Sunday, September 16, 2018

My Week in Shoes

As I've mentioned previously, I am running the Rehoboth Beach marathon on December 8th. This means that I am not officially marathon training yet, rather I'm preparing to train for this marathon.  This means that I am building the strength and endurance to be able to handle 70+ mile weeks, with 3-4 quality workouts each week. That type of load is not sustainable for more than 6-8 weeks, so I
spend the weeks prior to that preparing my body for what's ahead.

I wore all of these shoes this week.
In this blog, I will recap my past week of training with a fun twist: I'll talk about the shoe I wore each day. Nike has discontinued the Lunarglide, my go-to long run and marathon shoe for the past 5 years, so I have had to make some adjustments. Additionally, I suspect that I no longer need stability shoes.

The Nikes are "light stability" and some of the shoes I wear for speed work are neutral, and I do just fine. I've looked at photos of myself running in neutral shoes and I see no pronation, so I am going to see if I truly need stability or not. There's nothing wrong with a stability shoe, but if I don't need the extra support, it makes the universe of wearable shoes much wider.

My main requirements for a shoe are:
  • Narrow fit without having to buy a narrow width (Mizuno and Nike are great for this)
  • Heel-to-toe ratio of at least 10mm due to my history with Achilles Tendonitis
  • Not heavy or bulky
I typically buy the previous year's shoe model because they are almost always on sale somewhere and it saves me a lot of money over time. The only time I buy the current model is if it's a newly released model, like the Nike Odyssey React or the Boston 7 with the beautiful design. I cannot wear any shoe made by Hoka, Altra or Saucony because all of their shoes have an 8mm drop or lower.

Monday: 10 miles (including speed) in the adidas Adizero Boston 7
The prescribed workout was 70-85 minutes with 50 minutes at steady state pace in the middle. My coach told me to shoot for 7:10-7:15 for the steady state portion, which is supposed to be faster than marathon pace, but slower than half marathon pace. Thankfully, this was the only cool morning we had all week, and it fell on the day I needed it most. I was questioning if I could hit the target pace in warm temps, but I was confident about my abilities in the cooler (63 degree) weather, even though it was humid and muggy. The 50 minutes at steady state averaged 7:11 for 7 miles with splits of: 7:22, 7:12, 7:10, 7:08, 7:07, 7:12, 7:03.  In total, the run was 10 miles long, average 7:40 pace.

I wore the adidas adizero Boston 7. The only reason I purchased this shoe is because it's so beautifully Boston. It's blue and yellow with a unicorn on the heel, and even the insides have the names of all the towns you run through. I bought three pairs of these shoes because I loved how "Boston" they were, and I figured when I was done running in them I would use them as walking shoes. Aside from the looks of the shoe, it performs well. It's designed to be a lightweight trainer for faster workouts than can stand up to longer distances. It worked well for me on Monday, but during the final cool-down mile, I noticed that my feet were starting to ache. Therefore, I probably would pick a different shoe with more cushion for a half marathon or full marathon race.

Note: the adidas has a stability version of the Boston, called the Tempo. I think I prefer the Tempo because it has a little more spring. I've worn them in two half marathons and my feet have felt great. I was disappointed, however, when they came out with the Tempo 9, which is noticeably heavier and bulkier than the Tempo 8. I haven't run in the 9 yet, but when trying it on, I didn't love it. Thankfully, I have two brand-new pairs of the 8 that I stocked up on. Here is another picture of the Boston 7 from the back:

Tuesday: 9 miles easy-ish in the Nike Odyssey React
During marathon training, my coach gives me a medium-long run on Tuesdays. Later in the cycle, he wants me to run this at a quicker pace (around 7:30-7:45). So he's starting to ramp up the distance already. I was prescribed 75 minutes easy, and I ran them easy-ish at an average pace of 8:20 for 9 miles total. I felt good and I figured I should start preparing for these Tuesday runs to get faster. Even though it was back up to 70 degrees and muggy, I felt energized.

9 miles in the Nike Odyssey React
The Nike Odyssey React is the supposed replacement for the Nike Lunarglide. I think they are entirely different shoes. The Odyssey React is much lighter and according to my kitchen scale, is the lightest shoe I own. Even lighter than the shoes I race 5Ks in (adidas Adizero Adios). I absolutely LOVE the ride of the Nike Odyssey React and how they feel. They are bouncy and soft and fun. I actually look forward to putting them on my feet. However, I'm not sure they are the workhorse of the long run. Even though my feet had enough cushion for 9 miles, I'm not sure how they'd feel at the end of a 20-miler. The Nike Lunarglide had more "stuff" between my foot and the ground. 

But. . . I am considering using them as my marathon race shoe since they are light and cushioned. My plan is to continue to use them on the Tuesday medium-long run, and then on some longer marathon-pace runs. If all goes well, then they will be my marathon race shoe. If not, then it's the Nike Lunarglide for Rehoboth and back to the drawing board for future marathons.

Wednesday: 6.8 miles in the Mizuno Wave Inspire 13
This was an easy day: 60 minutes at an average pace of 8:48. I kept it easy, given the two harder runs on Monday and Tuesday.

I've been wearing the Mizuno Wave Inspire for about 7 years. I've always liked the firm feel, but they have always hurt my feet after about 7 miles, so I have never worn them for long runs. Lately, they have been hurting my forefoot even more. My feet start to hurt about 45 minutes into the run pretty badly, and then continue to ache for the rest of the day. Not good. This has been going on for about three weeks, so I think I need to stop wearing the Inspire. Maybe I have a defective pair, but given the fact that they have never felt great on my feet past 7 miles and I don't think I need stability, I'm ready to part ways with them. They also keep changing the shoe each year. I think version 11 was my favorite because it was flexible and light, but the other versions haven't really impressed me.

I plan to replace the Inspire with the adidas Solar Glide. This is a neutral shoe with lots of cushion that I think could be a good candidate for both easy runs and long runs. It's a little heavier and wider than I would ideally like, but I'm going to give it a chance.

Thursday: 7 miles (including hills) in the Mizuno Wave Elixir
Hill workouts work wonders. I don't particularly enjoy them, but they have multiple benefits. First, they make your legs stronger and more able to handle a heavy training load. I don't do any strength training on my legs, so hills are particularly important. Running them hard for a short duration is also a great VO2 max workout. This workout was 10 x 1-minute hills with the jog back down recovery. My hill was about 30 feet over a distance of 0.15 mile. I performed this exact same workout last week and it didn't go that well. I was only prescribed 8 reps last week, and I was dead by the last one, having to go significantly slower. This week, my paces on average were 20 seconds per mile faster (6:30 vs. 6:50) and I was able to do 10 of them without feeling completely wiped out. On both occasions, the weather was hot and humid, although this week was 72 degrees and last week was 74. Both of which are unseasonably warm for an early September morning.

The Mizuno Wave Elixir is a lightweight stability shoe that was discontinued about 4 years ago. I was so in love with this shoe that I bought 8 pairs when I heard the news. I'm on my very last pair now. I still like them quite a bit, but I prefer the adidas Adizero Tempo 8.

Friday: 7.8 miles in the Nike Lunarglide 8
My coach bumped up my Friday run from 60 minutes to 70 minutes, and my legs were super tired from the hills the day before. I kept it super easy at 8:53 average. And of course, it was a steamy, muggy 72 degrees.

As I said above, the Mizuno Inspire begins to hurt my feet after 7 miles so I wore the Nike Lunarglide for this run. Now that the Lunarglide has been discontinued, I would ideally reserve this shoe for long runs only, and not "waste" the mileage on a shorter easy run. But it was my only option because the adidas Solar Glide shoes had not yet arrived, and I didn't want to wear a speed work shoe.

