Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Welcome 2015! Goals, plans, and stuff...

This is the time of year when everyone posts their list of New Year's resolutions. I've never been much of a resolution kind of gal. If that were the case, I would never have run that Chicago marathon last year. I had a couple of halfs on the agenda for the year, but that was it. After I bombed my first marathon, I always said I would never do another marathon. But as this year moved forward and I got stronger and more confident, I decided to go for it.

And that's kind of how I live my life. I've never been much of a planner. When I went back to school to be a nurse practitioner, it was something I'd been thinking about, but never really made big plans to do. But when I decided to do it, I jumped in with both feet and never looked back. Same with the marathon. I won the entry, and said, what the heck?

Worked out pretty well for me, didn't it? I had been training anyways, so it wasn't like I just went from the couch to the road....

Anyways, on to 2015. I have some ideas and things I'd like to accomplish. I do. I just haven't worked out all the details. But here goes nothing...

1. I'd like to stay injury free this year. Don't laugh. This includes continuing to work with Becky and my weight training. I'm convinced that the work she gives me--the heavy lifting, the HIIT--that is what kept me injury free and contributed to the success I had on the road this year. I'm going to stick to the relatively low mileage that I always do because it seems that everytime I ramp up my miles, I start to hurt. 

Hopefully not with my eyes closed!
2. I'm going to run another marathon. It was pretty funny, besides this picture, after I ran Chicago, my husband (who isn't always supportive of my running) made a comment about "the next one". I almost fell over. Who is this man? But when asked, he commented on the training I did, that I didn't complain about having a tough time, that I didn't get hurt, and that my training didn't interfere with any family activities. Ok, then! I'd like to do Chicago again, if I get in the lottery this year, and I'd like to best my finish time. If I don't get into Chicago, there's always Fox Valley, Milwaukee, and Prairie State. Dare I even hope for a sub-4 hour marathon? Ok, it's a goal. Wouldn't that be something? A girl can dream, right?

3. I feel the need...the need for speed! Along those lines, I'd like another sub-2 hour half marathon. I've had a few. The last one was in the fall of 2013, a spur of the moment half that I signed up for the week of the race. See how that lack of planning worked out for me? Regardless, I'd like another one, and I need to get my head around the whole heat and humidity thing, because those summer and Florida halfs aren't bringing me speedy finish times. Hopefully, as I continue to get stronger, that will be less of an issue for me. We'll see.

4. I need to do a better job of managing my mama drama. I write this as my 17 year old is pondering his options for New Years Eve. This year showed me that raising teenagers is way more difficult than running a marathon. I have to keep reminding myself what good boys I have. Even when they do stupid things. Remind me of this the next time I'm sitting in a courtroom with one of them. I'm working on getting my husband on board with shouldering some of the worry and disciplining.... this is a work in progress. He needs to stop waking me up in the middle of the night to share his angst with me. Deal with it, mister man! I will say that running really helps me manage my stress, though. And so back to #1. I can't not run. It's my therapy.

5. I want to continue to grow my blog. I love to write. Can you tell? As a matter of fact, I was a journalism major in college before I changed my major to nursing. Writing is such a great outlet for me. I wish I had more time to spend writing. Blogging has also introduced me to some of my new running friends, many of whom I've met and spent time with in 2014. I hope to meet more of you this year!

So what's up, running-wise, for 2015?

So far,  I've registered for one race, the Sarasota Half Marathon. I've got a couple local spring halfs in consideration: Great Western Half marathon, Springfield Half Marathon. There's that awesome CARA Lakefront 10 miler in April.  I'm looking at running another late summer/early fall half and a fall marathon. I don't want to run too many races, because I don't want to risk injury. Plus I'd like to continue to work on speed. I wouldn't mind doing that Fall 50 in Door County, as a relay. Anyone interested?

Quality over quantity.

Regardless of my goals, what I really look forward to the most is more running!

What are you planning for 2015?

I'm linking this post up with the DC Trifecta for Friday Five! 
And with Jill Conyers for her Friday Blog Hop!
And with MCM mama, My No-Guilt Life, and Run the Great Wide Somewhere for Tuesdays on the Run!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Dr Google is NOT your friend

Last night, I tossed and turned, thinking about something I saw on my friend's FB feed. After being sick for a couple of weeks, She posted that she still wasn't feeling well. She talked about needing another round of antibiotics. A few of us posted the usual "feel better soon" and gave her lots of sympathy. I mean, who likes to be sick?

And as I scanned the other replies then I saw this one:

"Sounds like adrenal insufficiency to me"


My NP radar went haywire. Does this person even know what adrenal insufficiency is? Do you? You can chase the link to learn more. But I can tell you that my friend's symptoms do not even closely resemble adrenal insufficiency. As a matter of fact, as an armchair quarterback, I'd say that her symptoms are most likely left over from her bout with influenza. The residual cough and nasal stuffiness can be just as rough as the illness itself.  Luckily, my friend is a nurse, and smart enough to know that she doesn't have adrenal insufficiency. And she did the really smart thing, and saw her personal physician for evaluation and management of her illness.

