March 29, 2012

Musical Memories

While I was writing my last blog I was reading though it to make sure it all made sense but the news was on in the background stopping me from concentrating. I used to always listen to music when studying as it helps me focus on what I'm doing, so I plugged in my ipod.
The first song to come on was the one I listened to at the start of Sunday's race and it brought back such strong emotions and vivid images to mind
I love how music can hold such powerful memories and make you feel emotion days, months and even years after an event. There are a couple of Cranberries songs that I can't hear without seeing Swiss mountains from a holiday I went on with my family as a teenager. But I don't just see a mountain, I can see the exact car we were in and everything around me (including my old CD player.. if only we had iPods back then!) and I'm gazing out of the windows at the beautiful towering mountains around us. I remember how overwhelmed I was by the beauty of what I was seeing and still feel that emotion when I listen to those songs.
There are a lot of songs that remind me of running and training as I ran with my ipod on for much of my 2011 challenge. However this year I started picking a new song out for each race. I've chosen songs that I don't really listen to before the event and then play it at the start of the race. Now, I'm a big rock girl and poppy-pop songs usually drive me crazy, which is why I'm really surprised when I look at my choice of songs for the 3 races so far this year as they're all quite girly!!

Galveston: Set Fire to the Rain by Adele Like I said, not usually my style but it's a really powerful energising song and makes me feel like I can tackle anything!

Gusher Marathon: Who You Are by Jessie J Now, seriously Shona... Jessie J? Really? I can honestly say I can't cope with one other thing she's sung. But this song about being true to who you are just fitted with how I've learned to be happy in myself in the last couple of years and how I was following my dreams to run a marathon

Rock N Roll Dallas: Shake It Out by Florence & The Machine This is another great energising song. It is one of those that makes me feel strong (This is the song that came on when I was writing my last blog post and reminded me of the race). All I can see in my head is the clear blue sky from Sunday morning and the beautiful skyline of Dallas as I started the race with thousands of people around me.

I think that all three songs have always stirred positive emotions in me even before I associated my races to them. As far as running goes, none of them are too quick and that reminded me to set off with a steady pace and grow through my race. Also they're not the sort of thing I listen to day to day, which is perfect as I'm more likely to put them on when I'm wanting to relax and now they make me think really positive thoughts. When I listen to them great images pop into my mind and remind me of some of my biggest achievements, and if my Swiss memories are anything to go by they will do for many years to come....

ITB issues

When I told my mum I was having IT band issues she asked me what was wrong with my computer... Unfortunately my ITB issues are or the physical kind not electrical. The Iliotibial Band is the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from hip to shin and is apparently notorious for causing problems for runners that have been running for a while or running high mileage such as marathon training. I've heard people mention IT band pain on DailyMile and also at the running club but other than that I didn't know much about it. However Sunday's race showed me how painful it can be so I've needed to do some research into what the problem is and how to fix it.
There are a ton of articles on the internet about this because it affects so many people, and the general gist I can understand is that firstly I need to RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation). However that's about where the consistency of the internet ends as when it comes to what needs to be done other than RICE many of the articles begin to contradict each other! One running website states that if you rest an IT Band strain that you'll be fine to just carry on after. Then other sites state that someone could rest for 6 months and the first time they go out again it would most likely hurt. Most of the sites recommend steps to prevent this from happening by adding some stretches and strengthening exercises and this was also the advice given to me by other runners so I think I'm going to take that approach.
Firstly I'm heeding advice to rest, mainly because at some points I can hardly walk, let alone run! Then secondly I've invested in a foam roller (though thankfully the running shop had a $12 option rather than the $50 ones I'd seen on the internet... it may not last forever but it feels pretty solid and should last a while at least).
I've never used a foam roller before this injury but I can definitely feel the benefits already. Basically foam rolling is a tough love approach to muscle knots. It hurts like hell but really works! Your own body weight applies pressure to the area and rolling over it is basically a massage without the expense of a trip to a professional. Hopefully rolling, stretching and some strengthening exercises will help me recover and prevent future injury.
If you've suffered with ITB issues and have any advice please feel free to comment as I'm interested to try anything that might help me get back on the road as soon as possible :)

March 27, 2012

Rock 'N' Roll Dallas Half Marathon

Despite it only being 2 weeks since the marathon, I had another race yesterday! I've not been able to put in a lot of training as my muscles were fatigued but I did get a few 4-5k runs in just to loosen up. I knew that I had trained hard for the marathon so was not too worried about cramming in miles and focussed more on recovery. By the end of last week I was feeling good and was confident I'd be ok to run the race. I really wanted to run one of the Rock n Roll series and it was a good excuse to go to Dallas for a long weekend so I was excited about the trip
We set off on Friday with a car full of puppies, bikes and supplies... again! Luckily Paul's sister lives in Dallas and was kind enough to let us stay at her house for the weekend
On Saturday we went to race expo to pick up my packet and number. It was great to get to look around the exhibition with all the gadgets, clothes, nutrition and latest in running technology... a dream for a running geek like me plus lots of freebies! We spent a while at the expo before spending the rest of the day sightseeing and relaxing.
It was only when we were getting a map of the city and advice on where to park that it hit me how early we were going to have to be up for the race. It didn't start until 8am (which isn't early compared to some) but unlike every other race I've been in, the start line wasn't at the same place as the finish. We would have to make our way to the finish line at Fair Park, which is about 40 minutes drive from Josie's house, then get a shuttle bus to the start line in downtown Dallas. 'No problem' you might think... until you add another 14000 people who plan to do exactly the same thing! We were advised to arrive at Fair Park at about 6am as they reckoned after that traffic would be really bad and there'd be queues for the shuttle. I got up at 4am. 4AM!!! so that I could eat and be ready to leave at 5. The traffic wasn't as bad as we'd expected and we got there a little before 6... but even then there was a steady stream of people making their way to the bus. I was thankful we'd been early as by the time I got on the bus at about 6.15 we set off to see that the roads into the fairground were ridiculously busy and the queues were huge.
Downtown Dallas before the start was beautiful. I sat on a step watching the sun rise at 7am as the crowds built around me. I wish I had my phone with me to take some photos as it was so pretty but I didn't want to run with it so hadn't taken it with me to the start line. As soon as the sun come up the chill was out of the air and I could tell it was going to be another great day (I was really thankful at that point that I'd remembered to put sun block on before I left the house!)
The start line was right by a beautiful area called Pioneer Plaza where I'd visited while sightseeing on Saturday. Unfortunately watching the world go by on a step near a line of bright blue portaloos was probably the highlight of my morning... well almost. I got off to a great start... there's nothing quite like being in the middle of a crowd full of people racing to make you feel good. I was feeling comfortable and relaxed even though I was running at a decent pace, reaching the 10k mark in 54 minutes. If I'd been able to carry on at that pace I would have been close to a personal best.
So far so good eh? However just as I was reaching 10k something started to go wrong with my left knee. Soon after that the pain was getting worse and I had to do something I've never done in a half marathon... I had to walk. Not only did I have to walk, I was having to stop, so when I saw the medic tent at around 13k I asked them for help. They taped above and below my knee pretty tight and I hopped along for a while longer. I was still struggling and kept having to stop because of the pain from moving but that would just make it hurt more. I was offered a lift to the finish line from police officers who could see I was hurt but I was determined not to quit. I stopped at another medic tent and got my knee fully bandaged to see if that worked better. I also iced it for a few minutes before setting off again.
I was finding the race incredibly difficult but people are awesome! Spectators and other racers made me smile so much with their encouragement and support. Also a couple of runners stopped or slowed to check on me which was so thoughtful when I know they had their own goals to focus on. Having a band every mile around the course didn't have as much of an affect on the race as I thought it would as you can only hear them for a minute or two before you pass but it was still great to hear some live music! It was also great to see some more of Dallas, although I think I would have taken more in if I'd not been so focussed on my knee.
Somehow my stubborness prevailed (I knew it would be a good thing one of these days!!)... I was not going to give up however much my knee hurt so I managed to get a bit of a walk/hop going and got myself through the last few miles and over the finish line! The medics once again grabbed hold of me and took me in to wrap ice around my knee before I could collect my medal and find Paul.

There was live music at the finish line and just thousands of runners and supporters just enjoying the day which was awesome. I was so disappointed with how my race had gone, I had to take some time and console myself with a free beer and ice-cream before feeling well enough for a photo.
I'm not going to lie, this race sucked for me. I have never felt like crying during a race before but yesterday I really could have! Not even at my lowest part of the marathon did I feel anywhere near that bad.
My ambitious side felt like I'd really let myself and others down but now I'm getting over the initial disappointment I'm realising that perhaps I haven't. The difference is that instead of being proud of an awesome finish time, I should be proud that, despite everything, I didn't quit!
I always thought my marathon medal would be the one to remind me that I'm stronger and tougher than I give myself credit for... but in reality I think it's going to be this one!

March 13, 2012

The Gusher Marathon

I can't believe how quickly this week is flying!... the race was on Saturday and it's now Tuesday, but between travelling, recovery, day to day life and not feeling well, somehow time has got away with me.

I set off on Friday afternoon, packed up with all my essentials (several clothing options, sport beans, forgoodness shakes, puppies and Paul) and headed to Beaumont. 
It couldn't have been a worse evening to travel, the rain was pouring like crazy. Once we got to Beaumont we had to go to the supermarket to pick up some things I needed for dinner and breakfast, and we also needed to go to packet pickup in the city centre for my race number and timing chip. 
I have never got so wet running in and out of buildings and I was starting to get nervous about the forecast for Saturday morning.  I had been checking weather underground all week and storms had been forecast until the last minute.
Somehow, despite this forecast, a little miracle happened and Saturday was clear all day 
As expected I got a rubbish night sleep on Friday as I was full of nerves, excitement and anticipation. I got up at 5 to get some breakfast and we got there just in enough time for a photo of me looking nervous and to get to the start.
The first loop was great as there were plenty of people to run and pace with and lots of supporters along the route. I finished the first half in 2.03.31 then started on the loneliest 13.1 miles of my running life so far! 
Initially I was feeling strong after the first half as I headed out onto the MLK freeway. It's such a long stretch and the wind was picking up which started making life a little more difficult. When I got into the town centre it was so much quieter than the first loop. Many of the supporters had called it a day as it wasn't worth hanging around for the more occasional marathon runners. Local businesses were closed because the roads were closed so it was dead as a dodo! I had a few guys behind me and a couple up ahead but there were definitely not crowds of runners encouraging you to push along. That's where the mind games began. The urge to walk was overwhelming sometimes and the pain in my quads started to wear me down.
Running back up the long stretch of MLK (somehow into the wind again!) was the hardest part for me. I had never run over 20 miles so this stretch was pushing me physically and mentally. On the positive side, running down the middle of 6 lanes of motorway all to yourself is pretty awesome!
The run up to this marathon had been far from perfect. I had been sick for the 2 weeks prior to the race, worst of all that I was so ill I didn't eat a thing on Monday or Tuesday. I spent the rest of the week trying to get some food in me and make an attempt at carb loading. I was still struggling with pain on the day of the race and had to make a couple of stops but I was determined not to give in... I had trained for too long to not finish the race!
Somehow I surprised myself and finished in a gun time of 4.26.09 and chip time of 4.25.40. I was 4th in my age group which I'm so pleased with considering it was my first marathon... then I realised if I had been just a couple of months older I would have been 1st in my age group... FIRST!!!! HOW AWESOME IS THAT??!!
I'm so pleased to have run a full 26.2 miles and feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment. I trained hard for this and know that it paid off. My legs hate me right now... I couldn't get up the steps to the house which was just silly... followed by cuddling the dog on the floor and getting stuck down there, which was even sillier!
However today I'm starting to move a little better and I don't regret it for a moment... it was totally worth the aches and pains!

Between you and me I'm already planning my next one....

March 5, 2012

Weather woes... again!

OH MY WORD... NOT AGAIN!!  I just checked on the weather for Saturday and look what joys it has in store....

This looks like a repeat of the Galveston Half in February.... except there's also lightning. Lightning was my biggest concern for the race in Galveston and I was hoping it wouldn't be a factor this weekend. I'm nervous to think about running in an open, flat place like Beaumont in a thunderstorm.


However, so as not to immediately contradict my previous post, I'm not going to waste energy worrying about this.... my worrying won't change the forecast.
Hopefully there's enough time for it to be reassessed and change of it's own accord .... without the help of my worrying! I'll keep you updated!

A Hiccup in the Masterplan

As the big day fast approaches life chucked in a big lesson and reminded me that things don't always go the way you've planned ....and getting sick 2 weeks before the marathon definitely wasn't part of my training plan! Neither was trying to run with aforementioned sickness and feeling as weak as a cup of camomile tea.
Now I've got some antibiotics (thank goodness!) and the majority of pain has gone, with only the occasional bit to remind me not to do too much. Last week I felt like this was the end of the world though seeing as I'm not able to train I've had some spare time to evaluate what this means and have realised it could've been worse...

Firstly... I'm sick, not injured; A knee or ankle injury would be so much worse than this. As long as the medication does what it's supposed to I'll be better by race day.
Secondly... It has happened far enough from race day to recover. I can't imagine how I'd feel if I'd come down with this next Thursday or Friday

So even though things haven't gone as I had planned this last week or so, this was how it was meant to be. It could even be a blessing in disguise as I get a lovely big taper and should be ready to race next Saturday! There is no point in wasting my energy stressing about things that have already happened. So now I'm going to quit worrying and prepare for my race with a couple of short easy runs and lots of positive thinking and visualisation!

March 3, 2012

Paughco & Kanika

Last week the weather started to show signs of spring. I was surprised how hot the sun is here in February, it struggles to be that warm on a midsummers day in England! We thought we'd make the most of the early break in the weather and took Paughco and Kiki down to the lake for some exercise. We had such a fantastic time with them and got some awesome pictures...

These puppies are awesome, I'm so lucky to have such beautiful dogs both here in Texas and back in England. I'm already looking forward to our next trip to the lake and I think these pups are too!