Skyline Half: Race Goals and Confessions

My first race of the year is coming up this Sunday.  It will also be my first race since my marathon and the loooooooong recovery from injury.  To say that I am excited would be a gross understatement.  (I’m skydiving for the first time on Saturday, and I think I’m almost more excited about this race.)  To be honest, I really didn’t believe I would ever recover from that ITB injury and thought that even if I did, I wouldn’t be running any races.  I tried to quiet that negative voice during my rehab and recovery, but it was very, very difficult not to listen to it.  And that makes the fact that I’m even able to attempt this race all the more sweet.  It’s ironic (to me, at least), that this is the first running of the Skyline Half Marathon and this is my first race since of the year/since injury.  For me it is symbolic of my “rebirth” and return to running.  I’m not the same runner that ran the Dallas Marathon in December.  I *think* I’m wiser and more mature, but that could just be my partner.

So this race that is coming up on Sunday…..

When my partner and I started running together in March, he felt that I could be ready to run this distance (6 weeks…..that was all the time we had to train), BUT as a training run.  Of course, at the time, I was like – heck yes I can do it as a training run!  But Crazy Jen rears her head more often than I would like to admit.  I have been in a battle with Crazy Jen over how to run this race.  Of course, I REALLY want to go out there and run a 2:10-2:15 (actually would prefer a sub 2, but I know that isn’t possible right now), which would be in line with my last half marathon.  My partner thinks that 2:20-2:30 is more appropriate and a time that we can run without causing injury.  EGO.  KILL.  I’ve NEVER run a half marathon slower than 2:17 and those times are messing with my brain.

The last couple of days I have been trying to focus on some things that will hopefully keep me grounded during the race. (Plus, he may tie a rope around my waist to hold me back.)

  • The longest I’ve run since my injury is 10.5 miles.  While this is a sufficient distance to run prior to most half marathons, I feel a bit under trained just because I know I haven’t fully built my base yet.  Keeping this in the front of my mind is helping me stay focused on the fact that this is a  “training” race and should be run accordingly.
  • This is a marathon….not a sprint.  OK, THIS isn’t a marathon, but my training is.  I need to keep my focus on continuing to build my base slowly and steadily and not allow myself to get caught up in a mindset that will usher me right into another injury.  Thankfully, I have a partner that doesn’t mind telling me NO when what I want to do is bad for me, or I probably would already be injured again.
  • I tweaked my hamstring yesterday.  So this is a new development, but possibly one that will help me stay focused on an appropriate, steady pace come race day.  (OK, I’m just going to be honest….I would run lights out if my partner wasn’t pacing me.)  I was helping corner a kid who was attempting to run away and I took off in a little sprint.  Thankfully it only hurts when I foam roll and felt OK during this morning’s run.
  • My hips are off, just a little.  I haven’t been to my myofascial guy in well over a month.  This is a good thing, because I haven’t really needed to go, but I can tell my hips need some TLC.  Honestly, I haven’t been doing the stack exercise he gave me on a regular basis, so it is my fault.  They aren’t off much, though, and I don’t expect it to cause any problems during or after the race.  And the good news is that I have an appointment with him next Wednesday!

Here are my goals for this race:

  • Finish strong.
  • Avoid injury.
  • Focus more on feel than on time.  (I can’t express enough how painful it is to write that, but it is necessary.)
  • Enjoy every minute!

They aren’t the most glamorous goals, but appropriate for this race, I think.

This morning we ran an easy 5k and I was blessed with this beautiful view as I pulled back into my driveway. another sunrise

Have I ever told you how much I LOVE the sunrise??

Happy Thursday, all!

Mid-life crisis or total loss of mind?

OK, I’ll admit that most people think I lost my mind a LONG time ago…..and they are most likely correct.

In case there was any doubt left, yesterday, I did this:skydive

I have wanted to go skydiving since I was 16 years old.  My cousin, Mark, used to skydive all the time when he was younger and I always thought it sounded like such fun.  I’ve watched my niece, Laura, and my daughter, Taylor, go skydiving yet I never had the courage to actually do it for myself.  Last Fall, my friend Corky and I started discussing how fun it would be to go skydiving and that is how this trip was born.  We decided to wait until the weather was nicer and have been trying to coordinate our schedules since March!  My kids think I’m going through a mid-life crisis but I don’t really think that at all.  There just comes a point in your life where you want to start doing the things you’ve always wanted to do…..so I’ve decided to do just that!

There is one thing that gives me pause……I’m running a half marathon on Sunday!  Clearly I did not think this timeline through, and am hoping and praying I don’t break a leg or sprain an ankle!

This will be my first race of the year (and since my marathon and ITB injury) and the longest distance I’ve covered since the injury.  I have had a lot of anxiety about this race.  I wonder if I am completely ready and the reality is probably not.  But, I am *trying* to approach it as a training run, even though I have some time goals in the back of my mind.  I know, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.  Stay tuned to see if I am able to execute this plan…..

Until then, Alli has the night off from volleyball (YAY!) and our softball game has been cancelled, so I might actually get something done around the house!  I am sooooo ready for some down time!  Summer can’t come soon enough!

Happy Tuesday, all!

Jen

Sole sisters and beating the ITB

Friday was a really great day.  The staff at my school planned a spread just for the office ladies.  I have to admit I was a bit nervous, because spread food can be somewhat less than healthy.  Of course, everyone I work with knows my eating habits.  And this is just one reason I love working here….so many people brought “healthier” versions of food – just for me! 🙂  I was also blessed with this note from a coworker.  It completely made my day.  note

And then, if that wasn’t enough, when the mail came I was completely blown away again!sole sister

My Twitter “Sole Sister”, @karaokejennjenn had mailed me a package containing this coffee cup.  I absolutely LOVE it!!!  I have to say that I’ve had my coffee out of it for the past 3 days!

