Like a virgin

Like a virgin

I’m nervous. Nervous like I’ve never raced before. Like I’ve never run a half. Like I’ve never raced in a new city. Like I’ve never raced without friends.

I’m always edgy and anxious before race day, especially out of town races. I’m anxious about getting there, getting there on time, packing the right gear, getting to packet pick-up, getting enough rest (never happens; I don’t sleep before a scheduled early morning run or race), waking up on time, fueling, finding the start line, using the port-a-potty, warming up,  staying warm, starting on-time, finding my family after the finish line, getting cold, cooling off, stretching, getting back to the hotel, recovery. It’s a litany.

I’m particularly nervous this time. I’m doing a back-to-back 5K and Half at the Gulf Coast Marathon Weekend and I haven’t run more than 6.2 miles since breaking my foot in August. My hips and knees are achy from muscle weakness and being off-balance for 12 weeks.  I did as much walking and strength training as I could and got back in the pool as soon as I was cleared, but there’s no substitute for actual time on your feet.  What I could do just wasn’t enough.

My pace is a full 2 minutes slower than my PR back in the spring.   I know this because I have raced three 5Ks and one 8K since August. I walked two of them, the Rise Up & Run/Walk like MADD 5K in September and the Atlanta 5K in October. I ran the Esprit de She 5K early in November; the very evening after getting the all-clear to run. I was so amped to be cleared to run that I may have over-done it a bit. Hello achy knees. Last week, I ran the Turkey Day 8K in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I am so glad they reversed the course this year so the hills weren’t as punishing. I did better than I expected because of that course change. I even found a little oomph to get across the uphill finish before the clock ticked over another minute.

I should be feeling more confident.

I’m not. I’m a anxious mess. I just don’t have the running fitness at the moment. So, new strategy and new goal: timed intervals and finish without being swept.

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this boot was made for walking

this boot was made for walking

Rise Up & Run/Walk Like Mad 5K – September 10, 2016

You can’t keep a good woman down and I certainly wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to strut, as much as one can strut in a walking boot, across the 50-yard line of the  soon to be imploded Georgia Dome just days before turning 50.

Course-wise it’s typical Atlanta terrain, looping around the Georgia Dome and Philips Arena, and up and down a few hills. It’s not the most scenic route but it is pretty fast. I could see setting a PR on this course.  Seeing the new stadium going up next to the old stadium was interesting (I’m still trying to figure out the necessity of tearing down a roughly 20-year old functional stadium for a brand new stadium. On the other hand, it will accommodate two teams instead of one. Go, Atlanta United!)

The best part is the final 40 yard sprint across the 50-yard line and, of course, racing (rather slowly) with friends and passing Arthur Blank on the course. Walking or running, it just felt good to be out there!

bar fight

bar fight

Random Person: “What happened to your foot?!”

Me:  (deadpan) “Bar fight.”

Given my spectacular falls on trails, I expected that at some point, I’d injure myself while running and not be able to run or train. I didn’t expect to break my foot in a bar fight with a stair step. But, it’s makes for a great story.

August 12th, we ventured into downtown to see our new favorite band, The Peach Kings, perform at Smith’s Olde Bar.

The Peach Kings  at Smith’s Olde Bar  8/12/2016

Just as the second to last song of their set started, the full force of the beer I had hit me. I scurried away to the restroom.

I was so focused that I completely forgot about the one step down from the annex into the main bar.  I landed hard on my left foot. I immediately felt the pain but was so relieved that I hadn’t actually fallen that I hurried off, did my business and returned to the show all before the last song started! Yay, me!

Not. I could feel my foot swelling inside my Chuck.  Between The Peach King’s set and Mobley’s set, I inspected my foot. It  was warm and starting to swell, but otherwise intact. We hung around through Mobley’s set (amazing performer – one man band with a fantastic voice and rocking beats). Sadly, I couldn’t dance. I’m sure Mobley was giving me the eye (hey, it’s entirely possible since the Atlanta Room holds about 50 people and the crowd was about 20 strong) while I stood off to the side with my foot on a bar stool.

