CG Games + Adjusting Goals

I know that I just posted and said that although I’ve been enjoying Camp Gladiator, I wouldn’t be able to continue with it. But I did a lot of musing, a lot of consulting, and examining/reflecting on my training and decided that I would, in fact, maintain this as part of my regimen. It is an extra cost, but in signing up for the 12-month option and with the feature which allows me to “freeze” membership if needed for a month or two it is the most affordable option. I was considering a gym membership anyway (specifically so that I had access to the equipment that I don’t have at home such as the weight machines) but usually there are lines for machines at the gym and I would miss out on the camaraderie pretty fiercely. I am, at the end of the day, a social animal and I work hardest when I am teaching, mentoring, or sweating with others who are working towards a common goal.

Dustin — that is, my CG trainer — was talking to another camper yesterday morning and made the comment that “if we can talk Jala into staying, she’d be great for CG Games.” I’d already looked at CG Games idly but dismissed it on basis of anticipating leaving Camp Gladiator due to financial reasons after the special’s time ran out. But really it takes extremely little to get me to do anything that is already in my wheelhouse to do, and just in making that comment it triggered the whole thought process.

Would I be good for CG Games? No question. Not that I think I’d win it or anything mind you (or even really know what I’m doing) but if nothing else I have the heart and the dedication to work for it. I just have to keep on working on reinvigorating my enthusiasm and healing my emotional scars from the recent series of challenges.

But it would take more than just that — after all, I’d said that CG so far is more for me about the positive environment than it is about the workout itself as I kick my own ass pretty hard all on my own when I’m in the zone. So I talked to Dustin about the training, and he said he will offer me a more challenging exercise “if I ask.” I responded that he needs to just default to giving me Hard Mode, and if I can’t hack it I’ll drop back to Normal Mode and work up to it. So now, it’s his job to basically try to kill me and my job to make sure that doesn’t happen and he has to work harder at it. Haha. 😉

My other concern about CG going forward was, “what happens when marathon season starts up again?” Last season in following the training plan I found that 1) I became bored and burned out because all I ever did was run and I didn’t do anything else really and 2) I overtrained my muscles and had to dial back midway through the season to recuperate. I listened to my body and managed to avoid injury completely but in studying other training methods and reviewing what my intentions were for the coming season (to include more crosstraining etc), I believe that I can swap out some of the scheduled runs for CG + personal strength sessions targeting the muscles which need it most, and still be just fine for racing.

Since the marathon I have been running 3-4 days a week with the rest being crosstraining, and have still managed to inch my speed up (and I haven’t done any track days, just strides/sprintervals). I believe this is due to the overall body strengthening and the freshness of my legs as I am not overtaxing them. I will see how my races in April go as I have an OCR, a 5K, a half marathon and a 25K; if these go well I will know that this sort of mixed training is in fact fine and I can swing it. If for some reason that doesn’t work as well as I perceive it to work, I can freeze my CG membership for the peak months of marathon training — so it all works out one way or another. I’ll report back in on it of course.

Given that my regimen is changing to focus more on overall physical fitness and functional muscle for a variety of activities/actions, this means that my goal of getting into the black (fastest) pace group for PARR next season drops back to an auxiliary goal. If it happens, great, but if not due to the other training I’m doing, that’s okay. I think by this point I’m in the second-fastest group, and that is still a move up from last season. Don’t get me wrong, during my running sessions I am working on speeding up and will get in track time if not now then at least once marathon season officially starts up again — but after Spartan Sprint I realized how much I need to work on other facets of my physical fitness. I believe that I will in fact keep speeding up, though it is at a different rate than what I perhaps was looking to do just after the marathon.

Road running is nice. You don’t have to really think about the ground and can Zen out and enjoy the spectators, the sky, the people around you. But trail running and OCRs require a wholly different degree of attention and you have to be ready to switch gears at any time. You don’t know what’s coming next necessarily so you have to be ready for (whatever), and so it feels like an adventure even if it’s a controlled racing environment. I have heretofore always valued overall functional strength above specialization, so the trail running/OCR crowd (and I anticipate the CG Games/CrossFit sort of crowd) is more in line with my outlook and interests. (CrossFit however is just too expensive for me; I’ve looked at local gyms and yikes!)

That said I love my PARR peeps and I do enjoy my road races, so I will be a PARR member as long as I live in the area and I will keep on road racing. I already know that I’m going to sign up for the Spartan Trifecta next year too…now let’s see what CG presents in the next year. Keep me challenged and interested! Give me variety!

One last note: I’m already getting excited about training again knowing that I don’t have to say goodbye to my CG peeps, and that I have a new goal to focus on within that particular realm via CG Games. My parents and close friends were all for my continuing CG so long as it doesn’t overburden me and push me into overtraining territory but so long as I rewrite my marathon training plan, I think I’ll be a-okay. I’m good at listening to my body and dialing back when I need to, so I have faith that I will be able to do this safely and wisely. Shout out to my Humana Go365 coach Brian, too, who helps keep me accountable for my much-needed R&R and activity balancing. I’ve got a good set of peeps backing me up, so let’s see what Jala 2017 looks like!

Apple Walnut Avocado Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 1 c fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 c dates, soaked for at least 30 mins
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove (or 1 heaping tsp) minced garlic
  • 1 tsp grade A maple syrup*
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 c filtered water (If needed for blending)

For the Salad:

  • Spring mix lettuce
  • Gala or pink lady apple,  sliced
  • Walnuts
  • Small avocado

To make the vinaigrette, whiz all ingredients in a blender til smooth and pourable. Wash and arrange salad, and add dressing to taste.

* If you don’t have maple syrup, swap it for agave nectar, brown rice syrup, a dropper of liquid stevia or other sweetener; you can also opt to leave this out, to your preference.

You can also opt to toast the walnuts, or leave them raw to your preference.

Spartan Sprint + Camp Gladiator

The tl;dr version: lots of Bad Things happened between the Houston Marathon and Spartan Sprint, and I’d lost my training focus; running the OCR and meeting new friends has reinvigorated me.

I’ve had a slew of new life challenges since I ran my marathon including a death in the family and several loved ones having medical issues; my car quit working, my divorce was finalized and I found out that I have cervical cancer. It may therefore be at least somewhat understandable as to why my focus on training flagged off and why I haven’t been giving it 110% every time I have trained. I lost my sense of urgency. I had goals, right, but I’d lost my generally overpowering and infectious drive.

Post-marathon I haven’t seen any of my PARR (running club) friends; many of them are still running races and most of mine are next month. Granted, I haven’t gone particularly out of my way to meet up with them either but it’s more due to the number of things going on rather than a lack of interest in visiting and training together.

It was in this dearth of PARR buddies that Ferdinand cropped up. He runs at the trail I always use when I’m flying solo (that is to say, most of the time) and is always out there at the same time I run when I train in the afternoon. I’d thought to switch my direction and run with him sometime but I’d always been on a training plan and had certain goals to accomplish each time, and thus I just smiled and waved and moved on. So when he stumbled across me on Instagram (which populates suggestions of people you should follow based on your location and interests) and told me that I have inspired him for months just by being out there and doing my thing I felt I may as well say hi next time we saw each other. I gave him a hug and started running with him, and taught him what I know about our mutual activity. He’s been running for just a couple of months less than me, but unlike me he has not read books about running, joined a group or ran any races. As a result I’ve gotten to flex my trainer muscle and give him a few pointers.

