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.

Dance of joy

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.

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

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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.

The icing on the crap cake

This week sucked.

Actually, other than something dumb I did on Monday morning that haunted me all week, it didn’t start off too badly. Monday after core class we ran three miles–yeah, it was dark but temps were in the 60s and nothing hurt. But Tuesday was Halloween. I teach middle school. You do the math. And The Days After are almost worse, with everyone hopped up on sugar.

Thursday’s workout was a long one–1.25 mile warmup, two 2-mile loops, and then 1.25 miles back. Our coach is in NYC to run the marathon this weekend, and the person who was supposed to sub for him … didn’t. Warm temps had returned, so arriving to the workout start with no coach and no water made things worse. Fortunately one of our friends was late to the workout and just drove straight to the meeting point. He was kind enough to get back in his car, go to Rogue and get a cooler of water, and come back.

I was supposed to run the two loops at HMGP, and I guess I started off that way. But the humidity, lack of hydration, and general exhaustion of the week (see: Halloween) bit me in the ass pretty early. I ended up sort of run-walking it. I almost didn’t do the second loop, but I am coming back from such a long layoff that I really want to make some forward progress now. So I did it, again run-walk-complaining my way through it. Total was 6.5 miles, and my quads disapproved. Ankle/shin was okay though, so there’s that.

The dog and I fell asleep around 8:30 Friday night, if that tells you anything about my week. Even after nine hours of sleep, though, it was difficult to get out of bed at 6am. But the overnight low was only about 70, so I couldn’t really start later like I did last week. Had to suck it up and hit the road.

It will not come as a surprise that I did not correct my hydration situation between Thursday night and Saturday morning, and nine hours of sleep was not enough to erase my ever-increasing deficit. That it was 72 degrees with 90% humidity didn’t help either. Thus my eight-mile run was about seven miles too long, according to my legs.

But I really didn’t expect anything different. It was the icing on the crap cake that was my week.

 

crap cake

My friends ran 24 miles, though, so it’s time to celebrate with coffee. And maybe real cake.

Rogue-iversary

I joined my first Rogue training group after I decided to train for the San Antonio Rock and Roll Half Marathon, but I missed the group’s first Tuesday night workout and Saturday long run because I was traveling with my family. Instead, I kept up with the training schedule by running the little cruise ship track (seven laps to the mile!) over and over. So technically my first “date” with Rogue was July 17, 2012.

Five years ago.

So let’s take a little walk down memory lane, shall we?

On September 8, 2012 I ran ten miles–double digits–for the first time.

On October 20, 2012 I ran my first 13.1 mile training run. A week later, I ran my first 10-mile race–Run for the Water.

And on November 11, 2012, I completed my first half-marathon.

What happened next–even moreso than finishing that race–changed the trajectory of my running life. I originally planned to run one half-marathon as a bucket-list thing, then return to shorter distances. But while I achieved my original goal, I felt like I had more left to prove. And to my surprise, I realized I enjoyed what I was doing! So when several people from my San Antonio group jumped over to the 3M/Austin half group to continue training, I joined them.

At this point, I fell in-step (literally) with a group of similarly-paced women. Little did I know they would become more than my long-run company. They took on the roles of shenanigan partners, sign-up-for-that-race enablers, race carpoolers, and biggest cheerleaders.

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Did I mention shenanigans?

Mile after mile, through bad weather and illnesses, chatter, laughter, and silence, we dealt with disappointments and celebrated firsts, PRs, new shoes, and life moments. Sometimes we only started together, then caught up when we each finished. And we started the all-important post-run coffee date tradition.

My son ran his first half-marathon accompanied by Rogue friends. He didn’t always run my pace, but several Rogues tag-teamed along the way to make sure he followed the course and was hanging in there with the distance.

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He completed his first half-marathon at age 10

I can’t count the number of people who have pushed me to run better, stronger, faster. Friends who pace me during a race, jump back in to a race they’ve completed to help me finish strong, even fly in from halfway across the country to help me PR a goal race. Friends who could kick back and drop their own mileage, but they stick to my training schedule to help me prepare for a big race. Then there are the coaches who devise torture speedwork to help me improve my endurance or pace or both. And don’t forget Rogues who come out in droves to cheer (often racing from location to location; funny signs are optional, but appreciated) as spectators when they aren’t racing.

