Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What do you wear to run in 50 degree, windy weather?

So far I've tried two approaches. The first was the, "eh, I'll warm up after a mile" approach. Running capris, short sleeved moisture wick T and a baseball hat. I was sweating after a mile, but I had goosebumps on my arms and legs the whole time.

The second approach was, "Let's pretend we're in Alaska." On top of my one pair of full-length sweatpants and a tank, I layered two sweatshirts (one was mine, one was my husband's and very heavy) and wore a thick canvas cap. After about ten minutes of running, I kind of felt like I was sprinting in a sauna. But, I highly recommend this outfit if you do live in Alaska.

So what do you wear when the winter weather is "mild" (any location that gets more than two seasons) or "bone-chillingly cold" (South Florida and locations with similar tropical climates)?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A "running" list of New Year's resolutions

Last year I resolved to lose weight and get in shape. With just a handful of days left in the year, I think it's safe to say Mission: Get Fine in '09 was a success. Thank you, running.

Unfortunately, in the process of losing weight/getting in shape via running, I developed a bunch of bad habits I never had before, so I'm going to have to make 2010 the year I improve upon the following:

1. Develop better form. I've recently discovered I run leaning on my right side, making my gimpy left leg do all the work, making me all the gimpier.

2. Be nicer to pedestrians.

3. Mix up the cross training. Not just spinning but strength training, Pilates and yoga, too. (Just no more step aerobics, OK? I think I've done enough stomping on the bench to never want to do a revolving V-step again.)

4. Stretch more.

5. Talk less about running in social settings to avoid boring friends, family and co-workers to tears--or giving them the impression that I'm some holier-than-though exercise saint who looks down on them for eating Pringles. (This blog will have to become my super-secret outlet for everything running-related, as I attempt to convince the rest of the world that I'm much more interested in, say, antiques, than I am in the latest water bottle contraption.)

6. Run a marathon.

7. Stop defining success by the number of miles run or by race results and instead define it by....hmmm, I'm still searching for the second half of this sentence.

But when I find it, I promise I'll reveal it only in blog form--I won't tell you, if, say, we run into each other at the supermarket or at a party. I'll keep that discovery, and my feelings about Pringles, to myself.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

All I wanted for Christmas...

...was to be able to run more than 4 1/2 miles without my knee painfully "popping" as it has for the past month whenever I ran for more than forty minutes. Thanks, Santa! Today I ran 6.0 with no pain and no popping (just trepidation that slowed me down a bit, but hopefully I'll get past that soon and pick up speed.)

Actually, I don't think Santa deserves the credit--I'd say this post-Christmas miracle was the work of my orthopedist, who told me to spin rather than run until I healed, and my Team in Training coach, who spent a lot of time creating a low-mileage schedule for me to get me through to the half marathon next month without over-stressing my knee. And ME. I'll give myself credit for actually listening to the experts and not being so hot-headed that I ran through pain as I have in the past.

Oh, and in case you think I'm sooo running obsessed that all I truly wanted for the holidays was a good run, I have to disclose that I'm Jewish, and already got plenty of loot a few weeks ago for Hanukkah, including a massage giftcard, last year's fabulous if enormous Garmin Forerunner 305, iTunes, and a plastic "#1 Mom" keychain from my 4 year-old daughter.

I hope everyone had happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I figured out my problem. I'm lop-sided!

It's a shame I can't run in front of a mirror, because I would have figured this out ages ago.

My trouble has always been with my left lower body (foot, ankle, calf, knee, quad). Every injury I've had, from when I sprained my ankle at age 11 to this recent knee problem, has been on the left. Meanwhile, I've had other aches and pains in the upper half of my body on the right side (ab soreness, shoulder strain, etc.) but never the right.

I joked before that I thought this had to be the handiwork of someone who had created a voo-doo doll of me and was sticking needs only on the left side. But I have discovered a more likely culprit: I overwork my left side when I work out, and then afterwards carry things (my laptop, purse, children, lunch, sometimes all at once) with my right side perhaps because my left side has already had enough.

This epiphany occured to me today during spin class, when the instructor forgot to dim the lights all the way. I had a bike right up front, by the mirror, and I noticed that when I was working the hardest, I was leaning to the right, while pushing much harder with my right leg than my left. I realized then that I kind of run in the same pose: Leaning right, powering harder with the left leg.

You can even see from this finishline photo of me from my 10k--that was 54 minutes of running leaning right, working left.

Perhaps the answer to all of my troubles could be as simple as running with my head on straight?? Dare I hope?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So this Type A runner goes to the mall 3 days before Christmas...

I'm going to stop prefacing everything unflattering I write about myself with, "I swear, I really am a good person!" because at some point, I just have to admit that there's something less than "good" about a person who collides into old people who dare to walk on her jogging path, tells off incompetent sushi waitresses and--today's confession--weaves aggressively between slowly browsing shoppers, occasionally bumping into them, in an attempt to acheive a shopping mall "PR."

(That personal record would be: One baby gift, one defective jewelry return and one stop at the Adidas outlet in less than an hour, at a mall where the parking lot is so crowded, you have to park at the furniture store across the street. Three days till Christmas. I know the ends don't justify the means, but that is pretty efficient shopping.)

Not that this makes me seem any nicer, but I didn't actually hurt anyone, and I slowed down when I saw parents pushing strollers and of course yielded to people in wheelchairs. (But that self-centered teenage girl who stopped walking in the middle of a throng of shoppers to answer her phone? Yeah, I might have clipped her shoulder a little bit. She'll get over it.)

I think from now on, I'll stick with shopping online, and catalogs.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My roller-coaster post-injury run.

Yesterday was the first time I was cleared to run since injuring myself three weeks earlier. I was given the task of running a cautious 4 miles, which I haughtily assumed would be a piece of cake. And not just any piece of cake, but an exquisite one. Chocolate lava torte drizzled in creme anglaise.

I have a tendency to daydream, and I'd somehow convinced myself that as soon as I laced up, I would just fly off the asphalt. All that rest and rebuilding of my quadriceps would make me Super Runner. I'd feel no pain. I'd feel lighter than air. I would discover that all along, I was actually an 8 minute mile kind of runner, and just the weight of discomfort and injuries had been slowing me down.

Here's my reality check. This is what actually happened: I started running and at first, it did not feel amazing. Not painful at all--I just had a sudden flash of sympathy for the people who have told me, "I don't understand how you can run that much! I think it's so boring." It was difficult and a little slow, and I was also very worried about injury that I ran self-consciously, trying to make sure my quads and calves were equal partners in my movement, which made for a really unnatural gait.

Then, after about 2 miles, the love suddenly kicked in. I'm back! I thought to myself, getting a little teary-eyed. Oh running, how I've missed you! At that point, my brand new Garmin displayed that my pace had changed from a 9:55 minute mile to 8:08 (pre-injury, a comfortable pace for me was somewhere in between those times) and I felt great. And indeed, I thought the "Super Runner" fantasy was coming true.

I got in another 1.75 miles of exquisite chocolate lava torte style running and could see the end of the loop on the horizon--when all of the sudden I got a tingling feeling in left kneecap. You know, the bad one. It wasn't pain. It was pre-pain. This led to a tingling feeling in my stomach that was neither pain nor pre-prain but 100% dread. I slowed down and continued to the end of the loop (the Weston Town Center periphery, circled twice, for those of you who know the Weston Team in Training geography).

And limped defeatedly back to my car.

Driving home I decided it wasn't so bad. I felt good during most of my run, and maybe I just needed more spinning and some light quad body work and shorter mid-week runs to keep on rebuilding. I hope that's the case; we'll have to see. Sometimes being a perpetual optimist means it's hard to know what you truly are capable of doing and what you desperately want to do.

Oh, and I'm not limping anymore. The pain lasted for a few hours afterwards. I feel fine, now.

Of course some ice and cashing in the massage gift certificate my husband gave me as a holiday gift definitely helped.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Playing with the playlist (song suggestions welcome)

My brand-new Garmin is fully charged, my armband and heart monitor chest strap have been laundered and Febreezed, I've correctly matched up all of my L and R Nike Dri-Fit socks to avoid running with two left (or two right) socks on my feet, and if there were a reason to shine my running shoes, they would be shined.

I am prepared.

Let's just say that Saturday, the first day I am cleared to run again since my knee problem on December 2, could not possibly come sooner. Most importantly, I know I've gained strength in my quads from all this crack-of-dawn spinning--which, more than an April-fresh heart monitor chest strap, is what I really need to be road-ready again.

To add some fun and funk to my modest 4 miler on Saturday (I build up 2 miles a week till the half marathon Jan. 31, as per my coach's suggestion), I've been trying to put together a really high energy, kicky playlist about 50 minutes long. I have the most fun when running when I'm listening to tunes I'd enjoy dancing to--which is why I've got more Lady GaGa than Suzanne Vega on this one. But I've got a little jazz and some "grrl power" type tunes, too.

