Sunday, August 28, 2011

"I am a marathon runner. I can not stop running."

Funds collected to date: $2465.80 (94%)
Amount needed to reach pledge: $154.20
Long run: None due to injury :(
Weeks to Go: 10

This past week was, I am sad to report, not good on the running front. Things started last Sunday with foot pain (remnants, I believe, from last week's 16-miler). The pain wasn't horrible, so I went running on Tuesday after taking two full days to rest. That run turned out to be a bad idea, as it basically made me a cripple, out of commission for the remainder of the week.

Being injured while training for the marathon is whack. It's whack because basically I have become this crazy brainwashed running zombie crack-head who needs to run. I did an hour on the elliptical machine and literally was like "meh." Messed up.

The treatment for most running injuries -- from what I have been told and what I have researched -- is RICE. This does not mean eat copious amounts of basmati, but rather it stands for Rest Ice Compression Elevation.

I'm doing my best to comply, but it is very difficult / awkward to do this during the day at work.

I have also eliminated flip flops from my footwear (as they are basically the worst thing you can walk around in, turns out).
So I have purchased not one, but two pairs of the coolest freaking shoes you have ever seen from the fashion-forward retailer Easy Spirit. The other clientele in the store were minimum four decades older than me and they approved of my sensible footwear. I think even the woman ringing up my order was embarrassed for me.

I did a little bit of research on "The Google" regarding running injuries, and the first result that came up -- an archived NYTimes article from 2007 -- did little to assuage my fears. The article begins as such: "Worried about dropping dead if you run a marathon? Researchers in Canada say you can put your mind at ease." Well, I wasn't before, but now that you mention it, New York Times...damn!

So let's delve further, shall we? I'm evidently not supposed to be too worried about the actual dying itself, but what about this ankle? And other potential issues? A site called has compiled some injury rates and statistics. Let's take a look at the first gem:

Epidemiological studies estimate between 19.4% and 79.3% of runners sustain an overuse injury in a one year period.

Wow. Thanks for narrowing that band of likelihood for me. 19.4 to 79.3. You're really willing to take a stand here on the statistics, huh?

As you know, I enjoy charts and visual aids. Here is one:
So allegedly I fall into the 17% for Foot/Ankle. Fine. Useless information, but fine.

....and that pretty much exhausts the internet other than medical websites staying "STOP RUNNING" and message boards on running websites with everyone giving their useless opinions. It's a no man's land out there. A mele of words and uselessness.

So, my week has been kind of a downer. Luckily a "hurricane" (putting it in quotes since it was the lamest hurricane ever) came through making it basically mandatory that I sit on my ass and do nothing.

This afternoon I was able to get out there and do a slow run in Central Park.
A view of the lovely and almost over-flowing Central Park reservoir.

I think the run went okay, but I'm going to rice the crap out of my legs the rest of the day. Because Team For Kids has a pretty aggressive schedule, I have done a 16-miler before others that are training for the marathon and I am in decent shape. But I'm surprised at how "out of shape" from a running perspective I feel after a week on the couch. And in the bar. And eating nachos. I have, however, caught up on my Keeping Up With The Kardashians viewing, so I guess there's always a silver lining in everything.

Also, Sam shared this video with me which is a must-view for any distance runner or anyone who has had to deal with a distance runner. It is completely accurate and amazing. An excerpt:

Runner: "It is an over-use injury."
Non-Runner: "What does that mean?"
Runner: "It is caused by running too much."
Non-Runner: "But it is 5 am. And you are going for a run."
R: "I am a marathon runner. I must run."
N: "But you are injured."
R: "I must run."
N: "You are an idiot."
R: "If I do not run I will get fat. And lazy. I will lose all my fitness."
N: "You will get better."
R: "I am a marathon runner. I must run."
N: "Will your injury get better if you continue to run?"
R: "It is unlikely. It may get worse."

Good lord, this is totally what we sound like. And -- yes -- I am aware that I am an idiot.

But you love me anyways. I am a marathon runner. I must run.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's Mailbag Time!

