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January has been a very cold, but good month of running. Indiana has had some beautiful, warm days this winter, but most of the month has seen temperatures far below freezing, often with winds greater than 20 MPH. Somehow, in spite of the weather, I made it out running 16 times last month, 60% more times in January than in December. I’m hopeful that I will top that number in February as I slacked pretty hard on running for the first week or so of January.

Also exciting, I finally seem to be getting a bit faster. I was beginning to get frustrated with my lack of progress. I think that doing a lot of my runs on the treadmill at the end of last year was holding me back. It is a lot easier to run faster when you don’t have to consciously turn the speed up. I have a feeling that I can achieve some quick, but significant improvement in speed if I concentrate on doing some longer run and just overall higher mileage. Sometimes that is easier said than done, but I need to make a more conscious effort to stay on track each week because it is far too easy to let one day off slip into three days off.

Run January

My goals for February are pretty simple: Run More. Run Faster.

Last weekend we headed out to Las Vegas to run the Rock and Roll Half Marathon there. In many ways, it was one of those Murphy’s Law trips.

It started out on Friday afternoon when we picked Kai up from day care. Her classroom smelled horrible, bad enough that we asked what was going on. It was because of Kai. She had thrown up a few minutes earlier. We didn’t think much of it, sometimes babies seem to eject their food at random.

We began our drive to Louisville to the airport. At some point we noticed a smell, commented on it, and moved on. I guess that our noses adjusted. It did not even occur to me that it might be Kai, so I was quite surprised when I opened the back door of the car to retrieve her from her car seat and found her covered in vomit. Head to toe, a thick coating, all over the car seat as well, you know, the one that we were about to pack to bring with us.

A massive, but swift, cleaning operation ensued. Many of you know that we are not exactly known for getting to the airport early. At some point, as we used Chris’ undershirt to scoop piles of vomit out of the car seat, we debated if we should just cancel the trip, but decided that we couldn’t cancel. Last time we were supposed to meet Chris’ parents in Nevada we cancelled because that was the day we found out that I had a giant tumor in my chest. Nope. We would not cancel. We would press on this time.

By the time we had cleaned and bagged as much pukey stuff as possible, we were under the gun to get through the airport fast.

First stop, the ticket counter. We had mobile boarding passes automatically delivered our phones, but Kai’s needed to be printed. Let’s just say that it wasn’t as straightforward as usual.

Ten minutes later, we were booking it through security. Except only Chris and Kai booked through. I drew the lucky number and needed to be strip searched. Not really, but it was the most time consuming and invasive pat down that I have ever received and, in India, I received quite a few airport pat downs. I consider myself an expert in the subject.

Finally we were on our way to the gate, just in time to hear the agent paging us to board our flight. Like literally us. ‘Passengers Brittany and Chris, bound for Houston, your plane is ready to depart. The airplane doors will be closing in five minutes.’

We made it. Whew!

When we finally got up in the air, it was a few minutes past Kai’s bedtime and she was clearly expressing that she wanted milk. Now. As soon as we were cleared to move about the cabin, Chris went on a mission to ask the flight attendant for some milk. For some reason this made her very angry. We were in the front row of the plane, so I could hear the exchange well, but I have no idea what went wrong. After the milk incident she refused to speak to us, make eye contact with us, or even give us water. All the way to Houston. Thankfully Kai did not have another milk meltdown.

We eventually made it on to Las Vegas without incident, although, while in Houston Chris mentioned that he had an upset stomach.

By morning, Chris wasn’t alone. Our morning started off with bringing Kai into our bed to try to trick her into just one more hour of sleep. That came back and bit us when she almost immediately threw up all over herself, us, and the bed. By the time I got her bathed, changed into clean clothes, and had washed the contents of the puke bag from the night before, I realized that I didn’t feel so well either.

Long story short, I spent most of the day feeling like Kai must have felt and feeling pretty guilty that we had dragged her halfway across the country. By dinner time, Chris was on my case to go pick up our race packets for the following day. I reluctantly went, armed with a plastic bag in my purse.

Things seemed to be going better until the next day as we were leaving for the race. The wind was beginning to pick up. By the time we started, there were sustained 20 mph winds and we seemed to be running straight into them. Ugh. It was like running in place. Fortunately, I had no idea how slow we were running because my Garmin stopped working properly during mile 1.

