Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reverb 14 · April Post · April Showers

#reverb14 is an opportunity for participants to reflect throughout 2014. Each month, the Reverb team will post a new prompt. Join and write, or simply join and read.

April Prompt: Luck: We've had a long, wet, cold winter here, and we're ready for spring. Show us a photo of your "April showers," and tell us all about it., well.this is awkward.

I don't know the last time we had rain here in Arizona.

Unless you count showers of pollen. Oh. Em. Gee. The pollen.  When the sweet acacia was in bloom, I thought I was going to drown in my own sneezes. I don't understand how so many people think that the scent of the acacias are "sweet" or "lovely." I'd describe the smell as more "cloying" and "nauseating." But I guess that's why they make chocolate and vanilla or Clartin and Benadryl.

This is obviously a first world problem if I've ever blogged one.

The benefit of no rain and warm, sunny skies in the spring months is that HRH is able to plan picnics at the pocket park down the street, something in which she takes great care and delight.

To wit: 
Shakshuka to go

Helmets at dinner. Noodles can be dangerous, I guess.
We'll be paying for it in a few months, when the temperatures reach the triple digits. This was the first year I turned on the air conditioning before Tax Day (I turned it on last week), but when the car registered over 95°, it was time. For now, though, it's nice to be able to have dinner in the park, even if the dress code calls for helmets and doctor coats.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The (New) S-Word

Last month, my hip started bothering me a bit.
It didn't hurt, really. It was more of an ache that wasn't nearly as bad as the shin splints that finally healed. I figured that all I needed was some additional stretching and foam rolling and that I'd mention it to my chiropractor at my next appointment.
Then I went for a two-mile run with Zooey and thought I wouldn't be able to make it home. In the last quarter mile, my hip went from a ho-hum ache to pain so severe that I had trouble walking the rest of the day.
So, rest and ice. Lots of yoga. No running. No cycling.
I was basically climbing the walls.
But while the "kill me now" pain did subside, it was no longer that dull, and I knew I had to go to the doctor.
My previous GP had retired, so I ended up seeing one of the PAs at the practice. It was fortunate - she is also a runner, so she told me that what she wanted was to make sure I'd be able to lace up again soon. After not seeing anything with regard to my posture, etc., she sent me off for an X-ray.
It was a long 24 hours waiting for the result to be known, and when it came, it wasn't anything that I'd have expected.
Sacroiliitis - an inflammation of my sacroiliac joint.
My options were slim - I need to see an ortho to get a more definitive diagnosis (I'm hoping it's not on the "really bad" area of the scale) and treatment plan, which will hopefully include physical therapy and will hopefully NOT include injections. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get in until the 23rd of this month.
In the meantime, I can't run, cycle, or hike, as these can exacerbate symptoms. So can prolonged sitting, and since I teach from home and am in front of my computer pretty much all day, that's…. not fantastic. I'm able to go for walks, and I did take Zooey for a 2-miler yesterday morning, which kept me from feeling too terribly stabby. I'm continuing to do yoga, and I've been using ice in the morning and a heating pad in the evenings along with, if I'm really uncomfortable, an anti-inflammatory.
Husband thinks I may have done too much too soon with regard to cycling, and I hate to admit it, but he is probably right. It didn't take me that long to go 16+ miles along the canal, and I was looking at how I could bump that up for the next weekend when I had to stop.
I've got my fingers crossed that I get the green light to start moving again soon. I'm not sure how long I'll be able to avoid throwing myself a pity party not being able to do my favorite things. I've had a few people suggest swimming as an alternative, which would be fine if I had access to a pool and didn't panic every time my face is submerged. I'll have to seriously think about it if things get worse, though. Do they have swimming lessons for panicky adults?
My most current worry is Pat's Run. It's only 3 days after my ortho appointment, and I am registered to run. I'm a little scared that the ortho will say "no" to running and even to walking it, but I am trying hard to not psych myself out or go down Worst Case Scenario Boulevard. I'd hate to not participate, but  at the same time, I also don't want to participate if it compromises my ability to run and cycle into old age, so I will be a good patient and listen to what the doctor tells me.
I just can't promise there won't be tears.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Workout Wednesday - Playlist

