to have to worry about passing a bunch of people when, or if, I was ready to take off. With just minutes before the start, I still wasn't feeling pumped about pushing my body to its limits. Good thing I had already taken some pressure off by choosing not to wear my Garmin. I decided to not really worry about my pace and just run, going by feel alone. That's very unlike my normal racing strategy, but since I hadn't really trained for this and have no upcoming big races on the calendar, I felt free to try something different.

Promptly at 9:00, the race began. My legs began a fast turnover, but still not fast enough to keep up with most of the runners around me. I was getting passed by most of the field it seemed. Did I mention the race had just over 5000 participants?! I listened to my body and just let it run whatever pace felt good. We had some gradual uphills during the first mile and I knew there was a pretty decent size hill in the second mile, so I still held back a little. As we headed up the first real hill, we passed mile one. My watch read 7:35. I knew if I wanted to have a chance at breaking or even finishing anywhere in the 23 minute range, I would have to pick it up. I had picked 23 as my goal since that's generally been the time I could finish my 5K's with very little training in the past. The last (and only) time I ran this 5K several years ago, I had finished in 23:30. And that was even with me being 3 weeks pregnant! I HAD to beat that time. Surely, I had to be in better shape now and would be able to breathe easier without a baby growing in my belly and sucking all my reserve energy! (or so I thought when I signed up for this).

The second mile had even more uphills, but as we turned back into the Sprint campus we were treated to a nice downhill. At mile two, my watch read 14:54. I didn't have much umph in me to start kicking it in during the last mile, so I just held the same pace. My legs were starting to disagree with my mind's pace and my breathing started becoming more labored in the final mile. The song "Defying Gravity" popped in my mind, but I wasn't feeling much like flying. I had passed some runners on the uphills during mile two and normally I would have given all I had in that last mile to pass as many runners as possible, but I just didn't have it in me that morning. I simply kept the pace and did my best to not get passed. I think I accomplished that at least.

As we headed around the last few curves and I could hear the DJ at the finish line, I looked around and saw I was finishing mostly around men. I didn't see any females in my immediate line of sight to help push me in at the end (that's my competitive streak coming out). It wasn't until I made the final turn and saw the finish line that I started opening up my stride. I had no idea what the clock read. I had started my watch when the race officially started, so I knew my actual time was probably about 5 seconds faster. This wasn't really a timed race for the 5000+ runners since only the first 15 male and female finishers would have a recorded time. For some crazy reason, I thought I might have a chance at that, but in the first mile, when I saw I wasn't able to keep up with so many of the front runners (at least a couple hundred men and women), I figured I wouldn't make the cut. With about 20 feet to go, I glanced at the finish line clock, but I could only see the seconds, not the minutes. I saw :38, :39, :40. I figured the minute side was at 23, so I sprinted as hard as I could to make it under 24. I crossed the line and fumbled to stop my watch. It took a couple of seconds after I crossed to find the button. I looked down and to my surprise, my watch read 22:51. I was amazed!! No way did I just run under 23! Especially, with the way I felt and having run with no strategy. This definitely was a first for me. I don't remember ever running that fast without following a prescribed pace and constantly looking at my watch. This may be my new strategy. I really liked it! It was a hard race, but I'm so glad I did it. It's yet one more thing to be thankful for on the most thankful of days! Good thing I got to celebrate two days with dinner at my in-laws on Thanksgiving and then with my family on Friday.

By the way, Eladio finished not too far after me. He believes he was the first baby stroller runner to finish, even finishing well ahead of another jogger who started 10 minutes before the race! His time...somewhere around 27 minutes. His last mile was in the 7's! Not bad for a pushing and being dragged by an extra 50 pounds and still recovering from knee surgery a few months ago. Good job, honey!

