Most days I feel so young, it’s hard to believe that I spent nearly ten years on active duty. Coming from a military family, I had no qualms about joining ROTC in college and beginning a career as an officer upon graduation. Hell, having a job right outside of college is a darn luxury, and I knew my political science degree wouldn’t be good for much else. My decision didn’t falter during my junior year, when the towers fell – in fact, it strengthened. I graduated college and entered the military knowing we were sending people to several countries halfway across the world – that sense of purpose acting as a unifying and driving factor for me and my colleagues. I actually spent my first year of active duty in another schoolhouse before arriving at my first base. I deployed first, for four months, in early ’06 and liked it so much, I volunteered to go out again in ’07 – for the entire year. It was the worst of times for the war, but the best of times for job experience and learning on the fly. I didn’t go back out again until 6 months in ’09, returning from what would ultimately be my final deployment almost five years ago this week. Being in the military allowed me the experience of traveling to Europe, Asia, and Africa, of supporting not just combat operations but also humanitarian and relief efforts. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people, capable of so much in this world.
I never set out for this blog to have any sort of theme; I just wanted to be able to have somewhere to vent all my ramblings. But for the past few months it’s basically been all running all the time. I’m not necessarily apologizing for that, it’s just that besides work and travel this past summer, that was what I was focused on most and I needed some way to keep myself accountable. That being said, I’d like to work in some non-running related thoughts on this blog at some point in time …
Though not today. Haha.
Nope, right now I’m looking at what’s next on my running calendar since my fall race is done. I had a few items already on my calendar – the Hot Chocolate 15K in December and, of course, my yearly run-cation centered on Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in February. But I also started looking at some options for the full 26.2. I considered the Go! St. Louis Marathon long and hard, even inking it in on my calendar. But ultimately I decided not to for a few reasons, most of which being the hilly course. I knew I wanted to train using Hal Higdon’s Novice Supreme plan – the 30 weeks would definitely help my base. Plus the low mileage over the first few weeks will help me recover from the half but give me a plan to execute so I don’t just end up spending the holidays on my ass because hey! I just ran a half marathon. I ended up eyeballing the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach because it’s super-flat, scenic, and – most importantly – near my family, so I’ll have some local support to feed me beer afterwards. When I matched up the training plan to the race, it couldn’t have lined up better. I’m scheduled to have a 9mi long run on the weekend of the 15K and a 14mi long run the weekend of the Princess half. I’m cutting into the program a little late (week 7), but who’s counting?
I’ve got two new pairs of Hoka One Ones and a plan. I’m ready to tackle on the winter. Bring it.
Comparison is the thief of joy. – T. Roosevelt
As I crossed the finish line of the Mo Cowbell Half Marathon, I felt pretty uplifted. I was smiling. Yeah, my legs were hurting, but it was a good hurt, a hurt I was supposed to feel after 13.1 miles. I had seen the clock as I crossed the finish line, and though I knew I hadn’t beat my personal best, I had ran a respectable race given my fitness and training. I had trained and run smartly.
I follow a number of bloggers and professional runners because I enjoy the sport and draft my motivation off of them. But I think with running, there’s this element of legitimacy – to be a “true” follower of the sport, you should be good at it. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I feel weird talking about Meb’s tremendous performance at the Boston Marathon or Shalane’s ballsy attempt at the American record in Berlin. I don’t look like a runner. I don’t run like a runner. So, as the crazy ramps up in my head, I have no claim to fully appreciate the sport.
Hell, I even hated running for awhile. Being in the military, I had to run as part of my annual fitness evaluations at least once a year. There’s no joy in constantly training for a 1.5 mile run around a track. And when you figured in that my workdays left me almost chained to a desk/computer for 8 hours a day (at home, 12 hours deployed), that I spent almost half my military career on night shifts almost irrevocably wrecking my circadian rhythms … well, it was easy for me to hate running.
And then 6 months before I left the military, when I knew I was getting out, I picked running back up. Slowly, methodically, on the treadmill, inside where no one could see me or judge me. Where I could learn to like it again. Four months after starting to “date” running again, I ran my first half marathon, my personal best time I mentioned above.
Between then and now, I endured about 6 months of unemployment, a new job, and unreliable fitness. I let the weight creep back on. I let the dust collect on my treadmill. I made running goals and abandoned them. But earlier this summer, I decided to try a running “streak”. Just Memorial Day to Independence Day. At least a mile every day. No stress. No judgement.
And I remembered I liked to run.
So I started training for this half marathon. Sure, not every week was great. In fact, towards the end, I was having problems with my hips, and ended up running about 1/3 of what my training plan called for and making small compensations to make up for a complete lack of cross-/strength training.
I also found a growing inspiration through social media. A number of bloggers I followed were affiliated with Oiselle, a brand I love. So when Oiselle opened up the opportunity to become members of The Flock, I signed right up. I didn’t have to prove how fast I was, or whether or not I looked like a runner – just expressing interest was a prerequisite. I’m incredibly excited to be connected to all of these fantastic ladies out there who make running a part of their lives.
Welp, I didn’t beat my personal best (I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but my best is 2:47:03), but I did come pretty darn close. I finished in a respectable (for me) 2:51:38. And I’m pretty okay with that.
What’s interesting is that there weren’t a lot of clocks on the course, and I was running sans Garmin, so I really had no idea how I was doing. I wasn’t even running with music (which, based on a four-minute song, could also give you some way to gauge your pace. I was listening to an audiobook (Divergent, if you must know). I thought this would be a good tactic because I normally listen to audiobooks on road trips – they help pass the time but aren’t too distracting. So I went with the tactic of keeping a comfortable pace and working in regular walk breaks since I hadn’t done a lot of running the past two weeks. I also made sure to ease back into running from a walk and not just try to stride it out right off the bat – this worked out extremely well towards the end when my legs were starting to really feel it.
