Friday, August 24, 2012

An Update on Runner Steph

I'm 15 weeks and 2 days from Marathon #7.

I have piriformis syndrome.

I'm not nailing my paces on my runs because of it.

I'm starting up coaching again, but my training group is 10 weeks behind where I need to be for this marathon, which means I've got to get creative on when to do long runs.

I'm trying not to freak out.

I think I need to meditate.

So, the piriformis thing. I self-diagnosed. I thought it was a glute strain, but during my studies (for my personal trainer cert) I came across the piriformis muscle and googled information on it. I pretty much fit the mold on piriformis syndrome, which is when the muscle compresses your sciatic nerve. So I'm going with that and treating it as such.

And by "treating" I don't mean resting. We all know I hate rest. I'd rather alter training than stop it altogether. Treating it means a lot of foam rolling, stretching, using a tennis ball, walking during my runs, and a lot more core work.

10 days later and it seems to be working. I ran for 40 minutes straight yesterday at close to my goal pace. I completed a run/walk 9 miles this past Monday. I plan on doing 10 miles with hopefully minimal walking breaks on Sunday. If I can get my pace in the 9-9:15 range I will be a happy camper.

I love coaching. I'm super excited for our training group to be starting up again Saturday. But I'm also thinking about the fact that I was probably crazy for agreeing to run a December marathon, since we'll only be a little more than halfway through with our group training by then (we train for the Austin Marathon in February), and will be at about 13 miles for a long run the weekend of my marathon. I'll need to complete 3 or 4 18-20 milers before my marathon. Could get tricky with the schedule as I may have to do them on different days, which means unsupported runs and possibly alone. Or I start some at 4:30am to get in miles before our group and complete the run with the group. I really don't know which sounds worse!

I'm trying not to focus on the fact that I planned to run sub-4 hours in this marathon. It just seems CRAZY right now. But I know my body can do it...I just need to get it pain-free and I need to get my mind back in the game. NOW.

So I will continue my foam rolling, my tennis ball massage, my core work, my stretching, and my freaking out. No, not really the freaking out. Well, maybe the freaking out.

Be thankful you don't live in my house right now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Part 1: Things that Piss Me Off

I actually wrote this a couple months ago and never published it. Today I feel like publishing it. Enjoy!!

There are days when I have so many negative things rolling around in my head that I just really need to get them out. Usually these thoughts center around my irritation at other people. I don't have any notion that I'm not also an incredibly irritating person, and I know I have many MANY faults, but seriously...holy crap....sometimes I just really hate other people.  So I decided, how awesome would it be to write a blog post about all the things that just totally piss me off. I'm going to title it "Part 1" since I do have the intention of following it up with things that make me happy (ha...we'll see if that actually happens or if I keep y'all hanging).

