Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Much Delayed Update


I truly cannot believe that I haven't written since MAY! Well, that right there is evidence of the reality of my athletic life right now. It has been, for the most part, nonexistent. I've done workouts here and there - and even a couple little races - but nothing at all near full strength/fitness. I just haven't gotten into any kind of rhythm. My triathlon goal is on hold until next summer due to injury/lack of motivation. I have dealt with hamstring pain/tightness for all of my running life and after running a 5K last spring I experienced some pretty severe lower back pain. I went to the orthopedist about these two issues - hamstrings and lower back - and left with a diagnosis of femoral acetabular impingement in BOTH hips. Awesome. I've never experienced hip pain before. (Tightness, yes, but what runner doesn't?) Apparently both of my hips are totally trashed. Sweet. I got cortisone injections on both sides and was on my way. I cannot really report whether they worked or not because I haven't truly tested them with any sort of regular training regimen. Hopefully that will change soon.

As mentioned above, I did do a couple of fun little races. The first was a Duathlon (IronGirl Bloomington, 2 mile run, 22 mile bike, 2 mile run) and the second was last week's Gobble Gallop, a 5K on Thanksgiving. Both were fun but by no means at any kind of full effort. I took them both easy, the Duathlon because it was my first multisport experience (loved it!) and the 5K because I am just not in shape to go fast. Both were a great time had with family and friends.

Here is me participating in my first multisport race, a duathlon!

Sometimes it truly is fun to just do these things because I can, and not because I am trying to prove/achieve something. Minus a horrible asthma attack (that landed me in the ER) during/after the Duathlon (caused by the cold temps), I really just enjoyed both events and loved having a casual/fun attitude about them. But I'd be lying if I said I was content to just participate. I am getting itchy. I want a little more. I need, well, a goal.

I have one. It's a bit lofty. And it's a bit against some of the things I've been saying over the past several months. But I am gonna do it. I think. I hope. I am going to run a very casual, no-frills trail marathon...

...in March.

I was first introduced to this race in, I think, 2008 when my friend and ultramarathon veteran Melissa ran the race. She suggested I come out and "run her in" to the finish. (Basically, I parked at the finish and ran up the trail until I found her...then I ran with her to the finish.) I had already done my own workout that morning and was only planning to run about 5 miles total. We both had our cell phones so that she could get in touch with me and give me an estimate on when to get out there. She had initially planned to run the 50K (there is a 50K and a Marathon, both of which are longer than they say on this unmeasured course that changes from year to year - around 30 and 34 miles respectively) but called to tell me she was having a tough day and decided to do the marathon instead. Well, her day continued to be rough and I ended up running much more than I had planned! I think I ran over 10 miles...which was fine, but not what I was prepared for. But, I loved it. There were river crossings (I definitely got wet!) and it was a mildly technical, single-track course. But it was fun and I thought: that would be fun to do some day! I have been running trails more than roads recently and, well, even if I am not in prime marathon form by March, I think I can get myself fit enough to tough it out.

We'll see. I haven't run more than 6 miles since last spring. And really haven't done any truly long runs at all since the NYC Marathon last November. A year ago. Also, I have only sporadically done any strength/core training and, well, I have a few extra pounds that I could stand to shed before toeing a start line. But there's time. "You have 13 weeks!" Coach Wendy told me optimistically. She's always optimistic. And encouraging. And ambitious. And a risk-taker. So...here I am. I ran 6 miles a couple of weeks ago. This weekend I am going for 8. That is where this will start. We'll take it from there.

I am not, at least right now, training formally with Wendy (who, by the way, recently completed a PR Marathon and starts training for her first 50 miler in January.) (This will be her second ultra, she did a 60K last March.) But that doesn't mean that she's not assisting me. Like it or not, she fields texts from me frequently with questions and requests for advice/suggestions. And she always answers them. Until she indicates otherwise, I will continue abusing her...

That's it! I hope to keep up my swimming and cycling as much as I can indoors. I had initially thought about doing some more serious Tri training this winter...but it's just hard for me to totally focus on it without a race in the near future. I haven't really grasped the whole thing yet and, until I get a couple of races under my belt, I don't think I'll really understand what I need to work on. So for now, I will work on improving both sports and using them as cross training. The reality is, I love those trails. And running takes very little effort in the way of preparation/gear/planning. I can just go out and do it. The key, of course, is doing so. For now, that challenge is enough.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Trails, Track, and...Tri?

Not a lot to report about my training, but I wanted to catch you up...(you being the few of you that have clearly been sitting at home wondering: What is Sara Jane up to? Why hasn't she updated her blog??)

