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.

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…

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.

Listen to Your Body and Other “Lies” My Doctor Told Me

Between pre and post-surgery physical therapy, I spent over 20 weeks attending regular PT sessions. I learned a lot of fun things over those 20 weeks, like how to use Lamaze breathing to get through manual piriformis release without crying, and that the anchors that are holding my labrum together will not set off metal detectors, and, perhaps most importantly, that I’m going to have to listen to my body if I want to run for the rest of my life.

So. Much. Fun. Want to do this forever (or until I bonk at mile 9).

That last one is kind of tricky because, well, I think the whole “listening to my body” thing is the biggest cop out ever. It’s become this perfect, not-to-be-argued-with excuse. “Listening to my body! Taking another rest day!” “Yoga > tempo run. Listening to my body.” To you it might sound all namaste, at-peace with my physical being, but all I hear is, “I’m lazy! Going home to eat Doritos!”

Eating a giant cheeseburger at 2 a.m.! Listening to my body!

And then race day comes and the body whisperers are all pissed because they missed their PR, and it’s like, really? Perhaps if you spent half as much time, you know, running, as you did, listening to your body, you’d have some sort of kick. So yes, when I was told by my physical therapist, and my surgeon, and several PA’s that I would need to listen to my body as I started back to running after surgery, I was just kind of like…

But, much to my surprise, returning to running with a marginally bionic hip is totally different than returning to running with an unadulterated skeletal system. Sure, the pain and soreness I felt when I started a new running plan after several months of laying on the couch inhaling cheesy garlic bread sucked, but this kind of pain and soreness? Suuucks.

It’s kind of hard to explain, but it just feels more serious than pre-surgery running soreness. It’s as if my hip is saying, “You push me to run another day this week and I swear I will bust into four pieces and make you drag me home.” Not to mention that no matter how much I foam roll, and stretch, and wear spandex shorts lined with ice packs, there are some days that I just cannot seem to recover. It’s frustrating. It’s foreign. And the only way that it can be effectively dealt with? Listening to my body. Not running when I’m excessively sore. Taking an extra non-impact day when I can’t seem to recover. Cutting runs short when I experience that excruciating, yanking sensation that runs from the bottom of my butt cheek to the back of my knee (thankfully, this has subsided the longer I’ve been running, but for a while there, it was a delightful, routine occurrence). It’s slightly ego-crushing–you’re lying if you’re a competitive human being who says they don’t get a thrill from gutting it out, no matter what–but it’s working. I am getting stronger and adding mileage without hip pain, which is basically the whole point of paying $79,000 for the surgery, in the first place.

You thought I was hyperbolizing. I was not. Yes, I have insurance.

So rest assured, when I say, “I’m listening to my body,” I’m not just trading my miles for cool ranch flavored corn chips and fat pants. Although, I do really like fat pants. Comment-baiting question: Do you listen to your body, or “listen to your body?”

Take Out Your Syallbus

I hate firsts.

The first day of a new semester.

Every first day I’ve ever had at a new job.

The first run after a long hiatus.

They all suck. I’d so much rather be in that comfortable, middle stage where the routine is set, where everyone knows one another, where running three miles doesn’t feel like sheer Hell.

So, obviously, I hate this post. Because it’s my first.

I feel like I’m back in Psychology 357 just waiting for my turn to do some ridiculous icebreaker speech. Hi, my name is Kristen. I have two dogs. I love running. I own a hot dog stand. Two truths and a lie, because…what else is there?

So let’s not make this anymore painful than it has to be, k?

My name is Kristen, I do own two dogs.

Fez

Buttercup

do love running, I do not own a hot dog stand (sadly). I had a blog once before, but that ship has sailed, so like the unfortunate rebound guy I “dated” in high school? Let’s not relive the past.

I got married almost two years ago, which means that I have a husband. His name is John.

He’s the one wearing the suit.

As I said, I do love running, sadly, my left hip does not love running nearly as much. I had an abnormally-shaped femoral head (aka, hip ball), hence the torn labrum I suffered last summer, hence my DNS-ing the 2011 Chicago Marathon, hence the arthroscopic hip surgery the day before Thanksgiving 2011, hence me happily/exasperatedly/angrily/joyfully trying to get back into running shape, hence the, aptly titled, blog. (You can read a more exhaustive recap of my hip being a total ass in the About section).

I’ve come a long way since I started to “run” in January. I’m running the Chicago Spring Half Marathon this weekend and I ran 14 miles this past Saturday, so, barring any major catastrophes, finishing shouldn’t be a problem.

Well, I feel like we’re all caught up, which is nice. Now we can settle into a cute little routine where I indulge my closet narcissism by posting about my every minor athletic accomplishment, and you read while rolling your eyes in exasperation. Stick around, it’s bound to be a good time.

Welcome to The Unnatural Runner!