Monday, June 30, 2008

I have been to purgatory

Yesterday I finished my second half marathon during the hottest day of the year in Seattle. It also happened to be the hilliest course I have ever run.

We'll start with the good part... like the first 5 miles were no problem. It was a little warm, but we ran across the 520 Bridge (photo to the left) and had the benefit of a nice cool breeze coming off the water. I couldn't even believe we had been running for an hour already!

Everything was going fine until I saw the 7 mile marker...

half way up a hill.

Wait a second... this course was supposed to be flat! I had checked the course elevation map and the biggest hill should be coming between mile 11 and mile 12 (coincidentally the hardest mile in a half marathon, right?) Here's the course map provided by the race (to the right), which shows some rolling hills, but for the most part, a fairly manageable course.

Chris and I are able to get through the first two hills. There are some wonderful spectators on their lawns wetting us down with their hose and sprinklers. It feels great for a moment before all the water evaporates off my skin...

Damn, it's hot.

We get the satisfaction of running down hill, only to turn the corner and see...

another incline?!?!

I started running up it, but I was going so slow I knew I had to walk... it was too much. My heart was pounding and I could not cool off. I checked my heart rate monitor... 178! And I'm walking... partially in the shade!

As a reference for me, here's how the heart rates break down:

165- Nice, easy 11 minute-mile
175 - Pushing for a 10+ minute-mile
180- Running uphill in cool weather
189- Heart is about to pound out of my chest, incredibly uncomfortable

I realize I need to to take it easy, especially if I want to have anything left for those last dreaded miles. I stopped at every water station and walked while I downed glucose and water.

I'm able to keep chugging along, but this part of the race was definitely challenging. I knew Deb would be at mile 10.5, so I had to at least make it that far!

Deb was actually a little past mile 11, which actually made all of mile 10 go by much more quickly! She asked how it was going, all I could say was, "this sucks!"

I knew I only had two miles to go, but I started to feel all sorts of strange sensations in my body. My hands had swollen to the point where it was painful to try to close my fingers. My feet were swollen and my shoes felt so tight. My left ankle shot pain up my leg with each step, meanwhile my right hamstring felt like it was on the verge of cramping.

And I had the chills! I could feel the goosebumps showing up on my arms, and I felt cold, yet feverish. I even starting getting a tingling sensation on my face.

Then Chris and I hit the even larger hill. I knew I had to walk it. We both decided to walk to the top and see how we felt about running the downhill afterward. As we were walking Chris saw this gal we had started with. Her shirt said, " I thought this was supposed to be a beer run!" She really wanted to beat her, so she picked up the pace.

I did not.

I felt like I was lucky to be walking at this point.

I came to the mile 12 marker, only a mile to go... slightly downhill. I started to run again. I was sooooo slow. I just could not muster enough strength to pick up the pace. I could see Chris off in the distance. But she was too far. I couldn't catch up. I just had to take it at my own, very slow, pace.

Before I knew it, I turned the corner and I was in the shoot and could see the finish line. It's funny, at this point during Vancouver I started choking up because I was so proud of my accomplishment. This time, they were literally tears of joy. I knew not to let myself totally cry because I can't breathe, but I didn't care, I was sooooo excited for this to be over!

Then some dude started coming up on my left... No way Jose! I somehow found some strength to pick up the pace and finish before him!

And then there was watermelon! Woo hoo! I could not think of a better post-race treat! My face was covered in watermelon by the time I met up with Deb, Chris, and Chris' family.

I don't even care about my time, or the fact that I had to walk more than I would have liked. I am so ecstatic that experience is over. I was so nervous the night before and it turns out, the race was even more terrible than I had imagined it would be. But I survived!

Chris later emailed me the actual course elevation and map:

Yeah, that's more what it felt like. Every agonizing step... But I couldn't be more happy that I did it. I probably won't put myself through that again... but now I really know that even when things seem terrible, if I just put my head down and take one step at a time, I'll get through it.

I'm too stubborn not to.

Portland, here I come!

Friday, June 27, 2008

They don't make 'em like they used to!

Surprise surprise!

I can't eat like I used to...

Not that it's a bad thing, by any means!

Its probably a good thing that I had to spend half of the Mariners game in the bathroom because I ate 10 garlic fries. And I wish it was just diarrhea or something I knew how to control...