It was right around the time of the marathon, too, that my friend and coworker Lorie told me that she’d taken my advice about how to work up from a walk to a run and that she’d finished 3 miles without stopping. I took up running with her during lunch on the day that I am in the office each week. Between me pushing her on our mutual run together and her starting up CrossFit with her daughter, she’s gotten much faster.

Honestly, I miss teaching fitness. However, I cannot afford the costs which come with attempting to maintain certification and my fitness has broadened focus to include a wide swath of activities which seem to only keep growing in number. For the time being I need to get a handle on the stuff on my plate and then get back to making art; fitness will continue to be a thing I do for myself while mentoring a few others here and there.

In an effort to help combat the cancer inside me, I accelerated the rate of transition from vegetarian to vegan as animal products are top cancer instigators. To be honest, the transition was way easier than I imagined and I don’t miss the stuff I used to eat at all; rather, I’m super excited to try new recipes and have had a lot of fun learning new things as vegans are extremely creative with food. Overall I feel far less sluggish and heavy. My skin is in better health. My stomach isn’t upset the way it used to be. All in all, total pluses and I’m quite content to keep eating this way.

Some cookbooks I’d recommend from my experiences so far: Minimalist Baker, Oh! She Glows Cookbook, The China Study All-Star Cookbook, The Plant-Powered Way.

So…on to the Spartan race.

I wasn’t sure what to expect initially as when I’d gone to smaller indie OCRs I’d heard from runners that the Spartan race attendees were hard-nosed and less friendly. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! Everyone from the race volunteers to the racers was great. The difference I noted however was more in attitude — indie OCRs bring an assortment of people, but Spartan seems to draw those with a more adventurous lifestyle. Standing in line for registration I heard tales of diving, kayaking, camping, trail running, skiing, mountain climbing, spelunking…I was excited because I try to do as many new things as I can and as I keep running I want to do outdoor activities more and more. I don’t have anyone close by who is on my same wavelength to go do most of that with; I have Renee but she isn’t interested in stuff like Spartan, though we have hiked together and she specifically said we do so again soon. (Renee is great as a friend and as an in-town adventure buddy though!)

Another difference between Spartan and other OCRs is that in other OCRs you generally can just skip obstacles without any sort of penalty. In a Spartan race, if you skip the obstacle you have to do 30 burpees. After a few obstacles this really starts to stack up.

I had one nice man from Tennessee as my registration line buddy and another nice man from some ranch in the area as my bag line buddy and he in particular saved my ass by paying my $5 bag check fee; I didn’t realize I had to pay a separate fee to check my bag and I didn’t have any more cash beyond what I had for parking. I offered to find an ATM to get money to pay him back but he waved me off and told me to have a good race.

While making my way to the starting line I noticed a girl about my age who had a little teddy bear on her hydration pack. I smiled and said, “It looks like you’re all kitted out and ready!” She smiled back and told me it was her and her husband’s first Spartan. Since I’d only done a couple of OCRs before and neither had been a Spartan race, although I had a general idea of what it would be like I didn’t have the specifics. Melissa, Kendall and I ended up running the whole race together, helping each other with the obstacles (Kendall helped us with straight walls; I helped Melissa a bit with the Bucket Carry, Atlas Carry and Hercules Hoist; Kendall did most of it himself but Melissa and I lent our hands here and there as needed). As much as we were able to do more of the obstacles because of our teamwork, we still had to do burpees. As for me, my legs and core are strong enough but my upper body is too weak, just as I knew it would be.

It was chilly and rainy throughout the race. The rain ended up making some of the later obstacles (particularly the monkey bars and rope climb) pretty much impossible for us because we kept slipping. In fact, when attempting the monkey bars upon the loss of grip my back jerked and my erector spinae were pulled. I’ve since taken many hot epsom salt baths, had a massage, put a heating pad on it and stretched/foam rolled to work it back out but it is still a nagging tightness as I type.

Before I’d run a Spartan race, I didn’t really understand why everyone got so excited by “AROO,” the nonsensical Spartan warcry. It’s the equivalent of the Navy’s “hooyah” and so on; it’s not about the noise itself of course but I hadn’t ever experienced firsthand as part of the group giving the cry before. When you’re standing there, chilly and wet, having just scaled the first of many walls to get to the starting line and you’re waiting to run off through the trails to surmount a slew of obstacles many  of which will be surprises and you and those standing with you are summoned to give the cry, that “AROO! AROO! AROO!” pulls solidarity out of nowhere and suddenly you’re a team even if you have no idea who anyone else is. You’re in it together and you will finish together. You run off and cross that race marker and suddenly you feel like you’re storming a keep or something, dashing through enemy territory and not letting anything stop you from you end goal. Some of the Spartans our there had tattoos the way the military often gets tatted up, and I understood that too.

Kendall and Melissa felt it too. They’d initially wanted to just run the Sprint and work up to a Trifecta next year; after it was all over, they decided to register and make a team with me for the other two races! We are The Three Mudkateers. I’m so happy to have people to run the others with as they will be harder, longer races and will be in unfamiliar territory (Austin for Super and Dallas for Beast).

There is only one gym in Houston that has Spartan training in specific and it’s extremely far away, with Spartan classes on Fridays at 7p. That is to say, the day that rush hour traffic is the worst, rendering it a massive effort to attempt attending. I will try to attend sometime but it is too much of a struggle to make it a regular occurrence. We found a rock gym that offers some classes but we won’t be able to attend before the Super in May. My new friends are working to make their own mock-ups of some of the Spartan gear, namely Atlas stones and buckets of gravel for now, as they have sandbags. Whenever we can schedule it we will try to get some training in together.

In the meantime, they tipped me off to a special for Camp Gladiator. For $16, you can work out 11+ times during the month (but must check in 11+ times, i.e. attend class that much). The classes are held either in the early morning or late afternoon, outdoors at various locations. I’ve joined trainer Dustin and his group, and while I know I cannot afford to attend past this month due to the aforementioned life challenges I will enjoy the time while I have it. There is a mixture of bodyweight and dumbbell exercises, and classes are geared in such a way that everyone goes at their own pace and anyone of any fitness level can come and get a workout in. It’s not as hard, therefore, as the sort of training I put myself through at home but as a result it means it’s a great warm up for my day (and I do my normal training in the afternoon as usual). Everyone is extremely welcoming, friendly, helpful and supportive from Dustin through all of the campers. I’ll be sad to take my leave when time is up, but for now it’s just the kind of environment I need in order to recuperate my spirits.

Finally, as to bellydance we are prepping our costuming for our Ghawazee performance at Houston Oriental & Folklore Dance Festival in May. I have my assuit robe and mirrored belt base and we are having a tassel-making party at Sahira’s house in a couple of weeks so that we can affix the tassels and finish the belts. I have a lot of work to do on the choreography before I feel comfortable and we’re still learning it all, so in the coming weeks I’ll have to find time to meet up with my fellow performers to practice as a group.

All in all, between my off-season running buddies, my new Spartan teammates and my Camp Gladiator peeps I’m hoping to kick cancer’s ass and send it packing so when I go in May for a checkup to see what the cells are up to, the lab results find those cells dead. That’s the goal anyway. My doctor told me I need to relax and de-stress so I am doing my best to keep on keepin’ on — but also not let myself run ragged.

Training Retrospective and First Marathon

The tl;dr version: it was a LOT of work, but also tons of fun.

