On the road again

No, not traveling. Running!

Thursday I met up with my training group and ran a pretty easy 3.25 miles. No pain, just a little soreness at the end. Even though my runs are very very short, I’ve been wearing calf compression sleeves during my run and compression socks the day after, and I think those things are helping. But I’ve run so sporadically over the last six weeks that even though I’m returning slowly, I knew today’s run–the third this week!–would tell me a lot about my healing progress..

My usual mid-week short run loop is just short of three miles, but I kind of felt like trying a new route today. A concrete trail appeared around a small reservoir in the adjacent neighborhood about the same time my injuries sidelined me, and I’ve wanted to check it out. I wasn’t quite sure what the exact distance would turn out to be, but I estimated somewhere around four miles. And no, I didn’t plan to run it all–I knew it would be wise to walk some of it, and I built that into my plan for the day.

It was 40-something and drizzly when I left my house. It’s about a mile to the entrance to my neighborhood, then I crossed the street and followed a dogleg into the other neighborhood. At the bottom of a little hill I took a water break in the park. There’s a small retention pond, a neighborhood rec center, some picnic space, and a water fountain. I ran through the park, up the sidewalk, and across the street to this tiny new parking lot carved out what I think is the last sliver of undeveloped land in this area.

My watch showed I’d gone 1.5 miles from my house to the beginning of the path. I’d never been down this path and had no idea how far it went, whether it looped around the reservoir or ended behind the massive new apartment complex. Seemed like a good opportunity to find out!

IMG_9964[1]

Turns out the sidewalk runs for about a half-mile between the reservoir to the left and the apartments on the right. At the end, I had the choice to turn around and go back, or continue along the sidewalk and make the loop back to the parking lot via the road. At this point I’d gone two miles, so I decided to turn around and walk for a bit. A couple of people were out walking dogs, but it was a pretty quiet path.

I headed back the way I came, out of the parking lot and back to the park with the water fountain. I walked a little bit more, then crossed the street back into my neighborhood and ran the last mile home.

I ended up with almost four miles total, about three of them running. And while I experienced some of the same mild soreness in my calf that I felt earlier this week, nothing hurt. I could have run more, endurance-wise, but I didn’t want to go too far too soon, so I stuck with the shorter distance with some walking.

Wow. Three successful (albeit short) runs in a row this week. That’s my high water mark for 2015 so far, I think. 😉

I need one of these workplace safety signs. Here’s hoping I don’t have to reset it to zero!

Advertisements

Things are looking up

After Sunday’s 13.1, I spent a portion of Monday sitting in my rolling chair while seventh-graders fetched things for me. Stairs presented something of a challenge, but considering how miserable I was the second half of the race, I felt surprisingly decent the day after.

IMG_9388

Tuesday, I had the green light to run three miles–no more. I met my training group, who ran a two-mile warmup to the starting point of the workout. Mindful of my three-mile limit, I skipped the extra loops and headed back to the store, walking halfway and running the rest. The good news? Even after its extreme test on Sunday, my calf gave me no problems. A little sore, but so was the other one! My three miles never felt difficult, my leg was fine, and I think the run helped both my recovery and my confidence. I’m pretty sure I breathed both a literal and figurative sigh of relief at the end.

I skipped out on the post-workout margarita party at a nearby Mexican restaurant, though. I know, I know! But I was tired, and I didn’t feel much like celebrating my race. Most of my training group ran PR times, and while I was sincerely, incredibly thrilled for all of them (I know they all worked extremely hard and deserved every accolade), I just wasn’t feeling up to it. Party pooper, I know. Everyone keeps telling me how great it was that I finished at all, time be damned, but I still haven’t really come to terms with the whole thing yet and I just wanted to go home and go to bed.

This morning I read this article about a woman who finished 3M with help from her friends. It really hit home with me, and once again I was grateful for the immense support from my own running friends (and family) that day. I’ve already decided that since I’m not running the Austin Half, I’m going to go out there and do the same thing for someone else. Or many someones, I don’t know. But I have this overwhelming sense of gratitude towards so many people and want to pay it forward.

This afternoon was glorious. While the Northeast dug itself out of the snow, we had warm sunshine. It was a windows-down-sunroof-open kind of day in Austin!

Sorry not sorry

Sorry not sorry

After work I had an appointment with my sports doctor who said I can run with my group tomorrow and again on Saturday, but keep the distance around three miles at a time. If all goes well, I can begin to resume a more normal training schedule, increasing a little at a time over the next couple of weeks. For once I have some time to work with–my training group actually goes up to the Austin Half on February 15, and since they’re all backing off on mileage leading up to the race, it’s perfect for me to ease back in with no pressure.

I won’t sign up for anything new, but I’m hopeful that I can salvage the two spring races I’ve already registered for–the Austin 10/20 at the end of March, and the Capitol 10K in April. So far, things are looking up.

