Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why Do I Run

Why do I run?  Well the obvious answer is to receive the innate and ultimate reward:  a Venti 5 Shot Americano from Starbucks (half and half and lots of sugar).  There is almost nothing better than to get through that run, as awesome and exhilarating as it is in and of itself, than to wipe off the sweat and head to Starbucks.  I used to drink Americanos before a race, but I've changed that habit (for more than one reason) so that now I wait until after the race.  Like a barn-sour horse heading back home to oats and honey, my final miles are focused on steaming hot caffeine with a roasty, toasty, deep flavor, with hints of caramel.

But again I ask, why do I run?  When you're injured you ask that question.  This is when the wolves, i.e. non-runners, or former runners, tell you that running is not good for you.  Running breaks down your body, batters your spine and causes more rapid aging, they say.  When you are feeling good, strong and whole, it is easy to refute such babble, but when you're injured, you have to revisit the same old question: why.

Is it worth the risk?  Something devastating and long term can happen such as: getting hit by a car, rupturing a tendon, fracturing a bone, ripping a knee, sun-exposure ...

Why do I run?  I began competitive running when I was 9.  My elementary school had a cross-country team and because I was an odd child who ran for fun instead of playing with a barbie, my mom suggested that I join when I was in 4th grade.  From there I competed in the Junior Olympic system for several years along with school competition, in both track and cross-country, until I hit middle and high school where I solely focused on school competition.  And then later college.  When you begin something that young and thrive on it, it is meant to be.  It becomes a part of who you are, of your identity and your lifestyle.  It is no different than eating, drinking, sleeping.  It's what you do.  It's what you do when you're a kid.  It's what you do when you're a teenager.  When you're a scholar.  When you're pregnant, a mother, and it's what you do when you approach the top of the hill.  It's what you do when you're 80.

Injuries:  that which does not destroy me makes me stronger.  When you get a toothache, you don't stop eating.  Injuries make running more difficult, or even temporarily impossible, but the yearning and need are always present.  Running is necessary for some of us, so when things happen, you will eventually find a way to get it done anyway.

This has been one of those years where running was more difficult and I constantly fought to find a way to get it done despite pain and mental anguish.  I tried to be smart and rest through cross-training, and although it helped, the yearning drove me back to hitting the pavement too early in the healing process.  But you know what ... I got so tired of the pit in my stomach that sank in when I could only watch others bounce along in their glorious, energizing, Americano earning pace.  I had to get out there and earn MY Americano again.  That's my year in a nutshell.  And I am tired of thinking about, talking about and dealing with my lame Achilles tendon.  It's sore, still injured, but getting better and will soon be nothing more than an important lesson from history.  That's so 20 seconds ago.

I think I answered the question for myself a long time ago ... when I was 9.  Why do I run?  I don't run, I AM run.  There is no question to be answered, never a reason to doubt, not a time when I need to wonder.  I didn't choose it.  I don't remember ever choosing to be a runner ... I was born a runner and I was fashioned by the hand of God, so I can take no credit or blame.  I can only embrace it and give Him the glory and the anguish of it.  And thank Him.  Thank You.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ventura Turkey Trot 5K Race Report

When I pause to take mental inventory of my 2011 running and racing experience it would be oh so easy to become discouraged and dismayed.  For the second year in a row I spent at least 8 out of the 12 months injured, in pain and trying desperately to recover and feel normal again.  After a few good races early in the year, the remaining months have been difficult to say the least.  With a stubborn Achilles injury that won't quite heal, I spent most of the year hoping to recover in time for the next big race.

However ... as it turns out ... I am not discouraged or dismayed at all.  What has happened through pain, struggle and injury, just like in life itself, is a toughening and an increased pain tolerance that will most likely make me a better runner when I finally get healthy again.  I used to feel frustrated with my painful runs but lately I have felt some different emotions: gutsiness, determination, perseverance.  These qualities come only through adversity.  In running and in life.

Because I thought my body could handle it and because I wanted one last race of the season, I ran the Ventura Turkey Trot yesterday, a 5K.  For most (excluding me) it would be considered a fast course as it is fairly flat with wide turns in a figure "8" formation (a fast course for me would have some rolling hills).  It can be subject to wind but on our race day wind was not much of a factor.  The temperature was also ideal and the humidity was great.  All the ingredients were there for a personal record.

Turkey Trots are a lot of fun because families come out to participate and everyone is joyful just to be there.  It's great to see such a colorful crowd.  Our crowd even included Deena Kastor (pushing a baby stroller) and her husband Andrew.  Because there were a couple of hundred more runners than they expected our start was delayed by about 15 minutes.  Not a bad thing but it usually frustrates me if we get a late start because my warm up is designed to get me to the line sweaty and breathing hard and I don't like to lose that by having to stand around unexpectedly.  But "oh well," what are you going to do.

As I jogged the 2 mile warm up with John and Ricky, I wondered if my lack of speed training would cause extra suffering and prevent me from obtaining my goal of a sub-18 minute finish.  While I've been able to ease back into some nice runs, even somewhat tempo, I haven't been able to do speed work in months.  To compensate, I have had some hard speed work swims, but nothing really can replace the benefits of a good track session.  Yah, so here I was about to do a 5K without speed work.  Oh well.  We warmed up nicely, stretched while waiting for a porta-potty, and got some strides in.

While pushing the strides, low-and-behold, my lower calf/Achilles tendon became tender and painful on my push-off (the Achilles had generally been less painful here of late so this was discouraging).  I felt I could still run and hoped the adrenaline would diminish my notice of it during the race.

Finally our race started and I repeated in my mind as we went out fast, to NOT go too fast in my first mile.  What I found with this course is that by contour of the roads, the first mile was faster and the second mile was more of a false flat and was much more difficult.  I felt that coming through my first mile in 5:45 (that was my first mile time) might have been a tad too fast.  At that point I felt like I could maintain the pace ... until I turned the corner into the second mile.  Without even feeling the enormous slow down, I came through the second mile in 6:00 and it felt way too hard.  It was somewhere in the midst of that second mile that I began limping to the pain in my leg.  The pain I had hoped I wouldn't notice.  It was intense and interrupted my normal stride.  I spent a lot of mental energy trying to find a way to run that hurt less. 

I was hanging with Michelle, who was the front running female, until the beginning of the third mile.  It was at this point that I began to wonder if I could or should finish.  I was in pain and my awkward stride stole precious energy.  I had no way of picking up the pace even though I knew I had to.  I saw Michelle and my sub-18 minute finish slip away and I went into a mode of "just get this thing done with."  With a painfully slow 6:12 final mile (ugh!) I was fortunate to have not been passed by a lurking female (she finished 9 seconds behind me) and finished the second female overall, first Master, and first in my age group.  But ... I walked away from the finish line in a full on limp.  A masseuse requested I follow her to her table for some work but I declined.  I didn't want anyone touching that tender leg and elected to jog a mile warm down which helped considerably.

It's hard to know how to feel with all that.  My final time was 18:27 - not a good time for me as of late but under the circumstances of injury and lack of training, not all that bad.  I don't know if I'd say the race was fun, nor will I suggest that it was smart to run injured, but I did it and was glad that it was over.  The racing season is over and now I will focus on healing so that next year I can have 12 months of joyful, pain free running, training and racing.

There were some great positives that came out of this race for a few other dear runners:  Michelle McToldridge came away the female winner in 18:02.  Ricky Ho set a PR of 16:09 and finished 5th overall, and John had a breakthrough race and finished in 18:59.  That was 1:07 faster than his last 5K and earned him 2nd in his age-group.  Basically, Santa Barbara runners represented well in Ventura.  We came away with 1st and 2nd overall female, 5th overall male, 3 first place age group wins and one second place age group win.

