Saturday, December 29, 2012

From my First Marathon to my Second...

     It's almost time for my second marathon, a little less that a year after my first. And what a year it's been! I have learned so much from my training for my first marathon that I applied to training for this one. I still made mistakes though...
     When you ask me about my first marathon, my first thoughts are not positive. It was a total disaster in my book. I had certain expectations from my training and those did not even remotely happen. When I look back at my training and my approach to race day, I see the mistakes. I slacked off in cross training about three months before the marathon. My running during the week also reduced. I trained with the local Galloway group so a month before we ran a 26 mile run. I didn't have any trouble with that run. I was able to run my 3/1 run/walk intervals the entire time. Yes, I was sore after but who wouldn't be?? I knew I could tackle the distance.
A few pages from my training journal before my first marathon - NOT good...
     Race day came and it was COLD - like below freezing cold! I planned to run with a 5 hour pace group. I started with them and it felt too fast. But I kept going. I didn't listen to my body. I was too worried about keeping up with the group. I was too worried about running with my friends instead of running alone. I'd never run a race with a pace group or with anyone! I had always just run my own race. By mile 13ish, I was done. I dropped back from my group. I was tired and I was hurting. Eventually I could no longer run at all and so I walked. For miles and miles I walked. I hated it! I was so upset with myself, but my legs would NOT let me run! As I came down the bridge - yes, we had a bridge the last 2 miles - and neared the finish line, I was somehow able to run the last 800 yards or so. I was so happy to be finished but so miserable with my performance.
Finally Finished!
     After the marathon I sank into a post-marathon depression for about a month. I didn't want to run or workout or do anything. I was sick for weeks after. I was a classic case right out of a Runner's World article. I finally started getting back into it by April - the marathon was in February! Jeff Galloway told us that no matter how you feel, register for your next marathon. As I looked forward, I knew I wanted my next marathon to be at Disney. As miserable as my first marathon was, I knew I wanted to try again. I have so many bucket list marathons that I would like to try. I just have to get used to them and, most important of all, train properly and listen to my body!
Walt Disney World Marathon Medal 2013
     So I am now 15 days from my second marathon - at Disney! It is the 20th anniversary of their marathon. The medal is beautiful! I am beyond excited! This will be my first DAY race at Disney! All of my other races, Wine & Dine Half, Everest & Tower of Terror 10miler, have been night races! I can't wait to see what it is like during the day. We will also get to run thru Magic Kingdom - and I think the castle - which I have never done before! I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about it! I'm gonna be a mess when it actually happens!!!
A page from my training journal this year, even injured, I'm working hard!
     So how have I adjusted my training? Well, I kept up with my running during the week and continued to train with my Galloway group. I have continued my cross training and have even ramped it up as we get closer. The clincher? I'm injured - sort of, I think... I did a dumb thing. I let my ego get in the way of my smarts. I decided to run A WHOLE LOT in November. Like 100 miles. I had only 68 in October. Yep, DUMB! So after I PRed my last half marathon on December 2nd, I became unable to run. I tried but my shin hurt so bad I had to stop. I went to the doctor fearing the worst - a stress fracture - but he said it was just a shin splint and to rest for 3 weeks. I've been resting. It doesn't hurt at all anymore - it hasn't for about 2 weeks! But I will not test it until my 3 weeks is up - and even then, I think I'll start with an anti-gravity treadmill run.
     So how am I going to run a marathon in 15 days? Well, you see, I have this great group of friends that have been so supportive and have carried me thru this recovery that I know they will also carry me through this marathon. Just hopefully not literally! ;-) I feel so blessed to be able to run with so many wonderful people down at Disney! We have such a great group! Everyone is positive & uplifting and so fun to be around! We've got amazing plans already lined up and we are planning our pace and our intervals. Our goal is to have fun and enjoy the race. Not sure why you would run Disney just to run it and not play & enjoy it but some people do!
      I have been working really hard to keep my fitness up so I am ready! Sure, I got sad and bummed when I first got injured but then I went into FIGHT mode! I'm going to beat this and come back better & stronger! I've been swimming, biking and using the elliptical. I'm still doing "long" somethings on the weekends. Whether it be a long swim or a long, multiple machine cardio workout. I'm going to do this. I'm going to get that medal but most of all, I am going to have the funnest run of my life! 26.2 miles of smiles, giggles, pictures, silliness and an EPIC conga line across the finish! #CorralG you know who you are! I love you guys and I cannot wait to run with you in 15 days!
Not everyone will be there with me but many will be from this picture! <3

