Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Phoenix

There is irony in fire
In how an element of brightness and warmth
leeches light from around it
and leaves charred remains in its wake.

But we are forged in flame.
The strongest among us are not destroyed
but are scourged and made new -
baptized in fire.

A blanket of ashes is the soil in which we plant a new seed
and the seedling's steel core is borne of heat and power.

It claws its way to new life
But never perfect
always willing to walk into the flames and start anew

This is not really rebirth.
This is a refusal to die.

And if each burning cycle does anything
It reminds us that heat rises
And the Phoenix is unafraid as she unfurls her wings
And catches the hot breath of the thermals beneath her
and soars.


Monday, May 28, 2018

May is Predictable

Last week, rain and evening events got in the way of running. That was okay; I planned to try for my first 5 miler over the weekend, or at least get to 4.5 miles. My body feels ready to increase distance once a week, I think.
One of those evening events was the Best of Bonita. Matt won gold this year for Upriver Ceramics!
Of course, the looming tropical storm threw a bit of a wrench in my plan on Saturday, plus Scott was in town and we went to see Deadpool 2 (which was totally worth missing a run), but by Sunday the weather had cleared and I could've gone for a substantial run. Instead, I was lazy all day.

I finally peeled myself of the couch for an easy two miles just before sunset. Those two miles felt really good. I realized that the stress of the end of the school year had really taken more out of me than I realized. (I mean, I should have known considering I was in bed and asleep by 9pm multiple times last week.)
Having a goal to increase mileage is fine and dandy, but in reality my body needed a rest week. Really, my body needed a rest month. May just always seems to be a hard one for training.

We have two more days of school with kids (including 8th grade graduation!), one more inservice day, and then...summer! I know I'm not the only one looking forward to it.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Sup & Run 5k, 2018

This 5k marks the end of this "race season". I'm so pleased that I was able to race a handful of 5ks this year before summer got into in full swing. The Sup & Run was a good race to end with until fall.

I ran this race back in 2016 when I was focusing on short distance running and speed. It was the first time I broke 27 minutes in a 5k and one of the first times I ever made it on the podium. I was excited to run it again, but I knew I was nowhere near in the shape I had been the first time I'd run it. When we drove to packet pickup on Friday night, I had pretty bad nerves.
I was so nervous, I almost couldn't enjoy my pre-race sushi dinner...almost.
This race starts pretty late for a 5k, and by the time we lined up at the start line, I was already sticky from the humidity. Matt was doing the SUP and Run while I was just running. In the corral, which was narrow and crowded, I broke off from him to find a more open spot. I heard someone shouting my name, and looked back over my shoulder to see two Skirt ambassadors, Jenna and Wendy, right behind me! Seeing them helped put me in a positive mindset, and I was immediately looking forward to seeing them after the race.
The race started at 8am; our saving grace was that it was still partially-cloudy until about 8:30. 
In the first mile, there was some jousting to find a good position. There was one lady in particular who seemed completely unaware of her surroundings and kept running into me, like she wanted to run me off the route to make room for herself. I wasted some energy getting around her and out of her way, and until I'd done that she really messed with my pace. But I can't complain; my first mile was the fastest I've run a mile in ages, including in race conditions.

During most of mile 2, I felt strong but was starting to struggle by the end of it. The humidity was making it very hard to breathe, and my whole body felt heavy and tired. It was weird, because my legs felt great and fresh, but my body felt like such a burden to carry!
I knew based on my splits that I had a pretty good time under my belt, so when I started to really slow down in mile 3 I wasn't too distraught. I had literally zero goals going into this race, and that gave me the freedom to do well but not kill myself.

