Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I finally feel like a real runner!

"We don't know who we are until we see what we can do"
**Martha Grimes**

Wow! What a great time! When I signed up for the Shamrock half marathon I didn't realize just how big it would be. There were over 6,200 finishers in the half alone and over 20,000 registered for the full and half combined.

We managed to get down to the area plenty early and found a great parking spot so we were in our coral about 30 minutes early despite running the kids through the restrooms and sending them off with Mr. Dave to watch movies in the van. The first 4 miles were great. We picked a nice cruising speed and ran past the first water stop and a few porta-potties. After about an hour of running we decided to stop at the next potty stop, but the line was really long and not moving at all. We continued on for another half mile and decided to sneak off into the woods rather than stand in line later. I think there were more people running in and out of the woods than there were in the lines!

The temps were good. It was pretty frosty at the start, so I had on my usual "around freezing" layers, which served me well for the entire run, even though it got up to nearly 50 by the end. I drenched in sweat, but never felt over heated and the frequent water and Gatorade stops kept us well hydrated (it will be a while before I can stomach lime Gatorade again). I really felt good the whole way, but running with Amy probably kept me from seriously overdoing it. We took a lot of walking breaks and near the end we were down to "walk to the next street sign, run to the next two." I kept grunting encouraging words, but it was getting harder and harder to get her to keep up with me. When we were about to turn the last corner I pointed out the camera man and told her we had to be running when we passed him! We passed the camera man and the finish line was in sight. Somewhere in the crowd we passed our kids, but we didn't see them. Holding our hands high over our heads we passed under the big balloon arch and over the finish line and heard the announcer call our names over the loud speaker, SO COOL!!!! The volunteers at the end were so great. By then they had been handing out medals, wraps, hats and goody bags for close to 2 hours, yet they all smiled and congratulated us like we were in the first group to pass through.

I'm more amazed now than ever at the people that can give a detailed description of each mile of a race, or even comment every few miles. The whole thing was kind of a big blur. There was the nice part through the woods, the part alone the beach, and the part down the main street that veered onto the boardwalk to the finish line. In the trees I felt great. Along the beach I was slowing but still feeling really prepared. By the street I was numb and focused on keeping my buddy going. Crossing the finish line I cried. I suppose if I had run alone I would have spent more time thinking about each mile and what I thought about it, but it wouldn't have been as fun.

As a runner with RA I felt like it gave me both a distinct advantage and disadvantage. The advantage was that I can totally tune out discomfort for a couple of hours and push myself to limits I would have never though possible. This is also the disadvantage. As I sit here feeling every inch of my body seethe at me for punishing it, I think I may have pushed too hard. I know if I had run alone I would have pushed harder and be worse off now and that scares me a little. I'm not sure I know when to slow down or quit.

Now I'm even more excited about the Outer Banks HM in November! I know I can do better and the 7+ months that I have to train will go fast. I want to run a race every month that my husband is deployed to Afghanistan, mostly 5K and 10K races, but I know I will need the distraction and shorter term goals to keep me from dwelling on his home coming date.

I finally really feel like a true runner!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Looking at the silver lining

