Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Seoul Open Marathon

Seoul Open Marathon (the Half)

       I really tried to behave myself on St. Patrick’s Day knowing I would out the door before dawn to head to my race start. I had one beer, which was good, and two helpings of corned beef, which was very, very bad. I woke up race morning having had no sleep and an uncomfortably full tummy that felt like a large, food filled balloon. UGH!

Me and Christina,

       The good news is I was driving in with my friends Jay and Christina so we left really early and got to the race start with enough time to sit in the car for an hour between running to the bathroom 5 times. Thankfully, by the time the race started I was feeling a bit better and my stomach had settled.

       It was cool, just above 40, but brightening quickly as the morning fog burned off. I decided to hand my jacket and wind pants to Jay right as the gun went off and to wear a small back pack to put my Merrell’s in once it warmed up a touch more. I should have just left my shoes with him too because after a mile I was ready to ditch them. Into the back pack they went and which instantly improved my mood.

       For the first 3 miles I really piddled around. I stopped to take my shoes off, I ran for a while with some ladies from my running club that were doing their first Half, and I walked while I got out my MP3 player and untangled the cord. I was using pretty much any excuse I could find to not run. Finally I decided to catch the 2:20 pacer that I had been player leap-frog with, and get down to business. By this time he had gotten pretty far ahead of me and I could barely see his yellow balloon bobbing in the distance.

       Slowly and steadily I closed the gap. I felt better once I passed him and started enjoying a more suitable pace. At one point I spotted mud on the side of the path and decided to indulge in a little play. I avoided the water, but let the cool mud squish between my toes and cake the tops with goo. It made me feel like a rebellious kid and I picked up the pace again.

       I was not watching my Garmin at all. I had the screen set up to only show me my heart rate so I wouldn’t go too nuts, but I had no idea what my time or distance was. There were kilometer markers, but I usually forget what they say 10 seconds after passing them, so I had no idea how far I was from the turn around when a large hill came into view. UGH! It was a steep slope that seemed never ending. It would climb and then level off teasingly before beginning to climb again and again. I was sure the turnaround would be at the top because this hill was going on for miles! As I ground my way up the hill, determined NOT to walk an inch of it, the 2:20 pacer started creeping up on me again. ACK! In my head I screamed “NO YOU DON’T” and forced my feet to pick up the pace. I never saw him again.

        Of course, the climb was only about ¾ of a mile, but we had to go down the other side before the turnaround, which also meant doing it all over again on the way back. Just past the turnaround, there was a water stop. I had been sipping at my small hand bottle because I was too full to gulp water, but too dehydrated to run without. When I stopped to let the volunteers refill my bottle here, they quickly shooed me on my way. I guess dawdling at the water stop isn’t the Korean way, LOL. Back up the hill we went, grinding away at the incline before coasting down the other side.

       At this point I finally broke through the last of my mental blocks. Having lost the 2:20 pacer, I knew I wasn’t going to be too disappointed with my time and I settled into a nice cruising pace that was hard, but not painful. I let my mind drift, sometimes listening to a podcast, other times just zoning out completely (some areas we were so near traffic I couldn’t hear what was in my headphones.)
       Finally I was down to the last few miles. I was getting tired, but not so tired that I didn’t think I could hold my pace to the end. I started focusing on picking off runners one at a time. Towards the end of races, the other runners have already seen me at least in passing from the turn around, so I stop getting the gasps and comments about my bare feet. This was a quiet march, each at his or her own pace, grimly determined to get to the finish line. The last mile brought us into the full force of a bitter wind off the Han River. I actually had to lean forward to keep from being blown back and it was the only point I wished I had kept more layers with me.

        The finish line was a sharp right turn and then about 10 ft to the timing mats. I had kind of forgotten I was barefoot until the exclamations of the finish line crew went up. “Ahhh, Barefoot!!” with lots of pointing and cameras going off. I hammed it up a bit and saw someone with a news camera and reporter running over to video my feet so I did the obligatory dance to show the tops and bottoms. At that point I realized I had big chunks of dried mud still on my toes and moved to use my heel to scrap it off. A very helpful man, in true Korean fashion, came to my “rescue” by pouring ice cold water on my feet, AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! My feet immediately began spasming and cramping as if I had stepped onto a cake of ice. It hurt so badly, but there was nothing I could do except say thank you and head off to get my swag.

       Fortunately, they had hot food for us; a bowl of soft tofu with sauce. Umm, okay. I’m one of those people that leave a race course ready to eat an elephant and new food doesn’t really deter me so after a brief moment of tentativeness, I took my paper bowl of tofu and headed to the sauce table. One tiny taste assured me it wasn’t going to blow the top of my head off with peppers so I added a bit more and dug in. It was amazingly satisfying! Carbs, protein, salt, nice onion and sesame flavor, YUMMY! I wolfed it down like I hadn’t eaten in a week.
Tasted way better than it looked

       After collecting my stuff and finishing my tofu, I headed across the street to the Olympic Stadium to watch the Seoul International Marathon. It was great fun seeing people finish and made me sorely wish I had gone for the full. Later, after showers and probably some naps, the club got together for dinner and had a great time. It was a long and tiring day, but I had a blast!

Finish time: 2:06:56

Lessons learned:

Lesson 1, do not protein load the night before a race!

Lesson 2, I am capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for.

Lesson 3, my brain slows me down more than my body.

Lesson 4, I am totally capable of running UP hills!

Lesson 5, trail running does not prepare you for a road race, I need more road miles if I’m going to survive China.

Lesson 6, I need to practice hills in bare feet, as attested to by one small blister on my big toe

Lesson 7, bashed knees can come back to haunt you at mile 12, give them more rest time!

Next up, Hwasong Filial Piety Half Marathon April 22nd

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bashed Knee? No Thank You!

A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop. **Robert Hughes**

       I am definitely a rusty monkey wrench today! It has been one of those weeks were everything hits at once making me fell like the world is out to get in my way.

       Whatever sinus thing has been going on for 2 months is now being treated with big time antibiotics which kill my stomach, my RA has decided to flare up and took one shoulder out of commission for a while, I have had to give up coffee because suddenly it is making my heart race and pound very uncomfortably, and to top it all off, I tripped and fell on my long run and knocked my knee just enough to cause it to stiffen up and hurt. UGH!

       Of all those things, the only one really scaring me is the knee. I didn’t really hit it that hard since I was on soft ground and rolled with the fall fairly well. At the time, it smarted a bit, as did my palms, but once I got up and shook it off all seemed well. I finished my run, and only in the last couple of miles did it start twinging. At that point it didn’t feel any better to walk so I just plodded along, taking care to keep my form very strict, and got home. After stretching and showering I sat down at the computer for a few minutes and then stood up, OUCH! It hadn’t taken long for the knee to stiffen up badly! Walking was painful and going down stairs was worse. Applying ice directly to a joint is excruciatingly painful for me so I settled for rest.

       By Saturday morning it was feeling better, but still tender, so I did not run with my group and instead stayed behind updating computer records. Today it is about 90% better, just an occasional twinge, but no serious pain and not much worse than the rest of my joints which are all complaining about the RA activity. If all goes well, I will head to the gym tomorrow to get on the treadmill so I can stop the minute I feel a twinge. If I have to take the week off from running, it is a good week to miss since it is already a fall back week. I do have a half marathon a week from today, but I don’t need to push it and I think my knee will be fine by then if I behave myself this week. Unlike repetitive use injuries, a mildly banged knee heals quickly with proper care.

       Bottom line here, I’m not looking for sympathy, but to show once again that it is totally normal to have interruptions and hiccups during the training cycle. I’m sure there are people out there that have perfect training records, and probably many more that have the potential for carefree training, but never get off the couch, I’m simply not one of those people. We have to work with what we have and if what I have is an accident prone, 40+ year old body with RA and bad sinuses, then that is what I have to work with. Frankly, I think it is even more important for me to stay strong and maintain every ounce I can muster because the more we have on our plate, the more strength we need to hold it up.

       Oh yes, and the shoulder that was about 90% impaired Saturday morning was down to only about 10% impaired by the end of the run. I know there are plenty of RA sufferers who don’t understand how I can run when I’m in pain from RA, but a run always makes the RA back off. I may still be tired, but my joints are less stiff and sore and I’d rather be tired from a run than RA!