Friday evening, Alli and I made cupcakes.  One of her teammates was having a birthday on Saturday and requested our cupcakes. 🙂  She wanted red velvet, so it seemed like a good time to search for a good red velvet recipe (since I had yet to find one that I thought was satisfactory).  I am happy to announce that we found “THE” red velvet recipe.  It is soooo delicious!red velvet

I’m actually looking forward to whipping these up again, red finger nails and all!  LOL

Saturday morning I was out running at 6AM, in order to get my 10 mile long SLOW run in before the volleyball festivities of the day were to begin.  I know that no one would believe me if I told them I wore a shirt that said “Minnesota” on it, so I took a pic before heading out.  minnesota

I feel this needs some explanation…. A LOT of explanation.  Because everyone who knows me knows that I am a Texas gal through and through.  However, Taylor recently went to Minnesota to a National Qualifier with one of her club’s teams.  She found this running shirt in a store and bought it as a souvenir.  I actually really like the shirt, even if it does have a weird state plastered on the front of it! 😉

The run was amazing.  Absolutely amazing!  There really is nothing better than running when the sun comes up.  But the run wasn’t without its problems.  Last week, I suffered some ITB issues from mile 6 on (and it was a 10.5 mile run).  The rest of the day, my leg really bothered me.  I have been diligent with my foam rolling and strength training, so I tried my best not to worry.  (Those of you who know me know that I failed miserably at this attempt.)  It bothered me again just a bit on my next run, but got better each day.  This week, ITB started bothering me around mile 5.  I couldn’t believe it.  I tried not to get too upset about it, but with my history of ITB derailing my race efforts (and my first half marathon of 2015 coming up next weekend), it was hard not to let it get in my head.  However, something happened…..by mile 7, it had worked itself out.  I have NO idea how this happened, but this gave me hope that I am just working through some issues related to the distance increases.  The miracle in all this is that my legs felt AMAZING Saturday afternoon!  I couldn’t believe how fresh they felt after driving the distance to the tournament location, then sitting as long as I did.  When they still felt so good on Sunday, I really began to get excited.  Maybe this actually is related to the distance increases and not the beginning of more problems!

Alli’s team played in the North Texas Region tournament this weekend, in the 12s division.  The teams in this tournament were vying for a bid to next weekend’s Region Bid tournament, so they were a higher caliber 12s than we typically play.  The girls didn’t play well on Saturday in pool play.  We dropped 2 sets (we never drop sets in pool play) and ended up seeded 2nd in our pool, but still earned our way into the Gold bracket for Sunday play.

Sunday morning we faced the Texas Image 12 National team that handed us second place in our first tournament of the year.  They beat us 22-25, 23-25 in the finals that day and our girls were so upset!  Every single tournament, Alli has asked if this team will be playing in it because she wanted a rematch!  The girls seemed so nervous when they found out who they were playing, but they stepped up their game when they went out onto the court.  We lost the first set 24-26, after being up 24-17.  Heartbreaker….we SO should have won!!  The second set we rallied and closed out the set 25-17 to force a tiebreaker.  We went point for point in the last set, but ran out of steam and ended up losing 11-15.  The girls had nothing to be ashamed of – they were playing against giants!  playing against giants

You can see the size difference in that picture! LOL

I was so proud of Alli this weekend.  She really stepped up her game in getting to the ball and rarely called for help.  It has been so much fun to see the improvements with all the girls on the team this season!  We are now finished with USAV tournaments and can focus all our efforts toward AAU Nationals (and beating the Puerto Ricans) in Orlando in June!

Happy Monday!!

Jen

Testing Brain Drain and the Best Sister Award

STAAR testing is over!!!  (For my elementary campus, at least.)  Nothing is as tiring as administering (and taking) this test.  I feel like I’ve run 2 marathons over the past couple days!  Now all that is left is the waiting game to get our scores, then to see how the GREAT (read sarcastically) Texas Education Agency changed the rules for passing standards and School Accountability standards.  Yes, they change the rules AFTER the test is given.  Does it make any sense? NO!!!

It is crazy how stressful this test is….on EVERYONE!  We had so many kids freaking out.  In my humble opinion, 8 year olds should be worried about whether or not it is their turn to get on the monkey bars, not a 4 hour test that may or may not reflect the amount of knowledge and reasoning that is in their brain.  Lest I climb atop my soap box, I should just stop now.

On our campus, we dress professionally on test days.  Our dress code is more casual most days, but we make exception on test week.  This means that one time per year, I don a dress. I always receive lots of comments, because, let’s face it….dresses aren’t my thing and as a result people rarely see me wearing one.  Running shoes and shorts are my thing.  But to prove that I own a skirt to the rest of the world, I took a pic before I changed into my comfy clothes last night 😉dress

Back to the test.  Taylor was in the first wave of Student Success Initiative, aka SSI, which meant that 3rd graders had to pass Math and Reading tests to move on to the next grade level.  I had suspicions of Taylor’s dyslexia in 1st grade but she wasn’t diagnosed until 3rd grade.  Taylor ALWAYS had major test anxiety when it came to any English/Reading tests.  I remember how off-the-charts nervous she was, anticipating her first Spelling test in 1st grade.  At the time, I didn’t realize what was fueling the fear.  I kept in communication with her 1st grade teacher, who had NO concerns of dyslexia.  Since Taylor’s dyslexia wasn’t severe, she was able to memorize all the words, which made her seem fluent in reading.  Her 2nd grade teacher didn’t have any concerns either.  However, it caught up with her early in 3rd grade when the focus transitions from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn.  The words became longer and harder; it became too difficult to keep memorizing all those words AND remember what the passage said.

We were so blessed to have a 3rd grade teacher that knew what to look for as far as dyslexia goes.  She asked almost immediately if I would agree to have her tested, and I was so relieved that someone else shared the same concerns that I had!  So my good friend, Cindy, who was our district dyslexia therapist at the time tested Taylor and she was put into our dyslexia program.  (The program that was developed by Scottish Rite hospital….which made running the Dallas Marathon so special to me, since that is their charity focus!)