1. Tailgaters - now that I own a MINI I seem to be getting tailgated A LOT more than when I was driving my Armada. Especially by dudes in huge trucks who think they are badass but really are just sadly overcompensating for their shortcomings. And if they aren't tailgating, they are trying to race me or cutting me off. It's really pleasant.
2. People who CONSTANTLY COMPLAIN on Facebook. It's okay to let out a vent or two...we all do it from time to time, me included. But if every single week you're complaining about your children, your life in general, how nothing is going right, how you're still fat, how people who don't share your opinions are the devil, or anything related....and it's become what you're "known for" on Facebook...well, isn't that kind of a problem? Can't you find a way to feel blessed or be witty? Or do you really want to be known as that person who bitches all the time?
3. Arrogance. You know what? You aren't better than anyone else just because you might be faster or stronger or richer or prettier. And coming across like the rest of us could be as cool as you if we do the same things you do just makes you a jerk. And not someone we want to be around.
4. When I'm told I'm addicted to running. Yes, I love to run. It's a passion of mine. But I also am finding love in other forms of exercise. If I'm addicted to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and pushing my limits physically, then I'll take that addiction. I'm sorry you can't find the time or willpower to do the same, but don't insult me just because I do make it a priority. I find an incredible amount of joy in it.
5. When people joke about being out of shape, unhealthy, overweight, etc. It's not funny. It never will be. It's sad and you need to do something about it, for yourself and for your loved ones. Spend more time changing it rather than joking about it. It's a defense mechanism and it's unnecessary. People die from being unhealthy...I should know! Do something!!
6. Bad grammar. Yes, I hate bad grammar. I do my best to not correct anyone publicly, because that's just being a douche. But IT MAKES ME CRAZY when I see mistakes like "their/there", "your/you're", "y'all/ya'll", "loose/lose", and things like that. CRAZY!!! If you're "losing" something, you're not "loosing" it! And if you're in Texas and you spell "y'all" with the apostrophe in the wrong place, well then shame on you.
7. Clueless grocery store shoppers - stop leaving your cart on one side of the aisle and "shopping" on the other side. Keep the cart next to you so you aren't being a jerk and blocking the entire aisle, especially in a busy grocery store under construction.
8. Chicks with tight and too-short shorts. Did you realize that even if you're thin, these kinds of shorts make your thighs look huge? It's not attractive. Sadly, this seems to be the way 95% of teenage girls dress.
9. Along the same lines...gladiator sandals. Oh, my, those are just ugly and they don't look good on anyone.
10. People who talk loud in public, whether to the person they're with or on their cellphone. I don't need to hear about your problems, opinions, experiences, etc. At all. Be quiet, have some self-respect.
11. Constant negativity. I realize it's ironic that I would post this when all I'm doing is bitching and moaning, but seriously...there are some people out there who are just NEGATIVE. And about little tiny things that have no significance in the big picture. Not every little thing needs to be picked apart and complained about. Some things need to just be let go. You can think things in your head all you want....but have more discretion when you open your mouth.

Wow. I feel better.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cold Weather, a Bridge, Too Many Hills, and a SHINY NEW PR!

After I finally felt comfortable at the marathon distance and was able to push through some tough mental spots to meet my marathon goals this year, I knew it might be my year to achieve a new half marathon personal best. My previous PR was 1:59:26, set back in 2008 on a flat course. It was a great race, one I’m very proud of, but it was years ago. After 2009 I didn’t run another half marathon until March of this year…and came so very close to another sub-2 hour time…2:00:21. But tough weather conditions and a hillier than expected course made the difference in 2:00 hours vs a 1:57, which is what I wanted.

But coming that close to my goal and feeling pretty great for nearly the entire race made me realize I am perfectly capable of a 1:55. I had already signed up for San Francisco on July 29. Another hilly race, but I was going to be even more prepared.

I spent the next few months busting my ass in hill training and speed work. I tried my best to not let the warm, humid conditions of summer get me down and with the exception of a couple of runs, I remained strong. There really wasn’t anything else I could do to get to my goal on race day.

Our summer vacation to California was planned, with family time, a high school reunion, and a concert on the schedule...and really awesome weather. I was SO excited about the weather! We road tripped it out there...yes, from Austin to the Central California coast with 2 kids and a dog. It was pretty damn fantastic.

Greg and I were able to leave the kids in my hometown with my parents while we drove the 4 hours to San Francisco to stay overnight and do the race. We hit up the expo at about 1pm the day before the race. I was able to leisurely check things out with worry about the kids being bored, which was really fun although I didn't really buy much. I was able to meet a few people I had only interacted with in the running community online, which was fantastic. It's always nice to put faces with names. Loved meeting you Libby, Wes, Brent, and Renee!! I got to walk to Little Italy from my hotel and meet an old friend, Jen, for dinner. I hadn't seen Jen in years. The restaurant was perfect and it was the best gnocchi I have ever had, hands down. Perfect race fuel for me.

