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…

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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.

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!