Monday, September 3, 2018

July vs. August Miles

Today's post is just a quick update for the end of August and how it compared to July.
July: 26 miles
In July, I was still running 2-3 miles more frequently than I aimed for 3-4. My dedication took a hit from traveling and then going back to work. I was pleased that I got a few runs in while on vacation, though. I tend to slack while traveling.

Toward the end of August, I planned to add in weekend runs, but I got sick the last week of the month. I managed to still get my three weekday runs in, but I didn't see a benefit in pushing myself to run while battling the back-to-school crud, so I took the last weekend off. I also upped my weekday runs from 2-3 miles to 3-4, which made a big difference.
August: 48 miles
I nearly doubled my total miles between July and August, which is mind-boggling and incredibly motivating. August is by far my highest-mileage month in ages, and I felt good the entire month, without any aches, pains, or tightness.

I am tentatively planning to lengthen my weekday runs by a half mile or so until my base is 5 miles instead of 4. Despite the humidity and work-exhaustion, my runs have all felt really good and almost easy, so it's time to do a little more.

I am officially one year post-op on my right leg. Even though the process of diagnosis, surgery, and recovery felt long, in the grand scheme of things, I am pretty much back to where I usually am at this time of year and I feel great. I am grateful, amazed, and complaint-free.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Rampage 5k 2018

Back in June, or maybe even May, my friend, colleague, and fellow Skirt ambassador Michelle floated the idea of running a race together with our other friend, colleague, and Skirt ambassador Ashley. We thought it would be fun to all run together, because even though we work together, I've only gotten to run one race with them before. (Ashley and Michelle train together frequently and are currently training to run the Chicago marathon together.)
The last time we raced together.
Anyway, I had this race in my head all summer, but I never signed up. Then, last week, I decided to bite the bullet and sign up before I chickened out. Both Michelle and Ashley signed up, too, so we were all set to meet before the race, run it, and have breakfast together after.

I had a banana, a tbsp of peanut butter, and a cup of strong black coffee about 90 minutes before the race, then made the half hour drive to the park. The race started at 7am; the weather was cool (mid-70s at the start) but the humidity was no joke (94%). Before the sun was up, though, it didn't feel too bad.

At the starting line!
I had no goals for this race. I didn't even have a "I don't want to walk" or "I want to sub-30" goal. This race was literally just to help push me mentally further into the headspace I've recently been in, where real training and weekend runs are appealing to me again.

Based on my paces lately, I was surprised to find myself running in the 8:50s early on. I was sure I wouldn't be able to hold it long, but it felt really comfortable, so I just let my legs do their thing. 

My legs continued to do their thing to mile 2, but my hair threw the first wrench in my wheel. It's at a weird length right now where I can get it into a bun and keep it there with the help of a lot of bobby pins, but it started to come down and was really distracting. I took a walk break to shove the pins back into place, but as you know...once you walk, it's hard to convince yourself to get going again. I started to realize how hot it was. By this point, the sun was fully up and I was running directly into it.
I took this photo after fixing my hair. The last mile of the race was quite pretty!
I managed to run another half mile before I decided to take another walk break. I kept it brief. I think my need for it was more mental than physical. I made the decision to run the rest of the race at a much easier and more sustainable pace, which ended up being around 9:30. I was able to finish the last sprint at a 7:52 pace.
Here's a blurry screenshot from the finish video.
I know some of you (ahem, Megan) like finishing videos, so here's the one from this race. I come into view around 10:04.

I finished in 28:57 (or 29:00 according to my chip), 8th in my age group. 
I caught some photos of Michelle and Ashley finishing, and then after waiting to check our times, we went to breakfast at Skillets. 
I haven't eaten there in years, but it used to be my go-to post-race breakfast place, and it was a great way to end the morning.
Considering I had no goals for the race, I am very happy with my performance. And I'm happy with the mental outcome: I definitely feel invigorated and excited to sign up for some more races. I told Elizabeth last week that I don't really care about collecting medals anymore, but the elation of crossing a finish line continues to be one of the best feelings in the world.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mini-Goals & Surprise Race

Last week, I felt like I finally hit the next "step" of recovery. From December 2017 (when I started running again) to June, I really just enjoyed running again, without any guidelines or expectations. Since June, I've mentally been in a weird kind of in-between phase, where I'm enjoying the freedom of running however and whenever I want, but also wanting to see progress. I've been in this stage since around June, but I think I'm finally moving on.

