Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Phoenix 3TV 10k

Sunday was the Phoenix 3TV 10k.  I was happily surprised by two things:
1. The weather was fantastic.  It's been so hot up until last week, and it was in the low 60s and breezy all morning.  Perfect weather for a run!
2. The biggest event of this race was the 10k, instead of the Half.  The t-shirt was even centered around it.  This made me feel a little better about changing events.

I ended up working Saturday, and had a super draining week, so I woke up Sunday morning feeling a little more tired than I had hoped.  I was up by 5:30am for a 9:00am start, and force fed myself a tofu/sweet potato breakfast burrito and a small berry smoothie.  I love eating, but damn it's hard to eat that much that early.  I was determined not to fatigue in this race though.  For the majority of the training season, I capped out about 2 miles shy of my total mileage because I didn't get up early enough to eat enough to fuel me.  I needed food that would last me until 10:00am, with a 600 calorie loss in there.  Luckily, the 10k started an hour and a half after the Half, so I got to "sleep in."

My leg had been hurting off and on, so I taped it with KT tape just in case.  Grabbed my tutu and my water and we headed downtown on the light rail. The race started/ended at CityScape so it was nice and conveniently close.

There were 1,100 people in the 10k so the start line was pretty crowded.  When the bell went off it was a little bit like being corralled at first.  Once we got through the first mile things opened up a bit and it was a little easier to keep my own pace.  Started off at a 10:20 pace, which was comfortable.  Since we had been working up mileage towards 13, we had been averaging a 10:45 pace, so this was a bit faster.  I am usually fearful about starting too fast, since we've been known to start off at 9:50 instead.

At just over 3 miles, Christi and I parted ways.  She wasn't feeling well, and my lungs/legs/mind had finally synced up and I was ready to push forward.  I also mentally made a note that in the end, I paid $70 for a 10k, so I better bust my ass to make it financially worth it.  Oh the thought process behind the poor... ha! But it worked. My leg hurt at times, but it seems like every time I noticed it, I must have made a shift in my running form because the pain went away. I'm doing something, but I don't know what.  PF Changs I had no problem. So I'm not sure if this is just residual pain from rolling my ankle and I'm subconsciously doing something to "protect" it, or if I have some funky thing I'm doing in my stride. TBD.

I had hoped to best last year's 10k time (1:04:00), but I finished a little slower than that.
Official race time: 1:05:50
But I felt really good about this time.  With everything that has gone wrong in training for this race, the entire 6.2 miles felt good. Really good. It's been awhile since that has happened.  When I finished, I waited at the finish line for Christi to cross so I could cheer her on.  While I was waiting, I watched a woman finish and she was sobbing as she crossed.  Her husband ran out from the crowd to cry with her and congratulate her for finishing it.  It was one of the most beautiful moments I had ever seen, so I cried too.  I know that feeling.  The feeling that you weren't sure you were going to make it, but you pushed yourself farther than you thought you ever possibly could. I felt that after my first half.  And even here at the 10k, I felt a little of that again.

Time to give my legs a couple weeks "off."  I use that term loosely since I'm currently working two jobs (and on my feet for both of them), and I plan to do a lot of cross-training and weight lifting in between.  But, my poor calf hasn't gotten much relief since I repeatedly rolled my ankle and then ran on it.  We went to the gym last night, and I was relieved to see that even though we were tired, we showed up! If we had run the half we more than likely would have taken the first part of the week off to recover.  Switching to the 10k allowed us to move forward, something I'm really happy about.

Long Beach Turkey Trot - 10k (Thanksgiving Day)
Hot Chocolate 15k - December 
TBD - Obstacle course race 2015! Time to get buff and shit!

Running may not love me, but it seems to be one of the few things that keeps me sane lately in this crazy schedule I'm running. Channeling all of my stress into working out at least lets me feel like I can control something right now.  I found this motivational poster last week, and it's my favorite I've ever found because it most certainly hits the nail right on the head.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Downgrading the race

The Phoenix 3TV Half Marathon is three weeks away...however I am no longer participating in it. Instead, I will be running in the 10k instead.

This was a training decision that we went back and forth on for quite awhile.  I am not a quitter and often push myself on principal, even when I know it isn't the "smart" decision.  After a tough, but fairly successful 9.4 mile run yesterday, we finally decided to call it and switch to the 10k event instead.  This is a decision I feel very good about, and I don't feel like it's "quitting." I think it is a smart training decision that will hopefully result in a race we feel proud of.

This has been a really difficult training season. It started off that way.  I rolled my ankle hiking the first week in, continued to run and train on it, and then rolled it again at the start of my 8 mile run a week ago (Who falls off a curb??).  I'm on my feet four nights a week waiting tables.  I get home too late, am not getting enough sleep.  I've been so strapped for cash that I've been lacking proper nutrition, and the stress is wreaking havoc on my body.  I've been setting myself up to fail for long runs, so I end up doing more damage than good, and end up having to scale back during the week.  I do not feel strong, and I do not feel ready. I fear pushing an additional four miles will only make it worse.  It doesn't help that my training partner is having a rough go of it too.  Usually if one of us is lacking the motivation, the other person can make up for it.  When it's both of us, we aren't going to get very far.  The heat has been not much help either.  PF Changs was SO much easier to train for because the weather was so much more bearable.