Race, interrupted

Yesterday, at about Mile 11 of the 3M Half Marathon, we approached an intersection in which police were directing traffic. But instead of stopping the cars for us, they stopped us. We stood there as they waved car after car through the intersection.

I get it that we were slow and that streets had been blocked or limited for several hours, and that more people were out and about in their cars at this point in the morning. But isn’t that why the race pays for street closures and police support? We were slow but nowhere near the cutoff time.

I’m probably overreacting. I mean, I was already slow. What does another minute or two really matter? But still, shouldn’t every runner have an opportunity to do the best she can on race day, whether her finishing time starts with a one or a three? To be held up like that was frustrating on an already frustrating day. Our “respectable” time was long gone, but every minute’s delay dragged me further and further into personal-worst territory.

Then again, I suppose it could have been worse.

Mill Race Marathon, Columbus IN

 

Have you ever run into a holdup at a race? Am I overreacting?

I get by with a little help from my friends

By Friday morning, I was about 90% sure that barring some weird setback, I’d try to run the 3M Half Marathon on Sunday. Which of course meant that my calf felt sore most of the afternoon.

Packet pickup opened at 2pm Friday. Unfortunately, this year it was held at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. I say unfortunately not because there’s something wrong with the museum–it’s really nice and I like going there. But it’s downtown–two blocks from the Capitol where the Legislature just went back into session, and it’s across the street from the University of Texas campus where classes also resumed this week–which means parking is impossible and expensive. When I read that packet pickup would be here, I predicted there’d be problems.

I took the day off work Friday–remember K from the 2013 Army Ten-Miler? She and her friend (also, and confusingly, K–so let’s go with KP and KC) were meeting up in Austin to run this race together, and her plane arrived Friday afternoon. With the dicey parking situation, I didn’t think we’d want to try parking two (or three) cars downtown, so S and I met up with KP at a Starbucks, left her rental car, and headed to the Bullock. As I drove down MLK Blvd, I could see a long line of cars waiting to turn left on Congress in front of the museum, so I decided to turn two blocks earlier. I used to park down here for football games, and while a lot of the landscape has changed over the years, I still knew the back way. And lo and behold, I scored a street space on a one-way street a block off Congress. I parallel parked–to the left, in a stick shift, in one try–and we fed the meter enough change to last 30 minutes. Haha, that was optimistic.

If you’ve ever been inside the Bullock, you know the three-story staircase winds around the outside of a dome-shaped atrium, much like the Capitol rotunda. There’s a map of Texas on the floor, and behind it is more open space, presumably to handle the ticket lines and hordes of field trip kids. Well, when we walked in, we were directed to the end of the line, which wrapped around the atrium and up all three flights of stairs. We got there 20 minutes after packet pickup began. After about ten minutes, museum volunteers rearranged the lines so they snaked across the floor like a line at Six Flags to accommodate more people.

After 20 minutes, we knew we’d need more money in the meter, so S handed me her printed confirmation and ran back to the car. By the time she’d returned, we’d made it about 3/4 up the staircase.

Is this Six Flags or packet pickup?

Is this Six Flags or packet pickup?

We finally made it to the “expo” which was really about six vendors crammed into the middle of what appeared to be a storage room, with two lines of runners moving around the outside edge. About 10 volunteers worked at the pickup booths, scanning bibs and packing the 3M goody bag. There really wasn’t much expo to peruse, so we bailed out. As we left, the line to drive into the Bullock’s parking garage (and paying $8 for the privilege) wrapped around the block.

3M goodies and a great shirt

3M goodies and a shirt with the course map

All in all, we waited just about an hour. Which meant it was now 3:15 on a Friday afternoon, downtown. Yippee. But eventually we made it home. I heard it got worse before it got better.

Sunday morning, we picked up KP and KC, then drove the 15 minutes or so to the start. As usual, M and B were our Sherpas–they dropped us off, then planned to meet us halfway and at the finish. We met up with some friends, waited in the porta-potty lines, and headed over to the start area. I had no idea what to expect at all–whether my calf would hold up, if my stomach would revolt again, how my six-week hiatus affected my endurance, nothing.

I’d been given the green light to run–the only caveat was that if my calf hurt beyond a three on the pain scale, I’d have to walk. I couldn’t begin to predict whether it would hurt on mile one and get worse, or whether it would stay constant all race. Constant was okay, but what if it deteriorated early? Would I have to DNF? So many unknowns that the Magic 8 Ball couldn’t clear up for me.

The race begins up a gradual incline, and while my leg felt a little sore, it was just a dull ache, not stabbing pain. Nowhere near a three. KP is much faster and ran ahead; KC and I stuck together. It was about 40* at the start but I warmed up pretty quickly.

Start--it was perfect running weather!

Start–it was perfect running weather!

