It’s Raining Worms! (Or, OMG, I’m Running a Half Marathon in a Pacific Northwest Monsoon)

worms

Flickr photo,aur2899’s. It was raining too hard to take out my phone and snap a photo

Every once in a while, I check in with my sanity radar. Sometimes it is broken. Case in point: April 6, 2013, Yelm, Washington. Q.What could be better than driving 2.5 hours on a Friday night, getting lost while looking for the only hotel in the area, spending the night, and running in a cold downpour for slightly over 2 hours? A. Just about anything!!!

This particular race came to be after an extensive internet search of all the half marathons I could find within a reasonable driving distance, that would get me qualified for the Half Fanatics.

Becoming a Fanatic was of utmost importance to me BEFORE May 5th, 2013, because that is when the Tacoma City Marathon takes place. This is the tenth year anniversary of the Marathon Maniacs, and, well, you just HAVE to know who THEY are! There’s going to be a huge number of Maniacs and Fanatics, a party, special medals, and ….need I say more?

Last year I qualified for the Maniacs, after running two full marathons in two weeks. (Isn’t that why I got injured?) I signed up for the Tacoma Full, but with my recovery going slowly, I have to switch to the Half, or risk epic failure of mind, body, and soul. I have learned my lesson about pushing too far,  too fast, too soon.

So my daughter Dede and I braved the ridiculous weather, and finished in a very legit time of 2:11:36. Not bad for my first comeback half! Did I mention that I ran the first 5 miles inside a huge black plastic garbage bag? I looked like a giant black Sponge Bob. I wouldn’t let anyone take my picture in that get up, so don’t expect evidence.

Here we are sitting in the car 50 feet from the start, staying warm and dry before the race

Here we are sitting in the car 50 feet from the start, staying warm and dry before the race

A soggy and cold finish

A soggy and cold finish

I will complete my second qualifying half marathon this Sunday in the Vernonia Half Marathon and Marathon. Then it is off to Tacoma for the party!

 

That's my girl! Dede qualified today for Half Fanatics!

That’s my girl! Dede qualified today for Half Fanatics! (Notice the beautiful ring on her finger. She’s getting married in June!)

So here we are both qualifying for some crazy club, running in the rain, and questioning our sanity, when it dawned on me that this is exactly what I love and get giddy about with running.

There are challenges, pain, excitement, new friends, achievements, temporary failures, and successes, all in the name of fitness and fun. Running can so much more than lacing up your shoes and heading out the door for the drudgery of trying to stay in shape or loose a few pounds. 15 months ago, I was a solo “jogger”, just experimenting with the sport to see if I could make it a routine. Now I am the member of several running clubs and groups, I’ve run marathons, half marathons, a Ragnar 200 mile relay, numerous 5k’s and 10k’s, and made friends all over the country. I’ve even started blogging about it.

I plan on doing this nutty sport, with all it’s trappings for a very long time. I used to think I couldn’t run because:

1.) I have a bad back

2.) I don’t have the time

3.) It’s bad for women

4.) It’s too cold

5.) It rains too much here

…plus many other reasons, but none of them matter now, because it IS what I do. Through injury, recovery, bad weather, GI issues, fatigue, cold, heat, and snow, because I love the whole world that running has opened up to me. My fitness level has soared, my attitude is great, and I am getting stronger every week.

You might see yourself in my rantings, and I hope you do. I love hearing other people’s stories and learning what got them started and what motivates them to keep going. What goals have you set for this year? Mileage? Speed? A particular running event?

Whatever your goal is, you never know what you might find along the way. Who knows? It might even start raining worms on you one day!

Miley Cyrus Gave Me a Gift

I’m not a Miley Cyrus fan. I don’t pay any attention to her really, although I do know who Hanna Montana is, or was. But last Saturday, I got a wonderful gift from her! OK, so she didn’t actually send me anything, maybe it was nothing more than a “being in the right place at the right time” sort of thing.

So here’s the mystery: What do  running uphill, Winter in Oregon, Exercise Induced Asthma, and Tendon tear recovery have to do with Miley Cyrus? Stay tuned my little chickies, and I will tell you.