I'm not throwing in the towel completely, however. I'm still determined to be able to stay active, and to run.  I really do enjoy it.  I enjoyed the last training season, but this time it no longer was fun.  It was a chore, and added stress.  A lot has changed in my schedule since the last half marathon.  It's a bit too much to juggle and I don't think I can attempt the half again until things settle down.  The mileage is also really hard on me.  I'm not a natural runner, and I had hoped that if I "willed it" enough I could make it happen.  To some degree, that worked.  But I have yet to have a half marathon training where I didn't have to take time off to do cross-training to give my legs a break.  I don't run enough consistently that I could handle that jump with ease.  I would rather be able to run a couple of miles every single day, instead of running one long run each week.

So, new focus.  We have the 10k coming up in 3 weeks. We are doing the Hot Chocolate 15k in December.  2015 is going to be centered around shorter distance races, with 15k races being the maximum.  This creates a lot more time for some other active hobbies I miss a lot: hiking, biking, yoga, etc. I think it's a good plan.  :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Re-motivating myself

For as excited as I was to start training this fall, my lack of motivation is amazing.  It's so bad that if I hadn't already pre-paid for the race, I would postpone it.

When we did Shun the Sun in 2012, I thought the reason training was so difficult was that I was teaching myself how to run, how to keep up with a full training schedule, and that I was nursing an
injury.  I realize now that the major cause of the difficulty was training through the heat.  Almost two months into training for Phoenix 3TV and not a single run has been fun, happy, or easy. They have been miserably hot, sticky, and slow, pushing through thick air and extra exhaustion.  Add a whole lot of life to it, and it's been a very, difficult process.
This is the first race that I have balanced a training schedule with not only a full class load at school, but working on my feet for long hours 3-4 days a week.  My legs don't ever seem to get a "rest" day, so they have been extra cranky and sore. This doesn't help the motivation factor, any.

That being said, even though this process has been frustrating, I am still thankful for it.  I've been so tired and stressed lately, that if I didn't HAVE to get out there, I certainly wouldn't.  So, at least this is forcing me to get up and get out there.

An important lesson in this: train for a December or January race, instead.  Much cooler temperatures make for a much easier training process, even if it means getting creative over the holidays. This is the last time I will train for a race of this magnitude in the middle of Arizona summer.

That being said, I am moving forward! Race is paid for, and it's on the calendar in exactly 39 DAYS.  If I don't want race day to be difficult, it's going to take a little more focus.  This means getting more rest (if possible), eating better (even though I'm on a super restricted budget), stretching/foam rolling, and getting to the gym for weight training and cross-training.  I found a yoga class that I enjoy, so now that I am not working Thursday nights I can fit this much needed time in for myself.  School is not going to get easier, and work is finally getting busy.  I always say I work better with a deadline, so here we go!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Training, 2 weeks in the books!

I was so excited to start training that I forgot to post when we did.  Today marks the start of week 3 of 13 for the 3TV Half Marathon in November!

Our training plan is similar to what we did for the last race:
Monday - legs
Tuesday - rest/cross-train
Wednesday - short run am, arms/core workout pm
Thursday - rest
Friday - intervals/hills/sprints run
Saturday - rest/cross training
Sunday - long run

Except for my "rest" days generally include a 5-7 shift on my feet, which is not incredibly conducive to resting legs, but I work with what I can.   My main goal, as always, is to get stronger and smarter to reduce risk of injury.  I started training off with a few ankle rolls on a hike, which set off some inflammation in my inner leg (same place as always, posterior tibialis muscle), but nothing a little ice and KT can't handle.

I recently had an eye-opening massage (translate: incredibly painful) that reminded me that I am covered head to toe (literally) with sharp, angry knots.  My body likes to hold on to an amazing amount of tension. Even when I don't feel all that stressed, my body interprets it completely differently.  Seeing as how my life is not about to get any less stressful, I'm constantly looking at ways to help ease the pain. I'm putting together a 30 minute session for myself that I can do each morning when I wake up.  It's going to be a combination of relaxing, calming, yoga stretches with foam rolling release and core strengthening.  Lately, my daily schedule differs day by day, so it's been hard to get a morning routine on the books.  But once I start school on Monday I will be back into a set weekly schedule that isn't going to change until at least December, so I'm hoping this will help.

I bought a foam roller awhile ago, and used it during training last season, but for some reason it has sat in the corner since January.  It's not like any of the knots just disappeared after PF Changs.  Foam rolling is a form of core strengthener, improves blood circulation, helps lengthen muscles so they are less prone to imbalances that cause injury, and releases muscle tightness and trigger points through myofascial release.   Added bonus: since I'm not going to be able to afford a massage for awhile, this should hopefully help reduce some of the full-body snowball effect I've been experiencing each time a stressor gets added to my life.

I've tried doing daily yoga, starting with a 30 day 15 minute video challenge but I kept getting behind in the sequence and then end up needing to complete 3-4 challenges at a time.  This is sad because I actually enjoyed the videos.  I just had a hard time mentally committing to it.  I am going to start with a simple yoga sequence and do the same one each day until I can make it routine.  Then I can use one that will help open everything up first thing in the morning, help with my running, and help give me enjoy the added benefits of yoga.  Then, one day I can move back to more challenging sequences.