Time to rest.  Time to heal.  Time to aqua-run again.  Although I lost 8 months (and counting) of the year to injury, I was still able to run 10 races:  Romeo 4 miler, Romeo Couples 2 x 2 relay, Super Bowl 4 miler, Roses en la Playa 5K, Night Moves Swim/Run, Night Moves 5K, Westmonster 5K cross-country race, Santa Barbara Sprint Triathlon, Goleta Education Foundation 4 miler, Ventura Turkey Trot.  I missed the Carlsbad 5000, World Masters Track and Field Championships, and Santa Barbara Half Marathon.  I'll get those done next year.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Uncrustable Principle

I wasn't expecting it when it hit me.  But that's how these things work.  There I was mindlessly eating a microwave thawed peanut butter and jelly Uncrustable (well not really mindlessly ... I was starving and therefore eating it with fervor) late in the afternoon.  I took a bite on the top and out of the bottom squirted all my peanut butter and jelly.  It came out like a Super Soaker and splatted all over my leg, chair, and alas, the floor.  No way to salvage that.  In hungry frustration, I sat there with my empty, deflated Uncrustable white bread thinking, "Holy cow.  God didn't want me eating that one.  May have been laced with some sort of unhealthy additive or bacteria ... or parasite."  So, of course I heated up another one, sat down to eat it and, yes, predictably, it happened again.  That's it.  I've sworn off Uncrustables.  Hmmm, but what's the real revelation here?  The Uncrustable is a metaphor ... a meta for running.

Running is the perfect little package of round, bleached, spongy bread filled with runny protein and sugar, with the crust already removed.  It's self-contained, healthy (ok, maybe that part of the metaphor breaks down on the part of the Uncrustable), convenient, satisfying, and whole.  If you bite carefully, everything stays where it's supposed to, and when you're done eating, there are no crumbs and no runny globs.  But what happens when you heat the Uncrustable and abuse it with a careless bite, and let's say the Uncrustable isn't as young as it used to be?  When you bite, all the peanut butter and jelly squirts out.  Yes, that's me.  That's my running life.

I was so happy to have a strong race a few weeks ago.  As I've been training myself back from injury, it was a good indication that something seems to be going right, or is at least getting better.  The down side though, it that my body hurts.  It hurts when I train and it hurts when I race.  I'm still not back from the last Achilles injury (that happened in late February so we are going on 8 months now) and my knee is at varying degrees of inflammation.  Sure I can run now and am not confined to the prison of "not-optional" cross-training, but I always wonder if my peanut butter and jelly is going to stay put.  Every run hurts. 

I'm getting smarter though.  If my Uncrustable is getting too warm, I take it out of the microwave and let it cool off before I eat it.  Love that swimming pool.  Or the lake.  John and I were blessed to get away for a few days up to Lake Tahoe last week.  The lake temperature was slightly warmer than the ocean but I had my wetsuit just in case.  We swam thousands of meters in crystal clear amazing water and oh! my peanut butter and jelly were loving it.

Another smart thing is that I will soon be getting my Uncrustable worked on.  I am going to have my leg length discrepancy address and I am confident that this will strengthen my bread.  I want to run as fast as I can for as long as I can, but I also want to be able to run ... period. 

I have so far had a painful but really great week of workouts.  Upon returning from high altitude, I did another attempt at the track and was able to achieve 4 x 800 before my peanut butter said "enough."  But later that day I did the brutal Master's swim workout and beat the p-butter back into submission.  Tuesday was a 10 miler under 7:00 pace, on a sore knee, and Achilles still screaming.  Wednesday ushered in a session of 400 repeats on the treadmill, again ending when my peanut butter started oozing.  But that was followed up with a great weight lifting session.  Thursday was a nice 8 mile run in the wind (lovely gusts that knocked me backwards), again keeping things under 7:00 pace.  Today will include a 4 mile tempo run if my peanut butter can handle it, and then another brutal Master's swim workout.  Finally Saturday will be my long run of 15 miles.  Gosh darn it.  Each day hurts but not the kind of hurt that pops your bread.

So goes the metaphor of the Uncrustable.  Here's to keeping those seams tight.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

GEF 4 Miler Race Report

Santa Barbara was socked in with fog but the sun was shining bright next door in Goleta.  The Goleta Education Foundation 4 miler is a fund raiser event to benefit music and PE programs at Goleta elementary schools.  As a PE coach at Cleveland Elementary in Santa Barbara, I know first hand how desperate these programs are for funds.  It is great to participate in this well organized event.

As typically happens to me going into a race, I spent some time considering the fact that my body hurts, my legs were tired (I ran a hard 13 miles yesterday), and I was secretly putting pressure on myself to suck it up and get out there and do my best.  But my body really was hurting today.  My recovering Achilles tendon seemed happy enough but my knee was having some drama.  As I warmed up I wondered truly if it would hold out.  Here's some advice.  For a short race like 4 miles, warm up for at least 2 miles, and make certain you spend some energy doing fast striders just prior to the start.  A good warm up does wonders for pre-race aches, and the striders (make sure you get winded) get you ready for a nice comfortable first mile.

As we started the race, boo!! my knee screamed at me immediately and I thought to myself that I would give it 400 meters to calm down.  Thankfully it did and I was able to get into that first mile groove.  It was very important for me to not go out too fast so I did my best to hold back.  Therefore the first mile, which was a 5:55 felt nice and controlled.  Most of the first mile is at a slight incline so that was a good opening mile for me.

Miles 2 and 3 meandered through the neighborhood and around Lake Los Carneros, and had some subtle up's and down's.  My goal through these middle miles was to hold that first mile pace as long as I wasn't laboring too much.  A gap developed between me and the group ahead, as well as the group behind, so I felt at times like I was out there by myself.  I focused on my pace and took constant inventory of my body.  The Achilles was fine, the knee was not.  But at this point what are you going to do?  Miles 2 and 3 were 5:57 and 5:58 respectively.  Not too far off pace but I knew the final mile would have to be faster if I was going to surpass last year's time.

As I passed the 3 mile mark I went into "gut" mode.  No longer was I looking to stay controlled and not too labored.  I was looking to dig a little deeper, reach the red line and hold it to the finish line.  Most of the final mile is at a slight decline and although the knee was screaming at me again, it was the perfect opportunity to stride out, pick up the pace and try to take in enough oxygen so as not to pass out.  It is rare that I feel good at this point in a race but I really did feel good cardiovascularly today (considering I haven't yet been able to get out on the track for speed work).  The final mile was 5:43 (or something close to that) for a final time of 23:32.  This is an 18 second improvement over my time on this course last year.  That, above all things, gave me great joy and reminded me of why I love to race. 

The sky was a crisp blue, the air temperature moderate though a bit dry, no wind to speak of, and a plethora of jubilant volunteers all along the course.  It was a great race day for many of the competitors and it was so nice to celebrate the achievement with a great community of runners. 

I'm still on the recovery trail while at the same time, trying not to hurt some other body part in the process, but this was a good test of fitness.  Although I'm limping around with an ice bag tied to my knee (later to be used on my Achilles), I have no regrets today, save my disappointment that John wasn't able to run because his back went into an untimely spasm yesterday.  But he'll be back and good to go in a week :)

Thanks to the Goleta Education Foundation for putting on such a great event year after year and thanks to all the volunteers who come out to help. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nite Moves 5K Race Report

Greater than any report I have to give, the most excellent thing about this post is that I have a race report to give at all.  After almost 6 months of injury recovery, I have finally been able to slide into a few races over the past couple of weeks.  Although I am still not fully recovered, I am really at a stage of strengthening.  With an Achilles injury, because I treated it properly by taking off completely from running, I now have to re-strengthen my right lower leg and calf muscle.  It has been so long since I've been able to push off with my right toes and land mid-sole, that my leg has weakened and atrophied to some extent.  So here I am finding ways to push past this part of recovery.

Prior to the onset of my injury back in February, my last race was a 5K called Roses En La Playa.  On that cold winter morning, along with a couple a hundred other brave souls, I fought the wind, endured the course and completed it in 18:16 (my watch time).  Shortly after that day, I had to say goodbye to racing and running for a while.