Through mile three, I felt pretty good. By five, I was dragging and was elated to see G and A cheering and ringing cowbells. At the halfway point, M and B were waiting. But by then, my injury-reduced training began to rear its ugly head. I had to walk more and more, not because of calf pain–it stayed at barely a one the whole race–but because my quads were protesting. KC coaxed me to run to the street sign, run to the water stop, run to that mailbox. Each running interval shrank as the half- quarter-miles ticked by. I tried to send her ahead at mile 8 but she elected to stay with me. I was grateful for the company, but I feel bad that I held her back when she was running strong.

I’d hydrated really well on Friday and Saturday and had taken some electrolyte tablets pre-race, trying to avoid the disaster at BCS six weeks ago, but I still felt thirsty throughout the race. I grabbed two or three water cups at the later water stops and took a couple of sips of Gatorade too. Somewhere around mile 11 I texted M that I reeeeaaaaaalllly wanted a sweet tea.. I don’t normally drink sweet tea, but it hit the spot after BCS and I was craving it now. Regular water wasn’t sitting well with me and I was afraid to overdo it on Gatorade.

Right around 11.5, G and A were waiting again! This was an amazing surprise and I was so glad to see them. They ran with us down the hill to San Jacinto where B was waiting (with KP, who had finished and walked back to Mile 12 to see us!) to run the last mile. And Posse East wasn’t open yet but M had cajoled someone working there to make some sweet tea! It wasn’t quite ready so M said he’d meet me at the finish line with it. Oh happy day!

Now that B was escorting me, KC ran ahead. I’m really glad she did, because I could run very little of that last mile. And then another surprise awaited me–at the entrance to the UT campus, my Rogue friend S waited! The last mile, I had a two-person crew now, and while I barely ran, I loved that so many people came out to help me finish.

At the 13-mile mark, S headed back to look for other running friends and as I turned the corner into the last stretch down Congress, I saw the three other Rogues I’d met up with at the start. They’d waited to cheer for me at the finish! B peeled off to the sidewalk–he felt a little self-conscious finishing with me since he didn’t run all the way. He ran alongside though, shouting and encouraging me. I could see KC waiting just past the finish line. But wow, this was the most difficult .1 of my life. I could barely run, I don’t know that it looked like running, but it was as fast as I could go.

The announcer called my name and I saw the time clock. A new personal slowest, 45 minutes slower than my PR time at this race last year. I have mixed emotions about this. On one hand, I was so disappointed in the amount of walking I had to do the second half and with the pretty embarrassing time I’d turned in. But on the other hand, when I woke up this morning I wasn’t sure I could do it at all. Wasn’t sure I should even try. And yet I finished 13.1 miles under my own power, not limping. I know I should be proud of that, or at least mildly satisfied. And I guess part of me feels a little accomplished.

But now I have a goal for next year.

Finisher

Finisher

Epilogue:

I’d like to give a huge shout-out to everyone who ran with me, encouraged me, cheered for me, and supported me today. There were so many of you! It wasn’t the race I wanted, but it was the race I finished under some measure of adversity. Thank you all. I’m proud to call you my friends. ❤

The hydration situation

Each of the last three times I traveled for a race, I hydrated poorly in the days leading up to the event, and I was horribly sick immediately following it. What’s that saying about fool me once…. ? Oops.

I’m not traveling for this weekend’s 3M Half Marathon, unless you count the 15-minute drive to the start. And I’m not 100% sure (poor) hydration is the culprit, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence either. Thanks to Nurse K for making the connection for me, I’ve got a plan for the upcoming week.

I don’t much like plain water unless it’s REALLY cold–more ice than water is ideal–and it’s summertime. January, not so much. But a couple of years ago I discovered sparkling lime water, and I drink it by the liter (except when I’m traveling, obviously). I keep smaller bottles in my fridge at school as well.

Nectar of the gods

Nectar of the gods

The problem is that my job does not lend itself to copious water consumption, since I teach 90-minute classes with one break in the morning and a 30-minute lunch, but my classes meet straight through after noon. Teachers learn early on not to drink a lot with lunch due to, shall we say, limited opportunities for restroom breaks.

This week, however, I’m going to test the hydration theory. Less so on Tuesday – Thursday, but I’m taking Friday off work, so Friday and Saturday I’m going to hold onto a water bottle like Lego Darth Vader grips a light saber.

And we’ll see how it goes.

Hallelujah!

I’ve run a grand total of 29.4 miles since December 16, thanks to this persistent calf injury. It was a vicious cycle–I’d run and it would start to hurt, so I’d rest and it’d feel better, so I’d run and it would hurt again, repeat. And not surprisingly, even with twice-weekly treatment, the injury wasn’t showing any improvement at all. So last week, after I had to bail on yet another training run, my sports doctor nixed all running. Three weeks, zero improvement–obviously ignoring the problem wasn’t making it go away. And if I had any remaining hopes of running the 3M half marathon on January 25, it was now or never.

