The not-so-dreadful mill

Tonight found our intrepid heroine venturing into territory she . . .  Forget it, I’m too tired to write in third person narrative…

HCRP has Shin Splints.
Wordpress is having font color issues, and it’s pissing me smooth off, but that’s not particularly 
germane to this post.  Annoying to me?  Yes.  Germane?  Notsomuch.  So I’ll get over that and move on.

HCRP has Shin Splints.
He suspected it during Sunday’s Long Run which he had to cut short and finish as a walk. That was a whole new experience for me – doing 3/4 of a long run by myself.  And it was a good experience.  First I had to get past the guilt of ‘leaving him behind’ when it became apparent that continuing to run was going to cause serious, possibly long-term damage.  That took a good half mile.  But once I got past the urge to turn around and go back and finish walking with him I had a really good run!

Despite his reasonable certainty that he had the aforementioned shin splints, we consulted with a couple other people not the least of whom is my Personal Trainer Buddy and future business partner Tonia.  Tonia was concerned, based on the location and occurrence of the pain, that he might have a stress fracture.  So on Tuesday he headed to see our Primary Care Physician thinking they could do an x-ray in the office and at least rule that out.
The doctor – after being rude, dismissive, insulting, and frankly damn lucky it was HCRP (habitual Nice Guy) and not me (habitual Raging B*tch in the face of rude, dismissive, insulting doctors) – essentially blew him off with a ‘referral’ to a local Orthopedic Clinic.  (For the record, we’re switching Primary Care Physicians and as soon as the switch has been made and our records securely transferred I’ll be writing a tersely worded letter to the head of the practice about his little associate dude.)
Ortho Clinic Doc – obviously a runner – was not rude, not dismissive, not insulting, and very assuring that the x-ray showed no indication of a stress fracture and that HCRP’s self-diagnosis was correct.  The Cure?  Time, non-impact (elliptical machine) exercise, icing the shins, and Aleve twice a day.

Which led us to Ye Olde Gyme tonight.
Because it’s getting darker earlier, and because we live in a subdivision with intermittent sidewalks and completely non-mittent streetlights, and because I don’t want to end up as either a Cautionary Runner’s Tale or a crime statistic I decided to make the best of HCRP’s elliptical prescription and get tonight’s run in on The Dreaded Treadmill!

If you’re not a runner . . .  Well first if you’re not a runner I can’t imagine why you’d be reading this blog, but hey who am I to judge?  I’m a potential borderline hoarder and read the blog of a minimalist living guru.  I digress . . .
If you’re not a runner let me explain something about runners – distance runners in particular – and treadmills: We.  Hate.  Them.  More often than not they are called ‘Dreadmills’. There are no number of Friends or Seinfeld reruns that can make anything more than about a mile on a treadmill tolerable.  Even my girl Jillian Michaels can’t make me love a treadmill run.  Which is why I haven’t done one in about eight or nine months.  I would rather run in the rain.  And I can’t imagine doing a really long run on one.

So tonight I was slated to run five.  I chose the “Hills” program hoping that would make things int… less boring.  And truth be told I had some nagging concerns about my knees.  The last time I ran on a treadmill it exacerbated my then budding young case of Runner’s Knee so I was fully prepared to bail at the first significant twinge.
At about half a mile it occurred to me that my last treadmill run also coincided with the brief tenure of The Wrong Shoes I had ill-advisedly (and briefly) switched to so that assuaged some of my concerns about Ye Olde Knee.
Mile One and things were going . . . okay!
Mile Two and I was thinking “I could do this!  Yeah.  This could get me through the winter!” (A mildly delusional thought given that I have not one but two half marathons to get and stay in condition for between now and Spring springing.)
Mile Three and I was starting to do two things: A) Picture where I would be if I were doing this run on the Greenline; and B) Nitpick Stephen Covey’s colloquial mispronunciations of words like “resonate” (resignate?!) and a couple others I’ve blocked from my memory so I can continue listening to his audiobook.
And right at Mile Four my knees and hamstrings were starting to make their unaccustomedness (if Covey can butcher ‘resonate’ I can make up ‘unaccustomedness’) to this running surface known so I hit the ‘Cool Down’ button, cooled down, and called it a run.

HCRP’s elliptical workout seemed to have gone well.  He wasn’t limping or cursing.
And the ‘mill wasn’t quite so dreadful.  At least not for four miles.  Anything further than that and all bets are off!

Saturday we’re taking part in a race in Jackson, Mississippi.  It’s part of The Biggest Loser RunWalk Series and I am just enough of a Biggest Loser Geek that yes, I signed us up the very minute I heard it was coming within a reasonable drive (3 hours) of Memphis.
Of course my entire motivation (fantasy) is that either Bob or Jillian would be there and I would accidentally-by-design ‘run into’ one or the other of them and get a chance to actually meet and talk to and point them to my blog and we would become fitness BFFs and exchange healthy holiday meal recipes and maybe even vacation togethe . . .  I’ll stop now before the restraining orders get filed.
In all seriousness, it thrills me to see TBL ‘taking it to the streets’ and putting on events like this to reach out to their fans in a way that gets people moving.

The race offers a 5K and a 15K option.  I originally registered us both for the 5K but I’ve found out I can ‘upgrade’ to the 15K at packet pick-up tomorrow evening and since 9 miles just happens to be the distance I’m supposed to run on Saturday that is precisely what I’m going to do.

There’s a little bit of weirdness in HCRP walking the 5 while I’m running the 15 – after all he’s the more experienced runner.  And it’s a little bit of a flip of what happened in March when I had to pull out of the half marathon.  But just like I had to do back then, he has to rest and rehab this minor injury or risk it becoming a major and run ending one.

Of course there will be pictures of the tech shirt and finisher’s medal!
And maybe, just maybe if I’m lucky, one of me and at the very least one of The Biggest Losers.
Or Bob.
Or Jillian.
Because treadmill runs give a person a lot of time to dream . . .

Jack Rabbit Starts and Turtle Finishes

Running is a funny thing.
It’s a competitive sport and a personal endeavor.
It’s the journey and the destination.
It’s the starts and the finishes.
And it is everything in between.

But today I find myself thinking about those starts and finishes.

When I first started running I instinctively started slow and easy.  I was new at it so the tentativeness was natural.  And at the beginning I started every run wondering if this was going to be The One where The Truth that I really couldn’t run and really didn’t have any business even trying was going to bring me to some painful, screeching halt once and for all.
That never happened.
Just like my first fall wasn’t as bad as the fear of the fall.
Just like neither of the legless beasts I’ve encountered on the trail have struck or strangled me.  (With or without Samuel L. Jackson…)
Just like there have been no dead bodies along the trail.  (Rational or not, it’s my irrational fear.  Don’t judge me.)

And so I ran.  And and kept running.  And wrote about running.  And ran some runs just for the sake of having a run to write about.
Eventually (last month) all that running led me to doing something that hadn’t ever been on my radar ever anywhere in the history of my radar – I ran a Half Marathon!
And it felt great!
So much so that part of me was a little afraid to run again for fear of never feeling That Good about a run ever again anywhere in the future of my running or my radar.

But I ran anyway.
And on that first run a full week after the Half I took off like I’d been shot out of a cannon!  My first mile was a full 32 seconds faster (per mile) than my normal, consistent 12 minute per mile (with a walking interval) pace.  I. Was. Gettin’. It!
And it felt great!
Until it didn’t felt so great around mile three which I finished almost a full minute slower than my normal, consistent 12 minute per mile (with a walking interval) pace.
*le sigh*

So the next run I started all the happy self-talk reminding myself that slow and steady wins the race and that I run with endurance – not speed – the race set before me and that it’s better to start slow and finish strong and every other running ‘ism about starts and finishes known to running mankind.
And I took off like I’d been shot out of another cannon!
And I jack rabbited that first mile and turtled, if not the last one at least one towards the end.

In case you think I’m beating the whole “Tortoise and The Hare” fairy tale to death, let me share something with you.  Below is how Endomondo (best running program I’ve found for smartphones by the way) gives race splits.

See? Rabbit.  Turtle.

See the result of that jack rabbit start?  Turtle finish.  Not fun.

From a running perspective I need to get that under control.
After all nobody – and I mean not one running body – wants to finish a race walking across a finish line because you left everything in the first mile.  That is an especially bad strategy for longer races.  Like my upcoming St. Jude Half Marathon.  And it sure ain’t gonna work for doing the St. Jude Full next year!
Incidentally I’m running as a St. Jude Hero and if you’d like to help me raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital go here and thank you!

It’s also notsomuch a great strategy for life.
And says a lot about how I’ve gone through life and why this is the first time in my life I’ve done something physical that lasted more than three months.
Well other than pregnancy.  That was certainly physical and certainly lasted longer than three months!

How you start a thing determines how you finish it.
And that turtle didn’t start that race even trying to keep pace with that rabbit and look how that worked out for him!

A PR and A Crossroad

HCRP and I joined another couple we’re friends with running a 5K Race this morning.
As 5K races go this one was relatively small (I’m guessing under 200).  Of course earlier in the week I’d heard someone say there were FIVE 5Ks in our area today.
Which I still find puzzling for a city that consistently ranks among “America’s Fattest/Least Fit Cities”.  I digress . . .

Given the small number of runners there was this little imp in the back of my brain elbowing me and whispering “You might actually medal in your age group!”
I didn’t.
I came in fourth (I think – no Official Results yet) in Women 45 – 49.
And I’m good with that.
No, I don’t know the answer to “Fourth out of how many Julianne?” I placed way ahead of the me who was happily, complacently, and sedentarily on my couch two years ago and in my book that falls under “W” for WIN!

What I did do is PR* this race!
My previous 5K PR was 34:35 in November 2011.
Today the clock read 33:50 when I planted my foot across the Finish Line.
So in eleven months I’ve taken 45 seconds off my 5K time.
Not bad for someone who really hasn’t been working on speed or to reduce race time.

Which brings me to The Crossroads.  Not that Crossroads, although I live within a couple hours’ drive of that Crossroads, that’s not the one I’m talking about.
No, I have reached a Training Crossroads.

Here’s the deal:
I can run a 5K in a respectable amount of time.  I have run several 5Ks and fully intend to run several more.
I have run a 10K in a somewhat less respectable time.  But still, I’ve run one and I know what to do better for the next one (in three weeks actually).
I have trained for and completed a Half Marathon in what I consider a respectable time.  And in a time that HCRP and my Runner Friends said was a respectable time for a first Half.

The Crossroads I stand at is this:
I can continue to train as I’ve been training, focusing on consistency and endurance, and be content with my consistent 35 minute-ish finishes.
OR
I can begin using my short (3 – 4 mile) runs to do speed training to reduce those 5K and 10K finish times; continue using the mid and long runs to work on endurance and consistency in Halfs; and start looking towards the really long runs** that will be required next year when I begin training for the 2013 St. Jude Full Marathon.

*le sigh*
And so it begins.
Goal Setting.
Running Goals.
Training Goals.
Dear Sweet Asics, what fresh h*ll of life lessons is this going to bring?!

Lexicon for my non-running reader(s): (Hey!  There could be more than one!)
*PR = Personal Record
Sometimes called a ‘PB’ or Personal Best.
This is a runner’s personal competition with the runner in their own shoes.
Often more important than finishing “First” or “Last”. It’s all about Better!

**”really long runs” being defined as 15 – 20 miles or possibly further.
Yes, I really am just that crazy.

Not sure why . . .

I have plenty of thoughts on my first Half Marathon.

Starting, of course, with: I DID IT!!  I FREAKIN’ DID IT!!

And I have come here several times to share them all.

But for some reason I just couldn’t put the words down.

