Monday, December 31, 2018

A Year of Rediscovery

After I published my race recap on the A1A 5k in February 2018, I went to the My Races page here at HtGR and opened the chapter on 2018. I titled it The Year of the Comeback.

I wrote that annotation with fingers crossed; my stubborn optimism in putting it out to the universe was intentional. I really felt if I kept that title in my sights, then surely 2018 wouldn't fail me as 2017 had.

It seems to have worked.
As of December 24, I've run 358 miles in 2018; in 2017, I ran 186.
This past year was truly a year of comebacks. It was a year of progress, growth, recovery, strength, and renewal. In many ways, it was a year of rediscovery. I felt like two people at times, both an experienced runner and a newbie, fresh to the sport. And overall, it was certainly a satisfying and gratifying year.

I took inspiration and motivation from my online running groups again, which I had shut out a little into 2017 because it hurt to see so much running success when I was injured. The Sub 30 Club, my fellow bloggers, and especially the Skirt Sports sisterhood have given me more than they can know.

To look at miles-run or paces-met would be silly. This year can't be quantified by data so easily. This was a year of feeling. Of getting back in tune with my body and mind. Of indulging in what felt good instead of what a plan or schedule dictated. It was a year of getting back to basics.

I tested my limits. I took risks and faced fears. I surprised myself.

How does one write a year in review for a year such as this?

Well, this one doesn't. But there are a few things I want to revisit/highlight for myself. Here are some of my milestones of 2018:

January: I started the year with a mindset to hit restart. I considered the end of 2017 to be the end of a Part I of my running "career"; 2018 began Part II.

My first run back after my second surgery, I was scared to run alone but neither did I want to run with someone. I remember how nervous I was, because I felt at the edge of a precipice. There was nothing else standing in my way at this point; I'd had both surgeries and was done with PT. I had nowhere to go but up, but I was terrified I'd fail.
Velociraptor'ing with joy!
Of course, the run ended up being one of pure, unadulterated joy.

February: February was a huge month for me. I felt very much how I did as a brand new runner, scared to run alone and unsure of how much my body could handle. I was finding my legs and my confidence again.

But this was the month I ran 3 miles for the first time since my surgeries, and of course my first race back. My goal was for A1A to be my comeback 5k, and I meeting that goal was surreal. It marked a strong start to the new year.
In December 2017 I told my PT my goal was to run/walk a 5k in February 2018. And I did.
March: I spent a lot of time this year reflecting on why I run and what running means to me now. Rereading that post is especially poignant nine months later. My mind has changed and grown even since writing it.
Another highlight from March was finally getting my second tattoo, and embracing growing stronger from setbacks and defeats.

April: I faced my fear and ran the bridge for the first time since I began noticing symptoms of compartment syndrome. I am so glad I had Elizabeth there to encourage me and push me out of my comfort zone.
May: I ran the Halifax 5k, which meant conquering another giant bridge, and placed 2nd in my age group. I still reread this post with a sense of disbelief. The rate of my recovery and bounce-back was unfathomable. After a full year of injury, I could hardly believe I was not only running, but running well.
Although it's something different, a personal favorite from May is an original poem. This year was truly about regeneration and transformation.

June: My highlight for June is a little different. I introduced Pudge and Elizabeth and I began running as a trio!
July: My entire vacation series of our trip to Seattle and Vancouver for Scott and Robby's wedding! I am a homebody and Matt and I rarely travel, but I used to love it. This trip reminded me how much I love traveling and getting outside my comfort zone...with a little encouragement, of course.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5
August & September: In late summer and early fall, I began to feel conflicted about my progress. I was enjoying running for fun, but felt ready physically to get serious about training for something. Mentally, I wasn't sure I was there yet.

I came to the realization that my body was truly recovered and I was ready to start adding distance and training for a longer race if I chose, but wasn't ready to pull the trigger. And, on the tail end of that realization, I did my first monthly review in a year and was shocked to see I'd steadily been building mileage.

October: I got the best news ever and suddenly was no longer conflicted about starting a training plan! I signed up for my favorite race, my dream comeback half marathon, the A1A half!

November: In November, I officially started training for said race! It had been so long and training felt so good. I got to create my plan and bask in the motivation that comes with the early stages of a training cycle. And best of all, I got to run my first long runs in ages!
Running long gave my body the chance to remind my brain that it knows what it's doing. I fell into the habit easily. It was like being welcomed home.

