Tuesday, November 6, 2012

RnR Savannah Half Marathon... I'm back!

So it's been just a hair over 3 months since I was cleared to return to running. I know that's not exactly a lot of time to essentially start over, build a base, and prepare for a half marathon. In no way is it ideal. However, this race was not so much about me going out there with blazing speed, but it was a mental hurdle for me to prove that once and for all, I am still a runner and my favorite distance is still attainable.

My training from the end of July until now had been pretty uneventful overall. The hip remained happy. The only real aches/pains I had was actually about 2 weeks before the race when my right shin decided to start acting up - meaning I pretty much stopped running cold turkey out of fear of shin splints.

I had signed up for this race at the 2011 RnR Savannah HM so this was a long, long time coming. Charlie was running his first marathon this weekend too, and that proved to be a good distraction for me, as he needed a few pep talks in the days leading up to the race. It kept the focus off of me and my fears, including the following: (Should I really be running this yet? What if I trip and fall AGAIN? What if this isn't fun and it makes me question running anymore?)

We drove down to Savannah midday on Friday and went straight to the expo. It was a phenomenal expo, probably the best I've ever seen. Lots of great gear, I ended up with a few small items (socks and head bands) and Charlie grabbed a pair of Brooks shorts. Got our bibs and packets and we were good to go. Had a fantastic meal at Boars Head and back to the hotel for an early night.

Got up early the next morning to first work on the GI system: ate my peanut butter & banana bagel and drank about 6 oz of Coke. Then got dressed, did the hair and all that jazz. I think it's hilarious that I spend more time worrying about my racing clothes and how I'm going to fix my hair for a race than I do in any other facet of my life. But I do. This was also the first race I've ever done without wearing a cap. I did several training runs with headbands and really liked them so this was my first race to do so. Also wore a new skirt from Running Skirts:

The hotel was less than a mile from the start line. The weather was perfect, about 50 degrees and clear without any wind. We had a nice leisurely stroll over to the corrals about an hour prior to gun time. By the time we got there, we were ready for 1 last visit to the portapotties and we were set. Race photographers were EVERYWHERE and we got our picture taken several times while waiting around.

Didn't do a warmup like I usually do before a race but this was intentional. I honestly wanted to take the "marathon" mentality of letting my first couple of miles be my warm-up, just to prevent me from doing any more miles that day. My longest training run since being injured was 10 miles so I was still trying to be careful from extra wear & tear.

Charlie and I also had made the deal that we were going to try to stick together. The marathon and half marathon courses didn't split until after mile 11. We realized the last couple of months just how much we love running together and thought this would be extra motivation for us both, and would help keep Charlie in good spirits for the start of his marathon if his nerves were getting to him.

Our other idea was that we would walk through every other water station. Neither of us like getting water/gatorade every mile, and this course offered support about every 1.5 miles. So the every 3 mile-ish idea was perfect. And mentally to know you get a walk break every 3 miles based on each of our training was spot on.

Charlie was assigned corral 15 and I was assigned corral 4 (obviously BEFORE I knew I was going to miss 6 months of running this year). I happily stepped back to corral 15 with him. I did some jumping jacks and jogging in place to get things pumping and felt great. Being RnR, there was some great pre-race music piped in on the speakers and we were totally ready to run.

Right at 8 AM, the first corral took off and they were spaced about 75-120 seconds apart. In the end it was about a 17-minute wait before we hit the start line. I love corral starts that run smoothly!

The sun came up not long before the race started and there was still no wind. It was perfectly cool and sunny. I cannot ask for more perfect weather for a race. It stayed in the lower 50s until I was over halfway done.

The race was fantastic. The course support wasn't as good as last year, but last year was the inaugural so naturally there was a little let down. But it was still great. RnR & Savannah did a really good job at improving the course too. We were in the Historic District a lot longer this year than last which made for a really beautiful course full of large oak trees.

