Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tonight, I'm sleeping with Batman!

The bad news is that I didn’t get a PR and that I got a gash to the head right before the start of today’s race.  The good news is, tonight, I’m sleeping with Batman!

Today we ran the Museum of Aviation’s Half-Marathon for the sixth year in a row.  We have run it every year since we moved here.  It was my very first ever half-marathon, so I’m a bit nostalgic about the race.  It wasn’t pretty, but I even did it the year I was going through chemo.  We usually have a big gaggle of friends from our Crazy Joes team and it’s loads of fun seeing everyone out on the course.  Invariably, we have one or two people doing their first half or full marathon.  Being the consummate cheerleader, running them in or cheering at the finish line is my favorite part of the race.   This year, I got to run in my fellow BC buddy Jane as she ran her first half, on her birthday nonetheless!

Being that the race is in January, it is almost always cold.  I don’t mind; I enjoy running in the cold.  This year was no different.  The temps were in the twenties when we started and rose to the low thirties when we finished.  No biggie.  That’s what trash bags are for.  I actually wore mine longer than normal, keeping it until mile four because I decided to leave my jacket behind (more on that later). 

In addition to the unusually cold temps we’ve been having, we’ve also been having a lot of rain this winter.  So much so in fact, the road on the back side of the run course got washed out.  That’s a lot of rain!  Because of the washed out road, the race officials had to reroute the course.  Instead of making a loop of the base, we did an out and back.  This is bad.  Not only did it make the course a bit boring <Boo!>, but also the marathon course is normally a Boston Marathon qualifier.  The new course could not be certified, therefore, no Boston qualifying.  Double Boo!

This morning dawned cold and windy, just how windy we were soon to find out.  I dragged Joe out of bed at 0500 to come with me to volunteer for packet pickup.  I did my stint passing out packets with smiles and words of encouragement.  We then posed for the Team Crazy Joes pre-race picture that, as Team Mom, I always cajole, nay guilt everyone into doing.  And then, it was almost go time.

I went to put something in my bag that was stowed under one of the jets on display (Only at a military race do you stow your bags under a jet, right?).   As I stood up, I whacked my head on the nose of the jet.  I whacked it so hard and as hardheaded as I am, my eyes started watering and I saw stars for a second.  Being the medical professional that I am, I immediately started a self-assessment.  I knew the date, time, where I was and all those general orientation questions.  I was not dizzy or nauseated, but I did have a headache, go figure.  Alrighty then.  I said a little prayer that I didn’t begin vomiting or have a seizure on the course and it was go time. 

Joe received a set of Batman jammies from his Endurance Nation teammate and secret Santa Shannon for Christmas.  He was subsequently tripe-dog dared to wear them for a race.  Joe will do just about anything for a good, so it was game on.  Since he’s been plagued with heel pain from his plantar fasciitis, he knew there was no way he would PR.  Instead, he said he would pace me.  Yay!  Not only would I be running with Joe but I’d be running with Batman.   How lucky can a girl get? 

Before the race, I told Joe that I’d really like to try for a PR.  I’d have to run about 8:45s to get a PR, something that I knew I could easily do for a 5K and could do on the treadmill, but was unsure if I could sustain on an outside run.  Turns out, I couldn’t.

I did fine on the first three miles.  And even mile four wasn’t too bad, but then we hit the WIND!  Joe doesn’t think the wind was that bad, but he must have been running in a different wind than the rest of us.  Everyone else that I spoke with after the race spoke of the same wind to which I refer.  At mile nine, the leg cramps hit, but rather than admit it to Joe, I kept running, just slower than I had been.  Our buddy Jerry passed us on mile ten.  There aren’t many people that I don’t mind passing me in a race but he’s one that it didn’t bother me.  I tried to step it up on the final mile and was cheered to see our friend Josh (who graciously took my water bottle) and heard several others cheering me on.  As I rounded the corner for the last push to the finish, I did a lot of self-motivating talk and scanned the finish line for my Brownies who were volunteering at the finish line.  As I crossed the finish line, I was engulfed in a sea of little faces pushing water, tissues, hugs and a medal at me, all of them talking at once.  What a rewarding way to end a race!  Poor Joe.  I don’t think anyone but Josie even noticed that he crossed just a second behind me, his Batman cape fluttering in the wind. 