I'm about 95% sure that I have gallstones. I know I'm totally a self-diagnoser, but I've been doing some research and it's all pointing to the same thing. I've had six "episodes" in the last six months. Initially I thought it was just really bad gas from being lactose intolerant. But how do you research "cramps" and "gas"? Those are symptoms for just about anything that's fun!

Then I stumbled upon an article on gallstones.

(they're so cute in their little dish)

Here's how wikipedia describes the attacks:

A main symptom of gallstones is commonly referred to as a gallstone "attack", also known as binary colic, in which a person will experience intense pain in the upper abdominal region that steadily increases for approximately thirty minutes to several hours. A victim may also encounter pain in the back, ordinarily between the shoulder blades, or pain under the right shoulder. In some cases, the pain develops in the lower region of the abdomen, nearer to the pelvis, but this is less common. Nausea and vomiting may occur.

Sounds pleasant, right?

I totally freaked Matt out when I had a terrible attack at the Las Vegas airport while we were in line to get our tickets. I started getting the pain in my stomach, and I knew what was about to happen. I started feeling really woozy and light headed. Then all the blood in my body rushed up to my head, I was barely awake standing up and I had the chills, yet I was dripping in sweat.

Matt took care of our bags so I could go to the restroom where I curled up into a ball and just waited it out. That's really all I can do. I was fine an hour later.

I blame the box of cheez-its I ate a half an hour before.


There was no way I could have gallstones, right? I mean I eat really really healthy most of the time. WTF? I'm supposed to have less health problems, not new ones!

I was on a walk with my friend, Holly, and she had mentioned that she came across an article saying that people who lose weight too quickly run the risk of getting gallstones.

So I immediately looked for the article.

It has been confirmed, I've developed gallstones from losing weight too quickly. I have lost 85 pounds in 9 months. Basically all that crap I ate before I decided to get healthy is still in my body. My poor gallbladder couldn't process it fast enough to keep up with my digestion. It probably doesn't help that I haven't been very good about getting my healthy oils in (which lubricate the process... get more of that *ish out of my system).


So what have I done about it?


I keep putting off making a doctors appointment. I'm not scared to go. I really want to! I'm just a complete slacker about making appointments. I don't like using my phone for personal conversations in my office with 10 people and no walls. And I don't want to do it on my lunch break because I'm usually with co-workers.

I'm blogging about it, so anyone who reads this will harass me until I make an appointment. I already did research and picked out a doctor, I saved the number in my phone... no excuses.

Also, I guess this is sort of a public service announcement. Just raising awareness :)


Luckily, I only get these attacks when I eat absolute crap disguised as food. I know to avoid super greasy and really high fat foods. Because, frankly, none of that crap is worth the amount of pain it causes.

So now I'm stuck in this healthy world I've created for myself. Whether I like it or not :)

Let's go have some veggies dipped in hummus!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Snoop Bloggy Blog

Man, I sometimes really suck at this "keeping up with my blog" business....

Here are my excuses:
- I've been working a lot
- I've been running a lot
- I've been enjoying an active social calendar
- And all these things mean I'm not sleeping much

The running world has been awesome! I've found two running buddies crazy enough to meet me as the sun comes up to go for a jog. We get to enjoy the beautiful views this city has to offer, and we have them all to ourselves!

Myrtle Edwards park can be somewhat scary when you're on your own, this morning Sarah was awesome enough to meet me at my apartment and we embarked on a four mile journey along the water front and back up Queen Anne hill. She's such a trooper, this run is gorgeous, but either way you end on an incline, Queen Anne hill being the lesser of two evils.

Tomorrow morning I'm meeting Chris at Alki at 5:30 a.m. to do 5 or 6 miles. This run is also fantastic! It's flat and we usually make a point of ending the run at starbucks, just in time for me to need some caffeine!


So I've neglected my blog a little, but I'll be back! This weekend I'm running my second half marathon. I don't feel totally prepared for it, but I know it'll be fine. Expect a full report!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How do they do it?

This whole week I've been struggling to get my runs in... Monday the weather was ridiculous (windy and cold), and my running buddy cancelled, which made it much easier for me to cancel... I was lucky enough to get myself to do yoga that night, so I wasn't a total waste.

Tuesday we had some friends over for dinner, and my apartment was a disaster, so rather than selfishly taking a run while the best boyfriend in the world cleans and slaves over dinner, I took the day to help get the apartment in order.

