27 February 2012

Hyannis Half Marathon Recap

The Hyannis Half Marathon was yesterday. I met some of my goals (not stressing out or making my family crazy) and missed others (I ran slower than I thought I would), and I had a lot more fun than I ever thought. It was definitely a success.

I have to say first that we had no idea what Hyannis was like before we went. We'd only been to Cape Cod once before and our experiences were good; it seemed like a nice place. But Hyannis was a strange town and completely unlike other Cape towns. It was bleak. A local told us that people hear "Hyannis" and they think "Hyannis Port" which is a nice area, but that Hyannis is actually the dumpiest town on the Cape. Poor Hyannis.

The race seemed well organized, but it was too crowded for my taste. I don't think it was the amount of people, it was that the venue was not adequate for the amount of people. I was pretty panicked a couple of times inside the convention center, and I'm not claustrophobic. I almost trampled some small children.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon after a 90 minute drive. We hadn't managed our meals well that day, so we were starving when we arrived and had a hard time figuring out where to eat. We finally settled for a Dunkin Donuts, which was woefully understaffed (one person!) so it took 15 minutes to get our donuts. It wasn't an auspicious start to the weekend. Once we'd refueled, we went over to the convention center to pick up my number and check out the expo, and the sadness continued. The packet pickup was great, but I felt sad for the expo. We hightailed it out of there and checked in to our room at the Holiday Inn. Maple was dying for a swim, so we hung out poolside for a while before getting ready for dinner at Alberto's. Dinner was decent and not too sad. I obeyed all the stuff I'd read about not eating anything that looked like a fruit or vegetable (for fear of GI issues during the race), and ate some gnocchi with very spicy arrabiatta sauce.

My morning fueling plan worked great. I woke a little before 6 (race start was a leisurely 10am), drank my Vega energizer (which always moves things along), then some green tea. At 7am I ate about 1.5 oatmeal packets. We headed out for coffee (for Sean) in Barnstable around 8 and made it to the race at 9. I waited in a 30-minute bathroom line and that was it - no more elimination until 6pm last night! I may have been a little dehydrated, but at least I didn't have to pee during the race.

I had been focusing on relaxing during the whole trip, but I also had a plan for the race: I'd try to run 9:30 pace (I memorized the splits), calculating by the mile markers and my non-GPS watch. I failed to imagine that the mile markers would be clockless and perched on orange cones by the side of the road. I didn't see one until mile 8. But everyone around me was wearing Garmins, so I could sort of measure pace by the beeps. Anyway, when the gun went off, I felt so relaxed and I was having such a good time that I decided I wasn't attached to my pace plan. After all, it was just supposed to be a sort of race rehearsal. I didn't really taper properly to run really well, and I felt strongly that it would be better to make it to the marathon injury- and MS-relapse-free than run a "fast" half.

From the start, I focused on going slow. I remember thinking that I had no idea what pace I was going with all these people running around me. It was like I lost any ability to read my own pace in that crowd. So I just kept thinking, run slow. Run slow. The course was really nice and completely made up for the sadness of the town and the expo. There were some rolling hills but overall the course was flat and scenic. The weather was gorgeous: 30 and sunny and just enough wind too keep me from sweating much. I held back until mile 8 or so, and then I slowly started speeding up. I passed a lot of people around mile 10 and 11 and it felt good to be so spunky at the end of the race. I sprinted flat out at the end - I can't wait to see the video of that. (Not really.) Sean and Maple cheered for me in the finish chute and that was great.

I can't believe how fun the race was. I listened to people's conversations, I watched people's style, their gear, their stride. I caught glimpses of the ocean and enjoyed the light. I ran by churches and houses and annoyed drivers. But I felt SO good the whole time. I was so happy to be out there. The idea that I was running a half marathon was amazing to me. When I saw the finish chute I burst into tears. When I realized that breathing was incompatible with crying, I stopped, but as soon as I stopped running I cried some more. I am nothing if not crazy emotional.

During the race, I drank some sips of water and Gatorade and ate about 5 Gu Chomps. Next time I need to time it better so that I have water right after I have the Chomps; by the end of the race my mouth was completely sugared together and I had Chomps stuck in crevices of my mouth that I didn't know existed. But my energy was good the whole way, so it sort of worked. At one point I doused myself (and the poor volunteer holding the cup) with Gatorade. Sorry lady!

