Friday, October 26, 2007

Good News!

The good news is that my left leg isn’t broken. It didn’t crack up the fibula and down the tibia, as my doctor had feared. I won’t need surgery, and I can even get off the physical therapy.

Nevertheless, I do have a slight stress fracture in my fibula, whose breaking is really just a family rite of passage (my mom and my brother have both had summertime breakings of the same bone). I am happy to report that not only has my flu mostly gone away—the cough remains—but I am now allowed to walk and yoga, and then ease into some jogging in about two weeks. I'm eager to hit the walking sidewalks and yoga mat this weekend!

All of these steps, of course, may be taken only if no pain occurs. The doctor believes I may be experiencing tendonitis, so the ibuprofen continues.

So, family, blog and real-world friends are awesome. Congrats to all of the killer runs everyone has had, and many thanks to everyone for their support. It stinks to be injured, but it’s uplifting to know that people care. And it makes me want to run—without harming myself—so much more!

But on the news front: Neil and I might be moving soon. No solid details yet, but we will likely be heading north. And I’m eager to scope out some good running neighborhoods and the prospect of bear-free trails.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fractured Leg, Broken Spirit

Well, the jury’s still out, but by the middle of next week I should find out whether I have a stress fracture in my left leg. The doctor I saw today says evidence points to it, but I’ll have my fingers crossed for the next several days that the x-rays point to nothing but tendonitis or something. I’ve been prescribed ibuprofen (for swelling) and physical therapy. And I’ll need some form of backup exercise for all the depression eating I’ve done today.

It was fun talking to a medical professional who also runs. When I told her that I first started feeling pain in late August/early September and that I didn’t do anything about it even when the pain became excruciating, she said, “Well, you’re a runner. We tend to do that.” And I kind of thought it was cool to be called a ‘runner.’ Hee hee.

She admitted that she tore a tendon once and denied it for weeks before the other medical personnel in her office convinced her that she had a problem. So, while it doesn’t make my long-term denial (or my lower leg) any better, she made me feel like less of a self-imposed loser. Perhaps it's just a condition or labor of love or something.

The biggest issue now is my brain. Sure, I’ve had pain in my leg, but I’ve been sticking to walking (still OK for now) and yoga (depends), which have given my broken/not-broken leg some much needed rest. Relatively. Nevertheless, when she indicated that I likely had a fracture, it started to hurt! So, I spent the past month convincing myself that it didn’t hurt… and now I can’t help but think it does. Sigh.

On the bright side, the flu is mostly gone (I still have one of those annoying nighttime coughs that has to be making Neil homicidal, even if he would never admit it—thanks, man!). But I can say, ‘at least I have my health.’

High fives and best wishes and great vibes to all the butt-kicking marathoners (Jenn, Salty, Landon… anyone else I’m forgetting?) running the good race this weekend! You rock! Now go run!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

This is the Flu That Never Ends…

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly two weeks since the half marathon and, therefore, just as long since this sickness began. I’ve lost my voice and about 30 pounds in mucus over the past two weeks (too much info?). I’m still wholly convinced that this is a ploy by my body to keep me from running.

And it’s been working for the most part. This week I walked for about 3-4 miles twice at 14-15:00/mile, and have felt pretty peachy before, during and after each walk. At least my yoga and weight-training have never been better. My calf feels a little sore in the morning sometimes, but nothing as painful as pre-half times. In fact, it used to hurt to the touch, which made it really difficult to stretch, do yoga or even scratch my leg.

So, can you keep a secret? I tried running for about three strides on Tuesday night. It felt great. No pain at all! But I’m sticking to my prescribed healing period. My mantra has been what Landon said to me the last time I was injured: the miles I forsake now while healing will be fewer than the miles I would miss if I didn’t let my injury heal. And if all else fails, I can always become a speed walker and go to the Olympics.

Monday, October 8, 2007

In Joe Borowski We Trust…

So, I may not be able to run for a couple weeks, but I do have a few more days of Indians baseball.

Is there greater joy than watching the Yankees lose? Nah.

And there’s nothing quite like the Joe Borowski heart attack to give you your daily kick of cardio. Whew! At least my heart will be in shape when I take to the roads again in a few weeks.

Go Indians!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Tears, Tears and Turkey

So, here’s a confession: running makes me cry. Not in a cause-and-effect kind of way. I don’t know what my deal is, but for some reason when I’m running, particularly when I’m racing, I’m more likely to get choked up at the sight of cheering supporters or inspirational signs or thoughts of people who helped me along the way. For my whole life I’ve tried to the tough guy—probably in the hope that my steely emotions would belie my pint size. But how am I supposed to be a tough guy when I’m blubbering and teary all the time?