The Scottish Rite program is a 2-year program and results aren’t usually noticed until the 2nd year.  So, 3rd grade was a stressful year for Taylor.  She was SO WORRIED that she would not be able to pass that test.  Of course, she passed!!  I remember 4th grade seemed a little easier, but she was still nervous about those tests.  After she was exited from the program, things started clicking for her and things seemed to come more easily for her each year.  She was (and still is) such a hard worker, which paid dividends where her school work was concerned.  She ended up graduating in the top 10 of her class and just this week received a math award from Texas Women’s University.  I’m so very proud of the wonderful young lady she has become!  She is absolutely AMAZING!!Taylor math award

This past weekend while Alli and I were camped out at the Dallas Convention Center for the Lone Star Classic National Qualifier, Taylor was in Minnesota coaching a team at Northern Lights Qualifier.  But she kept in contact ALL weekend, wanting updates on how Alli and her team were doing.  She called me more times than I can count, including early Sunday morning to talk to Alli and wish her good luck in the Gold Bracket.  She also brought home a sack of goodies for Alli, including a Happy Frog Volleyball.  Apparently they don’t make MadFrog volleyballs 😉happy frog volleyball

I don’t think Alli realizes how lucky she is to have such a thoughtful and loving big sister.  But I do, and I appreciate Taylor so much for everything she does for our family.

It’s been around 3 weeks since one of my vials of allergy serum was dropped and broken.  I went to pick up my new vial on Monday morning.  Since a new lab mixed this serum, I have to start back on a minimal dose and work my way up.  Translation: Jen is sneezing ALL.  THE.  TIME.  The spacing of these shots is to be every 5 days until I’m worked up to a full dose, but it is growing increasingly difficult to wait!  I’m staying focused on the fact that I actually have the serum and a few days of suffering is worth it to have the relief (and be able to breathe) in the long run.  However, my friend Carmen sent me this the other day and it seems more true now than ever: death star

If you are lucky enough not to suffer from allergies, say a prayer of thanks!

I’ll leave you with the beautiful flowers that Alli picked for me!  I LOVE Indian Paintbrushes almost as much as I love Bluebonnets!  indian paintbrushes

Happy Thursday everyone!!

The good kind of exhausted

It’s no secret that my life is like a 3-ring circus, and most of the rings are of my own doing.  If only I had Hermione’s time-turner, I would be able to stay on top of everything!!  The past few days have gone by in a whirl wind!  I wish I could say my toilets are clean and all the clothes are put away, but (sigh) I cannot.  However, I logged some nice miles over the weekend and spent the rest of it watching Alli’s 10-year-old team dominate the 11s, so the toilets can wait!

First, I’ll get to the running updates:

Thursday evening, we ran hill repeats again.  They weren’t as much fun this time, because my partner had me run them at easy effort on the first 4 repeats.  (I was NOT happy about that, but he didn’t seem to care one bit in the least.)  The last 2 repeats were shorter, but he instructed me to give a hard effort on them.  I clocked a pace that I didn’t even know was possible for me.  OK….I’m not stupid…I know there is NO way I could sustain that pace for any distance at all, but it was a really exciting payoff to be able to see it….attached to ME!  The weirdest thing is that I didn’t go through any stiffness or soreness from this workout.  I’m still not quite sure what to think about that.  When I got home and showered, did some yoga, foam rolled and put on my new Zensah recovery socks.  OH.  MY.  GOSH!  I love them!!  They are amazing and felt sooooo good!zensah

Saturday morning’s long run was to be 10.5 miles, at a god-awfully slow pace.  However, I am coming to understand and appreciate what SLOW runs do for your body, so even tho my partner couldn’t make it for that run I knew I had to maintain the pace.  I kept the pace pretty well through mile 5 with not much fluctuation (SO NOT Jen).  Around mile 6 (when Jen got the run-high), pacing became painfully difficult.  I looked down more times than I could count and found myself close to 1:00 faster than my prescribed pace, but, contrary to my normal response (run the faster pace and just get a little faster), I managed to slow myself and get back into the zone.  This is quite a noteworthy accomplishment and I still don’t know what it means or how I was able to accomplish this on my own.

There really is no better feeling that greeting the sun when out on an early morning run.
There really is no better feeling than greeting the sun when out on an early morning run.

There really are few things more beautiful (to a Texan) than a field of bluebonnets.
There really are few things more beautiful (to a Texan) than a field of bluebonnets.

Around the time that I started having pacing issues, I also had some minor ITB issues.  I tried not to panic.  I stopped and stretched and continued on the way.  I wrestled with the decision to scrap the run and take a shortcut back, but I decided to continue on.  That was probably Crazy Jen rearing her head, but I can’t keep her locked away ALL the time.  I may be rushing recovery by having entered  a half marathon on 5/3, but logging the miles for that race training run was in the back of my mind.  Throughout the day, I felt that ITB tightness, but stretched as much as was possible (which wasn’t much since I was now camped out at the Dallas Convention Center).  The good news is that it now feels great.  I’m hoping and praying that it is all related to increase in distance from the more focused training I’ve been doing the last 6 weeks.  For now, I’m taking the Scarlett O’Hara approach and have decided I’ll worry about that tomorrow.

After the Saturday long run, I came home and did some recovery yoga and foam rolling.  Then Alli and I packed, frantically, and were off to Dallas for a tournament a the convention center.  Alli’s team played in the Mizuno Lone Star Classic, one of the National Qualifiers for USA Volleyball.  This qualifier is the largest in the nation (fitting, since everything is bigger in Texas) and is divided into 2 weekends…each one with over 100 courts.  The teams are seeded, then divided into pools of 4 teams (sometimes 3 teams due to numbers).  There is an AM wave and a PM wave each day during pool play, then brackets are played out on Sunday.  Most divisions are giving out bids for the Girls’ Junior National Championships, so there are 2 days of pool play for every age group except 11s.  And since Alli’s team is a true 10s team, we were playing in the non-bid 11s division, which meant we only played Saturday and Sunday.

