Monday, December 29, 2014

Stickin' a Fork in 2014

I know it's not quite done (and I was just saying how I needed eleven more days), but I'm ready to wrap up 2014.  I hit my slightly revised mileage goal for the year on Sunday!  So, now I'm just cruising into 2015 and basking in the gloriousness that was this (nearly) past year.

I have seriously spent the entire month of December on a ridiculous high from the CIM, even though it was objectively not that great of a race.  And you know what, that's a really nice analogy for the way I see the whole year of 2014 - it wasn't exactly my best year of running, but I feel like such a rock star for having survived it that I don't even care!  I'm awesome!

I know, right?

So, here's how everything shook down in 2014, by the numbers:

  • TOTAL MILES RUN - 1805.4  BOOM!  Eighteen freakin' HUNDRED miles!  I've actually never really kept very good track of my mileage before, but I know that 2014 spanked any other year by a lot.  I estimated last year at around 1300.  The first half of this year, I was totally on track to hit 2000 miles for the year, but I am thrilled to hit this "B" goal, what with the whole "sidelined from anemia" thing.
  • INJURIES THAT INVOLVED BONES, TENDONS, OR MUSCLES - 0.  Yeah, baby, we're calling this year injury-free!
  • NUMBER OF YEARS INJURY-FREE - 2.  Again, I'm using the "bones, tendons, and muscles" parameter, because of course...
  • RACES RUN - 10 total.  2 5Ks, 1 10K, 3 Half Marathons, 1 Marathon, 3 Ultras (2 50Ks, 1 50-Miler)
  • AG AWARDS - 3 with an asterisk.  I nabbed 2nd place AG at both of my 5Ks, and was allegedly 3rd place at my 10K, but the internet kicked me all the way down to 6th place officially.  No matter, I still ate the pie.
  • PRs - 1.  At the 50 Mile distance, if you can believe that.
  • PERSONAL WORSTS - 4, technically 5.  Can I get a hell yeah?!?  And I'm not even being sarcastic.  I am celebrating every single mile I ran this year, even the ones that were slow.  I started the year with a PW performance at the 50K distance, then cruised into a super slow half marathon in March, followed by a much worse 50K time in May.  I picked up a PW at the 5K distance in August, then ran my heart out to a 2-second PW at a 10K in November.  And that's how we do things around here!
2014 was a really good year.  I learned a LOT about myself and my mental fortitude.  I learned how important recovery is in the cycle of running.  I learned how to slow down and look at the big picture.  I learned how to keep moving forward, even when it gets tough.

I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to 2015!!!  But that's a post for another day.

Happy New Year!!  I hope your look back on 2014 brings you smiles and your look ahead to next year brings you that awesome thrill of anticipating great things!

Friday, December 26, 2014

This is How We do Christmas Around Here

When I was young, we had your typical Christmas traditions - singing carols on Christmas Eve, eating waffles on Christmas morning, arguing with your siblings by Christmas afternoon.  You know, the usual.

My kids are growing up just a little bit different.

Oh, sure, we wake up early and go crazy for the gifts like every other family, but under our tree we're more likely to find DriFit shirts, foam rollers, a running garden flag, and safety whistles (which, OMG.  UltraIronHubs could not leave alone!  It says right on the package, "This whistle is extremely LOUD, do not allow children to play with!"  I'm pretty sure he took that as a personal challenge.).

Yes, I have Hello Kitty pajama pants.  Doesn't every middle-aged woman?
We don't really do the waffle thing around here, either, but I did scramble up some eggs so we'd be fueled for my most favorite Christmas tradition in the whole wide world:  the family run!

Blossom really did not feel like looking at the camera.  I took about five of these and you can't see her face in any of them.
We only go a couple of miles, but we're all together and everybody has to run my slow pace, so it makes me a happy mama.  This year Santa brought UIH a point-of-view camera, so of course he had to try it out!  Here's our two mile run condensed into about a minute and a half.  You might not want to watch it if you're prone to seizures or motion sickness.


After we were done with the 2-miler, I asked Little Boy to get in a few more miles with me, so we went out for another four.  I love running with Little Boy when it's just the two of us.  He's a kid of few words much of the time (mostly because Big Boy talks SO.  MUCH.), and it's nice to hear his thoughts.

We both smiled, even though it's a shadow selfie.  Some habits you just can't break!

I hope you had a nice holiday, too!  What's your favorite Christmas tradition??

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Learning to Run

I don't think of myself as an inherently patient person. I hate to stand in line. I'm remarkably unpleasant to be around while I'm waiting to heal from an injury. And I've been known to grumble about how damn long the microwave is taking to cook something.

So you might be surprised at how many jobs I've had - and been terrific at! - that have required enormous reserves of patience on my part. I used to be a preschool teacher, and in case you're not familiar with the job description, let me tell you that working with small children is not a good idea if you can't stand to listen to a tiny voice asking you the same question 87 times without wanting to knaw off your own arm like a raccoon in a trap.

Here's what happened:  I started typing "raccoon in a trap" into Google.  I got as far as "raccoon in a t" when "raccoon in a tux" popped up as the top suggestion.  You are a better person than me if you could resist that!  So then I lost twenty minutes looking at adorable pictures of raccoons and other animals wearing tuxedos.  Writing a blog can be a dangerous time suck.
Still, knowing the inner monologue I hear while I'm waiting for my teenager to finish telling me a long ass story about some arcane sub-plot in the Star Wars saga, it's a little surprising to me that my most favorite part of my job as a fitness trainer is helping people who are just learning to run.

It requires a lot of patience, but it's also pretty much the most rewarding thing ever.

Sometimes I read other blogs from running coaches who talk about training their clients for marathons and I think, "Wow, that must be so cool!" but I mostly can't imagine what that would be like.  Generally speaking, my clients come to me saying things like, "I will never run.  Ever.  And you can't make me."  And then a few months later, when I've worked my patient and subtle magic on them and they realize that they can, indeed, run, and would maybe even like to give racing a try, well, that's about as satisfying as it gets.

I have a couple of running clients who I run with regularly, and one of the things that's so interesting to me is how many preconceived notions my newbies have.  One girl truly felt that after the first month or so that she really should be able to regulate her pace at will (a skill I haven't mastered in eight years).  Another lamented to me the other day after a tough run that she thought she shouldn't still be running so slow.  I remind them patiently that there aren't really a lot of "shoulds" in running.

It's a good reminder for me, too. To be patient with myself. To enjoy each run, whether it's fast or slow or cold or hot or easy or tough.  Learning to run takes a pretty long time. Good thing it's worth it!

Are you patient with yourself and your running?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Well, That Kinda Sucked

Okay, to be fair, 99.9% of my run this morning was perfectly wonderful.  There was just that brief moment when the sidewalk came rushing up to meet my face that was the sucky part.