Here's what I've got so far; feel free to steal it if you're a fan of this same kind of spin-studio-inspired programming.

Imma Be Black Eyed Peas
Paper Planes M.I.A.
Do Your Thing Basement Jaxx
Bad Romance Lady GaGa
Tick Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Seven Nation Army The White Stripes
Sinnerman Nina Simone
Only Happy When It Rains Garbage
3 Britney Spears
Still in Hollywood Concrete Blonde
Where Did You Sleep Last Night Nirvana (MTV Unplugged version)
You Spin Me Round and Round Jessica Simpson
Johnny Feelgood Liz Phair
Awful Hole
Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) US3
I'm Too Sexy Right Said Fred

Am I missing any must-run-to tunes? If so, please suggest them in the comment section below or email me at joriemark@gmail.com. Even if I don't get them into Saturday's playlist, I've got a lot of miles ahead of me in the next month and a half, and a fresh new song always makes the run more fun.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just wring me out when you're done mopping the floor with me, okay?


(I'm talking to my spin instructor.)

I know last week I was all happy and excited to be taking the 5:30 a.m. spin classes during my rest from running, but I'd like to officially take back that happiness and excitement. And replace it with misery and trepidation.

Last week, I somehow didn't notice the whimpering coming from the bikes surrounding me, because I was just so grateful to be doing cardio again. This time, not only did I notice them, but I contributed to the chorus of pain.

The crack-o-dawn spin dominatrixes are something, aren't they? Hup, hup, I said HUP!

I'm not new to spin. I was pretty much addicted to it from 2006-2008, before I eventually discovered running. But I never took a class like these 5:30 sessions. I used to go at 9 am, with the other new moms trying to lose their baby weight, and the retired people in the "Silver Sneakers" program. The 5:30 classes are populated mainly by Type A business people who eat their competitors for a solid protein breakfast after they finish their workouts.

It's not just who signs up for these classes: really, the difference between the 5:30 am class and the 9 am class can't be overstated. There were always moments during the 9 am classes when my heart wasn't rattling in my chest. Today, my heart stayed above 160 the entire 55 minutes. Which could be because Maria made us do our sprints on a level 7 resistance (scale 1-10 perceived exertion, with 3 being a flat road). I always thought level 4-5 was for sprinting, and that level 7 was for climbing. But nope, climbing would be 10 in Maria's class. And not just 10, but, as she puts it, "A real 10."

Now this will make me sound really strange, most assuredly masochistic, but after an hour of moaning and huffing and spastically dropping my water bottle, I actually felt amazing when I left the spin studio. (And only partially because my torture session was over.) I've been on a high all day. So I'll be back tomorrow at 5:15 for Maria's 75 minute class, and I know I'll probably hate every minute of it. Until it's over, and then I'll love it again. (I hope.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Elliptical abuse

I've done things to the elliptical that are probably illegal, not to mention dangerous.

I've been trying to use it like it's a treadmill, or maybe even the open road. Because while I can get through a spin class without missing running, trapping myself on that boring old gym standby has been absolute torture.

Instead of using it as both my orthopedist and the cute little illustrated chart on the equipment instructed, I've been putting it on low resistance, while going at at high speeds, for long periods of time--and have been pretty much been using my toes and calves to power forward, not my quadriceps.

I haven't committed this gym-sin to be a bad patient or because I wanted the amusement of being reprimanded by the sixteen year-old high school student in a YMCA T-shirt who nervously hands out demerits to disobedient patrons of the fitness center without making eye contact. ("Um, ma'am," his voice cracks, "I'm going to have to ask you to limit your time on the equipment to, um, to thirty minutes during, um, peak hours.")

I've just used the elliptical that way because it felt good, and it wasn't until my left knee said, "Now, hey there, lady!" while popping out to the side that I realized I was doing a bad, bad thing.

I have five more days till I can start running again. I think I'll stick to spin class until then. I know I could amp the elliptical resistance up to 12 or 13 and push and pull more and sprint less, but the fact is, I'm over that hunk of metal. What a boring and uncreative piece of machinery--compared to a bike in a dark room, or better yet, my own legs, running on asphalt.

Man, do I miss running!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

You spin me round and round, like a record, I go round and round...

I have a confession. I don't miss running. (Yet.) I LOVE spinning!

It's so imaginative. I am one of the least New Agey people I know, but pedaling in pitch blackness, cold sweat dripping down the sides of my face, listening to a mounting orchestra crescendo while the instructor commands, "You're almost at the peak of the mountain! Come on, lean to the left, you can see the crested peak!" is really cool. 

Yes, getting up at 4:45 a.m. every day to get a bike at a 5:30 class is pretty brutal, but once I'm there, I'm in Utah, I'm in Colorado, I'm in the Himalayas. And that slow group of bikers the instructor keeps urging us to pass? I love passing them. Hah! And unlike running into real, living and breathing slow-walking elderly people on my jogging trail, I feel no remorse for leaving these imaginary bikers in my dust, because, of course, they are imaginary. (As is my dust.)

Anyway, it's fun stuff, and it's certainly worth getting out of bed for. That early.

I think my quads are getting the crash fitness course they need so I will be able to return to running next week strong enough to do a few miles without leaving my knee vulnerable to fatigue. Parts of my legs that were never sore certainly are speaking up. And maybe I'll even become a tad bit faster, if I can dare to dream. Pedaling fast up an imaginary mountain is good practice for sprinting to a real finish line. (Or so I am told.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

10 good things about NOT being able to run the marathon Jan. 31.

Outcome of my orthopedist appointment today: my knee problem is, as he previously diagnosed, runner's knee, not a sprain or a break. He seemed pretty optimistic that I can fix this problem and return to my runner girl adventures simply by building up my quad strength and resting from running.

Ultimately, my prescription is:

1. No running for two weeks (boo!)
2. Spend the next two weeks spinning and using the elliptical to build up my weak quadriceps (yay!)
3. Begin running gently; maybe starting with 3-4 mile runs, not 10-12. (huh.)

This means no to the marathon Jan. 31; yes to running the half-marathon on this date instead.

Here, a "boo" won't do; give me some good dirty expletives. I'm devastated.

But, let's not dwell on that.

I'm always one to look on the bright side, even when faced with big, stinky, dream-dashing setbacks like this one. So here are 10 reasons for me to be happy that I don't have a date with 26.2 miles anytime soon.

1. I will be saving a small fortune on gels, shots, OxyClean for stinky post-run laundry, and iTunes.

2. People seem to think running a marathon is either very admirable--or truly crazy. With a half-marathon, the general response is, "Good for you." With what I've been through lately, I could stand a few more "good for yous" and a few less, "are you nuts?"

3. I've still raised a lot of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as a Team in Training teammate; running a shorter distance in this race doesn't take away from that fundraising accomplishment, which is actually more important (to me) than the athletic accomplishment of running the full race.

4. Spinning is fun.

5. My injury is not a break or a tear or anything that will cause me to sit around cursing at my dentures in my old age, regretting my years as a runner. Just a knee annoyance.

6. I'm a lot less likely to encounter dead rats, live, hopping frogs or strange pedestrians in the early morning spin studio than I did during my morning runs.

7. The Miami ING marathon course isn't known for being the most beautiful or scenic out there, especially for Florida residents who are bored rather than moved by the sight of palm trees and Spanish cosmetic surgery billboards. Maybe now I'll get to lose my marathon-running-virginity somewhere more exciting and romantic instead, like Big Sur.

8. My awesome college roommate Ava is going to run the Miami ING half. My plan was to run the first 13 with her and then push myself alone through the last 13. Now I'll have her company during the entire race.

9. You don't have to get up as early on Saturday mornings to run 8-10 miles with Team in Training as you do if you're supposed to run 18-22.

10. I can still run. That's the biggest silver lining of all.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Just gimmee a spin bike, a vaccuum cleaner...or an air guitar

Good news about my knee: it's OK, I think.

I don't see my orthopedist till tomorrow to give me his expert's take on the state of my sprain, but as the knee's rightful owner, I can give you my semi-expert opinion that it seems to be healing nicely. I really only had two bad days of limping, icing and Advil. In fact, I spent yesterday exploring Universal Studios with my family and came pretty close to running with the stroller when my daughter told me no, she couldn't wait till after the ET Ride to use the potty.

Bad news about ME, though: I am in severe cardio withdrawal. This is the longest I've gone without exercise (I don't think sprinting to the Ladies' Room counts) since maybe 2008. It's making me restless. I find myself looking for excuses to move swiftly--racing, without actually running, to check whether there's a wait at a restaurant; leaping up, without actually jumping, to grab my kids an extra ketchup packet at Chick-Fil A.