It hasn’t really become a problem, short of a few near-asthmatic backlashes against the tears, but I was just thought that admitting to the problem would be a first step toward recovery.

And speaking of recovery, I can almost breathe through both nostrils now. My ears are still a little cloggy and my breating weak, but I'm on the mend. After five days down with the flu (OK, it took me three days to give in and get some rest), I’m finally able to function on an almost-normal level. Breathing during yoga is still difficult—I’m breathing double-time and gasping instead of ujjayi pranayama—but at least my body isn’t still aching. I finally got around to some weights, ab work and stretching last night, and then an hour of yoga and fast-walking today.

Yes, I said walking. I also made it to the doctor late last week to check out my calf injury. It’s a slight tear that doesn’t require contact medical attention, but rest, ice and stretching. I’m allowed to walk for now, so I did 4.7 miles at 13:50/mile today. Is it cheating if I’m walking almost as quickly as I can run? It still felt fine, and I came straight home for follow-up stretches and ice. The next two weeks will tell (two whole flippin' weeks?)...

After listening to my running stories and an examination, my doctor said my injury was likely caused by one of two things: 1) a big wipeout (which one: this one or this one?) or 2) pushing too hard in my tempo runs. Boy, didn't see that coming at all! If nothing else, at least my blog will be a guide to beginners of how not to train. So, I feel less bad for going from 30 miles/week to 2 miles to 4 walking… but I’m still itching to get back. I have a Turkey Trot to prep for!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Report of 1:54:10

No sooner had I packed up my second cupcake after the Akron Half Marathon did I come down with the flu (OK, I also went to a birthday party on Saturday and the Browns game on Sunday)!

For years I bragged about never getting sick, but it’s been quite the year for me to be down and out. Everyone seems to think it’s my body’s way of begging for a day off, but I think it’s work germs. I’m going to start wearing rubber gloves and a surgical mask at work now.

But at least I’ve had nearly a week to reflect on the half marathon. And if you’re still interested in getting the full report, here it comes:

By now you know that I did, in fact, find a parking spot! I woke up early on Saturday, ate a Greens Plus bar for breakfast and followed scant early morning traffic into Akron and straight into a University of Akron parking lot. Lucky me! So, I followed a group jogging to the start, picked up some espresso GU and wandered into the starting area.

Never in my life have I seen a race of this size. There were just thousands and thousands of people. And thousands and thousands of good attitudes. I think that’s my favorite thing about running, triathloning, racing, in general: just about everyone involved in these events arrives with a positive attitude. You really have to, don’t you? It’s such a breath of fresh air, a change of pace from the everyday. Did I mention it wasn’t even 7 a.m. yet?

In the pre-dawn darkness I waddled through the crowd in the starting corral and somehow ran into Tom from work. I had twisted his arm about running the Akron Half all summer long, so it was pretty awesome to see him waiting to begin. We talked about our pre-race anxieties (neither of us had ever run a half) and suddenly the race was starting!

We struck out into the dark Akron morning, and, man was it crowded! For the first 2 miles I was stuck in a tight pack and was only able to move maybe 1-2 people ahead when the street gently widened from time to time. I was right behind the 4:00:00 marathon pacer and really wanted to break ahead; we hit mile two at 18:00 and I was really itching to go! My calf was still numb from the BioFreeze, and I wanted to use my early energy and painlessness while I still had it.

Once the sun rose, I had to wiggle out of my hooded sweatshirt and tie it around my waist. To keep it out of my way, I pulled my t-shirt over it (see photos). And then I had someone ask how “far along” I could run a half marathon. Sigh. It’s the third time this year I’ve heard someone assume a non-pregnant woman was with child. So, I thought I would take this moment to remind people that you should never ask a woman whether she’s pregnant unless she’s a) talking about it or b) has a baby coming out of her. That’s my public service announcement!

Finally, around mile three the crowd loosened. We headed back into downtown Akron, whose streets were lined with cheerers—5-6 people deep in some spots. The number of supporters at the race blew my mind almost as much as the number of runners. Absolutely awesome! What was even better: we were able to have our names printed on our bibs, so as I ran by some crowds of people I didn’t know, they would yell, “Go Gina! You look great!” Thank you people I don’t know! You were fantastic! It really made me want to visit more races and cheer on more people I don’t know.

But there’s always a down side: it was right around this downtown section that I was stuck again in a small pack. We were running a good pace at this point, but I was stuck behind a guy who, umm, had a gas problem. Cover your ears if you’re sensitive to flatulence stories. Cruising through downtown, I heard this repeating noise that I thought was coming from the guy’s shoe in front of me. I wasn’t quite so lucky as I soon caught wind of what was actually going on. On the one hand, I felt bad for the guy who was obviously having stomach issues… but then I felt bad for me because I had to hold my breath while running uphill toward mile 4!

I missed the mile-3 marker while trying to escape, but I hit the mile 4 marker at 34:45. At this point I was less concerned with my original goal (8:30/mile) and just aimed to beat 9:00/mile for each marker. Following my training plan’s advice for the race, I reached a comfortable pace and just maintained it throughout the race. I also walked the aid stations to get proper hydration and avoid evil stitches.

Proper hydration and nutrition, however, does not include doubling up on energy gel. For me at least. Before I reached the 10K aid station, I took down the raspberry Hammer gel I brought with me and then grabbed a vanilla GU at the stop. I washed it all down with water and ran on my way. It wasn’t three minutes after I crossed the 10K mark (53:41) that I started getting some serious heart palpitations. Apparently I don’t handle doubled-up caffeine energy as well as I had hoped. I felt like my heart was in my throat, but my limbs were throbbing with get-go! So, I slowed way down to get my HR under control and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t have a GU-induced heart attack!

With my HR under control, I was pumped when I crossed mile 7 at exactly 1:00:00. I was more than halfway done and I knew I could finish in under 2:00:00 despite all the mishaps to that point. And then I just locked into my stride and focused on finishing strong.

We wound through all of the Akron neighborhoods I’ve never visited and were serenaded by more bands than I could count (several marching bands, a steel drum group, a country band), and somehow I stayed relatively focused. After all, it’s not like I was on my bike! But as we made our way up and down hills, and the area became increasingly urban, I knew were getting closer to the finish!

It was only when the half marathon split off from the rest of the pack at mile 11 that I had some down-on-myself time. We were running up a never-ending incline along a freeway when my energy bottomed out. I guess the GU high spiked too soon! My mind was torn between my excited “I only have two more miles left in a half marathon!” side and my downtrodden “how did I end up running in the berm of the MLK freeway?” side. I was surprised that no one passed me at this point in the race… so maybe we were all feeling the same way!

At 1:45:47 I crossed mile 12 and thought, “Fifteen minutes? I can totally run 1.1 miles in less than fifteen minutes!” I started hoofing along and cheered on a few people who were obviously sputtering out. And then I started looking (desperately) for anything that looked like a ballpark.

While I live 10 miles from Akron, I’m rarely in the city and I’ve never seen Canal Park, which was the site of our finish. Signs on the side of the road bore inspirational sayings, including “See your destination.” But I couldn’t see it! Where was the godforsaken park?

After what seemed like five more miles, a guy on the side of the road cheered for us and yelled “two more right turns and you’re done!” So, I made one right turn… and only saw people running forever! And still nothing looked like a ballpark! Then I saw runners making another right turn and I started picking up my pace. I couldn’t quite hear the cheering that marks most race finish lines, but I could distantly recognize the voice of an announce. And was he announcing finish times?

I took the final right turn, chugged down a brick road hill and then crossed through a threshold… into the ballpark! There had to be thousands of people in the ballpark—and they were all cheering! I felt like a superstar! I crossed into the ballpark and saw the big finish arch 250 yards around the warning track. So, I kicked into super gear and sprinted toward the finish. And as I crossed the finish line at 1:54:10, I yelped with joy! I finished a half marathon! Woo hoo!

I collected my finisher’s medal and aluminum blanket (which I ditched early and then froze off my butt later), and then somehow found Melissa, Jeff and Vincent in the crowd of thousands! We took photos, complained about how badly I smelled and then took off for cupcakes.

A hazelnut cupcake was my celebration dessert of choice, but I took home a You-Must-Be-Chipping-Me cupcake, which is now in my freezer and waiting to be enjoyed. Main Street Cupcakes also has a most-delicious pumpkin spice cupcake right now, which Melissa was nice enough to let me try… and I was dopey enough not to get.

Unfortunately, I won’t be celebrating a 5K this Saturday with that pumpkin spice cupcake. I’ve been out of commission all week with the flu, and unless a super miracle of energy and healing happens between now and Saturday morning, I’ll have to sit this one out. I’m most bummed because it’s the Bowman Cup 5K at Kent State. It was supposed to be my first race ever—when I first tried running in 2006, I thought I would give Bowman a try, but I didn’t think I could run 3.1 miles!

How funny is that? What a difference a year makes! I guess there is always next year. Besides, my calf is still a little achy. It would probably appreciate the extra rest. And I guess the flu is the best way for my body to force me into some calf-healing time.

Now I have to figure out what’s next. I really enjoyed having a focused training plan—something that made sense and helped me work toward a specific goal. So, I’ll have to figure out what races are in my future. And, you know, which cupcakes are best for those celebrations!