2 Years Running

I have been running for 2 years.  Funny that I can document it so specifically because I am pretty sure I got through high school P.E. without running for any appreciable amount of time (unless it was to be first in line for pizza at lunch).  When I started with Couch to 5K I knew there was something neat about starting something and knowing that in a few weeks or months I could potentially transform aspects of myself but I’d never experienced it before.  I will never forget struggling to make it to 90 seconds of non stop running, or the time I had to repeat a week of Couch to 5K because 5 minutes of sustained running was beyond my ability.

This morning’s run was good – the air was crisp and cool and I had great company along the way.  Chatting may make me a little out of breath but it makes the miles fly by.  When I first tried running I went without music, listening to MP3s was a great addition to my experience.  Now running with other people is even better.  Keep trying other approaches if your fitness regime is not something you look forward to!  I’m 5 miles away from 100 kilometers for the month which would have baffled me two years ago when I was averaging 16 minutes per mile.

Yesterday I walked a bit with my son at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve and was thinking about how I wanted to be fit for my children so I could keep up with him.  Even long walks have improved since I started running.  At any rate, it is a nice reminder that resolutions don’t have to start January 1st, my resolve to run started January 29, 2012 with almost no prior experience except avoidance.  Happy trails!

Sunrise, Sunset

I have this tendency to group periods of time in a way that I’m sure is related to confirmation bias, but even being aware of that doesn’t stop me from doing it.  2013 set itself up to be a terrible year and it didn’t disappoint.  Which is strange because many longstanding challenges were conquered and I am immensely grateful for the fortune my family has had especially as E outgrew certain allergens and had a fantastic first half of kindergarten.  I, who have struggled with depression on and off my entire life, finally realized I could not go it alone and went on anti-depressants in tandem with therapy.  Now, I’ve read the suggestion that people prone to blogging engage themes of “needing space” or “trying to find peace” because their overworking tendencies are what make them sit down and add something to their to-do list (say, a blog) at a time when they should be cutting away at demands on their time.  I feel strongly though that when I was frantically searching for answers in our pre-diagnosis food allergy days and colic days, the voices of other regular people on social media were so helpful that a way to say thank you was to pay it forward and share our coping strategies.

Even as we endeavor to support others (the Food Allergy Bloggers Conference had such an amazing vibe last year) I even find myself explaining to clients in my legal practice that a certain amount of self-care is crucial to our ability to continue supporting others in our families and communities.  I haven’t by any means figured anything out but that is the path I’m on for myself at the moment.

I had a rough summer of training for the Hoover Dam Half Marathon – I kept having minor injuries to grapple with, culminating in the fall with crashing my bike on the River Mountains Loop Trail.  I was going downhill, trying to gain on my pace so that I could make up for a slow hill climb on a group ride.  When I ride in the Red Rock area there are hills but the roads are fairly straight so that I don’t have to maneuver when I’m going faster speeds.  The River Mountains Loop Trail may be 10 feet wide and paved but I panicked on a downhill curve and, with my shoes still clipped into the pedals I didn’t attempt to brake, I didn’t attempt to un-clip or simply navigate to attempt to stay on the trail – I headed into the rocks to stop myself (yes, what was I thinking?!) and crashed.  I was hurt and ashamed.  I couldn’t run for a while and couldn’t rest on my left side without shooting pain.  Worst of all, I kept thinking that I jeopardized my ability to care for my family – I could have been injured worse, for example.

It has been a long slow process to regain trust in myself since that October crash.  My long run before the crash was 8 miles but my weekly mileage dropped off sharply for runs so that when I stood at the starting line for the Hoover Dam Half Marathon in December I had adjusted my goals to simply finishing the race instead of besting my prior time on the Red Rock Half (though I did hope that my recent paces would be indicative of my capacity to finish in less time than I feared).  I also, unrelated to the crash but certainly an aspect of my mounting feeling that I was a failure, stopped adhering to a vegan diet – returning to vegetarian choices and re-introducing the now safe for my daughter egg and milk products into my own selections.

I ran a good mental race, I can say that much, and felt great coming into mile 7.  The run starts at Boulder Beach by Lake Mead and goes uphill into the Railroad Tunnels – turning around for the return trip after some awful switchbacks that loop runners over the top of the Hoover Dam parking garage for a quick peek at the Dam.  Calico Racing runs a wonderful race but I was the one that came up lacking.  I think that by running the switchbacks (I like to use downhills to make up for lost time) and not training enough on rocky trail terrain I contributed to the pain in my knee that cropped up around the 7 mile mark.

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Much of the next few miles back through the tunnels I galloped to favor my twisted knee – my husband texted that he and the kids were nearby enjoying the fish in the lake and would head to the finish line in a bit. . .I was nowhere near where I’d envisioned being at that point in the race.  This was the return trip I’d been looking forward to – yes there were hills but there were also downhills and when I’d headed up them I fantasized about the downhill returns, chipping away at my average pace on my Garmin GPS device.

As I came past an aid station by the parking lot for the Six Tunnels trail, a fellow runner, Julie, remarked that she had seen me limping and wanted to offer me some “KT tape” to help.  She unzipped her fanny pack and started looking for it.  All I could keep thinking was “she is losing minutes on her time to stop for me” and I kept saying I appreciated the offer but she should really keep going.  She didn’t, though.  She stayed and helped tape my knee.  The stabilization from the tape made my knee feel better and I started running in normal form again.  Later I would learn that I needed to rub the tape to activate the adhesive so after a mile or two it started to peel off (something that hasn’t happened since I purchased my own pack of the product) and the pain returned.  At this point I was getting to the double digit mile markers and gave up on looking at my time and instead focused on my kids.  They needed me to take them to school and the library and to play with them – I could not and would not do some sort of lasting injury to myself for the sake of a finishing time.