Over the last two weeks, I've set a couple modest goals. For one thing, I finally upped my minimum run distance to 4 miles. Four miles is my happy distance, but it's been too easy to cut runs short when it's super hot and humid out. I'm not giving myself that out anymore. When I plan to go for a run, I plan for four and I do four. This has given me a little bit of structure and increased my weekly mileage.
Can you guess which week was the first week back at school?
The other mini-goal I've set in the last two weeks is to run Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. So far, I've been able to stick to that, and I've even been able to motivate myself to go when the weather is gross and Elizabeth isn't joining me.

My next step is to finally start adding weekend runs. I've been so exhausted from going back to work that the last thing I want to do on weekends is break a sweat.

So, on that note, it looks like I'm running a race on Saturday. I'm not really prepared for it, but I plan to run it for fun and to kickstart a desire to train for something...or at least add that elusive weekend run to my plans.
It feels nice to have a little more structure and to be out of limbo, and to be getting there naturally. I was afraid I'd have to force it, but it seems like, as usual, the recovery process has its own timeline. I am starting to feel back to my old self, and that gives me hope for the future of running, racing, and the longterm running goals I kept my sights on to give me hope last year during my diagnosis and surgeries.

Because honestly? For awhile, I was a little afraid those goals would be dust in the wind, but now I'm seeing that there will come a time when I finally feel ready to go for them. I just have to keep being patient and keep trusting the process.


Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Run Worth Analyzing

Thursday evening I hit a little milestone post-surgery: I completed my third 4-mile run of the week, bringing my miles to 12 before I even reached the weekend. It's my longest mileage week of recovery!

But that's not why I want to analyze this run. I want to remember how it felt.

I ran the first two miles with Elizabeth, who is about 23 weeks pregnant, and the last two alone. For the first mile, we stuck together. We kept a very easy pace of about 9:51. I felt like my body had shifted into its perfect gear; I could have kept at that pace forever and never needed a rest.
We took a brief walk break at a mile and took a photo, then ran the second mile nice and easy. Including the walk at the beginning, our average pace was 10:21, which is much closer to the pace we tend to run together these days. Little Pudge is getting to be a burden for Elizabeth.
At the two mile mark, Elizabeth dropped back as planned and I continued on my own. We agreed that I would just finish my run without looping back to check on her at all, and she'd meet me at the end.

My third mile and fourth miles were fast. There were times I saw 9:10 or faster on my watch. I took a brief walk at the end of mile 3, more because I wanted to than that I needed it, and by the end of mile 4 I was so desperate to finish strong that I was scared to slow down for fear I'd end up walking again. I finished the last quarter mile at a sprint, running sub-9.
It was like my legs had a mind of their own. They felt amazing and strong. It was humid and gross out, and my breathing was ragged, but it's been worse.

I felt like I was transcending something.

And I had to stop and think after this run, because lately I've been so sure that summer has sapped me of all my speed and strength, and back-to-school stress has sapped me of my motivation and energy. But tonight I saw that everything is still there. It's just been resting a bit as I acclimate.

I've been slow lately because of the combination of summer, work, and having a pregnant running buddy, and pace has been one major factor in my reluctance to build distance right now. In fact, I spent some of our run tonight lamenting over my disinterest in running a half marathon anytime soon and yet not wanting to miss the opportunity this winter - I don't want to wait another year to run a half!
I ran this route three times this week, and felt stronger and faster each time.
By the time I finished this run, I realized that maybe I am ready to build distance after all, because I felt it all fall into place again.

As Elizabeth and I adjust our plans to fit both our needs as her pregnancy continues, I'll have the opportunity to build my own schedule and work in long runs. The only thing holding me back is myself. The good news is that I think they're finally starting to really fall away.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

We Eat Tofu Now

This post is going to be full of pictures of delicious meals that don't look very appetizing. Why is photographing food so hard?!

For the longest time, I've had an issue with eating meat at home. For some reason, if I've prepared and cooked it, I get grossed out eating it. The texture makes me want to gag. I often end up eating whatever side I've prepared and leaving the meat to go to waste.

