*sigh*

Angsty posts are better than no posts, right?

After the awesome high of Ragnar Northwest Passage Relay the weekend before last (which of course, I haven’t posted about) there was last Saturday, which was the Wildwood Trail Half Marathon in Forest Park.

Gorgeous day. Gorgeous course. Felt well-hydrated and energetic, ready to run.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, nothing at first. The initial 2 miles or so were hard, as they were pretty much all uphill, which I knew was going to be the case when I signed up. So that was difficult, aerobically challenging and a bit frustrating, simply because my hill training is pretty much non-existent.

Then, enter mile about 4, trudging a bit but keeping on pretty well, where I tripped on some hidden rock, root or lick of air….and down I went. Ugh. It was one of those falls where I stumbled long enough for the fully-formed acknowledgement that I was going to hit the dirt go through my head. The damage – not too bad. Banged my left knee, fell on both hands, but not hard enough to scrape the palms – just enough to make them sting and bruise a bit. Tore my bib at one corner so that it hung lopsided on only one bib clip on my water belt. Took a few minutes to regain my composure and went on.

I hit the turnaround – drank up, filled my waterbottles, grabbed a handful of graham crackers, and got some wind back, happy with the knowledge that all the hills were done and for the most part, it was all flat and downhill back to the finish.

So I just hummed right along until about mile 10, where, you guessed it: my second dirt snack of the day. This time, it was a quick and completely unexpected slam into the ground. I never even figured out what it was I stumbled on, but as it was on a slightly downhill slope, once my left hand hit the ground, the rest of me just sort of kept going, and wrenched my wrist into a very un-natural angle. Really hard. Again my left knee got the impact as well, this time there was missing skin but amazingly enough, it wasn’t bleeding.

I was so stunned all I could do was sit there in the dirt, cradling my wrist and hand which was an explosion of pain, and swear up a blue streak. A very nice middle-aged man with a little dust-mop of a dog came along on the trail about 15 seconds after I fell, and asked if I was ok. I wasn’t quite in tears at that point but almost; even so I managed to convince the guy I was ok. He refused to leave until I got up off the ground.

Dejectedly, covered with dirt and trying to hold my left hand in an elevated position, I continued down the trail, knowing full well that all running was done for the day, not looking forward to having 3 more miles to deal with before I could get any sort of attention. Holding my hand up seemed to help a bit, but it really, REALLY hurt. A couple of times I nearly burst into tears, but I managed to keep myself glued together enough to concentrate on just getting back down the hill in one piece.

One of the women I had passed about a mile before I fell caught up to me…a very nice person named Raven. God bless her….she stayed with me for the rest of the race, and she kept me talking enough to keep my mind off my throbbing wrist. She is one of those people who you can instantly fall in with and just start gabbing away about most anything, and we did – she was my “trail angel” and I am so grateful she was kind enough to stick with me and make sure I made it to the finish line.

I crossed the timing mats not even really caring that I was finishing except for the fact that now I could start dealing with the problem “at hand” – pun intended. We sat in the shade and drank a bunch of fluids and had some watermelon, and then Raven walked me to my car. She made me promise I was going to go get x-rays, but I had already figured out that was going to be necessary. Driving home was interesting, as my little sedan has a standard transmission, but I managed okay, steering with my left thumb when necessary (which was the only digit I could move at that point without sharp pain shooting up my arm).

About 4 hours in the ER with x-rays and an exam revealed no fractures but a “severe soft-tissue injury” which landed me in a snug wrist/hand brace contraption and the admonition for ibuprofen and ice. Lovely.

So, at least now my hand is already feeling much better, as I can attest to as I manage to type out this post halfway decently. But the thought of going out and running right now just bums me out, especially the idea of getting back on the trail. And clearly, until the trauma to the tissues in my hand has healed significantly, much of the Crossfit training is going to be on hold. Not only that, but I banged my knee up a bit more than I initally thought; it is slowly developing a nice bruise and is still tender and a bit swollen. My hand, I am calling the “Stay Puft Marshmallow Hand” – the knuckle bones of my pinky and ring finger are completely indistinguishable but I am able to flex and move the fingers without too much pain, which I consider a good thing. Still, I think I am looking at a fairly long period to full recovery.