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When I joined Pearland Area Road Runners (PARR for short) in July, I hadn’t ever run more than 5 miles and some change during any given session. I’d taken up running on April 2, 2016 using Active.com’s Couch to 5K app, and was somewhere in the midst of the 5K to 10K training program. Because of my spinal stenosis, I found that I had to increase my speed slowly — that is part of the reason why I chose to start with a walk/run program. From my podcast network‘s community, I’d found a couple of advisers in Ollie and Trevor; they helped set me on the right path when I was learning how to run.

In mid-July at the start of the season we ran our Magic Mile and I was placed in Platinum, the 3rd fastest of 4 groups. On the first day of running hills during the week I came across Marsha, who was at the time training for the half marathon but who nevertheless ran my pace; we became sole sisters and did all of our weekday runs together. She started training with Platinum on the Saturday long runs as well, and eventually switched to the full. For a good half of the season I ran with her until she got injured. About that time I’d also found that I’d progressively sped up, but I didn’t really know anyone who ran my new pace so this left me training solo. While I’d trained from April to July by myself, I’d gotten rather accustomed to running with other people and so this affected my morale. I was also suffering some signs of over-training as the schedule didn’t allow for much of a breather, so I had to dial back. This was about when the Warm-Up Series of races began, with a longer race every 2 weeks. I needed to allow myself time to recover before getting back to it, and also on race weekends I missed the long runs with the group and thus my schedule was getting progressively more mixed up.

It was right about the time that I was really wondering if I could hang in there and manage everything that Laurence messaged me to see how my training was going. I believe he is the fastest person in PARR; he is also one of the two leaders of the fastest pace group. He became my new mentor as Ollie and Trevor had gotten too busy. He invited me to run with his group when I could and introduced me to Kaylin, who runs something close to my pace. Although the scheduling didn’t work out as often as I’d liked, I was able to run with the “fast kids” a couple of times, and with Kaylin individually a couple of times besides that. But just having that connection — someone checking in with me to see how things were going (this was Laurence consistently, and also Kaylin after I met her) — made a real difference in my morale and although from the end of November onward things in my personal life became rather stressful and hectic I got in as much training as I could and listened to my body about when I needed to change things up.

Somewhere in there after I’d lost my original group, I also met Jeremy from United Fitness when he ran a running form clinic. Especially after Marsha became injured (and with my body showing signs of over-training), this was a subject that was important to me. Having previously taught Tae Bo, I am quite aware of how proper form can make or break the effectiveness and safety of your workout — so when he offered a form analysis, I took him up on it and began working to adjust my training. After that, PARR began holding events with further form training with speakers who were physical therapists; I attended the one that I could schedule in, took notes and incorporated that information with what I’d learned from Jeremy.

The main thing that came up was that runners need to cross-train. This is something that I love to do and something that I have always done, but after I took up running my body was overloaded and just trying to get a handle on what I was doing, and I was only doing yoga and bellydance as cross-training (as opposed to my normal variety of strength training, HIIT, Tae Bo, INSANITY, etc). I decided to develop a set of pre- and post-run strength training exercises adapted from what I’d learned were particularly useful movements, adjusting them to my personal style of training. While I did in fact become a stickler for doing my strength training warm-up, I will admit that I have been less prone to finishing my post-run strength work. (That’s something I will work on becoming consistent about after I recover fully from the marathon.) Here is my current regimen — I perform each exercise/combo for 1 minute:

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In December, I attended a “strength training for runners” series of classes twice a week for the entire month over at United Fitness; I was a member of the Launch Team and also took TRX and spin when I could fit them into my schedule. These combined with the work I was beginning to reintegrate really made a big difference. I slimmed and toned up, and I noticed that as my hip stabilizers became stronger my form improved and some of the aches and pains I’d struggled with — most notably the sore knee — just completely stopped.

At the very end of December and the training season, I got a new heart rate monitor. While I have used Polar products for years and was happy with my M400, Garmin devices offer more metrics and better connectivity and battery life. My Polar had nearly died during one of the long runs and when I doubled up and did a long run followed by some other activity (hiking, indoor rock climbing, a race, etc), so I wanted to ensure that I got something that would be able to handle a marathon and my occasionally high activity days. I invested in a Garmin Fenix 3. I will say that Garmin hardware is of a much better quality than Polar’s, and again Garmin has better connectivity to apps, running websites, social integration and so on. However, I greatly prefer Polar Flow to Garmin Connect. Garmin Connect’s desktop site is a joke whereas Polar’s is intuitive, informative, easy to navigate and offers better cross-training metrics. Garmin is devoted to running and triathlons and the types of exercises that have categories are mostly outdoor types such as skiing, rowing, golfing, etc. Polar however tracks progress, overall training time, heart rate zones and more by category of training and includes martial arts, dance, weight training and various other sorts of activities both indoor and outdoor. Polar also has a Recovery Status metric that shows how much strain your body is under given your personal biometrics; as I am accustomed to pushing hard it can sometimes be difficult for me to figure out whether I really need to rest or am just mentally out of the game. If you can’t tell, I am really in love with Polar Flow. If Polar would develop a training computer that includes more of the metrics and connectivity of Garmin devices I would immediately switch back. However, in the long run I am more accustomed to my other types of training and how to sort out results and recovery for same, so it is not absolutely essential that I have access to the various Polar metrics that Garmin lacks.

Since getting my Garmin and connecting with the fast kids on the app, as I open it up and see their average paces for their training runs it makes me want to push harder. While I was already pushing during speed work sessions when sprinting, I had gotten into the habit with Marsha of walking during the low intensity “breather” intervals — so I switched to walking for a few moments if I really needed it and then picking back up into a slow run, or just slowing the run and not walking at all. My pace post-sprintervals also increased during the cool-down phase, leaving my average pace in a better place than it had been when I’d lost my training buddy and was a bit disoriented. So going forward, the Garmin is better on my accountability in addition to being a more powerful and durable piece of hardware.

Other tidbits that I learned during the season, mostly via trial and error:

  • Most gels upset my stomach; Honey Stinger gels don’t but especially on long runs are too sweet; Huma gels work best for me personally, especially if coupled with Tailwind mixed into my water.
  • However, I can’t run with just Tailwind in my hydration pack as after a long enough run I want real water and find myself really thirsty despite having liquid, because it’s not water. Solution: plain water in the hydration pack, and probably a little bottle shoved into my pack somewhere with Tailwind in it to sip. During races, so long as there are enough water stations I can run with Tailwind in my pack and just pick up water at the stations.
  • I take a gel 15 minutes before a long run, and then every 5 miles thereafter. I tried every 6 miles, but that seemed just a tad too long of an interval for me.
  • I carry an extra gel just in case.
  • I wake up very early to run in the morning because my stomach is especially sensitive at that time. I have to eat a good hour and a half before I run, in order to avoid stomach cramps. However, I don’t seem to have nearly so many stomach issues when I run in the afternoon or evening.
  • Varying my running times helps a lot. I ran exclusively in the morning with Marsha for the first half of the season, but after I began to train solo I would run both in the morning and afternoon, on different days. During the marathon, the experience of training at both times was useful in keeping me from wearing down the same way others seemed to.
  • I prefer to have a sweat towel at least during long runs, because it gets into my eyes regardless of whether I have a headband, hat or visor (I have tried all of these).
  • To keep my phone from dying during long runs, I turn on low power mode. I only just figured this out in the last few weeks, when I was tapering. 😛 But during the marathon I listened to music the whole way and my phone was at 73% power at the finish line. I’d carried a portable battery charger just in case, but I didn’t end up needing it.
  • I pack snacks for after a long run — a bottle or two of plain water, a protein shake, and depending on how long the run is also some fruit like an apple or banana, a protein cookie, or something else easy to grab and eat. If I don’t bring food with me I will still have the water and protein shake on hand to cut immediate hunger, and then go get food before I shower.
  • Blister prevention: don’t wear cotton socks if you’re running for a long time. They’re okay for shorter distances but over an hour to an hour and a half and you’re likely to get the sweaty rubbing going on. You may be able to prevent blisters AND still wear cotton socks if you use Vaseline or Body Glide between your toes, but I haven’t done that — I just avoid the cotton. Man-made material (like my compression socks) works better and also doesn’t get as heavy when you get wet (i.e. get caught in rain, sweat a lot, do an OCR, etc). It’s still a good idea to use Vaseline or Body Glide between your toes if you are on a long run, even with socks made of man-made material.