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Mobley at Smith’s Olde Bar 8/12/2016

After consulting Dr. Google, I determined my foot was likely broken so, naturally, I did nothing about it until Monday. By nothing, I mean, I floated in the pool and self-medicated with wine.  I noticed bruising and a bit of swelling but the pain was bearable unless stepped on by dog or child, then there was yelping and hyper-ventilating.

Saturday and Sunday it didn’t look so bad

I called a highly recommended podiatrist Monday morning. Enter the start of the medical field frustration cycle.

Frustration 1: No one will answer the phone. First, the search results for office hours were wrong, so my call went straight to the answering service. When I called back at the time service message indicated for office hours (8:30), my call still went to the service message. Half an hour later, same thing. Another half an hour later, same thing. Finally just before 10 AM, I talked to a real live person. Yay! Not.

Frustration 2: I can’t get an appointment. I explained to the receptionist that I had very probably fractured my foot and needed to see someone as soon as possible. The very nice receptionist said they had an opening a little over two weeks away. Yeah, no.

I insisted, I have broken my foot, I need to see someone sooner than that, please.  Suddenly, there’s an opening for the end of this week. Okay, better, but not quite. I said, well, I really need to take care of this now, so I’ll call back later.

Frustration 3: I’m kept waiting in the exam room.  I check-in at the urgent care, noting one person in the waiting room, and think ,well, hopefully this won’t take too long. Before I can even put away my insurance card, I’m ushered back to an exam room. Where I wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. I get it. It’s an urgent care facility: it’s first come, first served, and I don’t seem to be in any agony.

About thirty minutes later, the nurse comes in to take my vitals. I immediately start freaking out because holy high blood pressure!  High blood pressure, heart disease and stroke are  family traits which is why I run, walk, swim, do yoga, and lift weights.

While I stew on my blood pressure numbers and jump up and down from the exam table from stiffness and boredom, another 30 minutes passes. I’m starting to wonder what urgent medical crises are going on in the other exam rooms. Finally. the PA walks in, asks me a few questions and palpitates my foot. I wince. She orders an x-ray. Finally!  Now we’re cooking with gas. On a really low flame.

IMG_3577Frustration 4: I get vague and deflective answers. This time, it’s only a 15 minutes wait to get the films done. Back to the exam room for more waiting.  The PA pops back in to let me know the x-rays show an incomplete fracture, they’ll splint it, and give me a prescription for the pain and asks if I want crutches. No thanks, I have a pair from when I severely strained a hip flexor (which by the way hurts a whole lot worse than a little foot fracture).  Meanwhile, I’m peppering her with pertinent questions – mainly how long before I can run?!?!?!  Of course, like a responsible PA, she did not laugh at me but told me to follow-up with the specialist.  I can’t say I didn’t expect that answer, but I wanted  a glimmer of hope.  After the nurse splits and tightly wraps up my foot and hands me a sheaf of papers (with the heinous high BP figures staring me down and the Dx of “fracture of unspecified metatarsal bone(s), left foot, initial encounter for closed fracture”), she tells me do not to remove the splint until I see the specialist. Fat chance of that.

After leaving urgent care with my foot wrapped up tightly, I called the specialist back and nabbed the Friday appointment. Again, I had to wrangle that spot from the receptionist. It’s like they don’t want to see patients.

Frustration 5:  I’m still waiting and the splint is causing my foot to hurt.  I tried, I really tried, not to mess with the splint, but after enduring more discomfort and being woken up by my foot throbbing, I had to first loosen then completely remove and re-wrap the splint. Tuesday, after 24 hours in that nice tight splint, I noticed my toes were distinctly sausage-like and my pinkie toes were smooshed.  Wednesday, I took the splint off completely so I didn’t have to go through the awkward foot-in-a-baggie ordeal to shower.  I was not at all pleased with the lovely deepening and spreading bruises and the sore hot spots. Clearly, the swelling, newly apparent bruises, and discomfort were from the splint being too tight.