Funds collected to date: $2343.40 (89%)
Amount needed to reach pledge: $276.60
Long run: 16 (!!!) for a total weekly mileage of 35! Yaozers!
Weeks to Go: 11

This morning I awoke before the sun at 5 in the am so that I could complete a 16-mile Long Training Run in Central Park. The run was set up by the New York Road Runners (the same organization that puts on all NY's major roadraces, including the ING Marathon on November 6th. Save the date.) and basically simulates a race in all ways except the fact that it's not timed. So there was water and gatorade and porto-poties and all other amenities that you would expect. It was lovely, except for the whole running 16 miles bit which was a bit....trying.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that this morning, s**t got real.

They say that there are good run days and bad run days. I don't know. I don't think this was "bad" in the sense that I didn't get injured, didn't feel sick regardless of the fact that I consumed three Gu packets (that's like...three too many Gus), and I didn't die. But it sure wasn't "good" either.

Although I'm pretty sure I'm never leaving this couch again (just try to make me move right now and I will end you...from a seated position), I do feel decent because of the training I've done to-date. So while I lay here attempting to hydrate, take in calories, and become a normal functioning human again, I thought I would answer some questions from my loyal readers.
"How did u start running?" - Kelly
Great question, Kelly. Glad you asked, and thanks for keep things casual with the use of the texting "u."

As my high school friends will tell you, I was not exactly the "athletic" type. For perspective, during gym class we were allowed to select activities every two weeks with a selection -- generally -- that went like so: Football, Volleyball, Soccer, Walking.

I walked, quite literally, for all of high school. Once in a while I would rotate in "yoga" which at Plymouth North High School amounted to laying on the ground and sleeping. I was decidedly not a runner.

In college, I can name two concrete things which triggered me wanting to start working out. The first was being inspired by my Sporty Spice roomie, Jen. Living with this smart, healthy, wonderful student athlete made me want to start using the gym and studying. One stuck. The The second reason I started working out is that -- it turns out -- alcohol has a hell of a lot of calories in it. Who knew!?

And why running? Well, we had a crappy gym and often the ellipticals were full. And that is the honest to god truth. I started with a couple of miles run/walked and then gradually moved to a point where a three-mile half-hour work-out was normal. Over the years things got out of hand, and that brings us to present day.

"What will be your longest run before the big day?" - Rob
20! I can't imagine running 20 after my 16 today but -- to be honest -- I wouldn't have been able to picture 16 after a month ago's 12. So, there you have it.

"Can I have your stuff when u die from running 26.2 miles?" - Allison
Thanks for the question, Sis! The answer is, yes, absolutely you may.

I will warn you, however, than upon taking inventory of my worldy possessions, it turns out that you will be left with the following: worn out clothing, old rickety IKEA furniture, and out-of-date electronics. Enjoy.

Well I think that just about wraps up my first mailbag. Feel free to send me questions. Or to donate money to my charity. As always, thanks for reading and keep on keepin' on.

Monday, August 15, 2011

On Saris, Violence to the Facial Area, and Sad Cookies

Funds collected to date: $1736.40 (66%)
Amount needed to reach pledge: $883.60
Long run: n/a (total weekly mileage = a measly 21)
Weeks to Go: 12

This week I did not complete a long run, as I was honored to be a bridesmaid in the beautiful, breath-taking, and fun as hell wedding of my friend Shimul.
The wedding weekend -- lasting from Wednesday evening through Sunday morning -- was many wonderful things. It was emotional, colorful, delicious, personal, bright, extraordinary....

...but what it was not was conducive to running.

Thursday morning, one of the other bridesmaids and I were able to squeak in a quick 4 by running around...and around...and around the Paramus Mall. A stunning view, I can assure you. Saturday I was able to also squeeze in a quickie (so to speak) in the hotel gym before getting dressed for the afternoon's events.

This week I was supposed to have done 12-13 on Saturday alone with weekly mileage increasing to around 33. Without that long run, I ran "only" at 21. While many weeks I fall short of the goal that Team for Kids set in its schedule for me, I have never been more than a couple miles off.

And this brings me to the subject of this blog post: The Guilt.

I know a few key things. I KNOW them. These are:

1) Fabulous wedding of one of my close friends > Running and I do not regret for a moment having this experience over that of killing myself and then putting my naked bum into an ice bath.

2) I have been so diligent every other week that one "off" one does not matter.

3) 21 miles in a week is still pretty freaking amazing and to be able to call a 4-miler a "short and easy run" is pretty freaking ridiculous.

I know these things to be true.