WHEW. Now on to talking about the Chevron Houston Marathon 2017!

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Thanks to my family, friends, coworkers and the Duckfeed community for helping me to raise a whopping $1,336 for Alzheimer’s Association!

First let me say that it was hot and humid. There were heat advisories in effect for the marathoners. 8 runners were taken to the hospital and 750 required medical care. All the same, the course took us through some really awesome parts of Houston and were a nice tour of some of my usual haunts (as well as some areas I don’t normally traverse).
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TWO WEEKS BEFORE

  • I began to wind down training per the PARR schedule.
  • I double-checked my stock of gels and other running needs to ensure that I had enough of the things I would be using during the marathon.
  • I read over the information about packet pick-up, the course, etc, so that I was familiar with what all I would need to do and where I’d need to do it.

THE WEEK BEFORE

  • I did some meal planning and cooked tons of nutritionally balanced food to last me the rest of the week and at least part of the week post-marathon.
  • I began really concerning myself with sleeping more than my usual amount — this meant skipping bellydance class on Wednesday and doing my best to wind my day down by 7 or 8p so that I would get 8ish hours of sleep (or more if I could manage it).
  • I stopped drinking diuretics (namely coffee and tea, but alcohol had I been so inclined would have also been in this category as would soda) as of Wednesday.
  • Nothing sweet as of Friday.
  • I attended Alzheimer’s Association’s pre-race pasta party on Thursday night, which was held for fundraisers.
  • I went to Grazia Friday night for a free plate of spaghetti marinara.
  • I went to the fast kids’ final carb-loading pasta party at Gina’s (they were kind enough to invite me even though I’m not that fast yet).

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  • I put in my time doing easy runs and enjoyed these by running with my darling coworker Lorie as well as my new friend Ferdinand who always runs at the trail by my house (where I’d been doing most of my solo training).
  • I went to my chiropractor for an adjustment on Wednesday.
  • I went for a massage to work out final kinks on Friday.
  • I wrote a list of everything that I would need and what bag it needed to be in. I did this a few days beforehand so that I would have time to mull it over.

SATURDAY (day before the race)

  • I participated in the ABB 5K, but I took it easy and ran with Marsha, CJ and Chastity. This was a fantastic opportunity to spend some time with the wonderful people I’d begun my season with.
  • I went to the Expo at the George R. Brown Convention Center directly after the 5K, picked up my race packet and whatever free goodies I could find. This included Hot Shot which Marsha pointed out to me — and I can’t thank her enough as I suspect this is what prevented me from having any real problems with muscle cramps during the race.
  • I trimmed my toenails.
  • I filled my car with gas.
  • I charged my Garmin.
  • I chewed one Pepto Bismol tablet (a half dose) just to be sure that my stomach wouldn’t freak out on me.
  • I did the final playlist uploads for my Running Inspiration list: I’d asked listeners and my fellow co-hosts of The Level to send me audio messages to listen to once I needed encouragement. I received 14 of these and made a special list. Shout out to Dan, David P., Dennis, Eric P., Jake, Jeremy, Kole, Mai, Michael P., Ollie, Sam, Sporky, Trevor and Zach for going out of their way to help me out!
  • I packed my hydration pack and gear drop-off bag, pinned my bib on my shirt, prepped my pre-workout drink and laid everything for the race out.
    • Hydration Pack
      • Cell phone
      • Earbuds
      • ID/credit card/insurance card/cash etc
      • Chapstick
      • Ziplock with Salt Stick caps
      • Run Gum (7 pieces)
      • 6 Huma gels
      • Portable battery charger + cable (didn’t need it but just in case, for my phone)
      • Ziplock with several tissues
      • Sweat towel
      • 2 bottles of Hot Shot, with the plastic ripped off already.
      • 40oz Tailwind — if it’d gotten sunny I might have drank more of that, but I only consumed about 10oz. Next time if the weather is about what it was this year I will take something more like 20oz as I’d still rather have more than I think I need. I was regularly sipping but did not require as much, which is a trend that I’d pointed out on my last blog post.
    • Gear Check Bag
      • Gym towel
      • Full change of clothes
      • Recovery flip flops
      • Moist towelettes (currently using Acure Coconut + Argan Oil wipes, which smell better to me than baby wipes)
      • Bottle of water
      • Lenny & Larry’s Complete Lemon Poppyseed protein cookie — in the future I will want something else which is not at all sweet, given that I consumed several Huma gels during the race. Something like protein granola/nuts/etc. — a protein shake would also be good.
      • Deodorant
      • 1 bottle of Hot Shot
      • A plastic bag for my wet running clothes
      • Ziplock with mini first aid kit:
        • Aqua bandages (I used one on a blister)
        • Mini Body Glide
        • Salonpas pain relief patch just in case my spinal nerve wigged out (this has the same ingredients as Tiger Balm, so Tiger Balm would also work)
        • Ibuprofen
    • Miscellaneous
      • On wrist: Garmin
      • On head: sunglasses
      • In car: another bottle of water, charger cable for phone
  • I went to sleep as early as I could manage.
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We lit up the race with our PARR orange!

SUNDAY 

  • I woke up at 2:30a.
  • I ate two pieces of Ezekiel sprouted grain toast with almond butter and honey, as well as a banana. I took my pre-workout drink, vitamins, some ibuprofen, and drank a full bottle (my bottle holds 21oz) of water.
  • I considered sunscreen but it was cloudy so decided against it (I didn’t need it).
  • I put Body Glide in between my toes and on the front pad of my foot, as well as in other places which I don’t generally chafe but which are common chafing areas, just in case.
  • I went to the bathroom as many times as I could.
  • I left by 4:30a.
  • I parked on the street as it is free on Sundays — and because I was there so early I found an actual marked spot so I didn’t get blocked in.
  • I went into the GRB, found my running group, checked my bag and went to the bathroom at least three more times but notably NOT around the time we were scheduled to take our group photo, so that way I wouldn’t miss it.
  • Took 1 bottle of Hot Shot and 1 Huma energy gel before making my way to my corral.

