Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You're Killing Me, Smalls!

I'm in a little bit of a funk and it's just weird because there really is not a single reason in the world that I should be in one! So, in the wise words of Ham, "You're Killing Me, Smalls!" I need to pull myself up and out of this here funk I'm in and what better way to do it then watching a classic scene from The Sandlot. Seriously one of the BEST movies ever made. 


Monday, July 29, 2013

I Graduated!

This past Saturday I officially graduated!! I know the time has passed already for all the high school, college, etc. graduations and I know I'm well past the age of someone that is graduating from high school. What I did graduate from though was Couch to 5K!

Yep - Eight weeks passed in what seemed the blink of an eye. It started off with little short intervals and then gradually upped the ante until I was running for 20 minutes, then 23 minutes, then 25, then 28, and finally for 30 minutes solid!

This was my second time through the C25K program; the first time was truly my first foray into running and took place back in 2009. This was definitely different than that time. It was easier in some ways, but scarier in others. I couldn't help the little voice in the back of my head so many times - the one that said "is that your knee twinging?" "is that a pain in your leg?" "are you going too fast, pushing too hard?" But I found that if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other that little voice got quieter and quieter. I don't know if it will ever completely go away, but I think it is realizing that it doesn't need to be such a nuisance!

The reality is that I probably didn't need to do C25K. I probably could have just gradually increased my running all on my own; but I'm glad I did do a structured program because it helped to rein me in. I think without the structure of C25K I would have been running further & faster than I am which isn't necessarily a good thing. Slow and steady is working and I'm gradually feeling like a real runner again.

So what's next? I am doing a virtual 5k race, in celebration of my graduation, this Friday and then next week I'll start the 10k Jeff Galloway app; however, I'm going to start it up at Week 6. I really feel like I don't need 13 weeks to get through this one and I'm itching to get back to half marathon training.

For the record, I used the C25K by Zen Labs from the iTunes app store and it was fantastic. It was a free app, but honestly, I would have paid for it because it was everything I needed it to be. It allowed me to play my own music and it worked great every single time I used it. I had no issues with crashing or not working as expected. If you're looking for a C25K app - I highly recommend it. Oh, and what's even more awesome? They donate to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. You can't go wrong with that!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

From Here to There - Part IV

I do believe that we have finally reached the final post for From Here to There - (sub-titled) My Crazy Journey to a Full Marathon. Previously I talked about my plan to get back to running following injury, getting my weight to a better place, and then getting my body in tip-top shape. Finally, the last piece of the puzzle, but certainly not the LEAST piece of it - MY MIND. Sometimes the space between our ears is the hardest part to get in shape. But there are ways to exercise it and prepare it for difficult journeys and hard roads if you work at it just like you work at anything else that is challenging. Well, that's what I'm going to attempt to convince myself of anyways! ;-)

I have this magnet on the back of my car and it really sums it all up quite nicely:

You see, running truly is mental so much of the time. When you are out there for what seems like days and you still have miles to go before you are back home is usually the BRAIN that decides how easy or hard it is going to be for you! When you are in a race and your body says "no way", it is up to your brain to say "we got this - keep going". And many times when you want to quit, it is your brain that says "go ahead, you're done." So in other words, your brain could really make or break your distance running efforts! Yes, you need your body to be along for the ride as far as physically capable and injury free, but when you want to give up, that's when the mental game begins.

I remember during my first half marathon back in November 2010 ( long ago already!) I was completely and totally mentally unprepared for the rigors of a race at that distance. Granted, I was somewhat physically unprepared too, but the physical isn't what held me back or caused the most anguish. After all, I wasn't in pain, I was just really, really unhappy about where I was and what I was going through. I remember being at Mile 7 and just thinking "I don't want to do this anymore". I phoned a friend - alright, so I sent a text seeing as this is the 21st century and all - and told her "I want to QUIT". She talked me down from the ledge and I slogged along, eventually finishing, but my mental game never got back to where I was enjoying myself, or at the very least, was appreciating what I was in the midst of accomplishing. My mind truly beat me that day.

That could NOT be more true more often than not!!
I know that marathon training is going to be challenging, to say the least. It is going to take a lot of preparation; both mental and physical. I would be shortchanging myself if all I focused on were the physical aspects. There are days that I'm going to wake up and just not want to do what is on the plan. 

It's going to take the mental side of this training to remind myself that I'm doing these crazy training runs because I WANT TO! Nobody is making me do this. I am doing it because I want to do it. I am looking forward to the challenge. I am looking forward to being able to say I did it. I may not always remember that in the moment, but if I'm training my brain the same way I'm training my body I will lace up and remember why I love the run. When I line up on race day will I feel ready? Probably not. 

