Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Long Branch Half, Here I Come!

It's official! I mailed in my registration for my first half marathon, which will be held on May 2nd, 2010.

I'm so excited! I have plenty of time to train, and it's being held at a great spot on a beach where I've run before. The half is held along with the New Jersey Marathon, so I expect that it will be a really large race - the biggest one I've ever run in. I asked my running buddy if she'd be interested in running it with me, so we'll see what she says. I might have some company! (And the support staff as well, since my buddy's husband and kids usually come to watch.)

So, it's official. And luckily, I didn't have to chase down the mail truck this time. :-)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Squelchy run

Miles: 3

The rain kept the support staff and me from taking the mountain bikes out yesterday, but today was bright and sunny, so I went for a 3-mile run.

The trail was nice and squishy from yesterday's rain. It was either deep, black mud that sucks your sneaker down and makes squelchy noises, or slippery, slimy-leaf-covered mud that you could slip on if you weren't paying attention. Once I almost landed on my butt, and I was very glad that I didn't, because even the towel I brought to protect my car upholstery probably wouldn't have done its job.

I didn't have any shin pain, which is a good sign, although I've noticed that they feel a little sore when I walk around wearing heels (which is all the time at work). I know that wearing heels isn't good for your feet/legs and it will be better for me to use flats instead. I wouldn't be surprised if my constant high-heel wearing is a major factor contributing to the shin splints.

After today's run, I've been trying to devise a way to ease back into running without overtaining. I'm thinking of starting at 9 or 10 miles this week, keeping the mileage the same for 2 weeks, and then only increasing by a half mile every other week. That's really easing into it. It's probably not enough training for me to reach my goal 5K pace by the end of 2009, but it might be a nice, slow, safe way to build a base for a half marathon in the spring.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Keeping it going

Miles: 2
Pace: ??

It feels good to run again. I did a quick 2 miles yesterday, with a walk break in the middle when I felt a little soreness from Wednesday's physical therapy. I think that will be it for the week in terms of running. Today I'm going to try and do some ab and resistance-band exercises to keep up the rest of my fitness, since I've been neglecting that for a while.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Let's eat!

At the risk of no one ever looking at this blog again due to issues of supreme dorkiness, I would like to wish readers a very happy Hobbit Day.

Hobbit Day falls every year on September 22nd, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins' birthday in The Lord of the Rings. It was the day that Bilbo held his long-expected birthday party, as well as the day on which Frodo left Hobbiton on his journey, which would turn out to be the story of The Lord of the Rings. It is a real day as far as Chase's Calendar of Events (a reference book at the library) is concerned, so I'm not just making it up.

So what does that have to do with running?

For me, a lot. My return to running was driven by keeping track of my miles and comparing how far I had gone with the distances traveled by the Hobbits. Today I totaled up all of my miles since January, which was the last time I had checked where I was in Middle Earth. I was on the way from Isengard to Rivendell, following the Hobbits' journey home at the end of the book. Ironically, I was only 16 miles from Rivendell, on this day in which Frodo set out on his journey to Rivendell in the first place. This morning I ran 2 miles, which brought the distance down to 14 miles.

This whole thing is ridiculously dorky, I know, but there is a lot of sanity to it as well. Tolkien was a talented writer who had not only a great love of nature, but also an excellent capacity for describing it. So almost every time I head outside for a run, I see a place that reminds me of something I've read in Lord of the Rings.

So, besides journeying through Middle Earth, Hobbits also really love to eat, so celebrate Hobbit Day by enjoying something good to eat! (And then run it off later...)

P.S. It is wrong of me to celebrate Hobbit Day without a mention of another recent holiday: International Talk Like a Pirate Day, which just occurred on September 19th. Too bad I can't make any connection to running with that one. Anyway, happy Hobbit Day. Let's eat!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

On the run...from jury duty

The physical therapist doesn't want me doing high-impact exercises for a little while yet, so this weekend I did some biking, stretching, and resistance training. That is, except for a little bit of running that involved returning a jury summons.

I served on the jury of a murder trial just 7 months ago, which means that I am exempt from further jury duty in that court for 3 years. Well, someone forgot about that last week and sent me a jury summons. So on Saturday morning I filled out the return part and went to the mailbox to mail it. I was a little annoyed to find that the mail had already come. I brought it all back up to the house and decided to drive to the post office later that day so I could mail my jury response asap.

Two hours later the mail truck drove by. I was sitting around in the house when I saw it stop at my (empty) mailbox. There was a few second delay as I processed that it must have been yesterday's mail in the box, and that if I ran fast, I might be able to catch the mail truck when it turned down a dead-end street that connects with my road.

I put my sneakers on, grabbed my jury response, and proceeded to run after the mail truck.

It wasn't really a big deal, but I did not manage to catch the mailman. I was surprised that I am kind of out of shape. The fast pace made my lungs burn after less than half a mile. I guess that's something I'll have to work on whenever I get back to my normal training.