One time, four of us formed a team to run a relay race. Yeah, we were the slowest team out there, but I’m proud of the fact that after three of us ran our individual segments, we joined our fourth partner (who was recovering from a serious illness) for her final leg so that she wouldn’t be out there alone. Another time they had to wait for me because I was sick post-race. Technically they were stuck because no one else could drive my stick-shift car, but I still love them for sitting with me in the medical tent area until I felt better. And I’ll never forget trying to run 3M undertrained, injured, and miserable, buoyed by a series of friends running with me, then handing me off to a small group waiting at the finish line.

Many runners find success training on their own, and I occasionally enjoy a solo run too. But I couldn’t have done the work to finish my first half-marathon, let alone run 14 more, if it weren’t for these folks.

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And many more!

Although one specific person inspired me to start running and I put in the work to stick with it long-term, I found it easier to show up week after week thanks to my training partners. Those days when the weather was bad, I thought, “well, Rogues run in the rain” and I showed up. When I got home from work, exhausted from cumulative lack of sleep and wanted to skip a workout, I knew someone was waiting to run with me, and I showed up. When a long-distance BRF texted me every day to ask how my run went, I showed up so I could give her an answer, not an excuse. When one of my coaches called me “tough” or praised my efforts after a difficult workout, I knew I had to live up to their opinions of me, and I kept showing up.

Change is inevitable–I’ve worked with six or eight different Rogue coaches, and runners move in and out of training groups depending on their goals. In the last year we’ve also had to adapt to a new training location, which meant new routes. Some friends have taken a training break (I miss you!) and new friends have joined us. Recently my workouts moved from Tuesdays to Thursdays, and we spend every other week at the track. I won’t lie–juggling the changes has not always been easy, and I’ve worried about Rogue CP as an entity–I still do, sometimes. But I have no doubt that the reason I’m still running half-marathons five years after my first training run is the camaraderie–and accountability–of Rogue, my friends, and the running community.

 

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So cheers to my five-year Rogue-iversary, and to all the friends I’ve made along the way.

Ireland: Day Three (driving)

Since I’d been to Dublin before, I had its basic geography in my head and could navigate around pretty easily.  But today, we moved into new territory: driving. 

We took the bus back to the airport where we picked up our rental car–they gave me an Audi–and I spent forever trying to figure out all the bells and whistles. I think fully half the time was spent trying to release the electronic parking brake. And then it was time to head out. 


I drive a manual transmission every day at home, and it comes second-nature to me. But shifting with my left hand felt really awkward. I couldn’t dwell on it too long, though, because I had to focus on staying on the left and following unfamiliar traffic signs. On the motorway, I found myself drifting to the left in my lane, I guess because visually I’m used to seeing the road from the left side. So I had to make a conscious effort to move further right. 

And then I had to navigate my first (and second, third, fourth, and fifth) roundabout. Actually these are pretty easy–I found traffic lights and turn lanes far more confusing. Which is weird. 

We took a detour to a town called Newbridge to see if I could claim my free birthday Starbucks, but alas we couldn’t locate it. Then Kildare was just a few more minutes down the motorway. Three roundabouts and a right turn, then a tight squeeze into a parking space, and we were at the Five Jockeys pub to pick up our race numbers. Because of course it’s at a pub. 😉 


The hotel where we’re staying was only a block or so further down the road–the race starts basically in front of the place–and after a brief trip around the block I scored a parking space I could navigate into reasonably well. Now I think the car will stay there for a while. Which is fine because it reeks of smoke. I cracked the windows–maybe it will air out some before I need to drive it again. 

Did I mention central Ireland is having something of a heat wave? It’s in the high 70s today; overnight it’s supposed to drop into the 50s, but the half-marathon starts at 10:30, and the hour-by-hour forecast predicts it will jump into the 60s by then. Fantastic. So I’ve lowered my expectations for this race juuuuuuust a bit. 

We’ll see in the morning, I guess. 

Ireland, Day One (Dublin)

A few weeks before our trip, I got an email from the airline notifying me that they’d changed our Austin to Dulles domestic flight to one that left Austin 30 minutes later, which in turn cut our connection time at IAD to just 53 minutes. To add another degree of difficulty, we couldn’t check in online because we were flying two different airlines. So we had to physically scan our passports both when leaving Austin and again at the Dulles gate in order to collect a boarding pass for the international flight. 

The airline agent in Austin assured me that since we’d checked in, the second airline would know we were coming. And the flight arrived about ten minutes early, most of which was negated by some questionable advice we got–to race from Terminal D to C, then catch the train to B. We were told it’d be faster than waiting for the military transport people mover to load up and deliver us from D to B. 

So that’s how we found ourselves sprinting through Dulles, sweaty and out of breath, arriving at gate B7484858 (seriously, how many gates do they have??) as the last group of passengers was boarding. We made it, but I seriously was not confident until I buckled my seat belt. 

So that was Wednesday’s workout. 

We arrived in Dublin at 5:00 A.M., by now Thursday morning. As predicted, I didn’t really sleep–running through the airport then sitting for eight hours wreaked havoc on my quads, and I couldn’t really get comfortable. 

But the jet lag would make that sprint feel like a walk in the park. 

Customs and baggage claim (and coffee-acquisition for me) went quickly, and we’d been deposited in front of our hotel by 6:45. Our first order of business was to find breakfast, a surprisingly difficult task at that hour. Then we wandered around trying to find the castle, stumbled upon St. Stephen’s Green and walked its perimeter, and located one of those hop-on, hop-off buses. We rode around more than we hopped on or off, and two of the three of us (not naming names, but it totally wasn’t me) fell asleep at least once. 


After I located sparkling lime water at Tesco, we headed back to the hotel.  I told them continued napping would wreak havoc on their jet lag, but they both fell asleep again. So I got out my running stuff and took off. 

Dublin is a busy city on a Thursday afternoon; road construction combined with crowded sidewalks made my first mile awfully slow, even in 59*. I didn’t see any other runners, even in St. Stephen’s Green. I felt like people were giving me the side-eye. And once it started raining, I know they were giving me the side-eye from under their umbrellas. 

I ran two loops of the park, then took a detour through Trinity College. Again with the side-eye. I don’t know–I went to the University of Texas, where students and community members frequently run through and around campus. I know I’ve done it a time or two–what’s not to love? It’s gorgeous, shaded, and pedestrian-friendly. Maybe it was the time of day, maybe it was the rain. But I saw a distinct lack of runners, and it made me wonder if I was committing some kind of cultural faux pas. 


I zig-zagged my way back to the hotel, avoiding an international incident.  

I’m not sure whether I’ll run again this week, or just wait until (gulp) Sunday’s race. But did I mention that our room is on the top floor of the BnB? The manager gave us the key and said, “Go up. And up and up and up.” And I managed 29,605 steps for the day. But first, sleeeeeeeep. 

It takes a village

As I prepare to tackle yet another distance race, I’m reminded that I didn’t get here alone.

My Rogue friends have followed my training schedule to support me–even when that means waking up at 5 A.M. to run 12 miles on a hot June morning instead of taking it easier with six or eight miles. And they could easily drop the midweek workout intensity down a notch for the summer but have continued pushing me.

When I have doubts about reaching my stretch goal, my running friends (and several members of my family) tell me I can do it. They listen to me bitch ignore my complaining about the heat/distance/rock in my shoe/chafing issue/whatever, indulge my obsession about pre-race weather forecasts and playlists, and drive me to races. They let me stay in their houses, sometimes displacing their children for me. They don’t let me slack in training, they pace me to PRs, they jump back into a race they’ve already completed to help me finish strong, and they cheer at the finish line. They message me encouragement.

They believe in me.

And during next week’s race when I start to struggle, when my tired brain says, “fuck it, that goal doesn’t really matter,” when everything hurts and I’m dying, all I have to do is look at my shirt and remember that my Village is with me, even from 4500 miles away.

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I hope I don’t let you down!