Saturday, May 31, 2014

Race Report: Spectator Edition

I'll add photos once my photo stream catches up. 

Today, I spectated at the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon. (The one I pulled out of because I didn't think I'd be ready.) 

So M ran it.  There were a few quibbles that made me question the universe's goodness and this race in particular.    

First, early packet pickup was $10 extra, and they chose a venue in Arlington, in a busy area with very limited parking during rush hour. It meant that we had to work our way through horrible stop and go traffic (a 20 minute trip became 1 hour!) and after circling the block for 20 minutes, we let M go in.  I was pissed. (For other reasons, too.) but seriously, folks.  Because of the poor choice of location and timing, I couldn't go into the store and look at toys.  M's packet pickup became a mad dash.  (And I think stores, in agreeing to do packet pickups, hope to get some impulse buys from racers, which can't happen when your racers are dashing in and out).  Plenty of others double parked.  I may or may not have participated in one road rage-y fight over a parking spot which I lost. And the race had said that the packet people would be getting special store discounts... But the location and timing made it nearly impossible to take advantage of that. 

My advice? Longer pickup hours, maybe a different store, and scope it out in advance so you can suggest racers consider metro. Really- write on the directions that parking is limited and metro is suggested. Problem solved. 

(Priest note: M May or may not have suggested that on days when I have to spend a lot of energy turning down "regular" grifters at work, I come home very short and snappy. I hear that complaint and I note that he came home with a whole pack of Oreos, soy ice cream, and three chocolate bars, which found its way into a bowl in front of me.)

Arriving at the race was also challenging. I realized that M and I are very different in our race prep. I obsessively read race info, pack my bag the night before, lay out exactly the right outfit, agonize over my warm ups, set up my race number belt, set the alarm clock, and depart within 20 minutes of waking up. He picked out a pile of clothes the night before. Upon waking, he decided between two outfits, made coffee, showered, put on his Chacos, picked out a sweatshirt, packed his bag, picked out food... 
Meanwhile, I am internally FREAKING OUT! IT WAS 530 AND WE NEEDED TO BE GONE, ON THE ROAD, BYE BYE!!! I would have been on the road by ten after! He is so laid back and I am so tightly wound on race day... It worries me a bit for Nations! 

It was certainly a popular race.  As we neared the venue, we got stuck in a huge traffic jam. Our comfortable arrival window, having shrunk already thanks to M's leisurely morning prep (seriously, dude, you are running an effin race!! Why aren't you freaked out?!?), was growing ever smaller.

 The parking lot we were assigned to filled up, so as we inched towards another one, M opted to... Put his race number on his belt, finalize his food choices, put on his shoes, and take off his sweater, and go off to line up. (No, none of that causes me racer stress, why do you ask? AM I THE ONLY ONE FREAKING MADLY OUT?). I continued to inch along, behind no fewer than THREE official shuttles buses.  When I finally bounced over all the bumpy field and pulled into a parking spot, it was 6:59! (Gun at 7.) With such a huge traffic jam, I had hoped that the race would be delayed.  But I was sure glad M had hopped out. I jumped out, grabbed my runner spirit sign, and RAN for the line!  I made it just as gun went off, and tried desperately to make it up to the 2:15 group, where I guessed M would be. 

(Meanwhile, race fans, M had made a successful bathroom stop and had just enough time to line up with the 2:30s).  

I have to say, I was a little shocked (and stressed!) that the race started on time when there was such a huge traffic jam that was beyond the control of runners. I understand it's our job to get there in time... But really, when three of your own shuttle buses are also late, I would have delayed the start by 15 minutes.  There were runners sprinting from the portapotties and from the parking lot.  

Thankfully, I did see M just in time to unveil Sign Number 1.  Then I knew I'd have a few hours.  So I went back to the car, got the rest of my stuff, changed my shoes to sturdier ones, walked around the not yet open expo, used the portaloo, refilled my water bottle, looked at the scenery, contemplated life... You know, like ya do. 

The first runners came in starting around 1:15.  As a spectator it is very exciting to see the winners... At least, I think so! The announcer made a few jokes about the spectators wrapped up in their smart phones, and it was so true! No one cheered for the Elliptigo pacers who were hilarious (did they really do 13.1 on those things?), and the winner came into a pretty quiet reception. Worse yet, two guys sitting near me sporting the physique of seedy college frat boys decided they were "hilariously" going to make fun of the top finishers' forms. (Which were stellar.). That sort thing is just major rude. They went to sit elsewhere, but I left for a different part of the spectator area as well so I wouldn't have to listen to or watch them. But the rest of the spectators were pretty nice, especially once the Corocoran winery team showed up with cowbells.  Every race needs more cowbells. It took the finish line from a golf tournament sort of polite cheers into an actual cheering throng. 