Poor race performance aside, I have mixed feelings about the race. It was pretty awesome to run down the iconic Las Vegas Strip all lit up at night. In some ways, that was enough to make it a pretty cool race, but some of the other circumstances negated that, at least in part. Possibly due to the wind, there were no visible mile marker signs, no clocks on the course, and no signs at the water stations marking water versus Gatorade. There was also too little regulation on who got into which corral resulting in many walkers at the front of the pack. In summary, I’m glad that I ran the race, but I probably wouldn’t run this race again.

Naturally, this trip could not end without just a little bit more drama. When we landed in Louisville again, just a few minutes late, we booked it back out of the airport knowing that it would take every minute that we had to make it to the kennel before it closed to pick up Duke.

About halfway home, the gas light came on in my car. Seriously? We debated if we should keep driving to our exit off of the interstate or stop for gas sooner but not be able to pick up Duke. As you might expect, we pressed on. Fortunately we made it to our exit and a gas station with about half a gallon of gas in the tank. I dropped Chris off downtown at the Jeep to go get Duke and headed home with Kai.

Whew!

Or not. On the way home I noticed that a certain smell was emanating from the backseat. This one was coming from Kai’s diaper. At least we were almost home, the best possible place to deal with that.

When we got home, we burst through the door at full speed with the intent to make a beeline for the changing table as soon as I disarmed the alarm. Unfortunately, the keypad on the alarm seemed to be jammed up. The keys usually beep when I press them, but they were not making any sounds and the alarm was not disarming. In sixty seconds, the alarm would sound.

Quickly, I rushed back outside to the car to strap a poopy, screaming baby back into her car seat as the ear splitting sound of the alarm came to life inside our house. Instantly, my phone was ringing with the alarm company checking on me. I assured them that we did not need any emergency services, but also that I would not, in fact, be able to disarm the system.

They instructed me to sit tight for 7-10 minutes until the audible siren turned off, then they could talk me through disarming the system manually. Did I mention that it was very cold, rainy, and windy outside? Changing Kai’s diaper outside during this episode was not an especially appealing option.

Eventually, we got into the house, got Kai cleaned up, and returned to normalcy. Usually, I feel some type of post-trip let down, but, by this point, was surprisingly eager to return to work and my regularly scheduled routine.

Yesterday Chris and I ran the Indy Monumental Marathon. The weather was perfect for running, high 30s, overcast, very little breeze and we had a great race.

I went into this race with the [public] goal of “running the whole thing”. But, if you know me, you know that was not the goal that I would hold myself accountable to because it was not nearly ambitious enough. Privately, I had three goals, an ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ plan.

Top priority was to run this race faster than my slowest half marathon [2:18:xx] – Done.

Plan B was to come in under 2:10:00 – Done.

Finally, I wanted to best the time from my first half marathon [2:06:07] – Didn’t make it.

As I toyed around with the idea of entering the race at all, several people suggested the goal of running negative splits for the first and second half of the race. I had that in mind, and managed to do that, but it was more of a race strategy than a goal.

In the end, I feel like my performance yesterday was as good as I could have done with my fitness level and training, so, although it was more than 10 minutes off of my PR, I will call it a win and know that I have set the bar for my race in Las Vegas next month.

Official Time: 2:08:29

If you are nerdy enough to care:
Mile 1: 10:01
Mile 2: 10:18
Mile 3: 7:59? Really Garmin?
Mile 4: 9:57
Mile 5: 9:58
Mile 6: 9:41
Mile 7: 9:39
Mile 8: 9:33
Mile 9: 9:32
Mile 10: 9:25
Mile 11: 9:35
Mile 12: 9:46 Hello wall!
Mile 13: 9:44
Mile .1 (.38): 9:01

That was me hitting the wall on my long run on Saturday. I hit it early and I hit it hard.

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My run started off well enough. The weather was perfect, in the upper 40’s with a light breeze and slightly overcast. That weather does not seem perfect for much else aside from running, does it? The only thing holding me back was Chris’ hand.

Chris had surgery on his pinkie last week [he’s ok, I promise] so we decided that I should push the stroller so he didn’t injure it again or slow his healing. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about pushing the stroller for 10 miles, because I have never even come close to pushing it that far, but if Chris could push it 8 miles on Monday night with his complete lack of running training disadvantage, then I was up for the challenge.

We started off on one of my favorite sections of running path and things were going great. I switched pushing arms every time the song on my iPhone changed. The first two miles clicked by at almost exactly my target pace. Mile three had a few hills that were accentuated by the weight of the stroller. It is amazing how inclines that were hardly noticeable before turn into endless steep grades while pushing the Bob. It turns out that Indiana isn’t flat at all!

