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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Training -- physically and mentally

Having spent the majority of my life terribly overweight trained my brain to compensate for things.  I'd try to hide under clothes or behind people in photos.  I'd convince myself that I couldn't do something before I'd even tried.  Some things in life were unavoidable (e.g. school tests, performance reviews, etc..) and my brain would immediately go to the worst case scenario.  Generally this meant I ended up in tears with Dan rolling his eyes saying "you always do this and everything works out" and he was usually right (yeah, I hate that too) but I never figured out how to change my brain so it didn't go full tilt negative.

No, this photo will NEVER get old
The reason I bring this up on the blog is because the same thing happened yesterday while I was out running with one of my favorite people in the world, Coach B.  There are some scheduling issues and I knew I wouldn't see her for over a month (gasp) so we decided to get together for a run yesterday.  As we headed out she told me to run whatever pace I felt comfortable and she'd hang with me.  We were planning on only running a little over 4 miles so I was cool with whatever.  The sun was shining with low humidity and I was running with someone who has provided me so much guidance and inspiration that I didn't really care what pace we were running.

Apparently my new shoes came with rocket boosters?
She was doing most of the talking with the occasional comment or question from me and I was having the most fabulous time.  She told me crazy stories and we joked about family vacations.  I honestly could not have been happier.  Right until I looked at my watch and noticed that we were running sub 9:XX/miles.  The only time I've run that fast was doing speed work before the Oshkosh half back in April and I was only running that speed for short bursts.  In the first mile I didn't pay much attention to my watch but I knew I was pushing hard.  I heard my Garmin beep when we'd gone a mile and briefly looked at it and thought wow - that was fast.  We kept moving along and when the second mile revealed an even faster time my brain kicked in and started to take over.

I ended up convincing myself that I needed a break.  Coach B agreed and we walked for a bit, started to run again when I complained of cramping and so we slowed our pace.  Was the cramping caused by dehydration again or was this a mind over muscle thing?  Maybe a little of both.

When we finished our run I asked Barbara what I should do next?  I had been really tempted to sign up for the Chicago half marathon in September but was worried about training over the summer.  She looked at me in that way that you know she's going to tell you something you probably don't want to hear but know you need to hear and told me I need to suck it up.  She told me that I need to push through my brain telling me that I can't do something because I can.  When I told her that my first 3 miles of the last half marathon were low 9:XX/miles and that I don't normally run that pace she looked at me and said, yes, but you can.

So during the summer I'm going to suck it up so that on September 8 I will be prepared to toe my fourth half marathon start line.  I have a training plan (and I love having a detailed plan) and a shiny new goal/PR in mind!

Are you training over the summer?  What races are on your calendar?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pre and Post Race weeks

When it comes to weight loss/maintenance these last two weeks have been the hardest.  About a week or two before the half marathon the amount of miles that I'm running begins to taper so that my legs can recover from all the miles.  Then you run the race and after that you spend time recovering from the race.  The difficulty comes in trying to moderate how much I eat during those weeks.  While I was logging a lot of miles it was natural to eat more, hopefully they are healthy choices, but as my miles begin to diminish so should the amount that I'm eating.  Except, someone forgot to tell my appetite that!

The other problem I have is that I've grown accustomed to the high mileage weeks.  I got used to spending a certain amount of time out running or cross training.  However, I know the benefits of the recovery periods as well so during the taper weeks when I'm spending less time running I need to figure out where to spend that extra time.  And it has to be away from food.  It's a change I'm working on ... slowly.

I think that continuing to monitor the amount of protein I'm eating has been helping because my weigh-in this week went better than expected.  After indulging at Revolution Brewing on Saturday after the race and trying to re hydrate since the race I'd expected to be up.  Luckily, the scale was forgiving and I lost the same amount that I gained last week.

How do you manage the recovery weeks and not eat the entire kitchen?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Race Recap: Chicago 13.1

Matt, me, Julie
Yesterday I ran the Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon with Team Challenge.  Running with Team Challenge is always an amazing experience and yesterday didn't disappoint.  My race weekend actually began Friday night with the Team Challenge Inspirational Pasta Party.  I was able to see Julie (@semicolongirl) and meet Matt (@matthewmelnick) which was awesome.  I met Julie (who I follow on Twitter) last December in Las Vegas because she put her twitter handle on the back of her singlet (great idea, by the way) and was thrilled to be able to see her again.

