Tuesday, February 27, 2018

My Progression Plan

Last Tuesday evening, Elizabeth and I went for a run. I decided we'd do our neighborhood loop twice, which is usually 4 miles. Because we walked the first part of it to warm up, it came to 3.8.
Matching for our belated birthday run!
Things went really well. We did 2::30 intervals the first half of the run and 2:1 intervals for the rest of it. We ran the last half mile or so uninterrupted.

Then I was thinking, how do I progress from here? How do I build mileage or time and eventually cut out walking? In the shower, I had a mini-epiphany. (Hooray, shower-thoughts.) I suddenly remembered how I'd built endurance last time I took an extended break from running.
This is an unrelated shower-thought but one I have frequently. Matt has actually had to tell me to stop referring to my teeth as my "outside skeleton".
My plan is to start tracking time, not distance. I am going to build up to 60 minutes of running (with walks). Once 60 minutes feels pretty good/normal, I am going start lengthening my run intervals, and then shortening the walks.

Of course, the next run I did after making this plan didn't go according to at all. I ran for 3-4 minutes at a time and took 30-60 second walk breaks when I felt like it. My paces were safely in the 9s and I ran my first sub-10 minute mile in ages. (But really, this is kind of cheating to count because I paused once in awhile to take pictures, too.)
My walk breaks were more sporadic but my running intervals didn't seem to suffer. This was also a shorter run than the one with Elizabeth, of course. I was racing the sunset.
Anyway, my original plan stands and I think it's a good one, but the truth is I'm already so bored with scheduled walk breaks and part of me wants to just go for a run and just...see what happens. I'm months into recovery now; surely it's safe to stop...playing it safe, right?


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

100 Squats for 30 Days Challenge

Last Tuesday, I had the day off work because I spent the morning taking a 5 hour certification test. (I'm certified 6-12 ELA but am getting my K-6 General certification.) Afterward, my brain was mush so I spent some time on the couch watching YouTube.

One of the recommended videos that popped up on my homepage was this one:
I was intrigued. I know squats are a great exercise for your whole body, and I know women runners in particular need to strengthen hammies and quads to avoid injury. Kristina's squat and dead lift videos and progress are incredibly inspiring and cool to watch, too! I have always done my share of squats, but I liked the idea of a target challenge.

Taking a year off from running and basically any real workouts means I've lost lots of muscle definition. I am not happy with how my quads look right now and I want to be a strong runner. So, I decided that after the A1A 5k, I was going to start doing this challenge!
I figured I'd be super sore at first, so starting after a race is a good time because I'll be "recovering" anyway.

Track & Field, which I am co-coaching this year, began last week so I can probably incorporate some of my squats into practices, but mostly I'm going to try to break my squats into sets of 25. I'll do the first set when I wake up, the second set at lunchtime (my colleagues have already agreed to join in my squat party), the third after work, and the fourth set before bed.

Anyone want to join me? I am already three days into the challenge and feeling great! I created a Facebook group to help support/encourage/hold accountable anyone who wants in. I'm looking forward to seeing more definition and feeling stronger by the end of the month.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Fort Lauderdale 5k

It's been ~36 hours since I ran the A1A 5k (that's not really what it's called but I'm going to keep calling it that) and I still can't get my thoughts together.

We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Friday evening. Matt, Oden, and I met my sister and Gordon at the expo and did all the usual expo-y things. It felt strange. On the one hand, I felt like an imposter because the expo is really set up for the half and full marathons and we were running "just" the 5k. On the other hand, I felt happy to be at an expo again, and collecting my bib felt great. On the third hand (if I had one to borrow from someone), I felt disappointed that I wasn't gearing up to run the half. I felt both excited and underwhelmed. It was bizarre.
Gordon and Steph didn't run once before the race. His note made me laugh.
We had dinner at Outback before heading back to Oden's. The evening was so low-key. There's so little prep needed for a 5k! The race was set to begin at 7:30am so we agreed to be parked by 7am. Oden lives about 10 minutes from the staging area. I set up my Flat-Ali and went straight to bed. I slept well.
Wonder Girl tank and Lioness skirt both from Skirt Sports.
I chose to wear a black ribbon around my arm to acknowledge the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting and in memory of the victims. The race was about an hour from Parkland.

In the morning, I had half a cup of oatmeal for breakfast and some water; I had forgotten to buy coffee (Oden doesn't have any in the house because he doesn't drink it) but I felt awake and ready to go. I didn't feel nervous at all; I was surprised, in fact, to find I wasn't really feeling anything.

We got to the start without an issue and had plenty of time to use the porto-potties and get pre-race pictures.
Matt gave me a good-luck kiss and then went to line up near the front of the line; he had looked at finishing times from last year's race and thought he had a chance to place. Oden, Gordon, and Steph stuck with me and we lined up toward the middle-right. I explained run-walk race etiquette to them, but figured Oden would take off on his own.

