Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pitiful Pre-race Paranoia and a Terrible Tumble

It's now five days until the big day, marathon day.  It's the day I've been training for since Thanksgiving.  I've put in the miles.  I've done the long runs.  I've recovered from Runners' Knee with PT.  Now there's nothing to do but wait, rest, pray, watch the weather, and try to stay healthy until the race.  It all sounds so simple, doesn't it?

I floated around blissfully on Cloud 9 for several days after the Berry Half Marathon.  My knees were a little bit sore (shame on me for not stretching better after the race), but I knew I had two easy weeks ahead of me.  For some crazy reason, last Thursday morning I decided to go running around the neighborhood instead of running on the Silver Comet like I always do.  Turns out, that was a big mistake.

I didn't worry about speed as I started off.  I knew that I would be doing hills on this run, plus I needed to do some easy recovery running.  My plan was to run 8 miles that morning.  At about mile 4, I head up a steep hill, one that used to cause me to stop and walk every time.  That morning, however, I proudly bound up the hill without slowing a bit.  Just over the top of the hill was a speed hump.  Somehow my right foot underestimated the extra lift needed to clear the height of the hump.  I knew I was about to fall.  Instinctively, my right hand shot out to protect my knee from getting the worst of it.  With a hurt knee, I knew my race aspirations were done for.  My eyes were very close to my hand as I fell, so I could see them press the ground and then bend at an angle that I knew they were not meant to reach.  I felt like I was watching a Barbie doll whose fingers can bend in very wrong ways.  Even though my fingers broke the fall somewhat, I still hit pretty hard.

In a state of semi-consciousness, I lay there, sprawled across the street, taking mental inventory of my body.  Intuitively, I knew that I needed to move off the road, but I was not sure I could.  Finally, I made an effort and stood.  Even though I could see that my knee was bloody, I felt a small sense of relief that I could stand and even walk.  My hand, however, was in severe pain and I was almost a mile away from home.  I started walking and then I started running, trying to reach home to get my hand on ice.

Lots of swelling the day after the fall
As soon as I got in the door, my husband could tell something was wrong.  When he saw my hand and knee, he darted off to get some ice.  I had held off crying up until that point, but the pain and swelling was becoming severe.  I checked myself out and found that I had cuts and scrapes on my shoulder, elbow, knee, and both wrists.  My fingers started swelling a whole lot, and I started crying.  It was more than just from pain.  It was also from frustration over what I had done to myself.

By mid-day, I made another unpleasant discovery.  I was coming down with an unprecedented second cold of the year.  The tell-tale signs were there: a stuffy nose, chills, and extreme tiredness.  Emotionally, I took an extreme downhill turn.  Not only was it going to be hard to do normal things with only one hand, things like brushing teeth, washing hair, dressing, eating, etc., but also I was too tired to do any of it anyway.

...and gorilla knuckles!

Over the weekend, I was supposed to attend a 2-day choir retreat where a world-renowned director was coaching us.  I only made it to part of one day before I realized I did not have the energy to do more.  Everyone who saw my hand was alarmed, and many thought I should go immediately to the hospital.  It was all too much for me, so I went home and slept a whole bunch.

Today, five days after the fall and the cold, I am doing much better.  I am able to use my right fingers to type this note, and the swelling has gone down a whole bunch.  My hand ranges in color from blue and green to a lovely shade of yellow.  My knee still aches a bit, but I think I'll manage.

Five days after the fall

I do know there will be other races if this one does not turn out well.  It's just been a hard several days.  Now, I just wait and pray and watch weather and obsess, knowing that all I will do my best, and I will be proud of myself for undertaking this crazy mission.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Berry Half Marathon: A Success Story!

I headed to bed at 11:00 the night before the race, knowing that I was doomed to toss and turn during the 5 1/2 hours before my alarm was to ring.  I had set all my things out so I'd be able to function on autopilot at 4:30am.  The plan was to meet up with several of my Adventure Runners friends at 5:30 in the parking lot of the Kennesaw LA Fitness.  I had brought along a mug of hot black tea to help me wake up.  Two friends, Elise and Isabel, rode with me for the hour's drive up to Rome, Georgia.  Elise had brought some yummy, healthy muffins and bananas, so we breakfasted on the way up.

We arrived at the Berry College campus a little before 7am, and stepped out into the chilly air to search for the place where we could pick up our bibs.  I was so thankful that the rain was scheduled to hold off until after the race.  The cold was one thing, but cold and rain would have been totally miserable!