14.3 miles in the Nike Lunarglide
Saturday: 14.3 miles in the Nike Lunarglide 8
This week's long run was 2 hours. As usual, I started out really easy and gradually progressed to a moderate effort by the end. I ran the first hour at an average pace of 8:39, and the second hour at an average pace of 8:09. My overall average pace was 8:22. This run felt okay. Tolerable. Manageable, but not great. I wasn't hurting or counting down the minutes for the run to be over, but I also didn't feel peppy or energized. But, as my coach said, that's to be expected in this kind of weather. And, when I looked in my training log, I noticed that I had run over 58 miles in the previous 7 days, which is a big jump. Hopefully this is the last long run I will do in the 70's this season. At least it was overcast, and 8:22 was my long run pace in cool temperatures less than a year ago, so I've made progress.

I normally don't wear the same pair of shoes on back-to-back days, but as I said above, I didn't have much choice other than the Lunarglide for Friday. The shoe, which is nearing the end of its life, held up great. A light shoe that has plenty of cushion for the long haul and is super easy to run in. No extra bulk, and it fits like a glove. I will miss this shoe. The Nike Lunarglide replacement, the Odyssey React, also seems to be a great shoe, but I would put it in a different category. I don't think it has enough "stuff" to be my long run shoe.

Sunday: 4.4 miles in the Mizuno Wave Inspire 13
Easy recovery run at an average 8:56 pace. It was a chilling 67 degrees!

I wore the Inspire again, even though I dreaded it hurting my feet. After three miles, the ball of my right foot was aching and I later discovered a major callous forming there, which is good. My new adidas Solar Glide shoes should hopefully arrive early next week so that I won't need to wear the painful Mizunos again.

Final Shoe Thoughts
I'm excited to be transitioning to a neutral shoe, and I hope the adidas Solar Glide is everything I expect it to be. I'll review it once I've had it for a few weeks. I should have stopped wearing the Mizuno Wave Inspire a few years ago, but because I've been injury-free, I was hesitant to make a change. I'm sad to see the Lunarglide go, but happy to add the Odyssey React. I didn't wear the adidas Adios or the adidas Tempo this week, but those are nicely fitting lightweight shoes for speedwork and racing.

Final Training Thoughts
My total mileage this week was 59.5, which is quite the jump from the previous two weeks. I had been hovering in the low 50's. Everything has felt good, and I've been energized overall. I've been sleeping well and hydrating well, so that has definitely helped. I'm only three weeks out from the Army Ten Miler, and it's crazy that I really don't know what kind of shape I'm in-- on the off chance the race will actually be cool! I think sub-1:10:00 is not that aggressive of a goal, considering I have already run 1:09:45 in a half marathon. But it would be a nice official PR and milestone. If all the stars aligned, I think I would run somewhere around 1:09:00.

Training graph, August and September

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Great American Labor Day Tempo Run

Typically, Mondays are my tempo days. I've spent the past several Mondays running at "steady state" which is slightly slower than tempo pace as a way to ease myself back into it. So when there happened to be a local 5K on a Monday, I knew I wanted to use it as my tempo run.

I'm no stranger to this course. It's notorious for its punishing final hill, lack of shade, and always measuring slightly longer on the Garmin than a true 5K distance (3.17 every time!). But because I run this course so often, I don't compare it to other 5K courses, but only to itself. Just six weeks ago, I ran this course as an easy run, dubbed as "The Birthday Bash." And when I was coming back from mono in 2016, I ran it as "The Veteran's Day 5K." The Birthday Bash weather was what you might expect in early September-- mid 60's and low humidity. And, ironically, today's weather was what you might expect for mid-July: mid 70's, humid, and sunny.

When I asked my coach if I could run this race as a workout, he told me I could race it full out if I wanted. I told him it would depend on the forecast, because I have sworn off racing in the heat due to my immune system issues. And so when I learned it was going to be 75 degrees, sunny and humid, I definitely knew that doing it as a tempo run was the best decision.

I didn't taper for this run like I typically would for a 5K. I ran 11.4 miles on Saturday in the crazy heat, followed by 3.4 miles yesterday, also in the heat. Last week was a 53.5-mile week, which I was really happy with.

Before the Race
Greg's new camera in action during mile 1
Greg and I arrived at the race about an hour before it started. He recently purchased a new camera and he was going to use this race as practice for photographing me at the more important races-- like the Army Ten Miler and the Rehoboth Beach Marathon. His main intent with the camera, however, is to photograph our vacation in northern Europe next summer. He'll have a full year to experiment and I know he'll be an expert photographer by that point.

I retrieved my bib, pinned it on and began my warm up. It was HOT. There was no cloud cover and I was burning up just doing an easy warm up. I decided to run a little bit shorter than I typically would (1.7 miles) to preserve energy and try to stay cool. After warming up, I returned to my car where we had a cooler of ice. I put several cubes in my sports bra, held some against my wrists, and wiped my face with an ice cold towel. I also ran into my friend Hannah, who was volunteering.

My goal was to run based on effort, and ideally hit sub 22:00. During a steady state run two weeks ago, I had run 3.5 miles at a pace of 7:08, which equates to a 22:08. Surely I could run 3.1 miles at a pace of 7:00. However, that steady state run was in 60-degree, low-humidity conditions on a flattish route.

Mile 1: 6:56
The start of this race is a long and somewhat steep downhill. I never know how hard to take it. I obviously want to use it to my advantage but I don't want to blow up and not have anything for the hills at the end. I decided just to go by feel and run it at what felt like 10-mile race pace. I wasn't fast out of the gate and many runners passed me within the first quarter mile. But I gradually sped up and was able to pass many of these runners throughout mile one.

Mile 2: 7:03
Mile 2.5- going up the hill
The first half of this mile was directly into the sunlight. I had a good pair of sunglasses, but I longed for a visor to keep the sun off of my face. It was also uphill! So it was uphill, hot, and into direct sunlight. I was so relieved when we finally turned a corner and didn't have to face the sun anymore. After the turn, I was able to pass two women. My goal was to stay ahead of them and not let them pass me. I didn't see any other women within passing distance, which meant nobody else to chase down and pick off. I was happy to be on track for my sub 22:00, but I knew that the hardest mile was yet to come.

Mile 3: 7:18
The inevitable final hill showed up and my focus was simply getting up it at a consistent effort level. I didn't look at my watch because I knew I had slowed down. Did I mention how friggin' HOT it was? I knew that I was physically capable of giving more, but I wasn't motivated to make myself work harder, given I was already running at tempo effort. Trust me, it wasn't hard to convince myself to hold back! Finally I reached the top of the hill and I knew I was in good shape for a strong finish.

Last bit (0.17 according to Garmin): 6:26 pace
So yes, I had some gas in the tank. This was good! This meant I had worked hard but was still able to sprint it in. I really enjoyed this last bit because I wasn't dying like I typically am during a 5K, but I was still working really hard. This meant I could soak it all in and appreciate the experience of running to the finish.

Heading for the finish
My official time was 22:25, which was good for the age group win and 5th overall female. It wasn't the sub-22:00 that I hoped for, but it was definitely a strong effort and I know I reaped the benefits of the workout. Plus, I am racing-racing a 5K in three weeks so that will be a true test of the current state of my fitness. Let's just hope it finally cools down.

After the Race
I got my water, met up with Greg and took three vitamins. I've never done this after a race but now that I know that running in the heat is bad for my immune system, I'm going to take every possible precaution to stay healthy post race. I then cooled down for 1.3 miles. I would have liked to have logged more mileage today, but it was 78 degrees by the time I cooled down, and I decided to play it safe and be short a bit.

We stuck around for the awards ceremony, where I won a $20 gift certificate to the running store that put on the race (Potomac River Running). We then headed over to a small crepe cafe where we met up with Hannah. I had a smoked salmon cream cheese crepe, followed by a banana maple cinnamon one. They were such a treat!

Final Thoughts
We need more Monday holidays with races. It was so nice to have the day off work to run my tempo in a race setting. I have similar love for the Turkey Trot, although that's always an all-out race for me.