I absolutely know in the deepest parts of my soul  that there will be times during the marathon that I want to quit. That there will be training runs that I want to cut short. There will be workouts I want to skip. There will be foam rolling and ice baths I don't want to endure. I know this with every fiber of my being. 

What I also know is that on those days when I let my brain decide to give up without making every effort to push through the mental barrier first, that those are the days that will come back to haunt me because those were the days that I had opportunity knocking - the opportunity to show what I'm made of. The opportunity to prove that I can do it even when it isn't "easy". The opportunity to turn my cant's into cans and my dreams into plans.

You know what I also know? I know that I most certainly can complete a marathon. I also know that I can enjoy myself while I'm doing it. Oh no, not the kind of enjoyment you get when you see your grand baby for the first time or hear your child offer true gratitude for the sacrifices you made while raising them. It may not be that kind of enjoyment. But it is the enjoyment of knowing that there is a finish line within your reach and that if you keep going you will have achieved something special. Mentally I know this. Just make sure I remember it when I'm in the thick of training, mmmkay? 

Keep going, friends. Keep going.

For the times when my brain is not on board with the plan, I am a short hop, skip and a click away from more motivation than a girl could ask for: My Pinterest Board - Motivation to Move where all these images and more reside.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

From Here to There - Part III


So far we have covered a couple different ways I am planning on getting from here (returning from knee surgery) to there (my first full marathon) including getting my running back up to speed, figuratively and literally, and getting my weight down.

So next is my body. Yes, this is different than getting my weight down  and getting back to regular running. To me this means getting my body in tip-top shape. So let's take a look at what that means.

Core Strength - Runners need a strong core as it is what supports us the most while we are out, especially when we are out for longer and longer distances. Shalane Flanagan, Olympic runner and all around runner bada$$ with a perfect body said in an article for Runner's World/Running Times:

"[This work] keeps my biomechanics correct during extended runs. With intense core stability exercises, I'd like to believe I don't break down in form as much as my competitors."

In other words, having a strong core allows you to maintain proper form, which in turn keeps you protected from injury, allows you to go faster and longer, reduces fatigue and so much more. There's a ton of great information out there about how important having a strong core is in relation to being a strong runner. Google it and see for yourself. I think the picture below is fairly self-explanatory, but a lot of times when you think about "core" you think abs. But it includes your back muscles too so in a strong core program you don't want to neglect those back muscles.

I've been known to not have the best core strength and I think it shows especially in my longer distance runs and when I'm tired. But I did recently surprise myself, and begin to build a stronger core, when I did the abs challenge in June that I talked about here and which played a big part in convincing myself that it was time to take the right turn into Crazyland with a full marathon. But I will confess now that I've seriously slacked on that core strength that I built up in July. I had a great plan about how I was going to keep it going, but you know, when time is ticking away and you have other stuff that needs to be accomplished, like the arms challenge for July, it is all too easy to say "tomorrow" and then tomorrow keeps passing and here it is almost the end of July and I've worked my abs ONE TIME in all of this month. Sheesh...that's pathetic. Okay, so it might not be all bad because I've still been doing a lot of plank, so it's not like I haven't done anything. But it's not enough if I want to finish that marathon strong. So I am going to need to put together a plan to work specifically on my core at least three days each week

Flexibility - Runners tend to get really tight muscles, so keeping the body limber and flexible is important. When muscles get tight they can cause imbalances that lead to poor form, fatigue and injury. And well, it just doesn't feel all that great either! So in order to stay on top of this I need to set up good habits now with the following:

  • Yoga - Just doing a couple simple poses in the morning or evening can make all the difference!
  • Foam Rolling - It really isn't all that fun, and it doesn't feel all that great but it really helps to loosen up the knots. So any plan I make needs to include a full foam roll at least once a week.
  • Stretching - Yes, I already stretch, but doing a couple minutes pre- and post-run isn't the same as doing focused stretching for 5-10 minutes. I would say that as it stands now, I probably stretch for about 2 minutes following a run. I simply need to do a better job at holding the static stretches for 30 seconds and making sure I cover all the bases and not just the legs...because running really does use your entire body
Sources: Left, Center, Right

Overall Strength - As I just mentioned when talking about stretching, running really does use your entire body. You need a strong arm swing to help you increase your speed, run up hills, maintain your form and more. You need leg strength because of the obvious reasons. And I specifically talked about core strength up above. During the summer months I've been doing a challenge with my family where we have focused on a different strength muscle group each month; June was abs, July is upper body, and August is lower body. So in September I need to have a plan back in place that will work all of my muscle groups at least a couple times each week so that my body is strong from top to bottom. That base will help to keep me upright and, hopefully, injury free during training.

