Sunday, February 16, 2014

Starting Now

I still need to update the official times on my Race Reports page, but since my last post in August, I accomplished my goal of running my first 10K, and then did another one shortly afterward. Yay! Initially, it was scary to think about going a distance that I had never felt before, but the more I kept pushing, the more I knew that I could do it. After running my second 10K, I started to love the challenge even more, and in November, I got the crazy idea to register for my first half marathon that will be taking place in June. I felt nervous at the prospect of doing 13.1 miles, but considering how I had worked my way up from doing no running at all, to 5Ks and then 10Ks, it definitely seemed doable.

And then February 3 came.

On that day, I was diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis and a pulmonary embolism: blood clots in my right calf and right lung. Initially, the intense pain in my calf was misdiagnosed as a cyst by a doctor at another hospital that I visited, but no matter what I did, the pain didn't go away, so I went elsewhere to get a second opinion. 

Over the past two weeks, I've been either in the hospital or at my doctor's office about 8 or 9 times --- I've lost count, but I know it's a lot. Everyone keeps telling me how fortunate I am to still be alive, which is true, considering how undiagnosed blood clots can almost certainly lead to death. However, what I'm struggling with now is the slow recovery process, to not only get back to where I was pre-clots, but to also get my body ready for my half marathon in June.

I know that blood clots can result in different experiences for each individual, but for me, here's what it's been like: Twice a day, I have to give myself an injection in the stomach, as one part of my blood thinning regimen. Then in the evening, I take a pill that also works to help prevent future clots from forming. 

Since this medication has an effect on all of the blood in my body, and not just the clots, the biggest side effect that I'm learning how to deal with is fatigue. No matter what I'm doing, I am tired all the time. Even something as simple as standing up to do dishes for 10 minutes requires me to sit down and take a breather before going onto anything more strenuous, like say, sorting my laundry. It's such a bizarre feeling to get used to because mentally, I feel that I should still be able to do everything that I could do before, but physically, my body knows that it needs to take its time to do things much more slowly. This is partially because of the medication, but mostly due to the fact that with a clot in my lung, it's taking a little bit longer for blood and oxygen to be delivered there.

I asked my doctor about when I would be able to exercise again, and he told me that I can do whatever I want, just as long as I pace myself and listen to what my body is telling me that it can handle. So yesterday, I went to my CrossFit gym's open gym hours to start with some simple body weight exercises. It was the first time I'd worked out since the beginning of the month, and it was tough. I found myself having to sit down and drink water after even just 5 reps of a movement, and after only one hour of working out, I was so exhausted that I napped for about 3 hours when I got home! I'm still feeling the effects of it today, since my head starts to hurt and throb whenever I stand up.

So here's where I am now. I know I spent a lot of time in this post writing about what I can't do, but the reason I wrote it is so that over time, I can look back on this and track my progress towards all of the things that I can do. On June 14, I will be running my first half marathon. That was my goal when I signed up for the race in November, and it's still my goal now, even more than before. I know it's going to take a lot of hard work and patience to get to where I need to be, but all I can do is take things one day at a time, starting now.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Biggest Loser Run/Walk 5K

It's been a busy week for me as I've started getting ready for the new school year, so I didn't have time to write this entry until now. But I'm very excited to share the results of the race from Sunday.

Great news: I set a new PR!!!

Let's start from the beginning. It was a beautiful and sunny day by the lakefront, and I was feeling good about running. I always feel slightly anxious right before the start of a race, and Sunday was no exception. Those feelings began to go away, though, once I loaded up my interval app and just focused on doing what it told me to do. So many times before, I've floundered during 5Ks because I wasn't sure how long I should run, or if I was taking too many walk breaks, but with the app, I knew that I would have a better race.

The course started behind Soldier Field and then took us south through McCormick Place and a little bit of the lakefront trail before looping up north again. Compared to the race in Rockford, I felt that this one had a lot more open space for everyone to use. Even when there was traffic moving in both directions on the trail, I never felt that I was being severely slowed down without anywhere to maneuver.

This is probably the best photo ever taken of me while I'm running. Usually I look distressed and ready to pass out.

I'm glad that I used RunKeeper during the race, since the only mile marker I saw was for the first mile. By the time I got to mile 2, I couldn't believe that I was almost done. My average pace was looking great, and I kept pushing forward because I knew that I could get the new PR that I've wanted for over a year now. 

The finish line! I knew I had set a new PR, so you can see me there in the middle throwing up my hands in victory.

Right before I got to the finish line, I (almost literally) ran into Dolvett, one of the trainers from the Biggest Loser show. Most of the other runners and walkers were giving him high fives, but apparently I have no shame at all, because I ran up to him and asked, "Can I have a hug?" Dolvett happily obliged and then, in typical Biggest Loser trainer fashion, screamed at me and told me to keep going to the finish line.