Me, Renee, and Libby
Me and Jen

We decided to stay at the host hotel, which was right at the start line. With the super early start time (5:42) I wanted to be sure I could get as much sleep as possible race morning and just being able to walk out of the hotel and right to the start without having to negotiate parking or possible traffic jams. It was a great decision.  Nice view, huh?
Bay Bridge and the Ferry Building...I love it!

We walked out of the hotel at 5:15am ready to go.

Runners need lots of crap

The start line was on the Embarcadero at the Bay Bridge. Brought back memories of driving into the city from Dublin when we lived there!

San Francisco weather was pretty great, at about 53 degrees in the morning, but the humidity wasn’t so great because of the fog. It can be deceptively tough to run in the fog even though the temperature is to your benefit. I hoped all my long runs in the humid conditions had prepped me for it.

Greg was running with me and his job was to make sure I kept my pace on target. I was afraid if he didn’t keep track of it (I hardly ever look at my pace during a run), I would burn myself out. Although I didn’t want to admit it before the race, the elevation chart had me a bit freaked out. Although the Embarcadero was flat and we’d be on it for 5 miles, there was a nasty hill to contend with at mile 6 and the Golden Gate Bridge supposedly feels uphill the entire way, although it’s gradual. For some reason, until the day before the race, I completely forgot the last two miles of the race were uphill.  But hey, I know hills…I live in Austin!

San Francisco hills are a bit different. As I would find out.

The race started off great. A 5:42am start meant getting up at 4am, but our hotel was right at the start line so we had no stress over trying to find parking and getting there early enough. The temperature was about 55 degrees, the fog didn’t seem too thick, and it was generally a very nice morning. We ran into a couple friends and were getting excited. It was going to be fun!

An uneventful first 3 miles, right on target, gave me a lot of confidence. Mile 1 came in at 9:40, which was my goal pace, and miles 2 and 3 were right around 9:12. Greg thought it was a bit too fast, but I wasn’t worried. I felt very comfortable and the pace seemed slower than it was…always a good sign.

We encountered a hill at Mile 4 I totally didn’t expect, and it was kind of yucky. I did my best to not slow down, and thankfully it was short. I knew the one after 5 miles would be the sucky one. My friend Libby warned me I’d want to walk it. Along the side of road during Mile 4 were the military of fallen soldiers, with their ages and when they passed away. I looked at every single one of these pictures to remind myself that I was privileged to be running in this beautiful city while these men and women sacrificed themselves. Right after the memorial, I encountered a runner with a sign on his back...he was running in memory of his wife. I noticed him carrying a rose in his hand. I patted him on the back, said "good job" and then spent about a 1/4 mile fighting back tears. I mentioned something to Greg, who said he was about to cry, too. Powerful moment...probably one of my most memorable of the whole race.

I had hoped to be right around 9 min even pace at miles 4 and 5, and they both came in at 8:53. We were a bit ahead of pace, so that was really good to know going into the hell of Mile 6….a long, steep 200 foot elevation gain over less than a half mile. Can we say OUCH? By the time we hit 6 miles we were on the bridge, and there was never any relief from the incline during that entire mile. It was 9:27…about 30 seconds off pace. But that was okay…I still was right where I needed to be for nearly halfway through the race.

The bridge most definitely feels like its on an incline for the entire length, which is just bizarre, but I tried to block that strange feeling out and keep my pace even. My hope was for Mile 7 to come in around 8:45-8:50 and it was on target, then mile 8, which offered a little relief with a couple downhills was at 8:30. We were back in business, and going back across the bridge. During mile 9 I definitely started to feel a bit of fatigue, but kept concentrating on keeping an even pace. An 8:44 mile 9 was a bit slower than I wanted, but still okay.

Coming off the bridge

I look so unhappy...and Greg is pretty much in front of me for the entire all the pics

Then I saw a hill I forgot all about.