Now it's time to take a couple of weeks off of intense running and put my focus back on doing some quality cross-training. My abs and hips need it badly, especially after all that stuffing and pie! Hope your Thanksgiving was filled with lots of love and joy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Defying Gravity

I saw Wicked for the second time over the weekend. It is now my favorite musical, especially since it has provided me with my new running theme song - "Devy Gravity!" Just want to share the lyrics. They don't all apply, so I'll just include the ones that I plan to use (hear in my mind) at the end of a hard race - everything from a 5K to a marathon.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game

Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes
And leap...

It's time to try defying gravity
I think I'll try defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!

I'm through accepting limits
'cause someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I'll never know!

I'd sooner buy defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
And you can't pull me down!

Now, I just have to remember these words at the end of Thursday's 5K. Ha! In the mean time, I have an easy recovery run and a deep tissue sports massage. I'll report back soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Big Miles and Time Trial

Last week was a big mile week for me. From Saturday to Saturday, I logged 36 miles! That's quite a lot for me. That's the mid to upper range for me even when I'm heavily training for a marathon - and I'm not really training for anything right now! It wasn't planned, it just happened. As I talked about in my previous post, I did 10 miles two Saturday's ago. Last Tuesday, I ran 8 with my pal, Mallika. I had originally wanted to run only 6 with 2-3 at tempo pace (8-8:30's), but it came to 8 after our long 2 mile cool down. We did end up running 3 at tempo pace and I'm happy that each mile got a little faster. Mile 4 - 8:32, Mile 5 - 8:15, Mile 6 - 8:03. TWM met Thursday morning and I got in 6 easy miles (still around 9 min pace). On Saturday, I ran 12 with the Runner's Edge. It was nice to join the group again and run through some beautiful neighborhoods around Mission Hills and Loose Park. I had a tough time though staying with the 9:30 group and holding the mid 8's pace they settled into after a couple miles of warm up. I definitely think I need a longer and slower warm up before getting to that pace. Heck, my tempo pace isn't too far from that and I was just shooting for an easy long run. The last couple of miles were hilly and tough for me. I fell considerably behind my pace group and did my best to finish strong. Evidence of "big miles" for me that week. My legs were tired.

Today, marks the beginning of my winter training. I've been talking about it for weeks and today I finally did it - my 2 mile time trial. Anyone who lives in KC and is reading this right now knows that our weather here is not that great. Temps in the 30's and 40's and cold rain, some sleet, and light snow in the past 24 hours. Our TWM group agreed not to meet this morning to torture ourselves. I still wanted to get in my time trial, but wasn't sure about doing it on a potentially slippery track. I opted to go later today and used the half mile loop in my neighborhood instead. I set out at 1:45 this afternoon with rain coming down lightly. Did a couple easy miles for my warm up and four striders to get my legs ready. Took a few drinks of water and stood at my imposed starting line trying to talk myself into going. I was feeling tired, unmotivated, and was fighting a headache - probably from not eating and drinking that much this morning. Knowing I wasn't going to feel any better just standing around, I took a few deep breaths and took off. The first lap (1/2 mile) was pretty tough. I looked down at my watch and saw that I was doing the same pace as my 800 repeats last spring on this same course. I avoided doing the math and just kept running and breathing hard. Finally, after I finished the second lap, I gained some confidence. I started to believe I could finish all four laps and not die from oxygen depletion. My breathing got under control and my legs had found their rhythm. Third lap felt pretty good and the fourth lap, I just went for it. I looked down at my watch with a couple little turns left and saw that my total time was 13:30 and I still had .2 to go. I started pumping my arms more and breathing as hard as I could. I thought, one corner down, just a little more to go. Here it is, last corner, when is my stupid Garmin going to beep and let me know I'm done!! Finally, it beeped. Finish time - 14:32! Not bad for not doing speed work in 2 months and having done some "big miles" last week.