Later that evening, I did a happy dance when I saw my official results.

Time: 43:13
Pace: 13:56/mile


Looking back on this, I think it was unrealistic for me to expect to complete the 5K in 42 minutes at this point in my training, since I hadn't factored in running on inclines, running around other people, etc. The more I keep training, I have no doubt I'll be able to get there. For now, though, I'm incredibly proud of myself for setting a goal of a new PR, figuring out which steps I needed to take in order to improve, doing those steps, and actually achieving the goal.

If the Biggest Loser Run/Walk comes back to Chicago next summer, I would definitely run it again. This time, the race was much more organized, and the results were even posted the same day! I'm glad that they seem to have listened to the feedback that people gave them in previous races and made some changes for the better.

So, as I'm writing this, my countdown clock in the sidebar is telling me that the Chicago 10K is a mere 15 hours, 43 minutes, and 11 seconds away. Part of me is still terrified to do this longer race that I've never done before, but I know I can do it. I've done the seemingly impossible before, so it's time for me to figure out what else I'm capable of.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

5K Run through = Success!

Distance: 3.1 miles
Duration: 41:37
Pace: 13:23

Yesterday I did a full 5K run through to prepare for the Biggest Loser race on Sunday, and I can't believe how I did. I've never finished a 5K (practice or real) in under 42 minutes!

To help me with my pacing, I used the Interval Run app. The last time I used it during a 5K was at the Run to Remember in May, but that didn't go quite as I had planned, and I now fully understand why.

With this app, you can set your custom run/walk intervals and have a voice-over prompt you to switch between the two during the workout. For some reason, at the Run to Remember I thought it would be a good idea to set my intervals to run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute, and then repeat until the end of the race. However, I hadn't actually trained for running at that pace. I did okay during the first interval, but then after the first minute of walking, I just didn't have it in me to maintain a steady pace for the next four minutes. Or the following four minutes, and so on. I finished that race with a time of 46:09, which wasn't too bad for my first run of the season after a long break, but it wasn't my best time, either.

Yesterday was different. Instead of going for longer run times that I know I'm not yet able to maintain for the duration of the race, I decided to set my interval times to run 1 minute and 30 seconds, and then walk 1 minute. Having these times made a HUGE difference in the quality of my running. I felt more relaxed, knowing that I was running for durations that matched those I've done with my 10K training app. Also, since the running periods were shorter, I was able to put more energy and effort into them, which increased my overall speed.

The run did have its tough moments, though. Around the 1.8 mile mark, that's when I started to feel myself hitting "the wall," thinking that I couldn't go any further. I was so close to calling it quits, telling myself that I could just do the full run sometime later this week, but by then, I reached 2 miles. Once I was there, I knew I could push through and finish. It was hard to keep going, even though I've done this so many times before.

Additionally, around mile 2.5, both of my feet started to cramp up and feel like heavy weights that were pulling me down. Maybe I had my laces tied too tightly again, but after I saw my average pace on RunKeeper, my motivation for finishing was being able to see what I knew would be a faster time. I'm glad I did it, because I literally screamed out in joy once I saw 41:37!

This was the first time that I'd actually done a full run through before a 5K race. I think that in the past, I've been too afraid to see how slow I would finish, but actually, yesterday was quite the opposite. Now that I see what I'm capable of doing, I can't wait to get to the starting point, run at the intervals that I know will bring me success, and finish the race in under 42 minutes.

Monday, July 29, 2013

W2D2: Short, but sweet

Where: Concordia University Outdoor Track
Distance: 1.17 miles
Duration: 17:07
Average pace: 14:39

Today's run was short, but it was a good intro run for the rest of the week, which will be more intense. I made sure to only use RunKeeper for the main part of the workout, and fortunately, the 10K Runner app didn't quit on me at all this time. Yay!

This workout consisted of:

1.5R + 2W (4 times)
1 R + 1W (2 times)

The longer runs went by very quickly, and I think that I could've gone even longer if my shins hadn't start to hurt a little towards the end. I admit that I don't always do the proper stretches after I finish running, so that's something for me to work on as well.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Biggest Loser 5K, Chicago-style

Earlier this year, I heard the Biggest Loser TV show was putting on a series of races throughout the country, and I was excited to see that they were coming to Rockford, a city that's about an hour northwest of Chicago. I'm a huge fan of the show, so I thought that it would be fun to make their 5K one of my scheduled races for the summer. Sounds good so far, right?