But what about the general public? Can you imagine a less educated person reading this? And thinking that they have some horrible illness? And who would post this? But judging by what I see in my feed, everyone has an opinion on medical questions.

Parents show up in my clinic all the time with their children, having Googled their symptoms. According to the Pew Research Center, 1/3 of Americans have turned to the internet to learn more about their medical condition and/or symptoms. The parents of the children I see report to me what they have learned from Google. And it's up to me to undo the damage done by what they have read.

A swollen lymph node (gland) in the neck? Leukemia, according to the presenting mom. The mom is tearful and worried, so I order a CBC to reassure them. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a child in the office with this.  With a concurrent fever, I'll swab for strep and treat with antibiotics.

I've experienced this in my own family as well. My mom, who just loves being a junior doctor, gave up her Mayo Clinic Health Manual for Google. She searches stuff she and my dad are experiencing all the time. I will never forget the day she called me to tell me she thought my dad was having a stroke. When I asked why she thought that, she told me she Googled his symptoms of headache and visual changes. And where was my dad? Sitting next to her....Ayyyyy! (BTW, turns out it was a migraine...after she DROVE him to the ER...didn't want to bother the paramedics...but that's a whole other issue...).

But back to runners. I see a lot of advice seeking in my FB feed with runners posting questions about injuries or pains they're having. As a medical person, I'm often stunned and amazed at what I read for responses. Even my favorite mother runners, Dimity and Sarah, used to post reader questions about injuries. I used to read these posts but I started to get frustrated and upset about the responses. So many times, I typed a snarky response but hit delete. I haven't noticed these kind of posts lately, so I wonder if they've gotten away from that. I hope so. Smart move, in my opinion.

Enemas. The cure for all that ails you.
The problem with obtaining medical advice from a blog, from a friend, from Facebook, from the internet, is that you have no way of knowing how reliable the information is. A lot of what you read is word of mouth. The other issue is that the person you are asking isn't getting the big picture. There is no substitute for a good medical history and exam. Friends and family curbside me all the time with medical questions. I rarely give an answer because when I have, inevitably, there is some piece of the puzzle missing from the story--and I've gotten burned. I've become cautious, and no, I don't give out medical advice anymore. Sorry.

Who do you trust?

Know your sources. Anecdotes--"what worked for me"--can be useful and reassuring, but I like science to back what I do and say--in the office and on the road. Go to reliable sites--the ones that use evidence based medical information: the CDC, WebMD, and MedlinePlus are a few examples. This website has a list of 100 reliable websites for medical advice. While not comprehensive, it's a good place to start. Dr Oz? Not so much. Good resources for running injuries include Runners Connect, Runners World magazine, National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases,  and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

You should rely on your personal medical provider, sports medicine physician, orthopedic surgeon, physical therapist, and certified trainer. And do rely on your gut. If it doesn't sound right, doesn't feel isn't right. If you don't like what you're hearing, get a second opinion. But don't count on the general public or your next door neighbor who used to be a nurse or Dr Google to steer you in the right direction. I'm not saying you shouldn't do your own research. But be careful what you read.

I didn't get my diploma from Google University. And neither should you.

Friday, December 26, 2014

It's a free-for-all!

I'm linking up with the DC trifecta--Cynthia, Mar, and Erica--once again for Friday Five. This week there was no specific topic, so I get to talk about anything I want! To people that might actually want to hear it? Oh, man, I feel like a kid in a candy shop runner in a running shop!

Today I'm writing about random thoughts that I've had--stuff that has run through my mind, possible ideas for blog posts. I've been jotting them down over the past couple of months, and because they're just random, odd thoughts, you get an extra holiday treat of silliness.

Today I have the perfect excuse to put them all out there. Because....

"When in doubt, I whip it out, I got me a rock and roll band, it's a free for all..." (Ted Nugent)

1. Why do non-runners think all runners know each other?

Actually, this is a principle you could apply to just about any group with a common factor. I'm a nurse--really, a nurse practitioner, but there are even nurses who don't make the distinction. (A topic for discussion at another time and another place. This is a running blog, after all.) Anyways, my father-in-law's lady friend has a daughter who is a nurse. They automatically assumed we'd be best buds because we are both nurses. Seriously. Even though I work in pediatrics and she takes care of adults. Um no. Not a thing in common except that we are nurses.

A while back, a woman stopped me while I was out running. At the time, I had my earbuds in and was rocking my run, and as I passed her, I noticed her talking to me. I tried to keep going but she wouldn't stop trying to get my attention. Slightly annoyed, I took one headphone out, stopped my Garmin, and stopped to see what she wanted. She told me she sees me running all the time and asked me a bunch of questions about running, how far I go, how many days/week I run, etc. Then she asked me if I knew "the realtor". What? Who? "Do you run with her?" What? Why? Once I figured out who she was asking about, yes, I do know who "the realtor" is. She's the mother of a friend, who is about 70, sells homes in the neighborhood, and runs several days/week. Why would this woman assume that I run with "the realtor"?

Don't all runners run together? Don't we all know each other? I didn't even explain to her about running alone. I didn't think she'd get it.

I'll never forget the time the neighborhood weirdo (yes, you have one too), the recluse in the mint green house with the big cross made out of rocks in her front yard, was in her driveway and approached me as I ran by. She came out into the road and stupid me, I stopped. She asked me if she could run with me sometime. Because why? I backed away slowly and mumbled some response. I avoided her street for a while after that.

2. Why do non-runners tell runners how hard it is to run?

The other frustrating aspect of this conversation was when that woman who stopped to ask me 100 questions about running told me how "hard" it is for her to run, wanting to know how I motivate myself to get out the door. But why do non-runners feel the need to tell us runners how hard running is? How it just "kills" their knees? Is it to make themselves feel better because they don't run? And then we runners are put in another awkward situation having to explain why we find enjoyment beating ourselves up by participating in such a difficult activity. Ay.

This woman also told me how inspiring I am. Which was nice to hear, after being asked all these questions. I don't consider myself inspirational by running. Did you ever notice how non-runners assume we all run marathons? Way back before I ever ran a marathon, I was asked about this. When I replied that I hadn't run one, she asked me why not? After all, she said, "didn't I want to share my running with the world?"


Apparently, to non-runners we runners are gluttons for punishment. Because the idea of arthritis and heart disease are just so much more appealing than a few miles around the 'hood.

And no, she didn't ask if she could run with me.

3. Name the runners you see on the run

Ok, this isn't an original idea, Angela at Happy Fit Mama did a post on this a while ago. Her post made me think about the other people I see when I'm running. Like a guy I've mentioned before, The Windmill? He's the one who spins his arms while he runs. There's The Jogger, whom my husband I named way before we knew about the whole jogger vs runner thing. He's another neighbor who used to run, then jog, and now walks. Slowly. Still makes those jogging motions with his arms though. I do believe there are some "issues", since he's in his 50s and still lives with his mom. Has bad 80s hair and wears a leather blazer when he's not, ahem, jogging. The Gazelle is a runner I see quite often when I'm out running. He runs with really long strides and exaggerated arm motions. I can't help but think about all the wasted energy in that stride. There's a guy I see all the time who runs really slow and doesn't bend his legs at all, aka The Shuffler. I've talked with him a little. Seems like a really nice guy. Runs a lot. Finally, I used to see a woman at the retention pond who had a really smooth stride. I used to call her The Smooth Runner. Really original, right? But I saw her at my first Chicago Marathon, and yes, she crushed her run. So much for being judgmental.

I guess I'd call him the Streaker! (Will Farrell in Old School)
But tell me you don't do this. Name other runners, that is. There are runners who are streaking--but not like Will Farrell. Certainly, there's a lot to think about on a run. But with all that time on your hands, thoughts do wander...

4. James Bond-esque self defense for runners

In light of all the recent threats to the safety of runners at all my running hot spots, I've spent some time on the run thinking about self-defense should I be attacked on the run. The safest thing would be to not run at all, but that's not an option. Or to run on the treadmill. Again, not a viable option, for me at least. Mace? Pepper spray? What if it's windy and I'm facing the wind when I spray? I wouldn't be able to defend myself with burning, watering eyes, would I? A gun? Not my thing. I'm just not comfortable carrying a gun. If he's reading this, Ted Nugent is shaking his head right now. Maybe he'll make me take his video out of my post.

I do think my fists would be a viable option. Even more effective? Brass knuckles. You could easily run with them, right? Maybe with spikes embedded in the knuckles? Hidden spikes until you press a button, releasing them? The spikes could be embedded with some poison that would be injected into the attacker upon impact! Someone grabs your arm, you swing back and bam! Bye bye creepo!

I've actually given this a lot of thought!

Even better, how about combining them with the already existing Knuckle Lights? Then if you run in the dark, you'll be visible and protected! I'm waiting for the Knuckle Light people to contact me to discuss this idea further. You know where you can find me....and yes, when I become wealthy from this idea, I'm retiring from health care.

Or a jog bra equipped to shoot...this could work too!
5. What constitutes a good running song?

Is it motivating lyrics? A pounding beat? Something you can sing to? All of the above? Right now I'm tweaking my running playlist. Some songs, I'm just sick of. Spotify makes it easy and guilt free to delete songs.  Other songs never get old. I'm trying out some new songs too. I just love to listen to music when I run, which is why #4 above is so important.

In heavy rotation right now are:

Sunlight--The Magician;
Dreamworld--Midnight Oil (an oldie);
World on Fire--Slash and Myles Kennedy;
Jungle--X Ambassadors; and
Holdin' On--Monsta.

We'll see if any of them make the cut for my next race in March.

And no, Ted Nugent isn't on my playlist.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dear Body,

Before I have to finalize holiday preparations, I've been purusing all the blogs I follow. I came across a link up on Jill Conyer's blog: the Fit Dish. She suggested writing a thank you letter to your body, putting a positive spin on what is usually a difficult subject for most women. What a great topic for a blog post on this holiday Eve! After all the stress of preparing for the holidays and taking care of all those sick kiddos the past couple of weeks, it seemed like a great idea to think about me, my year, and all that I've accomplished! I rarely have down time. Today, I spent a few hours redesigning the blog to reflect what I want to accomplish on social media. As an "older" runner (I prefer the term "seasoned"), I want to show other women that getting older doesn't mean slowing down. I've struggled a little bit with being in my 50s--not physically, but mentally. This is the year I've finally accepted my age--even embraced it! And felt really good about my body. Because this has been the fittest year of my life. So here we go!

Dear Body,

I haven't always been happy with you. When I was a teenager and in my 20s, I hated my body. Especially my stomach. I always wanted flat abs. And this was in the days before "fitspiration!"  I felt like I was fat. Even though I know I wasn't. I've never been fat. But I just didn't like the way I looked. Once I started running, I started feeling better about myself. You started to show me what I could do. 

But when I tried to get pregnant, you let me down.  I always wanted to be a mom, and you just wouldn't cooperate. And when I did finally get pregnant, the first time, well, that pregnancy wasn't meant to be. I was angry at you. It took me a long time to feel good about you again. I ran through that anger and eventually, I forgave you enough to pursue a pregnancy again. 

I did get pregnant, but you wouldn't completely let me enjoy it. Bleeding throughout the first trimester, I was on edge the whole time. Of course, I couldn't run, because I was so afraid I'd miscarry again. Thankfully, I gave birth--not once, but twice--to 2 beautiful baby boys. But even my deliveries weren't easy. Yep, body, you really let me down in that department. But you did let me grow 2 babies, and for that, I am grateful.

The one area that you've been pretty reliable is with running. You blessed me with long, strong legs that have carried me fast and far. I finally got up the courage to run that first marathon 3 years ago--but you pooped out on me. I was so disappointed with you, even after all that training I did. And then there were injuries. A year of recovery. Plantar fasciitis. Stress fracture. 

I really felt like you let me down. I thought maybe it was time to give up running. But instead of quitting on you, I got some help. And through weight training learned to treat you better. Why didn't I listen to you all those years before? I gave you what you wanted, and you responded! So much so, that I got up the courage to tackle that marathon again. You responded to all that hard work and you liked the balance that Becky put in my training plan. 

Thank you body, for rewarding me with the best running year of my life. For that amazing Chicago marathon--I don't know if you'll let me top it! I look back on my anger and disappointment in you, and realized that you were trying to tell me something. This was the year that I listened. And you gave me what I wanted. You showed me that I'm strong. You showed me that I can be as fit and fast at 52 as I was at 32.  But now I'm so much smarter. You taught me that too. And for that, I can finally feel grateful. 

What would you say to your body? Are you happy with your body? How do you see yourself?

Monday, December 22, 2014

'Tis the season to be tacky..or how Wendy got her Christmas spirit back

Friday night was my annual office party. One of the highlights of the night was the White Elephant Gift Exchange. Do you do this at any of your parties? The point of this is to bring a tacky or silly gift. Some people bring serious gifts. But what's the fun of that? The gifts are anonymous and the point is to have fun! There was a ton of laughter from this group of physicians and office staff. 

The first gift I unwrapped was a pint glass set embossed with pictures from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation movie. It is one of my favorite movies of all time, but did I really want to drink out of glasses from the movie? No matter because someone stole that gift, and I was headed back to the tree to choose another. That was a bottle of wine, a wine opener, and a book of erotic fiction. There was a card in the box that read "for an intimate evening alone". Hmmm...but apparently someone else wanted that evening to themselves because I didn't have that gift for too long. So again, it was back to the tree. This gift I kept. I don't know why no one else wanted this lovely Santa toilet cover. 

When I brought it home, I put it in the bathroom. My boys weren't home, but I couldn't wait for them to see it. The next day, I asked them if they liked it. Not so much...but my youngest said he did take a picture and sent it to all his friends! I'd call that a win!

Normally, I wouldn't decorate like this, but the way I've been feeling lately about the holidays, I figured it would bring some laughs when my family comes over this week! I've been lacking in the Christmas spirit department, so what the heck, right? 

As my Christmas prep continues to move forward, my mood is beginning to lighten. What else is putting a smile on my face?

We had a holiday hallway decorating competition at work. My clinic is quite large, and the 3 teams were charged with bringing their best holiday spirit to their hallways. My medical assistant, who is super creative, talked us into a Frozen theme. I don't think the picture does it justice, but it looks pretty good! Our hallway is the first one you see when you enter the clinic from the waiting room, and it makes me smile every time I hear a little kid call it the "frozen hallway". During the decorating, there was a lot of friendly trash talking going on between the hallways and that made all of us laugh! Of course in the end, "everyone was a winner", which reinforces my theory about participation trophies and making everyone feel good about themselves, at least in this setting. But we did have a good time with this.

One thing I've always liked about this time of year is the outdoor Christmas decorations. When LED lights started becoming more popular, I wasn't sure if I liked them. They just don't seem to have the same warmth as the old fashioned bulb lights. But this year, the colors are more brilliant and I've noticed a lot of people wrapping their trees so that they look like a burst of light at the top. Some of my neighbors go over the top with the home ornamentation, much like Clark W. Griswold's infamous outdoor illumination. We even call one of my friend's husband Clark, because he goes all out with the lights on his house. Tacky, yet pretty amazing, I sure wouldn't want to pay his electric bill!

"Is your house on fire Clark?"

There's tacky and then there's vulgar: 

Sorry, I'm just not a fan of the lawn inflatables. I feel like they're just kind of lazy decorations. What's the fun of just plugging them in and watching them inflate? For me, it's just not the same as looking at the Christmas lights. I don't get it. Apparently, it is an obsession for some people. 

About 25 years ago, women started wearing Christmas sweaters. It was a fashion trend. Now the trend is repurposing these sweaters and wearing them to ugly Christmas sweater parties. I've been to a few in the past, and it's been fun just shopping for them at Goodwill--the selection is really good. The last one I bought, the cashier complimented me on it. Was she serious? I believe so...sigh.

Of course, everyone has to take it to a new level, by making their own sweaters. Weren't the originals ugly enough? There is a National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day which this year fell on December 12. Missed it! And there are plenty of Ugly Christmas Sweater Runs, one of which was held locally at Soldier Field on November 29. I missed that one too. There are other Christmas themed runs, and everyone really gets all decked out for those! I mean, look at us last weekend in the Underground Polar Express Run:

Penny, me, Michelle

Another option? Chicago hosts its' own Santa Speedo Run, which this year was December 6. Everyone runs in a speedo. Sorry I missed that one...

Speaking of speedos, I saw this in my Facebook feed today: 

Now, I don't know the origin of this picture, nor do I want to ever meet the guy running in the reindeer banana hammock. And once you've seen this, you can't unsee it, right? Rudolph the red nose reindeer and his shiny nose! Jingle balls bells! Sleigh balls bells ring! It's a winter wonderland! Son of a nutcracker! 

Made me laugh! This Christmas prep, shopping,'s too much. But having fun and laughing with friends...running with friends (fully clothed, that is), that's what it should be about! 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014: You've gotta have friends

I've been reading everyone's year end recaps. I love reading about the highlights and everyone's personal triumphs. And I've been thinking a lot about 2014. For me, it has been the best running year of my running life. I never expected to have the personal triumphs that came my way. Not every race was epic. As a matter of fact, my 2 half marathons were my slowest ever. Heat and humidity are still not my friends.

What stands out for me more than the finish lines are the friendships that got me across those finish lines.

For me, 2014 was the year of the Sole Sisters!

There was that Florida halfathon. Hot and humid, I crashed and burned. But made a friend, Caroline, who got me across the finish line! "You're not walking this one!" Nope, we ran, slowly, across the finish line.

Mile 13 and we're smiling!
Then came the broken foot. After I ran my 10 miler and nearly PR'd running on it, I was put into the boot for 4 weeks of rest. A scheduled half for May, the Chicago Spring Half Marathon, was my first DNS ever. But I took my friend Marcia's offer and rode down with her to spectate and cheer her, Penny, and Michelle on!

Penny, Michelle, Marcia, me
After I learned that I won a free entry to the Chicago marathon, I nervously and excitedly decided to put my first disastrous attempt at that race 3 years ago behind me and redeem myself. My coach/trainer Becky developed an epic training plan and away we went, with 14 weeks to prepare. The plan was intense, with lots of cross training, intervals, and low miles. Early in my training, I nervously headed to the starting line at Zooma Chicago in August with nary a long run under my belt. Another hot and humid half, I melted early. But this race was memorable for my awesome friends Karen and Michelle, who did their best to get me across the finish line. Sara won her age group! And a random stranger, Yolanda ran that last mile with me. Yolanda, with the super cute Lululemon skirt, that I noticed, even in spite of my misery!
New friend Yolanda hugging me at the finish line!

Karen, Sara, me, Michelle

I had no other races scheduled until Chicago. I completely focused on my training, which after Zooma, went off without a hitch. As my running became stronger, so did my confidence in my ability to finish the marathon with a respectable time. The morning of the race, I rode down on the El and met a couple of women who I easily chatted with. In the race tent, I met up with Bonita, my coworker. And then I got a text from Penny, who was outside the tent. We hugged and wished each other good luck.
Bonita and me

Penny and me

Along the course, I saw my friend Sandy and my coworker and friend Zuly. Got hugs from both and felt the endorphins lift. My legs felt light and I felt like I was flying. Miles 23-finish were a little tougher as my hamstrings tightened up. Knowing my friends would be waiting for me at the finish line, I pushed to the end. After I crossed the finish line, I had the experience of muscle spasms in both legs. I got a ride to the medical tent, but was able to get myself out of there quickly. I found Sara, Karen, and Penny, and we all congratulated each other!!!

Zuly and me

Penny, me, Sara, Karen

In a spur of the moment, I decided to run a Turkey Trot, an 8k, and strong-armed Marcia and Sara to do this one with me. It was cold but we sat in Marcia's car before the race and chatted like friends do. We ran fast to stay warm, and I finished 2d in my age group. These ladies stuck around for me to collect my award.

Marcia, Sara, me

And finally, my last race of the year, a "non-race", a 5k for charity, the Underground Polar Express. Organized by my friend Karen, we decided to support her and run it. We also ran into another Michelle, whom none of us had met before, but felt like we'd known her forever. We hung around after for pizza and a beer. For me, it was the perfect finish to the year of the sole sisters.

Karen, me, Penny, Michelle

Michelle, me

I run most of my races solo. I train solo. But having friends to run races with made this my most favorite running year ever. Because it isn't about the numbers, but the friends we meet along the way.

I'm looking forward to 2015 and meeting more running friends. All of you, even those of you I haven't met in person but have met through social media,  have made this year epic for me. I could not have had the year I had without my friends.

A recap of 2014 would not be complete without me talking about my coach/trainer Becky. I started working with her last year, to help offset some chronic injuries and pains that threatened to end running for me. Not only did she help make me a physically stronger runner, she infused me with confidence and made me a mentally tougher runner. I've run harder and stronger than I ever have. I look back on this year with awe and disbelief. I couldn't have accomplished any of this without her. I feel so lucky to have this amazing woman in my life. I can't imagine what 2015 will bring, but she's already got me working...

Me and Becky

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Race recap: Underground Polar Express

Last year, my friend Karen organized a race in her hometown to support a cause near and dear to her heart, suicide prevention. And thus, the Underground Polar Express was born.

The race, a 5k, was an untimed fun run. She raised money for her charity. This year, she decided to do it again. The response was remarkable. She told me that race entries tripled this year. For an untimed fun run? What does that tell you about Karen and her community of friends and family?

I decided to support her and run it. After I registered, I started having some pains in my right butt aka high hamstring. And those damn shin splints. When Becky told me I needed to take a break, we played Let's Make a Deal. I begged to be able to run this thing. I told her I'd run it slow. I told her I was committed and had to run. So she agreed. But only if I'd take time off before and after.

Then came the bad news that my medical assistant turned in her resignation. Remember that post I wrote about fairness and participation trophies? Well, apparently, that conversation from her supervisor about me praising her and upsetting the other CMAs really got to her. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Isn't it amazing how much damage one person's words can do? Devastated after Zuly told me she was leaving, I drove home from work that night in tears.

Meanwhile, my friends Penny, Michelle, Sara, and Karen were all texting about the race. Sara wasn't going to be there due to family obligations. Penny and Mish had big plans to dress up. Me, I had completely lost my desire to participate. I was lower than low. Injured and sad. But their texts lifted me up enough that on the way home from work the next day, I stopped at Target to check out the possibility of a Christmas themed outfit. I found a sparkly skirt in the girls' department in size XL and tried it on. I'd never worn a tutu or anything like it, but I thought I could pull this off.  Combined with the Christmas sweater-like running top (it had thumb holes!) I found at Marshalls and the striped socks I found at Joann's, I had an outfit.

I made the ride to Batavia, which is about 50 minutes from my home. As soon as I got there, a woman came up to me. "Are you Wendy?" she asked. I told her yes, and she introduced herself as Cindy. "I follow your blog and I recognized you!". Put a HUGE smile on my face. Ok, so far so good!

I got in line to sign in. I saw Carrie, Karen's friend and co-organizer, who recognized me too, from Zooma. She gave me a big hug. I also saw Michelle from Movin' it with Michelle, who I had never met. I was surprised at how petite she was! We talked like we were old friends! Lots of hugs! And more smiles!

I felt like a giant next to her!

Then Penny and Michelle arrived. After they signed in, we met up at the trail where the race was to take place. The Fox Valley Trail is a gem. I ran a half there last year, and I recognized the path. We all took off together. This was an untimed race, and because I was injured, Penny, Michelle, and I agreed to run it slow. We wanted to be able to talk. 

We moved along the path and did quite a bit of weaving. Guess we weren't running too slow...We talked about 2015 and our race plans. We laughed about the lady we passed, who had what looked like sheer running pants on (yes, we could see her buns!). Some of the costumes were epic. A guy dressed as Santa. A little girl dressed as a Christmas tree! Another little girl dressed as a reindeer. As we crossed the Fox River and headed back towards the restaurant where we started, I started feeling pretty warm. I commented that I didn't think we were exactly running slow, but I felt great! No shin splints, no pain in that right hamstring. 

We got to the finish and saw Karen. She was personally greeting all the runners, but I made her take a picture with us.

Karen, me, Penny, and Michelle

After the race we went inside the host restaurant, Pal Joey's. We were handed a raffle ticket and a drink ticket. When we went to the bar, we were told we could get a mimosa or a Miller light/Bud light. I can't drink that beer because it gives me a headache, so I ordered a Blue Moon and gave my drink ticket to Michelle. Penny and Michelle had mimosas. We headed to the dining room, where there was a raffle table. I bought a few more raffle tickets. Then we went and had pizza, which was delish. I talked with some of the other participants, and had an interesting conversation with a guy about football. Later we saw him walking around wearing leather chaps. With pants underneath, thankfully.

The raffle prizes were good, and Michelle and I each won a prize basket! Mine included a gift card to a local French bistro, 2 bottles of wine, and some other assorted gifts. There was also a best costume contest, which was won by a woman dressed as Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. Hilarious!

This was an absolute blast and yes, Karen, if you organize it again, I will be there! I loved the idea of a fun run, untimed. The price ($14) was right. The race was run for a meaningful cause. I've never dressed in costume before, but I had a good time with this one. And I got to see my friends, old and new, who helped me chase away those winter blahs. We all hugged goodbye and hopefully will see each other soon. Leather chaps left when we did, riding off on his motorcycle. Karen just shrugged her shoulders.

Me, Penny, Michelle, and  Michelle
This race was the perfect prescription for this sad runner! Oh and that hamstring? No pain during the run. No shin splints. Untimed race? Are you kidding me? Finish time: 28:35, 9:10min/mile. Just in case you needed to know. I did!

I'm linking up with Tara at Readingn'Running, be sure to check out her blog!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Taking a break

It's no secret that lately I've been struggling with my runs. I rode that post marathon wave for a long time, right into that blazing finish and AG 2d place finish at that Turkey Trot 2 weeks ago. After that things went downhill in a hurry. It's like my legs just said "I quit". My speed disappeared--poof! It felt like someone applied the brakes. I've rolled and stretched like a woman possessed, and have been able to eeek out some slow, minimally painful runs. But my legs feel wooden. When I run, instead of my usual light, easy stride, my feet flap on the ground. I have to stop and stretch my shins. Instead of being enjoyable, my runs lately feel like--dare I say it?--a chore.

It's called overuse and yes, I'm guilty as charged. It's my own damn fault. I kept running in the same shoes I used to train in for the marathon; the shoes that I ran the marathon in. My lucky shoes, with the hot pink laces. All that good juju in those shoes. Gone. I must have run it right out of the shoes. All I was left with were flapping clown feet and Pinocchio legs. Oops.

Then I tried a new pair of shoes that I won this summer. Figured, what the heck? Huge mistake. Huge. They are so completely different from my usual shoes. I couldn't even finish my run that day. I spent the day in the pain cave after I tried running in those. I pulled out a new pair of my usual shoes, but it was too late to undo the damage I had done.

What the hell is wrong with me? I've been a runner for over 20 years, and I made some seriously rookie-like mistakes!!! I ignored the advice I give to new runners: Listen to your body. Change your shoes every 300-400 miles. Take time off after a big race.

Actually, that's pretty much what Becky asked me went for my CrossFit session this week. We had a serious talk. She told me, using the words "as your coach", that I need to take a break. Becky has always left my running under my control. But today, that changed. Since I'm not making good decisions here and being stubborn, she's telling me I have to do this. We talked about all the stress I've been under, and how I need to run. But for a week or 2, I need to let that go. Find another outlet. She offered to up my sessions to twice weekly and I can still do yoga. But running is out.

When I got home, I felt ok with this. Sort of. It was a pretty fall day, the kind we rarely see this time of year, and the sun was out, the first time in about a week. It was one of those days where you can't wait to put on your running shoes and head out the door for a run. Of course, since my runs have been pretty painful and difficult, I probably wouldn't enjoy it. Which kind of sucks too, because when you live in the midwest and run outside all year round, days like today are a reward. So I thought about that. And taking time off felt a little better. Because there will be more "reward days", and I want to be able to get out there and enjoy them.

Becky also brought up my half marathon in March. She said that to properly train me for it, I need to be rested before we start up again. I get that. I didn't do well at my Florida half last was so humid. And I really didn't take any time off before I started training. Of course, I didn't run a fall marathon either...speaking of which, we talked about as well. I do want to do Chicago again this fall, and I need to avoid any injuries, if possible. Makes sense.