Now I'm setting my sights on finishing at or very close to 23 minutes for the Sprint Thanksgiving Day 5K next week. Let's hope today helped!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Running crasher

You've heard of Wedding Crashers? Well, on Saturday I was a Running Crasher. Here's what happened. After my TWM run on Thursday (I'll explain TWM a little later), my friend Theresa told me she would be running six on Saturday morning with her husband Jason. Eladio wasn't having a group run on Saturday and I wanted to get in some sort of long run, but was really hoping for 8-10 miles. I wasn't sure what I'd be able to do though since my family and I had been sick all week. We had fevers and lots of congestion. I knew running over the weekend would depend on us feeling better so I didn't want to make definite plans until Friday afternoon.

By then, Alex was running a fever so I took him to the doctor. Diagnosis...double ear infection. We got him on antibiotics and pain medicine. Eladio was also on the mend, so I called Theresa and decided to meet her the next morning. She sent an email out to our TWM group to invite everyone. Not knowing the response, I showed up bright and early Saturday morning.

It turned out to be just me, Theresa and Jason. Very quickly, I felt like the third wheel. I started thinking, "What if they had just wanted to run by themselves and I pushed my way in? This could have been planned alone time with just the two of them." I voiced my concern and Theresa and Jason assured me it was okay. Well, I guess she did send out that email. We ran a beautiful, low-traffic, hilly course. The conversation was so good though, I hardly even noticed the hills.

We got done right about 8:00. I hopped in my car and was about to head home for "mommy duty," but then I thought - "Hmm, my friend Ann and her group were planning to meet at 8:00 just a mile or so away from here. Maybe I should try to join her for a few more miles." I had really wanted to run more than six anyway.

I called Eladio to make sure it was okay. He said it was fine so I followed his directions and figured out Ann's meeting spot (long story short - he knew where that was). It was a new access point for me to a trail I have run many times. I was a little unsure where I was going, but I kept following the main trail like Eladio had instructed. I knew they had about a 10 minute head start, but I was hoping I'd run into them at some point and could join them for at least a couple of miles. A mile and half later, I still hadn't found them. I had just about given up hope and was ready to turn around when they appeared in front of me on the trail. They were surprised to see me, but welcomed me to join them. I got in my final mile then turned around to head back to my car with just one woman from the group. The rest were going on to do some more miles.

We finished up with some nice, easy cool down miles. By the time I got back to my car, my Garmin read just over 10 miles. Not bad for really not planning it all out. I just had to laugh that I was able to do it all with friends and by crashing their already well-planned runs.

A quick explanation about TWM - it stands for "Tuesdays with Myra" - adapted from Tuesdays with Morrie (a good, sentimental book and movie). A group of originally five women from Runner's Edge who all live nearby wanted to get together to do some speed workouts and semi-long runs on Tuesday and Thursday mornings last spring. After we met a few times, Ann and I started joking that we needed to call ourselves something. There was already a group called "5 at 5" and we were really "5 at 6" (five women who met to run at 6 a.m.) Didn't have quite the same ring. After playing around with a few things, we came up with Tuesdays with Myra. It's now abbreviated since we also sometimes meet on Thursdsays. Over the summer and early fall, we met sporadically, but now that we're heading into our off-season, we're starting to meet more frequently. I love these ladies! Without them, I'm sure I wouldn't be running quite that early or doing that many miles during the week. See you in the morning!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Remembering New York

A year ago today, I ran the New York City marathon. It was my 12th marathon and the last one I ran. Watching it on TV today brought me back to the thrill and excitement of the race. Nothing can top running over the Queensboro bridge and coming onto 1st Avenue. The sound of the crowd was deafening and brought such energy to my tired legs. Finishing in Central Park...just incredible. Those were just a couple of the highlights. I loved sharing it all with my friend Ann and running for Girls on the Run (and wearing my tiara).

If you watched today, you saw two exciting finishes - Derartu Tulu pulled away in the final mile to win the women's race and Meb Keflezighi became the first American male to win since 1982. I was mostly interested in watching Paula Radcliffe and Ryan Hall, but they both fell behind and came in fourth. I know Paula is an amazing runner, but I was so disappointed in her pulling out of the Olympic marathon in Athens. I'm proud of her for going after it today despite her injury and finishing a respectable fourth place.