Naomi showing her team spirit!
Coaches Barbara & Kim
Mentors Jen & Naomi
At the dinner there are a few guest speakers including the grand daughter of the founders of CCFA.  We also heard Kyle, a Team Challenge Illinois Honoree, speak and receive two standing ovations.  They also named the top 10 fundraisers and the amount of money that each of these people raised is nothing short of incredible.  The top 1 and 2 fundraisers raised over $18,000 EACH!  After dinner we had a quick Team Challenge Illinois team meeting and then I headed straight to bed.  It'd been a long day and any alarm that starts with a 4:XX is never a good thing.

I had nightmares about the race all night.  I dreamt about everything from getting lost, falling/injuring myself, to completely missing the race.  I woke up with sore shins but hoped that as I walked around to get ready that the achiness would go away, and it did, mostly.  We took a few team photos in the lobby before we boarded the shuttle bus to head to the South Shore Cultural Center.

That's @JasonKVD in the black
baseball hat behind me!
When I entered the race I used my finish time from Oshkosh as my projected finish time so I was actually in the corral behind the 2:20 pacer.  I was disappointed about this but since I didn't even know there were going to be pacers at the race I figured I'd just follow my original race plan.  Remember when I said I met Julie because she had her twitter name on her singlet?  I decided to do the same and met another twitter friend!

They were releasing corrals at a pretty quick interval.  The race began at 7 am and they were sending my corral out at 7:23 am.  I didn't think this was so bad considering some of the Chicago races I've done have left me standing there for over an hour!  When we took off I couldn't even see the people from the corral in front of us and since I had lined up at the very front of my corral and I felt like I was in first place for awhile!

Passed Dan, Bob and Sheri @ Mile 3!
Mile 1:  9:17
Mile 2:  9:20
Mile 3:  9:49
Mile 4:  9:44

I saw these splits as they ticked off on my watch and knew that I needed to slow down because I don't normally run long distances at that pace.  I'd caught up to the 2:20 pacer and passed her still hoping for my 2:10 finish time.  The sun was beating down on us and I was sweating.  A lot.  I grabbed water from the aid stations when I passed and drank a little from my water bottle in between but I was still super hot.

Mile 5:  10:10
Mile 6:  10:46

At this point I found Coach Mark along the course and stopped to walk.  My legs were burning and I took some chews and more water.  We walked and talked for a little bit and I told him that my legs were hurting and he told me that I needed to take it easy if I was hurting because it was a lot warmer out than it had been while we were training.  I tried to keep that in mind as I started running again.  By the way, thanks for the pep talk Coach Mark!

I met up with Coach Kimberly shortly after that and we walked and talked a little while too.  She got me through a water station where I refilled my water bottle, used the emergency Nuun tablet I'd stashed in my fuel belt before heading to the turn around.  I really thought I was ready to run again when suddenly my left calf started to cramp up.  I practically jumped off the path and hit the grass.  Coach Bill was nearby and came to help stretch it out.  I've never had cramps like this (thank goodness) and I was happy for any help!  Thanks Coaches Bill, Kimberly and Ann (who is the Team Challenge Illinois coach for the Nashville race and came out to cheer us on) for taking care of me.

After he massaged the knot out of my calf we got back on the path.  My watch got a little messed up around this time so I don't have mile by mile splits for the rest of the race.  Bill and I started out walking and he told me that walking might be best for me to prevent the cramp from coming back.  I tried to run a little bit when I could and could sometimes manage a half mile or so.  I caught up with the 2:20 pacer again, and foolishly enough I passed her, again.

