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Monday, December 30, 2019

The end.

It looks like running is over for me for the foreseeable future! About two weeks before my due date, I started having really bad SI joint and lower back pain. Running doesn't help it at all, so it's on the shelf!
After the pain started, I did try one short 3 mile run/walk. It wasn't the worse pain in the world, but it just didn't seem like a good idea to me, so I decided against future runs (most annoying part of this run is that I planned to just enjoy one last excursion in the park, sort of saying "farewell for now" before many weeks off...and instead ran into an acquaintance who talked my ear off the whole time and made dire predictions about my running future postpartum).
So that's the end of running. I ran about 1550 miles pregnant, most of which were frankly miserable, and I do hope I can exercise some self-control when  I come back so I don't permanently damage my pelvic floor.
Speaking of which, I can get a referral to a pelvic floor specialist who can help me rehab and return to running with a personalized timeline, so that's the plan!

I've avoided registering for any 2020 races so far, but the bug to race is definitely there - I'm thinking the Crescent City Classic in April would be a nice comeback race. It's just 10k so I should be able to swing it!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Running clothes for pregnancy

I had to do some wardrobe updates to keep running while pregnant. I wasn't happy about it (you know I'm cheap!), but I had no choice.

First trimester:
I actually lost weight in my first trimester because I was very, very sick. However, I still needed to size up in bras! I started out by buying some slightly larger size smalls: I find that Champion's most basic bras are not only really cheap (I got some for $3.99!), they also tend to be roomy. The Champion Absolute in my usual size worked for the first trimester. Other than that, I didn't need new clothes, even though I was already showing (due to my incarcerated uterus, I had a visible baby bump at seven weeks....yeah, that was stupid). Luckily, few of my running tops were fitted, all my shorts have some stretch, and as the weather warmed up, I usually just ran in a bra, anyway.

Second trimester:
Bam, weight gain. Between weeks 10 and 28, I gained THIRTY pounds (total - just 20 net thanks to weight loss early - but still, that's a lot of weight gain!). By the end of the second trimester, I was definitely too big for some of my old clothes.

  • Bras: I now had to size up to mediums. I bought a few basic Nike Pro sports bras on Ebay because they have comfortable tape bands across the rib cage. I also was given two Brooks bras that were 34C and they fit, too, although the band actually felt tight!
  • Tops: Ugh, nothing fit. I had a few flowy tops I could wear, but they were snug in the chest. I mostly ran shirtless since my second trimester was in the heat of summer anyway.
  • Shorts: At first, I was able to switch to some of my drawstring-waist shorts and loosen up the tie. But my shorts size changed - I tend to gain weight in my butt anyway, and add to that an expanding pelvis - well, soon most of my shorts were too tight. I bought a pair of new shorts I thought might work, since rumor has it they are stretchy and run large: these. They were also cheap...but they didn't work. The waist was too tight to stretch over the bump, and they chafed. I bought a few mediums, but they had too much extra fabric in the front. I ended up sticking with my all-time favorite shorts, the Coeur Sports run short, which are stretchy and roomy. I could tuck the waistband under my stomach with no problem. I just wore my regular size - no need to buy anything new.
  • Shoes: I had a ton of swelling in my legs and feet starting in my second trimester. It was the worst after standing all day or sleeping all night - so, you know, early morning or after work, the two times I run. Naturally. I was able to accommodate the swelling by re-lacing, and my shoe size didn't change.
Tights under the belly...shirt stretched within an
inch of its life. Eight months here. 

Third Trimester: 
I didn't run all that much in the third trimester, because I had a freak pregnancy tendon injury. Once I figured out how to tape it for stability, I started to run again, but then my SI joints started giving me hip pain. I finally got that under control, only to immediately get a terrible cold. In the last three months of pregnancy, I've run 291 miles to date. That's less than I ran in the single month of March! But when I did run, clothes got complicated. The weather got colder, and I got bigger, and not a lot fit! 
When it was still warm enough, I ran in shorts, and my Coeur Sports shorts still fit. But for colder weather, I tried to wear my regular tights pushed under my belly and ended up with a cold strip of stomach. My long-sleeved running shirts were tight and too short. But by now I am not about to buy some larger clothes, so I am just muscling through, even though I look ridiculous! 

  • Senita makes inexpensive maternity wear that would have been a good purchase early in my pregnancy. By the time I discovered them, I didn't feel it was worth it. They do also have some nursing tops and bras - good to know! 
  • Depending on where and how you gain weight, you might be able to swing your regular clothes, at least for trimesters one and two!
  • Except'll probably want new bras...I bought most of my sized-up bras used to save money, since I don't know what size I will end up. 
  • Many people say that your shoe size will change during pregnancy, so it's probably a good idea to get re-sized at a running store. Mine didn't, however. Unless it changes in the last few weeks here!
  • I did not use a belly support band, even though many people suggested it. I never felt I needed one, but I did buy one early on. I have NO IDEA how you are supposed to run or workout in these things. They're uncomfortable and have a weird, restrictive fit - like I am not sure how you could run at all with one on; they sit across your hips which you'll be trying to move, I assume! This is the one I got, and now I need to sell it on Ebay (which is where I bought it to begin with)! 
  • I chafed in weird places, like my waistband, where I normally wouldn't. Be careful!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Turkey Day "race' which I managed to finish 5 miles

With a posterior tibial tendon tear, wonky hips, and almost 8 months of pregnancy, running Turkey Day would be a bad idea for me. BUT. I had already registered, and I really hated the thought of missing that race. Even though this is almost always a bad race for me (including last year's water contamination disaster!), I love seeing so many friends on Thanksgiving morning. This race is big, and the whole city comes out to run or walk, it seems.

I've been in physical therapy for my tendon, but healing is progressing very, very slowly. It's like my body is building something new instead of repairing, haha. I've been injured for over a month, and the pain is only slightly less at rest and still the same with activity. The area remains swollen and discolored, as well. My doctor pointed out that the etiology of the tear was probably my constant calf cramps as I sleep: combined with a tendon weakened by relaxin, the tear was unavoidable. That would explain how I woke up with this injury, and also part of the reason why it won't heal: my calves continue to cramp all night!

Despite my minimal progress, my therapist suggested I tape my ankle if I really wanted to race. I have been doing just a minute or two on the treadmill in PT to test the tendon, and if I run with it taped, it really doesn't hurt that much. I've actually gradually moved to athletic tape plus an elastic arch wrap instead of a boot or brace. It's a lot less cumbersome, and I think it's about the same support as the brace and much better than the boot, which I can't get tight enough to support the tendon.

So on race day, I went ahead and taped my ankle and got my stuff together, including a dead Garmin that I had to charge in the car! We found parking and headed to the start pretty late, since no way was I going to warm up: I hadn't been running, my ankle was injured, and my hips and SI joints have been killing me. Five miles would be MORE than enough! Every time I've raced pregnant, I've moved further and further back from the start. On Thanksgiving I slunk back to the row containing people-who-run-races-in-sweatpants, which is about my speed these days (side note: this row also contains people-who-don't-wear-deodorant).

I was pretty hesitant when the gun went off, fearing instant pain in my ankle, but it wasn't too bad. Actually, my hips were the bigger problem! My left hip - which always gives me problems - just isn't right anymore, and I can't lift that leg well. I didn't plan on racing this race AT ALL, just running a comfortable pace, and I ran mile 1 in 8:14. I actually thought that was fast for the circumstances. I kept my pace pretty conversational, which was good, since plenty of people wanted to talk. People are VERY encouraging to pregnant runners! It felt weird to be running without racing, but I let the miles just tick by. I passed or was passed by many people I knew, so we talked a bit - I also had to tie my shoe twice, which was annoying (especially since tying my shoes is a bit more of an ordeal these days!). My hip remained very stiff and painful. My ankle was totally manageable, though. Due to construction, the course changed this year, so I wasn't able to look for familiar landmarks, just the mile markers: and the last mile came up fast. People started to speed up, so I did, too. The race finished in Tad Gormley stadium, and I had to chuckle at my awkward bumbling around the track to the finish line. I was extremely surprised to see 39:44 on the clock. I'd been running 8+ minute miles the whole way! I assumed the new course was short, but actually, it wasn't. Caught up in the fast last mile mood, I ran a 7-flat for mile five...which means that I am sure I could have run the whole thing a little faster. Oh well. I had other goals this year!

