Friday, August 24, 2012

Post-Race Weight Gain (and Loss)

I am writing this blog to all runners out there concerned about putting on weight after a big race.  This is a brief overview of what happened to me, and I hope that it gives you some relief as you step on your scale tomorrow morning:

I am pleased to report that I am back to my pre-ultramarathon weight this morning.  <Insert giant sigh of relief here>

When I left for Olympia (and my first ultra-marathon) on August 10th, I weighed myself and - naively - wondered how much weight I might lose if I met my goals of running/walking for the full 12 hours.  Of course, this wasn't a weight loss plan; I wasn't trying to lose weight, per se.  But I knew that I would be burning lots of calories and sweating a lot in the 90-degree heat, and I assumed that I would have a pleasant surprise when I got home and stepped on the scale.

To my surprise (and horror), I weighed SEVEN pounds more when I returned home on August 13.  "How can that be?" I thought.  "I didn't eat much during the run, and I threw up everything in my stomach anyway." 

My mind kicked into overdrive.  I thought about everything I ate after the race and the next morning - a chicken sandwich, a half-can of chicken noodle soup, a large Diet Coke, a snack-size Sun Chips bag, and a gas station breakfast burrito.  I couldn't figure out how those items added up to seven pounds, even though the burrito wasn't exactly health food.

I went online and found lots of articles, blogs, and discussion boards describing similar weight gain.  Most folks said that they gained 2-4 pounds after a big race ("water weight") and that the weight came off in a few days.  That eased my mind somewhat, but I was worried that my weight gain was more significant, and when the weight went up another half-pound in two days, I felt concerned. (Years ago I was overweight, and I worried that I was getting fat again.)

And I felt bigger.  I felt like I was swollen and thicker than I should be.  I felt all 7.5 pounds.

Thankfully, the past few days have been good to me.  This might be TMI, but I have been using the restroom a lot more, and it seems like my body has wanted to get rid of excess fluid and anything else that it has been holding onto (probably because it was in shock over the whole 12-hour race).  It seems to have relaxed back into normal life.

This morning I stepped on the scale, and I am at my pre-race weight.  My stomach feels flatter, and my fingers don't feel so sausage-y.  I'm not a skinny girl, but I feel better, and I am well within "healthy and normal" weight.  I'm so glad.

If I do another ultra, I might do a little bit more work on my fueling so that I don't feel so sick after the race and so I don't put on so much weight during and after the race.

Monday, August 20, 2012

12-Hour Transcendance Race

On Sunday the 12th I participated in the Transcendence 12-Hour Endurance Race in Olympia, WA, and I have to say that it was amazing and unlike anything I have ever done.

In the past couple of weeks I have told people that I was going to run a 12-hour race, and some have been surprised that I haven't been training.  Running one's first ultra, after all, is no joke.  But I didn't want to train; my relationship to running has simply changed, and I haven't wanted to put in the long hours and even longer miles to prepare for this race.  So my mindset going into the race was probably different than most runners'; I really wanted to see what I am made of - who I am right now - with this heart and this body and this mind.  I exercised a few days a week, went on some runs and walks, kept my weight under control, and tried to keep my expectations of myself reasonable for the race.  And not to give away the ending, but I consider my race experience very successful and positive and do not regret a thing.

Because it was such a long day and the thought of writing down everything that happened is overwhelming for me, I'll just include the highlights:

Sunday was here before I knew it, and I found myself at the starting line with 79 other runners.  The sun hadn't come out yet, and I was excited to see what I could do on this 1.52-mile course.  I felt lucky to start my first ultra with Scott and to see him throughout the race.

The course, although short, was quite pretty.  It was great to not have to worry about carrying water since there were drinking fountains along the course, and I knew that an aid station was only a mile and a half away.  

