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Running

First (and Last) Trail Race

Last weekend, I did my first – and last – trail race.

This is my friend Kolby doing the same race I didn't finish. - still smiling at Mile 11.

This is my friend Kolby doing the same race I didn’t finish – still smiling at Mile 11.

To date, I’ve completed five half marathons (road races), and I was looking for something different to change it up a bit. Plus, one of my personal goals is to get more dirty, so the idea of running along dirt trails and through streams seemed like something I’d enjoy. Years ago, I did the Phoenix Summit Challenge – seven mountains in one day – so I have some experience doing speed work on trails. I figured this would be more of the same, just a little bit faster.

I was wrong.

I signed up for the Xterra Black Canyon trail race – a half marathon just north of Phoenix. The finish line is right next to the Rock Springs Café, one of the most popular pie shops in Arizona. We parked at the finish line and buses drove us into the desert to the starting line. I was excited to tackle this new challenge, but that excitement vanished in the first mile when I rolled my ankle.

I knew it the moment it happened. There weren’t any pops or snaps; I felt the ligaments in my right ankle stretch like a rubber band pulled to its limits. I kept running, hoping the pain would dissipate in a few minutes. That hope turned into anger with every step as the pain persisted. There were only four aid stations in this race. Thankfully the first one was at Mile 2. As I rested for a few minutes, I told the volunteer I was injured. He told me they could get me out and that there was another jeep at the next aid station.

I didn’t want to end my race at Mile 2. I got up before dawn and drove an hour to do a trail race, damn it!

Knowing that the next aid station was only 2 miles away, I pushed on – sometimes walking, sometimes jogging. I was so pissed – angry that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race and angry that I was injured. I warned the runners around me, “I’m going to scream. I promise it’s not about you.” And I proceeded to scream and curse for the next 2 miles whenever my frustration bubbled over.

My ankle hurt with each step. Despite the pain, I considered finishing the race. Then, I remembered something Rocky told me years ago. He reminded me not to kill myself while I was training when the goal was a bigger event. This was supposed to be a fun race, and I had other things on the horizon where I needed my foot to work. So, at the next aid station, I dropped out of the race and hitched a ride back to the finish line with the volunteers. By the way, riding on a bumpy road with a swollen ankle is not fun either.

I have no intention of doing another trail race. It’s too bad I don’t like trail races – everyone I know who does them, loves them. I’ll stick to running on the road and hiking in the mountains – once my ankle heals.

It’s been a week since the injury, and I can walk again, but my ankle still hurts. I hope I’ll be pain-free and running again in another week.

First Race Back

Last January, I DNFed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. After taking a few months off to figure out some health stuff, I decided it was time to get back in shape. I started jogging a few days a week and as I built up my stamina, I decided to sign up for another race – the Runner’s Den/Fiesta Bowl Half Marathon.

Race Day Shirt - One More Mile

Race Day Shirt – One More Mile

My goal for this race was “Just Finish.” I tried not to care about my time. I just wanted to get a race under my belt.

The race started at 7:30am. I had to get up extra early to walk the dog, put in my contacts, and get breakfast into my stomach by 6:30am so I’d have plenty of time to drive to Scottsdale, check my gear, and find my spot at the starting line. I was so grateful they had heaters near the starting line. It was only 40 degrees outside before sunrise, and I was cold standing in my shorts and race shirt. I opted to wear the same race shirt as Rock ‘n’ Roll to re-christen it with a good race.

My half marathon PR is 1:52:04, but I opted to line up with the 2:00 pacer. Given my training, 2 hours was the best finish I could have – maybe. By Mile 2, I wasn’t cold anymore. By Mile 4, my pacer had passed me and was out of sight. I tried not to think about it, reminding myself, “Just run your race. This race is just the beginning.”

I Finished!

I Finished!

As I jogged along, I started thinking about my ideas for 2016. Some of the theme words that crossed my mind were “simple,” “adventure,” “sunshine,” “dirt,” “happy,” and “calm.” I suspect next year will be just as busy as this year, but I want the scope of my activities to be more narrow, with more time and energy for recreation and seeing my friends.