Congratulations to all NY marathon finishers! I hope you enjoyed your experience and really took in the city. There's no better way to see it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Improve Your Stride Without Trying |

Improve Your Stride Without Trying

Rookie mistakes

It's actually pretty funny, but I wasn't laughing yesterday. On Sunday, I woke up and checked my email. I got something from with some interesting articles. One of the articles discussed how to improve your stride (see previous post). This really caught my eye as I have been working on making my own changes for the past month or so. I haven't read up on Chi Running or the Pose method, but after viewing the Newton running videos and reading a few associated articles, I have been working on shortening my stride and landing on my midfoot. Basically, I am attempting to avoid heel striking as I think that has played a role in my hip injury and problems with plantar fasciitis.

The article suggests doing "Giant Walking Lunges" and "Single Leg Running," or better known as "hopping." :-) I didn't get in my weekend long run, so I thought I could do these simple exercises as a way of at least doing something helpful. Time was limited and I really needed to be getting ready for church. I decided I could do these quickly in my bedroom, barefoot. I did 10 lunges and hopped 10 times on each leg. Then I quickly followed this up with 25 crunches, 10 pushups, and 5 bridges. While I was doing my crunches, I noticed some sharp pains in my hips and groin. I ignored them and finished so I could hop in the shower.

I felt okay for most of the day, but by the evening, my legs and glutes started stiffening up. Oh, I also forgot to mention that during the afternoon, I helped my sister move into her new house. That meant I was carrying boxes up and down stairs for about an hour.

By Monday morning, I could barely get out of bed. Walking was near impossible. Even sitting was painful! My glutes and adductors were on fire with each step. I thought it would get better as I moved around, but not so. Okay, you wanna laugh? Picture this...I had to keep my back slightly arched as I walked with extremely short strides. Normally, it would just be my kids and husband seeing me walk funny, but I taught cello lessons last night which involves quite a bit of walking back and forth to meet my students in the lobby. I felt like I had to explain to everyone why I was walking so strangely. If I had just run a hard race, I would feel proud to explain. But saying that I was dumb enough to follow advice I read in an article the day before was hard to admit. So, I simply said, "I did a silly workout yesterday and am feeling the effects of it today."

I woke up today feeling a little better so I decided to go for a short run. I only made it out one mile before I had to stop to walk. And, that was going at a 12-13 minute mile!! I turned around and ran (or jogged very slowly) and walked back home.

Now, remember, I've been running for over 10 years and my husband is a running coach. So, why would I think that I've come across a simple answer to my problems in an article I read online? All I can say is that I guess I still make "rookie" mistakes now and then. Let's hope this is just soreness that will go away with a little more rest and I've not caused more injury. I'll keep you posted!

Final thoughts: An article may provide some good information, but it's best to play it safe and start slowly. Less is more!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More than running

Today was my first run since the 1/2. I had planned to go out with my friend (let's call her "J") early this morning, but started having second thoughts when I looked at the forecast right before bed. There was a 70% chance of rain and it was going to be cool. Still, I set my alarm and hoped for the best. I woke up around 5:30, looked outside and saw it was just a light rain. For an easy, recovery run, I didn't see the point in getting wet and feeling uncomfortable. I sent J a text that we could just run tomorrow. After a few minutes and no response, I figured she probably didn't get it. I got myself ready and headed out the door.

I got to our meeting spot and didn't see J. For a minute, I was worried I didn't wait long enough to see her response to my text. But then, she came running up. She had responded to my text, but I had already left my house. I thought it was funny that both of us really didn't want to run today, but also didn't want to risk one of us showing up while the other was still sleeping. As soon as we cleared up all of our miscommunication, I suggested we run tomorrow and go back home. J said "we're already out here so we might as well run." It was a little uncomfortable at first, but within a few minutes I was warmed up and the rain wasn't bothering me anymore. It was very light (especially compared to the hurricane-like conditions at Lewis and Clark in 2008).