I am terrible at updating my running playlist. Not that I feel like I need to change things up regularly, but I've realized that I've become "that mom" who listens to NPR instead of music stations and as such, I have no idea what the hip new music the kids are listening to these day.
We're saying hip again, right?
So it was a big deal that I downloaded and added three whole songs to my playlist this week.
There are now 44 songs on my "Half Marathon" playlist. I'm not sure why I still call it that; I listen to it whenever I run, not just when I'm training for or running in a half marathon. I should probably rename it, but I probably won't.
I don't really go with a theme for music, although I tend to go in waves of what I want to listen to, so I'll usually get a bunch of country or a bunch of hip hop at one time. Except this week. This week I downloaded the last three songs on the list below: a contemporary pop hit, a 1980s classic, and a song from a musical set during the Cold War. But I'm obsessed with all of them right now.
This is the order of songs on my list, although I prefer to listen to them on shuffle, so I never know what song I'm getting next. This way, I can get a little extra boost from a "power" song when I'm not expecting it.
Is that the best method for running? Probably not, but it makes things fun!

  • "Let's Get it Started" (Black-Eyed Peas)
  • "I Like to Move It" ( - Madagascar 2 soundtrack)
  • "Low" (Flo Rida)
  • "Footloose" (Kenny Loggins)
  • "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" (Dropkick Murphys)
  • "Shadows of the Night" (Pat Benatar)
  • "I'm a Believer" (Smash Mouth)
  • "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" (Pat Benatar)
  • "Telephone" (Lady Gaga)
  • "Holdin' Out for a Hero" (Bonnie Tyler)
  • "The Rockafella Skank" (Fatboy Slim)
  • "Drunken Lullabies" (Dropkick Murphys)
  • "Stand" (Rascal Flatts)
  • "Comin' to Your City" (Big & Rich)
  • "When God-Fearin' Women Get the Blues" (Martina McBride)
  • "Suds in the Bucket" (Sara Evans)
  • "All Star" (Smash Mouth)
  • "New Orleans" (Lousiana Gator Boys - Blues Brothers 2000 soundtrack)
  • "Fighter" (Christina Aguilera)
  • "Poker Face" (Lady Gaga)
  • "Listen to Your Heart" (Roxette - DHT Hardbounz mix)
  • "Like a Prayer" (Madonna - Mad'House mix)
  • "Salty Dog" (Flogging Molly)
  • "Stronger" (Kelly Clarkson)
  • "Jerk it Out" (Caesars)
  • "I See You Baby" (Groove Armada)
  • "Maybe I'm Wrong" (Blues Traveler)
  • "SexyBack" (Justin Timberlake)
  • "Whenever, Wherever" (Shakira)
  • "Hey, Soul Sister" (Train)
  • "The Edge of Glory" (Lady Gaga)
  • "Hips Don't Lie" (Shakira)
  • "Just Dance" (Lady Gaga)
  • "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" (Trace Adkins)
  • "Bad Romance" (Lady Gaga)
  • "Something That I Want" (Grace Potter - Tangled soundtrack)
  • "Thanks a Lot" (Martina McBride)
  • "Good Time" (Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen)
  • "Let it Go" (Idina Menzel - Frozen soundtrack)
  • "SOS" (Rihanna)
  • "Happy" (Pharrell)
  • "Brave" (Sara Bareilles)
  • "Glory Days" (Bruce Springsteen)
  • "Nobody's Side" (Idina Menzel - Chess Live in Concert soundtrack)
What do you think? Do you have any of these songs? What are your favorite songs to listen to while running? What are some songs you think I just have to add to my collection?