Speaking of normal training, I took a look at my list of goals, and the only one left for 2009 is to run a 5K with a pace of 8 minutes per mile or faster. I came close this summer with 8:07 per mile at my last 5K, but my training has obviously been disrupted. I'll probably try for that at a turkey trot or the "Beach Blast" 5K in December. (That's a race in which participants are urged to run in swim suits. The temperature last year was 18 degrees with the wind chill.)

I'm getting really psyched up about running again. I can't wait to meet more of my goals, like running a half-marathon next year. I was just reading Mrs. CJ Running's blog. She just ran in the U.S. Air Force half-marathon, and it seems so exciting! The home stretch before the finish was lined on either side with planes. How cool is that?! I've been looking at potential races for myself, and I'm thinking about the half held along with the New Jersey marathon. It's held at the same spot on the beach where I ran last April when I stayed there for a convention for work. (Yes, a library convention.) I had such a great time running there that I know I would like to race there, too.

As much as I can't wait to run, I'm going to take it easy for a while longer. This weekend I did a lot of biking instead. I did 10 miles on Saturday and 6.5 with my support staff on Sunday. I really love running, but there is something really special about biking that I feel a lot when I'm out on the trail on a nice day. I can't really describe it except that most of the time, I finish the ride feeling as if I just added several days to my life. The support staff and I are going to try and go biking every weekend, if the weather permits, so we should be able to get in a lot of good autumn rides. I'm looking forward to it. :-)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My first 10K!

Distance: 10K
Time: 1:06:30
Average Pace: 10:42

Although I was worried about injuring myself and not having trained for the past 4 weeks, I ran my first 10K race on Saturday. It was raining steadily, but the support staff came along as well to cheer me on. The race was being held at the local community college, and the events for the day included both a 5K and 10K. I picked up my packet and tried to stay somewhat dry under a pavilion before the race. Based on how wet I was just warming up and walking to the starting line, I knew that I'd never be able to see out of my rain-splattered glasses, so the support staff held them for me. As I wandered around in a world of blurry shapes, I hoped that the course was very well-marked so that I wouldn't end up following the 5K course or something. I should have asked, because I didn't even know if the 5 and 10K courses were different.

Because of the shin splint/possible stress fracture problems, I was not racing this 10K. I began way at the back and started off very slowly. We ran through some parking lots, out the back entrance of the college, and made a left onto the road. We had been given a map of the course in our packets, so I knew that the 10K course went a little way down this road and then doubled back. Not 30 seconds after we turned onto the road did the front-runners come flying past me after having turned around. A woman ahead of me asked a volunteer where the turnaround was and was told somewhere around mailbox number 50. That was a little odd, because we were passing mailbox 200 at that time. Those front-runners must have been running really fast.

We stopped seeing people coming back from the turnaround. Does that mean we missed it? Was I following a line of people wasting time by running down this road in the wrong direction? Was I following 5K runners instead of 10K? There weren't many other 10K runners around, but we all started talking about it. We didn't come to any conclusion, so we just kept running. When we did turn around, I should have asked the volunteer if it was both the 5K and 10K course, but I didnt. I doubled back and then headed out to another road, which was a long, steady down-hill. Of course, what goes down goes back up again in most races, so once I reached the bottom of the hill, I turned into the school drive-way and began the trek up "college hill". I took quick and light little steps and didn't have too hard a time of it. Up ahead I saw where the 5K runners branched to the right and the 10K runners continued to the left. People were shouting and waving signs, so I knew where to go. I continued on and saw that I had another hill. This one was steeper than the last. I continued with the little steps, although I can't say that they were quick or light. I almost felt as if I would be faster if I walked, as everyone around me was doing, but I kept running.

When I neared the top, I heard my support staff cheering me on. He was waiting at the very top of the hill, and it was so great to see him there. As I came by him, he started jogging with me. He told me that a lot of runners were complaining about the course not being marked well. I chatted with him about how I wasn't sure if I had run the right course or not. He ran with me through the parking lot at the top of the hill and stopped when I started down toward the back entrance, around where the race had started.

When I was on my own again, I was confident that at least this time, I was in the right place, since the volunteers were able to direct each runner. Somewhere here I noticed that I had blisters under my toes and that my right knee was starting to hurt. I stopped a few times to let the knee click and crack and kept going. At the turnaround point, someone took a picture of me, so unfortunately I may see my rain-soaked face on next-year's promotional info. A volunteer was commenting on how her poncho made her look like a penguin, and she asked me if I was tired. I said yes, even though I really wasn't. My feet just hurt. And my knee.