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Travel, Run, Eat Christmas

     It's the day after Christmas 2012 and I'm feeling a bit reflective. Could be the rain outside my window. Or it could be me delaying the cleaning up from the festivities of last night! I'm thinking it's just the calming of the rain and the fact that I now have nothing to be ready for in the immediate future. Back to just enjoying my holiday break. And it has been a wonderful one!
     My family Christmases have always been small as far as people go. It's always just been my parents, my grandparents and me. Over the last couple of years we have expanded to include my cousin and his family and I like this so much! I see all the pictures of BIG family Christmases and I wonder what that feels like! It looks like so much fun! So to get even a small taste of that these last two years has been awesome! Catching up with my cousins and seeing their children is great.
Celebrating with my cousin and his family
     This year, my cousin Laura announced she is pregnant with her second child! So exciting! We are like two kids when we get together. We instantly go to each other and then we don't leave each others sides until it's time to go. Catching up with her is a very precious Christmas memory.
My cousin Laura & me

Hamming it up for the camera!

     Christmas Eve consists now of my parents, my grandmother and me. We have a big fancy dinner with the Lenox Holiday china and the German crystal. Mom gets the food and I do all the cooking! I love cooking for my family! For anyone really! It's one of my favorite things to do for sure.
Christmas Eve Dinner
     Christmas Eve is also when we open our gifts. We don't do over-the-top, expensive things. My family is really good at needs. I got what I needed this year: new running shoes, a new medal rack for my ever-increasing medal count & money to help pay the bills. I also got something I wanted - my Food & Wine Fest 2012 poster framed. It was a good, simple Christmas! My grandmother got a new fridge (her old one made REALLY loud, strange noises) and things to keep her warm. My mom got a much needed spa visit and my dad got things to help him in his new running pursuit. I'm also going to register him and run with him in our local Donna 5k that is the day before our National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer. A very running Christmas!!
Christmas Eve Gifts
     Christmas Eve this year was also a time for me to drift back into my long-ago past. About 15 years ago, I sang in a choir at a local Catholic church. I loved it. The music we made was simply beautiful! We had various different influences but the main influence to our music was Tony's Spanish Mandolin. Oh the music he could make with that! It's been at least 10 years since I have returned to my old church. I decided to go back for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. My family had already gone home and I just felt the need to go. I was so glad I did. Walking in, I went straight to the front and sat near the music. I recognized a few remaining members - amazing to see after all these years! And Tony was there with his mandolin. The music before Mass was beautiful and I enjoyed singing again. There's a new priest and um, even some changes to the Mass. Yea, I told you, it's been awhile! I felt like when Vatican II came along and changed the Mass - I was like Huh? That's not what we say?? I cried a lot that night. Right there in the church, in front of everyone. I didn't care. It was quite a night. Lots of memories and feelings.
     The message of the priest that night was that we should be seekers of JOY. His message was perfect and very timely. Yes, there is so much evil in this world and there are things to complain about - but seek JOY instead. There is so much beauty in this world too! If we all spoke of JOY and happiness instead of giving attention to the bad things, just think of how much more beautiful the world would seem and how much happier and blessed we would feel! Even little things - FIND JOY!
     One of the beautiful moments of the Mass was when Max, a 94 year old member of the choir who was also there when I sang with them, was escorted by his grandson to the solo microphone. He sang a beautiful version of O Holy Night. It was wonderful! Everyone clapped when he finished. We ended the night with Joy to the World and then a rousing rendition of Feliz Navidad - one of my all time favorites, made even more special by the environment that night!
     Christmas Day was full of preparation for dinner. I love the fact that after years of my mom and grandma having to do all the work, they can now relax and enjoy! It makes it all the more special for me to do the cooking! Dinner on Christmas Day includes my cousin and his wife so I had to put the leaf in my table to stretch it out! It was a long dinner table that night!
Christmas Day Dinner
     These holidays were also made special by many friends! Spending time with my best friend from school, chatting about our lives and running while her husband made us an amazing Greek meal was heaven! I also enjoyed the virtual company of many friends around the country all day and well into the nights of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. What fun it is now to share our pictures and thoughts and laughs instantly across the miles!
     It was a beautiful Christmas and I truly feel blessed! I could not have wished for anything more this year! I hope that you and yours had a blessed season of love and family as well. Remember to seek that JOY!!!
My Travel, Run, Eat Christmas - Thank you mom & dad for the most thoughtful gift EVER!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thankful Thursday

