So this morning I showed up for the St. Louis Hot Chocolate 15K. I was super excited for this event – wanted to run it last year, but DNS’ed due to arctic temps and snow mixture on the ground. My own choice, I know, but we all have our standards, right? Anyways, I showed up this morning for the 15K, though I waited until the last minute to check the elevation chart and then kinda wished I hadn’t seen it at all. Spoiler alert: downtown STL is hilly, yo. There’s also a 5K event, and they would be running with the 15K runners until a splitoff right before the 3mi point. So I figured we’d see how I felt. And of course, when I reached that point, I took the shorter path. It wasn’t that the hills were unreasonably ridiculous – I was doing a decent job of chugging the uphills and coasting the downhills. My mile splits were well within my normal range. I wasn’t totally out of breath. Nothing hurt. I was a little warm, but that was just because the 45F temps made me choose a long sleeve shirt even though I had a feeling that once I started running, I’d want to be wearing a short sleeve shirt.
No, the reason I veered right instead of left was because I really just didn’t want to run another 10K. It wasn’t a bad attitude, nothing like I hated the run. I was just … kind of … just … done. It’s hard to explain. I peeled off again right before the actual finishers chute, on the off chance that my 15K bib would throw off the legitimate results, walked over for some hot chocolate, and then hiked back to my car. No regrets at all.
However, this is making me rethink my goal of a marathon in March. I’m worried that 1) I don;t have a good running base and 2) I don’t really have the right attitude to stick with the longer runs. I’m not making any immediate calls, but I need to really self-examine my motivation and follow-through for this goal. I’m running a half marathon in February, a distance with which I’m familiar and comfortable, so there’s that. But I really need to explore this marathon plan, regroup, and refocus. So. Stuff to think about over the holidays, I guess.
I wanted to get some running in this weekend, what with mild temps in the 50s currently happening, but I’ve been dealing with a knee-to-shoulder case of contact dermatitis (read: rash) which is not at all uncomfortable or gross-looking. And by “not at all”, I mean all-consumingly. This super-fun issue started up last weekend, and after self-medicating with hydrocortisone cream and OTC benedryl for a few days with no success, I finally went to see a doctor (or nurse practitioner, as it were, because God forbid you see an actual MD for anything less than surgery these days) on Thursday. I got hooked up with some better drugs, though I still have no idea what caused it in the first place. (Definitely not bedbugs, haven’t changed my soap routine at all, and I already use a perfume- and dye-free detergent, so … yeah. Unsure. But I’ve basically rewashed everything I own that can be washed and am moisturizing like it’s nobody’s business. Good times.) So the good news is that my skin issues are looking and feeling much better. The bad news is that at least one of these pills I’m taking is getting me medicine drunk like whoa. I managed to leave the office early on Friday for a Thanksgiving-themed 5k that was being held on base during lunch, which was super fun, but I felt really lightheaded afterwards. Fortunately, I’m supposed to taper off these pills the next few days, so I just have to power through.
But on to happier subjects …
With the change in weather, I’ve also shook up my normal routine. During the summer, I was all about waking my tail up an insane hours of the morning in order to hit the treadmill during the cooler hours of the day and not die of heatstroke. But now! Now, I can run outside and not look like I’m about to keel over. Last month I switched to running when I get off work – which is around 2pm, normally the hottest part of the day. So you kind of see why I couldn’t really run then during the summer. But I switched up during peak leaf week in October, which made for some really fantastic running, and now I’m used to getting some quality miles in after sitting at my desk for 7-8 hours. Plus it’s nice to get out, get some fresh and and Vitamin D this time of year – every little bit helps. I’m lucky that the military base I work on has a running trail around the installation – it’s a 6.5mi rubberized track that’s marked every quarter-mile and incredibly well-maintained. I don’t have to worry about dodging traffic when I run it and, most importantly, I couldn’t feel safer. So I’m able to do out-and-back shorter runs or full loops for longer runs, depending on what’s on tab for the day.
I also have no shame in saying that I put up my Christmas decorations last weekend while full of medication and self-pity. Sorry not sorry. I fully embrace stretching out the holiday season as long as possible, though I do try to give a week’s berth in between Halloween and Christmas decorations. So there’s that. I’m also having great luck – found the perfect Christmas cards and my gift shopping is 99.9% done (I might have to get some extra stuff for my niece and nephew, just because). Internet shopping FTW. I’m currently obsessed with cookie-baking (’tis the season) and Starbucks Christmas blend. Oh! AND! I have tickets to see both Mannheim Steamroller and a production of A Christmas Carol next month (separate nights) and this makes me deliriously happy. Tack on an upcoming Santa 5K on base as well as the Hot Chocolate 15K in St Louis, and it’s scraping up to be the hap’, hap’, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny (censored) Kaye!
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!