Monday, September 29, 2008

Sick September

I'm about to throw myself a huge pity party, so get out now if you don't want to read something negative and downbeat.

I've essentially been sick all month long with some random chest virus that I got around the time of the VA Beach half marathon. Apparently, a virus can stay in your system for up to three months, and attack at anytime. So just when I thought I was getting better, I hit a relapse the weekend of the 13th. I rebounded within a few days, was able to run a 19-miler which felt decent, and a relatively fast set of intervals a few days later. And then, another relapse starting on the 26th. I had to leave work, despite having no sick time remaining, and I spent the rest of the day in bed. Saturday, Sunday and Monday have been rest days, too tired to even leave the house. Forget about running!

When you live alone, being sick means you don't interact with anyone. Thankfully, my mother came a few times, but aside from that, I've just spent way too much time alone. Which then of course leads to me "thinking" about the situation, and then my life in general, and a complete downward spiral.

I started thinking about how I'll be 30 in less than two months and I'm just not happy with how I spent my 20's. I know that you're not "supposed to" have regrets. I don't know what I would have done differently, but I just feel like my life has been going in circles and circles for the past 10 years. I'm learning a lot, and I'm growing and changing. But yet my actual lifestyle is the exact same. I want some sort of change-- I want to move. But I don't know where, when and how. I don't feel like I am maximizing my potential, and that I am far too "comfortable" in my lifestyle. Being comfortable makes it very difficult for you to want to make any dramatic changes to your life.

I run because it keeps me motivated and it gives me something to look forward to. I feel like I am working toward something every day! There are always new frontiers to reach. New races to experience, new PRs to set. When I can't do that, my whole world feels so pointless. Until I can figure out what major life change I need to make, I have running to keep me going. To keep me moving forward, when everything else in my life just goes in circles and circles.

My one goal for the year (to qualify for Boston) is now down the tubes, and the marathon itself doesn't even look possible at this point. This was the one thing that motivated me every single day-- since the day I registerd for the race back in February. Even when I was running marathons in the Spring I knew that those weren't really the "A" races. And then, just six weeks away when everything was going perfectly, I get hit with a chest virus that has now lasted a full month. Is this supposed to be the grande finale of an entire year's worth of work?

I just wish I had some answers here because I am extremely confused.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Post-Viral Fatigue

I went to the doctor today for the third time since I got sick. Only this time, I saw my regular sports medicine doctor, who I trust a lot more than the on-call doctor I had seen the past two times.

I got a chest x-ray and he listened to my heart and lungs. Everything was normal, thankfully. The bad news is that he didn't think I would be fully recovered in time for my marathon on October 11.

He said that I had post-viral fatigue when can last for 8-12 weeks! This would explain my slightly elevated heart rate during runs, and my overall sense of tiredness that I feel throughout the day. He told me that I could probably run the marathon, but I need to not have a goal time. I also have to be prepared to walk off the course if I feel fatigued (beyond "normal" marathon fatigue). In the meantime, I should train "as tolerated".

At this point, I still plan on running Hartford. The only way I wouldn't run it would be if the majority of the runs in the two weeks leading up to the race felt crappy. Which is a real possibility. I won't have a time goal, and it will simply be another marathon to cross off my list. I know it could be worse, and I need to be thankful that my heart is healthy.

But this entire year has been a struggle for me running-wise. I love this sport so much and yet I can't seem to catch a break. Once my injuries finally went away, then I got this stupid virus. I certainly regret doing the VA Beach half marathon. The doctor said that the heat exhaustion put extra stress on my body, and is the likely culprit of the extended recovery time.

I've heard a lot of horror stories from runners this summer about their races in the heat/humidity, so I think I seriously need to consider running a race in those conditions, and I hope my readers will do the same.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


The goal I set for myself nearly a year ago of qualifying for the Boston Marathon this fall is officially washed out. I had to shave 11 minutes off of my personal best from March, and since I was injured throughout April and May, it was contingent upon me following my training plan to the letter. I've now missed over a week due to a viral infection that I caught during the VA Beach half marathon, and the runs I was able to do last week weren't all that great. Missing all this time might have been acceptable back in June or July, but not at this critical time. With just six weeks to go, training is critical, and even my book says to revise my goal if I miss 10 days or more. Which I have.

I knew I should have stopped running at mile 6 of the half marathon. Something felt really "off" and yet I kept going. Mainly because I knew I had to get back to the finish line, and I only had 7 more miles to go. But it really did me in, and I haven't felt the same ever since the race.