I walked out to the course with sign #2 until I saw M. He was hurting a bit- cramped hamstrings, maybe a pulled muscle.  But still hanging in there, right on schedule. He'd run out of the 2:15 group and was solidly in the 2:10s. Later on, another person who finished near him seemed surprised she'd finished so well- she was insisting it had to be a 2:15, 2:16 finish.  Except I had watched, and it took the 2:15 people more than three minutes to cross the first timing pad.  Chip time and gun time are very different! 

The race won me over, after that rough start, with the stellar weather, great venue, and after race yoga.  Racers and spectators alike were in great spirits. And even though the race was at a winery, it was not a drinky-drink sort of event. The tasting garden was really controlled, and not the largest part of the event at all, and it seemed like people were there to socialize and relax.  So if you aren't a drinker, you'd still have fun at this event.  

Overall, M had a 2:10:30- pretty good for a first time race! He's already making plans for how to train to drop to a sub-2! (Which I think he can do, no problem.  He was running through cramps and just a week off a big bug.). 

I talked to the Newtons shoe guy (remember, I'm in the shoe market), and decided to go shoe shopping this afternoon.  Potomac River Running, like Eugene Running Company, ended up fitting me into a pair of Brooks Pure Flows(!).  But I went off to Tri360 to try their brands, and fell in love with a springy shoe from On.  This is a new company to me, but they have this open sole springy technology, so it's a super lightweight shoe with the minimalist feel, but still plenty of padding and cushy-ness thanks to the sproings built into the shoes.  The tri 360 owner and I think they'll be a good fit for all the concrete around here... I am still interested in the Brooks, but in Eugene, I split my time between trails and road.  Here, it's all road, and I want to protect my knees!  So I'll be running this summer in On Clouds. 

Newtons seem OK... But really, I just couldn't bring myself to pay that premium price tag. Seriously, I coulod make an extra student loan or car payment for that amount! 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Running and Vegan Running

I have not gone vegan... But I have started to push back against the recent influx of meat in our house.  The spouse had decided he feels healthier eating regular meat. Hurrah for him, but I'm the opposite. So our compromise is that for most meals, I'll get to have a veg alternative (tofu instead of chicken, seitan in my tacos instead of beef). 

But I still read No Meat Athlete regularly. And I liked what he had to say today. 

This is him...

And this was my Facebook post, until I realized I was writing too much! And no one wants you to be That Friend on Facebook- you know, the annoying one who talks about fitness and food all the time.  Especially because I didn't want to explain the whole vegetarian thing! 

Ultimately, right now, I'm slackertarian with an appointment to see a nutritionist. I am choosing the healthiest option for me in the heat of the moment- like yesterday, at a restaurant, the easiest thing to modify for my dairy allergy was the burger, since all the salads had significant dairy ingredients. But my compensation is that when I get home, I have lots of yummy veg food to soothe my soul.  Is it perfect? Nope. Will I ever be a strict vegan? I don't foresee that at this time.  This has never been a political choice for me, but one that just makes my body feel better. However, I do confess over time becoming increasingly disappointed with the safety and ethical practice of the US meat industry.  But anyway, heres what I said about Matt's article. 

A very interesting essay on running. I resonate with the tech resistance (love my mini garmin, but I haven't yet wanted the full scale Garmin), absolutely agree that the less meat one eats, the more sensitive one's palate becomes. It's a great frustration for me in meat based meals, how the meat flavor overshadows all but the strongest other flavors.  

My big frustration with veg cooking, though, can be time.  It does take so much planning ahead, sometimes, to think about soaking those beans overnight and then cooking them during the day so they are ready to use at night....

Just like my big frustration with running is the time.  Some of those speed workouts slow down time, I swear, so every ten seconds is another year off my life.  Except when going uphill. Then I have fast forwarded to instant death until the hill ends. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Training plan

I have been doing the Run the Edge program and am on week 2 of repeating level 2. Speed work kills me.  I think I need a pair (or two) of new shoes.  My shoes are pretty packed down and I wonder if that might be affecting my recovery.  

Next month, I think I'll start my Barre3 subscription again and give myself a 30 day core challenge. I have been doing close to zero core work.  By close to zero, I mean I at least think about my core once in a while. I like Barre3 and it's an easy program to do on the go- sometimes, I just do three 10 minutes programs throughout the day but it works for me. 