       PS, had a great Interview with Chris from http://www.runrunlive.com/ it is a great website and podcast so please check it out and I will post the link when my interview airs!

Friday, March 2, 2012

7th Week of Training for The Great Wall of China Done!!!

     Aye Carumba! What a run! I took off for my long run with the thermometer reading 37F and a light rain falling, not exactly inspirational weather. My friend and I ran/walked the first 3.5 miles slowly and then she turned back for home while I headed on up the mountain alone. TOTALLY alone, I didn't see another person for hours! Fortunately, the rain stayed a drizzle so it wasn't too muddy or slippery, which was good since some of the hills were so steep I had to go up sideways.

     Incidentally, going up and down hills sideways seems to be an excellent way to strengthen the sides of the hips because mine are complaining loudly today, LOL.

      I also did a food experiment. I had made oatmeal raisin cookies for hubby's work and saved back a few. About an hour into the run I was getting really hungry so I had one cookie and quickly decided the second one didn't need to hang around in my pocket and inhaled that one too, LOL. They really stuck with me and didn't upset my stomach, but I have a sneaking suspicion that too much blood and energy was drawn to my stomach for digestion. I did do a caffeinated gel about an hour later and ate a piece of cheese with about an hour left to go. It all just seemed a bit heavy and unnecessary, although in some ways better because it wasn't as sickening sweet as the gels can be. I wish I could find a happy medium! (Please post suggestions in the comments if you have any!)

   Unfortunately, I had a rough week and was wiped out tired before I even left the house, plus my quads were really sore from doing squats with a 24# kettle ball in CrossFit, so it was a tough run. Most went well, but the last 2 miles home really stunk and it was hard to convince myself to run much of it. I also paused my Garmin when I stopped to pull up the map and forgot to restart it so I'm not exactly sure how far I ran, but my best estimate from looking at the map and my splits is 15.7 miles in 4:31. When I came through the front door I gingerly lowered myself to the floor to do some stretches and relax my back. When the stench of rain soaked, sweaty runner hit my daughter it sent her fleeing! Hehehehehehehe.

     This was my first run with my new 70 oz. Camelbak. It was very comfortable, didn't bounce around, and gave me the extra water I needed for the longer haul. I was getting low by the time I got to the hikers rest area on the way back, but never ran out and it was easy to refill and get back on the trail. I wasn’t sure I would like all that on my back, but I think it was actually easier than having it on my waist. I do wish there was one more pocket, but I’m sure I can work something out for more carrying space when it is too warm for my jacket and I lose those pockets. (Camelbak makes them with more pockets, but our selection on base is limited and I didn’t want to wait on a mail order.)

      I’m feeling good about my 4+ hour runs and will do one more of at least 15 miles next week. The following week will be a Half marathon as a fall back week (Hahahahahaha) and a time trial for the marathon. I don’t plan to push hard, I just want to see what I have gained or lost in the way of strength, speed, and endurance. I won’t do CrossFit the week before the Half, preferring not to go into the race with sore, quivering muscles. After that I’ll keep up with CrossFit twice a week for another 3 weeks and then concentrate on running for the 6 weeks before the marathon. The general consensus when adding strength training to marathon training to to stop 6 weeks out.

      If I didn't say it enough in my last post, I LOVE MY MERRELL TRAIL GLOVES!!! I'm looking forward to the weather warming up enough to wear them without socks and see how that goes. My plan is to have the option of running barefoot on the roads and through the villages in China if the surface is good and the sun hasn't baked the asphalt too much. A couple of years ago I was contacted about visiting China to do barefoot running clinics. The point was to show rural Chinese children that they don't need special shoes to run, just a will to do it. Of course, I didn't have the time or finances to pop over to China on my own dollar, but I have heard lots of kids come out to jog with the runners and I think they would get a kick out of someone being barefoot. So, I want to be able to pop my shoes on and off as needed without having to mess with socks as I'm sure I will need them on the Wall itself. (I will need to find a way to carry them easily, once again, open to suggestions :-)

    I feel beat up from the week's mileage, but my RA is behaving. I still feel like I have a head cold, but the Koreans have started burning the rice fields for spring planting so it is probably just the pollution in the air. At least on the trails I’m not sucking on exhaust fumes!!!