Mile four had another slight, but steady incline. It was pure torture. I could feel my arms and shoulders burning with fatigue from pushing the stroller. We turned a corner to continue up the slight grade. My legs began to feel tired also. Less than halfway through, I had hit the wall.

Suddenly my excitement about the perfect weather and my anticipation of the sense of accomplishment that running ten miles would bring was replaced with a feeling of impending doom. Chris could tell that I was running out of steam, and that, yes, I was serious about it. He bailed me out and pushed for the last six or so miles. Whew! I feel like a big wimp, but I’m glad to have that run checked off of my calendar.

Less than two weeks until the Indy Monumental Half Marathon!

Over the past few weeks, I have made it a priority to get a decent number of runs in each week. Some weeks that has not been a huge number, in one case just three, but overall, it has been a much better effort than I have made in a long time and it is really working out well for me. I finally remember why I liked doing it so well in the first place and I am extremely happy with my progress so far.

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If you recall, my first few runs post-chemo were painfully slow. Worse than 12:30/mile and never longer than three miles. Just a few short weeks, many miles, and a few tremendously hilly runs later, I finally feel confident that my efforts are paying off. Over the weekend Chris and I went out for a run, sans stroller, and logged a few decent miles. I was beyond stoked when we got back to the car and I read that out best split was 8:35, especially because it didn’t feel awful, gonna puke, gulping air hard, it was more of a comfortable hard pace if that makes sense.

I’m hesitant to throw numbers out there lately because the fast kids are probably laughing at me, but my first ‘return to running goal’ was to be able to do short, say 3-5 mile runs circa 8:30. I’m hoping that in the next few weeks I can start stringing a few of those 8:35 miles together, in fact, if I keep up the hard work, I’m pretty confident that it will happen. Not bad progress for five-ish weeks. Once I get there, I may revisit my post-pregnancy, but pre-Hodgkins objective of squeezing as many miles as possible into a 30 minute run. Although I have historically been a ‘slow and steady’ runner, I am still facing major time constraints on weekdays and I think this will be the best use of my time.

In a few weeks, when it is cooler in the middle of the day, I may revisit lunchtime running. We have showers and lockers in the basement at work and I have tested out lunchtime running before, but not since mid-June when the noontime temperatures were hovering around 100 degrees, intensifying the effects of chemo on my energy level. In other words, it was a spectacular failure. But I think it deserves another chance, at least until my hair is long enough to require styling anyway.

…you only get faster. Was the theme of my run last night.

Remember her?

As I trudged away at a snail’s pace, a much faster snail than I was a few weeks ago, I was more than a little bit bummed out that running was so difficult. Remember the days when running was really easy and I could go really fast? Wait, I was never really fast, but that’s besides the point. I was much faster, but was it any easier? Decidedly not. My personality is such that I will never be content with an easy run. Over time what feels challenging might change, but running will always feel awful in the wonderful way that it does.

When I headed into the living room to stretch and Chris asked me how it had gone, I replied “It was really hard, but I did well. I finally averaged below 10:00/mile. 9:49 pace.”

In the scheme of things, this is kind of middle of the road for me, but not bad considering that I was struggling to run 12:30 miles earlier this month. At this point I am happy with my progress and I feel confident that I will be throwing down some times that I feel proud of by the end of the year.

I’m headed to New Jersey in a few days where I will spend most of the month of September. There, I expect to get in some hill training as my most logical running option is in an extremely hilly neighborhood. While I will probably curse it every day until I get back to Indiana, I have a feeling that I will be pleasantly surprised by my fitness level when I come home.

Wednesday marks my first day of 17 radiation treatments. I’m not all that excited to leave Chris and Kai for so many days next month, but I’m excited to get radiation over with and close out this event, hopefully for good. I’ve heard mixed reviews on how “bad” radiation is, but I demand a lot from myself, so I expect that I’ll tolerate it just fine. I figure that it is better to go in with a winning attitude and adjust if necessary than to go into it defeated waiting for it to prove me wrong. Either way, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I simply can’t wait to be there!

Before driving “home” on Monday, I’m looking forward to the start of college football season on Saturday. We bought baby hearing protection so that we could take Kai up to West Lafayette for her first Purdue game, but that idea is going to be on hold until October because of the storms that are supposed to hit Indiana this weekend. It isn’t really worth the two hour drive each direction and probably hundreds of dollars spent to go up there and not see a game due to rain. If it were just Chris and me, I would be all for standing in the rain to see a football game, but with Kai things are a little different, at least for a few years. Instead, I am delighted to stay home and catch the Penn State season opener against Ohio U.