Last night I competed in the Nite Moves 5K race which is on the same course as Roses En La Playa.  It was the perfect set up to see where I'm at compared to where I was in February.  I couldn't help but to hope, as I do with every race I enter, that I would somehow exceed my expectations.  I almost always hope for a PR unless the course is too challenging.  So although I wasn't ready to run another PR, nor ready to race for that matter, I still hoped. 

So here's how it played out:  The race is an evening event and Wednesday evening was near perfect.  It was a tad hot for me (mid-70's) but not bad for a 5K.  Wind can be a factor on this course but the air was fairly calm.  Over 200 runners toed the narrow starting line.  The starting line, and really the whole course, is too narrow for such a crowd, but so it was.  I always station myself two people or more back from the line using the logic that I figure at least 15 of these runners are faster than me so they should start ahead of me.  Of course the trouble is that 80% of the people who line up at the front are way too slow to be up there.  It is a frustration that I have to deal with.  The start was too crowded and faster people converged on the slow "front of the line" hogs and it made for tripping, elbowing, pushing, and panic.  It's hard enough for me to maintain the right speed at the beginning of a race, but with this situation I was at the mercy of everyone around me.

It took most of the first mile, a couple of times running in the grass to get around people, to get into a rhythm and to begin to think about the race itself.  It was about this moment when I saw Kent just in front of me.  It occurred to me that Kent just ran a 36 minute 10K a few days before and he always runs the race I wish I had.  So I thought, "Cool.  I'll just hang with Kent."  So I slowed a bit and kind of hung just behind him but darn it, there was a female just ahead and I began to argue with myself to hold back.  I slipped past Kent, rationalizing that he's probably just taking it easy today and isn't going all out.  But as I pushed past, Kent wisely tells me to slow down (it is after all 1 1/2 miles uphill).  I said, "Ok."  But that girl right there ... right there ... does not need to be there, she needs to be behind me. 

I did not do a good job of slowing down when Kent told me too, and before long it took its toll.  Once we crested the hill and made the turn-around to go back down, Kent increased his speed and pulled away.  I spent too much already and couldn't go with him (this happened at Roses En La Playa too).  I did however get through the first two miles in under 6 minute pace which gave me at least a chance to break 18.  And I did get past that female runner.  The last mile and 1/2 are downhill and I was hoping that I'd feel relaxed, smooth and in control, but the truth is my broken fitness due to the layoff was lurking at my door.

There was one last motivation.  I had to beat Cuyler.  Cuyler is this amazing 14 year old swimmer on the Santa Barbara Swim Club and he's been blazing this course all summer (this race occurs weekly over the summer).  John, my husband (who is Cuyler's swim coach) had talked smack to Cuyler on my behalf and set up this vicious rivalry.  I had to beat Cuyler.  And oops!! there he was just ahead of me and I was going faster than he was.  I past him with about 1/2 mile to go and eeked out a whispered, "Go Cuyler."  I really meant, "Stop running Cuyler.  It's futile.  You'll never beat the old lady Crawford."  Would Cuyler even know what "futile" meant?  Anyway, I said, "Go Cuyler."  Yah.  You could imagine what he did.  Teenager boy. He went.  He passed me back up, but I stayed stealthily close in case he showed weakness.

I finally came to the final hill down to the finish line and ahead of me I spotted a female (not Drea, she had already finished), and there wasn't suppose to be any other female ahead of me except Drea.  I thought maybe she was just running along with another as a spectator.  She was just a child (12 or 13'ish) and I had no idea where she came from.  It's out and back.  How could I have not seen her.  People were cheering for her so she must have been in the race.  Bummer, now I'm going to have to go for it.  The last thing I felt like doing was running harder but I did.  I had it in me and I sped past her in the final yards ... and almost scooped up Cuyler as well ... but alas, he did beat old lady Crawford (by a modest 3 seconds).  I was satisfied with my 2nd overall female finish, and then I had to laugh when I found out that there was a kid's mile that had taken place which explains where the "young female" came from.  But hey, whatever it takes to scoot me along a few seconds faster, I'll take it.

My finishing time:  The all important finishing time which would reveal where I am now compared to where I was prior to my injury:  18:17 (by my watch).  I have spent no time on the track and have only recently begun tempo runs again and still have pain, so I was pretty happy with that 1 second off my pre-injury time.  Of course Kent finished in 17:41 which is where I WANT to be but I'll have to be patient.  If I had run a little smarter, would I have run a better time, maybe beat Cuyler?  Possibly.  Every race is a lesson.  Cuyler better watch his back.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"First Race Back" Under my Belt

Wow, has it really been a month and a half since the last blog?  I started a new job recently as a PE coach for a local elementary school and it is mostly full-time, so I've had to do some adjusting.  It is such a blessing to be able to help kids work on physical fitness ... if only they realized how important it is to start young and stay on track.  It is challenging and exhausting ... just like running.

I have competed in two recent races and it is amazing to be able to run hard again.  I did Nite Moves last week (both the 1K swim and 5K run), and this week I did the Westmonster 5K.  Although I haven't fully recovered from my Achilles injury, I didn't feel pain during the races.  I did feel it afterwards though.  My biggest challenges regarding getting back into racing is that my injured leg still lacks strength so at times I experience severe cramping in that calf muscle, and I haven't been able to do any speed work yet because it is still just a bit too much.  I have entered these races feeling unprepared but look at them more as steps toward getting back to where I should be.  The great part is being surrounded by a huge and dedicated community of runners and athletes who are so encouraging.

By way of race reports, last Wednesday was the first time I ever participated in Nite Moves.  For those who aren't familiar with Santa Barbara's Nite Moves, they are a series of races that go throughout the summer every Wednesday evening.  There is the option of doing a 1K open water swim, a 5K run, or a combination of both (aquathon).  I did the aquathon.  So fun.  I am a much slower swimmer than runner so I inevitably came out of the water with the urgency of having to catch up.  Getting the dreaded wetsuit off was the biggest challenge of the night but once I got on the run my rhythm smoothed out and I had a great time out on the course (out and back course, up hill on the way out, downhill on the way back).  It ends up being a 3.5 mile race so is just a bit more than 5K.  I think I had a smile on my face because I was running ... in my Newtons ... fast ... with no pain.  It was good to get that "first race back" under my belt.  Never mind the fact that my calves were sore for three days from the shock of what I asked of them.

The Westmonster 5K was an evening race as well and was a beautiful cross-country course all through the Westmont College campus in Montecito.  The campus is breath-taking ... and hilly ... so therefore the race was breath-taking too.  There was a great turnout of around 200 athletes including college and high school students.  The course was tough with some significant hills and a variety of surfaces (asphalt, dirt, gravel, grass, all-weather track).  I think it would be fair to say that the track was the only level ground on the course.  Because of a lengthy warm-up, I again can boast that my leg felt perfectly fine during the run.  Afterwards is another story but that's all a part of recovery.  I think I had to ice three different body parts that night but felt good by the next day (an ice bath would have been more efficient).  There was great participation from the local running group and from what I saw everyone had a great race. 

There are a lot of local events coming up in the next two weeks and I'm hoping to compete in most of them.  This weekend is the McConnell's 10K.  This coming Wednesday is another Nite Moves and I will do the 5K run only this time, and the following weekend are the Santa Barbara Triathlons (long course and sprint course).  I am going to be doing the all-women's sprint course. 

It's hard to come back from an injury.  Not only do you have to heal but you also have to go through the struggle of getting back to race-ready shape.  It's always an uphill climb, but as runners know, going up hill makes you stronger.  It's worth it to keep climbing. 

As far as training, I have still been careful to cross-train between running days.  I have been swimming twice a week and weight training once a week.  I have begun doing intervals and hard running on the treadmill and will soon be back out on the oval.  I include a long run and a tempo run each week and if needed, a lighter paced mid-distance run (all outside in the open air).  With each opportunity to train I am so very thankful that I am able to.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hi. My Name is Cindy. I'm a Runnaholic

So a man walks into Starbucks and asks, "So ... how's your leg?"  "Hmmm," I replied, "It's improving but still not quite there."  I went on to explain that I have been able to run more with less pain but the pain is still there.  Keeping in mind that this gentleman, a regular at the Starbucks I worked at, had already informed me multiple times that "You can't run through that injury," he then looked at me starkly and said ... "You are addicted to running."