This happens even with things I typically love, like salmon and shrimp. It never happens when I'm at a restaurant, but we don't go out to eat very often, so most nights I barely touch my dinner.

I've always really loved tofu, but have been scared to cook it at home. Once I bought a block of it and it sat in the fridge for six months before I tossed it, untouched. Sometimes when I order a meal with tofu, I ask Matt if he wants any, but usually it's spicy so he doesn't partake. While we were in Seattle, I had tofu a couple times, and Matt was finally able to try some himself. Imagine my surprise when on our last night there, he ordered tofu in his poke bowl.
That was a turning point. When I realized Matt would eat tofu, it made more sense to learn to cook it. The consistency (somewhere between an omelet and frittata) never freaks me out and I like that its mild flavor can really take on any taste.
I watched a YouTube video to learn how to cook it, bought some already-pressed tofu, and tried it out. I was intimidated, but it turns out it's really easy to prep and cook! I'm still figuring out if I prefer the super firm or extra firm variety, but we've had tofu for every home-cooked dinner for two weeks now and I am very happy with it.
This is the brand our stores carry. Right now I think I prefer the extra firm to the super firm.
My favorite way to prepare it is with curry. I sometimes use a million shortcuts that would make Sandra Lee proud, including adding frozen vegetables or sweet potatoes to the dish instead of fresh. Dinner takes ten minutes to make and tastes amazing.
We usually use Patak's Korma curry, but I want to learn how to make it from scratch.
I'm excited to learn more ways to prepare it, because unlike most meals, it's so quick and easy to make that I don't mind experimenting a little. Plus, a block costs about $3 and easily makes enough food for two nights, so we're saving money on top of everything else.
Passage Foods sauces have all proven tasty!
This pad thai did not disappoint! 
I am not going vegetarian, but Matt and I are both happy to be eating less meat because the meat industry - especially beef - is terrible for the environment. I'm also happy to finally be able to stomach a meal at home. I feel like I'm on a soapbox, but it's not moralistic at all. I'm just suddenly in love with tofu and I don't know why it took me so long to buy it!

If you've been curious but intimidated, like I was, take it from me - tofu is awesome!


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Your Love Is

After Scott and Robby's ceremony, a few people came up to me to compliment my speech/poem. One of Robby's old colleagues suggested I put the poem online so other people could use it at weddings. Part of me preened to hear such high praise, but the socially-inept part of me just mumbled an awkward (but genuine) "thank you".

A third part of me - the writer, the artist - was torn between wanting to share the poem and wanting to avoid the possibility of someone else taking credit for it. In the end, the proud part won out, so I've posted the poem below. I really believe it's the kind of poem that's better heard than read, but I'm not about to record myself reciting it.

If you want to use it, please give credit where it's due.
I spent a few months choosing a photo of the guys and formatting the poem (I think I printed more than a dozen drafts before I was happy with the final result) before framing it to send to them. They received it today in the mail.

Being asked to speak at their wedding and being able to share these words, which I wrote for them specifically, was one of my proudest moments. I am happy to share them here, too, so that others can hear the message of love and perhaps share it with others.


Monday, July 30, 2018

This Part is Hard

I am not going to complain about going back to work. After all, I got a real summer this year, with actual time off and travel to boot. Yes, going back to work is tough, but I'm happy to be back and I'm excited for this year. So, no complaining.

But am I allowed to comment on how stressful this part of the school year is? And how absolutely bone-tired my body and mind are at the end of the day?

Sometimes I think about how hard coming back feels for me and I can understand why students are basically barely-animated blobs when they return each year. Time off gets you into a different set of habits, and you're in them just long enough to start to feel used to having an open schedule, and then school starts again.

Right now, I am struggling to run. I'm exhausted. It's hot. (Like 100 degrees every day kind of hot.) After a day of work, I want to come home and relax, and by the time it's "cool enough" to run (after sunset, usually, and then we're still talking usual Florida summer temps) I've lost the will to move.
Honestly, it's absurd to expect people to go outside in this.
I am mostly writing this post to pry myself out of my chair. I know that once I get into the swing of things, running after work will be a vital part of getting through the school year. I actually keep a better running schedule during the year than over the summer because my schedule is more stable...and I can consistently remember what day of the week it is.

It's getting back into the habit that's been proving difficult.