Right now my attitude is not the best, but I recongnize a few things:

* Had it been a knee or an ankle with as bad a sprain as my hand suffered, I would have not made it down the hill without some serious help. That would have been….inconvenient at best, and horribly embarassing at worst.

* My new friend forever Raven came along right at the point when I was just about to fall apart. Funny how that happens. I love it when God smiles on me when I most need it.

* I can tell that my body is working hard to heal the injuries. I am grateful that I didn’t actually break any bones, and I think I can give a lot of credit to the running, which has been proven in several studies to help keep the bones of middle-aged and older women nice and dense like they should be.

* I finished the race. Unfortunately, there was no bling for this one and the t-shirt is too small…but I did. not. DNF. And I did it in under four hours, which, all things considered, really wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t last.

And there you have it.

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The blog has been quiet…..

…but the brain has been going full-tilt.

I’ve been doing a ton of thinking of late about where I’m at as opposed to where I’ve been and where I dream about being someday. That’s not to say that I haven’t been thinking about these things for quite some time, as I have, but just that in the last couple of weeks, it’s been some very deep and reflective evaluation. Aside from the larger life-milestone-accomplishment sorts of thinking (mid-life crisis, anyone?) – the majority of my musings have centered around what I am doing/should be doing/should NOT be doing to get myself to true “fighting form.”

At the moment, I’m hunkered down under the covers, on the upswing from what appears to be a 48-hour (hopefully) surprise bout of the flu, which when combined with my severe lack of running for the last several weeks means that I will be DNS’ing the Timberline Half Marathon this coming weekend. This will be only the second race I have ever failed to start – with the first being a free 5K a couple months ago that at least didn’t precipitate the waste of an entry fee. I’m not happy about it by any stretch of the imagination, but more powerful is my desire to not blow myself out trying to finish a course that I am ill-prepared to take on. In fact, I really wasn’t adequately trained for the Rock-n-Roll Half on the 20th; for the majority of that run I was tired, somewhat dehydrated and after about mile 8, plagued with muscle cramps.

So let’s talk about this “fighting form” for a moment. What does this really mean?

What I am beginning to figure out is that I am nowhere near to this state of being….regardless of the running I’ve done over the last 3 years, my recent fascination with CrossFit, or the improvements I’ve (tried) to implement in terms of my diet – to be honest, in this particular area, I would give myself about a D+.

The month or so of CrossFit workouts I’ve done have thoroughly convinced me that my fitness level is paltry, at best. Sure, I can run for a few miles without stopping, and sometimes I can slog along for several miles/hours without becoming incapacitated, but as far as actual body strength is concerned, I’m practically worthless. My weight is still way too high (my apologies to the “fat acceptance” crowd, but being this fat is not acceptable!!)

Indeed, the only thing about which I appear to be consistent is my inconsistency. And as maddening as it is to constantly be falling off the truck shortly after I claw my way on, I still hold on to that slender hope and the stubborn insistence that I’m not ready to throw in the towel for good just yet.

Thanks in part to the ever-intrepid Cilley Girl, I’ve been directing a lot of my attention to Paleo and Primal-type diet information. Based on the sheer volume of success stories and the seemingly solid science that many of the Paleo/Primal advocates use to back up their claims, it appears more and more that this is the way to go. Grass-fed meats, fresh vegetables and fruit, raw, whole dairy (at least in some cases), spices, healthy fats (olive, avocado, nuts) – unadulterated by factory processes and preservatives and refined sugars and the seemingly counterproductive elimination of grains ….really and truly, this is the diet that ALL of us should be eating. No joke, folks!! Not only has it been proven, but it’s just plain common sense.