WHILE RACING

  • Checked my pace and ran a bit faster than my goal pace, knowing that I would need to stop for a bathroom break or two and would need to compensate for it.
  • Zenned out and enjoyed my running playlist, my fellow runners, and all of the awesome spectators. Thanked officers, the performing bands/singers/dancers along the way and the phenomenal Race Crew. Gave kids high fives. Read all the signs everyone held up.
  • Took small sips of Tailwind intermittently.
  • Consumed a Huma gel every 5 miles.
  • Took water every couple of stations or so, or whenever I felt I needed it.
  • Took water every several miles and dumped it over my head to cool myself off. When they were available, took a cold, wet sponge and sponged my neck, chest, face and arms.
  • Stopped for a bathroom break at miles 7 and 18.
  • Stopped to see my friends Renee and Ana at mile 15. Took my scheduled gel, as well as 1 bottle of Hot Shot.
  • Began to feel tired around mile 18 and slowed down; second bathroom break took longer. I listened to my Running Inspiration playlist of encouraging messages and found myself smiling from ear to ear, laughing, relaxing…and speeding back up again to the pace I’d been running at! (Until I ran out of messages…)
  • The rain started at mile 20.
  • I slowed down and never sped back up after mile 21. I’d begun taking walk breaks finally. My legs were still able to go but were feeling progressively heavier; because of my now-wet socks, I got a blister. I felt weighed down thanks to the rain. I began to feel lightheaded here and there — 4 or 5 times — and had to slow down, sip Tailwind, possibly splash my face with water if available or just towel it off and shake my head to clear it. I had a minor, intermittent cramp in my right calf along the side near the ankle, but it never grew worse and was really just a nagging sensation.
  • When I hit the wall, I turn external. I started cheering people who were bonking and encouraging them to continue, and looked for anyone going roughly my pace who seemed to not be inclined to stop and tried to match their pace. I did not at any time feel like I could not finish; I did not at any time feel like I needed to walk the rest of the course. I knew I could do it, I knew I could run it, and I knew that my problem was that my mind wanted me to stop although my legs could keep on going at a run (even if slower).
  • At mile 25 I found my running angel. His name was Robert. Robert cheered me on and said we needed to finish strong. He was running at about the pace I felt I could manage, so I caught up to him and told him that I’d run it in with him. It’s silly, but because he said “thank you” in response I felt I needed to run it in or die rather than apologizing and dropping back again when tired. I’d promised, so I’d deliver. We talked about the race, and he asked how I got into running and why I decided to run the marathon since I’d already said that this was my first. I told him the story of how I was trying to work around my spinal stenosis, and how I upped the ante from half to full marathon as a show of faith in my friend Roben that she would stick to her training plan. The talk helped distract from the running and when we got to downtown my Garmin said I’d run 26.2 and yet I hadn’t even seen the 26 mile marker yet; when we passed that, I still couldn’t see the finish line and became antsy as I was getting lightheaded again. The crowd was thick and the cheering grew so loud that I couldn’t hear Robert anymore, but by this point I was focused on only running that last bit in before the dizzy spell got me and didn’t see any of the people around me. We turned a corner and I saw it and Robert and I ran the thing in together, so several of my finishing photos show him next to me, or slightly behind me as he was just a smidge slower than what I mustered.
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The guy in red was my running angel, Robert.

I anticipated that I would become emotional after I crossed the finish line, but instead I was just excited that I’d finished. “Oh good, so that’s done now.” It was a fun experience and a great challenge, and I’m looking forward to returning to my training after I’ve had some recovery time, but I didn’t have the sort of dramatic welling up that other people in my running group had when they finished. I wondered what my final time was; I started to mentally run through the list of things I had to be sure to do before leaving the GRB; I wondered who’d finished and was still around inside the convention center; I wondered how my fellow runners who were still on the course were doing.

You can see me crossing the finish line on the left side – I have on a purple headband and orange singlet. 

After grabbing my medal, water and banana and taking my finisher photos, I parted ways with Robert with a hug, and he kissed the top of my head and wished me well before he headed off. I met up with some of PARR, and was told that I still looked strong and fresh. I laughed and decided that I must have one hell of a poker face, given that I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. In all honesty though I wasn’t at critical shutdown mode — I’d paced myself well enough to remain capable of running the entire thing without getting injured or so tired that I was unable to rally. I knew what I needed in order to push the rest of the way: a running buddy, someone next to me to run for and with, or the audio inspiration from my friends telling me I could do it, making me laugh and smile and feel like I needed to give the rest of what I had. I didn’t have enough of these things to go around for the entirety of final leg of the race but what I did have kept me going to where even given the adverse weather conditions I was able to finish at only 5 minutes slower than my goal time.

I checked my heart rate zones, and I remained in zone 5 (of 5) for most of the race with the exception of the times I took it down to a walk (zone 4) or stopped for a bathroom break or to see my friends (zone 3).

My finish time was 4:20:13. The average finish time was 4:37:03 so I was, at the least, a bit above the median. Given that this year’s average finish time was lower than it has been since 2000, it was a tough day to race and I managed to run this first marathon of mine solo and with proper care to where I did not crash and burn.

Directly after I finished and chatted with my PARR peeps, I grabbed my finisher shirt and double medal for having run the ABB 5K and marathon. I picked up my gear bag and went to the changing area, using the wet wipes to clean off as best I could and then toweled dry and slipped into comfortable, warm, dry clothing. I buzzed over to get my massage and then it was time for me to go to United Fitness/United Cryo for my first-ever cryotherapy experience, as well as some time in those fancy Normatec compression boots.

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Pretty swank recovery lounge, amirite?

I’ll say that both the cryo and the boots had an immediate, noticeable positive effect on how my legs felt — and that effect lasted. After I finished up there, I grabbed some food and ate dinner with my mom, regaling her with the stories of the race. I unpacked all my stuff, did laundry and put it all away once it was dry, walked and played with the dog, popped onto the internet to check on all of my PARR peeps and thank the people who’d been tracking my progress…I did go to bed early, but although I was sore and tired I was not a zombie. The day after the race, I had another massage to work out the rest of the lactic acid. I still abstained from diuretics for Sunday and Monday and drank lots of water, which is something you should do after races, cryotherapy, Normatec boots and massage.

As of today (Tuesday), my legs are still tired and my body overall feels worn down like it needs to rest and recharge but I am not down for the count. I took care of some errands today and tomorrow will be returning to some of my cross-training via bellydance. In a day or two I may start going for easy runs but I won’t be considering speed work again until February as especially after my first marathon my body needs to repair itself.

Some notes about what I would like to do differently during my next marathon training season are as follows:

  • More 20+ mile long runs — I missed several of these due to this year’s Warm-Up Series. Next season I will not be doing the Warm-Up Series, so I will be able to get a few more in the bag.
  • Run these 20+ mile long runs at a faster speed than I did during this season. The two times I ran over 20 miles, they ended up far slower than what my race pace was going to be. While I know that during training that is perfectly fine, at least one 20+ mile long run should have been done at a semblance at least of what my goal marathon pace was. I ran 24.3 miles with Platinum (after I’d gotten faster, so this was pretty slow for me) and I ran 22 miles at first with Kaylin and the fast kids but then after Kaylin started having stomach issues I slowed down with her. She had to cut her run short, and I had to run the last 7 miles by myself on the track and I ended up stopping to talk to people and had lots of breaks between the segments of my run so it wasn’t as good a test of my endurance as I might have wished.
  • Focus more during speed work, the way I did after I connected with the fast kids rather than how I was slowing down drastically during breaks before then.
  • Incorporate more cross-training all season long rather than just in the last couple of months leading up to the race. I didn’t this season because my body just couldn’t handle the additional load, but next season I will have been running for awhile and thus acclimated enough to juggle.

Laurence posted a link to this article about how temperature affects marathon performance and said this: “Yesterday was a teachable moment many of us, myself included. Our starting temp was around 64 degrees and went to 68 by 10 a.m. Based on this study, we should have multiplied (1.096 x our predicted final finishing marathon time in minutes) as our pace. A predicted 4 hour marathoner would have multiply 1.096 x 240 minutes = 263 minutes or 4:23 marathon. Instead of going off at a 4 hour marathon pace, that marathoner should have adjusted and ran at a 4:23 marathon pace or almost a minute slower pace. Once it got to 68 degrees, then you multiply by 1.128 which means we needed to run even slower.”

What this indicates to me is that my 4:20:13 finishing time could have easily been a sub-4:00:00 finishing time, had the weather been better. That is, by the way, my goal for the 2018 Chevron Houston Marathon, which I have registered for.

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MY FAVORITE SIGHTS DURING THE RACE

  • Renee and Ana, my dear friends and supporters who came out to cheer me on
  • Jeremy and Kendall from United Fitness
  • Samantha from Alzheimer’s Association, who cheered wildly when she saw me running
  • All of my fellow PARR peeps as I came upon them during the race
  • All of the PARR supporters, who cheered, “GO PARR!” regardless of whether they had any idea of who I was
  • The guys who had on “my 100th marathon” shirts, etc
  • All of the Race Crew, many of whom would read my name off my bib and cheer me on, “Go Jala-chan! You’ve got this!!!” (Interestingly those who did this actually pronounced my name correctly! That’s pretty rare!)
  • The two dancing Tiggers who kept on cropping up at random locations
  • All of the performers: the Sirrom Studio bellydancers, the marching bands, the bagpipe guy, the singers and bands
  • That guy with the 3D Mario Bros question block with the invincibility star above it — I totally ran up and Mario jumped to the block
  • The lady dressed as a whoopie cushion
  • The guy in the T-Rex costume who ran up on another spectator and surprised her
  • The little kids calling out, “I believe in you!!!” and giving everyone high-fives
  • The people who’d just gone out for coffee and were chillin’ out watching the race
  • The people in the Rice Village area who had lawn chairs and watched everyone run by their homes — many of them handed out bananas, water, mints and tissues
  • The people handing out sweat towels (I held on to mine)
  • The awesome signs some of the people were holding. Favorite sayings:
    • You think this is hard? Imagine dating you!
    • If Trump can run, so can you!
    • I believe in you!
    • I trained for months to hold this sign
    • Seems like a lot of work for a FREE BANANA!
    • In my heart, you are all KENYANS
    • Keep going, keep going! (That’s what she said)
    • Go random stranger go!
    • Worst parade EVER!
    • WHY?!
  • The finish line

Several people have asked me what’s next, but as I perpetually have a rolling series of goals I have easy answers for these:

  1. To run the Wine & Roses Half on April 23 at Messina Hof which was my goal last April when I began running — that is to say, this was my first running goal and the time has come to knock it out.
  2. To run it sub-2:00:00. This would mean cutting at least 2 minutes off of my finishing time from my performance during October’s Houston Half.
  3. To train for and complete my Spartan Trifecta. I am registered for these, and am currently working on my training plan:
    1. Houston Sprint on March 11
    2. Austin Super on May 20
    3. Dallas Beast on October 28

Between the above races I have a few others, but they are for fun rather than for PRs.

Laurence and the fast kids will be training during off season. Their track sessions will be on days that I can participate, so I hope to join them after I recover. In the meantime, I need to concentrate on bellydance as we have an encore performance of the Khidni Habibi fan veil choreography coming up at Aradia Gala on February 4.

That’s all for now!

Level UP!

Since my last post, I have successfully raced the 30K I was intending to take easy, then later the same day performed with Sahira‘s Shimmy Babies for the first time in two choreographies. I have gotten stronger, and my endurance has shot up. Back when I first began marathon training, the Saturday long runs were the end of what I could do that day. I was exhausted afterward and passed out for 2-3 hours. This was also the way of things when I finally slowed down after my first long race, the Houston Half Marathon, back in October. But when I ran the 25K and again when I ran this recent 30K, although I did lay in bed and read for a bit afterward I didn’t take a nap. After the latter I was still fully capable of participating in the showcase that night as I’ve mentioned. In the last few months I have also doubled up activities, going hiking, indoor rock climbing or off to do a short obstacle course race right after a long run. As I continue to go through the fire, I come out the other side tempered and readier for what’s next. As a result, I’m interested to see what will happen after the full marathon is over.

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As to the strength training, I have found it much to my liking to do a 10-minute strength warm up prior to my runs and a shorter cool-down accompanied by a stretch. The TRX is a fun tool but I still have to learn more movement sequences in order to really make use of it effectively. I’ve tried spin by this point and I must say that although my legs felt like they were dying during the class as I haven’t been on a bike of any sort in years, just a few minutes afterward they felt much better than before I began. The muscles worked during spin, while different than those used for running, seem to help with general recovery from running. However that works. I’d like to take more spin classes in the future.

I’ve also been taking a “strength training for runners” class at United Fitness. It’s a short class – 30 minutes – and given the warm up and cool down it feels too short for me personally (although some of the others seem to be excessively happy that it’s only 30 minutes). By the time class is over with I’m ready to begin the “real workout” as it were, as of course I used to happily train for much longer spans of time on a mixture of Tae Bo, HIIT and strength work. All the same, the last couple of classes have gotten more intense to a level where I have to shake out my muscles here and there, which is precisely what I want in such a class. It’s only a month long though, so tomorrow will be the last session. I look forward to kicking it up a notch and getting my strength work on in my home training area though, and this little set of sessions has gotten me to a place where I’m more than ready to get back to it.

So, some miscellaneous notes:

  • Although I like Tailwind, I cannot have it as the only thing in my hydration pack for long runs. On short runs it’s great, but when the mileage starts to climb I begin craving plain water. An option would be to have a small bottle to fill with Tailwind and the rest of the pack filled with water, or perhaps to rig up two bladders in the pack so that one is water and the other is Tailwind. I have yet to sort exactly how I want to go about this.
  • I have finally finished out the last of my Honey Stinger gels and chews. I much prefer Tailwind and Huma gels.
  • I have just started taking turmeric as a daily supplement to fight inflammation, to see how that works for me as I would prefer not to take ibuprofen, which is hard on the stomach, unless it is needed.]
  • I took my first hot yoga class. It happened to be a vinyasa-style flow session. The instructor went very quickly and didn’t correct anyone’s form. Although I enjoyed some aspects of the class (the hotness, yoga in general, the usual yoga messages), I want to try hot yoga at other studios.
  • I also took a Transformational Breathing workshop. It uses sound (music, intonation, speech), acupressure, movement and visualization techniques. It was interesting, and I did feel calmer afterward, but it didn’t speak to me any more than the sorts of meditation that I already do independently and therefore I don’t believe that it will become a regular sort of occurrence.