After the race, I tried to get to the other side of the finish chute where Sean and Maple were waiting for me. The only way I could figure out to get there was to go through the convention center. That was a huge mistake because it was crazy packed in there. I considered screaming like a crazy person so people would get out of my way. It was wall-to-wall people. It took me 25 minutes (and 2 years off my life) to go about 100 feet through a hallway.

As soon as I found Sean and Maple, we headed back to the hotel where I got in the shower to warm up. That was the most heavenly shower of my life. I put on my compression socks and used the Stick before we headed out to get pizza. Unfortunately, the Yelp ratings for Hyannis are relative to the general mediocrity of everything in that town, so the 4-star pizza place was almost unbearably bad. I was too hungry to care, but Sean was in his right mind and I think he took a couple of forget-me-nows after that meal.

Today I was a little tired and I have a few sore spots, but overall I feel good. I learned so much during this race: what works for fueling pre-race, what doesn't work during the race, how not to not pace myself, how not to splash Gatorade on innocent race volunteers. If I could do it again, I might wear the Garmin and start out a bit faster. Then again, I might not. I definitely wouldn't have been so relaxed with that thing on.

In short, it was fun and I loved it and I will never do that race again.

24 February 2012

Half Marathon Eve Eve

I'm finally resting after a busy couple of days. It feels so luxurious to sit in bed with my laptop, watching Saxondale with Sean and Maple. The window is cracked open and the fresh cold air feels great on my bare feet.

Maple had school vacation this week, so there was a lot more driving than usual for Sean and me. I was moving at top speed, trying to pack a full workday into about 6 hours, since I had to run in the morning and pick Maple up from gymnastics at 3. Then last night, our sweet old dog Phoenix started acting really strange. Her face puffed up and she just stood staring at the ground, not moving. Each time she tried to lay down, she got back up and assumed her strange position. We took her to the doggy ER where they said she was stable, but they thought $700 worth of bloodwork and x-rays were in order. Fortunately Sean was more sensible than I was, and we declined. Today she is absolutely fine, but it reminded me of how special she is and that I can't take my time with her for granted.

Tonight we packed for the trip to Cape Cod and straightened up the house. It was fun putting together my bag of running stuff for the race and measuring out individual portions of my pre- and post-race powders. I'm still not sure exactly what my fueling plan is, but I'll have Gu Chomps in the pocket of my new running jacket just in case. I think there will be Gu along the way, and Gatorade too. I typically don't fuel well on long runs; I run with a hydration pack and I try to eat gels every hour or so, but I am usually too nervous to take much in. But since I ran 14 last Saturday, I feel almost confident about racing 13.1 on Sunday. It's not exactly new ground; it's 0.9 miles less than I ran last week!

I expected to be more nervous about everything, but I'm calm and really excited for the race. I know this could change and I could get hit with a wave of anxiety tomorrow, but my goal for the race is not to freak out. Even more than a time goal, I want to have fun and not make my family crazy (which I'm known to do on occasion, or maybe, quite often). Also, if I stay calm, I'll be more likely to eat and drink and not have a bad stomach.

At the end of last year, I was trying to decide on a running goal for 2012. The two top possibilities were to try to beat my 5k time from college (24:28), or to run a marathon. I thought about it for a few days before I decided on the marathon, and I'm so glad I did. I think running longer agrees with me and I've always wanted to run a marathon. If I put it off for another year, who knows what could happen? Bad things can happen to anyone, but with MS following me around like a dark cloud, I feel like I have more than just a chance of bad things happening. "Okay, let's do this," I thought. And I am!

22 February 2012

Week 7: 29 miles

Week 7 was very good. I feel like it's been a while since I had a bad run, which is great. I was experimenting with shoes this week and bought EIGHT pair before I found out that I should keep running in the Ravennas. I got a new pair of the Ravenna 3 and love them. My right leg is still strange when I run, but I guess shoes can't correct truly bad biomechanics. Nothing hurts, so that's good. I just happen to run on the inside of my right foot. Whatever. I guess I won't make it to the Olympics.

I ran with the girls from work again, which was really fun. Ruth and I got a little racey racey at the end and ran our little hearts out. It was fun but I was seriously knackered for the rest of the day and I think it might have set me up for failure on my pace run the next day. It was my first 7-mile pace run, and I couldn't keep the 9:00 pace I was aiming for, but I got close. Mentally, holding that pace for 7 miles was tough. And I was experimenting with some shoes which were definitely too big (and sadly, unreturnable - anyone need a pair of Brooks Adrenaline size 9.5?). Maybe I'll try again next week to hit the pace on my next 7-mile pace run, or maybe not. I'm having so much fun lately I'm not that worried about the pace. Wow, that's hard to believe.

I realized this week that 9:00 pace is more like a tempo pace for me than a true marathon pace run. I am not really going to try to do the marathon at 9:00, so why am I training like that? This weekend is my first half, and I think I'm going to try for a 9:30 pace, which means just under 2:05. It might be all wrong - either too fast or too slow - but it seems right in the middle of 9:00 (what I was doing for my "pace" runs) and 10:00 (where I've been doing a lot of my slow runs). I'd love some advice though. Is anyone out there?

On my second short run this week, I had some posterior tib tendon pain. I was trying out yet another pair of shoes. I think when the shoes are too stiff, my leg and ankle fight against it and my tendon ends up sore. Once I went back to the Ravennas, everything was fine.

I only ran four times this week which seems odd, but with the pressure of a 14-miler (yes, another all-time longest distance) on Saturday, it felt right. I did great on that long run, and Sean set me up to do it in Central Park. That was a blast. I had some tired moments and it was a little depressing getting passed by so many hard core New York runners, but all in all I felt amazing, especially afterwards. And then I got to go hang out with my long lost best friend from high school. It was a great day. Sunday we walked around the city a fair bit and I got my cross training in.

My MS symptoms seem to be stable and mild and except for the exhaustion after racing Ruth (and who knows if that's really why I was tired), I feel great.

Pace range for this week: 9:19 to 10:08
Temperature range: 25 - 40 degrees

Details for Week 7 (Feb 13 - Feb 19):
Monday: off
Tuesday: 4 miles (with friends!)
Wednesday: 7 miles 
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: off
Saturday: 14 miles 
Sunday: cross (walked around NYC)

12 February 2012

Week 6: 27.5 miles

This was another good week of training. I took fewer days off than I'd like, because I want to get on a schedule of taking just Monday and Friday off, so I ran on extra day to avoid the dreaded two days off in a row. I ran some slower miles this week, which kept my legs fresh. I've started wearing compression socks after my long runs, for about two hours (or until my calves start really hurting). Then I take the socks off and it feels like I didn't run at all.

Although I'm having a tough time replacing my current shoes, I'm having fun researching shoes online and shopping. I've decided that I'm at that point in my running "career" where I should have two pairs of shoes going at all times. In the past I've worn the same shoes every day. Right now my two pairs are Brooks Adrenaline 12 and Mizuno Inspire 8. I still use my Sole insoles; they rock.

I've had a couple of MS symptoms this week but they are really mild and hardly worth mentioning (but who am I to stop talking now?): a hugging sensation in my calf which I sometimes refer to as "the gremlin", some mild vision stuff where I feel like I just can't focus or track normally, and some super mild disorientation. I'm incredibly sensitive and notice everything so I'm just recording this for later reference. In general I feel great and have lots of energy. I do get tired, but that feels like natural training tired, not MS fatigue.

This week I got to run with other people THREE TIMES. On Monday and Thursday I ran with Sean, who's building up his base for the fall ultras. Right now I'm in better shape than he is; that will last about another three days. He has an inhuman ability to get in shape really fast. On Tuesday I ran with two women from work. We met at the gym before work and did 4 easy miles, and we're planning to do it again this week. I'm really excited that this might become a regular thing. I'm lucky that my company has a gym which costs almost nothing to join. This year they are remodeling it and I've heard rumor there will be ten treadmills! I don't really like treadmills but I would be running on them more if the weather was bad.