My apartment just opened its workout room after a long renovation (bye bye, nice free gym membership!).  It's pleasantly surprising to see how high quality everything is- it's the same equipment as the gym.  So excepting our lack of classes, it's just like the gym down there.  Lots of treadmills and a fancy TRX setup. This excites me.  

I am all signed up for the Nations Tri. I think it'll be a decent race as long as I can get some swimming in.  I elected not to renew my USAT membership for this year.  It doesn't make sense unless I do three or more races, and I just wasn't going to hit that this year.  Next year, maybe. 

Other than that, things are on an even keel right now. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

sermons can stink

Oy.  I think clergy sometimes underestimate the gut-wrenching, tooth-clenching work that sermon writing can be.  (And I have a few other writing projects that I'm working on as well… but they are in the nebulous stage.  They will be resolving over the next few months, but right now, it's a lot of work-work!)

(Dare I blame the gospel of John?  It's not my favorite and it's very circular.  I also really miss our Old Testament readings during Easter season.  Why the New Testament focus, RCL people?  What's wrong with the OT at this moment in the liturgical cycle?)

I am sort of OK with yesterday's rest day as the aches seem to have mostly resolved (yes, I probably needed the second rest day)… but emotionally, I'm all wound up.  I really could have used some sort of an outlet to blow off some of that excess energy.

Overall it's all worked out.  I ended up swapping out the end of the sermon for the beginning, but it didn't happen until today.  It was planned by Wednesday, drafted on Thursday, and Friday, Saturday, and this morning was all revisions.

It's not always this difficult, but man, now I have to go to work and I just want a sermon nap.

Big girl pants, where are you?

Full disclosure, if I weren't the priest doing services, I wouldn't be going bike riding either.  I'd actually be taking a nap and then getting myself a cup of traumatized writing tea.

Am SO glad my retired associates are here this morning to pick up the slack.  Otherwise I'd be ¾ dead by noon!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Medical Techs Can Be Annoying, And No, I Didn't Pray About the Results

So yesterday was what I hope is the last medical test for a while.  The new DC doc has gotten all of my medical records and wanted to do one last test which would confirm a diagnosis and see if things had progressed.  Spoiler:  Yes, and yes.  Lesson here, folks: Don't get e.Coli.  It will eff you up.

Ultimately, I am on the right medication and my body will, hopefully, continue healing.  I kinda hope that after I'm back to normal we might be able to discontinue medication and I can go back to being my normal, healthy-body-through-tofu-and-green-smoothies self.  But you know, if this is a permanent thing, then I can live with it.  It's a pill, ultimately, and if it gives  me some help so I don't have to be so constantly vigilant all the time, then whatever, I'll live.

Better than that, it means I can train normally.  Even though right now I'm taking a SECOND rest day in a row.  M and I realized last night that we'd been going full tilt without a single day at home for breakfast in a few weeks, so we opted for a "lovely long lie-in".  I think I slept nearly 9 ½ hours!  So I missed TWO bike rides today, but I also am learning to recognize what aches and pains feel like.  I had them yesterday and they are almost gone today.  It's weird, learning to recognize what an ache feels like when you've been sick for so long that everything feels like an ache.

I'm learning to recognize what thirst, hunger, and aches feel like.  For so long, it was camouflaged by the other issues.  Plus, I have a high pain tolerance.  So I don't like giving in.  Letting an ache rest feels a little like a dozen little giving-ins, every minute I think "Oh, nice weather, I should go for a bike ride!" and then I remember that achy ankle.  And it's so hard to "rest" and not think "YOU SLACKER, YOU LAME SLACKER, YOU!"  (And then I think maybe it's time to re-sign up for Barre 3, which I really miss doing.  I let my subscription lapse while I was in the heavy-recovery phase.  But now I need my flexibility and light strength back!)

I did get a referral for a nutritionist, and specifically, for a sports nutritionist.  So I want to do that over the next few months.  I am learning about the (very annoying) food exchange program but I'd love to have a nutritionist crunch those numbers with me to figure out if it's possible to return to vegetarianism and still get my nutrients AND calories.  I know that many people like Brendan Brazier of Thrive and Matt Frasier of No Meat Athlete are fantastic athletes and vegans, and heck, even Hugh Jackman found that a healthy dose of vegan eating helped him while he was training for Wolverine.  But all of them are men and none of them had endocrine disorders or insulin resistance.  Is vegan/vegetarian training possible for a woman with issues?

Anyway, yesterday, while I was getting the last tests (ultrasounds), the tech was very annoying.  For abdominal ultrasounds, you have to drink an off-load of water, and then they spend 15 minutes pressing down on your bladder, after they start the test an hour late.  So you already really have to pee and you are already cranky.  Trust me on that one.

