Celebrating Leap Day, too!

I keep reading that I have license to more or less do what I want today. I’ve taken that to mean two things: 1) it was totally okay for me to have a brownie for first-breakfast this morning, and 2) it’s now doubly justified for me to have gone out and bought these:

“These” are Saucony ProGrid Guide 5 shoes, and they took about a half-hour’s worth of fitting and jogging around and tweaking to find. (The folks at my local running shop are amazing, btw.) But I found them, and damned if I didn’t feel like Cinderella when I laced them up – you know how you just know that it’s the right one immediately? That’s how these babies felt. And now I can NOT wait to get them broken in and out on the road!

I will certainly miss my old shoes – they carried me through literally hundreds of miles and my first real races and lots of good and bad times – but it was definitely time to bid them adieu. They’ll live on for hashing runs, because I can’t quite get rid of them juuuust yet. 🙂

But, about the new pretties. EEEEE I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THEM that it is almost frightening. Carry on with your extra day of awesome, everyone!

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Birthday week!

Howdy, y’all!

It’s my birthday week – Friday is the big day, ha ha – and I’m celebrating in many ways (extra piece of chocolate here and there? Check!), but one of the more important things I’m doing this week is to buy myself a new pair of running shoes. This is directly related to what happened on Saturday, which I can tell you started out as the tale of Kat and the Terrible, Awful, Horrible, No-Good Run. Pull up a chair, will you?

I was out of town for the weekend, but in a place where I’ve run before and have mapped out a couple of long-run routes. Saturday was my 9-mile run, and it dawned sunny and clear. I knew it was supposed to be chilly (about 40F by the time I headed out the door), so I dressed in pants and a single thin long-sleeve shirt, figuring I would warm up as I always do and be fairly warm by the end of the run. I stepped out onto the porch, in direct sunlight, and took 3 seconds to calculate that it was in fact too warm out for pants. So I went back inside and traded them out for shorts. I went back outside, and off I went into the beautiful morning. A little chilly on the legs, yes, but no big deal; I’ll warm up, right?

Here’s a very important lesson: Check the wind chill before you leave the house. Had I had any idea that the wind was gusting up to 25 MPH, I’d have definitely not un-pantsed myself, and probably put on a thicker shirt. But I didn’t, and so I trotted off into a maelstrom of misery!

Miles one and two were awful. Absolutely awful – I had tears streaming down my face because I was so cold. I got angry. I couldn’t believe the wind wouldn’t stop for more than 5 seconds at a time. I couldn’t feel my legs – as in, couldn’t feel the muscles working, couldn’t feel them between my ankles and hips – and I just wanted to scream every time the wind pushed me back in my stride. I was running into a headwind, with the sun at my back, and the route was flat but it felt like one of the worst hills I’ve ever been on. And then, somewhere in mile three, my stupid stupid knee started flaring up and hurting, with the pain shooting up my leg to my hip. I couldn’t believe it. I was striding correctly, with the balls of my feet as my landing points, and I was still getting the knee pain. Instead of hobbling along, though, I stopped to walk it off for a bit. That actually seemed to help, but I couldn’t not panic – I thought that I had figured out what was causing my knee pain, and now I was back at square one, still gimping along like some fool. What if something was actually really wrong and I’ve just been making it worse the whole time? It’s time for Plan B, but I didn’t have a Plan B, so now what? After a couple of minutes I took up a light jog again until I reached my turnaround point. The knee felt okay, but somewhat tenuous; I had my phone with me, and I thought, okay, if this doesn’t get better in the next half-mile or so, I’m calling for a pickup, because at that point I was a good 5 miles from “home” and wanted a way of getting back there just in case something went really wrong.*

I had to walk again for a few more minutes after my turnaround point, and once I got running again the wind kicked up and I realized that it was a tailwind. Sweet! Extra power! Except now the backs of my legs were being pelted with sticks and rocks and gravel and leaves – you have GOT to be effing kidding me, I thought, and crested the hill I was on and gritted my teeth and dug in. I was thisclose <-> to taking out that phone and stopping, and then it hit me – WARMTH. Holy crap, I was facing the sun, and it was wonderful. And wait, what’s this? My knee says ‘go on’? Ok, I’ll go on.