No matter how much I wanted to come here and talk about so many things about the race.
To talk about how the entire first mile was spent getting my legs and lungs to remember that they have, in fact, worked well together.
To talk about The World’s Best Total Stranger Running Buddy Ever.  Erin.  Who understood when, after ‘warning’ her before we started that “I’m not a talker when I run”, I suddenly became a Chatty Cathy with my string pulled during every walking interval after about Mile 5.
To share my admiration for Robert, the easily 400 pound man we met at the start of the race, who was planning to walk the Half in 4:00:00 as part of his ongoing fitness efforts to insure that he’ll be around and able to keep up with his ten month old daughter.
To marvel at the completely barefoot Marathoner who whizzed past Erin and me at about our Mile 12 which was like his Mile 25.
To feel pretty dang good about the fact that I wasn’t the woman who ended up flat on her back with her legs cramping, screaming in pain because she never stopped at any water stops and wasn’t carrying her own water at about the same Mile 12.  I felt bad for her, but was so grateful I wasn’t her.
To tell you about the 80-something year old man wearing the singlet that said “I’m running on a donated heart valve.”
And the people running with shirts screen-printed with the pictures of family members who had served our country in the same United States Air Force as my father and husband.
To share the pictures of the Finisher’s Medal, my bib number that had my name on it, of me and Erin with our FMs.
To express my gratitude to Erin for keeping me going those couple times when I wanted to just stop and walk the rest of the way.  Even if a tiny little bit of that did come from my ego commanding “We will not let this twenty-something year old girl see us quit!”
To brag on HCRP for beating his own Goal Time!

To say “Thank You!” to every runner who has given me counsel, advice, slowed up their own pace to run with me, encouraged me when they saw me struggling along the trail.  And especially to Terri Lee, DJ, Marian, and Donnie.  They know why.
To give a shout-out to my dear friend Tonia who sent me a message via The Endomondo Lady encouraging me at Mile 10 JUST when she knew I’d need it!
To thank my dear friend Tina who came down to be there at the Finish Line to cheer for me whether I heard her or not and who didn’t mind the sweaty-runner post-race hug one bit!

And to tell you what I told my dad before the race:
The first 6.5 miles were for my father who served from 1959 through 1979.
The second 6.5 miles were for my husband who served from 1989 through 2009.
But that last 0.1? That right there, that was for me!
And that’s how I ran it!

It’s probably the same reason I haven’t felt overly pushed to get a run in any evening this week – despite the Oh My Starz! perfect running weather we’ve had all week for the first time in forever.
I think part of me is still enjoying The Magic of running that race exactly the way I’d pictured it.
Successful.
Feeling really pretty damn good at the end.
Feeling zero pain from either of The Knees or any of my 2,000 other parts.
Dancin’ with the ones that brung me: Pace and Intervals.
Feeling the triumph of the fruition All Those Miles put in training.
All that precautionary icing of the aforementioned knees.
The runs I cut short “just in case”.
The wisdom of listening to my body (finally got that little lesson).

I ran – successfully and enjoying (just about) every step of every mile – a freakin’ Half Marathon!
And I’m more excited about running the next one on December 2nd.
And.  I am really beginning to think I’m going to be able to run twice that far in December 2013.

I’ll be back in a day or two to provide the review of SnuggBuds Headsets that I was asked to write here on my blog!
Spoiler Alert: It will not be a bad review…

The cards might lie . . .

. . . but the numbers never do! (Thank you Mary Chapin Carpenter!)

Stated Goal Time for my first Half Marathon: 3:00:00

Official Finish Time for my first Half Marathon: 2:54:29

I finished a full 5:31 UNDER my Stated Goal Time.

I’m still a little shocked.
I’m also still putting my thoughts together about the whole thing.

I learned many things.

I learned that The Right Running Partner will find you in a field of 5,447.

I learned to trust what got you there – your training.

I learned that more experienced runners are more experienced runners for many reasons and listening to their advice is the best possible thing to do.
(Unless they advise you to eat paint chips or jump up and go out and run twenty miles all at once one day, but I never heard that from anyone anywhere ever so I stick with that “listening to their advice is the best possible thing to do” thing.)

I learned to hold to what got you there – pace and intervals.

I learned that a middle-aged, overweight, sedentary woman can decide – “out of nowhere – to “take up running” one year and finish a half marathon the next.

IF, and only if, she does all those things I listed up there.
And maybe believes in herself just the tiniest little bit along the way.