I say all of this not to bore you with these mundane details, but to show how having a running buddy can be so motivating, especially when it's not an ideal day for running outside. And, to share what happened during our run.

J is recovering from an injury that sidelined her for over a month. During that time, she had stopped running to let her injury fully heal. This was her first run back! We chose a flat 1/2 mile loop in our neighborhood and I expected we would run 3-4 easy miles.

As usual, J and I got to talking right away. At first, we just talked about the weather and I shared my Lewis and Clark "Hurricane Ike" experience. Then, somehow the conversation shifted and we started talking about songs we like and their deeper meanings. This led us to talk about life and death, grief and anger. Before I knew it, it was starting to get light and I figured we should end our run. I checked my Garmin and it showed we had run over 5 miles! That 1/2 mile loop had never felt that easy and added up to so many miles that quickly. Usually when I run it, I'm doing some sort of speed work and I'm completely focused on my pace and starting and stopping points. Not this time!

J reminded me about another side of running that I love - the unexpected. So many times, I'm following a schedule and trying to hit a certain pace that I get so focused just on running. Today, I was able to forget all about pace, my stride, and breathing, and just enjoyed running and talking with my friend. I was also reminded that there's so much more to life than my running goals. Of course, I know that, but I have a tendency to get so focused that I forget to enjoy the other aspects of my life.

Running is such a great metaphor for my life, but I have to remember not to let it define my life. I have been so incredibly blessed and have so much to be thankful for. If I couldn't run, I would be sad, but I believe God would provide other outlets for me. Through running, I have met the most wonderful, inspiring people - true friends I believe I will have for a lifetime. I have had amazing opportunities and seen so many different places. I'm grateful that God continues to bless me in this area and pray He will for years to come.

As I have said before, I'm not naturally a person who likes to run by herself. But, when I do, it is an amazing opportunity to meet up with my Creator. I like to use my solo runs to talk and pray to God. The great thing about running is the repetition. After a while, I get into such a groove that my mind will become clear. These are the times I can finally "hear" God's answers to my prayers and figure out the direction or action He wants me to take, especially if I'm having a difficult time making a decision. If you've never prayed during a run, I highly suggest you try it. It's an incredible experience!

Thanks J, for a wonderful run and conversation this morning. You're a wonderful woman and friend!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Getting ready to go

After the race on Saturday, I decided to take several days off. My hip and low back were starting to hurt again on Sunday, which got me nervous that I'm not quite all healed up. The race definitely took some effort for me. I think I trained pretty well, but I did just enough so that I could pace without a lot of struggle. Still, I have a long way to go to get in really great shape and do the faster miles with ease. My legs were also very stiff Sunday and Monday which I think was mainly due to the hills and cold on Saturday. I spent some time Sunday lightly stretching and doing self-massage on my back and hip. I was quite sore afterwards, but I think I worked out some of the junk.

I still haven't run, but today I had a good swim workout and did some strengthening exercises for my back and hip. This is part of my bigger plan to get in shape and put myself in the best position to qualify.

I think it's time to finally start listing the things I need to do. If you're reading this and following my progress, I expect your feedback if you see I'm not doing what I say I'm going to do. :-)

1. Hip strengthening exercises (3-4x a week)
2. Strength training (core and upper body) and light cross training 2-3x a week on non-running days
3. Lightly stretch after every run/workout
4. Drink lots of water
5. Cut out excess sweets and salty foods
6. No eating after 9:00
7. Go to bed early every night (asleep by 10:30 - 11:00)
8. Go to chiropractor and massage therapist weekly/bimonthly

So far I've mostly been doing 1 through 3 and that's about it. Today I'm drinking a lot of water, but it's easier since both kids are at school. Getting to bed early and not eating after 9:00 are probably going to be my biggest challenges. I'm notoriously a night owl and have been for the majority of my life. I'm not expecting an instant change, but will be gradually working towards this goal.

I hope to run again tomorrow. The forecast is calling for rain and unless it's a downpour, I'll be out there. I'm working on making small, but very important, changes to my stride so that will be my focus tomorrow. I'll share more about that after it's done.

