I represent all the mothers out there who, like me, have discovered a precious gift in running. I have also discovered that coming in last in a race is not the absolute worst thing in the world! I run for the sheer love of it, for the health benefits of it, and for the positive impact it has on my girls. Welcome to my blog!
October 20, 2007: WhistleStop Marathon and 1/2
It has been a busy week, another rainy week, and I have not gotten to sit at my computer until now. I don't want the fact that I didn't write about the WhistleStop immediately Sunday morning to make anyone get the impression that it did not go well or that it was not a great race! It was a great race. Again. I did the 1/2 last year. This year I had to change my plan and needed to walk the 1/2 instead (last blog entry). It was a gorgeous weekend. Race morning, our group was up eating breakfast at 0615. After that, we met in the lobby of our hotel at 0705. We headed out for the start line buses at the old train depot in Ashland. We all said a prayer together, and off we went on our buses, my friend Marie took the marathon bus, the rest of us took the 1/2. It was sunny already, cool of course, but looked promising to be mid-50's as Mr. Weatherman promised. At least no sleet and snow like last year! Yea~ So, off we went to race start areas. We got there early and waited with the other early birds for the start at 0900. The timing chips, which are worn on a velcro strap around your left ankle, were not there as planned, so people seemed to be anxiously waiting for them outside. We stayed inside and kept warm. When they finally did come, with plenty of time before the race, the line formed and they were given out very quickly to all. I really didn't feel nervous, not like I usually do when I run a 1/2. I did have some feeling of totally not knowing what to expect, how my body would handle WALKING that far, and what problems I may encounter. I also knew that I would probably want to run some of the last few miles, as long as I felt good. I knew it would be hard to walk through a finish line. I have this theory with finish lines in the 1/2 marathons I have done. I don't walk through the finish line. I don't "marathon shuffle" through the finish line. I speed up and sprint, and give it every little ounce left in me through the finish line. I like finishing strong. Knowing I must have trained well enough to finish strong like that rather than "in a death march" like I've read about just gives me so much satisfaction. So, I knew I would probably want to run at the end at least. I didn't know what I would end up doing.
My friends were not sure whether they should wear shorts and t's or their long sleeves and pants, with the weather it could go either way, but they chose shorts and t's and were glad they did. I dressed warm. Last week I had gone for a short 3 mile walk, and had dressed in too few layers. I was shivering and chilled. I didn't want to feel that way for 13 miles, so I did dress warm. I was glad I did. The course was gorgeous. Fall was all around us in the usual autumn color palette. Gold aspen, dark green evergreens, red sumac, it was truly a gift to be out there. Besides that, it was sunny, and pretty much perfectly calm. No wind. The course was pretty nice for running or walking, but there were some spots that were very loose and gravelly and rutty. Besides those few areas, it was just fine. The right side of the trail seems to be the best year after year.
So, my walking experience. Overall, it was really really nice. I kept a quick pace, being careful not to make my strides too big, so as not to irritate my hip. The pace I kept was around 16 min per mile. I had to take mostly shorter, quicker steps, out of caution with my hip, so it felt like I was walking really fast. It was really interesting, walking. Here are some things I learned:
What I learned while walking a 1/2 marathon:
1. You really get to enjoy the scenery and the beauty around you. Even though you are still working hard and moving fast, you have time and focus to look around you and notice more, which is definitely nice.
2. I have never run a 1/2 marathon and heard so much laughter!!!! I heard laughter and happy conversation the entire 13.1 miles (I had to smile when the group behind me was trying to pass the time by asking each other, "ok, what is your favorite...pudding flavor!" etc.) Somehow, I think that is how it should be. So often, runners are so out of breath and need to focus on other things.
3. Although I was passed by many people, including marathon runners (the first place man passed me when I was at mile 6!) I still knew that I was doing good things for my body, and I was working hard in my own way, just like the runners. This gave me a new insight into enjoying "my own personal journey."
4. I was afraid of this, and it did happen to me, I DID get big toe tendon area cramps (the tendon that raises the big toe, on top of the foot), and I did have pretty sore shins, down by the ankle. I felt these areas stiffen several times, and I had to slow my pace and do some stretching to alleviate this. For several days after, these areas were still pretty sore. I definitely would rather slow-jog than fast-walk a distance like a 1/2. Fast-walking turned out to be a lot more work than I thought it would be. Although I was happy to be doing it, it really did take some effort, both mentally and physically, that I didn't know how to prepare for. It wasn't as physically taxing as runinng, of course, but it had it's challenges too.