I am really starting to recognize the ridiculous volume of sugar-and-chemical laden junk food that is simply *everywhere* – one can’t even go to fill up their gas tank anymore without being bombarded with advertisements for and the presence of gallons of soda, dumptruck loads of chips, cookies and other salty snack foods, not to mention the hotdogs/nachos/hamburgers all camping out limply underneath heat lamps. Fast-food joints are liberally sprinkled throughout the suburbs, and even the grocery stores are stacked to the ceilings (at least in those ill-advised “middle aisles”) with food that has been scientifically proven to be outrageously unhealthy. Junk food has literally become a staple in the modern American diet. It’s cheap, it’s oftentimes quite delicious, and it is not possible to escape it, at least unless one lives fifty miles out in the middle of the desert or on the snowy mountaintops. And – this isn’t even scratching the surface on the mounting evidence that grains are not the heart-healthy staple that has been pounded into the collective dietary consciousness for the last century or so….

And it is just SO easy to keep shoveling it in one’s mouth.

In any case, I am steering closer and closer to simply getting over myself – and the tough initial weeks – of commitment to a Primal diet. Besides, any diet where I don’t have to give up red meat and butter is pretty much tops in my book. It’s the sugar and the junk that needs to go.

The other thing occupying my mind lately is the process of finding a balance between running and CrossFit. I am adamant that I am not going to give either of them up, but I need to figure out how to fit them together so that I can keep doing my beloved half-full marathons while doing enough to make progress with my WODs and get good at “lifting heavy things.” I know there is a way to do it, but I just don’t know yet what it is. I’m going to start with the CF trainers and see what they recommend – and then the coming months are going to be a journey of finding out what works. As I see it, CrossFit should happen at least three times a week to have a real impact, and that leaves only two weekdays plus one weekend day for running, which in turn allows for one day of complete rest (which is pretty much non-negotiable.) The other option is doing the WOD in the morning and running in the afternoon three days, plus one day of just running plus the weekend run/race, and that might be beneficial – but it would be hard to do timewise. Sooooo…..I guess it’s just going to be trial-and-error time for the forseeable future.

One way or another, it’s time to get serious about all of this. It’s nice to at least have the path illuminated – I now need the motivation and the power to step on it, start walking, and stay on it.

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Three Things Thursday

1. I know, you thought this blog was broken or I was dead or maybe I just ran off to join the circus or something. Well, none of the above are true. Life goes on, apparently. So for those of you who are still reading, here are the other two things for today:

2. Sunday = Portland RnR Half. It will be interesting. “A” goal is 2:55. “B” – 3:00-3:05.  “C” – 3:10-3:15. “C” is most likely, but I am trying to be positive here, and I am going also to try very hard to earn my “A”. I’m looking forward to the bling and my personalized bib and the excitement of a big ol’ noisy race with a giant expo and carbo-loading with all of my running peeps – Jenn, Kim, Ronda, are you listening….???? I’m also looking forward to connecting with a whole gaggle of Running Chicks (ya’ll know who you are!) —  especially those with whom I’ll be doing Ragnar Northwest in July. I’ve not been running much the past couple of weeks, but……

3. …..I *have* been doing Crossfit workouts 2-3 times a week. The kinds of workouts where sweat is literally dripping off of me onto the floor, where I can barely get to catch my breath and I doubt I could possibly ever in a million years manage even one more squat or kettlebell swing, but somehow I do. I am hoping that the conditioning I’ve been doing will make up a little for the lack of running. At least in any case, several of these workouts have involved 200, 400 and 800 meter sprints, so it’s not like there has been zero running….it’s just that the non-Crossfit days during the week are supposed to be my running days, and with only a couple times being the exception (plus long runs on the weekend), I haven’t followed through.

We’ll see how this somewhat slacker strategy plays itself out on Sunday….

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Pear Blossom/Monument Peak

Time for an update.  😛

At least I have two races to talk about, and it’s a pretty big coincidence, I guess, that they were both 10 mile races, only a week apart, and that it is absolutely impossible that they could have been (or ended) any more differently than they did. These two Saturdays served as a sobering study in how extremely opposite two races of the same distance can be.