Now that 2017 is nearly upon us and the marathon training schedule is almost over with, it’s time for me to reassess my regimen and adjust it for my new goals. I have taken a break from artwork due to being burned out on commissions; it is time to work that back into my schedule again, and to create a new training plan based on my OCR objectives. To this end, I have gotten a couple of things which I will review in greater detail in my next post:

  • Routinist, an app that helps you manage your morning and evening routines so that you can leave the house on time for work, get the amount of sleep you are trying to get, etc. — I don’t always know how long things take me unless I set up a clock; this app shows you how long each activity takes in your list of daily doings so that over time you can adjust when you wake up or go to sleep so that you have enough time for everything. I also am pretty bad at really ever thinking about how much sleep I want to get, and therefore when I should be in bed. Finally, I can schedule time for things like yoga, sketching and meditation and have reminders of same — this app helps form habits. I expect that it will fall out of use once I have my adjusted routine underway, but it will serve its purpose for the interim.
  • Passion Planner, a physical planner that I can use to keep track of my ever-busy schedule and plot out my priorities, to do list, training plan, goals, meal plan, reflection and reassessment as things happen, etc. — I first looked at several productivity and planning apps but I didn’t find one which really offered all that I was looking for. I therefore opted to give this planner a try as I have a tendency to prefer writing most things by hand anyway.
  • Garmin Fenix 3, a training computer replacement for my current Polar M400. Although I like the M400 and Polar products just fine, the battery simply does not last for as long as my longest runs and Garmin offers more running metrics. There are several other unique features offered by the Fenix – not to mention cross-compatibility with a broader variety of apps. If I were dropping back from running and juggling various types of activity on any given day after the marathon the M400 would be great, but with my current trajectory I’m leaning progressively more towards the “athlete” rather than “enthusiast” level, even if I’m middle of the pack in speed and new overall to this sport. (I was never into sports growing up, but hell if I didn’t find myself in one this past year! It floored me when I realized.) I am a bit concerned about how it accounts for non-running, non-cycling, non-swimming activities; there are categories in the Garmin Connect app, but these do NOT include my usual suspects (fitness martial arts; HIIT; yoga; dance…etc). My Polar M400 allows me to manually add as many sport profiles as I please, and Polar Flow will keep track of each sport I input separately. From what I see from just the app alone, it looks like anything not in a pre-established category is just going to be dumped into “Other,” which I’m not pleased by. But who knows; I may in fact be able to add new sport profiles to Garmin, too. I’ll see when I get it in.

I need to clear out a few pieces of art which are still half-finished in my studio, finish the marathon, and then I can really start focusing on where I’m going next. After the showcase in December I have slid out of the level 1 bellydance classes, so I will have a new timeslot between work and level 2 class to draw, paint, take a yoga class, run or some other such thing. I look forward to sharing more about my new overall plan in my next post!

Racing, Dancing, and a Return to Strength Training

My second long race did not go as well as the first. I ran the HMSA Classical 25K on November 13th and a couple of miles in I ended up with a nagging stomach cramp that just would not leave. My parents – and Puffles, their dog – came out to support me as well so on top of the pain I had, I also came to a full stop to visit with them. For my next long race (the Fort Bend Kia 30K), I will baby myself two days out to be sure that I am well-hydrated and rested, and I will start out slower. All in all I finished in 2:31:45, which comes out to a 9:47 pace. To be honest I probably needed more rest than my training program was giving me, as I’d had a series of bad long runs including this one.

On Thanksgiving Day, a bunch of the people from my running group attended the Pearland Turkey Trot. I ran the 6-mile option (the longest one). I started out running with Marsha, my sole sister who’d sustained an injury and been out of commission for a little bit; I ran my first mile with her and then shot off for the rest of the race. I finished in 52:11, which was an average pace of 8:44. I probably would have had a faster time had I not warmed up for a full mile with Marsha, but it was a fun race so if I’d bolted from the start it would have only been to see just how fast I can go in a race setting for that distance. It’s not like I won’t have other chances to test that, though.

We ran a whopping 24.3 miles a couple of days later. I didn’t want to overdo it at the Turkey Trot only to conk out on my longest run ever. Until that Saturday the furthest I’d run was 18.8 miles; therefore, I was chiefly concerned with being able to run 5.5 additional miles over my prior without injuring myself as that was a pretty big jump. I opted to run with my Platinum peeps, which turned out to be the right decision rather than grabbing a random Blue as a pacer. At mile 20 I was still doing good and pointing out birds hanging out on a little island in a lake we passed, taking photos of ladybugs and enjoying the morning in general; the others were struggling at that point because they always train at the pace they were churning out, but I’d been training at a faster pace so I wasn’t as worn out. It was like a switch flipped at mile 22 though, and although I didn’t doubt that I could finish out the distance my knees were getting sore from all the stopping and starting as my Platinum crew were running 5/1 intervals. I suddenly wanted to be done and I could tell that my mind was getting worn down (even though my body was still going) – so I took off and left my buds so that I could finish up. I waited until all of them were back before we went our separate ways. I’d been iffy on whether or not I could run an entire marathon distance given that I hadn’t ever done over 20 miles, but this training run proved it which was good because with my last race coming up, I will only have one more 20+ mile run before it’s time to taper.

I’ll take a minute to drop in an admission which I talked about in my last post, but which has continued to be a thing. I have still struggled with the kind of ennui and uncertainty of one whose focus has started to blur given that I don’t have someone waiting for me every morning to get my run in with. Between the weather change and the need for more recovery time due to my knees having puffed up pretty stiffly for awhile there I have shuffled my runs to the afternoon rather than the morning as it’s warmer when the sun is out. I enjoy the afternoon runs when the weather is good, but the recent rain has made it rough from time to time. I am happy to say that my knees are now no longer in overworked state given the extra recovery time I have opted to give them since my last update, and with the goal coming up on the horizon in a mere matter of weeks I am looking forward to my training runs.

Things I have added to my regimen for long runs:

  • Ibuprofen at the end to help reduce swelling (looking at you, knees)
  • Kinesiotape around the knees (see this video)
  • Tailwind in my water + plus Huma gels, which are even easier on my stomach than Honey Stinger
  • For runs 18+ miles, swapping from eating a power smoothie bowl to eating protein pancakes
  • Consuming a gel right before leaving to meet up for the long run

These things have helped a lot in keeping me fueled and pain-free (as much as one can be pain-free running for 4~5 hours straight). One thing I need to work out is carrying both water and Tailwind. I have two bladders for my hydration backpack so I may fill both up partway and put water in one and Tailwind in the other. I don’t find that I really desire straight water until something like 2/3~3/4 of the way through the run but during the final stretch I don’t want Tailwind anymore. We’ll see what combination I come up with.

As to belly dancing, a mere few days from now I will be performing for the first time with Sahira‘s Shimmy Babies. I’ve had a lot of personal stuff come up that has cut back on the amount of time I have to practice  and there have been weather and interior space constraints, but I have gotten some time in all the same with more to come in as we get down to the wire. All at once in the last week or two, we have gone from dancing at this one show to being lined up for performances in February and May as well! I will be attending my first belly dance workshops ever, studying under Aradia of Las Vegas in February. There will also be workshops surrounding the Houston Oriental & Folklore Dance Festival in May, and so I will also be taking a workshop or two then. I will admit that I feel a little over my head right now about dancing! Hopefully after the first performance I will relax some. I will need to take it easy at the coming 30K because I can’t wipe myself out – I have to dance that same night!

I am finding that the more I practice the easier it is for me when I turn my mind off. That is to say, to just listen to the music and rely on muscle memory for what I need to be doing rather than trying to think it out. When I think too much, I mess up; if I have practiced and just let go, then I do a better job overall. Tae Bo actually helps with this some, because when training we punch and kick in a designated (though ever-changing) combination to the beat of the music. You know where you need to be by the beat, and the same holds true for dancing. And as with dancing, in Tae Bo if you think too much about what you’re doing rather than relying on your body to just do what you need to do, you will muddle yourself up. I do, however, need to establish an extra day of the week to do belly dance review somewhere.

