Monday, June 30, 2014
I'm officially in freak out mode for the Transplant Games. According to the TGA website we are 11 days out - I haven't even reserved a bike for the 20K race yet. So much to do still! Luckily for me my daughter is off with my parents this week so I can really focus and start tackling my to-do list. But before any action items are ticked off - I still have to complete my daily workouts. And truth be told, I'm starting to be tired of the daily doubles - kind of excited that this is my last week of double workouts as next week is my taper week.
Instead of doing a 'true' daily double yesterday, I went on a long run. The mileage wasn't all that long but because of the terrain, I felt like I ran double digits. It took me two hours to run 8 miles. Yes - I walked, there were really steep hills! (1,527 feet of elevation according to my Garmin!) Also there was a lot of mud on the trails and I wasn't going to run through giant mud pits so I slowed and carefully crept around them.
My friends have been talking about this particular trail for years. I have intended to run it dozens of times but I always opted for closer in trails. But because I had the luxury of time today (and the fact that I am growing tired of my regular long run around the riverfront) I decided to seek out new adventures.
I've been known to be geographically challenged - yesterday was no exception. It took me an hour to find the trailhead and it didn't even end up being the trailhead I was hunting for when I set off for the day. Oh well. When I returned home it took me only 15 minutes to arrive back to my doorstep so that should tell you how turned around I got on the drive out to the trail.
The trail itself was beautifully maintained for the first few miles. As I progressed on the trail things got narrower and muddier and less landscaped but it didn't bother me. There were also dozens of others out and about hiking and running which is nice when you are running solo. I stopped at the 4 mile point to take in some Gu and realize I had been running for an hour. Shocked it took me so long to run such a short distance but I knew I was working hard for those trail miles so tried not to let it bother me. When I stopped I quickly noticed a swarm of mosquitos attacking me so I cut the break short and returned home swatting the offenders as best I could and wishing I had worn capris instead of shorts.
I'm glad I ventured off my normal route because it did keep things interesting and I love a good trail run but I don't see why this trail is any greater than the other trails in Oregon I've spent time on in recent years. I was expecting amazing vistas or something out of the ordinary. The one thing I did love about this place was that you could run as long as you wanted - the miles didn't end out here like other trails and I suppose that is the best reason of all to love the Wildwood Trail. I'll be back - with bug spray.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
|Pre-Allergy Test - Very scared little girl|
Our first glimmer of hope appeared from that day - we learned that although she is still dangerously allergic to peanuts, cashews and pistachios; Issy's allergies to walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts and brazil nuts had disappeared. Let's just take a moment to celebrate this advancement. THIS IS HUGE! I have left every single allergist appointment for Issy in tears of despair but for the first time in a decade, I left with happiness and hope. Of course being free from some but not all nuts is a double-edged sword. Because most nuts are all manufactured in a shared facility - it makes safe tree nuts unsafe for her so we still must be diligent about cross-contamination moving forward.
|Top mark is control - two big welts are peanut and cashew|
|Welt on this arm is pistachio|
The great thing about the fact that her body is only allergic to three nuts now is that we can more easily address this concern with Dr. Baker's Food Desensitization Program. Hopefully - we can eliminate the risk of cross-contamination of peanuts/cashews/pistachios and she will be able to consume food like any other child.
So what exactly is an immunology/food desensitization program? In essence, Issy will receive tiny doses of peanut protein every single day. First at her allergist's office in a controlled environment and then at home with a prescribed dosage. We will return to the allergist every week to two weeks depending on her side effects and double the dosage. If all goes well - she should be able to consume a peanut without going into anaphylactic shock. This isn't to say she will ever be able to sit down and eat a bag of trail mix or a Snickers bar, but it will prevent her from the accidental ingestion that food allergic people live in fear of every day. It also reduces that risk for cross-contamination which is so very prevalent with peanuts (think just about every single candy bar known to man).
We will start with just peanuts and see how it goes. Peanuts are far more pervasive in American foods than cashews and pistachios. If we are successful with the peanuts by the end of the summer we will repeat the program for the other nuts.
According to our allergist the biggest issue for people going through the program is having upset stomachs. This does worry me because Issy does have IBS that tends to be triggered by stress. I'm hoping that by going through this program in the summer, we will be reducing her stress levels so that we don't have any IBS flare-ups during the program. As such, we might go longer between the dosage increases with her just to ensure things go well. Of course we won't know until we get into the program how her body reacts.