Overall, I'm realizing two things:
1. I am not going to get the results I want without really putting that added effort into it.  Now that I've gotten used to the mileage and the expectations on my body, it's time to take it to the next level.  It's just going to require a little more focus than I have put in in the past.
2. If I don't start taking care of myself more (i.e. taking time for myself each day, de-stressing, etc.), I am going to run myself into the ground.  I'm totally worth it and need to make myself more of a priority.

Easy Foam Rolling Sequence

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Goal setting.

It's been a REALLY long time since I've updated, mainly because I didn't have a lot to say.  (For those of you that know me, you know I'm not usually at a loss for words :D )

Things have been quiet on the workout front.  Not so much quiet as inconsistent.  No pizzazz. No big goals.

School and work pretty much consumed my life from the IMS relay until May.  Once I finally got through finals, I had sickness followed by more sickness, PT Observation hours, GRE testing, and overall exhaustion.  One thing that suffered, and not for lack of trying, was exercise.  I was still getting in a run every week or so, and the occasional gym workout.  The only thing I have been consistently doing has been Bikram yoga on Friday mornings.   But that just wasn't enough.

The heat hasn't helped.  Being 110 degrees and adding humidity to that isn't exactly motivating.  I can't just "go for a run" if I haven't hydrated enough to not be that girl who ends up on the news.  But the heat isn't an excuse.  I have also realized that I have done so much training with other people that I tend to give myself the night off when they are not available.  Only you can be accountable for yourself, and doing something small is better than doing nothing at all.  What I needed was something to strive for.

I have always over-scheduled myself, so I have been working to cut some things back.  I dropped down to 1 summer school class (Chemistry + lab), 3 science classes in the fall (2 bio and 1 physics, + labs), and dropped work down to 3 days (occasionally 4) instead of 4-5.  I stopped working at the Bikram studio on Friday mornings so that yoga would be a fun thing again, instead of another commitment on my calendar.  Overall, I am on track for more "me" time.  This leaves 3 nights of time to myself that can be dedicated to working out or laziness, whatever I feel like.  This gives me Sundays completely off for a day that I owe nothing to anyone.  I'm pretty happy with this.

I really enjoy Matt Frazier's "No Meat Athlete" blog, and he recently made a post about How to Enjoy Running.  I enjoy running to some extent, but what I really enjoy is "training."  Having the goal to focus on, and a dedicated schedule over a set amount of time seems to work for me! I tend to focus more on regular workouts, healthy eating habits, dedicated hours of sleep, and lots of water - all more successfully than I do when I'm in "off-season."  But, I do not to train year-round, because that would make something I enjoy doing more like work.  The caveat to all this is that I am not a "natural runner" so I sometimes have really tough days.  Running solo for long periods of time does not yet come naturally to me, partially because I have been so dependent on having someone there to talk to.  I bore easily on a treadmill (and often find I am more susceptible to injury), and getting up super early in the heat to run alone sometimes is hard to convince myself to do when I'm half asleep and comfortable in bed.  Recently I have started to do it more.  Even if it means I don't go as far, at least I did it, right? What's sad is I actually love starting my day off with exercise, a run especially.  I feel like I just did something really amazing for myself, and it sets the tone for my entire day.  My bed is just very convincing at 4 or 5 in the morning. :)

Back to the blog.  Reading Matt's blog always rejuvenates me, because even though he has run many marathons and qualified for Boston, and recently run over 100 miles in a single race, he admits to not always loving it, to needing a goal, and to having hard days.  It makes me feel better, because ultimately, I would like to run more, and I would like it to consistently be easier because I am doing it on a more consistent basis.  One of his points in his blog was to set some Powerful "Unreasonable" Goals.  I like this, because while I have a couple of half marathons on the calendar, this gives me some really large goals to work towards without having a deadline or an obligation on my already ridiculously full calendar.

I've always been very goal oriented, so that's what I am going to do:

  1. Run a sub 2 hour Half Marathon. I feel like realistically, this is not that far fetched of a goal.  It isn't going to happen overnight, and it isn't going to happen this year, but overtime, this should be something I can easily achieve with the right training.  My first Half in 2012 was 2:33:47.  My second Half in 2014 was 2:21:01.  This improvement came only with consistency and smarter training, without even really trying to get faster.  Minimal speed work drills, but a vast improvement.  With two more half marathons already planned (November of this year and March of next year), I feel like I am on my way to getting that goal.
  2. Run a Half Marathon solo.  This is back to the making myself run on my own thing.  I've already proven to myself that physically and mentally I can run 13.1 miles (twice!).  Now I need to figure out how to do it by myself, with no one else coaching me or distracting me.  And it's important: what if I am running and my training partner can't make it for some reason? Was all the training for nothing? I need to know how to push through it, and mentally, the challenge is important to me.  
  3. Run a Marathon.  That's right. All 26.2 miles, at least once.  Maybe in a couple of years.
  4. Make yoga a daily, integral part of my life.  I never liked yoga in the past, because it always hurt me.  I have never been particularly flexible (hips/hamstrings especially) and I have weak wrists.  I always ended up in super challenging yoga classes, and it frustrated me.  The frustration hindered any chance I had to reap the benefits associated with the practice.  This year I rediscovered Bikram.  I love it.  However, it is extremely expensive and not very conducive to the student budget.  I am determined to get past my struggles with other yoga practices and find a way to incorporate even basic yoga into my daily routine, to help de-stress and take a moment out of my day just for me.  I'm starting tomorrow with a 30 Day Yoga Challenge to see if this can help get the ball rolling.
  5. Rid myself of tension migraines and constant mystery stomach pain.  One day, I'll figure this one out.  :/
  6. Last one: Look like this running in a sports bra. :)

