Monday, December 31, 2012

The End is Near

As 2012 comes to a close and I look back on my year in running, I'm pleasantly surprised. While the past two months have been a huge disappointment, I actually made major strides as a runner this year. 

Thinking about the year, I opened my blog to see what I said at the end of 2011. I started with a list of accomplishments and things I'd wished I'd accomplished. I was happy to see that in 2012, I did all the things I'd wanted to do but hadn't in 2011 (PR the 10k, break 1:40 in the half). 

In 2012, I'm proud to say I:
Ran 2 marathons 
Won 3 age-group awards (5k, 4 mile, 10 mile)
PR'd in every distance!
Got more involved in the Buffalo Chips, both as a runner and volunteer

In January of 2012, I set a few goals for the year:
PR the 10k  (Check)
PR the half, even if by a few seconds (Check)
Run a 3:55 (or-gasp-a 3:50) marathon (Check, and check!!!)
Generally, be more dedicated and run faster (Check)

As much as I like to PR, the final goal of being a better overall runner is what I'm happiest about. Doing long runs- and even marathons- became less taxing this year. I'm now able to keep up with the Chips I run with on long runs, and I PR'd on a very challenging marathon course in San Francisco. Who knows how well I would have done on a flat course?

A few things I wish I'd done this year:
Run 3 marathons
Qualified for the Boston Marathon 
Not taken over 2 months off

It is reassuring, but still frustrating, that the things I didn't accomplish are all due to my broken leg. I took up a new sport (climbing) that I love, and I paid a bit of a price for it this year. Hopefully I'll be back running sooner rather than later. 

Overall, in 2012 I ran 1128 miles (not counting the run/walking I'm doing now), up from 1042 in 2011. And that was my total as of October 22. I'm sure I would have gotten close to 1400 without the broken leg.

Time for a new year and new goals, coming soon to a blog near you!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

To Get Back to The Point

Sometimes I forget that this is a running blog. Sometimes I want it to be something else: a place for politics and funny things and food. That would likely complicate things, and is certainly a topic for another post.

To get back to the purpose of this running blog, I thought it about time to write a few words on how running is going now that I'm working my way back into it.

In two words: IT STINKS!

In all seriousness, I'm frustrated. I'm oddly zen about it, as I have been since the break. It isn't like the feeling of a poor performance where I know I could have done better. I just can't expect to be back immediately.

I started last week with 1 minute running/4 minutes walking, 4 times, bookended by 5 minutes of walking (30 minutes total). My PT told me to wait a day to see if anything hurt, then up it to 2 run/3 walk, until I get to 5 minutes in a row of running. Well, 1/4 went fine, as did 2/3 a few days later.

Unfortunately, the 3/2 I did yesterday went very poorly. By my third set, my left leg hurt while running. I finished out the 30 minutes, but it was mildly painful. I was advised not to progress in distance if I was in pain, and not to progress if I had pain the next day. Well, I'm two for two on that!

Today, I took it easy on the leg and rode the recumbent bike for 30 minutes (6.5 miles). My left hip is actually pretty sore, so I'm thinking a few days of non-impact activity is called for. I may start back up at 2 minutes of running and 3 of walking to play it safe, before I try 3/2 again.

So frustrating, but not as frustrating as developing a new injury.

Running Makes You Smarter

Photo credit:
We all knew that already, though, didn't we?

An article in the New York Times today (Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain) discussed studies on the evolution of human physical ability and brain development, and how they are believed to be linked. The researchers posit that the ability to perform endurance athletics such as long-distance running developed alongside advances in mental acuity. In other words, humans evolved to be smarter animals as they evolved the ability to run.

The researchers continue, stating that it stands to reason that exercise has positive effects on mental function, even in immediate, not evolutionary, timeframes. I.E. running makes you smarter.

Don't take my word for it; read the article for yourself here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Ice is Getting Thinner

Last night, I had the opportunity to see an eye-opening documentary called Chasing Ice. Several local organizations sent our e-blasts about free tickets sponsored by the Kendeda Fund (part of the Tides Foundation), so I thought I'd check it out. I'm glad I did.