I'm not sure what my ortho will tell me tomorrow about running, but I've got my fingers crossed he'll at least let me spin or use the elliptical, or vaccuum boisterously or something.

If I don't get my heart rate up into the 140s or higher soon, I'm going to become one of those fidgety women who never sits still, who is constantly twisting her rings around her fingers or fixing her kids' collars or pretending TV remotes haven't been invented so she has an excuse to change the channel manually.

Either that, or I'll audition for "So You Think You Can Dance."

Last night when we passed a grooving bar band at Unviersal's City Walk, my son started shaking his hips and doing some kind of quasi-karate-chop choreography, and I started--uncontrollably--shaking my hips and karate-chop dancing, too. Soon the two of us were burning up the pavers outside Jimmy's Margaritaville, air-guitaring, do-si do-ing, belly-gyrating and hair-tossing.

It was a blast, and as close I've come to the feeling of running since my injury.

So come on, Dr. Sheldon. Stop me before I dance again. Give me the green light to spin tomorrow. I can do a lot less damage cycling in the dark than shaking what my mama gave me out in public. And even though my kids love it now when I get down and get funky, they are young, 6 and 4. I think the video my husband took of me getting jiggy with it is more likely to be blackmail material for them than me one day, when they're older.

After running a half-marathon dressed like Rainbow Brite, I don't embarrass easily any more.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This isn't good.

It happened again. My knee popped.

Five miles into my intended 18 today, pop. OUCH. I tried to run on it and ended up almost falling.

The five miles pre-pop were easy; limping home five miles was hard.

OK, I'm being stoic. It was beyond hard. It sucked. It it was upsetting. Humiliating. And frightening--what if this painful "pop" was a serious injury that would sideline me for months, if not indefinitely?

I ended up in the ER. And on crutches. It's a sprained ligament--they couldn't tell me more than that without an MRI. Which I will hopefully get on Monday, when I can get in to see my orthopedist.

It hurts and I'm upset. But being a silver-lining kind of gal, I'm not 100% convinced that being forced to take a break, even if it's for a few weeks, is such an awful thing right now.

I've been running on empty fumes for a few weeks now, ever since my half marathon in November, which I'm starting to think I should have taken the time to recover from.

You know, more than one day off.

I've felt run down. Exhausted. Waking up at 4 am has lost its die-hard charm and has become, well, waking up at 4 am.

I hate limping. I hate being sidelined. (And don't get me started on how much my armpits HATE crutches.)

But I'm hoping to return to the road a wiser, calmer and more well-rested runner. OK, I won't lie--at this point I'm scared, and I'm just hoping to return to the road, period. But if I could do it with better needs and a cooler head, I think that would be a good thing.  Because having an "overuse" injury is no badge of honor.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


For the first time in seven months, when I woke up this morning, I didn't have a single ache or pain.

I haven't run since Saturday. My limbs feel light.

Tomorrow, I'm getting up at 4 a.m. to attempt 18 miles. I think I can do it.

In seven months, I haven't taken off more than one day from exercise. This is the first week where I ate and slept a lot, but didn't burn very much at all. Aside from a nasty head cold, I feel pretty good. Rested. Pampered even.

And ready to go.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Could you kindly take those voo-doo pins out of the left side of my body?

I've figured it out. I'm on to you, hater.

The left side of my body is the only side that has given me trouble. I sprained my left ankle years ago, and occasionally I still have a feeling of "looseness" there after a long run. My left calf is the one that had the muscle strain; the left kneecap is the one that's been tingling lately. It actually hurt me today during my 11 mile training run, and after over-hearing me blurt out an expletive when I felt a "popping" sensation, my coach insisted I stop and get a ride home because once your knee is trouble, you're pretty much out of the game.

What I've figured is that I've really hurt or angered someone who has witchcraft powers, and they've made a small doll of me and are stabbing the left side of it again and again with a needle.

Maybe it was that nice elderly couple who I've run into, deliberately, when they ignored my requests to please move out of the way.

Maybe it was the mother at Wal-Mart who called her 2 year old a motherf&*% and smacked him on the arm. I looked her right in the eye with total disgust and said in a loud, cheerful voice, "What an adorable child you have. Aren't you lucky?"

Maybe it was the waitress at the Japanese restaurant who, a half hour or more after taking my order, long after the people I was dining with had been given their meals, gave me a platter of all white fish sushi when I specifically told her I wanted the number 7 but with no  white fish, please. I let her have it. My coworkers still talk about how I can go "sushi style" when encountered with incompetent service; as far as I knew, though, there were no consequences to demanding of a bad waitress, "Did it ever occur to you that you're in the wrong line of work??" aside from regret later on that I'd been such a snot. But maybe she went into the kitchen after my tirade and voo-dooed me in.

I'm not saying I didn't have the voo-doo coming. I'm generally a nice person (honestly, I am!!) but I definitely have my moments of passive-aggressive malice, kind of a non-driving road rage that slow-moving walkers, abusive mothers and bad sushi waitresses tend to inspire.

But I get it. I need to calm down, and be nicer. Voo-doo practioner, O powerful one, I promise I will.

So could you please remove the pins from my left leg? I've got some major mileage ahead of me and I can't do it if my knee truly is in trouble. Right now, I'm looking at taking a few days off.

It's possible, I think, that my body is just very, very tired. But those pins sure aren't helping.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Not the knees!

Thus far in my marathon training, I have suffered--and recovered--from the following conditions:

1. Shin splints
2. Oozing, bloody blisters
3. IBS attacks brought on after long distance runs
4. Calf muscle strain

Until a few days ago, I was plagued by #4, so I'd made an appointment with my orthopedist. But right after I made that appointment, I began using Zensah compression socks during my runs, and the two month-old calf injury finally and quite suddenly bid me adieu.

I was going to call to cancel the appointment, but just in case my lack of calf pain was a momentary reprieve, I thought I'd wait until the day it was scheduled just to make sure my calf still felt fine after my morning run.

My calf indeed felt fine.

But my knees (both of them) were tingling.

Not hurting, but tingling.

I live in fear of injured knees. I'm a "toe runner" so the injuries I'm most prone to are calf problems; "heel runners" are more likely to have knee, achilles and hip problems, my ortho says. And for this I consider myself lucky: a calf injury is a lot easier to train around than a knee problem.

For someone training for a long-distance event like a marathon or half marathon, in fact, a knee injury can be the kiss of death.

So I kept the appointment so I could get the tingling checked out. My doctor examined my calf (and affirmed that it had healed) as well as my knee...which he promptly diagnosed with the beginnings of "chondromalacia patella," or "runner's knee," which is an irritation of the undersurface of the kneecaps.

Oh no. Not the knees!

The doctor then told me that unlike my previous injuries, this one I was developing was actually quite serious. If it got more painful, I would have to stop running altogether, or else I could end up needing surgery that might sideline me from running indefinitely.

I sat there with my teeth chattering. "Is there anything I can do to make it better?"

"So you say you've only had this tingling sensation since you began wearing compression hose?" he asked.

I nodded.

"Just stop wearing your compression hose. Now that your calf is healed, there really isn't any reason to wear them anymore."

Phew. Not wearing garish purple hose while running v. wearing them and possibly destroying my kneecaps...hmmmm, not a tough decision.

I had told the doctor--proudly, actually--that the compression hose had changed the way I ran, so that I was using my upper legs more and putting less pressure on my toes. I thought this was a good thing; I'd been reading a book on why it was better to run with your head forward, neck elongated and less pressure on your lower legs.

But according to my orthopedist, converting from being a toe runner to a heel runner was what probably caused my kneecap irritation in the first place and that I should go back to how I was running before I wore the socks, because that clearly had worked for me.

Right now I'm wearing the Zensahs as a recovery tool, in between runs. But tomorrow when I do my own little turkey trot around my neighborhood (I'm not signed up for any of the local 5ks), I'll be doing it naked-legged.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My new Zensah-ation

I was on the verge of spending hundreds of dollars on sports rehab, in a desperate attempt to find a solution to my two-month-old pulled calf muscle injury (which still was hurting in a way that no two-month-old injury should hurt.)

"It will be about one-fifty for the first session, then you'll need a half hour session every other day for two weeks, and those will run you $75," said the charming sports rehab doctor, after breaking the devastating news to me that his clinic didn't take my insurance.

Those "sessions," he warned me, would involve something that sounded "medeival." He was going to use shiny metal devices on my left calf to break up the scar tissue that was preventing my calf strain from healing.

I asked if it would hurt and he paused for a moment and replied, "It hurts so good."


I told him I'd sleep on it, and the next day at my Team in Training practice, I asked my mentor about this clinic, because Doctor Hurts-So-Good had listed her as one of his patients.