As with any race, I goofed up some things, but I was happy with other things.  I goofed up by not starting to eat my bananas a few days before the race to ward off cramps.  I should have done more outside running than I have to prepare myself for running in the wind.  I did fuel and hydrate well during the race, but after running more than a dozen other half-marathons; I think I’ve figured out my system there.  I was appropriately dressed; I am a freak in that I really don’t mind running in the cold.  And, after running this race for five years previous, I finally ran up the hill on mile ten.  THAT was a huge milestone for me!

I would have loved to have gotten a PR, but after thinking long and hard about why I don’t push myself just that little bit more, I shared my theory to Joe.  I think I’m afraid to push myself from fear of injury and fear of a full-blown asthma attack.  I’ve had so many injuries in the past few years that I’m now more timid during races and in training.  I don’t want to backslide.  Prudence over folly I say.

I am always short of breath for several days after any half-marathon I run.  In fact, I started coughing within minutes of crossing the finish line.  I had used my inhaler before the race and had to do so again shortly after the race.  After we got home I coughed almost non-stop for two hours before my lungs started to settle down.  Talk about an abdominal workout on top of a cardio workout! 

A couple of years ago, I asked my pulmonologist about my shortness of breath after races and he laughed and told me that he’d probably feel the same way.   Even though the shortness of breath and coughing are a nuisance, I can deal with both if I can continue to race.  I’m afraid if I push myself even more, I’ll throw myself into a full-blown asthma attack out on the course and wind up in the hospital.  I love to run, but that’s not a cost that I’m willing to pay.  I feel a bit wimpy saying that, like I should be able to “handle” or “control” my asthma better, but I guess with age comes wisdom, right?

All I know is… tonight; I’m sleeping with Batman! :0)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Channeling My Inner Zebra?

As athletes, we all have our rituals and checklists.  Certain clothes need to be worn and aren’t worn for several weeks before the race just in case there is a cataclysmic breakdown of all washers and dryer in a six state radius of one’s race.  Bags need to be packed with the precision of a NASA employee sending someone to the ISS. 

And then, there’s the nutrition…  When you’re young, it’s not as big of a deal.  You can eat pizza and drink beer until two in the morning, get up and race the next day like it’s just another day at the office.  Not so when you’re middle-aged or beyond.  Meal planning starts days, weeks or sometimes months before the race.  We all know that fiber is usually our friend.  Not so a couple of days before a big race.

Fiber + big race = big dump… in a port-a-potty… out on the course…       where TP is not always accessible.   Not fun. 

Yes, as athletes, we’re a quirky bunch.  Joe saves his checklists from races and we eat the same thing (if possible) the night before a race – “Dad’s Easy Chicken”.  He has me write some phrase of the day on his arms before his Ironman races.  And, Joe has instilled in me the need to get a good night’s rest two nights before the race, because he says that’s the sleep you race on, not the sleep from the night before your race.  My buddy Stefanie paints her toenails bright pink and her fingernails black to remind herself to be tough, but to have fun.   Don and Megan eat cinnamon rolls for breakfast together on race day.  I wear something pink, to remind me to remember those that can’t race.  Coffee and McDonalds on race morning are also popular with our crowd.

As I showered today I was thinking about all the things we do in hopes that our races will be easier, that we will be faster, stronger, better.  As luck would have it, I was rinsing out the zebra-print headband at the time.  “I know,” I thought, “I need to come up a visual cue that will help me stay in my box and focus during my races this year.  A fun animal print would be good.”  

Now, those that know me and know my wardrobe will tell you that while I love bright colors, I’m not a pattern kind of gal.  Being as petite as people tell me I am (I’m not that small, people!), I generally stick to solid colors or small patterns.  And things must match!  I loved Granimals as a kid.  There is a reason my scuba instructor called me Gap Girl. 

The only reason that I even had a zebra print headband was because it was included in a multi-pack of headbands.  Since I was wearing purple and black workout gear today, I figured it “went” well enough.  But, I digress.  Back to my newly formed and soon-to-be-instituted ritual –an animal print something or other to make me feel bold, to make me feel, strong, to make me feel fast…  Yeah, I know.  A girl can dream.

What’s the fastest land mammal?  A cheetah.  “That’s it!  I’ll find some fun cheetah-print item to wear when I race,” I thought. 

But then I started thinking about cheetahs.  While they may be the fastest land mammals, they are sprinters and peter out after only a few short minutes of work.  I am a distance athlete.  I need to swim and bike and then run some more to reach the finish line.  And, when you look at a cheetah’s success rate, it’s pretty paltry.  Only fifty percent of a cheetahs hunts are successful.  And really, how many of us really look like the human version of a cheetah?  Well, yeah, Chrissie Wellington or Meredith Kessler do and Andy Potts or Jesse Thomas, but I’m talking about regular real people, not pros or genetic anomalies.   