We started our pool on Saturday with our referee duties and I gave our scorekeeper the match off and kept score for her.  Mainly because it would make the match go faster, but I also really enjoy keeping score.  I was much more comfortable keeping score here, rather than Friday night when I kept the books for softball.  (I’m too ADHD to keep up with the base runners!)

The pencils were old and terrible.  HOW am I supposed to make it perfect if I can't erase? #scorekeepingnerd
The pencils were old and terrible. HOW am I supposed to make it perfect if I can’t erase? #scorekeepingnerd

Then, it was time for our girls to get to work.  We were in a 3-team pool, and HAD to win both of our games in order to keep our hopes for Gold bracket alive.  The first set was sloppy, but the girls pulled it together and came out on top in the end….29-27.  The next set was a beating and we won 25-6.  We should have won both sets 25-6, but a win is a win.  Next up was an Oklahoma team.  They stomped us in the first set 14-25, but we answered in set 2 for a 25-14 win, finally pulling it out in the tiebreaker 15-12.  These wins put us first in our pool and guaranteed us the right to play for gold on Sunday morning.  However, we had a crossover match later that evening to determine pool seeding for those pools.  AGAIN, playing an Arkansas team, we lost the first set 22-25.  And AGAIN, we battled second set to force a tiebreaker, which we won 15-7.  (WHY can’t they just save my heart and take care of business in 2? LOL)

Luckily, a couple of moms and I got away for drinks in between games Saturday evening.  Made that last game a lot less stressful! LOL
Luckily, a couple of moms and I got away for drinks in between games Saturday evening. Made that last game a lot less stressful! LOL

We were back on the court early Sunday to ref, then play our last 2 pool games.   Just like Saturday, we were in a MUST WIN situation.  We had to win both of our pool games to make it to the 8 team gold bracket.  We took care of business 25-15, 25-5 in the first match.  The second match was closer, but we still managed to close it out in 2 games: 25-22, 25-23.  Making it to the gold bracket meant that the lowest we could finish would be 5th of 44 teams.  Sadly, the first team we were to face would be a team that knocked us out at a tournament a few weeks ago, effectively handing us 5th place in that tournament as well.  We played on our heels the entire first set, which ended terribly 8-25.  The girls came ready for battle during the second set, but we made too many unforced errors and ended the game a little short with 19-25.  Our girls were the only 10s team in this 11s division and ended up 5th.  There is NO way we could walk away with our heads down!!

Our girls are so much fun.  I tried to get video of them playing leap frog during the opposing team's warm-ups.  I mean, they ARE Frogs!!
Our girls are so much fun. I tried to get video of them playing leap-frog during the opposing team’s warm-ups but failed. One parent made a snide comment about the goofing off, but what does she know? They ARE Frogs!! (And they are TEN year olds!)

Normal tournaments are exhausting, but qualifiers are exhausting x 10.  We walked out of the convention center at 9:30 Saturday evening and had to be back on the court, ready at 7:30 AM.  I had reserved a room at the Omni, because it is connected to the Convention Center and for too many good reasons to list.  When we got back to the hotel, the wait to eat at the hotel buffet was 1 1/2 hours.  I knew there was NO way we could do that, so, much to Alli’s disappointment, she had to raid her Sunday snack bag.  I assured her we would find something healthy to eat at the concession stands on Sunday….she was SO worried about her healthy snacks!!  (WHY???  I had already successfully bribed motivated her to get her serves in with the promise of a smoothie!)  Since the hotel buffet had been such a fiasco on Saturday evening, I decided to order room service for breakfast so that we wouldn’t be stuck in that same situation again Sunday morning.  She was SO excited when it arrived!  Doesn’t take much to excite a 10-year-old!

Alli had the eggs and bacon.  I ate the English Muffin and took a few home fries off her hands ;)
Alli had the eggs and bacon. I ate the English Muffin and took a few home fries off her hands 😉

The Omni did a great thing for the Lone Star guests and set up a room in which we could check our luggage until we were finished in the convention center.  It saved me a big hassle as my car was in the valet.  After we claimed our luggage and finally got our car out of the valet, we were on our way home.  And in less than 15 minutes, Alli had settled in for a nice, long, well-deserved nap.

Yes, I took this while driving, BUT traffic was stopped!
Yes, I took this while driving, BUT traffic was stopped!

Happy Marathon Monday!!  I’m cheering on all the runners!

Jen

Thankful Thursday: Run Edition

Since it’s Thankful Thursday, I figured I would share some things that I didn’t appreciate before becoming a runner.

  • Sunrise/Sunset: I know lots of non-runners appreciate sunrise/sunset.  I was never one of them.  I discovered that something magical happens when you are out on the road, especially at sunrise. beautiful sunrise
  • Motorists giving pedestrians the right of way:  After having more close calls than I can count, I truly appreciate those drivers who do watch out for pedestrians/runners/cyclists.
  • Vaseline:  One word: chafe.   I know that a lot of runners swear by Body Glide, but I can never get enough on to save my skin.  But I can slather an unlimited amount of Vaseline on an area, if I so choose and it works REALLY well!
  • Sweat:  Sweat is awesome!!!  I never really enjoyed sweating until I started running.  I now wear it as a badge of honor.
  • Injuries/Injured:  Before I was injured (OK this was AFTER becoming a runner), I would shake my head when I heard an athlete was sitting out for a cranky hamstring or pulled groin muscle.  NO MORE.  Any little hitch completely changes the way your body moves and compensates.   I have a healthy respect for anyone who battles any kind of injury, no matter how small it may seem.
  • KT Tape:  KT Tape really makes everything better!