I am naturally a lazy person. I had hoped going through compartment syndrome and recovery would inoculate me against my natural sloth-like state, but apparently not. Getting out the door isn't much easier than it ever was.
Truer words were never written.
On top of that, because I'm not training for anything, there's nothing to hold me accountable to any mileage. Not beyond my own self-recrimination, anyway.

When I run, I still am filled with joy and a feeling of completion I can't articulate. It's getting started that's tripping me up.
Running is still the only time I truly feel unencumbered. The heat, though, certainly cumbers me.
Of course, the bottom line is that I just have to shut up and run, shut up and run, shut up and run until it gets easier. So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to hit publish on this post and get out the door. (I'll let you know if it works.)

Thanks for letting me whine.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Seattle Vacation: Part 3 - July 16 & 17, 2018

My formatting is super messed up on this post because my photos were corrupted somehow and then somehow the paragraph spacing got weird. Also all the photos are unedited because when I try to edit them, they get wonky. I'm not sure if it's the photos or the program. Anyway, I'm too lazy to rewrite this entire thing on a new post, so...bear with me.

The day after the wedding, most of the family and guests were heading back to the mainland. I had had the genius idea, while in the preparation stages of our trip, to extend our stay at the Rosario another night. My thinking was that our flight out wasn't until 10pm on Wednesday, July 18. We had two more full days to enjoy the area, and we hadn't had any time at all to explore Orcas.

Why not really take a day to enjoy the resort and this beautiful little island?
On this map, you can see where the Rosario is located and Moran State Park, where we played in the lake on the Saturday before the wedding. The ferry drops off at the bottom of Orcas near Shaw Island; it takes about 30 minutes to drive from the harbor to the resort. Small.
On Monday we joined everyone for the goodbye breakfast at the mansion (the main building at the resort) and then headed out to Moran State Park. I was dead set on getting a run in, especially because Megan had told me her mom ran on Orcas and it was gorgeous. Moran has something like 28 miles of trails!
We did #10, the Mountain Lake Loop...which said "easy" with 200 feet of elevation gain and was NOT.
We grabbed a map and I chose a running trail based on what looked like it would be "easy" for my Florida legs.

I am not a trail runner. Pretty early on I realized I was going to have to be very laid back about my pace and walking. Matt got distracted by the beauty of our surroundings and twisted his ankle within the first half mile. I was better about my footing but definitely had to slow down on the inclines.
I mean, how could you NOT love running in this?
I especially loved racing down the switchbacks.
Matt running down a switchback.
The trail we took was supposedly 3.9 miles but my watch clocked it at 3.4. Either way, it was a fun, beautiful "run". (Run/walk/hike/climb?)
Afterward, we went down to the dock and put our feet in the water of the lake. It was freezing but felt so good. My left ankle was so swollen from wearing heels the night before and running in the ice bath was necessary.

A lady and her daughter came up on paddle boards and she offered them to us while they went to lunch. I was like "You don't know who you're asking..." and Matt was like "THANKS I'M ON IT!" So I lounged on the dock while he paddled a bit.
We went to lunch in town, eating at this place called The Kitchen with yummy rice bowls filled with all local produce, proteins, and sauces. (I had tofu, Matt had chicken.) We picked up some dinner for later from a co-op grocery store, then got ice cream (two scoops each of blueberry and strawberry, made from local berries and dairy) at the Clever Cow Creamery, which we took back to our room and stuck in the fridge before heading back to the park.

My legs were totally done, but we were able to drive most of the way to Mount Constitution, the highest point on Orcas. We did, of course, climb the tower for the full view. The summit has an elevation of 2399ft...You can basically see Canada from there. (I really can.)

We returned to the resort to eat ice cream (which, despite being melty, had amazing flavor) and take a dip in the pool and spa before calling it a night.

The next morning was our last day in Washington. We caught the ferry around noon and drove back in to Seattle. Our flight out wasn't until 10pm, so we had time to kill. We briefly checked out Discovery Park and then went back to Olympic Sculpture Park to read and relax.

We had dinner at Broadway Poke and Sushi, which is kind of a little hole-in-the-wall but was honestly so good it surprised me, and then we were airport bound.
All good things must come to an end; thus ended our epic vacation to the Pacific Northwest. Now maybe this blog will get back to being about running.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Orcas Island - The Wedding!