But still, the guilt. It comes.

I feel guilty because I want this whole marathon thing to go well, without a hitch, without injury if at all possible. A lot of the point of training is to mold your body into something that is capable of bearing the intense burden of running 26.2 miles consecutively. To-date, I have been pretty lucky (knock on wood!) and have only been experiencing relatively minor foot pain, which I have been treating via an extensive therapy program called "rolling a golf ball underneath your foot." It's very complex.

I feel guilty because I ate enough Indian food this weekend to feed an army, without any of the normal cardio burn that would allow my body to handle such calorie intake.

But mostly, I feel guilty because I am an addict. After 12 weeks of training for this thing, I need the stuff. I just need it! After I run, I feel oddly elated, happy, and clear. Also I want to kill someone, but I have that feeling while I am elated and happy and clear.

When you take away my running-enduced endorphins, I turn into an ogre-like creature that needs a pretty consistent stream of caffeine and alcohol to survive. If I could injest the two substances simultaneously and intravenously, I surely would.

This is a photo of a "sad monster" to represent me. True story: If you Google image results for "sad monster" you will see this image, as well as an image for Tiger Woods looking sad. Let that be a reminder to you at how quickly one can fall from glory....and moving on.

Running -- for better or for worse -- has become a part of my lifestyle lately. I don't mean to insinuate that I've gone off the deep-end and become one of those crazy runner hippies who is going to go off into the desert to be one with nature and run 100+ mile ultra-marathons or anything. But I've definitely turned into one of those people I used to want to punch in the face that would have interactions with people that go something like this:

Person #1: "What did you do this weekend?"
Me: "I ran 14 miles."
Person #1: "Oh my god! How was it?"
Me: "It was great! I couldn't feel better!"

Face punch.

I've also become more cynical than I mean to be. Case in point:
Person #2 [generally this part is played by a man on a first date with me]: "So what do you do other than work?"
Me: "I run. And I attend weddings."
Person #2: [awkward silence]

Face punch.

Finally, I've become a person that basically plans my life around this stuff. I believe I mentioned in a previous post my tracker. This thing is unbelievable. I update it every single morning with all physical activity I have done the day before and ensure it is updated with every day of activity I plan to do in weeks ahead. Don't believe me? Let's try a test. Tonight I have a 6 highlighted in sea green. This means I'll run 6 miles with Team for Kids (connoted by peaceful, happy colors). Tomorrow is deep blue because that is when I do my morning Total Body Conditioning classes for cross-training and the blue feels intense. How about...October 16th? That's a 6 without highlighting, meaning I will run 6 miles all by my lonesome.

Face punch.

To end this entry, when I was searching for images to use in this oh-so-amazing blog post, I came across this picture below of a sad cookie monster being looked at wistfully by a sad cookie. Whenever I skip a run, this is what I am going to envision from now on. I think I might just blow up a poster-sized photograph of this image and tape it above my running shoes in my bedroom.
Is that not the most upsetting slash hilarious thing you have ever seen? I thought so.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

An Unnecessary Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

Funds collected to date: $1661.40 (63%)
Amount needed to reach pledge: $958.60
Long run: 14 miles (total weekly mileage = 30)
Weeks to Go: 13

This week I ventured where I have not ventured before: Running greater distances than a half marathon.

I was home in Plymouth to volunteer with my Dad for the Pan-Mass Challenge on Friday. Volunteering was amazing but -- unfortunately -- it consisted of me being on my feet for quite literally 12 hours straight. Without a break. Not exactly a "rest" day, so to speak. That night after plenty of stretching, moaning, and groaning, I passed out in my childhood twin bed. To be clear, I did not regret volunteering because I felt so privileged and rewarded to put in time for such an amazing cause. But at the same time I felt like I might never walk again. In other words, confidence was low.

The next morning at an ungodly hour, I was up and ready to rock n' roll. I actually felt pretty strong except for some aching feet. Helping me out was the fact that the weather was border-line glorious at 7 am: minimal humidity and only 70 degrees.

Following I have decided to create a pictorial view of my 14-mile run through Plymouth so that you might experience what I experienced that day. My amazing mom decided to join me at the beginning of the run and would be waiting for me at the end.

Here I am, ready with my cool fuel belt to start the run at Nelson Beach:

Caption: Hey! I'm wearing a fanny pack!

