Texas Snowpocalypse

Central Texas doesn’t get a lot of snow. Or any snow, really. Every few years we get a dusting, but the last real snow–7.5 inches over two weeks–was in 1985. I remember missing several days of school, which cracked me up because, we’d recently moved here from Northern Virginia where I walked to school in deeper snow than that. But still, snow days were snow days!

Well, yesterday snow was predicted for the Hill Country, but Austin was not expected to see any precipitation. Yet I was sitting in a meeting after school when someone looked out the window and announced it was snowing. It hardly looked like more than rain, and nothing was sticking–it had been 80* on Monday–and I didn’t change my picking-the-kid-up-after-school plan because, well, he could walk the usual two blocks while a few flakes fell on him. Right after dismissal I got a text from him: SNOW! I told him not to get lost in it.

It picked up on the drive home, and it was actually snowing pretty hard when we pulled into our driveway. He immediately harnessed the dog and went out to walk and play in his dog’s first snow. It still wasn’t sticking, though.

Thursdays are training nights, and our coaches always remind us that weather isn’t an excuse–Rogues run in the rain, they say. And technically it wasn’t even raining. So I dug out my long tights, a long-sleeved shirt, a windbreaker, gloves, and a hat. It’s not like I have proper cold-weather gear, so I had to wing it.

With the grey skies, it was already almost dark when I parked my car and met up with my group–seven intrepid souls and our coach. By the time we headed out, snow had accumulated on our cars and was starting to stick to the grass. I’m sure as we ran along a busy road, drivers shook their heads at the crazy people out running. I took the shorter “warmup” route to the meeting point–at times, the wind blew snow right into my face and eyes.

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My workout was two laps of “marshes,” where we run the blocks more or less in a figure-eight–hard on the parallel blocks, rest on the shorter perpendicular ones. Some of the intense sections are downhill and some are uphill. Both were into the wind and snow. The others are all marathon training which means they had to run three laps, so I was finished a little earlier and headed back rather than standing around freezing. It was only 4.2 miles, but I earned some bonus badass points for running in the Texas snow, right?

It had stopped by the time I got back to Rogue. The streets were wet and my car’s back window was covered in snow, but it wasn’t any big deal to drive home. So imagine my surprise when, about 9:30pm, my school district canceled Friday’s classes! They said with freezing overnight temperatures, the wet roads were likely to develop black ice, which made it dangerous to try running buses in the morning. It’s the biggest district in the area, both geographically and in attendance–my area didn’t see a lot of accumulation, but other parts of Austin had more than an inch sticking on the ground. Usually the three next-closest suburban districts follow whatever we do. But one announced a two-hour delay and the other two said they’d operate on a regular schedule. I guess that’s an easier call when they’re less spread-out? I don’t know–it seemed a little premature, but whatever. I turned off my alarm clock and didn’t complain.

My friends are running their first marathon on Sunday–the snow and ice will be gone this morning–and I’m going along as moral support. They’re a little anxious, and one of them told me I am their sanity this weekend. I’m not sure that’s something they want to rely on, but I’ll give it my best shot! We’re driving up tomorrow morning to hit the expo and check in to the hotel, so with my unexpected free time today I can pack and get ready for that. And chill in my jammies with my dog, who is perplexed by the cold white stuff under his feet.

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Lost Light

Saturday morning, instead of running I had to go back to the doctor’s office for re-evaluation. Fortunately this was a down week (I think I was only supposed to run 6-8 miles) so I figured I’d make it up Sunday morning, assuming my stupid head injury checked out. The doctor told me that I could have residual headaches for a week (or three!) because the when the soccer ball hit my glasses, it likely bonked some sensitive nerves in my forehead, but otherwise nothing seems to be damaged. He released me back to regular life, so naturally I drove from the clinic to the coffee shop to meet my friends after their runs.

Their marathon is next week, so much of the chatter revolved around logistics. They want to drive up fairly early Saturday morning–it’s a two-hour drive, and the idea is to get to the expo around lunchtime. Which is fine with me–it’s their race, so I support whatever makes it easiest for them. But next week isn’t a down week for me–I’d have to either blow off a 10- or 12-miler or get up reeeeeally early to get it done before leaving for College Station. Neither option appealed to me. I mean, I’ve finally gotten back on track with my training after a long injury layoff! But then I thought, what if I did that long run this weekend (even with a low-grade headache) and and made next weekend the down week?

That idea came with its own set of challenges. We have plans for Sunday brunch with my dad who lives an hour away, so that brought me back to the early wakeup call to get it done in time. Okay, so what about Saturday evening? Well, a double-digit run alone, unsupported, meant I’d have to run the Brushy Creek Trail due to the availability of water fountains, but parts of that trail get creepy after dark.