Tuesday’s sausage toes (left) and Wednesday’s deep bruises and hot spots (center and right)

Thursday, I left the splint off most of the day but stayed off my feet.

Friday before and after seeing the podiatrist

Frustration 6: I’m told what I already know and pay for the privilege.  On Friday, I finally got in to see the podiatrist.  As I relayed the whole story, the podiatrist is nodding her head in that standard medical school bedside manner way, then says she knows that particular step well and she’s seen more than one patient who has fallen down it.

The podiatrist took one look at the x-rays from Monday and declared that since they were “old,” she needed new x-rays.  I hobbled across the office to the x-ray machine, still wearing the splint. I asked if I should remove the splint, but was assured it wouldn’t matter.

It did. As soon as I had returned to the exam room, I had to remove the splint and hobble back across the office for a second set (third, really) x-rays. Very graciously, I was told I wouldn’t be charged for those. I should hope not! It wasn’t my mistake.  The official diagnosis was “Yep, it’s broken.”  Ya think?!   I now have this lovely boot for the next four weeks at least and extremely limited activity.  Those air-walker boots are heavy and expensive.  CHA-CHING!

I made a futile attempt to get permission to do some sort of exercise, but the podiatrist shook her head and chuckled before declaring, “No!”  I wouldn’t be a crazy runner type if I didn’t try, right?

Frustration 7: I’m going nuts.  For four weeks, I must hobble around in the boot and do no weight-bearing activity.  No running. No walking. No swimming. No biking.  No lower body weights. No yoga. I guess I could do yoga that doesn’t require the use of my feet, but that’s not much yoga. I can feel my fitness slipping away and I can’t stand being so still.  I will be a good patient and wear the boot and keep off my foot as much as possible. I will not risk not being able to run.

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Two Weeks Post-Break and One Week with the Boot

I confess. I made it two weeks post-break/one week post-boot before the lack of exercise became too much, mostly because my sleep pattern went to hell, yet left me feeling utterly exhausted. I started 10-20 minutes on the recumbent bike, in the boot. Then I started gentle yoga classes, in the boot. And walking rather slowly on the treadmill, in the boot.   As of right now, I’m three and half weeks post-break. I’m still wearing the boot even though I can put normal shuffling around the house pressure on my foot without pain. My foot does feel fatigued rather quickly (hello atrophied muscles).

I adjust my goals.  At the beginning of this year, my race goals were a 5K a month and 6 half marathons. I adjusted that when I decide on a 50K in September/October, dropping some of the 5Ks since they would interfere with my training plan.   When I see the podiatrist on the 15th, I hope to hear good news. I still have race goals, even if they aren’t quite the same as they were s few weeks ago!

Stumbling toward the finish

Stumbling toward the finish

Falling on the trail is not a matter of if; it’s when. My when happened much sooner into my trail running journey than I expected.  I remembered to roll, so I only bruised my ego, encrusted dirt all over the spout of my hand held bottle, and scratched up my elbow a tiny bit. Later, I discovered a nice sized bruise on my hip to go with that scratch. Sorry, you don’t get to see that. It’s a wry irony of being being delicate in a less than delicate sport.

The day after my ugly 5K age group win at Run for the Bridge, I hit the trails for 15 miles. Aside from falling, stumbling repeatedly, seriously considering bagging the whole endeavor after 10 miles,  I ended up walking 3/4 of the last loop.  I severely underestimated how much I overextended myself the day before. And my GPS watch died about a third of the way into the 12th mile. I made it back to civilization just in time to collapse on the pavilion bench before washing myself down at the bike wash and heading home. It was another warm day.

That tumble convinced me that I need both hands free to better balance myself out there.  I nabbed a Nathan Intensity hydration pack for less than $50 from Running Warehouse. I’ve wore it on dog walks to get used to it before racing in it. Time constraints moved my training runs to the dreadmill that week. I took the vest out for a real test two weeks ago at the Dirty Spokes Harbins Park 13.1 trail race.

