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25 days to go! Inspirational Meme Edition

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This past Tuesday, Nikki and I ran 18 miles. That means, we only have one more “long run” to complete before the marathon: next weekend we are running 20 miles. That also means, THERE ARE ONLY 25 DAYS TO GO BEFORE THE MARATHON!!!

And: NEXT WEEK WE ARE RUNNING 20 MILES!!!

I’m freaking out!

But let me backtrack a bit.

Okay, last week, we did 16 miles. 16 seems like such a quaint number now. In reality, the 16 was actually much more arduous than the 18, because for a couple of bitter miles, right at the turnaround, we ran against  really, really strong headwinds. That it sucked is the understatement of all time </hyperbole>.  But it did suck. I remember, at one point, making some kind off offhanded comment about it to Nikki and she laughed that terrifying shrill hyena laugh of the borderline insane. Later (these two miles seemed to go on for about 20 marathons), we jokingly tried to punch the wind to lighten things up a bit, but it was too exhausting.

What’s funny is that at one point, early on, I fancied a notion about running longer than 16 miles that day. But the reality was, when Nikki announced that there were two miles to go, I was like: “Two more miles? Oh my god, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” As I slogged and slogged and slogged.

So, what pushes me forward? Well, my feet, really. Sometimes that’s it. My head says no no no but my feet just go go go. That and, I like to give myself little milestones to reach along the way. Since lately we’ve been doing our long runs on the lakefront path, this usually goes like “North Avenue Bridge” “Fullerton!” “Belmont!” “Waveland Park!” “Cricket Hill!” “Foster Beach!” “Edgewater Hotel!” and so on. It’s like one milestone propels me to the next.

The other thing that has been helping is something I picked up from the book, Born to Run. This is, whenever I am scuffling along, I repeat to myself the mantra “easy. light. easy. light.” This is something El Caballo Blanco (RIP) taught the narrator of the book, although in its original form it had three parts: “easy,” “light” and “fast.” (I hope I am remembering this right). The idea was, go in that order, because sometimes easy is all you can manage, and that will be okay. Sometimes easy is hard enough to manage. In the last two miles of my 16-mile run, that was definitely the case. Running against such strong gusts of winds emptied my tank.

Over the week, I was able to manage more of my shorter conditioning runs, and when it came time to run the 18-miler, we specifically chose the day with the lightest wind forecast. In fact, it was a lovely, cool, sunny spring day with very light wind. Ideal conditions.

To work in the extra miles, we included a short run around the perimeter of Lincoln Park Zoo, so we got to see camels and llamas and cows and ponies while we were running, which was neat. This time, the running felt like a breeze and I was happy and energetic. At about ten-miles I downed one of these all natural honey-based energy goo gels which was disgusting but did the trick in terms of supercharging my energy. It was only when we got to mile 17 (mile 17!) that I started to falter. Nikki, who’d picked up her pace like the speedy little rabbit she is, yelled back to me: “only one more mile!”.

“Only one more mile,” I thought. “Hoo-ey!” I followed Nikki’s lead. But then, where I thought she was going to stop, she kept going. It wasn’t a mile yet?  I followed her around a bend. “Seriously?” I started to grumble. She kept running. “No way. That has to have been a mile!” But she kept on truckin’.

“Okay,” I told myself, “stop griping and just keep going. Just do it!” and not to be a shill for Nike, but that worked. “Just  do it. Just do it. Just do it.” And, I made it. Approximate time, 3 hours and 38 minutes.

What about my painkle, you ask?  Well, that’s what Advil and ice packs are for.

Now, I want to take just a brief moment to reality check myself. Okay, prior to Jan. 2, I had never run longer than 3.12 miles nonstop at one time. Just a year earlier, I’d never even run a 5k non-stop; I always walked part of it. But somehow, despite a certain amount of bad behavior, occasional bouts in discipline, and an uncooperative posterior tibilais tendon, I have gotten my self to this point. It’s almost unreal to me. But, I still have my two biggest challenges yet to come: the 20 mile run, and the marathon itself. Did I mention I am kind of freaked out? Time to kick up the motivation and inspiration quotient. Whee! Here we go!