As regards strength training, right around the time I started to incorporate strength work as a warm-up and cool down for my runs, Jeremy and his wife Kendall opened United Fitness and offered some free trial TRX and spin classes. I took what TRX classes I could fit into my schedule and in fact got an off-brand TRX rig for my home gym ($25 or so on eBay, very affordable) but I couldn’t participate in the test spin classes because they required you to bring your own bike/trainer and I don’t have those things as I haven’t gotten talked into a triathlon to date. So, TRX became a thing that I do and in doing it, the Jalabeast woke up and got excited about the strength work which is my wheelhouse and where I spent so much of the last several years of training. UF just yesterday began a “Strength Training for Runners” class which will run through the end of the month, and in attending I became (even more) excited about my old regimen. I am, furthermore, part of the UF opening support team so I’ll be attending some upcoming events and the like. There may be some other fun things to come in the future after I clear out some of the personal stuff I have to finish up, but more on that when the plate clears a little and the plans are in place.

Renee and I still haven’t managed to get to hot yoga yet as things have been really crazy, but I’m looking forward to whenever it is that we do go.

I don’t know if I mentioned it here, but I am officially signed up for all three of the races for my Spartan Trifecta for next year: Sprint, Super and Beast. OCRs interest me because they combine multiple things that I enjoy, and they are most certainly a challenge. To train up for these will be hard, and fun. I intend to make 2017 an evolutionary year.

My First Long Race: The Houston Half Marathon

My last post was published at the end of September, and it’s that time again. What all has happened since then?

  1. I ran the Houston Half Marathon. It was my first long race, and I had zero expectations going in. I ended up with a time of 2:01:57, which placed me in the top third overall; top fourth women in my age group; top fifth women participating. Not bad for a first effort, even though if I’d been able to push just a sliver more I’d have had a sub-2 hour time. This puts me near the top of the blue pace group, just shy of the slowest black pace group times (black being the fastest group, and blue the one just under that) when I’d started in silver (the third-fastest of four total groups) so that’s a huge improvement. A ton of people from my running group turned out, but no one was quite at my pace so I ran with people here and there when they were pushing themselves or had slacked off long enough for me to catch them. I ran most of it alone, but it surprised me because I didn’t mind too much. My wonderful friend Renee and her niece Ana came out to cheer me on and they even gave me some flowers at the finish line! I pushed a little more knowing that they were waiting for me. I know I won’t always have someone there, but to have someone at my first big race was touching. I bought them breakfast afterward at Epicure Cafe, but I can’t really repay them for the moral support their being there granted me.
  2. I attended a free running form clinic offered by Jeremy Brown of Mind Right Endurance and David Rosenthal of Wild Pear Running. This was full of highly informative and useful tips, and off and on as I have run since I attempt to employ little corrections as I think of them (although I’m not always worrying about it).
  3. I underwent a gait analysis with Jeremy. Here’s what we’re looking at:
    1. The primary thing I need to do is relax more as I run. Although this isn’t a surprise given that I have a tendency towards wanting to wreck shop more than chill, it was rather hilarious when he said, “You run like you’re about to punch someone.” Haha. Oops. Yup, probably. Now, it’s not that I always run this way; if you drop me off on a trail where there are lots of trees and animals, no vehicles and few to no people I will be extremely content and relaxed. Even during the race I just finished there were points where I was relaxed enough to feel my cheeks jiggle, which was Jeremy’s way of indicating how chill I need to be. “I felt at times like I had bulldog’s jowls,” I told him. Now to translate “Zen with nature” into “Zen with cars, people, roads, etc”…therein lies the challenge. He suggested that since I do yoga and meditation that I may wish to do a bit of both before I run, and if I get tight while running to literally stop and meditate before going on if that’s what it takes.
    2. Related to the above, to continue implementing a regimen of stretching, foam rolling, lacrosse balls at tension spots, etc. (In my case this also means MELT Method.)
    3. Related to the above, working to let myself fall into my run rather than “grabbing at the ground” with a flexed foot. Of everything related to relaxing this is the thing I’ll be working on the most because it’s a cloying tendency.
    4. The secondary thing I need to do is strengthen my gluteus medius, which is a stabilizer muscle that doesn’t usually get trained up without specifically working on it. My legs have a tendency to fall inward a bit too far, which is a sign of needing to beef up this muscle. The moment he said this, I immediately thought of Tae Bo leg raises, roundhouses and side kicks, which I’ll be working into my cross-training. He additionally advised lateral squats, foot dips from a stair, and (dreaded) pistol squats with leg positioned forward, laterally and behind.
    5. The tertiary thing I need to do is work on increasing the angle between my legs as I run — that is, I am a “lazy runner” and need to pick my legs up more. When he said this I immediately thought of high knees and sure enough, one of the drills he suggested was to run in a kind of high knee skip; the other was to do a sprinting forward lunge to train my back leg on what it needs to be doing. I’ll be setting up a kind of drill list with reps/sets this afternoon.
  4. I ran 18.8 miles on a long run during October; I also ran 6.9 slow miles the night before the Houston Half Marathon to total my allotted 20-mile long run from last weekend.
  5. I began practicing the fan veil choreography for Sahira‘s Level 2 belly dance class. We are about halfway through learning the choreography and I need a lot of work on the hips but I think I’m starting to get the fan veil parts themselves. I’ll be practicing more with my good friend Renee as we have time. The Level 1 class will also be performing a simple choreography, so I may be doing multiple performances in December for the student show. I do intend to work as hard as I can to get the routines down, as I’d like to show up and perform if I’m able to.
  6. I both went hiking/trail running/outdoor yoga’ing at Brazos Bend State Park and indoor rock climbing at Stone Moves with Renee. I’d wanted to try out Tai Chi, but while climbing I lost my grip and the rope wasn’t tight enough so I fell and rolled my ankle. I skipped the Tai Chi, sadly, but that allowed my ankle time to recover. It’s still a bit tender if I move it in certain ways, but doesn’t hurt.

Things on the plate for the coming month or so, all of which will be new to me:

  • Hot yoga
  • Aerial yoga (provided my ankle returns to 100%)
  • 25K race — the Fort Bend Kia 25K which is the second race in the warm-up series for the Chevron Houston Marathon.

As to training fuel:

  • Honey Stinger gels don’t upset my stomach. However, I’m always on the hunt for something that works better and someone from my running group mentioned Tailwinds, which I have ordered and will try as a fully liquid supplement sounds more appealing than salt caps, gels and so on. I tried energy chews but I’m not keen on them.
  • I’m still searching for a good plant-based protein to make my post-training shake. I tried a premade Orgain chocolate shake and that was decent; reviews on Amazon say that the powder tastes better than the premade, so I may give that a shot. Vega Sport chocolate is tolerable but not tasty; Warrior Blend chocolate is horrifying and should not exist in the world.
  • My pre-workout drink (Vega Sport Pre-Workout Energizer + a few things, take a look at the last post for more on that) remains the same as that works for me, but a running club member pointed me towards BeetElite, which I’d seen advertised in my social media feeds. I came across BeetVO2MAX, which is the same beet powder + BCAAs and B12 — it has higher ratings than the regular powder does, so at some point I may give it a shot.
  • My pre-long run breakfast remains the same (superfood smoothie bowl with granola). This seems to be what works best for me.

A final note: Laurence is the leader of the fastest pace group. He’s a super sweetie and has been nothing but patient and supportive since I first met him, which was early on in my running with PARR. It’d been a kind of secret goal of mine to be able to run with him eventually, and I did in fact for a little bit when he was warming up on one of the last long runs prior to this post, but I mean to be able to keep reasonably near his pace someday.

I’d told Laurence that I’d tell him my story sometime when I was able to keep pace, but then when we were chatting one day recently I ended up telling him prematurely. That means that Operation: Catch Laurence is underway and is a(nother) goal for me during the coming year. Thanks for the inspiration, Laurence!