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half marathon

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.

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.

Marathon Training for the RnRAz 2015

My training program for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 begins this week. I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon every year for four years (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013), (PR: 1:52:04), but then I had to sit out 2014 due to shin splints. Now that I’ve finished physical therapy and learned a new running posture, I’m ready to do another long race.

Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2013 - Pre-Race with my Uncle and Cousin

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2013 – Pre-Race with my Uncle and Cousin

I will be using one of Hal Higdon’s marathon training programs for the next 18 weeks. I’ve used his half marathon training program for my previous races with a lot of success. It’s easy to lock in to his program of how far to run on what day. I’m a little worried about how fast the mileage climbs on the long run days.  I’ll be running 10 miles by week 5. In his novice half marathon program, 10 miles is the longest run you do before the race and that’s in week 11 of a 12-week program. I hope my legs and feet can handle the stress.

I am grateful to be in the best running shape I’ve ever been in heading into a training cycle. I’ve been consistently running and stretching since March as part of the rehab from my injuries. I’m currently running 22 miles a week (2 4.5-mile runs, 2 6.5-mile runs). For previous races I was barely working out so the first 3-mile run of training was painful.

Since I’ve been running so much, I’m slightly modifying Hal’s program for the first 13 weeks. If the run in Hal’s program is less than what I would have run on my own, I’ll run the longer distance. For example, the first run in Hal’s program is 3 miles. I’d normally run 4.5 miles that day so I’ll do that distance instead.

I’ve also heard that the route for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon has a decent hill around Mile 20. So right when I expect to really hate myself, I have to climb a hill. (This will be awesome for a masochist like me.) My training will definitely include some hill work to prepare for this. There was a small hill in the last Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon I did and I could easily tell whose training included hills and who only trained on flat ground.

My Foot and Leg in KT Tape before the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

My Foot and Leg in KT Tape before the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon 2012

Hal’s program adds 1 day of cross training to the mix. I’ll probably bike 12-20 miles on those days but there may be some hiking and other fun on those days. I think I also want to add some upper body and core strength training by doing push-ups 3 days a week – just push-ups, not the 100 Push-ups Challenge.

The real challenge in doing a race is staying dedicated to the training program. I don’t know if non-runners appreciate how much time and dedication goes into preparing for a race. The race itself is filled with excitement, fanfare, and comradery with your fellow racers. Race day is easy – if nothing else you have adrenaline to get you through it. The training is hard – long hours of pounding pavement rain or shine (most likely by yourself), scheduling your life around your runs, potentially living with perpetually sore muscles, and taking care of minor injuries. (I literally lived in KT Tape my last two training cycles.)

I’m looking forward to training for my first full marathon and being able to share the journey with you.

Will 2013 Be My Last Half Marathon?

I’m starting to give serious consideration to hanging up my running shoes after the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. This will be my 4th time doing the race and it seems like every time I train for a half marathon, I run a personal best, but I also go into the race more injured than the previous race. Here’s the breakdown of all my half marathons to date.

Photo by Crystal O’Hara

2010:  No major injuries during training (Race time: 2:09)
2011: Shin splints – left leg (2:06)
2012: Shin splints – left leg, Left foot pain (1:52)
2013: Expect to run with pain in both shins and feet

For the 2011 race, I was barely able to train because of my shin pain. That was my most painful race ever. I started hurting during mile 2 and it got worse the more I ran. By the end of the race, you couldn’t hug me because everything hurt – including my internal organs hurt. I started using KT Tape when I was training for the 2012 race. I spent the last month of training with my leg taped up. By race day, I needed tape jobs on my leg and foot. This year I practically started training with my leg taped up and I added a foot tape job last week. I pulled back on the intensity of my training to let my legs rest a bit. My left leg did fine with last weekend’s 6-mile run/walk but now my right leg and foot are starting to hurt too. It makes me wonder if it’s time for new sport.

Before getting into running, I was a gymnast for 17 years. I love being athletic. I was a competitive gymnast for 8 years and I had a plethora of injuries – shin splints, knee problems, back problems, and chronic foot problems. When I retired from competition, I was recovering from a stress fractured lower back. My doctor suggested I take up yoga. I joined a regular gym and I tried it. I found weight lifting to be boring and yoga was challenging, but it gave me no sense of accomplishment. I missed the pounding of my hands and feet against the ground and doing flips. I haven’t found a suitable substitute for gymnastics – there’s nothing like it.

I’ve tried a few other sports but nothing’s clicked for me. I fenced for 1.5 years in college and that was pretty fun. On the advice of my coaches, I took swimming as a PE class when I was in college. I really tried to like it but it did nothing for me. I really didn’t like that I couldn’t tell when I was sweating. When I moved to Phoenix, I got into hiking because I didn’t think running was an option given my history with injuries. I enjoy getting out on the mountain trails, but it doesn’t give the sense of satisfaction I want.

I openly admit that I don’t like running – I like being a size 4. I’ve learned that I won’t work out unless I’m training for something. With running, there’s always a race I could sign up for. I appreciate that training for a half marathon puts me on a 12-week structured training program so I have to work out 6 day a week. But now I’m wondering if it’s worth it to do it again after this race. If I give up running, I’ll need to replace it with something…and I have no idea what that would be.

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Half Marathon Recap 2011

On January 16, 2011, I ran in the P.F. Chang’s Rock n Roll Half Marathon, my second half marathon.  I had a personal best of 2:06:18, nearly 3 minutes faster than my time last year.  This was, hands down, the most painful race I have ever participated in.

I started my training back in October.  I was pretty diligent about getting in my miles every week until mid-November.  By then, my school work had picked up and I had the decision to either go running or get enough sleep.  Not wanting to destroy my immune system, I often opted to sleep.  After finals, I went to my parents’ house in Northern California.  I packed all my warm running clothes so I could get back on track, but I soon learned that, “It’s cold,” was a viable excuse not to go running.  When I got back to Phoenix, I was determined to get back to running, but unfortunately my overzealousness caused shin splints.  In all of my training for this race, I did not run more than 5 consecutive miles.  Originally my goal was to finish the race in under 2 hours, but I changed that to finishing the race without stopping or walking.

I was careful to pace myself at the start of the race.  Even before I reached mile marker 1, my body was starting to hurt.  I did what you’re not supposed to do, and took 600mg of ibuprofen right before the race, and it didn’t keep the pain at bay.  My toes, knees, hip, back, and feet all hurt during the race.  When one body part would start to hurt, I thought, “Hang in there.  In a mile, something else will hurt.”

You-Can_Do-It
Image by Katchooo via Flickr

The best part of running the half marathon is the people watching.  I enjoy watching the people, reading their signs, and seeing the funny outfits the various cheerleading squads are wearing.  Every time I saw a familiar face or something amusing, it lifted my spirits.  I don’t think most spectators realize how much it means to the runners that they are there.

In case you were wondering, these are some of the thoughts that went through my head during the race:

  • You can do it… You can do it…. You can do it….You can do it…
  • Hang in there.  You’re doing great.
  • You’re almost there.
  • It’s only hard.

Around mile 10, I kicked it up a notch and started running faster.  I saw on the race clock that I was close to my pace from the previous year.  I wanted to try for a personal best.  I ran as hard as I could and I gave myself permission to collapse the second I crossed the finish line.

When I finished the race, I was in pain.  My joints hurt; my muscles hurt; even my internal organs hurt.  I went home and went to bed.  My friend came over to congratulate me after the race, and he could barely hug me because it hurt so much.

I’m pleased with my performance overall, but I definitely learned the hard way about the repercussions of being under prepared for a race.  Next year, I hope I can train more effectively and break the 2-hour mark.

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Half Marathon Recap Part II – The Legal Side

When I signed up for the half marathon back in August, I knew my fee was non-refundable.  I have no recollection if I checked a box for a waiver at that time. 

Description unavailable
Image by g. rox via Flickr

Fast forward to January – I got my confirmation email with a link to get my “Packet Pickup Confirmation Sheet.”  I needed to sign and turn it in at the pre-race health expo to get my race number and microchip.  On this form was a “Release and Waiver of Liability Agreement” that was over three inches of small print.  It seems pretty sneaky for the organizers to get us to pay our money and then tell us what we had to agree to in order to participate. 

Here’s what the waiver said:
(You/your = the runner; We/us/our = the organizers)

  • Neither you nor your heirs can sue the organizers, sponsors, or municipalities for any reason related to the race.
  • You can’t sue if you’re injured or die during the race, even if we’re negligent.
  • We can use your name and photo without paying you for it.
  • If the event is cancelled or delayed, we won’t give you a refund.
  • You will pay all expenses for your medical care related to doing the race.

Past research of Arizona case law taught me that signing a waiver that releases an entity from liability, even if that entity is negligent, will be upheld by the court.  So basically, if you sign the waiver and get hurt, you can’t sue and win.  All the runners I talked to before the race said that they signed the waiver without reading it.  However, I remembered something from contract law that said if you cross out the terms of the contract that you don’t like before you sign it, that it removes those terms from the agreement.  I went through the waiver and crossed out the clause that released them from liability for their negligence and the clause that said I’m responsible for all race related medical expenses.  I used a bright royal blue ballpoint pen to cross out the clauses so they couldn’t claim that my marks could be mistaken for a bad print job from my printer. 

When I went to the pre-race expo, I brought clean copy of the waiver in case they didn’t accept my version of the agreement.  It ends up I didn’t need it.  The volunteer accepted my agreement without any questions. 

I emailed my personal injury attorney friend and he said what I did would probably hold up in court.  Looking back, I’m surprised that the agreement didn’t have a clause that said that participants couldn’t alter the waiver before signing it or that the organizers didn’t tell the expo volunteers not to accept waivers that had been altered.

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Half Marathon Recap

Sunday, January 17th, 2010, I ran my first half marathon.  My goals were simple: finish the race without dying or being horribly injured and finish the race without stopping or walking.

The P.F. Chang Rock n Roll Marathon and Half Marathon in Arizona is one of the biggest races in the world.  They had over 5000 volunteers working the race to take care of the nearly 30,000 runners plus their entourages.  I must have seen over 300 port-a-potties to take care of everyone’s needs.

This race was not like any race I’d ever seen.  All along the route there were interesting things to look at to keep myself entertained and not focused on how much further I had to go.  Sometimes I was so entertained that I wasn’t really paying attention to how much I was running. 

The Clothing Drive
Even though Arizona is known for its warm weather, it’s still cold on January mornings.  The marathon started at 7:30am and the half started at 8:30am.  Many of us arrived at the race in extra layers that we wouldn’t need by the end of the race.  A lot of us wore clothes to donate to charity.  As we began to warm up during the first few miles of the race, we took off our extra sweatshirts, hats, and gloves and threw them to the side of the route where volunteers with huge garbage bags gathered them up to give to the homeless.  I purchased a hoodie at Goodwill for $4 a few days before the race to keep me warm pre-race and donated back.

2010 PF Changs Rock-n-Roll Marathon_09
Image by azchef101 via Flickr

The Costumes
I dressed for comfort in my running pants and wicking t-shirt, but some of my companions dressed to impress.  We had some wild outfits on the course.  I was amazed that they could run comfortably running, and running pretty fast, in their outfits.  We had a duo running in the orange and baby blue tuxes from “Dumb and Dumber.”  We also had a guy running in a banana suit and another guy running while dressed up like Elvis.  There was also a pair of women who were running in matching argyle knee socks with fuzzy pink cowboy hats.  They made me grin.

The Signs
I was so grateful to everyone who came out to cheer us on.  Even if they weren’t there for me (and most of them weren’t), I changed my name to correspond to whatever sign I was looking at.  I pretended to be “Mom,” “Nicole,” and “Uncle Ashley” during the race.  There were also some awesome signs of general encouragement along the route:

  • “Hurry Up.  We’re Hungry.”
  • “You Are Almost Done” (next to 4-mile marker)
  • “5.6 Miles to Free Beer. And the Finish Line.”

The Vaseline
Chafing is actually a big concern for runners.  They can get chafing wherever their skin rubs together or against their clothes, like their arms, inner thighs, and even their nipples.  Apparently some people finish long races with bleeding nipples because they’ve been rubbed raw by their shirts.  I usually only put Bodyglide anti-chafe stick on my inner upper arms so my sports bra and ipod strap don’t tear up my skin, but on race day, I decided to be extra careful and put it on my inner thighs too.  I laughed at my friend who had a canister of Vaseline at the starting line and was slathering his inner thighs with it.  Around mile 9, we had volunteer standing at the end of a water station who had sticks with gobs of Vaseline on them for anyone who was having chafing issues during the race. 

Other Things That Made Me Smile
I’m not going to deny it, running 13.1 miles is hard.  Sometimes it felt like all I could do was put one foot in front of the other.  I was grateful for anything that made me smile along the way.

  • Water Station Volunteers in Costume: It was obvious that some of our water stations were manned by groups of friends who coordinated their outfits for their enjoyment and ours.  One water station was run by people dressed up like hippies.  Another station was run by a bunch of kids dressed up like nerds – with the taped glasses, suspenders, and pants pulled up to their chests.  It was awesome.
  • I Rickrolled my ipod: I created a special playlist for the race and added Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” to the mix and set my ipod for shuffle.  It came on somewhere during Mile 10.
  • The Cheerleaders at Mile 11:  We had various cheerleading squads dispersed between the live bands along the route.  I’m sure they had to be there super early in the morning due to street closures.  To pass the time until the runners starting coming by, the cheerleaders at Mile 11 wrote motivating messages and drew pictures on the ground with sidewalk chalk for us.  I especially liked the manhole cover they turned into a flower.   

I finished the race in 2:09:16, without stopping and without major injury.  I couldn’t be happier about my finish, and oddly I’m planning on doing it again next year.  This race gave me a good lesson in humility.  The half marathoner lined up before the race based on their expected race time.  I started with my friend who finished in 1:42:47.  Needless to say, I was a passed a lot.