At-Home Physical Therapy Exercises - I'm sorry to say that this area has also suffered the past couple of months as I have been adding back in my "regular" exercising. And although I am not suffering ill effects from not doing the exercises, I'm certainly not helping myself either. This is really one of those times where it truly is better to be safe than sorry and if I can stay ahead of the game, I can hopefully keep that knee in tip-top shape. So these need to be back in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Because really, it doesn't hurt to keep strengthening the stabilizing muscles in my leg and knee!

It seems like a lot and I would be lying if I didn't admit that it is overwhelming and intimidating all the work it is going to take to get me from here to there...but that's why it's a journey (and a crazy one at that!)

Well, okay, Ryan - if you insist!!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Epic Knee Disaster of 2013

So I recently realized that I mention often that I am recovering from knee surgery, and on this post I talked about the process leading up to it, but there is SO MUCH MORE to the story! I can't really refer to it as "The Epic Knee Disaster of 2013" if all it was was a simple miniscus tear easily repaired by arthroscopic surgery, can I? So just to give it all a little perspective, let me go back in time for just a moment so that when I talk about my continued recovery and my return to running it all makes a little more sense. If you already know the story - feel free to skip it again. I won't be butt-hurt, I swear! Because, honestly, I don't like thinking about it either. 

So last I left you, I had an MRI scheduled with a follow-up appointment with the Ortho the following week. And then on Super Bowl Sunday (of all days), I completely fell apart!!! So let's kind of start there and I'll try to piece this together the best I can without writing a novel in the process. 

I had my MRI on that Friday and even though they tell you that it should be a painless process, for me it was most definitely not. It friggin' hurt like hell. I could feel every single pulse of the machine in my knee. I googled it afterwards, and found that for others who had swelling already, they experienced the same thing. I was able to ask a radiology tech about it later and as she described it the magnets in an MRI actually turn your body fluids (blood, etc.) into a single direction so if swelling is present, this could cause pain. Interesting to know after the fact, but man, if I had known ahead of time I would've popped a pain pill ahead of time. At any rate, once it was done, I was thrilled to be done with it! So this was the Friday prior to Super Bowl. 

Saturday before Super Bowl was a fairly basic day...lots of pain, but nothing out of what had become the ordinary. I went grocery shopping with the kids helping me so I could walk a little less. Sunday morning I made breakfast and got snacks going for the big game. The family was all coming over and we were also celebrating my hubby's birthday, so I was excited for the day. Super Bowl got under way and I FELL APART. All of a sudden I was so completely overcome with the worst chills I have ever experienced (up to that point). I would have sworn it was -20 degrees in the house, yet it was a nice warm day in the 70's. I couldn't talk I was shivering so bad so I started loading on the blankets trying to get warmer and nothing was helping. That probably went on for a good hour and then the heat came. So off came all the blankets and then I would have sworn the house was in the 90's. This was a fever like I didn't know was possible. Then I tried to get up and walk to the bathroom and experienced such horrible shooting pain in my leg. The swelling had greatly increased during that past hour and no matter how hard I tried to walk it was impossible. I had to be pushed to the bathroom in my office chair and then carried to the seat because putting any weight on my foot was an impossibility. Towards the end of the Super Bowl, we decided that this was probably bad enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room, so off we went with my hubby having to carry me from the door to the truck. I'm not kidding here, I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, and this was some of the WORST I had ever experienced. 

So we get to the ER and check in, I'm doing horribly bad and they start off telling us it will be fairly quick that we'll be seen. After waiting for about 2 hours, we checked in and they had gotten several ambulances in and it would be HOURS more. I couldn't do it. I was in so much pain I couldn't even tolerate sitting there in the wheelchair for that amount of time. So we left and went home. I was able to get some off and on sleep by popping pain pills like they were going out of style (all within safety, of course...LOL). The next morning we headed over to an Urgent Care which ended up being the biggest joke ever. The Physicians Assistant that was on duty came in, checked me out and said that the best he could do was maybe an anti-inflammatory injection in my knee. They couldn't prescribe anything for pain at all and said they wanted to send me to, get this, the friggin' Emergency Room (!!!!!), for additional labs. What a joke. 