"Oh, he's the best," she raved, causing me to ponder whether the expression "marathon runners can be masochists" was sometimes literal rather than metaphorical. "But if you have a calf strain, why not just wear compression hose?"

Compression hose. Those ugly purple Zensah socks I'd bought, wore once before I actually had the calf strain injury, and then decided I already looked clownish enough between my bright orange shoes and pastel running skirts to add Olive Oyl-like hose to the mix?

Yeah, I guess I could try them again.

I tried them out for the first time on Sunday, and after I got used to the sensation of running with my calves bound, making me feel like some small animal was grabbing onto my legs and squeezing them as I ran, I have to say I am a fan of my Zensahs. Although I didn't like it at first, the pressure on my calves actually forced me to run using better form: falling forward, shoulders relaxed and neck long, rather than putting the weight in my calves and running with my upper body all scrunched up. (I knew what proper form was, thanks to my father-in-law Lou, who gave me a book on the Alexander Method, but have to admit it's been hard to kick the habit of running hard on my legs--which is probably what got me into this calf strain mess in the first place.)

So, miraculously, one ten mile run later, the pain is pretty much gone. Not better, but gone! I just asked my husband to press right in the spot that had been so tender before that if he accidentally kicked me there in bed in the middle of the night, I'd scream out in agony. He pressed, and I felt nothing. I don't know where the pain went, but I can't say I miss it.

I'm so relieved that I didn't need to have the scar tissue tortured out of me with stainless steel devices ("hurts so good" indeed) to the tune of almost a thousand dollars.

I just wish Zensah offered the socks in my size in a color other than purple. (Not the pinkish color pictured above; we're talking Flying Purple People Eater grape.)  I'm starting to think that the universe is conspiring to make me look as absurd as possible when I run. It makes me feel a little bit like a court jester--and look a lot like one.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just call me Chumbawumba.

Remember Chumbawumba? Think back to the summer of '98. They had this catchy drinking song, "I get knocked down, but I get up again..." Well, that's officially my theme song (since we're talking about the late 90s, I guess I have Ally McBeal and her theme song on the brain.)

I'm not talking about mixing whiskey and vodka, falling down and then gathering myself up and staggering upwards again--though I have to say that a week after running a half-marathon, my runs have felt kind of like a slow, drunken stagger. But what I mean is that something gets hard, the asphalt kicks me instead of me kicking the asphalt, and I get down. Then I get up again, and I keep going.

I couldn't do 16 yesterday. I couldn't do 4.1, to be precise. But today I slept in, had a banana, peanut butter and some strong coffee, laced up and ran 9.5 on my own. (I meant to do 10 but I mis-mapped.) The last time I tried to do anything in the 9-10 range on my own, I had to walk home, but this time it was actually easy.

Five miles into the run I stopped feeling cranky and burned out and realized I was back to my old rhythm. Buh-bye, burn-out. I actually wish I hadn't used that word. I'm sure one day I truly will be burned out, but yesterday, I just needed a day off.

I'm really proud of my 9.5. I'm sure I would have been very proud of 16, but yesterday, it just wasn't meant to be. I used to be the kind of person who accepted nothing less than excellence from herself, but now I'm starting to learn that a crappy training run happens to everyone. To me, this is the most life-changing thing about running. You learn to just get over things that have you down. One failure doesn't define your life. It just becomes part of the process.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Burn out.

So today I was supposed to run 16 miles. The only problem was that 3 1/2 miles into my run, I had a mental temper tantrum where I declared I hated running, was sick of waking up at 4 am to run for hours, suffering from stomach issues and sore legs the rest of the day, and would much rather be planted on a couch sleeping, eating ice cream, or both.

A half mile later I was at my car with tears in my eyes. I went home and told my husband that I was disappointed in myself for being a quitter. He told me that I was hardly a quitter; hadn't I just run a half-marathon six days earlier?? Maybe I was just tired.

Maybe I was. So I went to sleep. And when I woke up, I decided that no, I didn't hate running. In fact, I still loved it. Waking up at 4 am once a week isn't all that bad, and the soreness and tummy problems are things I've gotten very accustomed to shrugging off, because usually the sense of accomplishment I get from these long runs overrides these complaints.

But sometimes you have to listen to the complaints. Sometimes you need a break. I'm not sure how long my break will last, but today I certainly needed it.

People have been warning me for months of "burn out" and I always shrugged it off, thinking it was mind over matter. But there's definitely a physical component to burn out, so I'm going to need to ride this break out and practice the New-Agey sounding art of  "listening to my body." I'm afraid that if I don't, it simply will go on strike.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Review of Nike+ Women's LunarGlide Running Shoe

Originally submitted at The Sports Authority

The Nike+® women's LunarGlide running shoe is ideal for the runner with a neutral to mildly overpronated gait. The shoe delivers plush cushioning, springy response, barely-there comfort and mild pronation control. The mesh upper offers lightweight breathability, while the OrthoLite® s...

Great running shoe for flat feet!

By run-jorie-run.blogspot.com from South Florida on 11/19/2009


5out of 5

Sizing: Feels true to size

Width: Feels true to width

Pros: Lightweight, Stable, Comfortable, Flexible, Good Traction, Breathable, Absorbs Shock

Cons: Wears Out Quickly

Best Uses: Pavement, Wet Conditions, Gym, Track

Describe Yourself: Gym Rat

Arch Type: Low Arch

I ran my first half marathon in these Lunarglides and love them! I have very difficult feet. They are flat, but I am a neutral runner. I am now training for my first marathon and rack up a lot of mileage, and the Lunarglides have served me well. I don't get shin splints and even my plantar fascitis doesn't act up--with no orthodics! My one complaint is that I'm buying a second pair after just 260 miles on the first pair. So they wear out fast. That being said, they offer me the most comfortable, blister and shin splint free runs, so it's worth it to me to go back to the same brand/make.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Happy race pictures from Sunday's 13.1

OK, yes, I did get dressed in the dark that morning--but hey, at least I'm smiling in these race pictures! (In previous races, I've looked distraught, queasy, and mad.)

Note to self: next time lay out race gear the night before to avoid teal/grape-purple combination, especially because my shoes are white and orange. If there were an atheletic version of "What Not to Wear," I'd be a good candidate in these pictures!

Sweat Sixteen

Is there anything sweet about running sixteen miles? I hope so. That’s how many I’m running on Saturday (alarm is set for 4:15 a.m.—ack!) and I have been trying to psych myself up for the run by silently chanting the phrase, “sweet sixteen, sweet sixteen,” because I actually do find that having a positive attitude about an upcoming run usually means the run will be a fun one; it’s when I fear the mileage that I find myself dragging.

So, yeah! Sixteen miles! Around two and a half hours of straight, uninterrupted running: easy-peasy. Bring it on! Can’t wait for my sweet sixteen part-ay!


Yesterday at work, with this chant of sweet sixteen sweet sixteen still in my head, I called our help desk because I needed to get a new temporary password. The help desk attendant (who clearly hadn’t been an English major) typed noisily on her keyboard for a few minutes and then told me my new password was SWEET.

I tried typing this in and when it didn’t grant me access, and she said, “Oops, sorry, I spelled it wrong. Try SWEAT.”

That worked.

Hopefully this won’t be an omen that my 16 will be all sweat and no sweet. I mean, I expect the sweat. But I also expect the sweet. (Which indeed might be expecting too much.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Good times: My first half marathon

I survived my first half marathon! Actually, I did more than survive it. I rocked the Ft. Lauderdale 13.1 Wooo-hoo!

I ran at a happy, comfortable pace the whole time, enjoyed the feeling of the sea breeze on my face--oh and speaking of my face, I also made very goofy faces for the cameras (since I take terrible race pictures anyway, I figured I'd rather look happy and awful than miserable and awful, as I have in all my other races).

I'll post the race pics as soon as they are up, but be prepared for some very hammy smiles and a few sucked-in-cheeks mock-model moues.

Oh, and the time. I ran it in 2:02:02. I think that's a good time, especially because it was my first half, and I was going for fun more than speed. I won't lie: because I've had a few long runs that were below a 9 minute mile, I was hoping not to crack the 2s at all. But as soon as I crossed that finish line, I didn't care so much about the time. All I could think was, "I did it!" Because, I did it! 

To me, a fun run is more important right now than speed, which I have the rest of my life to work on. (You should see some of the senior citizens who flew past me at the half marathon! They left me in their Bengay-scented dust.) Considering how Type A I've been at all my previous runs, I think my new mellow mentality is a really big accomplishment. Having a good time was actually a tougher obstacle for me than acheiving a good time, if that makes any sense.

Stay tuned for my wacky race pictures!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Feeling iffy about Cliffy.

I have mixed feelings about Clif bars.

