Frightful!

The weather that is!  It’s barely cold enough to snow, but that’s what it’s doing right now, mixed with some freezing rain, which is making the roads frightful.  Actually, the roads themselves are not frightful, it’s the wicked excellent NJ drivers who are.  I can’t quite fathom the need to pass a skidding car on an icy downhill road, but there are clearly some very important people in BMWs that need to get where they are going… (this insight was from the vantage point of behind said BMW–making me wonder if the “german” in “german engineering” mean you don’t have to pay attention to weather conditions?)

Anyways, now safely ensconced Chez Sato, with a cold IPA in hand, I’ve got plenty of time to wax poetic about my 2012 running and knitting efforts.

First, on the running front (more on the knitting tomorrow):

2012 was my first full year of running (having started in the summer of 2011), and it started off with a bang: the PF Chang Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Phoenix, AZ.  This was my first ever race and I had no idea what to expect.  I traveled with my coworker, and we stayed with my awesome aunt and uncle in Phoenix.  My uncle’s a runner himself, and he generously took us to the expo and then helped with the carb loading (pancakes the day before, spaghetti the night before and a whole lot of beer and wine in between).  I had trained on my own for this race, not following any sort of program, just running 3-4 days per week, with one long run each week.  And each week as the mileage increased on that long run, I would finish thinking “I’ve never run further than this before in my life!”

PF Chang BeforePF Chang After

There we are, our “before” and “after” photos.

The race was great!  There were kajillions of runners, and tons of crowd support. My plan was to run the first 5 miles and then do a walk/run combo (walk for 60 seconds after each mile) til the end, but I felt strong and barreled through, which lead to a bit of bonking (a term I was not familiar with at the time) from miles 10.5 through 13.1.  Time: 2:22.17

After coming down from that runner’s high, I knew I could do better.  I signed up for the Half Marathon training program at my LRS with the goal race being the NJ Half Marathon in Long Branch.  It was then I realized how much coaching can benefit.  Although the class was large, there were opportunities for individual attention, and I quickly saw improvement, especially with two workouts per week dedicated to speedwork and long runs. And then, 4-5 weeks before the race, my heel started feeling funny, and I was diagnosed (much later) with a calcaneus stress fracture.

Looking back on this, I’m embarrassed at how devastated I was.  Clearly this is something that is survivable, and only a tiny bump in the road.  But at the time, this was the first time EVER I had been injured doing sports.  (And I’m no newbie: I played field hockey and basketball through high school, and ice hockey from college until Thing 3 was born, and participated regularly in trendy activities like aerobics, kick boxing, etc. ).  I knew something was up, and further exams revealed a significantly low bone density (osteopenia), and vitamin D deficiency.  All the calcium I’d been inhaling was not working because of completely negligible vitamin D levels.

Unable to participate in the NJ Half, I registered with my sister (who’s living in Hong Kong and returns home each summer) for the Old Port (Portland, Maine) Half Marathon.  Upon being released from the boot, I hightailed it into training, without heeding my podiatrist’s advice to go back slowly. Egging my efforts along was Juneathon, a virtual community of people committed to “jogging, blogging, and logging” their activity throughout the month of June.

The result: the Old Port Half sucked.  Oh, my time improved (2:20:37), but I finished so badly.  Everything beyond mile 8 was an effort.  I could barely walk upon finishing.  And, as an added bonus, I got to drive through summer Maine traffic from Portland to Stonington, CT (to drop off my sister–3.5 hours that stretched into 5) and then head onto NJ (2.5 hours that stretched into 5).  The Mister had to unpeel me from the car at 2am.

Old Port Half

What I learned: after getting out of the boot (for the stress fracture), my pelvis was out of line.  My hips were uneven.  I had a couple of adjustments, researched some stretching options, and regrouped.  Because my next event was 4 weeks off.

Providence Rock N Roll Half, August 19.  This was another race with my coworker.  We drove up to Stonington, stayed with my parents, attended the Expo and the next morning (sunday) drove off to the race.  What a difference.  Stephen & I split up fairly early, and I just kept plugging along.  I thoroughly enjoyed this race.  There were some challenging hills (like the one at the end! WTF!), but we got to see some of the best parts of the city.  And the weather gods were in our corner.  The start was in the high 50s,  and it was not humid at all.  Time: 2:15:31.   Again, miles 11-12 were tough, but I finished and charged up that stupid hill, and still had some in the tank.  My hamstrings were sore, but all in all, it was my best finish yet.