I took this photo from a few different angles and this one - despite being something of a crotch shot - seemed the least gross.  I don't love bloody photos and the scrape really isn't bad enough to post a gory pic.
I was running along, minding my own business and thinking about the half marathon that I'm planning on running in February 2015.  I was sort of noodling out a plan for the year and where I want to be pace-wise in the next few months.  I'm pretty sure that's why I fell.  People!  Running and math don't mix!

I felt my toe hit the perfectly flat sidewalk wrong and I had plenty of time on my way down to think the following:

"Oh, shit!  I tripped!  Am I falling?  Yes, I seem to be falling.  Is there anything I can do to stop myself from falling?  It doesn't feel like it.  Well, then - don't hit your head!"

And to my credit, I didn't hit my head, but I did fall the exact wrong way you're supposed to.  I landed smack on my hands and knees - well, one knee - instead of my forearms and belly.  I've watched my kids practice falling skills in karate for enough years that I know how it's supposed to be done, but that didn't translate into actually doing it myself.

I dropped a big, loud F-bomb and had the wherewithal to pause my Garmin while I laid on the ground.  That did not feel good.  But nothing was broken, so I got back up on my feet and started walking.  Oh, the tears wanted to fall!  That was probably more biology than emotion, though.  I really didn't hurt so much as it scared the crap out of me.  I thought immediately about the time last year when Big Boy was tripped less than a half mile into a 2-mile race and he got right back up and kept running.  If memory serves, he ended up placing third or fourth overall in that race.  I told myself, "Big Boy gets up and keeps running.  You can, too."

Big Boy was born with his mother's balance and coordination, which is to say that he falls occasionally while running.  He says "all the time," but I'm trying to be kind here.  Thankfully, even with my genetic hindrance, he got his father's mental fortitude.  That kid - really, both boys - have more mental toughness than I can imagine.  I hope I emulate at least a little bit of that strength and courage, because I know that someday they'll look for the qualities in a spouse that they see in me.  So I want them to find girls who push themselves and who get back up and keep going when they fall down.

Honestly, I want them to find girls who run.

Do you ever fall when you run?  I made it almost eight years without a spill, but this year alone I've fallen three times.  Not cool, bro.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

I Still Have Eleven More Days!

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I am really enjoying reading everybody's year-end wrap ups, and I am totally going to write one of my own, because in spite of some difficulties, I've had a pretty epic year. But I can't write it yet! I am super close to hitting a really cool mileage milestone and I don't want to wrap up my year until I get there.

Eleven more days!

In the meantime, let's talk about Christmas.  I am sort of ready-ish.  Most of the gifts have been bought and wrapped, though I still have some baking to do and I'm sure there will be a last minute panic of something I've forgotten.  It happens every year.  Christmas prep is usually a little stressful around here, but I do really enjoy Christmas Day, and here's why:

The family Christmas run!  This photo is from two years ago and my kids seem impossibly tiny, as compared to the gigantic men they have become in the last few months.  Also, even though we've been doing a family run since at least 2009, and I know we take selfies to document said run, I can't find any of the photos!  Time to organize the hard drive.
Years ago, when we started this tradition, UltraIronHubs and I had to run a little slower to make sure that the boys could keep up.  Then Big Boy got faster than me, so it was three of us holding back for Little Boy.  Then Little Boy got faster, and it was the three of them running slow for me.  Now?  This year?  Both boys are faster than both parents!

My how the times have changed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

All Better Now

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the lab and acted like a human pincushion to see where I stand with anemia and - thank you modern medicine and the internet - I already received results by the time I got up this morning.  Which was 3 am.  Seriously, my lab rocks!  I won't keep you in suspense - my iron and hemoglobin levels are both back up to normal!!  Hooray!

Fe = Iron, in case you slept through high school Chemistry like I did.  TIBC means Total Iron Binding Capacity.  I assume these levels were over the normal range in August because there was no iron to bind to, but that's a guess.  Transferrin Saturation  tells you the percentage of how much iron is actually being bound.
Hematocrit measures how much of your blood is red blood cells, and hemoglobin is the protein in your RBCs that carries oxygen.  (And by the way, thank you Wikipedia!)
If you're just finding my blog because you've Googled some incarnation of the phrase "iron loss from overtraining" or "running with anemia," welcome!  I hope you stick around and enjoy what you read.  My last post about being anemic has garnered more views than almost any other post I've written in the nearly five years I've been blogging, so I wanted to make sure I put out a follow-up so readers will know that there is hope for athletes getting over anemia!  

If you're looking for scientific explanations of anemia and how it affects running, I highly recommend that you go see Jaymee Marty, who is an Olympic Trials qualifier at the marathon distance and an actual scientist who has been dealing with blood loss and anemia issues much of this year.  She'll crunch the numbers and explain the data.  I'm just going to tell you how being anemic feels.

It feels like crap.

Oh, you wanted more than that?  Okay, here's more.

Many moons ago, in early spring of this year, I was doing a whole lot of running.  Like 50-ish mile weeks, which is a lot for me.  I tend to hover in the 30-40 mile range.  I had just come off of a pretty hardcore marathon training cycle and was - with very little recovery - gearing up for a trio of ultras.  Yeah, I knew it was going to be tough on my body, but I felt like I was taking it smart.  I wasn't ramping up to anything crazy mileage-wise, I was following the 10% rule of building, and every third or fourth week was a cutback/recovery week.  I felt good.  I felt strong.  I ran a kickass 50K in February.  Then I ran a kickass 50-miler in April.  I felt tired after the 50-miler, and maybe I pushed a little too much to keep up with my training schedule, but I had a 100K on the books for early May.  That turned into a mediocre 50K, which wasn't the day I had hoped for but wasn't exactly something to sneeze at, effort-wise.  That was followed by a fast-for-me half marathon the very next week.  And then a fast-ish 5K a few weeks after that.  And then another half marathon a few weeks after that.  Okay, when I write it all down like that, it looks like maybe I was an idiot.

But I felt at the time like I was being good!  I had cut way, way back on mileage in May and June.  It seemed like enough recovery, and you know what?  If I had stayed at that way back mileage for just a little bit longer, I think I would have been fine.  I think my real problem was July, when I swept right back into high volume training.

Exhibit A - my Strava training calendar.
July was hard.  I knew I was pushing myself, but I was stubborn about it, as we runners on the verge of injury can be.  I was tired and crabby.  I was working long hours.  I wasn't enjoying much of anything, particularly running.  Everything felt difficult, and I - who never, ever naps - was finding myself on the couch a lot.

I cut back my mileage again, but even then I was struggling.  It was hard to breathe and my body felt uncoordinated.  Everything sucked, I felt like I was losing my mind, and even my work was suffering, so it was time to call the doctor.  I felt pretty certain I had low iron, but it was such a relief to have it confirmed!  I was not, in fact, crazy (about this - no guarantees on anything else that floats around in my head).

Here's the part of the post where I'm going to sound like the voice of doom if you are currently struggling with low iron:  there's nothing you can do that speeds up the process of re-gaining iron.  It's a "cut way the fuck back on training, eat right, get a lot of sleep, take your iron supplements, and sit on your ass" waiting game.