I am not a cheetah; I identify more with zebras.  Just for fun I pulled up a couple of websites about zebras to do a little research.  My favorite was this one from Kids Konnect:
According to the website, zebras have excellent eyesight (For seeing the course clearly, my dear.), great hearing (The better to hear the competition coming up behind them, my dear.), and excellent sense of taste and smell (To smell the competition’s fear and to taste sweet victory, my dear.). It stated that zebras are short, stocky, social animals.  Zebras were sounding more and more like me than the lithe, beautiful solitary cheetahs. 

Next I checked Google to see how fast zebras and cheetahs could run.  Here’s a nifty little website although they don’t have cheetahs as one of their highlighted animals.  http://www.howfastcan.com/a-zebra-run/.  According to this website, zebras can run up to forty miles per hour.  A cheetah can go from zero to sixty in less than three seconds, but remember… its’ success rate for kills is only about 50%.  Talk about good odds for the zebras, especially when you take into consideration that the cheetahs aren’t always targeting only zebras.  I’ll take the zebras’ odds any day.  I know.   I know.   What about when you factor in the kill rates of lions with the cheetahs against the zebras?  I still think the zebras would be ahead of the power curve, and have you EVER seen ANY lion-print accessories?  Work with me here.   

 So, based on my not-so-extensive or scientific research, I think that when I compare animals in the animal kingdom; I am more like a zebra than a cheetah.  Look for my super-cool zebra print accessories that I’ll be sporting this season.  I hope that it’ll make me faster.  If not, I’d better practice my dodge and weave technique to avoid the cheetahs out on the course.

Friday, January 10, 2014

My New Coach

This year, in addition to my other New Year’s resolutions, I’ve added one to be better about doing core work.  I’ll admit it: while I’m almost fanatical about completing my prescribed run workouts, I’ve been really bad about consistently doing core work.  This is the year I’ve committed to try to do something about it.  The experts say that it takes six weeks to get a habit engrained in your brain.  Here’s hoping.

For the uninitiated, core work is basically a fancy way of saying abdominal work.  After three babies and four-plus decades, my core ain’t what it used to be.  I’ve been wondering for a while if some of my endless injuries couldn’t be even slightly the result of a weak core.  And, everything you read these days indicates that to get faster and stronger, you need a strong core.  Okay.  Okay.  I get it.  Time to work on the core!

As much as I used to lament my rest days, now I cherish them.  Ah, a rest day!  I can be a slug.  Well, not really as those of you that know me know, but you understand, right?  No workout clothes are required, but there’s always something on my plate, so get showered, get dressed and out the door.

While my current training plan calls for two rest days each week, it also has the caveat that I should be doing core work on those days.  Huh?  No more complete rest days?  It’s just twenty minutes, but to my brain, that’s still a workout.  But, do I even bother to dirty some workout clothes for a measly twenty-minute core workout when I just as easily pull the clothes I wore out of the hamper from the night before?  That’s what I usually do to walk the dog anyway.  One problem solved. 

Problem number two: what core workout do I do?  There are so many out there, but this time, in hopes that I’ll stick to it, I’m gonna do my own thing and go with what feels right for that particular day.  I plan to do a combination of yoga and traditional abdominal work with maybe some Pilates thrown in for good measure.  I miss doing a traditional yoga class, but there hardly seems time for it anymore with all the other workouts each week.  Plus, I haven’t found a class at a good time for me.  And lastly, I miss my old yoga instructor in Miami.  He was great and his workouts always kicked my butt, in a good way.

Coach Joe is great for the running, biking and swimming questions and concerns and for the motivation that I need.  He, like me though, hasn’t been great about doing consistent core work.  It was time to bring in a fresh face so, in addition to Coach Joe, I have a new coach this year.  My new coach doesn’t say a whole lot, but he’s demanding and gets right up in my face when I’m struggling.  His gaze is steady and reproachful when I’m starting to tire.  His praise and motivation, when given, help me to laugh and smile, a huge plus when my muscles are on fire or about ready to give out.  Occasionally, he will deign to stretch with me but, like all good coaches, he has his own times to work out and his own workouts that he strictly adheres to.  Oh, and I forgot to mention, he’s really ripped and, I think, quite handsome. 

Meet my new coach: