Back on Track

I didn’t realize until last night how sick I’ve been the past couple of months.  It was so nice to be able to fully participate in my kickboxing and TRX classes!  Two weeks ago, I could hardly make it through the kickboxing – I thought several times of stopping and basically collapsed on the floor after each round. I even had problems breathing and keeping my pace during the warm-up runs.  Last night was tough but I remained upright throughout and was able to keep up with the majority of the floor work.  Well, except the military push-ups.  Those kicked my ass!

I was also very happy to see some real progress in my upper body strength! Six months ago, I couldn’t do even one full push up or hand plank and barely managed a forearm plank.  Last night I was able to do full pushups during that section of core work and managed most of the plank and pushup variations that were assigned.

My TRX class has been reformatted from group to personal training since there weren’t enough participants for a class.  While I do like the group atmosphere, I know that I am going to get a lot more out of the personal training.  My trainer was watching me like a hawk through the entire session – Elbows in! Chest up! Look up! Keep your weight in your heels! Watch your knee!  Breathe! – talk about multitasking! I definitely can’t coast in these sessions and I can feel the difference today! My side plug for TRX is that you need to try it if you are looking to work your core and improve your running.  I know that I am handling hills significantly better now because of the classes.  I am much more aware of my form and keeping my core engaged.  Seriously, check it out!  And, if I am ever able to manage a handstand push up in the straps, you know I’ll be posting a picture!

In running news, I have a very hot 15K tomorrow morning. It’s a local event, thankfully, but it will be in the 80s by the time I finish.  I am drinking tons of water today and quasi dreading tomorrow.  There are posts floating around Facebook right now that drinking a slushy helps with the cooling process.  I think all of that sugar would kill me but maybe I can figure out a healthier alternative.  I’m thinking coconut water and frozen fruit… Thankfully, the neighborhood pool is open so we’ll be cooling off there as soon as I’m done!

Happy Friday!

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Product Review: PRO Compression Socks

I’ve been considering compression socks for quite a few weeks. I did experience slight edema after my first half and I thought compression socks might help with that.  There were two problems, though.  1) I’m cheap and have a hard time justifying $50 for socks (unless they take 2 minutes off my pace!) and 2) I have very large calves (down to 18 1/2″! Whoo!…) and it is difficult finding socks or sleeves for women that are wide enough.

Last week, Active GearUp had a special for PRO Compression Marathon Socks at 50% off.  I decided to give them a try and bought two pairs. I’m very glad I did because the combination of Sunday’s race + Prednisone + heat/humidity and foolishly wearing heels to work has resulted in a bad case of edema in my lower legs and feet for the past two nights.  I put these socks on as soon as I arrive home and can immediately notice the difference!

Aaahhh!
Aaahhh!

Pro

SUPER fast shipping! Holy smokes!

They go up to size L/XL so they would fit even me

Great colors!

Overall, medium compression but not pinchy

Con

The sock part is just too long for my foot.  Clearly made for a man’s XL (even though I bought the teal and purple colors)

The shaft of the sock is also too long so I need to readjust periodically so they don’t bunch behind my knees

Overall

Even with my problems, I still give these socks an A.  The size isn’t quite right for me but that is not a fault of the sock.  I could not run in these but the are fine to wear around the house or in the car after a race.  I think I will try sleeves next and see if those don’t work better.  And, oh, would you look at this!  Active GearUp now has them at 54% off!

Race Report: Marine Corp Historic Half 2013

As predicted, the Marines put on an excellent race yesterday! Let’s break it down.

Registration

I didn’t decide until 3 weeks ago to register for this race but there were plenty of spots and I had no problem registering.  It was $110 for the race plus an “in training” shirt.  There was a bit of a delay in being able to register myself for the Track a Runner feature but it was fixed by Friday.  I had to communicate with the organizers a couple of times about this and they were quite helpful.

Expo, SWAG

The expo was at the local expo and conference center.  We arrived at 4 pm on Saturday and were able to park and get my bib with no problem.  The race shirt was a nice, bright orange tech shirt.  I really like it!  The expo had the local running store, a couple of supply booths, a NUUN booth, and a few race groups. They also had a lot of Historic Half merchandise for sale.  It also had Mahatma Rice and a bathtub restorer…  We were in and out in 30 minutes, that includes the time it took for our son to play some of the give-away games.  Sean Astin was also running the race but I didn’t see him at the expo or the race.

Start

Unfortunately, all of the hotels right near the start were booked so we had to stay a few miles south of town.  The race started at 7 and we parked about 6:40.  We didn’t adequately prepare for the walk to the start so I had to hustle through the corrals to try to seed myself before the gun.  I was still working my way back while the front corrals were in motion.  They also had the spectators pushed back from the sides of the start so my husband and Little Runner didn’t see me at all.    Next time, we will stay at one of the hotels next to the expo center and have my family spectate from the one mile marker.  It was very open there.

The Course

This was my first residential race so it was a nice surprise to see home owners sitting on their porches with signs and bells!  There were shuttle buses from the start to mile 7 but the lines were so huge that my family was not able to get down the course.  I’m not sure where the buses wound up going because there weren’t a ton of families on the course.  It was mostly locals.  There was a group of Colonial period dancers and a couple of musical groups.  One was more rock but there was a nice strings group that was fun.  Oh, and Civil War drums!  We ran past a Confederate cemetery and a bit of the river.  Of course, the big talk was all about Hospital Hill. Seriously, people were talking about it from mile 1 and the misinformation was epic!  One person was telling everyone it is two miles long!  In reality, it was about a mile and a half long but there was a flat spot mid-hill so it didn’t feel that long.

Hospital Hill Elevation
Hospital Hill Elevation

Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely challenging, but one of my big goals this race was to run ALL of the hills, including Hospital Hill, and I did!  It was very gratifying to run past others who were walking!  I think that was a first for me.

Finish

I was able to finish strong and was very proud of my effort.  I PRd by two minutes on a much hillier course and I didn’t fall apart like last time.  I do wish that there had been more crowd control in the final stretch.  It was very distracting to have people saunter across the course while runners were making the final push.  I also wish my family had been able to see my finish but it was recorded by Comcast Sports so they were able to watch a clip.

Massive Bling!
Massive Bling!

Overall

I would give this race a solid A-.  The bus issue was my biggest gripe but everything else went very well.  They had plenty of on-course water and Gatorade and even had Sports Beans at one point.  The weather was drizzly to start but then it dried off.  It remained very humid but the temperature never reached 70 (thank goodness the sun didn’t emerge!)

I was prepared for cooler temps and wet conditions so I wore capris, a short sleeve shirt, visor, and wool socks. I also had a garbage bag/rain poncho in case I needed it.

This was such a good race for me and really helped my confidence after last month.  I think that I ran a smart race: I didn’t go out too fast, I saved some energy for the hills, and I stopped and stretched at mile 10 before anything started seizing on me. I had some ankle pain but it wasn’t debilitating.  Per my pattern, the Marine race was my redemption run 🙂  I am looking forward to doing it again next year!

Done! See you in 2014!
Done! See you in 2014!

Second Half – I Can Do This!

Sunday, I will be running my second half marathon at the Marine Corp Historic Half in Fredericksburg, VA.  I have to say, I really don’t know what to expect.  My training has been really off since the Swamp Stomp, the weather is looking less than optimal, and my body is having a rough time with the meds that I’m on for the poison ivy fall-out.

[whine] Seriously, I thought about leaving kickboxing and TRX twice last night and sat and cried in the bathroom while cleaning up my legs that had spontaneously started bleeding between classes. Thinning skin, anyone? My legs are starting to hurt less but my skin just feels so weird and stretched and uncomfortable, especially around my knees. The horrible cystic acne isn’t helping my mental health, either. [/whine]

I’m not going to panic, though.  Historically, I have had very good runs with the Marines.  I ran my second 10K with them last October after my first, disastrous one, with another group in September (I mentally think of it as my personal Death March) and the Marines totally salvaged my confidence in my running.  They have excellent on course support and this course will have several opportunities for me to see my family rather than the normal wait for the finish.