A keen observation but yet a statement that can only come from the lips of a non-runner.  Should I be offended?  Was his comment derogatory?  Was he jealous or did he think me a fool?  I found the comment out of place.  After all, clearly I have not been "running" through this injury (I took 6 full weeks off and have only run intermittently since), but at this point in the recovery I find that running helps in the healing.  My explanation to this phenomenon is that use of the tendon helps with blood flow which otherwise is almost impossible to come by. 

So I said (to myself), "Thanks for the enlightenment.  Because of you I am inspired to reform my wicked ways.  From now on I will refrain from my obsession of running, become part of the middle aged junk food packing, sedentary status quo ... like you.  Today, instead of a healing run, I will attend a 12 step meeting and begin my life anew."  In reality I simply smiled and refrained from speaking my mind.

With certain injuries, the greatest value gained is patience.  In the meantime I am enjoying every one of the opportunities I have to cross-train and am thankful that I can at least do this.

My obsession, addiction and love of running was renewed as I attended the Semana Nautica 15K as a spectator.  My husband John, as well as the Moms in Motion team, which I have been working with, competed alongside many other special runners from our community and communities from afar.  It was a brilliant day and everyone participating in the race seemed so happy in their addictions.  It was a wonderful event from all vantage points and I yearned to partake of the painful pace.  It allowed me to feel close to what I love to do.

The term "addiction" has such a negative connotation.  It implies an unhealthy attachment to something.  It's funny how that term is rarely applied to things such as ... sugar, or caffeine, or bananas, or American Idol.  The truth is I have an attachment to running, but it is not unhealthy.  Do I need it?  Yes, but I also need sleep, water, air, food.  Running is healthy in 100 different ways and not all of them are physical benefits.  I also benefit spiritually, emotionally and mentally.  Running has given me a way to avoid the vices that otherwise would have filled that void, and my chances of escaping the fates of my mother and father who both died in their forties of lung and heart disease respectively, is multiplied exponentially.  And I enjoy it.  I truly enjoy all that running is.

So as I continue to heal, I am able to run up to four times per week now, and although I still land heavily on my right heel and do not yet have the mid-foot strike and airy lift that I am used to, I can still labor through it.  The pain is still there but it is less and it resolves more quickly afterwards.  I continue to mix it up with other activities, including stadium steps at the city college, but soon I will be back on the track and back on track.  Take that and stuff it in your coffee cup "Mr. Addicted to Starbucks."

Hi, my name is Cindy.  I am a runnaholic.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yoga Bear and no more Boo Boo

No piiiicinik baskets here!  We have embarked on the world of yoga and pilates.  Note in photo number one (well, the only photo), Rip demonstrates a perfect example of the downward, reclining cat, while John struggles in his upward dog pose.  The Yin and the Yang if you will.

My yoga instructor had to, ahem, encourage me in my sideways tilt, and my lame knee won't allow me to do the basic "legs crossed" pose, so I modified.  Wow, is your leg supposed to bend like that?  Why do I want to do the "pigeon?"  I had to explain:  "I'm a runner."  "Oh," he says, "say no more.  Just keep coming to yoga, and you might want to try to roll out your fascia with a foam roller before class."  I'll keep that in mind.  I really will.

Let's not just add yoga, let's add pilates as well.  I've heard that's good for your core and butt.  Whew!  Need that for sure.  Not that it was totally too easy, or slow to progress, but after the first 15 minutes of "warm up" moves, I was feeling a little sleepy.  That is until I woke up this morning with sore everything.  Really?  Really?  It wasn't too bad when we swung our leg forward and backward a few times (boring!) but then, without rest or recovery, she made us hold it out behind and pulse (ouch!) and then without rest or recovery, out to the side, front circles, back circles, pulses (are you kidding me?), and then without rest or recovery, she MADE us contort our leg the other way ... more pulses.  That did wonders for my hip.  Then all over again on the other side.  Pilates are totally cool.

Without a doubt, the stretching and the natural form movements have already helped me.  My hip/low back irritation, inflammation stuff is so much better.  My knee shows very little swelling and is no longer an issue.  As I watched the yoga instructor kneel down to turn on the stereo, I noted that he bent his knees, both knees totally and comfortably.  I can't remember the last time I could do that.  Flexibility is a big part of overall wellness and fitness and I am looking forward to getting my downward pigeon stork working for me.

Cross-training continues but I was able to run a fairly brisk 11 miles last week on a slightly sore knee and still screaming achilles tendon ... but with each run it feels just a bit better and since I don't run that often, I am giving it time to heal.  Tonight I will run in the pool and do a set of 6 sprint 50's swim and some ab work and I will consider it a great workout.

I can't wait until I am able to get on the track for intervals or compete in a race, but until then I am trying to enjoy all the facets of fitness. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Just Another Rainbow, Just Another Pot of Gold

It can be challenging to write a blog about running when you haven't been able to do much running.  That's no excuse though, because there is always so much in the peripheral that can be written about.

Like for instance I could write about the few runs I have been privileged to do amidst injury recovery.  Each one (I can only mange one to two runs per week) is a blessing for which I am truly thankful.  One recent run was with a group of running buddies from San Diego on Memorial Day.  I miss running the challenging hills of San Elijo so when I have the opportunity, I try to take it.  There are always a few willing to join me (or actually a few that let me join them) and it is a blessed reunion and a time to catch up on everyone's recent races and events of life.  Thanks for letting me join you guys and I look forward to the next one.

I have also managed to do a Saturday run for the last 3-4 weeks which has climbed in mileage up to 10 and holding.  I figure, as part of my recovery mindset, that I will not attempt to go farther than this, but will do my best to enjoy the friendly 10 miles.  I crave more miles and I crave faster miles, but I am learning to be satisfied with reality.  In time everything will come back together for me and I will be a smarter runner.

While I have been encouraged by a healing achilles that is a bit less painful than it was, I have found myself dealing with another issue.  Perhaps it is an issue of a compensating injury but I can't know for sure.  About two weeks ago, on a Wednesday, I was at the dark, concrete prison of a gym sweating it out on the "cardio" machines.  I spent 6 miles (according to the computer read out) on the Stairmaster, and then another 3+ miles doing 1/4 miles intervals on the Elli.  I adopted these modes of cross-training about a month ago to give me reprieve from the pool (swimming and aqua-running).  Cross-training is supposed to be helpful, less impacting, and supportive of healing.  But on this Wednesday something didn't feel right afterwards.  I went to the track that evening to coach the Moms in Motion track workout and did a few easy laps during their warm up.  I felt awkward in my gait, heavy on one side, and generally much more out of sorts.  And it wasn't just a stiff achilles.

I later realized my right knee (which is the same leg as my achilles injury) was generally significantly swollen.  I did not injure my knee so I knew it was manifesting a different problem.  Since I am apt to self-diagnose, I soon learned (because it started sceaming at me) that my low back/right hip was tight, locked up, out of whack, tweaked ... these are official medical terms.  In my assessment, I had a flare up of some sort in this area which tightened muscles (maybe the piriformis) which in turn pulled my knee out of proper alignment enough to cause inflammation there as well.  I have a notable leg length discrepancy (functional leg length discrepancy) so I figure ultimately this is the culprit.

So the tight swollen knee on this day made my gait feel off but did not cause me pain.  However, the issue worsened until I not only had tightness and swelling, but also weakness, a sharp pain that ran the length of my posterior knee on occasion which was no doubt a pinched nerve somewhere in the mix, and it began to feel as though it was slightly out of joint/alignment and would, if I was lucky, pop back into place.  Then, as if that wasn't enough, it became painful to run.  At first it only "bothered me" during running, but this last 10 miler ended in complete pain and an inability even to bear weight.  I dragged my leg back the last mile just so I wasn't stranded away from my car.  My kinesiology tape totally came off during the first 6 miles and left my supported knee unsupported and loosey-goosey.  Let me vent - the stupid tape does absolutely no good if it's flapping in the wind.  It gets you half way through your run and leaves it up to you to figure out how to get through the second half.  It's a JOKE!  :) That's about as "venty" as I get.