Today was great practice in pushing hard, but keeping things controlled. I had a blast and I didn't over-tax my body. It also made me hungry for an actual race-- when I've done the hard work of training and I'm able to really push to my limits. Unfortunately it's going to be unseasonably warm and humid all week long (72-73 degrees each morning). I just need to slog through it and hope for some small hint of fall to show up. At this point, 65 would feel like a dream!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Best Sports Bra for D-Cup Runners

I'm very passionate about the topic of sports bras. As a size 30-32D, it's difficult to find a supportive, comfortable sports bra.

When I was in high school, my dance team coach informed me that my bouncing boobs were a distraction for the entire performance. "Nobody is watching the dance because they are all looking at your chest bouncing around," she said. "You need to get a more supportive sports bra before our next performance." Needless to say, she wasn't the nicest or most sensitive coach in the world.

Thus began my life-long quest for the perfect sports bra. My mom and I found one that worked quite well in terms of support, although it wasn't all that comfortable. And it was over twice the price of the one I had been wearing. But if it meant that my breasts wouldn't be the focus of the next dance team performance, (at least in my coach's mind) it was a necessity.

I learned that most sports bras came in small, medium, and large sizes, which roughly equated to 32A, 34B, and 36C. There was little thought given to women who didn't fit these sizes.

What I Want in a Sports Bra
The perfect sports bra, which does not seem to exist, meets all of the following criteria:

  1. No underwire
  2. Slim profile without bulk
  3. No chafing when used with Body Glide or 2Toms
  4. Comfortable and supportive
  5. Flattering
Bonus points if the bra is stylish, comes in a variety of colors, and looks good under a tank top. I have yet to find a sports bra that meets ALL of these criteria. My favorite sports bras come close, but nothing is truly ideal.

American vs. European Sports Bras
In the United States, it's difficult to find a D-cup sports bra that meets the first three criteria. Most all sports bras that support a larger breast are bulky, have underwires, and/or chafe. I tried on multiple Lululemon bras but didn't buy any of them. The ones that were designed for a D cup, like the "Speed Up" bra were too bulky. And the other ones were not supportive enough. Brooks and Under Armour both offer multiple options for D cup sizes, but I've found them to chafe, even with massive amounts of Body Glide. Most sports bras you find in the US are XS, S, M, L, XL which, as I said above, correlate roughly to 32A-38DD. It's like they assume that as your breasts get bigger, so does your width around, which we all know is not true.

When I first started running, I realized that I had to choose between a bulky underwire D-cup bra or cramming my breasts into an XS standard sports bra for compression. The underwire options were so uncomfortable that I typically opted for bras that were way too small for my breasts, but supported me nonetheless.

Berlei Sport Fit Crop Top (discontinued)
Then, in 2008, my sports bra world changed. I ran the London marathon which meant visiting the London Marathon Expo. In Europe, they treat sports bras the same way Americans treat shoes. They acknowledge that you need to be professionally fitted and they research and develop supportive technologies. The London expo had multiple booths solely dedicated to sports bras. There, I learned that my compression technique was really unhealthy for breast health. I also learned that you don't want to stop the bounce completely, you simply want to support it. Your breasts need to have enough room to move around freely, but the bra should incorporate features to support that movement.

I left the expo with three different sports bras-- all of which were above my budget, but something I never regretted for a minute. They were the Thuasne Force 3 (pictured above), the Shock Absorber B4490, and the ZSport. For the next 3 years I continued to buy those bras online until they were finally discontinued. Somewhere around 2014, I realized that those bras were breaking down and I needed new ones. At this point, I discovered two new favorites: The Berlei Sport Fit Crop Top and the Athleta Hulabraloo. Berlei is a European brand, and I was surprised that Athleta was able to design a bra that worked so well for me. Note: Athleta is great for D-cup swimwear, too!

D-Cup Sports Bra Reviews
This summer, I am once again on the quest for the perfect sports bra. Here are my reviews of the bras I have tried so far. Note: I have not received anything for free or for discount in exchange for these reviews. As I mentioned above, I am passionate about this topic so I am writing about it.

The Athleta Hulabraloo
Rating 9/10
It looks like this bra is being discontinued, but there are still a few left online. This bra tops my list as the best sports bra I have ever owned. I have 8 of them. It's not perfect, but pretty darn close. There's no underwire and no bulk. It's very lightly padded just for additional coverage, which I don't mind. This bra has never chafed me, even on 20-mile sweaty long runs. It's very comfortable and supportive and the racerback style makes it look good under tanks.

The only thing keeping this bra from earning a 10 out of 10 is that it's not totally flattering. It's not un-flattering, but I think because it's so low cut and then has some extra material on the bottom, it makes my breasts look lower on my body than I would like. The bra does not have adjustable straps. If it did, I think I could raise the boobs up a bit and get the look I wanted.  Here are some photos of the Hulabraloo in Action, size 32D:

The Anita Active Maximum Support Wire Free Sports Bra (model 5527)
Rating: 7/10
I like this bra quite a bit. It has no underwire, it's very supportive and comfortable, and it has an extremely slim profile with no padding. This bra also comes in multiple color options. However, it might not look great under a tank top because it's a classic bra style and not a racerback. The straps are adjustable which means I can make the breasts look higher on my torso. This bra keeps the breasts separate from one another, whereas many sports bras push them together. This is a good feature!

The bra does not chafe when used with 2Toms Sport Shield, but with Body Glide it does chafe. Anita bras can be bought online at They are fairly pricey (about $70 each) but HerRoom often has sales on particular colors. If the material were smoother, I would have given this bra 8/10, but it's a little coarse. It does not look like this bra is being discontinued any time soon, so get it while you can!

I also bought the Anita Active Air Control Sports bra (model 5533) This bra is very similar to the one above, only it has some light padding. I like both bras about the same. Once I have run in them more I might have a different opinion, but for now, I can't tell much of a difference in comfort, fit or style. Here is a photo of the Active Air Control Sports bra (size 32D), which retails for $74:

I also have the Active Air Control Sports bra model 5544, which is almost identical to the one above, but the band is wider and the cups are slightly more molded. I don't have a preference among any of these three Anita bras. I like how these sports bras come in multiple colors and support without underwire or a ton of bulk. I'm often jealous of the women who can wear the cute and colorful sports bras while the ones I like are typically limited to just a few plain colors. I highly recommend Anita, just watch out for the chafing and use 2Toms instead of Body Glide.

Nike Impact Strappy
Rating: 6/10
Even though this bra is sold in sizes XS-XL, it looked like it might work for me, given the adjustable straps and the coverage. My favorite thing about this bra is its looks. It has a slim profile with just a little bit of padding. It's stylish and the adjustable straps are great for getting just the right fit. This looks like a traditional sports bra with a strappy back, not some over-engineered device for a busty woman. And it comes in 5 different colors.

The reason I am only rating it a 6 out of 10 is that it's only somewhat comfortable. It's supportive, but just the way it sits makes me notice the bra while I run. Ideally, you wouldn't notice a sports bra was even there while running. It also chafed me a little bit even though I was using 2Toms. I would recommend this bra for shorter, non-sweaty runs. This bra retails for $55. I'm wearing a size Small:

Shock Absorber Ultimate Fly Sports Bra
Rating: 9/10
I'm no stranger to the Shock Absorber brand. It's a European brand that I discovered at the London Marathon expo. For years, I wore their B4490 model because it was supportive and fit really well. However, it was a chafing nightmare. I used to always run with a heart rate monitor, which stood between the bra and my skin, and that actually prevented the chafing. But without the heart rate monitor, the B4490 was a no-go. They also have an Ultimate Run Bra, but I tried that on at an expo once and didn't like the way it fit.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the Ultimate Fly Sports Bra and decided to try it. I love it! It has a fun design with a bright back and a grey front. Some of the color can even be seen under the grey overlay in front. There's no padding and it has adjustable straps. It will look great under tank tops because of the thin straps and racerback style.