Sunrise on the lake
Capitol building view
I downloaded a great book on tape called The Five Love Languages, and listened to it for a good chunk of time during the run/walk.  I learned a lot, and it kept me entertained for over five hours in a way that even Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift cannot.  ;)

I met a bunch of people over the course of twelve hours.  I met Max, a retired Air Force man who runs ultras in his retirement; Jenneth, a gal who told me that not picking up a penny is telling the universe that you have enough and won't accept free money; Brock, a harmonica player who rode his bike next to me during my final two laps just because he was enjoying talking with me; Josh, a Vibram Fivefingers runner who gave the first place finisher a run for his money; and others who were happy to share bits of their life stories.  This one of the coolest parts of the race, in my opinion.  Just think, if this was a traditional ultramarathon course, there never would have been an opportunity for me to run or walk a mile and a half with any of these people; they would have been 10 miles ahead or behind me.  It was neat to see familiar faces and to have so many opportunities to walk-n-chat.

It was very cool that Scott jogged/walked his final couple of loops with me.  He finished his 50k in under 6 hours and then crewed for me for the next 6.  It felt great to be greeted at our little tent with some Gatorade and a cool cloth to wipe my face. 

After I left the tent, I walked only a few feet to the food tables and ate potatoes with salt and potato chips.
After I completed my first 50k, everyone at the finish line cheered and rang bell.  When I left the tent and started the next loop, it felt awesome to know that - for once - I was going to run farther than Scott.  (I realize he is recovering from injuries and that his pace was much faster than mine.  Still, it felt good.)  I learned later that Scott had posted my accomplishment to Facebook, and I had a crazy number of encouraging and congratulatory comments.  (Thanks, everyone!!)

I completed just over 38 miles!  That is almost a marathon and a half-marathon back-to-back!  I felt pretty awesome.  Period.

(I made page 2!)

While most people "hit the wall" and "bonk" during races this long, I never did...probably because I wasn't going for speed.  I felt really good emotionally and physically throughout the whole day, other than the blisters that I got around Mile 6.  Yes, my fingers swelled, and yes, my legs were tired, but I never felt miserable during the race.  (I did feel miserable about fifteen minutes after the race, after my shoes were off and my feet were in an ice bath.  I felt like I was going to pass out and throw up all at once.  I never passed out...)

My mom drove all the way from Boise to Olympia and tried to get there in time to walk a lap or two with me, but the race was over when she arrived.  The bad news - she saw me when I was in the post-race, pukey-nightmare stage of the day.  I could barely walk on my blistered feet and tired legs, and I ended up throwing up my grape Gatorade in her car.  The good news - my mom came to see me at a race (yay!), and when I felt icky, she took me back to her house in Mossyrock, WA and fed me chicken noodle soup. 

This picture cracks me up.  I wasn't feeling too great on the car ride to Mom's.
I am really pleased with my experience with this race and would do it again.  Heck, even the tech shirts are cool, and I plan to wear mine with pride.  I'm so glad that my first ultra attempt was so positive and successful.  Thanks to everyone who supported me and to Guerrilla Running for putting on such a great event!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Bloomsday 2012

Yesterday I ran Bloomsday for the third time.  As always, it was a good experience - challenging, rewarding, beautiful... the list goes on.

This year I didn't train for the race, so admittedly I was a little nervous.  My first Bloomsday I ran a 1:26:06, and my second I ran a 1:24:25.  The River Run last weekend put my expectations in check (to not expect the same time when I don't train for events), but I know myself and my desire for improvement and PRs, so I guess I didn't know what to expect from myself this year.

The morning was absolutely gorgeous.  The sun was shining, and 47,000+ people from all over the country (and some elites from outside the country) filled the streets of Spokane.  Just like I remembered, the energy and volume was amped up, and everyone was excited to run, roll, walk, or jog that 7.46-mile course.

A few minutes before my corral (the green group) started, I threw my long-sleeved second layer up on the stop light (which is tradition at Bloomsday), snapped a few photos, double-checked my laces, and said a little prayer.

My shirt is the light blue wad below the green light.

