First Official Race


Today was a special day.  It was my first official road race, the Duxbury Half Marathon.  Running this distance requires physical and mental strength, determination and confidence, all of which I had been struggling with for many months until recently.  I attribute being able to overcome this low period with obtaining a new job with constant opportunities for learning and growth, friendly co-workers as well as a supportive and encouraging manager.  But enough about that, this article is about how I made some boys without manners eat my dust.

The day started out at 5:40AM.  I quick change into my running gear and a triple check that I had everything I needed for the race and Nana and I were on the road at 6AM.  Even though I had already triple checked my bag to make sure I had everything, I had the impulse to make sure I had my GPS running watch just before we approached the highway.  Nana, so generous, offered her wrist watch to me and told me not to worry about having my watch.  We both had a good laugh when I showed her my watch, which tracks speed and mileage.  After we arrived at the parking area for the race, I reminded Nana to be careful walking as we crossed the street.  As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I ended up tripping on a tree branch.  That would be my luck, weeks and weeks of training with no injuries and then, minutes before the race, a twig destroys me.  Luckily, it was just a stumble and some slight embarrassment.  With no other troubles, we made it to the waiting area inside the Senior Center, which was hosting the event, and met up with my parents.  It seemed like all the other runners were doing body bending stretches and intense warm up exercises.  It was a bit intimidating because I never do much stretching or warming up before a run, so I felt out of my league knowing that many of these runners were probably professionals and using this race as practice for the Boston Marathon.  Sick of feeling like I was in a Planet Fitness commercial, I decided to wait outside and take some pre-race photos, which helped clear my mind.  Then, the line up began and it was time to experience an extraordinary day.

I crossed the starting mat, waved to Mom, Dad and Nana, and headed off with the pack.  At first it was discouraging because it seemed like every single runner was passing by me.  I thought I was keeping a good steady pace, but then feared I would wind up the very last runner.  As the miles went along and the pack spaced out more and more, I found myself passing others that must have started out too fast.  The first highlight of the run was around Mile 3 when I saw another male runner jog out from the woods along the side of the road.  I suspected nature must have called and after hearing him tell another runner he felt like a free man, my suspicions were confirmed.  Shortly after Mile 3, I found myself in a pack of five or six other young male runners who took great satisfaction in hocking loogies and competing to see who could burp the loudest.  I was stuck with them for about 2 miles until we hit a hilly patch and I was able to dust them off.  However, there was still one other male runner that stayed on my tail.  He wasn’t shooting things out of his mouth or nose like the others, but he was an extremely loud breather.  Every few minutes I would pass him and think that was the end of hearing him, but sure enough the deep breathing got louder and louder as he approached me again and eventually passed me.  It wasn’t until the middle of Mile 8, when I took advantage of a steep hill, that I shook him for good.  I must say though, he was great motivation to stay on pace and also helped keep my mind off any tiredness I was feeling in my legs.

When I got to mile 10, I felt great and pretty confident that I was going to finish and finish in under two hours.  I knew I only had 3 miles left and could start picking up the pace to get a better finishing time.  At around this time, I also witnessed my favorite part of the race.  At this distance, there was a Gatorade station; all the previous stations had just offered water.  There was an older man running ahead of me and reached for a cup, but dropped it and apparently did not want to stop.  Shortly after this, I heard a lot of grunting and heavy footsteps.  The volunteer who had tried to give the cup to the runner was running as fast as he could to catch up to the older man who needed the Gatorade.  With a lot of determination, the volunteer caught up to the runner and handed him the cup successfully this time.  I saw the runner’s face at that moment and could tell he greatly appreciated the effort and drank the Gatorade gratefully.  I don’t know if it was the fact that I just witnessed this great moment or the fact that I was just about running on empty at this point, but I started thinking about my late grandfather, Papa.  I know if he were alive, he would have been proud of me for challenging myself to complete this race.  I couldn’t continue thinking about him for very long because I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the race if I did.  I felt guilty at the time that I blocked him out, but I’m making up for it now as I’m writing this and getting another wave of emotion about him.

The last few miles were a blur; I increased my speed because I knew I only had about 15 minutes to go until the finish line.  I remember giving a high five to a toddler and passing an older woman that screamed when I passed her, thinking she was going to swear at me.  It turns out she had a side stitch and apparently wanted to announce it at the top of her lungs, which probably wasn’t making her side stitch any better.  Finally, I saw the finish line, but then a bunch of slow onlookers had to cross the street and thought it would be okay to block the way and stare at the runners coming in.  I almost wanted to yell, “Get the bleep out of my way,” but I just kept running faster towards them and eventually they must have figured out a stampede was coming.  The last stretch was a circle around the parking lot.  I ran as fast as my legs would move and could hear a few people behind me trying to catch up.  I had them until the very last turn and then the two guys behind me sped past me at the last second.  I was aggravated that I couldn’t take them the whole way, but I guess I’ll just have to get them next year.