I finished the race in 2:03:49 – averaging 9:28 per mile. Beside sore quads and toes, my body felt good coming across the finish line. As I was getting my stuff from gear check another racer thanked me for being a good pacer for him. I think I passed him around Mile 10 and he must have stayed with me for the rest of the race. I love that part of racing – using other racers to keep pace.

When I got back to my car, the thermometer informed me that the temperature had only risen to 48 degrees. My fingernails were purple. It felt so good to get home to a hot shower and a nap.

Yoga Review: Easy Yoga – The Secret to Strength & Balance

Part of my half marathon training is a weekly stretching session. (Yes, I stretch before and after each run too.) I generally suck at stretching, so I’m borrowing yoga DVDs from the library each week to force myself to do it.

PC YogaThis week I did another Peggy Cappy DVD, Easy Yoga: The Secret to Strength and Balance. It should have been called “Yoga for Patient People.”

This workout is from Peggy’s Yoga for the Rest of Us collection, so it provides instruction for people who have limited mobility or balance as well as people who can do regular yoga. Because of all these modifications, everything took longer than other yoga workouts. And Peggy has you breathe between everything – which may be a standard yoga practice, but her video seemed excessively long.

I will admit there were several times I checked my phone because I was bored. The video is 76 minutes long, and I felt like we barely did anything during that time. I didn’t even finish the full workout. The last section is a guided relaxation, but by then I had reached my limit of my patience, so I turned it off.

I think I am done with Peggy Cappy’s workouts. She is not a good fit for me. I reserved a different yoga DVD for next week. Even though it is a basic yoga workout, I hope it will be more challenging than Peggy Cappy’s.

Years ago, I did power yoga where you move fairly quickly from pose to pose. That was more my style. Perhaps I will look for a power yoga workout next.

Yoga Review: Yoga for the Rest of Us

I’m training for my fifth half marathon this fall. Since I DNFed my last race and I have a history of leg problems, I’m trying to be diligent about following my training schedule – including stretching.

Yoga for the Rest of UsAnyone who knows me knows that I suck at stretching. It’s so boring! Even in my gymnast days, I was never that flexible compared to my teammates. I was powerful, strong, and I just muscled my way through everything and they would bend themselves in half and take a nap. Every year, my gym put on a show in June – four performances over three days. The team kids were in every performance and we were expected to warm ourselves up on show days. I remember my last show weekend; even with a stress fractured back and sore knees, my “warm up” consisted of two standing back flips – one tuck, one pike.

Now that I’m getting a bit older, I don’t bounce like I used to. I still think stretching’s boring but it’s a necessary evil but my legs and back will thank me for it in the long run. My half marathon training program prescribes a stretching workout once a week, so I’m doing it with yoga DVDs.

In playing to my strengths, for this training cycle, I’m getting a different yoga DVD from the library each week. I hope the novelty of a different workout each week will keep me entertained even if I feel pathetic trying to stretch my ex-gymnast body.

I opted to start slow and easy with Yoga for the Rest of Us.

I’m not going to sugar coat it: this is an exercise DVD geared towards older people. If you don’t mind the possibility that the 60 year-old on the screen might have more balance and flexibility than you, it’s a good place to start. The good thing about this program is no one was a super-skinny contortionist that puts your efforts to shame.

A lot of yoga DVDs tell you that you can modify the poses using a yoga block or a yoga strap; this DVD showed you how to do it with a chair – something everyone has. It was a good stretching workout for getting back into my yoga groove. I definitely felt muscles that I haven’t stretched in a while and I built up a decent sweat during the sun salutations.

Overall it was a good workout for my first yoga session of race training, but I’ll probably need something more challenging in the near future. I’m glad there are super easy yoga DVDs like this because my impulse would probably be to start with an advanced power yoga routine that would make me feel self-conscious compared to the lithe gumby people on the screen.

EDIT: I just found out that the race I was training for was canceled. That’s a pisser. Doing yoga once a week is probably still a good idea. If nothing else, it will help with modeling.

