Marathon miracles and mistakes, and trying to keep my glass half-full.

In all honesty, I’ve been writing this post for weeks.  I figured out most of the mistakes I made BEFORE my race, but AFTER too much time had passed for my body to adjust and heal properly.  Before we dig into the meat of what the universe is attempting to teach me (and, boy, do I hope I FINALLY learn the lesson this time),I feel compelled to share some positives from the race.  There were A LOT of positives and I am trying to keep myself focused on them.  I understand that you may be are asking yourself WHY I made these mistakes if I figured them out before the race?  It is a valid question to which the answer is that I am most likely certifiably insane, not to be confused with certain types of insanity.

Miracles first (if I were Catholic, this could be grounds for sainthood): I DID NOT CHAFE.  Not one bit.  Not at all.  ANYONE who runs long distances realizes that this was probably an Act of God.  (I doubt it had anything to do with the 1/2 jar of Vaseline that I slathered on pre-race in each and every possible chafe zone.)  To further prove my point, the weather was muggy in the 60s, cloudy with misty or rain the entire time, so I was very sweaty and ended up very wet.  I should have been chafed from head to toe.

On a scale of 1-10, my muscle soreness is around 3-4 (muscle soreness, not ITB related soreness).  I kid you not.  It boggles my mind, as well.  I can only think of two possible explanations: either the Sport Legs pills I take hourly during long workouts really work or it was due to the walk breaks I was FORCED to take.  It was probably the walk breaks.  Funny how humbling 26.2 miles can be.  HUMBLING.

A text from one of my volleyball-parent friends.  I had a discussion with her husband this summer when I was able to clear up that 13.1 & 26.2 are not, in fact, non-existent radio station stickers.  (Yes, he is an Aggie)
A text from one of my volleyball-parent friends. I had a discussion with her husband this summer when I was able to clear up that 13.1 & 26.2 are, in fact, running distances and not radio station stickers. (Yes, he is an Aggie)

The next isn’t a positive as much as it is down-right funny.  Parents from Alli’s volleyball team were cheering me on and later saw my Facebook post about my ITB.  Apparently a group discussion ensued because no one had ever heard of an ITB, much less have any knowledge of it.  I’ve been told a couple of moms confused it with IBS and they were not only concerned about me, but the runners behind me. (Although this was never said in so many words.)  Thank goodness they finally consulted Google in the matter.  I assured them that not every runner suffers from ITBS but every runner has gut issues, so IBS could have totally been appropriate…..especially in a marathon and if Mexican food was involved the night before. (If you don’t get the Mexican food reference, you haven’t been running long enough.)

Dinner last night, celebrating the holidays with Alli's team after practice.  This is for those of you who think I don't eat.  Trust me, I had PLENTY of chips and salsa to accompany these tacos and nearly asked someone to roll me to my car.
Speaking of Tex-Mex…. Dinner last night, celebrating the holidays with Alli’s team after practice. This is for those of you who think I don’t eat. Trust me, I had PLENTY of chips and salsa to accompany these tacos and nearly asked someone to roll me to my car.

If you have lived under a rock for the past 6 months, you might not know that I went into this marathon training coming off an ITB injury.  I pushed my body too hard after the injury, experienced a setback and was just able to start the training plan fairly healthy.  Now on to the lessons this journey taught me.