Monday, February 17, 2014

IMS Arizona Relay Marathon

Yesterday was the IMS Arizona Relay Marathon, and I was one of four people on the "House Headz" team.  The marathon started out in Buckeye and traveled through Avondale and Glendale, finishing at Westgate.  

There were four "legs" to the race:
1st runner: 7.1 miles (Jeff)
2nd runner: 6.1 miles (Abby)
3rd runner: 8.3 miles (Laura)
4th runner: 4.7 miles (Christi)
Total mileage: 26.2 miles

The thought was for us to all cross the finish line together at the end, so I planned to run the final stretch in addition to my six mile leg.  I figured that waiting until meeting up at mile 25 would be too long of a rest period in between, so I might as well just run the last one. No big deal.

But of course, as luck would have it, my work and school schedule made prepping for this race a challenge. I was able to get to the grocery store and prep a bunch of food, but I ended up working really late on Saturday night (about 1 am) which meant I did not get to eat said food, and I only ended up with about 4 hours of sleep before the race! 

I do not recommend this.

Saturday night, I also realized I was starting to get sick, and was feeling a bit run down.  This was not helping me feel better about Sunday.  When I got up at 5:40, I was feeling pretty tired but quickly ate and drank some coconut water to try and revive myself.  For the most part, it worked.  (Or maybe it was the adrenaline, who knows).  We rushed around like crazy to find the spot where we were supposed to meet Jeff, so he could pass the timing chip to me and I could continue on.  The race wasn't clearly marked and was a bit unorganized.  The chaos at least gave us a good laugh.  It was a bit chilly but otherwise a gorgeous morning.    

Up bright and early for the race! We were leisurely taking pictures until we realized we were in the wrong spot and needed to dash to the correct one!

My leg of the race was actually really beautiful. The sun was up, but it was still cool, and I ran through the golf course community in Avondale.  It was really quiet and serene and actually really pretty.  I got cheered on by a lot of retirees in golf carts passing by.  Physically, I did pretty well.  It was my fastest 6.1 miles and the longest I have ever run by myself.  I finished in 1:00:49, average pace of 9:58 per mile.  I felt really good with this considering all the underlying factors. I was also pleased with my self-pacing, since I have never run that distance solo and am used to having someone next to me to talk to and gauge my speed.  Mentally, it was a bit of a challenge, but nothing I couldn't push past.  For one, that portion of the race wasn't very crowded, so I literally was running alone in some parts.  I was also running with marathoners who were used to the distance and were all passing me.  I didn't pass anyone at any point, which was a little tough on the psyche.  (PF Changs I passed a LOT of people in the course, which makes a difference).  I had to remind myself it wasn't about them and to just run, and my six miles went relatively fast.  When I hit the 3 mile mark, I was actually surprised at how fast it had seemed, so I knew then that the 6 miles wouldn't be a problem.  I was still pretty happy when I hit mile 13 and saw Laura waiting about a half a mile a way, ready to take the timing chip from me. :)

Feeling good, I decided that I would continue with the original plan to run the final leg with Christi.  I ate a banana and some pecans and tried to keep my legs moving for the hour break.  I don't think it mattered though, because the minute I started running the final leg, I regretted it.  My legs had cooled too much and I was too tired to begin with, and every single step of the 4.7 miles was heavy and exhausting.  This got in my head a bit.  Christi had the timing chip so I was trying to keep on her pace, since it was her portion.  I decided if she stopped, slowed down, or went faster, I would do the same.  I couldn't stop, because I was in the middle of nowhere and had no way to get to the finish line.  But I was also worried I was holding her back.  I didn't have to worry about that, because we kept a pretty speedy pace at the beginning (9:20) and finished in 43:50, an average 10:06 pace. I couldn't have run faster if I tried! Laura didn't end up running the last leg with us because the 8 mile portion was unexpectedly hilly and brutal.  She found us during mile 26 and we crossed the finish line together.  Her timing was impeccable; she met us right after we climbed a huge, daunting hill that kicked out ass.  We were out of steam but finding her meant it was almost over!  When I finished, I literally almost started crying, that's how hard that leg was for me.  I think it would have been easier to just run straight through for the 10.8 miles, instead of having the break in between. I'm not sure I would want to do that again without specifically training for it.

