Saturday, January 31, 2015

Head Stuff

This week was emotionally draining. International Holocaust Remembrance Day was Tuesday, and as I'm currently in the middle of Night and the Holocaust unit with my students, I've been thinking a lot about it and things have been kind of heavy.

On top of that, I had my blood drawn on Thursday. Because they're running about a million different panels, the doctor took more vials than I'm used to, and I ended up almost passing out. (That's never happened before, but it was kind of nice to be given doctor-sanctioned candy.) Friday I felt sluggish all day.
Archie helped nurse me back to health after my long, weary week.
I spent most of Saturday reading Elie Wiesel's autobiography All Rivers Run to the Sea, so by the time I was ready to run, I was feeling pretty melancholy. Because of the blood draw, I hadn't run in a few days, and the longer I take off, the harder it is to motivate myself to go.

I decided to go to the park and run the loop there. I wanted to be able to just zone out without thinking about my route or my mileage. 
I ended up doing a 5k; I loved not having a set mileage in mind.
I put on the music I wanted to listen to, as opposed to the music that usually pumps me up for a run. I ran the loop over and over, switching directions every two laps to avoid any issues with my IT band. (I think the slightly warmer weather helped too.)
Some of the songs I listened to during my run.
It was a strange run. At first, I was ruminating on what I'd been reading. I felt almost disconnected from my body, but in a good way. By thinking about something totally unrelated to the run, a barrier I hadn't even known I was battling faded away. When I finished, I felt refreshed and energized in a way I haven't felt in weeks.
Post-run, feeling good.
Because of all my upcoming races, I've been in a place of I need to run X miles, and the stress of that hasn't been very motivating, especially when I've had to take time off. Being able to just run because my head needed it was liberating. Sometimes I get freaked out by the pressure I put on myself and I have to remind myself that I love running. And especially while feeling under the weather, I need to come back to basics. I run because I love it. The end.

I'm really glad that this was my last run of January; it was a good one to end on.

 How has your week in running been?
How do you balance training runs and for-the-joy-of-it runs?
Do you ever run with non-traditional music?


Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Family-Filled Weekend

I owe a big "thank you" to everyone who shared some insights on my last post! I am going to make an appointment with my doctor and get to the bottom of what's causing my exhaustion.

Last weekend, Matt and I saw his side of the family. This weekend, my sister and her boyfriend came to stay with us for a mini-vacation.

I was supposed to run Saturday morning but woke up to rain, and pre-sunrise rain is a deal-breaker for me. So instead we all slept in and then had a giant brunch of chocolate-chip waffles, bacon, and eggs...all devoured before I got a picture!
Any guesses what kind of class I've been trying out?
Steph and I met a couple friends for a workout class. I usually hate classes but it's been nice to try something new and different, and going with friends helps keep me motivated.

After the class, we drove up to meet my parents for dinner at our usual halfway meeting place. 
Back-seat selfie!
Most of the family made it to dinner!
Sunday I successfully got up to run with Kristin. I hadn't run in over a week and mentally I've been feeling really blocked and anxious about all these half marathons I have coming up. I can run a 5k without much training and finish it, but obviously a half is more daunting! 
It felt really good to get some distance in. It reminded me that I can still run long. My knees were tight toward the end, maybe because of Saturday's workout, but I felt good overall.

Matt had a SUP race Sunday so we went to watch and cheer him on. 
We watched the race from on a bridge and Matt passed right under us.
Afterward, Steph and Gordon paddled a bit. (I opted out because there were manatees in the water!)
Some GoPro action.
Steph near a manatee.
While they were circling the manatee...
...I relaxed on the dock and took selfies.
We finished our weekend festivities with burgers and milkshakes. It was the perfect way to end our Sunday.

Did you have a good weekend?
Does your brain ever get in the way of your runs?


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Is This Normal?

You know how you go through your days experiencing life as yourself and then someone says something like, "Ugh, I woke up with robot-devil hands today," and you're like, "I hate when that happens, I'm always waking up with robot-devil hands," and they give you this incredulous look like that's not normal?
You better watch out or Beezelbot will steal your hands and your woman!
Obviously if the not normal thing were that blatant, your concerned friends would suggest a visit to a doctor specializing in the removal of robot-devil hands. My problem is much more mundane; I only just realized that maybe it's not normal to suffer from constant, bone-deep exhaustion.
This is actually my life.
This can't be normal. Some days I can barely drive home from work without my eyelids getting heavy. I'm ready for bed by six every night, not because I'm planning a long run in the morning or anything, but because I'm just that tired. I look forward to the weekends so that I can sleep as late as I want. I hit the wall during my runs before the run has even really started.