  • My training plan was too aggressive for my stage post-injury.  OK, I knew this before I started.  I added drop back weeks in between long runs to help with recovery, but it was still too aggressive.  Intellectually, I realized this might be a problem, but I have a brain/body disconnect sometimes (OK…ALL the time).  I had a picture in my mind of what I wanted training to look like and was convinced that it would TOTALLY work. BUT I am actually glad I used this plan.  (May I interject that before my body started breaking down, my runs were ahhhhhmazing!!)  It may not have gotten me the best results on race day (the results were actually TERRIBLE), but I now have a better idea of the mileage windows in which I need to run to remain a healthy runner.  I am sitting down this week to roughly outline a new training plan for the next marathon before I put a complete mental block on everything that happened the past 5 weeks.
  • I didn’t have enough time.  Isn’t this always the case?  I had the time, in that I had 16 weeks to train, but time within my day-to-day activities was the problem.  I am over-scheduled.  Training this year has been a catalyst for me to begin thinking about how I can change.  (This is a GOOD thing!)  I worked full-time, drove Alli to volleyball practice (1 hour each way), officiated volleyball twice per week (and some Saturday tournaments) and STILL managed to squeeze in my runs.  I am looking to make some changes in 2015 that will allow me more time to train to hopefully avoid injury.
  • I didn’t foam roll or stretch enough.  This is a constant battle for me, which dovetails back into the time issue.  Even though I get up at 5am every morning to stretch and foam roll, when I was in the meat of training all I wanted to do was sit and wake up with a cup of coffee.  So many times I just sat and drank my coffee.  There were days that I was sooooo tired. (Actually, during the last third, I was ALWAYS tired.)  Plus, when you are feeling healthy you let some things slide… foam roll and stretching.
  • I slacked on the strength training.  Once again, a battle of the schedule…..and I just don’t like it.  During training for my next marathon (OF COURSE I’m going to run another!) I am going to try to clear my schedule as much as possible.  Marathon training is a full-time job, if one does it properly.  (I’m nothing, if not proper….but perhaps would be better said, I’m nothing, if not Texan.)
  • When I had a hard time believing in myself, my running friends (all my friends, really) carried me.  This happened all throughout the year, not just during race training.  The amount of support that I received when I was injured and during training was nothing short of AMAZING.  I would put my network of running buddies up against ANYONE.  The messages and well wishes I received in the days leading up to the race was mind-boggling.  I am still in awe of all the people who took the time to reach out.  And, for this tough Texas girl who never sheds a tear, I found myself with eyes-watering each time I read a tweet, Facebook post, email or text.  STILL. IN. AWE.

    This is the banner I spoke of in my last post.  Just looking at this picture warms my heart.
    This is the banner I spoke of in my last post. Just looking at this picture warms my heart.

Usually, I would be so angry and upset with myself for making these rookie mistakes.  (I am a little disappointed.)  However, I am trying to learn the lessons so that I can apply them to my training.  I want to continue running for a long time and there is a delicate balance between training effectively and pushing yourself to the next milestone versus over-training.  Now I know where some of those boundaries are and, hopefully, can apply them successfully to run injury free in the months to come.  My biggest obstacle is myself and the battle that I fight within to do the necessary things I don’t like to do….like strength training.

Try as I might, I am not satisfied with Sunday’s performance.  (I KNOW I ran a marathon and SHOULD just be happy that I finished, but I am not satisfied.)  But, like I said, I am focusing on the positives and I WILL be a better, stronger runner on the other side!

Intellectually I know I didn't "fail", but this spoke to me because I need to train more intelligently.
Intellectually I know I didn’t “fail”, but this spoke to me because I want a better result and I need to train more intelligently.

Happy Hump Day everyone!!

I only have 3 more days of work until a 2-week Christmas break!


Runathons? And maybe the best Thanksgiving ever.

We (my sister and I) FINALLY talked my mom into letting us take over most of the Thanksgiving meal preparations for our family meal this year.  Last year, my then nearly 80-year-old mom ran herself ragged and ended up forgetting to put the ham in the oven!  I know how hard it is for her to accept help; after all, I’m just like her!  But we wouldn’t accept “No” for an answer and, surprisingly, she agreed without putting up much of a fight.  That’s how tired she was!

My husband smoked the turkey, while my sister prepared the ham and the rest of us filled in the gaps with amazing and delicious sides.  My mom took care of the mashed potatoes and her famous homemade rolls.

Alli was in charge of mashing to potatoes, while Memo added the ingredients to make them yummy!
Alli was in charge of mashing to potatoes, while Memo added the ingredients to make them yummy!

Memo (pronounced Mee-mo, and what we ALL call my mom), is always SO worried about her rolls rising properly!  It is comical the amount of fret and worry she puts into the making of her rolls.  Yesterday, she said she prayed over them that they would rise properly.  The prayers must have worked, because they were perfect!

Rolls are serious business.
Rolls are serious business.