Lots of people under a blue sky.
I started the race feeling good.  My first couple of miles were relatively easy, and I had a great time listening to "Billie Jean" (and quietly singing along) on my first descent.  For a few minutes there, I thought I might surprise myself and others.

But that hope passed relatively quickly as Doomsday Hill came into view.  Of course, I knew that it was coming and I knew how long and steep it was, but that made no difference as I came around the corner and felt all the wind get sucked from my sails.  I breifly attempted to run the hill as I had only one year before, but I slowed to a walk after a few steps, and I didn't really start running again until I hit the sign for Mile 5. 

Mile 6 wasn't easy.  I was tired, and I knew my overall pace had slowed quite a bit.  I jogged when I could, but miles 5 and 6 averaged to a 13-minute pace.  My self-talk was pretty negative too, which is never a good sign.  "It seems like I have been running forever!  This course is long, and I haven't even made it through the neighborhoods yet."  And I found myself annoyed at - not motivated or entertained by - the bands/singers. "She sucks!  I should be over there singing, and SHE should be running this race," I thought to myself.

I don't know what happened to me, but I transformed into a different runner in the last 1.5 miles.  I sped up and ran all the way to the finish with a half-grin on my face.  I felt my overall pace improving, and I enjoyed the sun on my shoulders, the funny messages on the shirts of other runners, and I started to feel proud of myself for running a longer distance than I have in a while.  I'm not really sure what happened; I guess I just hit a temporary low point mid-race.

I crossed the finish line in 1:32:34, which is a 12:24 pace overall.  It isn't fast or impressive or a PR, but I gave everything I had on the course, and it is representative of what I can do and who I am as a runner right now.  I'm more than okay with that.

Remembering previous Bloomsdays; happy finisher this year.
Pretty day to hang out by the fountain post-race.

P.S. I am working on a creative piece about Bloomsday that I wrote in my head as I was running...

Seaport River Run

Last weekend I was talked into running the 2.9-mile course of the Seaport River Run.  Last year I ran the 10k option to train for Bloomsday, but this year I was more interested in jogging along the river, seeing my friends and fellow Palouse Falls Beer Chasers at the finish, enjoying a "free" Coors light, and riding the jet boat back to the parking lot.

The race was pretty good.  It was definitely pretty, and I ran all 2.9 miles except for the super-steep incline up to the bridge (less than a quarter of a mile into the course).  I settled into a rhythm after I got past the bridge, the folks with strollers, and dog owners (don't even get me started about one clueless lady and her chihuahua!), and I felt about as good as I expected to.

I didn't wear a Garmin but figured that I was going at about a 10-minute pace.  My "A Goal," in fact, was to run the race in under 29 minutes.  My "B Goal" was to finish in under a half-hour (my long-standing goal for a 5k), which I thought might be achievable since it was .2 miles short of a 5k.  And my "C Goal" was to finish with a sub 11-minute/mile pace.

I ran the best that I could and met my C-goal.  Because the race directors don't post the race times (and because the race wasn't chip-timed and everyone crosses the starting line at different times), I don't know my exact time; however, I think that it was around a 31:30.

Truth be told, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed; I would have liked to run the race in under 30 minutes.  But I have to be realistic with myself, I guess; I simply haven't been running as much lately, and I can't expect the same outcomes when I don't train.

The beer was good, the company was amazing, and the boat ride was fun, too.  Overall it was a good day.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Flying Nun Run 5K

When I was in St. Louis for a professional conference last month, I decided I would get another state crossed off of my race list. I signed up for a 5K - the Flying Nun Run - at Tower Grove Park. It was a race supporting a local Catholic school, the St. Frances Cabrini Academy.

I wish that I had taken pictures of the park to post here. It was very nice, even in March. Some of flowering trees had already started to bloom pink buds, and there were paved paths winding around and through the green grasses. As I walked the ground before the race, I imagined couples getting married there in the summer.

