Low mileage, but not a restful week

I didn’t exactly rack up the miles this week.

After last Saturday’s failed long run, I went out Sunday for an easy 20-minute run to see how my back felt. Not 100%, but only mildly sore rather than painful.

Monday and Tuesday I had evening work events, which meant no Monday core class or run, and no Tuesday training group run. Monday’s event was at the school board where 24 teachers were honored by the board for achieving or renewing National Board Certification. Because the district offices are downtown, we left my school early, parked, and walked over to Whole Foods for dinner.

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National Board was a grueling process; renewal only slightly less so. Achieving certification (twice!) is one of the proudest achievements of my career, and I appreciate the board’s recognition.

I ended up with more than 14,000 steps, but none were from running.

Tuesday was my school’s National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony. The two of us co-sponsors and about 15 eighth-grade volunteers had two hours to locate the sound system (it’s usually set up for us already), set up three tables of cake and punch, prepare candles for the officers’ candle-lighting, strip 100 roses of thorns and tie blue and white ribbons on the stems, make and fold 300 copies of the program, run through the officers’ presentations with them, then get 100 new members organized in alphabetical order for the processional and seating. The ceremony itself went smoothly, and afterward  a couple of parents sought me out for pictures with their new NJHS-member kids. My own child was forcibly photographed with his certificate and his mother. 😉

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I’d eaten pizza for dinner (we feed our teen volunteers as efficiently as possible) and my only exercise was running around the school for three hours, so when I got home and it was still light out, I quickly changed clothes and managed two miles before it got dark. My back felt fine, even after the almost 19,000 steps I’d accumulated–I mean, I only ran two miles, so 15,000 steps came from the work I put in getting ready for the ceremony. In comparison, a typical workday gets me around 8,000 steps.

I enjoyed both of my events for different reasons, but by Wednesday I was glad to go home right after work. I hoped that the water had receded along Brushy Creek Trail–it’s got more shade than in my neighborhood, and I wanted to get back on track with a five-mile run. Unfortunately the trees blocked most of the breeze, so the still, humid air did me no favors. I stopped several times for water and a breather, but the trail was indeed open all the way and I got it done.

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More rushing water than usual

Thursday I did a squat-heavy Fitness Blender workout, then went out for that 20-minute loop. Except I stopped at my house for water at just over one mile and never made it back out. My legs were toast.

Last night, B’s lacrosse team had a rare Friday game. They played a very physical 8th grade team–often B was up against kids six inches taller. Some of them looked old enough to have driven themselves to the field. These were guys almost ready to start high school–a player who’s old for his class could be nearly 15 years old; B, on the other hand, is young for his class and doesn’t turn 13 for two more weeks. BIG difference. But that didn’t prevent him from stopping one kid with his body  and using his smaller size to get under their sticks for ground balls. His scrappy little team played tough against kids young adults who had a clear physical advantage. They lost 2-4, with much credit to his team’s goalie who had at least 10 saves, maybe more like 15.

Tomorrow morning we’re running a 5K put on by a local sandwich shop. It’s a the nearby high school and it was inexpensive, so with the Chuy’s race gone, we figured why not.

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It’s going to be humid and warm–I ran the two-mile loop again this morning to shake out my muscles a bit, considering my low-mileage week–and since it had stormed again last night, the air felt soupy and gross. But then again, I’d slept for ten hours and didn’t get out until 11am. Maybe it will be better at 8 tomorrow morning.

And guess what? I’ve saved the best part for last.

After the 5K, I’m driving out to the airport to collect J! She’s coming here for work again but managed to get a flight a day early. We’re going to go to B’s last lacrosse game, then kick back at her fancy-schmancy Barton Creek hotel for the day. The weather forecast is iffy, but we’ve already proven we can have fun just about anywhere together, so whatever. Umbrella drinks taste the same at an indoor pool and an outdoor one. And we’re planning a longer run Monday morning, just like old times.

For once, I’m looking forward to a Monday. 🙂

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Held back

We got so much ran last weekend, with more on the way Monday morning, that most of the local school districts delayed school by two hours. It wasn’t actually raining at my house, so I went out for a short run before heading to work. That kept me from having to fit it in before or after core class later in the day.

We slogged through the humidity for Tuesday’s track workout, and Wednesday I dealt with some work drama and only managed a short Fitness Blender workout. Thursday I drove out to the trail intending to run five miles, but I had to turn around at about 1.8.

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The trail is somewhere under all that water.

I managed four miles by taking a short out-and-back detour on the way back, but I blew off going all the way to five. It was hot and I felt sluggish and leaden.

I didn’t get good sleep last night all week so as usual, I was not brimming with enthusiasm this morning, but it was a pleasant, cool morning for our planned ten miles.

The first two miles I distracted myself everyone around me with the Work Drama story, but I ran out of story by 2.5 miles in. And then I noticed my lower back was feeling achy. Sometimes I sleep weirdly on my stomach, arching it too much, and have to do the cow-cat yoga stuff to stretch it. But I hadn’t felt that this morning, so I couldn’t explain why it hurt. All I knew is before the second water break, I had to walk because of the discomfort.

We got moving again and I ran most of the next mile. Not easily, but tolerably. It wasn’t a stabbing pain, but more like someone was squeezing the muscles.

At one of the dead-end streets, two of our companions went left for the six-mile route while S and I turned right for the longer one. I tried, but I could not start running again. So we walked some more. At first I told myself we’d just walk the uphills. But uphills became downhills, still walking.

Knowing we’d reach a third water stop in a half-mile or so, we tried running again. I managed it, but the muscles just wouldn’t shake out and it was obviously getting worse each time I tried to run. I couldn’t even straighten up completely. I knew then it would be unwise for me to attempt ten miles. At the water cooler I made the call: turn left and head back.

I thought about walking just for a bit, then trying to run some more, but I eventually decided to cut my losses. Running another half-mile or whatever wasn’t going to improve my fitness, but it could very well cause harm. So we walked.

In the end, I think we ran about half of the 7.2 miles my Garmin said we covered.

I found some Advil in my backpack, did some stretching, and met the others for coffee. Somehow my drink got overlooked, so I was coffeeless for much more time than I was prepared for. But we found a table outside in the sun. I guess the Advil did its thing, because sitting and chatting for more than an hour didn’t bother me. But once I got home, I could feel it tightening up again. So… I guess I’ll rest it this afternoon.

Two steps forward, three steps back.

Random thoughts

My brain has been a jumbled, sleep-deprived mess all week–seriously, yesterday in class I twice couldn’t dredge up the word I needed to finish my sentence, and my seventh-graders had to rescue me–and because I took it easy on my recovering knee, I didn’t run much this week. So really, this post just reflects the inside of my head. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • Sunday night, M and I went to see Bryan Adams in concert. I’m pretty sure the primary demographic was over 40, but damn, we knew alllllllll the words. FYI, he is a fantastic performer. I’ve seen him four times: a big arena concert (1987), a small small nightclub (1998), an acoustic show at the Paramount (2009), and a smaller arena show (2016) and I’ve loved every one. Although considering the aforementioned demographic, I wish it had not been on a Sunday night. 😉
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“Straight from the Heart”

  • Monday after work I was assaulted by fire ants.
  • On Tuesday I woke up to a left eye so puffy that I could see it out of my peripheral vision. I had to choose between looking like I spent 30 seconds in the ring with Rhonda Rousey or feeling sluggish from the Benadryl. In the end, it was both.
  • I think my car has a secret Invisibility Cloak option, judging from the number of people who have pulled out in front of me or have otherwise tried to occupy the space in which I’m driving.
  • My kid received his acceptance letter from my school’s chapter of the National Junior Honor Society. And he got in on his own merits, not because his mother is the NJHS co-sponsor. Swear. It’s a good thing he’s smart, because if it were a room-cleaning honor society, he would not qualify.
  • The grading period ended Friday, which means I received a flood of panicked “What can I do to bring up my grade?” inquiries. My response? Magic wand or time machine.
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A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part. Even if Mom or Dad asks on your behalf.

  • I thought for sure yesterday was a full moon, using my students as a gauge. Turns out it’s not until NEXT week. This does not bode well.
  • A kid in one of my classes is so funny, the other kids have created a quote wall in his honor. It starts with, “The older I get, the more I can relate to Squidward” and (so far) ends with, “Can we please listen to the Russian national anthem?” There’s also one about yodeling. Another class period is jealous and wants their own quote wall.
  • When we were running this morning, S announced, “I used to give my cat Starbursts, and I think that’s what rotted his teeth.” Now I need a long run quote wall too.
  • I found my favorite Mizunos on clearance. Amazon’s “Only 2 left in stock!” got me–I ordered both. Sorry not sorry.
  • I follow directions reasonably well. As instructed, I did not run Wednesday or Thursday, although in what turned out to be something of a tactical error, I did a squat-heavy  Fitness Blender workout on Thursday. Knee held up fine, but this morning I still felt some quad soreness when we started running. Oops. But we ended up running 6.2 miles–atoning for last week’s 10K debacle–and I was pain-free.
  • Anyone want to babysit one of my cats? He does not approve of my sleeping late, and he shoves his nose into my face long before I’m interested in getting up. I want nothing more than someone to grade my essays to sleep for a dozen hours tonight, but this ridiculous feline thwarts even the simplest of goals.
  • Speaking of essays, these damn things aren’t going to grade themselves. Guess I’d better get on that.

The knights who say “knee”

I used to be a knight like you, but then I took an arrow to the ni knee. Well not an arrow as much as an old injury that cracked the cartilage. I had surgery on it in 2000 and it’s not given me many problems since, but occasionally it likes to remind me it’s not 100% stable.

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Which it did at about mile 1.5 of Sunday’s Cap 10K. We walked the remaining 4.75 miles, and it bothered me periodically but not consistently. It didn’t feel like a serious injury though, so I took it easy the rest of Sunday and during the day Monday. In arguably the second-greatest case of injury denial ever, before I went to core class Monday evening, I drove out to the trail to test its recovery.

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The first quarter-mile, on a completely flat surface, it felt fine. But on the downhill sections for the next half-mile, I had to stop and walk multiple times. But it seemed okay as I headed up the little switchback and along the flat section to finish one mile. The next little downhill felt better so I kept going until the 1.5 marker. On the way back, nothing hurt but I could tell I had changed the way my left foot hit the ground, I guess out of concern that the next step might hurt.

Tuesday at work, it felt significantly improved, but a couple of times going down the stairs I noticed a twinge or two. I decided I’d go out and meet my training group, but I’d back off or walk if it hurt at all.

My sports doctor does injury evaluations at Rogue on Tuesday evenings, so when I got there I had him look at it. Based on the fact that I ran hard for ten miles the week before, and my quads felt fatigued pretty much all week afterwards (and the left one was still really tight), he thinks I just didn’t rest it enough before attempting another race a week later. Even though we weren’t racing, per se, the steady elevation increase the first 1.25 miles put extra strain on what has always been a slightly unstable joint. He said I could run with the group (actually he recommended I rest it until Saturday, but since I was already there he knew I would reject the idea of NOT running) but if it hurt at all, I’d have to bail.

In the end, I ran the 1.25-mile warmup, the two-mile run, and  the 1.25-mile cooldown with no pain at all. The route’s varied elevation didn’t make a difference–it felt fine the whole way.

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The next couple of days, I will do some kind of cross-training instead of running, and I’ll only run five miles on Saturday. Then hopefully I can be back at full-strength next week. Ekke Ekke Ekke Ekke Ptang Zoo Boing! indeed.

Cap 10K: a bump in the road

From the beginning, I had no plans to really race this one. I’d left it all out on the course last week for my 10-mile PR and I still felt some fatigue, plus I had a pretty horrid week at work. And let’s be honest: unless you’re an elite or near-elite, it’s way too crowded to maintain a viable race pace. Still, I expected to run a respectable-for-me time.

But when I said, “Could this week possibly get worse?” I meant it as a rhetorical question, not a challenge.

We were in Corral C–not the fast people, but not the walkers either. I think three corrals came after ours. However, right at the start I had to dodge two women who crossed the starting line, cut in front of me while carrying small dogs, and stopped. Then there were the walkers who had either gotten a Corral B bib somehow, or had lined up in C instead of one of the later ones they were assigned to. I mean, Walking Lady Wearing Jeans and Armadillo Guy, how are you in front of me??

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And it was humid. SO HUMID. Let’s just say I was glad my PR race was LAST weekend. So with these factors in play, I gave up even the idea of respectable time fairly early on. Which is good, because I would be less disappointed with by what happened next.

The course followed the streets around the Capitol, then turned west on 15th Street. There’s a short uphill, then a couple of flat blocks and a slight downhill. Somewhere in this stretch, between Congress Avenue and Lavaca, I felt a sharp pain behind my left kneecap. I tried to shake it off for another block or so, since so often these weird pangs come and go, but by the time I crossed Guadalupe, I could no longer ignore it. I was clearly limping and I couldn’t put my full weight on my left leg. I slowed to a walk.

B, who had run only grudgingly to begin with, did not mind a walk break. The others slowed as well. Another block, and M suggested we just bail at the Starbucks on the next corner. It was tempting, I’ll tell you. But I decided I could keep going, just not running.

Climbing the Enfield hills presented a problem–uphill put the wrong kind of pressure on whatever was happening behind my kneecap–so I had to lean on B now and then just to keep moving forward. But weirdly, it wasn’t a consistent pain. It’s not like I’d torn something and there was a before and after. It hurt, then it didn’t, and then another random shooting pain stabbed at me. I resigned myself to walking the rest of the damn way.