I haven't posted for a while because I had a minor setback. After (though not immediately after) running that frigid 5K I started having some pretty severe lower back pain. At its worst, it was excruciatingly painful to sneeze (something I do a LOT of in the spring) and putting on socks was a major challenge. I avoided going to the doctor because I didn't want to pay someone to tell me to rest, ice, heat, and take anti-inflammatories. But after a week or so, Wendy (my coach/primary care physician) convinced me that what I needed was some muscle relaxers. (I was kicking myself for having just thrown away all of the muscle relaxers I had been prescribed, but never took, for the herniated disc in my neck!) I finally listened to her and went to the doctor. Alas, he gave me muscle relaxers. Alas, it worked. I am still having some discomfort...but thankfully it does not seem to be what I feared: another herniated disc. It was the exact same type of pain as in my neck...(literally) so I was worried.

So, what's new? I've been running...a little. But I have also decided to finally take the plunge, stop making excuses, and work towards competing a triathlon. What has kept me from doing so in the past? Well I don't know how to swim (I mean, I can save my life in the water...but I can't even swim one length of a 25 yard pool without going completely anaerobic and all but hyperventilating!) and I don't (well, didn't) own a bike. Minor details.

I got to emailing to a friend of mine, Christina Meier (an IRONMAN!) about my desire to prepare for a sprint (the shortest version) triathlon to see if I liked the sport. I explained to her my deficiencies but she convinced me that all of them could be easily overcome. First, she said, lots of people do their first triathlon with a Mountain Bike. (I had gotten a cheap mountain bike off of Craigslist about a month ago so that I could get around town here in Duluth.) One problem solved. Second, she said she was convinced that with some guidance, she knew I would be able to swim. It's all about technique and the reason I have had such trouble is because I was jumping in the water with absolutely no idea what I was doing. She suggested I look into doing the Duluth Tri Team this summer, a summer training program she did in the past (with a Mountain bike!). I looked into the program, contacted the coaches, and I am signed up! I was also able to get into some swimming classes up at UMD for a few weeks to get me up to speed...and you know what? After two (2) classes I have a completely different take on my ability to swim. What a change a little instruction makes! I know I can become a swimmer. I know I can become a triathlete. I am excited.

Thanks to Christina (who you can read about here) as well as another friend and rockstar triathlete Tea (who you can read about here) for their encouragement. And, as always, thanks to coach Wendy (who used to harbor similarly negative feelings about swimming and cycling but has actually taken a cue from me and is going to train for a summer sprint tri herself! You can read about that here.) All three of these women have been great support not only for encouragement...but also just plain logistics. Cycling and swimming require a lot of gear that I am not the slightest bit familiar with and I have had a zillion questions. They have all been generous with their time and knowledge. OK...Wendy is almost as clueless as me...but she has super-perfect-husband-of-the-year Tim (currently training for his second half Ironman this summer) to bounce questions off of. So thanks Tim. I heart you, camo shorts and all.

One more stroke of good luck? A friend of my mom's, who happens to be short like me, sold me her road bike for an exceptionally low price (read: steal). So now I've got the real deal: A Trek 2300. (Tri people talk gear a lot.) So...instead of Triathlon being a sport that has always been out of reach because of the cost and, well, the abilities required - I have managed to get both  gear and some instruction for very little money...much of it, in fact, free!

So that's that. I am current working on my swim. I will also be heading out for my first attempt at riding my road bike (scary!!) with my pal Katie Beeman this afternoon. (My apologies in advance for being completely ridiculous on this bike, Katie!) Wish me luck...and send positive thoughts that I am able to clip into and, more importantly, out of those crazy pedals.

A final note...I have enjoyed a couple of books recently that made me even more interested in trying out triathlon. They are both about complete beginners, like me, just making the decision to give it a go. They are:

Can't Swim, Can't Run, Can't Ride: From Common Man to Ironman.
This book is VERY witty. Or at least I thought so.

You Are An Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing The World's Toughest Triathlon.

Oh...and as indicated before, I will still be running on the trails, track and, of course, the roads. I haven't yet decided what race I will do at Grandma's Marathon. I have entry into the 5K, half, and full...so lots of options! Whatever the case, it won't be a "race" like it was last year. (Ah, such good memories...check out that race report here.) Part of me wants to just watch the races as I have a bunch of friends competing in both the half, US half championships, and the full, especially my super speedy pals competing for fast times and high places, especially Kara Goucher, Scott Breeden, and Eric Hartmark!

In terms of races: I'd like to do a sprint triathlon in late August. I'd also like to do a long (maybe marathon?) trail race this fall. Still, I'd like to work on my leg speed. Especially since I will be doing a shorter triathlon with only a 5K (or so) to run.