Sidenote: Oden runs two miles every morning but has never run a race. I was excited that he agreed to run with us this year!

The race was much smaller than I expected. Most runners in Ft. Lauderdale this weekend were running the bigger races on Sunday, so this race was made up of lots of walkers and first-timers, who I could pick out by the fact that they were running in the race shirt. The first mile was rough. We had to weave around a lot of people and it was very congested. I worried about losing Steph and Gordon and also didn't want to mess up my intervals so early on.
We hit the first mile in 11:45 and I told them it was too slow. My paces have averaged 10:45 or so using 2:1 intervals. My calves were a little stiff, but in the "I am just getting warmed up" sense. The next run interval, Steph took off! I played catch up and we ended up clocking in the mid-9s. This is how we spent the rest of the race, running in low/mid-9s for our 2-minute runs.

Around mile 1.6, I took stock. My legs were sore from the effort but they were sore in my hamstrings! "My calves feel GREAT!" I laughed. This was when I finally got kind of emotional; we were really working hard during the run intervals and it felt like homecoming. 

Oden had already left us and Gordon had fallen behind a little bit, so it was just us sisters from that point on. We took our final walk break and I told Steph we'd run the rest of the way to the finish. And boy, did we! We sprinted into the 7s.
Steph urged me to pass a girl in front of us and I was like, "Uh, yeah right," but then we cranked it up and did. And then we passed a second girl and came into the finish line together.
Sprinting felt SO. GOOD.
Our time was 34:23, faster than my "training" 5k, averaging a pace of 10:45, which was perfect. Also, we were pushing into the mid-6s in that final sprint. I placed 8/30 in my AG. I really can't complain.

Matt and Oden had already finished and met us at the end. I felt amazing. I actually felt I could've easily run more. My calves were completely pain-free.
We took our photos and checked stats. Matt came in 4th in his AG with Oden just behind; I think Oden was really impressed and pleased with how much faster he could run in a race setting and I think he'll do some more 5ks in the future.
Even though my legs felt great, I still iced, elevated, and stimulated after brunch.
The rest of my birthday weekend was amazing. We celebrated the 5k with a bigger brunch than we needed, but we felt we deserved it anyway. Saturday evening we all did an escape room together, which I had never done before and it was so fun! We solved it in 39 minutes and it was a surprisingly fun adrenaline rush to solve puzzles and work together to "escape". Afterward, Oden and Matt and I went to an arcade bar where you can play old video games while you hang out; I played some classic Mario along with Sonic and Smash Bros.
At 10th Level Tavern playing video games and enjoying a drink.
I am having some thoughts about this race.

One thing that I am trying to come to terms with is that the woman who won 1st in my AG would have been easily beatable if I were in my usual 5k shape. I have to let that go. It's hard and weird to be both so pleased that I even ran a race again and hit some of those crazy paces, and also to play "what if" and "what could have been". I have to remember this is my journey and try to avoid the comparison trap...And that means not comparing myself to myself-from-2016, too.

I'm left wondering what to do next to help myself progress. This race showed me that I'm ready to pick up some harder workouts, but I also shortened my run intervals because 3:1 was too challenging just last week. So maybe I need to shorten my walk intervals and increase my total distance and go from there.
Some of my fear of pushing too hard too soon has been cured by this race. My legs felt great during and after the race; I now know I can push my effort a little more. It's been three months since my second surgery, which is how long Dr. G told me it would take to feel "normal" again. So I think this means I'm ready to do more.

Overall, this was a great weekend and a good race to come back with. I was tempted to abandon my intervals but played it smart and safe, and now I'm champing at the bit to do more and be fully back. I'm looking forward to what's to come.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Getting Ready for A1A

When I read/watched Kristina's recent post about her 5k goals it got me thinking. It's honestly so strange to have a goal that is actually just "finish this race on my feet, uninjured, preferably at a comfortable jog." I have no A, B, and C goals here. I have no pace goal. And yet, I still feel nervous and have butterfly-tummy just thinking about A1A this Saturday!

This weekend is going to be a little strange for a few reasons, I think, because of how different it will be. Rather than being a race at the end of training cycle, it will be the first race of Part II of my life as a runner. It will be a beginning, not an ending.

Feeling this level of excited anticipation over a 5k is a little odd for me. I feel like I'm gearing up to run a long-distance race! Part of that is probably due to my memories of A1A, which I associate with long-distance, but obviously it's also because this race is huge for me.

I won't need piles of pancakes to replenish my calories after crossing the finish line this year, but maybe I'll get them anyway to celebrate this comeback.
I am too old to make such a big deal out of my birthday but I just don't care.
I like to run A1A annually because it's a pretty race and it gives Matt and me the chance to see our friend Oden. The thought out missing out on it made me sad; even though last year's race was rough, it didn't diminish my love for A1A. This year, running it has even more significance.