But that's all you can do.

I am a pretty good eater.  Well, I mean, I eat like a champion, but nutritionally speaking, I do okay.  More or less plant-based.  Not a ton of processed foods.  Easy on the sugar.  Spinach is a daily thing, but red meat is not.  I tried to eat red meat a couple of times, because the internet told me it's good for iron, but... ick.  So, I didn't do myself a lot of favors in the eating animal iron department, but I made sure to include as many other iron-rich foods as I could, as well as foods with Vitamin C, which helps your body absorb iron.  And I took (still take) a daily iron supplement.

I made sleep a priority.  I actually sleep like a champion, too, and rarely pass up an opportunity to go to bed early, so this wasn't hard.  But I cleared a lot of my schedule during the day for naps, too.  There were times when I simply could not move off of the couch (or the floor, when I couldn't even make it to the couch).  I started saying "no" to people and tasks that wanted more from me than I had available to give.  Vacuuming and cleaning the bathrooms were just going to have to wait.  (They're still waiting, actually, even though I am more or less back to normal.  I really hate cleaning the bathroom!)

I still ran, because the alternative was going batshit crazy, but I kept my pace and mileage very, very low.  Most of my runs were two- or three-milers, and they frequently included walking breaks.  You might think that that was the hard part, running so few miles at such a slow pace, but it was so exhausting to run that I didn't want to do more.  More sounded hard, and maybe I should just take a nap instead.

And that's how I knew when I was starting to feel better:  simple daily tasks or the idea of trying to run four miles didn't sound overwhelming.

Becoming anemic wasn't like stepping off a cliff.  It snuck up on me that I had been travelling down into a canyon.  And recovering was sort of the same.  I definitely didn't feel worlds better all at once, but every few days I wouldn't feel like I was full of lead.  Sometimes the thought of making dinner didn't make me want to cry.  Once in awhile, I could breathe well enough to actually enjoy my run.  And then, with no extra attention on my part, those days started coming more often.  Once a week, or even twice.  I felt better often enough that I really noticed the days when I felt like crap.  I started to feel a little happier, a little lighter in my mood (but not in my pants - oh, lordy, that's a whole 'nother blog post right there about weight gain from lack of training).  I wanted to run a little farther or a little faster and it didn't seem like too much to ask.  And then one day I tried to remember the last time I took a nap and I didn't know when it was.  I ran a freakin' marathon and didn't take a nap afterwards!

So, it was time to call myself recovered.  Done with anemia.  Take the blood test to be sure, then write this final (knock on wood, God willing and the creek don't rise) blog post about how I used to be anemic.

If you only read one sentence in the whole post, let it be this one:  RECOVERY IS VITAL TO YOUR WELL-BEING!

Seriously.  I did this to myself.  I've given myself a fair amount of take-time-off-of-running injuries, but this one quite possibly sucked the most.  With tendinitis, you're back on the road in two or three weeks.  Stress fracture?  Six to eight weeks!  Being anemic, I felt like shit and derailed all of my training and racing plans for the better part of five months.  Don't do this.

And if you're already there?  Well, you're not alone.  Rest and be patient.  Be good to yourself, and someday (hopefully soon) this will be in your rearview mirror.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Better Than Good

I thought for sure I'd be a complete wreck after Sunday's race, but you know what?  I feel good.  I feel like the title of this post!

With one teeny, tiny exception, that hurts more than you might expect from how small it is:

For the love of Pete, would somebody PLEASE remind me to BodyGlide the back of my armpits before my next race?!?  How do I forget this every time??  Also, side note:  while taking 57 photos of this chafing I couldn't help but notice that there's just not a good angle from which to photograph one's own armpit.  So hopefully I'll never have to do this again.

Other than that, I'm feeling great.  No sign of post-race blues and only the faint beginnings of Christmas panic (maybe because I'm waaaaaaaay ahead of my normal game and have actually purchased some gifts already).  My legs are a little tight and stiff, but that's pretty much just my life.  I don't really notice it until I try to do something foolish like touch my toes.

I took the day off of running on Monday and put in a few easy miles with clients yesterday (Tuesday), and took today as a rest day as well.  I'm working out the kinks in my left butt/hammy/ITB, but, again, that's not new or different from the marathon.  I'll take it easy and short for the rest of the week, definitely, but I'm already looking forward to more training!  I've got some exciting things in the hopper for 2015 now that I'm feeling more or less recovered from anemia.

Wanna see something that looks nicer than my raw armpit?  Check out my race photos!   Link is to the page with all the proofs because I didn't want to steal.  Too much.  I couldn't help but post this one!  This is exactly how I felt at the finish line.

I generally buy the finish line photos if I'm going to get one, and I think this one is totally worth it!

Do you have a spot that always chafes?
What's your take on race photos - do you like middle of the race action shots or finish line triumph?

Monday, December 8, 2014

California International Marathon 2014 - Race Report!

Alternate title:  How to Run a Marathon with Pretty Much Zero Training.  The short answer, of course, is, "Kids, don't try this at home," but the long answer is much more exciting!  Read on...

When last we left our intrepid heroine (me!), she was contemplating race goals and bemoaning the near total lack of training that took place over the summer and fall.  I was pretty impossible to live with on Saturday.  I was terribly nervous because, you know, marathon.  And I was unreasonably pissed off that the weather was going to be perfect.  Of all the stupid years to have 50 degrees and slight overcast!  If I had last year's training and this year's weather... grrr!  Anyway, I went to the expo early in the day, then laid around the house biting everybody's head off and drinking water like it was my job.  I figured the only way I was going to survive was to be as smart as possible about hydrating, fueling, and resting - the only factors I had any control over, since I couldn't rely on that whole "trust your training" thing.

Sunday morning, I woke up at my normal 3 am and had plenty of time to get ready in a pretty relaxed manner.  UltraIronHubs drove me to the shuttle closest to the start, because he was going out for his long trail run while I was running my race.  The location just happened to be at a nice, clean McDonald's, complete with indoor plumbing.  Sweet!  While waiting in the long bathroom line, I started chatting with the other girls, talking about the weather in years past and other marathons we have run.  The very nice girl in front of me was running her first CIM - so exciting!

I kissed UIH goodbye and got on the crowded shuttle bus, which had us at the starting line in just minutes.  The excitement in the air was palpable.  I love that feeling!  We were all here to do something momentous!  I found a spot off the starting area to do my dynamic warm ups.  I was feeling pretty good, but a little stiff and sore from an unintentionally difficult workout on Friday.  Oops!  I chatted with some other runners and went to line up in the way, way back.  No need to jockey for position this morning!

Ready or not (mostly not), here I go!
Somebody sang one of the best versions of the national anthem I have ever heard, and we were off!!  Well, the people at the front were off.  Those of us at the back were kind of standing around.  We meandered a little.

Me and 9000 of my closest friends at the start (pic from UIH).

