Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Rampage 5k 2018

Back in June, or maybe even May, my friend, colleague, and fellow Skirt ambassador Michelle floated the idea of running a race together with our other friend, colleague, and Skirt ambassador Ashley. We thought it would be fun to all run together, because even though we work together, I've only gotten to run one race with them before. (Ashley and Michelle train together frequently and are currently training to run the Chicago marathon together.)
The last time we raced together.
Anyway, I had this race in my head all summer, but I never signed up. Then, last week, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up before I chickened out. Both Michelle and Ashley signed up, too, so we were all set to meet before the race, run it, and have breakfast together after.

I had a banana, a tbsp of peanut butter, and a cup of strong black coffee about 90 minutes before the race, then made the half hour drive to the park. The race started at 7am; the weather was cool (mid-70s at the start) but the humidity was no joke (94%). Before the sun was up, though, it didn't feel too bad.

At the starting line!
I had no goals for this race. I didn't even have a "I don't want to walk" or "I want to sub-30" goal. This race was literally just to help push me mentally further into the headspace I've recently been in, where real training and weekend runs are appealing to me again.

Based on my paces lately, I was surprised to find myself running in the 8:50s early on. I was sure I wouldn't be able to hold it long, but it felt really comfortable, so I just let my legs do their thing. 

My legs continued to do their thing to mile 2, but my hair threw the first wrench in my wheel. It's at a weird length right now where I can get it into a bun and keep it there with the help of a lot of bobby pins, but it started to come down and was really distracting. I took a walk break to shove the pins back into place, but as you know...once you walk, it's hard to convince yourself to get going again. I started to realize how hot it was. By this point, the sun was fully up and I was running directly into it.
I took this photo after fixing my hair. The last mile of the race was quite pretty!
I managed to run another half mile before I decided to take another walk break. I kept it brief. I think my need for it was more mental than physical. I made the decision to run the rest of the race at a much easier and more sustainable pace, which ended up being around 9:30. I was able to finish the last sprint at a 7:52 pace.
Here's a blurry screenshot from the finish video.
I know some of you (ahem, Megan) like finishing videos, so here's the one from this race. I come into view around 10:04.

I finished in 28:57 (or 29:00 according to my chip), 8th in my age group. 
I caught some photos of Michelle and Ashley finishing, and then after waiting to check our times, we went to breakfast at Skillets. 
I haven't eaten there in years, but it used to be my go-to post-race breakfast place, and it was a great way to end the morning.
Considering I had no goals for the race, I am very happy with my performance. And I'm happy with the mental outcome: I definitely feel invigorated and excited to sign up for some more races. I told Elizabeth last week that I don't really care about collecting medals anymore, but the elation of crossing a finish line continues to be one of the best feelings in the world.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mini-Goals & Surprise Race

Last week, I felt like I finally hit the next "step" of recovery. From December 2017 (when I started running again) to June, I really just enjoyed running again, without any guidelines or expectations. Since June, I've mentally been in a weird kind of in-between phase, where I'm enjoying the freedom of running however and whenever I want, but also wanting to see progress. I've been in this stage since around June, but I think I'm finally moving on.

Over the last two weeks, I've set a couple modest goals. For one thing, I finally upped my minimum run distance to 4 miles. Four miles is my happy distance, but it's been too easy to cut runs short when it's super hot and humid out. I'm not giving myself that out anymore. When I plan to go for a run, I plan for four and I do four. This has given me a little bit of structure and increased my weekly mileage.
Can you guess which week was the first week back at school?
The other mini-goal I've set in the last two weeks is to run Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. So far, I've been able to stick to that, and I've even been able to motivate myself to go when the weather is gross and Elizabeth isn't joining me.

My next step is to finally start adding weekend runs. I've been so exhausted from going back to work that the last thing I want to do on weekends is break a sweat.

So, on that note, it looks like I'm running a race on Saturday. I'm not really prepared for it, but I plan to run it for fun and to kickstart a desire to train for something...or at least add that elusive weekend run to my plans.
It feels nice to have a little more structure and to be out of limbo, and to be getting there naturally. I was afraid I'd have to force it, but it seems like, as usual, the recovery process has its own timeline. I am starting to feel back to my old self, and that gives me hope for the future of running, racing, and the longterm running goals I kept my sights on to give me hope last year during my diagnosis and surgeries.

Because honestly? For awhile, I was a little afraid those goals would be dust in the wind, but now I'm seeing that there will come a time when I finally feel ready to go for them. I just have to keep being patient and keep trusting the process.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Run Worth Analyzing

Thursday evening I hit a little milestone post-surgery: I completed my third 4-mile run of the week, bringing my miles to 12 before I even reached the weekend. It's my longest mileage week of recovery!

But that's not why I want to analyze this run. I want to remember how it felt.

I ran the first two miles with Elizabeth, who is about 23 weeks pregnant, and the last two alone. For the first mile, we stuck together. We kept a very easy pace of about 9:51. I felt like my body had shifted into its perfect gear; I could have kept at that pace forever and never needed a rest.
We took a brief walk break at a mile and took a photo, then ran the second mile nice and easy. Including the walk at the beginning, our average pace was 10:21, which is much closer to the pace we tend to run together these days. Little Pudge is getting to be a burden for Elizabeth.
At the two mile mark, Elizabeth dropped back as planned and I continued on my own. We agreed that I would just finish my run without looping back to check on her at all, and she'd meet me at the end.