On one hand, they seem to be the only food I can consume immediately after a long run that doesn't make me sick to my stomach--and they also help keep my hunger in check the rest of the day. Believe me, I've experimented with everything else, from a modest packet of apple slices to a fluffy pile of pumpkin pancakes.

What I've found is: eating less than a 250 calorie Clif bar ultimately results in dizzying, staggering hunger several hours later (the kind where you could eat an entire pizza and still want more); much more calories than a Clif, though, and I can't even tell you the bathroom misery I experience. (I will never eat pumpkin pancakes again!)

So I'm grateful to Clif for settling my stomach and preventing me from becoming one of those rare, legendary but not mythical "fat" marathon runners.

But taste-wise, Clif, my man, the thrill is gone.

Eating a Clif bar once a week is actually starting to remind me of my fling with Slimfast shakes in the summer of 2003, when I was trying to lose brand-new-baby weight fast enough to wear a size 6 dress to a cousin's wedding. (In case you're wondering, it worked, but to this day just seeing a Slimfast commercial makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth.)

At first I thought the Clif bars were yummy, just like I remember thinking, "Mmmm, chocolate milkshakes!" But now I'm beyond bored. I have a Clif bar aversion. I'd like to throw my stash of them off a cliff, if truth be told.  Bring on the real food, please! Something that doesn't vaguely remind me of carrot cake, without actually being carrot cake. Something that isn't inspired by a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, without actually being a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie.

So help me out, please. Tell me, what can I eat that won't make me sick? That's in the 250ish calorie range and has the same balance of carbs and protein that Clif has?

I'm going to assume real carrot cake and chocolate chip cookies are not options because of the fat and lack of protein, but if the recovery grub could be tasty enough that I actually look forward to eating it after a run, that would be a plus.

Monday, November 9, 2009

14 Thoughts on Having Run 14 Miles

1. I did it! I ran 14 miles!!

2. Whoahhhhh, we’re (more than) halfway there….whooo-ohhhh, running on a prayer… (Come on, you knew that was coming!)

3. I have ignored the expert’s advice by flying through the first 11 miles and limping like a one-legged dog through the last three—but HEY, experts, get this: I RAN 14 MILES!

4. Advil and Immodium AD are a long-distance runner’s wonder drugs.

5. The best part of my run was that aside from the last half hour, I was really, really enjoying myself. Big smile on my face (till it turned into a grimace.)

6. The worst part of my run was not the last half hour but the hour after I stopped running, which would have been even worse without the aforementioned runner’s wonder drugs.

7. I know “real” runners don’t like to listen to music while running—they all say that during their “Runner’s World” interviews—but I really want to know how they get through several hours of running with no iTunes. (I give “Right Said Fred” partial credit for my 14 miles—how can you not run gleefully while listening to “I’m Too Sexy”?)

8. Hey Fred, I’m also too sexy for my shirt. (It’s all mildewed and frayed and no amount of OxyClean will remove the stench. Time to hit the Nike outlet.)

9. Two hours, 9 minutes is a pretty good time for a novice runner to run 14 miles.

10. Two hours, 9 minutes is a really long time to spend holding an insulated water bottle.

11. Two hours, 9 minutes is a really long time for me to spend without stopping to use the bathroom.

12. I refuse to pee in a bush. No offense real runners who happily pee in bushes while not listening to iTunes. I’d rather get a UTI from holding it in because I'm too sexy to pee on shrubbery.

13. My first-ever half marathon next Sunday will be .9 miles shorter than what I ran on Saturday.

14. Why do I have a feeling that 13.1 miles in a race setting will be a lot harder than 14 miles on familiar territory?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Frightening Fourteen.

I know what you're thinking. A chick who signs up to run a marathon, which is 26.2 miles, really shouldn't be reduced to a quivering puddle of Jell-O every time her Team in Training coach ups the ante on her training schedule.  If you're in it for the full 26, you need to be prepared to do more than, you know, twenty minutes of cardio in preparation.

But did I mention that this Saturday, I am supposed to be running 14 miles?

Which seems infininitely larger than the 12 miles I completely two weeks ago.

It even seems bigger to me than the 13.1 miles I'm signed up to run in a week from now, when I do the Ft. Lauderdale AIA.

This is probably the point in training when a lot of people change their minds about doing the full marathon and switch to the half.

I haven't had any trouble so far ramping up my mileage...but I also haven't done 14 yet.

I guess I'll just have to see how it goes. I have a feeling that the less I think about the number 14, the easier it will be.

Sometimes you have to just close your eyes, hold your breath and jump in.

So Saturday morning at 5:15, I'll be jumping.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Flat-footed. And fat-footed.

An update on my feet, after trying on just about every size 9 shoe in Target today.

They have not grown any bigger. They are just a lot fatter.

Seeing my feet in size 9s reminded my of my almost-four-year-old daughter stomping around the house in my favorite peep-toe pumps (which no longer fit me); there was a good half inch of negative space between my heel and the back of the shoe. But my feet have become so wide that even in a 9W, it was a tight squeeze, especially in the toe area. These little piggies have gottena  little piggish.

So now I don't get to to go shopping for the discounted "big girl" 9s at DSW. If I want new kicks, I'm going to have to find special double-wide 8s at the double-wide shoe store, wherever in South Florida that might be.

In the meantime, it looks like I'm confined to my running sneaks and flip-flops, and one pair of slightly less beachy sandals I can wear to work.

It's a good thing it's still in the 80s down here and I can get away with such casual accessorizing. Just think of wearing boots makes my feet tingle...and not in a good way.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Shouldn't 9 miles be "easy" by this point?

Because I wouldn't call my "taper" run today with Team in Training easy. Nine miles still feels like nine miles: a long, challenging run.

I remember the first time I ran 9 miles. I was wiped out for three days straight. But I've come a long way since then--last week I had a triumphant 12 miler--and mistakenly believed I could just whip out 9 miles like it was nothing.

It went the way all of my long runs have gone. The first three were easy, the middle three were tiring, then I got a second wind and coasted home the rest of the way. But 7-8 miles into the run, I really wanted to know, "Are we there yet?" And I wasn't.

I have fantasies, of course, that 9 miles will feel like "nothing" when I'm running the marathon. I've got three months till the ING...maybe there's hope for me yet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My pre-run ritual

As my weekday training runs get longer and longer, I have to wake up earlier and earlier these days. But more mileage is only part of the reason why I'm setting my iPhone to strum a good morning song at 5:35 a.m.

The other reason is my pre-run ritual has gotten more and more complicated. I used to just lace up and go. Now, this is my process.

1. Wake up and turn off alarm before husband wakes up.
2. Gather up workout clothes, set aside from the night before, and go into bathroom.
3. Brush teeth, take vitamins, Advil and allergy meds (all necessary for a run these days).
4. Dampen strap from heart rate monitor with warm water.
5. Put on heart rate monitor chest strap and watch and test twice to make sure it's picking up on my frequencies.
6. Put on sports bra, tank top and running skirt or leggings.
7. Strategically place safety lights on front and back of body.
8. Sit on the floor on a towel and apply baby powder to feet to prevent blisters.
9. Put on Nike Dri Fit socks, making sure left sock goes on left foot; right sock on right foot.
10. Put on sneakers; check lace tightness.
11. Make sure iPod "On the Go" playlist is acceptable.
12. Turn off Wi-Fi so that RunKeeper GPS program can work.
13. Put iPod in arm holster and plug in earphones.
14. Go outside and stretch.
15. Turn on safety lights.
16. Hit "Shuffle" on iPod.
17. Turn on RunKeeper.
18. Run.

The strange thing is, I really look forward to my pre-run ritual. It is a lot of work, but it also kind of reminds me of getting ready for a black tie affair; the preparation is part of the fun. There's no open bar to look forward to, of course, but when no one's looking, sometimes I do a little jig as I'm running, like I'm out there twirling around in taffeta on a dance floor...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I Know Where You Ran Last Summer

Dear City of Weston:

I realize times are tight and the “Halloween decorations” line in the city budget probably got slashed, but I think we’re all OK without the paper orange pumpkins. Your creative alternative of removing the light bulbs in most of the streetlamps, in an attempt to “spook-ify” the streets for anyone who might be on them before dawn, might have been taking the scary Halloween spirit just a little too far.

Though I must say, if scary was what you were going for, you hit a home run.

This morning, I was running in almost complete darkness as the deceased Michael Hutchence of ‘80s band INXS fame cackled “The Devil Inside” on my iPod, when I collided mouth-first with a giant spider web. And I screamed. A long, shrill, harrowing scream that surely frightened the other people out on the trails. (There you go, Weston: free Halloween sound effects.)

Picking the spindly strings out of my mouth, I began to wonder of the direction of my life had been taken over by some Alfred Hitchcock wanna-be.

