26 Can Do Better

Wow. Twenty-five is over, huh?

Happy birthday to me!

I would like cupcakes, Champagne, widespread acceptance of the Oxford comma, and a puppy. Preferably a French bulldog named Bennington, who rounds out our brood with his I-may-be-small-but-I’m-sassy disposition.

Yes. (source)

To date, this has been, by far, the most bizarre year of my long and wise existence. It started out so well, with a smashingly successful 25th birthday. First marathon in five years completed! Champagne and cake consumed in excess! That necklace that I told John I wanted, exactly where to get it, and gave him a coupon for, in my possession! As a freshly-pressed 25 year old, I was operating at well over 100%.

Operating at 100%? Yes. Mastering the midfoot strike? Definitely not.

The barrage of doctor’s appointments in September was definitely a low-point in my quest for year-long awesomeness. So was passing out after my arthrogram. (Heh. What can I say? I hate needles. Especially long ones that are projected onto giant radiology screens so that I can watch them inject dye into something that is like two inches from my vagina). I would also say that projectile vomiting into a freezer bag, held by my husband, after a morning of arthroscopic hip surgery, was pretty low on the list of “Awesome Things Done During My Awesome 25th Year.” (Disgusting photo below. I’d say maybe a 2 on a scale of baby polar bears frolicking to that guy in Miami whose face was eaten off).

Hey, look! My body doesn’t like stitches, so now I have a hole inside of my incision. The big 2-5, you do not disappoint!

But it would have been selfish of me to monopolize the annual quota of medical problems, so my parents, being the good sports that they are, joined in on the fun. My mom went with an emergency appendectomy the week before Christmas (well-played, Ma), while my dad chose a mystery GI-illness, that caused him to pass out and break his nose. Going on this information alone, I’d say that my mom wins, but take into consideration that my dad’s ailment was initially misdiagnosed as a heart attack, and it’s pretty much a photo finish!

NBD, just going to visit my dad…who is quarantined.

By March I had accepted the fact that 25 was not going to be the carefree, glory year I had hoped for. In fact, all I wanted to do was make it to 26 without spending another minute in a hospital, and with all major appendages affixed to my body.

I. can’t. even. with you and your minor tail surgery that had you acting like you were lobotomized.

Thankfully, it seems, I’ve done just that. The fam is healthy, I have all of my limbs (the shepherd, on the other hand, lost a sizable chunk of her tail, but it seems all of the benign, meant-to-be-there parts are still intact), and I’m so fucking ready to take on a year that is faster, stronger, and not rife with major injuries.

So here’s to the big 2-6.

Shots mean PR’s are a sure-thing. Or at least that I’ll be hungover in the morning. Samesies.

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Return of the Track

When John and I moved last July, we were excited about a lot of things. Ridding ourselves of a drug-addicted, chronically drunk, upstairs neighbor who blasted a mix of techno and Enya at all hours of the day and night was certainly at the top of the list…

Neighbor boy and I were basically besties, obvi.

…but we had several  other amenities to look forward to, including a bigger floor plan, a small backyard for the dogs, and a running path just over a mile from our front door. Needless to say, when we discovered a track just off said running path, we were elated, and subsequently committed to living here as long as we can stand the neighborhood’s penchant for gossip and the total lack of air flow in our bedroom.

This track is by no means a state-of-the-art facility. It’s, shall we say, well-used, heavily-worn, one step from decrepit. And I’m sure the neighborhood kids’ use of it as a velodrome isn’t really helping. Whatever. It’s a public track and it’s functional. Not something that’s easy to come by in Chicago.

I was just getting into track workouts when I injured my hip last summer, and, obviously, sprinting and taking tight turns were on the list of “Things You Shouldn’t Do With Five Freshly-Placed Anchors in Your Hip,” so the disheveled track and I? We haven’t seen much of each other in the past nine months.

But today…

I have a severe lack of track photos, so this will have to suffice for the time being. (source)

…we met again! At 6:30am, no less (super-huge-self-back-pats going on over here). I did a simple 10 x 400m-really it was 7 x 400m before I finally gave in and sprinted home so I could go to the bathroom.

Aside from it’s general state of decay, a huge downside to this track it’s total lack of nearby, public bathrooms. Don’t get me wrong, there are bathrooms. They’re just never unlocked. The homeless men in the park also hate that these washrooms are never accessible, which is why they urinate on the locked doors in protest. Fight the power, dudes. Fight. The. Power.

Anyway, I finished out the last 3 x 400m around our apartment, after my pit stop. (I hate the term “pit stop,” by the way. It sounds so ambiguous and coy. As if none of us is mature enough to acknowledge that running occasionally causes people to poop. There. Said it.)