Now, if I can just stay healthy while my daughter is sick. She came home from school this afternoon with a 102 degree temp. Argh! Let's hope it's short-lived! (look for an upcoming post about balance and making adjustments - both are needed when raising two young kids!)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

KC half

Today I ran the KC half marathon as a co-pacer for the 2 hour mark. Our job was to pace the runners who wanted to come in right under 2 hours utilizing the 'Smart Pace' strategy. The short version - We did it!!

The long version - I had an awesome time running with my co-pacer Stacy and helping so many runners achieve their goal. I paced last year for the 2:10 half and had a good time, but did it on my own. At times, I felt like a crazy lady who was carrying a stick and yelling out words of encouragement and running tips. This year, when I yelled, I had a partner in crime! :-) Not only that, but we sang a song almost every mile we passed. It went a little something like this (adapted from "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus) - "I got my hands up, we're running our race, mile 1 flies away, I'm noddin my head like yeah, moving my feet like yeah." We changed the lyrics a bit if we were running up a hill or if I just messed them up by accident. (It's a new song to me so I really had to think about it)!

Aside from the silly song, I think we did a really good job holding our pace and sticking to the 'Smart Pace' strategy. If you're not familiar with it, we started off slow and gradually increased our speed until we settled into goal pace after a few miles. We built a little cushion in the middle miles then relaxed the pace a bit at the end. If you want to see what this really looks like, check out . It's the only way I'll ever run a race! There's nothing like feeling great at the finish and being able to pass so many people at the end. All because you consciously didn't get caught up with the adrenaline of the crowd and go out too fast. I don't really know how many people we were able to help out, but I'm guessing quite a few people were able to gauge their pace just by seeing us up ahead or by passing us at some point. I do know that several friends who started with us felt great and were able to leave us. All of them finished 3-5 minutes ahead of 2 hours. We had wonderful racing weather! Temps in the 40's and overcast skies the whole way. It was a bit chilly, but with a long sleeve shirt (under my short sleeve pacer shirt), capri tights, gloves, and hat, I was comfortable enough.

Overall, I was very happy with my experience today. I only have a few critiques for how the aid stations were run, but I will save those comments for Eladio and the race committee. I'm very proud of our hometown race and how it's grown over several years. I don't expect we'll ever be the size of Chicago or New York, but for our size of city and the hills we inevitably have to have, it is a wonderful, scenic course. Not a super fast, guaranteed PR or Boston qualifier course, but if you train properly and the weather cooperates, it is possible.

In fact, my good friend, Ann did just that. She has been trying for a few years to qualify and she did it today with a time of 3:44:10. She just had a birthday and only needed 3:50, but she really went for it and killed it! I'm so proud of her and thrilled that she accomplished this long time goal. I'm also very excited because with the timing of her qualification, she could run Boston two years in a row. Which means, she can run Boston next April and then run it again with me in 2011, if I qualify next fall. Oh please, oh please....! If I get there again, I really want to run it with my friends. So that means, you all have to qualify too! (You know if I'm talking to you!)

Congrats to Ann, Theresa, Stephanie T., Stephanie G., Mallika, Pritha, Adina and all who ran today! Thanks to all the volunteers, including my dad who helped set up and take down the aid stations! Thanks to Eladio for letting me pace again this year and redeem myself from last year and to Stacy for being an awesome co-pacer and friend!

It's been a very busy week and my body is finally feeling the fatigue. I think it's time to wind things down for the night and get some rest. Sweet dreams!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The journey begins

Eight years ago, I qualified for the Boston marathon. I ran the Portland Marathon in 2001 at the age of 26. It was my 5th marathon and I was still new to running. I didn't realize that my qualifying time of 3:37:46 would probably be my fastest EVER! As I was coming down the final stretch of the race and saw the finish line (and clock), I remember telling myself that I would never have to run this fast again to qualify. I just needed to do it once. I pushed myself in and came in 2+ minutes under 3:40. I'm sure I appreciated my accomplishment on some level, but I wonder how I could have really known what I just did. I had only been running marathons a couple of years and I qualified the first time I tried! I have friends who wanted to qualify for years and kept trying race after race with no success. Now granted, I had to train properly and get in really great shape, but to qualify the first time I tried seems impossible to me now.