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When I made the final turn I saw my daughter and my son and my husband.  My daughter ran towards me and my son soon followed.  The three of us ran across the finish line, smiling, hand in hand.  I loved that moment.  My husband had predicted that I would hurt myself based on under-training and I had failed to prove him wrong but aside from limping for a week or two I was okay.  I wanted to write my customary race recap post but I was still feeling that I hadn’t figured out what I could take from my experience.

Chip Time: 2:54:50.7   
Gun Time:  2:55:44.9     
Pace:  13:21/M
Finish Line: Hand in hand with my children

I knew I’d write about it eventually – especially because I wanted to say thank you again to Julie for stopping to help me and to encourage me.  She and I chatted after the race when I stopped her to say thank you and she instructed me on home care for my knee.  “Ice and heat,” she said.  People involved in outdoors activities are some of the nicest people.  I am humbled when someone shows me kindness and this was no exception.

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On one of my training runs I came upon a fellow morning runner and we paced each other for several miles, chatting the whole way.  She invited me to run with her and a friend and since then I’ve met them three times a week (they run almost every day though) for runs.  Running with someone motivates me to get up and out there in a way training for a big race only sometimes did.  On the off days I ride my bike on the trainer or on the trail.  Which leads me to regaining some confidence on my bike – I still clutch my brakes on downhills that are curvy but yesterday I rode the River Mountains Loop trail of about 34 miles successfully (albeit slowly).

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I have a long way to go to putting the right mileage in for my fitness goals this year (there’s a 40 mile bike race I’d like to do, I also bought some triathlon clothing on clearance at REI that I’ve been using on runs and on on my bike trainer with a mind to attempting a sprint tri in October) and I have regained weight I had lost in my drive to lose weight before my 30th birthday last year.  It comes down to personal discipline but also not trying to prove myself to anyone but, well, myself.  Added benefits of course are friendship and connecting with my spouse about something other than the day to day management of the house or our respectively high stress careers.

On the subject of goals, I am trying to take on new pro bono cases as others have wrapped up, put in more time in my daughter’s classroom, get my son ready for pre-school in the fall, and to just keep being outside.  I was brought to my lowest multiple times in 2013 (sorry to be vague but let’s just say I cried a lot more than I had in prior years) and when I thought things were better I’d crash (literally sometimes, mostly figuratively) all over again.  What I learned was that I have a wonderful support network and that there is a lot of good in people.  I also learned to let go of trying to impress people whose admiration are unattainable.

There’s a song that I’ve loved for a long time by Amanda Palmer called “Trout Heart Replica” (NSFW link to the lyrics) and one of the lines is: “[…] and when the wizard gets to me i’m asking for a smaller heart.”  I would listen to the song at various times, especially on runs, and I’d think “yes, that is what I need, a smaller heart” – not in a humblebrag way of saying I have a big heart or anything, but that I wasn’t sure how to stop feeling hurt.  I am in control of my reactions, I would think, if I let everything break my heart then I won’t be a good mother for my children, etc.  2013 was the year that broke my spirit but now I know that I made it through and I will figure out a way to make it through.  I can face my fears of being alone, of falling down, of not making the right decisions as I head into 31 because I have made it this far.  I wanted to ask for a smaller heart when what I was finding was my courage.

Growing up is hard, I worry for my children and their heartbreaks that I can’t protect them from, but as long as I can be there for them I hope I can be part of their support network to remind them that they are not alone and they can face what lies ahead.

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Happy 2014, everyone.  May the year bring you good things and the support you need to face the rough spots.

2013 Red Rock Canyon Marathon and 1/2 Marathon

I’ve run a half marathon!  My husband and I did another Calico Racing event, this time the 2013 Red Rock Canyon Marathon and 1/2 Marathon on March 9th.  We were officially engaged out at Red Rock (Ice Box Canyon) in 2006.  I say “officially” because I got to wear my engagement ring before we were engaged in part due to the advice of my wonderful sister-in-law to be who wrote in an e-mail to my husband: “Does she get to wear the ring during this not-quite-yet-ready-to-be -officially-engaged period? I hope so. It’s too pretty to keep in a box.”  We were married on March 10, 2007 so this race was a great chance to celebrate our 6th anniversary weekend.  I should let that sink in – who would have thought we’d be the sort to go out and run for over 2 hours as part of a celebration?  This is where something as seemingly simple as Couch to 5K can lead.

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I’m not sure how best to tell the story of this race.  I know some people think that blogging is narcissistic so I hopefully don’t come across that way with a bunch of details but what I’d like to convey with my recap is how much I appreciate the things that brought me to the finish line, both from within and from without.  We made it to the Suncoast Hotel where they were picking up runners to drive out to the start line just in time to catch the 6:30 a.m. bus.  The start was 7:00 a.m. so we didn’t wait around long (I believe it was around 44 degrees Fahrenheit at the time) after leaving the warm bus before we were crossing the starting mat.  One young woman I met while we waited told me that she’d run the course a year before and that I should be prepared to walk.

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Now, I had a hard time getting back to feeling good with my runs after the 10k race in January but a few days before my 30th birthday in February I pushed myself to a 13.1 mile training run (no walking) in 2:29:05.  I had the Red Rock Canyon Marathon and 1/2 Marathon’s unique course in mind when I opted to make sure I could cover the half marathon distance before the race because I had been warned by several people that I would not be able to run the whole race.  It sounds pessimistic to prepare for walking but: first, there is nothing wrong with walking, and second, my goal was to finish the race without injuring myself so knowing I could really run 13.1 all the way through was my way of giving myself permission to walk on race day if I had to.  I tried to incorporate hills in my training but nothing prepared me for the relentless 5 miles of an uphill course that yielded about an increase of 900 feet in elevation.