This Wednesday is my first 7-mile pace run and this weekend is a 14-mile long run, which I'll have the pleasure of doing in Central Park. We haven't been to New York (city) since we moved to Massachusetts almost five years ago. Sean is so thoughtful; he booked us a hotel that's right on the Park, so I can walk out the door on Saturday and do my long run. I'm nervous about both of these runs, but more so for the pace run. As a slower-than-molasses runner, I get worried about maintaining speed for more than 400m. I miss track workouts and will be excited to add those back in after the marathon. But tempo and pace runs are really tough for me, which probably means they are exactly what I should be doing. And of course, holding a medium-fast pace for many miles is what I hope to be doing in the marathon.

There's still no snow on the ground. We were supposed to get some yesterday, and I got up at 4 to avoid it, but it never came. It did snow on my run and the sidewalks along 135 (the Boston course) were slippery, but it never accumulated. Sometimes it still amazes me that we've been living a block from the Boston course for almost 5 years.

This morning I broke my 3-miles-minimum rule and did 2 miles before Sean went to work. It was a great way to start the day. The 3-mile thing is a stupid rule; I'll be doing these short runs on Sundays from now on. It's a nice way to recover from the long run on Saturday.

Maple is sick this weekend and we're relaxing and watching Family Ties. It's quite possibly the best Sunday ever. If Sean weren't working it would be off the hook.

Pace range for this week: 9:00 to 10:30
Temperature range: 16 - 33 degrees

Here are the details for Week 6 (Feb 6 - Feb 12):
Monday: 3.5 miles
Tuesday: 4 miles (with friends!)
Wednesday: 6 miles 
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: off
Saturday: 9 miles 
Sunday: 2 miles

11 February 2012

Shoe Saga

I have weird legs and feet, and as a result I have a hard time buying shoes. I'm trying to replace my current shoes, and it's not easy. I'm going to write down everything I know about my feet, legs, and shoes I've run in, in the hopes that I'll figure out what to do.
  1. I am bow-legged, more so on the right side.
  2. I have pretty average arches, but I walk on the inside of my right foot (which I think is related to my bowed leg on that side) so the right arch seems flatter when I do a footprint test.
  3. I have weirdly long middle toes that hurt a lot in some shoes.
  4. I think I overpronate, but when people watch me run, they say my gait is neutral. This usually results in buying neutral shoes and they never feel supportive enough.
  5. The idea of motion control shoes worries me because they always seem so heavy, and I'm not sure I need them.
  6. I have huge big toe callouses, worse on the right foot.
  7. I can stand heels-together, toes pointed way out (like ballet's first position) and bend my knees directly forward. It freaks people out.
I'm currently running in Brooks Ravennas. These have been pretty good and I've been injury-free since I started running in them. According to Brooks, they "provide just the right amount of support for mild pronation." I don't completely adore them and they haven't lasted very long, so I'm not sure I want to get another pair, but I might end up doing that if nothing else works.
Here are all the shoes I have tried in the last few years:
  • I used to run in Asics 2100 series shoes. I liked them for a long time but then I got a pair that I didn't like, but I can't remember why. (Stability)
  • A few years ago I replaced my Asics with a lighter weight pair, something in the GEL-1100 series. I thought it was weird to feel the road so much. I bought them because they were cheaper than the 2100 series. (Stability)
  • The next pair of shoes I remember running in were Asics Nimbus. They were comfortable while I trained for my first 5k last year, but they gave me huge big toe callouses which hurt a lot. (Cushioned Neutral)
  • Last summer I tried Asics Gel-Kayanos; they gave me bad toe blisters and I sent them back. (Stability)
  • I also experimented with Newton Lady Isaacs, but injured my posterior tib tendon around the time I was wearing them and haven't worn them since. (Neutral)
  • I bought Salomon Crossmax Neutral trail shoes, but they came up to high for my ankles. Thinking back on it, I was actually wearing these shoes the first time my posterior tib tendon hurt. I was on a long run and was trying to emulate the foot strike I had when wearing the Newtons. Maybe this was a bad idea. I took advantage of Zappos super liberal return policy with these, and got myself some non-running-shoes. (Neutral)
  • I tried NB Trail Minimus last fall, but I only ran in them a few times, around the time I got injured. Haven't worn them for running since. (Minimal)
  • I bought Brooks Pure Cadence at the end of last year. I loved the cushioning. I wore them once a week for 3 milers for a while, but then one day my posterior tib hurt so I've shelved them until after the marathon. (Not sure what to call these.)
  • I ran in Brooks Trance 10s last fall while while I was recovering from my injury. They seemed okay at the time but the Ravennas ended up being my favorite of the two. The Trance seem really stiff in comparison, like I'm running with bricks on my feet. (Stability)
  • I also tried Brooks Ghost; not supportive enough. (Neutral)
I decided today (why did this take me so long?) to check out the soles of my Ravennas. The right shoe is on the left in this picture (and vice versa). You can see the inside toe (in the middle of the picture) has really worn away from the right shoe. No wonder my feet are starting to get sore! According to this wikipedia page, that means I overpronate. (Unfortunately that wikipedia page also said I'm probably underpronating if I'm bow legged?!)