    When someone else tapes me, I feel like a 'real' runner.  It's like I have people.
    This was my marathon taping, courtesy of my myofascia guy.
  • Ice/Epsom Salt Baths:  I never thought I would say that I had taken an ice bath.  And yes, they are as miserable as they sound, but the suffering is worth it for those amazing quads!  Epsom salt baths are much more tolerable, because….they are hot!
  • Shoes: The right shoes can change your whole world.  It is not OK to just run to Academy and grab the first pair ofNikes you like on the shelves.  Vanity has no place when choosing a running shoe.

    .
    I ran in Asics FOREVER but recently switched to Newtons and, boy, have they improved my running!
  • THE right fuel combination:  Most distance runners understand the difficulty in finding the right fuel combination to get you through your training and races without, errr, having GI “issues”.  Before I ran, I never even knew that runners would fuel during runs, mainly because I had never cared enough to think about it.
  • The feeling after a long run, or any run for that matter:  It is impossible to describe how happy one can feel after running 20 miles.  There is a level of fatigue that is indescribable, yet the feeling of contentment is beyond words.  And: chocolate milk.
  • Importance of proper hydration/diet:  Again, pre-runner Jen was never concerned with getting the recommended amount of water/fluids each day.  However, being dehydrated can kill your workout.  Along those same lines, so can crappy food.  I’ve also learned that a couple of glasses of wine and/or spicy food the night before a run can cause issues that my non-runner friends don’t want to read about (reference fuel combos).  Proper hydration and diet make such an impact on how your runs turn out.
  • Everything compression is da bomb:  I am now a BIG believer in compression attire.  Everyone in my little town knows me by my pink compression socks.  The compression shorts were a harder sell for me, because initially I was self-conscious, but they are so awesome that now I don’t care what anyone thinks! (Although I STILL get the stares when I run into Wal-Mart post-run.)
  • Becoming and early riser:  I used to HATE getting up early (early = before 7 AM).  I would drag out of bed every morning for work and on the weekends would groan when I had to get up for my kids’ sporting events.  However, I now get up at 4:45 EVERY DAY and sleeping until 6:30 on the weekend is late (I blame early morning runs and races for this).  And the funny thing?  I actually enjoy it.
  • Hills:  Going up a hill in a car is no big deal.  Going up a hill on foot or on a bike is a really big deal.  I love the challenge.  More so on foot than on a bike, but it’s an awesome feeling to battle through and win!
  • Community of Runners:  Runners stick together.  And since there aren’t many runners in my hometown, I have developed some genuine friendships with runners all across the country, thanks to Twitter.  I know, I would have thought it crazy and impossible as well.  But I appreciate the support us runners give each other.
  • Loving ME:  I have always been a firm believer that working hard makes you appreciate things more.  I approached this more from taking pride in my work and teaching my kids the value of hard work.  But it wasn’t until I started running that it spilled over into my body image.  Before running, I didn’t really “like” myself or my body.  Something was always wrong.  Now, I’m still pretty hard on myself as far as expectations go, but I have grown to truly love who I am inside and out.  I love my body – not because I’m skinny, but because I never realized how strong I could actually become.  I never realized the hell I could put it through and come out stronger on the other side.  It’s a wonderful thing to know these legs can carry me 26.2 miles!

What are you thankful for today?
Happy Thursday!!

Jen

Monday Training Update

It's Spring in Texas, y'all.
It’s Spring in Texas, y’all.  Dare I say this is better than the Cherry Blossoms?

Last week was crazy busy!  Recently, courtesy of my new partner/coach keeping me reigned in, I logged more miles than I had since before my marathon.  The running has been going amazingly well.  I still have those nagging issues that move around from body part to body part.  Having said that, I am running free of any major issues!

Last week in blogging was busy as well, with losing my tat virginity being my main focus on posting at the first of the week.  Then, I had the pleasure of posting my first blog “series” (aka bad running advice) co-written with my friend at Running Lonely.  I had SO MUCH FUN working on this with him!!  Hopefully, another opportunity will pop up in the future.

Back to running.  First, my partner and I were scheduled for some intervals early last Tuesday morning.  Only he overslept.  So on Tuesday, I did not run.  We shifted our schedule so that we would run on Wednesday morning.  Guess what?  He overslept AGAIN!!! This time, I decided to go without him.  I already knew what paces we were trying to hit and how long the intervals would be, so I set out to do it all on my own.  The miracle is that I executed them exactly as planned!  This was a huge victory for me, because, well….we all know I have severe pacing issues (or self-discipline issues, as some like to point out).

Thursday we basically repeated the interval workout, then took Friday off.  Saturday was an easy run.  I BEGGED for 1 hour, since he forces me to run these easy runs by time and not distance and he AGREED!  And another great run was in the books.

Easter Sunday was our long run – we were planning an 8 miles.  I was having trouble coming up with an 8 mile route and asked, jokingly, if we could run to my hill and back since that would be exactly 8 miles.  At this point, I’m sure he was possessed by someone else (maybe Crazy Jen?) because he agreed!  I have rarely been so excited about something in my life.  Once we got onto the highway, it was a straight shot to the hill.  It is about 1.5 miles from the point that we turn onto the road leaving town.  Of course, all that can be seen ahead is that lovely hill, taunting you.  At my first glance, I was so excited that I nearly started jumping up and down.  If I had been by myself I would have been running a pace ridiculously fast for me.  My partner doesn’t share my love of hills and is self-disciplined where pace is concerned, and even he was barely able to hold me back.  I was fully prepared to have my rear kicked by that hill.  After all, that hill is no joke and I hadn’t run it since November 17, around the time my ITB injury reared its ugly head.  I.  KILLED.  IT!!!  Talk about a feeling of euphoria!  I have been so dedicated to my strength work and cross training and it CLEARLY paid off!  I even joked to my partner that I would NEVER complain about lunges again! LOL

This pic really doesn't do it justice, but isn't it mouthwatering?!?
This pic really doesn’t do it justice, but isn’t it mouthwatering?!?

We ran easy on Tuesday morning, then Wednesday afternoon we headed for the hill again for hill repeats.  OH.  MY.  GOSH.  It was nothing short of amazing.  I killed that workout as well.  However, I did have some residual calf issues and general hip tightness, but overall my body handled the stress of the workout really well.

I had to run the long run alone on Friday, and was a tad bit nervous about holding myself back to the proper pace.  Remember, I ran ALL my long runs at race pace during marathon training.  However, when I am determined I can generally execute things correctly and I did just that!  My pace should have been between 11:45-12:10 for this run, and here is how it all shook out:long run splits

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!  OK, I know mile 9 was a little faster, but I always get excited toward the end.  The run felt pretty good aside from always having to slow myself down, but I couldn’t be more proud that I did it!  Of course, I was all smiles when I was finished!

Yes, I got a wee bit sunburned :)
Yes, I got a wee bit sunburned 🙂

I immediately stretched, slipped my pants on over my compression shorts and headed over to the softball fields for Alli’s first game.  She has not attended one practice.  NOT ONE.  We made the commitment to the volleyball team, on a team level and financially, so that has precedence over anything rec league!  I was SO afraid that she was going to suck it up.  LOL!  But first play of the game, she threw from 3rd to 1st to get an out and ended the game 2-2 on hitting.  Yay for not sucking!!

All smiles after our win!
All smiles after our win!

When we got home, I couldn’t resist taking this pic of the setting sun painting the clouds. Sunset clouds

I’m going to leave you with something seen at Wal-Mart.   My friend Carmen and I ran over last week to get some things for our lunch and neither of us could believe our eyes.

When supplies are limited, just make your own bumper sticker!
When supplies are limited, just make your own bumper sticker!

Happy Monday, all!

 

How to sabotage your race results: Part 1 – Training

My friend, Running Lonely, and I were recently discussing the ways in which runners (OK….WE) sabotage our races.  While I am more adept at killing my race during training, M has more patience and is able to wait until race day to do all his damage.  So we started thinking that maybe we should share our insights so that newbie runners (all runners, really) can learn from our mistakes.  (We fully realize newbie runners probably won’t learn from our mistakes, because, let’s face it: they are like teenagers who just got a driver’s license and they know more than we do.)    Part 2 will be posted tomorrow on Running Lonely’s Blog.

  1. Training pace:
    1. Never listen to the “experts” who want you to pace long runs at 1-2 min slower than your realistic race pace; instead pace all your runs at (desired race pace – :30).
    2. Why train at all? It’s SO time consuming, especially for distances over 13.1.  Just show up at the start line on race day.
    3. Drink 5 Monsters before your run. The caffeine will help you maintain your pace.  Take it from me – even GU Roctane is weak where caffeine is concerned.
  2. Strength training:
    1. Do not strength train.   Every moment spent strength training is a moment of running lost.
    2. Do you even need upper body strength anyway? Have you ever stopped for pull-ups during a marathon?  I rest my case.
    3. Forget the squats. It isn’t all about that base.  The Kim Kardashian trend will change and you will be ready and waiting with your tiny ass.
  3. Training plan:
    1. Write your own training plan….because running coaches clearly don’t understand your need for runs with “badassery”.
    2. Use the “more must be better” method: pick a training plan, but double everything.
    3. Find a training plan that best suits you. Then put each run on a sheet of paper, throw it all in a hat and each day draw a piece of paper from the hat and that will be your run.
  4. Rest:
    1. Clearly rest is for the weak, so any rest days are to be discouraged…unless you want your Twitter followers to secretly laugh at you.
    2. Take “accumulated fatigue” to an entirely new level and run twice per day – every day.
    3. Pulling an all-night GOT-watching marathon is encouraged the night before your long run.
  5. Self-massage:
    1. Don’t drink the foam rolling Kool-Aid. The “experts” are merely marketing geniuses trying to sell foam rollers.  Clearly they are getting a kick-back from foam roller sales.  Have you seen the prices of those things?
    2. Have you ever wondered HOW foam rolling can be beneficial? WHY would you want to feel like a hot dog at 7-Eleven?
    3. Foam rolling is clearly a form of masochism. Unless you want to be lumped in with Christian Grey, it should be avoided at all costs.  (OK….I know some of you like the sound of this one…..if you are one of those people, use a Theracane instead.)

      Marsden SWEARS this is actually works.  Looks more like a medieval torture device to me.
      Marsden SWEARS this is actually works. Looks more like a medieval torture device to me.
  6. Fueling your runs:
    1. Cadbury eggs make the best run fuel. Canadians will tell you to use maple syrup but I find it difficult to carry the container on runs.
    2. Spicy thai food before your long run will help your stomach adjust to the rigors a marathon puts your digestive system through.
    3. Forget run fuel. Your body needs to learn to burn fat as a fuel source.  Plus, without fuel you can experience hitting the wall on every run, which will prepare you for the inevitable on race day.
  7. Listening to your body:
    1. KT Tape fixes EVERYTHING.
    2. Drinking beer every mile will not only serve as fuel with the perfect carb:protein ratio, once you get to mile 10 you won’t care that your ITB is giving you fits and your knee is screaming.
    3. If you feel you may have injured yourself, DO NOT SEEK MEDICAL TREATMENT! Do not stop running. First, consult Twitter.  If you can’t find diagnosis and rehab on there, then Google should be able to solve the problem.
  8. Tapering
    1. If tapering is so good for you, why are we not doing it all the time?
    2. Taper spelled backwards is Repat, which is basically Repeat, which means you should repeat your hardest runs.
    3. You carb load during taper, why aren’t you run loading?

Hopefully these tips from #teamsabotage will help keep you running strong.  Or not.

Jen

 

Keep moving forward: A tattoo story

Something happened this weekend.  Almost 2 years of searching, debating, contemplating and discussing culminated in finally settling on a tattoo, then losing my tattoo virginity.

Wayyyyy back when I was training for my first marathon, I decided that I wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate my accomplishment.  I spent a lot of time during training trying to decide what I wanted and where it would go.  Of course, the race was cancelled due to a freakish ice storm, aka Icepocalypse, which bought me time to decide.