Fast forward to the present time. (I'll quickly fill you in on the gaps. Ran Boston '02, dealt with first major injury, pulled hamstring in '03 and simply finished NY marathon, 1st child '04, dealt with second and most nagging injury - plantar fasciitis and ran Chicago '05 anyway, ran KC '06 mostly healthy but ran stupid, 2nd child - '07, NY again in '08 with major plantar fasciitis problems, decided to 'semi-retire' from marathons in '09). OK, so we're almost all caught up.

'09 has been an interesting and challenging year for me running-wise. It started off slow since I was still recovering from my plantar problems from NY. I took it easy all last winter and then finally started training for the OKC half-marathon in early February. I got into some new shoes which seemed to help, if not actually 'cured,' my plantar fasciitis. So I'm running pretty good throughout February, but had to deal with a lot of colds and sinus problems. Then, in late February I ran a hard 12 miler in Shawnee Mission park on a bitter cold day. It was hilly and the ground was covered in snow and ice. I came home and could not get warm. While I was in my steamy, hot shower, I decided to stretch all the tightness out of my body. I did my usual IT band stretch and noticed my right hip was super tight. I stretched, and stretched, and stretched, until I couldn't stretch it anymore. It felt soooooo good! But, when I ran again on Tuesday and did some speed work, it was still very tight and sore. I kept stretching it thinking it would go away, but it just got worse the more I ran on it. I've never had tightness that couldn't either be stretched away or massaged out. I can't remember if I saw anyone (chiropractor/massage therapist) before OKC half, but I thought it would be fine.

I started the race and even with my not so great training, I thought I could still shoot for a PR, or at least a close second. That meant I was shooting for a 1:40-1:43. I saw the 1:45 pacers and lined up by them. Sadly, after I couldn't even keep up with them for the first mile, I knew I would have to forgo any fast time that day. My hip wasn't even really bothering me that much, I just couldn't get my legs to turn over that fast. Even still, I kept pushing the pace and tried to get in the upper 1:40 range. By mile 10 or so, my hip started speaking to me. There wasn't much fight left in me and I struggled in at 1:50. Walking around after the race was quite painful. I had to adjust my gait for my very sore hip. I promised when I got home, I would take off a week or so and see somebody if I had to.

A week later, hip was still sore but I tried running on it anyway. It got worse. Took another week off and tried running again.....same thing. By the end of May, I decided I needed professional help. I started seeing a new chiropractor who does the Graston technique. If you've never had it done, let me just warn you now, it's the MOST painful treatment I've ever had and I've seen many deep tissue massage therapists through the years. I would rank it up there with childbirth! The treatments helped tremendously with the pain and tightness. Only problem was, I couldn't run much and it left me with large black and blue bruises on my hip. Because of the tenderness and wanting it to heal fully, I was running once a week at best at a snail's pace. All my summer race plans had to be scrapped. My focus now became to heal my hip so I could run pain free again.

Two months of treatments, very little running, and practically no cross training later, I started training for the KC half marathon. I had signed up to co-pace the 2 hour group with a good friend of mine and I wasn't going to back out of my commitment. I decided that I was going to train smart and do the bare minimum so I could run a 9:09 minute pace comfortably. I started off slow. I figured if at some point my hip started acting up again, I would just have to deal with it. I knew I could run through the pain if I needed to, but would prefer not to. I was going to try to be smart about my training. This basically meant I was starting over from scratch. I felt like a new runner all over again (but this time, much smarter)! I had taken breaks from running during both pregnancies and right after having my babies, but even that comeback was easier than this. I was having to FORCE myself to go slow, slower than I really wanted to and knew I could go. I had to keep reminding myself that I didn't want to feel that pain again and take all those steps backwards. If I had to, I would, but then I knew I would have to take all that time off again after the race to get healed up. I didn't want to go through that again.