So I did. And damned if I’m not so glad I stuck it out, because the next three miles flew on by. I did have to turn back around to run back into the wind and away from the sun, but by the time that happened the wind had calmed considerably and I was all sorts of toasty warm – comfy in my shorts as I’d anticipated. I made another turnaround to run back into the sun, and was pretty hot by the time I coasted to my endpoint, at which point I thought, dang, do I have to stop now? I love that feeling, but I know I need to listen to it, so I did actually stop then and there. I went ‘home’, ate, iced my knees, showered, and went on with my day, SO glad I’d stuck it out and finished and not thrown in the towel when the going literally got tough. That’s a huge thing mentally that I think will serve me later; I’ve proven to myself that I can coach my brain through trying circumstances, and been so very glad after the fact that I let my mind do the talking.

But. There is still one small issue (well, okay, not at all small in fact): THE KNEES.

I told my roommate of my knee woes last night, and she instantly said “New shoes” – and then asked me how long I’d had them and how many miles I’ve run in them. That gave me pause: I bought this pair about a year ago, and have since logged, um, (gulp) probably 600 miles in them since then. That’s a lot! And that’s bad! And I didn’t really consider shoe type when I bought them; I bought them because they were a brand I like, and (AAAHH I KNOW) the colors were pretty. And the price was right. So, this week, I am going to my local running shop and getting my gait analyzed and getting fitted properly for a shoe that will not injure me, and (I hope) this knee madness will end and I will not damage myself any more. This half-marathon is five weeks from this Saturday, the 3rd, and I have worked too damn hard for this to have it all undone by one stupid joint, especially if what happens to that joint is something I could have prevented.

Aaaaaaanyway. I have big things planned for the end of this week! I am going to see my GI doctor on Thursday, and later that day after my 3-mile run I am going to give blood. There’s a mug or two of Hopslam in store on Friday itself, and I’m super-excited to try to break my 4-mile PR in the race I’m running on Saturday morning. After that? Fun times with friends, maybe a round of golf, probably some more Hopslam… we’ll see how it all shakes out. Gotta get through the rest of the week first, though!

*This idea came about when I went running along the same route the day after Hurricane Irene. There were a ton of trees and tree branches that had been taken down, and while I did my best to be cautious, I still ended up face-planting over a felled branch in front of a bunch of people about 2 miles into a 6-mile run. My face was fine, but my right knee got pretty badly torn up and banged up; I had no phone with me and thus no way of calling for help, and I didn’t really feel like knocking on strangers’ doors with blood streaming down my legs to ask if I could use their phone. So I ran the rest of the way back, thinking that a phone would be a pretty good thing to have with me next time, just in case. This 9-mile run wasn’t “next time”, but given my existing knee issue, I wanted the ‘out’ just in case.

 

Pace, pace, pace!

Today was another ‘pace’ run, which means ideally I run the distance at the same pace at which I’d like to run my half-marathon. I’ve targeted that to be around 9:00-9:30/mile, and I’ve also learned that, for me, ‘run at race pace’ does not mean ‘start OUT your run at race pace’. What I’ve been doing for these is starting out slow and then increasing my speed gradually, such that I finish at a pace well below my target pace – thus, I end up with an average pace that is close to my race pace. This worked beautifully today for my 4-mile run, which I started out at 10:20/mile to warm up, then went down to 9:40/mile for the second mile, then down to 8:57/mile (what the hey, I was feeling feisty) for the third and fourth miles. At mile 3.5, I went down to 8:40/mile, and finished at 8:34/mile, for an average pace of 9:25/mile over a total 4-mile time of 37:40. *ahem* That’s a PR for me, which is pretty cool. (I was doing this on a treadmill, which I normally hate, but it’s the easiest way for me to accurately track my pace on these pace runs) I finished feeling pretty tired, but like I could still keep going, which indicates to me that I’m doing things right. That’s a good feeling.