It was a good workout to start back on. Challenging, but manageable. Splits for those of you who care about that stuff (goal was to stay under 2:00, or sub 8:00/mile pace):

  1. 1:57
  2. 1:54
  3. 1:54
  4. 1:54
  5. 1:51
  6. 1:49
  7. 1:49
  8. 1:53
  9. 1:56
  10. 1:54

Track Tuesdays are back! Now I just have to decide about that Santa Rosa Marathon. More on that later…

Asics, You’re Doin’ It Right, Girl!

Everyone stop.

There’s something very important that we need to talk about.

OMFG, those. And, OMFG my floors. Someone call Pergo. Thank God this place is a rental.

But back to the shoes, or as I so-aptly titled the JPEG, “shoooooz,” because when you’ve spent years running in total white girl kicks, these babies are more than just a pair of “shoes.”

Let me start by saying that I’m a huge proponent of the idea that you can’t choose running shoes based-on color. Why do you have chronic shin splints?  Oh, because you shove your pancake-flat, hippo-wide feet into electric blue Nike’s that aren’t made for running? I don’t feel bad for you. By which I mean, I don’t feel bad for me, because that’s a personal anecdote. But that’s why these particular shoes are so exciting! They are my standard, tried-and true Asics Gel Kayanos just in a ridiculous color scheme. Finally.

If I could find the designer at Asics responsible for these, I would kiss them and perhaps offer to have their children. I would also tell them something along the lines of: Stay gold, Ponyboy, because, Jesus…you’ve come a long way.

Gel Kayano 16’s. Like a dagger to the retina. Never forget the lowly valleys from which you came.

Don’t ever change. Unless change means wilder colors. In which case, by all means…

Six Months Later

Last week marked the six month anniversary of my hip surgery. I was going to make some quip about “anniversary” not being an appropriate term for something as not-awesome as hip surgery, but then I remembered that people acknowledge the anniversaries of deaths, and natural disasters, and other horrific tragedies so…game over.

This…

is what I was doing for fun six months ago.

And today?

I’m happy to be running again, but damn, that night in the motorized cart at Target was a blast! Those things have the turning radius of a Smart Car, the reverse notification horn of a Mack Truck, and the battery life of a Motorola Razr.

But enough about my wild nights at the store.  Let’s talk about the marginally bionic hip’s progress, shall we?

The Good:

  • I’ve comfortably moved up to four running days per week.
  • Minimal pain and tightness during runs.
  • The shin splints that started about a month ago have subsided.

The Bad:

  • Some stiffness and mild pain after runs, especially in my piriformis and hamstring.
  • Lifting my leg to put on shoes is still the worst part of my day, which means that my hip flexor (iliopsoas) is still super weak.
  • If I don’t foam roll after every run I’m pretty much guaranteed to be sore and uncomfortable. This sucks because I’m a lazy asshole runner who just wants to run and do nothing else to take care of myself.
  • Recovery from long runs or hard efforts still takes longer than expected.

Things To Work On:

  • Consistent foam rolling, icing, and PT routine. Again, me=lazy asshole runner, but I’ve  been lacking in these areas for a while now and it’s starting to show.
  • Building in one day of speed work. The track kind of terrifies me at this point. All that sprinting and turning, my hip hurts just thinking about it. But I’m cleared to do track workouts and I’m not getting faster just running straight miles so…the return of track time has arrived.
  • My crappy diet. I gained some weight post-surgery and it’s, apparently, not in any rush to GTFO. I need to get serious about dropping a few pounds, by which I mean I need to stop eating like I’m running 50 MPW, when I’m clearly only running 25-30. Also, I’m going to guess that the cookie dough and craft beer binges aren’t helping. Then again, I’m not a nutritionist, so I could be wrong…

Mantra Devolution: The Chicago Spring Half Marathon

Let’s just say, things didn’t start out the way I expected.

I spent the entire day before the race feeling like I had mild E. coli. While I like to be nice and empty come race morning, this level of voiding was a bit extreme for my tastes.

By the time we got to the race, I felt ok. I was kind of apathetic about the whole thing at that point. This was not how I imagined my first race back going, so I was just kind of meh.

Meh.

Also…this.

More meh.

The race director kept announcing that the storms were going to stay south of us. The race director was a liar.

My race strategy was to just run however I was feeling, and to not panic too much about pace.

That’s actually a complete lie. I sounded really sane and realistic there for a moment though, didn’t I? I secretly wanted to run somewhere around 8:30’s and I was going to throw myself in the lake if I dropped below 8:50. And we’re right back to the crazy…

The first mile was rough. My stomach hurt, my hip felt creaky, I wanted my bed and perhaps a ginger ale.

Mile 1-8:36

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of racing, it’s that a shitty attitude will eat you alive. You hate your life at mile one? Just wait for mile 12. You’ll want to kick puppies. So I dropped the ‘tude and the first mantra was born.

Mantra 1 (miles 1.5-8): “I’m thankful to be out here.”