Monday, March 24, 2014

One Run for Boston - Stage 52

I will likely never qualify for the Boston Marathon. I'm not even sure I'll run a full marathon at this point, so a BQ isn't even on my bucket list (although how awesome would it be to go watch the race in person someday).
Regardless of my personal involvement with marathoning, I love the Boston Marathon. I love its history, and I love the idea of running through such a cool city (having been there exactly once, I'm obviously an authority on its coolness factor).
And what's more amazing than watching what the human body is capable of doing?
Which is what made the fact that two people chose to also show what human cruelty is capable of doing in that same venue last year that much more horrific.
Thankfully, for the two people who wanted to wreak havoc and spread hatred, there have been thousands of people who want to perpetuate joy and spread love in rebuttal.
One Run for Boston is just one portion of those thousands of people, made up of several thousand on its own. Started by three runners who just wanted to do something to show the victims of the marathon bombing and the people of Boston that they have the running community's support, the first One Run was in the summer of last year.
It was so successful - in terms of both fundraising and community building - that the One Run for Boston 2 started last week from the Santa Monica pier in California, once again headed east toward the city that the run is supporting.
When I learned that the run would be going through Phoenix this time around, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it and gladly paid my entry fee, which, like all other funds raised by the organization, were sent to give financial support to the bombing victims and their families.
I signed up for Group Stage 52, which was held at Papago Park near the zoo. Many of the stages are individual, but there are also group stages, like this one, in which a "the more the merrier" emphasis is placed. This was a shorter distance, which, as I signed up when my legs were still aching from shin splints, sounded good, and since it was a loop around the park, I knew I'd be able to get back to my car easily.
What I didn't count on was Husband getting his teaching assignment to overlap the run, which meant that I'd have to find a middle of the week evening sitter for HRH. Or bring her with me.
Now, the last time HRH ran with me, it was at the run for Boston event held by Sole Sports Tempe, where she fell and scraped up her knee. She'd been scared to run with me ever since, but this was not negotiable, so there may or may not have been ice cream related bribery involved to get her to acquiesce and not complain.
I also explained the importance of the run to her, and even though empathy is not easily understood by a 5-year-old, she understood that this was a solemn event and agreed not to complain as long as the ice cream I promised could be obtained in either a cone or cup.
It was truly a beautiful evening for a run. The weather (sorry to everyone else everywhere else) was perfect. In the low 80s in the afternoon, once the sun started to dip below the horizon, it was deliciously cool, making for the best conditions.
Before the baton got to the park we took some time to chat with the other runners, including Chris over at The Half Fast Runner, and sign the official One Run for Boston car (donated by Toyota, one of the official sponsors for ORFB).

At first, she was nervous.
"What if I fall again."
"Then you get back up."
"Will you run too fast?"
"I'll run as fast or as slow as you want to. We can even play Red Light Green Light if you want."
"That sounds like fun."
That's when my daughter remembered that she loves to run.

Since I did have HRH with me, I opted to cut through the park a bit, as I wasn't sure she'd be able to make the 5 mile run, even with regular walking breaks.
In cutting through, we were able to see the back of the zoo, and HRH was thrilled to see one of the bighorn sheep up on one of the rocks.
I was more excited to run into Danny Bent, one of the three founders of ORFB; he was waiting to help direct the second wave of runners who were coming in.
Naturally I snagged a selfie.

He's my new BFF, people. This man did not stop smiling the entire time (I'm assuming he's still smiling as he continues through the stages of ORFB) - his enthusiasm is contagious, and it was wonderful to be able to chat with him for a few minutes. I learned that his dad is one of the fastest speed walkers in the world, his marathon time only slightly more than my best half marathon time.
Cutting through didn't cut the route in half, though, and by the end, we'd walked and run 3.5 miles. with an average of 18 minutes per mile.
Her first 5K, plus a little more.
We got back as the rest of the pack, who had gone the entire 5-mile route, were starting to trickle in.
"Mom, did I win?"
I'd tried to explain that this event wasn't a race but rather a relay, kind of like the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse road rally episode (if you really want to torture yourself by watching it, it's on YouTube; basically, it's a scavenger hunt that everyone participates in as a "team," and only Pete doesn't get that it's not a race). But she knows that when I go to running events, they're races, so regardless of what I said, this was A Race, and she wanted to know if she'd won.
"Yes, baby, you won. You won because you didn't stop, even though I know you wanted to."
We did beat the baton back, so it was exciting to see that carried back in to hand off to the next leg, although we all got the chance to get our pictures taken with it. Apparently its name is Miles (I love it).