The race started at 9, and I got off to a good start. I felt like I was running at about a 10-minute pace, and I wondered (for a brief moment) if I might get a PR. Soon, though, I realized that was not going to happen. After only a few turns on the course, I was quickly covered in sweat (from the humidity and from drinking for three consecutive nights with colleagues at the conference); I wasn't feeling my best.

After running for about 15 minutes, I felt discouraged; I had not come upon the first mile marker yet. "Am I running slower than I thought? Is my jogging speed slower than a 15-minute pace?" I haven't been running as much lately, and my motivation for running has been waning. Perhaps I was more out of shape than I thought.

When I knew that I had been running for at least 20 minutes, I decided that there were either no mile markers (which was a relief in a way) or that I had been running in the wrong direction. Truth be told, there weren't really any signs pointing us in the right direction, and I was just following other racers and trusting that they knew where we were supposed to go. "Oh well," I thought. "I guess I'll just keep moving."

My sports bra damp with sweat and my lower back drenched, I kept jogging toward the area where the race started. I figured that I had been running for nearly a half-hour, and I was tired as heck. My race had to be about over.

As I rounded a bend in the path, a lady passed me, saying something kind and encouraging. I should have been appreciative of her encouragement, but instead I felt a little devious (ironic given the race's sponsor), and kicked it up a bit. I passed her up about a tenth of a mile before the finish and ran it in. I saw that the clock said 33 minutes and a few seconds. No PR for me but a time I was happy with - a 10:30-ish/mile pace.

I stayed around after the race to eat a piece of coffee cake and cheer for the award winners. After all, I wasn't planning on attending any conference sessions on Saturday, and my flight back to Washington wasn't until 6 PM.

To my surprise, MY name was called for 3rd place in my age group! I smiled really big and went in front of everyone to accept my trophy. Very cool and unexpected. Granted, I may have been one of only three racers in my age group, but it was neat nonetheless.

I called the Academy a few days later, and my official time was 33:25.

Plans for future races?

Well, I don't have any major running goals right now even though I am registered for Bloomsday again and a 12-hour endurance race in August. I know that I have to get in better shape by August so that I don't die out on the course, but I am unsure of where running fits into my life otherwise - my identity, my daily routine, my fitness/health goals, my friendships... all of it really. I'm not in a race to figure it out either. :) This is just part of my journey.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chicago Tragic Events Run

Over President's Day weekend, I decided to make a trip to Chicago to see my good friend Amy. As is my habit when I travel out of state, I looked on to see if there were any races that I could participate in so that I could cross another state off my race list. And I found one - a 5K through the streets of Chicago (with a running guide who gives a bit of history along the way). This 5K wasn't a typical race (in fact, we ran about 4 miles in 2 hours), but I did sign up for it on, and I do have a finisher's photo crossing the finish line, so I am gonna count it. :)

The run was wonderful, and I highly recommend it to runners and joggers everywhere who enjoy a good story and a little history. Apparently the run that I participated in - the Chicago Tragic Events Run - is only one of the events put on by City Running Tours (in one of the ten cities they host tours in). My tour guide's name was Marlin Keesler, and he was just wonderful. He knew the city well, had a great sense of humor, and endeared the heck out of our running party with his description about how he ran 50 marathons in 50 states to keep his family together. He also took some great pictures of us (which was included in the low tour price of about $30).

Below are our pictures and some information about the places I ran by. I hope you enjoy them.
Marlin and me.

"The Bean" (or "Cloud Gate") was our meeting place. It is made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together.

As you can see, the Bean provides some amazing picture opps if you get there before the crowds (like we did).

Reading about the Eastland Disaster (a giant ship that sank right there in the middle of Chicago). 844 souls lost their lives at this location on July 24, 1915. Chicago's most tragic event in terms of life lost.

Running down Death Alley. 602 souls lost their lives on Wednesday, December 30th, 1903 during the showing of Mr. Bluebeard inside the Iroquios Theatre. Electric sparks from a bright light caught a curtain on fire. Within minutes the entire theatre was engulfed in flames.