After a major setback into the illness on Sunday, and a failure to complete even half of my long run, I decided to stop running until I can get a proper diagnosis from the doctor. My heart rate was 10-12 BPM too fast and I was completely fatigued by the end of it. I spent the rest of the day in bed. At this point, I will be thankful to simply complete the marathon. I've been to the doctor twice and yet I'm still having pressure/tightness in my chest. Specifically, on the left side around the area of my heart. At first, the doctor suspected it was a virus of the heart, but she ruled it out through my EKG, which was normal. It's not overtraining, because that wouldn't involve chest pressure-- and people who "overtrain" typically lose their motivation and desire to run. (And I haven't!) I won't speculate anymore in this blog as to what I have, because I don't want to un-necessarily frighten my blog readers. Hopefully I will have some answers on Wednesday when I go to see my sports medicine doctor.

My mother and many others have reminded me that my overall health is much more important than running. Somehow, this concept isn't so easy for me to grasp. Really, the main reason I want to be well is to be able to run. I'm more passionate about running than anything else in my life. I don't have a husband or a family like most people my age, so this is what I have devoted my heart to. It's probably hard for non-athletes to understand this passion, but for me, it's been the organizing principle of my life for a long time.

My personality suits me perfectly for running. I'm extremely motivated, goal-oriented, passionate, perfectionistic, with a strong belief in the "effort-result" system. I have a need for structure and control in my life, and running every day provides me with that. Even when I wasn't running because of my knee injury, I still was able to exercise, and now I am not.

I've had a lot of disappointments in life because I believe that I should be acknowledged for my hard work and dedication. I can name quite a few examples of it now, but I won't go into it. I thought that with running, I would be exempt from that. Since the judge is 100% objective (the clock) and I'm only competing against myself, really, then dedicated marathon training should yield results. So far, it always has. And it's provided me with a huge sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

But now, I feel like all I really got out of it was this illness that could potentially prevent me from running this marathon, or worse, marathons in the future.

No wonder my heart aches.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sick, Sick, Sick

I have been sick ever since the half marathon on Sunday.

I felt like I was possibly coming down with something the day before the race, with a slight sore throat and feeling more tired than normal, but I just took some Airborne (immunity booster) and ignored it. I expected to feel badly the next day (which I did), but then on Tuesday, I was completely fatigued and so lethargic that I could barely move around my house. I figured it was the after effects of dehydration, but now I think it was probably a combination of dehydration along with a really nasty bug.

I never did understand the difference between a cold and the flu, but whatever this is, it has knocked me out pretty badly. I am on day 5 of no running, and I am hoping to salvage a long run on Sunday. That's probably wishful thinking, though, given how I feel at the moment.

We only get five days of sick leave a year at my job, which I think is far too few. I think that if you are sick and you have a full-time, salaried position, you should be able to take off work. You are getting paid a yearly salary to do a job-- not hourly wages! Anyway, I used two of my sick days in June just as the training program was starting. And then I used the last three Tuesday-Thursday. So, I am here in the office today, feeling very sick and tired. My main symptoms are body aches (upper back and chest), major pressure behind my ears, and extreme fatigue. The sore throat has diminished to some extent.

I don't think I will be very productive at work today, but at least I'm following the rules.

I am worried that this will affect my marathon in October. I have less than six weeks to go. On one hand, I did complete the program flawlessly up until now, hitting all of the proper paces, getting all the miles in, etc. However, endurance is my strong point anyway, and what I really need to work on is speed, which is what this last phase focuses on. This week called for intervals of 1000m, a medium-long run of 12 miles, and a marathon-pace run of 14 miles. I think I will just take my long run easy on Sunday (if I am well enough to actually get out there). And then do this week's schedule next week. Comparing this week and next week, it seems that this week is more intense and would yield better training benefit than next week. This means I will have to drop out of my 5K next week, though.

But all I can do is my best!

Monday, September 1, 2008

93% Humidity + 78 Degress = BAD RACE!

The title of this blog pretty much sums up my experience at the VA Beach Rock 'N Roll half marathon yesterday. I've now run this race three times (2005, 2006, 2008) and each time, I have not managed to finish under 2:00. Yet nearly all of my other half marathons have been well under 2:00.

I have a love-hate relationship with this race for sure! I love the hype, the beach, the flatness, the expo, and the relative proximity to my house. I hate the weather!!!

The D-Tag
I am very skeptical about how reliable this Chrono Track system is. At the 20K a few weeks ago, there was a large group of finishers whose results didn't appear until four days after the race. At the expo, they had a test station set up to test the D-Tag, and lo and behold-- it wasn't working! "You'll be fine tomorrow," they assured the runners. "We just can't get the test system working."