After the gun went off, I was heading toward the starting arch when I felt a hand on my arm.  It was UIH!!  He found me in that huge crowd of runners!  So we took a selfie, then he kissed me and sent me on my way.
I went out slow.  Like really, really slow, which is maybe the first time in my history as a runner that I truly held myself back at the start of a race.  I have a healthy respect for this distance and I've run the CIM enough times to know that this course makes it too easy to go out way too hard.  The first mile is all downhill, so the urge is there to just take off.  Not so for me yesterday.  I trotted and reminded myself numerous times as other runners were literally streaming past me like I was standing still, that I was here to rulk (run + walk) my own race.  When I hit the first mile marker, I made my way over to the side of the road and took a walking break.  I drank my Gatorade and didn't worry about my pace, but I felt fine so I got back to trotting right away.

I ran at a comfortably easy pace, enjoying the crowd and the terrific spectators.  I didn't care about my speed, I just wanted to focus on staying hydrated and getting through the miles.  By the time I stopped to walk at the Mile Two marker, though, I knew I needed to relax a little.  I had a huge knot in my stomach and that was not going to do.  I put on my headphones and tried to pretend like it was just another run.  The music definitely helped.  I hated to miss out on the cheering crowds and interesting eavesdropping, but I had to keep my head in my own game.

I ran on.  The hills at the start didn't seem bad at all!  I enjoyed reading the spectators' signs and settled into an easy rhythm.  I walked at every mile marker and felt like the day was going as well as I could hope for.  I finally looked at my Garmin somewhere around Mile 6 and was a weird combination of pleasantly surprised that I was going that fast and sort of pissed off that I was going that slow.  Ha!  For not having any expectations, I guess I had some after all.  It was hard not to compare my pace with other years where I had actually done the training, ya know?

Around Mile 8 or 9, something wonderful happened:  I finally relaxed.  The knot in my stomach let go and I felt great!  At other marathons that have fallen apart, I have known by Mile 5 that the days were not going to end well, and I guess I had just been holding myself tight worrying about that.  I was drinking plenty and my effort level was holding steady, so I started to let myself truly enjoy the day.  I was just here for the party and the pretty necklace at the end!

My grammatically incorrect motto is, "Run good when you feel good," so I picked up my pace and found myself smiling.  I saw some friends who were spectating, which raised my spirits even more.  I cruised through the middle miles feeling wonderful.  I knew it wouldn't last all day, but I sure enjoyed it while I could.  My half split was 2:18:11, my slowest half marathon...pretty much ever, but no matter.  I didn't let myself think about the total distance of the day, I was merely running mile marker to mile marker.  They seemed to be awfully close together, because every time I wondered how far to the next mile, there was the sign!

I texted my sister and let her know that I was more or less on schedule for seeing her at Mile 21 when I had told her I would be there.  Around Mile 15, I realized I was starting to feel the effort, but for possibly the first time ever during a race, I recognized that I was low on calories and started eating the food I had brought with me.  I had only gotten a little behind the eight ball on that and never made it all the way to crying and feeling miserable.  So, yay!  I saw my spectating friends again and gave them high fives.  It was getting tough, but I could muscle through this.

At mile 17, I was definitely starting to fade.  I kept eating and drinking, but I was also really, really looking forward to the walking breaks and felt like it would be nice to see a smiling face I knew.  I texted UIH and took a slightly longer walk, but I wanted to keep going.  My pace had been so good through those middle miles that I had kind of set myself a time goal and the only way to meet it was to keep running.  I know from experience that miles 17-22 are just tough for me.  I was prepared to feel this way, so I turned my music up and gutted it out.

By Mile 20, I started to feel the happy anticipation of knowing I would see my mom and sister soon.  I could do this!  I wanted to look good and feel strong when I saw them.  Suddenly, I saw a young guy on the ground.  I turned off my music and stopped to ask him if he was okay.  He was trying to stretch out a cramping quad muscle.  He looked lucid and was answering my questions, so I knew he didn't necessarily need medical right away.  I offered him some of my peanut butter pretzels to get some sodium in him.  He was so sweet.  I held out my bag of pretzels and he only took like two or three (they're small).  I laughed and insisted he take more.  He thanked me and I told him to keep moving if he could, because I wanted him to finish.  He smiled and assured me he wanted to finish, too.  I hustled off on my way, but wondered about him the rest of the day.  I sure hope he made it to the end!

Seeing my mom and sister at Mile 21 was just what I needed!
I got a nice little second (third?  fourth?) wind after seeing my family at Mile 21!  The next mile was 22 and 22 was practically done!  Any fool can run four miles!  That giddy feeling carried me to the bridge that crosses the American River, but fizzled out pretty quickly thereafter.  Holy crap, shit just got real and I still had four long miles to go.  My legs were...  well, I'm not really sure what my legs were because I couldn't exactly feel them anymore.  I was pretty sure we were still running.  Maybe.

The last few miles have the best spectators.  The course runs through a beautiful neighborhood with huge, stately turn-of-the-century (20th, not 21st) homes where the families are out on their lawns with kids ringing cowbells, then crosses under the highway into midtown Sacramento where the 20-somethings are shouting boisterously because they've been drinking since the elites ran by hours ago. The families and friends who have been following their runners down the hill are starting to get punchy from the long day and they've saved their funniest signs for these last difficult miles.  Police keeping the streets closed are giving out high fives and shouting encouragement.  It's awesome.

I wanted to walk, or possibly crawl.  Really, I wanted to sit my ass down and never move again, but I kept running.  I walked through the water stations and at the mile markers but ran everything else.  I dropped F-bombs like confetti every time I picked it back up to a run, but I kept picking it back up.  OMG, nothing has ever hurt this bad, but before I knew it, the blocks were counting down and the spectators were getting louder and more crowded and there were my friends again!  There was the Mile 26 sign!  Turn left, then left again and there were my kids!  There was the finish!!



My unofficial finish time was 4:38:39, my third fastest marathon ever!

If I had to pick, I think the thing that made me happiest about the day was that I felt mentally strong the whole time.  I've been the girl who craps out in a race.  Frequently.  But not yesterday, and I'm definitely proud of that.  Next year (and, yes, I've already signed up for next year - they have an early, early bird special for the 2015 race, just $89!), I will put in the training.  Promise!  {crosses fingers behind back}

Thursday, December 4, 2014

CIM Goals

You might think that since I haven't really been training for the California International Marathon, that I might not have any goals for the day, but you, my friend, would be wrong.  I always have goals, even if they're as simple as "Don't suck too much."  Which, by the way, is exactly what I'm hoping to accomplish on Sunday.

To recap, I pretty much stopped running anything longer than three miles at a time back in July.  Within the last month, I've been able to add some mileage to my long run, making it all the way to 14 miles.  For the mathematically challenged among us, that is just slightly over half of what I will be running this Sunday.  So, yeah.  Totally prepared.

Longtime readers will note that of the nine marathons I've started, the three for which I was best prepared and fully trained resulted in two DNFs and one Personal Worst.  Honestly, I am starting to think training for a marathon is completely overrated.