Running by another famous Chicago landmark.

The Picasso Sculpture, the most famous of Chicago's many outdoor sculptures. From a website: "Greeted at first with catcalls, scorn and ridicule, the sculpture marked the beginning of Chicago's love affair with contemporary art."

Miro's Chicago. Amy says I was showing off. I disagree.

The beginning of Route 66.

Running down Route 66.

The end of Route 66...2448 miles from the start, and boy am I beat!

Two gals at the Manhattan Building.

Finishing our "5K" at the Bean, Millennium Park.

Of course, I couldn't get pictures of anything connected to the Great Chicago Fire, but I learned a lot about it. Apparently between 120-300 lives were lost in a blaze that covered 4 square miles and spread - in part - because of the methane under the wooden walkways (think raw sewage - eww!). Apparently not too long ago, the City of Chicago apologized to the O'Learys, as it was not their cow and lantern that started the fire.

I also learned about the Fort Dearborn Massacre and the Wingfoot Express Dirigible (blimp) crash, but I don't have pictures. Wonderful, tragic stories.

As you can tell, I had a memorable "race" in Chicago, with a finish time of just over two hours. Thanks, Marlin!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Beer Mile #5

This weekend 8 runners/beer drinkers participated in another Beer Mile. Here are some stats: 32 beers were consumed in just over 18 minutes; 2 runners did not get sick; 100% of participants and spectators had fun.

Here's a brief photo album to commemorate the event:
Before the start
and Go!
First out of the gate
Loving Palouse Falls Brewing Company and Coors

A little friendly competition

Success! What a happy bunch!

I came in third overall (Scott and Aaron are FAST) and first in my division. I also PR'ed with a finish time of 12:42. I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be as proud of that fact as I am...but some people are good at running; others excel at Math... I am good at running Beer Miles. :)


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sherry Arnold

This weekend I heard the story of Sherry Arnold, a Montana teacher who was abducted on her morning run in January and who is now "believed to be murdered." I can't seem to get her out of my head...

I usually don't use this blog as a journal about what is new in the World of Runners, but in this case, I am making an exception. Her story is worthy of attention and reflection from all of us who care about women and the sport of running.

When I first heard her story, I felt goosebumps cover my whole body and tears fill my eyes. I am sad for her, for her family, for her community, and frankly, for all female runners out there who fear their morning runs now because they might share a similar fate to Sherry. And I have to admit, I feel that fear on some level.

You see, I grew up with a very protective mother who warned me about the dangers of life - everything from turbulent water in the ditch below our house to the hazards of wearing earrings while playing sports to the sick actions of of kidnappers and rapists. I grew up fearing being alone. But before you judge Mom, please reconsider. Her lessons kept me safe, and I have learned to trust my instincts about dark alleys and creepy men.

But running has been a liberating activity for me; it has been an activity that has slowly gotten me more comfortable with being alone. I have run on Moscow Mountain alone and experienced nature in a way I never had before. (I also went on a couple of solo road trips/camping trips in the past few years that I never would have had the guts to go on without running.) I have also run on the paths of Pullman at night and in the dark fields of UI, feeling secure because of my reflective gear and the small, pink pepper-spray canister I keep on my hip. I use good judgement about where I run and make sure someone always knows where I am and when I will be back. But this story... well, it pretty much sums up my worst fears and gives me reason to protect myself more and not go out there on the trails, roads, and paths alone. I don't want to end up like Sherry. I mean, I enjoy running, but I don't want someone to come across my shoe on the side of a road...I don't want hundreds of people searching for my lifeless (and probably very abused) body.

I don't want to live in fear; I want to be safe. But I don't necessarily want to ALWAYS have to be with a big, strong man who can protect me from the scumbags of the world.