Before we start the peanut dosing we will conduct a food trial at the allergist's office. Although she tested negative to the other nuts earlier this summer, we need to have her physically eat the nuts to know for sure she is not allergic. This is called a food trial. I'm so stressed about this portion of our day. We've been avoiding nuts with her since she was 13 months old. I'm terrified to see her actually eat one, let alone three today.
|Prepping nuts for food trial|
I was unable to find brazil nuts or walnuts in a shell so we will have to do those food trials at another time. I couldn't find hazelnuts either but I did pick up a jar of Nutella. I think Issy will like that better anyhow.
So wish us luck - we start with the food trials then we go into the peanut program. I'm a wreck today but I'm trying to be optimistic and enthusiastic for Issy's sake. I'll be sure to update as we progress.
Friday, June 20, 2014
I'm now 21 days out from the Transplant Games in Houston. I'm still not sure how this can really be accurate because July still seems so far off but alas - it's just a few weeks away and I'm trying very hard to focus on having fun instead of the alternative.
The good news is that my injured hip continues to heal. I had a little pain after my big weight day last Saturday that I noticed following my gym session when I tried to sprint at the track. As such I just ran a slow mile and a single sprint. I didn't want to push too hard. By the next day - the pain had dissipated and it's felt normal ever since.
To really focus on the games, this week I switched up my training program to incorporate more diverse activities - namely swimming and cycling. I will be participating in the track and field events in Houston as well as a 5K, a 500 M swim and a 20K cycle.
So here's the thing - I've never raced in a swim meet nor have I ever raced on a bike. I am a 100% recreational biker and swimmer. I love to bike and swim but only at a lackadaisical pace. I've been trying to do a good amount of reading this week and quizzing my bike/swimming friends about etiquette and race tips. I'm sure I'll fail terribly at the games - but I'm also confident I will have a great amount of fun doing it!!
I had my first pool session a week ago today and it was nothing but comical. I took my daughter and her friend to the pool with me. While they splashed and played in the big pool with the slides and play area, I climbed tenaciously into the lap pool. The only open lane was the lane directly under the lifeguard - talk about intimidating! I pulled on my cool new Tyr goggles and pushed off the side of the pool. I quickly remembered, I hate putting my face in the water! Urg. I literally spent 30 minutes of the next hour getting comfortable with putting my face in the water. It sounds so basic but it just doesn't come naturally to me even though swimming does. I'm a very strange girl I know. I also realized just how long 500 M will be on race day. That's a lot of laps I must say.
My second attempt at swimming was better - although I had to wait 30 minutes to get into the pool. I'm not confident to get in with another swimmer in the same lane just yet. But my face was solidly in the water for the entire duration of my swim. I'm taking the small victories right now and not thinking about the fact that I've never attempted a swim off starting blocks and I have no idea how to do that cool underwater turn at the end of the pool. Baby steps....
The other thing I'm doing leading up to the games is changing up my weightlifting program. I typically pack every muscle group into a 60 minute weight session. I'm now breaking out my muscle groups by day and giving each one a focused hour. This has been tough. I'm certainly more sore than I usually am after a weight workout but I'm liking the change so far.
|My awesome new Brooks track shows - gorgeous aren't they?|
So in essence my new weekly training schedule includes:
- 3.5x running
- 2x biking
- 2x swimming
- 4x weights
Wish me luck!
Monday, June 16, 2014
One of my running buddies signed up this spring to be a pacer at some local half marathons. Last week she informed me that she would be pacing solo for her first ever event and asked if I would be interested in pacing the 2:30 group with her at this weekend's Vancouver USA Half Marathon.
My initial reaction was YES YES YES! I have heard so many great things about this event from running friends as well as reading about it in Runner's World as one of the top nine best new marathons for 2014 and one of the top 10 'most fun-featured filled marathons in the USA' of 2013 by Runner's World. I was instantly excited because this race had been on my bucket list and I just hadn't gotten around to looking into it as my schedule has been so busy.
But then reality hit and I realized Sunday was also Father's Day. I told Emily I couldn't commit until I had talked to my husband to ensure he was ok with me waking early and missing the first half of his day. Luckily for me, I have an extremely understanding hubby when it comes to running and he said it was ok for me to cross the river to Washington and spend my morning getting sweaty on the pavement.
Vancouver Washington is only a few miles north of my hometown of Portland, OR - located just across the Columbia river and when you aren't fighting rush hour traffic it is a very short drive. As such, you would think I would visit more often but in all honesty I've spent very little time in this city and I don't know the major landmarks well at all.
I found a parking spot and made my way to the clock tower where Emily and I planned to meet up on race morning. We took a few pictures and reviewed Red Lizard's pacing guidelines for the 13.1 miles we were about to embark upon. Our pacing stick was a cool red lizard with the number "2:30" emblazend upon it. I knew running a 2:30 half marathon would be easily attainable for me, but I was unsure how difficult it would be carrying a stick in the air for others to see. I also was starting to get nervous about keeping a pace for others. I knew this would be a responsiblity, I was just unsure how I would perform with our duties.
As we lined up we started gathering a crowd of runners around us. Several people asked what our pacing strategy would be - we assured them that we were planning to run an even race, no push for negative splits or anything fancy. We would run the downhill portions slightly faster while slowing slightly for the inclines but for the most part we would keep an even pace.
The National Anthem was belted out by a faceless singer (I assume those in front saw her) and the staggered releases began. We were off and running soon enough and it hit me that I had no idea where this course was taking me because 1.) I don't know Vancouver and 2.) I didn't review the online course thanks to a very busy weekend. It didn't matter much though because a runner that decided to race a 2:30 pace had settled in next to me and gave me the course rundown. It was his 4th or 5th time running this course so he was very familiar with the hills, turns and landmarks on the course. It was nice hearing his perspective and soon enough we were having a great conversation comparing all our favorite races and courses. I've never talked to someone for so long during a race before. But then again I'm usually racing - balls out - and I couldn't hold a long conversation if I wanted to at my race pace. Because I was running at an 11:00 minute mile, I was easily able to chit chat the morning away and keep my heart rate nice and low.
The first several miles flew by, I guess this is why people train with friends. I was shocked how quickly the miles pass when you are talking to people. Being a solo runner this was an entirely new experience for me. I talked to several other people along the way. Emily and I traded the Red Lizard stick every mile to give one another breaks and somehow between the two of us, our Garmins and the pacing schedule - we were actually on pace. It was a beautiful thing.
As the miles ticked on and we approached the halfway point I had talked to half a dozen different folks that were pacing with our group. So many interesting people! One woman had a personal mission to race a half marathon in every state in the U.S. She read the same articles in Runner's World that I had and decided this was to be her Washington race and booked a flight from the east coast just for this event. She had already ticked off 22 states on her list and was asking our pace group for recommendations for an Oregon race. It was such a fun discussion and one I didn't expect to have on the course. I've said it before - but I love fellow runners. In general they are just really great people with great stories and wonderful experiences.
Once we passed the halfway point we had our biggest climb of the day. It took every ounce of restraint to not pull away from the pace group. I really do love to put my head down and climb hard on hills when everyone else is shifting into low gear and struggling. I did pull up a little just to get up the hill - worried if I went too slow I might stop and walk. But I was a good pacer and stayed within a short distance of Emily. I did notice that our pace group thinned at this point but those that stuck with us were determined to keep up and that felt great. We were always running a little fast as we made our way into the water stations so we would slow to take in fluids and walk through the stations - letting our pace come right in alingment with our targets. It was great to be exactly on pace with our projections while letting our runners get in some much needed fluids.
This was also the time on the course when people started either being really happy to see our "2:30" stick or were really angry to see us. I had more than a few people yell to me "DO NOT PASS ME!!" I've been there, pushing along on a race when you see a pace group pass you. It can be heartbreaking if you were hoping to push past a particular time limit. There was also a gentleman running that was obviously trying to stay just ahead of our pace group, he would dart ahead and then settle into his pace and we would push past him gradually again. It was like a strange game of leapfrog. I am pretty sure he finished ahead of us so I bet he was thrilled with the end result.
As we raced the second half of the course we ran along the Columbia River and the rain fell but it was welcomed. It was a heavy mist/light rain and I think all the runners at that point were happy to have a little liquid relief. By the 10 mile marker our pace group had shrunk again and I began to wonder what had happened to some faces that I had become familiar with. But it was my job to keep the pace so we kept going. One of the women we had been running with for the entirety said she was struggling and that if she had been running solo she would have fallen off pace by now but she was determined to keep going and finish with the group. That statement made me so proud. I was really enjoying being part of this race in this capacity.
As we ticked off the final miles, my body was starting to get annoyed. Even though the pace was fully managable, my body was tired of moving. I glanced at my watch - 2 hours 18 minutes and counting. I realized that I typically run my half marathons in two hours (give or take 10 minutes) and the fact that I was still running nearly 20 minutes later was annoying my legs. It was hard to run for so long, even if my pace was so much slower than I'm used to - being on your feet and moving that long is tough!
We were back in the downtown portion of Vancouver and we all knew the finish line wasn't far off now, we followed the marked course around corners and down a very slight decline. One of our group's runners had broken away to finish strong and I kept my eye on her - feeling a sense of pride that she was able to throw in a kick at the finish. As we turned one final time and saw the finish line straight ahead of us, I grabbed Emily's hand so that we could cross our very first race together. In all the races we have done together over the years, we have never crossed together. I was so happy to cross that timing pad with a good friend. It was a first for me and it added to the magical feeling of this race.
After we finished there was a round of high fives where our pace group congratulated one another. Other runners that I hadn't noticed before came up to us and thanked us for our consistent pacing. I didn't even notice those on our fringe that were keeping up but being quiet just behind us yet still utilizing the benefit of the group. It was so rewarding to hear people say how helpful we were and how they needed the motivation and push. I had no idea how great this would feel and how humbled I could be by running a race 30 minutes slower than I typically run.
I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day. Running a pace group was immensely rewarding. I was afraid we might not keep the pace but we crossed the finish line within 23 seconds of our goal pace - not bad, not bad at all!! If Emily ever needs another pacer I'm going to have to say yes. It was such a wonderful experience and I just might opt to run WITH a pace group the next time I want to hit a new goal. I now understand how beneficial pace groups can be!
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
As the weather continues to transition from spring to summer, I'm attempting to transition from injured runner back into my normal routine. I haven't had any lingering hip pain for several weeks now, and I'm trying to be smart with every single run. Normally, this is a time where I would start cautiously building miles for my next race, but we are now firmly in June and that means I'm only a month out from the Transplant Games - which means all my regular running schedules and goals are in transition now as well.
While I was on a beautiful, sun-soaked run yesterday I started thinking how I must stop focusing on endurance and distance and instead look at shorter, faster workouts with an emphasis supporting speed runs and quick pace. I'm not a sprinter - never have been, but I think this particular challenge will be good for me in the long run if I can be smart about my training and continue my program of running every other day. My goal is to reduce my long runs to stay under 8 miles and add in more track time, speed work and fartleks to my new 'long' distance runs. I don't have any half marathons on the books for the summer - which is good as it will hopefully keep me from going out and running double-digit miles right now, but it makes me sad because the half has easily turned into my favorite racing distance.
I returned from a second trip to San Francisco within a month's time on Sunday - which means my strength training/routines have been off --- way off. I don't like going into a new running challenge knowing my strength has been compromised but I'm hopeful I can get back into my program (with a few smart tweaks) and rebuild that lost muscle fairly quickly. As long as I can physically get back into the gym I should be ready to go by the Transplant Games. At least that's my plan.
Here are some of my shots from recent runs - hoping to add some more track images shortly as I build my confidence and speed on the oval in the coming weeks.
|San Francisco run took me to a vantage point where I could look back on the city|
|If you look you can see the Golden Gate Bridge peaking through the fog|
|Found this great outdoor gym - thought about it for 12 seconds....|
|My miles for San Francisco|
|Alcatraz Swim while I was running -such a cool concept for a race!!|
|Safety team heading out for swimmers|
|Swimmers entering final stretch|
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
I had to head South last week for a 6-day long work visit in San Francisco, so of course I did a quick search to see if any races were going to be occurring while I was in town. Not only did I find an event, I found THE event in San Francisco in May - the legendary Bay to Breakers. This race is historically known as the oldest consecutively "running" foot race in the world - starting back in 1912 .
But this is so much more than a race starting near the Embarcadero on the San Francisco Bay racing to the ocean 7.5 miles/12K away. This event has turned into a classic, quirky and unusual San Francisco mainstay.
Although the event started as a running challenge, over the years the act of running and racing was dwarfed by all the insanely creative costumes and revelry the participants enjoyed. Somewhere along the way, the event turned into a slow moving people parade where inhibitions and inebriation was more prevalent than tracking splits.
After I registered I started reading articles on this crazy event and started to doubt whether or not I was signed up for the right race. Stories of nudity and drunkenness were far more prevalent than details of the run, but reading that elite runners come to vie for the purse at the finish line gave me hope.
I submitted a qualifying time and hoped that I would be seeded close enough to the front to avoid the walkers and drunkards.
I arrived solo Saturday afternoon in San Francisco. I was not in my usual location near the convention center for the first evening and I had to get four miles from my hotel room in Fisherman's Landing to the race bib pickup. I figured since the event was only 7.5 miles total, I could manage a four mile walk and get in some sights along the way. I walked up and over some steep San Francisco hills and began to fear the climb on the next day's course. I'm used to running hills, but these were no joke.
The runner's expo was extremely busy and I was grateful I didn't have a car to park in that madness. I easily found my bib, my Under Armor shirt and my return ticket for a bus ride back to the starting line post race. I was also happy to see Sweaty Bands had a booth at the event and I picked up a handful of new headbands (child sized of course for my freakishly small melon).
Since it was now dusk, I decided to catch a cab back to my hotel and find some nourishment - which I did when I tracked down a tasty meal at In & Out Burger. I just can't resist since we don't have them here in Oregon. I was in my hotel room and in bed fairly early, especially for a race night. I guess it's one of the advantages to traveling solo.
|Waking at 4am allowed me to organize myself|
However, I woke promptly at 4:00 am when the people next door woke to catch a flight. I couldn't fall back asleep so instead I got up, double and triple checked my race essentials, found breakfast and made my way to the starting line, which was two miles from my hotel. I made my way down to the wharf with intentions of catching the trolley and experiencing a little local transportation. The only people waiting to board at that hour were other runners. I talked to many others - such a varied and eclectic group. Most people had done this before. Some had little backpacks to store their clothing in once they made it to the start so they could go naked - an honored tradition on this course - and others were just out for a really fun hike.
|Starting line by way of SF Trolley Car|
|All runners at that hour|
I was awarded a Corral A bib and that meant I had a long haul from the trolley stop to find my starting point. I was thankful I left so very early that morning as it took me a good deal of time to work my way to the front, just behind the elite runners.
And then we waited. We waited and I was hit in head with a flying soft tortilla. Apparently that is another strange custom of the race. They were dangerous - you had to be on guard to not get smacked upside the head with a tortilla. There were also beach balls but not as many as the tortillas that were everywhere.
|Hit in the head with a flying tortilla!|
|Some were personalized|
And then we waited some more. I was freezing by this point. We were supposed to start at 8:00 a.m. but there was a potential security hazard on the course so we couldn't start until it was cleared. So we waited. And then I realized I needed to pee. So I jumped the containment rail and I ran to the honeybuckets. Then as there were two people left in line in front of me - they announced the race would be begin! I couldn't not pee so I just prayed the people in front of me would move quickly. As I ran out of the honeybucket the last of Corral A was moving across the starting line - I was a happy girl. I jumped right in and away I ran.
|Gorgeous day at the starting line|
|Corral A - whoop whoop!|
|Feeling excited at the start!|
It was like a reverse parade. The runners in Corral A were mostly wearing traditional running clothes - but the people on the sidelines were CRAZY dressed up. I was having a blast scoping out all the costumes and then I saw my very first naked - not even 1/4 of the way through the first mile. To be fair - he was wearing a shirt but topless men in races aren't new or interesting. Bottomless runners however are a novelty to me! I pulled out my camera and snapped a shot to commemorate. Then I ran as quickly as I could past him and did NOT look back.
|First naked sighting of the race|
The fun continued as we ran along the only part of town I was familiar with on this course - the downtown area near Moscone. I recognized familiar bars and restaurants and the conference venue and all of a sudden the traditional course with people flanking the sides of the road changed. All of a sudden it was as if the gates opened and the party of the sidelines moved onto the course. It was mayhem! I couldn't run in a straight line as drunk people - in costumes and in birthday suits merged in and around the runners. I had a horrible time not crashing into people and truth be told, I stopped having fun. It was dangerous and all I could think, is that if the remaining 10K was like this, I might as well stop now.
Luckily we eventually made a turn and started heading toward the big climb on the course - the Hayes Hill Challenge. Now I love me a good steep hill. It's the one time I can look like a bad ass on a course, so I took off with all my might and guess what? All the drunkards disappeared - I guess they figured the party was more enjoyable on a flat surface.
|Start of Hayes Hill Challenge|
And then I spotted the famous Salmon Centipede. Another tradition of Bay to Breakers is that you can register a team - a centipede - where runners are tied together and you run the distance as a group. Fun right? One centipede group runs the course in reverse from finish to start - they are all dressed as salmon and they are 'swimming upstream' HILARIOUS! I was so excited to see them when I hit the hill that I stopped and took pictures. I didn't care about my time just some really unique memories.
|Highlight of the race for me!|
Once I started running again I actually passed a number of people I passed at the beginning of the hill - love that! The hill wasn't nearly as long and torturous and I thought it would be and we were on a decline fairly quickly. It was here that most people started flying. I however channeled my physical therapist's words of wisdom, squeezed my butt cheeks together and slowed my pace making sure to keep my stride short and controlled. I wasn't going to start a week long business trip with a reinjured hip if I had any say in the matter.
|Entering Golden Gate Park - fog rolled in|
|Amazing spectators all along the course|
We proceeded west along the course - through San Francisco's "Panhandle" and eventually made our way to Golden Gate Park. WOW! I was stunned by how beautiful that park was. I wanted to stop for pictures constantly - and I did for a waterfall or two but I knew I was really hurting my overall time so I needed to put the phone away and just run. We even ran past a heard of buffalo! Buffalo! I was in awe and made a mental note to return sometime on an upcoming trip to enjoy myself more. As much fun as it was people watching the spectators during the first half, the beauty of Golden Gate Park was a highlight of this race for me.
|Golden Gate Park|
As we closed up mile six I began to wonder exactly how long this course was. I knew it was 7 and "something" - was it 7.2? 7.5? 7.8? I had no clue and apparently nobody running around me did either. It's hard to stage a final kick when you have no clue how long your kick should last.
As I ran up toward a windmill...or was it a lighthouse? (I don't recall but I wanted to stop and take a picture of it) I heard the roar of a finish line and accurately predicted that once we turned a corner I'd see the finish up ahead. Right as I started to pick up speed another naked runner caught my eye as he passed me and my competitive spirit kicked in. I hate being passed in the final moments of a race, but I sure as hell wasn't going to let a naked guy beat me. I pulled in behind him (shudder) and suddenly realized how crowded this finish line was. The only way to finish was to finish side by side with the naked man....here goes nothing!
Right as we crossed the timing pad another runner started to push me from my left - it took everything in my power to not crash into the naked man on my right. And I thought - well this will make for a crazy finish line photo if nothing else!
|A finish line shot to beat all pictures|
I quickly collected my medal and had my finisher shot taken. I didn't pass go, didn't stop for the freebies, just kept running to the return buses as I had to get back to my hotel and start my crazy busy work week. I boarded the return bus and realized I was THE ONLY GIRL on the entire bus. How weird is that considering women runners outnumber male in every race I run??
|Seriously the race support was amazing|
|Return bus to start line|
The bus took forever to return to the starting line - I swear I ran it in the same time as it took for the bus to return. I then caught another streetcar back to my hotel. A quick meal (and celebratory Bellini) and I was off to start a crazy, but super fun work week in San Francisco.
|Food and celebration drink!|
All in all it was a crazy event. It was much shorter than my usual races but it was high on fun. I've never seen naked runners before and the costumes were amazing. I wasn't happy that there were so many drunkards at 8:30 in the morning but we moved past them quickly enough. I LOVED the support along the course. Ample water stations and LOADS of bathrooms. I have never ever seen so much bathroom support on a race course ever. It was awesome!
Thanks for a great week San Francisco - this race (and the photos) will certainly go down in my record books!
|Non race highlight of the week - Lenny Kravitz!|