I think the only thing that kept me from falling completely off pace but knowing that on the other side of this hill was a 1 mile downhill, with a 200 foot elevation loss. I really did not like this crappy hill…I wanted to punch it, but I did my best to get as close to 8:30 as I possibly could for mile 10. It came in at 8:43. Well, crap. I was certainly feeling some hill fatigue. My breathing, thankfully, was just fine, however. No wheezing, no overexertion. Just some muscle fatigue in my legs.  I wanted to be just short of 90 minutes at the 10 mile point, but it was over. 25 minutes needed for the final 5k…yikes.

Time to burn it up a little on that downhill, which would either be smart or incredibly stupid and kill my legs for the final uphill 2 miles.

That downhill was glorious and fun and I felt great all of a sudden. I wanted an 8:15 on that hill pretty badly and when my watch chimed an 8:11 at me I was thrilled. Thrilled for about 2 seconds, until the next uphill. And then another and another.  I needed a sub-8 minute final 2+ mile pace, and that was going to be incredibly tough.

My legs pretty much told me to knock it off, they were done, and I needed to go lay down. I simply could not push them to run any faster.

It was at this point that Greg stayed in front of me and told me to stop looking at my watch and just let him do the pacing. The poor guy wanted me at 8:15 so badly, knowing we needed to run faster if I had any shot at a 1:55. He would get up to pace and then had to back off because I simply could not keep up.

Hey look, Greg is still sort of in front of me

Mile 12 came in at 8:48….we were definitely off pace at this point. But I knew I was doing everything I could. Plan B was now to simply stay under 9 minute pace overall. I’ve never run sub-9 for a half marathon before….or even 11 or 12 miles, so this was an awesome and exciting goal to shoot for.

Once I knew we had only a little over a mile left my mental energy got a recharge. If I could maintain this pace we were golden. There were still hills during Mile 13 but they didn’t bug me as much. I started counting down the 10ths of a mile, and Greg did the same to me (by the way, HE WAS AWESOME COACHING ME!!!).

Mile 13 was in 8:38…it didn’t feel that fast and although it was originally supposed to 8 minutes even, I was a happy girl. Just 1/10th of a mile to go and I had a 1:57 and a sub-9 minute pace overall. It was actually raining a little at this point, which was just weird to me. July and it's in the 50s and raining on us.

That dumb last 1/10th of a mile was long, about .15 miles from the 13 mile marker. My Garmin showed a total mileage of 13.25 miles for the day. I always expect it to be a little long and I calculated what I needed to run based on 13.2 miles, so this was even a bit longer. I probably would have been more mad about that final sprint had it been the difference between 1:55 and 1:56, but I had a 1:57 no matter what the distance there. My final pace in that last 1/4 mile was 7:36...just about exactly what I wanted to run for that stretch. Somehow I found a little kick at the end!

I found my happy place...and a happy pace

My Garmin showed me at 8:52 pace for 13.25 miles in 1:57:32. Official race results are 8:58 pace for 13.1 miles...either way, I did it! On a flat course, I had 1:55 in the bag. More work to do for sure, but I'm getting there.

After catching my breath, the first thing Greg I scouted out was the Irish Coffee. Any race with alcohol at the finish is my kind of race.

A pic where I don't look like a complete dumbass
And one where I look like a total dumbass but you can see the whiskey!

We took the shuttle bus back to the start line, got cleaned up in the hotel, and decided to catch out the action at the finish line for the 2nd half marathoners and full marathoners, which was right by the start line. It was the first time I've actually watched the finish line of a marathon before and I wanted to be on the other side for once, to see the faces on these people as they accomplished something so awesome. We hung out for probably about 30 minutes. There were some interesting San Francisco characters, that's for sure.

This race was great. I will definitely think about running it again. Well organized, beautiful course, awesome finish area (the food was crazy! So much variety). But I'm pretty sure I'll try out the second half next time (net elevation loss!).

I'm pretty much sick of hills for awhile.