My third mile and fourth miles were fast. There were times I saw 9:10 or faster on my watch. I took a brief walk at the end of mile 3, more because I wanted to than that I needed it, and by the end of mile 4 I was so desperate to finish strong that I was scared to slow down for fear I'd end up walking again. I finished the last quarter mile at a sprint, running sub-9.
It was like my legs had a mind of their own. They felt amazing and strong. It was humid and gross out, and my breathing was ragged, but it's been worse.

I felt like I was transcending something.

And I had to stop and think after this run, because lately I've been so sure that summer has sapped me of all my speed and strength, and back-to-school stress has sapped me of my motivation and energy. But tonight I saw that everything is still there. It's just been resting a bit as I acclimate.

I've been slow lately because of the combination of summer, work, and having a pregnant running buddy, and pace has been one major factor in my reluctance to build distance right now. In fact, I spent some of our run tonight lamenting over my disinterest in running a half marathon anytime soon and yet not wanting to miss the opportunity this winter - I don't want to wait another year to run a half!
I ran this route three times this week, and felt stronger and faster each time.
By the time I finished this run, I realized that maybe I am ready to build distance after all, because I felt it all fall into place again.

As Elizabeth and I adjust our plans to fit both our needs as her pregnancy continues, I'll have the opportunity to build my own schedule and work in long runs. The only thing holding me back is myself. The good news is that I think they're finally starting to really fall away.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

We Eat Tofu Now

This post is going to be full of pictures of delicious meals that don't look very appetizing. Why is photographing food so hard?!

For the longest time, I've had an issue with eating meat at home. For some reason, if I've prepared and cooked it, I get grossed out eating it. The texture makes me want to gag. I often end up eating whatever side I've prepared and leaving the meat to go to waste.

This happens even with things I typically love, like salmon and shrimp. It never happens when I'm at a restaurant, but we don't go out to eat very often, so most nights I barely touch my dinner.

I've always really loved tofu, but have been scared to cook it at home. Once I bought a block of it and it sat in the fridge for six months before I tossed it, untouched. Sometimes when I order a meal with tofu, I ask Matt if he wants any, but usually it's spicy so he doesn't partake. While we were in Seattle, I had tofu a couple times, and Matt was finally able to try some himself. Imagine my surprise when on our last night there, he ordered tofu in his poke bowl.
That was a turning point. When I realized Matt would eat tofu, it made more sense to learn to cook it. The consistency (somewhere between an omelet and frittata) never freaks me out and I like that its mild flavor can really take on any taste.
I watched a YouTube video to learn how to cook it, bought some already-pressed tofu, and tried it out. I was intimidated, but it turns out it's really easy to prep and cook! I'm still figuring out if I prefer the super firm or extra firm variety, but we've had tofu for every home-cooked dinner for two weeks now and I am very happy with it.
This is the brand our stores carry. Right now I think I prefer the extra firm to the super firm.
My favorite way to prepare it is with curry. I sometimes use a million shortcuts that would make Sandra Lee proud, including adding frozen vegetables or sweet potatoes to the dish instead of fresh. Dinner takes ten minutes to make and tastes amazing.
We usually use Patak's Korma curry, but I want to learn how to make it from scratch.
I'm excited to learn more ways to prepare it, because unlike most meals, it's so quick and easy to make that I don't mind experimenting a little. Plus, a block costs about $3 and easily makes enough food for two nights, so we're saving money on top of everything else.
Passage Foods sauces have all proven tasty!
This pad thai did not disappoint! 
I am not going vegetarian, but Matt and I are both happy to be eating less meat because the meat industry - especially beef - is terrible for the environment. I'm also happy to finally be able to stomach a meal at home. I feel like I'm on a soapbox, but it's not moralistic at all. I'm just suddenly in love with tofu and I don't know why it took me so long to buy it!

If you've been curious but intimidated, like I was, take it from me - tofu is awesome!


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Your Love Is

After Scott and Robby's ceremony, a few people came up to me to compliment my speech/poem. One of Robby's old colleagues suggested I put the poem online so other people could use it at weddings. Part of me preened to hear such high praise, but the socially-inept part of me just mumbled an awkward (but genuine) "thank you".

A third part of me - the writer, the artist - was torn between wanting to share the poem and wanting to avoid the possibility of someone else taking credit for it. In the end, the proud part won out, so I've posted the poem below. I really believe it's the kind of poem that's better heard than read, but I'm not about to record myself reciting it.

If you want to use it, please give credit where it's due.
I spent a few months choosing a photo of the guys and formatting the poem (I think I printed more than a dozen drafts before I was happy with the final result) before framing it to send to them. They received it today in the mail.

Being asked to speak at their wedding and being able to share these words, which I wrote for them specifically, was one of my proudest moments. I am happy to share them here, too, so that others can hear the message of love and perhaps share it with others.