Here's what I think I can make happen at this year's CIM:

  • Don't drown.  This is always #1.  Even though we're having a super rainy week, Sunday's forecast looks absolutely glorious:  50-ish degrees at the start, maybe some clouds, only a 10% chance of rain and a high of 63 for the day.
  • Walk and run.  Notice I put the "walk" first.  There will be plenty of that.
  • Enjoy the day.  Last year, I was so focused on my splits and the tangents and fueling (all of which went down in flames!) that I didn't have any fun at all.  That was no bueno.
  • The previously mentioned Don't suck too much.  I feel pretty confident about this one because my bar is set very, very low.  Like I think one of my legs would have to fall off.  I mean, knock on wood, but my legs feel pretty securely attached.
  • Ummmmmm, that's it really.  Time goals are irrelevant at this point, though I have a window of about an hour (4 to 5 hours) that I think I can hit.  We'll see.

Do you still set goals for races you haven't trained for??

Friday, November 28, 2014

Elk Grove Turkey Trot (Courage Run) 2014 - A Much Longer Race Report than Necessary!

I haven't run a Turkey Trot since 2008.  In fact, I haven't run a 10K since 2011.  And even more in fact, this was only my fifth 10K ever!  Since my only experience with 10Ks was back in the day when I used to be so very much faster than I am now, it is no exaggeration to say that I went into this race with zero expectations of doing well.

At my best 10K (in 2011 - you can read about it here) I ran with an average pace of 7:59, and at my worst (in 2008) I ran with an average pace of 8:16.  Currently, my training paces average somewhere in the mid- to low-10s.  So, yeah.  A PR was 100% out of the question, and the only thing I was really gunning for was how big of a Personal Worst this race might be.

For a competitive girl, I was surprisingly okay with that.  I've been feeling so much better lately, and my training paces are starting to come back down a little, so mostly I was just excited about opening up the throttle and seeing what I could do.  My main goal was to run hard and not fizzle out, and my A+ goal was to bring it in somewhere in the sub-9 pace range.  I felt like that was going to be challenging but not too far out of reality.

I had put this race on my calendar a few weeks ago, when I realized that I was feeling ready to race again.  UltraIronHubs decided that he wanted to tackle the 5K for a lot of the same reasons I did:  he had spent the summer in injury rehab and is feeling better enough to want to see what he had to give at a short race (more on that in a bit).  Big Boy and Little Boy just finished an incredibly awesome Cross Country season two weeks ago and pretty much haven't run at all since then, but thought they would give the 5K a try as well.  So, yay!  The whole family racing on Thanksgiving!

Note:  wouldn't this be the perfect spot to post a picture of the four of us at the race?  Yes, had I not completely forgotten to take one.  FAIL!

Parking lot selfie!
I woke up much earlier than I had hoped to and had plenty of time to hang out and start feeling a little nervous.  Oh, how I have missed that feeling these last long months of not racing!!  You guys, I haven't raced since July!  July!!  Have you ever not raced for four and a half months?  Me neither.

The race is super duper close to our house, so we decided to run down to the start as a warm-up.  But we also needed a place to put our jackets and other stuff, so I drove down to the start, ran home, finished getting ready, then ran back to the start (and drove home after the finish).  Lol!  Pretty extensive warm-up.

The whole way to the starting line, I had a huge knot in my stomach.  I couldn't decide if it was nerves or my breakfast, but I was not happy.  My legs felt like lead and I was struggling with a 10:40 pace.  This did not bode well for the day at all!  But as soon as we got to the venue, I found my girl TR (my client/running buddy) and the nerves started to subside.  I was here to have fun and run hard.  This is a thing that I love and I was here sharing it with people I love!

So many runners from my kids' CC team were there for the race (as well as their coach, who was second place female in the 10K)!!  The boy in yellow is a good friend/teammate of theirs who ended up taking first place overall!
I finished up my warm up stretching, took the photo of my kids on the starting line and then slipped into a sort of open-ish spot pretty far back off the line just in time for the national anthem.  No more time to be nervous, because we were off!

There was a pretty good bottleneck right off the line because people simply do not know how to line up for races.  I wasn't worried, I knew I didn't need to go out super speedy, but I also didn't love having to weave around the walkers - WALKERS! - less than a quarter mile in.  Oy!  Thankfully, this race closes down the streets on the course, so we had the whole width of the street to run on.  Less than a mile in, the course splits the 5K from the 10K to pick up a little mileage for the 10Kers, so the field really spread out and I was able to see who I was really competing against.  Oh, did I mention that as soon as I started running, I felt great and was all about "Which one of you girls is in my age group, because I will be running faster than you"?  Yeah.  It felt good to be back!

I had more in the tank than I had even dared to hope for.  My legs felt amazing and my breathing was perfect.  I had my eye on a couple of runners - Salomon shoes girl and Blue Pants girl - who were probably my age.  They had both passed me in the first half mile, but were staying pretty much directly in front of me, not getting further ahead.  The 5K and 10K courses reconvened briefly, which meant more weaving around people running slower than I was.  Thankfully, we split again by the 2-mile mark and were separate for all but the finisher's chute after that.

By two and a half miles in, I finally dared to look at my Garmin.  I had resolutely avoided it until then because I didn't want to be disappointed.  I was feeling really good.  I thought my effort was just about as close to puke-threshold as I should be with four miles to go, and I didn't want to look down and see that maybe I was only running 10 minute miles, you know?  Nope.  My average pace was 8:30!!  Holy crap!  Faster than I had dreamed I could do!

I passed by Blue Pants girl, who had obviously gone out too hard, and started to make headway on Salomon shoes girl.  I caught her by Mile 3 and set my sights on Red Socks girl.  Too easy, time to look further up.  I felt so damn good, you can't imagine.  A good ways up, I spotted Purple Socks girl and focused on getting closer to her.  I turned my music up louder and ran harder.  I felt more confident than I've felt in ages.  I caught and passed people one by one.  When we got to the hairpin turnaround at Mile 4, I got to see Purple Socks girl and thought she was definitely my age.

By four and a half miles in, I wondered if I was going to be able to push this hard all the way to the end.  I still felt like I was flying, but the effort was catching up.  My oatmeal was sitting right in the back of my throat.  I didn't want to throw up, I didn't want to slow down.  It was a real dilemma.  There was a girl right on my left hip pocket.  I could feel her and see her a little out of the corner of my eye.  I suspected she was my age.  I knew I was doing all the work and I should make her pull for both of us, but I didn't want to slow down and lose her, so I stayed in front.  I still had my eye on Purple Socks girl, but I could tell I wasn't going to get any closer than this.