Our lunch was delicious and wonderful!!  While some of us were cleaning, the grand kids sat down to decorate some thread spools that a lady had given my mom.  This lady thought that Alli could make some duct tape creation with them, but my niece had the idea to paint them and make ornaments.  They are sitting around my mom’s table, which has been in my dad’s family for at least 3 generations.  In fact, there were many leaves used to extend the table years ago, but have been lost.  No one knows how far it will extend….we tried once and ran out of room, but it was at least 20 feet long at that point.

Yes, my niece has dreads.
Yes, my niece has dreads.
Some of the finished products.
Some of the finished products.

For dinner, we went to my mother-in-law’s home.  It’s always interesting, to say the least.  This time, she asked me if I had run any runathons.  Before I could process what she said, my sister-in-law said, “Don’t you mean marathons?” And yes, she meant a marathon.  Although, I am VERY certain she has NO idea that I “train” for this marathon, nor that it is a distance of 26.2 miles.

I did, in fact, run yesterday morning.  It was probably a little ambitious, considering my recent ITB issue.  I was planning a 7-8 mile easy run.  I feel like I accomplished this, for the most part.  However, I also achieved a HUGE mental victory.  I noticed some tightness in my knee after mile 5, but no pain whatsoever.  And, here is the miracle, I decided to stop at 5.5 miles….BEFORE any real issues cropped up.  I was a mile from my car and knew I would have to walk back, but I was OK with that.  I’m really not sure how this happened, or what motivated me to stop.  In any case, I am VERY proud of myself!!

I also feel I am making progress with my ITB. I have been foam rolling, stretching and using my ball several times per day.  The stiffness around the ITB attachment point at my hip seems to be easing up some.  Just one of the many things for which I am thankful!

Since I’m a conscientious objector to the mayhem that we know as Black Friday, the only shopping I will do today will be in locally owned small businesses.

Happy Friday!

The suspense is over: she ran!

Yesterday I held an ongoing debate with myself on whether or not to run.  This may come as a surprise to most of you, but I ran.  My plan called for a 10 mile run, but life gets in the way, and in post-time change so does sundown.  I know I can run in the dark; I am sufficiently equipped with paraphernalia, but I really dislike it!  (Warning: Please seat yourself before reading on.)  So I did something that I rarely do: I went out on my run without a mileage goal OR planned route.  I know you are asking yourself how OCD Jen managed this feat.  Well, I actually was concerned about my calf (even more so than running in the dark) and decided best course of action would be to let my calf dictate the run.  I’m not going to lie, it hurt when I first started.  However, it didn’t take long for the soreness to go away; less than 1/2 mile.  At this point, I figured that I should hold my distance to 5 miles but found myself dreading running the same ‘ole roads.  I am SO bored with my routes AND my playlist!  I was considering my alternatives when I remembered it was “Hug A Runner” Day. My chiropractor had commented that I should come by and get a hug, so that’s exactly what I did!  I changed my route, quickly stopped in for a hug and said hello to everyone, then went down to run the loop at the park where I first started running.  Even though I have “outgrown” that 1-mile loop, I always feel like I’m getting back to my running roots when I go there.  As I was heading back and hit the 4-mile mark, I realized I was on track to set a 10k PB, if I amended my route to 6.2.  Note: this is usually the point at which I lose all self-control and motor on as fast as I can to break my own record.  This time, though, I kept a steady pace and had a heartfelt discussion with myself.  I ended up deciding to run the route I was on and put the looming PB to rest.

I made no attempt to hide the fact that I LOVE "Hug a Runner" Day!!
I made no attempt to hide the fact that I LOVE “Hug a Runner” Day!!

I ended up running my fastest 5.5 miles to date!  I don’t usually like to discuss my pace, because I feel like a turtle, but I averaged 9:18/mile.  And while I pushed the pace for much of the run, I felt comfortable most of the time.  I tried to focus on my hip extension, and have NO idea if there was any correlation between that and my pace.  By all rights, it was a very good run!