Day 66/90 – Living in KT Tape

Day 66 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? Wearing KT Tape on my foot and leg is keeping my pain under control and allowing me to go running.

My Leg in KT Tape - I always prefer Black

My Leg in KT Tape – I Always Prefer Black Tape.

I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, but I’m back in KT Tape.

I’ve been running more lately to get in shape to train for a half marathon this fall. I found a new 4.2-mile route through Papago Park that I love, but it has more hills that I’m used to doing. Even though I’ve been diligent about my running form, my feet and legs hurt – especially on my left side. When I roll the golf ball with my foot or roll The Stick across my lower legs, the pain is a 9 out of 10.

Last night I put the shin splint and plantar fasciitis applications on my left leg. They’re making the pain much more manageable. This morning I did a 4-mile run on a flatter route and the pain wasn’t as bad. Every day now I stretch my calves and arches multiple times at work and every night I use The Stick and foam roller on my lower legs. Thank goodness I’m a masochist because this stuff hurts.

The only downside of living in KT Tape again is I can’t be barefoot except when I’m in the shower. I wear socks all the time to help keep the tape in place longer – even when I’m sleeping. The upside of living in Phoenix is it’s so warm at night that I don’t need covers in bed so there’s less of chance of snagging my tape on my sheets.

I hope stretching and running on flat ground for a few weeks will be enough to bring my pain under control. KT Tape is awesome, but I prefer not to live in it full-time, especially with my race being 4 months away.

In case you missed it: Day 65 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I’m falling back in love with singing and serenading myself in the car.

Day 55/90 – Running with Gary Vaynerchuk

Day 55 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I went running with Gary Vaynerchuk!

This is an old picture but it embodies how I felt after riding 21 miles today.

This is how I feel after a good run.

And by that, I mean I went running while listening to is podcast on my iPod.

I’m still trying to figure out how running fit into my life in terms of my schedule. Yesterday, I took myself for a run/walk after walking Miss Rosie. I wanted to try out my new water bottle that straps to my hand to stay hydrated and test a new running route through Papago Park.

Love this guy!

Love this guy!

I started out thinking I would just walk my new route, but then I remembered that walking is boring so I started running.

My run/walk was a little over 4 miles and I did it with gorgeous surroundings and Gary Vaynerchuk’s #AskGaryVee podcast blasting in my ears. Every time he started a new question, I would switch from running to walking or vice versa. The timing was just about perfect in terms of not wearing myself out too fast. I love listening to him answer questions from entrepreneurs. He’s real, blunt, but loving with his delivery, and he gives good practical advice.

It took about an hour to do the whole route. I was so sweaty by the time I got home but I felt great. And my new water bottle is exactly what I was looking for regarding my hydration needs. It’s really comfortable.

In case you missed it: Day 54 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Just a Really Good Day.

Day 16/90 – Running in the Sun

Day 16 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I went running!

Photo courtesy of Jeff Moriarty

Photo courtesy of Jeff Moriarty

I’ve decided it’s time to get back in shape. I want to increase my stamina and get some more muscle tone in my quads, back, and arms. Plus, I feel better when I work out on a regular basis.

Here’s my challenge: I live in Phoenix. It’s freakin’ hot here. It’s coolest in the morning, but that’s also when I am most productive in terms of writing and professional work. I don’t want to give that up, so I either have to get up even earlier than my current 5:15am alarm, or suck it up and run in the evening.

So today I took myself for a run at about 5pm. I set out to do a 3-mile run. Working out in the summer is not new to me, but it was a little brutal to go from barely working out to running in 110-degree heat. I had my sunblock, clothes made out wicking fabric, and I was hydrated, but it was still hard.

I didn’t realize until I was out there that my regular route is mostly in the sun. Did I mention I overheat easily if I’m in the sun too long? I ended up running 1.5 miles and walking 1.5 miles home. I was so hot when I got back that I grabbed my water bottle from the fridge and dumped it over my head.