So what's the answer? What do the female runners of the world do now? How should we feel? What responsibility - if any - do the male runners who share our trails have to us? I'm feeling reflective today and welcome any thoughts you have.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Rock Lake

This weekend I did a 5.5-mile walk-and-jog on the trail around Rock Lake near St. John, WA. I took a bunch of pictures and one video, which admittedly isn't very good, but I figure it will be fun to look back on when I am 90 years old. So here it is:

The day was overcast and cold, and the trail was clear and the the scenery picturesque.

It was a good day for a jog.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pullman Winter Ultra Series 2011-2012

This is the second year that I have co-directed this group run, and it was definitely a success. Last year's first race only had eight runners and grew to twenty-two by the end of the winter. This year we had forty participants on the December run and forty-four in January! It was pretty cool seeing so many people who wanted to get together and run on a Saturday morning - not for medals or t-shirts but for the fun of it.

Last year my best time for the 7.75-mile loop was 1:37:48. This year I beat my time by 48 seconds, which I am pleased with since I have not been training. Before the race I thought I would just walk most of the loop, but after my first couple of 11-minute miles, I thought that I might have a record in me, so I ran harder than I planned. Of course, I still walked up the hill by Schweitzer and the hill by the golf course, because, sheesh, those hills feel bigger and steeper than they look.

This weekend was also going to be my first 25K, or two 7.75-mile loops. I wasn't feeling 100%, so I decided that I would be okay with not attempting my first 25K if I beat my December time. Thankfully, I came in at 1:35:36, which is a 12:20 pace. (And my RunKeeper app said that I ran 7.82 miles at a 12:13 pace, which is even cooler...especially since I had to wait at the light to cross the Moscow/Pullman highway.)

I was pleased by my time and amazed at how strong my legs felt (even though my body felt achy and fevered). I hope to be motivated to run my first 25K in 2012.


Monday, January 9, 2012

New Year's Eve 5K

How come I seem to have so much trouble getting to races on time?

On the morning of the last day of 2011, I felt really laid back. My friends signed up for a marathon that morning, and just to be a joiner (and to get another state crossed off my race list), I was going to run the 5K. Their race started at 8 AM, and I was under the impression that mine did not start until 9:30. So, as they got ready for their race, I casually took pictures, wandered around, and planned when the best time would be for me to find a little spot on the grass, eat my banana, drink my 5-hour energy, and play a little Scrabble on my iPhone before my race. I knew I had plenty of time to eat, recreate, use the restroom, and check all of my bags (and those of my companions) at the bag-check tent. At 7:55, or so, they got into their corrals, and I, again, played photographer.
I'm not exactly sure what I did for the next 20 minutes or so, but I distinctly remember hearing the following message over the loud speaker: "Final call for the 5K! All racers should be at the starting line. We will begin in 2 minutes!"


My heart started pounding, and I frantically stripped down to my capris and short-sleeved shirt. I threw my earmuffs, scarf, jacket, and sweat pants into a plastic grocery bag and searched for my race number.

"One minute warning for the 5K!"

EEK! I didn't have time to fill out any name tags for the bag check, and I am sure I looked like a crazy person as I threw my bags down by the tent and blurted out something about being late and that my name was Annie. I sprinted to the starting line just as the gun went off.

In the first quarter mile, I managed to put my race number on, even though I had lost one of my safety pins in the shuffle. I ran without my iPod or my Garmin or my RunKeeper app (they were in the grocery bag), and I distinctly remember thinking 1) I hope no one steals the bags, and 2) this is not the first time that I nearly missed a race. :)

The race itself was fine. It was a flat course that made its way around a park in one direction, and then we turned around and ran back to the starting line. I figured that I was running at about an 11 or 12-minute pace, which I was happy enough with since I spent nearly all of my Christmas break eating and not running.

I ended up finishing the race in 33:46, which is a 10:49 pace. Looking back, I bet I could have run faster, but I am actually pretty happy that I started when I was supposed to - in spite of everything - and that nothing was stolen from my bags. :) Good, funny day.