Post-race was just what I was looking for, and worth the rather painful run: we saw so many friends, including a good friend from out of town who was at the race with a friend; the Power Milers, who did really well (Paige won overall; Tyler and Casey were second and third); friends from the New Orleans Athletic Club, our gym, which puts on the race; runner friends and holiday heroes only. It was definitely my last race pregnant, and might well be my last RUN pregnant, and it was a fun way to take a bow!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Posterior tibialis tendon tear!

Ooof. Cannot catch a break over here. I have been having weird foot and leg pains for a while now, things I never experienced before and attributed to Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis. But then it all evolved into ankle and lower leg pain, and got bad enough that I was having a hard time putting weight on it. When the pain woke me up at night, I decided it was time to see a doctor. Luckily, Tulane recently opened an extended-hours sports medicine clinic geared toward student athletes and busy professionals who are at work or at class or practice from 9-5. I got a 6:30 appointment with the foot and ankle specialist: the same doctor I saw for my last stress reaction (gosh, I'm injury-prone). I really like him - he's the head of orthopedics here, and he is the one who recommended a carbon fiber plate in my shoe, which let me run through a stress reaction all the way to one of the best marathons of my life! (SARCASM, it was terrible in every way). I was happy to get in to see him so fast, and I'm a huge fan of the extended hours offered now!

He's one of those seen-it-all doctors, so as soon as he saw my foot he said, "posterior tibialis, right?" and confirmed the tendon tear by ultrasound. Dang. Diagnosis in ten minutes! Luckily, AS USUAL, I waited so long to see a doctor that I'm past the initial injury and into the healing stage. So the tendon is well on its way to repair. While I only noticed the sudden pain and bulge the last week of October, the damage was probably happening long before, only I was blaming all kinds of other conditions.

The body starts releasing relaxin in pregnancy, a hormone that relaxes pelvic ligaments in preparation for childbirth. Unfortunately, it affects other ligaments and tendons, too, by activating collagenase . This results in tendon laxity and lengthened tendons. In my case, my posterior tibialis tendon is already a mile long thanks to my super high arches, and all of a sudden it was flopping down like loose skin. Without the support of the tendon, my feet pronated inward, pressuring the attachment point and eventually inducing a slight tear of the tendon. This was the bulge and discoloration I noticed. Unfortunately, it's just one of those pregnancy things - and it could have happened even if I was mostly sedentary. The timing sucks, though, because I wish I could run right now: the weather is finally under 70 most mornings (although it's 84F today, bleah), and I have felt MUCH better running in the third trimester than the second trimester, where every step sucked.

By the way, thought I'd mention - women also release relaxin during the second half of the menstrual cycle, meaning that you may be more prone to tendon, ligament, or cartilage injuries at this time (all of which are affected by relaxin).

I'm currently in either a walking boot or ankle brace (my choice, and it depends on my day; if I'm biking to work I pick the ankle brace) plus PT. I don't have a timeline yet because my doctor isn't sure how my relaxing levels play into this. But I hope I can get over it before the baby gets here - get in a couple of runs at least before I have some forced time off!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Some updates

This pregnancy has had its fair share of complications, and I wanted to update readers quickly. August and September were a little stressful!
I had my routine anatomy scan ultrasound in August, and while we didn't get ANY cute pictures, because this kid NEVER stops moving, we did find out that he or she has pyelectasis, a kidney problem fairly common in fetuses. This is a "watch-out", and may require surgery after birth if it doesn't resolve on its own. However, it's also a Down Syndrome marker. I pulled my other anatomy measurements and, plugging my age and all the date into a reliable risk calculator, realized this baby had a 1 in 64 chance of having the condition. I decided it would be prudent to have a non-invasive blood test to screen.
Now, let me be very clear: I do not consider news that a baby has Down Syndrome to be bad news. It's just news. I absolutely value the lives of those living with Down Syndrome, and we would be happy to welcome a baby with this disease. But it is smart to be prepared for the upcoming challenges, were this the case, so we decided to get the test anyway. It came back negative, which was a relief - despite my willingness to parent a child with Down Syndrome, I feel wholly inadequate to do so! But we still had to schedule follow up for the kidneys, and to try to get a better anatomy scan - baby was moving so much that we missed about half the measurements.

We had the next scan a month later, and now that baby is more crowded and can't really swim away, getting images was easier, so we were able to complete all the important measurements. Unfortunately, the kidneys did not improve, so we're still keeping an eye on that.

More concerning is that the uterine mass that started this whole thing, that has been causing me so much pain and grief for over a year now, grew significantly since my last ultrasound. It's not a good situation: it now takes up the entire uterine wall and bulges into the amniotic space, so there is a concern for fetal growth restriction (right now baby's size is fine). The other concern is that its growth rate, appearance, and perfusion are not typical for a fibroid, and are what you would see in a malignancy. This was the original concern that sent me to the OR back in May, where I found out I was pregnant!
Maternal Fetal Medicine is on board - I still have my regular OB, but they are following me for the mass, the other fibroids, and baby's kidneys - and they recommended an MRI for better imaging due to the concern for cancer. I had the MRI, but it was inconclusive. It ruled out a few (benign) diagnoses, but left us with two potential diagnoses: a degenerating (and atypical) fibroid, versus a leiomyosarcoma. The appearance could be either; my symptoms actually match neither. The first is benign and can certainly be addressed post-partum; the second is a very rare but very aggressive cancer with a poor prognosis. Finally, I was referred to another specialist and got him to read my MRI and his report is positive - he doesn't think the appearance is malignant. We're still watching it - I'll have frequent ultrasounds and additional MRIs if the appearance changes or it continues to grow - but for now there are no plans to deliver early for treatment.

I'm glad to finally have a little peace. At every single doctor's appointment or ultrasound I've had, I've gotten potential bad news, so to finally only have a few minor concerns on the radar is a relief. I am pretty confident baby's kidneys will be normal at birth, as they are only very slightly out of normal range, and as long as baby can continue to grow, I think all will be well. Sure, we still have to take this mass out at some point, but that was already the plan originally! We will cross that bridge when we come to it, and just try to ride out these last two months with minimal drama!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Jazz Half Marathon 2019 race recap

I signed up for the Jazz half with a discount code before I knew I was pregnant, and as the day grew closer I kind of wondered how it would work out: racing a half marathon in the third trimester! But I figured that if I could still complete long runs of 10-12 miles, I'd be fine.
I went into this race really banged up. A surge of the hormone relaxin has wreaked absolute havoc on my feet and legs: my normally strong arches are lax and I cycled rapidly through achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, and now arch-ankle-leg pain so bad I'm limping. I've been experimenting with compression wraps and things, but race day still had me in a lot of pain.

The day didn't start out well. A tropical storm hit New Orleans on Friday night, brining rain, wind, and storms. Its strength was completely unexpected, and took the city off guard. We lost power over and over throughout the morning, and when we got up at 5am, it was pitch black and we didn't have electricity. The storm was still going at this point, so as we groped around by candlelight for our race clothes, we wondered if the race would be cancelled. It was scheduled to start at 7, but my weather app showed the worst would be over at 7, so I guessed that it might just be postponed. I was right: as we headed to packet pickup, the rain and wind died down, and the race posted that the start would be delayed until 7:30. By the time the race started, the rain was a mist, and our biggest obstacles were fierce wind and a lot of debris on the course. The Jazz course is mostly on St. Charles avenue and through Audubon park, and all those oaks leave a lot of downed branches (sadly, Audubon lost one of its majestic oaks in the storm, actually).

I pushed myself back quite a bit from the start, knowing my limitations. Last year I ran this race in 1:27:04, which was a PR (and a surprise). This year the VDOT calculator predicted a 1:40 based on my recent two-miler. Although how accurate could that be? I was a lot more pregnant now! I decided to let my painful feet and legs decide how the race went. The race starts downtown, where GPS is useless, so my first "mile" beeped at 7:27...nowhere near the first mile marker. By mile two, I was really trying to let my feet warm up and maybe stop hurting so much, and I was mostly jog-limping. My GPS mile indicators were way, way off, as is typical, so I wasn't able to really on average pace readouts anyway. But by the time we got onto St. Charles Ave, I was starting to get a stride going, and at mile four I was at about a 7:50 pace (at some point, I rendered my Garmin splits totally useless by cleverly hitting "lap" at the mile marker. I was trying to get back on track so my autolap wasn't beeping so early. But I somehow also hit "stop" and didn't realize it for several tenths of a mile...eventually everything evened out what with GPS error and all, and by the finish my miles were *almost* on track, but basically my splits are useless!).
At the start
I run down St. Charles almost every week, so most of this race is very familiar to me. The only difference was that I was picking through a lot of branches on the ground this time. I got a chance to talk to teammate Paul, who came out to watch, and as I neared the park I got to see the leaders already coming back the other way. Power Milers were in second, third, and fourth for the men, and first and second for the women! I always like a chance to cheer my team on! Speaking of cheers, I was getting a lot of attention for running pregnant. It was really nice, because otherwise I was just another mid-pack runner. This gave me some motivation!

We reached the park after mile seven, and I love running through my park in a race. I was feeling a little better and started to pick it up. I passed two friends I'd seen at the start who had left me earlier in the race, and checked my time. A 1:40 was still doable, despite my slow start, but I'd have to pick it up. I was at 7:45 pace by the 7.1 marker (the relay exchange) and I'd need 7:37. There was Powerade on the course after the first few miles, so I grabbed some of that for some energy. And electrolytes - although it had cooled a lot since we got up - 78F to 65F by the race start! - it was still really humid from the storm.

I exited the park and headed back up St. Charles, trying not to think about taking a bathroom break (ugh!), and kept my pace up. I passed quite a few people in the second half: 35, actually, moving up from 97th to 62nd overall. It was definitely fun to hear the cheers then, because it's bad enough to be the pregnant runner, but the pregnant runner passing people? That gets A LOT of chatter! I can't really sprint anymore, but I did pass one more women right at mile 13, leaving me as 8th woman overall and 3rd in the 30-39 age group. I don't know how baby scored, but I did get two medals at the finish from the sweet and excited finish line volunteers...honestly, I rarely take medals anymore, but I took these so as not to be incredibly rude.
Getting a "Grace Thacker and company" from the announcer at the finish, ha! 
I finally got a bathroom break, but right away my ankle hurt too much to walk. Now that the race is over, I am on break to rest and heal. I don't plan for this to be a break all the way until the baby is born, but you never know. I just need to take enough time to readjust to all the changes that are creating all these injury situations and to let the inflammation die down!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Lessons learned from my 2nd trimester running

Well, here we are, already well into the third trimester, what do you know! Time flies when you're running really slowly. Just kidding, it doesn't fly at all! Here are some lessons I learned from second trimester running.

1. You will slow down. Period. Sorry.
2. But everyone is different. There are other pregnant runners out there cheerily holding paces you can't even remember seeing on your watch. For me, the second trimester brought a massive slow down, adding about 2 minutes per mile to my easy pace and similar slow downs to other paces, like about a minute to my 5k pace. But some pregnant Instagram runners I follow didn't see nearly so much of a slow down. It's totally individual.
3. It's not just about the weight gain. I gained 18 pounds in my first and second trimesters, which, sure - that will slow a girl down! But not two-minute-per-mile down. There's more to it than that. There's both decreased and increased flexibility, joint instability, lack of ability to use the core, increased blood volume, anemia, edema, fatigue, change in center of gravity, round ligament pain, and activity-induced Braxton-Hicks contractions. A lot of changes just make running more difficult! For me, I felt like I had to re-learn how to run every single day. I especially noticed that I no longer had the ability to use my core to propel forward. Apparently, I'm a big core runner, and rely a lot on hips, abs, back, and glutes. Well, forget abs, and without abs to tighten up front, it's hard to engage glutes. On a related note, I also have a lot of pelvic pain from osteitis pubis: a symptom I expected, since I have had it before. It often shows back up in pregnancy! This case is more severe than last time, and where my pectineus muscle attaches on the bone I've been getting pain and pretty severe swelling. I do think running exacerbates this...and I don't care.
4. Warming up helps. For me, the first steps feel terrible, like a completely foreign movement, and I have to stop and stretch every mile for the first few miles. It's very tough at first, and I don't "remember" how to run until about 5 miles in. I do better if I do some dynamic warm ups pre-run. I think this is mostly related to fluid retention; warming up gets some of that lymph and blood flowing.
5. You'll need new clothes! There are only very specific shorts I can fit in - they have to fit under the belly - and I sized up in bras right away. This made me feel pretty bad for low-income pregnant women. We want women to stay active during pregnancy, yet on top of all the other expenses pregnancy brings (not to mention having a child!), they would have to buy activewear, some of the most costly types of clothing. It's no wonder that low income is a predictor of excess gestational weight gain.
6. You will have to rely on feel. As my pace rose almost daily, I could forget pre-planned paces for workouts. It's all by feel. And the good thing is, I easily adjusted. You kind of know what level of effort "5k pace" is, even if it's nowhere near your "normal" 5k pace.
7. New aches, pains, and injuries are possible. I grew up going barefoot almost all of the time, and I have really high arches and strong foot muscles (case in point: a foot exercise is picking up a pen with your feet. I picked it up, turned it on, and wrote my name the first time...this is not a problem for me!). Yet pregnancy brings the hormone relaxin, and suddenly none of those key connections are as strong as they used to be. As my arches grew lax, I developed a bad case of achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis. Because my muscles were already strong, these were particularly hard to treat: this wasn't a case of strengthening solving everything (what did work: rest and an arch wrap).
8. You might actually start to feel better. I didn't actually stop having debilitating fatigue and nausea until the very end of my second trimester, and I started the third trimester feeling a lot better. Part of this could be that my hemoglobin made the superhuman effort to get up to 11.9 recently! Sooooo close to 12! And I can tell. I run most of my long runs in the 9-11 minute range, but if I get below that, it's a good day. I've run a lot more high 8's and low 9's since my anemia improved.
9. People think you're super human. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for any encouragement as I plod around the park, but it kind of amuses me that NOW I get cheers. Not when I was finally able to put all the pieces together and actually run some PRs: now, when I'm trundling around with clearly no object other than my own enjoyment!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

2019 Blue Doo 2-mile race

If at all possible, I try not to skip this race: it is a fundraiser for Tulane prostate cancer research, and this department is one of my primary clients. I know firsthand how much they need the money to continue the lifesaving research they perform. And I love how this is a way to keep your dollars strictly local: I'm not funding a national organization with layers of administration and staff, I'm giving money straight to the doctors who may save the lives of my own friends and family.