I think running will become a regular part of my life again, but I will be relegated to running at sunrise, sunset, or running in the shade. I also want to work on my tone and flexibility with push-ups and stretching.

In case you missed it: Day 15 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Rockin’ my Fake British Accent!

Still Don’t Officially Know What’s Wrong with Me – and I Don’t Care Anymore

I love my running shoes.

I love my running shoes.

I am officially over my medical mystery. I don’t even want to think how much time I’ve spent in doctor’s offices and hospitals or how much money I’ve spent on medical tests related to my chest pains, dizziness, fatigue, and night sweats. And we still have no idea what’s wrong with me.

My cardiologists (all three of them) determined I have a hole in my heart but it’s a congenital defect that shouldn’t be causing my symptoms. My primary care doctor drew nine vials of blood and ran every test he could think of – CBC, thyroid, hormones, Epstein-Barr, other random illnesses – and everything came out negative or normal.

I’m annoyed that trying to do the right thing and take care of myself yielded no actionable results. It disrupted my marathon training and left me unprepared so I couldn’t finish the race. I feel like I wasted my time and I am frustrated that I don’t have any answers except what’s not wrong with me. I’m done doing this process of elimination. I’m ready to call it and apply Occam’s Razor. I say I have reoccurring costochondritis, fatigue from the fact that I work myself into the ground on a regular basis and have depression, dizziness from low blood sugar from my eating disorder, and night sweats caused by anxiety. I changed my linens and took the blanket off my bed so I’m cold when I tuck myself into bed at night, but it seems to be decreasing my night sweats so that’s good enough for me.

My Race Shirt for Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon 2015

My Race Shirt for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015

I’m ready to say “fuck it” and get back into cycling and running. When I go on The Undeniable Tour for two weeks, I plan to go running in every city I stay in. I am a much more balanced person when I work out on a regular basis.

Just in case some things really wrong with me and they just haven’t found it yet, I still don’t leave the house without my Road ID strapped to my left wrist. That way, if I collapse or something, my bracelet will contain the information the emergency medical team should know about my medical history.

Will I try to train for another marathon? I’m not sure. I workout more consistently when I have a race on my calendar and a training program to follow, so I’m looking for a race to train for – either a 10K or a half marathon. I’m contemplating doing a half marathon trail run in June. That could be really fun. We’ll see what happens.

Cleared to Workout Again

. . .and there was much rejoicing.”

For those of you who haven’t been following the drama related to my heart, I started having chest pain after long runs in November. After seeing to cardiologist’s and having two ultrasound, a stress test, wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours, and getting a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), they diagnosed me as having a congenital heart defect called patent foramen ovale (PFO). However, my heart defect apparently is not the cause of my pain or the dizziness, fatigue, or night sweats I’ve been having.

My doctors aren’t sure what’s causing my symptoms but they’re pretty sure it’s not a cardiovascular problem so my first cardiologist said I was allowed to work out again and took me off the beta blockers. (Did you know that beta blockers are the only banned substance in archery?) I made an appointment to see my primary care doctor to run blood work to see what else is going on in my body. In the meantime, I’m working out!

Still Smiling after Running 3 Miles - Feb. 14, 2015

Still Smiling after Running 3 Miles – Feb. 14, 2015

And it feels so good to exercise again!

On Saturday morning, I took myself for a 3-mile run, probably at a 10-minute/mile pace. My body could definitely tell that it hadn’t worked out in a while. My chest hurt for most of it but not enough to get me to stop. My legs held up great. (I would be surprised if it turns out I have a bad case of costochondritis – which I’ve had off and on since I was 11 – plus another medical condition that’s causing the other symptoms. Costochondritis is an inflammation of the chest wall that hurts like a bitch that there’s not much they can do about it.)

I took myself for a bike ride on Sunday. I meant to do 10 or 12 miles but I ended up doing 14.5. My quads and butt muscles got a work out. I didn’t realize how steep Galvin Parkway is through Papago Park – thankfully I rode up the hill at the beginning of my ride so I can coast down it on the way home.

One of the best parts of working out again is it giving up my mind a chance to rest and let ideas flow through it. There is no way I can act on an idea while I’m running or riding – not even a chance to send myself an email – so my thoughts have an opportunity to tumble around in my brain and develop in a non-directed organic way. It’s the closest thing I have to being creative. It was very nice to have that mental respite again.

My return to running couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m going to the Dad 2.0 Summit this weekend in San Francisco (blogging conference for dads). I’ll be speaking with them about the legal dos and don’ts of having a blog. It looks like there’s going to be a group of us going for a run together one of the mornings. I hope our route includes at least one hill.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 – DNF

I did the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon yesterday . . . well, more accurately speaking, I started the race. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish it. As many of my friends suggested, this was not my race.

AJ & Ruth at the Starting Line for the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 (Photo by AJ Grucky, used with permission)

AJ & Ruth at the Starting Line for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 – Probably my Happiest Moment of the Day (Photo by AJ Grucky, used with permission)

I needed to have an awesome day on race day to complete 26.2 miles. That’s what I had a few weeks ago when I ran 20 miles and I felt like I could easily run 5 more. Yesterday was a good day, not a great day. I didn’t feel particularly bad when I started the day just after 4am. I got up, made coffee, got dressed for the race, walked the dog, had a banana and a bagel with peanut butter, packed my gear bag, and walked a mile to the light rail station. I had an enjoyable chat with a guy from Minnesota on the rail who was the 3:40 pacer for the race on the ride across town. He said he was going to run the race with a GoPro camera strapped to his chest.

The starting line is pretty uneventful. I met up with my cousin AJ and we lined up in our corral. Just before the race started, I had my usual pre-race 5 Hour Energy and 2 ibuprofens. As our group started the race I tried to be mindful of the advice I heard from so many people – Don’t start out too fast. I tried to tell myself, “We’re just going for a jog.”

I never felt like I found a groove in this race. My music kept me going and I occasionally found someone to pace with. My hands started tingling around Mile 2, and I knew that couldn’t be good, but thankfully a cleared up after a few more miles. My right arch hurt starting pretty early on in the race and I had intermittent hip pain on both sides, but I pushed on. By Mile 9, I was pretty certain I would be losing some toenails after the race.

In terms of time, I had a great first half of the race. My half marathon time was 1:58 (9:07/mile pace). Around Mile 12, I started questioning if I really wanted to finish the race. At Mile 14, I really started to hurt and started slowing down. The 4-hour pacers easily passed me. After the turnaround in Old Town Scottsdale, my chest and my liver hurt so I decided to walk. I was surprised by how much my whole body hurt once I stopped running and how slowly I was walking, even compared to how slowly I had been running. I was done.

Both of my Feet are Sore but this is the Worst of my Toes

Both of my Feet are Sore but this is the Worst of my Toes

I promised myself I could stop at the next medical tent, which turned out to be at Mile 19. A friendly nurse gave me a chair, verified my identity, and asked what was wrong. When she discerned that I wasn’t in imminent danger or in need of significant medical attention, she gave me a bottle of Gatorade and called for the shuttle. Another nurse put a towel that had been soaking in ice around my shoulders. I felt like crap.

Gene, my kind shuttle driver, zipped me to the finish line where I pick that my bag from gear check and met up with my family. I sent out a handful of text messages to the people who I suspected were tracking me via my RFID chip who might be wondering what had happened to me. I was bummed I couldn’t finish the race but it was the right decision. I felt so weak, so lightheaded, and my stomach hurt like a bitch that my aunt took me home instead of going out with everybody else. After a few hours of rest, I started to feel human again.

Thank you to everyone who supported me along this journey to do this race and a special thank you to the crew and volunteers who work the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and my friends Karen, La Dessa, Valerie, Dannie, and Bill who cheered me on from the sidelines. You guys made my race a lot less painful.

Will I try another marathon? I’m not sure. The next thing on my to-do list is seeing my new cardiologist and getting my heart fixed. My new guy specializes in my type of heart defect so hopefully he can determine what’s causing my symptoms and how to fix it.