Providence

2:15! So close. So close to that ‘secret’ goal of mine to get close to a 2:10 finish.  I knew my hang-ups–starting too fast, and then bonking at miles 11ish-13ish.  With that in mind, I resigned with the LRS’ Half Marathon training (goal race: Philly Half).  But it never happened.  On my 3rd hill interval training, my high right hip froze up.  Ouch.

I had two races planned for fall 2012: the Philly Half and the Reach the Beach NJ (which preceded the Philly Half).  Numerous doctor visits and PT sessions really did nothing.  The cure: stretching and rest and strengthening.  I was committed to RTB, but decided to wait a bit before registering for Philly.

Not completely healed, I did RTB on adrenaline alone.  It was so much fun–because it was such a team effort.  Running is the first individual sport I’ve done; I’ve always been a team sport kinda girl.  This type of relay race was really satisfying.  Our time: 25:50:53.  We were 9th overall and 1st in our age group (40+).  The team took a hit by inviting me–we were 11 men and a one woman, so we competed with all the other male teams–but I brought cookies, and in the end, our captain proved that it’s not necessarily fielding the fastest team, but the team that can get along best in a van for 24 hours.

RTB 1 RTB 2 RTB 3

 

After RTB, my hip was feeling pretty lousy, and I learned the Philly Half had filled up.  Honestly, I wasn’t that disappointed.  I still tried to make it to training runs, and, in the meanwhile, I had hired a coach for an individualized training plan.

I struggled though the rest of the fall with good days and bad.  I found a PT guy who does Graston and ART, and these have helped immensely, and my hip flexor issue has completely disappeared.  The hamstring, though, continues to be troublesome.

I finished my 2012 road racing with the Ashenfelter 8k.  This is a local race for me (my town), so I did it with my coworker, yet again.  We flew (for us)–cruising along at a 9 minute mile. I finished in 45:45:91.  I was happy with this race–my hammy cooperated–and I felt good.

ashenfelter before ashenfelter after

The Ashenfelter was my 3rd shorter race–I also did the Montclair 10K in June and the Verona Classic (5k) in September.  While these races are fun, I think I’m going to concentrate on the 10M and HM distances.  I like the challenge and making the effort to train.  If I do shorter races, it will be solely to support the charity or organization involved.

With winter approaching, I thought I’d give a trail running a shot.  I’ve run the West Essex  Trail with my running club a few times, so when the opportunity for a trail race popped up, I jumped.  And maybe I shouldn’t have.  The week before the trail race, my left ankle felt niggly during my long run (10 miles).  I didn’t pay it much attention, but then while traveling for work to Paducah, KY, I wasn’t able to run on it at all.  I returned home, taped it up, and then went off to the Winter Trail Series offered by NJ Trail Running, and rolled it over 2x. And now it just aches.  Which makes me so sad, as my next event is a HM on February 3.

The take-aways from this year: 1. I will heal. It may take longer than I like, but I will heal.  2. There’s always another race. A DNS, while disappointing, is not the end of the world. 3. Rest can be your best friend. 4. I am a little bit good at this sport.  It is a challenge, but attainable, and I can do it and that is satisfying.

As I look forward to next year and beyond, I’ve tried to gleen what I hope to get out of this sport.  And two things come to mind: I like being fit.  I LOVED that my body was able to absorb the hard labor of Hurricane Sandy clean up (at my work)–I was able to hoof it up and down three flights of stairs, for 4 straight days, carrying water-logged papers and handknits and ship models and archives, and I felt no pain.  Emotionally it was exhausting, and my body was tired, but every morning I was able to wake up and jump out of bed for more.  Second, if I’m going to run an event, it’s going to be either with excellent people (friends and family) or in excellent places.  I LOVED my running tour of New Orleans earlier this year.  And getting lost near my Houston airport hotel, and finding the path by the canal in Indianapolis, and running out to the university in Columbus.  This sport clearly takes a toll on my body, so I may as well get as much out of it as I can.

Looking forward: 1. I will do what it takes to run injury-free in 2013.  That means stretching and strength training and cross training and resting.  2. I will run 3-4 long races for the joy of running and the excitement of accomplishing a goal.  3.  One of those long races will be in Europe.  (finger’s crossed).  I know those are big goals, but now they’re out there.

Stay tuned!

 

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