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. **Rachel Carson**

The world is a wonderful and beautiful place, full of secrets, treasure, and simplicity that takes your breath away. For the past couple of weeks we have been on vacation enjoying the sights and sounds of new places and familiar ones.
As this blog focuses on running and the incursions RA makes into my running career, I'll try to stay on topic and not wander to far afield. My running was fairly limited while on vacation, but I did my best to maintain my training and not loose too much ground. To begin with, we made sure the hotel we stayed in our first night on the road had a fitness room and I hit the treadmill early so I could run for an hour before spending another day sitting on my duff in the car. It wasn't one of my better runs. I thought, since I was on a treadmill, that I could maintain a faster pace, so I ended up starting out way too fast and had to do some walking, but I did finally settle into a good pace to finish my hour. The second annoying thing to deal with was the dreaded mirrors and windows. I've found that I REALLY do not like to see myself run. I'm very critical of my body and to see everything bouncing and blobbing along elicits a nauseating sense of self-loathing that is definitely not good for my mental running groove. Worse yet was the fact that the fitness room was right inside the front door so that every person that walked in our out of the hotel at least glanced through the window to see what was happening. It isn't like I'm used to running in solitude with no one in site, but usually the only people I see are driving or on their own run and do not seem to giving the same level of scrutiny. I've known several people that only ran in the dark when they first started so that no one would see them and if I had been working out alone, I would have turned off the lights in the room and tried to become invisible.
My second run for the trip was out in the country at my in-law's house. This was by far the best run for many reasons. First, Hubby ran with me. I'm not sure if it was because we were on our 20th anniversary trip, he didn't want me running alone, or he wanted to get out of the house, but whatever the reason, it was a real treat having him along. Of course, after saying, "You set the pace, Honey," he proceeded to leave me in his dust. Hubby doesn't run, but he spends a lot of time on cardio and weight lifting so he is in much better shape in general and can pull it out for running when necessary, (like for a military fitness test.) The weather was wonderful, the birds were out, and the snakes were asleep, you can't ask for more in North Florida! Despite the ginormous black vulture that started circling us and then lit on a tree near the end of our run, we felt good and enjoyed our time together. I ran much faster than I would have alone, but was glad I pushed it, knowing I probably wasn't going to get in another run soon.
Our resort was on the northern, hilly, rocky, side of Jamaica so I got a lot of exercise just walking back and forth to our room, not to mention climbing waterfalls, riding bikes, and river tubing. With all the excitement there wasn't much time for exercise, but the morning we left I did drag myself out of bed at 5 am so I could run before spending the day on busses, planes, and in cars. I would have loved to run up and down the hills in the resort, but it was dark, raining, and the roads were littered with leaves and debris from a late night storm. I jogged down to the fitness center, found the light switch in the dark, and hopped on a treadmill. Hubby was nursing a hangover from trying to enjoy too much free rum the last evening so I ran in solitude. The up side was the only people who saw me were the early employees that occasionally walked passed the door and peeked through the window to see who the lunatic in the fitness center was. The down side was a 360 degree view of me after 6 days of gluttony, NOT PRETTY!
That was my last run for the trip as the rest of the time was spent racing from one place to another in an effort to get home and back to life. Vacations are typically hard on my RA. The lack of sleep, constantly being on the go, new food, and lack of routine tends to aggravate my RA and make me stiff and sore. Even though I didn't get in much structured exercise, I believe the runs I did helped tremendously and, although I was definitely feeling the effects of RA by the end of the trip, I believe it was less severe than in the past and I have gotten over it more quickly.
Upon returning home, I was anxious to check in with my running buddy to see if I still had one. Amy is back in the game, over her strep throat and bronchitis, and had done some running while I was away so we met for a 5 mile run on Wednesday. I was really hoping to run 10 that day, but she wasn't available until 4 pm so I went ahead and ran 5 in the morning, and then another with Amy in the late afternoon. This was the first time I've ever run a double! I was a little worried about how I would feel, but it went well. We did end up walking a lot of the last mile because Amy was having some knee trouble (she forgot her good running shoes and only had her back up pair on hand), but it was a good run and I didn't feel as drained for the second 5 as I thought I would. The next day I felt tired, but good so I feel good about my decision to run the double.
So now I'm tapering for the HM on the 22nd, which is not easy when I'm frantic to loose the 5 pounds I gained in Jamaica and not totally let my Biggest Loser team down! To really frost the cake I have also come down with another infection. It is a common side effect of the main RA drug I take, but I am now set up with a means to test myself at home and have 5 refills for antibiotics to take when the tests are positive. At least I won't have to run to the doctor every other month for a while and I caught the infection with enough time to get well before the race on Sunday.

Next blog? Half Marathon race report.....