5. It is much easier to listen to your music (getting it all set up on the go, if you are like me and don't start out wearing it because you don't know if you'll use it or not), taking gels etc. Walking enables you to carry more stuff with you, which may or may not be good. I actually carried my cell phone with me for the first time, since I had been having some bad migraines lately.
One thing that made being a walker difficult, was that once the marathoners started coming through, we all had to go to the left of the trail, for reasons I totally understand. The right side of that trail has the best packing, and fewer uneven areas. I was happy to move for the last half of my 13.1, but that put us walkers on the uneven, loose, sometimes rutty side, which wasn't the most fun. I also wanted to cheer for the runners going past me, but I have learned about that. It uses up a lot of energy to run by someone who cheers you on, and say "thanks," and if you thank 50 people in your final miles, that could make your run a lot harder at the end. So, I chose to just clap as they ran by. I found that the runners would do one of three things: either they would run by in silence, or they would say "thanks," or they would just grunt an acknowledgement. Interesting I thought.
As I neared the finish line (redone from last year, keeping us on the trail for a longer period than last yr), I just couldn't wait to see my girls and husband and our friends there waiting. I thought for a second about running the last few miles. My hip felt great, and I was almost there! I decided, if I was going to be a walker, I was going to be a walker to the end. I crossed the finish line, yes, walking. And I felt great doing it. (FYI, my time was 3:31:43, an average of 16 min miles. My friend Marie completed her first marathon smiling, in 4:45 or so. Her dad met his goal of finishing his second 1/2 in under two hrs, and did it in 1:50 or so. Marie's husband finished his second 1/2 without problems, despite having minor surgery one week prior). I can't tell you how good it felt to finish a 1/2, when I have not been able to run much in 3 months. I have definitely developed a new respect for fast walking any far distance. I hope to be able to run my next 1/2, and I know if I do, I will be able to envision what their experience may be like. And I will feel sorry for their big toes.
October 8, 2007: These shoes are made for walkin' (until I can run again, that is)
What a busy fall it has been, and wet. Rain, rain, rain is all we've been getting out here in my neck of the woods. Running in the rain can be great, if it's a warmish rain. It can be very not great, when it is (and it usually is) a coldish rain. Brrrr. I have never enjoyed being cold. I get chilled to the bone so easily. I guess that may have something to do with the fact that I have grown up going sauna, and thinking nothing of taking steam even if it's 180 degrees in there. Oh, and did I mention, that's from the top bench? Anyhow, I enjoy the warmth, and I really don't have a problem running in the heat. This summer I ran in some really hot, humid weather and I remember thinking, "I don't remember feeling my shins actually drip sweat before." But I have never run a marathon in 80+ degrees and humidity like the two marathons this weekend. I feel for the runners. It must have been pretty frustrating, training so hard for something, and then the weather goes and kicks you in the butt. At least they all could honestly say there was nothing they could have done about it. That must have eased some of the hard feelings. I feel so bad when I hear about runners having to be hospitalized after a race, or even worse. I think it speaks some to the kind of person who races long distances. They have trained long. They love to run long. They arent' quitters--they wouldn't be there at the race in the first place if they were quitters. And they just downright love to run. So I imagine it must be hard to know when to quit; when to say, "Ok self, it's just too dang hot out here, and even though you have trained for 4 months for this race, it is time to be smart and stop right here." I think part of the strength we get from running comes from pushing ourselves past the point of comfort, and truly believing we are going to come out stronger for it. So I can imagine it would be hard to convince yourself it's time to stop, and to feel ok about that. Yes, that may be the "smart" thing, in a hot, humid race like these this weekend...but I wonder, how many of us would be able to do the "smart" thing and stop. How many of us would keep on going, "just one more mile, I'll feel better after just one more mile..." Interesting to think about.