And that's why I dragged my 5.5 month pregnant self to a two mile race! This race is on Tulane's uptown campus, just half a mile from my house, so I jogged to the 5pm start as part of my warmup. I did two miles to warm up, and decided against strides. I should have done some, but it was crowded and I felt silly. Actually, I already felt silly without the strides. I was wearing my racing crop top, and I really dislike that it draws attention to my pregnant stomach. It seems like I'm trying to make a statement or get noticed and I'm not...but I have no choice, because my racing singlet doesn't fit at all anymore! I wouldn't be uncomfortable except a stranger asked to take my picture of my belly before the race and I was like..."Oh, no thank you...." and that just made me feel so weird! But I shrugged it off and got up to the start.

This race starts on a very narrow path, basically a sidewalk, and creates a huge bottleneck right away, so I carefully assessed where I should start. Yeah, I'm slower now, but I'm not get-behind-the-walkers slow. I squeezed past a few people to get in about the sixth row of runners. And some guy condescendingly cautioned, "Watch it, mama, you might get run over up there." Eh, I'm pretty sure I won't get run over by you and your type II diabetes, buddy. Not that I blame him for protecting his place at the start: since this is a fundraiser kind of event, you do get those kids and walkers and weekend warrior types who don't appropriately self-seed, so you do have to watch where you line up. Which is what I was doing, too!

It had rained just a few minutes before the race started, so the surfaces - including areas of slippery brick - were wet, but unlike last week, the rain brought blessed coolness. It was only a little over 80F at the start - I've run this race when it was nearly 100, so this was a nice change. I was a little concerned about my footing in my Zoom Fly SPs, especially since this course has a ton of twists and turns, but I was still thankful for the cool rain!

We started, and I saw all my teammates ahead before they basically vanished from view. As usual, there was a little surge of youngsters who pushed ahead, but by the half mile mark, they had faded, the crowd had thinned, and we were all running steadily. Most of this course is tricky - narrow pathways, sharp turns, and a campus full of college kids make it challenging. I took extra care on sharp turns, and kept my footing on the bricks, too, so the rain didn't end up creating too much of a problem. I was running by "two mile effort" feel, but every so often I glanced at my overall pace. I was at 6:55 at the half mile mark, which was faster than my estimated 7-minute pace. There were two women in front of me in blue Guidos singlets (another local running group) and I told myself that if they were still in front of me at the mile mark, I should try to pass them.

Approaching mile one was a tough section of the crowded campus, and I had to dodge some students, but I felt ok as I passed the first mile in 6:49. I was a little worried that mile one was too fast. Right after the first mile is my favorite part: a straight out-and-back section that lets you see the other runners. Normally I wouldn't be able to say much while racing a two-miler, but this time - why not? I cheered all my teammates! I noticed Brock and Casey were running together in 2nd and 3rd, and Michelle and Paige had 1st and 2nd wrapped up. Then I rounded the hairpin turn and headed the other way. Ugh, that turn. I always lose so much time there. This time was no exception: a peek at my watch said my lap pace was 7:10!

Oh, heck no, I thought. And I threw in a little surge to get my lap pace back down to the 6:40's AND pass both women in blue who were in front of me. For the rest of the mile, I passed two more people, but I ended up in the same position, because two people passed me! One was my friend Dewey, who saw me ahead at the turnaround and was not thrilled with the idea of being beaten by a pregnant girl, and the other was a guy I passed right near the end but who out-sprinted me at the finish. I like how this race finishes, with a long straight section (the rest of the race is nothing but twists and turns). You can see the clock for a good 400 meters. But I no longer have ANY kick at all, so it didn't do me much good this time! At least I didn't slow down; in fact, I ran a negative split with a chip time of 13:33. I had estimated 14 minutes before the race started, so I was pretty pleased with that. And I also finished a distant fifth female, which is nice (thanks for not showing up, other fast girls).

The Powermilers turn this race into a competition between two mostly balanced teams of runners, black team and white team (our colors), but having a pregnant lady on team black apparently hurt us, since we finished 2:30 behind team white by cumulative time! Ha! Sorry, guys! Otherwise, we had a great night as a team, taking most of the top spots, and our ladies went 1-2. Another fun night at the Blue Doo, and I didn't totally embarrass myself!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Run to Remember 5k

I have mixed feelings about racing pregnant. On the one hand, I want to continue to do things I enjoy, and that feel normal to me. But on the other hand, it seems kind of pointless...I'm only getting slower, and races probably won't benefit me in any way. However, this race definitely did have a benefit of some sort: it was a fundraiser for the Coast Guard Foundation, which cares for the families of fallen Coast Guard members. As a former Coastie brat, and teammate of the race director, I knew I should support.
My teammate Rachel is from the midwest, and therefore doesn't mind driving. It's a midwest thing, I tell you. You plan a visit with a friend from Ohio and start looking for flights, and they give you a startled look and tell you it's only a two-day drive, why fly?! So anyway, Rachel drives an HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES one way to join us for workouts on Tuesdays and Sundays, which never ceases to amaze me. So I figured I owed it to her to drive that distance once to come to her race! Actually, not race. Run. It was an untimed, bib-less run. But measured to a perfect 5k, so kudos to Rachel for that, which can be hard to accomplish for a small race run in neighborhoods!

The run began with a short memorial service at 10am, so we started running around 10:30. In Houma, Louisiana. In early September. In other words, it was incredibly hot. We had rain in the morning, and unfortunately it stopped shortly before we got going, and a brilliant sun poured down instead. Steam rose around us and we got the worst possible scenario: almost 100% humidity AND bright, hot sun! It was mid-80's, but it felt a lot hotter. I realized that my sunscreen was totally gone after my sweaty warmup, and I hadn't thought to bring more. Not surprisingly, I got a toasty burn.

I knew from my warmup that my legs were pretty tired. We had a tempo workout on Friday of 5xmile at tempo with 60-second jogs. I ran those miles faster than usual, and I was feeling it! I figured I could probably run around 7-minute miles, even on tired legs, but it turns out that the heat was a factor, too. We started  with a simple,"Go!", and were running on grass before moving onto the roads in a subdivision. This course was entirely within a subdivision, and there was absolutely no shade at all at any point on the course. We were being baked. Rachel was lead bike, and near her ran a fellow Coast Guard officer. She was joined by a few Power Milers, but no one was racing, since it was an untimed event. I ran a hard-tempo feel, and tried to keep the lead bike in my site: there were arrows on the course, but I could see myself missing one and spending the rest of my life wandering a subdivision in Houma, passing identical McMansions for days and asking if I'd already passed Garfield street, or was it Coolidge street? Indeed, the course was - well, boring. Just a lot of the exact same for the whole thing! The only change up was the start on grass and finish on gravel. I was surprised that my pace was around 7:10; I felt like it was a little faster, but eh. That's life these days. I ran almost exactly even, picking it up a little for the final mile, and ran 22:06 by my Garmin. The last 0.2ish was on a gravel drive, and I lost my footing and almost fell, but I caught myself. Thank goodness. I did NOT want to be the gigantic pregnant lady sliding through the gravel and creating a scene! Ha! It didn't feel like a 5k, but then  - it wasn't a real race, and since I was totally alone, sore, tired, and puffy, I think defaulting to a tempo was to be expected.
Power Milers represent! Rachel is on the far right. I'm the pregnant one on the ground.
I'm glad I ran, though. I have a few other races coming up: the Blue Doo (another cause I simply MUST support!) and the Jazz Half (I registered ages ago so now I'm on the hook for 13 miles in my 3rd trimester, lucky me). I needed a low-key "race" to rip the bandaid off and get back into the swing of things. Got to get used to pacing when you're slower and all that! It's actually harder than it seems! It was also great to see Rachel shine as race director: she's such a dedicated member of the Power Milers, balancing hard training with long drives and a military career, and we're lucky to have her. We always joke that she's the youngest and most mature member of our team! Putting on a race is a big endeavor, and I was pleased for her that everything went so well and that all the participants had fun.