It’s true. I was. Back in November, I had no idea how long it would take me to recover. I had no idea if running would ever be the same. Yet here I was, and I was thankful.

Mile 2-7:37 (a touch short)

Mile 3-7:30 (even shorter)

Mile 4-8:20

Cue the lightning, and my fear that, now that I was excited to run this race, it was going to be black-flagged.

Mile 5-8:27

Mile 6-8:24

I made the turnaround and so did the weather. Rain, wind, and a cold front, to be exact. I had ditched my long sleeve at mile one, so I was all short sleeves and capris, this girl is ready for spring! 

Mile 7-10:20 (Garmin clocked this at 1.22 miles. I agree, it took forever).

Mile 8-8:36

Was I running a half marathon? Training for a career as a commercial fisherman? Filming a scene for the new release of The Perfect Storm? I wasn’t really sure. All I knew was that I was totally weather-beaten and that, “I’m thankful to be out here,” no longer applied. Mantra numero dos, anyone?

Mantra 2 (miles 9-11): “Get out of your fuckin’ head.”

I got lost in there for a hot second, and it was ugly. This actually happens to me a lot just past the mid-point of a race. I can’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel and my life becomes so sad; so miserable.

Mile 9-8:43

I gave up wasting energy on avoiding puddles. Everything was going to be soaked. Very soaked.

Mile 10-8:34

Look! A midfoot strike! (Thanks, Brightroom!)

Totally kidding! HSFL (heel-strikers for life)!

Mile 11-8:47

The rain stopped for the most post, but the wind really picked up. Miles 11-12.5 were right along the lake, which didn’t help. Every time I would bear down to fight against the wind, it would stand me straight up. It was really just laughable. Also, I had been running in driving rain and 40-ish degrees for over an hour. I was uncomfortably cold, which prompted my final race mantra.

Mantra 3 (Miles 11-13.1): “I THINK I HAVE HYPOTHERMIA!!”

I actually shouted this to John and superfan/best friend Erin when I passed them at mile 11.5 (my sense of humor really takes a nosedive during endurance sports). The woman trotting along in front of me whipped around and looked at me like I was insane. Sorry, lady wearing shorts and a tank top, I’m sure you were much closer to hypothermia than I was.

Mile 12-9:07

Mile 13.1-9:31 

I finished in 1:52:38, an average pace of 8:35, and only 1:30 slower than my half marathon PR. Despite my lofty goals, I had expected my first race back to be much slower-during a brief moment of sanity, I told myself that I would be happy with anything sub-2 hours-so obviously I was thrilled. You know what was even more thrilling? Changing out of my soaking wet capris and underwear in the parking garage and putting on my fluffy sweatpants.

I’m back and I’m ready to race, so bring on the next one. Preferably with more sunshine.

Nowhere Else I’d Rather Be

When I was in high school, I had a club softball coach who started every pre-game pep talk with the statement, “Ladies, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than right here, with all of you, today.”

At the time, I didn’t get it. Like, come on dude. We’re about to play a hugely important game and you’re giving us this?

As I’ve gotten older, it’s made a lot more sense. Enjoying an adult beverage on a patio during an unseasonably warm day? Nowhere else I’d rather be. Cuddling with puppies? Nowhere else I’d rather be. Eating burgers and getting cheap-date-drunk with John every Saturday? Nowhere else I’d rather be.

But what about standing at the start line for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon, only hours after battling the tail end of a stomach bug, and while watching the storms roll in? As crappy as I felt, and as ominous as those clouds looked, there really was nowhere else I would have rather been.

What distinguishes those of us at the starting line from those of us on the couch is that we learn through running to take what the day gives us, what our body will allow us, and what our will can tolerate.” -John “the Penguin” Bingham

Full race recap and a return to regularly scheduled, unadulterated snarkiness coming soon!

It Wouldn’t Be Race Week…

…without one ego-deflating, soul-crushing, awful run.

Seriously. In my eight-ish year of racing, I haven’t gone through a single “taper” week without one workout that makes me question my ability to run from the parking lot to the starting line on race day. Two days prior to the Flying Pig Half in 2011 I ran four miles that seemed to foreshadow me either passing out or shitting myself well before the halfway point. And the day before the Carmel Marathon last June, I ran two completely horrifying miles on the hotel treadmill and subsequently resigned myself to being forcibly removed from the course by the sag wagon.

So, after Monday’s perfectly comfortable six miler and Tuesday’s painful-yet-respectable track workout, it came as no surprise that today’s run was just miserable.

I wanted to do six or seven, but flamed out somewhere around 5.3. Whatever. This is the way things are supposed to go. Love taper, hate racing. Love racing, hate taper. It’s basically a Bible verse.

And, if all else fails, at least I can look back at how far I’ve come and say…it’s all my stupid hip’s fault.