The greatest aspect of running with HRH in this event was that I could share my love of running with her while at the same time teach her the responsibility that we each have toward our fellow human beings. There are people in this world who are hate-filled and cruel, but their ability to promulgate their negative energy can be countered with each act of kindness that the rest of us can carry out. While understanding the larger impact of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing is still far beyond HRH's scope, she knows that kindness is more important than any other trait, and so my heart is full knowing that Danny, Kate, and Jamie were able to give her yet another example of the ripple effect of one kind act. Thank you, guys, for what you have done for Boston, for the running community, and for my daughter.
To donate to the One Run for Boston, you can donate to the site itself here (click "donate"), or, if you're so inclined, you can make a donation on my page. To track the relay, you can follow the live map here. And, for those of you in more eastern states, check out the stages in your area that still may be open, or which, like Stage 52, are group stages.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Reverb 14 · March Prompt · Luck

#reverb14 is an opportunity for participants to reflect throughout 2014. Each month, the Reverb team will post a new prompt. Join and write, or simply join and read.

March Prompt: Luck: Is luck what you get? Or is luck what you make? When have you been lucky? When did you create your own fortune?

Earlier this month, HRH asked me "What does good luck mean?" She has often heard us say this phrase - Husband will say it to me as I'm off to a race, or I'll tell him "good luck" as he heads to one of his soccer games or an important meeting. She'll, as is her norm, copy what we say and wish us "good luck" as well.

But we never really thought to explain what we were saying (or prompting her to say in some cases), which, in hindsight, is a huge disservice to my child (I'll omit the long rant about how children aren't taught what the meaning and/or intent of the Pledge of Allegiance is but rather just to say it blindly), so I took the opportunity to explain what "good luck" means and ran with it.

"We tell someone good luck when we hope that he or she does well at something. So when Dad tells me 'good luck' before I go to a race, he's telling me that he hopes I do well in the race. And when I tell him, I am saying that I hope he does a good job at his soccer game."

She took this wisdom in for a moment, nodded, and ran off to make some paper fans (her newest obsession). But even though she was able to accept the information and move on, I was left thinking about my definition and what "luck" actually is, and, maybe more importantly, whether I believe in "luck" or not.

Certainly doing well at a race is not necessarily a matter of "luck" - if I'm well hydrated, well nourished, well rested, and well trained, I'm more likely to do…well. At my last half marathon in October, I didn't plan well for the heat (even though I had a solid training plan and had been eating and resting very well), and, shockingly enough, even though Husband wished me "good luck," I certainly didn't perform like I was lucky.

But at the same time, I often feel that I am "lucky" in terms of HRH; I had a fairly uneventful pregnancy (little morning sickness, few cravings, no gestational diabetes or other serious pregnancy-related health issues), labor was "normal" (although my contractions were extreme enough to make me vomit multiple times before I even got out of triage), and I was able to deliver naturally (with the assistance of pain killers). HRH was born fully healthy, and she latched on and began breastfeeding in a matter of minutes (and didn't stop for 20 months). I had no issue producing milk. I did everything "right," but I also know that people can do everything "right" and still have emergencies and tragedies during pregnancy, during delivery, and even after delivery. Things go wrong, and since things didn't go wrong for us, I do feel ridiculously lucky and even superstitious about having another (this is not the main reason HRH is an only child, but it did nag at the back of the mind whenever the conversation was had).

So, is "luck" a real thing? I don't know. I guess the best way I can explain how I think about it is doing some algebra (pull up PEMDAS from the dregs of your memory, kids). In the course of training (or anything into which I put time and energy), I create a plan that, in many ways, is like a large algebraic equation. I solve the equation, line by line, until I can tell you that I've solved for X (race day). Variables include miles, time, hydration, etc. But in real life, unlike in the pages of Saxon, some of the variables are completely out of my control, so while I can plan to solve for X, I won't always get the outcome I predict, even if I take all the right steps. 