Also a good feeling is that I think I maybe might have figured out this knee pain issue I had a couple of weeks ago. It flared up again on my 8-mile run last weekend, and I stupidly, stupidly kept running and hobbling home which I KNOW I KNOW was really stupid, but I think I know why it happened. See, when I go out on long, slow runs, I tend to heel-strike, which means that my heel hits the pavement first, followed by the ball of my foot and then my toes. People Who Know Things About Running say that this is a fast and easy way to injure yourself, and that you really should try to run so that the ball of your foot is the first thing that hits the pavement, followed by your toes – your heels never actually hit the ground at all. I think I heel-strike because I’m subconsciously pulling my leg back so that I take longer strides so that I go more slowly, which works in slowing me down but does no favor for my leg alignment. I had a short 3-mile run with my running buddy yesterday, and without even realizing it for a good mile and a half I was pitched forward, with the ball of my foot hitting the ground first, because I was trying to run a little bit faster since it was a short run (plus it was really cold outside and I was underdressed and wanted to get back inside ASAFP). When I realized I was doing it, I thought, hmmm, let’s not be so conscious of this and just see if we can keep it up, and I did, and you know what? My knees felt FINE when I was done. It didn’t occur to me until this morning that that could be my answer, so I made a point of trying to run on the balls of my feet while on the treadmill today, just to see what happened. And you know what? My knees felt, and still feel, TOTALLY FINE after the fact. Sweet.

The real issue will be trying to apply this new form to my longer runs, since my habit is to take longer strides and slow down, but that won’t be an issue until next week; this weekend is a 5k race in the training program, and I’m intending to run a race in completely unknown territory (as in, in a different city) just to break myself of the habit of always running in places with which I’m familiar. Next weekend, the day after my birthday, will be the 9-mile run in which I give this new theory a go.*

In other news, I tried out both the awesome new shorts and shirt and am pleased to report that they have performed excellently. And yes, I wore them together even though they don’t match. I figured the color confusion might ward off anyone intending to mow me down in a vehicle**, because they’ll be too busy trying to figure out if I’m actually colorblind. (I’m not, but it’s still a fun game.)

Also, that chickpea pasta recipe I tried last week was good, but it didn’t result in the creamy sauce that the recipe said it would. It did smell and taste amazing, however, and frankly I like chickpeas just fine in their natural rounded and tendered state, so it was lovely for me to just have pasta with garlicky soft chickpeas. Double bonus was that the recipe made a ton of food, so I had leftovers to get me through the next day.

My little independent research project is going quite well, and has been much fun to delve into. Aaaaand, remember the Hopslam beer I wrote about a few weeks ago when Bell’s Brewery had their tap takeover here? Another shipment of it came in yesterday, and I’ve managed to get myself not one but TWO six-packs, which is awesome because it means I can stash one away for the fall when I crave it and then realize there isn’t any. Oh yes, I shall squirrel away the beer, and it shall be marvelous.

Yeah, I’m in a bit of a weird mood because I’m still buzzing along from a good run, plus it’s getting warm outside and Wednesdays are generally less chaotic than the rest of my week. Time for me to grab some lunch and scoot off to work. Happy hump day, y’all!

*EDITED TO ADD: Capricious as ever, I changed my mind; I still feel more than okay a few hours after the 4-mile pace run, so I’m totally switching my plan of action. I’ll be out of town this weekend as it is, and will run my 9-mile run then; next weekend, the day after my birthday, there’s a 4-mile race here at home that – while at home – is on a course I’ve never run. Another couple of reasons for the switch? I prefer 4-milers to 5ks anyway, plus, um, I might want to go out and actually celebrate my birthday, which means that running 4 miles the next morning would be much less painful than running 9 miles the next morning. (And no, I can’t just skip it- that’s not part of my training plan!) Anyway, I just signed up for the race, which means now I have my first race of the year to look forward to. Hooray!

**This isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds: there are some very close calls I’ve had with cars when I’ve been running through a crosswalk, with the right of way indicated by the white “walk” signal, that have made me think that not all of them have been accidental. People here seem to have a love/hate relationship with runners. I love them, so everyone else should – right?!