I looked off and on throughout the year, finding things from time to time that spoke to me, yet never finding something that I felt confident I could put on my body and be happy to see there 20 years down the road.  I wanted a tattoo that spoke about running, but, then again, deep down inside, I wanted something more meaningful.  I didn’t take lightly putting something PERMANENTLY on my body.  So the marathon that I actually ran came and went, and I was no closer to finding “THE tattoo” than I ever had been.

I finally decided a few weeks ago that it was time.  I just knew it in my gut….and I always trust my gut.  You see, a couple months ago, around MLK day, I started thinking that “Keep Moving Forward” might be the tattoo for me.  Still, I wanted to wait and let the idea simmer and percolate for a while.  And recently, the idea had matured and blossomed into something that I was comfortable living the rest of my life with.

I LOVE Martin Luther King, Jr. and all of his quotes.  But I especially love the one (that I chose) that runners often quote, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  So it does have a connection to runners and running.  And it had a connection to my marathon.  First, I trained for this marathon TWICE.  Then, with my ITB injury, finishing was a mental and physical challenge, but throughout the race, I kept moving forward.  During the last 8 miles when every single step was so painful, quitting was never an option.  So the quote gave me a real, emotional tie to my marathon, which totally commemorates the race!

This quote speaks to me on so many other levels, though.  Most of you who know me or who have read my blog much know that I lost my dearest friend 11 years ago.  That was the biggest and most monumental life test I have ever experienced.  To say moving forward was a challenge would be a gross understatement.  I didn’t want to move forward….I didn’t even understand how I could go on; how I could live.  I was so devastated.  My heart was smashed into a thousand pieces.  But I did go on.  And I did live….even if at first I just went through the motions, but I was doing.  Little by little, moving forward took a bit less effort.  The sparkle slowly returned to my eyes (but not completely until I found running).  In all honesty, this tattoo is as much (in reality, MORE) about Allison as it will ever be about my marathon.  Every time I look at it, I will be reminded that I am NOT a quitter and I CAN overcome whatever life throws my way.  It isn’t lost on me that Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of Allison’s favorite people of all time.  In fact, Kaitlynn recited MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech for the Princess contest one year.  Every time I look at this work of art on my body, I’ll know she is with me.

Of course, it is also a reminder that there are injustices in this world that still must be remedied.  Our society STILL discriminates against anyone and everyone who doesn’t quite look like the majority or think like the majority.  And for a liberal hippy-trippy like me, this tattoo will be a constant reminder that we must fight back against the ignorance and hatred to keep moving forward.  We must put aside our differences and treat each other like human beings, regardless of the color of one’s skin, one’s religion, or sexual orientation.  People are people.  Period. (And while I’m at it….why am I considered a “liberal” person just because I feel people should be treated equally?  I don’t understand why that is such a far-fetched thought.)

Finally, this tattoo speaks to my faith.  It’s no secret that I identify myself with the progressive faith community.  I hope that my actions speak to the fact that my main concern is acting justly, loving kindness and walking humbly with my God.  (By the way, Micah 6:8 is my favorite Bible verse 🙂 ) I (we) can’t rest until everyone is treated justly and with kindness and dignity.  Until then, I will keep moving forward and doing what I can, where I can, when I can.

As for the placement of the tattoo, that has a significance as well.  I had it placed on my left forearm.  I wanted it on my arm so that I could see it everyday.  When this idea originally came to mind, I imagined it somewhere on my foot.  As my ideas evolved, I realized that I needed to be able to see it.  But my left side….my left side is my weak side – the side prone to injury.  I needed it to be on the weaker side because I need to focus on that side in order to be whole…as a runner specifically.

Last weekend, Alli accompanied me (I TRIED to get her to stay home) when I went in to make the appointment and put the deposit down.  On the way, Alli said, “What if you have surgery on the spot where you get this tattoo?  Will they be able to put it back right?”  Only Alli would see that angle!  I had to admit, it was something to think about!

So the date had been set and a good friend accompanied me so that she could lose her tattoo virginity as well.  Of course, having never had a tattoo, we had NO CLUE what to expect!  Luckily, Taylor came with us so she could get a second tat (and keep us straight).

We have friends that own Homestead Winery (in the metropolis of Ivanhoe, Texas) who have a tasting room in Denison.  We decided to make a stop there since Taylor had never been.  Of course, Taylor is taking full advantage of being 21 and looks for these “opportunities” whenever and wherever they arise.  We tasted just enough wine to take the edge off, then were on our way.

May I say that Orange Muscat was pretty yummy.  I came home with a bottle of that!
May I say that Orange Muscat was pretty yummy. I came home with a bottle of that!

We talked to our artist about what we wanted and he set off to draw them up.  Aaaaaand the first draft didn’t work for me.  If you know me, you know that I try to be tactful (most of the time) because I don’t want to unnecessarily hurt someone’s feelings.  Well, I HATED that first sketch.  As I was trying to formulate in my mind how to break it to the guy, Taylor said, “MOM, just tell him you don’t like that one! Don’t get one you don’t like!!”  (OK, for the record, I was NOT going to get something I didn’t like….I was just trying to let him down gently!)  So we discussed again what I wanted and when he came back the second time, I was ready to marry it!

Surprisingly, I was not nervous at all before, during or after.  (I’m sure it had NOTHING to do with the wine tasting prior!)  I was a bit anxious, but I think that was just me, ready to git’er done!

The actual inking took no time at all and wasn’t THAT painful.  However, it was a little painful and my friend was ready and waiting to capture the moment!

I am not smiling.  I am gritting my teeth.
I am not smiling. I am gritting my teeth.

This was in no way as painful as running on shot ITBs.  "#justsaying
This was in no way as painful as running a mara on shot ITBs. “#justsaying

And before I knew it, I was done!