I loved the Harbins 13.1! I haven’t run that slow since my first half marathon, but that was it an enjoyable race. The course used the shared mountain bike/foot trail, the hiking trail, and the shared horse/foot trail, so there was variety in the terrain.  Dirty Spokes did a marked the course well with flags and barriers; although, during the last mile or so along the trail, I had a little anxiety because the trail itself was covered with pine needles. I finally came upon the 2nd/3rd aid station again, so I knew I was still on the right trail. The bike and hiking trails posed the trickiest footing with lots of “snakes” and inclines/declines. The horse trail was nice and smooth. It’s a popular trail with riders, so there’s usually soft sandy areas that have been torn up by hooves. We all got a nice break to pick up some speed along the fire road/maintenance path.

I stumbled twice and slid onto my butt once when I heard another runner behind me and tried to get out of the way.  I really liked having the pack instead of a belt and handheld hydration. It was so much easier to stay hydrated and get to my fuel. The sound of the sloshing water was rhythmic and comforting. The only problem I had was the inside of my left arm rubbed against the small zippered pocket. It didn’t rub enough to cause a hot spot; just annoyance. I may be able to adjust the straps more to reduce or eliminate that problem. My water stayed nice and cold throughout the run (not so with my hand held bottle even though it’s insulated) and kept my back cool.  My Altras did their job – I had absolutely no foot pain or toe problems during the race.

When I finally made it to the finish I was surprised with a beer glass! The race description had not mentioned a beer glass, so that was very cool. Finishers also received a car sticker (Jellybean attempted to eat mine. Bad dog).  Even though I finished during the awards, there was plenty of bananas, water, granola bars, and other snacks on hand.  Packet pick up included the t-shirt (quality shirt), Clif bars, and Clif Bloks, which came in handy. I stuffed a few more in my pack at the aid stations.

I could  have pushed myself more  for a better time, but I took it easy.  I admit, I was still feeling a bit sore from the previous week’s fall and a nasty charlie horse after one of my cross-training swims earlier in the week.  I enjoyed being able to relax and appreciate the trail. Best of all, I discovered, I can fly!

Dirty Spokes made this a must-repeat race. I’m looking forward to another Dirty Spokes race!

I’ve got my new shoes on

I’ve got my new shoes on

A few weeks ago, I visited my favorite running store, Classic City Running, to try out trail running shoes. Classic City is a true locally owned store and everyone who works there is a runner.  They do gait analysis by taking video of your feet as you run on a treadmill and then bring you as many different pairs of shoes as you want to try. You can test them out with a run on the treadmill or outside around the shopping center. They never rush your decision; in fact, I’ve spent an hour walking around the store wearing two different shoes. As fellow runners, they are always willing listen and share their experience and knowledge.

Classic City carries more road shoes than trail shoes, so they didn’t have a huge selection. Several experienced trail runners simply gushed about their Altra’s, so I knew I wanted to give those a try.  I tried on the Saucony Peregrine and the Altra Lone Peak 2.5 and the Altra Torin. I tried on  the Torin for fit because they didn’t have the women’s Lone Peak in stock. The Torins have high cushioning, which would be great for long days on your feet.  Although the men’s Lone Peak were ginormous on my foot (which isn’t exactly dainty), I immediately loved how lightweight they are and that, though cushioned, I could feel the surface beneath the shoe. The high cushioning and max cushioning  models made me feel like I was wearing platform shoes.  Given that I need to develop more lower body strength and stability, I felt I’d be more likely to get into some unplanned acrobatics and injure myself or, at minimum, suffer extreme embarrassment.

I did like the secure and stable feel of the Saucony Peregrine. I wasn’t thrilled about the narrow toe box. I like the idea of a the sturdier rock plate along the shaft, which I would have appreciated back in March for the rockier parts of the Cubihatcha Challenge trail. On the other hand, the appeal of a firmer rock plate wasn’t enough to sacrifice toe box space and a closer to natural foot motion feel. Since I started running, I’ve struggled with the toe nail of my big toes rubbing a painful callouses on my second toes (yes, I have Morton’s toes) and achy metatarsals when I run 8 miles or more.   I decided on the Altra Lone Peak 2.5s for those two reasons.  Classic City ordered my shoes and I had them in less than a week.