December: The last month of the year was a month of coming up against some setbacks and overcoming them gracefully and with determination. I didn't let an extended cold and its interruption of my training throw me off. Likewise for a very busy volleyball season.

I had a few runs that truly felt magical. I realized that my mindset now is unlike any I've ever had when it comes to running.

In December, I also ran my first double-digit run since February 2017.

When I started running, most of my accomplishments were externally motivated. Even when running alone, I always knew there would be someone to tell me good job and offer praise. I even started this blog hoping a public forum like this would keep me moving. I needed the races and the medals to stay on track. I really think a year of injury broke that habit, and this year of recovery has changed me.

The symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for compartment syndrome in 2017 brought me face-to-face with how much this sport had changed me and become part of my identity (sometimes to a worrisome degree); 2018 has given me a chance to start over with a healthier mindset, more confidence, and a stronger body that I know can do hard things.
Running is all shiny and new again, and I am too.


Monday, December 24, 2018

A Training Milestone & Plan Updates

Saturday morning, I ran 10 miles.
This is the first time I've run double-digits since February 2017, and it's my first 10-miler of half marathon training.

On my training plan, I didn't schedule 10 miles until late January, but Saturday morning I just felt like today is the day. I had 7 miles on my schedule, but knowing that I will likely miss my next long run due to holiday plans, it seemed like this was a good time to take a risk and push myself.

I honestly wasn't sure how the run would go. So far I've gone up to 8 miles in training and felt fantastic the entire time. When I drove to the start of my run, I realized I really didn't want to run the route I had planned. I got back in the car and drove to a different spot, so I started the run about 20 minutes late, but the weather was perfect for a late start, so it was okay.
Mid-50s and cloudy! Perfection!
At mile 6.5 I began to eat a cherry lime Gu, and kind of ate it in nibbles until mile 8.5 or so. I never felt starving, but the Gu definitely helped keep my energy up for the end of the run.

Around mile 7 I started to feel bored and ready to be done - clearly I'm out of practice with running alone for long periods of time. At mile 8 I started in on the positive self-talk; I didn't want to take a walk break, but my hips and lungs were started to ache. I just kept repeating C'mon girl, you've got this in you. You're gonna run 10 miles! Nice and steady! It was like I was urging on a horse.
Except I didn't fall off at the end.
At mile 9, I knew no matter what I'd succeed. My brain kind of turned off and I just sailed through the last mile.

Anyway, at the end I was too tired and relieved to feel much excitement over the accomplishment, but after a shower and breakfast, the pride set in. How surreal and wonderful, to know I'm running long distances again! To know I did Saturday's run at a steady sub-10 pace and didn't take any walk breaks! To feel as strong as I do right now!
Mile 4 is an outlier because I was exploring a new area, so I think I slowed down a bit to keep my bearings, and then I texted Matt to let him know my ETA.
I feel lucky that we are finally getting an actual winter in Florida this year, because it's making training much easier.

This run also makes last week the highest mileage training week I've had so far, because I ran two 5-milers, too. Although I've planned for four runs a week, I've pretty much scrapped my Thursday runs, which has allowed my legs to recover better for my long runs on Saturdays. I've always run best when I stick to three weekly runs and add a fourth only when it will really benefit me.

With all the housework we've been doing lately (painting, culling, reorganizing) and school events, it makes sense to skip Thursdays most weeks. I'm adding a bit more mileage to the other two weekday runs, and that's been going well, too. I am trying to keep all my runs at a minimum of 5 miles as long as my legs recover nicely from my long runs.

So that's it for plan adjustments! So far, so good. We'll see how things go as we get into the new year. A1A is just about 8 weeks away!


Sunday, December 16, 2018

My Running Buddy had a Baby!

I know I posted some of this saga on Instagram, but I didn't put it here because I was waiting for Elizabeth and baby to be home safe.

On the morning of November 27, Elizabeth texted me that she was on her way to the hospital.
I am a very supportive and calming influence.
Her due date was December 18, so all morning I was anxiously texting her for updates. Before contractions and labor started, she was texting me about her annoyance that all her maternity plans for her sub - which she had spent so long preparing ahead of time - weren't planned to start 'til January. I was like, why are you thinking about that right now?!