Pear Blossom Run – Medford, OR
This was a big (a couple thousand) and very enjoyable race. The weather perfect – a bit overcast and cool. Pancake flat, except for one minor hill, all on city/country roads that were mostly closed to traffic, with multiple well-stocked aid stations. Plus, it was in my hometown, which was very nostalgic and made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, which in turn made me feel like I could run forever. I managed to run every step until about 6.5 miles, and better yet, I ran the first five miles in only 1:03, which was (is) a positively scorching time for me. The last three miles were tough, as it was beginning to warm up a bit, but I finished strong and killed my predicted time. There were still quite a few folks out on the course behind me.

Stats:
Distance: 10 miles
“A” goal time: 2:15:00
Actual time: 2:08.53
Pace: 12:53

Monument Peak Run – Gates, OR
Remember this?

Much smaller run, less than 200 participants. Tucked well up into the foothills leading to Sisters, on the way to Bend. I started feeling pretty good, a smile on my face….and within 2 minutes of the gun was dead last, with the pack rapidly fading from sight. Managed to reel in two folks who ended up reeling me in (permanently) at around the 6.5 mile mark.

Mud, mud, and more mud. Nearly lost my footing multiple times, but only fell once at around mile 8, and it was a backwards fall on a downhill slope (which made the distance between my butt and the ground much shorter) and coated with about 6 inches of mud (which softened the blow considerably, but as a result coated much of *me* with mud as well!)

The singular aid station was actually at around mile 6 rather than mile 5 as it had been announced at the start. At a certain point, I’d decided they’d already taken it away since I kept going and going and wasn’t getting there, and when I finally did get there, I almost broke down and cried because I thought I’d only made it to mile 5, and I was already exhausted and ready to be done. I spent about 5 full minutes at the lonely little unmanned table, extremely grateful that there was plenty of water left, but absolutely dreading the thought I’d only gone 5 miles, and at that point had already been out on the course about an hour and 45 minutes.

Shortly after the aid station I was passed by the two aforementioned runners who were completely out of sight within a few moments, and then I knew I was absolutely dead last, which hadn’t happened to me for a very long time. I knew my time was ridiculous – on the climbs I kept having to stop and catch my breath, trying not to completely lose it in total and utter despair; I stopped A LOT and this was slaughtering my time. I mean, very, VERY rarely have I ever had to just stop and not move during a race. It made me mad, but when your legs are on fire and you simply are not sucking in enough oxygen no matter how hard you try, there’s not much you can do.

The thought that not only was I last, but that they were probably going to take down the finish line and stop the clock before I got there was just humiliating. When you are out in the middle of nowhere, on a trail by yourself, you don’t have a choice to do anything but to either turn around and go back (which would have been stupid in this case, because I was halfway already) or keep going forward. You can’t just quit – unless you are so gravely injured that all you can do is wait for a sweeper crew that the race organizers *might* send out, you have to keep moving one way or the other!! So it was a sure affirmation from God Himself (and I mean it!) that I actually caught up with one other person at about the 8.5 mile mark. She was a lovely soul and we decided to stick together to the end, and we did. If it hadn’t have been for her….

We were relieved to see that while all the other tables and food and whatnot were long gone by the time we finally staggered across the finish line, they hadn’t stopped the clock so we still got official times.

Stats:

Distance: 10 miles
“A” goal time: 2:30:00
Actual time: 3:32:58
Pace: 21:17

Worst. Pace. EVER.
Dare I say, worst race as well. Even as beautiful as the course was.

But there are certainly a few lessons to be learned here:

One, I need to get busy with some serious hill training. Like, immediately. Because in the scheme of things, this race was not nearly as brutal as many other trail races are – ones that I would like to do someday. This one was more than I should have tried to handle – I was not ready for it. Respect the distance AND the elevation!!