AAAHHHH!

I feel absolutely electric right now; I just got back from an incredibly engaging and stimulating talk on something completely not related to my academic field, and it’s set my mind abuzz. (If you just saw my feed-explosion on Twitter, sorry.) So many thoughts! So much awesomeness! I’ll calm down eventually, but it’s been that sort of day where I’ve just bam-bam-bam! knocked stuff off my to-do list, and it feels pretty good – a 200% turnaround from the way I felt at the beginning of this week.

Another reason I’m so excited is because I bought some new running clothes this morning (eeeee) and I can NOT wait to try them out (eeee!). A local running shop was having a 30%-off sale on shorts, so I went in to see what I could find. I picked up these:

And yes, the color scheme is absolutely intentional (*ahem* WAHOOWA).

But then my eye wandered over to the evil, evil sale rack of long-sleeve shirts, of which I only have one, so of course my thought was, Hmmm. I should get another one… and they’re 30% off too! [Note: I at least had the self-restraint to not even let myself LOOK at the wall of shoes on sale directly behind the shorts. Be proud of me. It was HARD.] Which is how I ended up with this:

Yes, those are fuchsia stripes. No, I do not care about this. I am getting up much earlier than I should tomorrow ON PURPOSE so that I can justify running in that shirt because I am that excited to try it out. (The shorts can wait until I go on a shorter run to get their first test, since I feel like it’s less disastrous to have a 3-mile run go poorly than it might be to have an 8-mile run go poorly.)

…Oh my gawd, I’m turning into that person. Sorry for the insufferability, everyone. 🙂

Anyway, uh, so other physical stuff: today’s my rest day, which might explain some of this ridiculous pent-up energy. I need it, though, since my entirety is delightfully sore from the week’s running and weight-lifting – I could hardly lift my arms above my head last night, which is a feeling I love because it means I’ve pushed myself. I’m excited to try out a new recipe tonight that looks simple, but delicious:

http://projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2012/02/15/chickpea-pasta/

(Mine won’t look as pretty as the one pictured there, mostly because I plan to omit the tomato. And add some chicken. And use a different pasta shape…)

And, it’s supposed to SNOW this weekend. This puts a small wrinkle in my cross-training plans for Sunday, since I was going to get lost somewhere on my bike, but I suppose that given the safety of my tires it’s not really a big deal if I head out early enough (before accumulation begins) and am careful (which I always am. Hi Mom!). And I have plans to do research! Of the fun kind (ie not for school)! AAAHHHH!

I guess I haven’t calmed down yet, exactly, have I? My brain is stimulated, my body is stimulated, and in a few hours I hope my belly will be stimulated. My soul feels stimulated, too, oddly enough… or, perhaps, not oddly at all. 🙂

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Endorphins… ahhhh.

I think I cursed myself in my last post last week, talking about how excited I was to get in my 7-mile run on Friday. I have no idea what happened, but a mile and a half from home my right knee started hurting. A LOT. Like, I could hardly put pressure on it hurting, and then I got shooting pain all up through my right leg from my toes to my hip joint. I have no idea what a pinched nerve feels like, but that’s what I imagine it would feel like – basically, I had to slow down to a hobble. It looked really, really dumb, and felt ten times worse than dumb. I should have walked the rest of the way, but I was wearing shorts and my legs were freezing (could that have had something to do with it? My joints do not like being exposed to the cold…) and I wanted to get home as soon as possible. So I hitch-strode the rest of the way, and felt sort of okay by the time I got in. (I’m stupidly proud of the fact that I still managed a 10:47/mile pace on this, my slow run, after having had to slow down so much to cripple-jog my way through the last 1.5.) After a lot of ice and rest, I felt much better, but I was wary of skiing the next day – what on earth was I thinking, putting my knees under that much stress?