All of this knee junk sort of peaked out this past Saturday and has since begun to subside as the inflammation in my hip has been resolving.  It was a chain reaction in the function of my right side and I sought to deal with the foundation of the problem as best I could. 

At this moment I'd be happy to have to deal only with an achilles injury, but to have another problem on top of that has been unspeakably frustrating ... especially considering that I haven't even been running much.  This happened while cross-training.

I think there is only so much a runner can take.  I am going to begin yoga this week and I'm encouraged that this will help me in a plethora of ways.  My muscles are likely imbalanced and tight from poor biomechanics due to an altered gait, and this has increased the discrepancy in my leg lengths, which has caused inflammation in my hip and back, which has resulted in tightened muscles and tendons ultimately affecting my knee.  I need my knee darn it.

Ice, Aleve, Traumeel, elevation and tape have been my close companions, and I've taken to almost constant stretching, twisting and torquing.  I see improvement.  Yes I realize that some sort of medical attention, Chiropractic adjustment regimen or physical therapy would be smart, but for the most part, those are not options for me right now. 

Wow.  I was kind of hoping to focus on the positive, so I hope there is something positive in all of this.  At the moment I am thankful to feel the knee/hip stuff resolve, and I'm glad I am finally motivated to begin yoga (something I've wanted to do for years but just haven't).  Another great thing is that John will do yoga with me so it will be something wonderful to share together. 

See, this whole thing is a big, beautiful rainbow with many pots of gold awaiting me.

And soon I will be running pain free again.  Yes.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Deleted but Not Out

I had to make the final decision to withdraw from the Masters Track and Field World Championship competition, a decision I was still dimly hoping I wouldn't have to make.  Now when I perouse the registration status of my events, I no longer see my name.  I officially withdrew and have been deleted.  With just a bit over a month to go before the meet, I still am not able to manage any type of quality run, and a lesser run leaves me limping for several days thereafter.  The timing of injuries will always and forever baffle me.

I won't deny that I am fully disappointed, but in the back of my mind I ponder that I may have other opportunities along these lines in the future.  Afterall, I am now a proud owner of a U.S. Olympic competition uniform and a member of USATF, and I have a sweet renewed interest in track and field competition which happens to be quite popular in Santa Barbara.

I am now focusing on training smart, though most of it comes in the form of cross-training.  I was attempting to run approximately every other day (only able to do about 3 runs per week), but even that plan has proved to be too much.  I had a nice, though painful 8 mile run last Saturday, and followed it up with a harder 6+ mile run on Monday, but have been in pain ever since.  So I refrained from the ground and hit the elliptical and water all the more but with some amount of frustration and anger.  If I am able to manage it, I will go for 10 miles on solid ground tomorrow.  That's just to maintain my sanity I think.

When random people see me limp (and trust me, I try not to limp) and ask why, my explanation it seems is always met with "advice."  Some will say, "Oh, you should try icing it."  Yah!  Duh!  Others will say, "Ohhhhh.  Gee I'm sorry.  Do you think it's ruptured?  Be careful."  Whatever!!  The one that hit me this week was, "Oh, those are bad.  You know you can't train through that.  You have to let it heal."  I let them know of my 6 week lay-off which left me no more healed than the day it happened.  I have had a San Diego running partner, ultra-marathoner genius, recommend and offer a trip to his therapist whom he swears by.  At my first opportunity I hope to try and see, and pray for a miracle.  Thank you for that Mike!

Anyway ... more than ever, I hate seeing people run when I can't.  And I despise the pain that plagues me when I try.  Feeling a bit like Achilles.  Is it not the most ironic and bizarre revelation that the Achilles tendon was named after the mythological hero Achilles who's only weakness was his "heel." 

I'm thankful for a strong training partner and coach in John.  He is the epitome of positive and keeps the swim workouts nice and hard, and inspires me with his growth as a runner.  I haven't even had the opportunity to lament the inadequacy of swimming in comparison to running.  The swims have just been so good and I've been able to stay fit.  I've recently added the elliptical into my routine and have found that an interval session on that bad boy can get my heart rate up to 170 bpm.  Drippy, drippy, sweaty, sweaty.  In time I will spend more time on the solid ground, but until then, plastic/metal, and H2O will suffice.  It could always be worse, right?

I've been deleted from the competition, but I'm far from out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Getting Perspective

I watched a great movie over the weekend, Soul Surfer.  It's the true story of the young surfer, Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm in a shark attack.  The story highlights how she overcame this trauma, and for me it was truly inspiring (highly recommend the movie).  In the story, prior to her attack, she is at youth group and her youth leader was talking with them about perspective.  She showed a close up of an unknown item and asked for students to identify it.  When they couldn't figure it out, she showed an unzoomed version and it became clear what it was.  The lesson was:  to get the proper perspective, sometimes you have to step back and look at the whole picture rather than focus on the circumstances at hand.

Ok, so I cried through the whole movie because so much of it related to my life.  Only my life has different struggles and they seem so much more managable than having to live/surf with a missing arm.  But still, sometimes I feel like a runner with a missing leg. 

After a 6 week "cross-training only" layoff from running, I tried to slowly reintroduce my legs to running.  As  previously posted, I did a slow but mostly painfree 6.5 mile run a week ago.  My next step was to attempt a light track workout a couple of days later.  This went "ok" but did produce some pain.  Because of the events I am training for, I went back to the track two days later for another workout.  This one produced full and intense pain and I left the track limping and questioning why.  "Why" a lot of things:  Why is it not healed?  Why did this happen when I desperately wanted to compete in this once in a lifetime race?  Why do I run?  On top of that I pondered how totally "done" I am with isolated cross-training.  I want to run.  I want to not hurt.  At the moment I can't even walk without a limp.  Regardless, I attempted another 6.5 mile run this past Saturday, and again a 6 mile hard run on Monday.  I finished both in pain and today I am limping again.

No, none of this is as tragic as a shark attack, but the lesson of perspective has resonated with me this week.  Looking at my situation up close leaves it blurred and I am unable to see the blessing in it.  There is a blessing in everything.  There is a reason; there is a way through; there is an end to the pain; there is another race waiting for me.  I may not recover in time for the Masters World Track and Field Championships.  If not, than it is what it is.  What else can be done?  My little world and my little life is still much bigger than any single solitary competition.  Right?

So I am limping today but my perspective is fresher.  I will do what I can do.  If I can run tomorrow I will.  If I can't than I will swim or aqua-run.  By the way, doing hard aqua intervals and hard sprint swimming intervals is very near the perfect replacement for running.  My fitness has truly remained intact ... just waiting for the tendon to heal.  In the meantime, I will keep a healthy perspective.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Ray of Sunshine

I sat hunched over in the crack of sunshine that illuminated the east wall of Los Banos Pool.  It has been windy all week and today was no exception.  I shivered in my bathing suit, wet from my pre-pool shower.  Thankfully there was that ray of sunshine in which to wait.

I have a bitter-sweet relationship with the pool and this particular day was more of a bitter one.  Waiting for the swim club kids to exit the water, I noted that the surface was choppy from the wind and it was going to be crowded with master swimmers.  This meant I would have an extra challenge.  I would have to deal with water being splashed in my face and would have to stay out of everyone's way.  One of the older swimmers asked me if I was going to be walking in the water today.  Walking?  Does she see what goes on under the water?  Yah, basically I move forward about -.3 miles per hour, but ... walking?  I glared at the water and felt less than motivated.

This week marks the 6th consecutive in which I cross-trained and went entirely without a run on solid ground.  In that respect, my relationship with the pool would soon change.  If my recovery is successful, my pool runs will be replaced by land runs.  I would visit the pool only for swim sessions to supplement my training.  But, what if.

What if after 6 weeks, my achilles isn't healed enough, isn't strong enough.  It's do or die now.  I have 2 months to train for the World Championships.  I cannot afford even one more week off from running, so if I'm not healed, my dream may come to an end. 