I’ve been feeling a little melancholy lately.  I wouldn’t describe it as a sadness, but I am not my usual chipper self.  When I find myself in a funk, I am always bothered if I can’t identify the problem.  I am a lot like a guy, in that I like to “fix” what is wrong.  I suspect that my mood is highly correlated to my current stage in marathon training.  I am anxious.  REALLY anxious.  I’m sad that my last long run is this weekend.  I’m nervous about tapering and even more nervous about the race.  Then there is the added stress of my recent ITB scare and my stupid calf problem.  And, quite frankly, I am missing a friendship and what I thought that friendship meant to me and as the race draws closer I am reminded again and again that I miss my training partner and friend.

My friend, Running Lonely, discussed his disappointment regarding his performance 50k race last weekend.  Part of me wonders HOW could he be disappointed – he finished!  I’m in awe of his accomplishment.  But the other part of me completely understands.  So many people have told me that, in running my first marathon, the goal is “just” to finish.  I can give lip service to that and say that is my goal, but I need to be true to myself.  I know exactly what I want from this race and I won’t be satisfied if things don’t go as planned.  (And guys, I AM smart enough to know it WON’T go as planned, but this is me and this is how I think.)  Of course, all this added pressure on myself is contributing to my anxiety.

In other marathon news, I “think” I have settled on THE shoes.  I am an Asics girl, through and through, and generally wear Gel Nimbus.  I have strayed from Nimbus a few times but always come back to it.  (My feet REALLY like this shoe, OK?)  Upon the prodding and poking and suggesting of my Twitter friends, Paula and Mark, I tried Gel Kinsei.  Kinsei has taken me a couple of runs to get used to it.  My foot strikes a little differently in this shoe, but I like it….a lot!!  I’m wearing them in my next long run and if all goes well, they will be THE shoes for race day!  The commemorative marathon tattoo, however, is STILL up for debate.  I’m really sad that I haven’t settled on a design, because I want to get it as soon as possible after the race!  Suggestions are welcome!

The winner has been (almost) crowned!
The winner has been (almost) crowned!

Something that always makes me smile (and scratch my head at the same time) is when friends ask me for running advice.  I’ve had so many people reach out to ask how I got started.  They always go on to say that I have inspired them to try living a healthier life.  This boggles my mind, people!!  I have never seen myself as inspirational, but I am so humbled and honored by this.  When I began eating healthier and running, I did it for ME.  I still do it for ME.  But, it’s a nice side effect of a healthy lifestyle, and a happy way to end my Friday post. 🙂

Have a fantastic Friday!!

Major Award?? ME??

OK, maybe this isn’t a major award, but I’ve always wanted to use that phrase since I first watched A Christmas Story. 

My friend over at Running Lonely nominated me for the Liebster Award.  The name implies that there might be some sort of prize attached, but I quickly learned this is not the case.  Upon further examination, it seems more akin to those chain emails back in the 90s where you would answer questions and forward to everyone in your address book.  You know, the ones where you were instructed to COPY and PASTE so that those irritating forward symbols weren’t littered all over the email, but no one ever did it so you had to delete all those before forwarding (at least you did if you were OCD like me).  In all seriousness, I am honored that M would take the time and effort to tag me in his blog.  The only problem I see with this is that I can count the number of people I know that blog on one hand, so this limits the number of people I can tag to keep this thing going.

The obligatory inclusion of the Liebster logo.
The obligatory inclusion of the Liebster logo.

Now we get to the issue at hand.  Answering all the prodding personal questions.

  1. What is your current health related goal?

I’m not sure this is “health related”, but my current goal is to keep my ITB reasonably happy until December 14, the day of my first marathon.  At my current training juncture, this is a lofty goal.  I have considered moving in with my MFR guy until the marathon in order to accomplish this.

  1. What is your biggest irrational fear?

Runners trots.  Wait – maybe that is a rational fear, especially if Tex-Mex has recently been eaten.

  1. Do you enjoy wrapping presents?

I would enjoy wrapping presents if I had the ability to make them look presentable and cute.  But I can arrange tissue paper in a gift bag like a pro.

  1. What’s your favorite cross training activity?

People cross train?? I thought that was just an urban myth.  I enjoy cycling, when I can squeeze it in.

  1. If I came to visit you, what would we do? 

The most exciting thing to do in my town is watch the cattle graze.  But after all that entertainment, we would most likely go to Dallas and hit all the touristy places like, where President Kennedy was assassinated.  Because I think that may be our only claim to fame.