This wasn’t the first time this week I felt this way. In fact on Sunday, during my long run, I realized I could very well be smack in the middle of a classic Halloween slasher flick. It was just me and my beautiful Team in Training running mentor, our long dark ponytails blowing in the wind. So there we were, two young(ish) women stranded alone in pitch blackness, with just small red blinking lights stuck onto our clothes for vision. It was a good two mile stretch on Bonaventure, between Royal Palm and South Post, without a single functioning street lamp. As we ran past dead animals (is there anything more chilling than tripping over a dead possum?) with spider webs caught in our hair, the timing was perfect for some bloodshot-eyed zombie to come out from the middle of nowhere and suck our blood, dismember us or do whatever else the scary bad guys do in these movies. (I’ve never actually seen one of these gory scenes; this is usually the part when I hide my face in my hands or decide I really need to leave the theater and use the bathroom.)

If you, too, would like to be able to come up with plots to trashy horror “B” movies, there’s nothing like being alone with your thoughts for a good few hours to get the creative juices flowing. Or the blood flowing, depending on how you look at it.

I’m not holding my breath for the City of Weston to fix the streetlamp problem. I actually called them, twice, and they said it was the power company’s fault, but Florida Light and Power said it was Weston’s fault, so I don’t see this issue being resolved any time soon.

I do see Daylights Savings on the horizon, though—so my long run this Saturday, which is Halloween, might be my last scary run…till next fall.

Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ode to a Banana (or how I survived my 12 mile run)

Oh Banana, Banana, I love you so
I ran 12 miles & didn't have to go!
Thanks to you, my kind yellow friend
I didn't need to run wearing Depends.
Banana, without you where would I be?
(I'd be in the bathroom, moaning, "Why me?")


The nice thing about having a blog about training for my first marathon is that when I have a question about a running problem, I actually get a lot of good advice. Last week I asked whether I'd have to run today's 12 miler on an empty stomach because my previous double-digit runs had left me in gastrointestinal agony. 

From all of you, I got great advice, empathy and even some sample menus. I was able to use these suggestions to put together a strategy for this week's run--and hooray! The strategy worked. Today I went the furthest I've ever gone, 12 miles, finished in 1:54 which actually included a five minute water break, and best of all, didn't have an upset stomach at any point.

I thought I'd write out this strategy so that (a) I can remember it for future long runs, and (b) I can offer it up to any other runners who suffer from IBS.

If you couldn't tell by my brilliant banana poetry, bananas were a big part of this plan. Many people emailed me to tell me what a perfect pre-run fuel a banana is, but what was especially persuasive to me was that my father, who has Crohn's disease and is genetically responsible for my IBS (thanks, Dad!), told me he's been pretty much symptom free since he began eating bananas with peanut butter. I was hoping my body would react to bananas (with some peanut butter added for protein) the same way, and luckily, it did.

Here's the eating/drinking plan I followed (you may recognize some of your own advice here, and if so, thanks!)

Day before the run
  • Follow the "residual diet" that people with severe Crohn's and IBS follow, which is basically all refined carbs, low-acid fruits and vegetables and simply prepared meats.
  • Eat a heavy lunch but a light dinner that contains a simple carb
  • Drink a lot of water dall day. NO GATORADE! (Electrolyte drinks are a big IBS trigger)
  • Do something relaxing (I took Pilates Friday morning.)

Morning before the run
  • Wake up at least an hour before the run (4:15 am today!!) and eat a banana with peanut butter and some black coffee (no milk)
  • Dress in loose fitting clothes
  • Don't wear a fuel belt or anything else tight around your waist (I carried my water)
During the run
  • Drink room-temperature water. Don't drink sports drinks. Don't drink too much, either.
  • Have a very small amount of performance fuel after 45 minutes of running (I ate a few Jelly Belly Sport Beans, not the whole pack)
  • Relax. Being too tense or running faster than you're comfortable can be perceived as stress.
After the run
  • Within 30 minutes eat a Clif bar or another high protein/carb food that is made from natural ingredients
  • After that, don't eat again for three or four hours
  • Have a relatively large lunch and afternoon snack and a very light dinner
Advice offered but discarded (sorry!): give up running altogether because people with IBS can't run. That might be true for some people, but I just don't buy it for me. Hey, we colon-impaired people can do anything, with the right fuel and the right strategy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

10 Ways Training for a Marathon Is Like Being Pregnant

1. You wear special bras.

2. You're hungry. Not an idle tummy rumbling, not a hmmm, what do I want to eat, but a deep, clamoring urgency to devour the fresh, buttery green inside of an avocado, to crunch between your teeth a tart apple dipped into a mound of peanut butter, to gnaw on a doughy bagel topped with whipped cream cheese like some wild animal chewing on a bone--oh, and you want all this food STAT.

3.  Another week, another new (hopefully minor) ailment. People get used to you complaining whether you've got a due date or a race date.

4. Your feet get bigger.

5. When you have to go to the bathroom, you really have to go to the bathroom. The big difference: the women waiting in line for the next available stall might let a mama with a baby bump cut ahead, but a sweaty, doubled-over runner squeezing her legs together is going to have to wait her turn.

6. You glow.

7. You sweat at inappropriate times.

8. You find yourself repeating the phrases, "Well, I guess there's no turning back now!" and "What have I gotten myself into?" Sometimes you say them in a resigned way, sometimes with determination; other times, a note of sheer terror can be detected in your voice.

9. You sometimes walk with a waddle.

10. You have genuine faith that the "finish line" will be worth the aches, pains, mood swings, mornings spent sick in the bathroom, blood, sweat and tears. Which is why, despite all these things, you soldier on through it happily, always concious of how many weeks, then days, are left in your countdown.

So, uh, if anyone would like to throw me a "runner's shower" (is there somewhere I can register for a Garmin?), I'm generally available on Sundays...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Big Foot

Running might slim your hips and trim your thighs—but does it make your feet fat?

None of my shoes fit. I’ve dropped two dress sizes, and even my new clothes have gotten baggier—to the point where my 6 year old recently asked me, “Mommy, why can I always see your underpants when you sit down?”

But my feet have turned into big, puffy bricks. I used to wear a size 8 or 8 ½ shoe. By the way my feet are busting the seams of my zip-up calf boots, I’m guessing I’m now at least a 9. [Can’t type this without cringing: if I’m honest with myself, I suspect I’m probably up to a 9 ½. Nooooo!]

Before I go score some big bargains at DSW (the “big girl” shoes are almost always on clearance), I have to consider the swelling factor. I don’t think running has actually elongated the bones in my feet or made the flesh of my foot fuller. I think my feet swell after a run, and that makes choosing footwear in the morning, after I’ve done a 5-mile loop, make me empathize with those mean ugly stepsisters who never could get their toes inside Cinderella’s slipper.

But by the end of the day, conceivably, a size 9 shoe that felt great when I first got dressed would become too big since I’d no longer be swollen from the run, causing the bane of any runner’s existence: blisters!

[I’m just trying to talk myself out of shopping for size 9+ shoes, of course. I’m 5’4 and have no business wearing shoes that big. I might as well strap a diving board to each foot—that would look just as fabulous.]

I really don’t have the luxury of being vain about my shoe size, though. Blisters from ill-fitting footwear have the potential to ruin quite a few future runs, so I think I just need to suck it up, pack away by 8s for the next few months, and start shopping in the section where the 5’11 supermodels—and drag queens—shop. With 90% of the female population needing a smaller size than me*, at least I should have plenty to choose from.

*Not a scientifically acquired statistic; made up out of thin air.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Can I run 12 miles on an empty stomach?

I ask because I think I might have to try that next weekend: 12 miles without having eaten first.

This is the second week in a row that running 10 miles led to me spending some real quality time in the bathroom a few hours later, in a cold sweat.  I feel better now, but it was so bad I was actually convinced for a short time that I'd caught a serious illness--or had been poisoned. It was that bad. And much worse than what I went through last week.

I've done a little Google-research and found an article that had some do's and don'ts for running long distance if you have a sensitive stomach. (I have IBS). Looks like I've been doing all don'ts and no do's because I:
  • Ate less than an hour before running and less than an hour after the running is complete;
  • Ate heavily the night before;
  • Used performance candy (Jelly Belly Sport Beans)
  • Wore a belt tight around my waist when I ran (to hold the water) rather than looser clothes.
I'm also supposed to avoid dairy for 24 hours before a long distance run (had pizza for dinner last night, followed by frozen yogurt) and high fiber foods and vegetables (I'd say 80% of my diet is whole grains and fresh produce.)

So I have a bit of a game plan for next week. I am going to try running after a lighter dinner (but heavier lunch) the night before, changing out my fuel belt for a hand-held water bottle, and of course avoiding dairy altogether. I had an egg white and soy patty for breakfast today and wonder if the lack of carbs/too much protein could be where I'm going wrong. 