And yes, usually running gives me more energy. I think one thing that's been concerning me is that running isn't helping like it usually does; if anything, it leaves me feeling more sluggish.

I did a little research. Because of celiac, I eat fewer carbs than most people and I used to think maybe this was why my energy levels are always so low...But just recently I've wondered if maybe it's something more.
I made the mistake of going on WebMD and looking up a list of possible causes. My hypochondriac-self is now worrying about anemia, thyroid problems, and heart disease, among other things.

I just had a physical but I hadn't thought to tell my doctor that most days I'm basically an extra in The Walking Dead. 

Maybe I should schedule another appointment and have some tests run, but I'm not sure if this kind of exhaustion is just normal for women my age. 

So tell it? Or am I just being a baby?
Have you ever had to combat constant fatigue? What helped you?


Monday, January 19, 2015

February Races Revised

Somehow in the last few days I've gone from having one upcoming half in February and one in March to two in February on consecutive weekends (plus a 15k).

I just had to add the A1A Half to my plans...It's a birthday gift from my parents, so how could I say no?!
I was originally interested in this race because it's on my birthday. Then Meg took this photo of the A1A medals while at the Key West Half, and that definitely reignited my interest ...And all my friends/family are enablers, apparently!
I haven't had a long run since November. I planned to do nine miles this weekend, but Matt's brother flew in unexpectedly from LA and the only time we had to see him was Saturday night and Sunday morning, so that threw a wrench in my plans.
After breakfast Sunday morning.
Matt and Scott are both spitting images of their dad. The Kearney genes are strong.
(It was totally worth it. We haven't seen Scott since last winter.)

I think maybe I also have a bit of a mental block. I almost feel like I've forgotten how to run long! But I need to just suck it up and get it done...I have four weeks until the A1A half and I'd like to be in good shape for it. I mean, I'd like to run the entire race and half fun doing it!

So this week I'll need to get back on track and find some motivation despite any distractions. I've been consistent with my weekday runs; now it's time to get serious about my weekend runs, too!

How was your weekend?
Leave me a little kick in the pants. I need it!


Friday, January 16, 2015

The IT Band Debate

It's amazing how much stress - even when we're not aware that we're dealing with it - can affect our workouts. Every run this week was a dogged internal battle of pure will. Just getting out of the house was a struggle.

To make it worse, a sharp pain in the outside of my knee interrupted the middle of Wednesday's run. My IT band was not happy, and neither was I.
I was torn about how to take care of this. I've been diligent about my leg raises and was sure that I'd been doing enough to prevent a recurrence of this old (old old old) injury. I haven't had IT band pain in years!
Usually, runners rely on foam rolling to cure their IT band pain. It's a joke among athletes that rolling the IT band hurts so good and it's usual to scream during the massage.

However, a couple recent articles suggest that rolling the IT band can actually exacerbate the issue. The IT band doesn't get tight (these articles claim); it simply gets pulled out of sync with your leg movements and needs to be rested and balanced by strengthening your hips and fixing your stride, among other things.

I had this in mind when I rolled on Wednesday night and practiced a little Pigeon Pose. I had it in mind when I rolled Thursday (twice). I didn't want to be doing more damage, but in the past foam rolling has always been so helpful!
Super happy after my run!
Today's run helped make up my mind. I had no pain at all; in fact, I felt so good I tacked on some extra mileage! My pace was steady and everything felt right. I haven't had a run that smooth in weeks!
I guess I had better make sure to foam roll more consistently, because it definitely seemed to make a difference.

Oh, and one final thing. Shortly after finishing my run I received this text:
I guess 64 is pretty cold by Florida standards!

Where do you stand on the IT band treatment debate?
 What do you do to prevent injury?
Has your IT band ever given you trouble?


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Clothes & A Race Schedule

While some may argue that the feeling of renewal that accompanies the new year is the best part of January, I'd argue the winter sales might have it beat.

Anticipating the swarms of resolutioners who will be signing up for gym memberships (usually at a discount!), plenty of stores drop prices on their workout clothes.

I rarely shop at Old Navy (it's not convenient for me), but once a year their 40% discount on workout clothes gets the best of me! This weekend I picked up some new gym shorts for Matt and a few new tops for myself.
I got this tank in neon coral and neon green.
This tank is cotton, but will be good for cross-training.
(The sale is still going on, plus an extra 25% off with the code JACKPOT.)
Neon green might be my new favorite neon!
The shirt is a little looser than my usual taste, but it's really comfortable and I love the straps.
It's a good thing I've got some new running clothes, because I'm finally putting together my winter/spring race schedule.

February: I finally decided how to celebrate my birthday. The weekend after, I'll be in Tampa with Kristin (and hopefully some other ladies from our Ragnar team) running the Gasparilla 15k and half marathon. Yes, both! I'm excited.

Also, February 8 I'll be running the Run to the Arts 5k with Elisa. It will be her first race ever and my first race of 2015...I haven't raced a 5k in a long time and I'm pretty nervous!

March: The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure on March 7.

April: The Shark's Tooth 10k is the morning after a friend's wedding...I still plan to get there but it will mean a very early morning and a long drive after a late night. I'm already concerned about my plan to PR it!

My backup race is a 5k I've run in the past and really love:
The Fast and the Furriest!
I'm hoping that this year I'll be in DC with students again in May and will finally be able to cross an item off my bucket-list: run in DC!

I haven't signed up for all these races, but they're on my radar and they would keep me motivated through spring.

Have you put together your 2015 race calendar?
Do you sign up in advance, or wait for races to get closer?
 Which cost-efficient workout clothes do you love? Old Navy and Target are my favorite!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

My First Race

When I first began running in 2009, I never expected to run a race. Honestly, I'm not sure I was even aware that races were a thing you could just...sign up for! I was pretty inconsistent in my running at the time and I wasn't running very far...maybe a couple miles here and there.
In January 2010, this was my usual pattern: runs shorter than 2 miles a couple times a week. The 5k is the last green bar.
But after the 2010 earthquake that wreaked havoc on Haiti, a local church set up a 5k to raise money for disaster relief, and Matt and I signed up. I had just celebrated my one year runner-versary (runniversary?).

The race was pretty much as unofficial as you can get, but that's not to say it wasn't well-organized or successful. It was untimed and part of it was on bouncy Florida crab-grass and packed dirt. I remember it was overcast and the air felt wet. I was scared I would get lost. I was scared I wouldn't be able to finish. I had never run 3.1 miles before; I had no idea if I could.
Yes, that's right. I ran in cut-off sweats and the cotton race T-shirt. This was before I believed in race-shirt superstition. Also, can you tell I'm smiling?
For the first half of the race, I felt good. When we hit the grass, I walked. Part of me was devastated to be walking, but I noticed a lot of people walked in the grass so that helped my confidence. It lasted about a quarter mile as it looped behind some baseball fields; then came packed dirt, and I ran again.
You can tell this was in the days before everyone and their mother had a smartphone with a good camera. Here I am nearing the finish.
Matt was there when I crossed the finish line. I wasn't last. I'd done the whole thing. I had walked, but not too much. I sprinted the end of it. Having had a clear view of me for the last half mile or so, Matt was surprised and impressed that I had run the end of it and finished strong.
Matt and I post-race with our friend Ryan.
Going back into Nike+, I can see that I ran that race way faster than I remember. My subsequent 5ks were all over 30 minutes, and I've always believed my first 5k took me 33+ minutes, but apparently not!
Seriously? These are splits I would kill for right now.
My runs leading up to my first race were all less than 2 miles. Even though I knew nothing about running clothes or gear, my paces averaged in the 9:30s pretty consistently, which I guess goes to show that all the bells and whistles don't really matter all that much.
My last .1 was at a pace of 8:56 and I finished well under 30 minutes, which became a barrier in my next few 5ks that I set to work breaking. I totally forgot that I ran this 5k so successfully!
I was totally unprepared for my first 5k and I didn't know what to expect, but it was the perfect race to break the ice for me. After that, races were less daunting. Suddenly I realized that 5ks could be found pretty much any weekend, and I started to push my distances and train more consistently. 

I learned that having a goal race in mind helps keep your running on track. My running frequency increased like crazy; in 2010 I ran 35 times that year. Yes, that whole year. My total distance was about 82 miles.

Comparably, in 2014 I ran 115 times and my total distance was about 538 miles.

It's really cool to be able to go back and see my progress. I know I would have just kept running short runs a couple times a month if I had never run that first 5k.

It's true what they say, I guess. The 5k is a gateway race drug!

This post is fortuitously well-timed...Just before winter break I convinced a friend who had just started running to try C25k. She's hooked. We will be running a 5k together in February; it will be her first.

Do you remember your first race?
Do you have access to your entire running history?
What do you wish you had known before you ran your first race?


Friday, January 9, 2015

A Fresh Start

Time off has officially ended...not just winter break, but running-wise as well. I wanted to get this year started on the right foot, so January 1 I met up with Kristin and we had a nice four-mile run in the evening. It was my second 4-miler that week.
A very blurry (and green?) photo...first run of the year and we both just happened to wear our GGM tanks!
After time off, it used to be that I'd start all over. I'd run no more than two miles and take ages to build back up. But it seems in the last year or so, four miles has become my comfortable minimum. I'll run fewer if necessary, but I like to push for four.

Maybe how quickly I lose fitness is partially in my head.