Not only that, I wasn’t allowed to work on Friday due to a health issue–is it wise to try 12 miles on Saturday? The rule at my house was always if I missed school for illness, I forfeited any evening plans–if you’re not well enough to go to school, you’re not well enough to go out either. But I reminded myself that this time staying home was not my choice–if it were up to me, I’d have been at work Friday.

Finally I settled on what I thought was a reasonable plan. Park at the sports park–pretty well-populated, big parking lot with lights, restroom and water–then take the trail to the YMCA first, while it’s light. That section is not illuminated at night, which is fine when I’m running with one of my friends but less so alone. Then I figured I could stop at my car, pick up my headlamp, and head out the other direction. That section runs through a large park and along a well-traveled road so I figured it’d be okay even if I didn’t finish before dark.

The first half went well. It was warm and I had a low-grade headache, but it didn’t get any worse as I ran. I also added a mile by leaving the trail at 183-A and taking the multi-use path up to Brushy Creek Road and back before going up to the YMCA. So by the time I got back to my car, I’d gone six miles and I felt pretty good.

When I got to Champion Park, it was twilight, but a number of cars were in the parking lot so it looked like people were still out on the trail.

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Spoiler alert: there weren’t many people out on the trail. And while the path runs along a pretty well-traveled road, the trail itself is dark. I had my headlamp so I wasn’t worried about tripping, but I kept thinking that this is how people die in Michael Connelly novels.

In this section (about a mile and a half each way) I saw a small group of deer, one runner, and one walker. The super moon was bright, but mostly obscured by clouds. And by then my legs were tired–this was my longest run since the half-marathon I ran in June–so I was ill-prepared to escape someone who jumped out at me. Not that I really expected that, but being alone in the dark does fun things to people’s brains, right?

I got back to my car unscathed, but even though I’d parked under a street lamp, it was for naught because the lights weren’t on. A truck sat on the nearby road, headlights on, but that was the only illumination. And as luck would have it, my distance was only 11.8 miles, so I ran around the parking lot to get to an even 12. After I dropped my stuff in my trunk and unlocked my car, the truck drove away. I’d like to think they were watching to make sure I got to my car safely.

By the time I got home, I was paying the price for my efforts. My headache had returned and my stomach felt funky. After my shower, I could only curl up in my bed. Pretty sure I had not fueled or hydrated well during this run–it felt a lot like my post-Army Ten-Miler reaction a few years ago. After I while I made myself eat a piece of cheese and some dry noodles, and I started to feel better.

Even though I didn’t feel great after my 12 miles, I’m glad I got it out of the way on Saturday and can spend today recovering. And enjoying brunch.

Hard-headed

Just when things were looking up, training-wise, I literally failed to look up and a soccer ball hit me square in the face.

Ah, the perils of teaching middle school.

See, when my classes have a discussion, I toss a small kids’ soccer ball to someone, and only the person in possession of Wilson can speak. Much like the conch shell in Lord of the Flies, this keeps the discussion from devolving into chaos and teaches them civilized skills like listening to the speaker and taking turns (if only Congress were this savvy). Well, during my second class Thursday, a student tossed the ball back to me when I wasn’t expecting it, and WHAM.

For the rest of the discussion, the kids got out of their desks and walked the soccer ball back to me (again, if only Congress had these interpersonal skills), and while I soldiered on, I fought a headache the rest of the day. Advil didn’t really help either.

At lunch a friend gave me a beanie baby pegasus, which became my new conch shell.

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I am cautiously optimistic that even a teenager can’t throw a beanie baby hard enough to injure me.

But by the end of the day, my eyes hurt–I kept taking my glasses off because they seemed to make it worse–so I dropped by the nurse’s office. She was gone, but the office staff thought I should get checked out by a doctor. Sigh. I was handed a giant packet of worker’s comp forms and reluctantly got that ball rolling.

I still had to pick B up from school, so after I dropped him off at home I headed over to one of the urgent care clinics listed in the packet. No other cars in the parking lot, so hey, I was first in line. Filled out some forms, had to explain the absurdity of the incident a couple of times, tried to read the eye chart without my glasses (“Yeah, there’s a big E at the top, but after that…. “) and then the doctor came in. He checked all my reflexes with one of those rubber hammers, looked at my retinas with some kind of scope, and asked me a bunch of cognitive questions. Dude, I can barely count back from 100 by 7s on a regular day. And while I generally have outstanding vocabulary skills, after being whacked in the head I was barely adequate spelling “grand” backwards. But evidently I passed the test.

Physically, nothing appeared to be damaged or broken, and he didn’t think the ball was thrown hard enough to cause a concussion. But doctor’s orders: no driving, no working, no running. Use an ice pack and take Tylenol but nothing else. Come back for a follow-up Saturday morning. Because no running.

I had to drive home (it was only a few miles) but the tricky part was arranging for a sub. Fridays are tough–and Fridays in December are even tougher. Fortunately I have an easy-ish schedule this Friday, and several people volunteered to help with various classes and printing things and whatever else I needed. I hate asking people to do things for me, and I hate being restricted from normal life. But I am grateful for their help. ❤

I still have a bit of a headache this morning, but my eyes feel a little better. Hopefully tomorrow the doctor will release me and I can make up my long run on Sunday. Because I’m hard-headed like that. At least about my training.

Redemption

After Thursday’s Torture Turkey Trot and a late Texas football game Friday night, I was a bit wary about my chances of success for 10 miles on Saturday morning.

It was dark when I got home Friday night (technically by then it was Saturday morning…) and it was still dark when I left my house after 4.5 hours of sleep. See, although I’m a six-minute drive from Rogue, as luck would have it this particular long run was taking place in Georgetown, 30 minutes away on the toll road. It was also still dark when I started dragging my gear out of the trunk of my car. Which is probably why I forgot my sunglasses.

We’d run from San Gabriel Park back in July–coincidentally I’d run ten miles that day too–so I had a vague idea where I was going. I started around the same time as two others, right around sunrise, and while we didn’t run together, we were close enough that it wasn’t creepy on the trail like last time.

About a mile and a half in, my headphones died. This was the replacement pair for the ones that died during my half-marathon in Ireland back in June, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to be shopping for new headphones this week. Fortunately my friend was carrying a spare pair of corded headphones, so at least I wasn’t stuck inside my own head for another 8.5 miles.

My breathing was still a little rough (this is typical for the first few runs in cooler weather) so I had to take some walk breaks, but my running pace felt decent most of the time. I wore the compression brace on my leg, mostly out of caution rather than actual need, and it never bothered me.

It was slow overall, but I finished strong. And there were cows.

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Sunday morning I took an easy run with the dog, but he’s an erratic runner so I dropped him off back at home after the first mile. Then I went back out for another 1.75 miles–the whole distance with no compression sleeve or tape or wrapping on my leg. And it’s 100% fine. I also didn’t have any sort of breathing problems. I’m not in the same aerobic shape I was pre-injury, but I feel like maybe it’s coming back.

I don’t know if it’s realistic to have high expectations for the 3M half at the end of January, but right now that’s my unofficial goal race. I missed 3M this year (NJHS went to D.C. that weekend) and Ireland didn’t go the way I’d hoped, so 3M 2016 is still my half-marathon PR. Now that I’m back on my feet and training well again, I’m hoping two months is long enough to give that one a shot.

Turkey

The last couple of Turkey Trots have included some obstacle–one was the day after I’d had some blood drawn and I had no energy. A couple have been too warm. And then there was yesterday, or what shall henceforth be known as the Agony Trot. Which is unfortunate, because the Running Gods also gave me perfect running weather, and I was excited to finally put together a good run at this race.

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At least through the first two miles.

And then everything fell apart. My lower back hadn’t felt great before we started, but it was manageable. Then some sort of abdominal cramping started rolling in waves. I hadn’t eaten anything weird, so I really don’t know what caused it. But I wasn’t even halfway through the race and I found myself barely able to run. I tried, but I had to walk a lot. My formerly-grumpy teen tried valiantly to cheer me up–and I appreciated that, even if I was unable to muster the proper recognition at the time. And I managed to run the final stretch to the finish line. I’m not sure how I made it back to the car, but collapsing into the front seat didn’t really improve my situation.

We stopped at a mom-and-pop grocery (whoa, there’s still something like that in Austin? I thought those guys had been gentrified out of existence by now) and raided their first-aid section for a cocktail that included ibuprofen and something that may have been Imodium. I couldn’t even identify what was wrong, so I threw a bunch of things at it and hoped something would help. It felt a lot like an episode that landed me in Urgent Care (with a bill of $8000) almost exactly a year ago, but I wanted to avoid THAT again if I could.

I felt a tiny bit better by the time we got home. A shower (and more Advil) brought more improvement, and by the time we were ready to leave for my mom’s I was drinking coffee and feeling cautiously optimistic. After the two-hour drive, I was hungry for Thanksgiving dinner.

This morning I decided I needed to do some kind of redemption run. Not too much–I have ten on the schedule Saturday morning–but something to get back on my feet, so to speak. I ran a fairly easy-paced two-mile loop around my house, then added a few strides from my driveway to the corner. The Agony Trot reminded me that I have a lot of work to do before 3M at the end of January, so now is as good a time as any.