When I ran, I loved how light the bra felt. It was like I was running "free" without a huge device on me. The only thing stopping this bra from being the ideal 10/10 is the chafing. It did not chafe me on a 6-mile run with 2Toms Sports shield, but the material looks and feels like it would probably chafe with just Body Glide, or potentially on a longer run even with 2Toms. I'll need to try it on a longer run to confirm, and if it does chafe me with 2Toms, that would be a deal breaker. It's sleeker, more stylish and more flattering than the Athleta Hulabraloo, but if it ends up chafing me on long runs, that won't be good. Here's the 32D Ultimate Fly Sports Bra in action:

Under Armour Balance Eclipse High Bra
Rating: 5/10
I ordered this bra online and when it arrived, I was surprised at how bulky it was. It has molded cups which make the bra heavy with a lot of material. The material is smooth and the bra is supportive, however there was a little bit of chafing with Body Glide. I have not tried this bra with 2Toms yet. It's not uncomfortable, but it's also not comfortable. In the future, I will probably use it for easy runs only. The bra is available in cup sizes and has adjustable straps, so here is the 32D:

Here is a list of the bras that I tried on but did not purchase:

  • Zensah Gazelle Sports Bra: supposed to provide support for D cups via compression (which we know is not ideal). This bra didn't fit properly and my boobs were spilling out the sides.
  • Nike Alpha High Support Bra: This bra was very, very bulky. I ordered it online because it looked sleek but this was a huge contraption that I had no interest in running in.
  • Lululemon Speed Up Bra: This bra did not fit well at all; it was very awkward feeling.

In closing, if you wear a size 30D or 32D bra, I highly recommend the soon-to-be discontinued Athleta Hulabraloo, the Anita wireless bras, and the Shock Absorber Ultimate Fly Bra. In the meantime, I will continue to be on the quest for a bra that's as smooth and as non-chafing as my discontinued Berlei, as supportive as the Hulabraloo, in as many colors as the Anita bras, and as flattering and weightless as the Ultimate Fly Bra.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Leesburg 20K: The ups and the downs

This morning I ran the Leesburg 20K as a training run. I'm four weeks into my comeback after six weeks of being sidelined due to illness. Last weekend I ran 10.6 miles at a pace of 8:26, so I felt like I could definitely handle the 12.4-mile distance.

The plan was to run this race alongside my friend Allison. She wanted to run the first half (all uphill) at her goal marathon pace, and then speed up on the way back. It's nearly impossible to NOT speed up during the second half of this race unless you completely waste all your energy charging uphill. Her goal pace for the first half was between 8:15-8:30 which is well within my easy range. She wanted to practice setting the pace so the plan was to let her set the pace until the turnaround point at around mile 7 and then I would set the pace on the downhill.

I've only run this race once before, in 2008. (Yes, I have a blog post on that!) I ran a time of 1:44:26 at full effort, which was my PR, since it was actually the only 20K I have ever run. I was thinking it would be nice to beat that time and set a PR but that goal was secondary to sticking with the plan. This race also has a 5K, which I ran last last year.

Before the Race
Everything with my recovery had been going along really well until Thursday of this week. The combination of not sleeping well for several nights in a row, the heat/humidity, and my first speed work ended up setting me back a bit. I was able to hit my target pace during Thursday's workout (15 minutes at 7:07) but I felt like total crap for the rest of the day and into Friday. I ran extra easy on Friday and cut the run down from 60 minutes to 45. I took an unscheduled rest day on Saturday to be on the safe side. Thankfully, I was able to dig myself out of the hole by Saturday afternoon thanks to some solid sleep, hydration, and nutrition.

I woke up feeling like my normal healthy self so I decided I would do the race as planned. I figured I could always drop out if I started to feel bad mid-race. Greg was running it too, so we did our normal pre-race routine which included fueling with Generation UCAN.
Allison and me in matching shorts
(after the race)

We arrived at the race, retrieved our bibs, used the porta-potties, and then met up with Allison and some other friends. Allison and I had coordinated our outfits beforehand and wore matching yellow shorts. She is an ambassador for rabbit running gear, and has successfully roped me into enhancing my running wardrobe with more shorts and tanks than there are days in the week. Not to mention Greg, who was wearing a new rabbit tank and shorts. (Click on that link to get a 10% discount after you are done reading!)

It was about 68 degrees with 100% humidity and partly cloudy. Thankfully we didn't have to worry too much about the sun getting us with the majority of the course being shaded.

Miles 1-3
The race started and we got pulled out at a pace of around 7:30. I hadn't warmed up so this was a huge wakeup call to my legs. But it wasn't long before we got the pace under control and my legs thanked me.

This race is deceptively hilly. There are only a few noticeable hills but the entire course is run on steady inclines. The majority of the course is on the W&OD trail (a paved bike path), which is thankfully shaded but deceiving in its elevation profile. Thankfully, both Allison and I were prepared for this so we didn't freak out when the effort felt harder than it should for the paces we were running. Greg decided to stick with us initially so the three of us ran as a pack.

Mile 1: 8:27 (59 ft gain, 24 ft loss)
Mile 2: 8:24 (28 ft gain, 26 ft loss)
Mile 3: 8:36 (127 ft gain, 91 ft loss)

Elevation profile according to Garmin

Miles 4-6
Even though my easy pace is between 8:15-8:30, this is not my easy pace going uphill. Easy probably would have been more like 8:45 with my current fitness level. So the effort was more like "moderate" which I tolerated reasonably well. Had I been running this race on my own as a training run, I probably would have been more conservative up the hills, but Allison is really strong on hills so I kept up. Greg, on the other hand, decided to dial it back around mile 4 and told us he'd see us at the finish. This was a little bit of a relief for me because I knew if I wanted to dial it back, I would be able to run with Greg. But the plan was to stick with Allison and I was holding the pace well and didn't have any signs of fatigue.

Mile 4: 8:30 (192 ft gain, 105 ft loss)
Mile 5: 8:20 (94 ft gain, 24 ft loss)
Mile 6: 8:11 (138 ft gain, 148 ft loss)

Miles 7-9
We turned around on the trail shortly after we hit the 7-mile mark. This was an enormous mental relief. But it wasn't all downhill yet. There was still a sizable hill to tackle. Mile 7 provided some
downhill respite, which made mile 8 all the more punishing as we climbed back up.

As I said earlier, the race only has a few noticeable hills and this was one of them. To rub salt in the wound, this hill was not shaded and it was up a curve. At that point, I told Allison to run ahead and I might catch up with her on the downhill. I knew I needed to take it easy up that hill if I wanted to have any leg power to finish the race.

So now Allison was ahead of me and Greg behind me, and I was all alone to pace myself. On one hand, this meant less accountability, but on the other hand (the better hand) it meant less pressure to go fast in this race setting and potentially over-do it. The hill finally ended at mile 8.5 and I welcomed the rest of the downhill, shaded mile with open arms and was pleased to see my pace shoot down with no added effort.

Mile 7: 8:15 (37 ft. gain, 82 ft loss)
Mile 8: 8:21 (91 ft. gain, 30 ft loss)
Mile 9: 7:56 (124 ft. gain, 158 ft loss)

Miles 10-Finish
At this point, I was definitely ready for the race to be done. Even though I was running at a "moderate" effort, it was warm and a longer distance than I had run in three months. I gave myself permission to slow down and go easier, but I was in a groove that felt natural so I pressed on. Of course, my competitive mind was wondering what pace I needed to maintain to set a PR and beat my 1:44:26 from ten years ago. I didn't want to be foolish and relapse into illness just to set a PR in a race I wasn't even racing. But I also felt like it was attainable at my moderate effort.

Meanwhile, Allison was no longer in view. Initially, we were talking about speeding up to around 7:50 once the downhill part came. But she was obviously running much faster than that and I didn't attempt to reach her.

The last portion of the race was actually flat, which felt difficult after nearly four miles of downhill running. And the shade went away. But with less than a mile to go, I knew I could hang in there and continue at the same pace, even though it meant increasing effort.

I rallied and pushed myself up one final hill, confident that I would PR.

Mile 10: 7:50 (67 ft gain, 143 ft loss)
Mile 11: 7:51 (130 ft gain, 178 ft loss)
Mile 12: 7:49 (0 ft gain, 85 ft loss)
Last 0.5: 7:54 pace (18 ft gain, 12 ft loss)

After the race
I crossed the finish line in 1:42:42, which is a PR by nearly two minutes! The official pace was 8:16. Maybe this warrants PR cake, which I have not had since January.

I placed 43 out of 334 women
I placed 10 out of 61 in my age group (35-39)

I am happy with these results given all the time off and the effort level.  Immediately after crossing, someone approached me and told me that my book helped her qualify for Boston. I was more happy to hear that than I was to be finished with that race. I LOVE it when people tell me that my book has helped them. I would have liked to have had more of a conversation with her, but I was still recovering from that final uphill push and in need of water.

And then I saw Greg cross the finish line in 1:43:58. So he wasn't all that far behind. Allison, on the other hand, smoked it! She crushed her goal in 1:40:32, and that wasn't even all-out race effort for her.

It was an exciting finish line with so many of my friends finishing shortly before and after me. We spent some time chatting and exchanging race stories. The theme for me was "am I okay, given how crappy I felt on Thursday and Friday" and the answer was yes. I had some minor dizziness and a slight nauseous feeling, but those are normal for me when I run long in the heat.

I achieved all of my goals except for the goal of staying with Allison. And I'm happy to NOT have achieved that since it means that she exceeded what she thought she would do. I should also mention that exactly 4 weeks ago, I ran a 5K training run at a pace of 8:46. And now I can run 4 times that distance at a pace of 8:16 at the same effort level. Comebacks are awesome.

The morning went even better than I could have hoped. I feel great, I didn't over-do it, I got to run with Allison, I had fun, and I even PR'ed! This means that I can continue training (with some caution, of course) and pushing toward my fall race goals.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Comeback Continues

Today's post is brought to you by easy running! I'm at the point in my comeback where I'm itching for speed work and variety in my schedule but my coach is focused on building my mileage base back up before adding that stuff in. I agree that this is the best approach, and it's probably good that I
am craving speed and not getting burnt out (or sick again). Last week, my legs got tired on some of my runs but this week they felt much stronger. I actually had an easier time with the 90 minute long run yesterday than I did the first time I ran for 60 minutes. This is great progress!

Next week, my plan re-introduces speed work with some 30-second strides. I've been doing strides at the end of some of my runs, but only 4-6 of them for about 10-12 seconds each. Those have helped my legs "wake up" so they will be ready for fast running. The really hard workouts won't begin until September, which is great because running at max effort in the heat is what compromised my immune system. I realize it can still be warm in September but hopefully we get some relief.

Last week I ran 35.5 miles, and this week I ran 47.4 miles. That's a significant increase, but all of my runs this week have felt energized and strong. Thanks to my Boston training cycle, which wasn't that long ago, my body is used to daily running and high volume-- it's not like I am starting from scratch. Two years ago when I came down with a similar illness, I had to take 12 weeks off from running. This time, I was much smarter about not pushing it too soon, so I only had to take 6 weeks off. I'm optimistic that my fitness will come back quickly once I start training at full capacity.

Here is an overview of my running for the last month:

The runs prior to July 23rd included walk breaks, and if you're wondering, I generally define recovery as "slower than easy pace". That 5K training run I did on the 23rd basically told me I was out of the danger zone with the illness and I could begin to ramp up without fear of relapse.

That medium-long run from yesterday went really well. I started slowly (9:20 for the first mile) and eased my way into a rhythm. By the end of the run, I was at a sub-8:00 pace without even trying to be fast. Everything felt great and I had got into such a groove that the progression felt natural. I ended up running 10.6 miles (90 minutes) at a pace of 8:27. It was 73 degrees and very humid, which are challenging conditions for me so I was particularly pleased with how well my body handled it. My legs didn't tire either, which I think shows that the week day runs have helped build my endurance.

Next weekend I plan to run the Leesburg 20K as a training run with my friend Allison. Stay tuned for a post on that. My first "race effort" race will be a 5K on September 23rd, which I'm hoping isn't too warm. Now that I have identified running at max effort in the heat to be the culprit behind my immune system going crazy, I'm extra cautious about racing in the heat. My thinking is that the 5K will be a rust-buster to practice the mindset of competing/pushing to my limits and the Army Ten Miler two weeks later will be the target. My full schedule is posted here.

I'm more motivated than ever to get out there, follow my coach's plan and stay healthy. It won't be long before the fall racing season kicks off!

Week of August 6th

Monday, July 23, 2018

Birthday Bash 5K

I did it! I ran a 5K.

I registered for the Birthday Bash 5K several months ago before getting sick. I got sick on May 31st, didn't run at all for five weeks, and then slowly eased my way back into running through a gradual progression of run-walks.

This week, I was able to run/walk every day with progressively more running and less walking. I did this for about 30-35 minutes each day, and by the end of the week (yesterday) I felt confident in being able to run nonstop for a 5K, and not experience and adverse effects.

The tricky thing with recovering from this illness is that it's difficult to know how much is too much. Overdoing it will cause a setback until I am 100% recovered and out of the woods. I may feel completely fine while running, only to realize the next day that it was too much. That's why I have been very gradually testing the waters and it seems as if I have finally reached 100% recovery and I won't need to worry about setbacks anymore. That said, I'm not going to start running 40+ mile weeks yet; I will continue with my gradual approach.

Before the Race
Greg and me at the start line
Because I planned to run this as an easy run with Greg, I was "out of sorts" with my normal pre-run routine. I forgot my sunglasses and sunscreen, so we had to go back for them. We later realized that Greg forgot his wallet. Thankfully I had a credit card attached to the back of my phone. When we went to pick up our packets, we learned that Greg had never actually registered, so he had to do so on site.

Once we pinned on our bibs, we headed for the starting area where we met up with our friends Allison and Cheryl. It was an unseasonably cool morning at 64 degrees and lowish humidity. Typically this race is 75+ degrees and I wouldn't be surprised if this was the coolest Birthday Bash in the history of the race. I was bummed that I wouldn't be able to take advantage of the weather and race full-out, but I know I'll have plenty of cool races in the coming months. Plus, if it had been really warm, I would have worried about my body rebelling since heat running seems to be what weakened my immune system in the first place. We chatted for a bit and then the race started.

Mile 1
The plan was to simply run our easy pace and maintain it for the duration of the race. Greg and I didn't warm up so we used the first mile to establish a rhythm. The first mile is mostly downhill so I wasn't too surprised that our first mile clocked in at 8:42.

Mile 2
At this point, I observed that the effort level was still light, but any harder and I would have classified it as medium. Although we weren't gasping for air like those around us, we were definitely working and it felt good. Occasionally the sun would poke out from behind the clouds which made things harder, but then it wouldn't be long before the cloud cover returned. We held steady and logged our second mile in 8:41

Mile 3
The last mile of this race is almost entirely uphill. I expected that we would slow down here, but maintaining the pace didn't feel like a strain. We even passed a few people, which seemed to give me more adrenaline and energy. We were having a blast and I was so thankful to be out there and feeling good. We ran the third mile in 8:33.

The last bit
Since I was feeling good, I thought it would be fun to pick it up a bit for the last stretch. Cheryl and Allison cheered us in and I wore a huge smile on my face. According to our Garmins, we ran a pace of 7:52 for 0.17 miles. Pretty exciting! After writing this, I just realized that my Boston Marathon pace was faster. . . gulp! I'll get back there.

We both ran official times of 27:16. With this time, I placed 12th out of 42 in my age group and 53rd out of 300 women.

After the race
Cheryl and Allison (who both ran very speedy races) ran a few cool down miles while Greg and I changed into dry clothes in the car. The plan was to meet them at a nearby restaurant for brunch, but when we tried to leave, the car wouldn't start. We ended up getting a jump start from a friendly runner nearby, and then driving the car to a mechanic to get the battery replaced before having brunch. Finally the four of us enjoyed a celebratory meal at an outside table. I can't believe it was still cool enough to be eating outdoors!

I'm absolutely thrilled that I was able to participate in this race and feel good for the duration of it. Better yet, 24 hours later, I am still feeling good and without any lingering fatigue or dizziness, which were my most common symptoms. I'm taking this as a sign that I am fully recovered and that I don't have to be fearful of relapse. Phew!

In four weeks, Cheryl and Allison are running the Leesburg 5K/20K. I plan to participate in that event too, but not at race effort. I have given up all-out racing in the summer, but it's fun to be part of a running event with friends. My next race-effort race will be in late September.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Getting There: Recovery from post-viral syndrome

I haven't provided an update on my running (or lack thereof) in a few weeks, so here it is.

I came down with a virus on May 31st, so it's now been 6.5 weeks since the onset of this whole thing. A few days after getting sick, I realized that it could take me a long time to recover, because I had a similar illness in 2012 and 2016. Both occurred in the summertime. Both were the likely result of too much physical exertion in the heat. Being the planner that I am, I made a comeback strategy, which I outlined in a previous blog. Below is the same plan, with actual dates:
  • Return to about 90% of my healthy energy level: June 25
  • Ease my way back into work by going in for half-days: June 28
  • If I tolerate the half-days and feel 100%, start working full days: July 2nd
  • If I tolerate full days and feel 100%, wait a few days and then start taking walks around the neighborhood: I started walking sooner, on June 21st, because my doctor advised to. 
  • If I tolerate the walks around the neighborhood, wait a few days and then run: July 4th
All of this worked out fine, but I think I made a mistake by increasing my running volume by too much too soon. For my first run back, I ran 11 minutes non stop. Two days later, I ran 25 minutes nonstop. And the next day, I ran 27 minutes, plus a 2-mile walk. Apparently this was too much too soon, because by Sunday July 8th, I felt tired most of the day and didn't do any running or walking.

This frustrated me greatly because I had thought the illness was completely behind me. But then I chose to look on the positive side, remembering that my doctor quoted a 6-8 week recovery time, and I wasn't quite yet at 6 weeks. I also remembered that recovery is not linear, and just because I felt bad last Sunday, didn't mean I wasn't progressing overall.

On Monday, I did a short walk (1.5 miles) with two 3-minute jogs thrown in, and decided that run/walking would be a better way to get back into it instead of trying to run for 15-20 minutes at a time. I still didn't feel all that great, but I remembered how walking in the earlier stages of my illness made me feel better. I went to work, but came home feeling so exhausted that I got into bed at 7:00, immediately following dinner.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling totally wiped out, even though I had slept for 9 straight hours. I did not run or walk. I debated going to work. It was a difficult morning for me emotionally because it was a reminder that I was not done with this illness yet. But, after taking a shower and getting dressed for work, I felt better. And by noon, I was feeling almost back to normal. What a relief!

Saturday, July 14th: Run/Walk
Because of this setback, I decided that I needed to stop running and return to walking only. I did that and felt energized for the next few days, so on Friday, I did 4 x (4 minutes walk, 4 minutes jog). I took the jogs very easy, all at a 10:00 pace or slower. By contrast, when I had tried to run initially the week prior, I was running in the low 9's, and not taking walk breaks. This 32-minute "workout" left me feeling good, so I repeated it yesterday, and again today. There's no need to increase the distance/time every day. It's better to find something that works, stick with it for a short while, and then make a very small increase. It's all about finding the right balance between giving the body enough stimulation to continue to recover, but not so much that it causes a strain.

If I continue to feel good, I plan to run-walk for another week, with slight increases in the run time. I'm registered for a 5K one week from now, and it would be nice to jog the whole thing without taking walk breaks, but I am not going to do that if it's too hot or I don't feel ready. At the very least, I would like to run/walk it with Greg. Hopefully one week from now I will be blogging about how well the 5K went and how great it felt, regardless of the run/walk proportions!

Even though I've felt like my normal, healthy self for the past five days, I don't think I'm out of the danger zone. There's a small part of me that worries I will never be out of the danger zone and that running for an extended period of time will always cause extreme fatigue. My running career could be over. I don't believe this will happen, and I don't worry about it happening, but I realize it's a possibility, called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The difference between Chronic Fatigue and Post-viral Fatigue, is that Post-viral fatigue goes away.

In any event, I'm still very grateful that I'm healthy enough to go to the work and do the "everyday" things that I couldn't do during the first four weeks of illness. I have my life back now, all except for the running piece of it. 

Weekly mileage: Week of July 9th

Sunday, July 8, 2018

From great to good: How I changed my life for the better

About six years ago, while discussing my running goals, I was asked why these goals were so important to me. Couldn't I simply be happy by being "a good person doing good things," he asked.

This question saddened me greatly at the time. It was as if I was being asked to settle.  I interpreted "a good person doing good things" as being ordinary and mediocre. Anyone can be a good person doing good things, but few people could qualify for Boston or win awards for their running accomplishments. I loved running so much because I believed it made me special. I wanted to be a someone who did great things, not just good things.

What I heard was "you shouldn't be so focused on this running stuff; give it up and just live a plain old normal life." It was like he was telling me I shouldn't try to be so special. I should just focus on being like everyone else. It was a hard pill to swallow.

This was six years ago and during those six years, I have thought extensively about this topic. I've opened my eyes to the world around me and I've had encounters with people who did not do good things. Who, based on the way they treated me and others around me, I believed to be morally corrupt. The more I observed the actions and motives of these people, the more I realized that being a good person, doing good things is the essential foundation for my self-worth. Not my accomplishments, running or otherwise. I work hard and I'm nice to people. I'm passionate about what I do. I try to bring positivity to challenging situations. I could win a dozen races, and it would be meaningless without this core foundation.

Accomplishments are easy to hang your hat on. They are tangible, measurable, and shareable. But they are meaningless if you don't value yourself for the way in which you live your life. Because I was never really taught what true self esteem was, it was easy to point to my accomplishments and feel proud. I think I've always been a good person doing good things, but I vastly undervalued it. I didn't realize that I should be loving myself for it, instead of focusing so much on what I could achieve. I'm probably a late bloomer in all of this, as I didn't come to this realization until my mid 30s. But once I did, it was life changing.

Now, as I go about my days, I am much more aware of how I'm approaching situations and not simply the end goal. I prioritize acting with dignity and I admire others who do the same.

I'm currently coming off of a five-week break from running. Many people have said to me, "it must be killing you to not run!" But truthfully, it didn't kill me. It was (and still is) hard, but I didn't focus on it all that much because I knew I would recover and eventually I'd be out there running every day again.

In closing, what this person was asking me to do was anything but ordinary and mediocre. He was asking me to start thinking about my values and who I was as a person. Was I a good person? Did I treat others with respect? Was I honest, caring, and genuine? I've come to realize that I pride myself most on my authenticity.

Great things aren't great if they aren't fundamentally good. If we all focused more on being good rather than great, the world would surely be a better place.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Future Race Planning

When you are sick or injured, do you start planning your comeback races, or do you refrain from any planning until you are able to resume training?

I'm now on day 26 of this mono-like illness and things are finally looking up. The official diagnosis is idiosyncratic post-viral syndrome, which is a fancy way to say that I caught a virus, and it's taking the immune system a while to calm down to normal levels. The result is that I am excessively tired, weak, and dizzy. I have a history of this illness, and it always occurs in the summer months when I am training and racing hard.

Because I've dealt with similar illnesses in the past, lasting up to three months, I knew that running too soon would cause regression and delay full recovery. So for the first three weeks, I was averaging only 500-1000 steps a day. After three weeks, my doctor advised that I begin to take 15-30 minute walks, and I've now been doing that successfully for six days. I now feel about 90% "normal" and so I plan to return to work full time next week (provided I don't regress). I don't have a specific return-to-running date in mind, but I think I should be able to resume easy running by mid July.