When I reached mile 5 I felt like cheering about how we were almost done, but there were no spectators around, and I figured that would be really dorky, so I saved my breath. I enjoyed the long downhill slope, took a sip of water at a water stop at the bottom, and then began the last leg up college hill. Like the first time, I didn't have much trouble, except my right knee started hurting very badly toward the top of the hill. It began to hurt so much that I started limping, and if the ground hadn't leveled off there, I think it might have given out. I heard my support staff cheering me on there, and I turned to make a loop around some of the college buildings before heading to the finish. I kept the pace steady, and once I began to get close I picked up the speed. I made it through the chute and there it was: I had finished my first 10K.

It turns out that the people who had passed the rest of the pack so early in the race had made a mistake and cut off almost a mile and a half of the course. Because of the mistake, no awards were given or times posted. The support staff reports that my time was 1:06:30, give or take a few seconds, so I at least have a good idea of how I did.

The most amazing thing about this race is that my shins didn't hurt at all. Not even the slightest bit! I don't understand what went right for me to feel so good during it, but I'm certainly not complaining!

I am so excited about having run my first 10K. I knew before the race began that I would have no trouble finishing the distance, but it's a good milestone. I'm already planning my next distance goal: a half-marathon next spring!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

If only I had a hammock...

The weather lately has been perfect for running. It is sunny, dry, and comfortably cool. The leaves and grass are green, and the sun, at the right time, shines golden through the branches.

It's also the perfect weather for lying in a hammock with a good book. I've just begun reading The Rule of Four, which is about some Princeton undergraduates who uncover a mystery surrounding an ancient Italian text. It won't be long until I'm finished with that, though, and I'm tempted to pull out The Lord of the Rings again.

I've read the entire LOTR trilogy several times already. I admit that that is excessive, but reading it, especially the beginning of the first book, when they begin the journey, evokes such warm, comfortable feelings, that I can't help but want to return to the book time after time. All year long I come across experiences or feelings that remind me of something I've read or felt from LOTR. And every time I read it, I find something else about it like a flash of insight in a quotation or a description that resonates particularly true in my life.

I woke up this morning after yesterday's 2-mile run to discover soreness in my shin the moment I put weight on it. It's not very painful -- in fact, I can barely feel it now -- but the fact that it's there is troublesome to me. I know that running in the 10K on Saturday will aggravate it, and I hope that it will not inhibit the recovery too badly. I hope even more that it is not a sign of a stress fracture, as the doctor indicated may still be a possibility.

The sore shin means that instead of running this fall, I'll have to do a lot of biking, which I find a very agreeable substitute. (I just re-read that sentence, and it sounds like it came from Jane Austen. Maybe I've been spending too much time in the library...) The picture above is from a bike ride last week. I had intended at the beginning of the summer to bike the 20 miles or so from my house to the support staff's apartment, but I focused so much on running that I never worked up to that on the bike. Maybe, if the trail has been cleared of all of the fallen trees from a storm a few weeks ago, I can work up to that goal. Hopefully he'll be able to come with me most of the time, as well. After all, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Hobbits' walk through the Shire was the company along the way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I finally took a chance and began running again. I had not run for 3 and a half weeks when I drove to the trail on Monday for a light 1-mile jog. I walked a mile to warm up and then ran back. And guess what?

No pain at all.

I went out again today for 2 miles, and this time, in the beginning, there was a very slight feeling in my left shin, but it didn't linger and really did not bother me. If anything did bother me, it was my shorts riding up and looking ridiculous.

For this run, I broke out the new sneakers I bought this week. (Decided I should take advantage of the Labor Day sales.) They're New Balance. I was torn between them and a pair of Asics, which looked a little nicer and felt almost exactly the same. The ultimate deciding factor was that the way the Asics laced up, there wasn't enough shoe string left to make a double knot. (And I don't like what happens when I don't double knot my sneakers.) Anyway, they felt great on the run today. They're nice and light, and the front is made of lots of flexible meshy material which gives my toes room to splay out and do whatever else it is they do when they hit the ground. The doctor last week told me that one of my problems was that I needed new shoes. He reminded me that I should get new ones every 500 miles (although I don't think I had reached 500 yet with the old pair...), so I'm going to do my best to track my shoe mileage on this blog.

So after two successful runs, I think that I'm going to do the 10K on Saturday. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to do it. I had actually been pondering whether I'd be allowed to walk it. Of course, I'm going to take it easy, since I don't want to push too hard. It's my first race at that distance and my goal is just to complete it and enjoy myself. It will be a celebration of being able to run!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cautiously optimistic

I have to be optimistic after my very depressed-sounding last post. Sorry for such unhappiness! Anyway, I went to the sports doctor yesterday, and his diagnosis is shin splints - not a stress fracture! Of course, a fracture isn't completely ruled out, but I'm pleased that he thinks it's the shin splints. He said that the bone was probably weakened and on the brink of fracturing, but I probably caught it and rested it in time. Part of the problem is old shoes and tight Achilles tendons, so I'm going to buy a new pair and go for physical therapy. I can run if the leg feels good. If I don't feel good, and it gets worse even after physical therapy, I'll have to go back for a bone scan to check for a fracture. We'll see how it goes!

Ever on