Friday, August 3, 2012


I wrote the first part on Tuesday, July 31 while driving through California on our road trip back home:

I got on my computer with the intent of writing my race report for the San Francisco Half Marathon, but I’m distracted by the real things that matter in life right now.

Yesterday there was a terrible accident in Bastrop County, and although I was in California at the time I read the Austin news on Facebook and Twitter so I was aware of the accident pretty quickly. Something about it made me incredibly uncomfortable, and when the reports came in that two children were killed, it made my heart sink. 

I had no idea those who died were part of a good friend’s family until last night. My friend lost her younger sister, two young nephews, and an unborn niece or nephew. Just like that, a man is left without his entire family, just when he was preparing to become a family of 5.

I can imagine the pain of losing a sister – the third anniversary of Trisha’s death is in a mere 5 days – but losing babies, too? The heartache is truly unimaginable. All I want to do is wrap that family in my arms and I am 3 states away.

When I got up this morning and hit the shower, I lost it and the tears would not stop coming. That family is experiencing a loss most of us could never ever imagine. And they are such incredible people.

I’m angry. It’s unfair. It HURTS. The thought of what the suddenly childless widower must be feeling is overwhelming to me. I truly can’t imagine such an enormous loss. My heart hurts so very much.

Please say prayers.

This part was started last night and finished today, August 2-3:

As my family and were driving through Arizona yesterday morning, I had a huge urge to try to make it to the funeral, which was set for 11am today. The problem was that I was still nearly 1000 miles away...a very long drive with two children when you are only expecting to drive 650 miles.

I think fate intervened and made the decision out on a stretch of was closed due to a big rig fire 4 miles ahead. We were stuck, for possibly hours. The irony of it being a fiery accident did not escape me. Greg and I quickly realized that if we were stuck out on I-40 for much longer we weren't making it to Lubbock and our booked hotel room before it got late. By the time we would get there, the kids would already be asleep and it would be incredibly disruptive to move them and all our stuff into a hotel room for a few hours rest. It suddenly became clear...we needed to keep driving, and I was going to attend that funeral.

Now, hours later, with a million thoughts in my mind, I sit feeling numb, sad, emotional, and heartbroken. Not for myself, since I did not ever meet Liz or the boys, but for the family and for the widower left behind. I buried my sister 3 years ago this month....but today's funeral was the most gut wrenching experience of my life. 

The Dowdy and Herro families are exceptional. Liz was married to Sam, who is brothers with Dan, who is married to Lauren, Liz's sister...did you catch that? Sisters married to brothers. One amazing family connected to another amazing family. I'm friends with Lauren and Dan, have spent countless hours with them as a runner and as a friend. They are two of my very favorite people in the world. Through Lauren's photographs, I was able to get a view into Liz and her spirit. She was always someone I wanted to meet and I know had I had the opportunity to spend time with her and the boys, I would love them. Lauren's photographs are just breathtaking.

Liz's dad, Jeff, spoke first. He spoke not of grief but of miracles. Julie, Liz's mom, spoke as well. She gave us a window into who Liz was. There were countless photos to beautiful music, comforting words from the pastor, and a beautiful speech and song by Liz's father-in-law, Sam Sr. We sang worship songs and watched in heartache as the caskets left the sanctuary. The service was almost 3 hours long and words can't really describe the true beauty of the celebration of 4 lives. I'm not even going to try to describe it. If you were there, you know. 

I woke up this morning so profoundly sad. The tears come easily. It amazes me that although I never knew Liz or the boys, I can feel this level of grief. Perhaps it's because it hits close to home, perhaps it's part of who I am to be that sensitive, I don't know.

I have walked away from that experience a different person. The family's words on who Liz was and how we should all be echo in my head. She and Sam were the best of the best when it comes to being parents, the best of the best when it comes to being committed and we should all learn from their example. They have shown mercy, compassion, and unbelievable love. LOVE was a common theme during the service. Sometimes life is as simple as that....just LOVE.