When you have to let go of running for 6 weeks, I have found that it is best to truly let it go.  But there's a part of running you have to hold onto too.  Therefore, I look at it this way:  I am in training.  I have chosen to look at cross-training as training, rather than see it as a reduced form of exercise that I was confined to.  It has been liberating and has added to my mental confidence.

So Saturday was my first day to try running.  It was a big day, a huge day.  I ran with and amongst my Moms in Motion training group.  Since we are all different in pace, I found opportunity to run a bit with each of the others but also ran back and forth in between to make sure everyone made the right turns on the course.  Because of this, my pace varied greatly ... which was absolutely fine.  It wasn't my goal to go out and set the asphalt on fire.  It was my goal to run, feel good, feel strong, and pain free.

I ran with a smile on my face, a big, big smile.  I had only mild discomfort and could tell that much healing had occurred.  I easily dipped below a 7 minutes pace when I asked my body to do this.  I chose grass and dirt as often as I could.  I finished a 6 1/2 mile run and my leg was relatively fine afterwards.  My forefoot strike and push off was tentative, but that may have been my unintended effort to protect my achilles.  I bit of icing and there was no lingering soreness.  This was a huge day for which I am very grateful.  The next challenge is to see how I fare on the track.  That happens tomorrow on the soft city college oval.

I will continue to cross train every other day, and run quality work outs every other day.  In this manner I plan to heal and train.  I am thankful for my friend "the pool" and am particularly thankful for the masters coach, my husband John, who made sure the sessions were fierce and demanding. 

It's been cold and windy.  Thankfully there was that ray of sunshine in which to wait.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Embrace the Chance for Variety

People who don't like to run think running is boring.  People who like to run think everything else is boring.  But ... variety is never boring.  So a little swimming here, an aqua-run there; throw in a hilly bike ride, and you have a great week of training.

Trusting that everything I do will help keep me fit, I have actually began to enjoy the cross-training.  I must admit that the initial incessant H2O running got old real fast, but since then I have offset those runs with hard swims, and an occasional hard bike ride. 

I actually have found the most ideal (for me!) hill repeat route for my bike rides.  As far as cycling goes, I offer no apologies for any offense I may cause by saying I find minimal joy and benefit from a long, moderately paced ride.  I'm a runner which means I want my heart beating hard the WHOLE time.  Do not let me coast, and put no stop lights in my path.  So when I ride, I maximize the benefit by doing hill repeats.  I love going uphill and hate going downhill.  I am a total wimp when it comes to the decline and my hands wear out from brake overuse.  So the best possible hill repeat route for me would be a nice, long, hard, steep incline (the kind that makes your legs quiver at the crest) followed by a moderate, straight decline which requires little use of brakes.  And I found it.  So now I have this totally cool hill repeat route and it is only a mile from my home.

My swimming speed has increased over the past three weeks because I am putting full and complete effort into it and have been doing multiple sessions of swim sprinting.  My goal with each workout is to max out my effort and ability, leaving it all in the water.  On Sunday (for example), John and I swam the following:  600 meters (Swim, pull, kick) warm up; 6 x 50 full on sprint (about 45 sec recovery between each); 6 x 100 full on sprint (40 to 45 sec recovery); 6 x 50 full on sprint again; 3 x 100 full on sprint.  This was followed by 300 meters of kicking and 300 meters of pulling.  I can't seem to get around the fact that sprinting and putting in full effort intervals gives me the greatest workout in the absence of my running.

So the variety has been nice, but I remain beggingly hopeful that all of this is enough.  I have three weeks remaining to my commitment not to run, and at the end of those weeks I have to be healed enough to begin running again in order to be on schedule for the Masters World Champs.  No time to waste and a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Woe is Me

Aqua-running ... is boring.  Why do the youtube video stars smile when they're strapped to the side of the pool by a tether, flailing like they're rabid?  I tried it.  It's boring.  The ongoing dilemma of finding adequate cross-training occupies my mind.  I seek sweat, an overly rapid heart-rate, sore muscles (not sore tendons!), all-over full body fatigue, something that builds me instead of something that bleeds me.

Other options?  The elliptical, swimming, bike hill repeats.  I think that's all the options.  The elliptical ... is boring.  BUT it is effective!  And the boring elliptical breaks up the monotony of the boring aqua-running.  Yesterday I swam the Masters workout at Los Banos and it was awesome.  OMGosh!  During one part, we had to do three sets of:  sprint 50 meters kick x 2 followed by sprint 50 meters swim x 2.  My lanes buddies killed it.  On the third set of kicks my calf cramped up and wouldn't let go for three minutes.  Excellent!

My Achilles is STILL sore to walk.  I am icing it at least twice a day and I am imagining the healing that is taking place.  Heal, heal, heal!!!  It always feels better when it's numb.  Odd.  I'm also using moist heat to increase nourishing blood flow to the area.  Flow, flow, flow.  Nourish, nourish, nourish.  And I HATE seeing other people running.

Right now I'm off to the weight room.  Oh good, sore muscles again.  And I am looking forward in the manner of the roller coaster.  Positive, negative, up and down.  Will 6 weeks be enough?  Oh and by the way, there must be something in the water here because runners are dropping like flies.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sitting on the Sidelines

I know it's not a substancial amount of time to devote to cross-training for the purpose of healing, but I've been aqua-running for a week now.  Not that I expected to be all healed up, but since I had planned on attempting to run the Carlsbad 5000 this weekend despite an Achilles issue, I thought I might test it out today on the track.

What did I expect?  Well, as I walked with John to the track, my mind was telling me, "This is insane."  Insane as in, "the definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect a different result."  I knew my leg wasn't any better because it still hurt even to walk, but I guess I had to know if I could handle the race pace, or I had to prove to myself that it wasn't worth it to race injured.

What did I discover?  I taped my achilles with kinesiology tape for support and warmed up slowly on the soft 9th lane of the track.  It felt ... stable ... ish, but was clearly sore.  I figured I would do some smooth 400's and see how it felt at a quicker pace.  Well, I didn't get 50 meters down the track before I pulled up in fierce pain.  Frustrated, I limped over to the stadium steps and forced myself up 10 times.  Then I did ab work.  Later will come the hour long aqua-run in the evening.

The verdict:  I will not be competing in the Carlsbad 5000 again this year.  I will still attend and watch from the sidelines again this year.  It's ok.  I have bigger fish to fry in July so my main job right now is to heal.  And I will get to watch John and others race and I can cheer them on.  It will still be a great day.  I say that, but to be honest, in my heart I am frustrated.

The plan:  Run in the water, bike the hills, lift weights, and swim for a minimum of 6 weeks without attempting a step of running on dry land.  Please, someone tell me this will help.  This is such a huge sacrifice of precious training time and I have to know that I will come out the other end prepared to run again.

So once again I will let CB 5000 go, but I take away an excellent lesson.  All the months of hard training for an event are not worth it if you ruin yourself before you get to the line.  It's better to get to the line healthy and able, so the training needs to be modified in such a manner that this can happen each and every time.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Aquajogging ... I mean Aquarunning

It's like some unwritten rule of the universe, or at least my universe.  As soon as I jump in with both feet, one of the feet breaks.  I have two important events on the horizon, one of which is coming up in about a week.  The upcoming one is the Carlsbad 5000 to be held the first week in April, and the other is the Masters World Championships in Track and Field set for July.

I haven't run the Carlsbad 5000 for several years for various reasons, but the most recent reason was injury.  Last year I sat on the sidelines of several races and nursed a nasty Achilles injury ... for a long time.  But this year I was finally healthy and my training has been progressing nicely and my hopes were building for a PR performance. 

Well, to get to the point, as soon as I entered the World Championships (like literally the next day), I limped through a run with yet another Achilles injury (opposite leg as last time) screaming at me.  It baffles me how I can be "fine" one day and not the next.  I know there must have been warning signs and perhaps I've become too good at ignoring them.  But however that all works, here I am with another serious injury which is jeopardizing both of my upcoming races.