I decided today to do my first "Thankful Thursday" post and combine it with the "Three Things Thursday" idea as well! So here goes!
Three things I'm thankful for this Tuesday!

Music. I love music! Whenever I'm in a rotten mood or feeling sad, music can cheer me up. Music also helps me power through my workouts! Especially now when my mind might otherwise be feeling sorry for myself because I can't run, a good, strength-to-power-through-it song does wonders! Not only does the tune help keep me going but it is usually the words and message of a song that really make me like it. Most of these songs are about strength and taking care of yourself, not worrying what others may say or think. Some are just for fun to make me smile! Here are some of my favorites on my workout playlist right now!

- Boys In the Summer by Jessie James - just a little reminder of summer fun ;-)
- Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen  - yea, I know, but if the USA swim team used it...      
- Country Strong by Gwyneth Paltrow - a reminder to be strong, great movie too!      
- Dog Days Are Over by Florence + The Machine - always makes me smile, talks about running  even though I know my type of running is not what they mean....    
- Stronger by Mandisa - if you've never heard this one, it is worth a listen. I LOVE the message!     
- The Edge of Glory by Lady GaGa - this one always makes me think of running, especially since it was playing as I neared the finish line at Disney's Wine & Dine Half! Every run, every workout can bring you that much closer to the Edge of Glory! :-)   
- F**kin' Perfect by P!nk - I have the clean version and again this one has a great message! I love P!nk and think she has some great, real lyrics in her songs!
- Fighter by Christina Aguilera - this song is my all time favorite! It might be about a boy, but for me it's about all the things that try to keep me down - injury, time, person, attitude...    
- Firework by Katy Perry - she may be a little crazy, but this song has a great, positive "You are Amazing" message!     
- Wide Awake by Katy Perry - just a reminder to keep your eyes wide open & not get lost in what you think is a perfect, flawless anything - Stay smart! Falling from Cloud 9 can hurt! 
- One Thing by One Direction - Yea, the cheesy, adorable boy band of today - they make me smile and make me think I'm pretty special! ;-)
- What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger) by Kelly Clarkson - all of my workouts, my recovery from my injury, my swimming and biking instead of running, my waiting to run again...          
- Strip Me by Natasha Bedingfield - another good message - you can't take my voice!
- What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction - I know, I know - but sometimes it's nice to be told, even if it is in a song! ;-)
- Happy by Leona Lewis - My life mantra...If you've never really listened to the words, you should. We should all live this way! I swear she says "I've gotta find my pace" - runner's ears! :)
- Good Life by OneRepublic - yes, it really is!
- Stronger by Britney Spears - ranks up there with Fighter for power songs! Love this one!

Attitude. It's a powerful thing! When I first became injured, I sulked and whined. Totally normal. But then I went into fighter mode. I am thankful that my upbringing, my beliefs and my spirit allow me to pull myself out of a funk and fight! I will not just sit around, complaining that I can't run. I will find other ways to exercise my muscles and come back stronger and better. And that's exactly what I am doing - every day! There are plenty of people out there that are looking at me like I'm crazy when I say I'm going to run the Disney Marathon on January 13th, but I am going to do it and I will be strong enough to finish. I'm making sure of that and my body is happy and responding and feeling great! I'm not a helpless little creature and neither are you! So quit complaining, get out of your funk and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!! 

My friends. I have the most supportive network of friends on the planet! And I am thankful for every one of them! My Twitter friends, some I've only met once, some I've never met, but they are there for me with words of encouragement and advice. My running buddies and training team members who cheer me on and miss me when I can't run with them. My IRL friends who listen and offer help - you know, like week long passes to a gym so I can keep swimming! (thanks, Lee) - are the greatest! I feel so blessed to have so much support all over the world really, thanks to Twitter! Pretty cool! And very uplifting!

So, there you have it. My three things I'm thankful for this Thursday. Really everyday though. Take time to count your blessings, it will make you so much happier than bemoaning your life! As my fabulous nutritionist and friend told me recently, "Your worst day could be somebodies best day." Thank you Marni. That is SO true!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Swim Lessons

     Being an injured runner stinks - particularly when you are a few weeks out from a marathon! But I am determined to stay fit, be ready and come out stronger! So I am cross training like a mad woman! Thankfully, this also happens to be my Christmas break time from school (great to be a teacher sometimes!) so I am hitting it hard every day, getting lots of sleep and eating right without the restrictions of work. It's really nice!
     Everyone talks about how great swimming is for runners - especially when we are injured. So I decided to figure out how I can get some swimming in! My local university has a pool and I'm alumni so I get special rates. Plus they have the Masters Swim there - even better! Yay! BUT they're closed for the holidays - bummer! Next stop, our brand new L.A. Fitness clubs that have sprouted up around town! I signed up for a 3-day pass and used two of those days to swim! Perfect!
     My first day in the water - well, it felt like my FIRST day in the water! And I used to be a swimmer! What the heck! It's been a really long time!!! I have not been swimming for at least ten years, if not longer. And no, it is not like riding a bike! Not for me anyway! I felt like I was thrown into the water not knowing how to swim and told to figure it out myself! I mean, of course I know how to swim but... My heart rate skyrocketed the first 50 meters of freestyle. I forgot how to breathe. I was going too fast. I felt like I was flailing all over the place! I thought of my swim team buddies from high school and could just feel them laughing and rolling their eyes at this comedic display! No really, it was THAT bad!
I switched to backstroke - my favorite stroke anyway, and calmed down a little bit. I still was not breathing right and felt like I was sinking in the water. I had too much water on top of me! Maybe I need floaties... After about 100 meters total, I stopped and did some leg lifts and kicking on the side to try to catch my breath. In the end I did about 300 meters total in 30 minutes of pool time. I had to stop after each half lap to breathe. But I was still excited and happy to be back in a pool!
     Day two of swimming was this morning. I learned a lot from Saturday and was determined to do better and swim smarter today! I channeled my swim angels (TJ & Dani, I need you!) and started out slowly. I actually did a warm-up this time to try to prevent a racing heart. It worked! Big surprise! I walked the length of the pool and did some kicks, then I just stuck my face in the water to practice my breathing. It worked. I figured out how to breathe again! I also kept telling myself once I started to take it slow. Why I want to race I have no idea! I did 100 meters freestyle then 100 meters backstroke. I didn't have to stop as much to catch my breath! I did some leg lifts in between sets of 200 and all total got in 600 meters in 35 minutes! 300 freestyle and 300 backstroke! Yay me! I felt so good and SO happy! I could have stayed there all day! I really do love the pool! But I also don't want to overdo it!
     So now the challenge begins as to where can I swim next?? I will really miss not being able to swim now until January. I can't afford the gym, especially when all I want is the pool and the university will only cost me $16 a month! I guess I'll have to get to know the bike... No, I'm NOT going to become a triathlete! But I will keep up this swimming thing! Eventually. TJ & Dani, you'd be so proud... :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Alter-G Experience

     I was REALLY excited to hear about the Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill. At first I thought it might be out of reach as far as cost goes, but then I found some deals through a local trainer! I have heard amazing things from other runners about how they were able to use this machine to keep up their fitness and their running. When I spoke to the trainer about it, he even said that my speed would probably also increase on this machine and that would translate into results on the road later! It sounded so wonderful! I was so ready to try it out!
     I set up an appointment for a few days after my doctor had said I did not have a stress fracture just a shin splint. I wanted to learn more about the machine and the possibility of me using it to get and keep my body ready for the Walt Disney World Marathon on January 13th. On the day of my appointment, I went straight from work to the rehab center that had one of the Alter-G treadmills. My trainer was not there yet, so I changed into my running clothes and sat down to wait. A few minutes later, one of the physical therapists that works at the rehab center came to get me. He told me that my trainer was running late – he wasn’t really sure he would make it at all. (First alarm goes off in my head.) The therapist then asks some questions and starts to put me thru some different movements, asks me to walk, looks at my legs and feet. I was not expecting any of this at all! I suddenly felt I was there for a physical therapy appointment. I was a little worried that they would be asking for money and insurance and all of that! But I did what the therapist asked and answered the questions. Another therapist joined us as we finally got ready to try out the Alter-G machine. It was a funny looking thing!
     I was given a pair of bike shorts that were more like a wetsuit material with an attached rubber tutu. I know I should have pictures of all this, but I have not gotten very good at asking people in these types of situations  “Hey can you take my picture in this get-up for my blog post?” The rubber tutu had half of a zipper attached to it. When I got on the machine, a bubble of plastic rose up to enclose my lower half and I was zipped in. The machine is then “calibrated” and while it does this, I am lifted to my tippy toes and put down again. It was all quite comical and I could hardly stop laughing! They then set it to a percentage of your body weight and I again rise up off of my feet. The machine is supposed to reduce the amount of impact by lifting you to a point where you can still have your feet touching the treadmill but not all the way. It’s hard to explain! I was set to a point where finally as I ran my feet were touching the treadmill like they should. So far I felt fine…
     ~All the while the two trainers are setting me up I am thinking “Do they know what they are doing?” because they would question each other as they set me up. I also wondered if the trainer I was supposed to be with, who was supposed to really know this machine, would have done things differently. ~
     As soon as they left me to run, which in and of itself was a different feeling but I eventually got into a rhythm of sorts, I switched the time clock to distance. I knew how far I had run before the pain started on Sunday (the last time I had run) so I wanted to see what happened today. It didn’t take too long. At about .4 of a mile, I began to “feel” my shin. By the time I hit .8 of a mile I was hitting stop. I hurt and it was not good. They came and unzipped me and helped me out of the machine. The therapist asked me a few questions about what I was feeling and then I left. I was so upset and frustrated! The whole “ordeal” just seemed to be one big mistake!
     I had so many issues and questions now! Was it too soon?Should I have waited a full week, two weeks, longer to even think about trying this? What the heck happened to my trainer? It has now been almost 24 hours and I have not received a call or an email with any type of apology or explanation.Would things have gone different had he been there? Would I have gotten hurt if he had set me up on the machine? Why didn’t he just reschedule? This was the first time I was meeting with him. Not a good way to leave a first impression for your business!
     I know that the people at the rehab center did their best to take care of me and fill-in for him, but looking back, I wish they had left me alone too! I wasn’t there for physical therapy, I was there to try the machine.Maybe it would have been the exact same experience with the trainer, but somehow I don’t think so.
     I want to try again. I don’t have a lot of options of who to call for this so I will probably use the same trainer. Although the longer he takes to contact me about all this, the angrier I become! I know one thing for sure, I am resting my leg! Even using a bike is too much for me to think about right now. I will continue my Pilates and some yoga. I will try to find a pool to use and begin swimming. I will start with some weights at the gym to strengthen my hips. (The physical therapists said as he was running me thru the different tests that I needed to do this.) But I will avoid any impact or pressure and even prolonged standing for at least two weeks. My goal is Disney. I will participate. I must be healthy! No more crazy antics! Maybe the two weeks before I can try again with the machine.
     If you have any tips for healing, strengthening and keeping up my fitness for the marathon, PLEASE leave them in the comments! I would really love that! Thanks!!!

UPDATE: Did finally hear from the trainer. He was in a car wreck and had no way of contacting me for almost 24 hours. Still not happy with the experience, but I am moving on and trying other NON impact ways of keeping fit!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Injured Runner

     As many of you may already know, I have been suffering from a recent injury to my shin. I was scared to death it was a stress fracture! It all started last Tuesday while I was going for what I thought was an easy run on the treadmill. I had just PRed my half marathon distance the previous Sunday and had a training run of 23 miles the next weekend so I knew I needed an easy week. I had even taken a full rest day on Monday!  About 2 miles into the treadmill run at a 10 minute pace, I started to really feel pain in my left shin. I should have slowed my pace or stopped running but my ego said “finish the last mile!” So I kept going. That was potentially a very stupid move!
     I went home and iced my leg and took some Advil. The pain did not subside. The next day, it was still hurting. This was very unusual for me so I knew something was up and of course I feared the worst! I immediately called my orthopedist and made an appointment. Unfortunately, I could not get in until after the weekend. No 23 miler for me!
      As the week went on, the pain started to go away. It would be gone and then come back as a dull ache. By Saturday, I was not really feeling much pain or even dull aches at all! I continued to rest, only attempting cross training exercises like Pilates & yoga. Sunday morning I woke up and did my regular yoga routine then decided to go for a test run. My thinking was that there was no point in going to the doctor if the pain wasn’t still there and I could run fine! So off I went. I even put on my new shoes so there would be no issues with old worn out shoes (same model shoes I’ve had and have been fitted for – shoes were not the cause!).  I got about a half mile into my run when I began to feel “something” in my shin. It wasn’t a pain yet, just an awareness of my shin. At three-quarters of a mile the pain was back and by about a mile I was DONE! I was unable to run because the pain was so bad. I walked the mile back home. Walking doesn’t hurt it, thank goodness! But I did have my phone handy in case I needed to call my parents to come pick me up!  I tried to run a little after walking for a bit but there was no way I could do it.  I returned home to ice my shin and pop an Advil. Well, at least I had more info for my doctor visit the next day!
     Monday afternoon rolled around and I was so ready to find out what was up with my leg and how long I would be out of commission. I was also very nervous! I tend to be overly emotional and dramatic about things I’m passionate about. So as I drove towards the doctor’s office my thought was “My whole life hangs in the balance of this diagnosis!” See? Dramatic! But I love running. I love my running friends and to be away from all that I love – well, I didn’t really want to think about that… ~channeling Scarlett O’Hara~
     So they take an x-ray of my leg – I ask, why?? You can’t usually see stress fractures on x-rays! Well, they might see something – ok, whatever! So I wait… and the PA John comes in and takes a look at the x-rays, talks to me and says the x-rays look ok, but Dr. Lancaster might see something. (Let’s hope not!) Finally, the doctor comes in. Have I mentioned I love my doctor?? He is great! I have been to him before for issues with my knees and feet. He also has been my mother’s doctor for YEARS and just did her double knee replacement back in August. So I trust him completely! He looks at the x-rays, examines my leg and talks to me about the pain. Because the pain has not been constant, I can walk without limping and stand without pain, he does NOT think it is a stress fracture! He called it tibial periostitis or basically a shin splint. I need to rest for three weeks and take some anti-inflammatory meds and then I can try again with the running. I was so overjoyed! The news could not have been better! As I left the office I began to cry. See? More dramatics!
     I texted and Facebooked and Tweeted to all of my friends right away. I had so many who were keeping me in their thoughts and prayers. I’m telling you folks, prayer works! I am so happy that I will hopefully really be able to run the Disney Marathon in five weeks. I was soooo worried! I WANT THAT MEDAL!!! I’ll never have another chance at this special 20th anniversary medal and I WILL get it! I will run/walk/run and I will finish, even if it takes me longer than my first marathon – Gulp! But I am coming off an injury, so it will be a miracle that I am even running a full marathon! Let this be a warning, overuse injuries do exist. Watch your mileage! I hit 100 miles in November (68 miles in October! Oops!) and while it was quite an accomplishment, I think I really did too much too soon! G-r-a-d-u-a-l mileage increase! Learn from my mistakes! And I’ll…

See you at Disney!!!