I took babysteps and forgot about my speed. I started doing most of my runs by myself. (Anyone who knows me and has ever run with me, knows that this is very hard for me to do. I like to say that I'm not an endurance runner so much as I am an endurance talker. I can talk for hours, so as long as I have running buddies with me, I can run for hours. Not so easy to do by myself). Fortunately, I'm not training for a marathon and can do 10-12 on my own if I have to.

I need to back up the truck a little here. During May, June and July when I was still in just recovery mode, I had a lot of time to think about things, about who I am as a runner. I had always prided myself on being fast and if I went slow, I had a good reason (running with a friend, recovering from a hard race, or tapering for an upcoming race). Now I was forced to not run if I wanted to get better and when I did run, I HAD to go slow. It was very humbling!!!

OK, back to my half marathon training. I kept upping my mileage slowly and not worrying too much about my pace. I started out around 11 minute miles and was happy if I finished my runs in the low 10's. By late August, I was toying around with the mid to high 9's. In mid-September, I did a couple of speed workouts (800 repeats) and ran the Lewis and Clark half-marathon. I used the race to practice my pacing. Although the course was much flatter than KC will be, I needed to know I could run that pace. Several people joined me and they ALL came in under 2 hours. My official finish time was 1:59:10. I was thrilled I was able to hold the pace!

After that, my confidence started coming back. The past few weeks, I've added more speed, more tempo/goal pace runs, and some hills. My legs are feeling it, but my hip is doing all right. It's not perfect. There's still some tightness there, but no soreness and I'm not doing anymore crazy stretching. I'm adding core and upper body strength training, as well as some physical therapy type exercises to strengthen my hip.

This whole process has helped me respect my body and it's limitations. It has helped me appreciate the times I ran injury free. It's given me a new respect for people who run at a slower pace and are happy with their accomplishments. But more than anything, it's given me a new drive to get and to stay healthy. I don't want to run anymore to impress myself or even others. I want to do this for a lifetime if I can. I want to model a healthy lifestyle for my kids and to keep my body in good working condition.

I'm funny in that if I don't have specific running goals, I tend to not do much at all. I'll let myself off the hook on bad weather days or if I'm feeling too tired. All that changes though when I set a goal for myself. I had all but given up on running and definitely didn't think a fast marathon would again be in my near future. I thought, "who has time and energy to really do that and what would be the reason? Haven't I already been there and done that? Did I need to prove that I could do that again?" The answer to all that was a resounding "NO!" Even still, there was something in my head, asking, "What if?" What if I got in really great shape again? What if I changed my bad habits of staying up too late (as evidenced by this blog entry) and not eating and drinking water properly? What if I stopped wishing and started doing? What's the big one...I qualified for Boston when I turn 35? I would get 5 more minutes than before so I wouldn't need to run as fast. My good friend did it last year, could I?

The question remained, but I wasn't quite sure. Not until I finally had a really awesome speed workout, did I even think it might be possible to dream for this. It was shortly after the Lewis and Clark 1/2. I was running with my girlfriends doing 800 repeats on the track. I was shooting for 6 - 3:30's. All but two were under 3:30 and it felt wonderful! I was able to breathe and felt my leg speed coming back. I started to dream right after that!

Now I've decided to go for it. I've started making a laundry list of all the things I need to do if I'm going to make this happen. I understand there are no guarantees and that just by saying I'm going to try for it, doesn't mean it will happen. But, in order for me to even try, I need to follow my list. I'm not going to share it all now, but will at some point.

This is just the beginning for me. I still have the KC 1/2 to run/pace next weekend. Then, it will all really start. I'm hoping this blog will help me stay accountable to follow the rules I've set for myself. I don't expect anyone to read this, but if you do, I welcome your feedback and support. Thanks for reading!