Around 2:30pm she texted me: "He's out!"
Little Tristen Omari was born at 5lbs9oz. He had to spend a few weeks in NICU, at first on a respirator and feeding tube, but soon just on the feeding tube. They came home December 7. I had a bad cold, so I stayed away even though I wanted to visit first thing.
I finally got to meet the little bean last Thursday, when I drove Steybi home from school! He is smaller than I imagined, and so cute. He slept the entire time I visited.
Elizabeth is doing well. Her labor progressed so quickly that she didn't have time for medication, and she hasn't needed any pain killers during recovery, either. Tristen is sleeping all day and up all night, so she's exhausted, but otherwise doing well.

The whole family is adjusting nicely, and I am over the moon!


Friday, December 7, 2018

The Good

Lately I've been feeling like I'm actually a different person than I was before my surgeries.

So far in training, each new distance has come with ease. I have felt confident. I have been nervous as I build mileage, but also unbothered by past hangups. I'm free from the comparison traps, the pace calculations, the hunger to prove myself...

It's as if running has been stripped back down to basics, and everything feels good as a result.

I honestly can't remember any time in the past that five miles felt like it could be my new baseline. It was three for a long time, and then four - and four felt like an accomplishment. Any distance over four felt hard-earned. Any distance over four was a long run.

I can't explain it. Friday's run felt like homecoming. My body just loved the run. It felt fluid. It felt meant to be.
And I was going to make a big deal about it, but then I realized I've been having this feeling on all my runs since early November. Like my body just knows what to do. Every run feels like homecoming.

Is it residual gratitude over being able to run again? Is it the cooler weather? Is it the fact that the race I'm training for is my favorite race?

I can't say for sure. But I know this: something has clicked into place for the first time in ages, maybe the first time ever, and running feels like a friend welcoming me home.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

A Brand New Garmin

I've had a total of three Garmin watches and none of them came to me brand new.
The first, a Forerunner 410, was a hand-me-down from a friend in the Sub-30 Club who knew I was looking for a GPS watch but wasn't sure what I'd like. He was upgrading and sent me the FR410. It turned out to be a little more watch than I needed at that point in time (I didn't even know Garmin Connect existed or how to look at data), and I started looking for a different one about a year later.

My second Garmin was a gently used Forerunner 10 from another Sub-30 friend that was more my speed and served me well. At the time, I was still using the Nike+ app, but it began to get really screwy. Once it flaked out on me mid-race, I decided to give up the app and go full-Garmin. However, once I made that switch, I soon realized the FR10 wasn't quite enough for marathon training, and I started to look for an upgrade.

That upgrade came in the form of Kristina's old Vivoactive. It's just been good luck that every time I look to get a new watch, a friend is also in the market and is kind enough to pass one on to me. The Vivoactive has truly served me well these past two years, but with my new legs and my running mindset, I felt it was time for a new watch, too.
The VA was the first Garmin I truly felt 100% comfortable and happy with. It helped me get used to running with a watch instead of an app.
Now, I always return the favor of passing along my old watches. The FR410 went to Matt before he started using a Speed Coach, a dedicated device meant for paddling craft. The FR10 went to Elizabeth so she could track her distance when we weren't running together. And the Vivoactive will go to my brother, who has taken up kayaking and has started using Strava to track his miles, but is in need of a GPS watch.
Elizabeth used the FR 10 well into her pregnancy!
Why can I now pass on the Vivoactive? Because for Hanukkah this year, Matt got me an ACTUALLY brand new Vivoactive 3. My secondhand watches have always worked just fine, and I am grateful that I've been able to test out a few different iterations without committing to an expensive watch all this time...But I am so excited to now have a brand new Garmin of my choosing!
Yes, we are using all three menorahs this year.
I took what I knew from my experiences with my other watches, did my research, and picked out what I think will be the best for my running lifestyle for a long time to come. Right now, admittedly, it may be more watch than I need, but that means I'll be able to grow into it as I continue to grow as a runner. (Read: Once I get back into full marathon training and aiming for a PR.)
I chose the VA3 because I liked the touchscreen on the VA, it's loaded with all kinds of features, and it's a smartwatch (not just a running watch). I'm thinking it may replace my Apple Watch completely. I was worried it would take awhile to get used to some of the features, but after about 15 minutes of playing with it, I've got most of it figured out.

Wednesday I went for my first run with the new watch and I am in love. The screen is so easy to read! The data fields are so easy to program!
This is my first watch with a built in HR monitor, so my dashboard not only shows my run data, but also my heart rate and stress level, among other things. In theory, I could start training using my VO2 max!
Some shots of the Garmin Connect app dashboard with all the new data available. I like the weekly Intensity Minutes goal, too.
It's super lightweight and soft. Like, weirdly soft. The band is unlike anything I've ever worn on my wrist before. I've never had such a comfortable watch!