Tonight I went to a senior portfolio show, followed by Ladies' Night, followed by a much needed pedicure. (I'm totally not one of those gals, so the fact that my feet were so funky is a testament to how poorly I'm doing at keeping it all together.)

Tomorrow my theater group is meeting and Friday is well... ya know, Friday...

then I'm running 12 miles on Saturday! hahaha... that sounds pleasant...


I need to get my ass up in the morning. No more excuses. It is too hard in the summer to have a social life and train for a distance run. I know I won't be able to balance both successfully. Frankly, it doesn't get much better than drinking a cold beer at 3 in the afternoon on a sunny day....

All I need is some sun... and to have my run out of the way!

What does that really mean?

It means I need to be up at 4:30 in the morning. I have to be in the shower a little after 6 if I plan to catch the bus on time.

It also means I need to drive somewhere safe to run in the wee small hours of the morning. Even though Queen Anne is perfectly harmless, I'm still one girl running by herself, with no one around. My best bet is probably Greenlake... which will mean two or three laps around it once I get my distance up again... geesh! I thought this was supposed to be fun!

Last year I had a good 6 month stint of getting up to go to the gym every morning, and I know that all it takes is a week or two of sludging through it before it becomes routine.

I'm starting tomorrow...

I will be at Greenlake at 5... see ya there!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Heart Rate and Fat burn (heart burn and fat rate?)

Although I haven't been to the gym in months, I was always mystified by the heart rate scales on the treadmills and elliptical machines. For some reason if your heart rate stays lower you are in "Fat burn" territory. However, when your heart rate gets higher your workout is considered "Cardio."


I thought the whole point of doing cardio workouts was to burn fat?

I read this fantastic book, Marathoning for Mortals, which I highly recommend to anyone even remotely interested in running. Here's a section from their book that breaks it down:

"You run all of your tempo workouts just below your anaerobic threshold, that is, the level at which your body begins to burn the short supply of glycogen or sugar in your system at a higher rate. Your muscles can burn one of two types of fuel–fat or glycogen (stored carbohydrates). At lower intensities–such as walking–your muscles prefer to burn mostly fat for fuel. However the higher your intensity, the more glycogen your muscles burn.

"You can go for days on fat stores but only a few hours on glycogen. The body is always using a ratio of both, but for the purpose of a successful and comfortable race, you want to burn a higher rate of fat.

"Your tempo workouts will allow you to raise your threshold. Ultimately, your body will burn a higher percentage of fat for a longer period of time at a higher intensity. This not only helps you lose weight; it also bolsters your endurance. The more your body burns fat for fuel, the more it conserves glycogen and the longer you can run without feeling tired."

Hey, I'm a fan of burning fat, So I think I'll keep up the tempo runs!

I mean, it makes sense that you can build endurance by increasing your threshold. And really I've seen evidence in my own running career.

Presently I am reading The Complete Book of Running for Women, where I discovered that women store the same amount of glycogen whether we eat a diet containing 60 or 75% carbohydrates, but we burn more fat than carbohydrates or protein compared to men. Which means our glycogen store will last longer.

So.... if I keep up the tempo work and maintain a healthy amount of carbs and fat in my diet I will be able to run forever...

Or cover the same amount of distance in less time...

I prefer the latter. Even though I totally agree with C.S. Lewis when he said, "If one could run without getting tired I don't think one would often want to do anything else," let's face it, comrades, the best part of distance running is when you're finished.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


I knocked 4 minutes off my last 5K time in a matter of 4 months. And it wasn't easy.

Last night I ran the fremont 5K. (My race photo is there to the left.) My intent was to use this race as my tempo run for the week. I haven't competed in a short race or fun run in a few months, and I was curious to see how fast I could really run 3 miles.

I would really chalk this event to a bad run day. I came home from work starving and against my better judgement, had a pretty heavy meal. It was also raining all day, so I wore pants, a long sleeve technical shirt, and a jacket...

It ended up being a beautiful afternoon, and I couldn't believe it. It was actually pretty hot (considering our recent weather), and around mile 2, I could tell my upchuck reflexes were being tested...

I ran the first mile at a relatively slow pace (or so I thought), but then I hit the mile marker at 9:40. I felt fine, but I was distracted by the two barefoot men running near me, and the woman on one leg who passed me.

Between mile 2 and 3 is where it got hard. I could feel myself slowing and couldn't do anything about it. My heart rate was in the 170's (which for me means I'm pushing, but I'm probably at about 80% of my capacity). And all I really felt like I could puke at any time. I even rationalized stopping and walking for 30 seconds.

But come on, it's 3 miles...

There was a large crowd of people around a runner who had fallen. As I got closer I saw his hand was covered in blood. I looked in through the crowd and saw a man in his 40's with a purple face and blood under his nose. It was pretty scary! The ambulance was on it's way for him.

I passed the mile 3 marker at 29 minutes. I could see the finish line, so I wanted to push harder. I could feel my heart pounding, but I pushed anyway. I was 50 feet from the finish line and looked down at my heart rate... 188! Oh Sh*t! But I'm so close. My heart feels like it could jump right out of my chest, and it's over!

When I stopped running my entire body shook. I knew if I had to run another step I would have thrown up. I could feel my dinner packing it's bags and getting ready to come back up.

Sarah finished just after me. She also felt pretty woosy, so we headed to the food table, got some water, and met up with her husband, Michael, at the beer garden. Danielle finished a little after the both of us, so we all went to a bar and got a beer.

The beer actually calmed my stomach, quite a bit!


The book I'm currently reading, "The Complete Book of Running for Women" casually mentions a 10-minute mile as though it's a slow pace, on par with jogging. I find this fascinating! I've been running for over a year now, and I'm only finally getting to a 10-minute mile pace, and only on my short runs. I think one of my other side goals would be to have a 10-minute mile be my 10K pace. I would LOVE for it to be my distance pace, but really my only motivation for running long distances faster is so I won't have to be out there for so long!

Guess it's time to up the speedwork!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Reunited and it feels so good...


Saturday morning my alarm went off at 5:45. I slowly got myself out of bed. I found my running pants, got my sports bra on, strapped on my heart rate monitor, located my one technical shirt, threw my hair back in a ponytail, put on my under armor running socks, and went into the kitchen.

It's weird how a routine and gear can feel like getting reacquainted with an old friend you haven't seen in a while. For two months every Saturday started this way. It was completed by having a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of soymilk.

After the Vancouver Half I took a week off of working out. My body appreciated it, and I continued to lose weight. The problem was, not working out was starting to become too easy. One week turned into two, and then three... I went on the occasional three mile social run, but nothing I would consider training.

Saturday was going to be my first long run with Chris. And I knew it was going to kick my ass. We were planning to run 6 (or 7 miles). Which is twice what I had run at any one time in the past month. To make matters worse, rather than eating a healthy dinner and going to bed early (like I did for my two months I was training), I decided to go out for dinner and have a glass of wine... and three jack and diet cokes.


Back to Saturday morning... Chris woke up with a stomach bug :( I knew this was going to make it easier for me to wuss out on my run... but instead I went anyway. I decided to run along the Burke-Gilman. I knew it was three miles out to the water fountain.

Mile 1-2:
Were awesome! I was somewhere around 10.5 minutes a mile for the first two and the felt great. I've totally missed this!

Mile 3:
It's funny how quickly running goes from being enjoyable to pretty uncomfortable in a matter of a couple steps. It's hot out and I got a pretty bad cramp and felt my breakfast starting to come up, and I was ready to turn around, but I hadn't even made it to the water fountain yet... Then I looked down right as I was stepping on the marker for three miles. I knew the water fountain wasn't far, so I kept going.

Mile 4:
I spent this entire mile looking for the mile 2 mile marker I had seen on the way out. This sucks.

Mile 5:
When you run out and back you get to cross paths with some of the same people. I see a man approaching slowly, he's walking... and carrying a cup of coffee in his hand.

Mmmm... coffee, I look down at my monitor to see how many minutes I have to keep this up before I can be smug walking around with my cup of coffee... dang it, probably 20 minutes yet!

Mile 6:
I'm so close I can smell it! I'm ready for this to be over with... and it is!

I spent a good 20 minutes stretching at my truck, and it felt so great! All of it, so great! Even the agony (haha, I can be so dramatic!) during the run seems all worth it now that it's over.

I missed this!

I felt so great after my run, I go home and sign up for a couple other fun runs and races I'm planning to do: the Fremont 5K, the Seafair Half Marathon, the 4 mile run at the Redhook Brewery... and the Portland Marathon.

Here we go!