When my watch buzzed at mile 3, I thought for sure I was going to beat 28:00; imagine my surprise and disappointment when the last .1 felt long and the time on the clock was slower than my last 5k, which had included that stupid bridge.
My biggest regret for this race is that I didn't have a stronger finish, but I just couldn't get my legs to turn over any faster.
My brain was in a total fog for awhile. Matt's parents were at the finish line but I just wanted to get my medal and water and walk off my post-race nausea. After awhile, we went to the finishing chute to wait for Matt, who was out on the water.
Jenna, Wendy, me, Bonnie, and Elaine. I saw a couple other women in Skirt, too!
I found Wendy and Jenna and got to meet a few other ambassadors I hadn't met before. By the time we had caught up and taken photos, times for the 5k were posted. I found my name and saw I had placed 6th...And this year, the race was doing awards 6 deep, so I kind of made the cut!
I saw Montana, who was working the Fit 2 Run tent and had run the race, too.
Matt and me post-race, pre-awards.
The times were all posted chronologically without age groups, so I was a little disappointed until later, when I saw that the top three women in my AG had run incredibly fast times and were well out of my current league.
Matt placed first in his division and 6th overall because he's a beast. He had looked at the competition and thought he'd be able to place 2nd, so placing 1st was a great bonus!
You can see his amazing paddle time made up for some time lost on the run.
Overall, I was surprised by the gamut of emotions I experienced during this race. I was excited to be running it, but then didn't really care to try to push myself too hard. I was disappointed in my time, and simultaneously pleased and disappointed in how I placed. Then I discovered the course was long and my actual 5k time was probably sub-28, and I was happy and frustrated.
My actual 5k time based on Strava's analytics.
Basically, I think this all goes to show that I'm at the point where I feel I can be doing more and performing how I have in the past, but I'm also ready for a break from races. All in all, I can't complain, and considering where I was this time last year, I think I can be pretty proud of where I am now.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Just Some Things

Today, I have an unofficial Friday Five to share.

1. Running is starting to feel a little "normal" mentally lately. What I mean by that is that the honeymoon is over. I'm remembering that my relationship with running is a love/hate sort of thing, and that summer running especially is incredibly difficult and frustrating. Even while I'm absolutely thrilled to be running, it feels hard right now.
Reconsidering my choices after 4 miles over the bridge.
I'm glad the nice weather and my recovery coincided, because I don't think I could have dealt with Florida summer while being newly post-op.

2. I have a race on Saturday. It's the Sup and Run 5k I did in 2016, where I placed 3rd in my age group and managed to set a 5k PR. It's supposed to storm the day of the race, so I don't have any particular goals in mind. I know I won't be running anywhere near 26:xx this year; I'm excited to race it, but I'm also ready to take a little break from racing for the summer to focus on building stamina.
Walk breaks have helped balance my stamina, but I'd prefer not to rely on them.
I am struggling with modulating my pace lately. My first mile of every run is around 8:45, and then by the end of the second mile I'm totally tapped. When I slow down, my legs get achy and my gait feels clunky. I can build in walk breaks to help ease the issue, but I'd like to get control over my pace again. I might have to resort to some treadmill running to help retrain my legs!

3. Speaking of summer, I have eight school days left until summer break. I honestly can't believe how this year has flown by! Over break, Matt and I will be traveling to Washington state for Robby and Scott's wedding; I am beyond excited!
I mean, how cute are they?!
4. We have finally begun work on the house to fix the damage done by Hurricane Irma. Things were tangled up with insurance, but now they've been mostly untangled (or they're at least in the process of being untangled...) so we no longer have holes in our living room walls!
I learned how to install drywall...kind of.
Of course, we still have some major leaks in our roof and hurricane season has started, and it looks like it'll be ongoing for awhile.
"Indefinitely"...I am not amused.
I realized the other night that Irma has ruined me for enjoying storms. I used to love sleeping while it stormed outside, but all this week I keep waking up paranoid that the house was going to flood or we'd lose the roof. I think I have a mild form of PTSD.

5. I watched Nicole DeBoom (the founder of Skirt Sports) talk about her struggle with alcohol abuse and was reminded that "real women move" is as much about growing and moving from one mindset to another - mental fitness - as it is about physical fitness.

I'm looking forward to a weekend of racing and relaxing - my two favorite pastimes! Happy Friday!


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Time for Some Perspective

When I watched Kristina's April review video, I realized April is the first month that I really moved out of the early stages of recovery and into "training" (or something like it). I thought, Hey, I should review April, too!

Then I saw her comment on my Riverfest 5k recap and had a moment of clarity. As Kristina pointed out, I have been truly back to consistent running for about three months now and am already only 2 minutes (and change) away from my all-time 5k PR. And actually, most of the progress I've made since surgery has been made in this past month; I am improving exponentially. That's pretty amazing.

My mind is so often in a place of overthinking, which means I analyze each run with blinders on, and I lost the big picture a bit. Kristina's comment reminded me that in the grand scheme of things, I'm doing really well. There will still be setbacks, but things are generally moving forward. And quite smoothly, at that.

So, April.
Activity TypeDateDistanceAvg PaceTime (minutes)
runningApril 1, 20182.029:4919:49
runningApril 2, 20183.0110:1831:00:00
runningApril 4, 20182.3110:0023:08
runningApril 7, 20183.089:1828:39:00
runningApril 10, 20183.0110:1430:46:00
runningApril 12, 20183.0110:4032:04:00
runningApril 16, 20183.0110:3031:35:00
runningApril 18, 20182.019:0018:03
runningApril 20, 20184.119:4439:59:00
runningApril 24, 20184.0110:2441:41:00
runningApril 26, 20183.279:5832:34:00
runningApril 27, 20182.0110:1020:23
runningApril 30, 20184.0110:0840:38:00
This month continued a trend of increasing mileage, increasing consistency (running more than twice a week), and increasing pace.