About the time we were sitting there I got a call from the Ortho office telling me they received my MRI results and wanted to see me right away. I already knew, but this was definite confirmation, that there was something seriously wrong with my knee. So off we went to the Ortho doctor to meet with the surgeon, Dr. Panse. So what were the results? Turns out I had a very minor meniscus tear - he described it as a crack and not a real "tear" per se - but the bigger problem was a lot of fluid that didn't belong there which indicated an infection. So arthroscopic surgery would be needed right away and was scheduled for the following Tuesday (so 8 days from that point). In the meantime I had to do all the pre-op labs and x-rays and such, let my work know that I would be out of commission and get everything else in order all while still dealing with what I would describe as the worst flu ever possible. For the next week I suffered all day, every day. I couldn't sleep comfortably. I couldn't eat. I had to use crutches to get around since I couldn't bear weight on my leg at all...even the slightest bump was excruciating. I ran a constant fever which caused chills followed by overheating again and again. It was probably one of the hardest weeks of my life. 

I went in for my pre-op appointment at the surgery center and was running a 101 fever and a very high, thready pulse at 114, so there was a moment where I feared the surgery would be postponed which was terrifying because I didn't know how I could make it through any more days like I'd been going through. The surgeon was called and he determined the surgery would go forward as long as my fever came down some. 

Finally the surgery day arrived and I was fervently praying, hoping, wishing that the fever was wasn't. But the surgeon decided to move forward anyways. I didn't really realize it at this point, because I wasn't exactly 100%, but the infection in my knee had moved into the rest of my system. The surgeon told me prior to going in that I would no longer be out-patient and would need to be admitted overnight to receive some IV antibiotics. Okay, one night in the hospital...that's do-able. The surgery took place, went well, and I was admitted and sent up to my room following a brief stay in the recovery room. I was definitely sore in my knee, but already I could tell the pain was different now that the infection had been cleared out of the joint. I later asked the doctor how it looked in there and he said it was pretty nasty. They did a little clean-up of debris around the meniscus tear and pulled out 20cc's of pus (AKA the Infection) for biopsy. I still didn't have much of an appetite and my fever was still low-grade every time they took it. Pulse was still a little out of whack too, but we were hopeful that the antibiotics would start kicking in. They started me out on one antibiotic, then had to add another because nothing seemed to be working. The time came for me to be released from the hospital (remember it was supposed to only be a one-night stay) and my fever shot up to 102. The surgeon told the nurses to go ahead and release me with a couple Tylenol, but they decided no way were they going to send me out of there with a 102 temp and called my primary physician. He agreed - she stays. Part of me wanted to just cry because I didn't want to stay there, but I realized that I wasn't getting better and staying was necessary. They began taking blood cultures every time my fever went above 100 and from what I hear from the nurses, they took 5 the first night that protocol was in place. In other words, my fever wasn't going down at all. Meanwhile, all those cultures were down in the lab hoping that something would grow so they could identify what the infection was since it seemed the antibiotics I was receiving weren't working on it. The next afternoon I experienced the same thing that had happened on Super Bowl Sunday where I got the absolute EXTREME chills. The nurse was taking my temp with a temporal scan thermometer and it literally went like this within a few moments: Temp is 100, now 101, it's 102.6, it's 104, it's still climbing. When the nurse said it was 104 my response was "It's broken - that can't be true!". She looked at me like I was delusional, which I'll admit, I probably was.  

After getting a good dose of Tylenol and being covered with ice packs the fever began to come down. When the heat began, I was thankful for the ice packs because I seriously felt like my skin could spontaneously combust at any time. All the while, they are drawing more and more blood cultures hoping that something would grow. (Side note: It takes about 3 days for a culture to grow, but sometimes they will begin within 12 hours). So it's now Thursday night, my surgery was on Tuesday morning and they still don't know what is wrong with me. They even called in an infectious disease specialist! At this point I felt like I was on an episode of Mystery Diagnosis!! 

Friday morning they FINALLY identified the infection. It was a staph infection (MSSA), but thankfully NOT the resistant kind (MRSA). They began me on a targeted antibiotic and I had close to immediate improvement on that antibiotic. The fever from that point on was low-grade, never going over 101, but hovering in the mid to low 100's and sometimes dropping into the 99's. Friday night I was really hoping to be released, but it didn't come. Saturday morning, hoping again to be released...didn't happen. By Saturday night I was in a foul mood. I was feeling better for the most part, was able to get up and around with a walker, was getting some appetite back and I wanted to be HOME! But they were still concerned about the low-grade fever. Sunday morning I was 100% DONE, DONE, DONE. I was going home. Period. I decided I wasn't going to be a good patient anymore (I only sort of joke on that one). Thankfully the doctor strolled in and said the magic words. I was finally going home. HALLELUJAH!!! 