Even though we arrived early, we discovered that the packet pick-up location was a half mile's walk from the car.  We grabbed our race bags and headed back to the car where the heater and handy butt-warmer awaited us.  The short-sleeved tech tee-shirts looked very nice, and there were lots of other goodies, including chap-stick, a band-aid holder which keeps them from getting wadded up in a purse or running belt, several energy bars and gels, a magnet, and, of course, upcoming race advertisements.

At 8:15 we braved the cold again and waited in line at the porta-potties before hiking all the way back to the start line.  I ran into Tad and Chris, and was able to introduce them to each other and to Elise.  It really is fun when virtual friends become real-life, in-person friends!  Elise and I planned out our race strategy and decided we would each benefit by starting out together and targeting an 8:14 pace.

As the gun went off, I was very glad to be able to start warming up from the heat of exercise.  The campus was very pretty, and the crowd of locals cheered us on with great enthusiasm.  At the first sign of a down hill slope, I just let go and sprinted.  It felt really good since I was used to running on almost completely flat surfaces.

After running around campus for a couple of miles, the course led us down a long, straight flat path toward the mountain part of the campus.  I kept the pace steady and felt pretty strong.  As I passed about the 4 1/2 mile mark, I decided to go ahead and take a gel.  Even though it was a bit early in the race, I knew it would benefit me as I hit the oncoming hills.  Luckily a water station was not far ahead because I was already regretting not having hydrated quite enough.

More crowds had gathered at this part to cheer us on.  They has also planted inspirational and sometimes comical signs all along the way.  I had been bracing myself for a tough ride on the hills, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by how mild they seemed compared to the giant hill at the Tartan Trot 10K.  Also, there were lots of downhills to relieve me as soon as I ran out of breath going uphill.

On the two out-and-back places I ran into Tad as he was finishing and I was starting.  It was nice to know I wasn't embarrassingly far behind a really super-fast runner.  The two places were my least favorite because they were not paved.  The second one, in particular, was really tough because it had lots of sharp rocks embedded in the dirt, and the path led up to some rather smelly horses.  After that, we hit a rather extreme downhill patch where I could just let go because I felt I might tumble if I did.

Finally, we hit the paved road again, and I was very grateful to be sure of my footing once more.  This was the beginning of the long, straight stretch back to the main campus.  The crowd had thinned out by then, and I started feeling a bit more tired.  Luckily, there were more signs to keep me entertained.  These had senseless trivia on them - things like:  Did you know that the item most choked upon is a toothpick? and (something like) Termites produce 90% of the world's farts?  They were so silly, but then, my mind could not have digested anything more profound anyway.

The last two miles were very, very tough and lonely.  In looking back at my splits, I see that I carried them both at a sub-eight pace.  However, they took their toll on me.  I felt like a zombie and I wanted so bad to stop.  However, I wanted equally badly to just finish up, so I pushed on.  I once considered barfing on the side of the road, but I stuffed that impulse down.  There were no girls around me, and there were some college-aged boys nearby, so that made me feel reassured.

I looked at my watch at mile 12 and discovered that I had a tiny shot at hitting a 1:45 time.  This indeed motivated me to keep going strong.  In the last stretch where I could see the finish line, I might have sped up a little, but I had no true sprint left in me.  I also felt that my blood pressure was low and that I did indeed risk passing out.  Finally I crossed over the line and saw that I had indeed beat 1:46!  That made me so incredibly happy.  I never thought I could run that far, that fast!  It was such an unbelievable thing that I walked around in circles for a second, trying to shake the cobwebs out of my mind.

I was able to cheer on several of my friends who came in not long after I did.  Then we collectively headed over for some refreshments.  Elise and I picked up our time printout and were sad to see we had both landed 4th place in our age group.  Damn.  Must have been some really fast ones ahead of us!  What we did not consider, however, is that, unbeknownst to us, the 1st place winner in both of our age groups was named masters and grand masters winner, so that had bumped us each up to third.  Since our tired minds did not consider this possibility, we bolted early and missed our chance to receive our respective awards.

We finished off the morning with a group picture and a hearty lunch at Waffle House.  It had been a great day and a great race.  I'm thrilled with an official time of 1:45:54 (a pace of 8:06), even though I was really sad to have missed a Corral A qualifying time for the Peachtree Road Race 10K by 7 lousy seconds.