I had told UIH and the kids where they could cheer for me, and oh my goodness was I happy to see them at just about mile five and a half!  I was super close to being done!  They whooped and hollered.  I wondered how their race had gone, but couldn't worry about it just then.  I had to focus on finishing strong.  I looked at my Garmin and couldn't make sense of the number.  I picked up the pace a little.  Vague Shadow girl was right at my elbow.  I knew she was going to make her move, and - yep, there it was at the Mile 6 sign.  I worked for it (hello 7:30 pace from Mile 6 to the finish!), but she got me.  As she passed, I smiled at her and told her Atta Girl.  She smiled back.  I assumed that was the difference between an AG award and not, so I was briefly disappointed, but there was the finishing arch!  And the clock.  Seriously, my time was that low?!?  I sprinted it in, thinking maybe, just maybe, it might not be a Personal Worst!

I collected my medal, looked at my Garmin and burst into tears.  Today was indeed a PW, by eight seconds.  They weren't sad tears, though!  I had run hard enough to get within striking distance of a speed I ran in my 30s!  It was a Thanksgiving miracle!!

So very, very happy with my race!
We hung out for a while, hugging and congratulating several of my clients and other friends who ran and walked the race.  What an exciting day!  I got to see my 70-year old client complete her first 5K!  I got to see my girl TR beat her previous best 10K by TWO MINUTES!  Another client, who tells me every day how much he hates to run, came flying through the finishing chute with a huge smile on his face!  My girl Nicole, who I met when she was over 200 pounds and who promised me that she would "never" run, completed her 13th race this year (and her kiddos ran the kid's race)!!  My heart was very full of thanks and gratitude.

According to my Garmin, the course was a little short.  My stats:  6.13 miles, 51:31 total time, 8:25 average pace.  Official stats:  6.2 miles, 51:25 total time (note:  this makes it a PW by only TWO.  SECONDS.  Gaaaaaah!!!), 8:18 average pace, 55/296 overall.

We hung out long enough to check out AG awards and - woo hoo!! - the prizes were pumpkin pies!  UIH (who had gone into the race just hoping to not get beaten too badly by both kiddos) ended up beating them both and getting THIRD PLACE OVERALL, with a time just eleven seconds off of his PR!!  So freaking amazing!  Big Boy managed a huge (road) 5K PR and took 3rd place in his age.  Little Boy also ran a super (road) PR, but got edged off the podium because the AG was pretty wide (13-18).  At the award tent, they had printouts of the AG winners and there I was, in third place for my age!!!  Cruising on the internet today, however, has different results.  So strange.  Yesterday's results were posted in 5-year age groups, but the online results are 10-year categories.  So, officially, I actually placed 6th.  Now I feel bad that I brought home somebody else's pie!

My handsome pie winners!

Happy Racing Thanksgiving!!  Did you trot with the turkeys this year??

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Reflections of a Long Distance Runner

When I set out for my long run this morning, I was feeling a little pensive.  Not sad or worried, mind you, just thoughtful.  Last weekend was a "milestone" birthday for me (45!) and yesterday was the last race of my kids' Cross Country season, so I was thinking a lot about endings and beginnings and the bittersweet nature of them both.

I never get tired of this view.  It was a lovely day to run on the American River Parkway.
Now that I'm feeling better, I'm starting to think a little bit about setting some new goals and looking ahead to racing again.  In the immediate future, I'm planning a 10K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and the California International Marathon on December 7th (which I signed up for months and months ago - long before anemia).  It's so weird to go into both of these races knowing that a Personal Worst time is probably all I have in me.  Well, maybe not the marathon, but that's only because I've run some pretty shitty marathons.  My worst ever 10K was run at an 8:32 pace.  Can you imagine?  The likelihood of me hitting anything sub-9 for six miles is...  I believe the term is "statistically insignificant."

It's tough to set goals when you're not exactly operating at 100%.  And, frankly, it's tough to even know where my 100% is anymore.  I feel better.  A lot better, in fact.  But am I back to where I was before?  It doesn't feel like it.  Will I ever be there again?  I don't know.

I've generally set goals based on time or distance.  Many years ago, when I was "fast," I was always chasing a PR.  Then I wanted to go farther, so I slowed down and just kept going.  Either way, I set and (mostly) reached goals that stroked my ego.  To be brutally and embarrassingly honest, since I started running eight years ago, I've seen myself as something of a badass.  Not in comparison to other people who are doing way more badass stuff than me, but definitely compared to the chubby, lazy girl I used to be.

When I'm looking ahead to 2015 and thinking about my running and racing goals, I have some apprehension.  I truly feel that the reason I haven't been physically injured for the past two years is because I've slowed way down.  And I also feel that the reason I ended up with anemia is because I was pushing myself to go a little too far.  This is not to say that I don't have any more fast miles in me or that I'm all done running ultras, but rather that I need to be sort of cautious for awhile.  But where does that leave me right now?  Fun runs?  Ugh!

A perfect fall day.
I was ruminating on these thoughts somewhere around Mile 6 and feeling a little low.  This whole anemia thing has been a months-long crisis of confidence for me.  Who am I anymore if I'm not a badass?  I don't run fast anymore.  I don't run far anymore. More often than not these last few months, it took everything I had to even make it out the door for a run.  And then it hit me.  The sparkly diamond I'd been looking for in that deep, dark coal mine:  even when I felt like crap, I never lost my motivation to run.  There were days when I'd get out of bed so bone tired that I wanted to cry, but I still went for a run.  Even though I knew that a measly three-miler was going to require a two hour nap, I would clear my schedule for that nap rather than skip the run.  I didn't quit, and, according to the internet, either the legendary Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, or possibly Ben Franklin said, "It's hard to beat a person who never gives up."  That's pretty badass.

I don't think I actually got faster after my lovely little epiphany, but I sure felt better.  I finished 14 miles, the longest I've run since July, with a smile on my face.  I love to run.  I want to run for as many years as I can.  It's long been my goal to run a marathon when I'm 80 years old (since I ran my first one at 40.  It's like an OCD thing), and I know there will be plenty of mental readjustments along the way.  Thank goodness I have so many miles to figure these things out.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Those Three Little Words

Lately, there's been a thought floating around in my head.  At first, it was sort of like a whisper - here and then gone again quickly.  It would build up a little steam, then disappear for days at a time, only to come back a little stronger.  I've been pushing it away, not wanting to let myself think it too loud.  In fact, I've been writing this blog post for over a week in my head to give voice to this thought, but kept procrastinating.  Just in case.  Just in case I shouldn't really be saying this thought out loud yet.

Shameless plug for Instagram.

If you follow me on Instagram or Strava (and, side note, will you please?  This poor ol' blog barely gets any love anymore.  I mean to write more often.  I still read your blogs, but rarely comment.  On the other hand, I'm on Strava every day, handing out kudos like crack.  I post on IG frequently - but not too frequently - and I'm very generous with the followbacks and likes), you might already know what I'm about to say.  Three little words:

I.  Feel.  Better.

Let me quickly follow that up with a few qualifications, because I just know that the running gods are rubbing their hands and cackling in mirthless glee right now, ready to smite me down for my hubris.  Wow, that was a sentence full of SAT words, wasn't it?