My ankle feels so much better than earlier this week.  I seriously thought I had fractured something on Monday.  I now  have full range of motion again and I have been doing the stretches and excises every day.  I also have KT tape and will tape for extra support on Sunday.  I might even tape my adductor muscles.  I’ll be wearing capris so it won’t be visible and the extra support can’t hurt.

I also learned the hard way last month to NOT GO OUT TOO FAST.  Maybe if I yell it at myself a million time, I will get it!  I don’t think they will have pacers on Sunday but I will program my Garmin to beep when I go above my pace.  While I will be happy to do better than last time (2:40), my A goal is 2:30.  Of course, my C goal is always to not hurt myself, not hurt anyone else, not be last, and hopefully get at least one decent picture 🙂 (I thought I had a good one last time until I saw the couple dressed as Superman and Supergirl behind me, walking in their Vibrams)

I will not psych myself out.  I am going to go and do the best that my body can manage.  It has been through a lot lately and I need to respect the effort and the miles.

Hoorah, Marines!  Let’s go!

DNS

ImageYeah, there’s no “tri” either for me – at least not for now.  I was a DNS on Sunday’s race.

Due to the poison ivy from HELL (I’m now on a month long course of steroids!  Shoot me now!), I wasn’t able to get any swim training in – one of my weaker legs of the tri.  Due to my freak out over the bike and a few other things, I was only able to do a couple of bike rides, nothing like I wanted to – my second weakest leg of the tri.  Due to my strained muscle from the Swamp Stomp and then a minor case of Tibialis Posterior tendinitis, I wasn’t able to do very much running – running is my strongest leg but my ankle was screaming bloody murder.  All this equals a big, fat, Did Not Start.  Bah!

Luckily, there are many other sprint tris in the area so I plan to resume my training plan and do it right!  I would much rather have a DNS than to have a really horrible race due to lack of training.

May 12 was also my birthday, a day which usually leaves me rather pissy, and I knew this would be worse because of the DNS.  I was determined to not let my attitude ruin everyone’s day so I asked that we go to one of the nice local lakes where I could do a loop or two while Little Runner and my husband played at the playground and they readily agreed.  This was before my ankle diagnosis and I thought the trail around the lake would be easier for me since it was softer.  Uh, no.  Turns out, trails are the worst thing for that kind of injury.  Thankfully, it was  a pretty easy trail (lots of strollers!  That’s how they should rate trails!  Diamonds for ski runs, strollers for trails.).  I called it good after just one loop and then we walked down to the lake and had a picnic snack.  It was just what I needed to keep the funk at bay.

With the shells we found in the lake
With the shells we found in the lake

Unexpected

Registration for the Army Ten Miler opened today at 12:01 am (jerks) and I was discussing it last night with my husband.  After the craziness of the Marine Corp Marathon registration, I knew this one – run a scant week before MCM – would go fast.  Last year it sold out in 9 hours but I was not about to get up at midnight to register.  We were just chatting about it and he asked if it would be an okay distance for me, that close before the marathon.  I replied “Oh, yeah! It’s only ten miles!”  At which point, I started laughing.  Seriously, a year ago I couldn’t even imagine being so blase about 10 miles.  A year ago, I would have thrown up if someone told me I needed to run that.  A year ago, I was still struggling with 3.  What a difference a year makes!

We then started making jokes about the various crazy races I could do – I would have won the Iditarod if the sled of dogs I was pulling didn’t weigh so much! I told them to cut back on the fish! – okay, so that isn’t going to fly but it won’t be long before the marathon won’t be a big, scary distance to me.  A year from now, I hope to have two marathons under my belt and be eying my next challenge.  A year from now, I will be that much stronger.

Every day, forward!

New Gear!

I love buying new gear but I (try) to keep it on a strict budget.  I’m as happy as a kid at Christmas when I can score a deal for something on my wish list.

This week’s finds:

Brooks D’lite Mesh Tank  – Normally $28 but the pink was on sale for $18.  I really like this tank!  It is mesh so it will be cooler once the region reverts to its normal, swampy summer self but it’s not see through.  It is also longer so you don’t have to worry about it riding up under a water belt.  I look forward to trying it out on a run soon.  I fear the tank is a slippery slope, though.  Next thing you know, I’ll be wearing actual SHORTS to run!  Ack!

Brooks D’lite Tank

CamelBak  – Normally $55, got it for $30.  Yes, I’m now “that girl”.  Just for long runs, though!

CamelBak Aurora

(I swear it’s just a coincidence that everything is pink…)

Front
Front
Back
Back

 

And, not a deal but it is so awesome!! I LOVE this shirt!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you found some good deals lately?  What is your latest purchase?  I’m always looking for stuff for my wish list!  My Running Gear Pinterest board is getting a bit stale so do share!

Weight of the Matter

Warning, this is a bit rambley and ranty…

I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember.  I always thought of myself as fat (even though I was just a normal, chubby kid).  I strongly take after my father’s side of the family which is hearty Russian peasant stock (and Romanian horse thieves, if my grandfather is to be believed) and not my mother’s lean western European traits.  I always hated that.  I didn’t want to be sturdy, I wanted to be lithe.

I remember my father paying me (I think $100) to lose weight in junior high school.  I lost the weight, got the money, and gained it back again.  I remember dressing up for school one day, in the hopes that the boy I had a hopeless crush on would notice me.  He did!  But only to point out that I had canckles.

Weight Watchers, Atkins, Cabbage Soup, semi-starvation, I did it all with the same results.  I tried a medically supervised liquid diet in 2005 and lost quite a bit of weight but promptly became pregnant and gained a TON.  I lost and gain, lost and gained until I was at 290 and quit weighing myself.  That is when I decided to get the Lap-Band.

I had my surgery in 2008.  Before surgery, I had to go on the same liquid diet again to shrink my liver so I quickly lost 30lbs but just eeked out a pound here or there after the banding.  I had a very difficult time finding the right setting for the band so I did not have any of the automatic control that it was supposed to give me.

Less than two years out, we moved to a different state and my new doctor was overly aggressive with my fill.  I then began the worst cycle of my life.  Unbeknownst to me, my band had slipped and I was experiencing more and more problems because of it.  The only food that I could successfully eat without becoming “stuck” were things that were also high carb or highly processed (which kicked of massive migraines).  My weight wasn’t budging a bit and, when I tried to exercise, the reflux was so horrible that I had to immediately stop.  So I ate crap and sat around a lot.  Oh, and was constantly sick.  Go, me.

Fast forward to last year.  We moved again and my reflux was so bad that I could not lie down at night and I could only eat liquids (but nothing after 5 pm). Around the same time, I switched over to a low carb, whole food diet and began my Couch to 5K program.  I was always so tired because of my lack of nutrition but I tried to make up for it by having super protein smoothies and home made bone broth.  Finally, almost a year ago, I had that horrible band removed.  The doctor who performed the operation said that I would regain all of my weight (and more!) after the surgery.  Well, that just pissed me off!  I am happy to report that I have lost quite a bit since then – I don’t know the exact number since I threw out my scale (I was letting it rule my life too much).  I am also building a lot of muscle and am definitely leaning out my problem areas.  I even lost another 1/2″ off from my calves since March!  Goodbye canckles!

Why am I sharing this?  Because yesterday it was reported that Chris Christie had Lap Band surgery in February and asshats from all over are saying that it shows his “lack of self control” or his desire to take the “easy way”, etc. etc.  To them I say “F you!”  The Lap Band is by no way the easy way.  Even if you work the program perfectly and have no complications, it is still UP TO YOU!  It is not a magic bullet!  I sincerely hope that Mr. Christie is able to achieve success with the band and is smart enough to incorporate a solid exercise plan into his process.  I hope he improves his health and lives another fifty years.  I hope that he is able to run and play with his grandchildren to his heart’s content.  I hope he doesn’t have any complications (but chance are, he will).

Looking back, I don’t know what I would change.  I think my horrible health last year was part of what prompted me to make such drastic dietary and fitness changes.  I don’t know if I would have made the leap, otherwise.  I just wished that I had realized that I could exercise and be physically active, regardless of my weight, all those years ago.  I wish I hadn’t allowed myself so many excuses.  I am thrilled when I see a heavier runner at my races.  I always shout out encouragement when I see them.  Losing weight and maintaining at a healthy level is so incredibly hard and if someone needs extra help, such as Mr. Christie, then more power to them.  At least they are trying to make the change!  Instead of beating him down, it would be so nice if the peanut gallery would applaud him for making that leap.

Why I Run

I posted the following on Facebook in October.  It is part of why I find myself repeatedly lacing up my shoes.  I honestly thought things were improving and that I was moving on but a new co-worker is expecting their first next month (and we had a baby shower for them last week) and an issue of “Adoption Month” managed to land in my in-box and my boss pointed out an ad for egg donors and surrogates in the college paper and I find myself raw all over again.  It is a process.  I will keep moving  running forward.

True
I think I’m doing better.  Finding some peace. It’s been months/weeks/days since I thought about a baby, my baby.  But then, a closing scene on a sitcom depicts a couple deciding that they don’t want their daughter to be an “only” and that they don’t want her to miss out on the joy of having siblings and I find myself tearing up.
I need to run.

If my mind is focused on my pace and form, it doesn’t have time to think about how much Little Runner will miss by not being a big brother.

If I’m looking ahead and gauging the hills, I can’t “see” the familial scenes that will never be.

If my lungs are busy keeping up with me, they can’t afford the air to cry.

If I obsess about races and gear and personal bests, I don’t have time to think about temperatures and failed cycles and the garage full of baby gear I can’t sell.

If I run until my body hurts, then the hurt in my heart isn’t as apparent.

My family, rife with “oops babies” and hyper-fertility, can’t understand.

My husband, with his four other children and the shear fact that it isn’t him, can’t understand.

The road can’t understand, either, but it doesn’t need to.  It just takes the pounding and the beating and the cursing until I’m okay to head for home and enjoy the child that we have.

I may not have found peace yet but I will keep running until I do.

Happy Trails

Luckily, my first run at Fountainhead was not nearly as mystifying as Ayn Rand’s literary doorstop!

Last week, I was struck by the brilliant idea to attempt membership in the Half Marathon Fanatic club.  One way to qualify is to run 3 halves in 90 days.  I was able to quickly find my second but the third was proving elusive due to other, previously scheduled races.  I then found a local 1/2 trail race at Fountainhead Regional Park and thought I should try a test run before committing.  I knew some of the runners in my MRTT group train there regularly so I asked if anyone would be willing to show me the ropes.  Three of us quickly settled on a Sunday afternoon run.

Before this, I have run only a handful of “trails”.  On a scale of difficulty, it has been 1) paved paths, 2) Lake Accotink, 3) Burke Lake, and 4) Wakefield. I volunteered at a trail race at Hemlock Overlook in March and was a bit shocked by how beat up the runners were as they came through my aid station – I would rate it a 6 or 7 on my little scale based on what I saw.  I had heard that Fountainhead was about on par with Hemlock Overlook as for difficulty.  I finally looked closely at the map yesterday morning and realized that they were PART OF THE SAME SYSTEM!  Oy!

The park is very easy to access and there is plenty of parking.  Mountain bikers and runners/hikers stay to separate trails so there is no worry of being run over. The trail is very steep and rough in spots so there are no strollers to dodge (though we did see one poor woman trying to haul one over roots).  There is full foliage so plenty of shade and there is a few nice views of streams and the lake.  The trail took us over a couple of stream crossings but the foot bridges were very well maintained.  The only “bad” part was the number of dogs that were off their leash.  We didn’t have any problems but we did have a moment of surprise when we came running around a corner and there was a big, fluffy dog sitting there with the owner several yards away.  He just sat and watched us but it did unnerve me a bit.

We decided to just run a 6 mile out-and-back and that was just fine for a first taste.  I really did enjoy the run and the trail was fairly well marked and easy to follow.  I can see that I need to wear real trail shoes for this one, though.  I didn’t slide too much but I can tell it is a slippery, muddy mess when it rains.  Amazingly, I didn’t fall once!  I stumbled a few times but I do that even on flat surfaces 🙂

A lot of hills!
A lot of hills!

Overall, this was a great run!  It was fun to try something new and use a totally different set of muscles.  I hope to put this park into my rotation for the coming months, especially when things heat up in the summer.