Tag Archives: running

Sick bed training tips?

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This photo basically sums up my life for the past five days. Haven’t been able to run or do anything besides take medicine and watch House of Cards. (Which, by the way, is amazing. Reminds me of all the reasons I love and hate politics, and, why I love and love Kevin Spacey.)

I’m worried about losing strength – and I don’t think I’ll be able to start up again for at least a week – anyone have any tips for low-impact ways to stay strong while sick? What do you do to stay strong when you can’t get the miles in? During my marathon training in 2011 I got pneumonia and, even though it was two months before the race, I think my time and my body took an extra beating on race-day from the strength I lost as a result.

I’m going to make it up this mountain, setbacks or not, I just really want it to happen in two hours or less….

 

 

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Filed under Life, Running

For my cousin, who I know can do it

Sometimes when I run, my knee kind of hurts. And afterwards, my hamstrings and calves are always sore. That’s ok. I have a foam roller and I’ve learned some good stretches.

What’s remarkable is that in spite of all of the things that hurt when I run long and ache when I get tired, one thing never bothers me. I’m never out of breath. (Well, unless I’m trying to run at 90% of my max heart rate for too long – but that’s a bio-feedback nerd post for another time.)

This is remarkable because I smoked, chain smoked really, for six years. The day I quit four years ago, I was up to a pack and a half a day. Sometimes two packs if I was extra upset or stressed out.

I’m so mad at myself for that. I started thinking about this over the weekend when my cousin decided it was time for her to quit smoking. (Plus, this is at least kind of a health and wellness blog so I figure a “say no to smoking” post is obligatory at some point.)

I started smoking later than most people, the year I turned 18. Why? No reason really. I broke up with a boyfriend I loved. My mom and dad got divorced. At 18, I lacked the skills to cope with life. Also, once you get through your first pack, cigarettes taste good.

I loved smoking. But, I realize now, I love being alive so much more. I love tasting things  and running without getting winded and not coughing up gross stuff in the morning.

I tried to quit many times and one day in spring 2008 it finally stuck. Because I quit smoking my blood pressure, circulation, pulse and blood oxygen levels are back to normal. The nerve endings in my mouth and nose have regrown. Cilia re-grew in my lungs.

My risk of heart disease and heart attack are half that of a current smoker. My risk of stroke is that of a never-smoker. Soon, my risk of pancreatic cancer will be too.

In another six years my risk of lung, mouth and throat cancer will be reduced to about 30%-50% of that of a current smoker. That’s better than nothing, but I’m seriously so pissed at younger me for tempting the cancer gods. There is a small handful of people – my mom, my friend Craig, an ex-boyfriend, my little sister – who tried (and failed) for years to get me to quit. Though I rarely say this, they were right, I was wrong, I wish I’d listened.

I think that’s one reason I like to run. I feel like I’m doing some kind of penance for past bad behavior. Like maybe if I run hundreds of miles a year, and don’t eat processed foods or meat, and live smoke free, the universe will decide I deserve a do-over or a get out of jail free card for the whole chain smoking and eating a lot of Taco Bell in my early 20s thing.

Not sure it works that way. But, maybe it does.

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Running is making me smarter

Though it’s not making me a better or more consistent blogger, at least I can rest easy that running is making me smarter. At least according to this article I read. It’s a little heavy on biology jargon but this paragraph gives you the general jist:

They found that running stimulates the brain to grow new neurons – new grey matter – in part of the brain used for spatial memories called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is also critical for our fluid intelligence.

Good news for me since the other things that make you smarter include being good at brain teasers and not having chronic stress. Well, I suck at Soduku and chronic stress is pretty much a way of life around these parts. (Duh! Why do you think I started obsessively baking and running in the first place?)

Chronic stress face. It's worse than my former affliction, chronic bitch face.

 

 

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File under: What was I thinking?!

Ok, so next year please remind me NOT to have a marathon to train for in January:

Are you f-ing kidding me with this weather? 

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Filed under Portland, Running

Things I wish someone had told me about the first marathon

Amazing that I crossed the finish line looking this happy, considering how much I didn't know about getting through this race.

The first time you do anything it gets burned into your brain. I remember the first time I drove (with my dad down to the end of Speedway and back, with him yelling at me the whole way), the first time I saw Oliver (at a party I desperately didn’t want to be at) and I remember nearly every single first day of school from elementary school through college. So, of course, I’m going to remember the details and feelings of my first marathon for a long time.

What I’ll probably remember most is how – despite months of training and reading everything I could about running a marathon – I was utterly unprepared for the realities of the race. Honestly, I don’t think it’s possible to be truly prepared the first time you do anything.