The inside left toe is also worn, just not as much. So I think that settles that. I need stability shoes. But do I need motion control shoes? I'm not sure. I don't think I can be "severely overpronating" if the people at the running store who watch me run say that my gait is neutral, right?

For the past week I've been obsessively shoe shopping, since my feet are starting to ache in my trusty Ravennas. I've used every shoe finder there is, and they all give me different results. I ordered 3 pair last week (Mizuno Enigma - too small, Mizuno Creative - ran in them today, lots of weird aches and pains, Brooks Glycerin - don't seem supportive enough). These are all neutral shoes, so I'm not surprised they didn't feel right.

After more research today, I've made a list of shoes to try on. These are all stability shoes:
  • Brooks Adrenaline + Ravenna 3
  • New Balance 860, 993, 1260, 1770
  • Asics 2170 (I still have a soft spot for these, even though my last pair in this series wasn't great)
  • Mizuno Nirvana + Inspire
I wish I knew how people figure out what shoes are right for them. Sometimes I order shoes from Road Runner Sports because they have this amazing return policy. The trouble is, you can't try them on. Same with Zappos, although they aren't obviously as knowledgeable about running shoes. Sometimes I buy from Marathon Sports, because a) it's a great local business and b) in theory they watch you run and help you figure out what to get. But I think I tend to give them confusing information so I don't always get the right shoes, and their return policy is not as liberal as the online stores. Sometimes I go to a big sporting goods box store so I can try on as many shoes as I want in peace and not take up valuable floor space in a smaller shop.

If you're still reading, you're my hero. Please tell me how you found your perfect shoes.

07 February 2012

Week 5: 25 miles

After my great run on Saturday, I planned to do a couple of easy miles on Sunday, but that was not to be. Maple and I went to a museum on Sunday morning, and by the time we got home at 2pm, I was knackered. I decided it'd be nicer to rest and watch the Superbowl. And it was.

This week I did only the four runs that my training plan prescribed. Every other week (just by coincidence, not by design), I add a few miles to the plan, but on the other weeks I just stick to the four runs. Since the training is starting to ramp up, I think I might be doing more resting. We'll see. 

I felt great all week. I wasn't excessively tired or fighting any MS symptoms. I experimented with some different shoes but I had some arch pain so I'm back in the Ravennas. I tried some other shoes on but I haven't found the next great thing yet.

Temps were steady: 33 to 36 degrees. Pace range was 9:26 to 10:16 on the long run (though I didn't stop the watch for a couple of stops, so pace was probably more like 10:10).

I promised to write something about my experiences with trail running. Last year, when Sean was getting excited about running trail ultras, I tried to follow suit. I did a bunch of runs in Callahan State Park, and I made a bunch of rookie mistakes. First, I tried to run too fast. It's rocky and rooty around here, and you need to have enough energy to pick your feet up. Way up. I fell countless times and lost four toenails. I was also trying to increase speed and mileage at the same time; a classic no-no. And thanks to an MS relapse about 6 years ago, my right foot isn't quite as responsive as my left, and especially when I get tired, it gets slow. On the trails it dragged a bit. After I injured my posterior tib (ankle) tendon in the fall, due in part to my stupid trail running experiment, I decided I just wasn't tough enough for trail running and swore it off. Road running is easier in some ways because the surface is predictable. Even if I get tired, I'm still really unlikely to trip on the road. And since I'm obsessed with being slow and with getting faster, the roads provide a much better platform for pace improvement (at least, right now).