  1. You have 2 weeks off of work and 2 round trip plane tickets to ANYWHERE. Where would you go and who would you take?

Scotland or Spain.  Maybe I could spend a week at each and would most likely take my oldest daughter, Taylor.

Speaking of Taylor, here she is, having recently turned 21, on the beer isle.
Speaking of Taylor, here she is, having recently turned 21, on the beer aisle.
  1.  What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you during a run or race?

Thankfully, I have no answer to this question.  Check back, though, because I’m sure something embarrassing will happen sooner or later.

  1. Tell me the 3 best days of your life. Or at least the first 3 that pop into your mind.

Let’s go with events, because they aren’t necessarily “days”…

1) Volleyball with my girls.  We live so far from the Dallas area that playing club volleyball means a one hour drive each way for practices and tournaments.  I cherished the time spent with Taylor (and now, Alli) in the car because the conversations brought us closer and allowed us to talk about a wide range of subjects.  The volleyball part has been a lot of fun as well. 🙂    2) Deciding to “get healthy” before I turned 40.  Acting on this decision was the BEST thing I’ve ever done for myself.  I cleaned up my diet and started running, which has yielded much, much more than just benefits to my health.   3) My friendship with Allison.  Most of you don’t know about Allison, but she was my soul mate and best friend.  She died 10 years ago, but I am SO THANKFUL for being blessed by her friendship.  Most people live a lifetime and never experience a friendship as rich as the one we shared.

  1. Okay, you HAVE to eat a fast food meal. What restaurant would you choose and what would you order?

Chick Fil A.  I would have the grilled chicken wrap with avocado lime ranch.

  1. Have you ever met a celebrity?

I met Dubya, back when he was governor of the great state of Texas.  Does that count?

  1. Share a picture of yourself in non workout clothes!

    This non-workout pic is proof that a) I own a dress and b) I have actually worn a dress.
    This non-workout pic is proof that a) I own a dress and b) I have actually worn a dress.
  2. If you could choose to have a ‘do-over’ and switch careers, what would you choose and why?

Volleyball coach or an athletic trainer, for sure!  Because, in my mind, I’m already a trainer and a coach.  The fact that I haven’t been formally trained is beside the point.

  1. If you won the Olympic Gold Medal – how do you think you would react?

With shock and awe, because, well, I’m a #turtle

14. What do you want for Christmas?

A tattoo commemorating my marathon.  And maybe a couple of pair of Zensah compression socks.

Now I’m instructed to tag a couple of new bloggers or newly returned to blogging.  This is the hardest part of the entire exercise, since I am completely oblivious to the world of bloggers.  So I’m going to view these instructions as guidelines, open to interpretation, and just tag one of bloggers that I know, even though she isn’t new to blogging:

Jane from Canada and her blog 50 State Canuck

Apparently you can change one of the questions, if you wish.  I didn’t because I’m terrible at interrogating interviewing people.

Happy running, everyone!

ITB probs and my quest to save the marathon

In my last post, I leaked some info that I’ve been guarding pretty closely over the past few days: I have ITB problems.

One reason I kept the end result of Saturday’s 22-miler close to my heart was because giving voice to it makes it real.  OK, I KNOW it’s real, but I’m still kind of in denial about it.  My marathon is less than 5 weeks away and I’ve been walking around with a big lump in my throat, having realized that I’m one run away from not running it at all.  And folks, that scares me!

I have a guy that I see regularly.  He specializes in myofascial release and is THE reason that I have been so healthy and successful in running these past few months.  The word has gotten out, though, and he stays booked!!  I generally book my appointments at least 2 weeks in advance and had previously noticed that he was booked solid for this entire week. After the ITB episode on Saturday, I was planning to call him and BEG for him to make an opening for me.  Sunday morning, as I was limping (literally) around the house, I decided to log on to his online calendar to see if there had been any cancellations.  I almost CRIED when I found that my usual appointment time was open!

So I drove down to see him last night.  He gave me a funny look and said something about how surprised he was to see that I was there, given I just saw him last week and already have the next 2 weeks covered.  I’m not Catholic, but I imagine that going to confession is much like describing to my guy the stupidity that was me, trying to finish my 22-mile run.  And with grace like a priest, he just smiled and said, “We all do that, don’t we?” I LOVE HIM!!!