Last Spring, on a training run with my Honey Badgers, we were running up what we call Cemetery Hill, for some lung splitting 45 degree hill training. Well, 45 degrees might be exaggerating, but, trust me, it was STEEP! Anyway, up we went, switchback after switchback, when all of a sudden, I heard this whistling sound coming from my heaving chest. Not knowing what it was, I kept going, but slowed way down and told my friends I would meet them at the top. Rose, a nurse, decided she was going to hang back with me. This was NOT because she too was struggling, mind you, but rather, because she didn’t want to have to keep looking back at me to evaluate at what point  the CPR should commence.

I managed to make it to the top and continue the run with no other problems, and I brushed it off as early Spring allergies. A few weeks later, on another run with Coach Jim’s Elite Runners in Training, we were running up Mt Tabor, another steep run with several switchbacks, and it happened again. THIS time, I thought it was a panic attack, so I slowed way down, calmed down, and was able to recover and continue to the top and beyond. At this point, I developed a secret fear of running up steep hills.

When the wheezing returned a few more times I actually did contact my doctor, and low and behold, I have Exercise Induced Asthma, so I now have the pleasure of carrying ONE MORE THING with me along on my training runs.

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My little friend “Sniffy”

Sniffy now travels with me to every run and workout, and manages the job of keeping me breathing, thank God, so now I have no excuse for wheezing up the hills, unless of course, I am in fact, having a panic attack. (If I ever write about my Ragnar Race, I’ll tell you about the Grand Mal of panic attacks at 1 am)

Two and a half weeks ago, I started with my running come back, after a long break due to injury. I’ve been logging some short miles, and Saturday was to be my longest yet, clocking in at just over 8 miles. As it turned out, my training group was going to be running Mt Tabor. My nemesis. THE HILL. ASTHMA. PANIC ATTACK. ACHILLES TENDON TEAR. Oh God, I stressed all week about this run. I showed up at 8am and met approximately 60 other brave souls out for anywhere between 8 and 20 miles in temperatures in the low 30’s. Portland runners are just amazing-there were people in shorts that day. I had my trusty layers on and my secret weapon, hand warmers, inside my gloves.860735_10200842375000969_387207006_oWe headed out in our respective pace groups, and I plodded along the first 2 miles of warm up, with Mt Tabor looming in the foreground. At mile 2.4, the climbing starts and within less than 1.4 miles, rises 400 feet. That might not sound so bad to some people, but it is a killer to someone new or newer to running, especially if you have psyched yourself out for it every time! Being the recently rehabbed runner who doesn’t want to end up with another 11 weeks off, I took it easy up the hill, and alternated running and walking during the steep parts. I wanted to regularly “check in” with my Achilles, and Peroneus, just to make sure I wasn’t hurting it again. I managed to scale the top,and circle around the summit, catching up with my pace group half way downhill, at the bathroom stop. At this point I was victorious. I had climbed Mt Tabor, I had survived it, and my foot and ankle felt just great. The rest of the run went superbly, and for the first time in months, I felt like I was coming back.

When I got to my car and headed to my office to shower and go to work, Miley Cyrus’s song, “The Climb” came on the radio. My radio station doesn’t usually play this song, so I was thinking, “Oh please, really? Miley Cyrus????” But then I started listening to the words and I started crying in the car. Before you dismiss me as being overly sentimental and emotional, let me explain.

I returned to running for the first time in 15 years,  just 3 years ago at age 50. In late 2011, I decided to train for a half marathon, something I had never done before. By Fall of 2012, I ran 2 marathons, and other than incurring a stupid injury, felt like I had accomplished one of the most incredible things I had ever set out to achieve. Then I was sidelined. Stopped cold.

Meico foot

This is me recovering by our pool in Mexico.The swelling had gone down.

Recovery is not sweet or swift at my age. I am struggling with the comeback. Every run is a major challenge. I want to run another marathon, and I want it NOW. I obsess about the finish line. I long to run with my friends at a faster pace. I want MILES!!!! But for now, I can’t do those things. I have to take it easy and gradually build it up again. I can’t risk damaging my foot and ankle again, by doing too much, too soon.

So, when I heard this song on the radio, I thanked Miley for the gift of words. Her song is now on my ipod, which in itself is pretty funny, but I will sing it over and over again, while I journey back to 26.2.

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”

Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I’m not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
Lyrics from <a href=”http://www.elyrics.net”>eLyrics.net</a> 

 

Finding a Rhythm in the Blues

I’ve lost my rhythm, (and another toe nail, but that gives me great joy because it reminds me that even though I am not the runner I was last year, my body still thinks I am). It only took 10 weeks, but it is gone. I didn’t even realize how important it was  until now. I’ll get it back, that a guarantee, but in the meantime it does kind of suck. Rhythm is paramount in distance running.

I signed up for the Tacoma City  Marathon on May 5th, before my Physical Therapist gave me the green light to run. Anticipating that the race would fill up, I HAD to secure a spot. This is the 10th anniversary celebration of the Marathon Maniacs, and there’s no way I am going to miss THAT party. Now I have 9 1/2 weeks to be ready to run 26.2 miles, and the most I have run since mid December is 4 miles. Well, the other day I ran 2 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon, so I guess you could call it 6. Have I mentioned I am also a member of the Idiot’s Running Club?

My foot is healing nicely, and most days I don’t even have pain; that is until I run.  I have a few twinges here and there. PT man says that’s ok, as long as it doesn’t hurt terribly the next day. I still wonder if I will ever run pain free again. I watch other runners effortlessly floating like gazelle down the streets and paths of Portland and I long for that blissful experience. Hell, at this point I long for a 6 miler! Now, more than ever I understand why runners panic if they take more than their “scheduled” day off. This whole “starting over” thing is the pits.

Last Fall, before I realized I was systematically ripping tendons and muscles in my left foot, I read an article about Bernard Lagat, an amazing Olympian runner and world record holder. This guy is FAST! He holds records in the 3000, 1500, and the mile. At 37 years old, he is still running and winning races. What I found interesting about him, outside of his achievements, was his training schedule off season.

Apparently, when Bernard is not competing, he takes off 5 weeks and does nothing! I was shocked to read this! I remember thinking, “Wow, this guy is nuts. Who has the discipline and confidence to do that every year and then get back into race form to go on and break records? Well, he IS just a child at 37. (Yeah right) Anyway, I thought there was no way I would take time off between races. When you’ve trained for 5 months for a marathon, why slack off? You’re already THERE for crap’s sake, so just keep running, right? Well, maybe for some people but not for those of us too stupid to see the signs of injury.

So here I am re-reading the article about my couch potato buddy Bernard, and learning that he takes time to be lazy. He rests for 5 weeks and pigs out, gaining up to eight pounds. HA! Of course if I gained eight pounds, there’s be no living with me, so while I may have shifted my flab during this sabbatical, it hasn’t amounted to more than two or three pound weight gain. The Wall Street Journal article goes on to say that when he starts his training again:

Lagat said it takes some time to work himself back into shape, but that is part of the process. A 30-minute jog on his first day back can leave him doubled over, short of breath. By week three, he can go for a 10-mile jog in 55 minutes. “I never push myself feeling like I should be in shape right away,” he said. “I know I have time.”

Now I know I have a friend in Bernard Lagat. For what it’s worth, I am trying to learn that I am not YET able to run a quick 10 miles before work whenever I want. My weekend “long” run might only be 5-6 miles this week. It might hurt. I might tire. I WILL curse. But I will continue to run, and like a good girl, I will ONLY push past the limits my PT gives me just a smidgen. Patience has never been one of my strong points. (see Patience from January 27,2013) I want it and I want it yesterday. Ho Hum. I will channel Bernard and all the other athletes that take time off due to shifts in training, injury, or personal preference. I will remember that it does take time to build endurance and muscle memory so that I can run injury free, strong, and with rhythm.

Besides the physical rhythm of running, or cadence, there is a rhythm of the mind that is a key component to distance running. If you can’t settle into a comfortable mental state while attempting 2-4 hours of running, then you are pretty much screwed. I had this NAILED last year. Now I am all over the place during my 30-45 minute runs. Getting this back will take some concentrated effort on my part. Maybe I need to switch to decaf.