For those of you who haven’t been following for very long, I am a lifetime member of the Penn State Alumni Association and a loyal supporter of the Nittany Lions.* Chris and I are both Purdue grads, so we cheer for the Boilers as well, but Penn State will always be my true college football love. [Chris also cheers for USC. One of the many things I have questioned his judgement on. ;-)]

Here’s to an exciting college football season!

* I will not get into the Sandusky business in this forum. Clearly the lack of discretion of a small group of people can leave a black eye on an entire institution and its 665,000 alumni. While I am not proud of what happened, I am confident that Penn State will set a good example in the future and hold true to their values.

We are [still]…Penn State!

I hate to admit this, but my “running” since we talked about it last week has been a huge fail. I’m totally blaming it on Chris, but I shouldn’t.

Key takeaways from this week:

  • We need a jumparoo near the treadmill. The one we have does not fit through the doorway and I do not have the time or patience to disassemble and reassemble it twice before work. (I need the one we have in my bathroom doorway in the morning if I want to take a shower.)
  • I should have eaten more pizza on Sunday night. Just trust me on this one.
  • Not a new concept: I always regret skipping a run I planned to do, but I never regret having completed one.
  • I am thankful that Chris has returned safely and a day early!
  • I am like the grand master duck herder.

Week 4 Plan

Monday – 4 miles @ 11:25
Wednesday – 4 Mi, including w/u; 2 miles @ 9:42; c/d
Saturday – 5 miles @ 11:25

Week 4 Actual

Sunday – 4.13 miles @ 10:XX
Monday – 3.6 miles @ 10:03; I was going for 5 miles, but Kai wasn’t having it.
Tuesday – 3 miles @ 9:56
Wednesday and Thursday – I can’t remember if I ran or not and there is no RunKeeper record of it, so I’m going with no. <– How bad is it that I can’t even remember?
Friday – Chemo, no running. There was no reason that I couldn’t have gotten up an hour earlier and gone for a run. I was just lazy.
Saturday – Felt fine, just too lazy to run.

Ok, so here’s the part where I stop blaming me and start blaming Chris.

I have been doing really well with marginally acceptable about going running after work for the past few weeks. It doesn’t require me to wake up an hour before Kai, who has taken to waking up at 5AM all of a sudden, and I don’t have to deal with the sweaty aftermath of a lunch time run. Unfortunately, the key to running after work is to have Chris pick Kai up from daycare. This works out great sometimes if he is here, but this week he decided to do a whirlwind tour of China instead of daycare pickup duty.

Kai, your dad elected to eat things like this instead of picking you up.

I’m just kidding. He didn’t mention eating any silk worm.

The Punchline: I didn’t run as much as I hoped to this week either.

Week 5 Plan

Tuesday – 4 miles @ 11:23
Thursday – 3 miles @ 11:23
Saturday – 4 miles @ 11:23

Week 5 Actual

Sunday – mountain biking; three laps of the pine loop trail ~ 1:00; We would have stayed out longer and branched out to other trails, but there was a race about to start and we didn’t want to be in the way.
Monday – Rest. The Monday after chemo seems to do me in every time.
Tuesday – Rest. I planned to run. I even brought my running clothes to work and put Bob in the car so I could change into them and run with Kai after work. I ended up getting a phone call at the end of the day that kept me at work much later than planned, which meant that by the time I picked Kai up it was almost her bedtime. If I have learned anything about babies in the last few months, it is that under no circumstances should you mess with bedtime if you have any intention of sleeping that night. That doesn’t mean that I couldn’t have gone running though. We have a treadmill and Kai is always in bed by 7PM. <– Lazy again.

Are you keeping tabs here? We are halfway through the week and have not even gotten one step in towards the pathetic goal of running 11 miles. Remember last year when I ran 11 miles at a time? Or 20 miles at a time? I digress.

Wednesday – Wait for it.

I snoozed through my alarm.          

BUT!?!

I squeezed in a run during lunch; 3 miles, untimed

Thursday – 3 miles @ 11:20; This may be the first run of this whole training plan that was done as prescribed on the correct day.
Friday – Rest. Too much on the calendar.
Saturday – I will run. No matter what it takes.