After I crossed the finish line, I was overcome with dizziness and very disoriented, but I still was with it enough to make sure someone gave me my medal.  It felt great to know that I gave it my all, even through the very end, and that my parents and Nana were there to cheer me along and experience the day with me.  The last step of the day was to take a look at my stats.  As a person who loves numbers, it was interesting to see all the breakdowns, 100th overall of 375 runners, 43rd female finisher overall and 19th female in the 20-29 age range.  We also saw a couple charts that looked real nifty, but had no idea what they meant.  While we were at the computer, Mr. Heavy Breather came in, saw me and conceded his defeat and joked about how we were neck and neck for a while.  A few stretches later and we were on the road back home, back to a refreshing shower and a great big bowl of Cheerios.



Running to Brainstorm


I have a love-hate relationship with my weekly long runs.  Every Saturday morning when I hear the harp alarm on my phone, I groan at the thought of getting out of bed and running 8+ miles.  After I hit snooze a few times and force myself out of my cozy blankets, I continue to question my decision: my legs are still sore from yesterday, I feel extra tired this morning, I think I feel a headache coming on.  However, I know that after I complete the run, I will feel a sense of accomplishment for the rest of the day, so I fight all my negative thoughts and put on my running gear and, in today’s case, head down to my basement treadmill.

Today’s long run went by faster than any long run I can remember to date.  I felt relaxed and it allowed me to brainstorm and let my mind ponder different writing ideas.  (As a side note, I recently have been pursuing writing as a potential part time career in the near future.  Most of my free time these past few weeks has been devoted to researching what is involved with breaking into the freelance writing business.  Now that I have a basic foundation of the writing industry, I am trying to think of stories that I could pitch to magazines, newspapers, blogs, or online websites.)  Without even really trying, I came up with 3 new stories I could potentially write about and how and where to go about pitching them.  Because I wasn’t forcing myself to think about writing ideas, it came more naturally.  I’m almost tempted to do a long run every day if it’s that successful of a brainstorming technique; key word: almost.  My only goal for next week is that it is slightly easier to get out of bed on Saturday knowing that I may be able to generate some captivating writing plans.


New FODMAP Diet, New Goals

After numerous doctor’s appointments and various tests over the past few months, it is more than likely that I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  Although it may sound strange, I was disappointed each time a different test result came back negative.  I was hoping for a clear solution like taking an antibiotic or having some type of one-time procedure.  Nonetheless, there is a diet that supposedly works for most people with IBS called the FODMAP diet.  The letters stand for really long scientific words, but stand for foods that are highly fermentable and poorly digested.  The FODMAP diet is a diet that reduces high FODMAP foods.  The first phase of the diet is the elimination phase, which lasts about 6-8 weeks or until symptom-free.  After that phase, foods high in FODMAPS are gradually introduced to determine which foods are trigger foods.  The naughty list (high FODMAP) includes certain fruits and vegetables, dairy that is high in lactose, soy, beans, gluten, sugar free gum, and certain types of sugars.  The diet also limits any sweetener to very small quantities.  For the past few days I have been struggling to find a substitute for soymilk.  No other non-dairy milks have any where near as much protein as soymilk so I opted for mixing a hemp-based protein powder into almond milk – NASTY.  The hemp powder mixed into the almond milk at first, but as I was eating my infamous bowl of Cheerios, it started to get all clumpy and I was eating chunks of hemp (and hemp powder is green by the way – DOUBLE GROSS).  Then I tried fortified almond milk that has a little bit more protein – EVEN NASTIER.  I didn’t realize that it has added sugar in it so it tasted like I was eating Cheerios with watery corn syrup – YUCK.  So, I thought I might try another non-dairy milk that was higher in fat content, praying that the milk would be a little thicker and absorb the hemp powder better.  No such luck, coconut milk has higher fat content, but that is on the naughty list.  Then, I did some research and realized that I could drink lactaid milk.  It is dairy milk, but does not have lactose and has even more protein than soymilk.  Success!  It will take me a while to get used to the flavor, but by far the best substitute to complement by precious Cheerios.  I was also instructed to give up tea.  I haven’t found a substitute for that yet, hot water and hot water with lemon added are both quite unpleasant.  I also had to give up dried apricots, which I ate for potassium since I read that potassium is important for those who run.  I’m trying cantaloupe, which is not as high in potassium, but it’ll do the trick for now.  The sugar will be tough too.  I usually eat pretty healthy during the week, but I love having cake on the weekend (especially chocolate cake and chocolate is on the naughty list too, ugh).  So far, corn bread will be my substitute since it does not call for much sugar.  I don’t think the gluten elimination will be a big deal and I can finally put my gluten free cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen to good use.  Overall, I am just glad I don’t have to give up Cheerios and waffles.  I do have to alter my waffle recipe slightly, but I’m having fun experimenting with different ingredients.

This is quite a long post and if you’ve made it this far, pat yourself on the back!  As you can see above, this new FODMAP diet is now my main priority.  Because of this, I have decided to alter my goal of running to Nana’s house in Southie.  Instead of focusing my energy on increasing my mileage, I need to focus it on eating according to these new guidelines and possibly adding other exercises like yoga and pilates.  I still need to do more research on this FODMAP diet and other techniques that people with IBS have found helpful.  There are quite a few Facebook pages dedicated to this diet, which is great.  I’m looking forward to reading about other people’s experiences with both the FODMAP diet and IBS in general.  I still plan to keep running, but not at the intensity of training for a half marathon.  I did reach a speed goal last week by breaking 8 min/mile last week!  I may still run to my Nana’s house someday, but for now its FODMAP, FODMAP, FODMAP 🙂

Pain of Progession

I cranked it up a notch this past week.  I did a new ab exercise called “y crunches.”  I’m pretty sure they are named that for the shape your body is when completing them, but I have another theory…”‘Y’ did I do this to myself!”  It took me four days for my abs not to hurt just breathing, but it was a good pain; the pain of progression.  On Saturday, I did a 10 miler and was exhausted for two days.  (Probably didn’t help that I spent Saturday and Sunday painting up a storm in my kitchen instead of resting.)  I also did my best speed run today with an average of an 8:00 minute mile.  This weekend my goal is to hit 11 miles (and also continue the hurricane of painting by painting my pantry bi-fold doors and linen closet doors.)

Self Prescribed Half Marathon

The past few weeks have not been the greatest.  I have been feeling down and unmotivated to do much of anything, including running.  The days that I did run, I felt great, but getting the motivation to wake up in time to get in a morning run was an extreme challenge.  As most people who know me can probably guess, the winter is my arch nemesis.  I have been known to wear sweatshirts at night in the middle of summer, bust out my winter gloves and coat as early as September in some years and sleep on a heated mattress from fall through spring.

I knew I needed something to look forward to, but it’s not always easy to think of exciting things when you feel like your turning into Squidward Tentacles.  Finally, after running two mornings in a row and feeling better than I had in weeks, I knew I needed to set some type of running goal.  Not interested in an official race because I like running first thing in the morning and on my own schedule, I decided to create my own race.  I plan to run from my house in East Weymouth to my Nana’s house in Southie, which will probably be around the distance of a half marathon.  I haven’t decided my exact route yet or set a specific date, but sometime this spring it will happen.  I completed my first long run (8.5 miles) for the first time in over a month.  Although my legs feel like rubber right now, I can’t wait to increase my long runs each week to prepare for my goal race.

Plank Challenge

Although I thought I had adjusted to running in the summer heat, these past two weeks proved otherwise.  I even upgraded to two fans with no relief.  I know that almost all runners face slower speeds and shorter mileage weeks during the summer months, so I’m trying not to let it bother me – key word trying 🙂  In addition to the heat challenges, my knee pain is also back.  I recently got my treadmill serviced, which I learned basically just involves someone coming out to lube it.  I think the servicing did more harm than good because that the belt seems a little slippery and has less traction, thus the knee issues.  It will probably wear off over a little bit of time, but it gives me more incentive to start running outside.  I bought a new GPS Garmin watch and plan to try it this Tuesday for my tempo run.  Watch seems easy enough to figure out for tracking pace, but it doesn’t seem to have a power off function, unless I am just really tech challenged.

Because I am not sure if my knee pain is due to the treadmill lube or to possible hip and knee weaknesses, I decided to increase my core strengthening workouts by adding more planks.  I found this plank workout below and just tried to do them all in one workout; that was a joke.  I made it to the third variation and then my arms gave out.  Now I am determined to get more strength in my arms and my core to be able to do these planks all in one sitting.  I’m not sure how long it will take me, but its a new and interesting goal for me to work on.

Summer Running

I just ran my second 10-miler this morning.  I skipped last week’s long run because I was exhausted from removing the plaster from my parlor ceiling the day before.  The morning run I completed the day I was going to remove the plaster was probably one of the hardest so far.  I was anxious about the ceiling – how long would it take and how difficult would it be?  Although I was able to accomplish my goal of a 45 minute moderate tempo run, the entire run was painful; worse than some of the runs I completed when I had sore legs.  It is amazing how the mind can affect the body.  (Whoa, getting a little too deep here.)

Since the contractor who I hired to complete my kitchen renovation is set to come any day now, I’m glad I was able to get in a good long run this week.  With all the stress of a renovation, I’m not sure how strong my running will be while it is in progress.  I seem to have adapted to running in the warmer weather, but I think adapting to running under stress will be more challenging.  I am always up for a challenge, so this kitchen renovation will be a good test of that.