Going back to my original question, and the topic of this post, there is a spectrum of mindsets that runners have when it comes to planning during forced time off. I'm at one end of the spectrum and my husband Greg is at the other! I actually think that both of our mindsets are healthy; they are just different and highlight different personality types.

Mindset 1: Plan as much as possible; it gives you something to look forward to.

Mindset 2: Don't plan anything until you are healthy and able to to train.

You can probably guess that I fall into mindset 1. I already have the next 12 months of races figured out. I definitely need races and vacations on my schedule to give me something to look forward to. Even though I am not guaranteed to resume running by mid-July, I think it's highly likely, and I had already registered for 2 major fall races before getting sick. I'm keeping those races on the schedule, but I also wanted to plan even further ahead to a time when I am much more confident I will be able to race at full effort.

Another reason why I planned out the next 12 months is because I need a long-term solution to not getting these summer viruses. I think the only solution is to not train hard or even race in the summer. That will be tough for me, but I think that going forward I will only run 1 race each summer, and that will be a 5K and by no means a "goal" race or PR attempt. Just something to keep me in the practice of racing and avoiding going stale.

I had actually planned to avoid summer training this year by registering for a December marathon,
but I need to also stop training for 5Ks in the summer. I'll talk more about my solution after addressing the second mindset.

Greg has mindset #2 and doesn't like to think about future races when he is injured. He's been dealing with pain between his achilles tendon and his ankle. As a result, he's only been able to run a few miles here and there for the past month. He's been focused on trying to address his foot issue and is not thinking about when his next marathon will be. He's registered for Wineglass at the end of September but that's starting to look less and less realistic.

Greg and me at the start of a race
Since he'll be going with me to all of my planned races, chances are that he will be running them too. I like it when I'm running the half and he's running the full and vice versa. That way the half marathoner gets to cheer for the full marathoner and take care of them afterwards. If we both run the full, then we are both destroyed afterwards.

I've learned that it's always best to take one day at a time and enjoy the process. So from that perspective, it seems like Greg's mindset would lead to more peace and happiness. However, my mindset and planning is working for me because it reminds me of past comebacks that I've made and keeps me positive. I'm not really enjoying this whole sick thing, so I need things that will help my positivity. "This too shall pass" is the mantra I am using, and for it to work, I need to envision my future healthy self.

It's also interesting to note that Greg and I run for different reasons. He runs as a way to stay active and healthy, while not having to worry about how much he eats. He enjoys races and is happy to get PRs, but those are secondary to simply reaping the physical benefits. On the other hand, I run because I enjoy the act of running. Unless it's horrible weather, I always look forward to my runs in the morning. Equally as important, I like to challenge myself and see how fast I can be.

What did I decide on? Here's my plan and the rationale.

Sept. 23rd: 5K
As much as I would love to run a race sooner, I'm not going to race in the heat and risk getting sick again. It could be warm for this 5K, but chances are that it will be less humid with temperatures in the low 60's. I'm not going to train specifically for this race, but I should be in decent shape because training for my full and half marathons will have already started-- provided I can start running again by mid-July!

Oct. 7th: Army Ten Miler
This race was already on the schedule before I got sick. I'll have to see where my fitness is when I race this, but I think that sub-1:10 is very doable, and possibly sub-1:09. I'll be celebrating the fact that I am healthy enough to run it, whereas in 2016 I couldn't run it since my mono lasted so long.

Richmond Half Marathon 2015
Nov. 10th: The Richmond Half Marathon
My last race before I enter the Master's division. I turn 40 the next day. This was always part of the plan, but I didn't pull the trigger on registration until two weeks ago when I needed a pick-me-up.

Nov. 22nd: Turkey Trot 5K
I have a feeling this is the sub-20!!! My first race as a Masters runner!

Dec. 8th: Rehoboth Beach Marathon
I chose this one because it's almost guaranteed to not be hot. It could be windy and/or rainy, but I'll take that over heat. Also, I wanted to make sure that the hardest training runs 2-8 weeks out had cool weather. My leading theory on why I crashed so hard in Indianapolis is that I did all my training in abnormally humid/warm weather and it had a cumulative effect of wearing me down. I didn't feel energized at all on race day. I think I am capable of running a 3:15 marathon or faster, and I will use this race to find out if that's true!

March 2nd: Myrtle Beach Half Marathon
I'll probably run a 5K on New Year's eve to keep up tradition, and then Myrtle Beach will be my next big race. If all goes according to plan, I'll be shooting for a sub 1:30, which would be a huge milestone. I ran the full marathon here in 2017 and I liked it so much that I want to go back for the half.

April 7th: Cherry Blossom 10-Miler
This is my favorite 10-miler and it's part of the reason I'm not running Boston. I like the idea of doing Boston every two years so that I have the opportunity to experience other races.

At this point, I am thinking I will run a May marathon way up north (and DNS if it's above 65) and then be done with racing for the summer. I might not even train that hard for it but use it as a way to force myself into easy running for the two weeks afterward and lessen the desire to race in June. Because. . . I'm not racing in June! I'll take it easy the rest of the summer including a 12-day vacation in Europe. Hopefully, this will all keep me healthy and minimize hard running in the heat.

So, that's my schedule. I realize that there are many things that could happen to prevent me from running any or all of these races, but I'm choosing to stay positive. I'm raring to go!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Seriously Sick Again

If you've been reading my blog over the years, you know that I have a tendency to get mono or a "mono-like" virus that lasts up to three months.

I officially got mono when I was in college, so I think that all the subsequent illnesses have been re-activated mono or a mono-like virus. The problem is-- my immune system has issues. When most people get a viral infection they are able to kick it in about a week. That's not the case with me. According to the doctors, my immune system goes into high gear when I get a virus and then doesn't calm down for a long time.

Previous episodes with long-lasting post viral fatigue:
I thought that maybe presidential elections or summer olympics had something to do with this but now that it's 2018, that theory is shot! And it would have been nice if this was on a four-year schedule so I could plan accordingly.

All joking aside, it seems like this immune system issue is triggered by running hard in the heat. My doctor told me last week that after you run a race, there is a short period of time in which your immune system is really weak, and if you happen to catch a virus during that time, you won't be able to fight it off. For me, I don't seem to have this issue in cooler temperatures. I was handling 75+ mile weeks last March and felt great. I ran the Boston Marathon in that crazy hypothermic weather and didn't get sick. I've always known that the heat impacts my running performance to a greater extent than most people, but now I also see that it really takes a toll on my immune system. Summer arrived about a month early this year, so instead of getting sick in late June, I got sick on June 1. I'm now on day 12.

This sucks. I mean, this REALLY sucks! Not only does it set me back in terms of my running but I also can't go to work, I feel like complete crap, and I don't have a life aside from sitting at home and resting. 

So what, exactly, am I sick with? The best way to describe it is an over-reaction of the immune system triggered by a viral infection. I had a sore throat for the first three days and now my symptoms are:
  • Dizziness when standing up from a seated position
  • Weakness in the legs and an inability to walk at a normal pace
  • General fatigue, and low energy levels, requiring about 1-2 hours of extra sleep per night
  • Varying degrees of body aches
Progress with this illness is not linear. Some days, I feel almost normal as long as I stay seated. Other days (like yesterday) all I can do is lay in bed and even moving the slightest bit feels like a huge effort. Because I've had this illness in the past I know not to get too discouraged when I have one of the really horrible days. I basically just see it as a message that I need to continue to take it easy. 

Taking it easy means doing no physical activity other than moving around the house as needed. Since getting sick 12 days ago, I've been pretty much homebound. I went to the doctor's office twice and Greg took me to the new Wegman's that opened a mile from our house. I sat in the cafe and ate lunch while he shopped for groceries. Other than that, I haven't gone anywhere.

The second time I went to the doctor was to get blood drawn for tests. They needed 5 vials, and I passed out after just 2. It was a bad scene and I couldn't move or talk properly for a good five minutes after I passed out. To make matters worse, 2 vials wasn't enough blood, so that whole ordeal was for nothing.

I haven't been to work since getting sick, and thankfully the people there have been understanding and supportive. I'm doing some work from home, but I'll probably end up on short term disability. I can tolerate a loss of income but I cannot tolerate the stress of feeling like I have to go back before I'm ready.

As far as my mindset, I'm taking it one day at a time. Yesterday was simply miserable because I felt so weak. I wear a FitBit and I logged a whopping total of 550 steps-- the minimum to go from the bed to the bathroom a few times! The last few times I've had this illness I tried to return to work and running too soon. And I think that's why it lasted 3 months. My plan now is as follows:
  • Return to about 90% of my healthy energy level
  • Ease my way back into work by going in for half-days
  • If I tolerate the half-days and feel 100%, start working full days
  • If I tolerate full days and feel 100%, wait a few days and then start taking walks around the neighborhood
  • If I tolerate the walks around the neighborhood, wait a few days and then run.
I have no idea what the timeline would be, but BEST case scenario, I am running by July 1st. Worst case, end of July.  I've pretty much accepted this. I'm good at accepting it because I've been through it so many times before. I know that I am capable of coming back even stronger and faster than before. And I'm still targeting a 3:15 marathon in December as well as a half marathon PR in November.

Every runner has their strengths and weaknesses. I've always known that the heat was my biggest weakness and now I realize how true that is. Comebacks are exciting. But they aren't exciting until you can actually start coming back. I will need to channel all the patience I have and trust that it will be worth the wait.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Competitor In Me

Lately I've been thinking about how I don't run to compete against others. I want to see progress in my own journey, I want to get faster and stronger, and if I happen to place well, that's just icing on the cake. I like passing people in races, but I'm typically more focused on my own race and pacing strategy. I won a 5K last February and I was disappointed because I didn't perform as well as I had hoped. The win was a nice consolation prize, but it hadn't been my main goal.

But today I realized that I am more competitive than I thought. I ran the Ringing In Hope 5K in Ashburn, VA. This was my second 5K of the season, with the first having been two weekends ago. Since I ran the Semper Fi 5K in 20:40, I've run 4 hard track workouts and a long run of 14.4 miles. I knew going into today's race that I was more "used to" running fast than I had been two weeks ago.

Before the Race
Greg and I arrived at the race about 50 minutes before it started, got our bibs and I drank my Generation UCAN. It was about 64 degrees and drizzling and I hoped that the light rain would stick around during the race. When it's that humid, I'd rather have the rain cooling me down. As we started our warm up, the rain tapered off and we realized it would be really humid for the race. I can't complain about the weather though. On Saturday and Sunday it was into the 70's by 8:00am, so overcast and 64 was relatively good considering the trend we've been on.

After our 2-mile warm up, we approached the start line and waited for the race to kick off. After the 5-minute early start at the Semper Fi 5K, I wanted to be sure I was at the start line in plenty of time. There were about 10 kids lined up at the very front. I would guess they were around 7-8 years old. By contrast, there weren't many adults lined up at the start and that's when I started sizing up the competition. I didn't see any women at the very front, but there were several a few rows back from me. I lined up behind the children, as there wasn't much choice.

Mile 1
The race started on time, and as soon as it did, one of the kids fell flat on his face as the other kids were trampling on him. I barely missed tripping over him and it wasn't pretty. I know that when you are a kid it's exciting to be at the front and all, but it's dangerous and it would probably be good for kids to learn pacing and patience. I was beaten by one boy in the 11 and under age group, but the rest of them fell behind pretty quickly.

I had never run this course before, even though I had run the race before. They've had this race at a number of different locations and since they moved it to this course I hadn't run it. I knew to expect gently rolling hills throughout and I was relieved that none of the hills were too steep. In cooler temps, this could be a fast course.

There were two women ahead of me, one of whom was wearing a long-sleeved sweat shirt. I don't like to judge a book by its cover but something told me she wouldn't be ahead of me for too long. When I got to the first mile marker, both women were still ahead of me, and I clocked in at 6:33.

Mile 2
Because I wasn't too familiar with the course profile, I didn't have an exact pacing strategy. That meant I wasn't looking at my Garmin often, and I was running more based on feel. The first mile felt comfortable and I knew I had set myself up for a strong finish by not going out too hard.

I passed the woman in the sweatshirt shortly after the first mile marker, and then I crept up on the other woman and passed her right around the halfway point. When I did, I felt like she sped up too and was going to put up a fight, but eventually I didn't hear her anymore. Meanwhile, I was still ahead of Greg. I had gone out faster than him and he hadn't passed me. I saw him at the turnaround and he looked to be about 20 seconds behind me. That's when I had just passed the other woman and had taken the lead, so he could see I was winning at that point.

My split for mile 2 was 6:36.

Mile 3
As I said earlier, I wasn't paying much attention to my Garmin. I was in the lead and all I could think about was how awesome it would be to win. I've run this race multiple times in the past and I never dreamed I could actually win it.

I was still feeling strong and confident as the mile progressed. But somewhere around 2.6 I could hear someone close behind me and it sounded like a woman. I did a quick glance back and sure enough there was a woman right on my tail. It wasn't either of the two women I had passed earlier; this woman had started out slower than me and had been gradually gaining on me throughout the race. And that was scary. I increased my effort slightly and I continued to hear her.

My desire to win became so strong that I found a new gear I didn't realize I had. At around 2.8 I started to surge until I could no longer hear her behind me. Right around the mile 3 marker I heard someone yell that she was really close behind me and that motivated me to run even harder. My mile 3 split was 6:33, and I didn't even look at my watch or notice the time.

The Finish
I heard someone say on a walkie talkie "First female coming through" and I knew they meant me. I was NOT going to lose it now. I turned a corner and saw a guy finish, and then they put up tape for me. I ran toward it like my life depending on it, and broke the take in complete ecstasy and agonizing pain. I did it. I won!

Turns out I ran the last 0.15 miles at an average pace of 5:35. That was fast enough to bring my overall Garmin pace down to 6:32, which is faster than any of my three mile splits!

I felt like I was about to pass out for the first minute so I didn't see Greg finish. It actually took me a good five minutes to be able to speak. It's never taken me so long to recover from a 5K. I felt like death for the next 15 minutes. And even though I was chatting away with the second place female, I felt like I could pass out at any moment. Finally I sat down on a bench and fully recovered.

The results were announced and I ran an official time of 20:30. But the results that were posted online after the race had me at 20:32. Not a big deal, I just don't understand why there would be a discrepancy. My Garmin had 20:32, but I stopped it a little late given that I was busy breaking tape when I crossed! :-) I found out that the second place female was only four seconds behind me. What a close race! I am so happy I didn't ease up the effort. When I won the 5K in February I was a good bit ahead of #2, so it didn't feel like as much of a competition.

I walked away with gift cards to three different restaurants, as well as a gift card to Wegman's. And they are opening a Wegman's a mile away from me next weekend, so that was appropriate.

I definitely would not have run this race as fast if I didn't have competition. I think I would have been more focused on my Garmin and I wouldn't have had the motivation to push as hard during the last
half mile.

In terms of progress, I ran this race 10 seconds faster than I ran Semper Fi two weeks ago, and this course was hillier. I also executed it better in that I had even splits instead of slowing down at the end. I think I am starting to adjust to the humidity and my workouts have helped me transition from marathon fitness to 5K fitness.

And of course, I realized that I can be competitive when it comes to winning. I didn't think I would be so motivated when I felt another runner on my heels, but it did motivate me.

This was a fun race and I enjoyed the course and the atmosphere. I will likely do it again next year! Hopefully I will get the breaking tape photo soon so I can add it to the blog.