Last year when this happened, I figured it would resolve in a short amount of time, and I tried cross-training and ART torture, mixed with painful runs.  But it didn't resolve as I watched race after race pass me by.  This time I can't afford to wait 8 months to recover.  But I also can't afford to lose my fitness and training time.

The perfect solution:  Aqua-running.  I was skeptical that this cross-training method was adequate to maintain a high level of fitness until I did some research.  What I discovered was that there has been a lot of research put into this method of working out, and without exception the evidence suggests that it is possible to get the same level of workout in the water as on land, but without the impact.  It is possible to continue training as I have been while at the same time, letting the healing really happen.  Not only does the lack of impact help, but also the massage of the water against the legs during the running motion is therapeutic, and the water version of running allows for less extension of the Achilles, taking off all the stress.  This is what I read, but what I discovered in my first two Aqua-running workouts fully confirmed it.

My workouts have sort of been like this:  In the pool I warmed up with 300 meters of swimming.  Then I strapped on my flotation belt, got in the deep end and began an interval session:  18 x 2 min hard/30 sec easy, with 2 minutes of easy jogging between each set of 6.  This gave me about 50 minutes of running time (most of it hard effort).  I finished with 12 x 25 meters of full effort kicking with a kick board.  One day I added 6 x 50 meters full effort swim. 

My heart rate soared during the hard effort and I needed each recovery.  My legs and arms fatigued against the resistance of the water.  My motion in the water simulated good running form, and I could feel the massage against my calves everytime I pulled them back.  I checked my heart rate regularly and was happy to find a way to run 600's without tearing up my body.  My legs were tired afterwards and I could feel it when I climbed our stairs.  This all made me very, very happy.

I plan on Aqua-running until I'm healed, although I am still hoping to throw in the Carlsbad 5000 race next week if at all possible.  I am thankful beyond words that this cross-training method is available and is suitable for almost any injury, and that I finally decided to try it.  The key will be pushing myself into the pain zone as if I were on the track, and right now I am exceedingly motivated to push myself.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Moms in Motion Semana Nautica 15K Running Team 2011

Moms in Motion is a great organization which was founded many years ago here in Santa Barbara.  Over the years, the program has grown nationally and internationally, and has helped 1000's of women realize their athletic potential through structured programs that integrate fun training with other women and moms.

For the benefit of those who are located locally here in Santa Barbara, I would like to announce the spring Moms in Motion running program which is soon to begin:  Semana Nautica 15K Running Team 2011.  I am so excited to be leading and coaching this team and my mind is overflowing with ideas for our 11 weeks together. 

This running program is designed for all levels and training options will be available to suit everyone's need.  We will be meeting over the course of 11 weeks beginning Saturday, April 23rd, and will focus on our culminating event:  The Semana Nautica 15K which will be held on July 4th.  Our group runs will occur every Saturday at 8:00 am at varying locations and we will have additional training events mid-week to focus on running form, and speed work.

My goal for the team is to help every participant discover that running is a huge gift and is not just for the gifted ... running can be everybody's gift.  We will build our running program week by week and incorporate additional components such as core strengthening, drills, flexibility exercises, and form work.  Additionally, through guest speakers and coaching, we will have instruction on pertinent topics:  buying the right shoes, hydration, nutrition, injury prevention, cross-training, etc...

Beginning a lifestyle of fitness can be tough at the beginning but with the comraderie of others who have the same goals, and the motivation of a team and a coach, the Moms in Motion program is hugely successful. 

I can't wait to get started.  If you have any questions let me know

We will be holding an Orientation MeetingFriday, April 15th at the Santa Barbara Running Store in Santa Barbara (110 Anacapa Street).  And will get rolling with our first group meeting on Saturday April 23rd.

Additionally, our Moms in Motion Semana Nautica 15K team will be supporting the Santa Barbara County Foodbank.

Visit our website for more information:  Moms In Motion

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Masters Track and Field World Championships

Competing in Track and Field was really my first athletic love.  Although my very first experience with competing was in Cross Country (4th grade, age 9), it was the track season that I looked forward to. 

The highlight of Track and Field for me occurred in high school, when our girls' high school track team (Fernley High School) won the Nevada state AA championship 4 years in a row (my Freshman through Senior year).  We were the feared and revered team that everyone dreaded.  We would strut confidently into every stadium flashing our medal and champ patch laden letterman jackets.  Mine still hangs in my closet where I can frequently look at it and remember wonderful days.

As a runner ages and life marches on, remaining a track and field athlete is not easy.  Is my case, my last track meet occurred in college.  Of course I continued to compete as a runner, but only in road and cross country races.  I have not since put on my spikes and stepped onto a competition track.

I have, however, continued to train on a track, doing intervals and drills, as I have trained for longer events.  Although I count these among the hardest workouts I ever have to do, I find some inexplicable joy in running hard around the turns and finding my stride on the back-stretch.  My legs tie up and my lungs burn and I am certain I will not have another repeat left in me.  But once the interval is finished and the short recovery does its magic, I discover that I am able to do more than I previously thought. 

I find myself now with an opportunity to go back in time to my track days.  I am going to compete in another track meet.  A chance of a lifetime has presented itself and I decided it was now or never.  For the first time in 22 years, the Masters Track and Field World Championships will be held in the USA.  And not only in the USA, but in California, USA.  Sacramento, CA, USA.  That is the WORLD championships!  I am delirious with anticipation.  I am entered to compete in the 800m and 1500m.  In the Masters World Championship (and masters meets in general), runners compete against their own age group only.  This is important because as we age, we tend to lose some speed.  The 800 and 1500 are events which favor speed, so my ladies 40-44 years of age, will all be at an equal disadvantage.

It is as if I am treading on new ground which I have treaded on many times in the past.  I will have to hone my training, gird my confidence, learn to believe I can compete against the world, and buy new spikes.  When I was young and unfocused, I had a vague dream to compete in the Olympics.  That opportunity gave way to greater priorities in life, but for all intents and purposes, this opportunity comes close.  I intend to run to win.  In both races, I have a legitimate chance.  My dad, who passed away when I was 17 years old, always believed in me.  Maybe this will be my one moment in time.

July 6th-17th  Sacramento, CA
World Masters Athletic Championships

Monday, February 28, 2011

Roses en la Playa Race Report

When one writes a race report, oh that it would not sound so self absorbed.  I'm hoping in this case, I not only report on my race, but on the race. 

This weekend (Sunday, February 27th to be precise) was the running of the 5K Roses en la Playa, under sunny skies (thank you thank you thank you), and in almost perfect temperatures.  I think it may have possibly made it to 50 degrees by the start, but I'm not sure.  One thing's for sure, it was colder after the race.  The crazy wind kicked up (I think it came directly from Alaska maybe).  Now, according to my knowledge and experience, the most perfect, ideal, precise temperature to run in is 55 degrees.  Any variation in either direction will cause the body to have to work harder to some extent to compensate.  So this was just a bit colder than ideal.

They came from near and far (some as far as New York) in layer upon layer of clothing, to run in the cold sunshine, hoping the wind would stay at bay.  I myself can boast 4 layers on bottom (that includes underwear), and three layer on top, plus arm warmers and gloves.  I like to be WARM before my race.  The New York people were running around in tanks and shorts.  I don't get them ... they don't get us.  At least I stripped down to my racing duds for the race (kept the arm warmers and gloves on though) - but I can say I never broke a sweat.

This 5K course has the potential to be very fast.  It is primarily out and back, but the start line is mercifully placed at the top of a hill, and the finish line is at the bottom of that same hill.  I know that's confusing, but for those who are not familiar with this "Night Moves" course, it goes like this:  From the start, runners proceed up an ongoing (it keeps going and going and going) hill, and into a headwind for almost 1 1/2 miles to the hairpin turn-around.  Then they (we) get to go back down the hill with the wind at our backs.  We pass by the start line and descend a final extra downhill to a fast finish in the chute.  As I said, it has fast potential, but headwind can suck the life right out of an ambitious runner, and there's no way to get that lost time back, even downhill with the wind.