That said, there are a couple of key pieces of advice I wish I’d gotten (or actually listened to) before the race and in that spirit, thought I’d share the things I wish someone had told me about running a marathon:

  • It’s really hard after mile 20. That whole “hitting the wall” thing is legitimate. I thought “hey once you hit 20, there’s only six more to go… and six miles is nothing.” Oh sweet, naive Megan of four weeks ago. Six miles are definitely something after running 20. Most training programs only have you train up to 20 miles if you’re a beginner, but in retrospect, I’d advocate a longer training timeline to allow for running the full distance at least once. It would have been nice to know what I was in for. Lacking the time to do that, I recommend doing what you can to get mentally tough as well as practicing meditation so you can calm your mind at mile 20.5 and keep yourself from freaking out. I just read a story about a marathoner who does long division in her head the entire last six miles – so you can try that too.
  • Vaseline. Put it everywhere that you think your clothes will rub. I didn’t think much about how awkward and painful it is to have your clothes rubbing against thin, sensitive skin for hours and hours. As a result, I was the blister queen. I had gnarly foot blisters as well as what I can really only describe as adult diaper rash.
  • Get a heart rate monitor. I didn’t think I needed one since I’m far from an elite runner, but I’ve now learned that doing some good old zone training would have helped me better understand a realistic pace goal and probably would have helped me get in better shape. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on the fanciest heart rate monitor out there, but as I get in shape for the Lost Dutchman in February, I’m finding it incredibly helpful to know my minimum and maximum heart rates.
  • Don’t skip training runs. I learned recently that for every week you don’t excercise you lose 10% of your fitness. That’s scary, especially when I think about training runs that I skipped. Granted, I got pneumonia in October which was a about a three-week set back, but after that I have to admit I got pretty lazy about mid-week training runs. I never skipped a long run (when I was healthy), but I did lose a lot of midweek motivation which I think hurt me. It’s easy to talk yourself out of a Tuesday or Wednesday run – “it’s only six miles, how much does that really matter?” – and skipping one, once in a while might not matter, but those skipped runs add up on race day. As I head into the next race, I’m committed to not skipping a single run as tough as that is for me when I’m on the road for work.

And with that… I’m out the door for my last run of 2011. Only 35 training runs left until the next race.

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One done

The marathon. I made it. It was incredible, but I have to say also much more difficult than I thought. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t think about how hard it would be to run 26.2 miles but I just didn’t. I trained (up to 20 miles), I ate well, I read everything I could about getting ready for the race. Sunday morning I was so excited I was actually happy to be up and out the door at 4 a.m. I danced to Michael Jackson at the starting line in the minute before the race started. I just had no idea how weird things get after mile 20, after passing into uncharted territory.

Uncharted territory that looked mostly like this:

That look on my face is pure anger - this is almost to mile 26 and I couldn't see the damn finish line yet.

Before I ran the race, I thought I knew what I’d write about it. Something along the lines of “it was great-I’m so proud-so interesting to run my first race in my hometown” and figured I’d draw some kind of interesting parallel between running a significant race in a town I wanted to run away from for so many years, etc.

But while I was running I what I actually spent the most time thinking about (between lip synching to show tunes and “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and feeling slightly awed by how beautiful the course was) was how lucky I am to have the family I have. I started getting some gnarly blisters around mile 8, which was way too soon, and to avoid thinking about how uncomfortable that was I just focused on seeing my family sometime between mile 14 and 15. I worked. Look how happy they made me:

I know for certain that I would not have completed the race if not for my family. Around mile 18 I was exhausted and frustrated and wanted to quit. And then I caught sight of my Grammy and Papa on the side of the road, smiling. I grabbed my Papa and made him run half a mile with me and that is honestly the moment that I knew I wouldn’t quit even though I wanted to. From mile 20 on I had a family member with me for at least part of every mile. My dad and Oliver hung in with me for a mile each, my mom jogged with me briefly – but if you know my mom and her background you know that’s pretty amazing. Even my little sis jogged a half mile with me in her Toms. That must’ve hurt.

God, I love them. I love how in my family we don’t do anything alone. When something great happens to one of us, it happens to all of us. Something bad happens, we’re all devastated. It can get annoying, but when you’re trying to do something like recover from a broken jaw (my brother), raise money for your low income student’s prom (my dad), or finish the last six miles of a marathon, it’s pretty amazing.

Hooray mom! (Also, I'm crying in this picture...lots of emotions.)

Despite the blisters, the weird cramp in my glutes (I ran like six miles punching myself in the butt to get it to go away) and the strange mental experience past 20 miles, I can honestly say I can’t wait for the next one. As long as my family is there.

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Nacho, helping me stretch.

I hate stretching. Worst thing about running. At least I have a little helper.

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