As it turns out, it was nothing to worry about: after applying plenty of ice after the skiing, my knees were fine. The skiing was amazing, if a little bit freezing (you know, wind chill of -10 and all), and it was so excellent to get out of town for a couple of days out of the reach of cell phone service and hang out with people and get in some quality snow-romping. I so much miss being able to get to the mountain every weekend, but it’s my hope that I can budget properly next season, given that I’ll at least know how much I’ll have to set aside for medicine and whatnots.

Speaking of which, do you want to play the guess-how-much-the-medication-costs game? OK, then: the hydrocortifoam that I’m on comes in a 15-gram-net-weight container, which probably means that it’s 14-grams’-worth-of-canister and 1-gram’s-worth-of-foam. Even so, the entire tiny apparatus (the thing is about five inches tall) costs $331. That’s $22/gram, which I’ve not yet calculated per foam squirt, though I’m not really sure I want to. $331. That is absurd. Thankfully, again, I have health insurance so I pay literally a fraction of the cost at $30/container, but that’s only for a 15-day supply; a whole month’s worth is twice that at $60. Which is $662 if I don’t have insurance. Who the hell can afford that in this economy?

While I’m braining-on about medicine, I’m starting to not feel so enthusiastic about the corticosteroid treatment. Yes, its side effects are far less disruptive than those of my first medicine, but there’s a reason that these steroids aren’t intended for long-term use. Maybe I’m not eating enough to begin with, but I’m hungry all the bleeping time, and more often than not I feel as-big-as-a-whale bloated. I can also feel my moods shifting in ways that aren’t hormonal, though the last one I had – on Monday and Tuesday morning – could have also been related to taking a couple of days off to rest my legs after skiing. I’m afraid that I’m becoming that person who gets exercise withdrawal; I used to laugh at the idea that people could get so into it that if they don’t do it, they start feeling symptoms like those drug addicts can feel. But maybe there’s something there, because under this training program I’ve not gone more than two days without some form of exercise, and on the morning of day three – Tuesday – I was in the worst possible mood. Monday had been bad enough, but I figured some sleep would knock it out. Wrong! Tuesday dawned and I spent a good part of the morning fighting back tears for what seemed to be no reason. I already had a 3-mile run scheduled, so I kept telling myself, it’s only a couple of hours until you get to the gym. You’ll be okay. And on its face, that sounds insane, right? Like, I have to calm myself with an exercise fix? I BLAME THE DRUGS, DARNIT. (I’m kidding… sort of.) My next doctor’s appointment is in two weeks, so I’ll definitely be talking to my GI lady about all of this.

Anyway, I did get to my 3-mile run, and it was fantastic because I turned it into an anger-run: as in, let me just get all of this emotional stress out of my system one stride (and one rep of the weights I lifted later) at a time. I finished at a 9:37/mile pace for the 3 miles, which is well off my race pace but still respectable and left me feeling pretty well tuckered out. When I finished, the endorphins I’d been waiting on were humming along, and I started to feel normal again.

My mood broke for good when I got downstairs to the weight room and found myself sharing space with a guy who was doing his best to lift weights – and check himself out – in time to the music of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It”. He looked so ridiculous that I couldn’t help leaving the room to actually burst into laughter. 99.99% of the time I will not pay a lick of attention to anyone else at the gym, but you’d understand my voyeurism if you saw how outrageously this guy was showboating. I feel the need to thank him for helping me break through my bad mood for good, but I’m not entirely sure he’d take my view of him as a compliment.

So that was that for the bad times; my running buddy had a day off yesterday, so we did a 4-miler together at a nice, slow 11:00/mile pace. I felt like I had a lot left in the tank when we finished, which was nice, so today’s 3-miler might be another quick one (closer to 9:15/mile maybe?), or it might be a slow and jaunty one depending on how I feel. Saturday’s long run will be the 8-miler, for which I will wear pants for sure. I’ve been thinking of trying out part of the half-marathon course just to get a change of scenery; I’m not tired per se of the routes I already run, but I think that mixing it up a bit wouldn’t be a bad thing. Also, ice… lots and lots of ice for my knees after the fact.

Onward into the tail end of the week!

 

Eight weeks out!