In the end, our team finished in 10th place out of 30, Total time: 4:07:52! Hell yes! Considering we weren't training as a team and weren't even competitive about it (although we got competitive around the end), and considering all the various factors for the day that had been a challenge, I think we did really awesome! 
I couldn't get the full sheet in the picture

The relay was a bit hectic, but was a really fun experience that I would do again in a heart beat.  I decided that I need to get all races for the year on the calendar ASAP so I can get my time off for work.  I cannot continue working the night before a race; it's just way too hard. Not to mention, I'm on my feet for 8 hours the night I should be resting them.  Physically, I can push through, but it makes for a tougher recovery.  I'm feeling pretty beat today.

We were missing our 4th at the finish so we should probably Photoshop him in.

This was a huge test for me...I feel proud of what I accomplished.  The night before, I was feeling a little distraught about the thought of getting up in four hours to run over 10 miles.  Jay's words: "Your stronger than that."  I kept remembering those words while I was running and it helped.  I am stronger than that.  But in the end, regardless of the misery at the finish, I am thankful for the experience.  I needed this to push myself both physically and mentally.  Things are not always easy and there is always going to be a voice in my head that will scream at me to stop and curl up and eat a brownie.  I needed this to prove that I was capable and am glad that I didn't bow out at the last minute.  I would have been sad to have been missing in the picture above.  

It was a great way to spend a beautiful morning in Arizona. :)

Monday, February 3, 2014

I am in charge of how I feel and today I am choosing happiness.

When I did this mass re-org of my life, my biggest fears were that when I was finished, I would no longer have the relationships (i.e. boyfriend and close friends) I had worked so hard to find. As everything has progressed, I'm constantly finding reassurance that things will be okay.  I am surrounded by so many people who love and support me and I truly believe that if these relationships were meant to be, then everyone will still be there when I am done in five years.  Sure, some of my relationships may change, and some of us may grow slightly apart, but I have learned to accept it and have decided to cross those bridges when I come to them.  I am constantly reassured by my supportive boyfriend that everything is and will be okay, and I believe him.  I'm releasing some of those insecurities that have been taunting me in the back of my head.

As everything has been going at full force, I've actually realized what my biggest fear is: losing myself.  It's funny, I have made such a huge change in order to build a new and better life for myself, one that involves having a fulfilling career instead of one that just pays the bills.  Part of me didn't want to complain about how stressed out I was or how much I hate waiting tables, because I recognize that I made this decision for myself and to complain about it seemed petty and stupid.  But the fact of the matter is, I hate this part of it.  I hate working nights and weekends and have never appreciated the Monday-Friday, 8-5 salaried position I used to have more.  But deep down inside, I always knew I wasn't happy with that and this is something I am going to have to do until I am in a position that can afford not too.  But, since I have been so stressed and strapped for cash, every dollar counts and every bad tip affects me in a way I wouldn't want it to.  I was starting to hate who I was becoming and was crushed when my own boyfriend told me that he missed my smile.  I don't want to be miserable for five years, I would have to learn how to balance things better.

I was losing the person I have always been and was becoming one of those people who was always tired, always stressed, never happy.  I lost my smile because the stress of making ends meet and trying to juggle this crazy balancing act was running me down.  Time to revamp and sort out my priorities.

Working two jobs and going to school full time is asinine.  If I need to request a loan from the bank or sell my body on the street to do it (kidding), I'm going to stop thinking that this is a schedule I can handle.  Doubles and triples scheduled each day are horrific and I was pretty much the walking dead by the end of the week.  So, job #1 has been cut: my last day there is Friday.  I left on good terms, am welcome to stay, and have been told that if they have a need for it and I'm looking for work during the summer, that I should give them a call.

This small change, releasing three shifts from the week, did something wonderful for me.  This freed up time for many things!

  • Homework and studying.  If I'm going to quit my job and go back to school, it makes no sense to not have any time to dedicate to studying for the courses that are trying to kick my ass. If I'm going to fail these classes then this was all for nothing.  I need every A I can get and I need to stay focused on this priority.
  • Time for PT Observation! I now have enough time to do 4-6 hours per week, depending on how I'm feeling.  More than likely I'll cap it at 4.  I'm currently observing at an orthopedic clinic just behind my house.  They treat me more like an intern than a lurker, so I actually get to learn things! It's very exciting and I'm hoping one day I can use this to secure a PT Tech position in the field while I finish school.  I also need a ton of hours before I can even apply (at the end of the year), so this really needs to be a large priority.
  • Time to work out.  Since I ran PFC, my activity level has severely halted.  It's not for lack of motivation, it's for the sheer fact that I have been so swamped and so exhausted that there literally has not been time for a run or to go to the gym.  This is not okay to me.  Not only have I had no release for the tension in my neck and shoulders, but my psyche has been severely affected. I truly need this release and I deserve the time to get to have it.  Between work, school, studying, a giant sewing pile and the other million directions I'm being pulled in, this is currently my only release (besides a bottle of wine, ha!).
  • Time to cook food at home, and to eat an occasional meal with my boyfriend.  Having Monday and Wednesday evenings off means I get to work out both nights and then we get to make dinner together when we both get home.  We are making use of the small amounts of time we have together, and it makes a world of difference.  Getting home from work at 11pm and then up again at 6:30, isn't very conducive to many home-cooked meals.  This helps me prep for the next day as well as cook healthy balanced meals for myself.
  • Time for a little more sleep in the mornings at least 2 days a week. Don't think I even need to elaborate on how happy that makes me. 
As for running, this is going to stay a large priority in my life.  I'm working out more ways to integrate it into my week, but for now I'm a little limited.  Going to make the best of it in the way that I can.  Trying to get some dates on the calendar to stay focused and keep my mileage up.  Here's what I'm thinking for this year:
  • I am part of a 4 person team at the Arizona IMS Marathon on February 16th.  I am running the 7 mile stretch on my own and then joining the team (hopefully) for the 4 mile finish. This will be the longest I have ever run on my own, and while I am excited about it, I am happy about the mental challenge.
  • Trying to find a 10k and a 15k between now and the fall.
  • Fall: Would like to do a half marathon around November, race TBD.
  • Would really like to do the Arizona Half Marathon in March of 2015 (this will keep us active during the holidays but allow us to begin "training" again after the 1st of the year).
I found this and it perfectly summed up how I am feeling this evening.  
Life is good, I am healthy and in love and moving forward with my life.