At the end of the day, if I do my best, I'm a lucky woman.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Tough Reinvent

As I approach my 36th year once again fighting shin splints, I have to face the fact that I am not as young and spry as I used to be.
Not that I was ever actually spry, I think. But I was less prone to injury, so there's that.
I've been running for nearly four years, and I've gotten to the point at which I know I want to run a full marathon someday. I have my sights set on 2017; I should be done with my masters by then, and I'd like to do something to honor the memory of my dad, whose 70th birthday would be that year, were he still alive.
But in order to run that marathon, I have to stay healthy.
For my second half marathon, I used Hal Higdon's Novice 2 half marathon training guide. It really was the perfect plan for me; the weekday runs were kept fairly short, so I didn't need to worry about altering my training times from the early morning.
But running four days a week ended up getting the best of me. I know that many of my running friends run that many days - or more - and have no issue. But it's just a little too much for me.
If I want to stay healthy, then, I need to add Something Else.

Everybody, meet RuPaul.

Please excuse her leaning against Ursula; she doesn't have a kickstand.
RuPaul, meet everybody.

I bought RuPaul from my friend Christie's husband. Their lifestyle no longer really necessitates a road bike for him, so he was looking to get rid of it last fall, and so I happily snapped it up. 
When we lived in Michigan, I had started cycling for a time and LOVED it, so I knew it was something I wanted to get back into, and I've been reading about the duathlon, which is, as you might gather from the name, a two-part race incorporating running and cycling (it's usually a run-bike-run event). While I've learned that I should probably stop saying "never" in terms of what I'll do athletically, I am fairly confident that I will truly never do a triathlon, as I get extremely anxious in water (I don't like to say I'm afraid of water; it's more like I get claustrophobic under water, which leads to panic attacks). But the idea of a duathlon is just up my alley (there are also the aquabike, a cycling and swimming event, and the aquathlon, which combines swimming and running).
Finally, I got RuPaul tuned up, picked up a new pair of pedals that work with my cycling shoes, dug out my cycling shorts, and hopped on last month.
It was exhilarating.
I love running. I truly do. But I had forgotten how flat out awesome it feels to be on a bike.
I'm hoping that reducing the numbers of days I run and supplementing that with days on RuPaul will mean healthier, pain-free shins.

Fab shoes for errbody! RuPaul says.
To answer the question, RuPaul got her name thus:

  • She is a Giant OCR3. A synonym for giant is amazon, and it was only a short jump from there to glamazon.
  • She's technically a men's bike (if you couldn't tell by her selfie up there).
  • She came with all the accessories (she has three pairs of pedals now).
  • She gives me an excuse for more accessories (gloves, shoes, helmet, oh my).
  • She's f***ing fabulous.

But flippancy aside, RuPaul, both the television persona and the man behind her, is someone who is a role model. She is comfortable in her own skin, which is something with which I struggle on a daily basis. In naming my bicycle after RuPaul, I'm reminding myself that I don't have to fit into a specific size jeans to be comfortable being me and that I don't have to be confined to a societal norm in order to be happy or content.
And if anyone can help me fit into that one dress I haven't slipped into in too many years, it'll be Ru.

I may need Ru's fashion help, too.
"When the going gets tough, the tough reinvent."
(RuPaul, Workin' It! RuPaul's Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Run for Ryan House - Race Recap

This is the third year that I've done the Run for Ryan House, up at DC Ranch in north (noooooooooorth) Scottsdale.  Like previous years, I ran with my friend Christie, whose daughter Sadie sometimes goes to Ryan House for respite care. It is also where my friend Alicia held her daughter for the last time, so while the race site is pretty far from home, it's always worth the drive to know that I'm helping support Ryan House, which is part of Hospice of the Valley (it offers both palliative and end of life care for children).
The race (a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and fun run) always the first weekend in March, this year the 1st of the month, usually prime running weather here in Arizona.
Not this year.
This year, March 1st was literally THE ONE rainy day we have had so far this year.
Coming from the Pacific Northwest, rain isn't quite the anomaly it is for native desert dwellers, but that doesn't mean I was pulling a Gene Kelly about running 6.2 miles in it.
I had thought about not going, really, when I saw just how rainy it was, since lots of rain means panic at the disco on the freeways here, but this was Christie's last race; she was recently diagnosed with arthritis in her knees, and her doctor put the kibosh on all running "forever." So I braved the panicked drivers and the slippery freeways (oil build up makes the freeways extra slick when it begins to rain here, but by the time I headed out, it was a downpour, so the oil was a non-issue) for a wet race.
I had to laugh at how the majority of the runners who actually turned out (it's the smallest turnout I've seen) were huddled under the awning where the check-in tables were, as if Elphaba's blood  were coursing through all of us; us, for I was also amongst the huddle, in a sad attempt to stay dry, like we were going to run the entire race under that awning.