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Fun with Numbers!

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I love numbers! Don’t you?  

Here are some interesting numbers:

Number of days since I decided to train for the Prague Marathon: 98

Number of days until the marathon: 32 (yikes!!!)

Number of blogs I’ve posted tracking my progress: 26

Number of views on my blog since I started: 5,584+

Number of countries where people have viewed this blog: 111 (!!!)

Which countries view this blog the most, and in what order?:

United States, Saudi Arabia, U.K., Canada, France, Mexico

Number of views to my blog led by a key word search for some derivative of the terms “big butt”: 423

Number of miles I’ve run since I began training: 260+

Number of miles I ran today: 16.

Off the Rails with Exploding Woman Parts

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My training has gone completely off the rails.

 It is so far away from resembling anything like the Higdon training plan I subscribed to back when I started that it is pathetic. Mostly, I blame my ankle — heretofore referred to as my painkle — for this.

Admittedly, I did complete the Chi-town Half Marathon last Sunday (yay!), with an on-target time of 2:30. 

Finishers!

 That was awesome! How, now, I wish my goal had only been to complete a half marathon! Heck, that’s ten miles further than I had ever run before I got this crazy marathon idea! What a sense of accomplishment! I’d be done! Instead, it’s only one mile marker on the road of a longer journey.

fat butt

Since the half marathon, I’ve done two runs at just over 3 miles each, and, yesterday, ran close to 9 miles. The problem here is that when I look over my original training plan, I was supposed to run this:

Tuesday 4 miles; Wednesday 9 miles; Thursday 5 miles; Saturday 18 miles.

Oops!

See what I am talking about?

By and large, my painkle has been manageable. I mean, it is what it is. When I run, there is a low-grade but consistent burning feeling, centered on my ankle tip, that radiates upwards. Occasionally, after a while, the pain becomes more intense; this is intermittent.  Treatmentwise, I’ve had physical therapy, tried more structured insoles, done the rest-ice-compression-elevation thing, had acupuncture, and sports massage.

The only thing I haven't tried.

Of all of these, what has worked the best is the acupuncture, and lots of ibuprofen.

big titties

So, we have the painkle, and we have the undertraining. It’s pretty discouraging. And the marathon is only five weeks away!

OH MY GOD I AM SO FUCKING SICK OF COMPLAINING ABOUT MY PAINKLE, and all of the navel gazing attached to it! Honestly, aren’t you sick of hearing about it? You can tell me. I can take it.

But, guess what? Since I committed to this training three months ago, I’ve run almost 250 miles. That’s a lot of running and it’s got to count for something.

Right?

DID YOU KNOW that prior to 1972, the longest official race distance a woman could run was 1.5 miles? That’s because women were not considered physiologically able to run longer distances. Probably because it would hurt their woman parts.

However, in 1966, crafty Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb hid in the bushes by the starting line of the Boston Marathon and joined in once the race once the gun sounded.

Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb

 As she ran, word spread that a woman was running the race and the audience waited in silent excitement, scanning the crown for her and cheering as she zoomed past. She had to run the race in nurse’s shoes

 because at that time, there were no athletic shoes made for women (thanks, Wikipedia!). She finished Boston in 3 hours, 21 minutes, 14 seconds — faster than most of the men. Too bad her ovaries fell out.

The next year, Bobbi unoffically ran Boston again, only this time she was joined by the first registered woman runner, Kathrine Switzer. Except (and here’s the big but)

Kathrine Switzer registered under the androgynous initials K.V. Switzer. When race organizer Jock Semple realized he’d been duped by a broad, he chased after her, trying to pull the race bib off of her.

 Her boyfriend, who was running with her, shoved Semple out of the way and she finished the race in about four and a half hours. Then her breasts exploded.

As for me, it is time to recalibrate my training plan. I’ve had a few weeks of half-assed training, but that was preceeded by many more weeks of good training. It’s not too late to get things back on track. I do have to make up a little bit for lost time and missed milestones, but I also have to provide ample rest time for my injury (and honestly, I do think the injury is getting better. I used to only be able to run 2-3 miles without it becoming excruciating. Yesterday, I ran about 7 miles before the discomfort started to amp up).

I’ve laid out a new plan that gets my endurance up to where it needs to be, but still allows me  two weeks of dialing down my training to rest up my legs before the big race.  Now I just have to stick to it, woman parts be damned.

Pussy in Peril!

Chi-town Half Marathon

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I Got Needled and Poked.

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Yesterday afternoon, I visited my friend UnSoo’s home studio to receive acupuncure treatments for my inflamed posterior tibialis tendon and hurty ankle.

UnSoo is a licensed physical therapist and former yoga instructor who has been practicing acupuncture for at least 15 years that I know about. As for me, I have not been practicing acupuncture nor receiving it for 15 years — this was my first time getting poked.

She started by having me lay down on a massage table, and she asked me about the pain as she manuevered my feet and rubbed my calf. I explained the occurrences and conditions of the flare-ups, and we isolated the specific places where I felt pain. And then she took out a brand new package of needles.

“There are nerves that run very close to the area we are going to work,” she warned. “I’ll be careful, but I may hit one. You’ll know because it feels like getting an electric shock. Now relax.”

Holistic Kitteh Sez Relax.

Cough.

When we began, the pain on my ankle and surrounding tissue was acutely tender to touch, but I didn’t feel the first needles go in at all. The slid in like they were going into butter. I lay first on my back and then on my side, so I couldn’t see the needling actually happening, for which I am grateful, and for which UnSoo should also be grateful. For her part, she explained everything she was doing, step-by-step. Almost to a fault. I didn’t necessarily need to know when we would be going very deep, or when we would be needling a bone.

Not my foot.

Occasionally, the needles let themselves be known. Sometimes this felt similar to getting a shot. A few times, there would be a sharp rush of pain, akin to poking a cavity.

“You’re a very good patient,” Unsoo said, as I squirmed and squealed. She may have been saying it as a command.

All the while, she kept rubbing the afflicted areas. “How does this feel? Where does it hurt?” And she would have me turn my ankle against the resistance of her hand to assess the relative pain or ease with which I could perform this function. She would assess the new information, and then resume poking away.

These are not my feet. I, sadly, lacked the foresight to have UnSoo take photos.

Sometimes the needle would give me a small jolt — very low on the Richter scale. She called these “twitches” and seemed to think they were good things.

And then, one time: “AIE!!!” The electric shock analogy was right on. UnSoo remained unflappable. “I hit a nerve,” she said.

At this point, most of the needling was concentrated around my ankle area. Then she had me jump off the table, walk around, stand on my tiptoes and then on my heels. The strange thing is, it felt pretty good. Like, the area felt looser and easy and free. There was still some pain that seemed very concentrated in my ankle area, but overall things felt better. Much better, actually. We did this a few times. Hop on the table, a few more needles. Hop off, give it a test run. Each time showed clear and demonstrable improvement.

“How does this feel?” ahe asked at one point, as she was rubbing my foot.

“Fine,” I said. “Just like pressure.”

“It feels fine?” she asked.

“Yeah.”

“Fine?”

“Yeah!” Sheesh.

“I’m rubbing your whole ankle.”

Oh, you mean the ankle that, 45 minutes ago, was extremely tender to the touch? Yeah. Cool.

Towards the end, she threw in a few extra stabs for good measure — this time deep, deep, deep into my calf.

Then I was good to go.

“Should I come back for ongoing treatments?” I asked her.