The other rhythm that is a little off these days is my heart. I still don’t know what the scoop is, and I am waiting for the results of my recent 48 hour heart monitor test. Oh, that was fun. Check out the contraption I had to wear for two days. Can you just picture trying to hide that under clothes? And you can’t shower. I worked out three times while wearing this thing, and let me tell you, sponge baths are for the birds! So these days there are so many things that remind me of my age, and I’m getting really sick of it. Injuries, heart palpitations, grey hair, insomnia, and hot flashes can all kiss my ass.

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I have been poked, pricked, and prodded, trying to keep this bod going, and a little bit of “distraction” will not stop me. I’ll plow through this momentary lapse and be back in no time running races in goofy costumes, and collecting finisher’s medals, because that’s what I do to keep my sanity and my dress size.

What have you done to overcome an injury and push through your mental challenges?

5 Do’s of Athletic Club Treadmill Etiquette

Have you ever noticed how the treadmills and other aerobic fitness equipment is positioned so closely together in athletic clubs that at any given time an errant sweaty elbow might invade the space of the next door participant? It has been a few years since I had a membership at an athletic club, because I prefer to run and bike outside where I can breathe fresh air and have Mother Nature’s scenes unfold before me. Now that I am rehabbing my foot, I am supposed to do repetitive short spurts of running, mixed with walking, on a stable flat surface, so I have ventured back into the community gym. It didn’t take long before I remembered why I prefer the outdoors. I have come up with 5 do’s of athletic club treadmill etiquette.

1. Manage your space. Most clubs have a row of several treadmills along a wall, window, or other area where you can watch the goings on of TVs, people, or traffic. Unless you are superstitious or have a favorite one, DON’T mount the treadmill next to the ONLY other runner that happens to be working out. This is creepy. It messes with their rhythm and disrupts their concentration. Runners have all sorts of rituals and for most of us, if we are running on a treadmill, we are miserable. We only want to get it over with and any slight change in our little world will send us into a complete psychic breakdown.

2.Manage your volume. OK, it’s awesome and wonderful that you love Flo Rita, and I’m so happy that you’re a Wild One, but, seriously, keep it to yourself. Turn down your ipod. You are not the DJ of the day, sent here to cure me of my treadmill boredom by spinning your favorite tunes. And while I’m at it, DON”T sing along with your music maker! I might have to punch you.

3. Stop grunting. What’s with the people that think they need to grunt, moan, and otherwise make obscene noises while working out? It’s a treadmill buddy, NOT the International Weight Lifting Championships.I think if you are in that much pain, you shouldn’t be running so hard. See a doctor or something. Better yet, shut up and slow down. You are not impressing anyone.

4. Check your odor. It never ceases to amaze me how I manage to end up next to the person that has eaten nothing but onions and garlic, hasn’t washed their work out clothes in weeks, and didn’t shower after the previous night’s alcohol and sex marathon. Seriously! It’s earth shattering how disgustingly nauseated I get while trying to continue breathing while inhaling your vile, fetid stink. Here’s a suggestion: if you notice the posters on the walls starting to curl, and people around you turning away and dry heaving, take a quick sniff of yourself. Go to the locker room and at least take some soap and wash your arm pits. While your in there, check your “undies” to make sure you are not carrying around some extra surprises, and when all else fails, take your work out OUTSIDE. Next time, consider some good deodorant, and clean clothes. You are rude and inconsiderate!

5.Tread lightly. I often wonder about people that relentlessly stomp on treadmills. Why do they do that? What is the logic? The other day, I was next to this guy who made so much noise hammering away on that poor machine, that I thought he was going to break it. The whole room was shaking. (See #3 above. OF course, this type of runner also seems to be guilty of making every noise possible as if he is running for his life from the mob!) How does that feel? How’s your back? Don’t you hear yourself?

I hope to take my running outdoors permanently very soon. In the meantime, I will endure the claustrophobic challenges of using an indoor treadmill. If you happen to see me on one, my best advice is to steer clear. I am not happy here. I am not well. I may be prone to sudden outbursts of tears. I may start yelling at the machine and accusing the time clock of being broken. But take heart, I will be gone soon and you can have your safe haven back. Then you can stink, sing, sweat, groan, and slam all over the place without me.