This was the first month I experience a run during which I didn't think about my legs because they felt so normal I forgot to think about them. I weaned myself off walk breaks.
My legs seemed to just wake up and get strong in April. I raced a 5k and was surprised at my performance. I faced my fear of the bridge I used to run all the time (did I mention it was on that bridge that I first experienced my compartment syndrome symptoms?) and got back to some old routes I hadn't run in over a year.

April's mileage is beginning to look closer to what I was running pre-CS.
An even better longview takes into account the last 12 months. I felt good and normal again in April, and when I look back I see how long it's truly been since I've gotten to experience that kind of normalcy. Now that I'm running again, I sometimes forget how little I was running before. My mileage in April 2018 more than doubles my mileage in the summer of 2017.
You can clearly see which months I had my surgeries during.
Looking back on this month is very rewarding. I feel like I've come a long way. I can see a pattern of improvement and I plan to stay on that path. I don't feel 100% normal all the time, but April is the first month I've felt normal most of the time, and that's worth celebrating.


Monday, May 7, 2018

Riverfest on the Halifax 5k

Leading up to Saturday, I was anxious. My legs had given me trouble Monday and hadn’t started to really feel better until Thursday. The route for the Riverfest 5k was daunting, with the Dunlawton Bridge making up the entirety of mile 2. I was expecting typical May weather – hot and humid. Basically, I did not have high hopes for this race.
We arrived in Port Orange on Friday night around 8pm. We were staying with Mark and Shane, who were kind enough to host us even though Shane is due to give birth literally any day now. We ordered in Thai and sushi and spent some time catching up before Matt and I headed to bed around 10:30pm.

We were up at 6am and out the door at 6:30. The race venue was a new park – so new that the sod was still lumpy and potholed, which made the start and finish of the race challenging. We found parking without any issues and picked up our bibs. The weather was cool, breezy, and overcast. The humidity wasn’t inconsequential, but with temperatures in the low 70s, it was manageable with the breeze. When I caught sight of the bridge for the first time, my nerves increased.
As soon as we got to the water, I spotted a dolphin. I feel like it was a good omen! The causeway we crossed can be seen over my shoulder.
In fact, I went through a range of emotions in that half hour before the race. It was clear this inaugural race was going to be tiny and most of the participants were walkers, so I thought maybe I’d have a chance to place even if I walked a lot of it. Then I saw the bridge and had my doubts. Then I saw some of the runners who had been out on warmup runs come to the starting line and had more doubts.

My legs felt good, but not totally fresh. I did some lunges and stretched out on the railing along the Halifax River. When it was time to lineup, I started near the front, because why not?
I leap-frogged with the guy in front off me in the gray shirt for the majority of the race. More on that later.
The start was rocky. I struggled to keep my footing and not twist an ankle on the grass; once we got to the pavement, I sped up too much to compensate for the rough start and was running in the 7:40s. I had a moment of panic: I wasn’t sure what the heck was going on with my pace or what I could hold, and I didn’t want to burn out before I even made it to the bridge.

I managed to adjust my pace and completed the first mile in 8:48. My watch dinged just as I began the first ascent on the bridge. I was able to keep a pretty steady pace (sub-10). It was hard; my legs and lungs were burning, but in the typical “I’m running up a steep bridge” kind of way. I kept an eye on all the women already making the return trip, calculating my place in my head. (I realized later that I’m really bad at estimating ages – the women I thought were competition in my age group were out of my age group by a decade.) I let myself recover and kind of lope down the descent. At the bottom, we made a U-turn and immediately began the climb back up the bridge.
Not fun.
This part was harder. I managed not to walk, but it was a close thing. My pace dipped into the 10:50s, and when I hit the top and began the descent, my legs were jelly for longer than I’d have liked. But then the second mile dinged and I realized if I could finish the last 1.1 in less than 10 minutes, I could come in well under 30 minutes. So I shifted gears into a slightly faster pace and settled in.
Mile 2 was all bridge. I'm very pleased with my overall pace there.
It’s an odd feeling when your body engages and finds a good niche when it’s tired. It’s my favorite thing about racing.
The last quarter mile.
The last quarter mile of the race took us around the perimeter of the park, so I had a view of the clock as I entered that last lap. It was in the 26s. I would have let up in the final quarter mile if I hadn’t seen that; I knew I was on track. I gave it everything I had, which wasn’t much at this point. I felt depleted.