And I can't help but wonder if these difficult runs are stressing me out more. Funny how when I was training for the marathon, I didn't have any bad runs. I even thought about that while I was training. I knew that my great running streak would come to an end. But it was good while it lasted. I just pushed it a little too far. Running is a stress reliever for me. But when the running itself is painful and difficult, it ceases to give me the endorphins and release that I'm used to. So maybe taking a break will help with that as well. I may not go crazy not running...because it's one less thing to stress me out. Unless the break becomes prolonged...but that's another story. I'm trying to prevent any serious injuries here!

The timing is perfect. It's the holiday season and I have a ton to do. It's the end of the running season. I'm not training for anything.

Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

But will it make me run faster?

Over the weekend, I was scrolling through my FB feed and saw an article on new shoes for 2015. These shoes caught my eye:

These shoes, the Ampla Fly, due out in February, have a midfoot carbon spring that is intended to give the runner an extra push on the toe off phase during running. The Ampla website describes it as a FORCEPOWER plate that "maximizes force application at big toe push off". Call me a cynic, but doesn't this seem a little gimmicky? Forcepower? And it kind of reminds me of a Seinfeld episode involving a certain pair of shoes that were purported to make one of the characters, Jimmy, jump higher. When George tried them...not so much...

Shoes manufacturers have been making promises of enhanced performance to runners for years! (Sounds like viagra for the feet, right? RD=running dysfunction?) 

Nike Shox anyone? Have you ever seen any elites running in these?

Reebok pump from the 1990s?

Remember the barefoot craze a few years back? Anyone jump on that bandwagon? 
As it turns out, minimalist running isn't for everyone. And running shoes aren't that bad for us.

Shoes are probably the most expensive items a runner can purchase. But there are a lot of products marketed to runners that claim to make us run faster, run injury free, run farther. I mean, who doesn't want to run faster? Run injury free? I'm not going to touch on nutrition in this post, because that is a topic for a whole separate post. Here are a few items, besides shoes, that make my skeptic flag fly: 

Compression socks are super popular right now. All the cool kids are wearing them in all different colors. I've considered wearing them too. After all, as a nurse, I am aware of the benefits of the compression sleeves we use in the hospital to improve blood flow in the legs and prevent the formation of blood clots. Seems like they could be beneficial for runners too, especially long distance runners. Makes sense to me...

But the inner skeptic in me turned to the research for confirmation of my hunch. It turns out that in 2 very small studies, compression socks were shown to mildly improve performance--but not significantly--by about 2%. This translates to maybe a 1-2 minute faster marathon finishing time. There was no improvement in recovery, although the runners in the study perceived less soreness after a run in which they wore the socks. If you look at the elites, some wear compression socks and some don't. I've never run in compression socks. They seem like they'd be really hot to me. Not to mention the weird tan lines I'd get. As if I don't already have those...

What about compression gear? Same story. I have a pair of CW-X compression tights and I actually feel like they slow me down. The compression shorts I have? Um, tried them a few times and for this gal, I'm not going to run in them again. Can you say chafing? I'm going to try them at CrossFit and see if there are any benefits there. Bottom line, don't expect dramatic results from compression socks. Or gear.

And what about socks in general? Running socks are pricey. And they are marketed heavily to runners. My internet search found these Stable26 running socks and wow! are they expensive. They have some integrated silicone pads in the rear foot, " to enhance stability, improve performance and comfort, resulting in reduced blister formation and improved blood flow". Well, if they really do that, then sign me up! I couldn't find many reviews on these socks, but Susan at FitBottomedGirls did one. And confirmed what I already suspected. These socks are...just socks. You know what socks I like? I like that pair of Balegas that Marcia gave me... a lot. And my Feetures are pretty awesome. My Soxy Feet makes some really fun socks that make my feet happy. SmartWool keeps my feet warm. And my Target C9 DuoDry socks perform just as well as any of their more expensive friends. Bottom line, if they stay up, wick away moisture, and don't make me blister, I'm happy.

Wouldn't these make you run faster?
I recently bought a super cute shirt from Athleta. When it arrived, there was a tag on it that said the top was UNSTINKABLE. Hmmm...again, my skeptic flag was flying. My research found that the odor repelling technology is silver salts (silver has antibacterial properties) in the fabric that fights bacteria and fungus. Athleta sprays the silver salts onto the finished product and claims that the silver coating lasts throughout the lifetime of the garment. Skeptic alert!!! According to an article I read on Rodale, these silver salts wash out after 1-2 washings, which makes more sense to me. And there is research to back this. So, if you like the top, buy it, but don't expect to come home from a hard run smelling like a rose. And at least they aren't marketing these shirts to make you run faster! Wouldn't that be something? 
From Athleta UNSTINKABLE--how could a shirt this cute ever smell?

Because there is no substitute for hard work. No shortcuts. No gimmicks.