Today, as I rest my tired legs, I still feel that I ran the race well, shattering my goal of 2:00 and even my dream goal of 1:52, while setting myself up nicely for my very first marathon in two weeks.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monthly Recap & Goals - January

I'm a little late in doing this, but it's a good exercise to review and plan on a regular basis.

January highlights:

  • Total miles run: 184 miles
  • Total number of workouts: 22
  • Longest training run: 20 miles in 3:17:21 (9:53 pace) on Jan. 22
  • Fastest training run: 6 miles in 48:12 (8:02 pace) on Jan.15
  • Ran PT Solutions Resolution Run 10K in 51:59 (8:24 pace) on Jan. 1
  • Ran Tartan Trot 10K in 49:05 (7:54 pace) on Jan. 28 - set new 10K PR!!!!

(Being the techie nerd that I am, I can see a chart or graph coming up in the future as I accumulate these stats. - ha ha)

January was truly a great month of running!  I finally got over my Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (AKA Runners' Knee) that started last November with some help of a great physical therapist.  I did all sorts of awkward and challenging exercises and stretches, but it was all worth it.  Now I am extremely thankful for every day that I run with virtually no pain.  Interestingly, even those guys at PT looked at me like I had grown a third eye when I told them I was training for a marathon.  Truly, other runners are the only ones who understand.  Thank goodness for each and every one of you who "gets me" and my running obsession!

I also enjoyed doing a few group runs with Adventure Runners and with friends Elise, Chris, and Ken.  Although I generally prefer to run by myself on weekdays, I really look forward to doing weekend runs (especially long ones) with a partner or group.

My time on the Tartan Trot really built up my confidence and helped me get over my fear of hills.  It also earned me a spot on Corral B for the Peachtree Road Race 10K on July 4.  My husband has been in A for several years now, and I wish to one day be up there too.

Looking into February, I have the following short and long term goals:

  1. Run the Berry Half Marathon on Feb. 18 in under 2 hours.  If I am lucky, I hope to break 1:52, but I don't want to push too hard because my first marathon is coming up on March 3.
  2. Plan to run a race every month in 2012.  I'm pretty much set for this except for the month of June.  Ideas, anyone?
  3. Complete my first marathon.  I actually would love to run it in under 4 hours, but I'm sure I'll cut myself a lot of slack if I don't reach that goal.
  4. Get a 10K time of 47:59 some time in 2012 so I can be up with the big boys in Corral A for the 2013 Peachtree.
  5. Stay healthy and injury-free.  I must really not let ego get in the way of this goal!  I still remember how down I felt when I could barely walk, much less run, when my knee began to hurt.

Today is a day off because yesterday I did my third-ever 20-mile training run.  This is going to be the last one before the marathon.  Whew!  I'm thankful to feel pretty good today even though I was a bit hobbled yesterday afternoon.  :-)

More to come after the Berry on Saturday!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Runners Are Kindred Spirits

I find it interesting that people who don't run often have very similar negative reactions to those of us who do.  These reactions range from staring like we've sprouted a third eye, to telling us how much they hate running, or even complaining about how bad running is for one's health.  At least I find comfort in the fact that, as exasperating as these looks and comments can be, the support from fellow runners is even more powerful and positive.

Other runners "get" us in a way no one else seems to.  Whenever I meet someone who runs, I instantly feel drawn to them, and want to get to know them better.  I guess that's why I love the Daily Mile web site.  Daily Mile is like Facebook geared especially for runners.  Not only does it keep track of daily, weekly, and monthly miles, but it also serves as a place where runners can comment on the postings of friends.  Each day (and especially on the weekends) I look forward to posting my run stats (distance, pace, location, and general remarks) and to viewing those of fellow running friends.  We routinely congratulate each other on great race times, fast or long training runs, and other milestones.  We also console each other or commiserate when one of us has an "off" run, an injury, an illness, or just a temporary lack of motivation.

I feel so lucky to have such great friends on Daily Mile.  Some are far better athletes than I can ever hope to be, and some are right in my same range of ability.  No matter how fast they run, though, they all reach out through cyber space to support fellow runners by commenting on the runs of others.  I definitely feel understood when I read the comments made to my own posts.

It's only four short weeks until marathon time, and I still can't quite believe I am going to join the ranks of those who proudly display their 26.2 bumper stickers and medals.  I'm just so glad that several of my Daily Mile friends will also be there with me in Albany, Georgia, so we can all celebrate at the finish line!  Until then, I still have a few "miles to go before I sleep..."