Now that I'm in better shape (with a good 3-4 months of training between now and then), I see that my endurance is better and I could probably run better off-road. It would take longer for my right leg to get tired, and I think I could be less prideful about pace now and I wouldn't try to hold to 10:00 pace (which I consider slow on the road but really isn't too slow off-road). I think I could run 12:00 pace for 6-8 miles over tough terrain now. Maybe I'll try it again after the marathon, but for now I'm not doing anything that increases my chances of injury or lost toenails. I'm paranoid enough that marathon training will exacerbate my MS, so I definitely don't need anything else to worry about.

Here are the details for Week 5 (Jan 30 - Feb 5):
Monday: off
Tuesday: 3.5 miles
Wednesday: 6 miles 
Thursday: 3.5
Friday: off
Saturday: 12 miles (longest run to date!)
Sunday: off (chased misbehaving 6-year-old around a museum - does that count as cross training?)

Wow, I can't believe I've made it through five weeks of training already. I know the first part is easier than the latter parts, but I'm happy that I feel really good so far. No excessive soreness, no MS symptoms to speak of.  I remember when I was training for the half last fall, I was always so sore and could barely walk when I got up in the morning. I think I was just trying to do too much too soon for an old lady. Things are going much better this time around.

I just knocked on wood.

04 February 2012

Almost done with Week 5

I had an amazing run this morning. For the first time I had the runner's high while I was running.

My goal was 12 miles @ 10:00 pace. I started out before sunrise; first time running with a headlamp. I ran the Boston course for about 4 miles before the sun came up, then I missed my turn and ran around a while before asking for directions.

At the 6 or 7 mile point, I ended up running alongside an older guy for about 10 minutes. We talked a bit and then parted ways when I headed back towards home. He was 62 and proud of being out on a 4-mile run. I hope I'm still out running at 62.

I had so much anxiety about this run. For the past two weeks I have been thinking "I have my longest run ever this weekend!" I finally realized the other day that almost every long run for the next 13 weeks will be the longest run I've ever done.

I listened to UltraRunner Podcast during my run today, and it's amazing how easy it feels to run 12 miles when you are listening to people talk about running 100-milers. This is my new training strategy.

After the run, I drank my Vega Recovery Accelerator and then some Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer (which has just been renamed to Vega One Shake). Sean brought me some of the new Vega Endurance Gels from work last night, so I tried one of those on the run. My stomach was so screwy this morning that I only had about half the gel, but it was tasty. It's made with dates and I don't think it's too processed, because it was a little gritty, but not in a bad way. It tasted far better than those other gels. I like the idea of all this vegan science food for my training, but I prefer it to taste like something that might be found in nature. I'm really lucky because Sean works at Whole Foods so we get a discount on all this stuff. I also take Udo's Oil after my long runs and pace runs. I'm not sure I feel any different after taking it, but I like the idea of getting good oils in my diet.

I have the best luck with my stomach if I eat a piece of dry toast before a run (maybe two slices for a longer or harder run). I've experimented with dried fruit, banana-based smoothies, the Vega Optimizer, and a handful of other things, but I think dry toast is the best. Sometimes I will drink the Pre-Workout Energizer, but not really for the "energizing". That stuff makes me shit within five minutes. As someone who has struggled with stomach issues forever, I love it. But I don't use it every day.

Maple's ice skating class was after the run, then we went to the local running store to try on shoes and buy compression socks. I read Stephanie's glowing endorsement of CEP brand, and when I saw the hot pink socks, I had to have them. Here I am modeling them (with some help from Phoenix).

Maple asked for Indian food for lunch, so we went to Singh's and had an appetizer feast: samosa, pakora, aloo tikka, aloo paratha. There were a lot of potatoes involved. My stomach still wasn't up for much so I ate one of everything and brought the rest home for Sean.

This should be the topic of a post all its own, but I have been lucky to get back to my "MS denial" lately. I feel like a runner and not a patient. This is nice but I never forget how lucky I am to feel almost normal.

Maple just started blasting Kanye and I think this means she wants some attention. Week 5 officially ends tomorrow. I'm planning to add a few easy miles to the 25 I've done already.