I also don't like how this tag doesn't really work with elastic YANKZ laces. The way the laces are shaped, you can't really put the tag underneath them without the laces falling incorrectly. So, I used the cable tie that was meant for the gear check bag to affix my tag to my laces. I later learned that my splits were recorded incorrectly (I certainly did not run the first 5K at a 7:50 pace), and that my finish time is also off (I was actually 8 seconds faster, according to my watch). I don't care enough to have them correct it, though.

Before the Race
In 2006, the pre-race drama of getting to the satellite parking lot was really what killed my spirit and motivation. But this year, I was able to park just a few blocks from the start line at my friend's beach condo. I got there nice and early and walked to the start line. I was hoping to meet up with a few Big Cats and other friends. Luckily, Dave (ADRNLEN) found me.

I've only raced without a tank top once before, but I frequently train in just the sports bra. I figured I needed all the help I could get with the heat/humidity combo. I said goodbye to Dave and then made my way to the corral. I definitely liked the "wave" system. In past races, there have been corrals, but it seemed like everyone started at the same time. This year, there was a minute and a half between when the corrals were released. As a result, I felt like there was no crowding on the course.

Miles 1-4
I started off at what felt like an appropriate, sustainable pace. There was a slight downhill here, so that contributed to me going out a little faster than planned. I was hoping to go out at an 8:15, but logged the first mile in 8:04. It felt good, though, and I figured I should try and maintain it before it became too hot and humid. I carried my own water bottle with me (a small one) so that I could skip the first three water stations.

Mile 1- 8:04
Mile 2- 8:14
Mile 3- 8:23
Mile 4- 8:25

Miles 5-9
During mile 3, I had poured water all over myself and some of it got into my shoe. In past marathons, I've had this same water-in-the shoe feeling, but it always dried out after awhile. This time, it wasn't. My left foot started to feel really wierd and numb-like, and I came to a point where I felt like I had to stop and take the shoe off. I did, and I shook the water out of the shoe and shook my sock as well.

Afterwards, that same sensation came back and about half a mile later, I was forced to stop again. When I stopped for the second time, I realized how completely tired and winded I was. And I couldn't get going at the same pace again. My upper back was hurting, I felt a bit crampy in my stomach and I was extremely fatigued. I walked a little bit, and then started running, but I felt horrible.

Starting at mile 7 I was thinking that I wouldn't be able to finish the race. I wanted to get off the course and sit down. I was wondering if it was the 55-mile week I had just come off of, or perhaps running 11 miles the Tuesday before the race. But really, it was just the humidity zapping me. I was drinking plenty of water, and I had pre-hydrated for two days with Electrolyte-enhanced Smart water. I also ate two packs of sports beans during the race, which contain electrolytes. And yet, something still felt wrong.

Mile 5- 8:43
Mile 6- 9:28
Mile 7- 10:34
Mile 8- 10:22
Mile 9- 9:35

Miles 10- 13.1 
I kept looking around me to see if the people running near me were in my same corral. There was a huge mix. I saw some people from corral 2. Some from corral 10. I saw the 1:52 pacers (I know-- an
odd finish time to have a pace group) and I knew there was no way they were going to finish in 1:52. All I wanted to do was get to the finish line.

I was incredibly thirsty, too, and was drinking multiple cups of water at each station. I felt sooo sluggish and awful. I was soaked in sweat and the water I kept pouring on myself. I was seriously predicting a finish time of 2:15, but luckily I was able to hold it together somewhat.

Mile 10- 10:25
Mile 11- 10:25 1
Mile 12- 10:02
Mile 13- 9:52
Last 0.1- 9:58 pace.

The Finish
It was kind of pathetic that the last 0.1 was a 9:58 pace and it felt like a sprint. But that's what it was! I was so happy to be done with the race. I felt awful afterwards, and it took me about 15 minutes to feel "right" again. I got to a point where I had to sit down and was seeing black spots. But that didn't last for long. I kept hearing runners say that they had never felt so awful after a race before. At least this validated that it wasn't just me who was having problems.

I made my way back to my friend's condo where I took an ice bath. I didn't understand how my legs could be so achy with that pace. I do training runs faster than that and my legs feel 100% afterwards, and the next day.

Finish time according to my watch: 2:03:36 (9:25 pace)
Finish time according to the D-Tag: 2:03:42
Average finish time: 2:31
Average finish time for women: 2:39
10K split according to my watch: 53:06
10K split according to the D-Tag: 51:59

I placed 3410 of 16016 overall finishers (top 21%)
I placed 1157 of 9224 women (top 12%)
I placed 279 of 1902 women in my age group (top 14%)

I'm pretty satisfied with how I placed. And I know I put out all the effort I could muster. Whereas in 2006, I just gave up mentally. I'm still going for a BQ in October.