Mile splits:
Mile 1: 10:55
Mile 2: 11:03
Mile 3: 10:55
Mile 4: 11:27 (with the walk break)
Mile 5: 11:05
Mile 6: 11:08
Mile 7: 11:39 (with the walk break)
Mile 8: 11:14
Mile 9: 11:11

So yeah, these were pretty freaking amazing splits. They could not have gone better to tell the truth. I don't even think my HM PR (2:15:08) from last year had splits this good. Too bad it didn't last.

Mile 10: 12:18 (with the walk break) Also really started slowing down here. My right hamstring started whining a little. Not painful yet, but just a little, "Hey, I'm here. I really am. Hi."
Mile 11: 12:01 No walk break here but still going slow. Said bye to Charlie here and honestly that was a bit sad. It was really nice to have him with me. Hamstring fussed a bit more, more along the lines of, "Hey, I'm getting grumpy down here. You better start being nice. Now."
Mile 12: 13:30 (multiple walk breaks) So began the slight up and down (really ever so slight) hill. And then began the uber, uber tightness in the right hamstring. Not the hip, but the hamstring supporting the said previously-injured hip. Where I know I'm still overcompensating and not as strong, blah blah blah. I started getting down on myself here a little, mad at myself for being so damn proud for the first 9 miles when I couldn't keep it up.
Mile 13 + 0.1: 16:12 UGH, I couldn't run to save my life. I'd take a few running steps and that damn hamstring freaking screamed at me, "STOP NOW YOU IDIOT. I'M NOT HAPPY." So then I'd walk. I really wanted a rolling pin to run over it cause I just KNEW that would make it all better. But of course they don't have these along the course. I did the best I could. My race photos from that last mile are pretty pathetic looking. I was getting more and more down on myself because I knew I just had to get up that last little tiny miniscule hill and turn right and I would see the chute, but getting up that last little tiny miniscule hill was proving to be really freaking hard. But alas, I did, and I was able to put together a mini-shuffle of a jog to get across the finish line. And then I wept happy tears and I forgot all about that silly little hamstring.

Yep, I hate getting emotional. I admit it. But I was oh-so-happy at that point. I made eye contact with one of the folks handing out the medals and had probably the sappiest smile on my face when I took it from him. He had no idea what that meant to me. All the sadness, anger, not to mention pain dating back to December 29 when I first tripped and fell, dislocating my hip. He didn't get that. But I didn't care. I was on cloud nine. I just finished my third half marathon, 10 months after the injury, 8 months after surgery, 3 months after being cleared to return to running again.  

Final time: 2:34:09. 11:48 pace.

Here's us after we were both done:

After I got my medal, in a daze I grabbed two bottles of water and went and got my finish photo taken. I drank about half a bottle of water (not that I felt thirsty at all, actually). Then I found the chocolate milk (my favorite post-run treat) and the Snickers Marathon bar (yum) and a banana, and I was good to go. I don't think the smile came off my face for a good hour. And the hamstring literally stopped hurting by the time I was completely out of the chute.

In summary, it was a fantastic race. My goals coming into the race were below:

Goal A: Finish below 2:30.
Goal B: Finish faster than NYC (2:36:02).
Goal C: Finish.

Clearly I didn't achieve Goal A. But that was seriously my A goal (reach goal). I told Charlie beforehand I'd be ecstatic but I didn't think it would happen.

And of course, I'm okay with that, because again:
 - I have only been back running for 3 months
 - I had one run of 10 miles prior to this race since injury
 - I only had one week where I was over 20 miles for the week (that one was 22)

But I did get my B goal, which I find hilarious. See above. And I was still faster than my first half marathon!

Three days later, I have absolutely zero soreness or pain. (Did some dancing in the living room with Bella yesterday which included the cupid shuffle, electric slide, and some hula-hooping. Then spent 1.5 hours in the pool today with her. This will be my post-race plan every time, because I feel amazing.)