I couldn't wait to share this post, but obviously the professional photos aren't available yet. That just means I'll get to write a follow-up later on to share more pics!

On July 14, Matt and I arrived for the ferry to Orcas Island bright and early. We pulled into the line and immediately saw that Robby's rental car was right behind us! We had some time to kill before boarding, so everyone popped out of the cars. It turned out quite a few attendants and guests (and Scott!) were taking the same ferry over, so we all kind of mingled while we waited to board.
The 1.5-hour trip over to Orcas was smooth sailing. We didn't see any whales but we got to enjoy the views.
Driving onto the ferry
That skyline though...
Pretty much our first view from Orcas. Beautiful!
We drove straight from the ferry landing to the resort. The boys got married at the Rosario Resort and Spa, which was absolutely picture-perfect and really forced us to enjoy the festivities without distractions because there was no cell service at all. (We had spotty wifi at the actual resort but the surrounding parks were dead zones.)

We ran through rehearsal first. Scott and Robby had three aisles to walk into the wedding, and had to time our walks and make sure we all knew where to stand. I loved this set up - they each walked down the outside aisles with both parents, then met together in the middle. When they walked out, they walked up the center aisle together. Two equal men coming together and leaving as one. The symbolism was beautiful.
After practicing, we had some time to hang out. Matt and I didn't have a room ready for us yet, so we hung out with his dad until it was time for the rehearsal barbecue at Moran State Park. Because this was a destination wedding, everyone was invited!
I wasn't planning to get in the water because it was so cold, but I had bought a new bathing suit just for the lake day, so finally Matt convinced me to hang out on a float. It was a fun way to relax and meeting everyone before the big day.
Matt and his dad testing the water. Verdict: It was COLD
Robby and his dad tending the grill
They kill me
We ended the night with a late dinner in town with Matt's cousin Dylan and his wife Christine.

Wedding day arrived bright and early. Robby's best woman and I were the first two to get our makeup and hair done, so we had to be at the guys' suite between 8am and 8:30. I had been concerned that my hair would be too short for a cute updo, but the stylist did a great job! (I am so forgetful - I didn't get a picture of the back!)
Finished look
I was also nervous the makeup wouldn't last all day, and that the false eyelashes would irritate me. But of course, everything went smoothly! By 10am I was completely wedding-ready above the shoulders.
Robby kept us stocked in mimosas
Dylan and Matt
Copying their vows into little journals for the ceremony
I passed the time reviewing my speech. The guys had asked me to write something about love and acceptance, but I struggled to keep it light. I ended up writing a poem for them. Their friend Paloma was officiating the wedding; she and I had been texting and emailing for awhile to make sure everything ran smoothly. We took some time after hair and makeup to walk up to the wedding site to run through the entire ceremony.
I love this photo
Afterward, I felt super emotional but also very calm. I knew we'd be fine.

Finally, after getting some pre-wedding family pictures, it was time for the ceremony. Everything went so smoothly, and it was just beautiful. I was choked up the entire time. I had to avoid eye contact with the grooms during my reading, and I nearly lost it during their vows. They have just been so good for each other and their love and commitment is so genuine.
To see them so confident and unapologetically together was just...the best thing in the world.
I believe this was caught at the moment Paloma quoted Britney Spears.
With Paloma, feeling relieved and ready to party after a job well done
After the ceremony, we took photos with the wedding party and then walked to the reception site, which was a building on the resort called the Beach House. From there, what can I say? The decorations were sophisticated, the DJ was awesome, the mother-son dances were touching, the food (served family-style) was delicious and all gluten free, the toasts were tear-inducing, and the father-son dance (to YMCA) was hilarious.
They changed into hanboks for part of the reception.
Robby and Scott each had two attendants give toasts. Leighanne, Scott's best woman, delivered the first funny, poignant speech to get the ball rolling.
I pretty much managed to stay dry-eyed until Matt's toast.
They had a Jenga set for us to write memories on to help them "build memories"; so cute! 
We found this photo in one of their displayed scrapbooks and recreated it in their photo booth.
Matt and Dylan gave into temptation and spent some time skipping rocks.
We had a fantastic night. I hope it was everything Scott and Robby were dreaming of. I know it will certainly be an experience they won't ever forget, and it was a beautiful start to a long and happy life together.