I am happy to say that my hip feels totally healed. I have not run much yet, I just want to be careful so I can enjoy running normally this winter. I want to work on building up a base for some 1/2 in the spring, maybe the Garry B. again, not sure. Anyway, I have been cross training some, but mostly letting myself rest and heal for the past few weeks. It has worked. My cousin Mae and I walked the 4.5 mile Grand Traverse distance Saturday. It was wonderful! We had so much fun. It was a very nice woodsey trail, complete with lots of mushrooms and a little stream we had to cross over on rocks. We thought since we were doing the short distance, the city would be in view the whole way. But we felt like we were pretty deep in the woods at times, and it was quite pretty. Midnight Sun did a wonderful job on their inaugural event, and we look forward to doing it again next October. I was so thankful that I finished "hip pain-free," despite the uneven trail and quite a bit of slippage on the wet surfaces. Some friends and our family are going to Ashland on Friday for Saturday's 10th Annual WhistleStop Marathon and 1/2. I was going to just run/walk the 5k (after my hip issues waylayed my training), but being my hip has been feeling so good for weeks, and I have no pain at all, I am going to walk the 1/2. Yes, I will be one of those people still walking at 3 1/2 hrs...those people others pass and shake their heads at. Walking for 13.1 miles? It does sound kind of crazy. I am a bit concerned about getting foot/shin cramps. I will have plenty to think about and pray about on my 3 1/2 hr journey. Along about mile 6, I will remember last year, and how I hobbled the last 7 miles due to my mystery cartilage?/traumatic bursitis?/hematoma in the joint? injury after that fall I had the week before. I do not plan on doing any hobbling this year. I plan on finishing strong and enjoying every single mile! I am so excited to see my girls and husband at the finish line. I am VERY excited to watch my friend Marie cross the finish line after completing her first 26.2! She is ready, and if conditions permit her to do her best, she will run a fantastic race. Yes, a part of me wishes I was running the 1/2. The way I feel, I probably could run/walk it. But I am going to be good, and just walk, and enjoy that different view of doing a 1/2~ Wish us all luck!
September 26, 2007: Finally--The Hooray!
First off, thanks to Eve for the lesson in color, your blogs are fun to read and sooo colorful, I thought I might give it a try! :o) Back to my "running--not running--running again" saga. Like I said in my last entry, my left hip has been giving me trouble. I have been doing some cross training, which never, ever seems as rewarding or fun as running in any way, shape or form, but some days you just have grin and bear it. So a few weeks ago I was getting my bike all loaded up for a good long ride on the Munger. It was sunny, just about 70 degrees, beautiful, perfect fall day. As I wheeled my bike over to load it on the rack on my truck, the rear bike tire EXPLODED! My dog went running, my ears were ringing....in my haste to get out on the trail, I filled a wee bit too much air. Oops. Well, now I just had no choice but to try a run/walk combo of some sort. I had a beautiful fall day, no kids for some time, and I was dressed and ready to go...I couldn't even think of some other form of cross training, INSIDE. So, off to the Munger I went, sans bike. From somewhere inside, I could feel myself defiantly chuckling to Mr. Elliptical, "You won't get me today, my friend!"
When I got to the trail, I did my prescribed hip stretches on the pavement in the parking lot. I hoped no one would see me lying there and call 911. My hip had been feeling pretty good, thankfully, and I really did feel it just may be THE time for a trial run anyway, to see if I could beat that 30 steps a few weeks before! My main goals now were to just get out there on my trails again, enjoy the gift of the day, walk some, and give easy (very easy) running another try. After my 1/2 mile warmup walk, I was feeling really great. My hip was feeling fantastic. I had a smile on my face. Sigh (good sigh). I was hopeful that this could turn out ok. But just to be out there was for certain a blessing. At my usual mile marker, I started out at a slow jog. Very slow, almost fast walking, but probably not even as fast as that. After only walking and XT for so long, to me it did feel like running! As I kept going, I realized I had made it to 1/4 mile, then 1/2...I was still listening to my body, and it was still giving me the "go ahead," so I kept on at that wonderful snail's pace. As I ran (yes, I do call it running!) I took in everything around me. The smell of fall leaves, the feel of them swirling around my ankles, the crunch of them underfoot...the sumac looked as bright red-orange as fire, the aspen leaves reminded me of goldenrod colored coins falling all around me. The hint of woodsmoke was in the air; a cow "mooed" it's greeting in the distance. Bushes filled with bird berries--bright red ones, cranberry ones, orangy ones...all looked so stunning as I snailed on by. The usually full duck pond looked like it was drying up pretty bad, and not a duck or goose in sight. Milkweed fluffies were floating all over, all sorts of fluffy white dander was flying around here and there---I kept thinking that they beginning to take flight, just like I finally was again! To me, running has always been much more than just running. I thoroughly enjoy my slow pace and all I get to take in from my vantage point at the end of the pack. Every now and then I had to tell myself to reign it in some; I just had to be very careful and I am glad I was. I ran a total of 2 miles, and walked another 1 1/2 after that, so my grand total was 4 miles. My hip felt really good, and I think I smiled the whole way out there on the trail. I have to be careful not to overdo it, I get like that, anxious to run again. I am constantly reminding myself to be patient, and enjoy the little bits that come my way. I didn't want anything to ruin this opportunity to start running again, because slow and short as this first run was, it was MY RUN, and it was a glorious one. Hooray!!!