So the course wasn't as fast as it could have been had there been no wind.  (I'm just saying that because I didn't run as fast as I wanted to).  No really, the wind really did factor in.  Anyway ... it was a fun day and a well run and well organized event, with a multitude of great people participating.  I met a few new running friends and I couldn't be happier.

The breakdown for my particular performance:  First, my goal, ugh!!! was to break 18 minutes.  I didn't, and it leaves me wondering if I could have if the day had brought more desirable conditions.  Here is how it played out.  The first mile, with the benefit of fresh legs, was 6:04, which is of course way off-pace but this was the one mile that was entirely uphill and into the wind.  The second mile was 1/2 and 1/2 (that's 1/2 uphill/downhill and 1/2 against/with the wind), and included the hairpin turn, and was therefore slightly faster at 5:56.  This of course is the mile that killed my time because I needed to make up more time than I did.  I was at a 6:00 min pace, but needed to be closer to a 5:50 pace at this point.  So I had too much time to make up in the final mile but thankfully it was entirely downhill with the wind.  The final mile was 5:36, and when you add the final .1 miles to that, you get the final time of 18:16 (per my watch).  It was the best I could do that day and that's all I ever really ask of myself.

Full race results here: http://results.active.com/uploads/txt/106181.txt

I would like to particularly thank Kent for trying to pull me along with him during that final stretch.  He was having more fun than I was I think.

Such a fun day, fun race, fun people, fun yummies afterwards.  Onward to CB 5000.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Teetering on the Edge

It reminds me of the day I ran along the cliff in More Mesa.  The wind was whipping hard off of the ocean so that it blew against me from the side.  As I ran along the edge of the precipice, I pushed against the wind to stay upright.  It was thrilling to run in a storm along a dangerous bluff pushing against the force that was keeping me from falling to my death.

Running is like that edge.  Any runner at any level will face that edge if they want to reach their potential.  You may have struggled on that edge yourself.  On the safe side of it, you fail to reach all that you can be as a runner, and on the other side of the edge is the canyon of injury, illness, burnout, and other symptoms of over-training.

It is difficult ... very difficult to make your way forward on the edge without falling.  Of course the answer is to "listen to your body" and "make sure and give yourself time to recover."  This is advice we readily give to our fellow edge runners, but oh that we would follow it ourselves.  I HATE listening to my body.  It tells me to take a break right when I am getting into a nice training mode and making some improvement.

But I don't want to fall over that cliff again.  I spent most of last year injured, recovering from the injury, and struggling to get back into race condition.  I don't want to go there again.  I want to stay up here, running free in the wind, taking in the sweeping view. 

Why do I even bring this up?  Because this week my achilles tendon has been bugging me.  Just a little.  Not like last year when it crippled my running.  Just enough to get my attention.  "Yo," it says.  What to do?  I have a 5K race tomorrow.  Maybe it will be fine.  Maybe it won't.  Regardless of my above mentioned "hate," I consider myself reasonable when it comes to training.  I actually do listen ... kinda ... sometimes.

It's hard to teeter on the edge, but if I can stay balanced up there, I may accomplish things I only dreamed of, and beat competitors I used to idolize.  If it's in me, I'd like to try.  Can you relate to any of this? 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Birds VS. Rodents

It's a sign.  I'm sure of it.  Not sure what it is a sign of though.  Hmmmmm???!!!!

Big birds with large rodents.  First on Friday, walking back to our car from the track, John winced as a crow lifted off the ground with a dead rat in its claws.  Do crows eat rats?  It is possible that crows eat everything they can.

Then, a few days later, on Monday during my run, I saw an egret ... maybe (or some large white stork-like creature) with a huge, extra large gopher hanging lifelessly from its beak.  Now this was an odd one and I spent the rest of my run wondering how that bird was going to swallow that meal. 

What could it all mean?  Puzzle, puzzle, puzzle.

If it had just been the crow vs. rat sighting, I would have passed it off as just a yucky misfortune to have had to witness.  But upon seeing the egret vs. gopher, I have to assume that there is some deep, far-reaching significance to it all.  It happened twice ... within close time proximity.  You don't see that kind of thing often, definitely not twice in the same weekend.  It's like a reoccurring dream that shines a light deep into the soul.  It holds inner, hidden meaning.  So now it's time to speculate as to what I am to learn from the birds vs. rodents.

Here are some possible interpretations:

1. Cindy, you are eating way too much protein.  Cut back or you're going to choke.
2. Cindy, you've bit off more than you can chew.  You can only have the rat or the gopher, but not both.
3. Cindy, you need to spend more time just hanging out and eating (I like this one).
4. Cindy, as you can see, it is disgusting to eat dead, furry things.  Convert it vegetarianism (not a chance).

Or it could be that I'm the rat/gopher and not the crow/egret, requiring an alternate set of possible interpretations as follows:

1. Cindy, you're at the bottom of the food chain.  All you get to eat is grass and then some larger creature gets to eat you. (That's a deep one ... I'll have to further contemplate that one).
2. Cindy, if you live according to the laws of nature, you'll only get eaten by the next biggest predator. (Ugh!  That's it, no barefoot running for me.  I'm sticking with shoes.)
3. Cindy, if you die to yourself, you will fly. (Even if it is while inside the gut of a big bird).
4. Cindy, if someone wants to prey on you let them try.  They'll never be able to swallow you. (Hello ... just let 'em try).

Or most likely, this is what the bird vs. rodent "sign" really means:
Cindy, clearly you are obsessed with food and eating.  What you saw was just two separate acts of nature that have absolutely nothing to do with you whatsoever.  Get some lunch in your stomach and move on.

Yep, I think that's it.  I'm going to have my lunch now.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Enjoying the View

Much of the country is under snow and ice, bundled in thick clothing for every venture out the door, and praying for Spring to come early.  In California, we are appreciating the summer we didn't get when we were supposed to have it.  Running has been the purist of pleasures, in perfect temperatures and abundant sunshine.  For these things I am very thankful.

Training has its ups and downs.  Things can't always feel optimal, but I forget this little detail when things are down.  I am always searching for the perfect plan which will help me find my peak performance yet will not break me down in the process.  So this week, post-Super Bowl Race, I have been feeling kind of tired, and so I contemplate whether my runs are just "junk miles" this week, or whether I can consider them recovery runs.

Here is my dilemma.  Each week I do a long run, a tempo run and an interval workout (and then other runs and swims too).  I do these regardless of whether I will also have a race (unless it is a big one and I taper).  But when I do have a race, that constitutes an additional hard day.  So naturally I need to let my body rest, and my preference is to have an easy run day.  But when I run on my own, no matter how hard I try, my easy run begins to pick up pace and ends up being another hard run.  And then the next day I am still tired, so I plan another easy run (or run/swim).  Again I pick up the pace and waste myself.  So when my hard days come along, I'm still tired.

But today, I had a glorious run.  Perfect temp, beautiful sunshine, and I chose a course with a view.  I was, yes, still tired as I started out, but I maintained a nice and moderate pace this time.  During the later portion of the 8 mile run, I ran up a trail into the Douglas Preserve.   As I ran up the trail, I thought about what a great thing it was that this piece of land was purchased and preserved so that we could all enjoy it.  And I did.

Once up into the preserve, I loped along the dirt paths, rounded the sharp bend which overlooked Hendry's Beach, and continued on under the Eucalyptus trees.  I took in the smells, the feel of the air, and the breathtaking views of the ocean. 

Running can't always be about focused training.  Sometimes we need to not only let the body recover, but also the spirit and mind.  Therefore I am inclined to suggest that today's run was definitely not "junk miles."  In fact, that is terminology to which I neither subscribe nor ever use in my vocabulary.  There is purpose in every run.

Ok, yes, my body still feels wiped and tomorrow is a hard 10 miler, ugh!  But I feel renewed.  I feel my training is directed properly, and is beneficial, and yet is not pushing me over the threshold into injury, illness, pain, and ruin. 

That's how I feel about running this week.