I felt like a newborn colt as I crossed the grass to the finish line – all wobbly legs and awkward limbs. That sod was the worst. But I finished in 28:25, 14 seconds faster than the Fast & the Furriest. 
My legs felt totally fine the entire time.

I collapsed (gracefully) behind a trailer. My brain wasn’t working yet. Matt eventually found me and told me they were posting results. He went to read them, and when he came back he told me I’d placed 2ndin my age group.

To which I responded, “Are you joking?” He assured me he wasn’t. I said, “I might cry.” And when I looked at the photo he’d taken of the results page, I really did tear up.
Final results were 2/14 in my AG and 37/161 overall. When I saw how close behind me the 3rd place finisher had been, I was so glad I hadn't eased off my pace at the end.
The pent-up fear and doubt that had plagued me all week washed away in an overwhelming wave of emotion.

This week and this race were important reminders to me that I am still in recovery; no matter how good I feel most of the time, I need to remember that recovery isn’t linear. There will be hard runs and pain here and there. As I increase my weekly mileage, I need to give my body time to adjust.
The finisher's medals were super adorable. They were designed by a local high school girl! 
As I sat basking in my accomplishment, the man I had been running near the entire race approached me. He’d been in front of me for most of the race, although we bounced back and forth a bit on the bridge, and I finally overtook him in the last mile. He congratulated me on a great race and a consistent pace. I thanked him for pacing me. He said he was recovering from hip surgery and training for a marathon in Savannah, so he needed to practice on hills. I told him about my legs. It was a nice moment of solidarity that left me feeling warm and thankful for the running community.
My AG award was a specialty coaster!
Matt had a 6 mile paddle race after my 5k. He’s been paddling in an OC1 lately and he placed 2ndin his division, too. After a long morning, we returned to Mark and Shane’s, where I took a nap before we all went out to get some celebratory ice cream.
I am still shocked that I was able to manage a sub-30 finish because my mindset was so messed up going in, and because of the bridge. As my mom pointed out, I was able to meet my original B goal of beating 28:39…even though I completely scrapped my original goals and my back up goals. 
This is another reminder that my mind needs to shut up sometimes and I need to trust my body. It can do hard things, and it is stronger than I think it is.


Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Change of Plans

I am trying not to overreact, but my legs have been sore this week.

It started last Friday. Elizabeth and I completed our first planned week of "training". What I mean by that is that I had known exactly what kinds of runs I wanted to do all week and we successfully met that goal. (And we celebrated after with some ice cream.)
I had sweet cream ice cream, fresh strawberries, and a little drizzle of hot fudge - the perfect treat after a hot run!
Anyway, Friday called for two easy miles to end the week. My legs were noticeably tired, but they still felt pretty okay. They felt like they'd been challenged, but in a good way.
Last week's training runs.
Then on Monday, we did four miles, and my calves were tight. Actually, my left shin was tight and my right calf was sore. I feel like being specific here is important. I was able to run through the discomfort without a problem, which means - logically - that this isn't really a compartment syndrome issue. Also, with the CS, my legs would be so tight and painful I would have to walk, and the pain never lingered after my run, which it has been this week.
Monday's run.
High heat and high humidity have returned, so now I'm all worried my legs are only going to feel awesome in cool weather. But then again, we meant to keep the run slower and purposely slowing my pace always seems to stress my legs; once we started increasing pace at the end of the run, some of the stiffness faded.

It's probably fatigue as a result of increasing my mileage and pace last week. Still, it's hard not to overthink things! I've been on a positive trajectory, getting stronger and feeling better for weeks in a row. I think it makes sense that my legs would be in need of recovery after consecutive weeks of building mileage.
Despite the discomfort, we finished the run feeling strong overall.
I've been massaging my legs nightly all week and won't run again until race day. With a bridge-y 5k coming up Saturday, I really need to just rest and recover as much as possible; that includes getting these negative, fearful thoughts out of my head, too.

If my legs continue to feel sore Thursday and Friday, I'll drastically adjust my plan for the Riverfest 5k. I have a couple days to decide, but it's looking like "finish this race pain-free" is going to be the most important goal I can set...Because if I experience pain on Saturday, I'm not sure what it will do to my head.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

In Which I Talk About My Size

Fair warning: I am writing about clothing sizes and therefore writing about what size I wear in this post. I don't usually talk about that kind of stuff. I'm not making any comment on body sizes in general in this post, but about how sizes in women's fashion are all over the place and my own experience with my body right now. If you don't want to read about what size clothes I wear or my thoughts on how arbitrary American sizing is, skip this post.