At the aid station on Winsted and Enfield, S saw the medical folks taping someone’s leg and suggested that might help me, but after a brief hesitation, I kept walking. I just couldn’t see what they could do for something behind my kneecap. And after spending involuntary time at the med tent back in December 2014, I wanted to avoid a repeat visit if at all possible. Besides, we were more than halfway done. I felt pretty sure I could limp walk the rest of it.

The water stop sponsored by Whataburger had no Whataburgers, and the Clif Bar station had no Clif Bars. But on the road between Austin High and the Hike and Bike Trail, some spectators were handing out bacon. You can bet we stopped for THAT.

Since we had nothing but time, we amused ourselves costume-watching –Santa, Waldo, Pikachu, and Cookie Monster. The armadillo costume we’d seen earlier was super cool too. But damn, some of them had to be miserably warm in 70-degree temps. The guy wearing only superhero underwear and a cape had the right idea, as far as that goes.

Near the end of the race, the sharp-ish pains seemed to be fewer and further between, so as we crossed the First Street bridge toward the mile 6 marker, I decided I’d try to run the last .2 to the finish line. And of course, my knee felt totally fine. We finished in pretty much my worst 10K time ever, although now I wonder if I could have run more of it than I did. I know it was smart to just walk, especially since I never planned to really race it anyway. But still, this result was NOT what I had in mind.

Maybe next year I’ll dress up as an armadillo.

Avengers: Assemble!

After letting things sink in the last couple of days, I got to thinking about this year compared to last year. From the BCS Half in December 2014 to the 10/20 in April 2015, a series of injuries prevented me from training (and racing) well. In fact, I ran personal-worst times in just about everything. I was beat up, frustrated, and I began to wonder if this was my new normal.

Target acquired.

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After an (injury-free) summer of building strength and endurance in which S and I had suffered through 5am Wednesday cross-training workouts and rebuilt mileage slowly, I started fall training with some optimism.

Target engaged.

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I ran a much-faster September 8K race than I expected, leading me to attempt a pretty ambitious goal time at October’s Army Ten-Miler. I ran a seven-minute PR but missed my goal by thirty seconds. THIRTY DAMN SECONDS.

Target angry.

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Frustration aside, I was (mostly) pleased with my progress, but I knew my road to redemption was a long one. Once again, I made the 3M Half my goal race. After the 2015 disaster, I had something to prove there.

A minor setback with a sore adductor muscle in my left leg forced me to dial the intensity back for a few weeks, and I became immediately concerned about going down the injury road again. But thankfully it was a minor thing. I was able to continue running on it and it returned to training at full-speed fairly quickly.

And suddenly, 2016.

In January I PRd at the Rogue Distance Festival 10K by four minutes and the 3M Half Marathon by almost ten. And this past weekend at the Austin 10/20, I reached crushed the goal that had eluded me in October. Over two 10-mile races I’ve knocked eleven minutes off my PR at that distance since this time last year.

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I have a couple more races on the calendar this spring, but nothing I’m considering a goal/PR race–the Capitol 10K on Sunday with M and B, and the Medina Half Marathon with K and our friend J from Canada. That’s not to say I don’t want to run well and finish respectably, but rather than stress about it and race hard, I’m just gonna enjoy running with family and friends. At this point, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. With my sights set on new goals going forward, I think I can officially declare my 2014-15 season avenged.

Hulk SMASH indeed.

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Come on in. We’re celebrating.

2016 Austin 10/20

I had one goal for this race: get back those thirty seconds from the Army Ten-Miler (2:00:29) and finish in under two hours.

Short version: I crushed it.

Long version:

I slept like shit Saturday night. I twisted my elbow or something in my sleep, and it hurt all night. I think I woke up every hour or so, between discomfort and the early-rising cat who likes to get right in my face and hit me with his nose.

Then there was an accident on the highway and cars were backed up to the entrance ramp, not moving at all–that many brake lights at 6:30 in the morning is not a good omen. So we stayed on the access road and meandered around through some side streets to get back on the highway on the other side of it. Phew. Then we missed our exit and had to figure out how to get around the road closures. But we made it to our usual parking area without incident. Stuff like this is why I like to leave early though.

It was about 50* outside, so after S and I got organized, we walked over to one of the hotels and sat in the lobby for a while. Fearful of the stomach distress that got me at the end of 3M, I took an Imodium about 45 minutes before the start, then we headed out to meet another friend. Fortunately, M and B were our Sherpas, and we could keep our jackets on until the last minute, so waiting around wasn’t bad at all.