So I went to core class, I did core exercises at home, but I did not run. Didn’t walk, didn’t cycle, didn’t do anything other than the exercises and stretches I was instructed to do. My son ran a 10K last weekend, but I remained solely a spectator.

This morning, after eleven days’ rest, I was allowed to run one mile. But only if I felt no discomfort whatsoever. The smallest little twinge and it was all over.

It’s been on the cold side (for Austin), rainy and icy and gross the last two weeks or so, but this morning I was greeted by sunny blue skies. I hoped that was a good omen as B and I set out to run the one-mile loop around my neighborhood. He chattered to me about a Minecraft Roman city he’s building for extra credit in his Latin class, and I focused on running a consistent pace and landing each step cleanly. I kept waiting for a relapse, but each passing pain-free step gave me hope that maybe it really was healed. I worried a bit when, at the halfway point, the street rose up a bit of an incline, but it felt fine. Not just pain-free, but… normal.

My watch beeped at one mile, and as promised I slowed to a walk for the remaining .1 to my driveway. I’d pushed my pace a little and was breathing hard–clearly my endurance has suffered–but for the first time in a month, nothing hurt. Hallelujah!

I still don’t know if I can run 3M next weekend, but I’m closer than I was a week ago.

Sidelined

Five days ago, it became obvious I’d have to skip this weekend’s 10K race. In many ways, this was a tough decision–I’ve never not run a race I was registered for. Plus it’s only the third year of this particular race, and I’d run the first two years. I felt like I was breaking a streak. But in other ways, it was an easy decision. It wasn’t a case of maybe-maybe notTuesday’s run was so painful, I really had no other choice. Especially if I want any kind of chance at running 3M in two weeks.

Instead of my usual Saturday morning 7am meetup with my training group, I slept in. The weather had turned pretty heinous, but honestly, if I could have run, I would not have complained about the sleety-freezing conditions.

Texans don't do winter well.

Texans don’t do winter well.

Instead of running, though, after lunch I headed out to volunteer at packet pickup. The shirts were oddly-sized (the women’s XL was smaller than the women’s L, for one), we ran out of a bunch of sizes, and more than one person arrived after packet pickup (and the running store hosting it) closed and we’d packed everything up.

Starbucks next door--what's not to love about volunteering?

Starbucks next door–what’s not to love about volunteering?

Even though I wasn’t running, B was, so we kept an eye on the weather, which hovered around freezing all day and night. When I woke up, I checked the race’s Facebook page, and they said it was a go. It was 34*, but the rain had stopped. I woke up Mr. Grumpy, who wasn’t particularly interested in my wardrobe suggestions, then I made some coffee, bundled up in my arctic parka, and we headed out.

The high school where the race started is only about two miles from my house as the crow flies, but there’s not a good direct road route. Still, it only took us five minutes to get there, and a line of cars had already formed at the parking lot entrance. We found a spot and headed into the school cafeteria to wait. This made all the difference! My winter race dilemma involves calcuating the sweet spot: early enough to get a parking space but late enough that I don’t freeze while waiting to start. Having the cafeteria open eliminated the “don’t freeze” part of the equation.

The 30K and Half Marathon races were scheduled to start at 7am, with the 10K at 7:15. But just before 7, they made an announcement that the start would be delayed. Apparently a “police emergency unrelated to the race” was blocking a segment of the course. They re-routed the course and sent the longer distances off after a 20-minute delay and the 10Kers about 15 minutes after that. B wasn’t even lined up in the corral when they sounded the horn, but he jumped in and disappeared into the crowd.

And they're off!

And they’re off!

He hadn’t run a 10K in a while, but we guessed he’d take at least an hour and fifteen minutes, so we went back into the cafeteria to wait. There was a youth basketball tournament going on in the gym and the halls were crowded with both runners and basketball players, and it struck me that the school didn’t plan that terribly well.

After about an hour, we headed back outside to the start/finish line, which was at the end of the driveway into the parking lot itself. For a better view, we waited for a break in runners and crossed the road so that we could see the last .2 of the 6.2-mile race. Just jogging across one lane of asphalt caused my leg to hurt again. It couldn’t have been more than ten steps, but ow.

As we waited, a friend who was volunteering near the end of the course messaged me that B had just passed her, and another friend finishing the race saw us and said that he was right behind her. We looked and looked for a kid wearing an orange and grey jacket. Nope, wrong orange. Nope, adult, Nope, no grey sleeves. As we stood there staring intently to our right, B appeared at my left elbow. He was wearing his medal. Somehow he’d finished without us spotting him!

B's bling

B’s bling

After the race, we went out for pancakes. And he’s been wearing his medal all day. 🙂