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So to have the subject of walking come up made me think about how I had mentally prepared to allow myself to walk.  I would be of no use to anyone if I pushed so hard that I really hurt myself so I opted to deal with the course (see a video of some of the terrain here) as it came.   The first mile or so was really good, a loop around the visitor’s center at the park entrance.  I did it in under 11 minutes and felt good though I was of course easily passed by much of the field, including my husband.  Then we started to climb.  It was slow work and my legs were not cooperating with me.  I told myself I could walk when I hit the 2 mile mark, hoping that at 2 miles I could convince myself to run to the 3 mile mark and on but I simply couldn’t do it.  I walked.  The picture above is the only one I took on the course but it wasn’t my only walking break (most of the other pictures in this post were taken by my husband while he waited for me at the finish line, having finished about half an hour ahead of me).  Other people were walking as well so I didn’t feel as bad as I’d feared and each time the pain lessened I would run as much as I could before taking another break.  My training, I think, helped me recover during the walk breaks even though I hadn’t incorporated a walking interval into a run in a long time.

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On the way up a hill I found myself walking with a woman who had brightly colored shoes.  I complimented her on them and after saying thank you she remarked that it was a bad idea for us to walk up a hill, we should run, so we ran alongside one another for a while and even chatted.  She told me about Team in Training and pointed out shirts of people in the distance who were also running to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  She remarked as to how little children fight cancer and here we were running.  She told me about her coach and the support network she’d found when before she thought runners were crazy for doing it.  It had helped her find her place as a runner.  I told her about someone I love dearly who is battling Rheumatoid Arthritis.  How I think about her when I run and how hard she has to work on most of her days to get her body to cooperate and let her move, and how the effort anyone puts into something is what matters, not the distance they cover or the time they manage while doing it.  My companion slowed to a walk and encouraged me to keep running.  She really boosted my spirits.  That said, I believe I reached the hour mark only having done 4.5 miles or so and my heart sank.  I started calculating in my head what my pace meant for my finish time and for some reason I cannot do basic math while I run yet I kept attempting to do so.

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This is another finish line shot from my husband to give you an idea of the snowy mountains in the distance and the beautiful red rocks that are the namesake of the Canyon.  I did finally reach the overlook area.  There was a welcome aid station there and I had been making certain to drink water at each station and eat a few Jelly Belly Sport Beans as I completed miles on the course.  One thing I learned during my training run two weeks prior was that I seriously hit a wall a little after the twelfth mile and I believe that happened because I never hydrate during runs.  At one aid station I did accidentally take a sports drink but luckily it didn’t upset my stomach or anything.  After the summit I complimented another runner on her sparkle skirt (I think I see a pattern in my ability to start conversations with people, but why wear awesome shoes or a flashy skirt if you don’t want compliments, right?) and she told me “this is the last bad hill.”  I asked her if she’d run the race before and she said that she had not but she did train out at Red Rock so she knew what to expect.  Good enough for me!  I may have told her I loved her for telling me that news and she laughed.  After that “last bad hill” she took off and I didn’t see her again.

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The downhills were letting me gain back some of my pace time, I hit 9.5 miles at the two-hour mark, so I did 5 miles in the second hour and knew a sub-2:45 time was in reach.  Not great considering my training time but not as bad as going over three hours as I had feared during the early part of the ascent.  The volunteers at the aid stations were so kind and encouraging, I made sure to thank them for their time and even though I went back and forth between feeling cold and warm I had to pour a cup of water over my head a little after mile 10 just to cool off a little bit.  It was certainly a work out!

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The traffic on the course wasn’t too bad, cars were quite courteous though it was hard to see the cyclists whizzing down the hills while I kept adjusting my form to accommodate my hurting knees and ankles.  Downhills are easier for me but they are not without their own complications.  Some of the descent was so steep that I felt like I was just falling forward but it still took energy to move and though at mile 11 I started to feel like just maybe I could run the rest of the way with no more walking breaks, it just wasn’t to be.  I was hurting and needed to keep taking breaks as needed.  The mile markers seemed to pass by so slowly near the end and I just could not see the finish line anywhere.  I passed a young woman stopped at the side of the road by her bicycle and she cheered for me.  I told her this was my first half marathon and she told me I was almost done.  I knew my friend Mindy had promised to be at the finish line with her husband and her three children (one of whom was just fourteen days old!) with posters and I started to envision seeing them and what the signs would say.  I wondered how my husband was doing, how long he’d been waiting for me at the finish, and if he had hurt his knees that were already giving him trouble in the days leading up to the race.

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At last I could see the structure in the distance that I knew was the finish line and I started to think of how I wanted to stop and walk again but I couldn’t because I was in sight of the end.  Because people would see me walking and even though my legs were burning and I couldn’t feel my hands (I’m thinking I’d stopped breathing properly or maybe had tensed my arms up but there was something enough wrong circulation-wise to be distracting), I had to keep running.  I saw my husband holding his phone up to take a picture of me and I shouted to him that I was hurting.  I was crying at this point, a mix of “I’m almost there!” and “I don’t know if I can make it!”  Just then the young lady that had been by her bicycle rode by slowly, calling out to me that I was about to finish my first half marathon.  I could see my friend Mindy with her neon colored signs with my name on them and my husband’s name on them.  She was smiling.  Everyone was smiling and I was just crying.  I ran across the timing mat and kept crying as the kind volunteer let me know he needed to cut off my timing chip from my shoe.  Someone put a medal around my neck, the medal I had been dreaming of but could not even look at because all I wanted to do was hug my husband.  I could hear cameras clicking so I think someone got a few shots of me crying and I am certain I ruined my finish line picture but at least the shot my husband got shows me with a smile, albeit a pained one.

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I love that you can even see the woman on her bicycle coming up behind me as well as the beautiful scenery.  My husband had finished with an official chip time of 2:06:30.48!  My official chip time was 2:38:13.36 for a pace of 12:08 per mile overall, my RunKeeper track is a little off but you can see the course and elevation map below.

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I was able to say hi to Mindy and her family while my husband stood in line for me for some finish line food…

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…and remembered to ask her to take our picture before we left.  My husband was (and is) amazing.  I love that we did this together, taking turns watching the kids so we could train early in the morning, running together when we could, and encouraging each other.  I think sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of life and to have goals bigger than yourself that you can also share as a couple is a pretty special thing.  We also got to share in a pretty epic anniversary lunch the next day with the calories we earned from the run.

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The bus for the Suncoast was full and Mindy and her husband offered to drive us back to our car on their way home instead of having us wait for another bus (what an amazing friend to come out early on a Saturday morning with her whole family and then to give us a ride, she is a total star — thank you so much Mindy!).  We took them up on the offer and were on the road home in no time.  The kids had both woken up before we left the house and we were eager to get home and give their grandmother a break (she is another star by the way!).  I did finally have a chance to check out my medal and I will be wearing my race shirt with pride.

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I am not sure what will be next, I am honestly feeling a little burned out with the long training runs over the past weeks and months.  It also has meant a lot of time away from the children but my hope is to do a maintenance schedule of 5K / 5K / 10K for my three runs each week and incorporate more strength training as well as bicycling to my exercise regimen.  As with most goals we do wonder what comes next and though I have been trying to savor the feeling of accomplishment I know the weeks and months ahead are filled with other challenges.  I do want to think back on running even though I wanted to stop, how the thought of people that mattered to me kept me moving forward, and that even though we have to walk sometimes we still can make whatever progress we can.  We’re not trying to do better than anyone else and as Plato wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”  No one person’s journey is comparable to another’s.  As always, thank you for reading and may you have the friends and family you need along the way to fight your own hard battles.

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Some songs that came up in my mix during the race:

Non E Per Sempre – Eiffel 65 (amazon affiliate link)

Your Disco Needs You – Kylie Minogue (amazon affiliate link)

There is a Light That Never Goes Out – The Smiths (amazon affiliate link)

Waka Waka – Shakira (amazon affiliate link) – my older sister shared this one with me the night before the race, I thought of her when it came on!

Take Me Away – 4 Strings (amazon affiliate link)

Calico Racing’s 2013 Running from an Angel 50 Miler, Marathon, Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K Race

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I ran my first 10K race!  Since my last running update when I ran Calico Racing’s Recycled 5K, I’ve been increasing my running distances to get ready for the half marathon in March.  On December 8, 2012 I ran my longest distance, 10 miles, in 1:59:27.  Having broken the double digit barrier I decided to scale back and run 5Ks for my two weekday runs and 10Ks for my long run on the weekend until the Running from an Angel 10K on January 12th.  The weather was gorgeous on my last weekday run before the race, 52 degrees instead of the 32 degree temperatures I’d been running in – I was excited for a repeat of the weather on Saturday but alas, it was a lot colder in town by then and especially by beautiful Lake Mead (pictured above).

The race start was a little later than I’m used to: 8:50 a.m. (I usually get up at around 5 a.m. to gear up for a run before the kids wake up).  I broke my own rule of not doing anything new on race day and ate a little breakfast at 7.  Sure enough, I wasn’t feeling great on the drive down to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area but by the race’s start I felt fine.  The race takes place in the fee-based part of the park (usually we’ve parked by the trail for the Six Tunnels hike and didn’t make it to the fee area) so we paid our $10 (my husband remembered cash, I would have forgotten) and drove to the parking area.  We debated walking from the free parking but I’m glad we didn’t try.  After packet pickup we were able to warm back up in the Subie, and pin our bib numbers on without fumbling with our gloves on.

We’d registered for the race way back in August 2012 so I’d requested a Medium shirt and my husband had requested a Large – both were too big for us!  I was able to swap for a Small but he didn’t mind hanging on to his Large though I have to mention he’s now lost almost 70 pounds in the last 8 months.  I am so amazed and proud of all of his hard work.  We’ve both been using MyFitnessPal.com and have had a lot of success with tracking our exercise and calories.  I reached my “30 before 30 goal” right before the new year so I’m down 30 pounds myself – it is so important to us that we’re healthy so we can be there for our kids.  I think they’re a big part of why we decided to get healthy.  I digress, but I know many people start running for the weight loss benefit but even with losing the weight I think what really makes me feel good about myself is putting my shoes on and running distances I never thought possible (for me).  I never even ran in high school P.E., I was always in the straggler group around the track still walking.

Well, not anymore!  One of the coolest things was that I wasn’t nervous before the race as everyone lined up.  I had worked a long day the day before so I didn’t have the energy to toss and turn that night and I ran into several friends that have been my running cheerleaders.  Jodymarie was doing the half marathon (it had been her first half marathon last year so she was running it again!) while my friends Angie (check out her awesome first half marathon recap here) and Kristi (who most recently ran the Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon here in Vegas for the second year in a row) were doing the 10K.  It was a surprise to run into all of them, I even saw a few familiar faces from law school on the course as I ran, which all went to making me feel at home.  I have to also mention my friend Kacey, who ran the 2012 Running from an Angel race as her very first half marathon at 5 months postpartum – her recap is part of why I thought I could try running myself.

I was so excited to be chatting with my friends that I didn’t notice my husband line up near the starting mat.  Our plan was to use the delay start on our Run Keeper app so we could get our phones into our tune belts (amazon affiliate link) and gloves back on.  I started my app right before I crossed the mat so my tracker didn’t kick in until a minute later.  In a way, it was good because I would see a mile marker and then get the confirmation about a tenth of a mile later that I’d done that distance (the reverse is usually more discouraging).  My initial pace was fast, even uphill, so my first mile came in at about a 9:20 minute/mile pace.  Too fast, but race starts will do that to you.  By mile 2 my split was almost 11 minutes, my mile 3 and 4 it was almost 12 minutes per mile.  I was trying to attack the hills, not get injured, and have some energy left at the turnaround point.  With a 5K you know as soon as you start that you can push yourself and still finish but with a 10K I think there’s more planning involved, especially on a course that isn’t flat.  I saw my husband already heading back when I was about 26 minutes in and not near the turnaround point.  I had lost sight of him early on because of the hills.  The crazy thing is that I then did something I’ve never managed, even in training: getting faster at the end of a run (“negative splits”).  Mile 5 was at an 11:15 pace, Mile 6 at 10:59, and the .2 bit at the end was a downhill 8:58 minute pace.  I think that last bit had to do with seeing my husband at the finish line waving me on.  I love running races with him but also hope someday I can return the favor and cheer for him at a finish line.

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Official chip time: 1:08:00.8 for a pace of 10:58 minutes per mile.  Not only a record for me since it was my first 10K race, it beat my best training run by almost half a second and was at a faster pace than my 5K race in October.  I can’t believe it!  I knew my GPS tracker was off because of my glitches at the start so the official time was a real surprise to me.  So encouraging to do that well on race day and on a trickier terrain – you can see the elevation in green on the image above.  I also included a shot of the course so you can get an idea of the beautiful views we had with the lake right there.  I got the exciting news that my husband finished 12th overall which is fantastic – he really rocked the course and we’re both excited for the half marathon we’re doing the day before our 6th wedding anniversary in March!

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Here’s a picture of me (on the left) with Angie (middle) and Kristi (right) wearing our medals.  I got cheers from both of them when we would pass one another on the course!

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This is a shot of the finish line from where they had refreshments laid out.  Someone was making fresh pancakes for people which I thought was so indicative of the kind of outfit Calico Racing is – very personable!  I made a cup of tea (best idea ever for after a cold race, though by the end of the race I’d shed my gloves and panda hat) and grabbed a banana and applesauce for the car in case I needed them but I never like to eat after running so I ended up giving those to the kids.  E and R were most excited about the medals but the race banana comes in a close second (we even had bananas at home already!).

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The wing theme was pretty cool – I saw people wearing wings on the course and our race tees (long sleeve tech tees, very nice) have white wings printed on the blue shirt.  I will wear my shirt proudly.

I still have never experienced a “runner’s high” but I was left feeling like a real part of this community.  I spent my childhood moving from place to place.  I moved to Las Vegas in the summer of 2000 but going to an event and getting to connect with friends we’ve made here and to not feel like an outsider makes me feel like I really love this place.  I think the change happened a little after our brief foray to Winnemucca, Nevada for almost a year.  We never thought we would move back, but when we did we knew we had to make an effort to make this our home.

“Bloom where you’re planted,” as a friend once told me.  I think in the last three years especially we’ve done just that.  I can still voice things I’d like to see improved here, like education or access to justice, but Nevada is our home and it really feels like I’m home.  I know it is already a little after the new year but if you are feeling unstuck or out of place where you are, please consider taking up a hobby or connecting with people in your community.  Resolve to reach out in real life (the internet is a great facilitator but I quit Facebook a few months ago and am glad I am focusing more on making time to meet people for lunch or playdates instead of just sending greetings out into the ether) and the results may surprise you.

2012 was a rough year.  We had many scares and struggles but reaching out for happiness is never a mistake.  Every day is another chance to start something and before you know it you’ll be looking back and seeing that you made a positive change in your life.

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Favorite songs during the race:

Imagine Dragons – On Top of the World (amazon affiliate link)

Tidal Wave – Sub Focus (amazon affiliate link)

Taylor Swift – Red (amazon affiliate link)

Ed Sheeran – The A Team (amazon affiliate link)

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Also, I made a page to gather my running posts: Couch to 5K and Beyond

Calico Racing’s Recycled 2012 Half Marathon, 10K, and 5K Race

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Earlier this year I decided I’d set myself the goal of running the Vegas PBS 5k on October 6, 2012.  When the FAAN Walk conflicted as it was that same morning, I decided to find another October 5k to try.  Mind you, this was all before my spontaneous decision to run the Terminal 3 5K in the middle of my Couch to 5K plan.  I finished One Hour Runner at the end of September so I probably should have signed up for the 10K race for October but I had no idea I’d be able to be at a 5K distance at that point, let alone a 10K one!  We surprise ourselves sometimes…

Calico Racing is a local outfit with founder Joyce Forier at the helm.  I’d heard from other runners that Ms. Forier puts on great races and they were right!  I saw her at the start and at the finish cheering folks on and being genuinely happy to be there.  Her volunteers were fantastic as well.  Even though the theme of the Recycled race was that the shirts and finisher medals offered in exchange for a discounted race entry fee would be recycled, I never felt like the race was an afterthought.  Plus, the chosen charity of Calico Racing benefits cats so how could it be anything but an awesome race?  My husband and I arrived early at the Railroad Pass Hotel and Casino and were directed to the parking lot near the registration table.  It was windy and cold on October 27, 2012 and we grabbed our packets, Calico Racing themed tech tees, and sat in the Subaru for a while to warm up before going into the casino to wait for the race to start.

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I hoped that things would warm up when the sun peeked over the mountains but the wind had other plans.  The half marathoners started first, then the 10K runners (pictured below getting ready to head out), and the 5K group (the largest contingent) went last.  Our loop was 1.55 miles out and back, though I had read in advance that there would be hills I don’t think I anticipated an uphill stretch right away.  The first incline began after the start line you see below, we turned left into an almost U-turn and were off!  My husband was very quickly a red blur in the distance but I am nowhere near as fast as he is so we had not planned to actually run the race alongside one another.

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When I ran Terminal 3’s 5K the majority of the crowd was ahead of me as I walked the first 5 minutes or so, but running from the get go was a different experience in crowd management for me.  I got into my pace for a little bit before weaving around walkers to find my own running spot on the course.  I ran the whole thing non-stop!  It was a goal of mine and I was really pleased about it.  Another goal was to beat my Terminal 3 5K time (43:53) and the hills made me nervous about accomplishing that.  A few weeks back a 12 minute mile was “pushing it” for me on a flat course but with my continued training I was shocked to realize that I was keeping an almost 11 minute mile pace the whole way out and back!

I saw my husband on the return loop when I was 15 minutes in so I knew he was going to get his goal of a sub-25 minute 5K – he achieved a 24:24 time to be 7th overall, I’m so proud of him!  I managed a time of 34:19 which was a huge improvement since June and you can tell by my smile in the official race pictures (1, 2, and 3 – I put my bib number on the back of my jacket because I worried about needing to unzip it during the race, the pig tails were just for fun) that I felt awesome heading for the final stretch.  I think downhill is the perfect way to finish a race, by the way, but my favorite moment was in the first mile when I reached the top of a hill and saw Las Vegas’ skyline stretching out in the distance, framed by the sandy colors of the mountains by the Lake Mead area.  Running somewhere so beautiful certainly gave me a boost.

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At the finish I loved seeing my husband waiting for me, he’d already had a snack and recovered considerably from his run.  I realized that my leg was shaking a bit when I was stopped for the removal of my timing chip from my shoe (thank you to the volunteer who stopped me, by the way, I would have forgotten to return it otherwise).  My “Recycled” medal was from Calico’s 2012 Once in a Blue Moon run and it had a recycled sticker on the back so I held that side up for my post-race photo.  My husband got the same medal so it helped when we came home and let the kids wear them.  E was all over the idea of wearing a medal but R was more interested in the banana I had brought from the finish line food.  There was a great selection of food and drink after the race but not much seemed vegan (though I think it all was vegetarian) so I opted for the banana.  Then it was time to head home, my mother in law was watching E and R (who both were awake when we left the house for some reason) and we had an event at the park to get to that morning.

I am excited for my next Calico race in January (a 10K!) and finally registered for the one after that: the Red Rock Half Marathon in March 2013.  My goal for the 10K is to run the whole way and finish smiling.  I think I can finish it in around 75 minutes but it is supposed to be hilly and it will be my first 10K race so I want to just do my best.  In January it will have been a year since I started on my journey as an adult-onset runner which is exciting.  I know you don’t have to race to run but I think the Recycled 5K boosted my spirits after the rough time I’ve been having just with life in general so I like having another race to look forward to when I need to stay motivated to train and exercise.

One Hour Runner Review and What I’m Doing Next

I finished Couch to 5k at the end of July 2012 and followed up with a 10 week training plan called “One Hour Runner” (see my previous post for more details about why I chose One Hour Runner over Bridge to 10k).  Half an hour of running had seemed daunting at the start of Couch to 5k and starting 10k training was just as daunting.  How could I run an entire hour without walking?

The other issue with looking ahead and thinking about that hour run was that it was still really hot here in Vegas despite being 4 or so in the morning when I’d head out.  Many mornings the night air never cooled below 90 degrees before it started ticking up again for the new day.  The mental game for me with running seems to occur at the start of my runs.  I have read that for some people it is the getting out the door that is the trick but I viewed that as a practical matter.  Long nights with little children make you no stranger to early wake up calls, after all.  The first five to ten minutes for me are usually the hardest.  That is when I have the whole distance ahead of me and I am not feeling my best.  Then the minutes start to tick by and with each one that I’ve put behind me the run is more manageable.  After 15 minutes into a 30 minute run, for example, I just think to myself, “I just have another set of 15 minutes left and I just showed myself I can do it.”

The moon and I had some nice times together on my runs, with the right music and the sky to look at I can see now why people are able to run longer distances.  It doesn’t get boring and sometimes you get zoned out enough that it breezes by.  I don’t mean to make it seem like this is something I count the minutes to the end of, I think there’s that right mix of feeling challenged but also hoping you have enough energy to finish strong with each mile you get under your belt.

The temptation hit near the end of the program, I think I had 3 or 4 weeks left in the training plan, to push myself to longer times than I was required to.  At the end of week 7 or 8 I ran 1 hour 15 minutes and 15 seconds to accomplish my first ever 10K distance.  It felt empowering to figure out I was capable of so many miles.  Knowing I could do an hour helped me not stress about the rest of the program.  The temptation hit again the next week when I wondered if another 15 minutes (90 straight minutes of running) could carry me even further.  I was able to do over 7 miles that day!

For the final “graduation” run I actually only did another 10K but the big thing was knowing I had decided what training I was going to tackle next: a half marathon.  Now, I wanted to try for one in December of 2013 but my husband was looking into sprint triathlon training and wanted to get a half marathon in during March of 2013.  One day before our wedding anniversary at same area where we got engaged, to boot.  I wasn’t going to miss out on that one even though we’ll probably be running at our own respective paces.

So I have about 23 weeks to train for my first half marathon.  I have a 5K this month, I had planned in January that my goal 5K would be in October so it is funny that I am way beyond that distance 10 months later.  I also have a 10K race in January 2013 even though I hit that distance sooner than I thought as well.  So why not a half?  Besides, so many inspiring people I know run them all the time.  I can do this…right?

My goal is to complete the 13.1 distance with little to no walking.  All my upcoming races are pretty hilly so I will be trying to get better at handling runs uphill which is a weakness for me.  My husband has been out on some of my runs at the same time which is great, especially since I haven’t been feeling too great about running in our neighborhood this past week.

The above shot I took while running and played with some Instagram filters a little bit.  I like how it just looks like a random texture.  All these photos are ones I’ve shared along the way as I worked to complete the training program.  I can’t compare it to Bridge to 10K because I didn’t go that route but the 10 week gradual increase worked out great for me.

With cooler weather I just felt better all around but I am glad to know I got through the entire summer, start to finish, getting out there and running at least three mornings a week.  I haven’t been cross training but I’ve been continuing to count calories and am about 20 pounds down now!  I was a size 14 when I started and now I am a size 8 pant and even that is getting loose on me.  My initial goal was to lose 30 before I turned 30 in February 2013 and I’m on track to do that and then some.  I believe my new weight loss goal will be 40 pounds total but I’ll see how I feel at each stage.

My husband and I were able to run in San Diego while on vacation and the cool air was lovely even though the humidity was something I could have done without.  During our stay the San Diego Triathlon went by our hotel which was very neat and I believe sparked my husband’s idea to do the Las Vegas Triathlon next September.  We also had some treadmill time which was new to me – I discovered that my pace is way over what it should be – you’re supposed to run at a conversational pace heart-rate wise and I have been pushing too hard when I run.  I need to work on a more measured pace but luckily with more running my pace has improved anyway.  12 minute miles used to be much more of a struggle and now 11 minute miles feel the way 12 minute miles once did.

With Couch to 5K included I have run for 19 weeks straight and before that I was running off and on without a training plan since the end of January 2012.  Time passes so strangely – it feels fast when I just rattle off that I started in January but it took a lot of work to get where I am right now.  At the same time I wonder what other goals I can set and look back on.  55 days ago (I am 155 days into tracking everything I eat on My Fitness Pal) I committed to not eating potato chips at all.  I couldn’t be trusted to weigh them accurately.  Other chips I was fine with but not potato chips.  Here I am and I am still going strong.  I want to make more resolutions to be healthier, I am so pleased with just feeling better about life when I am active.  I don’t feel like I was just dealt this hand where I am the out of shape one, I can make my own destiny (to a point, of course).

The other thing that has struck me is that I need to run for those that can’t.  I think about people I care about a lot when I run, I also compose blog posts in my head which is odd considering how September only had one post here but I promise I think about how I am processing life in general and how communicating that may be of use to someone, somewhere.

I considered two main plans for half marathon training, one by Jeff Galloway and one by Hal Higdon.  Miriam over at Sometimes I Veg is a hardcore half marathoner and told me the Galloway method includes walking which is fine but I have been sticking with running goals all this time so her suggestion was to check out Hal Higdon’s plans.  I have noticed that all training plans have gradual increases of weekly mileage so with about double the time to train (Higdon’s plan is 12 weeks) I have a lot of flexibility.  Which is good considering it has gotten cooler and it is tricky some days to get out the door, run, and come back in time so that my husband (who is watching the kids) can go to work.  We’d like to run together more too since the neighborhood feels less safe and it is darker in the mornings.  At any rate, the big plan right now is to do two “short” runs per week of increasing amounts – from each being 3 miles to 4, to 5, etc. as shown in the Higdon plan and then also increase the longest weekly run as well.  Higdon’s book (amazon affiliate link) is one we’ve gotten from the library and though it is about a longer distance, his writing is engaging and has helped focus some of my plans for approaching distance running. I would love to know I am capable of 13.1 before the race out at Red Rock and also do a training run on the actual terrain.  There’s the 5K and the 10K to look forward to as well.

I think what I’ll do is keep track of my runs as I have been all along and check in on the blog at the point of each of the upcoming races leading up to the half marathon.  I’ll have to explore fueling and hydration options as well as phone carrying ideas as my mileage increases.  I also need to get properly fitted for running shoes as my pronation in my neutral shoes is putting stress on my ankles.  I don’t want to get injured, that is for certain.  The other cool thing is that the half marathon is just a week or so after my 30th birthday so I am already excited about what the next few months holds.  I have been seeing an increase in my caseload at work and working on our new firm website so that is taking time and attention but really there’s nothing like going into a court hearing after having run in the morning.  I feel confident and ready to take on the world.  Whether or not that is actually the case, I don’t know, but feeling good is part of the battle, I’m sure.

Favorite running songs of late include:

Sia – She Wolf (amazon affiliate link)

The Script – Hall of Fame (amazon affiliate link)

Passion Pit – Take a Walk (amazon affiliate link)

Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks (amazon affiliate link)

Karmin – Hello (amazon affiliate link)

Demi Lovato – Give Your Heart a Break (amazon affiliate link)

Calvin Harris – We’ll Be Coming Back (amazon affiliate link)

In fact, “Little Talks” is on my playlist multiple times – I have fallen in love with the lyrics.  Here’s a link to the music video but maybe listen just to the music first since the video might be distracting at first.  The song has a male and female vocalist and the female vocalist sings “There’s an old voice in my head / that’s holding me back,” to which the male vocalist responds, “Well tell her that I miss our little talks.”  I really like the idea of treating that voice of “can’t” as if it is just something to talk yourself out of.  I realize this may not be the intent of the writers but in this moment of time it had that particular meaning for me.  My runs are turning into little talks with myself to prove that I can be stronger than I thought possible.  I’d especially like for my children and husband to be proud of me.  Here’s to reaching 13.1 (and beyond)!

Couch to 5k Review and What I’m Doing Next

I say this with a twinge of hesitation that I shouldn’t have after reading John Bingham’s great book for “adult onset runners,” “No Need for Speed,” but: I am a runner.  Wait, don’t leave, I’m serious!  It had been on my mind for a while that I wanted to be healthy and I just couldn’t figure out how.  I have so many obligations that squeezing one in that was just for me seemed selfish and impossible but the idea of running started popping up in my mind.  If I could just lace up my shoes and walk out my door while someone watched the kids then I would be good to go, I thought.  I could even take them with me in the stroller if I had to.

With these things in mind I told my husband I was thinking of running.  The next day he called me from REI (a sporting goods store) asking about what size I wore – he was buying me some gear.  I had felt so silly telling him I wanted to do this and here he was taking me seriously and supporting me.  That was the final nudge I needed in January 2012 to give it all a shot.  How hard could it be? I wondered.  I ran until I was tired and walked until I felt ready to run.  This meant I was averaging 15 to 16 minutes a mile and feeling very lame indeed in the process.  After hurting my ankle I took some time off but after I mentioned what I was trying to do with my running to a friend, she suggested something called “Couch to 5k.”  I started in earnest early in May.

Couch to 5k is meant to take you from being a non runner (on the couch, so to speak) to doing a 5k or running or jogging 30 minutes non-stop using a 9 week training plan with runs three times per week.  I gave it a go and am happy to report that though 9 weeks ago 90 seconds of running had me counting my footfalls until I could rest, now I can run over 30 minutes at a consistent pace without stopping to walk.  I have even had a mile as fast as 10 minutes and 57 seconds and ran a 5k in 38 minutes and 5 seconds at the end of the program, beating the time I set at the Terminal 3 5k of 43 minutes and 53 seconds!

In short, the program worked for me.  My husband or mother in law (if she was visiting) would monitor the kids as they slept and I’d wake up at about 4:40am in the morning to get out to run (the photos in this post are from my mornings out and about).  Often that meant being out the door at 5:20 in the Vegas morning heat because R wanted to get just one last night nursing session in but I got out there and did it.  In the process I have lost 12 pounds in 12 weeks (along with diet of course), ran over 5 miles down a road at Mount Charleston with friends while we camped up there early in July, and felt fantastic about myself.

I had to repeat one of the weeks when I just couldn’t finish a 5 minute stretch of running at the end of week 4 but for some reason after I made it through repeating that week I never felt that discouraged again.  I have made new friends and been supported by old ones, I have been able to be a good example to my children and have even started doing other exercise as a form of cross training.  I can’t recommend giving this a try highly enough.  I do know some people do the program more than once and repeat weeks like I did so it is all about listening to your body and doing your best not to get injured but give it a try and surprise yourself like I did.

I have been trying to research what comes next and while some people follow a program called “Bridge to 10k” I thought a 6 week program to double what I could do seemed ambitious so I was going to try a 10 week training plan called “One Hour Runner” (discovered via this MetaFilter thread).  I’ve just completed week one.  A great resource I found in my searches was the post “After the Couch to 5k: What Comes Next,” which makes it clear that you can really make your own plan with the right components that you need for your particular goal but I liked having the pre-made training plan so much that I will continue with it for a while longer.  By my next milestone I should be better able to come up with a custom plan.  My next race is Calico Racing’s Recycled 5k in October and following that I am debating whether to do the 5k or 10k Running from an Angel race in January 2013 (also from Calico Racing, I’ve heard good things about how they operate).

I started with an application for my phone called “My Tracks” to track my workouts but then changed to one called “Run Keeper” that I love because you can program your training plan into it and it will give you audio cues for your intervals of running or walking.  I track my calories and exercise in My Fitness Pal and there’s even a Couch to 5k Sub-Reddit to ask and answer questions.  I also get support from a local facebook running group, I’ve found that runners are kind and encouraging no matter what your skill level and as I am what is considered a “penguin,” that helps!  I have a lot to figure out still, like what I can eat that won’t give me a side stitch as I run (right now I just drink water before runs and eat when I get home, not ideal as I try to add longer distances into the mix).

Some final notes:

  • Music really helps, here are some of my new favorites in my running mix: Wild Ones (amazon affiliate link), Chasing the Sun (amazon affiliate link), and Part of Me (amazon affiliate link).
  • Earbuds that don’t fall out of my ears are Skullcandy Chops Hanger Earbuds (amazon affiliate link).
  • My favorite sports bra is the Fiona by Moving Comfort, great if you’re a nursing mom too (amazon affiliate link).
  • A fantastic book for beginning runners: No Need for Speed by John Bingham (amazon affiliate link).
  • As far as shoes go, good ones that are larger than you’d think you’d need are a must.  Bingham writes that your feet should have lost of space in the toe of the shoe and I’ve found that to be true.  I bought a “neutral” shoe to start but I do feel my ankles tilt in so I probable need some insoles or different shoes when it comes time to buy more.  I may splurge on one of those consults that they do at running stores where they really try to find the right shoe for your running style.

I tell myself things to beat the mental game that sometimes makes me want to stop, such as a phrase I got from this blog post: “running is a privilege.”  I tell myself that I am lucky to be able to run – hurting my ankle early on made me grateful when it stopped hurting and I am grateful for the help of others to watch the kids so I can get outside early enough to beat the heat.  My other favorite was sent to me by a friend as encouragement and I can’t think of a better way to end this post: “Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe