Sunday, November 30, 2014

Promises, vows, and honor thy legs

Last night I learned about yet another local woman getting attacked while running. Apparently she was running with a friend at 4:30pm yesterday, and the perpetrator supposedly jumped out of the bushes, stabbed her in the abdomen, and ran away. All reports say she's going to be ok, which is good news. Kind of unnerving, though! This incident happened in the forest preserve where I did a lot of my long runs this summer. I've written about that forest preserve before, and I'm well aware that it isn't the safest place for me to run alone. Let me tell you that yesterday's incident was on my mind this morning when I went on my Sunday long slow distance run. It makes me angry that this keeps happening here and I really hate that I can't just relax and run. This morning, I took my run to the retention pond, hoping that it would be safe and uneventful. And it was both. The path was empty, with the exception of a few walkers, and one runner. It was also joyful, as I was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise in the fog and over the frozen pond:


My run was slow and steady, but it was not pain free. There comes a point in every runner's life where they have to acknowledge some injury--or a nagging precursor to an injury. Today was that day. Besides the shin splints that have been plaguing me the past couple of weeks, as I ran around the pond, I began to finally realize that my right piriformis needs to be addressed. Because not only was I feeling a pain in the ass (literally), I had some tugging at my right IT band. The shin splints were also only in my right leg. Could they all be related? I'm thinking yes. Experience tells me that if I don't intervene now, this thing is going to progress. And then I won't be able to run at all. Been there, done that (many times, sadly), and no, I won't let that happen.

In addition, yesterday I pulled out a new pair of shoes to replace the Asics Gel Nimbus that have been so kind to me this year. Back in June, I won a pair of Sauconys of my choice from another blogger. I researched the entire line of running shoes and thought that the Guides would be the closest to my beloved Nimbus'. So yesterday, I slipped on the Guides and went out for a 4 miler. 


The Guides were very different from my Nimbus'. I noticed right away that they felt stiffer. I could hear my feet flapping on the ground, and I had to stop multiple times to roll out my ankles to release my shins. Running in these shoes reminded me of when I started running in orthotics. Too stiff. My legs felt tight all day, and I foam rolled twice yesterday to try to release the muscles. When I woke up this morning, I was stiff and sore. Not good. Its amazing what a different pair of shoes can do to a runner! So I pulled out my old favorites, and headed out for 8 miles. Being sore initially, I loosened up fairly quickly. I noticed the cushy ride that I'm used to with my Nimbus'. Felt a sigh of relief. And made a decision not to run in those Saucony Guides again. I will never again stray from my Nimbus'. Ever. Girl scout honor. I'm not saying the Guides are a bad shoe. A lot of my friends swear by them. But the Guides are not the shoe for me. And now I've aggravated some already angry hot spots...ugh! I'd blame the shoes, but no, this stuff has been talking to me for a while. I really have no one to blame but myself.

I was a girl scout--on my honor!
Another thing is that I haven't been very good about stretching and foam rolling lately, besides my weekly yoga session. I have made a vow to get back at it on this "off season".  I need to do some hip strengthening/balancing that Becky showed me back when we first started working together. Clamshells, resistance band, monster walks. 

I'm also back at this: 

The lacrosse ball. My secret weapon. This thing is great for getting into tight spaces that you might not be able to hit with the foam roller. Or if you can't afford regular massages. Active.com has a great article on 10 self myofascial release exercises for runners. You can read it here.  I also use the lacrosse ball for my hamstrings. I've tried a tennis ball but it isn't firm enough. The lacrosse ball is hard as a rock. Hurts so good. And very effective, when you use it...

I sure don't want to take any time off, but I really need to give myself a break. It's so hard to do after such a fantastic running season! I've been down this road before and I can't seem to learn from it. It's the advice I give to everyone else and I need to listen to myself:


For the next 2 months, it's time to rest and recover. Yes, I'm still going to run. Shorter distances during the week, and those Sunday long runs will be slow. No speed work. Foam rolling and lacrosse ball massage after every run. Yoga 1-2x/week. And strength training with Becky. Hopefully, come February, when I need to step up my training for my half in March, I'll be all rested and fresh. 

My body has spoken. It's time to pay attention.

PS. I'm linking up with Tara at Reading n' Running for her Weekend Update!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Long Grove Turkey Trot Race Report

As Thanksgiving approached, I thought it might be fun to run a Turkey Trot this year. I hadn't run one for several years, since my oldest son and I ran a 2 miler. He decided that running wasn't for him, and that was the end of our Turkey Trotting. But I wanted to run this year, and figured doing the 8k option would get my miles in for the day, plus I've missed racing since the marathon, so this would satisfy that too.

I convinced Marcia, from Marcia's Healthy Slice and Sara, from Cheesy Runner Mom, to run it with me. Both of them were reluctant, for differing reasons. Marcia has run this one before and was concerned about the large crowd this race attracts. Sara is planning on a half this weekend, and wanted to PR. She said it would be hard to hold back and not race this one. But they both agreed and we made a plan to meet up about an hour before the race.

It was 22 degrees and we sat in Marcia's car to keep warm before heading to the start line. Sara and Marcia had never met, but they hit it off right away. Both of them are super nice, so I didn't expect anything else. Marcia brought goodie bags for us, containing some CocoaVia (I've been wanting to try it!), a Boston marathon headband (inspiration!), SOS rehydrate, Alkaline sports drink, and Balega socks (yes!). So thoughtful and I love this woman. I've said it before, but I feel like I've known her my whole life. Plus we have a lot in common, even besides running.

Pre race: Marcia, Sara, and Me (in my "throwaway" sweatshirt)
We made the brave decision to head to the porta potties before the race. There were plenty of them, and the lines were short. People were quick about their business, probably because it was cold. You know its cold when the stuff inside the potty is frozen. Yes, I checked. It actually made it a little less frightening.

My pre-race attempt at a selfie! Actually multiple attempts...
We headed to the start line and lined up with the 9 minute milers. The 5k and 8k runners lined up together. I didn't tell Marcia and Sara, but I hoped to race this one, if my legs cooperated. I've been having some issues with shin splints and hoped they didn't flare up during the race. As the start time approached Sara and I took off our "throwaway sweatshirts" and I stuck them under a table in the refreshment tent.


The gun went off and we moved slowly towards the start line. Apparently, the organizers were letting us go out in waves. I kept jumping up and down to stay warm. Finally we crossed the starting line. As we headed under the covered bridge, we spent a lot of time weaving through runners, walkers, and yes, strollers. Apparently people didn't pay attention to the pace signs and lined up wherever. So annoying. This is my #1 racing pet peeve. As we kept weaving, I had to remind myself that this was a Turkey Trot and to just roll with it. Eventually, I decided my legs were going to cooperate, and I kicked it up a notch, leaving Sara and Marcia to fend with the crowds.

Most of the race is on paved roads, and I continued to weave through all the walkers. After mile 2.5, the 5k participants go there own way, and I was able to open up a little bit. We ran through a neighborhood, and then down a path to a rural road. This is a really pretty area, and I've biked here a bit. We passed the north entrance to one of the places I run, and I never realized THAT's where it comes out! I told Marcia this after the race, and we talked about meeting halfway sometime.

About mile 4, I passed a little girl, running a nice steady pace. I called out to her, "good job!" but she just ignored me. Maybe she was super focused on her run? I kept going. Sara caught up with me. That's when I knew I was running fast, because she's super speedy. I knew she was holding back, but still I was pretty excited to be running with her for the rest of the race! She took off ahead of me but I kept her in my sights. Then we merged with the 5k walkers, and the weaving started again.


We pushed towards the finish. I heard a little boy tell his mom, "that lady's fast!" when Sara passed them. Right before the covered bridge, we had to run on a stone path, and there was a lot of congestion again. I pushed to the side of the path and plowed through the walkers. We crossed the finish line under the covered bridge. I was so excited when I checked my Garmin and saw 40:52. Sara and I hugged and waited for Marcia to finish. When she caught up to us, we congratulated her and headed to the results table. I saw that I finished 3rd in my AG, and so we stuck around for the medal presentation.

Post race sweaty and satisfied!
We walked to the refreshment tent and YES! our throwaway sweatshirts were still there. That was a good thing, since it was so cold. The post race snacks were nothing exciting. Water, granola bars, protein bars, and fruit snacks. Meh. Marcia and Sara stuck around with me while we waited for the AG awards. Last to be announced were the 8k AG winners. When they announced the 3rd place winner in my AG, it wasn't me. Turns out I came in 2d. I was stunned and excited, which you can see by the picture that Sara took of me. What a thrill! And so nice of them to stick around with me, since it was so cold!


Did I mention how cold it was?

Here's my official results: 40:46 finish time, pace time 8:12min/mi.,153/771 runners, 2/118 AG.

Would I do this one again? It was fun but it was cold. I hate the weaving around people. But the race was well organized and parking wasn't really a hassle, since we got there about an hour early. I liked that it was so close to my home. It sells out every year, so there's no last minute impulse racing. You have to plan. But yes...I would. Only if Marcia and Sara do it, tho!!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An attitude of gratitude

On this Thanksgiving eve, it seemed appropriate to reflect on all that I have to be grateful for. It's nice to have holidays like this that remind all of us that no matter how we might be feeling about life, there's still plenty to make us feel thankful. I'm especially thankful for all the wonderful people in my life.

First and foremost, I'm thankful for my family. Sure, my teenage sons aren't exactly warm and fuzzy these days, but bottom line, they're good boys. Certainly, they give me a run for my money but when I look at what I see other teenagers doing,  most of what they're doing is "normal" teenage behavior. All I want for Christmas is their frontal lobes to return.


That didn't really sound thankful, did it? Trust me, I am. I do love them. They just don't want me to show it...

Here's the rest....

My husband, who lets me be me. He lets me do my thing--be it running, school, whatever, and doesn't complain about it...much. He gets me. Sleeps on the couch when he's snoring or gassy. And for that alone, I am thankful.


My parents, who treat my every accomplishment as if it were an Academy Award. There is no one who loves you more than your parents, I think.


My sisters, particularly my sister Lisa, who is my best friend and keeps me laughing at the silliest things that only sisters can get. John Edwards photobomb, anyone?


My coworkers, especially my medical assistant Zuly. I know that at times I can be difficult to work with, with my drive to deliver the best care to my patients that I can, to run on time, all while trying not to crumple under the pressure. Zuly rises to the occasion every time and meets my expectations, no matter what the circumstances. We make a great team, and our patients reap the benefits. And she has become a cherished friend as well.


I would be remiss if I didn't mention my medical director and my practice manager. My medical director is a wonderful man, whom I have known for over 15 years, since he was a resident in training at the hospital where I work. He has a gift for making everyone feel better just by talking with them. Not only that, but he's a great physician who is extremely knowledgeable and caring. What a great combination! He has a great sense of humor too. And my practice manager, who is a dear friend of mine, whom I've known for over 10 years. A runner as well, she gets me. She too has a gift for a calming presence and the ability to deliver a difficult message in a way that makes you feel ok after you hear it.

My coach/trainer, Becky. Oh my gosh, what a gift she has been in my life!!! Instead of feeling badly about getting older, she's injected me with youth and a desire to achieve goals I never thought possible at this point in my life. She's served as a pseudo-psychologist as well, helping me to erase self doubt (burpees anyone) and increase my self confidence. How lucky am I?


My friends both running and non-running. I am amazed at the non-running friends who follow my FB page, which means they have to put up with my non-stop talk of running and my selfies! And the ones who send me good luck texts on race days. And who do a much better job than I do of staying in touch.. of trying to rope me in for a lunch date or a girls' night out. I'm so fortunate.

And my running friends, for whom I am so grateful. This has been my best year of running and it is in part due to the support and encouragement I have received from these wonderful ladies. It sure is a lot more fun showing up and running a race when you know you have friends who will be there!



Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who has read and commented on this blog. At times, I feel self indulgent when I write and publish this public diary. Writing has always been a great outlet for me, and I love the fact that there are so many of you who take the time to read it! Thank you for all of your support and feedback.

There is so much to be thankful for! But for me, it is the people in my life that make me feel most grateful.

Postscript: I'm linking up with the Friday Five Linkup! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday long run


Even though I do love to run fast, my favorite run of all is the LSD (the long slow distance). There really is nothing better than lacing up my shoes, putting in my headphones, and heading out the door to run 8, 10, 12 miles, at my own pace. No time goals to meet, no where to be, just me and the run. I do a lot of thinking on these runs, try to solve my problems, sort out things I'm worried about, and sometimes just lose myself in my music and go.

Today's long run wasn't one of those runs. To start with, the weather was a little dicey. It was warm, yes, 50 degrees, but the sky was overcast and there was a threat of rain. It was also windy. I decided to run to the retention pond and back for a nice 8 mile loop. I was a little apprehensive about running there after last week's incident where a woman runner was grabbed. I figured that because of the nice weather, there would be a lot of people there, and so I didn't feel too concerned.

If only I could run as fast as Mo, no one would be able to catch me! Do you think he worries when he runs?
As I started to run, I realized how tired I felt, and made the decision to take it slow. My legs and glutes were sore from the 10k rowing I did yesterday. I've also been having issues with insomnia the past couple of weeks. About a mile into my run, it started to rain. Hard. A little rain doesn't bother me, and so I kept going. But when I got to the retention pond, the path was pretty empty. I kept going, but kept looking over my shoulder. Being hypervigilant really wasn't relaxing, and I found myself pushing my pace, just to get around the 2 mile loop and finish that part of my run. There was a guy running behind me, and I didn't want to risk him catching me, "just in case" he was "the guy". I kept looking over my shoulder. What an awful feeling!

I started thinking about my week, and realized that part of my paranoia was also related to an incident that I had at work on Friday. I was threatened by a patient's mother last week. I can't go into specifics, but I had to file a report with the police, and that made the whole thing scary and real for me. Knowing that it is easy to find someone's information on the internet also made me feel unsettled. While I'm not in panic mode about this, running alone in an isolated place, where there have been some scary incidents definitely made me feel more vulnerable.


Then I started thinking more about work, and some unfulfilled promises that were made to me by management this fall. I work in an incredibly busy clinic, and I joke that we should start each morning by blasting Guns and Roses' Welcome to the Jungle. As a matter of fact, it's on my running playlist, and every time I hear it, I think that. Everyone works hard there, but at times, I feel dissatisfied with my role as an NP in the clinic. We see more patients than the doctors do, and there is pressure to see more. Promises made and then taken back. I guess I'm feeling a little underappreciated these days. Add to that the threatening incident last week and I'm wondering if it is all worth it...

I finished my run at the retention pond and headed home. When I finished my run, 8.5 miles, I didn't have that sense of calm and peace that I usually feel when I go out for a long run. Instead, I felt tired. Some days are like this, I guess. I didn't find any answers on the run today, but I did get a long run in. And that's always something to feel good about, no matter what else is going on. Writing this and reading it made me realize that ultimately, I do love the long run!


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I'm linking this post up with Tara at Running n' Reading for her Weekend Update!





Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Review: Older, Faster, Stronger by Margaret Webb

I hope you don't think I'm being pompous by saying that I could have written this book. About a year ago, at age 51, I decided to work with a Crossfit trainer to get stronger so that I could keep running the rest of my life. She worked my muscles, while I was in charge of my running. This year was incredible for me. I ran 2 half marathons, a 10 miler, placed 2d in my AG at a local 10k, and ran the Chicago Marathon with a 1h10min PR. Even though I was injured in the spring, and spent 4 weeks in the boot, I kept on cross training with my trainer and on the bike, with the hope of maintaining fitness and being able to jump right back in where I left off. And I did! This was the year that I finally felt comfortable with the fact that I'm in my 50s.  I am running as fast as I was in my 30s. This was truly my fittest year.

Margaret Webb
So I was drawn to Webb's book--because yes, her goal, at age 51, was to have her "fittest year". A lifelong runner, she wanted to shake off her midlife malaise and regain the level of fitness she enjoyed in her 20s as a collegiate runner. Her race goal? To place in the top 10 for the half marathon at the World Masters Games. Along the way, she consulted with experts and legends in womens' running, using this information to crush much of the so-called wisdom about aging athletes.
"The difference between the front and the back of the pack tends to widen in older age groups, and often the vastly superior winners of older age-groups ran fast enough to be competitive in age groups younger than their own--clearly able to maintain their incredible speed through training, talent, or some other means of resistance to aging."
This is something I've noticed at races as I've moved into the 50-54 age group. The women at the top of the leaderboard are still amazingly fast. At first I was shocked at how fast some women my age are. I can't help but wonder why? Is it genetics? Training? Diet? Webb tries to sort some of this out. She talks about the importance of sleep and diet in the older athlete. While younger athletes can skip a night of sleep and still run well, can feast on junk food and not have it affect performance, the same does not hold true for the older athlete. I also liked her information on carb loading, which essentially is bad advice for female endurance athletes. Apparently, we don't burn fuel like men do. Interesting! And she also stresses the importance of cross training, including yoga, which is so good for runners.

The iron nun, Sister Madonna Buder, age 83, one of the women featured in the book. She has completed 300 triathlons and 45 Ironmans since taking up running at age 48! She qualified for Boston with her first marathon at age 52. What's your excuse?
There's a lot of detail in the book, and keep in mind that this book is really for running junkies and women looking to maintain or maximize their fitness as the years march on.
"A lot of research now shows that training--aerobic, anaerobic, and strength--has effects on the human body at any age. At any age, you can improve the human body. Exercise can literally keep you young. "
Now this is good news!! Apparently all this exercise causes the release of growth hormone--which, used extrinsically, is a banned substance--and that may very well be the fountain of youth. Hey, works for me!



Webb outlines her race strategy in great detail, including the use of mantras or power words, in her case, one word for each loop of her race:
"fun, stronger, faster, and fearless" 
And while I won't share the outcome of her race in this review, I can attest to the power of positive thinking and the use of mantras during a race. During my Chicago marathon, I pulled out my mantra a few times:  "I can and I will!", as well as listening to music with motivating lyrics. I still smile to myself when Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name Of comes on during a run. That song reminds me of how hard I pushed those last 3 miles of the marathon, when my hamstrings wanted to quit but the song's lyrics--"f-no, I won't do what you told me"--kept repeating themselves over and over like a mantra...that and Becky's threat of having to do 10 burpees with every negative thought...I LOL'd  every.damn.time.

The importance of bonding with other racers, particularly pre-race:
"For women, this prerace hug fest may be a potent secret weapon, as social bonding can release the hormone oxytocin, which has been credited with reducing fear, anxiety, and even inflammation" 
I completely agree with this--on marathon day, I met some women on the train ride down to the starting line, my friend Penny found me before the race and hugged me (sending loads of oxytocin flowing through my veins), and my medical assistant Zuly was at mile 14 with more hugs that sent me zipping along the course.

Penny and me pre marathon. Oxytocin for all!
Webb encourages us to be proud of our efforts, whether we reach our goals or not:
"But an important lesson I have learned from my running career: While we can't control the outcome of a race, we can control the effort we put into it, and its important to celebrate that effort, and to celebrate ourselves." 
Even a race that we don't do well at--for example, my Zooma half marathon--was a favorite for me because I knew I did the best I could and the sisterhood of my friends and the woman who got me across the finish line made it a memorable experience.

Sole sisters!

This is an amazing book. Some of the reviewers on amazon.com did not like this book. They were looking for a weight loss book, a guide for beginning runners. This is not that book. There are plenty of books for that audience. This is a book for women endurance athletes who are looking for encouragement and guidance about running the rest of their lives. Webb nailed it, in my opinion. The book is well written and easy to read. Really, for me, I felt like I was talking to a friend about running.
And thanks to Margaret Webb for helping me believe that for me, as a runner, the best is yet to come!

Follow Margaret on her blog: http://margaretwebb.com/

I'm linking this blog post up with Tuesdays on the Run: MCM mama runs, Run the Great Wide Somewhere, and My No Guilt Life. Go see what inspires everyone else!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Random thoughts on the run

Last week I wrote a post about things I think about when I run. Today my thoughts went a little deeper. Probably because today's run hurt. A lot. I wanted to quit so many times.


I started out in the 20 degree cold and immediately thought about turning around. That wind was biting. My legs felt heavy this morning. As I ran along the frontage road, I passed the apartment complex near my neighborhood and the maintenance man on his golf cart. He was picking up trash...from the golf cart. Smoking a cigarette too. I wondered if the cigarette kept him warm. I thought about smoking. I've never smoked a cigarette! Seriously. 

I'm going to try this on my next run!
I moved forward down the sidewalk and as I approached the crosswalk, I had to stop for a car that wouldn't stop for me. In Illinois, its a law to stop for people in the crosswalk, but good luck with expecting drivers to obey that one! Really, it's every pedestrian for themselves...he gave me an apologetic wave and I shot him a look. THE look.


After that, I forgot about him and started thinking about Hug A Runner Day. I know it's a crazy made up holiday, but I thought it was cute and fun and wanted to share it! Before I left for my run, I posted about it on my personal FB page, and tagged a bunch of running friends. Facebook would only let me tag 20 people. As I ran, I realized I left out a lot of supportive running friends. I felt really badly about that, and resolved to tag them in a comment when I got home. This is why I didn't tag anyone on my FB running page. A lot of pages do shout outs, to increase traffic for other pages. As a page administrator, I tend not to do them, because I'm so afraid of leaving someone out. I'll do a shout out for a birthday, for a race, or for a new page that I like, but other than that, I don't do mass shout outs. I just don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Because who likes to be left out?


As I thought about this, I started to notice my shins tightening up. Shin Splints? Oh, hell no! I haven't had them in years. Why today? I tried to push through them. In between songs on my playlist, I could hear my feet flapping on the ground. Hearing that, I knew my shins were really tight. They really started to hurt. I finally stopped to stretch them. Leaning up against a tree, I did ankle rolls both ways, on both legs. Then I reached down and pulled up on my toes, to help release the muscles. I started to run again, and they felt much looser, thankfully. But my legs still just wouldn't open up. I was wearing my CW-X compression tights, which were keeping me warm, but I started to wonder if they were impeding my speed. I had a similar experience while wearing them last week. They kept slipping down, too, and I had to stop to tug them up a few times. Ugh.

Meanwhile, I turned to run south, up the "big hill" in my neighborhood, and into the wind. It was really cold, blustery, as the weathermen say, and I seriously considered bagging this run. But I convinced myself to push through it. I'm not a quitter, and really, I thought that all my runs can't be good, right? What doesn't kill me will make me stronger? Sure. So I moved forward, and continued into the wind.

I saw a bunch of landscapers, all bundled up, and they stared at me, as I began to pick up the pace. Woo hoo, the legs were loosening up! I waved at them, and they waved back. I thought about the woman who got grabbed at the retention pond where I normally run, and thought maybe I shouldn't be so friendly to random strangers. The wrong person might take it as an invitation. I hate thinking like this. Life is so much easier--as is running--if you move through it with a smile on your face. 

I rounded through the park and stopped to take a selfie. Like I said, smiling sure makes everything easier....


I came to a busy intersection and was shocked that the cars actually stopped at the stop sign to let me through. Usually, I stand at the crosswalk while they all blow through the stop sign. But then I noticed the police car...ahhhh...he should be there every day, really. I continued on my way, and again had thoughts of cutting this one short. Then I could get back to my house and rectify my mistake of not tagging those people. Seriously. I worried about this.

But they would want me to finish my run, right? We support each other, we runners. So I continued on. I saw no other runners or walkers this morning. It was that cold. I turned down my street and ran the rest of the way to my house. 6.2 miles in 55 mins. I'll take it. That put a smile on my face!

Because any run, even a bad run, is better than no run, right?






Monday, November 17, 2014

Trying to outrun Mother Nature


As a lifelong Chicagoan, I believe that maybe, just maybe, we are subject to some of the most extreme weather conditions in the US. Our temperature extremes go from 100F and 90% humidity in the summer to -20F and deep snow in the winter. We have a motto here: if you don't like the weather, wait because it will change. The possibility exists that you might experience all 4 seasons in one day! There's no rhyme or reason to our weather. This past summer, for example, our average high was below normal. For me, training for the Chicago marathon, the weather was perfect! But for heat seeking Chicagoans, it was kind of cool. We can have warm winters, too, with minimal snow. Or we can have a polar vortex, like we did last winter, with over 70 inches of snow and extremely cold temperatures. Makes life interesting, and difficult to plan for anything.

Including training for races. I run outside all year long and have become a bit of a weather junkie. I have a bunch of different weather apps on my phone. The week before a race, I check them frequently, as if I have any control over race day conditions. Weather.com knew what they were doing when they developed an app just for us "outdoor activity enthusiasts". OutSider, available only for iPhone, uses RunWeather technology developed by the scientists at Weather.com. The app, which is programmable, analyzes your local conditions to predict your exertion level. There are also other features that are similar to any other running app. But for a weather fanatic like myself, this is a fun, great app. But even having all this information in the palm of my hand doesn't give me any control over the conditions on race day! And no matter how much planning a runner can do for extreme race day conditions, you still have to show up and do the work.

A few years ago, I made a plan to run a spring 10 miler, the CARA 10 miler. The kick off to race season, this race is put on by our local running association, and it is a great race, with a fun after party. April weather in Chicago is a dicey proposition. The morning of the race, the temperature was 40 degrees and it was raining. Pouring rain. I like to run in the rain as much as the next person, but for 10 miles? Along the windy, Chicago lakefront? It was miserable, but I do run well in cool conditions, and I finished in 1:29 and skipped the post race festivities, heading home. The entire ride home, which took about an hour, I had the heat blasting in my car. I couldn't feel my fingers and toes. I think it took me 2 weeks to warm back up after that. 

CARA 10 miler, 2011. Looking really cold. 

I ran a half marathon that summer in Madison, Wisconsin, where the start was delayed by 1 1/2 hours due to a thunderstorm. When we were finally allowed to start, it was still pouring rain. We ran down State Street, and up towards the State Capitol building, dodging puddles the entire time. Eventually, the rain stopped, the sun came out, but my shoes and clothing were soaked for the entire race. And because of the late start, my fueling got completely thrown off. Somehow, I managed a sub 2 hour finish on that one! But can you say chafing? Wet clothes + 13.1 miles = extreme chafing....

Madison Mini Marathon, 2011. Start delayed by 1.5h due to t-storm. Look at how wet my shorts are. And those safety pins left rust stains on my top. And so happy to be done.
That fall, I signed up to run the Chicago Marathon, my first ever marathon. Extremely nervous, I headed to the start line. The temperature was already 70 degrees. As well prepared as I was for this race, knowing that I don't do well in the heat, my nerves got the best of me. By mile 14, I was cramping. The temperature was in the 80s. At mile 18, in tears, I called my husband to come and get me. Of course, he refused. I ended up walking the majority of the last 6 miles. I was so disappointed. 

Chicago Marathon, 2011. Always smile for the camera, no matter how bad you feel. This is at mile 23.
Can I blame my poor performance on the bad weather? Maybe. While I was writing this post, I found it interesting that many of my "extreme" racing conditions occurred in 2011. Some years are like that.

Can you stand one more bad race condition story? Last spring, I ran a half marathon in Florida. This was after our polar vortex winter. I ran outside all winter in extreme cold and snow. The day of my half was 75 degrees and 90% humidity. There was no way for me to train for this, and I paid the price. It was a tough race. I did a lot more walking than I like. But I crossed the finish line. This time I had no one to blame but Mother Nature. Even the local runners were complaining about the conditions, which were extreme for March.

Florida Halfathon, Fort De Soto State Park, March 2014
We runners control for so many factors-our fuel, our pace, our clothing, but the one thing we have no control over is the weather. How do you train for such unpredictable weather conditions? Is it possible? Is it mental? And if I had to choose, I don't know which is worse-extreme cold, pouring rain, high humidity, or heat. I've run in them all. There's just no predicting the weather. I still sign up, knowing that the weather conditions are merely a roll of the dice, and hope for the best. No matter what, I show up. Because a DNS due to weather is just not acceptable for this runner. 

Can I overcome my inability to run in extreme conditions? Especially the heat? I'd love to pull off consistent finish times, no matter what the conditions. It's a goal for 2015. Stay tuned.





Tuesdays on the Run

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Feeling safe on the run

Today one of my friends forwarded an article from the Chicago Tribune. The headline read: Woman attacked while jogging. I read the story and was shocked to learn that the incident happened last night, at 5 pm, at the very retention pond where I do a great deal of my training. As a matter of fact, I ran there last weekend:
Part of my long run at the retention pond
and was planning on another run there tomorrow. This isn't the first time that someone has been attacked there. Last fall, there were 2 separate incidents. All 3 victims were female "joggers" and the police think that the attacker is the same man. Luckily for the victims, in all 3 incidents, they were able to get away. Police gave the usual advice: be aware of your surroundings, don't run with headphones in, don't run alone, and don't run after dark. 

I've had a few incidents while running over the years. One was at this park, a few years ago. I was running on a weekday morning, in the winter, and the path was pretty empty of people. I like to run there in the winter because the park district plows the path, and I don't have to run in the streets. There are heated bathrooms there too. But on that day, I saw a weird looking guy walking on the path. I didn't pay too much attention to him, did my laps, and headed towards home. As I ran through the nearby neighborhood, I passed the guy again, and he grabbed my shoulder. I shook him off and screamed at him to get away from him. I ran away to a nearby school, and they called the police for me. The police asked me for a description of him, and the one thing I remembered about the guy is that he had really big teeth. Meanwhile, the policeman scolded me about wearing headphones while I ran, and offered to drive me home. He made me sit in the backseat of his police car, which was really weird. Have you ever been in a police car? It was my first time, and the seat is hard plastic, really uncomfortable. He dropped me off at home, and gave me his card, telling me to call him if I remembered anything else. A few hours later he called me to tell me that they found the guy. Guess my description of the big teeth helped. Turns out it was a developmentally disabled resident of a nearby group home who wandered off and was lost. The policeman really downplayed the incident at that point. I was a little upset about that. How do they know he wasn't violent? I was even more upset when my kids came home with a "stranger danger" letter from school describing the incident. The letter portrayed me, the "jogger" as irresponsible and unaware of my surroundings because I was wearing headphones. Was that necessary?

Apparently it is a big deal. Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) lists as their #1 safety tip: Don't wear headphones. I do tend to zone out into my music. To be aware is to be safe. 

And yes, this picture is a rerun from a previous blog post.
I also had people ask me if I carry mace. Let me ask you: do you think you would be able to react fast enough to pull out your mace and spray it if someone grabbed you? Would you feel comfortable carrying it the entire time you run? What if it is windy and you sprayed it at your attacker but the wind blew it back in your face? So no, I don't carry mace. And I've read a few threads on FB about carrying a gun on the run. That is not for me and I don't want to go there. If you choose to do that, I won't judge you. But I feel the same about that as I do about the mace. If you are packing heat, you better be prepared to use it. Because the perpetrator could use it on you. If you talk to any police about this, that is what they will tell you as well.

Comes in pink for women joggers
Carrying a whistle or something that makes a loud noise would be a good idea. Just don't wear the whistle around your neck.

I do recommend learning some self defense moves. I took a self defense class years ago and was amazed at how effective they were when I practiced them on my 200 pound spouse. I think I need a refresher course. Runners World posted a video last spring and it looks pretty helpful: 



Another safety tip is carrying your phone, which I do. Did you know that even if your phone has a locked screen, your ICE (in case of emergency info) can be accessed via your home screen? You have to set it up. Here are the links, step by step for the iPhone and the Android operating systems.

Even if you run with your phone, carry ID. Road ID makes a variety of wearable ID tags. Writing this post reminds me that I need to order one. I like the one that I put on my shoe.

There are also a couple of apps you can use on the run to help keep you safe. Road ID, an app that I have installed on my phone, has some pretty nifty features. It has "ecrumbs" which allows your loved one to track your route so they know where you are; a stationary alert, which will alert your loved one if you are standing still for more than 5 minutes; and a lock screen feature similar to what I described above. I haven't been using this app, but I plan on it now. Other apps, which I am less familiar with include Kitestring, which sends you a text message at a designated time. If you don't respond, the app calls your contact to alert them. bSafe turns your phone into an alarm and calls 911 if you are able to activate a button. The app also has a nifty feature called "Fake Call", which really wouldn't help you much on the run, but if you are on a date and need a rescue call, you can set that up. There really is an app for everything! ReactMobile is similar to bSafe without the Fake Call feature. These apps are available on both iPhone and Android platforms.