My reward?

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No ankle brace, nothing compression-y on my shin! I only ran the second mile (and strides) this way but it felt 100% normal. It’s still bumpy to the touch, so I plan to keep rolling it and trying to work that out. And for tomorrow’s ten-miler I might wear the wrap again just because of the distance–I don’t think I’ve run ten miles since my half-marathon back in June. But if I had to choose between feeling awful during the race yesterday and having my leg at 100% today, that’s a no-brainer.

And now it’s time for some leftovers.

Ankle bone’s connected to the shin bone

If you run your hand along the inside of my lower tibia, you’ll notice the fascia feels oddly bumpy. That seems to be the last manifestation of whatever this injury has been, but as long as I wrap it tightly, I have been able to run on it pain-free.

Skelly’s form is better than mine

I’ve been using that semi-reusable self-adhering tape (pro tip–if you Google it, skip the result about “bondage pleasure tape” when your kids are around) because compression sleeves and socks seem to focus on the calves, not the shins. I bought an ankle support sleeve, but the last time I ran with it, about two weeks ago, it felt pretty loose and I had some pain. I’ve been hesitant to try again–I don’t think I am emotionally prepared for a setback–and the time never felt right. I wanted to protect it during a Thursday quality workout, then I didn’t want to risk it on a long run, and then I went to Shiner for a race. Yesterday I ran eight miles, so this morning’s short recovery run around my neighborhood seemed like maybe a good time to give it another try.

I wore it like the picture suggests–there’s even a little indentation for your heel–which made it loose around the bumpy tibial area. But for the first half-mile or so, it was fine. Around .75 I had to stop. Not because my shin hurt, but because the seams on the underside of the sleeve were putting weird pressure on my heel and arch. I pulled the sleeve up and wore it more like a typical compression sleeve, except shorter. And I didn’t feel it again for the rest of my three-mile run.

Temps were in the 40s and it was sunny and perfect. I’m still struggling to breathe–I think my inhaler has expired–but my pace was better than yesterday and I felt … normal.

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Dance of joy

My ankle bone might be connected to my shin bone with bumpy fascia, but it doesn’t hurt. And that makes me happy.

Shiner Beer Run, or I’m So Glad I Ran the 5K

After a busy last-day-before-a-holiday, I met my friends in the school parking lot (carrying two backpacks and an Athleta bag) and we hit the road to Shiner, Texas.

After the obligatory Buc-ees stop, we arrived at the Spoetzel Brewery to pick up our race stuff. And as luck would have it, they had run out of my shirt size. They promised more were coming, and they gave me a pencil to trade for a shirt in the morning. But I was skeptical, considering they gave pencils to just about everyone picking up packets, shirt problem or not.

Shirtless, I grumbled and complained a lot. But margaritas and Mexican food took some of the edge off. I wasn’t brave enough to try their special beverage the night before a race, though.

After dinner we checked into the hotel and tried to wind down. I didn’t sleep well, though.

By about 7:30 Saturday morning I’d successfully traded my pencil for an appropriately-sized shirt, but we still had time to kill before the race. The half-marathon started at 8:30 but the 5k-10k folks didn’t start until 8:45. Did I mention it was 72 degrees with eleventy- billion percent humidity? Ugh.

We took some pictures in front of the giant inflatable beer bottles, then saw our friend off for the half. Fifteen minutes later, it was our turn. I had no real expectations for this race–last year I ran a PR here, but after being sidelined by injury this fall, I was happy just to be running again.

I cranked up my music and took off.

The first half of this race is uphill. It’s not super-steep, and it makes for a fast(er) finish, but it does provide a challenge right out of the gate. Add in the warm humidity, and I was hitting my asthma inhaler before the turnaround. My second mile was my slowest, but then I got to take advantage of the downhill return.

I finished probably a minute and a half behind last years’s time, but all things considered I’m pleased with my race. I was at mile two before I even noticed that my leg felt fine–the only pain was from my labored breathing.

We collected our medals (medals this year!) beer, and sausage wraps and sat on the grass waiting for our friend to finish the half. The sun came out and it was probably in the 80s by then. We kept looking at each other and repeating, “I’m SO GLAD I ran the 5K.”

We made sure to pay attention to the awards because one of us (not me) won an age-group trophy! And this year we took the brewery tour, the stairs of which were slightly more difficult for some of the runners. Again, I was glad I just ran the 5K.

A cold front is supposed to come in this evening (naturally) so at least it will be more comfortable when we meet up for our long run in the morning. They’ve got 22 on the schedule; I’m jumping in for the last eight or so. Which hopefully won’t be uncomfortable after just a 5K.