Running Remix

Sometimes in life, we need to step back and reevaluate our intentions. Whether we examine relationships, careers, or fitness, we need to realize our goals can change in spite of us. I am at a point at which I have to reevaluate my running, and believe me, it isn’t by choice. My knees seem to be rebelling, which infuriates me. I am trying to do something good that will keep me mentally and physically healthy, but my body doesn’t want to cooperate.

 

For non-runners the answer is easy — don’t run. Runners understand that it just isn’t that simple. Though I haven’t always been a runner, after six years it has become part of my identity. My friends run; my husband runs; I want to run. Running is an emotional release after a challenging day at school. It’s a way to celebrate life’s little joys. It’s a way to deal with tragedy when I don’t know what else to do with myself. Running gives me confidence, strength, and pleasure. Running makes me angry, disappointed, and frustrated. I love going for a run with friends, and I love running alone because it allows me time to process whatever is happening in my life at the moment. In running I find peace. Simply put, I cannot imagine my life without it.

 

I had already decided that I wouldn’t run a spring half marathon. My plan was to let my knees rest by sticking with shorter runs. After running the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon the past four years, it will be difficult knowing my friends are there and I am not. I do, however, plan to run the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll with my step-daughter Labor Day weekend. After my past couple longer runs, that was even questionable. Once I would reach 4.5 miles, my ‘good’ knee would begin to stiffen up – IT band. It felt exactly the same as my right one did two years ago prior to surgery. I hobbled to get to 5 miles (I’m not sure why I have to end on an even number), and ended up disappointed that I couldn’t go further.

 

I am currently reading Tales from Another Mother Runner by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. It is their third book together, and since I loved the first two, I knew this would be worth my time. One of the essays struck a chord. The woman had knee problems. Ahhh…a sister in pain. She began inserting walking into her runs, and was able to complete her runs. Even though the thought of walking part of a long run, or God forbid, a race, goes against my prideful spirit, I knew I had to try something, or I’d never be able to run long distance again. Yesterday was my experiment.

 

It was going to be a warm sunny day, so I was really looking forward to the run. I had to mentally prepare myself to walk. I know myself well enough to know that if I weren’t disciplined, I would try to run as far as I could, and then I would end up in pain and angry. I decided to run the first two miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile for the rest of my ‘run’. I didn’t know how far I would go because I just didn’t know how my knees would hold up. I had in the back of my head that I wanted to try to go seven miles because my friends who are running the Derby Half were running seven (again, my brain works in mysterious ways). I found that inserting the walking made the outing enjoyable. I looked forward to the breaks, enjoyed the beautiful weather, and didn’t stress over my distance. Each time I took off running, I knew I only had to run 8/10 mile. I ended up going eight miles – with no knee pain. I ran 6.8 miles, and walked 1.2; that’s further than I’ve been able to run in months. Even with the walking, I averaged an 11 minute pace, which isn’t that bad. Did pride step in? Of course. I was hopeful that no one would see me walking; afterall, I’m supposed to be a runner. In the end, I was very content with my effort. And I was figuring out what finish time I would have if I did that at Louisville. I think my husband might just kill me if I suddenly decide to jump in the race because he hasn’t been doing long runs. But we do have a hotel room booked. Just in case.


This is when I have to ask myself, what are my intentions in regard to running. To stay healthy? Or to compete? To spend time doing something I love? Or to beat people? The responsible answer would be that I intend to stay healthy while doing what I love, and I do, but I also want to run well. I want to have respectable times. I want to PR. In short races, I want to place in my age group. Is that going to be possible? I just don’t know. I would rather walk some if it will allow me to continue running, but my pride will have to adapt to this new vision of who I am as a runner.

Advertisements

The End of an Era…

Maybe it isn’t the end of an era, but it is the end of something I love. This week was my last official week of teaching Zumba. This is my second school year teaching Zumba (yes, teachers gauge time based on school years), and I have so enjoyed the opportunity to share a fun form of exercise with others, the friends I have made along the way, and the chance to dance like I know what I’m doing a couple times a week. I’ve tried to make my classes fun, while also providing a kick-ass workout for participants.  Despite all of these positives, there was one negative that over-shadowed all the good.  It is killing my knees.  [Disclaimer:  Although you probably think this picture is me, it really isn’t. My hair isn’t that long.]

zumba

I was hopeful that after surgery last fall, I could return to all the things I love with no issues. My surgery knee would hurt on occasion, but it was tolerable for awhile. Right after the first of the year, I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to teach Zumba much longer, and began making preparations to step aside.  The twisting and lateral movement are just too hard on my already weakened knees. My first love is running, and I really want to get back to being able to run half marathons, so the decision was made to give up my classes. It wasn’t an easy one; I wavered for the last two months. This week, my knees hurt like crazy during class, so I knew I had made the right decision.  It’s still sad, but I will move on. I am, fortunately, still able to teach Tabata Bootcamp, and am adding a new HIIT class on Wednesday mornings. Between teaching those classes, helping out Biggest Loser teams, and running, I will be busy.  I also had a couple of students ask me if I would help them run, which, of course, I am thrilled to do.  Who knows? I might even hit a few of my husband’s spinning classes (but I hear they are really hard).

About running…I am slowly scratching my way back to being a runner. I have really struggled this winter (this long, crappy winter) because I just don’t want to run in the cold. In previous winters, I have really enjoyed cold-weather running. Heck, I felt like a bad-ass out there in 20 degree weather, the wind ripping through my hair, sleet smacking at my face. Not this winter.  My bad-ass has been on a treadmill.  I have been on the treadmill more this winter than I have the past five years. I just don’t want to bundle up when I can wear shorts and a tank and work up a good sweat indoors.

Someday spring will arrive, and I will be ready to hit the streets.  I need to – I am contemplating running the Kentucky Derby Mini in April. Honestly, I don’t know if I can do it because my knees still hurt, but I am going to attempt to train, and see what happens. If I am not extremely confident that I can finish, I will back out.  I won’t go through the trauma I went through last year when my knee screamed at me to give it up. I won’t sit on a street corner in Louisville, freezing cold and crying while I wait for a ride.  I won’t get in a elevator after hobbling back into the hotel, and be faced with an 80 year old man with a finisher’s medal around his neck, while I go home empty-handed. I know that I have no chance to PR; that won’t be my goal. If I run, I will run with my friend Debbie, who will be running her first half marathon. If I run, I will finish.  I won’t be stupid and continue running if my knee begins to hurt (Lord, I hope I don’t eat those words).  I will walk if I have to (Lord, I hope I don’t have to).  And I won’t be jealous of those who PR (Yes, yes, I will be jealous, but I will smile).

What are you doing to stay healthy?  Exercising?  Eating veggies?  Meditating?  Hoping your skinny friends get fat?  Go out and live life!  If you need a mentor, there are lots of us who are willing to help.  Fitness has changed our lives.  We are not only healthier and happier, but we have some amazing friends whom we have come to know through our fitness endeavors.

run

 

The Evansville Half Marathon

Jennifer Land, me, and Jackie Fischer after finishing

Every race offers a unique experience.  Some are amazing; I feel great, run well, and enjoy the atmosphere.  Others are not quite so incredible; I feel tired, don’t run as well as I’d like, and the atmosphere is less than uplifting.  Sunday’s half marathon was an odd mix of the two.

Though I felt I had adequately trained, I hadn’t put in the miles I normally do when training for a long race.  I ran between 2 and 4 miles a couple times a week, and ran 5 miles during the week only a couple of times.  I did my long runs on the weekends, but never concerned myself with speed.  I taught Zumba classes 4 times a week while training, so I was curious as to what, if any, effect that might have on my running.  It is definitely a great workout, and I work different muscles, but I wasn’t sure if it would actually improve my endurance or speed.

In the days leading up to the race, I kept telling myself that I needed to be drinking more water so I would be properly hydrated – but Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi found their way to my thirsty lips.  I also knew that I needed to eat healthy (non-gassy) foods.  But then we went to this great wedding the evening before the race, and not only was there fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and bread, but there was this fantastic dessert spread.  I knew it was fantastic because my daughter made the cheesecakes (and someone had to test them), and I baked some of the cookies (I tested those too).  There were cupcakes, mini apple pies, cake pops…and on and on!  I have always admitted that I have an extreme weakness for sweets.  If it’s available, I am going to eat it.  No willpower at all.  So, we piled our plates with desserts, anxious to try each one.  That wasn’t exactly the best pre-race nutrition (but, gosh, it was delicious!).

In my previous post, I mentioned that cleaning out the system is necessary before a good run.  When a runner gorges on fried food and dessert, it becomes even more crucial to evacuate.  But sometimes it doesn’t happen.  It didn’t happen.  I won’t go into the particulars, but I had this really heavy feeling the whole time I ran.  It was not pleasant.  It actually took a couple of days to feel normal.  ‘Nough said.

Race morning, Jackie, Kassi, and I left town at 5:00 a.m.  It was a cold morning!  I had stressed all week over what to wear for this race.  We all ended up in running capris and long-sleeved shirts, which was perfect for the temps.  Once we all arrived at Reitz High School, the starting point for the Evansville Half, the waiting game began.  We waited inside to try to stay warm, all the while contemplating just how our runs would go.  We had agreed that we would each run our own race.  My first half, I ran with Jackie.  I am so glad to have met that goal hand-in-hand with one of my best friends!  However, we have discussed how we talked the entire way, and that now we are wise enough to realize that talking takes a lot of energy, and that we run faster when we aren’t chatting.  So we all lined up together, but once that gun went off, we were each in our own zones.

I really get into a different zone during a race.  I have so much running through my head that I am better off by myself.  My goal for this race was to be in the top 20 in my division.  In April, I ran the Derby Half in 2:04, which was a 9:29 pace.  I wanted to be able to run that pace, but really didn’t think I could run that fast again.  My strategy (and I use that term very loosely) is always to run hard – and faster than normal – as long as I can, and if I have to slow down, I will.  I figure it will still average out to be a faster time.  I took off fast (for me).  I didn’t obsess over my time throughout the race.  I checked my watch a few times when I hit a mile mark, and knew early on that I was running well.  I just knew I wanted to give everything I had so that I would have no regrets.  At about mile 7 or 8, the back of my knee began to hurt.  A lot.  I had never had that pain before, and wasn’t sure what had caused it.  The pain remained for the rest of the race.  At one point, I thought I might have to stop because it was so uncomfortable, but I just kept going.  I knew that I was limping at some points, and my race pictures show a miserable look on my face.  I just kept plugging along, and by then, I wasn’t really worried about my time.  I just wanted to keep running.  I finally got to mile 12, and I looked at my watch.  When I read 1:49 and realized that if I could maintain my pace, I would break 2 hours – which is something I NEVER thought I would do – I was determined to push through the discomfort.  I could hold up one more mile.  I got about a block or two from the finish line and heard my friends yelling for me.  I looked at my watch and saw that I was going to make it!  I kicked it up and sprinted (picture old-lady sprint) to that finish line.  1:59:43!  It was close, but I did it!  I knocked 4 minutes off my previous time, and I broke 2 hours.  I had also placed 19/119 in my division.  I was ecstatic!  Though I felt bad for my husband because he was unable to run due to having had surgery, I was surely glad that he was at the finish line to greet me.  He is my biggest supporter, and at that moment, I needed him with me.

I still don’t know how I was able to maintain a 9:09 pace for 13.1 miles.  I believe that the Zumba made a difference.  I also listened to music for the first time in a long race.  I found that I liked it, but I don’t think it made that big of a difference.  This was one of the hardest, most uncomfortable races I have run, so now I wonder what would happen if I had eaten properly in the days leading up to a race, hydrated with water, had no pain, and maybe even used some of those energy gels.  Could I run faster?

I have now run 4 half marathons.  My times have been 2:13 (Fall ’10) 2:08 (Spring 2011), 2:04 (Spring 2012), and now 1:59.  To know that though I am getting older, I can still improve my speed is so satisfying.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are too old to do anything!  I am looking forward to continuing to challenge myself to reach new goals.  Just a few short years ago, I could not even imagine myself running a mile.  Really.  It took me weeks and weeks just to be able to run one mile on the treadmill, and then more time to get up to two miles.  This coming April, I will be running my 5th half marathon, and with me will be several newbies.  I am so excited to get to share this adventure with them because I know how amazing they will all feel when they cross the finish line of their first half marathon!

I cannot post about the Evansville race without congratulating my friends.  First, Kim Strobel – my goodness!  Kim is a beast!  She tied for 3rd place OVERALL in the women’s group.  That’s 3rd out of over 1100 women!  She is just freaky fast.  I couldn’t be more proud!  Jackie Fischer beat her previous time by 4 minutes – amazing!  Kassi Rogers, who injured her foot a couple weeks before the race, and had to take several days off running, was determined to run the race, and finished with a great time – not the time she had hoped for, but she hadn’t hoped for an injury either.  Her determination is so impressive.  Jennifer Land had another fantastic race.  She has faced injuries over the past year and a half, and wasn’t happy with her time, but we all are.  She rocked!  Eric Kehl…he worked his tail off to get in at 1:57, also breaking the 2 hour mark.  Sarah Kluender fell on Saturday and looked like she had been in a fight (and lost), yet was also determined to run this race.  Amy Hollinden and Sophie Fischer ran the race together, and they managed to talk the whole way AND break 2 hours!  They came in at 1:57 as well.  Debbie Reed ran her first half marathon!  Getting in training runs was difficult because of her work schedule and kids’ activities, but she managed to get it done, and crossed that amazing finish line in her first 13.1!  I am so proud to call these runners my friends.  I have said many times that running is an incredible sport because runners are so supportive of one another.  When one of us is having a tough day or feeling bad about a run, there are plenty of friends around to lift us back up.  When someone has a great run, we are all sincerely happy for him or her.  I am truly proud of all of my friends!  Thank you all for inspiring me every single day.  Your passion, determination, and work ethic show me what it takes to be a better person.

Bring it on!

Jennifer and me after 2010 Half

We have complained; we have celebrated; we have whined.  We have trained!  Since mid-August, my friends and I have been training for our 4th half marathon.  4th!  It wasn’t that long ago – 2 1/2 years – that I said very adamently that I would never run a half marathon.  Who would even want to run for over two hours? I asked.  I don’t have the time or the energy for that!  But then something happened.  Once I found out I could run 5 miles, I wondered if I could run 6.  And then I ran 6 – and wondered if I could run 7.  And so it goes.

Two years ago, my running (and life-long-totally-amazing) friend, Jackie, and I began to discuss running a half marathon.  The Evansville Half Marathon.  We, along with my husband and some other friends, decided to try it.  We totally rocked it!  On October 10, 2010, we completed our first half marathon…13.1 incredible miles…and we held hands as we crossed that finish line.  Our pace just so happened to be 10:10 on 10/10/10!  How great is that!

We haven’t run another half together.  I have run the Kentucky Derby Mini twice since then, and Jackie and my other best-life-long-super spectacular running friend, Jackie’s sister, Kassi, have run Evansville and Owensboro.  So this Sunday will be my first half with Kassi.  And I can’t wait!  Jackie, Kassi, and I have done most of our long training runs together.  The wonderful thing about there being three of us is that one of us can always take the lead.  When the other two are having a less-than-fantastic run, someone steps up and pulls us along.  I have yet to be the leader on a long run, but have had some rockin’ shorter runs.  On our last long run, I told Jackie I was glad it was the last one because if we had another, it would be my turn to lead!

Our last long run was my favorite.  My husband drove us out to a little church in the country (Lillydale), and dropped us off.  We took the old, winding highway 10 miles back to Kassi’s.  It was a gorgeous morning, and the countryside shone with fresh dew and sunshine.  The hills spilled before us, beckoning us to challenge ourselves.  Dogs barked threatening us should we choose to approach their houses; cows munched on straw and were oblivious to our passing.  Some miles we talked; some we ran side-by-side in silence.  Our relationship is such that we can be completely comfortable talking non-stop, but we are also comfortable with silence, each knowing the other is lost in her own thoughts.  Kass was the rock star that morning.  She stayed about a block’s distance in front of us, but at the end, we all finished together.  The week before, Jackie kicked butt.  She not only stayed blocks ahead of Kass and me, but she also ran 12 miles when our schedule only demanded 11.  Kass and I stuck with 11.

This past Saturday, we each had other obligations, so our not-quite-as-long runs had to be solo.  I ran Saturday afternoon.  Though I had planned to run 6 miles, it was so beautiful out that I stretched it out.  When I got back to my car, I was at 6.6 miles.  For some neurotic reason, I like to end with even mileage, so I ran until my Nike GPS Sportwatch read 7.0 – exactly.  If you run, you understand.  This week will will do a couple of short, easy runs.  And then Sunday, if all goes as planned, we will have an awesome run.  The thing about half marathons is that so much has to go right.  My stomach cannot be in the least bit upset – can’t be too hungry or too full.  Bowels need to be regular (If you run, you understand – promise!).   The temperature needs to be in the 60s.  My legs need to be rested, but not too rested.  Clothing has to be completely comfortable (and cute).  Allergies need to be in check.  If all of this is perfectly aligned, I can meet some goals.  My main goal is for the three of us to be in the top 20 in our division.  After analyzing last year’s results (yup, I really do that), I feel this is very possible.  Maybe even likely.

This weekend, several of my running friends will be running the half marathon, and I am sure that I will forget or miss someone, but I want to wish them all a great run!  Kassi, Jackie, Jen, Kim, Eric, Tony (you are going to run, aren’t ya, Tony?), Amy H, Sophie, Trish…and all the other TC runners – Kick some butt this weekend!  I will see you at the finish line.  And to my husband, I am so sorry you can’t run this weekend, but am glad you will be waiting for me at the finish line (with a Diet Pepsi?).  I can’t wait until April, when we, along with a bunch of newbies, rock the Derby Mini!  Run On, Friends!

(Pictures and captions just wouldn’t go where I wanted them!)

Gary and me – after completing our first half marathon!

Jackie and me finishing our first half marathon!