Monday, January 20, 2014

P.F. Changs Rock and Roll Half Marathon

After 12 weeks of training, it was finally here! Yesterday, we ran the P.F. Changs Rock and Roll Half Marathon.  After all this work, it was finally time for the end result: fun.

Several weeks ago, it occurred to us that we were going to beat our time from last year.  We looked at our 15k finish time and realized that we had gotten much faster over the past year.  When we ran the Shun the Sun Half in November 2012, our average pace was 11:44.  In all of our training runs, we were averaging a 10:20 pace for long distance runs, a significantly faster pace. We were feeling pumped and energized about rocking this race.  We were both feeling strong and healthy, and excited for race day.

We then ran into a series of roadblocks.  Between Christmas and New Year's, Christi got really sick.  At New Year's I got really sick. And just when we were beginning to taper and I was starting to feel better, Christi got sick again! It didn't seem like we could catch a break, and as a result, we lost our final 7 mile run the week before the race. We moved our mileage to cross training machines at the gym and decided that rest  and getting better the week of the race was more important than the mileage we knew we would be able to complete with no problem.

Another roadblock I had was my schedule.  The week before the race, I started school, trained every single night (late) at my new job, and worked my second job in my "spare" time.  I was on my feet constantly, and my legs felt it hard. And sleep? It wasn't happening. I wasn't getting home before 11-11:30pm at night, which meant getting to sleep about 12:30am and then back up to do it all again at 6:30am. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, and I was frustrated that after all this time, the week I truly needed the rest was the week wasn't getting any.  I was starting to seriously wonder if my legs would be up to the task, because they literally throbbed everywhere and felt incredibly tight.  In the end, it all worked out.  I got to sleep after midnight on Friday and then slept HARD for 12 hours.  I had my entire Saturday to rest my legs and mentally prepare for the race on Sunday. Oh, and plenty of time to eat (I did a lot of that).

Sunday morning, I was up at 4:30, showered to heat up my joints, had a little bit of coffee and a big breakfast: baked tofu, boiled potato, 2 corn tortillas, and a protein fruit smoothie.  It was a pretty bland breakfast, but it did the trick to fuel me (although AGAIN I needed to eat more: I got hungry about 4 miles in, which by then had been about 3.5 hours since I had eaten breakfast). Christi grabbed me at 5:45 and we headed towards one of the light rail stations to park and ride to the start in downtown Tempe.  The light rail was packed with other race participants.  After a little bit of confusion about which stop to get off, we ended up in Tempe and began to make our way towards the race.  Found the gigantic porta potty line, found gear check, got rid of our jackets and put on our tutus! (Last year, we cheered on the marathon participants as the P.F. Changs full marathon course went past my neighborhood.  We saw girls in tutus and have been dreaming of them ever since!)
 You can't tell here, but it is REALLY cold. I also like how we stopped time in this picture. 

We made our way into our corral (there were 26 total in the half, we ended up in corral 11), heard the national anthem, and waited patiently for our turn to start.  It took about a half hour to make our way to the start line.  By then, I had to pee again, but it was too late to go back out and find a bathroom. (Mid race I decided I would rather get a bladder infection than lose 20 minutes in a porta potty line... seemed logical at the time, ha! And no, I did not get one...)

It was our turn! Just before they counted down our start, one of the announcers reminded us that the first half of the race was a steady incline, followed by a large hill, and to remember to pace ourselves.  We began running and soon got to see what was so exciting about this race.  At every mile marker, there was a band. The bands weren't amazing, but they brought some excitement to each milestone, as well as a crowd of people.  Between each mile marker there were a lot of different groups of people who joined us to cheer us on.  Most of them were in costume, and most of them had really funny signs to encourage us to go forward. These were some of my favorites:
  • Faster, faster (that’s what she said)
  • May the course be with you
  • Keep moving, I farted!
  • You run faster than our government
  • Chuck Norris wanted me to tell you that in our minds you’re all Kenyans!
  • Quit bitching, you paid for this

There was a Roaring 20's group, Alien cheerleaders, Chinese drums, a Pied Piper, Creepy people on stilts, and men and women in tutus to mention a few.  Running along with us was Santa, Batman, a gorilla, a mascot I didn't recognize, and a group with a Chinese dragon. I am not sure how one can run in a fur suit, but they definitely made me laugh.  There was a lot of excitement which I really enjoyed and appreciated.