Coach Paul from Texas
Around mile 8 or 9 there was a Team Challenge cheer station and they asked me if I was doing alright and I broke down, again, because my calves hurt so bad.  They had me sit and gave me Gatorade, Goldfish crackers and a salt packet.  I stretched my calves some more before getting up to walk, again.  Then a coach from Austin, TX caught up with me and walked with me until around mile 11.  I was extremely grateful for the company and the safety of having someone else with me.  I passed Dan, Bob and Sheri around mile 10 and swapped water bottles with him since he had a full bottle of Nuun for me.  Shortly after that I met up with Coach Barbara and the coach from TX ran on.  I completely forgot to say thank you so if anyone knows the guy in this photo, please let me know how to contact him.

I explained to Coach Barbara about my legs and we tried to run but every time we tried my calves kept spasming.  I was frustrated and angry that this was happening but Coach B tried to keep my mind off of talking about other things.  We finally passed another water stop and I grabbed a couple more cups of Gatorade.  I knew I wanted to finish this race running, even if I spent so much of it walking, and I figured the extra electrolytes would help.  When we were about a half mile from the finish Coach B told me to suck it up because I needed to run.  She was absolutely right and even though it hurt I ran.  It wasn't fast but I was running.

I saw Julie again!  I saw Michael (we trained together this season) running with Coach Kimberly! Finally I saw the finish!  Coach B grabbed my hand we crossed holding hands.  I grabbed a bottle of water and drank nearly all of it immediately.  Thankfully, Coach B grabbed a medal and hung it around my neck cause I was too focused on the food/drink to worry about it!

My official finish time:  2:47:58

Obviously this wasn't even close to any of my time goals but I continue to learn things about me and my running:

  1. This is only my third half marathon and I've really only been running for a year AND
  2. I won't PR every race so I have to accept that some aren't going to go my way
  3. I need to figure out better hydration strategies because dehydration has caused me problems on two races (Las Vegas and Chicago) AND
  4. I love the support that I get on the course when wearing my Team Challenge singlet

But most importantly, Crohn's and Colitis don't give up when they get tired or have cramps or get dehydrated so I won't either.  In fact, as we left the last water stop I told Coach Barbara that the fact that I was walking meant I was absolutely doing another Team Challenge race!  The only question is where I want to run next...  Stay tuned!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Chicago 13.1 Race Goals

I can't believe I'm a runner.  I know that people say (including me yesterday) that if you log the miles you're a runner.  So, I suppose I'm a runner.  It seems like such a foreign concept after only having started to run less than a year ago.  Regardless, tomorrow I will take on my third half marathon with the fabulous Team Challenge.  So today I am thinking about my goals for the race.  I usually rank them as A (best), B (good), and C (acceptable) goals.

A:  Finish in 2 hours and 10 minutes (cutting over 18 minutes off my Oshkosh half time)
B:  Finish in 2 hours and 20 minutes (you can do the math)
C:  Finish in 2 hours and 25 minutes (see above)

Coach Barbara and I before the half in Vegas
(cause this photo never gets old!)
In addition to the above goals I also want to meet lots of other Team Challenge participants and have as much fun as possible.  However, there is also a serious note to why I run.  I raise money and awareness for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).  As a Crohn's patient this cause is near and dear to my heart and while my disease is mostly in remission (knock on wood) I have a dear friend, Ali, who is currently battling a very severe flare which has left her bed/couch ridden, in terrible scream inducing pain, and unable to leave her apartment for months.

While I want to set a new PR and have a fabulous race what I really want is to find a cure for this freaking disease!  I'd love to not have to inject myself with medication every other week or have the "pleasure" of having colonoscopies every year.  I hate having to worry about seeing people when they are sick because the medication I take leave me immunosuppressed.  I dread the anxiety that I get when my abdomen starts to hurt or I start to run a fever for fear that I'll end up in the hospital, again.  I want my friends (and me) to be able to live their lives without having to be within spitting distance of the nearest bathroom.

I have asked a thousand times but if you haven't already donated (or even if you have and want to give more) please consider donating to Team Challenge.  It doesn't have to be a big donation because every single dollar adds up.  I am more thankful than you will ever know that you have helped me raise over $5800 for CCFA during my training for Las Vegas and Chicago.  You touch my heart and while I will be thinking of Ali while I run the half marathon tomorrow I hope you know that each person who donated and helped me get to the starting line will also be on my mind.