I started my run doing a couple back and forth passes on this cute mile-long dirt path from the beach to 3A near Cordage Park (for those of you brushing up on your Plymouth geography). Yonder in the photo you can see Myra doing her own laps on the path. Adorable!

Is that the Mayflower? And Plymouth Rock? THE Plymouth Rock???

Why yes. Yes, it is.

After a jaunt in ye olde historic Plimouth, I ran down a hilly Warren Ave to the beach and reached mile 7 right here:
It took absolutely all my willpower at this stage not to pack it in, call it a day, and pass out face first into some questionable Plymouth Public Beach sand. So, I had myself a Gu, turned around, and started heading back towards the downtown again.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of Gu. If you ever told me even one year ago that I would be "that" runner who eats multiple of these "foods" (I can't in good conscious call them food with out a solid set of quotation marks), I would tell you that you, sir, were mistaken. Gu? Like...Goo? Really?

I ran by my old high school next to which the town is finally building the new high school. Let me preface by saying that this old high school had problems. You think your school was crappy? Well, we had our English classes in things called the "Portables." In essence, we learned the fine nuances of literature and linguistics in old, dirty trailers. Need more examples? Our music room was so small the woodwinds and brass couldn't actually practice together at the same time. Swear to god. One more? One time I was walking down the hall with a friend, and a huge chunk of ceiling fell out merely inches in front of us causing not only a near death experience for her and I, but also some significant ceiling and floor damage. The response? There would be a waste barrel in that spot for the remainder of our tenure at PNHS.

Why don't I just let you be the judge. Old high school:
New high school:
"Wow. Missed out on that one," I thought as I hit the 10 mile mark.

From here I ran back to Nelson Beach, consuming my second Gu on the way, to see what Myra had been up to in the 2 hours and 20 minutes it took me to run in this adventure.

She had clearly been suffering.

I actually had felt pretty good for the majority of the run, but the last mile was -- frankly - absurd. I feel like this is where the mental aspect comes into play, because as soon as I hit 13.1 I could almost literally feel my organs, bones and muscles start to freak out. Things got incredibly difficult, and I actually questioned if I could run that last 0.9.

But then, I was rescued -- as so many runners are -- by the one and only Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory" blasting through my headphones. Yes! I too am on the edge of glory, Gaga! And I can do this!

What, I ask you, did runners do before iPods and Lady Gaga? I don't even understand.

Once I completed the run, what I wanted to do was die. What I did instead was some quality stretching like a champion. I wasn't going to post these photos Myra snapped away while using an iPhone for the first time ever. But, after deleting the 1,000 mistake photographs she took, I actually thought I looked pretty athletic in these and wanted you to see living proof of this as well:

Seriously! I look like I just came from the pages of an awkward Women's Health magazine or something, right!?

My tale is almost complete, but not before I tell you about the absurdity of what happened next. I went home and took an ice bath. A bath. In ice. You think running 14 miles hurts? Oh, no no no no no no. Getting your naked tushie into a tub of freezing ice water and sitting in that water for 10 minutes: that is pain. You are supposed to do it because of lactic acid build up, and it's evidently quite important for recovery.

To quote Jack Dawson of Titanic fame: "...water that cold, like right down there, it hits you like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body. You can't breathe. You can't think. At least, not about anything but the pain. Which is why I'm not looking forward to jumping in there after you."
But go after me Leonardo DiCaprio did not.

While in that water, I cursed every running blog, magazine and website that had ever told me to do this. I swore to kill my coaches that had recommended this torture. I questioned if this was actually perhaps a cruel joke and how much of an ass I would have been for believing that this was appropriate.

And then I got out. And proceeded with my day.

But I will tell you: it actually worked. 24 hours later, I really felt quite good! The downside is now I know I have to do this every week. Lugging bags of ice home after long runs. Alone. Up three flights of stairs. To a bathtub I'll evidently have to start cleaning on Friday nights. Harumph.

To conclude this story of photographs and words, I am really excited I successfully and safely broke the 14-mile barrier. Special thanks to Mom and Dad for listening to me whine, fueling me up with yummy food, and being incredibly supportive this weekend as I continue the madness.

Oh and of course, an extra special thanks to my sister Allison for being super-sketchy slash absolutely hilarious: