Saturday, January 25, 2014

Day 7 : this post is kind of all over the place

Hi my name is Gretchen and it has been 7 days since my last run.  This is probably the longest I have ever gone without running even a mile or two.  I haven't lost my sanity yet, but I am definitely starting to get restless.  I think the only reason I have been managing to cope is that the roads are covered in snow and ice.  Even if I was going to let myself go for a run, I doubt I'd get very far.

as you can see, I am fading away from lack of exercise
(still able to push down the piano keys though)

So why am I torturing myself with all this time off?  I tweaked something in my foot awhile ago.  Running didn't make it hurt worse, but it wasn't getting better either, so I took a few days off.  Then I went back to running, and forgot about it.  Several weeks later, the temperature dropped to the single digits and I went for a couple of runs.  Runs, not jogs.  The pounding on frozen feet brought back whatever is wrong with my foot.  At that point, I was less than 2 weeks away from a race. So I took it very easy, just running once every few days, to keep myself in shape for the race without aggravating my foot.  Then I ran the race.  And won the race.  But the beating my foot took while running down a mountain did not exactly help make the pain go away.  

It should be noted that my foot actually hurts worse to walk than to run, when it hurts at all.  It's not actually enough pain to stop me from running, but I'm trying to be responsible and let it get better, instead of continuing to stress it.  I don't think I've felt any pain in the last day or two, but I could be ignoring it so that I can go back to running again...  I suspect that I will go for a run as soon as the roads are semi-safe again.  If the pain comes back, maybe I will go see a doctor.  Hate to do that when I just finished paying for the 3 doctor visits it took to cure my ear infection back in November, but I if I have to go, I will.  

PS: I'm ever-so-glad that I've been paying lots of money for health insurance for 5+ years so that they could help me out just-a-little-bit the first time I ever decided to use the insurance.  Makes it feel so worth it.

PPS: And now that my deductible has gone up to $5000, it seems unlikely that I will ever reach a point where the insurance actually helps much.  But if something terribly awful does happen, I'm sure I'll be glad I have insurance...

ok rant over.

Here are some pretty pictures of birds.

Besides the fact that I haven't been running, I also haven't spent much time at work...because of all that nasty ice and snow that no one seems able to clear off the roads.  So I have had A LOT of time to sit around the house.  

I got so bored, I cloned myself.
Both my clone and I are fading away though...

All that time sitting around was good for something though.  I filed my taxes (and then found out the IRS won't process returns til the I may as well have waited).  And...drum-roll...I registered GMcD Photography as a WV LLC!  So now I can conduct business legally.  And I suppose I will be charging/paying sales tax now.  Hopefully this turns out to be a good decision.  Time to start throwing around my business cards!  That is...when the weather is decent enough for me to set foot outside.

Until then...I'll be snuggled up in this awesome chair.  Making my way through this gigantic Game of Thrones book.  It's so big, my hand now hurts worse than my foot, from trying to hold it open.  

This is how excited I will be when the snow melts and I start running again.

And here are some pretty pictures of ponies in the snow.  Just because.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sandman Extreme 1/2

I believe I have found a new favorite half marathon course.  As an overall race experience, the Blue Ridge still wins, but course-wise...I'm pretty sure this one wins by a landslide.  This course was very gently rolling for the first 1.5 miles or so, then headed up a mountain.  About 2 miles later, the course turns onto a packed dirt/gravel road, which goes 2 miles up to a turn-around.  Then it's back down to the road, where you continue going downhill for awhile, and then the rest of the course is hilly.  There is a long steep hill around mile marker 12, and then some more hills throughout the whole last mile.  The course is challenging for sure, in fact it is the most challenging course hill-wise that I have ever run.  But, since hills are what I'm good at...I loved it.  Especially the looooong up-hill/mountain in the first part of the race.  Some of the stepper downhills were quite painful, but luckily they were short enough for me to manage.

The Sandman 1/2 takes place in Wytheville, VA, which is about a 2 hour drive from Lewisburg.  I was very lucky to have my former running partner be able to come with me and do all the driving!  He was also my photographer and cheering squad for the day.  I knew I would be too tired to drive myself home safely afterwards, so I am eternally grateful to him for helping me out.  And hopefully he will be able to start racing with me again soon!  Then we can go to more races together and split the driving.  And maybe pace each other...

It was snowing when we left Lewisburg at 6:20 AM,  and flurried on and off for much of the drive.  It was also very cold.  There were only about 40 runners at the race.  The temp was in the low 20s, and the wind made it considerably colder.  I didn't want to spend anymore time outside than I had to, so I only "warmed-up" for a minute or two. Just enough to get my legs moving.  And then I bounced around a bunch on the starting line trying not to freeze to death.  The race started with a simple "ready set go" and off we went.  I took the lead in the first 10 seconds or so.  I wasn't going out too strong, but settled into a nice comfortable pace.  A police car led until we got to the bottom of the mountain, and then I was on my own.

I kept a good pace going up the mountain.  I wasn't exactly sure how long I was going to be going up, but I wasn't too worried about it either.  It felt good.  The higher I got, the more snow there was on the ground.  The last mile or more of the dirt road was completely covered in a thin layer of snow.  I had to watch my steps pretty carefully to avoid slipping.  The few times the road hair-pinned enough for me to glance back without really turning around, there was no one in sight.  However, after I turned around at the top, it seemed like I ran past the first 2 guys pretty quickly.  I thought for sure they would catch up to me on the downhill.  But, I never saw either of them again until after they finished the race a few minutes behind me.  Turns out, they don't like downhills any more than I do.

Once off the dirt road and back on pavement, there was a really steep downhill that was pretty painful to pound down.  The race had 2 options; the half marathon, or a 9 mile option that skipped the 4 miles on dirt road.  I started passing 9 mile runners around my mile 9 or so.  The wind got really brutal in the last 3 miles of the race.  I hadn't had too much trouble with the cold, but when the wind picked up, my fingers froze and started hurting.  My face was hurting too.  Muscle-wise, my legs felt great throughout the race.  My feet and hips were taking a beating though.  My feet because of the uneven dirt road (I run on pavement so often, they are really not conditioned for uneven terrain), and my hips from the downhill pounding.

coming up the hill after mile 12

Jim was standing here, cheering me on. 
And telling me that the entire last mile was uphill, but this was the steepest part.

When I crossed the finish line (1:34:29), there was one race official, and one reporter with a camera.  They asked which race I had completed.  When I said I did the half marathon, the reporter told me I had to go back and run across the finish line again so he could get my picture for the newspaper.  I really just wanted to go inside and thaw...but I complied and walked a little ways back up the road, and then ran across the line again.  Then they let me go inside and warm up.

This is the 3rd half marathon that I have won, but I still haven't won one that actually involved competition.  It's also the first half marathon that I won for both genders.  Pretty exciting, but someday I want to win a half marathon that is actually competitive!

The trophy is an hourglass...with purple sand!
1st place guy told me I should use it to time track workouts.
Jim told me to use it for a drinking game...that sounds more fun. 
I expect it will just be another trophy on the shelf though.

I am looking forward to running this course again next year, but I am desperately hoping that it is at least slightly warmer next year!  And, I hope there are more people next year.  It was really lonely out there by myself for the entire race!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Running

People ask me why I run outside in the winter.  Everyone who knows me, knows I hate the cold.  CAN NOT STAND IT.  Hate setting foot outside if it is much below 50 degrees.  (And I much prefer 70 or 80).  Yet, I run outside year round, no matter the weather.  (As long as it isn't too icy, because I don't want to fall and break every bone in my body.)

I ran a few days ago and it was 16 degrees out.  Sure, my fingers, ears, and toes were a little bit cold.  But the rest of me was pretty toasty.  And then there was today.  10 degrees, blowing snow, "feels like" -10.  And I ran anyway.  Fingers were a little more cold.  Ears were fine 'cause I wore a warmer hat.  My nose was pretty cold.  My toes were pretty cold.  My legs were a little cold, even though I wore long pants which I very, very very rarely do.  ( I almost always wear yoga capris) But I ran.  And, I ran FAST.  I had to.  I wanted to get home before I got frostbite on my nose.  I ran 3 miles at 6:46 pace.

So, why do I run in the cold when I hate cold so much?  It just isn't as bad when I'm running.  I hate it when my fingers freeze, but as long as I keep them almost warm, I'm fine.  The cold doesn't bother me at all.  I was trying to figure out why the other day, since people keep asking me.  And I realized it's because I don't shiver when I'm running.  When I'm in a cold environment doing anything other than running, I feel the cold all the way to my core.  "Bone-chilling" cold.  I shiver uncontrollably.  I feel like I will never ever be warm again.  It's awful.  But when I am running, I don't feel that way.  My core stays toasty warm.  Sure, my fingers might be freezing, and that is torture.  But it is nothing compared to the torture of having my entire body feel that way.  And that is why I can run in cold weather even though I can't tolerate being the least bit cold for anything else.