Well, it ended up being the most disorganized race that I've ever run. Just to name a few things:

  • There were no course marshals to tell us which side of the street to stay on, so as most of the runners were headed down the main street, the earlier runners were coming back straight through us, since no one was really sure where to go.
  • The trail that we ran on for a large section of the course became incredibly crowded with traffic going both ways, especially with some people running and walking with double strollers.
  • The water station was only staffed by one volunteer, and none of the cups were filled with water. I didn't stop to wait, so I kept on going. I certainly don't blame the volunteer for this, but it's too bad that the race didn't have more people helping out at that part of the course.
  • And here's the big one: The official results weren't posted until 2 DAYS after the race. I have never had to wait that long to find out official times, and neither could all of the people who complained on the organization's Facebook page, wondering when our results would be up.

So, after that disaster of a race, I told myself that I would never again run in the Biggest Loser series.

With my 10K quickly approaching, however, lately I've been feeling that I don't want to go into it feeling overly anxious and jittery. I think that if I run a smaller race like a 5K about a week before the 10K, I'll get a lot of those nerves out of my system and hopefully let that feeling of success carry me over into the following week.

I started looking for a local race that I could register for, and I was happy to find one that's conveniently located downtown, is being held on a day that's open in my schedule, and best of all, uses almost the exact same course as the Chicago 10K! It all sounded so perfect, but of course, the huge catch is that it's another Biggest Loser 5K.

I seriously debated not doing it, and part of me is still wondering why I registered, considering how the Rockford run turned out. But I know that running on the same course as my 10K in a real race environment can only help me when it's time to do it again for the 10K.

Don't get me wrong --- there were certainly some good things about the Biggest Loser 5K in Rockford. I enjoyed talking with so many people who were also fans of the show and finally got up the courage to run their first race. Their stories inspired me, and I think it's amazing that a TV show can bring people together like that to make positive life changes.

But I truly hope that the race organizers have also made some changes since Rockford. We'll see.

Friday, July 26, 2013

W1D3 and W2D1: Going the distance

I meant to post this yesterday, but my internet was down (thanks, Comcast!). So here's how yesterday's run went:

Where: Lakefront trail, going north up to 47th Street
Distance: 2.68 miles
Duration: 42:27
Average pace: 15:50

What went well:

For this workout, I decided that I would try running two workouts consecutively. Realizing that it'll probably take 90 minutes to run a 10K, one of my biggest challenges will be getting used to being physically active for twice the amount of time that I am now. The last thing I want to do is to run the 10K, get to the halfway point, and then not have the momentum to keep going. So my plan is to gradually increase my distance and time during the training runs over the next few weeks.

Unlike last time, I actually remembered to stop my RunKeeper app at the end of my workout! Last week, I was so tired once I got home that I accidentally kept it going for another 15 minutes before realizing that it was still on. Oops!

Another positive change is that I could feel my energy level going up. When the run periods came during the workout, I knew that I could conquer them, and by the end, I even felt like I could push through for longer before reverting back to walking.

Lessons learned:

I have to play around my 10K Runner app to see how switching to other apps during a workout affects its ability to stay on. Yesterday, it seemed to stay on whenever I switched to RunKeeper, but then when I briefly switched over to the photo app, it shut itself off, even though I thought that I had paused it. I was about halfway through the W2D1 workout and there was no way to restart it from where I had left off, so I sort of freestyled the rest of the run. I was able to check off a box in the app to indicate that I had completed it, but I wonder if there's some way to recover a run that was already in progress.

Additionally, for next time I'm going to change the way that I use RunKeeper to track my stats. My stats for this workout include some of the 5-minute warm-up and cool-down walks, and now I'm seeing just how much those walking periods are slowing down my overall average pace. I don't actually see myself running for such a long period of time during the race, so I want the stats to reflect what I actually did during the main part of the workout.


Finally, for those of you who run along the southern part of the lakefront trail, please make sure to read this article about some recent robberies around 47th Street. It's scary to think about this kind of thing repeatedly happening so close to home, so stay safe out there.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The mental side of running

Tonight before my crossfit workout, I went on a short run in the area that's down the street from the gym. There were no cars on the gravel path, and aside from a few other crossfitters who were also doing their warmup run, there was no one else around me. 

I felt free. 

As I ran, I thought about the feelings I usually get when I start a race. I look around and see hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of other runners. I know that really, the only competition that matters is the one I have with myself, but even so, I start to feel nervous. I begin to doubt my abilities, and even once I've started running the race, I sometimes fear that I'll do so poorly that I'll be the last person to finish. 

Those types of feelings never cross my mind when I'm running alone, or even with just a small group of people at crossfit. I even tend to run faster when I'm on my own than i do when I'm actually running an official race. Maybe it's performance anxiety, or the fear that I'm being judged by everyone around me, even though as a whole, runners are some of the warmest and most welcoming people I've ever met. Whatever it is, it's all in my head. 

Hopefully, I can work on building up my confidence over the next few weeks as I continue to train for the 10K. 

Have you ever doubted your running abilities just before, or even during a race? If so, how did you start thinking more positively?