Two, I must never assume that a great pace with a certain distance is going to mean a great pace at that same distance later down the road. I knew going in that Monument was going to be more difficult than The Pear, but….see Point #1.

Three, I need to overcome my significant fear of running (and not walking/stepping delicately in order to keep my footing) when it gets really goopy. It must be mostly inertia that keeps the seasoned trail runners on their feet when slogging through water and sometimes-more-than-ankle-deep mud, especially on the downhill slopes, but I am so petrified of falling that I have a hard time just forcing myself to barrel right through it rather than slowing to a careful walk and stepping through it like there’s a hungry alligator lurking in the slime. I must add, though, that the Monument course was a very technical course in addition to the mud – tons of roots, rocks and potholes – and that just made it all the more difficult.

Be that as it may, I am pretty sure I’ll do this one again next year (in addition to Pear Blossom, which was cake and rainbows by comparison) —  but, as long as I keep hammering away, it can only get better, right?

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Easter post

So, this post has two purposes….one, to wish everyone a very blessed Easter. He is risen, yes indeed.

1 Peter 1:3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

The other purpose is to catch everyone up a bit on running and fitness and all that stuff.

The newest element I’ve introduced to the mix is Crossfit. I’d actually been intended to check it out for a long time, very intrigued with the concept and how it worked. The week before last, when I had a bit of time off, I decided to go check it out and the little baby mini-workout I was put through kicked my butt up one side and down the other. Strangely enough, I decided that this was *exactly* what I needed. So I signed up for the introductory “Onboarding Class”, which is a series of six sessions that are designed to carefully introduce one to the major components of Crossfit.

So last week, I did three sessions and I’m pretty much hooked. This is hard stuff – very intense bursts for relatively short periods of time. Warm-up at the beginning is a good 10-15 minutes, but the workout itself is only about 30-40 minutes. Lots of weight lifting, about a bazillion squats. A healthy sweat + elevated heart rate + intense strength training = pretty good stuff. If I can figure out the financial end of it, I am definitely going to stick with it.

I’ve also really shaken up the eating plan. From the beginning of February or so I had been tracking all of my food and keeping it generally under 1800 cals a day, but not paying a whole lot of attention to the composition of those calories. I lost a bit of weight, but then it completely stalled out, for several weeks. So last week I really tightened it down – using a “mash-up” plan using concepts from the Zone diet and the Paleo diet – very low to no refined carbs (bread, pasta, rice, added sugars) and more significant amounts of protein and healthy fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil). And boy, does it work – at least so far: 9 lbs. down since last Sunday. All of the food I’ve been eating is stuff I really like, so I honestly don’t think it will be difficult for me to keep this up, even incorporating it into lifestyle eating – which is entirely possible. I mean, how could it *not* be possible, if it means eating all sorts of veggies and fruits, not giving up the meats (which I love) and not having to worry quite so much about fats? I’m not even going to completely give up the grains – an occasional serving of rice or a peice of toast, or even having a small piece of birthday cake and a muffin every once in a while – the key, obviously, is moderation.

The next thing I need to figure out is incorporating a reasonable running schedule into the Crossfit schedule. And making sure I don’t lose momentum with the new eating plan.

Happy Easter, everyone.

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A race report and….what’s next.

Oh my goodness – so much happening in my running life!

**My third go-round with the Shamrock Run 15K is now in the history books. The medal this year was big, heavy and felt sweet indeed hanging around my neck. I felt great the night before, thanks to my lovely running peeps Jenn, Kim, Ronda and Donna and a fun meet-up/pre-race carb load:

Pasta! Awesome Friends! Purple Couches!
Race day was cold and dreary, and threatening snow. At least, it wasn’t windy. Jenn and I stuck together and ran a fantastic race – I ended up taking 10 minutes off my time from last year. And – by far – I felt better during this race than I have during any other for a really long time – from start to finish. Our goal was 2:09; we crossed the line in 2:11 and change. I didn’t even care that we’d missed that mark – I was simply ecstatic to finish as strongly as I did.
Heavy Medal!
**I’ve filled out the rest of my “racing” year quite nicely, with a few more events still on the fence waiting for a decision. This spring and summer will be liberally sprinkled with half marathons and a couple 10-milers, with the “Big Kahuna” being the Seattle Marathon in November. The most recent development – as in, today – is that I am now on a Ragnar team and will be running the Northwest Passage relay from Blaine to Bellingham, WA in July! I am crazy excited about this – never done a relay of any distance but have wanted to for some time.
**About a week ago, I crawled out on a serious limb and signed up for the Monument Peak 15K. This one is going to be all about elevation gain and mud, given the chart helpfully provided on the website, and the fact that it’s only about 4 1/2 weeks away:
I am feeling the need to feed my trail running beast, though, and I don’t want to wait until Timberline in June. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t genuinely concerned about my ability to finish this race – it could very well end up being my first DNF. If I waited until I thought I was ready to tackle a challenge such as this, though, I’d probably never do it. I am hoping beyond hope that I’m not biting off more than I can even hold in my mouth, let alone chew. We shall see.
**I am still tracking all of my food, and although it’s a serious pain in the ass, it really is helping. The weight is coming down, and little by little, I can feel my running workouts get stronger as I slowly get lighter. Only a few pounds from now, I will be at a weight I’ve not been at since about 2006. It’s still hard to wade through the moments of weakness – I imagine it will always be hard to some degree – but it is wonderful to see this all paying off. The thought of getting to a “normal” weight – which to me will be my optimal running weight (whatever that is) is so exciting to me. One should never harbor regrets, as they serve no purpose other than to make one feel guilty and bad about themselves – but honestly, I really do wish I’d picked up this mantle 20 years ago. I mean, really picked it up rather than pretended at it, which is essentially what I think I did for the most part.
It is beyond high time to see what I am capable of doing, and capable of being. The rest of this year is going to be the test.
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Banner Days

Even on the treadmill, sometimes it just all falls together in such a way that leaves you wondering why there was ever a time in your life when you didn’t run – which for me, is a good chunk of it.

This morning, at o’dark thirty, as I climbed on the deck and situated my stuff, I was feeling tired, unmotivated and for some weird reason, a bit nauseous. All sorts of excuses were formulating in my head, but I plugged in the warm-up and started in.

I started out by bargaining with myself….since I wasn’t feeling all that good, I would just do a nice, easy 4.2 – 4.3 mph and walk if I needed to.

After a few minutes, I was feeling a bit better so I modified the bargain – maybe bump it up to 4.4 for a while and then see how I felt.

About five to eight minutes of that and I was feeling even better, so up I went to 4.5 and more or less resolved to finish out the hour at that pace.

A little more time ticked away, and then on a lark I decided to increase the speed every few minutes to the point where it was just starting to get uncomfortable and see how long I could maintain it. Ultimately, I ended up at 4.8, a 12:30 minute mile pace, and held it for about fifteen minutes, bumping it up to 5.2 for the last minute or so that got me to 5K.  I recovered for a minute or two at 4.0, and then finished out the hour – a while at 4.5, then the remainder at 4.6.

It was fantastic – like my lungs and legs were all having one big party down there, with the exception of a slightly cranky ball joint on my right foot, but even that gave up after a while when it figured out how awesome the rest of me was. I might have even been able to do more, but I didn’t want to push it too hard with a really tough 15K coming up this Sunday. Even so, giving how I felt at the end, I am pretty confident I could have coaxed even a bit more speed out the legs. Slowly but surely, I will get that sustainable 12-minute-mile back in my repertoire, and then….who knows?  🙂

I was one hot sweaty mess when I was done, which only served to fuel my feeling of accomplishment. Best of all, I was energized, not the least bit sore and absolutely ready to take on the day.

More runs like these, especially on those days when the treadmill is really the only option?
Yes, please!
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