Basically, I am 100% happy with it, and for my first official new GPS watch, I feel like I couldn't have made a better choice!


Saturday, December 1, 2018

A1A Training: November in Review

At the beginning of November, as I started half marathon training, I was so excited to know I'd be writing a month-in-review post. At the beginning of this week, though, that excitement turned to frustration and disappointment.

I'm sick.

I'm the kind of sick that can't be run through. And that means my last week of my first month of training - which was supposed to be a crowning glory week - was a total bust. I am trying to remember two things as I sit down to write this with tissues, tea, and albuterol on hand: as far as motivation, consistency, and follow-through went, this month was perfect. As far as my legs, lungs, and body went, this month was perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better first month of even though this week is a wash, I can look back on November with pride.
I was on track to best my planned mileage, but that didn't end up happening.
As you can see, I started off the first week extending almost every run. I wanted to see what my body could do, and the plan I wrote is very conservative all the way through February. I basically wrote a "just get it done" plan but want to see if I can train on an "actually run this race like a race" plan.

The second week, I followed the weekday plan more closely but still built up mileage for the long run. I was really proud of myself for getting up early and doing these long runs by myself. It's been a long time since I've done that, and I forgot how amazing it makes you feel!

I didn't have a need to play with nutrition on any of my long runs; I brought food with me on my 8-miler but didn't stop to eat it. I was feeling so good, I was afraid to stop and drink/eat! I didn't want to mess up the roll I was on.

Anyway, despite this last week being a bust, I have to be proud of this month. I managed to run even on days I thought I might skip because of volleyball, and I made adjustments as necessary without flaking out. I was also surprised and pleased by how steady I kept my paces on my long runs; I didn't need walk breaks on any of them. It's like my body remembers how to do this distance running thing!

I am so looking forward to feeling better so I can be back on track ASAP. I'm upset that I missed my long run this weekend and I really don't want to miss next weekend's, too.

Planned Distance: 53 miles
Actual Distance: 51 miles


Friday, November 23, 2018

ALSO Youth Turkey Trot 5k

It's been awhile since I've run a Turkey Trot, but I'm a sucker for family events, so when my sister floated the idea of running the ALSO Youth 5k on Thanksgiving morning, I had to say yes. The race fit in nicely with my training plan, too; I planned to go easy so my legs would still be fresh for my long run on Saturday.
Gordon drove Steph, Matt, and me to the race start around 6:15 in the morning. He wasn't running, but kindly volunteered to watch our stuff and get photos for us.
Race morning, I opted to wear the Wonder Wool shortsleeved top rather than the Watch Me Go because it was a little warmer than anticipated.
We picked up our packets and wasted 40 minutes waiting for the start by using the bathroom multiple times. This race benefits a great cause; all proceeds go to ALSO Youth, which is an organization for LGBTQIA kids ages 13-21 who are in need of a community and support. It was really nice to see 1500 participants supporting the cause in this red county in Florida.
Steph borrowed my Redemption Shorties so she'd have a pocket for her phone.
Matt opted to wear his HRC equality flag, since he was just running for fun and didn't foresee himself placing.
The downside of this race is that it's very popular and runs a pretty narrow route. It was a full 2 1/2 minutes between the starting gun and when Steph and I crossed the start line. (Matt had gone ahead of us.)
Moseying along to the start line.
For the first mile or so, Steph and I stayed together. We had to dodge in and out of a lot of walkers the entire race. That's another downside of...well, of turkey trots in general: they tend to attract race newbies and tons of young kids. In other words, there's a major lack of race etiquette on the course.

I had planned to walk the ascents of the bridge, but felt pretty good on the first one. After cresting the top, Steph overtook me and we ran the rest of the race alone.
I took my one and only walk break on the second ascent. I was just tired. Plus, the wind was now against me and my music station was boring me to death. I changed music and was running again after one minute of walking. It was all I needed to power up the rest of the bridge and through the end of the race.
With half a mile to go, I began to regret my effort. I knew the dodging-and-weaving from early in the race was going to add mileage, and I knew I had a long run on Saturday. I realized I should have set a more conservative goal, something like 33 minutes, and just taken it easy. But now I was in it and I just couldn't let up this close to the end. I kept on pushing right through the finish line.
The others found me and we rested a bit and then found our finishing times. I wasn't sure what to make of mine; considering the total distance according to my watch, the chip pace/time seemed off, but since I wasn't really hoping for a strong performance, I didn't mind much. None of us placed, so we decided to head home.
Steph's and my finishing times according to the chip.
My Garmin data. The distance tracked long, so I think my actual 5k was probably sub-30; that being said, I should have run this much easier than I did.
I'm glad we ran the turkey trot, but I do hope the organizers fix the congestion issue next year. Even just having walkers start five or ten minutes ahead of racers would be helpful! That said, it's been 9 years on this same course, so I doubt a solution is forthcoming.