Lots to do. Lots to learn. Ready, set, GO!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quick Report

Survived a chilly 5K! It was fun - relatively speaking. I really enjoyed the challenge. And I am happy with my results for what was really the first 5K I have ever raced. That distance is tough. Because you really just want to go all out from the gun -- but the reality is that 3 miles is still 3 miles. The last mile was pretty brutal. My stomach started turning and I wasn't able to finish very strong because of the nausea. That said, considering I have not been running with any real regularity - and definitely have not been training to run anything fast (not to mention I did a killer legs strength workout on Wednesday that I am still feeling the effects of!) - I am pleased. I wish I had had more in the tank to bring it home. But all things considered, it's a great place to start.

Here is the data from my watch:

You can click here for the official race results. (Which graciously give me back 2 seconds with a time of 25:23...I'll take it!) Here is a news article about the winners.

I should add that the first half had a slight downhill and a little bit of a tail wind. And, well, the second half was the opposite (it was out and back). So while I did die, it wasn't 100% because of my lack of fitness! ;)

I got 9th out of 109 people in my age group! It's not too often I am able to report that type of success. I am usually a pure, average, 50%, middle of the packer when it comes to the entire field, my gender, and my age group.

Did I mention it started blowing snow, seemingly out of nowhere, during mile 2? Gotta love Duluth in April.

My one disappointment is that I really wanted to push my max HR over 200! :) (For no reason other than I thought it would be cool.) I think I could have if my stomach hadn't given me so many problems in that final half mile. Alas. I'll take my 198. And my 188 average for the entire race. There was a time not so long ago when I definitely did not have the mental ability to push myself that hard. And while I won't likely be taking myself to the masochistic levels of pushing through pain that coach Wendy does - it's clear she's rubbed off on me at least a little bit.

Good times.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Back At It

Well, it's been a while. Over FIVE months, in fact. Wow. And, really, I haven't been running much since completing the NYC Marathon. This always happens even though I swear it won't - I complete a big goal race and instead of maintaining my fitness, I stop altogether. In my defense (this time), NYC was followed directly by exam prep and then exams...and then Christmas in MN...and then...

In that time I did have some running related fun. Me, coach (Wendy) and coach's husband (Tim) went to Houston together to watch the Olympic Trials. It was, in a word, a blast. I originally intended to run the half marathon (of the regular Houston Marathon, the day after the Olympic Trials)...all three of us did. For some reason it helped us justify the expense of the trip. But with my lack of training between November 7 and January 16, I decided I didn't want the pressure or stress. It was a good thing, in the end, because it allowed me to stay up late and party with Kara, my good-friend-turned-second-time-Olympian, along with some of her other friends and family (AND a couple of other Olympians...pretty cool for a geeky Track and Field fan like yours truly).

So now it's April and I am itching to get back at it. But the "it" I want right now isn't more marathon training. Blah. Blech, even. That just doesn't sound like much fun. I want to get in shape! That may seem funny...but I do not get in shape training for a marathon! Because I never find time for strength or core training with all of the miles I need to log. So while I gain endurance, I don't really get "in shape." As of late (at least when it comes to running) I have been craving two seemingly unconnected things: fast track running and technical trail running. That's what I want to do right now. So that is what I am going to do. Well...it's what we're going to do.

That's right. Coach is still on board despite my awkward new request to have her help train me to run faster races and challenging trails. The good thing about Wendy is that these two opposing desires make complete sense to her...and she is totally on board. So this spring/summer, I am going to run fast. Not like, old-school Sara Jane fast. My hamstrings simply don't allow that. No more 100-meter dashes in these legs. But I've never really raced something like a 5K before. And I want to do track workouts. Not to train for a particular race or distance - but simply because I want to do track workouts. I love the track. You might remember me taking a trip down memory lane last spring - when I first started training with Wendy - when she let me do a track workout. Or at least she let me do my workout on a track.

So I am going to do some workouts on the track, I am going to do some workouts on trails, I will still do lots of runs on the roads (albeit shorter ones)...and I will also add strength and core workouts. These are very important to me. Since I started marathon training in 2007 I feel I have completely lost any sense of strength and overall fitness. I just run lots of really slow miles. And it's what it took for this former sprinter to run marathons - and for me to ultimately drop 40 minutes between Marathon #1 and #6 - but for now, I am bored with that.

What's on tap? Well...I am running a 5K tomorrow. It should be fun. I am going to run it as fast as I can and see what happens. I am by no means in 5K shape (whatever that is), but that's OK. Most of the 5Ks I have run have been of the slow jogging, talking, charity-sponsored variety. Tomorrow I am just going to run as hard as I can and see what happens.

I've got a few more things on the horizon in the coming months...but I'll keep them in my pocket for now.


Here are a couple of my favorite pics from the Olympic Trials:

The Finish Line! (The day before the Trials)

Me and Wendy the night before the Trials

Me, the Olympian, and my friend Kelly (her sister) the night AFTER the race - celebrating! (And reminiscing about the old days!)

You can check out more pics from the weekend here.