At the first opportunity, I took my Lone Peaks out for a 4.5 mile test run at my favorite trail. I was very pleased to discover a distinct lack of trail junk in my shoes. I still have trail debris in my road shoes that works it way around the shoes and sticks me in the most painful places, forcing me to stop mid-run and remove shoes and socks, dig around in my shoes, then replace socks and shoes before continuing. Wash, rinse, repeat. I hope all the gunk works itself out soon.   Anyway. I did have some soreness across the top of my ankle where the laces tie but I think that was from earlier in the day when the dog stepped on me. She’s a bruiser.   (SIDE NOTE: She is always leashed when out for a walk or run) Otherwise, I had no general foot or toe pain, my fore-foot did not feel like it was sliding around in the toe box, and my toes did not rub together. The treads gripped the surface well and the toe bumpers saved me a few times (must remember to pick up my feet).

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When I picked up my shoes, I tried on a pair of Oofos. I immediately insisted that they take my money. I’m not that keen on the Crocs-like material, but man, oh, man, they do feel good on tired feet and legs. I decided on the investment since my mileage will be increasing and anything that aids recovery is a bonus. As much as I love my running shoes,  once I cross that real or virtual finish line, I need them off my feet sooner than now. If I don’t let my feet out to stretch, wriggle, and breathe, it’s cramp city.

As it happened, after my first trail trial in my new Altras, Classic City Running hosted an Injury Prevention event for Moms RUN this Town/She RUNS this Town.  Reps from Altra and 2XU were there  doing demos. I fell in love with Altra’s medium cushioning stability road shoe, which made not winning the giveaway rather disappointing. Regardless, the  Provision will likely be my next road shoe. The Altra rep confessed that he runs both trails and road in his Lone Peaks. It’s an idea worth considering; yet, trail shoes wear out more quickly than road shoes, so making them do double duty could get expensive.

For now, I’ll stick with my rotation of Brooks Ghost 8 and Glycerin 13s for road running and the Altras for trails.

 

Sucking air

Sucking air

Today, I ran the Run for the Bridge 5K out in Monroe. It was a benefit for the Bridge of Georgia, a school for children with autism. It’s the first year they hosted the race and overall, they put on a good race.

It was a small, straight-forward, and uncomplicated race. The RD did a lot of things right and the volunteers were all friendly and helpful. Parking was easy, bathrooms (actual bathrooms!) were available inside the school, there was music, a few vendors, a firefighter and a sweet Dalmatian puppy!  After the race, there was plenty of cold water and bananas, thankfully. It’s rough when there isn’t enough water for all the finishers, especailly on a warm sunny day.

I went into the race with my usual 5K strategy: run fast, don’t stop. I also had two goals; one, place in my age group; and two, PR. It wasn’t pretty, but I managed both, primarily because the field wasn’t deep (101 runners, 9 in my age group).  I ran hard and fast; too fast going out. I ended up gasping and sucking air hard, forgetting to be aware of my breath. Before I hit half a mile, I knew I had to pull back, especially since I was going about 2 minutes faster than my target pace. I walked  several times up hills and through dicey intersections, consequently ending up with positive splits. I’m still pleased with my new PR, a full 20 seconds faster than my last 5K. The heat clearly slowed everyone, because the over all winner pulled 21 minutes.

The age group awards were handpainted frames, bookmarks, and hand fans all made by the Bridge students. The Overall, Masters, and Grandmasters winners rceived trophies. The frames are all very pretty and the students clealry worked hard on them; however, it would have been nice if the printed inserts indicated the age group place. The  AG first place is exactly like the AG third place. 