Photo Credit:
The film follows a team of scientists-slash-photographers from the Extreme Ice Survey as they plan and implement the huge undertaking of documenting the melting of the world's icebergs, to demonstrate the immediacy and importance of climate change. The EIS team designs pods to be placed at remote locations to capture time-lapse imagery of the ice melting over several years; the first half of the film captures the installation, maintenance, reasoning, and human interest of this immense task.

While the first half of the film takes viewers to remote and beautiful locations, it is the second half of the film that shows how those locations are quickly changing. In breathtaking time-lapse detail as well as video from excursions, we see just how rapidly huge icebergs are melting and disappearing. Huge sheets of ice, the size of five football fields, calve off and sink into the ocean. Environmental contaminants, brought to the ice caps in the air, burn holes in the ice and melt it away. Huge rivers form where ice once ruled.

This is happening right now. While most of us realize that science is agreed that climate change is real, those needing visual "proof" can find it in the images from this film. It is at once breathtaking, beautiful, and absolutely frightening. The main scientist in the film, Jim Blalog, says that in 30 years, when his daughters ask him what he was doing when climate change was rapidly altering the face of the earth, he wants to be able to say he was doing everything he knew how to do.

I hope more of us strive to be able to say the same thing. I know I aspire to do just that.

To learn more and find a location where the film is playing, visit

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I Heart Asics!

I'm one happy lady after coming home to a shiny new pair of Asics Gel-Blur 33s on my doorstep today! I entered a twitter contest from @AsicsAmerica and @boomboomreed, and scored a fancy new pair of free, super cute shoes! I can't wait to try them out!

Back to My Evil Ways

Monday night run/walk 2 miles, yoga.
Tuesday climbing.
Wednesday lunch yoga.
Thursday night climbing. 
Friday, mostly rest.
Saturday morning yoga, run/walk 2.3 miles.

All that to say, I'm getting back to it! I've done a few good 5.11a routes, and I'm even feeling ready to try my hand at a 5.11b. I got over the overhang on the middle wall finally, though I didn't make it to the top of the route yet. I'm feeling much stronger at yoga, and I'm up to 8 minutes total of running within the 30 minute session.

Yay for going overboard!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quarry Trail: A Beautiful Day in Auburn

The sun may not have been out, and the sky may have threatened rain, but yesterday the hills of Auburn were host to a fantastic day of hiking. After a false start (i.e. me not knowing where I was going), the Quarry Trail appeared. 

Having explored several of the shorter trails near the Confluence, I picked the Quarry Trail both for the sneak peak at the quarry climbing area, as well as for the variety of historical remnants it boasts. The trail is mostly flat, with only the slight occasional grade, which was welcome after last weekend's steep (but short) hike. 

Starting out, the trail follows the water from a high vantage. Soon, the limestone loading docks (what is left of them) mark the side trail to the quarry. I was excited to see the quarry as I hope to climb there soon, but I was not prepared for how beautiful it would be. It baffles my mind that people gutting the earth for raw materials can create such a beautiful sight. A steep hike up through the quarry took us to a shaded path leading back to the main trail, making a nice mile or so downhill diversion after the amazing sight of the limestone walls.

Continuing past the quarry, the trail continues to follow the water, passing a paleontological cave and Murderer's Bar Rapids (which you can more hear than see). The Quarry Trail then meets the Western States Trail, which looks so slight in comparison to the large stature it claims in my mind due to the famous race that traverses it. 
Limestone loading docks
Following the river

After a few hours of strolling, we turned back, and ate near the limestone loading docks. Suddenly, the chill was more menacing than it had been while walking (I had even taken my jacket off for a time), so we set out back to the car. My knee was achey by that point, but I'm happy to report that it feels fine today, even after the five or so miles hiked. The evening trip to the hot tub may have helped my recovery. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Stagecoach Trail

After hearing the word "hike" last night, I woke up this morning itching to get outside. I went in my kitchen, grabbed the trail guides I printed out in the spring when Julia and I started being outdoorsy together, and got to planning.

I picked the Stagecoach Trail, which is in the Auburn State Recreation Area just off the confluence. After a 45 minute drive, I parked and set off on my hike.

Of course, the trail I decided to take today is an 8% average grade, with the highest grade at 23%. It was uphill the entire way! I could definitely feel my lack of aerobic fitness after about 15 minutes.

I'm not sure that I took the actual trail all the way, because I ended up at the foot of the Foresthill Bridge, then the trail I was on hit a dead end. I think I went about a mile each way, and the trail is two each way. There were several places where I could have gone a different direction, so I'm sure I just did my usual and went the wrong way.

When I had walked back down to the confluence, I sat and read for about an hour on the beach. It was just beautiful!

In the Meantime

In my last two weeks of recovery, I had some fun times. Here are a few photos.

Had a fantastic Thanksgiving (two actually) with friends.

Made awesome Star Wars snowfakes (with skilled help, of course)!

Scored the ugliest sweater for this season's parties.

It's A Long Way to the Top

It has been almost a week since I ditched the brace and "started rehabbing" my sad little slowly mending leg. I'm ashamed to say I haven't been getting as much accomplished as I'd like.

I started Monday with a gym session, followed by some overly ambitious climbing. I wore the brace unlocked so I could bend my knee, which made more difficult climbs do-able in theory. In practice, my endurance on non-juggy holds isn't what it was two months ago. I think I got a few 5.10bs done, but struggled on a 5.10d that I should have left alone, and finished up on an adjacent 5.9. I probably embarrassed myself, and should have known better than to be that ambitious on day 1.

I've been doing the few PT exercises I have so far (mostly leg lifts of different sorts), but didn't get back to the gym after Monday due to a hectic work and social schedule. I'm excited to start real PT tomorrow and hopefully get on a faster track.

I took the plunge and went to yoga yesterday morning, and man was it a challenge! Standing poses were noticeably more difficult that I remember, but for the most part I could do everything (albeit a bit modified at times). Of course, it is frustrating to be so far from where I was a few months ago, when I'd finally gotten the swing of yoga. I'm sure it'll come back soon.

In other news, I took another plunge and bought Brooks Pure Cadence running shoes on Friday. I've been wanting to ditch my clunky Asics 2170s and orthotics and try out some lighter, more minimal running shoes for some time. Since I'm not in the middle of training and I am really starting from scratch, now is the time.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Marathon Blues

When I left the CIM finish line at 9:35 this morning, I was excited to get back into running and finish my sixth marathon. I could almost taste it. The rush of watching the finishers momentarily distracted me from the reality of what will come between now and that next finish line. 

Over the following few hours, I hung out with the Chips who ran CIM, from our fastest finisher at 2:44, to the group I train with at 3:38. The limping and vivid race recounting reminded me of my race finishes, and fed my desire to get to the finish line once again. 

As the sun came out over the Capitol, and more Chips migrated over to the tent, something peculiar happened. My longing to get to the finish line gave way to jealousy towards the finishers, for their achievement of running what for most was a good race in horrendous conditions. I stated to think about how I would have been so well trained for this race, and how I would have the badge of honor of a decent finish time despite the conditions. Had I run, I probably would have lamented the conditions for depriving me of the BQ I sought (which I'm assuming I would have missed). Not having run, I lament that I didn't get the experience of running in the downpour and 40 mile per hour gusts that today's race boasted. 

Hearing the race stories, and the talk of next races, I started to lose my earlier excitement thinking of the road ahead of me. Since I started running marathons, I haven't taken much time off after each race. Usually, I have an immediate target, and for most races, it has been less than eighteen weeks after my last race. For the most part, I recover for a week from one race and get right back into training. 

With my current situation, I don't have momentum to start from. I haven't run, or done any cardio at all, for six weeks. My left leg has lost a significant amount of muscle mass, and my right leg probably has lost some as well. I haven't had the opportunity to test this theory, but my balance probably isn't great, I'm probably not too stable, all meaning that my stride probably isn't in too great of shape. 

Unlike previous times when I've started training, I can't 'start out slow' with 30 mile weeks. My doctor specifically told me I can't even start with 15 mile weeks. I have to start run-walking, and gradually build up mileage. My cardio cross training is similarly limited, with rest days built in to make sure I don't develop an overuse injury.

Thinking about all this made me feel pretty down, and really didn't make me too excited to start running (even after the excellent morning rush of the finish line). Run-walking and aiming for a short distance race in a few months aren't things I normally aspire to. I feel like less of a runner, less of an athlete, for having to start from scratch.

At the same time, I feel like a horrible whiner for thinking this way. I've been so good over the past year or so at not being a pessimist, and not worrying about things that don't matter. Obviously, recovery matters, but it isn't something I should let myself get this upset about. People, including my coach (a world class athlete, no less), suffer much worse injuries and much slower recoveries than I'm faced with. I just broke my fibula, which only supports 8% of one's body weight. Sure, my leg muscles atrophied a bit, but my range of motion is mostly intact, and my connective tissues didn't suffer any damage. I really don't have anything to complain about.

The most important thing for me to do is be positive, work as hard as I can without overdoing it, and take solace in the fact that I'm done with my six weeks. Well, I guess I should say I'm done with the first six weeks. I have many weeks ahead.

There's No Place Like Home

If there was any worry that I wouldn't be motivated to run after my extended layoff, the past hour has extinguished that idea completely. I showed up early to the CIM finish line to watch the elites finish before starting my shift at the Chips chow tent. I've never really been a spectator before, so I didn't really know what to expect.

Watching the top men finishers approach the finish, soaked and in obvious pain from the cold, wet conditions, have me the strangest feeling. I got an incredible urge to be soaked, achy, and an hour from finishing marathon number six.

That intense desire is more for the incredible feeling at the finish line. That combination of pain, sweat and accomplishment is unrivaled by anything else. Watching the elites finish CIM with the most agonized race faces on gave me that peculiar, teary-eyed longing for my own finish line.

In a word, I'm an addict. There's no place like a marathon finish line!

Top male (back) and male relay (front) finishers approach the finish line, at 2:13

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Day of Reckoning Has Arrived

Tomorrow, thousands of people will run the California International Marathon. I won't be one of them. It is still surreal that something I was so excited about, working so hard towards, is going to come and go so easily.

I haven't been biting my nails all week watching the weather reports of an upcoming "stormageddon," and neither have I been carefully planning and executing a pre-race-week meal plan. I haven't been making sure I get extra sleep, and I haven't been checking and re-checking my gear and race fueling plan.

I worked the Expo today, staffing the Buffalo Chips booth where we weighed in the Clydesdales and Athenas, and sold Chips gear and memberships. I started off by picking up my race packet and turing in my timing chip. I perused the booths, feeling much like an interloper, only recognizable as such from the waist down (and not recognizable when in front of a table).

The fact remains that it'll be a while before I'll be as well-trained, as ready to make a BQ attempt, as I was the day before I broke my leg six weeks ago. Fresh from three nearly-back to back marathons in a year, I was handling milage well and really making strides toward achieving my speed goals. Maybe it won't take as long as I think to get back to that place, but I don't want to assume it will be easy. Maybe I shouldn't be a pessimist, but I really don't want to have my hopes up and just be severely disappointed when I can't run a sub-1:40 half or a sub-3:50 full in the next six months.

On the plus side, tomorrow's CIM brings an opportunity to support my team. I'll be at the finish line Buffalo Chips booth feeding our finishers, hearing their race stories. I have quite a few friends with high goals for tomorrow, and I'm excited to see how they do.

Tomorrow also brings the Buffalo Bash, our annual holiday/awards banquet. I didn't attend last year,  since I didn't feel like a "real" Chip yet, which makes me all the more excited to attend this year.

Next year, I know I'll run the San Francisco Marathon in June. I know I'll be able to finish in under 4:00, and I hope I'm able to PR. Aside from that, who know. Maybe I'll be able to run a spring half, but I doubt I'll run a spring full marathon like I'd planned. I very unlikely to both complete my 10 marathons by 30 goal, and qualify for Boston. Qualifying for Boston seems more likely. 10 by 30 was an arbitrary, Monk-ish goal anyway...