Of course I was going home with a PICC line and two more weeks of IV antibiotics. So, a PICC line for anyone that doesn't know is an IV line that stays in my arm for as long as needed - up to a full year or longer. It comes with a nurse that comes to my house to change the dressing every 5-7 days and to check and make sure it isn't getting infected or anything. I would also be getting in-home wound care for my knee and an in-home physical therapist until I was ready for outpatient. That ended up being two weeks. The stitch (yep, turns out they only needed one very small incision to get in my knee joint and clean it all up!) came out at about the two week mark too. I was hoping to be done with the antibiotics as well since I was told two weeks for that too, but they decided to keep me on those for a full 8-week course to ensure the infection is gone. 
Not mine - but exactly what it looked like. I've got to say it was a little funky to have arm "jewelry" and it especially wasn't fun when it would get bumped or pulled while sleeping. Ouch! (Picture Source)

I had my first outpatient physical therapy appointment in early March and my range of motion had definitely increased since the surgery - heck, since the beginning of January really! I was able to walk without the aid of a walker. I felt really good...pretty much normal for the most part. I was exhausted still the first couple of weeks and at the beginning it was hard to even walk to the bathroom. Going up the stairs took everything I had. My recovery was not without challenges, but it was such an improvement from where I was! 

The doctor took me off of work for 8 weeks, but I was able to get early clearance to return, so it ended up being about 5 1/2 weeks that I was off of work. Going back felt great, but it was exhausting and it was very hit and miss for several more weeks because I still had physical therapy twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the visit with my PICC line nurse every Wednesday. 

All in all, I feel like I completely lost the first half of 2013. The end of January and all of February were pretty much spent in a fog. I never realized how much I was losing at the time, but looking back I can see that the infection was taking so much out of me, even though I didn't know what it was at the time. I was thinking it was just a meniscus tear, but it was so much more. I just remember waking up every morning and feeling worse then the day before and I couldn't understand that because I was doing EVERYTHING to make it better - resting, icing, elevating, taking anti-inflammatories, etc. In a normal world I would have been getting BETTER every day. But this was not "normal". 

They can't say for sure what caused the infection (which, by the way, is a rare type of infection because it was in a closed joint), but there are two lines of thought. 1) when I received an injection in my knee joint because my "fluid was low" back towards the beginning of December at the doctor's office; it may have been on my skin and when it pierced the skin it went right on in; or 2) that I've had a UTI (even though I have absolutely NO symptoms) that entered my blood stream and then attacked the weakest part, in this case, the knee where the meniscus crack already was. 

All I know at this point is that the road to recovery is not an easy one! It's been difficult to accept that my body isn't what it used to be and getting over the fear and constant worrying every time my knee pops or I feel a slight chill has been difficult. I am always super careful with my knee and right now my biggest concern with that is making sure I'm not over-protecting it and cause a different injury instead. Especially now that I'm back to running on a regular basis - the last thing I want to do is baby that knee and cause ITB or a pulled muscle because I altered my gait or something. I have to say that I had no idea how awesome Physical Therapists were, but those that do their job right have all my respect and admiration that I have to give! I really feel like my therapist gave me my life back! I was released from therapy at the end of April and in the 8 weeks that I spent with them they made progress with my injury every. single. time. I just absolutely adore the folks at Physical Therapy Sports Institute and cannot thank them enough!

Earlier this month I got the final clearance from my surgeon after taking follow-up x-rays and blood work so the infection hasn't been lying low hiding out just waiting to strike again. And that's one of the hardest things to accept about this whole thing - that in the end, it wasn't even something that I had any control over. It wasn't an "injury" even though I keep calling it that because calling it anything else confuses people. When I say "infection" they usually think I got the infection from the surgery. Nope - it was there already. The whole ordeal from start to finish (and really, it still isn't finished technically speaking) was one of the hardest things I've ever gone through. But it was a great reminder that if you think something is wrong - keep pushing your medical professionals to keep digging!!! You are the only true advocate for your health care. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review - Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon

When I got the email from Rodale Books, who is also the publishing company for Runner's World magazine, for Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide by Hal Higdon it kicked off my crazy journey that was already brewing in my head but that I was too afraid to really admit to yet. But once I hit submit on the order form I knew that was it - it was time to confess! So before I chickened out, I made the announcement via Facebook and to all my family members. It was at least think about it. HA! Seriously though, I knew it was time to do more than think - it was time to act upon it. I'm not getting any younger, after all!

So I anxiously awaited the arrival in my mailbox and when it did finally get to me I was so excited to begin reading it!

You know you want it...Get it here
I'm a reader, so there isn't much that is more exciting than a new book! And I'm a runner, so there really isn't anything more exciting than a new book or magazine about running! It was just all glossy and fresh smelling, begging to be opened and pored over!!