Also, this is long. Sorry.

This weekend, for the first time in ages, I went shopping. I had a list of things I'd been wanting for awhile, and took advantage of Matt being out of town for a race to have a girl's afternoon with Elizabeth.

At the top of my list was "holey jeans". I used to hate torn jeans because I don't understand spending a lot of money on clothes that are already destroyed, but the trend has brainwashed me over time and I wanted a pair. Even though I'm too old to shop there, I decided to go to American Eagle because I know their jeans fit me and jean shopping can be traumatic, so I wanted to go somewhere I felt comfortable and "knew my size". Oh, the irony.

At AE, I found jeans in two different styles that looked promising: the jegging and the tomgirl.
Jeggings on the left, tomgirl on the right.
I took one look at the jegging and I grabbed a size 4. I didn't think too much of it, except to realize that I was about to try on a size I'd never bought before. I was sizing up.

I didn't have a problem with fitting into a larger size, but I was wondering how my body had changed so much in a year without my noticing it, especially considering how in-tune with it I've been since surgery. I accepted the change in my size but felt a little thrown off. My other clothes all fit. I am very happy with where my body is right now, especially as I've been able to run again, and I just felt a little baffled. (Of course, I immediately assumed my body had changed, and not the sizing at AE.)

Then, I grabbed the tomgirl, and, in the same way I knew I needed a 4 in the jeggings, I knew I needed a 0 here. In fact, the 0 was bigger than the 4 I had hung over my arm.

Obviously the tomgirl style is more relaxed in the legs, but it makes no sense to me that the actual sizing would be different because even if the style is different, if you're size X in something at a store, you should be that same size across the board, no matter the style. But the waist of the 0 in the tomgirl style jeans was a good inch - maybe even 1.5 inches - bigger than the 4 in the other style. I pointed this out to Elizabeth; we both found it ridiculous. When I tried them on, both styles fit me.
(As I was writing this, I remembered this video I saw a few weeks ago about how sizing is ridiculous and lawless.)

Now, this experience came a week after I measured myself for my groomsmaid's dress for Scott and Robby's wedding. That day, I was a little upset that my waist was bigger than I remembered it being when I last measured it in...well, maybe way back in high school, to be honest. I looked in the mirror and suddenly, for the first time in months, was unhappy with what I saw.

And then I was upset for being upset, because like I said above, I'm very happy with my body and its abilities these days, and I'm confident in how it looks. I should be past being upset over arbitrary things like sizes and inches!

Literally the day after I measured myself I was over it and totally happy with myself again, but it was frustrating that putting a number on my body derailed my self-acceptance so easily, if only for a short time.

Back to jeans shopping. Because we went shopping so soon after the dress experience, I felt kind of inoculated to the shock of picking up a size of jeans larger than I'd ever worn before. Like I said, I was surprised, but I didn't experience the kind of self-hatred spiral that I may have in the past, before I really came to terms with my body. I didn't have a major reaction until I'd compared the two jeans and realized how absolutely and totally bonkers American clothing sizing is when it comes to women's fashion. I mean, I knew this before, but to see it laid out for me so clearly was almost funny.

Here we were, in one store, a single brand of clothing, a single type of clothing, and there was a four-size difference between the two jeans that fit me!

I ended up going with the tomgirl because I had wanted a relaxed, airy, comfortable jean for summer. I also branched out of my comfort zone and bought a lighter wash that I've ever owned. The rest of our shopping trip was uneventful; I found most of the other items on my list and we had Moe's for dinner. But I couldn't stop thinking about how messed up women's sizes are.
The fact that women have to play a guessing game every time we go shopping, and yet shopping is marketed as something women should want to do and have fun doing, is ludicrous. Shopping is stressful. If clothes don't look good we tend to blame ourselves instead of the fit or style. I had to remind myself that I'm not made to fit clothes; they're made to fit me. I'd love to see some kind of standard in sizing for women's clothes. I dealt with fitting into a larger size without an issue, but many women struggle with accepting the number on a tag - even though we know the number doesn't even mean anything.

My point is that I hope I remember this story the next time I go shopping and have to size up. Sizes are totally arbitrary and bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Every body is valid and deserves to be dressed in a way that is comfortable and flattering. What the tag says doesn't matter. Feeling confident, strong, sexy, cute, or whatever feeling you're going for in those jeans? That's what maters.