“See how you feel,” she replied. “I’m actually impressed with how well you are responding.”

You hear that, everyone? My responding skills are excellent.

Thanks, UnSoo!

So today, there is some soreness in the area, to be sure. She warned there may be bruising, but there is very little actually. In general, my whole ankle and surrounding area still feels looser, easier, and happier.

Tomorrow, I am going to test it out in the Chi-Town half marathon. For the run, I am less concerned, at this point, about my ankle than I am by the fact that for the past two weeks, I’ve barely run and done no cross training. Hopefully, the training I did before that still exists within me somewhere. In any case, I am totally prepared to run/walk it if necessary, or to drop out entirely if my tendon forces me to.

Oh, the Ironing! Sh*t Gets Deep Episode.

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My visit to the physical therapist this past Tuesday reveals that I do not have a sprain OR a strain — rather, I have an inflamed posterior tibialis tendon.

She recommended over-the-counter orthotics insoles and said I could try out a five-mile run. By the way,  my tendon became aggravated with my old running shoes so the new ones are not to blame. Mommy loves her new running shoes. Smooch smooch smooch.

The next day, Nikki and I met our friend Beth out at the lakefront. I was going to try my five-miler, and they were pushing for eight or more (and in the end ran nine happy miles).

I was two miles into the run when the pain started. I have a pretty high pain threshold, I think, so when I say something hurts like an “aie! aie! aie! Motherfreaking Fuck!” you can take my word for it. But I ran the five, then promptly took of my shoe and sock and slapped an ice pack on that bitch.

It was a great day out, and Nikki and Beth seemed to take forever to get back. I imagined them running joyfully, feeling the ecstatic freedom of movement,

the path gliding beneath their feet, the lake breeze lifting their sails. Those jerks.

The next day (yesterday) the whole thing was still pretty hurty, so it was a good time to really start feeling sorry for myself.

Why me? I thought. I’d just begun to find real joy in running. I’d just begun to run distances I’d have never imagined I’d have been able to run just a year ago, and it was exhilarating. I was looking forward to running. I was having fun. And then it all came crashing down. Crashing down not just any old way, but in a way that turned running into a more painful and unpleasant experience than it had ever been before.

Oh, the ironing!

And there are the well-meaning friends: “Don’t do it! It’s not worth it! There will be other marathons! Pain forever! Ankle amputations! Woe! Woe! Woe!”

And other well-meaning friends, speaking through subtext: “You’re crazy. What you’re trying to do is idiotic. You are destined to hurt yourself. You are destined to fail. Don’t even try.”

So the doubts come creeping in. Who do I think I am? I’ve never been sporty. On any team sport I ever played, I was always the bench warmer. I was never the fast runner or the athletic one. I could never do pull ups, never do push ups, and failed the president’s physical fitness test. Seriously, who am I trying to kid? This is too much. It’s too hard. My body does not have the ability to achieve this, and so now it is rebelling against me. My tendonitis is punishment for hubris. This whole marathon thing was simply not meant to be, not for me, not for me…

This is the time where it would be appropriate to bitch slap me.

In fact, I have enough common sense and perspective to go ahead and bitch slap myself. Because right now, today, at this very moment, I have friends who are struggling with cancer; who are struggling with diseases and degenerative disorders that makes every day of their lives difficult and painful. And I have a boo-boo on my ankle boo-hoo and maybe I wont be able to run the marathon in Prague. Poor me!

But that’s me being rational. If only the voices in my head always demonstrated such calm common sense.

So I take a step back, take a long look at myself,  and ask, what’s at stake here?

Why does this matter so much to me? And why now?

Okay, so I mentioned all that stuff about not being strong, not being athletic. But in the past few years, that has been changing. I’ve been getting stronger and I can do things I was never able to do before. When I visualize what I am running to, it is to a strong, healthy, lean Kathie. It is running to a Kathie who sets tough goals and achieves them, even in the face of obstacles. It is running to a success story, a happy ending, a personal triumph.

Okay then, but what am I running from? From, on one hand, the opposite of all that I just mentioned. But I also must consider a lovely family genetic history that includes obesity, diabetes, heart disease, alcoholism, and cancer; where those who have died prematurely include my maternal grandmother (cancer), my father (alcoholic suicide/accident), two aunts (cancer), an uncle (heart attack), a half sister (cancer), and, two years ago, my own sister, Laura, who died from a freak sudden pulminary embolism. She was in her mid-forties. Is family destiny, and if so, can destiny be outrun?

This monumental goal — finishing the Prague marathon — has, on some semi-conscious level, come to symbolize these fears and aspirations for me.

Rational mind kicking in again: that is way to much weight to put on one single event. Especially an event that I decided to participate in seemingly impulsively (it wasn’t until I took this close look that I began to consider whether/how much my decision may have been made as a subliminal response to my sister’s death). Rational mind, here, is totally right on. It is putting way too much on this one event, and way too much pressure on me, as well. But, people, we have very complicated reasons for wanting to push ourselves past our perceived limits, just as we have very complicated reasons for not doing so.

My fear about not following through and finishing this particular challenge is that I tend to be motivated by a combination of goals and momentum working together. Remove either of those factors, and my interest and attention is likely to wane. The immediacy of this goal makes it exciting to me. Four months of hard work leading directly to pay-off. It’s perfect.

And my training had been going great! And I was mentally totally in the game! Until this stupid tendon started acting up. And now it’s all up in the air.

But I will now allow that my fixation on this one singular goal may not be healthy for me. That not achieving it does not mean I am a failure; in fact, maybe it is one of the important set-backs/obstacles in an even bigger challenge (Maybe that challenge is patience? Maybe it is greater self-acceptance?). Who knows? It’s no be-all, end-all. It’s just a race and it looks like it would be really fun. I’d like to run it. Hopefully my posterier tibialis will cooperate to help that happen. Or maybe it wont, and my life, which is pretty fucking happy and blessed in so many ways, will go on.

This afternoon I have an appointment with another physical therapist (Yay, Unsoo!), who will probably be able to tell me whether there is any hope yet of me running in the Chitown Half-marathon this Sunday (signs point to no). I’ll assess the situation then and take it from there.

Thwarted and Discouraged, Once Again.

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Ugh. So, yesterday, I set off to allegedly attempt to run three miles to test out my ankle again (with the secret agenda of trying to run at least four or five miles so I could return victorious and re-establish my Viking credentials).

So, where do we decide to run? The same two parks of terror and doom

where I twisted my ankle in the first place!  I needed to reclaim the spaces, I thought.

It was a beautiful day, and we’re running in the second park which is, theoretically, a fun park to run in.  Nikki says “Kathie, slow down,” because my speed had been creeping up and I am supposed to take it easy. I can’t help it — when I am having fun, I start going faster. But then:

Agh! My ankle starts killing again!

Like, where the ankle hits the shoe and the whole thing just hurts and I ask Nikki, “How far have we gone?” and she says “3 miles.” Yow. I had to stop and walk the rest of the way home (although the worst of the pain subsided after about ten minutes of walking). So, I did the three miles I set out to do except, of course, I really, top-secret, set out to do four or five.

Friends, this sucks. I am supposed to run in the Chi-Town half marathon this Sunday! How am I going to be able to do that if I can’t even run 3 miles right now without developing serious pain?

Well, tomorrow I am going to the physical therapist. I don’t know what to expect but I do know it is looking increasingly unlikley that I will be able to run the half marathon this weekend, and who knows what that means for Prague. And how frustrating! My conditioning is great, my mental space is great. It is just a motherfucking twisted ankle that is holding my back for cripes sake!

Worried pug won't comment.

Only seven weeks left to go.