Monday, September 2, 2019

UNO cross country opener

This year, the University of New Orleans did something pretty cool: it turned its first cross country race into an open event. Any team or individual could register. I hope they get more publicity the second year (first year events are always hard!), because that's such a good idea! When else do you get to race on a cross country team once you're out of college?
UNO's coach and assistant coach are both Power Milers, so our club put together a team. Mostly because I pressured them into it. It turns out that no other club teams entered, only college tams, but we can certainly work to change that for next year!
I had intended to run this race to support UNO athletics (it was a fundraiser - and cheap at that; $15 for an individual entry). We couldn't field a girls team: too many of us were busy that night. But I thought I'd trundle out there anyway. I wasn't worried about finishing last or something; it was just for a good cause! But unfortunately I had a really stressful and busy week, and the registration deadline passed without me even thinking about it. This is really not like me, so I'm blaming the baby. A baby is very convenient like that.
I still wanted to spectate, so David and I packed a snack and headed out. We got there just as the girls race finished and with plenty of time to watch the guys run.
Headed to the line

The cool thing about cross country races is that they tend to be on repeat loop courses for the sake of space. That also means good spectating. We joined some other team members and spent the race dashing from side to side of the 5k course!

Kenneth runs in Zoom Flys on the grass!
What was cool was watching their strategy. The college kids almost dropped our guys at the beginning, but after mile one, we were back in the mix. Slowly our guys - probably with the benefit of age - worked their way up; Casey finished thirteenth overall as our top finisher, and I was impressed to see Pat finish strong, moving well up in position from his place at mile one. Kenny also ran well in his very first cross country race...and not wearing spikes!

I know this had to be a tough race, because it was a million degrees out (ok, well, low 90's). And super humid. I was hot just watching them run! But our team ended up 5th out of 8, which I think is pretty impressive against a bunch of college kids. Next year I hope we can run a women's team as well!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The 2019 Power Mile

After my experience at Greek Fest, I knew a PR was out of the question for the Power Mile. My club puts this race on, and this year we moved it up to the first of June. We were hoping for cooler temperatures compared to the end of July, and maybe more crowds, but actually we just ended up with a less-acclimated field!
There were other changes this year, too: a new double-loop course on Carrollton Avenue, which omitted the sharp right turn at the finish that the old course had, and an afterparty at Rock 'n Bowl (a bowling lane/bar). I'd worked packet stuffing and early packet pick up the week leading up to the race, and on race day arrived early for day-of packet pick-up. I knew it wasn't going to be a good day for me. That morning, since I wasn't running early, I suggested to David that we go on a leisurely walk with our morning coffee. And I felt terrible. I was weak and faint and had to sit down. We cut our walk short, and I went to bed for some of the day. By the time the race rolled around, I was very happy it was only a mile!

The race has several heats, and I decided that it would be fun to pace David for the open mile. He wanted to run 7:00 and I was happy to help before my race started. Not something I would do before a real race, but totally ok under the circumstances of being 10 weeks pregnant and having been sick ALL day.
Sub-7:00 was kind of a lofty goal... and David wimped out, resulting in some on-course dramatics from the two of us hams.

Anyway, he pulled off a 7:10, which was still a huge PR, and we certainly had fun!

After the open race, I had a break before the "elite" heat. I jogged a little more to stay warmed up before scooting back into the starting corral. I politely got in a back row - I'm a little bitter about it, but I've accepted that I'm no front-packer these days.
I do love a good mile race! I knew I had to temper my expectations, but still - there was another runner I know who moved ahead of me by the first 400m, and I knew I should be faster than her, even pregnant. I ran the first quarter in 1:24 and told myself to hang on to that and I'd be ok. I rounded the corner at the halfway point and heard my split: 2:48. Great! I could sense I was slowing, though. I ran the next quarter in 1:25, and finally eased past my "competition", but struggled to hold the pace. I couldn't really find an extra gear, and ended up running 5:49 gun time. At first, I was disappointed. I ran 5:38 last year, and promised myself sub-5:30 this year. But I knew I couldn't compare and quickly shrugged it off.
Not as fast...but clearly working pretty hard nonetheless! 

The best part about this race was that I felt pretty good afterward, and could actually eat the race food with no ill effects. We had a great time at the after party! We're not sure if this race will live for another year, but I think the runners really enjoyed Rock 'n Bowl, and it was great to have an all-inclusive venue that took care of drinks, food, and music for us. It did increase the registration price - $45 for day-of registration, which is so high for a mile! - but I think it was worth it for a race, all-you-can-eat food, all-you-can-drink beer and wine, live music, and a race. Hopefully we can put this race on again next year, because we had a lot of fun!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Getting some distance back

I am still coming off a long break, slowly working back to some running distance. Oof, July really took it out of me. Pregnancy complications and treatments for them made the "easy" second trimester start out pretty hard, and I took a while to recover. One of my problems lead to an electrolyte imbalance, with hypokalemia. This made me very weak, and it got worse because my blood volume suddenly expanded (normal in the second trimester). I spent a lot of July tired, with anemia and floppy muscles. Not to mention the catheter for part of the month...can't run like that! So there was a lot of not just missed running in July, there was also a lot of just feeling crappy.
THEN I was super slow when I could run, so altogether there just hasn't been a lot of distance over here.

Once I was feeling well enough to run again, and didn't have any crippling hamstring injuries, I stupidly jumped in the long run after just a week back. Not smart! Thirteen miles exhausted me, and I felt insanely sore, like I'd lifted heavy weights. I used the next week to build mileage gradually before attempting any distance again. The following week wasn't as bad. I did 14 miles, and I actually had a slightly better pace from the week prior. Still slow - I'm running mid-9's now. But the distance didn't beat me up like the week before.
Super glad I bought a few bigger tops and sports bras that somewhat fit!

Last week, I decided to throw in a midweek semi-long run. I think midweek longs are so important for a successful weekend long run: I try to always run at least half my weekend distance at some point during the week (usually Thursday). I was a little worried about joining a group due to my newfound slowness, but I met a bunch of ladies for about ten, and it ended up being fine. They were taking it easy, too, and I actually ran sub-9 average...this is so rare now!

I'll try to keep the mid-week distance up a little, but the limiting factor is time. Adding 10 or 15 minutes to my run due to slower pace does mean I have to plan a little better, get up when my alarm goes off, and not dawdle at the water fountain. Not a big deal overall, but just something to be aware of. Long runs, meanwhile, are still on the table for now, just done smartly and with some pre-planning!

Friday, August 16, 2019

Race recap: Greek Fest 2019

I signed up for the Greek Fest 5k in a moment of delusion, thinking that I'd somehow use the adrenaline of the starting line to rally for a good race, and hey - maybe even PR the 5k! While nine weeks pregnant and routinely barfing all day. Sure. Makes perfect sense.

The race is a Friday night race before Memorial Day weekend, and it looked to be a slow one, as it was one of our first warm and humid races for the year. This was an unusually long and pleasant spring for us in NOLA, so when summer temperatures hit, we weren't ready! By race day, it was quite clear to me that PRing was not at all going to happen, even though I'd had a surprisingly good workout that Tuesday. But Friday was not a good day. I took a gel to the start, hoping that 100 calories of sugar gel would make up for throwing up any solid food I'd eaten all day. Right.

(Insert race photo here, except the NOTC's facebook page got hacked and now it's a disorganized mess missing tons of information. But for a few hours, you could get addiction treatment for cheap, in Arabic!)

I warmed up for about two miles, and started the race actually not feeling too bad. But I quickly learned not to rely on pre-pregnancy pace assumptions. I ran the first mile in 6:06, only to rapidly fall apart. I just felt weak and slow all of a sudden. The race is an out-and-back and I saw I was in fourth place at the turn around. On a better day I could have maybe tried to catch up to third, but definitely not this time. I felt terrible, sick and exhausted, and my pace was around 6:30 for the last two miles. I ran 19:59 for fourth female. And then I got Greek food at the festival, and now I can never eat Greek food again.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Running: the past few months

Just to quickly let you know how running is going, here's a recap of what I've been doing during my long hiatus:

Terrible track workout the week I
found out I was pregnant!
May: The week of my scheduled surgery I had two TERRIBLE workouts. Tuesday on the track I felt horribly lethargic and slow, but I didn't know why, and I was honestly freaked out. I thought that maybe I didn't take off enough time after Boston and was showing signs of training fatigue. But I reminded myself that I was about to take off two weeks post-op, so I'd have plenty of time to recover. With that in mind, I moved Friday's tempo to Thursday morning - the morning of my noon surgery. Last workout before a ton of time off! But I felt SO bad. It wasn't because I was fasting; I never eat before I run (and I totally drank water - it was five hours before my surgery. I'm a little cheater like that). I actually stopped between my last two 1.5-mile reps and sat on a bench with my head down, feeling dizzy and nauseated. Well, a few hours later I found out why I felt so bad! And after that, I just started gradually slowing down more and more.
I was able to participate in all my workouts in May, even though I usually showed up minutes after pulling over to throw up! And for a few weeks, I even hung with my old pace group. My day-to-day running didn't change, either: I felt my best while running, and in May I hit 286 miles!

June: I kept it up in June, despite persistent nausea and poor (terrible) nutrition. I dared not skip a day running: it was the only activity that kept the vomiting at bay. Something about drawing blood flow away from the stomach really relieved my sickness. But alas, pregnant bodies don't work like non-pregnant bodies. Toward the end of June, I started having tendon and ligament pain that made some old injuries flare - specifically my left biceps femoris tendon. This is the exact same nagging injury that plagued me in the Boston build-up, except it was my right leg. I ran my last real long run on June 16th, a 15-mile progression run, completed at 7:34 pace. Right after that, I ended up taking most of the rest of the month off, trying to let my tendons and ligaments heal.
Early June: running with a baby bump! 

July: July was not a good month for me at all! It began with a week of almost no exercise at all. I started the month with an emergency room visit that left me wearing a catheter bag for the first week of the month, which obviously is not at all conducive to exercise.
This is how I spent July.
Once I was back to normal, I tried some test runs, but I was obviously limping, and I took another two weeks off. I ended up somewhere around 90 miles for the month.

August: So here we are in August. I gradually started to run again, but it was a huge shock after taking a few weeks off. I got much slower during that time! I knew I'd slow down, but I assumed it would mostly be related to weight and fluid gain later in pregnancy stressing the cardiovascular system. Nope. I've definitely gained a lot of weight (I can cram myself into a pair or two of my running shorts, and I've been in larger bras since May), but clearly something else is going on. My stride is incredibly awkward and uncoordinated, and I tire easily. I simply have no speed in my legs at all. I went out for my first long run in almost a month this week, and I ran 9:25's! Obviously, I'm going by feel now, but I have been wearing a watch or Garmin to keep an eye on the time - I am slowing down so much day by day that I might accidentally make myself late for work!

Suddenly slow and clearly preggers in August 
For now, I'm running some, at very slow paces, which are determined by feel. To give my ligaments and tendons a break, I cross train on some kind of low-impact machine on Mondays. I am still attending group workouts, but with modifications: like walking or standing rest when needed (and skipping reps - I don't have all night!). I think any type of exercise during pregnancy requires common sense; I know what's hurting me and what's not, and my body is making sure I know exactly my limitations! 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Baby on the way!

If you read my last post carefully...all the way to the end! you know that I'm pregnant! And how this whole story developed was, well, super duper dramatic.
Where I left off before my sudden silence, I was scheduled for uterine surgery to remove and biopsy a mass that couldn't be diagnosed via ultrasound. I had been in incredible discomfort for months, compounded by debilitating anemia due to the associated blood loss, and I was eager to have the surgery.
Curiously, my symptoms abated before the surgery. In fact, I called my doctor to wonder if maybe the surgery wasn't even necessary? "Maybe the intense marathon training was taking a toll on your body, and you've improved now that you aren't running," she suggested (this was during my week off after Boston). "But regardless, we have to biopsy that thing. It's a potential carcinoma." So, I dutifully prepped for surgery, and the morning of the procedure reminded myself that the post-op nausea would be worth symptom relief. But...I hadn't had any symptoms in weeks.

I was in my hospital gown about to get my IV when my doctor came in with the news. "I can't believe it, so I had them run the test twice," she said. "We have to cancel your surgery: you're pre-op pregnancy test came back positive!"

I was floored. I started hyperventilating. This was the last news I expected to hear! I have "known" for years that I could not get pregnant due to a combination of several health conditions. Well, amid the most challenging of circumstances, somehow this little baby succeeded! I have a hunch that the high-dose hormones I took in a failed attempt to control my bleeding this winter and spring actually worked like fertility treatments. But still - how one gets pregnant WHILE ACTIVELY HEMORRHAGING is still beyond me (and my doctor).

15-week baby bump in my Boston jacket...
pregnancy hormones are making me all
sentimental and I bought a jacket this year
after I realized I'd run the race pregnant! 
I had the super awkward task of calling David sheepishly and asking to be picked back up 15 minutes after he had dropped me off for surgery. So much for a cute way to tell your husband you're pregnant...we kind of spent the next day or two in shock, but then reality sunk in. This was a high-risk pregnancy. My uterus is...crowded. I don't just have a baby, I have fibroids and I still have the large mass! I decided to go quiet on social media and the blog for a while, to give myself time to tell friends and family: and for that, I wanted to wait until I saw my doctor to actually quantify my risks. As it turns out, you don't really see doctors early in pregnancy (I didn't know: it's my first pregnancy, and my mother never had a doctor for the six pregnancies I observed!). While I did an early ultrasound and requested my thyroid be checked right away, I didn't see my doctor until the end of June: which was also the beginning of my second trimester. So sorry for the silence.

At first, I was excited to hear that all appeared well, and I would be removed from the high-risk category. I mentioned some fairly alarming symptoms I'd been having, but my doctor seemed unconcerned and told me that they'd probably abate as the second trimester progressed. Unfortunately, just a week later, I proved her wrong; without going too far into it at this point, I have a very rare but dangerous complication called uterine incarceration that necessitated a visit to the ER, a catheter, and an emergency procedure. At my follow-up two days later, I showed improvement, but I'm not 100% out of the woods. The uterine mass (which my OB thinks is a submucosal fibroid) is to blame. This is frustrating and worrisome news, but some sort of complication is not unexpected given my age and health. Instead of letting that worry me, I'm focusing on the positive: I'm grateful that I have good healthcare and the prayers of many loved ones!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Boston by the numbers

Time: 3:00:21. WHY.
Pace: 6:52
Garmin distance: 26.35. I don't think that's bad at all for a race of this size, and it's exactly what I thought I'd see. I am usually much better at tangents, but it's tough at a large, crowded race to do that.
Cadence: 186. Hallelujah, I am finally running a better cadence!
Fastest mile: 6:29 (mile 16, big downhill)
Slowest mile: 7:19 (mile 21, heartbreak hill!)
Bib number: 8578
Finishing place: 2676. So, I read several places that in Boston your goal should be to "beat your bib" since your bib indicates your qualifying placement. You want to move up places. Obviously I beat my bib by a lot, because I didn't run a good race at Rocket City to update my time (I registered with an "easy BQ" from the Buffalo marathon, off a short build-up after my stress fracture, so I was hoping to improve my waive/corral based on Rocket City in December. However, I had a terrible race, so I didn't move up too much). What this does show you is maybe why I felt like I was fighting through crowds the entire race: if you "beat your bib" by close to 6,000, then you probably had to pass close to 6,000 people through the course of the race (estimation, obviously). No wonder I felt like the race was congested!
Finishing place, gender: 177. Hm. Maybe I'll break 150 some day. If I ever run Boston again.
Training cycle: 11 weeks
Days off: 0, amazingly.
Training mileage: 700 miles
Average mileage: 63.7 MPW. I was in the "low mileage" group on our team workout calendar, and I think that suits me just fine. I only had three weeks that hit 70, and they just barely hit 70! I definitely felt like 60-65 was better for me than 70-75 would be. Now, since our training plans aren't individualized, there is a lot of leeway within each group: for example, it will say something like "1-2 mile warm up, 3 - 4 repeats of 1.5 mile at tempo, 1-2 mile cool down" or "rest day or 40-60 minutes easy" - so while I was in the low mileage group, I got higher mileage than some of my teammates, who may have opted for the shorter option most days. Probably 55 mpw would have been too low, so I think I mostly hit the sweet spot.
PR by: 5:57
PR from: 2012 (I am choosing not to count RnR New Orleans, since I still have my qualms about its actual distance, but if I did, it would be a 4:17 PR from a month and a half earlier)
Recovery days after: Six days off totally, followed by three days of very easy and short running, before easing into a pretty benign workout. Despite the fact that my legs felt completely torn apart by the end of the race itself - I could not even WALK after, although a surge of adrenaline hit a few hours later and I merrily waltzed up 100 stairs in the T station rather than take the escalator - I felt recovered pretty quickly after this race. I have a hunch that having oxygen in your muscles may enhance recovery, too. Perhaps!
Ferritin in December: 8
Ferritin two weeks before Boston: 27! Could be better - I think athletes aim for 40 or higher - but this is a magnificent improvement!
Hemoglobin in February: 10.3 (This is after being on iron for 3+ months)
Hemoglobin two weeks before Boston: 12.3! Thank you, iron, for turning my running around!
Weeks pregnant on race day: 4

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Boston: Logistics and details

Logistics: I'm not a race-travel or Boston expert, and this is only my second Boston, but just to give you an idea in case you're planning to do Boston at some point, we did a few things that worked well. One was getting a $21 weekly pass for the T. We did all of our travel on the T, so that was a great deal (and when we left, we still had a few days on the cards, so we gave them to a couple at the airport). We also chose to stay in Cambridge, and I thought that worked very well. Travel was simple, we were right by a T stop, and it wasn't as hustle-and-bustle as downtown. Nice and laid-back and calm compared to the congestion and mayhem downtown. We stayed at the Porter Square hotel, and it was ok - it was definitely a good low-cost option, but the rooms are really small. Luckily, we were upgraded to a suite, but if we'd had a room only, it would have been pretty cramped.

As far as race day logistics go, I went in with a less-is-more view, but I could have done better here. I got on the bus in my race outfit with an old sweater on top, gels already tucked away, and I carried my gummy, cold oatmeal (which I picked at, as usual) and a water bottle. That was it. The only problem was that race morning actually had a lot of little moving parts, so I was a bit stressed out about that.

The big one was my super special private athlete's village. Now don't get me wrong, having someone offer you a house to stay in - complete with breakfast! - pre-race is absolutely amazing. But also anxiety-inducing. I had to get in contact with them once I got to Hopkinton, so I spent the whole bus ride asking to use someone's phone. I finally found a runner with a phone, but it randomly shut down as we neared the start, and she had to reset it (it had gotten wet in the crazy weather early). I ended up getting back on the bus and borrowing the driver's phone to text the family. Well, then I walked to our pre-arranged meeting spot - in desperate need of a bathroom, I had been on a bus for an hour and forty five minutes! - and no one was there. After about ten minutes, the police officer at the end of the road approached me and asked if I was waiting on the guy with the red Honda. Yes, I was! Well, he'd been calling them all day for runners, so he called them again, and was able to get in touch. Phew. They came and picked me up, but at that point I was really rushed to make it to the start. I used the bathroom, ate a croissant, tried to wring my still-wet socks out, and then headed back to the start. Except - because I was getting driven there, I had to wait for the rest of waive 2, and everyone being in different corrals, there wasn't much sense of urgency. Once we were dropped at the start, we had much farther to go than we thought - almost a mile, as we had to make a big loop around closed areas - and I barely made it in time. Not complaining about my incredibly gracious hosts at all, but - if you are the type who likes to be in control of your race morning, this kind of arrangement may not be worth it.

Then, once I got into the corral, I was frantically looking for Jeff and Van. We'd planned to run some of the race together, which I thought would be helpful, but I also didn't want them wondering where I was and letting that stress THEM out! I couldn't get to them by the gun, but I ended up working my way up to Jeff after all. I didn't see Van until he had started walking later in the race. Basically, I botched all my meet-ups.

I didn't use gear check, and I went straight to the family meeting area after the race, and that worked out well. David found a shorter security line so I didn't have to wait too long. In the future I might go ahead and check a bag so that he wouldn't have to go through a security line to have his backpack searched.

Race outfit: I went with our new crop tops for the race, since it was projected to be warm, and it was the right call. Two problems - one was that the large Boston bib hung over the edge. We should have screened the team logo higher! The other problem was...I had worn mine once before, and washed it, and it completely fell apart in the wash. So I ran with a crop with a ripped out hem and dangling threads!

Race shoes: I ran in the Nike ZoomFly SP. I got these shoes on clearance for a cool $41 - can't really beat that, and I thought the plasticky upper might repel water a little in case it rained. My only concern was that their smooth, flat laces come untied easily, but the only time that happened was immediately pre-race. I didn't have any shoe issues. In fact, overall my clothing had no issues. This might be the only race I remember in which I had no chafing and no toenail problems at all!

Race nutrition: After not eating enough before Hunstville and bonking hard, I spent the day before Boston overeating like crazy. I mean, I ate so much. Huge pasta lunch with bread on the side and a giant salad, enormous Thai dinner, several cookies at midnight, and some other snacks I'm sure I forgot. I basically tried to eat a whole extra meal's worth of calories to make up for the meal I'd miss (lunch) while running Boston. I don't know if this would work for everyone, but even though I was stuffed and forcing myself to eat, it worked for me. On race morning, I brought oatmeal with honey on the bus with me, but as usual, I couldn't really eat much. I did eat a mini-croissant about 30 minutes before the race. During the race, I had four and a half gels (couldn't really stomach that last one) and had a small sip of Gatorade at every water stop. I definitely did well with my nutrition: no bonk, no wall, no stomach cramps.
This is why I didn't wear sunscreen.

Race mess-ups: I definitely needed sunscreen, and the thing is, I had two opportunities to apply it: I brought some sample sunscreen packets to Boston, but didn't bring them to the race because the forecast was so dark and rainy; I got a second chance at my hosts' house before the start, where other runners were applying it, and declined. I got a pretty red sunburn!

I should have made more concrete plans to meet Van and Jeff in the corral. I rarely race with someone, and don't think you should pin your race on it, but I think all three of us would've done better if we'd worked together.

Other, more experienced runners have told me that I should have run a more aggressive first half: that the Boston course is not conducive to an even or negative split. May be true!

I was really disengaged with the crowd for this race. It was crowded, I was often in the middle of the road, and honestly the crowd just sounded like a dull roar. I think I could've taken better advantage of crowd support to push me along.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Boston marathon, continued: the race

Starting from the back of wave 2, corral 1, I was instantly enveloped in crowds. It was packed at the start. I refused to weave about, but it was tough not to. Lots of people poured past me for the first few miles. Without getting caught in the surge, I managed to work my way up to Jeff. Together we covered the first 5k in 21:36, which was perfect. It was great to have Jeff nearby, and we chatted a little. The weird thing about this race is that I almost didn’t talk to anyone besides Jeff. Last time I ran Boston, I talked to other runners a lot, and also interacted with the crowd. For some reason, this race I felt very isolated from everyone else. Maybe I was too preoccupied with my race, but I do think I missed out on the energy the crowd has to give you. Of course, part of this was because I didn't want to ruin David's photos. See, David is taking a photography class, and this week's assignment was "Narrative photography". He was supposed to tell a story via pictures, and of course the Boston Marathon was a great opportunity for that; however, one of the required photos was an action shot, and he was nervous about getting a good picture. He wanted me running the race, not clowning for the camera. So I resolutely ignored anyone I heard cheering my name, in case it was him wielding a camera (results below; do you think he passed the class?!)!
 I could feel myself braking hard on the hills and wished I had a better method for downhills. I forgot to take my watch off auto lap, but for the first few miles, it stayed pretty accurate, despite the crowds (tangents were hard). We passed 10k in 42:42 and Jeff and I agreed: “Perfect”.

 At that point, something crazy happened: we started catching the slowing runners who had passed us earlier, and then we started catching wave 1. From that point on, I was running with a mix of wave 2 and wave 1, and the whole rest of the race felt like I was struggling through seas of people running at a slower pace. This was probably because my wave and corral position was based on a 3:09, when my goal was now ten minutes faster, and in a race the size of Boston, that could put thousands of people with a slower goal pace in front of you. The race never opened up for me and remained congested the entire time. This was by far the hardest component of the race for me (I realize that all my photos show an overcast, totally empty course, when I'm claiming it was a crowded, sunny course. My husband is a magic photographer I guess, ha ha. My official photos more reflect my perceptions, but I can't post them here because I'm not about to pay for them!).

Slowly, Jeff drifted ahead. The weather still felt ok to me: by no means cool, but not hot. It was 64 at the start, with an expected high of 69 during the race. But I knew that the humidity would take a toll on me, so from the very first station, I was grabbing Gatorade. I took a sip of Gatorade at every single station on Monday! By about mile 10 or 11, I realized that I might have lost touch with Jeff for good, and I was also working too hard on both uphills AND downhills. My lack of hill experience was obvious. I hunched over to crawl up the hills, and slammed my feet down to brake on the other side. The profile of Boston really is a nice net downhill, but I’ll be darned if that doesn’t somehow make it more challenging. I definitely need practice on handling both ups and downs efficiently.

I hit the half in 1:29:34, right on pace. My plan was to start easy and pick it up in the easiest spots in the second half, but to do so measured by feel rather than by pace. I figured that, with the harder second half, that would result in an almost even split.

Around me, I thought I was hearing my name. Maybe there was another Grace near me - or maybe people on course actually knew me! I was definitely hearing “Power Miller” - hah. It must be hard to read our jerseys when we’re running! I definitely got a lot of "Miller"s but - I'll take any cheering, right?! The crowds were huge and loud like always, but for some reason I just wasn’t zeroing in like I did when I ran in 2012. I think part of the reason for that was the congestion. I was usually in the center of the course, working my way past people. I didn’t actually recognize any spectators on the course, not even David or the other Powermiler spouses.

I had taken two gels in the first half, and kept up the sips of Gatorade, and I was glad to have the electrolytes when all of a sudden - the sun popped out. Bam, just like that, it was blindingly bright out. I was so thankful I’d brought my sunglasses! We were heading into the hills now, and to my dismay I saw Van on the side, walking a water stop: a terrible place to be at mile 15, poor guy. Up the next hill I realized that I was closing back in on Jeff. I took advantage of the downhill to catch up to him. “Alright Grace, go girl,” he said - and that was the last time we spoke during the race! I thought he was right behind me, and he was for a little bit (I could hear other “Power Miller” cheers just a few seconds behind me!), but around mile 17 I realized when he didn’t answer me that I’d dropped him somewhere behind.

I had to really work now. This race was getting hard. It was warm and sunny and the hills were feeling more difficult than before. Despite the forecast, we had bright sun for almost half the race. I told myself to take my gels and Gatorade, focus on my form, and try to engage my glutes (sadly, my race photos clearly demonstrate just exactly how bad my form was at this point!). By now, there were not many people around me who weren’t struggling. I climbed heartbreak hill slowly, thighs burning, but at the top another runner tapped my shoulder. “Thanks for being my rabbit and getting us to the top”. I checked my time at mile 20 and realized that breaking three would be extremely close and would require a huge amount of late-race effort. I had about thirty seconds to make up. I hoped the downhills would get me there, but my legs were feeling totally shot. I realized that I’d underestimated the course : the early downhills really do chew up your legs for later miles. The last few miles were very tough: I was practically dodging walkers or slowing runners every step, and my legs were on fire. At every mile, I saw my pace fall short of the speed I needed to break three. I was able to use the long downhill to squeeze out a 6:37 for mile 22, but after that the 6:51's and even 7's kept popping up. I knew exactly what I needed to run, but my legs couldn’t respond to what my brain commanded them to do. I made the final turns and gave every single bit of effort I had left, crossing the line in 3:00:21. I had made up nine seconds. It wasn’t enough.

I almost collapsed just after the finish. My legs were toast and I was terribly disappointed. I definitely thought I had a shot at 2:59:59 and I came up short. It was close enough to regret it! But still: a big PR, and I was pleased with my effort. I ran a 47-second positive split, and if I had only been able to overcome that, I would have broken three. I tried to take the first half easy, but I just didn’t leave enough in the tank. I miscalculated - not the pace I needed for the last few miles, but the effort distribution needed to hit my goal. My splits show how totally spent I was: the best I could come up with for my 0.2 sprint at the finish was 6:22! Bemusedly, I realized that I had almost exactly hit my V-dot predicted marathon time of 3:00:43.
If you look closely you can see me at the bottom left, being helped by a volunteer in orange. That's my almost-collapse, preserved for posterity by my neighbor, who took a photo of her TV and texted me! Ha! 

Right after the race, I met another runner, Melissa, who had just missed 3 much like me. She and I chatted - she was running only her second marathon, having run a 3:09 to qualify! Amazing progress! I wished we’d run together and maybe tried to work for that sub-3:00. What a tough cookie! And then I headed straight to the family meeting area. David met me in about 30 minutes, having somehow found a short security line. The sky had suddenly become overcast again, and the wind whipped up, so I was glad he’d brought my jacket. He’d seen me twice on course, but apparently I was way too into my race to notice him or anyone else who told me later they’d cheered me on! But still - I feel like I subliminally absorbed the cheers and they powered me to a PR! I definitely regretted not being more into the crowds, atmosphere, and other runners - that’s the whole point of Boston. If I could do anything over from Monday, that would be it. Just kidding, it would be running 22 seconds faster, ha ha. But if I could do TWO things over...
This is a runner who is disappointed in her time.

We headed to our hotel where David - who had skipped lunch - helped me eat my race food (you know, a protein bar...bananas... Hawaiian bread). I realized I was nice and burned since I'd neglected sunblock, but I didn't chafe and my toes/nails felt fine. As for my hamstring injury - I could barely walk the moment I stopped running. It's amazing how your brain can override pain during a race, but the minute you stop? It takes over! I definitely need the time off post-race to heal up!

The Powermilers Slack group was chattering, and we decided to meet up at a brewery.
The race reports were mixed. Wayne had PR’d, breaking a years-old record by 40 seconds; Tarak had a breakout race with a 2:48 and negative split (prior best over 3); Daniella and I had big PRs. Our men’s open team was fifth overall with 2:31/2:32/2:37. But others had struggled in the heat, and we had several who experienced muscle cramping. I was hoping for better team results, but I couldn’t hope for a better team.
Alcohol may have been involved. Also, I LOVE Michele's (Paul's wife) sign! 
No doubt about it, the Powermilers got me that PR. Sure, iron helped (hugely). But running with this group of fast guys and girls is what motivates me and makes me try harder. Want to get fast? Go run with people faster than you. I’m excitedly looking forward to future PRs and finally breaking three with this group.