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One of our race strategies was to run the tangents–take inside corners and avoid extra mileage by making wide turns. So S and I started on the right side of the road, knowing we’d be turning right somewhere in the first mile. We did this pretty well, because at least the first three miles our Garmins were dead-on with the mile markers.

Somewhere on Burnet Road, around mile 2.5, the leaders–at mile 5.5–passed us coming back the other way. It’s fun to see them because they’re so badass, but it’s also kind of deflating, know what I mean?

Miles 3-4 went by pretty fast, even though the band playing “Rocket Man’ blasted the lyrics “I think it’s gonna be a long long time” as we passed. We did a lot of winding around the same industrial area the first part of 3M goes, albeit a slightly different route. I remember being surprised by how quickly we reached the mile four marker. From there we headed back up the way we had come, except this time with a short dogleg down another side street, and then returned to northbound Burnet toward the Domain. I’m pretty sure several volunteers at this water stop were former students! And then we passed the five-mile marker. Yahoo, halfway done and still on target. By now the mile markers were ahead of our Garmins–the opposite problem from Army Ten-Miler. Either we were running tangents really well or the distance was off. We crossed our fingers that it was the former.

We saw M and B at about mile six, just as we turned into the IBM complex. The water stop had Gatorade and kids offering high-fives–I took both. I’d been good about drinking water at every stop, but at this point I’d warmed way up and Gatorade tasted like nectar of the gods. The band hit the first notes of “Sweet Child of Mine” as we ran by, and it gave me a boost. We hit the 10K split (two minutes slower than my PR from January but still on pace for this race) then turned the corner for the cold towel station. Ahhhhhh. Lots of runners discarded their towels, but I kept mine around the back of my neck. My concerns about a hot second-half were realized.

At this point, we both started flagging a bit, especially when a series of stealth inclines increased our effort level without increasing our speed. Knowing the rest of the course offered no shade, I just hoped I could hang on for three more miles.

We met M and B again right around mile 7 (I never saw the marker though) and steeled ourselves for the toughest part of the race. Another stealth incline, a slight downhill, then a loooong incline before looping around to the downhill again. The mile 8 marker was at the top of the first long stretch, and with the Garmin beeps we knew we’d definitely lost some time. We expected it, but considering the effort level, it was a little disheartening. Mile 9 wasn’t a whole lot better, even with the downhill segment, because we were both breathing hard and had to walk a few steps.

Finally, we made the last turn. It’s deceptive though–we still had about 3/4 mile to go. And most of it went slightly uphill, with a more pronounced uphill right at the end. We could see the finish line, but it was almost like a mirage in the desert. It was there, right there, but it wasn’t getting any closer. We tried to pick up the pace but the mirage had tricked us into speeding up too early, and we had to walk a couple of steps just to get enough oxygen to keep going. I wanted to be done, I wanted to just sit down, but I didn’t let myself walk more than about ten steps–what if I missed my goal by the number of seconds I lost right there??

Through the last intersection, lots of spectators and loud music and energy. Finish strong. Up the last hill–no walking now–and then we started passing people. I knew S was right there, even though I couldn’t see her.

Then I got close enough to see the race clock: 1:56.

We had definitely not started at the front, so chip time was easily a minute behind the gun time. And at that point I knew I’d done it. I had nothing left, but for once in my life, I crossed the finish line smiling.

Official chip time was 1:56:13.

We collected our medals, water, and snacks, then meandered over to the lawn to wait for the guys. As I sat there, a runner came up to me and said, “Thank  you for that shirt. I was behind you most of the race, and I wanted to walk but I didn’t.”

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This is one of my favorite race shirts (it’s from the Army Ten-Miler) and I’m pleased she took the time to tell me that. It’s awesome to know that I (unknowingly) helped someone along the way. I learned later another friend of M’s had been running behind me for a while too. After seeing my Instagram post about it, she replied, “That was YOU?”

Other than the PR, this race was significant in another way too. Everything hurt and I was dying the last half-mile two miles, but after I finished I felt good. Upright. Not queasy or shaky or green.

I guess I finally found the right combination of fuel and hydration. Before I left my house I ate toast with peanut butter, then had a Fig Newton just before the start. I drank water at every stop and Gatorade twice (mile 6ish and 7ish) and popped a few Sport Beans roughly every other mile starting at four. And of course the Imodium.

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I drank half a bottle of water and ate some fruit snacks as I sat on the grass near the finish, and we went straight from the race to scarf down some Mexican food. It was glorious.