Boy this was long, but I do get a bit wordy when it comes to running. I don't have any races planned any time soon (my work schedule makes this a bit difficult) but I do have some plans in the next year. I WILL get my sub-2:00 HM one day. So now to keep building my base properly, then start working on speed after that. Hope to make all of the following races in my future:

Oct 2013 Myrtle Beach Mini HM
Jan 2014 Charleston HM
Feb 2014 Disney Princess HM

Friday, October 19, 2012

Back to racing! Ray Tanner Foundation 12K

So I finally got to run my first post-injury race. It was a doozy!
The Ray Tanner Foundation in Columbia, SC puts on an amazing race through Columbia that finishes at the USC baseball stadium on home plate. Yes, I know, I'm a Clemson Tiger and I despise those gamecocks.

(1) It's a great charity I'm happy to support
(2) It's probably the best organized race I've ever done (I did the 5K last year)
(3) The post race food is the BOMB (hot dogs, PB&J sandwiches, snow cones... baseball fare)
(4) It's in Columbia so my parents got to meet us out there
(5) They have a kid's race so Bella got to participate too.
(6) Charlie ran WITH me!

I had originally signed up for the 5K but as my rehab/training went so incredibly well, I moved up to the 12K. The race director actually allowed me to move up at no additional cost to congratulate me on post-injury training and also what he called "a family discount". Yeah, we'll keep coming back to this race with that kind of support!

Charlie has been nursing plantar fasciitis in his right foot, so he has pulled back on the running a bit to give it rest for his marathon next month, so instead of racing this one hard, he offered to run with me. I loved the idea! Race temperatures were ideal: sunny and around 52 degrees at the start with a slight wind. Off we went!

Final time: 1:20:14 (10:49 pace)

My splits were: 10:32, 11:19, 10:42, 10:40, 11:11, 10:39, 11:03, 4:00. The 11:19 and 11:11 involved some fairly big hills, and I haven't done a single mile of hill training post-surgery. They were hard and I slowed way down, but I never walked. (If I had, I think Charlie would have kicked my @$$.)

Running my first race back with Charlie was a huge blessing. Because it was a slow, easy pace for him, he was totally comfortable and provided just the perfect level of motivation. He told me I needed to pass someone, but then would remind me to check my pace because I might be a little too fast at that stage. He pushed me to finish strong and remember where I was the last few months and said not to forget how far I'd come.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ghost 4s are where it's at.

So I have logged 31 miles so far on my Brooks Ghost 4s (the new shoes I last blogged about). I have to say, I love them. Maybe it's all mental, but I have been so comfortable running lately!

I've hit a couple of new records recently:
- did 6 miles for the first time last week
- went "all out" for 2 miles yesterday, at a 10:35 pace

This week I'm going to attempt to get 4 runs in instead of 3 like I've been doing, with the goal of remaining at 4 runs/week while slowly increasing miles.

I also changed my next race from the 5K to the 12K. That's October 13 in Columbia. Plus I have the HM in Savannah in November.

Running is giving me such a positive feeling again. Man, I can't believe I was out of it for SO LONG.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Baby steps, baby!

So today marks the 10th run I've had since injury. That is a pretty cool landmark in and of itself. To boot, I went 4 miles! That's the longest I've run since injury as well! I've done a few 3.1 milers but nothing over that until today. I went on the treadmill at the YMCA. As long as I wasn't looking over at the chick next to me (who was pegged at 7.5 mph the entire time), I was staying pretty darn proud of myself.

This was also my second run in my newest pair of shoes. Last fall I became such a Saucony Kinvara fan, it was ridiculous (I can admit). I love those shoes. They fit just right, they feel so light, they're perfect. And I got the new upgrade to the Kinvara 3 for free when all my awesome friends voted for me in the Saucony Find Your Strong contest. And those shoes feel great! But...

I've noticed my hip isn't always happy the afternoon after I run in them. Not horribly painful or anything, but a nagging soreness for sure. After talking to Charlie, I started to wonder if maybe it was the fact that there isn't a lot of support in those shoes. The whole point is that they have a low heel to toe ratio, and you're lower to the ground to make you more of a midfoot striker. But to do that, there isn't much cushion. So since I'm trying to do EVERYTHING I can think of to protect my hip as I begin to build my endurance back, I decided to try something a bit more supportive. And because it seems EVERYONE I know loves the Brooks Ghost 4, and I know the Brooks line well (since I started with their Adrenalines), I figured it was worth a shot. So here's my shoe porn:

They're pretty sweet. My 1st run in them I noticed that I don't scuff my toes at all. My stride became both shorter and slower with all the time off, so I'm having to concentrate really hard as it is to work on my stride. I don't like scuffing my toe at all (since that, coupled with a bad sidewalk gap, led to my injury in the first place) so I am really psyched that the toe lift on this seems to be helping. Hopefully that continues.

Good news all around. :)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Run #3... Treadmill again...

So I hit the treadmill again today at the YMCA. I used to hate the treadmill but that animosity is certainly NOT there at this point. (Thank goodness.) I did 3 miles in 38:08 which again is way slower than I ran pre-injury (not that I was technically fast before, but my last 5K - 3.1 miles - was 10 minutes faster than this).

I really, truly enjoyed my run today. It helped that (1) I had my daughter's Ipod Shuffle on me today so I had some awesome tunes to run to and (2) the Olympics were on the tv right in front of my treadmill so it was a phenomenal distraction. The US men's indoor volleyball match was quite entertaining and I forgot I was even running there for a little while.

Still no pain in the hip, thigh, knee, calf, etc. WOO HOO! I have been pretty sore the last two days overall but that was generalized and equal bilaterally (nothing on the right side specifically).

It's going to be an interesting week. I start my new job tomorrow (yippee!) so am working weird scheduling all across town for orientation but I want to make sure to get 4 total runs in this week. One is already down though. And my next run will take me to double digit miles for 2012!

Friday, July 27, 2012

SRD #1 (scheduled rest day)

So today was a 12-hour work shift and I don't run on these days. (They are 14.5 hour days once you factor in the time I spend in the car and on the bus.)

It's a good thing. I woke up today really sore. Not hip sore. More like "I feel like I ran a half marathon yesterday." My ankles, calves, thighs, butt, and groin all ache. So two days of running (2.35 and 3 miles) in a row did this.

Can you say, WAKE UP CALL?

Yes, I'm in shape as far as PT goes. But I'm not in running shape.

All the more reason to go run some more as soon as I can. Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Running day #2

So today, I decided to venture outside. I went to the Sawmill Branch Canal Trail (for those of you not in the local area, it's a paved path that runs over 6 miles behind the YMCA in Summerville. Totally flat and smooth, perfect for what I need.) I was out there at 7 AM to try to knock out 3 miles. The result?

I had no pain whatsoever. YIPPEE!

It took me about 1/2 a mile to find a rhythm. The first few minutes felt clumsy, awkward, and just plain weird. I didn't know what to do with my hands, my legs didn't seem even. But then it "clicked". Maybe there really is something to the "muscle memory" concept. I felt like I had never stopped running. How GLORIOUS.

Then the heat and humidity hit me. The last time I ran outside, it was a cool & comfortable December day. Today it was already 90 degrees at 7 AM, or something like that. My lungs felt like I was trying to breathe underwater, the humidity was so bad. Blech, I am not acclimated at all. I am going to need to work on the weather piece of this.

Part of me wanted to turn around at the mile 1 mark. I was telling myself, "It's okay to turn around. I just had surgery and I'm just getting back into this. It isn't bad if I call it at 2 miles." But then, the good little angel on my shoulder spoke up (thank goodness) to tell me, "You idiot. You've been wanting to run since December 29th and you're finally here. And you're going to let a little heat stop you so soon? Don't be a quitter, you wimp." I love that good little angel. So I kept right on trucking.

3 miles in 39:24. That averages out to a 13:08 pace. I probably shouldn't bother looking at paces because I think they'll just depress me. All that matters is I'm out there. I love it. I passed a couple of people on the trail (it was really busy this morning) and that felt lovely. Most people passed me, of course, and it didn't bother me. I was just so happy to be out there.

I got back from my run and made myself a strawberry banana smoothie, and it hit me. I feel like a runner again.