He worked on my ITB for a solid hour.  At one point, I felt the fibers of my ITB tearing away from my quad.  Then, he KinesioTaped me (do NOT say KT Tape around him, as he will give you an earful on the history of THE Kinesio Tape) literally from my hip to below my knee.

When someone else tapes me, I feel like a 'real' runner.  It's like I have people.
When someone else tapes me, I feel like a ‘real’ runner. It’s like I have ‘people’.

I haven’t run since Saturday.  Part of me is dying because I feel I need to be running.  Smart Jen (I realize that is an oxymoron) is OK with the rest.  I’ll run an easy 5-6 tomorrow to see how things are shaking out.  Also, I feel the need to disclose that I understand that my ITB is still angry and mad and my trip to MFR isn’t going to immediately solve this problem.  But if these sessions can keep me in the marathon game until I run my race on December 14, then I will focus on proper recovery.

In other news, my lunch the past couple of days has made me happy.  I realize that I probably shouldn’t rely use food for emotional purposes, but it was so green and fully of yummy, healthy stuff!

My delicious salad with coconut lime quinoa.  I know you're surprised that it wasn't a cupcake.
My delicious salad with coconut lime quinoa. I know you’re surprised that it wasn’t a cupcake.

Happy Hump Day, everyone!


Ridiculously ignorant running crimes I have committed

The funny thing about English is that many words have several meanings.  Take the word “crazy”, for example.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists definitions for “crazy” as an adjective, a noun and an adverb.  It’s a very functional word.

Definition of crazy (paraphrased, only using the adjective definitions, because listing all the definitions would take up this entire post): Unsound; mad or insane; impractical or erratic; out of the ordinary, unusual; distracted with desire or excitement; absurdly fond or infatuated; passionately preoccupied or obsessed.

I’m reasonably certain I’ve been associated, through running, with all those definitions of crazy.  After I list the ridiculous things that I’ve done in the name of RUN, you will probably associate me with all of them as well.

  • Ignoring my body.  Let’s face it – I could (and should) list this as the reason for each and every running setback that I’ve experienced.  This one, in particular, dates back to my marathon training last year for the marathon that would never be run. (I promise, I’ll explain that soon!) About mid-way through training last Fall, I began to have a numbness in my foot.  At first it would just tingle and would last no longer than a mile during the run.  But it progressively got worse, to the point that my foot would be completely numb for 3-4 miles. I did what every runner in denial does, I tried to find answers on the internet and rehab myself. (Go ahead – ask me how that worked out)
  • Refusing to rest.  There.  I said it and it wasn’t nearly as painful as I expected.  I would like to believe that my bad decision-making in this case was caused by injury-induced stupor, but most likely was caused by my stubbornness.  Giving the body proper rest and recovery time is important to a healthy runner, but even more so when injury is involved.  I *think* I have learned to take breaks in training when necessary.
  • Treating training runs like a race.  OK, I NEVER intend to run my training runs like a race, but, in half marathon distance especially, my PR is always in the back of my head.  So when my running app rattles off current time and distance, I really can’t help myself by trying to beat my time.  This is OK every once in a while, when one isn’t coming off injury or, training for a marathon, for example.
  • Speed work coming off an injury.  This crime is probably obvious to all the sane runners out there, but not to me.  My hamstrings were REALLY angry with me, and my brain didn’t get the hint until the 3rd or 4th interval session! Hamstrings didn’t like the shoes I got for speed work either.
  • Running through pain. I’m still learning my lesson on this one as I ran with my ITB screaming at me this past weekend to the point that I could barely bend my knee after.  This may be the biggest crime I’ve committed to date and I am hoping and praying that my myofascia release guy can undo the damage I did.  I am additionally ashamed to admit that I NEVER considered cutting the run short.  Once again, I’m the Queen of Stupid Sh*t.

There is hope for even the most stubborn among us, as evidenced by my progress.  Even though I routinely make bad decisions regarding my training, I am increasingly making better choices.  Thankfully, I have a community of running friends who try their best to hold me accountable during the times that my brain fails me!