Important Vanity Point 1: this was my first personalized bib.

That my bib number was also divisible by three gave me an obscene amount of comfort. Don't ask; it's just a thing I have.

Thankfully, the rain let up a bit before the start of the 10K, so Christie's dad took the opportunity to snap a pic of us while we were still nice and dry.

Yes, I matched. It just happened. And yes, that's Sheldon around my neck. I'll get to him in a minute.
Christie's bib number was also, divinely, divisible by three.

I was nervous about my shins, but they have been feeling all right, and I've been careful to avoid wearing flip flops in favor of more supportive shoes as much as possible, and I'm fanatical about foam rolling, stretching, and icing these days, so I knew I could survive the 2.33 mile-long hill (Christie clocked it).
But I'll be honest, despite my preparation and care with the shins, I was still nervous. And seeing as the word nervous is a synonym for fearful, I broke my long-standing "no jewelry when running except for your RoadID" and brought Sheldon along to keep me company.
I am the tortoise. Fear is the hare.

I don't know if it was really great chiropractic care along with the maintenance I did throughout January and February to get my shins back into shape or if it was the placebo of knowing my running spirit animal was with me every step of the way, but aside from a few (concerning) foot aches, I felt great.
I was slow conservative in my pace, but I felt great.
So great, in fact, that at the end, I turned to Christie and said, "I'm gonna sprint." And I did. Her knees didn't let her go with me, but she finished right after I did.

Important Vanity Point 2: my name - my full name, not just the name on my bib - was announced as I crossed the finish line.
Of course, this vanity point might have been more glorious had I been one of the faster runners, but it was still exhilarating to hear that as I ran through the chute.

The rain did its work in the first half of the race. By the time we hit mile four (not so important vanity point: this is the first race during which I had to pee so badly I used one of the race porta potties), we were drenched. I mean, it was nice that the rain let up, but the damage had been done, and I discovered after the race that wet arm warmers chafe in a perfect circle. The more you know, kids.

In our post-race snap, you can see the dramatic change in our shirt color from the one before we set out.

Our shirts were so wet that they were also clinging to us in the least flattering manner possible, so that's fun.
Even though it wasn't a cold day, once we stopped running, the chill of wet clothes got our teeth chattering, so we quickly snarfed down the bagels and peanut butter and bananas at the finish line and headed back to our cars. I stopped at the Starbucks that was between the finish line and the car to get one of those caramel flan latte things; I'm sure this was the hunger talking, but it was delicious, even if it tasted nothing like coffee.
A final first: I had brought an entire change of clothes, and once I was back in the car, I turned into a contortionist as I changed right there in the driver's seat, stripping all the way down to have a completely dry foundation. So if you were in the insurance office in whose parking lot I utilized, you're welcome for the free show.
Related: thank goodness for heated seats.

My stats for the race:
Official Time: 1:07:58 (my slowest 10K to date)
Overall Place: 146/174
Women's Rank: 83/106
Age Group: 11/15

If I had known how few there were in our age group, I would have pushed myself a lot harder. Note to self - go balls to the wall during rainy races in Arizona!

I'm not sure what my relationship will be with the Run for Ryan House in the future. While I do love the race, not having Christie there with me will make it less desirable, and since this is also generally the date of the Phoenix marathon, I may want to set my sights on another half next spring instead (as long as my masters classes are chugging along well). We'll have to see when the time comes. In the meantime, I'm hell bent on getting through next January shin splint-free.