So I didn't waste any time jumping right in! So what did I think about it now that I'm done reading? I will give it a 4 out of 5 for the encouragement and "everyone can be a marathoner" aspect; a 3 out of 5 for the wisdom and insight that is included. Tons of helpful information even if not earth-shattering or new. I give it a 2 for the actual writing as I found it to be a little repetitive at times. The training plans? Well, the jury will remain out on those until I actually run my first marathon because I can't judge without trying it.

The actual nitty-gritty of the book: I found it to be very encouraging in its tone which is something that I really needed if I want to actually pull this crazy journey off. I would just be stupid if I wasn't intimidated by running 26.2 miles, there's no doubt about that, but this book made me believe that it was totally attainable if I was smart about it. It used a lot of personal stories from Hal, some of his famous running friends, and comments from folks on his "V-Boards" as he offers online coaching via his website I would have to say, as an average runner, that I appreciated the comments from his virtual folks more than most of the others as I am never going to win my age groups or try out for the Olympics. So talking about 6 minute training miles as "easy runs" was completely irrelevant to me. But that didn't make it any less motivating, so don't get me wrong! I appreciate personal stories of triumph as much as the next gal! I actually have to say that I would have probably preferred MORE personal essays from regular every day folks that had completed marathons using his training methods. Even if they were just short little sidebars I think it would have added a lot to the book. What worked for real people and what didn't?

This is the fourth installment of the book so it was very modern in both tone and information provided by discussing the latest in fueling, hydrating and the science of running. This edition also includes training plans for the half marathon as well as a chapter specific to going half the distance which were helpful even though I probably won't be using his plans as I go into my half training later this year (more on that in a bit).

So I mentioned that the book was somewhat repetitive, right? While reading it I often wondered if the chapters were written as essays and then "compiled" into a book because there was at least a couple times that it would repeat very similar information. Particularly about carb-loading, training anecdotes from Olympic athletes for Hal, and the most irritating of all is his use of 26 miles 385 yards. Oh goodness gracious, if I could tell you how many times my brain stumbled over that throughout the reading of this book! I really think he maybe said "26.2" maybe once or twice. It was ALWAYS 26 miles 385 yards. As you know, there isn't anybody in the world that calls a marathon 26 miles 385 yards. It is 26.2 miles. Plain and simple. 26.2 Easy to say. Easy to read. Easy to compute. 26 miles 385 yards...not so much. I found myself mentally changing it to 26.2 each time I came across it.

I do feel like it lost some of the repetitiveness towards the later chapters when it got into specifics of training like what speedwork is, fueling, and nutrition. But that very well may be simply because I had become accustomed to his style by then and was converting that darn mouthful of 26 miles 385 yards (see - annoying isn't it?!?) into 26.2.

There are multiple training plans offered in the book, but as I also mentioned above, it turns out that all those exact same training plans are listed on his website for FREE. Being that this is my very first marathon that I'm attempting, I am going with his Marathon Novice 1 plan (for now anyways) which looks like this:
See it here
Okay, so a little side note - my goal for the marathon is simply to finish it. That is my #1 goal although I'm sure I will set some other ones along the way.

This plan is really different from what I'm used to seeing in training plans! First off, it has you running 3 days in a row which would be new for me. As my half marathon training gets to about the halfway point it adds a fourth day of running which I am okay with. However, it is run a day, rest, run two days (one of those "hard"), rest, then run long. I know a lot of runners get out there every single day. I completely believe in the power of rest and the power of mixing it up. I had a period of time awhile back that I bumped up to four days a week of running, but honestly, it began to bore me and I lost the excitement I get before a run day! Granted, the runs weren't varied (i.e. didn't have different goals or paces) so that added to the boringness of them (not a real word, but whatev - it should be! HA!). So when I look at 3 days in a row, I will admit that it scares me a little. Will it wear me down or will it build up my strength to compete strong? I don't know and that's probably what is the scariest.

The other thing about it is that you'll note that there isn't anything at all in that plan about pacing. There is a chapter in his book about finding your pace and what the various types of pace are, but he doesn't recommend doing any speedwork for the novice plans; which I don't disagree with completely. I just also know, from experience sadly enough, that if you always run at the same pace, you always run at the same pace. Here is what he says about the weekday runs: "Training during the week should be done at a comparatively easy pace". So if my marathon time that is predicted based on my most recent half marathon finish time is XX minutes per mile, I need to be running at that pace at least some of the time to get used to how it feels. Yet, when you run your long runs on the weekends, you are supposed to be doing a slower than normal pace since the goal of it is to get you used to being on your feet for many miles, not for running at your marathon pace. So if I always run at the same easy-non-speedwork-pace then come race day I will be running at my marathon pace wondering why it doesn't feel "easy" like all my long slow training runs were. So it confuses me a little. But apparently thousands of runners have used his plan and it has worked. We shall see...