I am hesitant to cut out a pre-run breakfast altogether, though, because I do need the energy. Maybe I can have a plain piece of toasted wheat bread. I don't want an upset stomach after everytime I do a long run...but I also can't see eating nothing before or after burning around 1000 calories.

Fortunately, the run itself was great. I beat last week's time by four minutes and had fun the whole time. Now if I could just get to the point where I feel great after a long run, I'll be in good shape.

Off for another dose of Bentyl...

Friday, October 16, 2009

The ouch explained: Medial gastrocnemius strain

And the grand prize of a signed copy of my book, Bride in Overdrive, goes to Kristen, who guessed a muscle strain. I am also offering a copy to my father-in-law Lou (I think he already has several, since his son is the book's main character), even though he didn't follow the contest rules of posting his diagnosis directly on this blog, because his email actually contained the exact words I heard from my orthopedist's mouth: "medial gastrocnemius strain." Which means a pulled calf muscle.

Here's a picture of exactly where it hurts:. That tiny red part sure does smart! The bad news is that I can expect to feel discomfort there for as long as two more months! (He said calf strains usually are a problem for 2-6 weeks but can last for 3 months, and I've been hurting for 4 weeks so far.)

The good news is my shin splints, which he treated me for earlier this year, are completely healed. And the other good news is that I don't have to change anything to my current routine aside from stretching three times a day. I can still run. So with his blessing, I'm all set for another 10 miles tomorrow.

Congratulations to Lou and Kristen, and thanks to Sarah, Kate and Leah for playing! (Kristen, if you email me your mailing address, I'll send that book right out to you. joriemark@gmail.com.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Guess my diagnosis--and win a prize!

Tomorrow I'm going to see my orthopedist because I've been having some calf pain for several weeks now--really, ever since I attempted to do hundreds of weighted lunges and squats at the YMCA "Pump It Up" three weeks ago.

I'm really anxious that he's going to tell me I have some kind of serious ailment that requires retiring from running, so I've been Googling things like "calf pain" and "running injuries" in advance of the appointment. The best-case scenario would be him laughing, patting me on the back, and saying, "It's totally normal for your left calf to ache when you wake up in the morning, hurt for the first mile of your run, then feel better until about an hour after your run. It's also normal for your left calf to tingle. Don't do anything differently!"

But I have a feeling that's not going to happen. I'm concerned about tendonitis (although my achilles heel feels fine), a knee injury (although my knee feels fine) or worse.

So I'm having a contest. Guess what my problem is and I will happily send you a free, signed copy of my book, Bride in Overdrive: A Journey into Wedding Insanity and Back, published by St. Martin's Press in 2004. It's a book marketed for "anyone who's given serious thought to what kind of underwear she'll wear when she walks down the aisle."

If you already own a copy--or if you're a smart shopper and have a friend or relative who is engaged to be married or a recent bride--I can sign the copy to someone else.

I know, not the most exciting of prizes, but hey, it's a tough economy.

So the rules are, you need to post a comment at the end of this blog before 9 a.m. EST tomorrow, Friday, October 16, with what you think my calf problem is. The first commenter who gets the right answer will have my book mailed to them, free of charge, with the autograph written to whoever they want it to be addressed to.

Good luck!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hold me.

I just got my training schedule for October (a few weeks late) and it's pretty intense compared to the past two months. Scanning these big numbers with my jaw dropped open, it finally hit me: I am crazy. I am truly crazy.

I have signed up to run a marathon.

What was I thinking?

Even the word marathon is long. Compare it to run. Run is what I do around my neighborhood, 3 miles here, 7 miles there. Marathon is what athletes do. Not klutzes who faked mysterious illnesses rather than run around the track in high school.

I'm supposed to do another 10 miles this weekend, and after that, the plot thickens. Five mile weekday runs, then 12 on the weekend.

I am petrified to see the November schedule. I'm signed up to run the A1A half-marathon November 15; maybe by then I will be used to regularly running double-digit routes.

Or maybe not.

Sometimes being an impulsive, spontaneous person is a good thing. You never let life get boring; you take risks. You do things before you can be afraid to regret them.

Other times you do things and later on are shocked that you did them. You wake up, blink, look around you, and find yourself running alongside thousands of other people and shriek, "What am I doing here????"

So tell me, please, what am I doing here?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Don’t judge a woman until you’ve run a mile in her compression hose

I used to see this woman running all the time who wore a super-short running skirt and what I thought were white knee-high socks. I am a nice person all in all, but I do have a bit of a snide side, and I remember thinking to myself, “Nice look you’ve got there, Wonder Woman.”

Actually, she was a bit more like Molly Shannon’s SNL “Mary Katherine Gallagher” character than Lynda Carter. I kept waiting for her to shout out “Superstar!” and then stick her hands under her armpits to sniff them.

But a few weeks ago my left calf started to hurt, more when I ran but achy when I wasn’t running, too. I tried hot baths, hinting to the pedicurist to “dig a little deeper” during the lotion-application part of the treatment, Advil, ice, heat, arthritis lotion, everything. My calf tightness would loosen up after about four miles of running, but return after I stopped.

I mentioned this during my run on Saturday, and one of my Team in Training teammates suggestion compression hose.

I had no idea what they were, but when I asked to see a pair at Runner’s Depot the next day, wouldn’t you know it? With my running skirt, I indeed look like a nervous Catholic school girl. Just call me Superstar. Sometimes when I’m nervous, I like to stick my fingers under my armpits and smell them…

Actually, the pair I got is purple, and I only wear them on my left side, so maybe I look more like The Joker from Batman than Mary Katherine.

A few other “judgments” I had of other runners when I first began running—that I now wish I could take back:

Smirking at the fanny pack: I remember thinking, when seeing a hyper-equipped runner, “Are you running or are you going on an elephant safari?” But this was back in the day when all I thought I needed to run were sneakers and headphones. Now for my longer runs I wear a fuel belt (which is just a nice name for a fanny pack) equipped with water bottles, sport beans, reflector lights, a sweat rag and more.

Snickering at Richard Simmons wanna-bes: Seeing an old, skinny man running in nothing but tissue-paper-thin running shorts or briefs always gave me a case of the giggles. But eventually I figured out that the weight of your clothing really does have an impact on your performance. True, you won’t see me dressing like I’m ready to Sweat to the Oldies or running in the equivalent of Spandex underwear. But on a really hot day, I’ll choose the lightest weight shorts and tank that I own. (I even weighed two different running skirts once on my digital food scale.)

Turning my nose up at treadmill addicts: Long before I became a runner, I might hop on the treadmill for 15-20 minutes to warm up before lifting weights, taking a kickboxing class, etc. I never understood why there were people who seemed to live on the treadmill. They’d be on it before I got there and still plugging away when I left my kickboxing class. “This is a great gym!” I felt like exclaiming to them. “Why don’t you get off that boring machine and explore it?” But now I realize that they were probably long distance runners stuck indoors because it was raining outside—and I wouldn’t have wanted to stop what I was doing to take kickboxing, either.

Oh well—you live and learn, and you learn not to judge. So if you see a runner with one grape-juice-purple leg limping past you, try not to laugh. Otherwise, one day, that purple one-legged runner might be you.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

10 miles, baby!

So...10 miles. In 90 degree heat. No major injuries to report, no new blisters (I can't tell you how much I swear by the combination of Nike Lunar Glides and Dri Fit socks and about a half a cup of talcum powder on each foot). I was just under a 10 minute mile at 1:38. And I didn't puke up my Powerade! Life is good.

But I had one strange, awful moment about two hours after I finished running my first double-digit run with my team.

It was 9:30 am, and I was happily watching my 6 year old's Little League game (he also was having a good day--my little switch hitter got three nice hits!) when I suddenly and desperately needed to relocate from the bleachers to the lovely Weston Regional Park ladies' room. All I can say is, I'm glad I went when I went. My presence was most definitely required.

After that lovely visit, as I was walking back to the stands, I began sweating profusely--you'd think I was still on mile 8--and shivering. It was in the 90s by then and I was shivering!

A nice mom on my son's team saw me looking like, I don't know, a heroin addict in withdrawal (confession: I'm a huge "Intervention" fan so I actually have an idea of what a heroin addict in withdrawal looks like), and brought me a cold Dasani, which helped tremendously.

So did eating the saltiest hot pretzel they had to offer at the concession stand. (I actually said to the teenager working there, "No, can you give me the one that's completely white all over?") Man did that salt taste good! And just like that, I was all better again.

I returned to the bleachers and after thanking the Dasani mom for her kindness and convincingly explaining to her that I was a running addict, not a drug addict, I enjoyed the rest of the game, my 3 1/2 year old's ballet practice an hour later--and the two hour nap I took when all of that was over.