My half-marathon is eight weeks away, technically from Saturday, but I won’t be near a computer then so I have to make note of it now. I’ve been training for six weeks now – two weeks longer than the actual program I’m following – and, overall, things are going really well. It’s funny; I’ve read a lot about how the best way to improve your running is just to do more of it, and who knew? – that’s exactly what’s been working for me. By “improve” I mean being able to run faster for longer periods of time; being able to relax and run properly in order to minimize injury; being able to increase mileage safely but still be able to push myself at the end of a run – to ‘leave it all on the pavement’, as they say. I can feel myself turning into one of those people who gets… not sad, not upset, but a little pouty, I guess, on days when I’m not supposed to run. I’m grateful for the rest days, don’t get me wrong!, but by the time my long-run-day rolls around I am ready to GO.

Today will be the run of 7 miles, which makes me happy. I’ve had a rough week mentally, and am really looking forward to the hour-plus of total “brain-off” that I’ll get from it. I’ve had to push my schedule back a day for this week because I’m going skiing this weekend*, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to run on Saturday or Sunday, so it fell to making Friday my long-run-day. There’s something a little delicious about peeling off a couple of hours to devote to a run and a nice, long shower and a cup of coffee on a workday, which, I’m not going to lie, makes this run just a little bit sweeter.

I had my first run with my sometimes-running-buddy (depending on when our schedules mesh) on Tuesday and it was pretty excellent. No matter how much I like getting lost in my own blank brain when I run, it’s sometimes really nice to be able to talk to someone and totally forget that you’re sore, you’re tired, you’re feeling slow or need a push, etc. – I completely lose track of time if I’m running with someone, and it helps a run go by soooo much faster. We have a date again next week for one of my short 3-milers – the one at the end of the week – which is good because that tends to be the running day that I feel the most blah and tired and over it.

ICKY GIRL THINGS COMING UP; WARNING On a gross note, it’s period week and I’ve been a bit crampy and bloated, but nothing as bad as what I experienced last month, which is quite nice. I’ve had a few moments of stabbing pain here and there, but they came and went and then stayed away, for which I was grateful, especially since one of those moments came while I was teaching. Speaking of teaching, I have a damn good group of students this semester. I was in a really bad mood for most of yesterday, and trudged off to class thinking that it was going to be an arduous 50 minutes, but by the end I had such a big smile on my face. I love it when teaching actually makes me feel good to the point that it completely erases a bad day – what a gift! ICKY GIRL THINGS DONE; KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

So that’s that. Eight weeks out… I feel myself starting to get ready for this thing. I’m eager, but I know I’ve got a ways to go yet. Physically and mentally I feel really good about my training, and I’m excited to keep progressing. And dreaming about more half-marathons during the summer…

Have a good weekend, err’body. Or else!

*So totally needed: I’ve been thinking, Man, do I need a vacation, and lo and behold, a chance to take off to West Virginia for a couple of days presents itself! Fingers crossed that my knees can handle it, since they’ve historically not done too well with me skiing and running in close proximity to one another. I foresee a lot of ice on my legs on Saturday night!

And yes, I will do the dumb thing and go tree-skiing. This is the only chance I’m going to get to go slopeside this year, so I’m skiing every damn acre of that mountain that’s open. And, um, a few that are not…

Relief.

There’s a fairly high-profile murder trial going on in my small city-town right now, and I was called as a potential juror for it yesterday. After eleven hours of waiting around to be questioned, I was finally let go and excused from jury duty at 8:30 last night. To say that I felt an overwhelming sense of relief would be a huge understatement; I feel for the jury they do end up selecting, however, since they’ve got a long and hard road ahead of them.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only potential juror who seized the hour-long lunch break as an opportunity to run, though. I thought: hey, I can squeeze in a quick 3 miles! And I did – these were my first sub-27:00 3 miles in my life, and with any luck won’t be my last. Today I get to do 4 with my new sometimes-running-buddy, which is exciting because I like having company. Plus it’s a beautiful day. And I have my freedom, which I will absolutely relish when I head out for the pavement this afternoon.

Relief, indeed.