It's the last race I ran in 2017 before my diagnosis, so it feels like coming full circle.
Finishing in 2017 with Elizabeth was really special even though the race sucked and I probably had heat exhaustion.
It has a finisher's medal, which is unusual for a 5k and which will be a nice physical reminder of this race as a comeback.

It lands on my birthday weekend, as usual. This will be a great way to say goodbye to the pain and frustration of last year and to welcome the next year of my life! My usual "cheer squad" will be running too, some of them right along with me!
Mile 20 of the full in 2016 - Steph hopped on the course to boost my spirits!
I kind of wanted to plan to do the A1A full marathon in 2019, but it's looking like I'll be missing it because it falls on the weekend of friends' bachelor/bachelorette getaway, so this will be my first hurrah back and also a chance to say goodbye to this particular race for another year or two. I just know it's going to be fantastic; I can already tell I'm going to be ridiculous and emotional because just thinking about it gives me goosebumps and chokes me up a bit. (And how sick are you of all these "I'm making a comeback!" posts?)

Thinking about how overwhelmed and emotional I felt when I finally got to run after having my second surgery, I'm just sure race day is going to be a big, beautiful mess.


Monday, February 12, 2018

I Ran 3 Miles!

On Saturday, Matt and I went for a run on the golf course for the first time in months. I switched my intervals to 2:1 because 3:1 has begun to feel like too much effort too soon. At the end of each run, I'm totally wiped; there's no "easy" effort with 3:1.

About 1.5 miles into the run, I told Matt, "I don't know how I'll ever do that 5k next weekend. I'm already feeling so tired and weak." I felt frustrated and a little hopeless, knowing I've been able to do about 2.5 miles but that I still don't feel like I'm making progress as far as strength and stamina goes.

He assured me that even if I end up walking the last mile of the race, I'll be able to do a 5k.

We continued on our run. My body finally found its groove, as it would after a couple miles of warmup in the old days, and before I knew it my watch was beeping...we'd done 3 miles! The last 1.5 had felt really good!
Matt is such a good photographer!
We ended up doing 3.16 and on the last walk break I just decided to walk the rest of the way home; there was no point in pushing it.

This run gave me tons of confidence and made me feel so strong. I gave Matt a high five and spent the rest of the night totally jazzed. I didn't care that I'd walked about half of it with the intervals. I was so happy that my legs weren't sore and spent at the end.
The run took about 35 minutes. After spending 2015 going for speed and finally breaking my 5k PR, chipping away at the 26:xx range and trying to get to 25:xx, it's ironic that running that distance nearly 10 minutes slower made me so happy!

This is how you know you're back at square one. Distance completely supersedes pace. I'm too happy to be running to feel anything else. I'll run without intervals again eventually, and I'll get back to my previous paces. If I'm honest with myself, right now I can't really imagine ever getting there, but I know logically that I will. For now, I am just going to be patient and celebrate my small victories as they come.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Waking Up

The hardest thing right now is sticking to two runs a week. Often I want to do more, but my first week that I was cleared to run again, I did three runs (a total of 6 miles for the week), and I was sore for days afterward and I got all paranoid that I had injured myself.
I've done 6 runs since my return to running 3 weeks ago!
Last week I started adding a little bit of mileage to my runs, bumping from 2 to ~2.5. I have my 5k on February 17 and I want to be sure I can cover that distance without injuring myself.

Starting next week, I am going to try adding a third run and will see how things go.
I've also noticed that during the running portions of my intervals, I'm really slipping into some speedy territory. I've glanced down at my watch and seen low 9's, which is way too much effort, and I've had to pull myself back. I'm aiming to do the running intervals in the 10s because otherwise I really start to lose energy toward the end of my 2-milers.
I have no business running at this pace, even for a few seconds.
I've been anxious about running alone, but did manage to get a solo run in last week that really boosted my confidence. Then, I was in a rush to get a run done before Matt and I went out this Friday,  so I went alone again. Matt was still at the studio, but he found me on his way home and joined me toward the end of the run.
First solo run!
He has been so supportive. I mean, he always is a supportive partner, but the fact that he wants to come with me and takes all kinds of pictures and is excited for me is just so appreciated. On Friday, I veered off our usual loop to add some mileage and his response was, "Look at you, adding distance!" and he was just so proud and happy for me...It feels good to share the excitement of baby steps with someone.
Friday's run...this was the first one that I felt really decent overall the entire time, just tired near the end.
These runs are far from perfect. Both my calves feel a little weak and there are the usual aches and pains that accompany getting back into exercise after a long time off. I am trying not to overthink any of that; mostly I am just overjoyed to be running again at all. My heart and mind are in a state of pure bliss when I'm out there.
I am truly beginning to feel like myself again, like I've been in hibernation and am slowly waking up. I feel better overall. I knew being unable to run was having psychological effects on me, but now those effects are falling away and I feel this overwhelming sense of relief and hope. At the same time, I still feel scared; like maybe this is all too good to be true.

Anyway, I can't accurately describe how full my heart is during every run these days. I just hope the feeling continues.