Keep Moving Forward
Keep Moving Forward

It’s no secret that I usually eat as healthy as I possibly can, but after this experience, we went for some comfort food!heart attack on a plate

Yes, I ate most of this.  I also had a strawberry daiquiri that I had been looking SO forward to, but it was a terrible disappointment.  It wasn’t sweet at all and mostly rum! (OK….I love rum! So not going to complain about that!!)

And here I sit, roughly 24 hours later, happier with it than I could ever have imagined.  I am SO glad that I finally bit the bullet and had it done!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Jen

 

Rolling on the Diagonal

If this doesn't make your stomach do flips, then you clearly aren't Texan.
If this doesn’t make your stomach do flips, then you clearly aren’t Texan.

I’m always thinking (stop snickering….the Apocalypse hasn’t happened…yet).  Driving Alli back and forth to volleyball practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays gives me even more time to think!  What I was thinking about Thursday night was how I tend to put a positive spin on everything.  Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t see the challenges in situations – it’s just my personality to try to find the #silverlining (or #goldlining, if it is especially amazing!).  And I’ve been doing that with running.

Running has been going REALLY, REALLY well.  But it hasn’t been all roses.  I don’t like sharing the less than great stuff because I don’t want to seem like a complainer.  And I guess part of the reason I don’t like to talk about the thorns is because every runner is ALWAYS dealing with one issue or another.  It’s just the nature of our sport.  Hamstrings tight?  You focus on the hamstrings with extra foam rolling and stretching maintenance and are so proud of yourself for working through the issue.  You consider throwing a party to celebrate your happy hammies, but realize that sometime during the hammy episode your calves became as tight as guitar strings.

It’s no secret that my ITBs are tight.  ALWAYS tight.  I wonder sometimes if that is my cross to bear as a runner.  I’m doing all the right things: strength exercises, self-massage, stretching, and workouts that aren’t too advanced for this stage in my base building.  (OK….now that I have a partner who isn’t afraid to tell Crazy Jen ‘NO’, my workouts are appropriate.)  So I’ve been focusing A LOT on my ITBs.  I haven’t been satisfied with the results of the foam rolling and have known that something had to change.  I have known that I was making ZERO progress.  All this focus on my ITBs caused a slip in my attention to the rest of my legs, mainly my quads.  I began to realize about 10 days ago that my quads were stuck.  (And when your quads are stuck, your ITB will be as well.)  Like fused together.  Not good.  And foam rolling hurt.  I don’t remember foam rolling my quads ever hurting before.  So I’ve been rolling on the meat grinder until I get over the urge to scream.

Trust me.  It HURTS.
Trust me. It HURTS.

Luckily, Wednesday I had to take off to be home while we had a new AC unit installed.  And even luckier (#goldlining), my myofascia guy had an appointment open late in the afternoon and I was able to go see him as well.  He worked my tight left glutes (did I mention my glutes are always tight as well?  It isn’t always a good thing to have a tight ass.).  He released my ITBs.  Then he got to my quads.  He didn’t say a word.  NOT ONE WORD.  And since I’m uncomfortable with awkward silences,  I said, “Ummm, my quads are stuck, aren’t they? ”  And his reply? He just nodded his head.  They were THAT bad!!  But he was able to tear all those fibers loose in no time flat and within the hour, I felt like a new runner!

Something interesting that we discussed was the proper technique for foam rolling your ITB.  I have been rolling the “seam” of my ITB where it meets the quads in the front and hamstrings on the back.  However, I had the foam roller perpendicular to my leg.  Steve said that the only way to break the fibers loose, like he does during a release, is to have the foam roller on a diagonal to the leg.  It sounds easy in theory, but practice is an entirely different matter.  If you aren’t careful and apply plenty of counter resistance, your leg won’t stay straight and will go with the foam roller.  I used the foot on my free leg to leverage and pull my body so that the leg being foam rolled would stay in the proper position.  I could feel the difference right away!  It takes a lot more energy and focus than I generally expend during foam rolling, but I am hoping to keep those cross fibers from forming with this new maneuver.  He also mentioned that if your adductors are tight, it can cause a chain reaction that ends up in your ITB being angry.  So stretch those adductors, people!

I genuinely believe that there will NEVER be a time that I am not giving some TLC to one body part or another.  I would go as far to say that it is a mathematical impossibility.  Too many factors are at play and the top two are: over 40 and distance running.  And I am OK with that.  Because since my injury some amazing things have happened.  I have learned somewhere along the way that I don’t need to panic over every ache and pain.  I simply need to manage it wisely: scale back training when necessary and proper maintenance.  Any of my runner friends that know me realize what a huge accomplishment this really is.

And now, because I am FOREVER the optimist, I will leave you with a list of positives – things that I have been able to successfully work through in order to get to this stage in training today:

  • Tight hips:  OK, YES, I said my hips/glutes are still tight, but I’m talking left hip wouldn’t move because it was fused to my SI joint.  I did have a little help from my myofascia guy, but I have been able to keep them fairly loose since.
  • Stirrup muscle weakness:  I was beginning to have some major issues with my stirrup muscles (the muscles on the outside of calf that wrap under the foot), and their insertion at the ball of my foot.  A shoe switch is the biggest game changer, but I gave this area A LOT of extra care and attention and all of it paid off.
  • Tight calves: Ugh.  I’ve never had calf issues, but lately my calves have been so tight.  LOTS of stretching and foam rolling seems to have gotten this problem in check (for now).
  • Lats:  My lats on my left side have been sooooo tight! Tight enough that twisting my torso had been almost painful.  The entire muscle was tight from my lower back all the way to my shoulder blades.    That is terrible, people!!  I started yoga about a month ago and almost all that back tension is gone!  To further prove my point, my massage therapist was so surprised last week when she found no knots in my neck or back….she commented on how unusual that was!  I am still fighting some tightness down by my pelvis, but farther up the muscle is finally feeling OK.
  • Glutes:  My glutes are always tight, but they do not feel like bricks.  So I’m #winning

Happy Friday, All!!

Jen