All in all, I can definitely recommend the book to anyone that is looking at doing their first marathon. If you have a marathon or two under your belt already, I would skip it since it doesn't really offer new information or plans that aren't already widely available. What I primarily took away from the book was that even as a first-time marathoner that isn't very fast, that it is within reason and is achievable...and that it could actually be considered "fun" too! So it left me inspired which says a lot! I will probably re-read it prior to starting my actual training in 2014 and I may have a completely different take on it then. We shall see.

Question for you runners - any marathon books you would recommend?

Monday, July 15, 2013

From Here to There - Part II


So in my continued journey towards a full marathon I had mentioned that there are several areas I need to work on before I even begin the actual "training". Keep in mind that "training" means the actual training plan that is typically 18-weeks or so and prescribes the number of miles to be run on specific days. So far I am planning on using the Hal Higdon Marathon Novice 1. I'm still researching various plans, but after reading the book that kicked off this whole crazy adventure, I am good with going with that plan because, honestly, if it has worked for others why wouldn't it work for me, right?

Okay, so the second part of getting from here to there is my WEIGHT. Yeah, nobody really likes to talk about it all that much, but the reality is that I'm a heavier than average runner. I admit it. And I know that being a few pounds, okay 30-40, less would greatly benefit me as a runner. Granted, I'm nowhere near what I was at my heaviest. But it's still heavier than I should be.

I've struggled with my weight for pretty much my entire adult life. I've lost, I've gained, I've get the idea. The good part is that I at least seem to have leveled off somewhat as I have been in the same weight range for pretty much the past 3 years now. But it's still in the overweight range and there's still plenty of room for improvement. The less I weigh, the less impact my poor joints take and the faster I can run.

Now, my biggest problem is that when I am running a lot, or in training for an event, I tend to eat the calories that I'm burning and not always with quality food. I find that I really like using food as a reward for a hard run. Want that doughnut? Go ahead - you ran 10 miles today! Want that hamburger and fries - go ahead, you ran 5 miles! Want that smoothie, candy, bigger portion, __________ (fill in the blank) - go ahead, you're in training! So yeah, you get the idea; I could pretty much plug any item into a slot and come out with the same solution to the equation.

Yeah, I never was a math whiz, but even I can see that the equation above is a recipe for disaster. So not only do I need to LOSE some weight, I need to not add it back on once I do start to ramp up miles.

This is no easy feat, I tell ya! If there is one thing I've learned over the past several years it is that living a healthy lifestyle isn't that hard, but losing weight is! I can eat all the healthy foods in the world, but if I'm eating too much, or too little, or supplementing with junk foods then I'm not going to see the results I'm after. So what am I going to do to get me from here to there?

1. Re-read this guide. I read it a few years back, but I need the reminder.
Get it for yourself here
2. Start REALLY tracking my food intake again. I kind of do this already, but I seriously slack on the weekends which is my downfall.

3. Watch my portions. Again, one of my downfalls is that portions have been getting bigger and I've finished dinner totally stuffed too often lately.

4. Find an alternate reward system besides food for when those runs get progressively longer and harder. Food should not be my go-to reward. But I am absolutely horrible about actually giving myself a reward when it isn't food-based (how's that for jacked-up thinking?!?). I can tell myself that I'll buy a new nail polish, for example, but when push comes to shove I talk myself out of it. I need to do a mind-shift there so I recognize that I do deserve the rewards I earn

5. Talk to my friends about strategies for combating this. PLEASE, if you have any tips/tricks, pass them along. Lord knows I need all the help I can get!

So while I am still at a relatively slower pace and lower mileage my primary focus needs to be on losing weight. I'm not a fine-tuned athlete that needs to eat a gazillion extra calories because I'm such a well-running machine. I'm an overweight, forty-something average runner. I need to eat like a normal person that is trying to lose weight. The extra activity certainly HELPS but it does not give me a get out of jail free card. 

Google Search
As I continue my journey from here to there, I know that I am ensuring that, at the very least, I am putting the pieces together to allow me a successful journey to being a marathoner! Let's just hope that the mind, body and soul continue to cooperate.

Question for you: What is your biggest struggle right now and what is your plan of attack?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Who Has Time For That?

So I thought about creating a board on Pinterest titled "Who the hell has time for this sh*t", but then I realized that it would most likely be the ONLY board I was pinning to!

Like this:

Seriously, who the hell has time for that???