But then, duh, the ultrasound tech saw some abnormal stuff.  I told her I knew I had abnormal structures and stuff in there, and tried to see the screen.  She turned the screen away and refused to talk to me.

I know that techs often stop a test, fast-track results to the doc, or stop talking when a patient is going to get badness, but honestly.  I TOLD her I knew what was there.  I'd already been through the abnormal results, the extra testing, the surgery, the biopsies and all that years ago.  There was nothing left that could possibly scare me.  I just wanted to see.

Instead, she fast-tracked my results to my doctor, who was casually dropped me an email to confirm that everything was confirmed and to continue on the course of action that we were on.  Because we'd discussed that already.

Man, was I annoyed.  I hate being out of control like that.  It's bad enough the first time, but when you KNOW WHAT'S THERE…

What's kind of funny to me as I write this- years ago (four, I think) when I had the initial round of abnormal test results, I didn't tell very many people.  I told my parents a little bit.  I talked to an aunt who'd been through something similar.  But to most people, I just didn't tell anyone anything.  How do you tell people that you have abnormal stuff?  Some people talk to the world and want everyone to be praying for them and that sort of thing.  I'm a priest, and have worked hospital chaplaincy, so obviously, I do believe in the prayer and faith track of responding to things.  But when badness happened to me, I didn't want chaplains, prayers, or anyone, frankly, cooing over me.  Perhaps  I kind of freaked out, turtle style.  Just burrowed into my shell and stayed there until the tests came back.  (Thankfully, benign everything, it just needed out.)

I think that's a valid way of responding to things.  I would have done reiki or centering prayer, but honestly, what I wanted most was a nice brain clearing bike ride.  For all my spending Sunday mornings encased in vestments in a church, I do love being outside and I often feel most at peace and closest to the Great Beyond when outside, far from the city.  (Am I a bad priest, because I don't really find God expressed fully to me in church?  Even though I believe that community is essential to one's practice of one's faith?)  I suppose, shortly after that, I searched for and found my job in Oregon and went away and spent three years riding bikes with fabulous people across the country.  I guess it was the finding of a fantastic worshipping community PLUS a fabulous biking community…

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Running Program Has Not Yet Made Me Want To Die

Well, to my own shock, I have discovered that the running program does not yet make me want to die.  It is a pretty laid back thing, and we have 7 days to complete a level before moving on, or else we just repeat the level.  Which I think means that we can spend several weeks trying to complete a level, getting stronger each time.  

It works out to 5 days of running a week, with two rest or cross training days.  Of course, for me, it means that I'm starting to move towards two-a-days, because HELLO, bike ride!  Never say no to the bike ride.  

Today, I thought I'd just slog through a pre-breakfast 25 minutes easy run, but instead I was feeling sorta perky, and actually pulled off the longer run without feeling like death.  This is kinda huge for me, the Ultimate Non-Runner. 

Then I biked to work, in baggy shorts, on my beautiful BMC roadie.  I know, it's so wrong!  :-)  

(When my photostream catches up, I'll add a picture of my beautiful BMC stuck next to a freak in baggy shorts.)

(Just so I remember for later: it was Powerbar Gel Chews for breakfast, and Powerbar Perform in the bottles.  No upset tummy!  Yay!  So the lesson we are learning is that squishy food is best in my tummy for a run effort.)  

Last Saturday, we went for a tough ride with Tri360, a super-nice, friendly tri club that does a weekly hills ride.  Oh yeah, I'd forgotten how hilly Arlington can be!  Living in the long rolling hills of Oregon, I got sorta snotty about hills.  It was probably good to get my ass handed to me.   

But what I hadn't realized is how sick I'd really been with the e.Coli.  After my 70.3, the (Oregon) doc made me do a pretty strict rest-and-recovery period- ending my season for every sort of race.  Talking to M recently, he mentioned how much better I'd been doing recently since starting at this medical practice, getting the e.Coli knocked out (hopefully for good!), and starting medication to help support my poor beat up system. All told, I didn't get fully cleared to train as normal until March.  So I hadn't really done a hard effort in nearly nine months.  Gak- and I had been telling myself it was just a six month layoff!  

On one hand, I'm happy to be feeling better.  On the other hand, I'm a bit frustrated and embarrassed and upset when I finally conked out and had to unclip and walk a last little hill.  I didn't have to walk an inch in Lake Stevens.  I didn't so much as paperboy the mountain pass in Leadman.  I know I've been much stronger than this.  And honestly, I didn't feel SICK at all.  No heartburn, no nausea, no cramping.  So feeling physically well, I thought I'd been fine.  

Ultimately, I think I might have bonked a bit (I didn't have a lot of food on board) and I think I was just feeling muscle failure.  I'm simply not as strong as I was.  

So my (DC) doc has me now trying to do something called the Food Exchange.  It's apparently a way that diabetics eat which is designed to help them regulate their blood sugar.  It's a balance of protein, carbs, and fats, broken down by meals.  (This will probably help me to get the right balance of fats and proteins and carbs while working with my rebuilding system.  Apparently, my diet was healthy, just not hitting proportional balance, and right now, ye old body wants a lot more consistency.)  Right now, I find it overwhelming and confusing and I want someone to create an app or a book to just tell me what to eat when. 

This will be getting tracked closely- to see if I can drop a few pounds healthy-like, and to see how I feel on workouts.  Fewer pounds, fewer bonks, and zero heartburn is our goal!  

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Trail Running at Clergy Conference

This week was Clergy Conference at Shrine Mont.  The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia is pretty large, and a few years ago, they started expanding conference to lay professionals as well as clergy.  Some people also come with spouses.  It means there are several hundred of us to house, so they like to haul us off to a place called Shrine Mont, where we have a large camp in the mountains. 

I have had a difficult relationship with Shrine Mont.  10 years ago, when I first went there, I was a staunch vegetarian.  They are really good at Southern cooking there.  I was miserable.  That first time, the only vegetarian options were salad greens and rolls.  I was so hungry, I actually stopped at the first McDonald's I passed on the way home, and bought a FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH, and ate it, crying a little from hungry and misery and not a little bit of horror at how far I'd fallen.  

Over the years, I developed a truce with Shrine Mont.  I'd bring a cooler full of rations, and agree to play nicely. 

My, how things have changed. 

This was the first year I did NOT have to dip into my own rations (which I still brought for safety's sake), and actually went away from dinner feeling full.  

Granted, it is a little easier as I'm eating some meat right now.  I feel really weird saying that I can't eat dairy, and while I felt OK saying I chose to be vegetarian, I'm afraid to claim that right now now because I don't want to be the prima donna.  I suppose I could just say I've gone vegan, but I've found that if one has a food allergy, one needs to be very direct.  I can't cloak it under "vegan" because A) it's not honest, and B) the chefs won't understand that I really *CAN'T* have dairy, and they might not know that they need to keep the dairy out to keep me safe.  

It means I ate a LOT of meat.  Wowsers.  

For a decent workout, my best clergy friend and I walked to The Cross, a big cross build into a fire watch tower up the hill.  

Eventually, she headed back down the short path for a nap.  But I saw an inviting path and decided to walk the longer path down…  Then I decided it looked fun enough to try and RUN!  

(Oh, look, I discovered a random feature on my phone camera.  Oops.)

I am reminded that I really like trail runs.  I had a BLAST.  I think the trails occupy my mind and body in a way that road running just doesn't.  I'm constantly thinking about the best line to run or where to conserve energy for a burst up that next rise, or to watch out for the rocks.  So my whole mental self gets consumed in the energy of the running. 

This conference, which had a huge plenary session about reducing anxiety in our leadership styles, was actually making me acutely anxious.  It was hard to leave Virginia 6 ½ years ago, and there is still someone here with whom I had a very poor ending to a relationship, and I have to admit that running into that person reactivated some of my trauma that I thought I'd put to bed.  

I think running that trail consumed my energy so completely that I wasn't able to dwell on my frustration with that person, and instead helped me reprocess the trauma and grief and anger until I was my normal mellow self.  

The funny thing is that I actually brought my running belt, but hadn't planned on THIS run (I just brought my gear figuring I should do A run sometime), so I had a small bag, a regular water bottle, and a shirt to carry- I felt a little silly running with all that stuff!

I'm following the Run the Edge program, which is set up like a game board.  So instead of a plan with spreadsheets (which I do enjoy, often!), it's a program where you gain points before progressing to the next level.  If you don't get enough points in a week, you stay at the level you are at until you get enough points.  So you don't "Level Up" until your body is ready. I think it will help me free myself from feeling that I have to be going X fast because it's Week Z, and instead help me be more flexible.   I'm hoping this helps me become a better and faster runner, overall. 

As far as the healing goes… I've been feeling pretty good.  I forgot my medicine when I went to Shrine Mont, and it is interesting to see how much of a difference it makes.  It's interesting to remember what it was like to have strong recoveries and easy runs after a year of being so beat up that I'd almost forgotten what being healthy felt like.