September 17, 2007: Hip Hip---Hooray!
My left hip is currently injured. It is slowly healing, so that is good. It has been a somewhat long journey, and I have had a variety of emotions over it, but mostly I have been trying to stay patient and be smart, and keep a positive attitude. Here's the story. It happened around July 22nd, a few days after the Park Point 5- Miler. That was my second time doing that race, and my girls, some friends and I plan to do it every year. We have so much fun at that race. It is definitely a family tradition. The fact that we love it definitely has something to do with us all jumping into the lake afterward. Brrrr...it is a good kind of numb, if there is such a thing. My girls walk the 2 mile walk with my mom while I run with a few friends. Actually, I run behind, far, far behind my fast friends. But I enjoy each and every slow step! Anyway, my friend Marie and I had been training for the WhistleStop Marathon next month (our first!). I was about a month into our 16 week training. I actually had a wonderful 5-miler that day, I took off 4 minutes from the year before, and felt super great the majority of the run. I paced myself for the first mile or two, then I felt my training kicking in. I really felt like my body was using oxygen more efficiently, and I was able to speed up in the remaining miles, which I suppose means I had negative splits! I usually have many, many positive splits. I think I may have just invented that term. Anyway, it was a super "WOO HOO!" run for me. That's a Jen term for a run that just feels so good you don't want to stop or ever forget how it felt. Then afterward, we all trudged up the sand dunes to jump in the icy lake. The rest of the night was great. Endorphins. I felt great! What a great run for me! Then came morning, and the next day with this nagging left hip pain. I felt it in the joint as well as on the outside of the hip. I wondered if it was a bursitis, but it didn't seem to stay on the outer hip area, the pain moved around depending on the pressure I put on it and how big of steps I took. Small, slow steps were much better. I tried to run two days later, just a five mile run that was on my training schedule, but I had to stop after running 1 1/2 miles and walk back. I felt it hurting at 1/4 mile, but I guess I was in denial. I was training for my first marathon you know! This is not going to derail me from the training roll I was on. Well, derailed I was, and still am. I have been to my MD who said it was most likely hip flexor tendonitis, related to running at a faster pace than normal and taking bigger steps (using the hip flexors more) than usual. Then I started PT. They found the left side of my pelvis is actually rotated anteriorally, in relation to my right side. This they felt was related to my SI (sacroiliac) joint in the left lower back. If the SI is out of whack, all the muscles and tendons in the whole hip get equally out of whack. The possible cause for my out of whackness was "loose joints related to childbearing and those monthly things women deal with--hormones." I love my girls dearly. You will be happy to know that in no way do I blame them for my loose, out of whack, anteriorally rotated hips! :o) After my first PT appt he adjusted things and said on my way home to try going for a short run. I tried. I stopped after 30 somewhat painful steps. I couldn't even go 30 steps. Sigh. Well, I had to deal with the problem and be smart. So I have totally stopped my marathon training for this October and have taken on cross-training once again. Water running, elliptical (that dreaded piece of equipment), walking slowly, pilates, biking. I am soo happy to say that Marie is still training strong, and has completed one of her 20 mile training runs! She is the proud mother of four wonderful children. I couldn't be more proud of her. Say a little prayer for her, please. I know she will do great! So, I have hip stretches to do, I need to work on core strengthening (I think all runners should, but I didn't realize it's importance until recently), and I need to keep cross training. I actually have more to write, thus the "Hooray" part of this title, but this is so long I will finish that in another entry. You are right if you think the "Hooray" means I may have gotten out there running a bit again! :o) The keys to getting through a running injury, in my opinion, are: patience, rest, be smart, don't think this will keep you down for good (you will most likely be out there running again sooner than you think, although it will feel like forever!), listen to the advice of your MD or PT, and don't get discouraged. I have missed my trails terribly. But I can bike on them. I can walk on them. I can do run/walk events with my girls and be beside them in the walk instead of running on ahead. There is a positive side to everything, if you only take the time to find it. Oh, my hip is gradually feeling much better! I keep praying for patience, and trying to find the positives in my cross training. More later on the "Hooray!" ~~Jen
September 15, 2007: Random Thought
Just a quick entry, I have a question for all you runners out there. Does anybody know of a good laundry detergent that gets those tough running odors out of running clothes? Some shirt materials do seem to resist odors as they advertise, while others seem to just embrace odors and never let them go. Anybody have any tried and true solutions? Have a wonderful (cool) weekend of running everyone!