Or this:

Any bets on how many times you would have to perfectly line up and then tape and re-tape that laundry basket to get POLKA DOTS on your walls? And any bets on how long it would take to get sick of looking at polka dots on your walls? And besides, who the hell has time for that? LOL

25 Amazing DIY Nail Ideas

WTF??? Who the hell has time for that?

So I totally kid, but man - some of this stuff just makes me realize that I am WAY unsophisticated because I am lucky if I can swipe on two coats of polish on the tootsies because I sure as heck can't get it on my nails, much less with all kinds of little DIY designs. And yeah, my walls? They definitely aren't going to have color blocks, polka dots, or chalkboards. They are lucky they have PAINT (that may or may not have been done by professionals). But I sure am impressed that there are, indeed, folks who apparently DO have time for this sh*t! More power to 'em! But it's definitely enough to make a gal like me feel like a total slacker.

So am I the only one that looks at Pinterest and wonders "who has time for that?" (please, please, please tell me no even if its not true...hahaha)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Bucket

I'm going to take a break from all the running and surgery recovery stuff today because summer is in full force and I'm intending to take full advantage of it! I live in a very hot climate in Southern California, so "enjoying" summer isn't always reality. Sometimes the enjoyment comes from not stepping outside into the 112 degree heat! But there's something about that feeling of summer. It reminds you of carefree days of childhood and you can't help but want to recapture some of that same feeling even as an adult. So I have had a little mental "bucket list" of things I want out of this summer...and I'll probably add to it, but here's what I have so far:

  • Beach Trips
  • 2-3 Mountain Hikes including the end of summer kicker hike to Suicide Rock
  • Beach Hike
  • Camping
  • S'Mores
  • Homemade Ice Cream
  • Spend time under the stars - heck, maybe even sleep outside under the stars like we did as kids!
  • Reading at least one "beach" read (AKA - a less than serious novel! haha)
  • Reading at least one classic
  • Refresh my music playlist
  • Visit a museum
  • Picnic lunch (or dinner) in the park
  • Take more pictures documenting the fun (I'm horrible about taking pictures it seems...LOL)
  • and even more!
I know this list will probably continue to grow, but that's the stuff off the top of my head. Those are mostly things that make me FEEL summer is here. 

I already got several items marked off this past week when I had a little stay-cation at home with the family.

First Summer Mountain Hike
I truly enjoy hiking and what could be better than hiking in the mountains, especially when the air down in the valley is hot and muggy, but up in the mountains it is cool and light? Me, my mom and my sister hit our favorite trail - The Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail - in Idyllwild, CA on June 28 in celebration of my sister's birthday. We started early and pretty much had the trail to ourselves until the very end. The air was cool, crisp and clear and the vegetation was still nice and lush. I really wish I could share with you the SMELL of the hike because it was amazing! We passed what I believe was several groupings of honeysuckle and the amazing scent was enough to knock you off your feet. Absolutely heavenly! 

Upon arrival the sun was still working its way above the mountain
That's Suicide Rock - the End of Summer Kicker Hike for 2013 - this is my motivation to hike LOTS this summer!
A view of the valley down below

Does anyone know - is that honeysuckle?

A little trickle still flowing...
Beach Trip
Joshua living it up like a Beach Bum
I'm hoping that there will definitely be more to follow, but I headed to the beach with the two girlies, my friend Kathy and the little Joshua for a day of fun, and not so much sun, at Carlsbad State Beach. It was an overcast and somewhat muggy day, and even ventured on chilly for a short period of time when the breeze picked up a bit. But the weather definitely didn't stop the girls from getting in that freezing ocean! They are definitely mermaids or something because they love the water even if it is brain-freezing cold. They splashed until they were blue and then would take a break just to head out again a short time later. And Joshua? Well, he had a lot of fun from his towel which he would hardly venture off of! 

We all survived with minimal "sun-kissed" looks (AKA sunburns) and capped it all off with what we decided was a new tradition - In-N-Out. It was an awesome day and will hopefully be followed by at least a couple more beach trips this summer.

Homemade Ice Cream
Sorry no pictures to show here of the actual ice cream...just know it was delicious Mint & Chip that was dreamy-creamy and oh-so-good! I have the Kitchen Aid Mixer attachment and it works fantastic. I have made several batches in previous summers and am looking forward to doing more of this in the future...I definitely want to try a nice butter pecan and maybe go old-school chocolate or vanilla. 

All in all, I would say my summer is off to a great start and I am certainly looking forward to marking off items from my bucket list...but not just for the sake of marking them off. I want to make memories, breathe in the heat and cement relationships in summer sand!

So, tell me, what is on YOUR summer bucket lists?