Anemia has been a cruel mistress and recovery has been S L O O O O O O O W.  There are still days when I sit down on the couch for a quick second that turns into three hours.  Sometimes when I'm running it feels like maybe somebody replaced the atmosphere with molasses.


Lately, maybe even more often than not, I wake up in the morning feeling like I am ready to tackle the day.  I'm starting to wake up before my alarm again.  I drive to work with a smile on my face.  I'm excited about new things.  The other day I was actually bored.  I ran double digits this past weekend and it didn't require me to spend the rest of the day in a prone position.  I'm running a little faster sometimes.  And I'm thinking about signing up for a race.

*gulp!*  That's the one that scares me the most.  It seems improbably optimistic of me to plunk down money and stand at a starting line as though I can run well or fast right now.  But here's what this year has taught me so far:  I don't have to run well to enjoy running or racing.  I don't have to set goals or chase a PR to have a good day, I just have to run happy.  And I feel like running happy!

So, there's a Turkey Trot in my near future.  Possibly followed by a nap.

Monday, September 8, 2014

On the DL Without Being Injured

Being anemic is weird.  I mean, I've spent plenty of time over the last eight years not running because of one injury or another, so you'd think I'd be totally familiar with this whole "sitting around the house" thing.  But, the problem is, I totally can run.  Except when I can't.

Running really isn't the issue at all.  I can run any ol' time I want to.  I can also swim or bike or lift weights or dance or any other sort of exercise my heart desires.  As long as I don't go crazy and do it (whatever it is) for more than about 20 minutes.  Thirty minutes max.  Except for that time that I ran five miles (which obviously took me way more than 30 minutes) and felt great!  That one time.  As opposed to yesterday when I ran five miles and felt great until after my shower when I laid down to pet the cat and all of a sudden it was almost two hours later.  And then spent the rest of the day feeling like all of my limbs were full of lead.  I still managed to go grocery shopping and take Little Boy for a haircut and make dinner, but that was everything I had in the tank.  The rest of the day I was on the couch.

The thing that sucks (welcome to my Pity Party, by the way, sorry you didn't really get the chance to RSVP "no") is that I have no idea that I'm doing too much until I've already done too much.  Like yesterday's run.  I felt great the whole time I was running!  No trouble breathing and my legs were super happy to be out in the world.   I made it home and thought I was going to be fine.  Ate breakfast.  Took a shower.  All good!  Walked into the bedroom and saw the cat on the bed, so I laid down next to her and... snoozeville.  I didn't even see that nap coming, sneaky devil!

I'm still capable of being active.  In general.  Like, exercise doesn't hurt or anything.  And, honestly, that's the strange part.  I'm totally used to the self-limiting pain of being injured.  The sharp pang or the dull ache that tells you that it's time to quit.  But with anemia, I feel pretty much normal right up until the thought of getting up to make a sandwich is so overwhelmingly exhausting that I burst into tears.  Sweet UltraIronHubs has had to make me a LOT of sandwiches lately.

I'm trying to be patient, but I think you know how that's working out for me.  I have a client who is a doctor, and she very kindly explained to me that there is no quick fix for anemia.  (Yes, I'm going to put a disclaimer on this part of the post:  I am not a doctor and it is incredibly likely that I misunderstood some or all of what I am about to tell you about anemia.  Please don't take my word as medical advice.  Or possibly even factual information.)

We were working out and I was telling her about my very low hemoglobin and iron and I mentioned that I was going to take iron supplements and planned to take two weeks off from training and then assess how I felt before getting back to my regularly scheduled marathon training.  To her credit, she didn't actually say, "Wow, Pahla, you're a fucking moron," but her look sort of did.  Apparently it takes months to recover from anemia.  The life cycle of a red blood cell is about 120 days when everything is working normally, but when your iron is low, production slows.  In my particular case, I spent a lot of time this past spring slaughtering innocent RBCs with all that ultra training I was doing and my body didn't really have the chance to keep up production.  Iron got low, iron storage got low and hemoglobin got low and now they're all trying desperately to catch up.  She used the analogy of building with LEGOs, but for the life of me, I kept picturing Lucy at the candy factory.

So.  I'm taking it easy.  Sitting on my ass.  Reading an actual book for the first time in waaaaaay too long.  Watching some TV.  Hanging out.  Eating red meat, even though I don't like it at all, but apparently it's "good for me."  Whatever.

I'm still running, of course, and filming workouts for my YouTube channel, and working, and being a mom taxi, and all that other stuff I do every day.  I'm just not "going long" for the time being.  Through trial and error, it feels like three miles is just about my don't-need-a-nap running threshold, so mostly I'm running three-milers.  Except when I run five.  Just to see what happens.  Yes, I am an actual moron.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Summer of Suck (and a Belated Race Report)

So a couple of weeks ago, I ran this 5K and it was pretty awesome, but I totally didn't blog about it.  Oops!

Happy to be finished!
I ran it with a client of mine, pacing her to a huge PR, which was very exciting and very nearly puke-worthy (for her).  She did such a great job, shaving 15 seconds per mile off her previous best pace.  I was so bummed that she didn't place in her age, though - she came in 4th - because I ended up walking away with 2nd place AG hardware.  Again... oops!  I felt sort of bad about that.  It pretty much goes to prove that placing well in your age is all about who else shows up, the real win is a PR.

The race benefited the Sacramento Sheriff's K9 Association, so there were lots of dogs around.  I love dogs, but have a healthy respect for the working ones, as evidenced by the arm's length I kept from this one.  I totally thought I was standing right next to him.  LOL!
I think I didn't blog about the race because, well, to be honest, it kind of sucked.  In fact, it was really strange accepting an AG award for a race that was a Personal Worst time for me!  I felt guilty that I got an award and my client didn't, when she was the one who had run so very, very hard for it.  And then later I felt bad because she really struggled with accepting how hard racing is, mentally and physically.  Like running as hard as we did almost took the joy out of running for her.  As a trainer, I have to accept (some) of the limits my clients want to put on themselves, but this one was hard for me.  She has it in her to run fast, but she's choosing to run for fun instead.  The competitor in me is still trying to wrap my head around that.  I mean, obviously, I run for fun at longer distances, but at a 5K?  That's all about speed, baby.

So let's talk about speed, shall we?  I have none.

This summer has been really, really hard for me.  I took time off after the Gold Rush 50K, and really thought I was ready to get back to training.  June's mileage was low, but I managed a fast-for-me 5K and was excited about ramping up the miles again for the CIM in December.  But then July came and went with a mediocre half marathon and every mile seeming harder and slower.  Every time I've gone for a run lately, I've come home feeling worse and more worn out than when I left.  I've started dreading running, which I can honestly say has never happened to me in the almost 8 years I've been doing this!

I kept telling myself that it was the heat, it was my schedule, it was this or that, but in spite of running slower and taking more days to rest, I could still feel myself dragging down even worse, rather than getting better.  I can't remember another time in recent years when I have felt so utterly drained.  Adding to the fatigue has been these awful allergies, that I thought I had kicked to the curb after this spring, but have come back with a vengeance this past month.  My chest feels tight all the time and my breathing always seems labored.  This, in case you were wondering, is not exactly a winning combination for running well!