I'm not sure where I found my energy, but I really felt great the entire race.  In the end, I felt like I could have continued running.  When I was done, I was tired, and I felt it in every muscle, but the race itself felt comfortable and relatively easy.  I grabbed the gatorade from the water stands each time, which normally I do not like, but sounded really good and refreshing.  They were kind enough to serve it to us cold.  It's funny how some things just sound and taste really good when you need it the most, even when you wouldn't ordinarily want to consume it.  I think the added sugar and electrolytes kept me moving! The announcer was right: the first 6 miles was a steady incline (the kind that isn't very visible to the eye, but your legs definitely notice it).  The mile 8 and 9 turn around on McDowell was the giant hill heading into the Papago Mountains.  That was steep, but we seriously powered through it.  I was really proud that we weren't one of the many people who had to stop and walk it.  The remainder of the race was mostly downhill, with the exception of some small hills in Papago Park.  The race finished at Tempe Beach Park, with the finishing stretch across the Mill Bridge over Tempe Town Lake. I really liked that being the finishing stretch, it felt very dramatic. :)  I was hell bent on finishing the race just before my podcast finished, and it ended just as I was crossing the finish line.  (Last year, I had to restart it).  In the end, we did beat last year's time (by a lot!), and each set a PR.

I am feeling REALLY proud of us.  When we did our first half marathon, it was scary and hard.  We didn't know if we could possibly run that far.  We were sore, exhausted, and I was injured.  When we set out to train for this race, we really wanted the end result to be fun.  Most importantly, I wanted it to be easy, and injury free.  We each ran into our own issues throughout training and even throughout the race, but nothing that we couldn't overcome.  I personally was very pleased that I wasn't injured AT ALL during this race. No tape, no swelling, no fears I would make something worse.  I felt relatively strong, and while I knew that I would have areas that might be extra sore, I wasn't petrified this time.  When I crossed the Mill Bridge, I teared up a bit, because I feel like I have come so far.  If you had asked me 2-3 years ago if I would feel this way, I would have thought you were crazy.  It's finally clicking and it feels amazing.

Training recap:

What we did well:

  • Rest days: Taking a full day off between runs was the best decision we ever made.  It made some days extra long (doubles), but it made the run days so much easier.  Win.
  • Recovery: We got a lot better at the recovery aspect from each run and workout.  Recovery food and drink, hot tubs, epson salt baths, rolling muscles with the stick and/or foam roller, icing even if it wasn't necessarily needed at the time. 
  • Adapting the schedule to meet special circumstances: Not only did we train through the holidays, but we trained through 3 bouts of sickness.  And for the most part, we stayed on point the entire time.  We found creative ways to get our miles in, as well as learned to recognize when our bodies needed a little extra rest.  We were able to rest without feeling like we failed our schedule, which helped the mental game a lot.
  • Food: We have figured out the foods that we really like consume before a run, and what we never want to eat again before a run because they do not sit well (add to the list: bananas, peanut butter, bell peppers, and anything spicy).  In addition, we got really good at eating while running! Favorites are dried cranberries and honey packets.  A little bit of carbs, sugar, and potassium to give us a little boost in energy, and in an all-natural way (I'm personally a bit scared of the Gu packets, and not a fan of the added chemicals).

What we didn't do well:

  • Cross training. It just seemed to be hard to fit in the schedule on a consistent basis. We were good at integrating it weekly at the start, and at the end when we were sick, but during the middle section of our training schedule it just seemed to go away.  It was coincidentally the day we were supposed to work out on our own, and clearly, we weren't very good at keeping ourselves accountable.  
  • Water: There is always going to be room for improvement in this area.  I think because we weren't training through the summer, we weren't as mindful about how much water we needed to consume every day. As a result, we ended up chugging water while we ran our long runs because we were dehydrated.  
  • My shoulders: I need to figure out how to keep them loose.  I woke up with a bit of tension in them, and the knot in my left shoulder was painful the majority of the race.  I generally tend to carry my water in that hand, which is probably part of the problem. I need to get better at switching the bottle back and forth, since I prefer to run with the water on me.  This has been a common issue in almost all of my races, since I have such tight / knotty shoulders to begin with.
In the end, I am super excited about how well we did, and very excited to move forward! We are going to participate in the IMS Marathon as part of a relay team, and the rest of the year is TBD.

This is Camelback Santa.  We ran into him several times throughout the course and he did nothing but cheer other people on and take pictures with them.  He had a blast and was definitely part of our race experience. :)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Food. The story of my life.

For as much as I love food, get super excited about eating it, and for as many good choices as I like to think I make on a weekly basis, food has been the bane of my existence over the past year.

It's New Year's Day, which means it has officially been a year since I began my crazy elimination diet to try and figure out what was making me feel sick all the time.