Even if you use these apps, tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back. On the weekends, I tell my husband where I'm running. If I'm not back within the time frame I tell him, he calls me.

RRCA recommends varying your route. I had a running stalker once, a neighborhood dad who used to wait for me at the end of his driveway and jump in on my run. He told me he always knew when I was coming by. That really creeped me out, and I put an end to our runs together in no time. But I learned a valuable lesson, too. When I run my neighborhood 6 mile loop, I now usually reverse the route on alternating run days. I don't usually run at the same time most days, because I have to plan my runs around my work schedule. I also run to different places-the retention pond, the bike path, and that forest preserve. Just to mix it up. And to discourage any other would be stalkers.

RRCA suggests running with a partner or a dog. I could have had a partner (see the paragraph above) but I like to run alone. Running with a dog would be nice, but my cocker spaniel is 11 years old. She also likes to pull on the leash. I don't think she's the right partner for me.

My dog does this!
Then there are the common sense safety tips: avoid running in desolate or dark places. Ignore verbal harassments. If something feels wrong, it probably is. Trust your instinct. Memorize details of cars and people that seem off to you. Don't stop to give directions to people in cars if you are alone. People ask me for directions all the time, which I don't quite understand. But think twice about doing this.

Bottom line: Be safe. Use common sense. Don't let anyone take your running away from you.






Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Maybe her pants were on fire?


Looks like we have a new inductee to my Great Liars in Running Hall of Fame! If you've been following me for a while, you may remember my post from last spring, where I wrote about the jerks who copied a woman's Boston marathon bib and raced in it, taking medals and all the glory that goes with running the Boston marathon. I also found a few other well qualified recipients for my Hall of Fame award. You can chase the link above to read more about them. Rosie Ruiz, anyone?

Let's learn a little about our newest inductee. In case you haven't heard, yep, Tabitha Hamilton, 31, of Trenton Georgia, ran the Chickamauga Marathon last weekend. In 2:54:51. Wow! Amazing finish time, right? The interesting thing is that she ran the first half in 2:00:06, but found tremendous speed and ran the second half in 54 minutes. Talk about negative splits! Wow! A finish a runner could only dream about, right?

Maybe that was her motivation?
Speedy finish aside, the most interesting thing about all this is that her past races don't fit with this 5:54 min/mi pace in the second half of the race. Her most recent half marathon was run 2:19. A recent 15k was run in 1:42. A previous attempt at this race in 2011 shows a finish time in 4:42. She ran another marathon last year in over 6 hours. Yet, she maintains she ran this race and won fair and square.

Ok, I get that. I myself have been running much faster than I have in the past. I finished this year's Chicago marathon a full 1 hour and 10 minutes faster than I did 3 years ago. Of course, my finish time this year was 4:17. Nowhere near medal contention. And considering my half marathon finish times of 1:58-2:16 over the past year, this year's marathon finish time was what you might expect from me. So I've got that going for me. Whew! No one will be examining my finish times.

So, Tabitha, girlfriend. Let's talk. How do you explain going from 9-ish min/mi to 5:54 min/mi? After running 13.1 miles? And maintaining that pace for 13.1 miles? Was it your training? Some magic fuel that you'd like to hip us to? I'd love to know. I bet a lot of us would love to know. Truly amazing and what a great athletic feat! My finish times are faster than yours, so if you share your secret with me, just think what I could do at my next marathon! Come on, spill it, sister!

But let's just say, for the sake of discussion, that you didn't really run this fast. That you...um missed a turn and the race course was a little shorter than you might think. I was spectating at a race last spring and saw the first runner come in...but she was running pretty slow. Didn't exactly look like an elite runner. I'm pretty sure she wasn't actually the winner. I'm pretty sure she took a wrong turn. Pretty sure she was disqualified. Like you.


Still not going to back down? You know that you didn't really win this thing, right? How do you look yourself in the mirror? How did you really feel when you broke the tape? Victorious? A little guilty? How did you take that medal? You know that it belongs to someone else, right? Why won't you just admit it? Seriously. We all know something went wrong. Time to come clean and save face. Stop defending yourself. Really. It's making us embarrassed for you. Angry at you.

As I have said before, and I'll say it again...runners are by and large an honest group. We are notoriously compulsive about our training. For example, so many times I've seen my friends, who have a 20 miler on the schedule but want to run a half, agonize over what to do. Asking themselves, do I just run the half and skip the last 7 miles? And what do they do? They work it out to get that 20 miles in. We try to run the tangents so we don't run farther than the actual race distance. But when we do? We move on. We runners take pride in our honest accomplishments. We don't cheat ourselves. And we sure don't cheat at a race.

You, Tabitha, are not a runner. You are not a cheetah. You are a cheater. And we all know it.