Anyway, I started the first full week of the year by running another four, this time with Matt. I compared my last three runs and was pleasantly surprised by the results.
Last run of 2014.
First run of 2015 (with Kristin).
My most recent run.
Running with someone versus running alone may be partially to credit for this increase in speed, but when I ran with Matt he was comfortable going slow and I purposely ramped up the pace in each mile I just wanted to test my legs. (And he stopped at 3 miles; I ran the last one by myself and it was my fastest. It was nice to run sub-10 again!)
So...let's ignore my REALLY TERRIBLE POSTURE and focus instead of my super glowy shoes!
My new headband matches these shorts perfectly!
The good news is that my lungs felt great. The bad news is that my knees and hips are a little mad at me and I should remember not to overdo it too soon. (I may have been a bit overzealous about my IT band exercises this week.)

I also started the year with a batch of new headbands, which is super motivating!
I think I own too much neon pink and yellow...if that's possible.
I definitely feel a renewed sense of purpose and a sense of longing. I miss being fast. (Relative term, I know.) I'm excited to see progress and to stick with it.

I was hoping to know by the end of this week if I'll be comfortable running a full in February, but as of right now I still haven't decided.

Besides seeing some progress so soon, and getting running goodies in the mail, here's another mood-booster I got this week:
I've officially been a runner for five years! And to think, I used to swear I'd never run! That's all the proof I need that any goal is attainable as long as we're willing to put in the work.

How has your first week of January been?
What are your favorite colors to run in?
How long have you been running?


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

First, Running Saved Him

Matt and I spent last Friday enjoying a legitimate date night. We had dinner at one of our favorite Thai/sushi restaurants, spent some time browsing Barnes & Noble, and then saw Unbroken.
I was looking for a running calendar and found the most perfect one EVER.
I have the book on Kindle and have started reading it (FYI - it's AMAZING), but this post is about the events of Louis Zamperini's life as depicted in the film. (I'm not going to review the film itself in depth, so I'll just say this: while I felt some of the scenes and transitions were a little awkward, the movie was successful in creating poignant, intense moments. It kept me engaged and was definitely enjoyable and inspiring.)
Obviously Zamperini's story isn't all about running, but the role that running plays is integral to the story's outcome. a nutshell.
First, running saved him. Zamperini was the child of Italian immigrants who struggled to find his place in America. He was stealing, drinking, and getting into fights at a young age. His older brother introduced him to running. Pete saw it as a way to save Louis from himself, to make him more than he was, to harness some of that destructive power and energy to turn it into something good.
So many of us have turned to running for a similar reason. It was a way to test ourselves and find our limits; it's a way to learn what we're really made of. Zamperini learned he was made of better stuff; running pulled him off a destructive path and onto a better one.

Running made him strong. Zamperini learned to dig deep the way runners must. You can't run a 4:xx mile without growing through pain. Running gives us a mental and emotional strength that transcends the sport itself, and when Zamperini was stranded in the ocean for 47 days, we see that strength. When he was captured by the Japanese and endures torture and starvation in POW camps, that strength kept him alive. 

(In the ocean scenes, we also see another aspect of running: the spirit of camaraderie and teamwork. Part of that may be his military training; I can't help but think that his treatment of Mac on the raft exemplifies the best part of a runner's spirit.)

So, running saved him from a life of crime. It made him strong and gave him the knowledge that pain is temporary and can be conquered. And that knowledge saved him again when he faced the brutalities of POW camps.

Throughout the movie, you see glimpses of Zamperini's running career and you see, through the memories, that running sustained him. It taught him his value, his true strength, moral fiber, and resilience. It prepared him for a future he could never had imagined. The other soldiers in the POW camps needed something to keep them going - most of them seem to be holding onto memories of family or hope that the Allies will win the war - but it's clear that running lit a fire in Zamperini that kept him moving forward even when it seemed all hope was lost.
This movie truly captures the indomitable spirit that makes runners great. It shows what runners are made of, even though the majority of the movie isn't about running, and even though most of us will never have to endure even a fraction of what Zamperini lived through. It shows us, through his amazing ability to overcome without ever losing his integrity or his identity, what a runner's heart truly is.

If Pete had never encouraged Louis to run, would he have survived? Would he have developed the mental skills and bravery that kept him going? Beginning to run turned Zamperini's life around, and I have to credit it (at least partially) for the courageous man he turned out to be.
In 1998, Zamperini returned to Japan and carried the Olympic torch past one of the prisons where he had been held captive.
Watching greatness in running translate into strength and greatness in near-death, real-life experiences was more moving and inspiring than I had expected, and I left the theater filled with awe and more than a little teary-eyed.

Have you seen Unbroken or read the novel?
Which runners do you look to for real-life inspiration?