So, a year has past, and I would like to think that the giant mystery has been solved, but unfortunately, only part of the case can be closed.  It seemed like the farther I delved into the search, the longer the list of questionable foods became.

Here's why:
Problem #1: "Nothing" is wrong with me. (Some might beg to differ... but I digress. :D )
I spent a hell of a lot of money on tests to try and figure out the root cause of my digestion issues, stomach pain, muscle inflammation, headaches, etc.  I was really hoping there was a giant indicator that would come up on an ultrasound or during an endoscopy, but no such luck.  Truly, I am glad I am healthy, but that may have just been easier.  It was determined that I might suffer from bouts of gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), and that I also might have IBS.  It was also determined that I had developed food sensitivities and an intolerance to many foods that might be causing a lot of the problems. I ran out of money waiting for a doctor to find the cure (and patience) and decided to play Nancy Drew on my own.

Problem #2: My reactions lack consistency.
There are certain foods that give me an almost immediate reaction, every time.  That makes it really easy to never eat these foods again.  The rest of them give me a delayed reaction, some of them depending on quantity, and the rest depending on what else I happened to be eating that week. The reaction may be the next morning, or days later, and it may only happen when paired with certain foods (but again, it's not the same reaction every time).

What I have figured out:
#1: I've learned to pick my battles.  
I do not question the seasoning anymore but make note of it if it specifically is mentioned on the menu. I do not cook with any questionable seasoning (i.e. paprika and tumeric), but I do incorporate sesame on a semi-regularly basis. I said goodbye forever to dairy and egg, and actually, aside from small moments of weakness (i.e. I'm hungover), I honestly do not miss either one.  I can eat the "maybe" vegetables but I make a point to not eat them on a daily basis.  In other words, I will buy 5 mushrooms for dinner so there isn't a contained in the fridge to eat all week, or buy just large portabello mushrooms that will be consumed in a single meal.  Wheat has been a bit of a hard one. I do not cook with it, and actually really enjoy gluten free soy sauce, gluten free rice pasta (I have been really happy with all of them), have found gluten free bread I really love (Schar from Fresh and Easy), and even gf flour tortillas (Rudi's).  I love asian inspired dishes however, so I make concessions (perhaps far too many) on regular soy sauce when we are at a restaurant, as well as the occasional pizza crust (provided there is no dairy in the sauce or the dough). I find the treat of a quarterly slice of vegan pizza rewarding and worth the possible problems following me the next day.  I have yet to find a gluten free pizza crust that tastes remotely like pizza, and most gluten free products still contain eggs anyway.

#2: I definitely suffer from occasional gastritis, caused by an excess of acid in my stomach.
After Thanksgiving, when I had had a lot of wine, coffee, and spicy foods, I was literally nauseous after every meal for several days.  I have also had major stomach pain (like someone lighting my stomach on fire) after eating certain foods, and only a combination of pepcid and prescription stomach pills can alleviate it. This puts me in check immediately, since these feelings feel awful and are a good indicator that I'm making too many dietary concessions and bad decisions.  I haven't had pain that bad since this all began 5 years ago, and am certainly not in the position to go get a bunch of medical tests done again, so it makes me remember to behave. :)

#3: I definitely have IBS, albeit a mild form of it.
When my gastroenterologist suggested I might have IBS,  I didn't want to hear it, since I was focused on my food intolerance list and didn't think I could handle another list of foods to eliminate from my diet.  However, now that I have completed the first year, I have realized she was probably right. Many of the foods on both lists are actually duplicates of each other, and while I cut out a bunch of foods initially, almost all of them have been reintegrated to a certain degree, and I still am not always feeling great.  So clearly, the mystery has not been solved.  Then there are other foods like cruciferous foods (cabbage, broccoli, etc), garlic, and quinoa, on the list for IBS triggers, and I thought these were a load of crock. Honestly? How can broccoli and quinoa, foods that are so nutritiously dense and good for you, possibly hurt someone? Well, the answer is, a LOT. They are tough to digest and if your stomach is at all irritated, you are going to be punished. Quinoa has been my toughest food lately, which makes me very sad. :(  (It's also loaded with protein and I love that!) The part of IBS that isn't so mild, is the stress trigger. Still working on that. Alcohol is also a trigger, so I have cut out most hard alcohol (especially juice mixers) and stick to wine/gin, which even then sometimes gives me trouble.

As for the protein... Still eating fish, and still not eating a ton of nuts and beans.  I have been making a huge effort to integrate them into my diet again, but the moment my stomach gets even mildly irritated, I have to cut them back out again. This is tough when I'm in training.  What I have learned, canned beans are out (super hard to digest) but if I soak and slow cook, I do pretty well.  Nuts are good but in small quantities.  Cannot be combined with other iffy foods (i.e. don't put in the quinoa and steam up a pile of broccoli to go with it).

Throughout the year, I have definitely noticed the knots and inflammation in my muscles have tremendously improved.  My stomach issues are more poignant and obvious when they happen, so even the delayed reactions are easier to pin-point.  I have been able to pin-point almost instant neck and head pain after eating gluten, so by cutting that out I have had less problems there.  I have been feeling better, and I feel that I am on the right track, so I must be doing something right. :)