So, that weird, sweaty moment during the baseball game aside, I'd say I survived my first Florida 10 miler. Next time, I think I'll have some super-salty pretzels, or maybe just a big container of Morton's, waiting for me right after my run, though. The body does strange things when it gets low on electrolytes.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Finish Line Fantasies

Sometimes when I’m running, I like to imagine what would be the ultimate finish line crossing experience. I’d sprint past it on fresh legs, as if I’d just taken a quick lap around my development, not a grueling 26.2 miles; the Black Eyed Peas would be playing “Pump It” live from the sidelines; the race organizer would say, “What are YOU doing here? We weren’t expecting to see you for at least another hour! Marge, someone get this lady a bottle of water!”

But after my speedy-but-stressful10k experience last weekend, I realize that simply crossing that 26.2 mile mark in one relatively uninjured piece is all I can really aspire to. I’d say my top three priorities for the Miami ING would be:

1. Completing it.
2. Not requiring hospitalization during the race.
3. Not requiring hospitalization after the race.

Should the racing gods grant me those three wishes, I would get just a bit greedier:

4. Not being in excruciating pain (giant bloody blisters, shooting shin splints)
5. Not being in bearable but still very unpleasant pain (tight calves; sore butt)
6. Not having any bathroom emergencies

And getting a little greedier than that:

7. My husband and kids would actually see me cross the finish line, and wouldn’t be stuck in Miami traffic or frantically trying to find a parking space on South Beach
8. My iPod, heart rate monitor, headphones, fuel belt and sports bra would all do their jobs and not break mid-race
9. I would look something other than confused, miserable or angry when crossing the finish line—happy or proud would be great (A little race picture history: first 5k, looked frighteningly determined; second 5k, looked about to puke; first 10k, well, I think the picture below says it all)

Finally, my least important but most burning fantasy would be to:

10. Get a good time.

But if that doesn’t happen, and #1-9 do, or honestly, #1-5, I will still consider the marathon to be a totally fantastic experience.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cool down (please, cool down, already!)

It’s October. Shouldn’t I be hearing crispy leaves crunching below my feet as I run, instead of the sudden demise of a poor snail that was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time; shouldn't a sweet, maple-scented breeze be tickling my nose rather than an unpleasant reminder that Secret deodorant isn't keeping my B.O. a secret? In the season of jack-o-lanterns and knee-high boot fashion spreads and Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes, shouldn't a few pores of my skin and hairs on my head not be exuding copious fluids after just a quarter-mile warm-up jog?

Well, this all would be the case, if I didn’t live in sunny South Florida. The weather report at 6 am this morning for my Broward County zip code was 79 degrees with 72% humidity (“feels like 86 degrees,” explained the Weather.com graph, and that would probably be 86 degrees, presumably, to a person who was not engaged in intense physical activity.)

I became a real runner over the summer, when it was even hotter than 79 degrees at 6 am--and my Team in Training mentor has told me that if you can run 8 miles in the heat during the peak of a Florida summer, you can run anywhere.

That is somewhat of a consolation as I find myself daydreaming about running through a sprinkling of gold and amber leaves while following the path on Boat House Row in Philadelphia, where I was born and raised; as I imagine the thrilling chill of wind against my face (wind! what an exotic delicacy) as I comb through the cobblestone streets of Baltimore, where I spent the second half of my 20s; or hugging my jacket (remember those cuddly fleece things?) closer to my body while crossing the Key Bridge from Georgetown to Arlington, Virginia, where I spent the first half.

But, in November, if I still lived in any of these places—or in St. Louis, where we spent the two years before we finally settled here (how cool would it be to run circles around the Arch?)—I probably wouldn’t be able to burn off my Thanksgiving dinner outdoors without worrying about slipping on an ice patch.

And from what I recall of the first 32 years of my life, before I became a perennially sun-kissed (and sweaty) tropical being, there’s a time when cool weather transforms from being “nice and refreshing” to “a big hassle;” and eventually you stop smelling the leaves and instead start smelling wet wool (all those cozy pea-coats drenched in freezing rain and snow.) Wet wool smells a lot like a wet dog--I can guarantee you that Glade doesn't have a scented candle created to emulate this distinctly northern odor.

So I will try to count my blessings. But I do look forward to the day (which I thought would have arrived already) when I can run without carrying a towel with me, which I need to constantly mop the sweat out of my eyes, so I can see where I am going.

Being blinded by sweat is a bit of an occupational hazard when you run this close to the equator. And so is stinking. Thank goodness for soap, baby powder and showers.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Official results

Hey, David and I were seven seconds faster than we originally thought! And I came in 3rd among 35-39 year old chicks, and he was the fourth fastest among men 25-29.

This is me (the 54:54 is my "net" time from when I crossed the start line to the finish; the 55:03 is from when the race started)

3 4060 JORIE MARK 35 55:03 54:54 8:50

My next scheduled race is the Weston half-marathon in December. :-)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Lessons from my first 10K

I sit here with sore glutes, an upset stomach and a LOT of pride after completing my first 10k with my brother-in-law David in a very respectable 55 minutes, 10 seconds. David's pretty fast, and he's also 8 years younger than me, and I'm pretty sure he could have run it in even a few minutes faster than that--but he was a gentleman and stayed at my pace from the start line to the finish line.

I can tell David had not only a great time in terms of when he crossed the finish line, but a great time meaning a great run. I'm jealous. For me, as much as I enjoyed the experience with running with my husband's little brother (much more enjoyable than running solo) and the sights of Key Biscayne (vultures! peacocks!), it was a rough run for me.

I made the mistake of running this 10k the way I've run my previous 5ks: which is to say as fast as I could. Plus, I'd had my weekly long run with Team in Training the previous day and I felt every moment of Saturday's 8 mile run as I took on today's 6.2. Not smart of me at all.

My theory about 5ks is that they are very short, and anyone can endure a little misery for 25-30 minutes, so I've just thrown my body into the dynamic of the race, not trying to find and maintain an enjoyable pace at all. And I'm someone who loves to feel good while running, so this is a big sacrifice--but walking away with better-than-expected times has made that worthwhile.

But a 10k is quite literally twice the length of a 5k. And 55:10 is a really long time to go "as fast as you possibly can." It made all 6 miles just crawl by for me (I remember looking around frantically for the elusive mile marker 4), which is the opposite of how a long run feels to me when I'm running on my own.

And as David pointed out, if 6.2 miles feels long, imagine 26.2.

I may have to run a few more medium-length races before my marathon so I can really learn how to run at a normal pace without getting carried away by the excitement and adreneline rush of a racing event.

Because as soon as I hear "Ready, set, go!" I GO. And really, I need to learn how to just go.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Weights Debate

I have something really bold and controversial to say, so brace yourself.

If you’re a runner, this may provoke more ire in you than a statement about abortion, the healthcare debate or what to do with illegal immigrants.

OK, here goes: I don’t see the point of weight lifting while training for a marathon.

Before you start pelting me with bananas (or dumbbells), let me make it clear that I’m not talking about cross-training in general. I get a lot from spin classes, and I recently discovered that yoga is my friend.

But strength training, particularly high repetition strength training, seems to be doing more to harm than help my running.

On Sunday I took “Pump It Up” at the YMCA, which entailed dozens and dozens of lunges and glute lifts done with weights. I’ve taken this class many times before (before I began marathon training) and perhaps because I didn’t run a dozen miles in the days following weights workouts, I always felt good afterwards and got a lot out of the experience.

And while I was in the class this Sunday, as I was curtseying and flexing and balancing my heart out, I felt absolutely fine. (OK, not “happy,” but not like I was out of my league, either.)

But four days and twelve miles later, I’m aching like I’ve never ached before.

It’s my legs. They hurt. This is really strange, because I’ve never really had “sore” legs during the six months I’ve been running regularly. Muscles that certainly had to be conditioned from all the running I’ve done—my calves, hamstrings, inner and outer thighs and hips—are seriously unhappy right now.

I could probably “break myself in” by doing more weight training every week, but my inclination right now actually is to do less of it—much less of it.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I’m not sure why I would need to be able to do 125 squats with 8 lb. dumbbells in order to run a marathon; I’m not really sure how lacing myself into ankle weights and then lifting my calves above my hips is going to help me with speed or endurance.

The irony of it all is that I’m looking a lot more “muscular” these days than I ever did when I took “Pump it Up” every Sunday and did cardio just twice a week. My biceps are defined; my thighs don’t widen when I sit down; my stomach, even, is starting to pass for the stomach of someone who hasn’t necessarily had two c-sections.

So while I’ll keep cross-training, I’m going to choose how I cross-train very carefully in the future. Yoga, yes; curtsey-lunges, no thank you. (In any case, I’m pretty sure people in the super-crowded “Pump it Up” class will be relieved to have one less person competing for space and a riser.)