The course is definitely a tough one, so it's not always easy to fit into my schedule, but I do hope to be back in future years to do this one again so I can continue supporting the cause.

*Edit: My legs held up fine and felt good on Saturday. A little tired, but not painful; I kept my pace a little easier than it has been on previous long runs and was fine!


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Holiday Sales & Reviews (Skirt Sports)

This is my third year as a Skirt Sports ambassador, and each year Nicole (the founder) and Noelle (the ambassador liaison) improve the program. The newest update to the program is that ambassadors now have personalized referral links to share.

Know that if you shop through my links, this helps N & N track my range as an ambassador and it gives me a little clout boost, but I do not receive a monetary commission for it.

As always, you can use my code for 15% off, too! It's 456ABKRUNS.

I've finally had the chance to test out some of the winter styles and I'm loving the Watch Me Go Top. It has ventilated panels to keep you from overheating, has thumb-holes for a secure fit, and has built-in windows for your watch to peek through! And, bonus!, those windows are featured on both sleeves, so it's lefty-friendly.
I also wore the Wonder Wool tops (long- and short-sleeved) along with the Toasty Tights and the winter headband while I was in Tennessee for Chattajack and can attest to their warmth and coziness.
The Black Friday sale is going on now through Cyber Monday, so now is a great time to treat yourself to something new.

Happy shopping!


Sunday, November 11, 2018

A1A Training: The First Week

I don't plan to do weekly recaps of training for this race. I'm leaning toward monthly "plans vs. reality" posts. However, the first week deserves its own little spotlight, so here it is.
I went into this first week of training feeling nervous. I was on my period and volleyball season was in full swing. That meant sticking to a running schedule that included runs after practices and games, plus an early-morning Saturday run after a long week. I was more worried about how my body would fare than whether I'd be able to commit; I'm in a very focused and committed mindset right now.

More daunting still, this is the first time I'm training for a race totally alone. With all my past half and full marathons, I've had a running buddy for at least part of every long run.
I mocked up a plan a few weeks ago, but bought myself a little calendar for hardcopy tracking, too. My plan is in light blue, possible scheduling conflicts are in green, and my actual miles are in dark blue.

As you can see, the beginning-of-training excitement served me well this week. I made this plan with a conservative mindset, but in practice decided to push myself. I didn't want to overdo anything, but I also didn't want to let myself off the hook.

Monday's run was by far the toughest. The four miles felt hard. I think the time change has something to do with that; it's hard to run when it's so dark out. Tuesday's run felt really good, though, and Thursday's two miles (squeezed in on the treadmill before our volleyball game) were easy but boring. By Saturday, I felt ready for five.
I was definitely overthinking prepping for a "long run" of five miles. I wasn't sure what route I wanted to take or if I wanted to take water with me. I couldn't remember what kind of pre-run food I'd need to have for a morning run of this distance.
I ended up having a mug of coffee and a gf Honeystinger waffle. I also ended up scrapping my original plan for the run (which allowed for a water break at 3 miles) and did the full five without stopping. (Well, I had one stop at a crosswalk and one brief walk break from 4.05 to 4.08 or so.) I kept a steady pace the entire run. My legs didn't hurt, but they did feel tired during and after.
I had forgotten the joy of the morning run. Every time I passed another runner and we waved and smiled at each other, I felt an extra little kick in my step. The weather was a cool 72 degrees - despite the high humidity, that was a treat. And I finished with plenty of time to get ready for Elizabeth's baby shower later that morning.

It was the perfect end to my first week back; it left me feeling confident and strong. It proved that I can get up and do a long run alone.
Feeling like superwoman!
The most discomfort I had during the week as I built mileage was in my feet. I really struggle with finding comfortable, supportive, cute work shoes. It may be time to look for a new pair, or to seek out some inserts at the very least.

So, yeah! Week one, done! I am feeling as excited and confident as ever! This may not be my fastest or strongest half, but I'm going to be prepared and I'm going to run it, and that's all that matters to me right now!