The course for the Mo’ Cowbell is just plain gorgeous. We also had perfect partly clouded skies, temps beginning in the high 40s and ending in the low 60s (when I finished, anyways) – I mean, you couldn’t ask for better conditions. Support throughout the course was fantastic, lots of spectators cheering us on throughout. It was a mainly flat run, with a gradual incline from mile 9 through 10.5, followed by a hellishly steep decline at 11.5 (-ish).
This was a fantastic local race – I think the only thing I might do differently (besides train smarter, obviously) would be to stay at the casino just a short walk away. I mean, this race was local for me, but trying to get out of the parking lot was ridiculous and I still had almost an hours’ drive after that. But I’m definitely going to run this again next year. Totally worth it.
When I started to train for the Mo Cowbell Half Marathon, I had intentions to beat my old personal best time. But given some of the issues that have popped up in the last month, I’m honestly just working to finish healthy right now. I have a few times in mind to shoot for, but that’s the kind of thing that would just be icing on the cake at this point.
I’m working slowly for the rest of this training period up until the half marathon, I’ve decided. My hips are still a bit stiff, but they’re doing better day-to-day. I’m listening to my body and trying to respond as appropriate. My running is going well, using this approach, albeit slow – but hey, I’ve never claimed to be a speedy runner. Besides the slow-and-steady pace I’ve adopted, I’m also taking time out throughout the day to focus on my hips. My favorite thing to do is balance on one leg and go through a series of leg lifts – front, side, back, even what I call “fire hydrant” lifts (like a dog relieving itself) – and just balancing on that one leg as long as possible before switching to the other leg. This routine really hits my trouble spots on the outside of my hips and leaves them feeling stable and ready for action afterwards.
It’s tough, knowing that with just a week to go (!!!) until the half marathon that there’s really not that much more I can do. I really should have been doing more in the way of cross- and strength-training throughout this process, but what’s done is done. I can take this lesson and apply it to my next round of training – which will start just after this race. I’m kind of excited about it and will fill you in once this half is done.
For now, I’ll be working some easy miles, keeping my hips lithe, and doing my best to stay healthy. 13.1 is calling a week from today!
Wow. So that tightness in the hips I was feeling last week? Totally blew up in my face this week. I wasn’t feeling great at all on Monday, but I just chalked it up to my long run on Sunday. But when it came time to run on Tuesday, I only got a half mile in before throwing in the flag. I was in pain – the outside of my hips just felt discombobulated and didn’t want to work right. I’ve had problems with my right hip before due to a disparity between the length of my legs, but this pain was different: it was on both sides, rather than one, and not as sharp/debilitating. So I found a smidge of comfort in that. However, knowing that I’ve really trained well this summer and really wanted to run a half on October 5th forced me into action. I put an immediate halt to running.
This week, I did a lot of walking. I stretched. I iced. I foam rolled. I made sure to get up from my desk at work and walk around at least once an hour. The worst of my pain I would feel upon getting up and starting to walk around after sitting – but after I walked around a few minutes, the pain would dissipate almost entirely, so I knew I could overcome this. I did a little self-diagnosing online, because that’s how I roll, and started myself on a regimen of light exercises designed to promote hip and glute strength. Yesterday I felt pretty decent, so I hopped on the treadmill with zero expectations, starting off at a fast walk and working my way up to a slow jog only for a mile and a half. I felt like I could have gone longer, but didn’t want to tempt fate. So I foam rolled and iced afterwards, taking a few ibuprofen. This morning I hopped out of bed in almost zero pain – a hint of pain, like my hips aren’t quite sure they’re done with me yet. I worked in an easy three miles, hitting some interval work towards the end just to test things out. A little more foam rolling, a little more ibuprofen. I think I’m good to go, so long as I really take care of myself.
Now, I already have at least one half lined up for early 2015, so I’m looking ahead at that training cycle for some adjustments I can make there to work on my core strength and try and prevent this kind of thing from happening. But for the immediate future, I’ve only got two weeks left before the Mo’ Cowbell half, so I’m not going to make any major changes to my training as far as strengthening exercises are concerned. I am, however, going to work in some light calisthenics targeted at my hips and glutes because it seems to be helping. I want to get close to my training mileages as they’re scheduled, but I won’t stress out or hurt myself over it.
I’m feeling pretty comfortable with my mileage this week. I hit my runs (some with more enthusiasm than others) and everything seems to be going along pretty okay. I mean, not stellar, because I’m just perpetually achy around my hips, but I’d rather than pain that the knee discomfort I felt all of August. The big thing this week is that the treadmill is not feeling awesome at all. It’s hurting more to run on it that in is to go outside. Fortunately, the forecast for the foreseeable future (how’s that for alliteration?) is completely in my favor with highs in the low 70s, so I’ll be pushing my runs outside and after work. I’d love to run earlier in the day, but my workday starts at 6am, and I’m just not that comfortable running in the dark.
Other than the tightness in my hips, I have a toenail that’s been purplish for a few weeks and a blister that’s starting to heal nicely. Unsure if the toenail has given up on life or not. Time will tell, I guess.
Also, I tried out running this morning while listening to a book on my iPod shuffle – and wow! Totally engaging. I’m definitely doing that more often from now on.
Three weeks to go!