I hope that if they hold this race again, that they start no later than 9:00 AM. Late April weather is unpredictable in Georgia, but it’s rarely below 40 by mid morning. As it was, the race was delayed 10 minutes from its scheduled 11:30 start so that volunteers (thank you, volunteers!) could be shuttled to their stations and the route markers checked. By race start it was already over 70 degrees. I also hope that there is some better traffic control at the larger intersections. For the most part, drivers were patient (Monroe is rural), but there were a few who couldn’t wait the few extra seconds for runners to clear the intersection before proceeding. I was almost hit by a driver rolling through the stop sign, anxious to make a right turn. I know he saw me because he looked staright at me. 

Thankfully, the finish was a decline because I was certain that although I clearly had an age group place, I didn’t think I’d PR. I ramped up my speed and sprinted in across the finish line. It’s amazing what it takes to shave a mere 20 seconds off your best time (then there are those distance races in which taking 20 minutes off your time is a piece pf cake). I pushed myself hard, perhaps a bit too hard because I’ve spent the day coughing from irritating my throat. And my lungs geel stressed. 

Cussin’ the Whole Way (or been there, done that)

Cussin’ the Whole Way (or been there, done that)

 

I ran the Run the Reagan Half for the first, and likely last, time. The race is the only time the Ronald Reagan Parkway, which runs east to west, connecting three cities, is shut down, making this a fairly popular race for that novelty. It was a small race with approximately 800 total runners and walkers. The Half Marathon was only 148 deep but with some stiff competition because it is chip-timed and certified.  There were plenty of water stations and two port-a-potties along the course. Each mile and the turn-arounds for the 5K, 10K, and half were clearly marked.

In past years, the race was held over the Presidents Day/Valentine’s Day weekend. This year, the race was moved to April, which was both good and bad;  good because it was most definitely warmer than years past and bad because it was most definitely warmer than years past. Regardless of the temperature, there is always a brisk headwind and tailwind with cross-winds on the overpasses.

This year, going out, we had a tailwind, which made it almost too warm on the four-lane black top. I was seriously regretting my wardrobe choice until we hit the turn around point.  The headwind was instantly cooling although the sun was warm and bright. Yay, for that. Except, you combine the 15+ mph headwinds with the loooooong rolling and graded roads, and suddenly the second half of the course is much more challenging.   My form started failing making the uphill and slanting roadway more difficult.  That’s when I started muttering colorfully and swearing off Run the Reagan in the future.

I clearly need distractions and sights to keep my mind from wandering into the negative talk zone.

If you’re running fast enough, you don’t miss the lack of on-course entertainment and cheering sections because there isn’t much to look at – just trees along the set-back, hiding the subdivisions. Going across the two overpasses, the usual suburban businesses are visible.   There were a few cycling groups taking advantage of the closed roadway and a few people who had walked up from their neighborhoods (or drove as close as possible then walked on to the parkway).  I wish some of the people from the neighborhoods who ventured onto the parkway had been there to cheer.

If you’re one of those people out there cheering on runner/ walkers with silly signs (way to go, random stranger!), high-fives, power-ups, cowbells, a guitar and amp playing, a kind word,  – anything – you are more than appreciated. You are making a difference to some runner who is about to give up. The 5K race started two hours after the Half start, so we middle of the pack runners, saw the 5K runners approaching their half-way point, so we exchanged encouragement across the median.

At the end, they had plenty of cold water, bananas, and apples.  There was a small after-party/community event with vendor and sponsor tables and bouncy houses for the kids.    The Half Marathon finishers received a medal and all the runners and walkers received tech shirts. Personally,  I would have liked the shirt to have the race distances on them (possibly even a different shirt for the half marathon runners) and for the volunteers to have a different shirt. It was hard to identify the volunteers from the runners.

The overall winner came in at 1:28:10 with the second place runner just 2 seconds behind him, so it’s not an impossible course. There were awards for overall, division, and age group winners in each distance.  A number of the women from the local MRTT chapter placed, including over-all Female Grand Masters for the Half and 5K. I ran an average time for me – not my best and not my worst.  Regardless, I got it done and was happy to finish.

This isn’t a race, I’d eagerly sign-up for again, especially considering the number of other more enticing and less expensive races around.  I will consider volunteering for a cheer section along the half marathon route, though.