Uncle!  I can't handle this!  So off to the doctor I went.  A thousand vials of blood and a lung capacity test later, here's what I know:  I'm anemic right now, with iron levels way under the normal range, and there's a possibility that I've got some allergy-related (or possibly exercise-induced) asthma.  How does a person who eats as healthfully as I do and exercises as often as I do suddenly have health problems like this at age 44??  So freaking crazy!  And yet, in a weird way, such a relief to put a name to all the suckage I've been feeling.  Honestly, I was a tiny bit worried that all the tests would come back normal and the doctor would tell me I was just being a big baby.

Dr. Google has assured me that my iron loss came about from overtraining (rather than scary internal bleeding or some such thing), so I'm taking days off from running like it's my job.  Sadly, though, my actual job does include running with a handful of clients, so I'm still doing that, but thankfully that tends to be at a manageable pace and lower mileage.  I'm going to give it a couple of weeks of rest.  We'll see how I feel then.  I'm glad I still have so much time before the CIM - I have several other races on my mental calendar, but I haven't plunked down money on any of them, so it's not a loss if I can't compete.

I have high hopes of getting back to the business of being badass pretty soon.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Davis MOO-nlight Half Marathon - Race Report!

As part of my "Race More to Race Better" training strategy, I have signed up to race pretty much any distance that falls on a day I can actually participate.  I work six mornings a week, including holidays, so that really limits my choices to Sunday races, or - ta-da! - a Saturday evening half marathon, a/k/a the Davis MOO-nlight Half.

Lemme just throw it out there right away that I am not normally an evening runner.  If I didn't have an afternoon running client, I would pretty much guarantee you that I had never run at a time that included the letters "PM."  In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I have gone for a run after eating dinner.  No, let me amend that:  before Saturday night's race, I could count on one finger the number of times I had run while the sun was going down instead of coming up (last summer's Twilight Trail Adventure, a super fun and blazing hot 10K that I apparently never blogged about, sorry).

Suffice to say, I felt a little ill-prepared for a 13.1-mile jaunt in the dark.  Not mileage-wise, just... everything else.  Like what the hell do you eat before running at 7:30 PM?  Should I take a nap so I wouldn't be tired?  Would it be hot or cold when the sun went down?  Will I need a headlamp?

Answer key:  a light, early meal, yes I should have but didn't, still hot, and yes.

Walking to the race start with Big Boy, who ran the 5K.
The half marathon went off in two waves, with the slower runners (2:40+) leaving at 6:30 and the rest of us at 7:30.  The 10K started with Wave Two of the half, and the 5K began at 7:45.  All told, there were about 3,000 runners running three different but overlapping courses at three different times.  I arrived a little later than I would have liked, due to traffic and parking issues, but still had plenty of time to hit the porto-potties and do a nice warm up.

I had absolutely no time goal for this race, other than hoping not to run a Personal Worst.  With a belly full of dinner, temperatures in the 80s, a race course that can best be described with the word "convoluted," and 14 hours of being awake behind me, I couldn't even begin to imagine what I was going to feel like on this run, so I figured I shouldn't aim too high.  And, hooray!  I totally aced my goal!

Right out of the starting gate and I'm already blurry - ha!
About a mile and a half into the race, we ran right past the start on a bridge overcrossing.  I got to holler "Good luck!" to Big Boy, who was lining up for his 5K start.  See that one guy wearing a blue shirt on the far right?  He was one of the Wave One runners swimming like a salmon upstream through all of the Wave Two-ers and 10K runners.  I felt so bad for him and the other Wave One-ers.  Nobody seemed to realize that the course doubled back on itself at this point, so we were sort of hogging the whole road.  :(
I started off at an easy pace, mostly because there was absolutely no other pace to be run.  The street was crowded and I had purposely seeded myself near the middle of the pack so as not to go out too hard.  Well, no problem there.  I focused on my breathing and my effort level and just settled into my run.  I felt pretty good.  It was hot, but not suffocatingly so.  My stomach was surprisingly fine and my legs felt strong.  Everything was smooth sailing until somewhere in Mile 2 when my lower back/upper butt/hamstring suddenly seized up.  WTH?  I could still run, but I wasn't super happy about feeling pain so early in the race.  It reminded me of the lower back pain I had several years ago when I was dealing with sciatica and degenerative disc disease.  Not cool.  I walked through the water station and carried on with it.  My back/butt/hammy never felt better during the race, but thankfully it never really got worse either.

In fact, I think my back issue pretty much sums up my whole race:  I didn't exactly feel good, but I never really felt bad either.  My pace never picked up, but I also didn't slow down very much.  It wasn't awesome, but it didn't suck.

Wonky feet?  Chicken wing?  Check and check!  Cruising past the start - again! - a little after the halfway point.

This is the race course.  Seriously.  We ran through neighborhoods, under several tunnels, on packed-gravel paths, through parking lots, on sidewalks, over bridges and on paved nature trails in people's backyards.  I'll give them points for being scenic, but dude.  Waaaaaaaaaaaay too many twists and turns to actually hit the tangents.  I was just happy my Garmin only came up with 13.3 miles for this.
This race was pretty different from my last half marathon, in that I didn't feel nervous before the start and wasn't the least bit competitive while running.  Mostly I was gutting it out.  I traded places back and forth with the 2:05 pacer quite a few times, but I never really cared about staying in front of her.  I passed a few people and I got passed by a few people.  I ran for awhile with a girl whose feet were clomping so incredibly hard against the ground that it sounded like she was chopping wood.  It hurt my knees just listening to her.  I felt a little bit bad for the runners I passed who had been out on the race course an entire hour longer than me.  I remembered what it was like at the World's Toughest Half when literally the entire field of athletes passed me by on the bike leg.  When it started getting dark, I took a glow stick from one of the cheerful volunteers, but had to ditch it less than a mile later because it was annoying the crap out of me.  At Mile 8, I thought I was at Mile 9 and came up with the very silly mantra, "Any fool can run four miles, P, keep going!"  When I got to the real Mile 9, I had to laugh, because...well...what else are you going to do?  I walked through every single water station, but ran everything else.  With less than a mile to go, I took a wrong turn following some spectators - they were taking the direct route to the finish line, but I had to go the long way around the parking lot.  I may or may not have dropped an F bomb in front of their child when I realized what I had done.  Oops.  But finally, there I was!  At the finish line!  With another race under my belt and a really, really sweet medal to hang on my display rack!  Woo hoo!

Official finish time 2:06:59, 10/59 AG, 238/855 OA.  Nothing beats finishing a race with a smile!
Big Boy had a great race, too, running a (road) 5K PR time of 19 minutes flat and coming in 9th place overall!

Have you ever run a nighttime race?

What's the coolest medal you've earned?  This one glows in the dark!